Saturday, September 27, 2008

Homer, Alaska Culture Dispatch of Joanna Tornes

Bexley Public Radio’s adventuresome culture correspondent Joanna Tornes telephoned her culture dispatch from Homer. Alaska on Thursday. She greeted listeners with the comment that it was a rainy morning in Homer, Alaska, “It’s just snow in the form of rain.”

Oil dividend check and south migration

Joanna said that the annual south migration of Homer residents is starting and it seems to be starting a little early this year.

Joanna said that at least part the early migration this year has been stimulated by the oil revenue dividend checks that Alaska citizens are receiving.

Joanna then outlined the background of the source of the dividend checks. She said the source is the Alaska Permanent Fund which was established by the Alaska state constitution in 1976 and managed by a semi-independent corporation.

Payments into the fund are made from the revenues of oil (and sometimes other minerals.)

The Alaska Permanent Fund sets aside a certain share of oil revenues to continue benefiting current and all future generations of Alaskans.

The Fund grew from an initial investment of $734,000 in 1977 to the current sum of approximately forty billion dollars.
Joanna said that annual dividends are paid to most Alaska residents who have resided in the state for one calendar year and intend to remain in Alaska.

One other qualification is that the resident have a clean record, no felony conviction.

Other than the year residency requirement there is no distinction based on length of residence in Alaska nor is there any distinction based on age of the resident.

Since it creation, the annual payments to each individual resident have varied from a low of $331.29 in 1984 to a high of $3,269.00 in 2008.

Joanna said that the unusually high payment this year included a one-time rebate of $1,200.00 as recognition of the high retail costs for gasoline that Alaska consumers are paying.

From among her friends and acquaintances, Joanna offered examples of how the oil dividend checks are being spent this year. Joanna said that one friend is using it to pay airfare for a trip to Paris. Another friend is paying the costs for ferrying her automobile to Bellingham, Washington. Others are taking shopping trips to Anchorage and Seattle.

Bush line communications

Joanna also discussed a unique form of communication in Alaska called the “bush line.’ In areas of the state where there are no telephone lines or cell towers, broadcast radio is used for personal communications. People will leave messages with the radio station. The station then broadcasts the messages and the intended recipients listen for the news. The bush line has commercial value for the operators of hunting lodges in remote areas who can learn arrival times for guests, supplies and mail Other residents listen to the bush line radio for news about who is traveling to where, their arrival times, and other normal family events including weddings, christenings and funerals.

Joanna offered the observation that Bexley Public Radio is the Bexley bush line.

Joanna then gave a sample of some light comments on Alaska Governor Sara Palin’s selection as the Republican vice presidential candidate. She also said that a tee-shirt is being sold in Homer that has a picture of Governor Palin with the text “My Governor is better looking than your Governor.”

Burning Basket on Homer Spit

The main Homer cultural event that Joanna described was the fifth annual Burning Basket Festival. This event involves a community creating a basket from found materials followed by a ritual burning of pieces of paper with messages.

Joanna noted the similarity of this ritual to the burning of paper at traditional Chinese funerals. The paper is known as joss paper, or dzi-dzat.

The burning basket event has some funding connections with the popular Burning Man event held each year in the Black Rock Desert, 120 miles north of Reno, Nevada between the towns of Empire and Gerlach.

The Homer event is directed by artist Mavis Muller and involves volunteers creating an oversize basket and sculpture in Mariner Park on the Homer Spit. The volunteers worked for five days at the Spit constructing the basket.
This year's event was labeled "Surpass: A Basket of Remembrance and Unburdening."

On Sunday Sept. 21, the volunteers who worked on the basket and others were in attendance participated in the burning of the basket at sundown. Individuals were invited to offer papers to the flames written with memories for remembrance and shame or guilt for unburdening.

A potluck on Homer Spit followed the ritual. Joanna attended both the burning of the basket and the potluck dinner.

A labyrinth, or circular walking path was also created on the Homer Spit.

Artist Muller has managed 12 burning basket enactments in Alaska, Oregon, California and Hawaii.

The Burning Basket Project has received funding support from the Alaska State Council on the Arts, the Rasmuson Foundation and the Black Rock Arts Foundation.

The Rasmusen Foundation was formed in 1955 by the widow of E.A. Rasumsen who was the owner of the Bank of Alaska.

The Black Rock Arts Foundation promotes community-based exhibitions of interactive art and support the artists and organizations that create it. Besides the Burning Man event in Nevada, the Black Rock Foundation prodes funding for accessible, free art to the public that invites direct action with the piece and inspires community.

The primary goal of the Black Rock Arts Foundation is to promote a revival of art's culture-bearing and connective function by removing art from its context in the marketplace and reintegrating it into communal settings.

Artist Mavis Muller can be contacted at

Homer Fashion for the Autumn Season

For a report on local fashion trends in, Alaska. Joanna discussed hip waders and chest waders available in Homer retail shops.

First she noted that it is stylish in Homer to wear hip waders with the tops folded down. The variety of manufacturers and materials is surprising. Colors are limited to tan, brown, green and forest green.

Examples of hip waders and their retail prices offered by Joanna are:

Pro Line Creek Cleated Rubber hip waders are available for $50. These waders are brown. They are made in China.

Stearns Mad Dog 3-ply hip waders are available in green, They have Thinsulate and quick release buckles and are priced at $53.

Hodgman Wadewell hip waders made in China are available for $48. These are green, three-ply and have felt soles.

The Hodgman Bantam Weight hip boots are available in tan and have rubber cleat soles, Priced at $38.

Academy Broadway branded rubber hip wader, steel shank and rubber cleated sole are available for $43. They are made in Taiwan.

Calcutta brand hip boots in tan canvas are available for $49. These are made in China.

Chest waders are also available in Homer.

Calcutta Brand chest waders in brown with cleated soles are priced at $40. These are made in China.

The Calcutta waders are endorsed by Team Calcutta, a fishing competition team.

Joanna described the Calcutta trademark logo as a skull and crossbones with a limp fish held in the jaws.

Hodgman Bantam weight boot foot chest waders are available for $50. The uppers are made from polyester and rubber. Soles are cleated and made from hard rubber. The waders are forest green.

Joanna said that the Hodgman brand of waders traces its company history back to Framingham Massachusetts in 1838.

Beside fishing waders, hot labels in clothing are Carhartt brand of work cloths and XTRA TUFF clothing. Other popular brands are Hetty Hanson of Norway and Grundsons of Sweden. Joanna noted that the Grundsons clothing line is manufactured in Portugal.

Time ran out for the broadcast and Joanna concluded her dispatch from Homer, Alaska.

Volunteers and staff of the Homer Chamber of Commerce contribute money to pay the cost of the long distance telephone charges for the Joanna Tornes culture dispatches from Homer.


WCRX-LP Editorial collective said...

Did you notice that Joanna doesn't tell us how she will spend her oil dividend check? She is probably putting the money in her savings account.

kate said...

Maybe she'll buy some hip waders.

WCRX-LP Editorial collective said...

Joanna likes to play in the deep water. Bet she'll buy chest-waders.