Wednesday, February 22, 2012

'On the Ice': Powerful storytelling

'On the Ice': Powerful storytelling


'On the Ice': Powerful storytelling


A good movie enlightens and reveals. It can take you to a place you’ve never been and introduce you to the humanity of its characters. “On the Ice” is such a movie.

I won’t describe the plot. In abstract however, “On the Ice” is about survival. Alaska is a tough place to live. And the toughest place to live in Alaska has to be Barrow. The Inupiat have thrived on the continent’s icy edge — a place where most mortals would wither — using their wits, strength, courage and knowledge passed down. It’s a way of life that has worked just fine for millenia. Perhaps though, this ancient culture of tough survivors has met its most formidable foe — pop-culture.

I didn’t know what to expect with “On the Ice”. I certainly didn’t expect to see the extent of hip-hop’s influence on the Arctic’s youth. What I ended up watching was like a cross between John Singleton’s “Boyz in the Hood” and John Sayle’s “Lone Star” — set in Barrow. That‘s a compliment; they’re great films. “On the Ice” is a gritty look at social dysfunction we would better recognize in a film about inner city Detroit. There is alcohol and drugs, parties and freestyle rap, but with an Inupiat flava — “Eskimo thugs,” as one character puts it.

This film depicts the real Barrow, the real Arctic, and a deadly Arctic Ocean. This isn’t the Hollywood Arctic Ocean where you can remove your gloves underwater to free a whale from a net and survive. No, this is how it is, Drew Barrymore. The Arctic is tough, deadly, and indifferent to human drama.

The film makes great use of the Arctic’s bleak whites, blues, and shadow. If color does make a surprising entrance, something is wrong. Maybe it is spray painted graffiti, or tattered window shades hinting at conditions within, or blood.

As for performances, the father, portrayed by Teddy Kyle Smith, is a searing portrayal of a parent’s love. A proud and smart man, he is desperate to save his son from the traps of peer pressure and dysfunction. It’s a great performance, not unlike Laurence Fishburne’s Furious in “Boyz in the Hood”. As to the other performances, some national critics have described the acting as wooden. I don’t know, but to me the acting rings true for the principle players.

“On the Ice” is a movie that finds conflict by depicting good people making bad decisions. It’s a story of good intentions gone awry. A story where there’s no real villain — except maybe alcohol. That’s the best kind of story. That makes sense to me. It’s better drama than that created by impossibly soulless bad guys and loner anti-heroes. As a wise man once said, if you can recognize the humanity in the “villain,” it makes you think about your own shortcomings. You can’t sit there and be superior to those on screen — not with this movie. With this movie you have to consider, if faced with similar choices, you too might be in the same predicament. That’s powerful story telling. “On the Ice” is a powerful movie.

Take care of your heart

Occassionally, I get to write about something other than movies....

Take care of your heart

By Clint Farr For the Capital City Weekly

February is American Heart Month, a good time to remind ourselves that heart disease isn't inevitable.

Despite great strides in treatment and care, heart disease kills more Americans than any other cause of death. Although death is inevitable, wouldn't it be great if we could spare ourselves the debilitation, the infirmity and the costs of heart disease?

In theory, avoiding heart disease is easy. Get your heart rate up, eat well, limit alcohol and completely avoid tobacco. Studies show that simply walking for 30 minutes a day is one of the healthiest activities you can do. Just walk in one direction for 15 minutes and turn around.

Yet in reality, avoiding heart disease is difficult. Microwaving prepackaged foods loaded with fat and salt is easier than cooking from scratch with fresh ingredients. Dodging dangerous birds in a video game is easier than dodging aggressive ravens on a neighborhood run. Assuming everything is fine is easier than scheduling a cholesterol and blood pressure check.

Some easy activities that can get you on the road to a healthier heart include:

  • Walking twice a day for 15 minutes, or three times a day for 10 minutes. (The point here is to get a daily walking total of 30 minutes.)

  • Parking your car a little farther from the door.

  • Taking the stairs.

  • Using smaller plates and bowls to encourage smaller portions.

  • Eating colorful fruits and vegetables instead of packaged foods.

  • Walking your dog (or cat). Walking your neighbor's dog (or cat).

  • Doing jumping jacks or sit-ups during television time, or running up the stairs, jogging in place or stretching during commercials.

Success breeds success. Once you've successfully made one small change, the next small change will be easier. Track your successes. Use gold stars on a chart, a spreadsheet or a notebook to document your progress. Seeing how far you've come will motivate you, and your friends and family, to continue improving their heart health.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has come up with an easy mnemonic to help us remember how to prevent or control heart disease. Simply follow the ABCS.

  • Aspirin therapy for those who need it

  • Blood pressure control

  • Cholesterol management

  • Smoking cessation

Schedule some time with your health care provider to learn your cholesterol and blood pressure levels, and whether aspirin therapy is right for you.

For more information and tips for a healthy heart, visit

Clint Farr is a public health specialist with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Division of Public Health.