Best Bets: Earth Day and crash courses in local lore

Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2002

I know every day is Earth day, but Saturday is really Earth Day.

Denise Wolvin and folks at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center have put together an impressive program for Earth Day. Events run from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the visitor center with shows in the auditorium, booths, guided hikes and games. I think the highlights will be Mark Kelley's slide show and talk about photographing in Glacier Bay at 10 a.m., Polly Hessing's presentation on bears at 11 a.m., and Robert Armstrong's slide show and talk about photographing birds at 1 p.m. Quite a bit is going on throughout the day and all events are free.

Saturday is a busy day. The Hangar on the Wharf is featuring an unusual duo Saturday night, percussionist and singer Karen Savoca and guitarist Pete Heitzman.

Hailing from upstate New York and touring the West, the pair have five CDs of original music to their credit. They've been professional musicians for 20 years and worked together in a variety of bands before recording their first CD under Savoca's name in 1993.

Their original music blends elements of soul, pop, contemporary acoustic and rock. Savoca plays congas and a variety of percussion instruments and writes most of the songs. I checked out their Web site ( and listened to a half-dozen songs. The pair could do an excellent concert if they played these songs live. The promotional material for the gig at the Hangar emphasizes the up-tempo and danceable aspects of their music, but this could be a fine listening performance. They go on stage at 9 p.m. Saturday.

Greg Brown's brand new CD, "Milk of the Moon" was co-produced by Savoca and Heitzman and recorded at the couple's renovated church and home studio in rural upstate New York. Fans of Greg Brown will appreciate Brown's enthusiastic endorsement of the pair and their music.

Ben Bohen at The Back Room Cinema asked me to recommend a favorite film for the cinema this month and then introduce it at the screening. I thought about some of my favorites - "Harold and Maude," "Alien" and "Blood Simple" and I was stumped. Why would anyone go out and pay money to see a movie you could just rent and watch at home?

Fair enough. There are three answers to that question. Some movies are more fun to watch with other people. Some movies look better on a bigger screen. And some really benefit from a good stereo sound system.

Then it hit me. A concert film would fit the bill. I could recommend a classic like "The Song Remains The Same" or "The Last Waltz." Or something I've always wanted to see that's not available in Juneau, such as "The Kids are Alright" or "Gimme Shelter."

I thought I should defer to a sure thing since it's supposed to be a recommendation. The best concert film I've ever seen is "Stop Making Sense." It has great music - the Talking Heads are at their peak, blending funk, new wave, world music and rock 'n' roll like no one else. Jonathan Demme directed it seven years before he won an Oscar for "Silence of the Lambs," and although it is a concert film it transcends being just a film of a concert. Check it out at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Silverbow.

A series of upcoming events reminds me of the upcoming tourist season. I live downtown and every summer I cross paths with Juneau walking tours. I think one of the best things tourists can do is simply walk around Juneau. It seems a little weird to hire a guide for that, but they do.

Many times I've paused for the little lectures - particularly when they're pointing at my house and all nodding seriously as some perky gal explains how Soapy Smith and the Bird Man of Alcatraz had a shoot-out with Joe Juneau on my doorstep. Time and again I've been astonished at the ridiculous misinformation passed off as Juneau history by tour guides who are "winging it," as they've admitted when I've cornered them.

I know some of them are fibbing because over the years I've learned about local history from the likes of David Stone, Linda Daniel, John Lachelt and Richard and Nora Dauenhauer. All these knowledgeable folks will be delivering the best crash course in Juneau history next week at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum. It's a series of five presentations, with slides, video and artifacts, by local experts who are lively speakers. This is perfect for tour guides - or anyone who wants to learn the real Juneau stories. The mines, the shipwrecks, the colorful characters and Native art and culture will all be addressed.

Each class is $26 and you can take just one or all of them. If you're working in the industry, make your employer send you and cover the cost. It's worth it. There will be museum tours and information to take home. The series begins Monday, April 22, and runs through Tuesday, April 30, with five evening sessions. Call the museum for complete information and to register.

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