Friday, December 29, 2006

A Completely Biased Review of 2006, Part II: Things Et

2006 was a good year, gastronomically speaking, even though we live in a state that is very fond of the standard American fare, meaning fried, cholesterol-bomb food.
  • Best New Restaurant in Squarebanks: Taco King. The food is better than any of the other Mexi joints in town, the prices are very reasonable, and I spent more lunch dollars there than at any other location... even if the pozole is kind of bland. All hail Taco King!

  • Best Existing Restaurant Rumored to Be Closing, Maybe. Sort of: Cafe Alex. I finally got downtown and had a really good meal there. "High end" food (at least by FBX standards), but not as pricey as Lavelle's Bistro. Nice atmosphere, good service, really good wine list.
  • Best Place to Eat Half a Cow, On a Bun, With Fries: Ivory Jacks, out in my neck of the woods. $9.00 gets you a pretty damned fine cheeseburger and fries. The menu is pretty much the usual American fried affair, but we all need a little grease in our lives. Moderation in moderation, too.
  • Best Pizza in the Entire Freaking State: Magpye's in Sterling. We stopped off here this summer on the way back from halibut fishing and clamming. Wow. With apologies to my local fave, College Town, as well as the Moose's Tooth in Skanchorage and that one place in Unalalakleet, this is the pie to beat -- tasty, and the extra large is HUGE.
  • Best Way Reduce the Amount of Petroleum Used in the Production/Transportation of That Tomato or Cow: Support local agriculture! Buy a share, or split one with a friend, at either Calypso Farms or Rosie Creek Farms and get fantastic, organic local produce all season. For the omnivorously inclined, BY Farms out in North Pole sells a whole lot of locally produced meat.
In the CabinDwelling Kitchen, 2006 was a bit of a challenge, due to the fact that for six months of the year, I was living in a cabin that had only a two-burner hot plate ... which allows one the option of either scorching or completely burning the crap out of something. Thankfully, summer allowed for use of the trusty Coleman stove and grill. Fave new recipes from 2006:
  • Citrus Grilled Goose
  • Lime and Cilantro Halibut
  • Favorite Carnivorous Cooking Tip, courtesy of the M.I.A. Flic the Bic: When you get some moose meat with some fat on it, cut off the fat, cook it in the pan a bit until it releases enough oil and then fry the moose meat in it.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Completely Biased Review of 2006: Part I, Sounds

As is the habit of the opinionated here in CabinDwelling Land (and the many places where all those poor folks unfortunate enough to live elsewhere live), it is time for a review of things 'et'1, quaffed, played far too loudly and on repeat, and whatever else that caught my attention this year.

Of course, with apologies for my crap grammar and in many cases, reasoning no more sophisticated than whatever it is sounded, tasted or looked 'cool.' Oh, and also with apologies at this juncture to my dear significant other who has to put up with my tendency to embrace something(s) obsessively to a point of nearly lethal annoyingness.

Yeah, I've had coffee. Want to make something of it?

Review Part I: Bands/Albums that I Played Too Often and/or Too Loudly Out of Teenage-Type Joy2:
  • The Be Good Tanyas - released their first album in 2001. I just found out about them.
  • Alton Ellis - Roots ska giant who I just found about this summer. I lurve him. Thanks Lou!
  • The Avalanches - 7 deejays produced an album. If you like a completely mixed album of electronic/dance/whatever-other subgenre, this is your bet.
  • Carolyn Mark - Kind of country, kind of folk, engaging, funny. Albums: Terrible Hostess & Party Girl.
  • Ska Cubano - Album: Ay Caramba. Hello, my name is CabinDweller, and I am a ska-coholic.3 This second album of ska by way of Cuba is awesome, but their first album is only available by import.
  • Lily Allen - Album: Alright, Still. British pop with a bite. Only available via import and in tiny pieces through ITunes.
  • The Holloways - Album: So This is Britain.
  • Bitter:Sweet - Album: The Mating Game. Ever hear one track from an album, fall hopelessly in love with it, buy the album and actually like the whole thing? "Dirty Laundry" was the track that sold me.
  • Cut Chemist - Album: The Audience is Listening. Deejay formerly with Jurassic Five/collaborator with everyone. "What's the Altitude" stood out for me.
  • Devotchka - Another band I failed to notice until this year. Thanks to M. for righting that wrong. Albums: How it Ends; Una Volta.
  • Hem - Atmospheric, sort of reminds me of Trinity Sessions-era Cowboy Junkies.
  • Sonic Youth - Album: Rather Ripped. Indie veterans who still rock and produced one of 2006's best. They are pre-Nirvana, pre-Pixies, releasing their first album during the dark days of the first term of the Reagan era.
  • Kocani Orkestar - Album: Alone at My Wedding. I really drove some folks crazy playing this one. How to describe them? Thomas Bartlett at wrote:
    " The chaotic music made by Macedonian brass band Kocani Orkestar and other similar Gypsy Balkan brass bands, largely exposed to the world through the astonishing films of Emir Kusturica, is, for me, some of the most viscerally emotional in the world -- from frantic, crazed, drunken elation to tearful, almost inexpressibly deep (drunken) sadness."
  • The Meat Purveyors - 2006 brought us Someday Soon Things Will Be Much Worse. This ?punkgrass? band broke up about a month ago and I'm still pissed that I will never see them in concert. Standout tracks include Liquor Store and 666 Pack.
  • The Morning After Girls - They rock. I don't know if they've released anything more than the two E.P.s.
  • Novalima - Album: Afro. Music from Peru, and not the woolly-hatted, flute stuff that comes to mind. Standout track: Bandolero. Reminiscent of one of my favorite albums ever, Afro-Peruvian Classics: The Soul of Black Peru.
  • The Rapture - Album: Pieces of the People We Love. Dance, dammit! Standout track: Whoo! Alright, Yeah.... Uh-Huh. The whole album makes even a avowed non-dancer like myself want to shake it.
  • Tom Waits - Album: Real Gone.
  • Wax Tailor - Album: Tales of the Forgotten Melodies. Categorized as 'Electronic' but trip-hop and rap and a complete album that should be listened to in one block.
  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Albums: Fever to Tell; Show Your Bones. Two excellent albums in two years. I still have to crank up "Maps" whenever it comes on in the Soob.
  • Honorable mention: Neko Case, Asylum Street Spankers, The Hold Steady, Be Your Own Pet, Bebel Gilberto, Black Motorcycle Rebel Club, Cat Power, Madeleine Peyroux, Chitlin Fooks, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Franz Ferdinand, Kasabian, The Kaiser Chiefs, The Rakes, (boy, we had quite an 80s revival, didn't we?), Jurassic Five, Nickodemus.
1Defn. "et": The way my mamaw said "eaten." And if you know how to properly pronounce "mamaw", you'll know what I'm talking about.
2Most of which were released in 2006, but some not. Those not are noted as such.
3Not only do I love ska to a point of irritation in others, I make bad jokes about it.

[edited on 12-28 for numerous typos. ]

Monday, December 25, 2006

Just What we Needed for Christmas!

Snow! Thank you! Am off for a snowmachine ride - and tomorrow will be my first ski day this year.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Festivus, and Kwanzaa and Yule to all my fellow Squarebanksans, with a little something extra for my neighbors in the Goldstream Valley. Hope you all are having as much fine as I am, whether it is running dogs, skiing, or just snowshoeing around. And a great big glass of nog to all the other local bloggers - Deidre, Gary, Super Smoov Andy G, John W., and all the rest!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Pre-Christmas, And I'm Still at Work Playlist

And I Went and Screwed Up the Blog Template
  • Flathead, by The Fratellis
  • You, You, You, You, You, by The 6ths and Katherine Whalen
  • Radar, by the Transmissionary Six
  • Jams Runs Free, by Sonic Youth
  • Postcards from Italy, by Beirut
  • Unlisted, by Carolyn Mark
  • Steady Rollin', by Two Gallants
  • So Much Love, by Alton Ellis
  • I Don't Wanna Go Home, by The Slackers
  • Flats and Jobs, by The Gurus
  • I'm on You, by Izabo
  • Shattered, by The Trucks
  • Standing in the Way of Control, by The Gossip
  • Retreat (Phones Mix), by the Rakes
  • The Power is On, The Go! Team
  • A Bocquinha e Minha, Juliana e Fogosa
  • Bole 2 Harlem, Bole 2 Harlem
  • Jaw Modulation, Head Set
  • Adir Alam, Balkan Beat Box
Sources include the always marvellous KEXP-Seattle, various mp3 sites, and of particular note, a certain British chick who introduced me to the wonders of Alton Ellis. How could I not have had any Alton Ellis?

Keep in Mind, This All Started As a Simple Plan

So, several hours in to the "new and improved' Blogger and with much gnashing of teeth and garment-rending on my part... I'm am totally rueing the day, which was Tuesday, actually, that I set out to play with the the Damned Blog.

Right now it looks like something that came out of Ro, the Dog from Hell, after she got loose and ate something with a lot of green in it.

It will not be fixed until sometime after this weekend, when I'll either revert to the old layout or get yet another one.

But stick a fork in my back and turn me over, I'm done.

In the meantime, posts will continue as if nothing has occurred. Denial is not just for homophobic religious extremist pastors.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Bear With Me, I'm Tinkering With the Template

Am trying out the new version of Blogger and messing with the template today.

It looks to have some better features already, but I'm getting some weird glitches.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Further Evidence that Basket is Fiery, Red, and Blazing

Or, Thoughts Prompted by the Discovery that L.L. Bean Sells Kindling Out of a Catalogue.

No, I am not kidding. They are selling wood by the pound:
"Nature's most efficient kindling for your fireplace or woodstove. This season, a handy supply comes in a variety of package styles perfect for gift giving, including our new L.L. Bean gift box. Rich in natural resins, our fatwood helps sticks ignite quickly and burn for a long time. A clean and efficient alternative to newspaper or paraffin fire starters. All natural with no chemicals or additives. Hardwood Gift Basket 7"H x 9" diam. Weights are approximate. Imported."
  • Thought #1: Fatwood? What the hell does that mean?
  • Thought #2: Here I've been eking out a waterless, aged-Soob dependent lifestyle in the Goldstream Valley when I could be making my fortune selling off small packages of my front yard to rich people. What was I thinking?
  • Thought #3: All natural? Well, it is WOOD.
  • Thought #4: John over at Life in Alaska left too soon. All that obsessive wood-gathering could pay off if we sell it as Authentic Alaskan FieryBlazing Fire Starter. Apparently, Yuppies, the primary market for L.L. Bean's stuff, will buy wood by the pound. According to the product description, it comes in 7, 15, 25, and 35 pound sizes.
  • Thought #5: Not only would it be natural, but I see serious potential labeling it as 'wild' (as opposed to farmed) kindling. Of course, given the way the regs are written, we still might not be allowed to call it 'organic.'*
*Was that too obscure?
[Photo above: actual product photo from the L.L. Bean website. Product description from page 59 of their Christmas catalog.]

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Alaska Wireless is Closing Up Shop.

And the screams of the couch potatoes will be heard as far as Delta Junction.

So, the rumor I heard last night turns out to be true. Alaska Wireless is closing up shop here in Squarebanks at the end of this month. When I spoke with a salesperson this morning, she confirmed it. And for the record, she was very professional and gave me a few recommendations on other companies that might provide internet and cable teevee.

Unfortunately, it seems, AW is not really advertising the fact that it is out of here. I went to their website and there is no mention of the fact that they won't be providing service after the end of December. I wonder if they'll do anything to inform those who expect to be sitting slumped in front of The Tube* after a night of New Year's revelry that they better find someone else to get them their dose of programming while they recuperate.

Wow. There are gonna be a lot of pissed off football fans.

*The teevee, The Boob Tube. Not to be confused with Uncle Ted's system of tubes by which I post this entry.
Image: found at

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Blazing Handbasket Frozen Over, Incident #1

Incident #1: I agree with something in a Snooze Minus' editorial column*

From today's editorial, which is a shocking display of, well, getting it:

But in October the resident voters of the city changed that so in 2007 Wal-Mart will pay the city of Fairbanks just over $12,200, an annual savings to the corporation of about $152,300. That’s a great savings by most people’s standards, but in the scheme of things this is chicken feed for the Arkansas-based retail giant.

And now with a new employee head tax — one of the options proffered by the author of Ballot Measure No. 3 and now approved by the City Council — the employees who work for Wal-Mart will have to help make up the difference by contributing $20 of their own paychecks each month to the city instead.

That's the Walmart break, but what about Lowe's, Home Depot, Barnes and Noble, Old Navy, Petco and all the rest??

*This may actually be Incident #2, I think I agreed with something that Craig Medred of the Anchorage Daily Snooze wrote several years ago.

Tuesday Playlist

Twang! Resistance is futile, v. 5:
  1. Wake Up Sleepyhead, Jeff Bright and the Sunshine Boys
  2. She's a Nail in My Heart, same
  3. Wasted, Laura Cantrell
  4. Drinkin' Blues, Wayne Hancock
  5. Thrown Out of the Bar, Hank Williams III
  6. Goin' to Texas When I'm Through, Wayne Hancock
  7. Watching the River Flow, Asylum Street Spankers
  8. If I Could, Sunny Sweeney
  9. No Friend of Mine, BR549
  10. Looking at the World Through a Windshield, Son Volt
  11. Why I'm Walking, Gina Lee and the Brisket Boys
  12. Nothin', Moot Davis
  13. Jackson, June Carter Cash
  14. Folsom Prison Blues, Johnny Cash
  15. Pretty Little Shoes, Big Medicine
  16. I Couldn't Believe it Was True, Carla Bozulich
  17. Liquor Store, The Meat Purveyors
  18. 666 Pack, same
  19. I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive, The Pine Valley Cosmonauts
  20. Let the Mystery Be, Iris DeMent
  21. It's Not Happening, The Be Good Tanyas
  22. Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss, Mary Z. Cox
  23. How Many Times, Chitlin' Fooks
  24. One by One, Kitty Wells
  25. Stone Walls and Steel Bars, Junior Brown and Ralph Stanley
  26. Honky Tonkers Don't Cry, Dale Watson
  27. You Can't Get That Stuff No Mo
Sources: Audiofile contest winners, KEXP Seattle, ITunes browsing, and other assorted influences.
At Right: Country Goddess, Kitty Wells, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

$240 a year for the privilege of working here?

Or, Stick Your Head Tax, I'll Start Shopping in the Borough
Even if it Costs More in a Largely Futile Gesture

In light of the Fairbanks' City Council's decision to meet its voter-stupidity-induced budget shortfall by levying an employment head tax, I decided I needed to find out more about this particular form of taxation.

Here's what Wikipedia had to say about it:

A poll tax, head tax, or capitation is a tax of a uniform, fixed amount per individual (as opposed to a percentage of income). Such taxes were important sources of revenue for many countries into the 19th century, but this is no longer the case.*
Ah, the good ol' 19th Century. Lots of fun examples of governance back there.

Apparently, some cities in the United States an employment tax, though it was hard to find much information about it. In some cases the employer kicks in a portion of the tax. But it seems to be a rare thing - when I Googled the topic, most of the hits I got were for some tax the Canadian government levied on Chinese immigrants to discourage immigration to Canada beginning in the good ol' 19th century.

According to today's Fairbanks Daily News Minus, city officials think that this tax will generate about $4.7 million of the $10.3 million dollar budget shortfall. Other sources of possible future revenue generating measures include a motor vehicle tax and a business gross-receipts tax.

I have a few suggestion where Fairbanks might squeeze out a little more revenue:
  • Canine head tax: Ever been to a Squarebanks or Goldstream party? That's right, more dogs than people. Tax the dogs too!
  • New traffic tickets for those who insist on idling their vehicles in parking lots when it is not cold enough to require it.
  • Two words: PULL TABS. Yep, let the city fund itself by selling the most boring form of gambling ever devised.
  • Public eyesore tax: Not to apply to clothing. But if you want to have piles of junk at home visible from the road, when you don't actually operate a junkyard, a fee would be assessed based on sheer ugliness and total volume of junk. There would be a blue tarp exemption.
  • Budweiser, Crappy Beer That No One Ought to be Drinking Anyway, Tax: Through its vast marketing machine, Bud sells well even though it tastes awful. Tax the Bud drinkers!
  • McDonald's Drive Thru Tax: Have you ever seen the lines at that drive thru? A sin tax par excellance.
  • And a Very Special Goldstream Valley Tax: Remember the Other Prop 2? Well, let's just say it enjoyed popular support out there. Legalize it and tax it before the Mat-Su Valley does!

*(Editor's note: the following material also courtesy of Wikipedia) There are several famous cases of poll taxes in history, notably a tax formerly required for voting in parts of the United States that was often designed to disenfranchise African Americans, Native Americans, and whites of non-British descent, as well as two taxes levied by John of Gaunt and Margaret Thatcher in the fourteenth and twentieth centuries respectively.

The word poll is an English word that once meant "head", hence the name poll tax for a per-person tax. However, in the United States, the term has come to be used almost exclusively for a fixed tax applied to voting. Since "going to the polls" is a common idiom for voting (deriving, of course, from the fact that early voting involved head-counts), a new folk etymology has supplanted common knowledge of the phrase's true origins in America.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Mush on, Herbie

Herbie Nayokpuk, the Shishmaref Cannonball, one of the premier mushers from the days before the Iditarod evolved into the high speed, highway-trail race that it is these days and it became dominated by teams with houndy dogs that tend to quit in real cold, passed away last night yesterday in Anchorage.

Herbie, an Inupiat Eskimo from Shishmaref, never won the race, finishing second his best year, but he was a top finisher for quite a number of them. Some of the dogs in Rick Swenson's winning teams were from Herbie - he also learned a lot from him by going up to Shishmaref from what I hear.

The Shishmaref Cannonball exemplified the best qualities of my favorite part of the planet, Western Alaska. It's not a part of the world where it is customary to showboat or brag about yourself or your accomplishments. But he was one tough guy, in that hard-working kind of way that many of the elders were, and still remarkably generous and open. He was famous for charging out into weather that today would probably stop the race. For him, that was just winter weather, what you deal with on the coast.

I had the good fortune to meet him years ago in Shishmaref.* He and his brother ran a store there, which is no easy task in a small, isolated village. He had retired from the race, but talking to him about it, you knew that if his body wasn't preventing him then, he'd still be behind a sled. You'd still see him at the finish line after he retired from the race, cheering the teams in. Everyone knew who he was, not just because it is a small town, but because he was respected and, I think, loved.

Rest in peace, Herbie.

*This was back before the rest of the world discovered that Shishmaref had an erosion problem. The village has known about it for, oh, say, 50 years. Nowadays, every journalist writing about global warming wants to visit Shishmaref and write about the Alaska Native village threatened by it. If the feds had just got off their butts 35 years ago and put in a proper seawall, it'd be a different situation all together. But I digress.

Friday, December 01, 2006

World Aids Day: Local and Global

For many Alaskans, AIDS is one of those issues that happens elsewhere and is visible only as images on TheTube when you're skipping through the news. That's just not true. But rather than rant/lecture on that one, I'd simply like to urge you to donate to a worthy local nonprofit, the Interior Aids Association. They do good work.

Better yet, donate to IAA AND attend the candlelight vigil/walk tonight @ 5:30 at the Alaska Peace Center at 507 Gaffney. A reception is being held from 5-8 p.m. there this evening.

At the U, the movie "Rent" will be shown at the Hess Center at 7 p.m. tonight. Tomorrow's film is "Zero Patience" at 7 p.m. at Schaible Auditorium.

40 million people worldwide are currently infected with HIV. 25 million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses in the 25 years since the first cases were identified.

My brother was one of them. At right is his panel in the AIDS quilt.

Bong Hits for Jesus: Part II? Part III?

Again, I just had to put that in the header, because the phrase amuses me so much that I have to fight back the urge to giggle.

And I am not a giggling type person.

As reported this morning in the Anchorage Daily Snooze, the Supreme Court of the United States has decided to hear the case of the Juneau high school student who was suspended after a school administrator witnessed him brandishing a sign that read, (note to self: do not giggle) "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" at the Olympic Torch Relay in 2002. The brandishing occurred at a location that was NOT ON SCHOOL PROPERTY, (although nearby.)

So it's a free speech thing, but hey, we've already chucked habeus corpus, why not throw out a few other foundations of government?

Sadly, YouTube only has the FoxNews* coverage of the case, but I'll link it, because despite how craptastically bad that right-wing-propaganda-machine-masquerading-as-a-news organization is, sometimes, it is quite funny. Unintentionally, but hey, I'm writing from Squarebanks. One has to take the funny where one can find it.

*Ha! News, my foot.