Monday, December 29, 2008

Holy Inversion, Batman

Lest you think I'm on any drugs other than caffeine at the moment, I'm not.

Ah, the press the advent of some real winter temps has gathered. By now, even those only acquainted with -40 by way of reading about it online have heard about thermal inversions, ice fog, all that good stuff.

But this morning was a whole new chapter for me.

Conventional wisdom holds that down low is cold, and those living up in the hills in what we call "The Banana Belt" are not so cold. But wind, apparently, plays havoc on the situation. A light breeze was in my neighborhood last night and this morning, mucking the whole thing up, and it was -4 degrees.

Minus four.

I'm not kidding. Down on the valley floor, at my house. It had only been about -12 the evening before.

Even stranger was when I drove UP Ballaine Hill and the thermometer on my car begin to drop off. It was -8 at the top. Of course, once I descended down to Farmers Loop and the University area, the thermometer began to drop down to 'normal' temps.

Now, either I have a bum thermometer or this was a strange localized phenomena. Comments? Some scientificky explanation?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Oh, Tannenbomb

At right: The Happy Light. No, really. It's the actual name.

How embarassing is it to contract a raging bout of SAD in what is easily the wimpiest Fairbanks winter in recent memory?

That question was not rhetorical. It sucks. I've lost at least 453 Alaska points. It is like getting beaten by the Detroit Lions, who I must add, are my home team.

I'm getting my ass kicked by a winter that could have occurred in the Lower 48 in the year that my home team is going to set THE record for being the worst team ever in the recorded history of team sports. Why settle for mere medicocrity when one can find the athletic equivalent of absolute zero?

No 40 below yet. Not once. Barely, maybe an unofficial -29. The propane hasn't stopped flowing due to the cold. No squarish tires in the morning. The dog hasn't once curled up into a ball rather than do her business.

But here I sit, grumpy and fidgety alternating with sluglike, and having not posted since Barack Obama was elected President. This is as bad as my first Alaskan winter, some years ago, when over the course of the dark months I changed my hair color 3 times. I had a housemate cut my hair, but all he knew how to cut was an angled bob. As other housemates also succumbed to SAD, by the end of winter we morphed into this pack of angled bob wearing women with bad home dye jobs.

Ah, even now I feel myself slipping back into the sweet embrace of slugdom. Slugdom, of course, being improved vastly with a bottle of dark, dark beer:


Let's just say that my approach to winter has been Sheaf Stout, fried foods and really bad television series through Netflix.

Flic, (despite her tree-killing tendencies) has remained reasonably sane and cheerful, a state she attributes to her purchase of the "Happy Light." One of my coworkers has one on her desk. Supposedly 15-30 minutes per days "guarantees a positive mood." Yeah, well, go ahead and try it, Happy Light.

Flic has been a very good friend this winter, i.e. a very patient one, though I suspect she is getting tired of my brush offs about the Happy Light. In fact, she made me swear that before I do anything rash (be it relationship or otherwise) that I will buy a light and use it first.

Of course, being perverse and in the throes of SAD, I have another theory: it's been too damn easy this year. See, the reasoning is that when it is as cold and dark as it ought to be, I'm conscious of the necessity of making an effort. In times like this year, with no external factors influencing my behavior, I'm a great big slug. What I need, in that case, is not a Happy Light, but a good healthy dose of -40. A shock to the system, if you will.

We'll see soon, though. If the National Weather Service is right, the temperatures are finally going to drop tonight and stay with us until next week at least.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Dark Time in Fairbanks

Even though we have less than four hours of daylight at this time of year- the holiday season with all of its lights , celebrations, and festivities with friends and family traditionally make late December more a time of light and cheer than a dismal reminder that we still have two more months of cold and dark.

Except this year. This year it is darker than usual in Fairbanks and the reason is the wanton, terrible murder of a gentle, unassuming soul who was always friendly and open to visitors and customers. Daniel Fredrick harmed no one, loved his pets and had many friends and acquaintances. As the long time proprietor of Blondie's Military Surplus, he and his lineage of "Blondie" dog(s) were iconic in this town. In fact, it is probably safe to say, that over the last quarter century, most Fairbanks newbies completed at least one pilgrimage to Blondie's in search of a pair of used and cheap bunny boots. For new arrivals, especially graduate students and neophyte mushers, Fredrick's store was the place to go in order to round out one's new arctic winter kit with those funky, white, but impossible to beat bunny boots. It was also a great place just to poke around in, looking at musty dusty odd pieces of this and that, while having a random sort of conversation with Fredrick.

It's been a number of years since I was in his store, but I drove by it regularly, and seeing its sign somehow always instilled in me a sense of "all is right in this town" - because Blondie's on the corner has just always been part of the scene - at least my scene since I came to this town 20 years ago.

And now it is not. And not because this very kind, slightly odd man closed up one day and went into retirement, but because one, two and possibly three low-lifes decided that it wasn't just enough to rob him. They could have taken all his money, all his cards, all his gear and left him alone. But no, they had to beat and strangle him - even though I am quite sure that initially he welcomed them to his store in same friendly manner he greeted everyone who came in.

Every violent death that occurs in this town and its environs costs all of us a little bit of our humanity. This one is going to extract even more. About the only thing that can be said of this is at least these three were so stupid - or possibly incredibly stupidly arrogant - that they used his cards and were quickly caught. Although this is a heinous crime, it would have been far worse if he had been found dead, with no solid suspects or leads in the case. At least there is reasonable assurance that justice will be done, and that these inhuman useless bits of trash will receive the type of punishment they so richly deserve. There is no excuse for this type of brutal attack, there never is.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Tannenbum


T'is nearly the night before Christmas and my tree is dead.

Not slightly brittle, dry and a bit musty, but dead.

Dead: ornaments dragging on the floor and falling off branches which droop and sag. Dead: the softly shurring tinkling, winkling noise as needles shower gently to the floor every time we so much as breathe on it. Dead: its unhealthy and somber shade of brown.

At least I am supposing that is its current color, as I refuse to turn up the lights to really inspect it. Suffice that the Ghost of Tree Past haunts me every time I look over to its corner - I don't need further proof of its deadness exposed in the harsh glare of a full-spectrum light.

This is the second year in a row that my Christmas tree is thoroughly dead even before Christmas Eve.

One might suppose that maybe I went to a bum tannenbaum purveyor, or that I bought it too early. Or put it too close to the woodstove. All excellent questions. And the answer to every one of those is nope, nope, and nope.

Because my blogmate and her S.O. got a tree from the very same place, nearly ten days earlier than mine and have parked theirs right in front of their monitor, and across the room from their wood stove, and, you guessed it, their tree is alive, luscious and vibrantly green.

"Perhaps you did not love it enough", opines CabinDweller's S.O. I laugh manically and throw an ornament (that has rolled off a limp limb) at her head. Didn't love it enough???

Man, I babied that sucker. I didn't make the mistake I did last year - which was to shove it under the dog box and give it a chilly, if not downright freezing, ride home.

Nope, not this time, not this tree. I left the truck engine running while I went and made my choice, so the cab was a cozy 60 degrees or so. It rode up front swathed in its plastic tree bag like some petty Jersey don that ran afoul of Little Nicky Scarfo. Once home, I whisked it into the house, cut several inches off its stump and plopped it immediately into the tree stand filled with fresh water laced with "Keeps-It-Green" (extends tree life! retards needle drop! exclaims the label).

I knew I was in trouble when even before I had finished decorating the tree, the tree had stopped drinking water (retards needle drop! reduces fire hazard!). And I was right. Twelve days later it is deader than dead.

Now I have had real "real" trees (as opposed to the Charlie Brown Alaska trees we all love for their ease in decoration) for several years. Sometimes I have bought them in the first week of December, and one memorable year, I left the tree up til Valentine's Day (though that was due to sloth rather than an especially vigorous tree). Never have I had trees die within two weeks of purchase, except for the past two years.

Which is when I started using "Keeps-it-Green".....hmmmmm.

Friday, December 19, 2008

General Hoosegow-Keeping

Because I am a relatively neat and orderly person who likes to keep lists and because my blog mate appears to have fled the state to go surfing in Mexico or done some other crazed thing in response to SAD - the onerous task of updating the FBI's Little List falls to me.

How appropriate that on or near the date that I first created the list, it's time to note another status change; to wit, John Cowdry's on his way to join his colleagues at the Gray Bar Hotel.

I am thinking that the wife who embroidered the CBC hats might be considering a second run of hats - with a minor addition of yet another "C". That would be CCBC: the Convicted Corrupt Bastards Club.

Thusly,

Santa's The FBI's Little List (First posted in December 2007 - Updated on December 19, 2008)

Tom Anderson : Naughty Gray Bar Hotel
Bill Allen: Very, Very, Very Naughty Pled Guilty
Rick Smith: NaughtyPled Guilty
Pete Kott: Naughty and Easy Gray Bar Hotel
Bruce Weyhrauch: Naughty Indicted
John Cowdery: Naughty Indicted, Pled Guilty
Vic Kohring: Naughty Gray Bar Hotel
Ben Stevens: Very Naughty - In the Bag
Ted Stevens: Very, Very Naughty and Haughty - CONVICTED!
Don Young: Naughty and Rude, Under Investigation and Spending $ Like Crazy
Frank Murkowski: Naughty and Slow, Give 'im rope
Jim Clark: Very, Very, Very Naughty Pled Guilty
James C. Hayes: Indicted, Tried and Convicted Gray Bar Hotel
Murilda "Chris" Hayes: Indicted, Pled Out, Gray Bar Hotel

Monday, December 15, 2008

Not Just a Shoe

If I ever get around to compiling a list of defining moments in '08 - the Bush shoe incident will top the list. Seldom has Dubyah given me much to laugh about (lots to cry about, though) during his reign of incompetency, but today's headlines gave me plenty to snicker at.

The act of shoe hurtling is profound. On so many levels.

My first reaction, knowing little about Iraqi culture, was to snort and comment to my attentive canine crew that Dubyah didn't even rate a pie in the face.

But reading further - fortunately the New York Times was astute enough to provide cultural context for its readers - brought me to greater appreciation of the gesture.

Shoe-throwing. The ultimate insult in Iraq. Could it get any better?

And not just one shoe, but two shoes. Muntadar al-Zaidi is my new hero.

Not only do I love the fact that this reporter would stand up and throw his shoes at a man that deserves so much more thrown at him, but that he would do it first with one shoe and a shouted comment, and then with the other (no word as of yet whether reporters now will have to go to press conferences shoeless, or if TSA will implement a ban on all shoes at airports in response to this latest "terrorist" act).

I also greatly appreciate that Iraq has something that is universally understood throughout that country (and I suppose throughout the Arab world) as the insult nonpareil. The US, melting pot that it is, lacks these gestures of ultimacy. We have no single pejorative, no pithy insult or curse that hurtles from deliverer to recipient and leaves no room for alternate interpretation.

My father has always famously (and bitterly) complained that English was a piss-poor language for cursing. He noted that anglo imagination was limited to off-color commentary about sexual intercourse, mothers, and illegitimate offspring, and lacked the breadth of creativity of the Hungarians, who, in addition to the aforementioned subjects, utilize the entire pantheon of Catholic saints, and incorporate their legacy as horse-riding people of the steppes to boot.

How the Iraqi puppet government handles the disposition of their shoe-throwing reporter will be telling. Will it be an all expenses-paid trip to the lovely isle of Cuba on the Gitmo Express? Will he have as his cell mate that other shoe-loving "terrorist" that tried to take down a plane with his sneaks? Prior to the Bush years, no one would seriously consider internment without end as possible for someone who was simply engaging in his right of free expression (which is, after all, nominally what Bush says our government is seeking to secure in Iraq), but nowadays all bets are off.

It takes no stretch of imagination to suspect that Muntadar may pay a serious price for his outburst. One can hope, however, that the court of world opinion will prevail, thus preventing Bush, al-Malaki and their minions from extracting punishment for this very public humiliation. Otherwise, Muntadar might find himself one among the throng of "enemy combatants" rotting away in the tropics.

I realize that by now most will have seen the huge variety of video clips of this incident out on the web, but still, I cant resist embedding one here. It is truly is a fitting coup d' grace to the Bush Era Error.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Empress Sarah


The Empress' New Clothes



About the time I was posting my riff on the the Petite Trianon, my 83-year old father was passing his evenings doing cut & paste old school. Although he chose a different royal as his base upon which to build his Empress Sarah - we hit the same historical period. Clearly, the nut does not fall far from the tree. Here is his handiwork and original captions.

The Empress Sarah After Her $150,000 Makeover


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It Finally Happened

I know I am stating the obvious - thanks to the McPalin hijinks's and the antics of our corrupt bastards - Alaska is enjoying (I realize, a questionable choice of words) a degree of recognition, mention and scrutiny not previously experienced at any point in its modern history.

Except perhaps during the Gold Rush.

We are surrounded by plenty of evidence that we are wiggling in the glare of this dubious limelight - Palin is the topic for the talking heads to the talk shows and everything in between, but in my mind, you know you are living in the theatre of the absurd when references to your elected officials start appearing in Harper's.

Those of you familiar with the monthly will know about the Harper's Index and their practice of featuring the ridiculous, peculiar, laughable and downright absurdly corrupt in the front 10 or so pages titled "Readings". Well, last month, Alaska began to creep into these sections. Palin made it into the Harper's Index ("Minimum number of reporters who traveled to Wasilla, Alaska, in the two weeks following Sarah Palin's selection as VP: 90") as well as into the Readings section: "Death and the Maiden". Now this month, it's even juicier.

Titled The Good Life, Senator Ted Stevens on Virtue, it's a reprint of some of the more damning transcripts of conversations between Ted and Bill that the FBI recorded.

After reading the smattering that are reproduced here, it's no wonder the jury returned guilty verdicts on all counts in such short order once the disruptive and oddball juror disappeared.

Although the transcripts are available to review - I have to confess I never bothered to. I didn't need to - I wasn't one of those that fell for the craven currying tones that the Fairbanks Daily News Miner took when reporting and commenting on the trial. However, it is very interesting to read these now.

Because really, as always - it's Ted who gives himself the rope by which he was hung.

Since these are public records and I am a lazy beast, I am sure that Harper's won't come after me if I quote just a few of the better lines of conversation from their magazine (and of course, as before, I can't resist adding a little editorializing of my own):

August 31, 2006

Ted Stevens: Hey Bill? Wonder if you are going to be around Sunday? Catherine has in mind replacing those black couches at the chalet---[can we ever get past just how pretentious it was to call that dump a "chalet"?]

Bill Allen: Yeah, uh, hey, Ted, the FBI got a warrant and searched my house and the office. They asked me what I done on your house. I said, well, he's paid for everything, and I just told'em I wouldn't talk to 'em.

T.S.: Okay. Good. I had an inkling something was up, but I don't know what it is.

September 10

T.S.: ....Keep yourself going my friend. I've never been up against a bunch like this before. I'm not getting much sleep , thinking about all this shit that's going around . I'm just trying to figure out why these fuckers are doing this thing to our friends. [quite possibly it is because those fuckers are upholding the law and they suspect you broke it, Uncle Ted]

October 18

T.S.:...So you and I ought to wait this thing out. They haven't filed a charge yet. It may be that what we've done leaves an impression that we have done something wrong. But you have to make up your mind you're doing something wrong to be really guilty of a crime. [here we see the first hint of that fine legal mind that brought us his astounding statement that he is not guilty until he finishes his appeal process] We don't want to get ourselves there by trying to do something that leads to a different kind of charge.

Yup, Alaska has arrived on the national scene - thanks to the whole freak'n lot of petty, ill-grammared thieves and trailer trash queens.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Don't Mind Us, We're Out and About

Well, I can't rely upon Flic to pick up the slack while I'm traveling; she is out of Squarebanks at the moment as well.

We'll both be back, soon, really. I'm in the airport, having scavenged for some good travel reading materials. I settled on:

"The Vesuvius Club"
"Kinfolks - falling off the family tree"
"The Whale and the Supercomputer"

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

T'was the Day After...

And Obama won!

We hadn't been listening to the news all day, being too nervous and busy. But as the Bring Your Own Effigy hour approached, Obama already had a lead.

I swear, I walked back into the kitchen for a minute, went back, and the election coverage was talking about President Elect Obama. "It's over!" The early arrivals ran into the room. Before most of the guests arrived - he'd won.

Wow!

So there was nothing to do but have a celebratory jello shot and a fresh keg cup of beer. We spent the rest of the evening with the bonfire (and Mike Kelly effigy), bouncing back and forth to hear McCain's concession, another jello shot, Obama's phenomenal speech, another jello shot, and then desperately hoping for a crumb of local news. Oh, and Flic made a kicking moose chili.

Today? We celebrate some more, I think. But I'm laying off the jello shots. There are a few here with your name on them, Ish.

Monday, November 03, 2008

T'was the Night Before...

the election, and here is what I did:

  • I made an effigy.
I hadn't planned to. After all, I figured I had shot my creative wad when I first floated the "Bring Your Own Effigy" idea - but I was disabused of that notion by my blog mate. No way was I going to be able to show up and swizzle beer and get rowdy if I didn't have an effigy in tow.


Initially it looked like ET

So I got down to it and whipped up a passing likeness of a certain District incumbent. It wasn't until it was completed that I realized that, like most politicians, it was spineless and flip-flopped any which way. Too late to put some backbone (or a pole) in it, so it's propped up in chair, the target of an occasional curious sniff from one of the pooches.

  • I drank a peartini and snarfed a scotch egg, fries and hot wings.

Just as I was attaching the head and putting on the finishing touches, I got a call from my blog mate. She had been out doing her civic duty by waving candidate signs on a cold corner while I was home cozily ensconced before the fire hacking up a pillow case and gluing on cotton fuzz eyebrows & goatee. It took no arm twisting to lure me out for a pre-election nip. Those peartinis never fail to knock me right off my pins - faster and more thoroughly than anything I imbibed during my (in)famous Nome bar crawl this past summer.

  • I listened to reports that 9,000 election observers will be mobilized to Indian reservations,

and internalized the bitter truth that the Banana Republicans have succeeded. It's a sad day when any place at all in our country needs to have protection to ensure fair voting. And even sadder when I consider that whereas 10 years ago I believed our elections to be fair, open and honest, I don't hold that opinion any longer. Rigged elections? Sure, why not? It happened in 2000, it can happen again.

It's late, and although I am jittery from too much coffee and the arrival of E-day, it's time for this blogger to head off to bed. Need to be well rested for tomorrow: at worst it could be the end of the free world as we know it - at best, a hell of a shindig.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Two Days to Go

There are many reasons why I love living in the Goldstream Valley.

Reason # 897: On Halloween night, at the annual Lion's Club party for the ankle biters of our community, the award for Scariest Adult Costume went to ... a woman who dressed up as Sarah Palin.

But as we come down to the last days of this ugly campaign, we've been trying to come up with a way to survive Election Night. Being drunk seemed a good approach to several of us.

Presto! We're having a party. Beer, bonfire, and effigies to entertain us while we see if the Hoopleheads actually elect McCain. (Note to Hoopleheads: Sarah Palin is the candidate for Vice President. Not President. Really.)

I hope that it needs no further explanation that there is a difference between some spirited effigy burning of various political figures and a display that features an African American candidate being lynched. But who knows? We're an ahistorical society.

I'm thinking of Dubyah as my effigy. And really, who can compete with what the Brits did at their recent annual bonfire (one that burns a political effigy every year?) You might also be entertained by the YouTube video below.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Diomede Drops the Dime on Palin

To no one's surprise, Diomeders confirm that Sarah Palin has never been to their island, which is the only place in Alaska where you can actually see Russia.

Check out it out on CNN, as Gary Tuchman interviews Diomeders about Palin....



Diomede rocks!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Yard Signs


What some people are posting in their yards in the Lower 48....

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Grand Slam, Perfect 10, Triple Crown

Take your pick. To date, the Justice Department has knocked it out of the park on every member of the former CBC they have brought to trial. If they keep this up - they will have a perfect record, 14 for 14. Kudos to the prosecutors and the MIB for putting together cases that have such a high conviction rate. Of course, I rather suspect that the dumb bastards, crooks, uh, politicians make it kinda easy for them.

We need to add to the much marked up list a couple of others that were inadvertently left off the original. Former Mayor Jim Hayes and his wife really should have been on the list from the get-go. Because although they weren't part of the hallowed senatorial elite - Jim was a FOT*. Can't go forgetting it was his cosy little arrangement with Uncle Ted that landed him the first couple of million that he and his wife then inappropriately spent on themselves and the church. And nope, I don't have to use the word "alleged" because those two have had their day in court and are duly serving their time in the Gray Bar Hotel - which is getting a mite bit lousy with Alaskans.

I'll have more to say about Uncle Ted trying that tired old ploy of blaming his wife for everything in a future post. But really, don't you think he would have compared notes with his buddy Jim and deep-sixed the "wife under the bus" schtick? It didn't work for Hayes, and it sure didn't work for the Not-Senator-for-Life.

Santa's The FBI's Little List
(First posted in December 2007 - Updated on October 29, 2008)
Tom Anderson : Naughty Gray Bar Hotel
Bill Allen: Very, Very, Very Naughty Pled Guilty
Rick Smith: Naughty Pled Guilty
Pete Kott: Naughty and Easy Gray Bar Hotel
Bruce Weyhrauch: Naughty Indicted
John Cowdery: Naughty Indicted
Vic Kohring: Naughty Gray Bar Hotel
Ben Stevens: Very Naughty In the Bag
Ted Stevens: Very, Very Naughty and Haughty CONVICTED!
Don Young: Naughty and Rude Under Investigation and Spending $ Like Crazy
Frank Murkowski: Naughty and Slow Give 'im rope
Jim Clark: Very, Very, Very Naughty Pled Guilty
James C. Hayes, Indicted, Tried and Convicted Gray Bar Hotel
Murilda "Chris" Hayes, Indicted, Pled Out, Gray Bar Hotel

For now, in a nod to Super Smooth Andy G, I am out of here like a convict.

*Friend of Ted

Monday, October 27, 2008

And Then There Were Five

Q: I was convicted of a felony, but have served my time and am on probation. Can I register to vote?
A: No. A convicted felon may not register to vote unless unconditionally discharged from custody. When you are no longer on probation, a copy of your discharge papers will allow you to register.
The above comes to us courtesy of the State of Alaska website. We're all about the public service here.

I called Flic from work.

"Did you hear?"

The last time we had one of these Corrupt Bastards phone calls was when she called and woke me to tell that Uncle Ted had been indicted. Given how many Alaskan Republicans have been busted, we've had quite a few of these conversations. But this time I beat her to the punch.

Here we are, with the unthinkable made real. Senator-for-Life "Uncle" Ted Stevens was found guilty on all seven counts. He is officially a felon. He won't be able to vote in the upcoming election, although that limitation is not permanent. Senate Republican rules require his replacement upon his conviction, although how soon that will come is unclear. Will they move quickly with the election only eight days away?

Who is next? My money is on Don Young. He has spent quite a bit already on legal fees, although he is only under investigation. I'm inclined to believe that if they could make a case on Stevens, they're going to have Young as well.

But it's time to update the list. I ask again, "Who'd have thunk it?"

Santa's The FBI's Little List
(First posted in December 2007 - Updated on October 27, 2008)
Tom Anderson : Naughty Gray Bar Hotel
Bill Allen: Very, Very, Very Naughty Plead Guilty
Rick Smith: Naughty Plead Guilty
Pete Kott: Naughty and Easy Gray Bar Hotel
Bruce Weyhrauch: Naughty Indicted
John Cowdery: Naughty Indicted
Vic Kohring: Naughty Gray Bar Hotel
Ben Stevens: Very Naughty In the Bag
Ted Stevens: Very, Very Naughty and Haughty CONVICTED!
Don Young: Naughty and Rude Under Investigation and Spending $ Like Crazy
Frank Murkowski: Naughty and Slow Give 'im rope
Jim Clark: Very, Very, Very Naughty Plead Guilty

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Petite Trianon - Wasilla Style

After scanning today's headlines concerning Alaska's most prominent hockey mom (Palin's office: It's OK to bill for kid travel, McCain has terse response on Palin shopping spree), the words "Petite Trianon" popped into my head. Odds are good that our AWOL governor, with her roving through five colleges in nearly as many years, probably has no idea who or what a Petite Trianon is. But maybe she saw the movie. Maybe First Dude and the kiddos rented Marie Antoinette one evening as a way to unwind after a long day of working the crowds at events they weren't invited to, or reviewing personnel files to which they had no rightful access.
On second thought, it seems unlikely that a movie about a woman who let power go to her head and subsequently lost same would be in the First Family's Netflix queue.

So I have to conclude that Palin really doesn't know much about history (as if we need any more evidence of that!). Otherwise she would take a lesson from what happened to Marie Antoinette when the French economy went in the toilet and the country crumbled under the rule of a weak and profligate king. True, while M. Antoinette played and spent no harder than many another royal, she happened to do so in a period of terrible unrest and instability. Because she was an outsider (something Palin loves to claim), she became the nonpareil symbol of excess and entitlement from then to now. When her husband's head and hers landed in the basket, so ended the monarchy - birthing the French Republic.

While I don't expect Palin's VEEP nomination to result in the toppling of this empire (although a McPalin win will certainly bring its demise closer), her wanton exploitation of her position, both as governor and as nominee, reeks of the noblesse oblige that got M. Antoinette into such deep doo-doo.

True, there has been no gilt added to the Governor's Mansion, nor any lavish frivolity such as tableaux to entertain the Palin court, but there doesn't need to be. This is Versailles the Wasilla way. It's billing the state to attend the start of the Iron Dog (but not the Iditarod or Quest - neither of which feature or interest First Dude). It's charging the state for your kids' travel and lodging, then fudging the records to make it seem like they were on state business.

It's having a combined net worth of about 1.2 mil and then telling everyone you are like all the rest of us who are struggling to keep the lights on and the bills paid. It's having the audacity to stand up and talk about how people have to live within their means, and then blowing $150,000 on clothes and hairstylists - it doesn't matter if its paid for by private donations or the clothes are donated to charity. It is still in-your-face excess of the sort that drove the citizenry to loot Versailles and dispose of Louis the XIV and his Queen.

When people are losing their homes and living out of cars, or, closer to home, Alaskans are wondering how to stay warm through a very cold winter and leaving the villages in droves, you simply don't spend that kind of money on clothes.

It's insensitive, not to mention gauche. And it's yet another screaming indication of what we can expect in a McPalin administration: endless gimmes to those in power - while the rest of us eat cake.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Two More Reasons to Boot Mike Kelly to the Curb

It's time to update the previous list of reasons why it's time someone else needs to fill Mike Kelly's seat in the lege.

1) Sarah Palin endorses him,

2) His campaign ads are just as offensive as he is,

3) he is part of the lawsuit to stop or delay the abuse-of-power investigation of the Palins,

4) homophobic gay basher doesn't even come close to describing him,

5) he, along with Palin and other homophobes in the Lege, spent 1.2 million to hold that nasty, discriminatory advisory vote on whether or not the constitution should be amended to prohibit same-sex couples from receiving the same benefits as hetero couples (which thankfully failed),

6) he's Pete Kelly's brother,

7) During his tenure as CEO of GVEA, the Intertie was conceived and permitted - the latter occurring without a Best Interest Finding made by the State- thanks to legislation sponsored by his bro,

8) he makes little effort to hide his disdain for the "little people" (i.e. everyone else except his bizness cronies),

9) he holds everyone else to a different energy standard than himself (we should all turn off our lights and conserve fuel, while he flies all over in his private plane),

10) he has a low opinion of Natives (although I am sure he would righteously deny it), and indeed of anyone who is not white, Christian, conservative, and hetero,

11) he writes vituperative, mean opinion pieces as a state legislator,

12) he's buds with the sewer mafia and Seekins - need we say more?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Give Her Points for Being a Good Sport



Fey and Palin on SNL? Meh. It was okay, with everyone getting a little mocking on the other: on Palin, on Fey, on 30 Rock (one of my favorite guilty teevee pleasures.) Alec Baldwin was a nice surprise, being Mr. Supah Liberal and all.

But Amy Poehler doing the Palin rap? Completely funny.

And despite the fact that I in no way agree with her politics, and have lost some respect for her for the role she has played in the McCain campaign, she has to get some points for going on national teevee and playing along.

But at times, it looked like she was just barely tolerating it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Goodbye, CabinDwelling

Goodbye, Outhouse

Running water. Pooping indoors. A toilet seat that is not blue foam. A counter top that is not a 30 year-old piece of plywood.

No more stringing Christmas tree lights from the dwelling to the outhouse so visitors can find the facilities in dark. (They're like runway lights for the intoxicated.)

It has taken almost a month to work on the older, strangely built house and accomplish the move, hence the near absence of updating this thing. A month and unanticipated truck loads of crap. How did I go from a 15 box limit of personal goods a few years ago to eleventy five truck loads?

But... here it is. My last post as an official CabinDwelling-type person. Flic and I have discussed this, and it is kind of prompting a blogger identity crisis on my part. Hot showers at home, laundry at home, indoor toilet ... I mean, how posh can a CabinDweller get?

Above right: No more bargaining over who has the chore of knocking down the inevitable poop cone.

No more hauling water from the water wagon in the five gallon blue jugs. We've given most of them to a friend who just moved in to a dry cabin nearby.

The old Goldstream Valley house we purchased has a well with pretty good water, so we're not going to be forced to haul water in one of those 300 gallon plastic tanks you see in the back of folk's pickup trucks. Speaking of hauling water ...

Goodbye Subaru
To amplify this whole identity crisis, my Soob up and died last week. Francesca the aged Loyale, rounding the 235,000 mile mark, went to the great lot in the sky. It's like she knew that we were moving to an actual house, even if it's an old outside-Fairbanks-city-limits-we-don't-need-no-stinking-building-codes house, and she said, "Nope. That's not a driveway I care to sit in."

Goodbye, Random Animal Parts Wired to Trees
Yes, this is a strange one. At the final cabin, we kept finding antlers (caribou, moose) wired to trees. Antlers as decor are one thing - in small doses - but on several occasions, I'd be out walking on the property quite a ways from any building or structure and there would be a set of antlers wired to a tree. And I'd think, "What the hell? Where's the context?"

So far, I haven't found a single set of antlers in the new yard.

Of course, who can forget the whole animal head in tree thing? Our site got more traffic over the animal head thing than from the recent boost from She Who I Am Mighty Tired of Talking About.

Goodbye, slop bucket. No more near misses on the over flow thing; and since this was a chore I agreed to take on as mine in order to convince the S.O. to live in a dry cabin, well, yay. No more lugging the thing out away from the house, trying very hard not to splash on myself.

Goodbye, carpenter ants. Have fun consuming that cabin from the ground up. I'm not going to miss the annual weeklong population explosion, hatching, or whatever the hell it was that manifested as an ant party inside the house.

So, what to do? What moniker, what nom de plume, shall I adopt? Ex-CabinDweller doesn't have a good ring to it.

Not that we've gone totally yuppie or anything. We're still down in the bottom of the Goldstream Valley, plumbing the depths of thermometer, or thermometers, (since they all read different anyway.) But I confess, there is a small part of me that is going to miss the dry cabin lifestyle; it was a good, cheap way to live. Although, the simple life is anything but simple. It's a whole lot more work.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Attila the Mom

Boosterism on Crack

Words fail me. How to really convey the utter trailer-trash tackiness of the latest Palin-booster T-shirt that I recently discovered?

Where to start? With the awful not-pun of Attila the Mom? How about the (presumably) Downs Syndrome babe tucked in the sled basket? Or maybe its the visual assault of polar bears as sled dogs?

Then there is the hyperbole blaring across the bottom:

LOVED***RESPECTED***FEARED


(Feared? By whom? State employees who don't embrace her fundamentalist views? Walt Monegan? The Wasilla librarian who refused to ban the book Mayor Palin found offensive?)

And finally, just in case there was any fight left in those of us who believe that a candidate for national office should actually know something about domestic and foreign policy, there's the coup d' grace:

Alaska's Hottest Governor, America's Toughest Vice President

Really, it's so wrong on so many levels.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Bringing Home the Bacon - Native Style

Somewhere in the Flats: So far I have gutted over 50 ducks in an afternoon, and plucked and singed many more. In the smokehouse there's meat still to be cut up from a moose brought in yesterday, as well as dry meat curing.

As we took care of the ducks, we heard the single crack of a rifle. With no other shots following, we knew that after we finished with the ducks, we'd be cutting up another moose. Sure enough, 20 minutes after we heard the shot, nephew was back for chainsaw, tarps, rope and extra hands to help bring the moose in. In the past week, six other moose have been cut and distributed.

All of this is the result of hard work by three hunters - men who are feeding their extended family, which includes their wives and children, a number of related elders, and four single women (both with and without kids), including myself.

This is subsistence hunting - where getting sufficient food for the winter takes precedence over anything else. The men do the hunting, the women are in camp or the village - cutting and smoking or freezing meat, plucking, singeing and gutting ducks, geese and the occasional swan or crane.

One can hear the righteous cries from particular segments of the population: unfair, poaching, wasteful and so on. Many of those who would condemn the number of moose and ducks taken would be the first in line to declare that, with rising energy costs and escalating diet-related disease in Alaska Native populations, a return to subsistence should be encouraged and promoted.

Fact is, very few Alaska Natives have left the subsistence way. Another fact is current ADF&G regulations do not allow for lawful subsistence hunting, at least in the Interior.

The bag limit for ducks is 30 in possession, and for moose, its one/hunter. Sure, a hunter can hunt proxy, but only if the person is over 65 and/or disabled. Single women under 65, regardless of ability, have to go out and hunt if they want to eat moose. How practical is that?

Speaking for myself, I certainly can wield a gun, and I probably could hit something as large as a moose, but it wouldn't be pretty, it wouldn't be clean, and it would likely waste a fair amount of meat. Furthermore, most women and quite a few men aren't strong enough to handle a dead moose on their own.

It makes more sense, and it is more humane and respectful of the animal to send experienced hunters out. The kill is likely to be cleaner with fewer chances of a lost but dying animal, and the chances of spoilage are reduced because the animal will be field dressed faster. Finally, even with the addition of store-bought food, one moose and 30 ducks doesn't feed a hunter's family, let alone his relatives that depend on him.

As for wasteful, this week I counted several boned-out rib cages, backbones and rumps in the local dumpsters. The heads, minus their racks, are left in the field by non-Native hunters. In contrast, Natives value and consume all of the moose, including the organs, stomach and head.

And as far as unfair goes, well, it is hardly fair that strong, accomplished hunters that provide for their families should be called unlawful. It's way past time for real subsistence hunting to be legalized here in Alaska.

Just something I contemplated as I ate boiled moose rump cooked over camp fire.

Brought to You by the Great Folks at AK Robotics



How can have I neglected to put a link to AK Robotics for so long? Go check them out. Now.

And if you haven't done so, watch their "Buy Back Alaska" bit. Awesome!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Mike Kelly puts the Bully in Bully Pulpit

5 10 Reasons Why He Needs to Go

I can't claim ownership of this post. The idea is Cabin Dweller's, but she's too busy crawling out of the cabin life and sheet rocking their new digs (with not just plumbing, but a well - talk about moving on up out of the 'hood!) to start the list, so I am. I consider this one to be a joint-posting with more strikes to come and growing numbers as she adds even more reasons why the time has come to boot Kelly out of District 7.

So here we go.

It's time to kick Mike Kelly to the curb because...

1) he is part of the lawsuit to stop or delay the abuse-of-power investigation of the Palins,
2) homophobic gay basher doesn't even come close to describing him,
3) he, along with Palin and other homophobes in the Lege, spent 1.2 million to hold that nasty, discriminatory advisory vote on whether or not the constitution should be amended to prohibit same-sex couples from receiving the same benefits as hetero couples (which thankfully failed),
4) he's Pete Kelly's brother,
5) During his tenure as CEO of GVEA, the Intertie was conceived and permitted - the latter occurring without a Best Interest Finding made by the State- thanks to legislation sponsored by his bro,
6) he makes little effort to hide his disdain for the "little people" (i.e. everyone else except his bizness cronies),
7) he holds everyone else to a different energy standard than himself (we should all turn off our lights and conserve fuel, while he flies all over in his private plane),
8) he has a low opinion of Natives (although I am sure he would righteously deny it), and indeed of anyone who is not white, Christian, conservative, and hetero,
9) he writes vituperative, mean opinion pieces as a state legislator,
10) he's buds with the sewer mafia and Seekins - need we say more?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Cool New Item: Custom Obama Buttons

Note to Those Outside: Wasilla Is Not Representative of Alaska

So there I was, standing in my former landlord's driveway covered in sheetrock dust and god/dess knows what else that was up in that old ceiling, tired and grumpy yet unburdened by even the faintest acquaintance with the day's news.

I had more important things on my mind, like how the hell does one fix such a shitty sheetrock job? Pulling down the sheetrock was easy enough, but then I discovered that whoever had framed the room had been on the same drugs as the mud and tape people. So, I'd driven into town to meet up with my buddy/former landlord for a roll of Tyvek tape, which he'd assured me, would at least save the day in regards to redoing the vapor barrier.

Bear with me, there is a point.


So there I was, standing on the street in Fairbanks, begging construction materials and advice - when my landlord dug into his coat with an additional gift: he'd ordered custom Obama buttons and I was high enough in his esteem to rate two. This guy, a superb construction type of the old school, a Vietnam vet, a property owner and all around model citizen, had gone to the trouble of going online and buying pro-Obama buttons to hand out to his friends. He'd paid for them. Pics to follow.

But to my fellow progressive types: if a scene like this can happen in Redneck-freaking-Fairbanks, out here in whacko conservative land, then all is not lost. In fact it never was. So get off your asses snap out of it already. Start showing some backbone and start stumping for your local candidates. Get out your yard signs and visit your local campaign offices. Volunteer some of the time you've spent checking your blog stats and watching the teevee.

The UMWA was not made up of hand wringers. John L. Lewis was a fighter. The civil rights movement was not achieved by sitting around feeling bad about how unfair it all was, how willfully ignorant some people were. Elizabeth Peratrovich was not a shrinking violet. Progressives have a long, proud, tradition as tooth-and-nail scrappers - and we're embarrassing ourselves.

Karl Kassel for House District 7! In case you've forgotten, this is the year we dump Mike Kelly.

I'm not opposed to him being the Legislature; he just might be more suited to represent some place like North Pole.

Monday, September 15, 2008

And Now For Something Completely Different


Garden flowers

Just to create some visual and mental relief from the apparently bottomless pit of Palingerie*, here are some of the fruits of my labor this summer. Granted it was rainy and yucky, but I still managed to get food (plus some to put up for this winter) from the garden.



garden in late summer

*except the splendidly hilarious Tina Fey as Palin doppleganger, which I know has been blogged to death - but as a palinphobe, I have to acknowledge Fey's magnifcant mimicry. Alas, if only it was all about just providing top drawer fodder for comics. Hey Tina, I thought North Pole was the crystal meth capital of Alaska, not Wasilla.


the makings of a strawberry rhubarb pie

Saturday, September 13, 2008

More Musings on Media Muzzlings

I retract my earlier concern about the potential muzzling of press during the (un)holy visitation we just experienced*. After two weeks of headlines above the fold screaming accolades about Palin, I am more than ready for a serious muzzling of any and all press on the subject.

Geez, just shut up about this woman already!

Hair up, hair down, her brand of glasses and her color of lipstick - who really gives a rat's ass? Oh, I forgot - its all those sheeple in Somewhere and Anywhere YooSSAAAY that have confused the running of our country with reality TV. It might matter on the Island if Sarah can kill a moose at a 100 yards or maximize the full potential of a Blue-Light Special at K-Mart, but the months leading up to November 4 aren't episodes in Survivor, and the election isn't about voting Obama off the island.

However, I was somewhat heartened this AM with the Daily News Minus' headline about the Mister being served a subpoena as part of the abuse-of-power investigation. We can at least be thankful that the planets were favorably aligned (or that McCain's team did a total shit-ass job of vetting - take your pick) such that the investigation was approved by the legislature and underway prior to the announcement of her selection. Otherwise, the investigation would have had as much longevity as a crystalline water sphere in that place where Sarah believes all non-believers go, including all the non-supporters who were admonished to stay away from her love fest. Naturally, we have already had state legislators, notably Coghill (a fundy of the highest order) bleating that it's all a smear campaign to tarnish the luster of that god-fearing, righteous family.

Hmmm. Sure. As if.

It sure doesn't signify that the Mister took his cutesy title of First Dude to heart and dabbled in the affairs of state, or that the attorney selected to represent the governor (and paid for by public money) during this investigation is the same attorney who has privately represented both Palins. Maybe the latter doesn't constitute too much of a red flag, but the fact that First Dude was cc'ed on correspondence related to the work that his wife, not him, was elected to do, does. There is definitely smoke in the air, and it ain't hellfire and brimstone smoke either.

It's the smoke from the bonfire of the vanities that the Palins have been so assiduously fanning, and, most def, it's smoke from the embers of Troopergate.

As a final note, I am not ignorant of the fact that my blogmate and I are contributing as well to the white noise of Palinmania, but hey, when in Rome....

*Does anyone remember the good old days when a visit from the religious right meant the pope on a dais at FAI - the most tangible outcome of that visit being a piece of carpet now gracing the Howling Dog stage?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday Two-fer:

I can not resist linking to this. Even though it is ... funny yet, evil.

It starts off funnier than hell, but then ends with the typical "Female politician in a bikini" thing, nearly as unoriginal as "Female politician in a dominatrix outfit" thing.

You were warned.

See more Gina Gershon videos at Funny or Die

Dusting Off the Old GOP Playbook: Gods, Guns and Gays

God? Great Jeebus, they seem to have that one. Check. I popped on over the Wasilla Assembly of God website this morning over coffee. Interesting, and a wee bit scary.

Guns? Yep. Palin's go those, too. (Though really, even the liberals like me have guns up here.)

Gays? Well, I'm waiting for that one to pop up in the campaign. Palin certainly seems ready built to play from the more partisan Republican playbook, the one that we've seen before. Oh, and make no mistake, Log Cabin Republicans, she is no ally. Let us all prepare for another edition of the "culture war."

I've been having a few Palin-free days lately, trying mostly successfully to avoid the non-stop coverage in all major news outlets. But I've been mulling over the fact that, like a lot of people up here, I didn't know that much about her before she started getting scrutiny from some professional league media.

It's not that I'm lazy about staying informed, I just figured out pretty quickly that I wasn't going to vote for her back in the gubernatorial race. No one needed to say much more to me than "Wasilla Fundamentalist Republican, anti-choice" and my vote was going elsewhere. I mean, I knew she was a far right Christian, I just didn't know how much so.

There's a very interesting piece in Salon.com today, which you ought to go read. It explores that fact that even we who live here don't know much about our potential Veep.
But the truth, said Michael Carey, former editorial page editor of the Anchorage Daily News, is that Palin knows little about the United States either. "She's spent her whole life up here in Alaska, except for a few years in college in Idaho."
Actually, I've always had the sense that Palin doesn't even know that much about Alaska outside the Anchorage-Wasilla-Palmer area, either. I've seen nothing that demonstrates an interest or understanding of our ginormous state outside that population center. (To be fair, that can be said of many who reside there.)

They even spoke to none other than our former governor, Tony Knowles. (An actual Democrat. We do elect them here, you know.)
Knowles pointed to the recent "per diem" controversy as one example of the petty ways Palin has "gamed the system" for personal gain. "By establishing the governor's house in Juneau as her home of record, instead of her family residence in Wasilla where she actually lives, Palin was able to charge the state for $17,000 in per diem expenses. Everybody in the state knows she doesn't really live in Juneau -- she just stays there a few days when the Legislature is in session. She lives in Wasilla, so she shouldn't be generating travel expenses there. But she hit up the state for $17,000 a year for meals -- that's not what I call just macaroni and cheese for the kids."
Well, shee-yit. That's not very reformer-y, is it?

One gets a sense from the article of the way this state is claustrophobically small. Several sources would only talk anonymously for fear of reprisal.

My favorite quote, though completely unrelevant to the topic at hand, came from Bill Parker. Genuine Alaska, here:
"People in Anchorage tend to think of people from Wasilla as toothless hicks, living on dope and poached moose. But she came out of nowhere and beat us like a drum.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Palingrad

The Killa from Wasilla Muzzles the Press

Word on the streets is that the Fairbanks Daily News Miner will be barred from attending the scheduled appearances of Sarah Palin here in Fairbanks (edited 9/11/2008: more detailed intelligence indicates that its her appearance on Ft. Wainwright that will be tightly controlled, including restriction on media. The proffered reason is to protect her son from potential attacks when he goes over to Iraq. Humph. When all that appears in the press are her carefully scripted crowd-babble quotes - I argue we have muzzled press, no matter if they are in attendance or not. They might as well save gas money, stay in the office, and just use press release quotes. The time of the press conference with an uncontrolled Q&A period has definitely gone the way of the dinosaurs).

No word yet if the local men in black and the Fairbanks police department plan to pull a St. Paul on the protesters that are planning to picket some of the venues of her visit.

Where's the luv, Sarah? Not a very fine way to treat the folks who voted you into a position that enabled you to craft a piece of family-values/soccer mom fiction that is every neo-con's wet dream.

Stevens' Brain Bucket Defense


Here is one for the law reviews. The ADN reports this morning that Stevens' defense team has requested Bill Allen's medical records. They argue that Mr. Allen's recall & testimony of gifts given to the Not-Quite-Senator-For-Life all date from 2001 forward. 2001 is the year in which Allen crashed his motorcycle and suffered brain injury.

These defense lawyers are sure earning their hefty retainers. You got to give them a nod for a very inventive answer to incriminating evidence that just can't be glossed over. It's pretty hard to fudge and obfuscate when you got people caught on tape talking about back-scratching, pay-offs and handsome gifts given for favors received - especially when one of those caught chatting is Stevens himself.

Oops. Just what is a defense team to do?

Shazam! Enter the brain bucket defense. Bill Allen crashed his bike, scrambled his brains, and presto/chango - is just making this up or mis-remembering things.

Brilliant.

Probably won't save Unc' Ted's hide, but they definitely get high marks for creativity.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Musings on the CabinDwelling Lifestyle, Part XI: The Slop Bucket

This will come as no shock to my Alaskan readers, particularly those residing in the 99709, that I live in a cabin without running water. No sewer, no water lines, no flush toilet, no fire hydrants ... bupkus.

It's not a big deal, really, because a great number of us residing outside of the city limits of Squarebanks are in this situation. And out in the Bush, plenty of people don't have running water still - and it is not by choice.

The lack of big city water and affiliated technologies is solved in a couple of ways:
  • Outhouse
  • Wet wipes or Purel
  • The slop bucket
For those of you unfortunate-enough-to-live-elsewhere, the slop bucket sits under your kitchen sink. Plumbing from the sink, not being connnected to anything, drains into a handy five-gallon bucket. (Dumping a small amount of bleach in it when empty helps keep, uh, gunk from growing in it too badly.) When it gets near full, one awkwardly carries it outside trying not to spill any on oneself, to a location removed from the house and dumps it.

It's not a bad bit of exercise.

This is my chore in our household, because I promised to eventually move to a place with running water if we could just live cheap for a few years in a cabin. As further incentive, I agreed that dumping the slop bucket was my chore.

Emphasis on near full. One of the more unpleasant household disasters is to forget to check the bucket before dumping one's dish water. Suddenly you're mopping up some nasty stuff that's been in the bucket for days getting gunky. It's been over two year since I forgot to check the bucket first. I truly thought I'd get out of the CabinDwelling lifestyle without it ever happening again.

Until this weekend.

Above right: The 'gray water system'. A slop bucket disaster, after I'd freaked out and mopped up the 'gray water'.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Rest in Peace: Liberty, Justice and Freedom

For if they aren't dead yet, they soon will be

OK - admittedly, I have been giving the media a pass in the last few days because I can't stomach the Palinoia, but I have been occasionally popping in on the major media sites. Not once did I see coverage of the St. Paul raids, which happened four days ago. Hats off to my blogmate for bringing my attention to the coverage outrage.

I was in tears watching the various video clips of the raids (I gotta wonder when our government will take a page out of Beijing's playbook and start mass blocking of sites). What rolled forward on my screen were scenes that most of us have seen only in news coverage from Romania, South Africa, Iraq, Kosovo, Beijing, and countless African or Latin American countries that have suffered under an oppressive government.

In other words, ordinary citizens roughed up, searched and detained simply because they disagree (peaceably!) with the current regime. And worse - these people were detained at home. Not on the streets protesting, engaging in rioting or throwing stuff or yelling things or carrying signs. Nope, they were home, minding their own business and here came the police a-pounding on their doors.

Fifty-two years ago my father fled ahead of the police in the aftermath of the Hungarian Revolution. He escaped because he heeded warnings that the police were coming for him, and because he was a strong swimmer - he swam the Danube to thwart the mined borders. He left not simply because he was a target of the secret police, but because he could not face living under a fascist regime.



Soviet tank & soldier, streets of Budapest, 1956

As a political exile, my father faced arrest if he tried to enter Hungary. My grandparents first saw me at two - when my dad held me aloft over the heads of border guards in the Viennese train station. Although my grandparents could take the train from Hungary to Austria, they could not pass through the border - so they stayed on one side of the iron bars, and my father stayed on the other. No touching, no speaking. Just a small child held aloft over the heads of armed guards. And like so many million others, a family torn asunder by a government run amok.

After the Wall fell, my father and I went back to Budapest together. We walked the route my father took when he ran out of his office and joined the crowds marching to face the Soviet tanks. He showed me the place where my uncle narrowly missed execution at the hands of a soldier simply because the gun jammed. He took me past the building used for secret interrogations (now a luxury hotel - imagine the ghosts and the lingering screams that haunt those finely appointed rooms) and to the recently erected monuments that list his fallen friends. I met cousins who spent 30 years in prison - captured as young men, released as old men broken by decades spent in soviet gulags.

True, we are not yet to the point of tanks rolling in our streets, but the scenes captured on camera in St. Paul are not so far off. Heavily armed men refusing to answer questions and strong arming people; police raiding homes of ordinary people wearing ordinary clothes (certainly not a hint of camo, a kaffiyeh, beret, or pakol among the detainees - only Lands End, LL Bean and perhaps Sears).

After eight years of Bush, the Iraqi war, Guantanamo Bay and secret CIA flights, the growing likelihood that McCain might win the election (I don't think I can weather four years of plastic Palin), and now these raids, I realize that the possibility is growing that I may have to re-enact my father's flight, albeit in the other direction.

And so the screw turns. A generation later, this country has evolved into the very thing my father sought political asylum from : an oppressive police state where civil liberties are curtailed and people are controlled by fear and force.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Slouching Towards Fascism

What's Next? Protest Zones?

Over the weekend, while a large chunk of the nation's press was covering the shit out of the vice presidential potential of She Who I Won't Name, Minneapolis and St. Paul police had preemptively raided the houses of people who were going to engage in protests.

Remember freedom of assembly? Anyone? Bueller?

I had a She Who I Won't Name-free day yesterday, no news whatsoever in fact, so I didn't find out about the mass arrests in St. Paul until this morning.

Of the many disturbing things about this one, including arresting legitimate journalists and charging them with 'conspiracy to riot', I'm struck by the fact that had this happened in another country, our talking heads would be beside themselves condemning that sort of behavior.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Well, There Went the Funvangelical Vote

Will the Far Right She Just Brought Back to Fold Stay or Stray?

I sense another media field day coming regarding Sarah Palin, although perhaps not in the way that occurred last week. And I'm not going to make a big deal out of it, because, frankly it is a non-issue to me. The question is, will the rabidly judgmental, stick-their-noses-in-the-personal-business-of-others, right-wing funvangelicals treat her the way they would have treated another candidate, [cough] a Democrat for example, or will they grant her a pass because of her conservative credentials?

Sarah Palin announced that her 17 year-old daughter is pregnant; she also announced that her daughter will marry the father. Apparently, the announcement came about to put to rest any rumors that the child that the Governor recently had was not hers but her daughter's. A couple of thought:

1) Good Christ. I'm not the biggest Palin fan, but I'm glad I took a day off reading the news, because that level of rumor mongering is what has made politics such a freaking disgusting, destructive business.

2) Life happens. Best wishes to her daughter and the health of her grandchild.

Here's hoping that the Dems and the left will not see this as an excuse to behave as badly as the right would have done had this happened to a Democratic candidate's 17 year-old daughter.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Well, There Went the Alaskan Male Vote

What? Were They Afraid They Were Losing Alaska?

In what is promising to be the most exciting election year for Alaskans in ages, the Republicans went ahead and drafted Sarah Palin for the VP for McCain.

And I thought it was going to be great for the fact that Don Young is barely beating Parnell in the primary. Young is having a hard time beating a man that is largely viewed as an empty suit! Quick, name one thing about Parnell and his politics, other than he is Lite Governor. You can't, can you? Neither can I.

Whoops, digressing.

Holy crap!

She'll meet the younger-than-McCain requirement, by a long shot, and she brings with her conservative credentials (on the abortion issue and probably guns) that the Republicans need to connect with the far right of their party. Add the fact that we're a state with no income tax, which just thrills people Outside, plus the fact that she's all about the myth of drilling our way to energy independence, and charming to boot. Oh, and she has only been governor for a little while so she doesn't have many blemishes on her record - so there's not a lot to criticize for the Dems.

Hell, I don't agree with her on a LOT of stuff ... but even I kind of like her, if for no other reason than she stood up to Big Oil in a way no other pol in recent memory has. Add in the 'hot' factor for people such as Ish, well, perhaps the Republicans were more worried about carrying Alaska than, well, ever.

Which is not to say that she's gotten by on her looks, she is a smart pol. It just doesn't hurt her, and let's not pretend that female pols are not judged on their looks in a way that the males aren't. And I can't even tell you how many guys I've heard talking about voting for her merely because of the 'hot' thing.

Has there ever been a year that the two major parties worried about Alaska? Gave it much thought at all?

And Ish, while I know you are, like many, smitten with our Gov, don't even think about ditching Obama. :)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Can't You Feel the Schadenfreude?

Wow, lookit it there, Representative Don Young is in a tight race in the primary. Ahhhhh. For all the blustering and bravado, the voters just aren't buying.

What aren't they buying? Not just Mr. Young and the anemic excuses about Coconut Grove, but the same tired message he and others in our delegation have trotted out every time things heat up: "Vote for me because I've been in office forever and you'll lose my seniority and the money that comes with it." That warning has really been it, hasn't it? Can you think of what either Stevens or Young stands for, other than keeping the federal money coming?

Whether those federal funds are justified to help a young state develop or not, all I can remember from either of them is that warning - if they go, so goes the pork.

So, the election. Crap. I'd really hoped Benson would have pulled it off.

Wow, the clean elections proposal got slammed. But there I go forgetting my surroundings again. Alaskans like all sorts of publicly funded projects, but forget about publicly funding state election campaigns.

No surprises that Prop. 4 failed. And frankly, I think the enviromentalists really blew it on this one. They never managed to get their message out, whatever it was beyond protecting salmon. It was strange to see the shift in message late in the game - if they were rolling back the protections stripped out by the Murkowski administration, why didn't they say that from the beginning? Good Lord, no one liked that man by the end, that alone might have garnered them a few more votes.

But letting the dialogue on the measure bog down to 'No one really knows what it will do' surely sealed its fate. And a raspberry to the media who never got beyond that part of the story. Surely, there were some experts (lawyers, most likely) who could have spoken to what the measure would likely do?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Polled Over: Defying Expectations

I think I may be weirder than I have heretofore thought. What else can explain my delight with answering telephone polls?

Got another phone call yesterday, and I am still amazed at how much pleasure I take in confounding expectations about Alaskans, particularly those of us here in Redneckville. Some polls are fairly neutral in their questions, so you can't immediately figure out what flavor of poll you might be getting; others, however, have questions so freaking obvious that you can't even guess how far right the origins of the phone call, plus they're more propaganda than question, really. But here is a more or less verbatim transcript of yesterday's queries from wingnuttery:
  • Question one: Do you consider yourself a Democrat, Republican or Independent? My answer: Independent.
  • Two: Do you oppose all new taxes, even if they are for education? Answer: Nope. Note: First hint of who is calling.
  • Three: Do you oppose all forms of gun control, even over concealed carry? Answer: Nope.
  • Four: Do you support right to work laws? Answer: I don't think they are particularly pro-worker, more anti-union, and hey, wait, that's not even on the ballot in this state.
  • Five: Should abortion be illegal in all instances, even to save the life of the mother? Answer: Nope.
Off to the polls now for me, but sadly, I'll no longer be voting at my local bar under the shiny diamonds of a disco ball. They've moved my polling location to the fire station.

Here's hoping Diane Benson can pull off an upset.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Polled Over: What to Do With All This Attention?

I mean, seriously, suddenly the presidential campaigns are polling me?

Like many of us lucky-enough-to-live-here, I'd long ago resigned myself to the fact that when it came to presidential elections and Alaska's THREE electoral votes, we were going to be treated like the gawky, intelligent, ugly duckling girl at the high school dance. (And believe me, I know from which I speak on that one.)

So there we stood against the wall, nobody paying us the slightest bit of attention.

But this year, suddenly, we're swans! I've answered four polls in the last month. Four!

And you can often tell when someone is calling who is unlucky-enough-to-live elsewhere. The first poll came from the Obama campaign right while I was elbow deep in red salmon, putting away the fish we'd caught the day previous. Hoping to save us all the trouble, I announced immediately that I was voting for Obama. Simple, yes? I even volunteered that I was one of those rare creatures, a bona fide Fairbanks progressive in this sea of red.

Nope, the poor volunteer had to run through all the various questions designed to tease out the nuance of how a voter was inclined.

There is no nuance left when you are a progressive Alaskan who has lived under nearly eight years of Dubyah, four years of which included the governorshuip of Frank 'the least popular unindicted governor in history' Murkowski, and have faced the prospect of the entirety of your adult years being spent with Don Young representing you in Washington. None.

After the fourth question, the S.O. shouted in the background, "She's a fisher woman!" And I explained that I was actually pretty busy with the salmon processing. The pollster got the hint.

I'll say this for the Begich campaign poll that followed within minutes of the first call: in the midst of that poll, I asked to hurry it up because of the busy with our salmon thing and the caller thanked me and cut it short.

Last night I got a robo-poll from what I presume was the McCain campaign. It went thusly:
  • Was I going to vote for McCain, Obama, or some other people whose names I couldn't be bothered to listen for? I pressed the key indicating Obama;
  • Then came a couple of questions about how I felt toward either candidate had changed based on recent media coverage;
  • Then came the question that I suspect is a feeler to see whether the issue of taxes should be how the Republicans play here - who did I feel was more likely to raise taxes? I chose 'neither.'

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Just in Case You've Forgotten What Sunshine Looks Like

What kind of year is it when the summer weather is better in Nome than in the Interior?

As a public service to my fellow Squarebanksans, because we here at FBH are nothing if not civicly minded, at right is a picture as reminder of what a place might look like if it was not raining.

And it had been inundated with a record number of humpies.

Seriously, we had to fish through the humpies to find silvers. Fishing the ever trusty Pixie or Vibrax resulted in a lot of humpies, humpies gone all malakchuk-y (spelling?). Drifting eggs behind a Bouncing Betty yielded better results; the pinks seem to leave those offerings alone.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Room with a View

Dateline: Somewhere along the Iditarod Trail

Propane bottles and the ass-end of a connex: fairly standard eye-fare for the seasoned village traveler. For non-Alaskan readers, connexes (connices?), those cargo containers that are transferred from ship to shore, are as ubiquitous in Alaskan bush architecture as are ATCO units (portable rectangular trailers that formerly housed pipeline workers). In this case, this one doubles as storage for the bunkhouse cafe.

As village accommodations go, this one is pretty upscale. There are beds with sheets and blankets, a hot shower down the hall, and real good cooking. There is even wireless - a technological upgrade that happened in the past year.

But it still has elements that make it unmistakably bush. Maybe its the 12 beds (three sets of double bunks/side) packed into a room - perfect for when the tired Iditarod mushers crash here on their way to Nome - but somewhat less so when it' s a bunch of construction workers assed out snoring (another reason to always stock up on ear plugs at the Frontier Airlines counter). There is the lack of working locks, although in this case, its for want of a key, and not because the door has been kicked in and/or jimmied so many times it's just easier to secure it with a hasp and padlock.

Or maybe its the constant buzz of four-wheelers, and the drone, somewhere, of oldtime country wheezing out of the local radio station (be it KNOM, KIYU, KSKO or KZPA). It's also the sound of kids playing all night long in the summer, and the occasional knock-em down that spills into the streets. Village Alaska is lots of john boats pulled up at the landing, and fish drying in the racks. It's diesel at $7.00/gallon, and a village store stocked with Tang, soda, and hot pockets. Except in this particular spot, one can also find upscale espresso drinks - because its a jumping-off point for high-end guided hunts and fancy fishing packages.

Village Alaska is also sitting around on weather holds, and gauging beverage drinking against length of time spent in a Cessna 206 - including doubling proposed flight time in case of a re-route or being forced back to point of origin because the ceiling lowered between take off and estimated time of arrival.

It's all these things and much more.

Yup, village-hopping, not a bad way to spend a summer.

Architectural Digest #1: Soviet Redux

A weary traveler could easily be confused into thinking they landed on the wrong side of the Bering Strait if they strolled far enough along Nome's Front Street. Witness the excellent example of high soviet architectural style embodied by the state building. Or maybe its more evocative of a correction facility or a bunker.


Either way, one has to get up close and personal to appreciate the fine architectural detailing, such as the dumpster strategically parked by the side, the 1950s- era ventilation units, and the rusted window frames. Possibly most appealing is the building's backside, which is entirely encased in foam - not exactly the beachfront facade typically encountered when strolling the Corniche.



Which leads this author to ponder the following two points : is Nome where failed architects go and what was the state thinking when it commissioned these building plans? A local wag calls it the school of Brutalism, which really cracked me up when I first heard it, but as it turns out, the laugh is on us.

A little research reveals there really is an architectural style called Brutalist, and it's not, as one might expect, the archetype of the Soviet or Stalin years (Stalin rates his own eponymous style).

No, it actually arose out of the work of Le Corbusier; the term is coined from the French for raw concrete (b├ęton brut), which Le Corbusier favored as a building material.

According to architectural references, the style is characterised by its rough, blocky appearance and the lack of effort to disguise or conceal the building materials used in construction. Although concrete is the material most commonly used in brutalist design, wood, steel, brick, glass, and iron may also be used. No word on the incorporation of foam, however.

Brutalist architecture never really caught on, as it too closely resembled the natural products of urban decay.

Except, apparently, in Nome.