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.