March 30, 2009 at 6:38 am | Posted in anchorage, photo du jour | 1 Comment
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It was sad to see the King of the Jungle in this condition.

It was sad to see the King of the Jungle in this condition.



March 30, 2009 at 6:03 am | Posted in photo du jour, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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The Burger Jim sign.  Continues to be a fascinating subject (?).

The Burger Jim sign. Continues to be a fascinating subject (?).


March 30, 2009 at 5:55 am | Posted in alaska, anchorage, architecture and design, photo du jour | Leave a comment
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Edes House, 1918.  Christensen Drive, Anchorage.
Edes House, 1918. Christensen Drive, Anchorage.

Former family home of one of the bigwigs of early Anchorage.  With an insensitive 1960s addition.  Used to have a porch and a nice yard and garden.  This has been a prime candidate for a full restoration for a long time.


March 30, 2009 at 5:40 am | Posted in art, photo du jour | Leave a comment
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My friend and ally Claire brought flowers my show opening at MTS.

My friend and ally Claire brought flowers my show opening at MTS.

Palin’s stimulus rejection

March 25, 2009 at 6:35 am | Posted in alaska, politics | Leave a comment
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These thoughts about Alaska Gov. Palin’s rejection of about half of the federal stimulus money were put up by one of my Facebook buddies:

I’ll probably get reamed out for this, but what the fuck, fire away.

My questions relating to the fury directed at AK Gov Sarah Palin for proposing to turn down some federal stimulus money.

1. Don’t we have Billions in our state bank account? (permanent fund).

2. Doesn’t each resident receive free money every year and not pay state taxes courtesy of the big bad oil companies?

3. Can’t we make the state run on what we have?

4. Should we always grab for every dollar we can possibly get?

5. Are there other states that could really, really, really use the money a lot more? (Arkansas, Michigan, Louisiana, plenty more states without booming natural resource based economies.)

6. As federal tax payers, aren’t we just going to have to pay it back later?

7. Should we always receive the highest percentage of federal money per capita?

8. Do we Alaskans put on our “We’re so rugged, strong and independent” bullshit act and then have our hands out whenever there is some free money within arms reach?

9. Do we liberals hate Sarah Palin so much, that whatever she does, right or wrong, we are going to piss and moan about politics and curse the right wing?

10. In these hard economic times, shouldn’t we try to be team players and not drive the country deeper into debt when we are flush with oil money (for the time being) and our economy isn’t really that bad?

Caveat – I know we need money for education, I totally support that, and schools have to grab what they can, when they can. I know that many in Bush alaska are starving and freezing with the high cost of heating oil, groceries and shipping. I know there are villages without flush toilets, or else their buildings are washing away into the sea. I know times are tough all over, but I just want people to think objectively about what’s going on, how much money we have, how much we need, and how much we just want. I want Alaskans to be smarter about how we are using the money we already have and stop thinking Boom and Bust like gold prospectors. I want us to think about other hard hit places around the country where their economy has gone south, or east, or west, or just disappeared. I want us to just Think.

I’ll say up front that my view is Alaska should take the entire amount.  Here’s what I wrote to my state legislators after Palin announced her rejections:

I hope you are doing everything in your power to override the governor’s egregious rejections.  I am looking over a summary sheet of the parts that Palin approved/didn’t approve of the total $930m to which Alaska is entitled — and I cannot believe the sorts of items that did not make her cuts.  Looks like she took all of the capital project related money, and rejected anything that would help poor people, seniors, children and those with less ability and resources.  It is disgusting and super upsetting!

I’d call your attention to this column, listing some evidence that rejecting the part of the stimulus providing for unemployment compensation will compound the burden on businesses, because of commensurate changes to eligibility standards.

Thanks for your efforts to stop this madness!

Now let me try to tackle the items above one at a time.

1. Yes, we do.  But the Permanent Fund was specifically set up so it cannot be raided by the Legislature.  There are good reasons for this.  It is supposed to be a rainy day fund that will eventually allow the state to transition to a post-fossil fuel based economy.  That’s a ways off.

2. The dividends are an annual payout of a portion of the fund’s interest earnings [thus, the ebb and flow of the annual payout amount].  The dividends do not draw on the fund’s principal.  Again, it was all set up thirty years ago and the basis has not changed.  It is not “courtesy of the oil companies”.  They are essentially contractors.  The oil itself belongs to the people of Alaska.  It says as much in the state’s constitution: the resources will be developed for the benefit of the people.

3. That isn’t what is at issue.  The stimulus money was apportioned on the basis of population — not on the basis of whether each state is currently operating in the black or not.  It’s not clear what will happen if Palin prevails in the power struggle underway and Alaska does not receive the $400 million, but it’s reasonable to assume the money will go to other states.

4. The stimulus represents a unique opportunity, as a one-time, finite appropriation.  Alaska is near dead last among the 50 states in some disturbing ways — domestic violence; infant mortality; access to care; alcoholism and drug abuse to name a few.  Crime is on the increase.  We could use the stimulus money in creative, directed, thoughtful ways to increase preventive measures and education on all the above problems and several others.  This would ultimately save money, by curbing social problems.

5. See #3.

6. When Bush took over in 2001, there were surpluses as far as you could see.  In eight years we ran up the largest deficits in world history, due to endless foreign military interventions, outsourcing jobs [Clinton was involved in this, too], under-regulation of banks and Wall St. and tax cuts for the super-rich.  The situation we are in is a direct result of this, and the stimulus is the first attempt to change course and get to the heart of the problem.  It won’t work on its own, but in combination with rolling tax policy back to at least 1990s rates on the top 2%, and other remedial measures, it has a chance.  Got a better idea?

7. It’s the same situation in any lesser-populated, more rural and/or remote area in the country.

8. In some way all of the federal money is a legacy from Ted Stevens.  In another sense, it’s appropriate because two thirds of the land in the state is federally owned, and we’re a young state.  Most other cities the size of Anchorage have five to 10 percent of workers employed in government jobs.  In Anchorage it’s 29 percent.

9. I reserve the right to disagree with her policies, while not engaging in cheap mudslinging.  She should reciprocate by not behaving like a victim.  It’s not a personality issue with me.  Last year she vetoed about a third of the Legislative capital budget requests.  [No projects in Mat-Su were cut.]  The reason given for almost all the cuts was, “Not a state repsonsibility”.  She was probably technically correct in most of that.  But it was the way she did it, revealing the cuts at the stroke of midnight at the end of the Legislative session, when the legislators had left Juneau on recess.  She could have previewed her intentions, working with them and letting them know she intended to introduce an entire new paradigm, instead of what was being followed for years beforehand [partly based on statute and partly on tradition].

10. There was a guest editorial in ADN in December 2006 by Mike Mense.  It was after Palin won election and just before she was sworn in.  Mense had been an outspoken opponent of the Knik Arm Crossing project for some time.  His suggestion was that Palin should give back the federal monies secured by Stevens and Young for both the Knik and Gravina Island bridges.  Imagine the good will accomplished by this single simple gesture, he wrote.  The state might suggest the money could be redirected toward Katrina rebuilding or other more urgent public infrastructure projects.  Instead, she took the money, then later declared during the McCain campaign that she didn’t.

100 points about Anchorage

March 23, 2009 at 8:24 am | Posted in alaska, anchorage, architecture and design, Uncategorized | 11 Comments
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OK, maybe I can pull this off without sounding either really old or weepily nostalgic.  This is supposed to be a feel-good exercise, OK?  Lists in random order.

50 Things I Liked About Anchorage That Are No Longer Here:
1. Earthquake Park, the first time I went there, in 1971 there were still pieces of houses and a lot of other evidence of what happened in 1964.  Still a great place but quake evidence is hard to find.
2. Movies at the 4th Ave. Theater.  None of the newer theaters begin to compare.
3. The building at 8th and I that had the 1930s era grocery with wood frame doors on the coolers, pickle barrel, etc.; a liquor store [in a former gas station] inhabited by cats; and apartments on the upper floor.
4. Places with loudmouthed or memorable proprietors like Club 25, Kobuk Coffee, the White Spot and the woman on Turnagain Arm in the place that’s now Turnagain House.
5. The old B&J Store when it was on the main floor where the Bingo hall is now [some of it still occupies the basement].
6. Eddie’s Sandbox at Four Corners.  I never went in there, just liked the name and the looks of the place.
7. The Billik Inn.
8. The little mall under Penney’s parking garage.  There were shops and restaurants and even a little Orange Julius crammed underneath the bottom of the exit ramp spool.
9. When places like Russian Jack, AMU, Fairview near Merrill Field, Mt. View, Muldoon, Sand Lake seemed like the ends of the earth, before so many roads connected and before so much infill development.
10. The Carrs grocery stores before they were owned by Safeway.
11. The old, cramped, crappy plywood day lodge at Alyeska.
12. The Rabbit Creek Inn.
13. Old Texaco gas stations at Rabbit Creek, Girdwood and other places.
14. The Spenard Safeway with the barrel vault roof.
15. The museum before the 1980 addition.  It had a huge yard with big trees, the Federal Building wasn’t there yet and A St. stopped at 9th Ave.
16. When almost the whole run, between 6th and 9th and the inlet and Gambell was filled with houses and small apartment buildings.  There were small shops interspersed, lots of showy gardens, and a great community feel.  K St. in this area still gives an idea of what all of these blocks were like.
17. The Murmac Lounge, dark and smoky hole in the wall bar where F St. Station later appeared.
18. Woolworth’s.
19. Wings & Things.
20. Arctic Valley Ski Area, in the days before Hilltop when it was a bustling, popular place to learn to ski.
21. The Bird House.  At least there’s a decent replica of it.
22. The Garden of Eatin’.
23. When Wasilla and Soldotna were pretty much just truck stops.
24. Almost 100 percent of retail and restaurant businesses were locally owned.
25. Only five radio stations!
26. Ruben Gaines on TV giving weather forecasts while drawing comics.
27. The Warehouse, hangout for the tie-dyed crowd off Old Seward.
28. The junkyard on Old Seward with fence made of welded wheels.
29. When there were many more businesses with the size and atmosphere of The Second Chance.  [It’s still there, for some reason!]
30. The downtown Book Cache store. 
31. The Friendly Fireside Lounge.
32. The building near the airport that once housed the Visual Arts Center.
33. Gig’s Music Theater.
34. The Ragin’ Cage.
35. Larson’s Ice Cream on 5th Ave.
36. 13 Coins Restaurant.
37. Can’t recall its name, interesting shop with vintage/Alaskana/second hand merchandise on 4th between G and H, closed in the last five years.
38. The remains of Portage when they were more visible.
39. Brewster’s Dept. Store.  Still have two shirts bought there.  The only Mt View business that didn’t leave.
40. Branch libraries.  [They’re finally on the comeback trail, though.]
41. The 10 ft tall chicken.  Last seen near 13th and Gambell, whereabouts unknown.
42. Uncle’s Pizza.  On Gambell.  Uncle Who?, i always wondered.
43. The fireplace house on East 15th.
44. Pagoda Chinese Restaurant at 5th and A in a tiny house.  House is still there, unoccupied, not looking promising.
45. Stuckagain Heights Restaurant.  My mom and stepfather were married there in 1977.
46. Moose Horn in Chugiak, 1940s roadhouse lodge that burned about five years ago.
47. The two crappiest Brown Jug stores, the one in Spenard in an old gas station and the one on Merrill Field in containers.
48. Brown’s Drive In.
49. The cabin and woods on the hill at 16th and Karluk, leveled two years ago for apartments.
50. Noble’s Diner.

50 Things I Like About Anchorage That Are Still Here:
1. The windmill.
2. The star on the mountain at Arctic Valley.
3. The Second Chance.
4. Alaska Art Tile building, now the Muffin Man Cafe.
5. The Captain Cook Hotel.
6. Kincaid Park.  Some undesirable changes, still a gem.
7. The moose, bears, fox, all the other wildlife.
8. The trails, parks and Chugach mountains.
9. Protection of assets/careful redevelopment in Spenard, Fairview and Mt. View.
10. Inlet View, South Addition, Rogers Park, Government Hill and other pleasant, close-in places.
11. The Delaney Park Strip.
12. The old houses remaining near downtown.  [Someone, please restore the Edes House!]
13. The Russian Jack Park chalet.  Endangered, as is the park.
14. The Square Dance place on Government Hill, and other colorful WWII era and earlier Government Hill bric-a-brac.
15. The Lucky Wishbone.
16. The Eagle River car wash with adjacent duck pond.
17. Benny’s Taco Wagon.
18. The Bicycle Shop.  Nothing like riding a bike freshly tuned by a master mechanic.
19. The bike trail from Bird to Gird that used to be part of the highway.  And other Turnagain Arm places like Beluga Point, Bird Point, Falls Creek, etc.
20. The old Railroad Depot.
21. The Captain Cook monument on the 3rd and L curve.  Looking sketchier all the time, though.
22. The concrete and glass condo at 74th and Arctic.
23. Stewart’s Photo Shop.  Endangered.
24. Bernie’s Bungalow Lounge.  For sale.
25. The Wood Shed.
26. The Central Building at 3rd and G.
27. Small commercial building one lot east of E St. on south side of 4th.  Sydney Laurence had a photo studio there, and he lived in the hotel at the NW corner of 4th and E in the ’20s.  Amazingly, both spaces are still there.
28. Old City Hall, 4th between E and F.  Housed the entirety of city government from 1920-36 — all of the offices, maintenance shop and a jail!
29. The cemetery in Eklutna.
30. What’s left of the little neighborhood along E. 3rd between Ingra and Cordova.  Endangered but persistent.
31. The two buildings on D St. built by Z.J. Loussac.
32. 4th Ave. between C and D — as bad as it is, glad it’s still there.
33. Ancient, tiny one room log schoolhouse near 4th and A.
34. 1915 community hall at 4th and Eagle, with two 1920s log cabins on property.
35. The 1915 railroad-built cottages on Government Hill, two or three still resembling original appearance.
36. Big spruce trees, wherever healthy specimens still stand [especially in Girdwood].
37. The Johnson Pass Trail between Potter and McHugh, including the Potter Section House.
38. The Bake Shop and the Sitzmark in Girdwood.  Endangered?
39. Summer festivals including Seward on July 4th and the Girdwood Forest Fair.  Always under siege by drunken idiots, seems like.
40. West High School.  Lots of history in those halls and theater.
41. The Alaska State Fair.  Doesn’t seem to lose its appeal.
42. The Old Glenn Highway between Eagle River and Peters Creek.  [Hint: try the old highway, if there is both an old and new one.]
43. The Purple Hippo sharpening on Abbott Rd. [although they removed the beached panel truck with the lettering, SHARPENING THE PURPLE HIPPO before I took a photo, dang!].
44. The roller skating rink [even if its the least cool of the three that used to be here].
45. The Peanut Farm, even though it was better before all the improvements.
46. Bell’s Nursery.  [Too bad they took the gift shop out of the Sand Lake location, though.]
47. New Sagaya.  Would like to see it cleaned up a little and less cluttered.
48. Middle Way Cafe.  What a perfect place, is all I can say.
49. MTS Gallery and Trailer Art Center.  OK, I’m biased.
50. The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail.  Best legacy any politician could hope for.  Too bad his successors couldn’t finish it.

I’ve spent too much time on this.  maybe the next post on this subject will be 50 Things About Anchorage I Could Live Without, or 50 Things About Anchorage That Are No Longer Here and I Don’t Miss.


March 21, 2009 at 7:12 pm | Posted in photo du jour | Leave a comment
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The splendor of breakup, midtown Anchorage.

The splendor of breakup, midtown Anchorage.

Volcanic rumblings

March 17, 2009 at 2:04 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Was just sitting here reading email and the western sky dramatically darkened.  I ran to the back door to look — was there yellow brown bilious clouds on the horizon?  I still remember how those ash clouds from Mt. Spurr looked, back in late August 1992.  I don’t think Redoubt is quite ready to blow, but who knows?  Well, these people do.


March 16, 2009 at 5:11 am | Posted in photo du jour | 1 Comment
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The versatile blue tarp, used this time as fencing.

The versatile blue tarp, used this time as fencing.


March 15, 2009 at 8:17 pm | Posted in photo du jour | Leave a comment
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Lazy Saturday evening, grilling with Mason on his balcony in the sun.

Lazy Saturday evening, grilling with Mason on his balcony in the sun.

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