Saturday, January 20, 2018

Old news

  In the winter of 1980 and '81 I went to Nome to run the Nome Nugget, Alaska's oldest continuously published newspaper for my friend Mark Fuersteneau who had just purchased the Nugget while he toured newspapers Outside. My first task there while Mark was still around was to cover the first murder trial in years in Nome.  At the time I was reading Norman Mailer's "Executioner's Song," a non fiction account of the life of Utah murderer Gary Gilmore. If you have ever read any of Mailer's non fiction you know the excruciating detail he goes into.With that influence I went off to cover the trial. The verdict came down in the middle of the night a week later on the day we had to prepare the paper which had to be shipped to Anchorage by airplane for printing and sent back to Nome for Thursday distribution. So first thing in the morning I started writing telling Mark about two pages typed double spaced. I don't recall how many pages I wrote that morning but it was a lot more than two. As a matter of fact it filled half the front page, two full inside pages and jumped a couple of times to the back of the book – on deadline. To this day I think of this as the best news story I ever wrote. That is not comparing to anyone else, but me comparing my writing to my writing.  However I will tell you this: after the paper came out both attorneys came to the office and purchased several copies and both said they wanted to send them to their law school professors. Later in the week the judge took me to lunch and told me it was the best trial story he had ever read. It certainly is the longest, so be warned.
So here it is, the best news story I have ever written.

After a week-long trial, a Superior Court jury early Tuesday morning returned with a verdict, finding Ronald Bloomstrand, 33, of Nome, Alaska, and Hay River, Northwest Territories, Canada, guilty of manslaughter.
Bloomstrand had been charged with first degree murder in the shooting death of Harris Okbaok of Teller last June 22 in Nome.
As Judge Paul B. Jones polled the jurors at the 2 a.m. meeting Bloomstrand sat quietly at the defense table on the south side of the courtroom, his lean, stoic Indian face showing little emotion, the same demeanor that had sustained itself throughout the trial, failing him only once. Where he had faced a life in prison, the verdict on the lesser charge threatened a maximum 20 years, not a situation to cheer but better than what might have been.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Confession of a reluctant racist

.    Perhaps Martin Luther King Jr. day is a good one for this, especially when the American racist in chief is claiming he is the least racist of anybody we might meet.
     I have never felt I was a racist. Even though I grew up in a lilly white suburb and never interacted with a black person except for a couple of days in Florida, until I went into the Army, I made it a point at least in my head that we are all equal. I can say this at least: I didn't like all the racist jokes that went around in the 50s, I never laughed at one and I never told one and that was about the extent of my active social responsibility.
     I lived through the civil rights movement in the sixties very sympathetic to the cause, though I don't recall doing anything about it,except for sophomoric college discussions. Still I felt I was always on the right side of racism issue.
     So I Moved to Alaska which has its own racial issues. One summer day I was driving through a lake district on the Kenai Peninsula looking for a place to fish. I had had some luck on Hidden Lake the winter before so we pulled in there.
     There was one of those pickup trucks with a camper in the bed parked next to a picnic table where a family of black people sat enjoying a meal.
     The immediate reaction that came to my non-racist mind was I don't want to fish here. It wasn't specifically because of the African-American family, it was because if they were there, the only fish around were probably carp, not exactly a rational insight in Alaska waters.
But you see as I grew up, I used to see black women sitting on camp stools, their stockings rolled down to below their knees and fishing for carp in the Buffalo River. In my mind black people meant carp and I don't ever want a carp.
     At the same time I was totally embarrassed by that obvious racist thought even though no one until now knows I had it.
     Thinking about it I would bet there aren't many of us who haven't had some such thought about someone of another race at some time or other and to that extent we are all racists. The object then is to admit it and then fight it within ourselves, like alcoholics trying to remain sober. They will always be alcoholics but they can do something about it by staying sober. Perhaps we are all racists and knowing that and admitting it, we can live better lives understanding it and doing what we can to fight it within ourselves, and in the process treat our brothers and sisters on the planet with a measure of respect and an honest attempt at understanding.
Some folks on facebook relayed similar thoughts on the subject. They are worth reading. I am adding them as I receive permission from the writers.

Gretchen Small i have been having that same internal dialogue with myself for some time. i was raised by parents who were very non-racist by the standards of the day---- but as the years roll by i have dug deeper into my subconscious responses---and yes, racism is embedded in me due to the culture i grew up in. i have tried all my life to not let that be who i am, but cultural fabric is woven deep into the psyche of every member of that culture. Tim, our children were raised in a more racially open milieu than we, and they give me hope. the MLK Dream could never come in an easy blink of conscious rationale. deeply embedded subconscious responses are persistent weeds that are only rooted out with patient effort. the passing generations sometimes falter backwards, but human evolution marches forward. if there is a Homo sapien species surviving into the next century, the fruits of our internal moral stuggles will bear fruit.

Sharon Wright LA Unified School District started bringing black kids from East LA to our high school by bus in the 1960s. We had a diverse student body: white Christians & Jews, Japanese, Chinese, Mexicans, but no blacks until they were brought to our neighborhood. I had no black friends in high school but worked with black adults from age 17 on. Dated a black surfer in college who took 3rd at Huntington Beach one year; my father would have gone apoplectic had he known. So considered myself non-racist. Then I moved to Juneau, Alaska which in 1971 had a substantial Native population. It was more brown than white. Hmmm, whole new concept to accommodate. Moved around the state a bit and one night, flying into Fairbanks from Outside, I discovered I'd locked my keys in our pickup. My little guy & I were locked out in the cold & dark. I thought & thought--had wire in the pickup bed--and here came two black guys about my age. Hey! I said, "I've locked my keys in my truck. Can you help me?" "Sure," they said. Surveyed the wire, said, Yep, we can do this! One wiggled the window down just a hair, bent that wire around into a loop on the end, slipped it in and bent it around to go down to the lock (remember when there were door locks you could pull up by the knob on top?) and pulled it up. Thank you, thank you! Off they went and off we went. Then the little guy said, "Mom, how did you know those guys would know how to get into our truck?" Hmmmm, was I being a racist? I just read this to Dave & he said, Nah. If they'd been white, they probably would've known too. I helped Nick (a Native friend) break into his truck when he locked his keys in it.

Jan Williams Simone Here is an incident I remember. From a very young age I had and still have strong beliefs about how to treat other people. One day I was at Low Library at Columbia University, pregnant with my second child, and working on my master's thesis. I was really tired, so tired that I desperately wanted to close my eyes and sleep for just a little while, even though my chair was sort of in the middle of a room. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a young black woman digging through her bag set on the floor next to me, very near my purse and pile of books. There was a lot of carpet around her; she didn't have to be there. I deliberately thought to myself, if I pick up my bag and put it on my chair with me, she will be offended. So I didn't. The next thing I knew I was still sitting there but had clearly dozed off. I didn't even look in my bag. It was only later, when I went to pull out my wallet, that I saw it was gone. All of my old photos, including a precious one of my parents when they were young, my driver's license, whatever money I had, etc., gone. I never thought of myself as having any more than the mildest prejudices. What lesson was there to learn? It was to be more wary. But I don't think my new wariness was racially tinged, because thieves have no color. It was sort of a reverse prejudice operating in my mind - don't hurt anyone even if they might hurt you. Is that some sort of insidious reverse racism? If it had been a white woman kneeling on the floor next to my purse in the middle of a room, I would have been just as vulnerable. But maybe I would have moved the bag.... Becoming street smart - that is a lesson you usually learn the hard way.Betty Sederquist Our generation carries a lot of these racist undertones whether we realize it or not. I try to do the right thing, but my socially attuned daughters call out my missteps on a regular basis. Interesting to examine all of this. I grew up in a lily-white, conservative part of the country. My sometimes liberal parents bent over backwards to accommodate the rare black folks who came our way but had some interesting opinions on Jews. My French mother hated people from Algeria. This nonsense goes on and on.A friend sent this link to me.. It's a magazine article dealing with this subject. I couldn't manage to get the link copied but if you search How to stop the racist in you | Greater Good Magazine It's a good read and like a lot of things we worrry about in life, it's comforting to know others have the same anxieties.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

I'll see your bet and raise three nukes

.    The last thing I heard from the radio before I fell asleep last night was Trump claiming his tough talk was the reason North and South Korea are talking these days.
     The first thing I heard on waking up this morning was ballistic missiles were heading for Hawaii.
Put that together for a minute.
     First thought was sitting in a remote situation far from any likely target, I probably didn't have an immediate problem, except maybe given the reliability of North Korea's missiles, I might take a direct hit, but my danger would most likely be exposure to radiation somewhere down the line.
Then the thought process came in how we might have gotten to this point.
That too might be credited to Trump's tough talk. He said it like that was his idea all along. Given all his temperamental tweets, that's unlikely.
     Regardless, his "tough talk" probably caused more concern in this country than North Korea, especially those of us on the exposed West Coast.
It's not a game of poker, you don't bluff with nuclear weapons, period. Tough talk, indeed could have gone either way. Two hot heads comparing the size of their buttons is not the way toward resolution, it is the way to destruction that could spread worldwide. Once again, YOU DO NOT BLUFF WITH  NUCLEAR WEAPONS. The fact they exist is enough.
      How deep is the fear in this country and how believable is a missile threat? One friend of mine on facebook who is vacationing in Hawaii  wrote about feeling that threat and in the helplessness of the situation she did the only thing she could think of: She called her family to tell them she loved them.
     I don’t have the answer to this, but I wonder if it would have been as terrfying if we took Trump’s sabre rattling out of the picture. I recall during the Obama terms, North Korean threats were greeted with some hilarious memes ridiculing Kim and the NC military. I haven’t seen one attempt at humor this time around.
     So who created that kind of concern among Americans? Of course there is Kim Jon Un in Korea but the one who escalated with his supposed bluff is right here in this country and he lives in a big house while the rest of us pay the rent and one day we may pay dearly. Bluff, indeed.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

On being a good moose neighbor


There are parts of five moose in this picture.
 Today promised to be a good one. I was up at the break of dawn (10 a.m.) these days. My plan was a little putzing and cleanup around  the house and then some fun with the snowmachine. Yesterday I had finally got the last of my stuff and the machine up the hill to the cabin and I was looking forward to driving around grooming my trail and blasting all the way up to where I can make a turn around right next to the porch.
     I went to the picture window to see if the mountain was out. It wasn't, but there was a moose browsing through a thicket at the bottom of the hill right next to my trail.
     Now that put a kink in my plan. Sure, I could make some noise and chase it out of there, but that's poor form when you live with wildlife. Moose are stressed in winter, food is in short supply and their energy gets down and they don't need any extra stress. Best to leave her alone. I am in no hurry. I took a few pictures and started some indoor projects, all the time watching her while she took her sweet time. Two hours later she hadn't moved 20 feet. An hour after that I took another look and watched as she calmly laid down. Interesting, she laid there for some time her head up her ears alert, as if making sure it was safe to sleep. Then while I was beginning to lose daylight for my snowmachine sojurn she seemd to sigh and then stretched her neck out, put her her chin down on the snow and most obviosuly went to sleep. How rude.
     Counting the time she spent alert listening for danger, she laid there for almost three hours.
Toward 3 in the afternoon I looked down to check on her and I heard a sound in the woods off to the west. It sounded like a human talking in a normal voice, too far away to hear what was being said.
     Only a couple of minutes later at least four and maybe as many as six moose burst out of the forest from that direction heading right for my sleeping friend. She sprang up in a heart beat. What I saw as I wrestled with my camera to get it to focus on the moose instead of some damned twig somewhere betweeen us (later I remembered how to go to manual focus) was a big bull a couple of smaller moose, probably mature cows and a couple of yearlng calves. One of them was bawling while it ran past. I assummed it was one of the calves, maybe hurt. They moved through pretty fast, though the bull stopped for a moment to check out the moose that had been there all day.
     Then they all moved off, the group northeast toward the river and my cow somewhere up the hill to the southeast.
That was when the snow started falling. That took the last of the potential fun out of the snowmachine riding for me and I went back indoors for a good long nap. Tomorrow is another day.

Monday, January 1, 2018

New Year's Eve 2017

A gray curtain covers the sky from horizon to horizon to all points of the compass. Need artificial light even at 3 p.m. Seems a perfect sort of day to end 2017 with hopes for a brighter 2018. There'ssupposed to be almost a full moon tonight, a predecessor for the first of two in January, but with this sky it will probably be only a smudge of yellow moving across the sky.
The one spot of color came when a Pine grosbeak joined the chickadees and redpolls around the feeder, but that even took flash to bring out the color.
After pounding out new trails on snowshoes yesterday, I finally drove the snowmachine up to the cabin today, one of those major successes necessary at the beginning of each winter here.
Indoors there's a Bob Dylan retrospective on the radio and a rack of lamb thawing on the wood stove for a late New Year's Eve dinner, wine chilling on shelf outside the kitchen window.
Thinking best wishes in the New year to everyone, and in my head that includes all the folks on those lists of people being discriminated against. I am not religious but I like to ask myself at times WWJD.
For the future my only wish is that events in 2018 don't turn 2017 into the good old days.

Interesting quotations

My dear Mr. Frost: two roads never diverge in a yellow wood. Three roads meet there. — @Shakespeare on Twitter

"The mark of a great shiphandler is never getting into situations that require great shiphandling," Adm. Ernest King, USN

Me: Does the restaurant have cute waitresses?

My friend Gail: All waitresses are cute when you're hungry.

I'm not a writer, but sometimes I push around words to see what happens. – Scott Berry

“The rivers of Alaska are strewn with the bones of men who made but one mistake” - Fred McGarry, a Nushagak Trapper

A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity. – Franz Kafka

We are all immortal until the one day we are not. – me again

If the muse is late, start without her – Peter S. Beagle

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain Actually you could do the same thing with the word "really" as in "really cold."

If you are looking for an experience that will temper your vanity, this is it. There's no one to impress when you're alone on the trap line. – Michael Carey quoting his father's journal

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. – Benjamin Franklin

It’s nervous work. The state you need to write in is the state that others are paying large sums of money to get rid of. – Shirley Hazzard

So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence -- Bertrand Russell

You know that I always just wanted to have a small ship to take stuff from a place that had a lot of that stuff to a place that did not have a lot of that stuff and so prosper.—Jackie Faber, “The Wake of the Lorelei Lee”

If you attack the arguer instead of the argument, you lose both

If an insurance company won’t pay for damages caused by an “act of God,” shouldn’t it then have to prove the existence of God? – I said that

I used to think getting old was about vanity—but actually it’s about losing people you love. Getting wrinkles is trivial. – Eugene O’Neill

German General to Swiss General: “You have only 500,000 men in your army; what would you do if I invaded with 1 million men?”

Swiss General: “Well, I suppose every one of my soldiers would need to fire twice.”

Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.—Gloria Steinem

Exceed your bandwidth—sign on the wall of the maintenance shop at the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center

One thing I do know, if you keep at it, you usually wind up getting something done.—Patricia Monaghan

Do you want to know what kind of person makes the best reporter? I’ll tell you. A borderline sociopath. Someone smart, inquisitive, stubborn, disorganized, chaotic, and in a perpetual state of simmering rage at the failings of the world.—Brett Arends

It is a very simple mind that only knows how to spell a word one way.—Andrew Jackson

3:30 is too late or too early to do anything—Rene Descartes

Everything is okay when it’s 50-below as long as everything is okay. – an Alaskan in Tom Walker’s “The Seventymile Kid”

You can have your own opinion but you can’t have your own science.—commenter arguing on a story about polar bears and global warming

He looks at three ex wives as a good start—TV police drama

Talkeetna: A friendly little drinking town with a climbing problem.—a handmade bumper sticker

“You’re either into the wall or into the show”—Marco Andretti on giving it all to qualify last at the 2011 Indy 500

Makeup is not for the faint of heart—the makeup guerrilla

“I’m going to relax in a very adult manner.”—Danica Patrick after sweating it out and qualifying half an hour before Andretti

“Asking Congress to come back is like asking a mugger to come back because he forgot your wallet.”—a roundtable participant on Fox of all places

As Republicans go further back in the conception process to define when life actually begins, I am beginning to think the eventual definition will be life begins in the beer I was drinking when I met her.—me again

Hunting is a “critical element for the long-term conservation of wood bison.”—a state department of Fish and Game official explaining why the state would not go along with a federal plan to reintroduce wood bison in Alaska because the agreement did not specifically allow hunting

Each day do something that won’t compute – anon

I can’t belive I still have to protest this shit – a sign carriend by an elderly woman at an Occupy demonstration

Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stared at walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing. – Meg Chittenden

Life should be a little nuts or else it’s just a bunch of Thursdays strung together—Kevin Costner as Beau Burroughs in “Rumor has it”

You’re just a wanker whipping up fear —Irish President Michael D. Higgins to a tea party radio announcer

Being president doesn’t change who you are; it reveals who you are—Michelle Obama

Things sports announcers say

"… there's a fearlessment about him …"

"He's got to have the lead if he's going to win this race."

"Kansas has always had the ability to score with the basketball."

"NFL to put computer chips in balls." Oh, that's gotta hurt.

"Now that you're in the finals you have to run the race that's going to get you on the podium."

"It's very important for both sides that they stay on their feet."

This is why you get to hate sportscasters. Kansas beats Texas for the first time since 1938. So the pundits open their segment with the question "let's talk about what went wrong." Wrong? Kansas WON a football game! That's what went RIGHT!

"I brought out the thermostat to show you how cold it is here." Points to a thermometer reading zero in Minneapolis.

"It's tough to win on the road when you turn the ball over." Oh, really? Like you can do all right if you turn the ball over playing at home?

Cliches so imbedded in sportscasters' minds they can't help themselves: "Minnesota fell from the ranks of the undefeated today." What ranks? They were the only undefeated team left.

A good one: A 5'10" player went up and caught a pass off a defensive back over six feet tall. The quote? "He's got some hops."

Best homonym of the day so far: "It's all tied. Alabama 34, Kentucky 3." Oh, Tide.

"Steve Hooker commentates on his Olympic pole vault gold medal." When "comments" just won't do.

"He's certainly capable of the top ten, maybe even higher than that."

"Atlanta is capable of doing what they're doing."

"Biyombo, one of seven kids from the Republic of Congo." In the NBA? In America? In his whole country?

"You can't come out and be aggressive but you can't come out and be unaggressive."

"They're gonna be in every game they play!"

"First you have to get two strikes on the hitter before you get the strikeout."

"The game ended in the final seconds." You have to wonder when the others ended or are they still going on?

How is a team down by one touchdown before the half "totally demoralized?"

"If they score runs they will win."

"I think the matchup is what it is"

After a play a Houston defender was on his knees, his head on the ground and his hand underneath him appeared to clutch a very sensitive part of the male anatomy. He rolled onto his back and quickly removed his hand. (Remember the old Cosby routine "you cannot touch certain parts of your body?") Finally they helped the guy to the sideline and then the replay was shown. In it the guy clearly took a hard knee between his thighs. As this was being shown, one of the announcers says, "It looks like he hurt his shoulder." The other agrees and then they both talk about how serious a shoulder injury can be. Were we watching the same game?

"Somebody is going to be the quarterback or we're going to see a new quarterback."

"If you're gonna play running back in the SEC you're gonna take hits."

"That was a playmaker making a play."

Best headlines ever

Sister hits moose on way to visit sister who hit moose.

Man loses his testicles after attempting to smoke weed through a SCUBA tank

Church Mutual Insurance won't cover Church's flood damage because it's 'an act of God'

Homicide victims rarely talk to police

Meerkat Expert Attacked Monkey Handler Over Love Affair With Llama Keeper

GOP congressman opposes gun control because gay marriage leads to bestiality

Owner of killer bear chokes to death on sex toy

Support for legalizing pot hits all-time high

Give me all your money or my penguin will explode

How zombie worms have sex in whale bones

Crocodile steals zoo worker's lawn mower

Woman shot by oven while trying to cook waffles

Nude beach blowjob jet ski fight leads to wife's death

Woman stabs husband with squirrel for not buying beer Christmas Eve