Archive for the ‘Curious Notions’ Category

Experimenting w/ Hitler

In Culture, Curious Notions, Humor, Political on December 27, 2010 at 11:21 pm

Q: Hitler – Ripe for comedy or still taboo?



  • Exhibit B: Cats that look like Hitler and a new exhibit in Germany.

A: What is the answer? Is there one? You tell me.


The holiday of The Me

In Culture, Curious Notions on December 26, 2010 at 9:52 pm

Christmas is a holiday for ourselves. We feel good about buying presents for others, just as receiving gifts makes us feel better about our own self-worth. It’s the rare holiday that is about making ourselves smile just as much as seeing others do the same. Call it capitalism, pragmatism, fun or human nature. Whatever you call it, I hope you enjoyed it.

Guest Column: From the non-Christian’s point of view

In Alaskana, Culture, Curious Notions, Guest Columns, The Cool on December 24, 2010 at 1:01 am

From the non-Christian’s point of view

By Elika Roohi

You know how there are those people at Christmas time that insist on saying “Happy Holidays,” and they make you put up unspecific decorations?  I am one of those people.

I’m not going to tear down the holly wreaths on campus, I’m not going to bemoan the fact that there are poinsettias everywhere, and I won’t complain when Christmas Carols are played nonstop.  In fact, I’m not even going to make a fuss.*

Even though we live in a country that is predominantly Christian, it’s exactly that: predominantly.  Which means that there are a whole lot of people around that are Hindu or Buddhist or Jewish or Zoroastrian or Baha’i or Muslim.  And those people don’t celebrate Christmas.**  A lot of those people don’t even celebrate a holiday in the month of December, so when you try to be politically correct and wish them a “happy holidays,” you’re still not getting it.

The thing is, before I got to college, it seemed like everyone was making a genuine effort to say “happy holidays” instead of “merry Christmas.”  But then I showed up at UAF, and there are holly wreaths and poinsettias and Christmas trees all over the place.  I played in a concert this afternoon that had a completely Christmas carol repertoire; there wasn’t even a token Jewish tune.  Not to mention, I haven’t seen a single menorah on campus.

I’m a Baha’i.  I celebrate Naw-Ruz, which is in March.  And I don’t have a problem with Christmas in the least.  But I do have a problem with the fact that people seem to forget there are others out there that don’t celebrate Christmas.  We just had World Week at UAF.  Wasn’t that all about diversity?  Well, where is the diversity now?


*I’m just going to write this blog post.  And okay, I might ask you to turn off the Christmas music.

**Except sometimes they do because of societal norms.

A UA Christmas Reflection w/ Pres. Gamble

In Alaskana, Curious Notions, Guest Columns, Humor, UAF on December 21, 2010 at 9:56 pm

In case you missed it, on Dec. 20, UA President Patrick Gamble emailed the UAF Staff list-serve with an letter that can only be described as cute. In case you are not on the Staff list-serve, here is the email in it’s entirety. I have bolded the lines that I felt were particularly fun/interesting.

Patrick Gamble during a summer 2010 luncheon hosted by the Fairbanks Economic Development Coorporation. Photo by Jeremia Schrock/Bagheera Face

A UA Christmas Reflection

As we round out the semester and commence the holiday season I find myself thinking back to student days (the proverbial “days of yore?”) and the anticipation I felt then about the approaching time off. Family and travel quickly replaced any academic focus I might have had, and the burden of classes was mercifully lifted for a couple of weeks. I’m sure that over the many years since then nothing much about that has changed in the student department. Now, being on the other side of the fence for the first time, I’m fascinated to observe the same phenomenon occurring on the faculty and staff side. Amazingly, it never occurred to me way back then that the university was likewise quite happyto be rid of me so they could take a well deserved breather too!!

So enjoy yourselves in all the ways the season provides. Take comfort that despite how sometimes this crazy planet rocks, rolls, and rhumbas to the discordant events of our time, we in America still have many blessings to be thankful for…like our ability to tolerate and appreciate others, our freedom, the diversity we enjoy among our family and friends, and for the special opportunity we have here at UA to educate generations of Alaskans. As professionals we need our students, because making them successful makes us whole in our life’s work. In turn they need us…to support, instruct, and educate them so they can fulfill their awesome potential. They all know they cannot fly solo yet. Even so, at times, this relationship takes on the characteristics of a sumo struggle more than a learning partnership. Not a problem, it mostly works out just fine. It’s just that every now and then, like at Christmas, we need to go back to our respective corners, take a breather, unwind and then smile at the prospect of the exciting opportunities ahead for all of us in the next round. Every job description within our UA system is crafted as a link to all other job descriptions in a latticework that creates a powerful university team. Every individual team member is essential to the task of getting our students through. Thank you all for doing that so well. I look forward to the New Year, and working with you.

Have a great break.


Patrick Gamble

It makes me think that underneath that four star general exterior lies a fun-loving Joe Hayes middle. Thoughts?

Thoughts on TIME’s Person of the Year

In Curious Notions on December 16, 2010 at 12:11 am

The Blogger with a copy of the Dec. 13, 2010 issue of TIME which featured Julian Assange on the cover. Photo by Jeremia Schrock/Bagheera Face

Mark Zuckerberg was chosen as TIME magazines Person of the Year 2010. He was chosen by the magazines editorial staff for his hugely important creation: Facebook. While TIME contemplated who their winner would be, they allowed internet users to vote in an online poll. The list was varied and covered the globe. Such personalities readers could vote for included Hamid Karzai, Glen Beck and Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf (of Park51 mosque fame) to name a few.

The Readers Choice Person of the Year was Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks. He, obviously, was not the choice of TIME’s editorial staff. Why?

The reasons for choosing Zuckerberg are obvious: Not a day goes by where I, for one, fail to check my Facebook. I use it for chat, email and to spread the word about interesting shit that goes on in the world. I, and the majority of my 200+ friends, do the same. Just this past week, a Facebook intern mapped out over 10 million user connections. The results are incredible. Not only is world geography easily discernible on the map, but political boundaries are visible, as well. If the internet is the road system of the world, then Facebook is it’s users vehicle of choice.

Why not Assange? That remains a mystery. A majority of TIME users voted for him. If you check the link on Assange above you’ll see that he had 130K more votes then then closets runner-up. D.E. Wittkower, writing for the Wall Street Journal, published an interesting article today (Dec. 15) on this same question. His response was that while Assange may impact the world in the future (maybe 2011 is his year), Zuckerberg has impacted the world now. That, my friends, is the difference.

While it is fair to say that Assange has impacted the world, he and his organization have not yet become a daily part of our lives. Yes, he has recieved plenty of press coverage and yes, world governments are keeping an incredibly close eye on him. But, do we check WikiLeaks everyday to see what else has been leaked? Do we Google “Julian Assange” or “WikiLeaks” every morning after our coffee or tea? No. Not yet. That is why Assange failed to receieve the “official” nod from TIME; because we, as internet users, have failed to take WikiLeaks as seriously as the US, Britsh, and Swedish governments have. Assange is deserving, but our spirit is weak.

Going underground for your Christmas-themed flicks

In Cinema, Culture, Curious Notions on December 15, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Instead of the generic slew of Christmas-based films that are replayed every Yuletide, why not something a little less standard?

In place of such “classics” as The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Chevy Chases Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story, A Christmas Carol (any of them), Love Actually and Home Alone 1 & 2 why not something more…creative?

Creative? Well, ask yourself: what is Christmas? Christmas is about accentuating the emotions we feel on a day-to-day basis. Any given day throughout the holiday season (from Thanksgiving through till New Years Day) will give one joy, stress, passion, apathy, good feelings and bad, to say nothing of love and hate.

Positive emotions are created: giving and receiving gifts, seeing friends and family, setting up and looking at holiday decorations. In addition, most individuals are entitled to numerous days off during this season. Surely a plus for anyone’s emotional well-being.

Negative emotions, too, run rampant: what sort of gift to buy? How much is it? Will it arrive on time? Will they like it? What happens if they don’t? Do I really want to see my family? What sort of stress will that cause? What will I have to talk about? What will they ask me? Sure I have time off, but by doing so I receive less in my paycheck? What will I do about a lack of money? Do I get a holiday job? Will that make me more tired and stressed? Indeed, it can seem as though the negatives of the season can far outweigh the positive.

So, to ignore the mainstream cinema one is often fed during December go with one of these films for a guaranteed good time.

  • Ladyhawke: Romantic. Man is a wolf by night, Woman is a hawk by day and never the two shall meet. Solid and fun acting with a happy, and romantic, ending.


  • Sunshine: Life-Affirming. A team of scientists must restart the sun in order to save the world from the slowly enveloping global winter. The film is set entirely in space and has a bittersweet, if visually stunning, ending.


  • Naked: Nihilistic. If you are in the mood for something more dark and angsty, go with Mike Leigh’s epic about a nihilist ruffian who cares only for himself. In the movie, nobody wins…except maybe the ruffian (played by David Thewlis).


  • The Cat Returns: Inspiring. An animated film from Studio Ghibli (think “Hayao Miyazaki) about living and being alive. In the end, everyone one learns something and lives happily ever after. How rare is that in a film nowadays?
  • Fanny and Alexander: Thoughtful. This film actually uses two different Christmases as cinematic bookends and is as close to “Christmas-themed” as you’ll see me get. This film, about an upper middle class Swedish family, was directed by the legendary filmmaker Ingmar Bergman and is one of my most favorite films of all time.

If you have any recommendations (or concerns over my choices) feel free to post in the comments section below!

Urban exploration at UAF

In Culture, Curious Notions, The Cool, UAF, Urban Exploration on December 12, 2010 at 9:31 pm

I found a really interesting site about a month ago and wanted to share The Cool here on my blog.

UAF Steam Tunnels

It deals with urban exploration in and around the UAF campus. I would definitely love to get some updated pictures/info but sadly the site hasn’t been seriously updated in a while. There are photos, stories and even maps of the different tunnels that crisscross UAF!

Julian Assange, the Internet and the American Republic

In Curious Notions, Journalism, Justice, Political on December 8, 2010 at 9:08 pm

The internet is a beautiful and deadly place. It lets one share their ideas, discuss them, have them applauded, shut down or ignored. We can address global problems while simultaneously creating new ones. It is the home of knights and trolls, thinkers and speakers, the oppressed and the oppressors. The ultimate beauty of the internet is that, unlike the outside world, the oppressors are in the minority. If I’m being bullied on one site, I can always move to another. It is quiet the opposite here in the world of countries, republics, empires and nation-states where my movement is strictly controlled by my nationality and presentable papers. It’s enough to make one feel like an AKC half-breed whose documents have been barely authenticated. I speak of this as a born-and-bred American citizen not even as a jaded and green-card carrying immigrant whose place remains untenable until the final swearing in and oath taking.

“I pledge allegiance, to the flag, of the United States of America, and to the Republic, for which it stands…

The United States was founded as a republic and we continue to call ourselves one. That means that we, as it’s citizens, retain control over our government. We apply the Mandate of Heaven, so to speak. That Mandate, which is expressed clearly and succinctly in our own Declaration of Independence, goes that (1) we have “unalienable” rights that we (2) secure by forming governments. These “governments are instituted among Men” and derive “their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed…” The governed includes myself. In my opinion, it includes anyone who calls the United States of America home; legalized or not.

This lengthy introduction brings me to the case of recent internet (and print) cause célèbre Julian Assange. Assange is a former internet hacker who is also the founder of WikiLeaks, a website which collects and releases government documents on the web. As of this writing, almost 500K pages on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been released onto the internet.

The internet…

Such an idea, leaking classified documents to the world, was not possible to this extent 10 years ago. Maybe even fewer years ago then that. Now, such information dumps are instantaneous. Anyone with access to the internet can read about the documents or download them and read them for themselves. The internet is simply incredible in that it allows an individual unprecedented access to the world, to others and to ones own government.

What this has to do with the American Republic is simple: a Republic wouldn’t be afraid of transparency. A Republic would be proud of what it had accomplished and would spread that information with the world. Even if they aren’t proud of some actions there is still such a thing as responsibility and owning up to ones faults. It’s called being an adult.* You’d think a government run by supposedly mature adults would be aware of such a thing. If they aren’t, what are they doing there?

In conclusion, the ultimate idea of transparency within a Republic is best expressed in a quote by the playwright George Bernard Shaw: “If you have skeletons in the closet……you may as well make them dance.”


*Of course, it goes without saying, everyone has some secrets that they’d rather not share. I know I do. That doesn’t mean people shouldn’t know them, even if I don’t want them to. It should also be said, however, that we all make mistakes. It is simply a fact of life and cannot be changed.

Who’s a bohemian?

In Art, Culture, Curious Notions, Drink on December 4, 2010 at 3:00 am

I’ve been reading this book on the bohemian lifestyle called Among the Bohemians: Experiments in Living: 1900-1939. It reminds me of a prose version of the Broadway play Rent in that it both inspires and pisses me off.

The book is 290 pages in length (not counting appendices and index) and while I am only 39 pages in to it, what I will say on “bohemia” and “la vie boheme” is this: it is romantic. It also demands a certain naivete. A form of naivete I find both adorable (inspiring) and irritating (it pisses me off).


Cover photograph from "Among the Bohemians" by Virginia Nicholson. Photo by Peregrine McClean.

Because who doesn’t want to live the bohemian lifestyle? It is, in many ways, the ultimate “progressive” ideal. Free love, intellectualism, creativity, art, adventure, pure philosophy, individualism (but also strongly based in community), new ideas, less materialism. As Craig Ferguson(yes, the talk show host) said in a recent Doctor Who-themed opener: “the triumph of intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism.”

While that phrase does resonate with me, the problem with any “progressive” idea is that it’s relative. It’s relative in that what is “progressive” to me, may be conservative to someone else. I have little doubt that my friend Charles (who posts on here from time to time) would agree. I’m sure he and I could be quite bohemian in discussing this topic, as well: jazz music on the iPod, red wine in glasses, stretched out on my living room rug or his old living room couch.

What is “progressive?” Can anyone answer me with their own opinion? I submit that to you, my readers…