Steve Haycox

Anchorage’s centennial year is drawing to a close, and the remarkable summer with it. The concerts, parties and plays are over, and the golden hues of the birch leaves signal closure. It was entertaining, for sure. Was it illuminating? If one thing stands out as a conclusion about who we are, it seems to be diversity. UAA Professor Chad Farrell’s analysis of the ethnic and racial composition of Anchorage schools and neighborhoods over the last few years set the stage. As most know by now, Anchorage has the three most diverse high schools in the nation: East, Bartlett and West. Mountain View is the most diverse neighborhood. Todd Hardesty celebrated that diversity in his centennial film “Anchorage Is,” as did Charles Wohlforth in his marvelous centennial history “From the Shores of Ship...Steve Haycox
There was a time when about all one heard of Alaska history was the “neglect” thesis, the notion that the federal government did nothing with, for or about Alaska after the purchase. Though there were earlier versions, Ernest Gruening elaborated this idea in his 1954 ​"The State of Alaska," a contribution to the statehood campaign. Alaskans needed control of their own affairs, Gruening averred, because the government’s failure to nurture Alaska had inhibited its development, especially exploitation of its natural resources. The neglect thesis has faded since most Alaskans have become aware that the federal contribution to the state -- one-third of Alaska’s economic base, according to a UAA Institute for Social and Economic Research study, coming in Native services, conservation unit...Steve Haycox
Sipping morning caffeine in a favorite chair the other day, I became aware of something remarkable: On the other side of the window, not 10 feet away, a hummingbird was working methodically among the many nasturtium blossoms in one of the planters in my wife’s garden, gathering nectar. Nursery people have contended that there are hummingbirds in Anchorage, but I’ve never seen one in 45 years. Until now. By the same token, in addition to black currants, apples and a wonderful variety of flowers and shrubbery, that same garden in the last few years has produced sweet red cherries and kiwi. Most of that wasn’t imaginable 45 years ago. Most Alaskans are aware of the consequences of global climate change we see here: shrinking glaciers and sea ice, melting permafrost, storm-generated shore...Steve Haycox
As a contribution to Anchorage’s centennial summer, Cyrano’s Theater Co. is presenting 10 plays covering the 100 years of the centennial, 10 decades in 10 weeks. Last week was 1975 to 1985, a crucial period when city leaders, and ordinary folks, had to decide how to use the bonanza money generated by pipeline construction and the subsequent stream of oil tax dollars. Cyrano’s enlisted Maia Nolan-Partnow, director of sales and special content for Alaska Dispatch News, to write the script, and she produced a fast-paced vehicle to represent the frenetic, super-heated financial and emotional boom that overtook the city during pipeline days, read with panache by Cyrano’s players. Nolan-Partnow, who has a master's degree in creative writing from UAA, framed her story around the question of how...Steve Haycox
Historical fiction is a literary genre flourishing still in the digital age, historical tales that might be true enjoying wide readership. Hilary Mantel’s "Wolf Hall" and "Bring Up the Bodies" generated brisk sales and her fans eagerly await the next, promised book; Dan Brown’s inventions ("Da Vinci Code," "Inferno") are still selling; Umberto Eco’s "The Name of the Rose" is still in print. Mantel and Eco have been adapted for television or screen, along with a host of other well-read titles. Biography is also popular. David McCullough’s treatments of Truman, John Adams, Theodore Roosevelt and the Wright brothers have been much sought after. Abigail Santamaria’s exploration of Joy Davidman’s relationship with C.S. Lewis is widely read, as is Jesse Harland’s portrayal of Steve Jobs. Robert...Steve Haycox
One of the more quiet and dignified memorials in Germany today is Adenauer House, the home of the political “father” of the modern German nation, Conrad Adenauer. Situated high on a hill looking over the Rhine Valley, it’s a modest home, surrounded by lush gardens, and is generally as Adenauer left it, with his furniture and books. At the base of the hill is a small museum. Adenauer served as the first chancellor of the Federal German Republic, from 1949 to 1963. He helped forge agreement on the nature of the new German state -- a democratic republic committed to personal freedom, and stability and international cooperation -- and helped construct Germany’s recovery, the German economic miracle. In some respects, Adenauer was the obvious choice as Germany’s post-war leader. As mayor of...Steve Haycox
The “Imagining Anchorage” centennial celebration just completed at the Anchorage Museum should direct attention to the importance and the success of one of the city’s oldest and most significant civic organizations, the Cook Inlet Historical Society. A volunteer, private, nonprofit agency, the Society was established in 1955, primarily by Evangeline Atwood, civic leader and wife of the publisher of the Anchorage Daily Times, then the largest circulation newspaper in the territory, and Elmer Rasmuson, owner and president of the National Bank of Alaska, who would later become the greatest philanthropist in the state. Sister and brother, Atwood and Rasmuson, in addition to their numerous activities and contributions to the development of the city, were committed to civic education through...Steve Haycox
The shenanigans of the current Alaska Legislature prompted a number of people this week to remember Governor Ernest Gruening’s account of the 1947 territorial Legislature, which, if his characterization can be fully credited, was one of the worst in the territory’s history. While its offenses were many, perhaps most egregious was passing a budget that was 40 percent out of balance, committing $11 million in expenditures against revenues of only $7 million. After a brief period of uncertainty following World War II, when Alaskans worried that heavy, federal wartime spending might cease, in fact spending continued at wartime levels and actually began to increase, a function of the ensuing and costly Cold War. Because of Alaska's proximity to the Soviet Union and its critical location as...Steve Haycox
The disgruntlement over the failure of Alaska legislators to produce a budget and to complete their work within the voter-mandated 90-day session seems widespread, judging from open blogs on the various news services around the state, talk radio and letters to editors in the printed editions. Despite the Republican majority leaders’ spin that the problem is a Democrat-led minority that won’t do what it’s told by the majority, and that the minority is only interested in raises for union members, most of the opprobrium seems to be falling on the majority. That’s either because the Democrats are better at explaining their agenda, or because the public agrees that Medicaid expansion will in fact save money and lives, that the Susitna dam is an unreasonable expenditure at this time, and that...Steve Haycox
An American traveler headed for any of China’s modern cities these days could be excused if, on arriving, he or she might imagine the plane made a couple of errant turns and landed right back in the United States. China’s major cities -- Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Tianjin – and some deemed lesser simply by comparison with the giants -- Chongqing, Wuhan, Xian -- are dynamic, highly energized metropolises characterized by scores of architecturally innovative skyscrapers, a thriving, driving middle class, major state and private investment in commerce and infrastructure, all teeming with people. There are miles and miles and miles of new 33-story apartment complexes. In the city centers the franchise names Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Cartier and Lanvin proliferate; the streets are...Steve Haycox