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Pat Race,Alaska Robotics

AKRN - The Deciding Vote

Editor's note: This is the first in a series of six Alaska Robotics News multimedia commentaries leading up to the 2014 general election. Look online for new videos each Monday and Thursday.I'm trying to have a conversation at Juneau's Alaskan Bar during a crowded open mic night. I'm making the right shapes but it's impossible to tell if the words are coming out of my mouth. It's just loud.The lead singer is perched on a wobbly stool with his face smushed up against the microphone. He's sweating like a beast and demanding attention through sheer force of amplification. The chorus is cliche but the words are 10 feet tall and impossible to avoid.He sings like he's running for U.S. Senate.I don't know why the messages become so simple and contrived in political races. It's as if we voters demand that all complex thought be boiled down to a sludge before serving. We invite the clanging and banging of the campaigns, the chest thumping candidates who make it a contest of who can do the most flips on a snowmachine rather than who can craft the best policy.Obamacare. Jobs. The Koch Brothers. These aren't thoughts, they're holes cut in a painted sheet of plywood for lazy politicians to stick their heads through. It's time we ask for more.Discourse is the exchange of thoughts and ideas through conversation. It's a concept that belongs in a science fiction novel. Fantastic creatures who can link minds and transfer knowledge through sound waves. Our aspiring leaders need to embrace this power and show us they can use it responsibly.I'm looking forward to more conversation and more debates as the election draws closer. I hope our candidates will work to distinguish themselves by thinking and communicating in meaningful ways. I want to see them as real people, I want to see them acknowledge and face complicated issues as if they were trying to solve a problem instead of sell a solution.It's closing time. The lights are up and the band is loading instruments into a dented van. This probably wasn't the best place to try to have a conversation, people don't come here for conversation.Created by Pat Race, Lou Logan, Aaron Suring, Jamie Karnik and many others, Alaska Robotics News is a political satire series focused on Alaska. The series was initially funded through Kickstarter and some cash donated in an unmarked brown paper bag. Alaska Robotics is a group in Juneau publishing short films, comics and many other creative works. Follow their projects online at or in person at their gallery at 220 Front Street.The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)
Marc Lester


Growers and retailers in the vicinity of Wenatchee, Washington, have been busy. Washington state this year began issuing permits for marijuana businesses. In this video, take a look at two large grow operations and hear from a store owner, lawmakers and citizens about how life has changed since Initiative 502 passed two years ago, legalizing recreational marijuana in Washington.What would legalized marijuana look like in the Last Frontier? Alaskans are in the midst of the debate surrounding Ballot Measure 2, the initiative seeking to legalize, tax and regulate recreational marijuana. In late September, Alaska Dispatch News headed to Washington state to see how the fledgling industry is taking shape and how legalized marijuana is affecting the state’s economic and cultural landscape.For much more on the newest agricultural industry in central Washington, find this story by reporter Laurel Andrews.Watch this video on YouTube or Vimeo, and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more great videos. Contact Marc Lester at mlester(at)
Alaska Dispatch News

The Slotterhouse Five

Andrew McLean is considered one of the country’s finest ski mountaineers, a term he prefers to "extreme skier" because he climbs up mountains and then skis down them. He lives in Utah and skis the Wasatch mountains daily, but one of his favorite places is Alaska’s Wrangell and St. Elias ranges."The cool thing about skiing in the Wrangells is that you just get everything," says McLean. "You’ve got some of the highest peaks in North America. It’s got huge ski descents. You’ve got glaciers, steeps, powder, flats, just about everything you could look for." McLean calls his video Skiing Solidarity Peak. He has skied the Wrangell and St. Elias ranges a half-dozen times "and on one of those trips, I skied a region so stacked with massive slot-like couloirs we named it 'The Slotterhouse,'" McLean told Powder Magazine in its October issue.   
Marc Lester


For more than 35 years, Saturday nights on Anchorage's KSKA 91.1 belonged to Marvell Johnson. The longtime radio disc jockey and foster parent hosted "Flight Soul to Soul," a funk, soul, hip-hop and R&B music show with a devoted following of listeners -- especially among inmates at Anchorage jails, who frequently communicated with loved ones on the outside through song requests and dedications. On Oct. 7, Johnson was shot and killed at his Anchorage home, and his 16-year-old foster son Peter John Henry has been charged as an adult with murder. On Saturday, some of the Anchorage DJs Johnson mentored over the years hosted "Soul to Soul" one last time, in his memory. Slow jams, dedications and tears followed.
Alaska Dispatch News
Photographer and filmmaker Christopher Baker spent four days in Cordova, Alaska, in 2010, shooting with fisherman Wade Buscher. This video is a director's cut of a piece Baker shot and produced for the first digital edition of Martha Stewart Living. Buscher and Mikal Berry talk about their lives commercial fishing for salmon out of the Copper River. Says Buscher: “It’s a lifestyle here. We don’t really make a lot of money but we choose to live here -- it’s a beautiful place to be.”Like many people who come to Alaska, Baker fell in love with the scenery. According to Baker, “Cordova and the area around the Copper River was one of the most beautiful places I have photographed, which is saying a lot given the number of beautiful places I have photographed over the years.”
Loren Holmes


Friday afternoon at West High School, as buses full of children left school grounds, a crew from Coldfoot Environmental was demolishing one of the older parts of Anchorage’s first high school.The Cove, as it is known, was the original library at the school. It is being demolished to make way for 12 new career and technical education classrooms.Coldfoot was called in by the general contractors because of its experience with asbestos abatement.A large excavator fitted with powerful mechanical claws began to take bites out of the building. First it knocked out the glass windows, which were of a type that could not be recycled.Then the excavator began to tear apart the ring-shaped roof, tearing through ring after ring of thick rebar. After about  45 minutes, the first sections of roof began to come down.The contractors will work through the weekend to demolish the building.Watch this video on YouTube or Vimeo, and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more great videos. Contact Loren Holmes at loren (at)
Alaska Dispatch News

Technicolour Alaska

Travel photographer Alexis Coram strives to bring a place to life with her images. “I love to spend time out in the world, seeing new things, visiting new places, breathing deeply -- escaping from reality,” she writes.Her trip to Alaska last February was very sudden: “I had a break come up in my work schedule and quite randomly decided to head to Alaska to try and see the lights.” The night Coram flew out there was a massive solar storm -- talk about getting lucky. She landed in Fairbanks at 2 a.m. and headed straight out of town.“I was gobsmacked. I spent the next few nights outside in various areas around Fairbanks, including up at the Arctic Circle,” said Coram. “It was bitterly cold, but quickly became the most amazing trip of my life. The highlight has to have been the midnight dog sledding I did with Sirius Sled Dogs. Incredible lights in every direction as we (sledded) through the snowy forests. It was like a dream.”
Alaska Dispatch News

Arctic Spring

In the spring of 2011 a team of scientists aboard the Coast Guard icebreaker Healy discovered a massive plankton bloom, one of the largest ever observed in the Arctic, created under the sea ice. In 2014, a team returned to the region to study the phenomenon and record their surroundings.This video is part of the Arctic Spring project, through which a group of artists and scientists are combining efforts to observe and document how the climate is rapidly affecting the ecosystem in the Arctic Ocean.Read more: Study: Sparser, thinner Arctic Ocean ice enabling new phytoplankton blooms
Alaska Dispatch News
Chum salmon, also known as dog salmon, have the widest natural geographic distribution of all the Pacific salmon, and are widespread throughout Alaska. Chum spend most of their lives feeding in saltwater, only to return to fresh water once they mature, some traveling almost 2,000 miles upstream in their return to home waters. Back in fresh water, adult chum salmon turn from their bright silver ocean-going selves to a dark olive brown. They develop a hooked snout and large, canine-like teeth, and are apparently feisty around GoPro cameras.
Tara Young


During the fall rut, moose disposition turns from indifferent to full of fervor. Bull moose come out of the woodwork to vie for mates, at times in quiet pursuit, at other times ready to rumble. This particular afternoon at Powerline Pass found bull moose chasing sheepish cows, while dozens of moose grazed during one of the first flurries of the season.Watch this video on Vimeo or YouTube, and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more great videos. Contact Tara Young at tara(at)
Alaska Dispatch News

ScienceCasts: A Colorful Lunar Eclipse

On Oct. 8, the moon will pass through the shadow of Earth for a total lunar eclipse. "Sky watchers in the USA will see the moon turn a beautiful shade of celestial red and maybe turquoise, too," according to Science at NASA.In Alaska, the total phase of the eclipse will begin about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday and last a little less than an hour.
Alaska Dispatch News

Extreme Justice! Must See Football!

In a battle between South and Bartlett high schools for the Cook Inlet Conference high school football championship, senior Justice Augafa scored all five South touchdowns and finished with a game-high 270 yards on 20 carries to lead the Wolverines to a 35-14 victory. That left South (7-0 conference, 7-1 overall) perfect in Alaska.  “He’s amazing,”  South linebacker Matt Keogh said of Augafa. Keogh’s advice for playing against the 5-foot-11, 185-pound speedster?  “Tape your ankles,” he said. Read more: Augafa lifts South to CIC football title