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Picturing Alaska history : USA territory to statehood

Turner Publishing (http://www.turnerpublishing.com) asked if I would consider reviewing a new book. I’m glad I agreed. Historic Photos of Alaska has just been published, a large format book of black and white photographs from the period 1867 to 1979. Dermot Cole, long-time columnist for the Fairbanks Daily Newsminer, provides the text and captions.

As a journalist, Dermot also has an interest in history (apart from his twin brother, Terrance, history professor at University of Alaska Fairbanks). Dermot Cole is the author of Amazing Pipeline Stories published by Epicenter Press in 1997, about the people and Fairbanks during the Alaska oil pipeline construction.

The perspective of Historic Photos of Alaska, is for those readers outside Alaska. That is, this is a pictorial history of Alaska as part of “America”. [Through no fault of this book, many in the US will still consider Alaska as a foreign body, along with New Mexico.]

The photos are arranged by time periods, from purchase to statehood– 1867-1905, 1906-1919, 1920-1940, and 1941-1979. These periods represent significant periods of US and Alaska relations. The orientation is a deliberate effort to stand apart from the usual Alaskana picture books. Another significant difference in this book is the choice of rarely seen photos and not the ubiquitous ones. The photos are reproduced with sufficient quality to review again and again and see something new each time.

Readers can follow themes such as regional changes (southeast Alaska also known as the Northwest Coast compared to Nome in northwest Alaska) and transportation. However, other themes can be chosen by readers according to personal interest.

    Dogs
    Most of the dogs are Alaska huskies (freight variety), such as ones on pages 44 and 55 and in harness, page 58. However, the team on page 67 is actually part of a Saami family (reindeer herders originally from Scandinavia. Note the hats and boot toes.) The harness setup is very different from that of the Eskimo family team on page 128. There are also sporting dogs (early 20th century conformation) such as the one on page 92 belonging to Jim Haly. Look carefully. The dog has just spotted another dog out of view, and kicked up a cloud of dust with his hind legs.

    Electric trees
    Even on the frozen tundra of Nome (page 111) and sprouting ever more branches over time in populated areas such as Cordova page 120 and Fairbanks page 151.

    Military
    One way to trace the influence of the military in Alaska is through men’s hats in the photos. Since Territorial days, the military has been a significant economic and development force in Alaska. Much of the early geological studies and geodetic surveys were military. World War II and then the Cold War continued the inflow of money and people. Photos from pages 168 to 180 show differing aspects of building the Al-Can or Alaska Highway and the later battles of Attu and the Aleutians. (see related posts here on the Al-Can and the Aleutians, https://theelderlies.wordpress.com/special-projects/photo-index-cking-wwii/)

    Miscellany
    Everywhere. The curiosity of Edwardian women’s fashion in open-air fish camp (useful against mosquitoes I suppose); the plank streets (for cars and horses) 400 miles from the nearest highway; even a Piggly-Wiggly store outside of the South.

Dermot Cole avoided the shop worn stash of Alaska photos. However, the next to last photo, page 197, is of the oil pipeline’s zigzagged engineering (to avoid temperature stresses) up the North Slope and over the Brooks Mountain Range. It’s a clever homage to the iconic Klondike gold rush photo of the future miners traipsing up the Chilkoot Pass.

I do have some quibbles with the book. There is an amazing variety of horses depicted but no photos of cows at Creamer’s Dairy in Fairbanks (I like the image of the wood stove chimney peeking out the milk truck to keep contents from freezing at 40 below).

More importantly, an outline map of Alaska is needed, with the places of photos identified.

The southwest of Alaska is mostly excluded. Considering that most folks in or outside Alaska believe everyone lives in an Eskimo igloo, it would also be helpful to include a map of languages/cultural regions in the state. Most readers will not be aware of the significance of the temporary, river going, hide boat depicted on page 44 built by the Athabascan Indian trapper to bring his skins to market. Compare with the more permanent skin boat built by Iñupiat Eskimo marine hunters on page 103. I already noted the Saami family.

The period of the first half of 1919 is missing although extremely important in the demography and history of non-urban Alaska. Upwards of 80% to 100% of people in some communities died during the pandemic of the “Spanish Flu”. The Jesse Lee Home (I ran across this recently published history) was one of several that cared for orphans left behind (those that survived long enough for help to reach them).

A suggested reading list would be nice, including Steven Langdon’s 1993. The Native People of Alaska. Anchorage, AK : Greatland Graphics. ISBN: 0936425172 9780936425177 OCLC: 27405205

A great companion volume would be John S. Whitehead’s 2004. Completing the Union: Alaska, Hawaii, and the Battle for Statehood. Albuquerque : University of New Mexico Press. ISBN: 0826336361 9780826336361 082633637X 9780826336378, OCLC: 55665367

This book is not supposed to be a comprehensive pictorial history. Cole did an amazing job just to make a selection from all the possibilities and put together such an enjoyable book.


——————-
[Dermot Cole. 2008 Historic Photos of Alaska. Nashville: Turner Publishing Co.
# ISBN-10: 1596524243
# ISBN-13: 978-1596524248
# LoC 2007938665
Hardcover: 216 pages, Language: English, Product Dimensions: 10.2 x 10.1 x 1 inches, list price $39.95]


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Nonagenarian MySpacer, Kirk Douglas

Kirk Douglas nonagenarianLori Shepler / Los Angeles Times, click to view original

By Tina Daunt, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer, April 4, 2008

AS F. Scott Fitzgerald once famously said, there are no second acts in American life. But Kirk Douglas, at age 91, has not only found a second act but now is writing a third in, of all places, cyberspace.

“Someone once told me, ‘Be ashamed to die before doing something for humanity,’ ” said Douglas, relaxing on one of the plush couches in his Beverly Hills home, with its gardens and courtyards, colorful paintings by Marc Chagall — a personal friend — and two beloved large dogs wandering in and out. “As you get older, you must think more of other people. You must strive to help other people. Who needs the most help but the young?

“What kind of world are we leaving them?”

It’s a question to which Douglas returns over and over on his website and in his new book, “Let’s Face It: 90 Years of Living, Loving, and Learning,” which was recently released as an audio book read by “Seinfeld’s” Jason Alexander.
[…]

MySpace page is
http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=171170276


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Dr. Lydia T. Black

Dr Lydia T. Black, at Kenai Fjord, July, 2002 by grandson, Andrew McEvoy

Dr. Black survived Stalin, forced labor under the Nazis, refugee status, and never suffered fools, the pompous, the bully, nor laziness or sloppy scholarship. She was fond of cats, dogs, children, and those needing a friend in a strange land.

The following is summarized from documents at Lydia T. Black 1925 to 2007 and from the Kodiak Daily Mirror

Widowed with young children at 44, she went to college and finished her BA and MA in two years and her Ph.D. in another two years.

She studied at Northeastern University and Brandeis University in the Boston area before receiving her doctorate from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She joined the faculty of anthropology in 1973 at Providence College in Rhode Island. She moved to Alaska in 1984 as Professor, University of Alaska Fairbanks, whence she “retired” in 1998.

She continued her work in Kodiak, where she helped translate and catalogue Russian archives of St. Herman’s Seminary. The Orthodox Church in Alaska recognized her contribution by awarding her the Cross of St. Herman.

She wrote at least 66 more books and articles appearing in publications as diverse as Natural History, Arctic Anthropology and Studies in Soviet Thought and was a contributor to various exhibits and conferences on the Arctic, including the Library of Congress’ Meeting of the Frontiers, the New York Museum of Natural History’s Jesup Centenary Congress and the Smithsonian Institution’s Crossroads of the Continents.

One of her best-known books, “Aleut art — Unangam aguqaadangin” is a collection of beautifully photographed and carefully documented art made by Alaska Natives of the Aleutian Islands. Another, “Russians in Alaska, 1732 to 1867,” was published in 2004, the year Lydia turned 79.

In 2001, Russia awarded her the Order of Friendship, honoring her contribution to promoting cross-cultural understanding between Russia and America. She received the Alaska Anthropological Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000 and the Alaska Governor’s Lifetime Achievement Award for the Humanities in 2005.

Lydia was born in Kiev, where her grandmother came to live with the family. Her grandmother instituted an educational regimen for her which included two days per week of speaking Russian, two days per week of speaking French and two days per week of speaking German. On Sundays, the family could relax and speak Ukrainian. It was decreed that Lydia would study English in school. Lydia’s grandmother would take her to the ‘secret church’, hosted by three elderly women – the KGB eventually did arrive to arrest them.

Lydia’s father was executed when she was eight years old. At 16 (1941) her mother died of TB. Lydia was picked up into forced labor for Germany. At war’s end, Lydia was in Munich and got a job scrubbing toilets in American officers’ quarters. They realized Lydia could speak six languages (she had learned Polish during the war) so she became a translator at the UNRRA’s displaced children’s camp.

Lydia met and married Igor A. Black. They then emigrated to the U.S. in 1950. Igor became a thermodynamics engineer whose work on the Apollo Mission was officially commemorated by NASA. Lydia was a full-time wife and mother. Suddenly Igor died in 1969, leaving Lydia alone with three teen-aged daughters and a toddler. With her older daughters’ consent, Lydia returned to school as a full-time college student.

Dr Black died in Kodiak, AK, with family, friends, Orthodox services, and the feline sibling companions Masia and Vasia present. Masia, brother Vasia, and companion human Lydia Black
Masia, faithful guardian during Lydia’s illness would wake Lydia in the middle of the night, to great complaint. However, Masia seemed to be sensing something physically awry in Lydia’s breathing while asleep and was waking her to “reset” her. Masia would reach over and: Slap-slap-slap, at which point Lydia would sputter and tell the cat to stop it. [Click on small picture to enlarge.]

Anthropologist Lydia Black Dead at 81
Casey Kelly, KMXT

KODIAK, AK (2007-03-13) Anthropologist Lydia Black, author of many books on Alaska Native culture and Alaska history, died Monday morning of liver failure at her home in Kodiak. She was 81. © Copyright 2007, apti

audio file (mp3 format), click to play or right click to download and save.


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Feline Alzheimer’s disease

I knew that older dogs can get a type of dementia, but wasn’t aware that cats may, also (never had a cat before to age with). A couple of points the researchers raise–

  • longer life increases the chances of age-related changes (in anything) and
  • good diet, mental stimulation, and companionship improve quality of life
    IVQ friends
  • while obvious are well worth remembering (for feline and hominid; oh, and the dog, too.

    see also

    This is a press release, so I am reprinting it in its entirety.

    Study shows cats can succumb to feline Alzheimer’s disease

    Ageing cats can develop a feline form of Alzheimer’s disease, a new study reveals. Scientists at the Universities of Edinburgh, St Andrews, Bristol and California have identified a key protein which can build up in the nerve cells of a cat’s brain and cause mental deterioration.

    In humans with Alzheimer’s disease, this protein creates ‘tangles’ inside the nerve cells which inhibit messages being processed by the brain. The team says that the presence of this protein in cats is proof that they too can develop this type of disease.

    By carrying out post-mortem examination of cats which have succumbed naturally to the disease, scientists may now be able to uncover vital clues about how the condition develops. This may eventually help scientists to come up with possible treatments.

    Scientists already thought cats were susceptible to dementia because previous research had identified thick, gritty plaques on the outside of elderly cats’ brain cells which are similar to those found in humans. But, by pinpointing this second key marker, the Edinburgh-led team says we can be sure that cats can suffer from a feline form of Alzheimer’s.

    Dr Danielle Gunn-Moore, at the University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, said: “This newly discovered protein is crucial to our understanding of the ageing process in cats. We’ve known for a long time that cats develop dementia, but this study tells us that the cat’s neural system is being compromised in a similar fashion to that we see in human Alzheimer’s sufferers. The gritty plaques had only hinted that might be the case – now we know.

    “The shorter life-span of a cat, compared to humans, allows researchers to more rapidly assess the effects of diet, high blood pressure, and prescribed drugs on the course of the disease. However, we also need to understand more about our geriatric cats for their own benefit, so we can slow down the degeneration the disease brings and keep them as happy cats for as long as possible.”

    “As with humans, the life expectancy of cats is increasing and with this longer life runs the greater chance of developing dementia. Recent studies suggest that 28% of pet cats aged 11-14 years develop at least one old-age related behaviour problem and this increases to more than 50% for cats over the age of 15.”

    Experts suggest that good diet, mental stimulation and companionship can reduce the risk of dementia in both humans and cats. Dr Gunn Moore explained: “If humans and their cats live in a poor environment with little company and stimulation, they are both at higher risk of dementia. However, if the owner plays with the cat, it is good for both human and cat. A good diet enriched with antioxidants is also helpful in warding off dementia, so a cat owner sharing healthy meals like chicken and fish with their pet will benefit them both.”

    Dr Frank Gunn-Moore, at the School of Biology, University of St Andrews, said: “This work relied on a team effort with the different skills and expertise from our different institutions. It has given us an insight into the molecular changes that are occurring in the degenerating brain. From this knowledge we are now currently trying to develop new and novel treatments which will be able to help both cats and humans”.
    ###

    The findings of the study are published in a recent edition of the Journal of Feline Medicine.

    Public release date: 5-Dec-2006
    Contact: Linda Menzies, Linda.Menzies AT ed.ac.uk
    44-131-650-6382
    University of Edinburgh


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    older dog care

    Pets can be a significant assistance to older people, not only as trained assistants but, through friendship, actually improve or maintain health and activity (who wants to walk alone and cleaning the litter pan is daily exercise.) But, too frequently, as the story below discusses, people don’t know how to care for the oldest pets. Many people worry about care for their pets after their death or a lengthy illness or if an assisted living residence is needed.

    Every dog, horse and bird at the elder-care animal sanctuary and hospice south of Santa Fe has a story, and most stories belie the wagging tails and the contented neighs heard here. …

    Most of the animals at Kindred Spirits have ended up at the sanctuary under dire circumstances. Many were abandoned at animal shelters because they were old or ill, or their human companions had died or could no longer take care of them. The sanctuary rarely takes animals from private individuals; they are generally referred by veterinarians, shelters or other animal-welfare organizations.

    On-site workshops on death and dying, first-aid and caring for elderly animals help people grow, but changing attitudes toward senior companions is an uphill battle.

    “It’s about making a lifelong commitment,” Schildkraut says. “Animals aren’t disposable. I don’t think people realize what they’re saying to their children by doing things like that. There’s a value — across the spectrum of life, (aging) is just another phase. You can teach your children to ignore it or be fearful of it, and that’s a disservice. They really need to embrace this phase of their life just like any other.”


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