Singing Truth to Power

Lydia Violet Harutoonian

With divisive politics, climate change and a pandemic to worry about, it is difficult to see a positive way forward. But for musician, composer and teacher Lydia Violet Harutoonian imagination and creative presence offer a dependable ground from which to respond to these and other challenges. Harutoonian draws deeply from the thoughts and insights of Buddhist scholar and ecologist Joanna Macy. Harutoonian was in Fairbanks this summer and I had a chance to visit with her.

A Broader Community of Life

Ronnie Rosenberg

Ronnie Rosenberg is known for her volunteer work in Fairbanks and with those in need. She has a number of skills to draw on. Trained as a nurse, she practiced in a war zone, and on the streets of New York. Later, she decided she needed other challenges and went to law school and practised law for a number of years. Here in Fairbanks, she is on the Golden Heart Community Foundation. But it is probably through her work with animals that she is best known. She heads up the Fairbanks Animal Shelter Fund Board. Indeed, this year the students of UAF’s Department of Veterinary Medicine recognized her work with an award.

The Consolation of Words

Erik Wisland heading off to college Image courtesy of Jim Wisland

We often hear about speaking truth to power. What isn’t often spoken is truth to the pain and suffering suicides leave in their wake. When pastor Jim Wisland’s son Erik took his own life Jim went in search of answers. Scripture, of course, but also other ancient texts. He then founded the Arctic Resource Center for Suicide Prevention to bring the latest thinking about suicide to others. He also co-founded the Epic Warrior Training program to address the high number of suicides our Armed Forces veterans experience. That program recently attracted a large grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Creative Learning

Michelle Bartlett credit JR Ancheta

Many, maybe all, of us get good ideas. Unfortunately, when a great notion strikes me, I quickly find ways it won’t work. That doesn’t seem to trouble University of Alaska Fairbanks Director of Summer Sessions and Lifelong Learning Michelle Bartlett. She combines a zest for life and learning with an entrepreneurial spirit.

Also on the show, award-winning filmmaker and UAF professor emeritus Len Kamerling, co-edits the Journal of Anthropological Films. I talk with him about it and the new series of recommended films available to watch free on-line. This episode he points us to Unless the Water is Safer than the Land.

Frank Soos: Alaskan Ruminator

Frank Soos skiing the 2011 Sonot Kkaazoot

Credit: Karl Kowalski

Writer Frank Soos was also a first-rate thinker, and he claimed his best ruminations took place on the ski trails or while biking. He was on his bicycle in Maine when an accident claimed his life. In tribute, I’m replaying a “Memory Lane” interview with Frank from two years ago. 

Also, Frank regularly reviewed the work of other writers for KUAC and Northern Soundings. Before he left for Maine he shared his admiration for Jesse McCarthy’s Who Will Pay Reparations on My Soul.

“A Sea of Ice and Snow”

This is the third in a series of conversations between University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysicists Carl Benson and his former student and now colleague and friend Matthew Sturm. As earlier conversations made clear, Carl’s work in Greenland took place during rising tensions in the Cold War between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union. But his epic transects of the ice sheet in the mid-1950s are foundational to climate change research today.

I also want to mention that Matthew has a new book out from UA Press – A Field Guide to Snow.

Finally, award-winning author Frank Soos regularly reviews worthy reads, and this episode he looks at two novels by Viet Thanh Nguyen: The Sympathizer and The Committed.

Existing Cooperatively

Rich Seifert Photo by Kay Hackney

Last week saw the 51st Earth Day. A year ago, I interviewed my guest this episode Rich Seifert along with Dave Norton about the event’s history. As I thought about this year’s Earth Day I realized Rich has a long career championing the ideas of sustainability through his work with the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Cooperative Extension Service. And now in his retirement, Rich cheerfully continues to serve his community by acting as treasurer for the Co-op Market and Deli .

Also, as we leave April I wanted to observe National Poetry Month. The pandemic didn’t deter Fairbanks Arts Association from hosting again its statewide poetry contest. I talk with poet Emily Wall , who juried the contest, about the state of poetry today, and what she looks for in a stand-out poem.

Forming a Band of Brothers and Sisters

David Perkins welcomed home by his daughter. Photo courtesy David Perkins

It is sometimes said it takes a village to raise a child. For some combat veterans, it takes a band of fellow vets, with the help of great literature, to heal from war and reenter society. I talk this episode with David Perkins who co-founded a local chapter of the Epic Warrior Training program.

Also, speaking of great literature, I talk with Rebecca George director of Theatre UAF’s virtual production of Pride and Prejudice.