Civility in the Public Square

Jimmy Fox

I’ve been distressed by the increasingly strident tone of our political rhetoric. I am guilty of it too, but I recognize that if we are ever going to move past the polarization, we have to articulate our positions to others with humility and a sense of respectful cooperation. In the belief that all politics is local, I invited two people from my community who practice civil discourse to discuss their backgrounds and perspectives.

First is Jimmy Fox who serves on the Fairbanks North Star Borough’s Sustainability Commission. As you’ll hear he was deeply influenced by Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac, and more recently Getting to Yes and Leadership on the Line. He was particularly inspired by the teachings of Marty Linsky and Adaptive Leadership.

My second guest is Mike Prax who has served on the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly Mike remains engaged in the community, attending a wide range of public meetings. He is a Libertarian and points to former Alaska State Legislator Dick Randolph as a mentor. Despite their differing backgrounds, both men believe in civil dialogue and not relying on legislatures to achieve a more perfect society.

Also on the show, Chris Lott looks at the word “liberty” on this edition of Katexic Clippings.

DNA and Deep Time


The University of Alaska Fairbanks is accustomed to attracting non-traditional students – folks who return to higher education after trying their hand at mining or construction or trapping. As it happens, a celebrated Danish scientist also took a non-direct educational path. Not long ago, the UAF’s Alaska Quaternary Center invited evolutionary geneticist Eske Willerslev to talk on campus. Willerslev got a late start in the sciences after he and his twin brother mounted several expeditions to Siberia. They were looking for adventure and also exploring for keys to the peopling of the new world. But as you’ll hear, when Willerslev took up his career in biology he made astounding progress. He helped pioneer a novel technique for analyzing ancient DNA, and also became the youngest full professor in Denmark at that time.

And speaking of the past, reviewer Frank Soos examines two recent volumes looking at ancient mysteries that lie below: Julia Blackburn’s Time Song and Robert Macfarlane’s Underland.

And Chris Lott is in with false cognates in this edition of Katexic Clippings.



Music by Juke Deck

Creative Responses

Brenda Zlamany

Climate change is a growing concern, sparking different responses. Noted portraitist and multimedia artist Brenda Zlamany is documenting its impact by capturing the likenesses and stories of residents in key communities. This summer she visited Utqiagvik and was the artist in residence at Denali National Park. She reveals the sometimes emotional bonds linking the artist and subject

And Political Geographer Elizabeth Alexander is also responding to Alaska’s troubled economic landscape through stories. But sound is her medium. She discusses why she’s starting a podcast on the effort to recall Governor Dunleavy.



On With the Shows


Peggy MacDonald Ferguson

This week, Fairbanks’ human dynamo of community theatre Peggy MacDonald Ferguson is on the show. I’ve been trying to sit down with Peggy for several years. Peggy, besides serving as executive director of Fairbanks Drama Association, is also on the Alaska State Council on the Arts and so her schedule is one darned thing after another.

Also on the show is a reprise of a discussion I had two years ago with former Alaska Writer Laureate Anne Hanley.

And Chris Lott is in with an appropriately dramatic list of terms on Katexic Clippings.


Quieting the Mind

Karen Stomberg

Sometimes on Northern Soundings, I can’t air an entire discussion with a guest. This was the case last episode when the artist Karen Stomberg shared about the inspiration for her exhibit at the University of Alaska Museum of the North. I found Karen’s remarks about the power of engaging in creative activity so inspiring I thought I’d publish the addendum to the last episode. I hope you enjoy it.

The Meaning of Life… Almost

Nancy Cook Hanson

One of the major fall social events in Fairbanks is HIPOW, the fundraising dinner and auction for the Catholic Schools of Fairbanks. This year marks the effort’s 50th anniversary. My guest this week is Nancy Cook Hanson, who recently stepped down as director of the school and Monroe Foundation. I took the opportunity of her retirement to ask about her background and how she came to join the school. When she was young, she says, she yearned to discover the meaning of life. While she says she didn’t discover it, friends and colleagues know she remains a thoughtful, curious and compassionate person.

Also on the show: Educator and artist Karen Stomberg has a wonderful exhibit at the University of Alaska Museum of the North. Its title comes from Karen’s recently published book, Collected Treasures: Six Alaska Wildflowers. Karen talks about her botanical art and capturing it in print.


Music by Jukedeck


Science and Faithful Stewardship

Hayhoe Fishing Doug Hayhoe credit

Young Katharine Hayhoe Photo by Doug Hayhoe

Last week millions of young people and supporters around the globe gathered to protest inaction by world leaders on climate change. This week some of those leaders are gathered at the U.N. to discuss the matter, but the United States is absent from any leadership role. Despite that my first guest says a majority of Americans polled identify climate change as an important issue. Katharine Hayhoe is not only a respected atmospheric scientist but also an evangelical Christian who has emerged as an important voice for bridging the divide between religion and science.

Also on the show: Dysfunctional leadership goes way back. Shakespeare scholar and dramaturge Janis Lull says in Macbeth it isn’t clear opposing tyranny is enough.

Music by Jukedeck


Restoring Word and Volume

Juliayn Coleman

I believe the physical book can sometimes be a work of art. Think of illuminated manuscripts or the works of local artist Margo Klass. As with any art object, age and usage can take their toll. How to preserve a well-loved volume can be a challenge. Enter Juliayn Coleman. As you’ll hear, the San Francisco based book conservator and binder has learned the venerable art of restoring books. The Literacy Council invited her to Fairbanks this summer to teach classes on restoration techniques. I sat down with her just before one of her classes at the Northwoods Book Arts Guild studios to learn about her art.

Also on the show: earlier in the summer I spoke with Rebecca George about the challenges of mounting Shakespeare’s Macbeth. George directed the play for the Fairbanks Shakespeare Theatre. She is also slated to direct an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice for Theatre UAF this spring. We also discuss the curse associated with the play.


Music by Jukedeck

Out of Nowhere

Linda photo

Poet Linda Schandelmeier has deep roots in Fairbanks and the University of Alaska Fairbanks, but her links to Alaska extend farther back still. She was born and raised on a 160-acre homestead outside of Anchorage, and her memories and impressions of the homestead and coming to university are captured in a recent book of verse published by the University of Alaska Press, Coming out of Nowhere: Alaska Homestead Poems. The poems combine elements of memoir and history with literary techniques of multiple voices and personae. The mixture attracted the attention of  Women Writing the West judges. The organization annually hands out Willa Awards in various literary genres to works that explore the contributions made by women to the history, culture and growth of the American West.  Schandelmeier’s collection took top honours for poetry.

Also on the show: Frank Soos is in with a look at Tessa Hadley’s latest novel Late in the Day.

And Chris Lott is off this week, but a seasonally relevant Katexic Clippings comes round again.


Music by