Tag Archives: alaska

Life Below Zero

I’ve had Disney+ for a few months now and I’ve gotten pretty good at it. People ask me what’s worth watching. I’ll tell them the forgotten movies and hidden gems that they should check out. There’s a lot of buzz about Marvel, Pixar, Star Wars and stuff out of Disney’s vault, but not enough attention is paid to their National Geographic section, which is home to The World According to Jeff Goldblum and Free Solo. But the best show I’ve discovered so far is Life Below Zero.

Life Below Zero is a television documentary series about people living in remote areas of Alaska. The show follows their struggles and triumphs as they try to survive the extreme conditions of the Arctic Circle. When the closest store is hundreds of miles away, you have to rely on yourself to get food and water, to fix things that break, to maintain your shelter, all while dealing with deadly weather and dangerous animals trying to eat you.

It’s a great background show. You don’t have to pay too much attention to it. There’s no ongoing plot. You put it on, play around with your phone, and only glance up when something interesting is going on. I used to want to move to Alaska. It’s the last frontier. I went to Anchorage for three weeks in 2014 and I learned that I could never live there full time. But I respect everyone who does because it’s a tough place to live. Now I can live there vicariously through Life Below Zero. Watching other people living their life makes me feel more alive for some reason.

There are a lot of cool and interesting people on the show, but Glenn Villeneuve is by far the best. I can’t talk about the show and not mention him by name. He lives alone and doesn’t rely on any machinery. He doesn’t have a snowmobile or electricity. The most advanced technology he has are guns and hand tools. He truly lives off the land and it’s inspiring to see. He’s a badass and it’s too bad that he’s not in every episode.

Critically Rated at 15/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Reflections on Alaska

I went to Anchorage, Alaska for three weeks on a work trip. I only had three days off the entire trip, so I only caught a glimpse of what Alaska has to offer and it offers a lot. It’s the last frontier. It really is. Nature is abundant and guns are everywhere. First impressions were mostly holy shit, I’m in Alaska as I stepped off the plane at 1:48 a.m. The air was fresh and clean. I saw majestic mountains with snowcaps and trees. Keep in mind that it was after midnight and it should be dark and you’re not supposed to be seeing majestic mountains with snowcaps and trees. I had a shuttle take me to the hotel and I couldn’t help but chuckle as we went through the city. It wasn’t much of a city, it was a town trying to do its best impression of a city.

There are a lot of restaurants in Anchorage, a lot more than you might expect. You can find everything you would in a typical US city. Lots of pizza and burgers, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, even a few Mexican places. They have McDonald’s, Arby’s, Wendy’s, Subway, and Taco Bell. Reindeer Sausage stands are the most abundant and a good value for your food. There is a lot of seafood as you would assume, but the prices are just as high as they are back in the lower 48. It’s still fifty bucks for a pound of King Crab. They have lots of bars that serve good food and restaurants that serve good beer.

I was mostly in downtown Anchorage and we hung out at Flattop Pizza + Pool and Humpy’s Great Alaskan Alehouse. Both are owned by the same guy and are in the same building. They even share the same bathroom, so you could go into Flattop and grab a pint and play some pool, then walk to the bathroom and take a piss, then keep on walking into Humpy’s which has a different vibe and a different menu. It could really confuse you if you were white girl wasted.

There are a lot of great Alaskan breweries and distilleries. They take drinking seriously up here. They card everybody and have strict drinking laws, but it seems like getting wasted is the national pastime. I tried at least five different breweries, each of them with a few delicious beers. Alaskan, Denali, King Street, Midnight Sun, and Kassik’s all deserve to be more recognized nationally. One of the highlights of my drinking excursions was consuming a Bloody Mary with salmon vodka made from glaciers and garnished with a reindeer sausage.

Anyone who ever tells you that there aren’t any girls in Alaska is wrong. There are a lot of girls, but they are already married with kids. Several kids. The dating pool is weird up here because the guys outnumber the women 3:1. As soon as they get a girl they marry her and pop out a kid. Then they pop out another one. There are single girls here too. They are just really crazy. It’s awesome.

As far as nature goes, it doesn’t take long to see something amazing. Just rent a bike or go for a hike along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. It’s paved so you’ll see people in wheelchairs and people on skateboards, inline skates, and even roller skis zipping past you as you stop every few minutes to take pictures of flowers and trees. I went on a bike ride and saw a moose, a ptarmigan with her ptarmigan chicks, and a moose with antlers. Then my friends went on the trail and saw a bear with three cubs. So I went back to hike the trail on quest to see a bear. I gave up when a teenaged moose started stalking me and following me on the trail. I turned to go back and found my path blocked again by a mama moose and her baby moose. I was by myself so I had to wait for some other people to get past them. Safety in numbers, right? I never saw a bear, but that just gives me more incentive to come back.

I went on 26 glacier tour, where you take a cruise and check out a bunch of glaciers. That was an amazing trip. We saw otters and seals and my friend says she saw a beluga but I doubt it. We saw epic landscapes that would make Lord of the Rings landscapes jealous. I took pictures of them, but no panoramic photo app will ever do them justice. Glaciers are spectacular to behold in person. But there is a sadness to them because they are disappearing so fast. Every old-timer and local that I spoke to becomes emotional when they remember how majestic they were five, ten, twenty years ago… and how some of them are already gone. They remember playing on these things as children and now they’ve disappeared. We are destroying the planet and you see the effects of global warming firsthand.

The Summer Solstice happened the second day that I was there, so I got to experience the peak of an Alaskan Summer. No amount of description can prepare you for what living in perpetual daylight is like. The sun doesn’t ever go down, it just turns into dusk for a few brief hours. You can still see things clearly, it’s just a little dimmer than usual. You don’t see any stars or satellites. It’s eerie. And it starts to get to you. I would leave work after a 14-hour shift and the sun would shining brightly. It instantly energizes you. But then you try to go to sleep and you can’t because it’s still light outside. You can even see the sunlight peeking through the cracks in the curtain. There’s no escape. You just toss and turn, drifting in and out of sleep before the alarm sounds in the morning and you have to go to work. We were all sleep deprived a few days in. I never got used to it, but I knew that I wouldn’t have to because I was going home after a few weeks. I would like to come back for the winter solstice and experience the other extreme.

Alaska should be on your bucket list. Check it out as soon as you can. The world is changing and the glaciers are melting. The clock is ticking. See the last frontier before it is too late. You won’t regret it. I only regret not doing more while I was there.

Critically Rated at 16/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Panty Peeler

Alaska’s Midnight Sun Brewing Co. presents Panty Peeler, a delicious Belgian-style Tripel with a delightfully raunchy name. It’s an ale brewed with orange peel and coriander and me likey mucho. It pours an orange-amber color with a white head that laces quickly. It smells of cloves, orange peel, Belgian yeast, coriander, and breaded malts. It tastes even better than it smells. I get bready malts, dark fruit, spice, orange peel, coriander, banana, and candied sugar. It’s extremely drinkable, I could sip on it all day. But I can’t because it has a hefty 8.5% ABV and the alcohol creeps up on you. I know that I said Chuli Stout was a great Alaskan beer, but this one is even better. Did I mention that me likey mucho?
Critically Rated at 15/17
Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Chuli Stout

Chuli Stout is an Irish Dry Stout by Denali Brewing in Talkeetna, Alaska. It pours a rich black color with a nice creamy head. It has the nice roast and toast malt aroma as you’d expect from any decent stout. There’s chocolate and coffee notes as well. It has a nice malty flavor, lots of chocolate, some cream, and it has a bit of a spice compared to other Irish Dry Stouts. It’s very full flavored for only have a 5.9% ABV. Quality craft beer is available everywhere and Alaska has a lot of impressive offerings. This is one of the better ones.
Critically Rated at 15/17
Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Summer Solstice

Summer solstice is the first day of summer. It’s also the longest day of the year. I was lucky enough to celebrate summer solstice in Anchorage, Alaska for 2014 and the sun refused to go down. It just became something like twilight for a few hours. It never got dark. I never saw stars. Summer solstice is a holiday in Anchorage. The whole city comes out to celebrate with music, dancers, art, food, and festivities. They got the Spin Doctors to come out and play their two-and-a-half hits and a bunch of filler material in a free concert. And in case you were wondering, yes, there were a lot of hippies and awkward dancers struggling to move to the beat. I’m writing this article right around midnight and it’s still light outside. That sounds awesome until you realize that your body clock is warped and you can’t fall asleep for the life of you. That’s what’s when awe turns into insomnia.
Critically Rated at 15/17
Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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The Simpsons Movie

The Simpsons Movie is the movie based on The Simpsons (just in case you couldn’t work that out from the title). Springfield is dangerously polluted and Homer’s ignorance pushes it over the boiling point. The US Government quarantines the town by trapping the citizens under a giant glass dome. The Springfieldians discover what Homer did, and the Simpsons are forced to flee to Alaska. Oh yeah, hijinks ensue.

The Simpsons were already a staple of American entertainment by the time the movie was released. It came out a few months before the start of the 19th season. The Simpsons rewards you for watching it. It’s overwhelming how many jokes, characters, and references there are that allude to early episodes. The movie feels like an extended episode. It’s really fast paced and doesn’t drag on or anything, But it really doesn’t feel like anything is at stake. Bart finds a surrogate father in Ned Flanders, something he’s done a few times on the show. Lisa finds a boyfriend, something that’s happened multiple times on the show. Marge gets mad at Homer, which happens a few times each season. And Homer does something stupid, which happens in every single episode. A cameo from Green Day and Tom Hanks isn’t that surprising considering the galaxy of stars that have appeared on the show.

The Simpsons Movie is raunchier and has better animation than the show, but there are episodes of the show that are funnier and smarter than the movie. The movie isn’t bad. It’s funny and smart and has a message. They just waited too long to make it. It would have been awesome if it came out in 1997. The show has had so many episodes and zany situations that nothing surprises you in the movie. Except for seeing Bart’s wiener. Nobody saw that coming.

Critically Rated at 14/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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