February 11, 2013
British Library Makes Great Treasures Available Via Web
The British Library has announced that they have scanned and are making available to the public six historical treasuresincluding Beowulf, Leonard Da Vinci's Notebook from which I grabbed the image to the right, Harley Golden Gospels (early 9th Century Germany), Silos Apocalypse (1091-1109 Spain), Petit Livre d'Amour (1529 France), and the Golf Book (circa 1540).
The documents are zoomable. Click the image at right, taken from Silos Apocalypse to see it at full zoom.
January 24, 2013
One Very Late Photo From Burning Man 2012
Our group has had the good fortune to camp next door to George Post ever since we started going to Burning Man. Most years we get him to shoot a group photo of us on Saturday afternoon before the night of the burn. This is the 2012 photo which he forgot to send us (or we forgot to ask for), until I asked for it today. You can never get the whole group together, but this is many of us, plus a couple of visitors.
You can see lots of waaaaaaay better photos by George (Jorge de la Playa) by buying his book Dancing With The Playa Messiah: A 21-Year Burning Man Photo Album.
January 7, 2013
Greg Niemann To Be At Cabot's January 19
Artisans At The Pueblo will take place at Cabot's Pueblo Museum on Saturday, January 19, from 10 to 2.
We are featuring local author Greg Niemann at our January Artisans at the Pueblo Fair! He has written several books: Baja Fever, Palm Springs Legends, Big Brown: The Untold Story of UPS and Las Vegas Legends.
Palm Springs Legends: Creation of a Desert Oasis has been one of the top sellers in all Coachella Valley bookstores and is now in its third printing. Palm Springs Legends won the First Place award for Niemann in Outdoor Writers Association of California Book of the Year competition.
Greg will be signing books at Cabot's Pueblo Museum on January 19, 2013 from 10 am to 2 pm. Don't miss the opportunity to chat with Greg and pick up a signed copy of his books!
November 30, 2012
Bigger tablets from Amazon and Barnes & Noble
I just totally missed the stories that this was out. The 8.9-inch Kindle Fire starting at $299. I grabbed the table comparing the newest iPad with the Nexus 10 from my earlier post and added the info for the Kindle Fire 8.9" and then decided that to be fair I should also include the 9-inch Barnes & Noble Nook HD+:
|Nexus 10||iPad 4||Kindle Fire HD 8.9"||Nook HD+ (9")|
|$400 16 GB||$500||$314*||$269|
|$500 32 GB||$600||$384*||$299|
|nope||$700 64 GB||uh-uh||nyet|
|2560 x 1600||2048 x 1536||1920 x 1200||1920 x 1280|
|10.055 inch diag.||9.7||8.9||9|
|5 MP rear camera||5 MP rear camera||No rear camera||No rear camera|
|1.9 MP front camera||1.2 MP||1.3 MP||None, gasp!|
|1080p video display||1080p||1080p||1080p|
|263.9 x 177.6 mm||241.2 x 185.7 mm||240 x 164 mm||240.3 x 162.8 mm|
|8.9 mm thick||9.4 mm||8.8 mm||11.4 mm|
|2 GB RAM||1 GB||1 GB||1 GB|
|No Cellular||Cellular $130 extra||Cellular $200 extra||No Cellular|
* the price of the Kindle is lowered by $15 if you accept advertisements which Amazon calls "Special Offers."
Kindle Fire 8.9"
In addition to the numbers above, Amazon makes some claims that are less measurable, but may be perceived by the customer who holds the device in hand - maybe. The Kindle has two Wi-Fi antennas which they say means faster downloads. Amazon says the "Google tablet" (I think they mean Nexus) downloads at 20 MBPS, the iPad 3 (why they are comparing to the iPad 3 is beyond me) maxes out at 22 MBPS, while the Kindle goes all the way up to 31 MBPS (if your provider is willing to feed it to you that fast - and if you are regularly getting speeds like that you must live in Kansas City, Kansas, and you've already signed up for Google fiber and you got your free Nexus 7, so a new Kindle Fire is just gravy for you). If simply increasing the number of antennas increases download speed, I expect other tablet manufacturers to begin to follow suit. Eventually the interior of a tablet may look like the urban rooftops of the 1950s-1970s, thick with numerous antennae. Actually, they say one antenna is for 2.4 GHz and the other for 5 GHz, and the software can switch back and forth between them for maximum speed.
The model with 4G connectivity ($200 extra) allows you to sign up with AT&T for a data plan that gives you 250 MB/month for only $50/year for the first year. You can pay more for higher limits. The $50 deal with AT&T does not give you access to non-free AT&T Wi-fi. A 3GB/month plan costs $30/month with $10 more for each additional gigabyte.
Amazon claims the Kindle has reduced glare by eliminating an air gap between the LCD and the touch sensor "by laminating the touch sensor and the LCD together into a single layer of glass." Barnes & Noble makes a similar claim for their Nook HD+.
The display uses in-phase switching which can appear washed out at angles, but Amazon says they've improved that "by applying an advanced polarizing filter directly to the LCD panel."
Now here comes the snake oil: "Booming sound without distortion." "Exclusive, custom Dolby audio, dual stereo speakers, and auto-optimization software for clear, crisp, balanced audio."
We put stereo speakers on both sides of the display for a wide stereo sound-field similar to that of a home stereo, then tuned them to better reproduce low notes. The result - deeper bass in your music, loud, rumbling movie soundtracks, and room-filling stereo sound without distortion, even at higher volumes.
I've known that the future would bring us tiny speakers that could move air as well as the big speakers that we know and love, but I didn't expect that breakthrough technology to appear so soon and on a $300 tablet from Amazon. IOW, I am highly dubious. If they can really fill rooms with loud, rumbling soundtracks, then they should be marketing this as an audio breakthrough device with an LCD touchscreen thrown in.
Kindle offers a new thing they call "FreeTime" which is for kids and can be used to limit both the content and the amount of time the little darlings can use the device. They talk about how rugged the device is, but they don't say anything about its water resistance, if any.
The Kindle Fire uses an updated version of Amazon's Silk browser, which has its fans and detractors. PCMag measures Silk as significantly slower than unspecified browsers on the Nexus 10 or iPad 4 (probably Chrome and Safari, respectively).
They claim more than 10 hours of battery life. Charges in less than 5 hours. The Nook HD+ makes a similar claim.
There are 396 reviews for this product. In the most negative reviews some warn that you can't depend solely on cellular connectivity. Wi-fi is required for some functions, including movie and magazines. Text-to-speech will not work on newspapers or blogs, even though older Kindles will do that.
One negative review suggests you have much less flexibility with PDFs on the Kindle compared to iPad or the Nexus.
You can buy a pink cover for the Kindle for only $55! Lesser colors are available at the same price.
There are only 76 user reviews of the Nook HD+ as I write. The 8 worst reviews include three from people who don't even have a Nook HD+, leaving only five with no particular pattern. One person thought the Nook HD+ should be equal to an iPad, but hundreds of dollars cheaper.
The Nook HD+ has a microSD slot, which is good, but the "30 Pin Port for charging and connecting to a computer (HDMI Compatible)" is proprietary. It's one thing when a market dominator like Apple wants to annoy us with yet another proprietary connector, but it's entirely different when the market laggard tries to do it.
NOOK HD+'s special audio technology lets you enjoy your favorite movies and TV shows in high-quality surround sound. The bass & clarity are unsurpassed – even in noisy environments.
Barnes & Noble offers no more description of the audio than that. Sounds similar to Amazon's unbelievable claim. Reviewers say the device has only one speaker, but as long as you're selling snake oil you might as well claim surround sound from a single speaker.
You can buy a pink cover for your Nook HD+ for $30, and in the process of searching for that I learned that B&N's website does not work nearly as well as Amazon's. B&N seems to be the Sears of bookstores. The ultimate goal of actually selling something to the customer seems to get lost along the way.
November 9, 2012
If you read only one Russian novel in your lifetime, this is the one: Anna Karenina in the Pevear-Volokhonsky translation.
Failing that, yet another film version is coming out this month.
September 19, 2012
Part 1 of 3.
September 6, 2012
The basic one, $69 with ads, $89 without.
The Paperwhite version, $119 with ads, $139 without. 25% more contrast.
Basic Fire, $159. "40% faster performance, twice the memory, longer battery life."
Fire HD, $199 for the 16 GB version, $249 for 32 GB.
Fire HD with 8.9-inch display. $299 for 16 GB, $369 for 32 GB.
Fire HD, 8.9-inch display with 4G. $499 for 32 GB, $599 for 64 GB.
August 19, 2012
Lord Of The Rings by other authors
Alison Brooks has done a good job of imagining how other famous authors would have written LOTR. The list includes Ian Fleming, PG Wodehouse, Oscar Wilde, Raymond Chandler, George Lucas, Dylan Thomas, James Joyce, Gene Roddenberrry, Rudyard Kipling, and many more. Here's the Kipling:
I went round to an elven inn, to buy a glass o' beer
The owner looked at me long-nosed, "We don't serve your kind here"
The elf maids giggled fit to die, pointing out my height
But I swim in booze whenever there is Evil in the Night.
Yes it's Gimli this and Gimli that
And go away you brute
But it's To the Front, our faithful friend
When the bows begin to shoot.....
But I think the PG Wodehouse is my favorite:
"Sam, I've decided to go and overthrow the Dark Lord by tossing his jewellery into a volcano."
"Very good, sir. Should I lay out your crazy adventure garb? I presume that this will pose a delay to tea-time. I would remind your Hobbitship that your Great Aunt Lobellia Sackville-Baggins is expected for tea."
"Blast! I say, bother! How can a chap overthrow the Dark Lord? I suppose I will have to delay my campaign."
"Very good, sir. I believe you will be free in about a decade."
"I'll do it then. Make a note, Sam."
July 17, 2012
88 Books That Shaped America
"This list of 'Books That Shaped America' is a starting point. It is not a register of the 'best' American books--although many of them fit that description. Rather, the list is intended to spark a national conversation on books written by Americans that have influenced our lives, whether they appear on this initial list or not," said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. "We hope people will view the list and then nominate other titles. Finally, we hope people will choose to read and discuss some of the books on this list, reflecting our nation's unique and extraordinary literary heritage, which the Library of Congress makes available to the world."
The link above includes a short description of each book. This page gives just their titles and authors. There are titles that you know have to be on there (Adventures of Huckleberry Finn) and others that may surprise you.
Some of the titles: Alcoholics Anonymous (by anonymous); And the Band Played On; Atlas Shrugged; The Cat in the Hat; Catch-22; Fahrenheit 451; Gone With the Wind; The History of Standard Oil; Howl; In Cold Blood; Leaves of Grass; On the Road; Our Bodies, Ourselves; Riders of the Purple Sage; Sexual Behavior in the Human Male; Stranger in a Strange Land; Unsafe at Any Speed.
In comments on this L.A. Times article, readers are suggesting the addition of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest; Slaughterhouse-Five; The Color Purple; All The President's Men; Roots, and many others.
July 8, 2012
21-Year Photographic History Of Burning Man
June 6, 2012
Ray Bradbury, 1920 - 2012
Ray Bradbury died this morning in Los Angeles. Fahrenheit 451 was probably his most well known work. His other writings include The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, and I Sing The Body Electric.
May 19, 2012
Children Protected From The Horror, Oh, The Horror!
The schoolboard of the Annville-Cleona School District (midway between Palmyra and Lebanon, Pennsylvania) voted 8-0 to remove the book The Dirty Cowboy from its elementary school libraries. "The book received numerous awards, including the International Reading Association award in 2004, the Parents Choice Gold Medal, and the Bulletin Blue Ribbon from the Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books." It's about a cowboy who entrusts his clothes to his dog while he takes his annual bath in the river. His dog doesn't recognize him when he's clean and will not let him have his clothes back. Hilarity ensues, appropriately masked by birds, a boot, the dog's tail, and a cloud of dust. One pair of parents objected to the book saying that "Children may come to the conclusion that looking at nudity is OK, and therefore pornography is OK."
From School Library Journal:
Kindergarten-Grade 4-After finding 32 fleas in his hair and tumbleweeds in his chaps, a freckle-faced cowboy decides that it's time for his annual bath. He mounts his horse, calls for his old dog, and heads for El Rio. There he disrobes and commands his companion to guard his duds. After frolicking merrily with a bar of soap (the amusing illustrations show many views of the naked cowboy bathing, while still keeping a G rating), he emerges thoroughly scrubbed and puckered "like a prickly pear." The dog does not detect his owner's familiar "wild boar-like smell" and stubbornly refuses to relinquish the garments. A dust-stirring brawl ensues that leaves the man as dirty as when he started, ultimately restoring his usual aroma. Unfortunately, the togs do not survive the tussle, and the cowboy heads for home, "bare as a shorn sheep." Told in descriptive language that rolls off the tongue, this story makes the most of a humorous situation. Filled with the dusty reds and sundown bronzes of the New Mexico setting, the paintings have a gritty, sinewy look that matches the earthy tone of the tale. Clever touches abound, as the artwork offers framed close-ups of the cowboy's uninvited vermin, a map of his route to the river, and whirling views of the wrestling match. The hangdog expression on the pooch's face when he realizes his mistake is priceless. A fun look at life on the range.
K-Gr. 2. A cowboy decides to take his yearly bath, so he heads to a nearby river, where he orders his scruffy dog to guard his clothes. When the cowboy returns from the river, he's so clean that the dog doesn't recognize him. The two get into an extended fracas, leaving the cowboy as filthy as ever and the clothes in tatters. Naked and dirty, the cowboy finally returns home, the dog trotting beside him. For some children, the appeal of this story is in the clever composition of the pictures that manages to conceal the cowboy's private bits. Rex's rich paintings add sparkle to the story's dramatic telling with the attention to detail and humor that may remind some grownups of Norman Rockwell's early work. A simple, slapstick tale that is sure to elicit some giggles.
The book has been around since 2003. There are 20 positive reader reviews of it on Amazon and only a single one-star review which comes from a reader in Orem, Utah.
Amazon says this book is recommended for 4-8 year olds. I don't think so. This book should only be sold in the "adult only" section of the bookstore. I wouldn't want any of my children reading this book, ever. It's books like this that get kids curious about what's "under the dust cloud", something which they can easily find out with one simple google search.
So I Googled 'what's "under the dust cloud"." I was shocked - shocked, I tell you. The top hit had to do with a tech meeting in India where they discussed COBOL and Microsoft! To make it worse, there are photos!
Barbara Jones, director of the ALA [American Library Association] Office of Intellectual Freedom, wrote: "Like many books, it may not be right for every student at Cleona Elementary. But the school library has a responsibility to meet the needs of everyone in the school community — not just the most vocal, the most powerful, or even the majority."
"If a parent thinks a particular book is not suitable for their child, they should guide their children to other books. They should not be given the power to impose their beliefs or preferences on other people's children," Jones said.
Author Amy Timberlake responded:
"I think it's kind of silly," Timberlake said of the ban. "Norman Rockwell has more showing in his paintings by far than this."
"[The cowboy] is completely covered — nothing is showing, there's not even a hint of anything showing," she said. "Everyone takes their clothes off to take a bath. We all know how bathing happens."
May 5, 2012
The Russian Front, From The German Viewpoint
While I was away, one of the books I read was Eastern Inferno: The Journals of a German Panzerjäger on the Eastern Front, 1941-43. It's the translation of three journals kept by Hans Roth, a German soldier, during the invasion of Russia. The last entry is dated May 6, 1943. It is likely he kept a fourth journal, but he was reported missing in June 1944 and no fourth journal has ever surfaced. The journals contain his explicit description of battles - the sort of material that he could not write home to his family about.
The journals have been published by Hans Roth's grandson and granddaughter who became aware of their existence in the 1970s when helping her mother move. It is not explained how these three journals made it home to Germany to be preserved, but it seems possible that he would have mailed them with instructions not to read them. The impression one gets from the journal is that his German wife would have obeyed that instruction.
Roth participated in the taking of Kiev and then moved on to fight in the Stalingrad area, but he was not with the Sixth Army and was far from the encirclement that destroyed that army. Much of the book reads like any other soldier's journal might. You could forget you were reading a WW2 German soldier until you are jarred back to reality by a random bit of praise for Hitler. A lot of the book expresses that war is confusing, boring and uncomfortable. A big chunk is the classic "war is hell." But when the Russians (or the "Asiatics", as he sometimes refers to them) finally push back it becomes something more like "war is way worse than any searing hell you could imagine." I felt some sadistic pleasure at his painful descriptions of the Russians' unbelievably vicious assaults as the Germans could only cower, retreat and freeze.
Here's a part that could be written by almost any soldier in any war:
Here on the front, we who proudly bear the name "Frontschweine" have become an inseparable brotherhood of men who have been hardened, who have been welded together by death and blood into a close community. And all that these guys, full of dirt and lice, have to hold on to in order to persevere is one thing: love—the depth of which nobody at home can ever imagine—a boundless love and adoration for everything that says "home." I truly believe that only those who encounter death breathing down their neck every day—be it in hand-to-hand combat or in the heaviest drumfire—are capable of such an unconditional love. Each and every one of us would gladly sacrifice his life for you at home. These are the troops who bear the brunt of it all, who stand at the very front line—this is what we think.
And, like most soldiers, he's patriotic and loyal, mostly accepting what the government tells him without much critical examination. He is convinced that the invasion of Russia was a defensive operation. He never considers the Poles, Russians, or Mongols to be anything better than sub-human (and he doesn't especially like the Italians, either).
Close to the Reds' customs house lies a large mound of fallen Russians, most of them torn to shreds from the shelling. Slaughtered civilians lie in the neighboring house. The horridly disfigured bodies of a young woman and her two small children lie among their shattered personal belongings in another small, cleansed house.
I am compelled to think of you Rosel and Erika, when I witness such horrible images. How wonderful it is that we are able to exterminate these murderous beasts. How good it is that we have pre-empted them; for in the coming weeks these bloodhounds might have been standing on German soil. It is inconceivable what would have happened then!
After the Germans take Kiev, he considers it a fine thing that within 24 hours the SS moves in to begin rounding up Jews. While attacking the city, he views the defensive forces as Russians and "Asiatics." When the city falls, the German army discovers that the entire city is packed with booby traps and remote control explosive devices. He considers these especially horrible and immoral, attributing them not to Russians or "Asiatics," but to the Jews. A couple of times he refers to the politics of the USSR as "Judeo-Bolshevism."
And then one day he is given the opportunity to witness the ultimate conclusion of Nazi thought:
I have a long conversation with a young SS soldiers of this "kill commando." They "freed" all the larger cities which were touched by our advance of the Jewish population. They understand their butcher job well; these boys are experienced killers, I am astonished. We soldiers in the first attack wave have never thought about the stuff that happens behind us in the cities we leave, as we're chasing further after the enemy.
The perspective of the front soldiers is forward, towards the enemy. He tells me about the holocaust of Zhitomir. "At that time we were bloody beginners," says the 19-year-old (with an emphasis on "bloody"). "For two days they had to dig 50-meter-long trenches; each trench was calculated for 250 Jews. We killed a total of 1800 Jews in Zhitomir, 5000 somehow died before.
"Then, on the third day the trenches are ready, everybody, from baby to oldest senior had to strip naked. The first 250 have to step to the edge of the ditch, the throaty barking of 2 machine guns—the next ones are herded forward, they have to climb into the ditch and position the dead bodies nicely next to each other, no room must be wasted—the larger spaces are nicely fitted with the dead children—forward forward, more than 1500 must fit! Then the machine guns rip the air again, here and there somebody moans, a short re-shooting of the machine guns: next! and this continues through the evening. We have so little time, too many Jews inhabit this country!"
First I cannot speak at all. This young man talks about it as if he was on a casual pheasant hunt.
I cannot believe all this and tell him so. He laughs and says I should have a look.
We are riding our bikes to the outskirts of the city, to a steep gorge. I will cut this short; the food in my stomach is curiously loose. What I see there is terrible, this horrible picture I will never forget in my entire life. At the edge of the gorge there are Jews standing, the machine guns are whipping into them, they fall over the edge, 50 meters.
Whatever stays at the edge is "swept" down. When the one thousand quota is filled, the heap of dead bodies is detonated and closed up.
"Well, isn't that a great idea, the detonation?" asks the blond with the smiling boy-face.
My God, my God. Without a word I turn and run more than walk back to the city. This boy is 19 years old! All this does not only leave traces on the clothes; what will happen when these people return into the homeland, back to their brides and women?
April 11, 2012
Ten Bucks For The Taco Bar With Walter Luce Thrown In For Free
Imagine my surprise to learn that the Monday night taco bar at Mission Lakes Country Club is only $10. But then you get Walter Luce with that. You may recall Mr. Luce as one half of the Mayer-Luce team. (I did not know until I read that linked article that Robert Mayer is descended from the founder of Oscar Mayer!)
One obvious question is "Author? Of what?" His website (where the only mention of Desert Hot Springs is to say "I was the 2004 Business Person of the Year, Desert Hot Springs, CA.") says that he is the author of two books, but only one, Eva Marie Pennington, is available from Amazon. It's available for Kindle only, and is published by Oak Tree Press which seems not to be a vanity press.
Author: Walter Luce
MLCC Pool & Recreation Committee
Presents an Author's Night
Monday, April 23rd
6:00 PM Taco Bar
$10.00 Per Person Plus Tax & Gratuity
Dinner Reservations Required
No Host Bar
7:00 PM Author: Walter Luce
Cookies, Coffee and Tea Will Be Served
The phone number for reservations is (760) 676-4422.
April 9, 2012
Hugo Award Nominees For 2012
The complete list is here. The final winners will be announced Labor Day weekend.
- Among Others by Jo Walton
- Deadline by Mira Grant
- Embassytown by China Miéville
- Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse) by James S. A. Corey
- A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 5) by George R. R. Martin
March 14, 2012
Encyclopaedia Britannica Ceases Paper Publication
Britannica has announced that it "will focus primarily on its online encyclopedias and educational curriculum for schools." Their online edition is free this week, they say. The N.Y. Times article says the usual fee for that is $70/year. Let me give you a sample article from the online edition:
Coachella Valley, valley, part of the Colorado Desert, extending northwestward for 45 miles (70 km) from the Salton Sea (a shallow saline lake) through Riverside county to the San Gorgonio Pass, southern California, U.S. It is 15 miles (25 km) wide and lies between the Little San Bernardino Mountains (east) and the San Jacinto and Santa Rosa mountains (west). Irrigation, notably from the Coachella Canal, has created a productive agricultural region, specializing in date gardens and also supporting citrus fruits, truck crops, cotton, and alfalfa. The city of Coachella sprawls in the heart of the valley and is a shipping point for its produce. In the northern part of the valley are popular desert resorts, including Palm Springs. The valley had two names before 1900: Cahuilla, after the Cahuilla Indians who inhabited the vicinity, and Conchilla (Spanish: “Little Shell”), which referred to the existence of fossil shells in the area. A misspelling of the latter name on an official map resulted in the current name.
That's a bit less information than I'm used to getting when I look something up online. Only two cities in the valley are identified. No demographic information. No map. Compare the Wikipedia article on Coachella Valley.
The last paper edition of Britannica was published in 2010. They produced 12,000 copies. 8,000 have been sold. The full price is $1,395.
I once knew a radiologist in Brookline, Massachusetts, who was reading his Encyclopaedia Britannica in alphabetical order, article by article. He was not fun at parties.
February 25, 2012
Convicted Of Library Book Felony
Maria Carmen Nater of Vista, California, has pleaded guilty to one count of commercial burglary. Bringing her shopping cart into public libraries in Orange and San Diego Counties, Ms. Nater has stolen and sold about 2,000 books "and numerous DVDs." When she was busted, about 1,000 books were found in her home.
The felony will probably be reduced to a misdemeanor, with 18 months probation, and restitution of $7,600.
The silver lining in this story is that the demand for physical books is still high enough to support a black market.
February 3, 2012
Apparently there is still money to be lost...
...and people to lose it. Official press release that Atlas Shrugged 'Part 2' will be produced. Shooting will begin in April 2012. The press release doesn't mention anyone being beaten, beheaded or disappeared, so one is left to assume that those who perpetrated Part 1 are going to do it again: Paul Johansson, director; John Aglialoro, producer; and Brian Patrick O'Toole, screenplay. This time, however, they're adding Duncan Scott who seems not to have done anything since 1983 when he was the "additional second assistant director" on Zelig. Unless his responsibilities include firing everybody and starting over from scratch, I am not optimistic about chances for improvement.
January 8, 2012
"Oh, The Places You'll Go"
December 31, 2011
Into The Wild
I saw the movie some time ago. Now I've read the book, or at least listened to the unabridged audiobook which you can borrow from the Desert Hot Springs public library. The main differences are these:
- The book is non-chronological, so you know right at the start that Chris McCandless died in that bus in Alaska.
- The book spends a lot more time talking about the McCandless family. I recall a public radio interview with Jon Krakauer, the author, when the movie came out in 2007. During the time that the story went from an article in Outside magazine, to a book, to a movie he ran into some resistance from the family. Very little of that is in the movie, but you get a lot more of the story in the book. They're no more monsters than 99% of American families, but who wants the details of their family life laid out in a bestseller?
- The book spent more time theorizing as to what actually killed Chris McCandless (AKA Alexander Supertramp); a theorizing that continued on to the making of the movie and still today.
- And, finally, a big part of the book that simply vanished from the movie were histories of other lone individuals who have walked into the wild and died or just disappeared. This includes Krakauer's attempts to challenge the Alaskan wilderness himself when he was 23.
One of the things that drew me to the movie in the first place was that part of McCandless's journey included time spent at Slab City and around the Salton Sea. Here's a clip from the movie where he's out in the desert with "Ron" - the book tells us this is not his real name - who lived in Salton City. That sure looks like it was shot on location, and they were shooting at Slab City, so it seems likely they would shoot the Anza Borrego scenes in the area, too.
Here is a Google satellite view with Bus 142, the Magic Bus, at the center. Zoom in and you can see the bus. Zoom out and you can see how close to civilization it is. That's a subject that gets covered extensively in the book. McCandless couldn't cross over the Teklanika River in midsummer due to flooding, but within a few miles of him were cabins where he could have gotten food. It appears that he never hiked far from the bus after he got there. The cabins were badly vandalized that summer, and some people theorize that it was McCandless who did that, but Krakauer believes otherwise.
In the book Krakauer seems to suggest that McCandless had no map by choice. Here's an article by Ron Lamothe that says he did have a map. He had his ID with him too, but the Alaska state troopers who recovered his body overlooked it, so it took a few weeks to identify him. The map he had was not a good topo map, but the Ron Lamothe says the map was good enough to show a Denali park service road that would have gotten him across the river. A good topo map would have shown a gauging station on the river not far from the bus. The gauging station had a basket on a zip line that McCandless could have used to cross the river. Krakauer points out, too, that if McCandless had hiked only about a mile upstream he would have seen that the river broadens out and becomes potentially crossable on foot even in flood.
Why did he die? No clear answer is known. In the original magazine article Krakauer offered the theory that he confused wild potatoes (he was eating the tubers) with wild sweet pea, which was thought to be poisonous. Turns out the wild sweet pea is not poisonous. When the book was published, he theorized that McCandless had gone from eating the potato tubers to eating its above-ground seeds, not knowing that there are many plants with edible roots and poisonous seeds. The tests on the potato seeds were not complete at the time of publication, but Krakauer thought there were preliminary indications of swainsonine, an alkaloid, the primary toxin in locoweed. Turns out, according to Ron Lamothe, that there is no swainsonine in wild potato seeds. Krakauer then theorized that the potato seeds were moldy and the mold contained a hallucinogen.
McCandless's body, BTW, was cremated in Alaska before his parents got there (but presumably with their consent). There was no autopsy probably because it seemed obvious that he had starved to death. There's nothing to exhume.
Ron Lamothe thinks there is no need to develop a theory of a satisfactorily dramatic cause of death that would support a bestselling magazine article, book and movie. He simply starved. Unable to consume sufficient calories to support his level of activity, his body weight would have dropped to about 90 pounds giving him a BMI of less than 14 in early August 1992, according to Lamothe's estimates. A BMI of less than 15 is an indication of starvation and a BMI of only 14 means death is near. His death is believed to have come on August 18.
The last self-portrait of Chris McCandless. He is holding his SOS note`.
Lamothe puts forth the idea that rather than simply sitting there, ignorant of his options, and starving to death, McCandless had injured his right shoulder, making it more difficult for him to hunt or swim the river.
In the iconic photos above, Lamothe points out that McCandless's right shoulder appears to slump, and possibly isn't even in the sleeve of his shirt.
McCandless's parents have published a book called Back To The Wild.
Going out to visit Bus 142 seems to have become almost a cottage industry. Here's a ten-minute video showing a trip via ATV down the Stampede Trail to the bus. If you want to do it yourself, here's a website that tells you how.
Plenty of photos on Flickr:
Photo by Anthony Vargo.
Photo from a set by Jenna 1/2acre.
Photo from a set by DuckShepherd.
Photo from a set by ErikHalfacre.
Photo from a set by RichardWagnerAU.
Photo by mannieb.
Photo from a set by Heather Horton.
There's also a Flickr group for the Stampede Trail, which is more than just Bus 142 and Chris McCandless.