Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Mt. Whitney - 55th Anniversary

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.” 
John Muir, The Mountains of California

Mt. Whitney Summit - 1962 - Cliff and Loncy Hutson, from left
Mt. Whitney Summit - 1962

This past weekend marks the fifty-fifth anniversary of my summiting Mt. Whitney, with Loncy, my oldest brother. It was his idea that we should do this to celebrate my sixteenth birthday.

Neither of us had ever backpacked prior to this. Although, he had done a stint in the army, so he had some experience with bivouacking. Also, we were both in good physical condition - he from his job, and me from my participation on high school sports teams - so we gave no thought to training.The whole trip was put together in a couple of weeks.

We obtained most of our equipment from the Army Navy surplus store at the Sunset Junction (which still seems to be there in some iteration, imagine that). The main purchases were knapsacks, Army canteens - which included a cup which could be used for cooking, and a foldable Stereo stove on which to cook. Loncy also bought a sleeping bag. But, I had my Mom make mine out of a wool blanket based on a design from a  card found in a box of Nabisco shredded wheat. Our food supplies were just things from the local market.

I have read that, nowadays, each year 19,000 people now attempt to climb Mt. Whitney from the east. We saw only about 10 - 12 (most of whom were very surprised to see us) over the duration of our trip. We spent one night at Whitney Portal.The next day we hit the trail and hiked to Mirror Lake and overnighted in the open. The follow morning, we summited and walked down to the base camp by late afternoon.

It was a great way to spend a birthday, and a trip that I shall always remember. 


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Sorted Books

National Book Lovers Day

Each year on August 9,  book lovers celebrate National Book Lovers Day.


This year it coincides with my monthly post about books.

The books I finished reading in July 2017

July 2017 Books: photo by Cliff Hutson
July 2017 Books: photo by Cliff Hutson

I originally planned not to say much about my reading list for July. Because, as my Aunt Dagmar used to say, "If you can't say anything nice, may be you should keep your mouth shut." But, ended up being carried away and got very judgmental.

"Stuff White People Like," by Christian Lander, a Canadian no less, was the best of the bunch. It was clearly written in fun and tied in nicely with June's “How to be Black,” which was where I learned of it. I, of course, while not being white may not be the best judge, but highly recommend it to people of all stripes.

My favorite genera of book over the last few years would be mystery and I completed two in that category. "The Bat," by Jo Nesbo was the the first of his Harry Hole series. I enjoyed it, but found it less compelling than his later stories such as "The Redbreast”,  or  “Nemesis”.  Michael Connelly is most famous his Harry Bosch novels.  His latest, "The Late Show", introduces a new protagonist, detective RenĂ©e Ballard. It is not a bad story, but it left me looking forward to the next one about Bosch.

There is a quote: “Art is what you can get away with”; attributed to both Andy Warhol and Marshall McLuhan, I find that it most particularly applies to "Blind Spot" by Teju Cole. I purchased this book based upon a glowing review, it was not money well spent. The tome is a collection of something like 150 photographs taken by Cole and pieces that he has written to accompany each one, but not necessarily about them. This sounded like a marvelous concept to me and I thought that it might be inspirational.  However, I found that I would be embarrassed to present all but a few of these images as a body of work. I also feel that the prose is far too etherial or artsy for my taste. Now, I am willing to admit that the fault may lie within myself, but I really do not like this book.

It is probably my expectations that led to my disappointment with "A Choice of Weapons" by Gordon Parks. Growing up, Parks was an inspiration to me, mostly through his work in LIFE magazine. It was not that I wanted to emulate what did, but that he showed me that a photographic image could be a powerful tool for communication. I was hoping that his autobiography would provide some insight as to how his vision developed. However, what I learned was that he bought a used camera and six weeks later had his first show. The book also discusses experiencing bigotry and hardship, making bad choices, and getting an occasional break. But, those are things that happen to so many of us that it really does not make for compelling reading. Furthermore, the story ends in the early years of World War II so there is no mention of his contributions as a writer and filmmaker. But, again, perhaps I should not discount a book for being what it intended to be and not what I wanted.

Sorted Books: an Assignment

I subscribe to Austin Kleon's weekly newsletter, and this past week it really paid off for me by bring my attention to conceptual artist Nina Katchadourian and the Art Assignment.

The object of the assignment is to group books so that their titles can be read as sentences, creating whimsical narratives from the text found there. 

So far, I have made two attempts. My first attempt was just looking at the books I read in July, as they were sitting on the table next me, and seeing that these could make a heading and a two item list.

Sorted Books - 01 - 1: photo by Cliff Hutson
Sorted Books - 01 - 1: photo by Cliff Hutson

I put more effort in to the next, spending time looking through my bookshelves. I am very happy with this as it reminds me of a haiku:

Sorted Books - 01 - 2: photo by Cliff Hutson
Sorted Books - 01 - 2: photo by Cliff Hutson

Nina Katchadourian’s final results from her time in Kansas can be found here:

How was your July? Read any good books lately?