Nov 14


Are You Ready to Hike the Pacific Crest Trail? by Jim Hill ★★★ Read on Kindle
I have already read (and reviewed) several chronicles of people who hiked the PCT. I selected this since it was highly recommended on, and was done by a person close to my age. Jim had already hiked the Appalachian Trail, and wrote a book on it. I presume he will next hike the Continental Divide Trail and write a book. Jim writes well, and it is fun to follow his story. He doesn’t talk much about planning the hike or decision making during the hike, and tends to lapse on details about the trail that would have been quite easy to chronicle. He spends minimal time describing how he approached various problems on the hike, such as water in the desert (just “toughed it out since I was from New Mexico”)  food issues, bear and critter issues, river fording, or issues of communication. You learn a lot about a dental problem half way through the hike, and other trivial problems that Jim deals with. The result is book that is not terribly helpful at helping one plan a complete hike. The story is fairly uneventful (which one would want when the thru-hike the PCT) and so lacks in those qualities which make a book a gripping tale.  It is nice to see that an old goat like myself can comfortably do the PCT, and for that, it was an inspiration.


Lip-Smackin’ Backpackin’, by Christine and Tim Conners ★★★★
This book is mostly a cookbook for trail food. Many of the recipes called for much home preparation, including using a food dehydrator, and a few expected a modest amount of attention to the stove while on the trail. Many of the recipes were not particularly appealing to me, but probably would do fine on a hike, as we all learn that one’s appetite changes quite extremely once one is in on a trail for more than a week. Thus, some of these recipes will definitely be worth trying out. The greatest value in this book is the first 42 pages, where the authors talk about planning and preparing meals for the “big” hike. With those concepts in mind, it would not be challenging to come up with a set of one’s own recipes for a successful trail gourmet.

WildWild, starring Reese Witherspoon, based on the book by the same name, authored by Cheryl Strayed★★★
This is movie that Betsy and I watched on DVD, and is apparently based on a true story. Reese does a good acting job, and quite hilarious at times, such as her first attempt to put on her massively overweight backpack. I give the movie four stars for the acting and cinema photography, and one star for the story line itself. It  is not a book that I would be interested in reading. Cheryl apparently was living a rather screwed up life in Minnesota, and decided to take a long hike on the PCT to resolve issues such as problem marital and sexual relationships, the death of a mother, and drug addiction. In spite of very poor mechanisms for resolving problems (such as losing a shoe), she amazingly survives the trail, and completes the PCT from Mojave to Cascade Locks. I did not enjoy watching a pathological person behaving in a pathological fashion… it wasn’t cute. I did enjoy Reese’s acting, and the filming was phenomenal. It makes me want to do the trail some day before I get too old.

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Nov 14


The Snapping of the American Mind, by David Kupelian ★★★★★

The title of this book had an immediate appeal to me, since I also think that we are now witnessing mass insanity with the American public. Kupelian works for an internet news site called World Net Daily, and is one of the contributing editors to the site. He also has written several other books, one that I have previously reviewed, “The Marketing of Evil”.

Kupelian takes aim at a number of aspects of American “group-think” that has gone off the deep end. These include…

a) The media is the first subject of attack, noting how it has become malignant in its attack against what they consider outside of their personal worldview. Whether it be promoting hate for conservative politicians, or obscene anti-religious erotic art, or labeling conservatives as terrorists, the loss of civility in the media has been heavily influential on snapping the minds of its audience.

b) We have blurred our historical values to be unrecognizable and definitely anti-Judeo-Christian. A replacement with Marxist philosophy has happened almost unnoticeably, and is often confused with just another variety of Christianity, a kinder and gentler version.

c) Government and other movements sowing seeds of disinformation in society that is intended to unsettle the foundations of our current government and bend the minds of the hoi polloi into a socialistic mindset. Discussion about the Alinsky revolutionary methods of confusing the public and breeding revolt are explained and developed.

d) Words have become meaningless. The traditional meaning for normal words no longer mean what we “think” they mean. This has bred such confusions as the movement for political correctness and Orwellian opposite definitions (eg freedom is slavery, war is peace, etc.).

e) Urban vs. rural issues. Kupelian notes that the radical division is not with conservatives vs liberals, or Democrats vs Republicans, but almost entirely urban vs rural. The way our nation votes and acts can almost be predicted on whether you live in the big city, or out in the countryside. Cities have become the hotbeds of confused ideology.

f) Kupelian discusses the drug wars, in which I slightly disagree with him, in that he labors long over marijuana, which has been a silly drug to outlaw, and certainly not as destructive as alcohol. Yet, he is correct that drugs are a problem in American society with our massive use of anti-psychotic, antidepressant, anti-ADH, anti-whatever drugs that are hawked on the public.

g) America seems to be addicted to anything and everything, from drugs, to overeating, to pornography, to alcohol, to whatever, and that rather than call it a “sin”, it becomes medicalized and treated as an illness like the chickenpox.

h) America has allowed itself to become entirely confused as to gender issues. Developing the idea that kids can mis-interpret themselves in the problem of anorexia nervosa, it seems to follow that gender identity issues may be similar. Except that the new American public thought sewer, children should be allowed to be confused regarding sexual identity. How sexual identity issues could be promoted and institutionalized  remains a massive delusion.

Solution? Kupelian first argues that America needs to get a grip on themselves and wake up to the problem. He frets at a solution, since “while a deluded president can be replaced at the next election, one cannot replace a deluded population”. Kupelian discourages defeatism and encourages making one’s voice noted, whether at the voting booth or in public forum, or in acts of public disobedience. He encourages taking care of the self, whether it be by nutrition and exercise, meditation or rest. The gist of his encouragement is to rise above anger and bitterness, and combat the current world system as a faithful Christian.

This summary is very short, and the book is loaded with facts, figures and stories of either the mindlessness of our society, or ways in which people have enacted to “fix” our system. I agree with his analysis of the problem. His stated solution is weak.

One item that might be contended with in this book is that when he argues that the American mind has snapped, he makes the bold assumption that his own mind hasn’t snapped.  Without a reference point, it is impossible to know whether one is personally insane, or the remainder of the world is insane. David provides (without actually using this terminology) that his reference point is the Almighty God as found in the Judeo-Christian Bible. The ultimate judge of mankind will be eternity, and I believe that that judgement will be a personal judgement by an infinite personal God. Thus, though many devout Christians with a liberal political mindset will take offense of much of what Kupelian has to say in this book, I appreciate that Kupelian argues from a Scriptural base without a strain on Scriptural interpretation, and that most conservative Christians regardless of theological or denominational stance would agree with the Scriptural spin that Kupelian offers. The only disagreements may be in the solution(s) to the problem, and not identification of the American problem.

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Nov 12


Cornet Soloist of the Sousa Band Herbert L. Clarke ★★★★

Herbert Clarke was among the first few generations of trumpet players with a modern three-valved trumpet, and he helped define the nature of virtuosity in trumpet playing. HL Clarke has written many of the trumpet lesson books that exist, and several of which I use on a regular basis. This is a very old historic recording, and the sound is horrid on many of the tracks. The producer admits that they did their best to clean up the recordings and to remove record scratchiness, but it is still a fairly prominent part of the background noise. Even still, it is a delight to hear an early master of the trumpet. While virtuosity today has well exceeded what Clarke demonstrates in these recordings, the Clarke recordings still demonstrate a great mastery of the instrument achieved by few even today.

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Nov 12


Händel Edition; produced by Brilliant Classics ★★★★★

This was a budget compilation of many of the works of Georg Fredrick Händel, produced by Brilliant Classics. Many of the Brilliant Classics productions are substandard, but this production was not. Most of the pieces included in this collection were excellent performances with excellent recording technique. Though the 65 discs in this offering were quite budget in price, they were anything but budget in quality, and compete adequately with productions by other recording studios. Particularly, many of the vocal pieces were superbly performed, as well as the organ concertos. The Messiah production by Steven Cleobury competes with the other 10-15 recordings of the Messiah in my collection. It is at times a touch rushed, but I find that consistent with British recordings of the Messiah.

So, a few words on Händel. First, I find it incomprehensible that his name is spelled Handel or Haendel, and not Händel, which was his birth name spelling. OK, the Brits don’t have umlauts, but the British be damned, regardless of Händel’s tolerance for the British misspelling of his name. My exposure to Händel has up to now been limited. I’ve had a smattering of his most popular pieces, but there is not much out there with Händel that’s affordable. I’ve watched a number of his operas (in DVD video format), which are very tedious, and a strain on the sentiments of a modern opera lover.

Händel was born about 30 miles from where JS Bach was born in this same year of Bach’s birth. Though Händel became the wealthy internationally acclaimed composer, his works are brilliant but lacking the absolute genius of Bach, even when considering his Messiah. There is a sense of tediousness in working through Händel that is never found in Bach. Both composers borrowed heavily from other compositions that they or others composed, but Bach had a flair for instilling a brilliance to the new use of the music that is lacking with Händel. This is not to say that Händel was not an accomplished composer, and this collection by Brilliant has done a nice job of pointing out to me many of the lesser recognized works of Händel that are absolutely delightful, but rarely ever performed. Hopefully, some day we will see a COMPLETE Händel Edition with high quality performances. Until then, this collection of Händel is a very reasonable and inexpensive alternative.

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Nov 02

After visiting Stehekin and seeing groups of thru-hikers on the last segment of the PCT, a long desire to some day hike the PCT has again resurrected itself. This may be problematic, in that a) I’ll need to find somebody to do it with, b) I’ll need to get Betsy’s support, c) I’ll need to find 5-6 months from April through September to take off to do this. Possible? Yes. Probable? I don’t know. I also wish to do some long-distance bicycling in the near future. There is a bicycle route (called the Sierra Cascades route) that roughly parallels the PCT, which I would do first, and have already talked my kid brother into doing it with me. After that, we’ll have to see if I still have the flame for grand adventures. Let me know if you are interested in joining me!


The Pacific Crest Trail, by William Gray with the National Geographic Society, published in 1975 ★★
This book was read by me mostly out of historical interest in the trail. It was written when the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) was still under development, and many sections of the trail had not been fully carved out. I believe that the entire trail happens to now be intact, and often different from where Gray hiked. From reading the book, it sounds like he did not do a “thru-hike”, that is, a solid hike from Mexico to Canada, but hiked in sections, mostly to glean photographs and stories for the National Geographic Society. He also engages about ¾ of the book in detailing character sketches of people he met on of the trail, or in proximity to the trail. Thus, it fails as a description of the PCT itself, but is typical of the writing and journalism that one would find with National Geographic Society publications. It’s cute to see that the people in the photos are all typical for 1970’s hippies.

Yogi’s Pacific Crest Trail Handbook 2016-2017, by Yogi (aka Jackie McDonnell) ★★★★★
This is the best book that I’ve read so far on the PCT, and is much a reference book (the entire last half of the book is intended to be torn out of the book to be taken with you on the hike) as it is a how-to book and book detailing what to expect on the trail. Yogi (her trail name) includes comments from other thru-hikers regarding how they did the PCT. Yogi covers diverse actions as to what to carry in your backpack, what to wear, how to do camp, how to plan, how to resupply, and how to stay out of trouble. Because she includes comments from other hikers, you realize that there will be no one set way to do the PCT. Most importantly, one learns what NOT to do, like overpack, under hydrate, or not be prepared. She writes well, and seems more connected than any of the other PCT advice books that I’ve seen. The reference section is absolutely invaluable, and is exactly what one needs to know. As an example, she has rough maps of the resupply towns, so that one doesn’t need to wander aimlessly to find where the local hotel, restaurant or grocery store might be located. Reading the book is almost like having Yogi actually there, giving you advice about how you might survive and succeed on your first thru-hike. Long-distance through-hiking has a completely different style than a 2-14 day backpacking trip, including what you eat, how you camp, and how you treat yourself. Yogi gives great advice on these differences, and how to have a comfortable and good time while doing that. Hopefully, I will meet Yogi on the PCT. She’s a real inspiration to get out there and just do it!


Trail Tested, A thru-hiker’s Guide to Ultralight Hiking and Backpacking, by Justin Lichter ★★★★
This book is very similar to a book I reviewed in 2013 by Andrew Skurka on ultralight backpacking. Similar to Skurka, Lichter is a “professional” hiker, i.e., he seems to spend more time hiking than working at a “job”, and has thru-hiked the Triple Crown (Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and PCT) with repeats of those listed, as well as other long distance hikes, foreign and domestic. Justin (Trail name “Trauma”) details style of thru-hiking, as well as offering equipment recommendations. Many of these recommendations seem to have a sponsor influence, but at least he lets you know that. The book is well written and well illustrated, with many personal anecdotes. I acquired it as a package deal from Yogi.


Ultralight Survival Kit, by Justin Lichter ★★★
This book repeated much of what was in the book Trail Tested. It is a small, short book on many of the problems and dangers one can encounter on the trail, and how to deal with them. Hopefully, one is moderately aware of everything in this book before they set out alone on the trail, as I’ve encountered many of the issues that this book brings up. If you own Trail Tested, this book is mildly superfluous. It was also part of the package deal from Yogi.

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