Saturday, October 31, 2015

Defending John Wayne

Dale Matson

A featured article in BuzzFeed News (October 11th) caught my eye recently “How The West Was Wrong: The Making Of John Wayne”. Anne Helen Petersen wrote it.

Dr. Petersen wrote her doctoral dissertation on the gossip industry, which provides some context in understanding her perspective. It is also evident that she is a feminist writing with an agenda in mind. Beginning with her opening statement, here are some excerpts from her piece.

“Few figures exemplify the West, and Americanness [sic], more than John Wayne. How does the resilience of his image — and the thinly veiled bigotry, xenophobia, and sexism that structure it — point to the darkness at the heart of the Western myth?” It is easy in hindsight to question the values and choices made during John Wayne’s life by him and by our country in general. One can also retrospectively question the decisions during WWII to fire bomb German cities and use two atomic bombs on Japanese cities. Were we right to assassinate an American citizen using a drone in the current era?

You are missing the entire point of the Western myth, which is that there is good and evil and the heroes are the ones who take the risk to stand up for good. In fact, this is not just a Western myth. It is an age-old story that weaves together the fabric of any society. What does it take to defeat evil without becoming evil in the process?

“The image of John Wayne on offer at the museum is a tapestry of half-truths and tall tales, a myth meant to assuage a nation’s anxieties and assure its citizens that a certain type of man, with a sort of principle, was still central to American identity.” “He’s a mansplainer; he’s a xenophobe; he’d probably have horrible things to say about Islam. And Obama. And trans rights. [Oh really, are you certain?] And so many of the issues that are shaping the future of our collective identity.”

I don’t know how you can refer to John Wayne with three Hispanic wives as a xenophobe. His movie casting was usually of mixed race and gender both enemies and friends alike. His leading ladies were always strong in moral character.

And finally, “And whether Wayne, the individual, believed in the things that his myth has been used to endorse ultimately matters little. Wayne endures because that image, like that of America, was built on the notion that white masculinity should always be central to American identity. And he will continue to endure as the defenders of white masculinity continue to seek ways to express their horror that that is increasingly, and irrefutably, no longer the case.”

Your argument is that Wayne did not truly believe in the values he represented in his movies but further than that, that the American values he represented never existed. At the same time you argue that those values and the people who hold them are thankfully disappearing. There is a certain smarmy triumphalism in the case you made.

Do you really see contemporary society as morally superior to that of your parents and grandparents? Is there less poverty, injustice, less racism and more opportunity because of the ascendance of feminist ideology? Your generation will be judged by future generations as the one that blessed the murder of millions of unborn children.

For me, John Wayne represented moral values that are not androcentric but gender neutral. How does Sigourney Weaver playing the androgynous Ripley act any differently? How is Mattie Ross, played by Kim Darby in True Grit, any less a hero than Rooster Cogburn?

Finally, your article reflects a ‘thinly veiled’ misandry and an agenda driven, poorly researched and cited effort to discredit John Wayne in particular and white men in general. We are still here and still a part of what makes up the modern American myth. Some day when you are old, having gained perspective you will look back with a more humble mind.    


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Yosemite High Sierra Camps

Dale Matson

Click On Photographs To Enlarge
Townsley Lake From Above

One of the lesser-known Yosemite options is the Yosemite High Sierra Camps.
The six camps are located a convenient 7-10 miles apart and provide accommodations for those who want to see Yosemite without the burden of a heavy backpack. Each camp has a permanent stone structure and buildings that can be taken down in the fall when the camps close. The camps provide tent cabins and wonderful meals, which allows the hiker to carry only a daypack. The price is steep per night at about $170.00 but mules must bring in all of the supplies including the salt and pepper on the table. They also have to pack out the trash too.

I have stayed at all the camps except the original one on Merced Lake. Each has wonderful views and opportunities for day hikes in the vicinity. My wife and I have opted to stay in the backpacker’s area and buy the meals in advance of our trip. This also means you will be able to get a wilderness permit as a walk in the morning you begin. This is only about $70.00 per night including dinner and breakfast. This eliminates the need to carry a bear canister for our food and the hot meals are terrific.
Each camp has a small store in the mess tent and items like bug spray and candy bars can be purchased. We have done trips where we stayed at two separate high sierra camps on successive nights and trips where we stayed successive nights at one camp. We climbed Mt. Hoffman when we stayed at the May Lake camp. There is a new and improved trail to the top this year. The John Muir Trail goes by the Sunrise High Sierra Camp. Glen Aulin is probably the easiest access after May Lake and the trail leading to it travels through a beautiful area in Tuolumne Meadows.

My favorite high sierra camp is Vogelsang, which is also the highest of the camps at over 10,000’. We have done a number of day hikes out of there.

Over the years, we have had great conversations with folks from all over the world before and during the meals. It is certainly a great way for older people to hike and explore Yosemite. I’m glad the new Yosemite Plan retained this classic opportunity.

There is an opportunity (via the lottery ending Nov. 1) to do all of the camps in one extended effort. There are also ranger-guided trips that can be arranged. The trails are generally in good condition and easy to follow.  

 Falls At Glen Aulin
 Tuolumne River Near Glen Aulin
 May Lake
 Climb Up Mt. Hoffman
 May Lake From Above

 Falls At Glen Aulin
 Ireland Lake near Vogelsang HSC

 Vogelsang Pre Dinner Gathering
 Tent Cabins At Vogelsang
 Dinner At Vogelsang
 Sunrise HSC
 Sunrise HSC
 Alpenglow At Sunrise HSC
 Evelyn Lake Near Vogelsang HSC

 May Lake
 Swimming At McGee Lake Between May and Glen Aulin HSC
 Tenaya Lake View From Mt. Hoffman Climb
 Lyell Fork Of Tuolumne River Headed to Vogelsang HSC 
 Vogelsang From Trail To Vogelsang Pass And Bernice Lake
Backpacker's Camp At Vogelsang

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Clark Bonsai Collection At Shinzen Garden

Woodward Park Fresno, California

Dale Matson

Click on Photographs to Enlarge

“Established by the Golden State Bonsai Federation and the Shinzen Friendship Garden, this display brings the beauty and the art of bonsai to our visitors. Our collection of 100 trees displayed on a seasonal rotation, reflects the four seasons within the five acres of the Shinzen Garden. Each tree has been designed by bonsai artists throughout California over the past 75 years.” (From the brochure)

My wife and I had the pleasure of touring the exhibit today, the second weekend after it opened. This is a fine addition to an already beautiful area of the Shinzen Garden of Woodward Park. Here are some photographs taken with my Sony A7RII with the Zeiss 24-70 f4 lens.

An earlier Post on the Shinzen Friendship Garden Can be Found Here: