Authors Brent Olson Weekend Reading

Weekend Reading: November 22, 2013

Farmer reading his farm paper_George Ackerman

Weekend Reading: November 22 2013

by Brent Olson

I spent this weekend with an engineer for MAVEN, the orbiter that just launched and is on its way to Mars. Through his anxiety about the launch, I couldn’t escape a hard truth. Mars is really far away. Thinking about the West, we know there were people here, that it was a well worked land for centuries. For many, the lands of the West were close, familiar. But for others, I imagine the West felt like Mars feels to me. Really freakin’ far away. I imagine boarding a ship, planning to travel around South America, or looking across the Mississippi, and then, maybe months later, cresting a hill and looking out over the endless prairies. The West was a long way away. This edition of weekend readings aren’t really all about the frontier, but many (not all) manifest some sense of risk, adventure, contact, and change that are part of the frontier of my imagination.

News and Essays

Neil Smith, 1954–2012: Radical Geography, Marxist Geographer, Revolutionary Geographer,” Don Mitchell.
Indulge me in sharing this. Don Mitchell is a mentor of mine and it feels important to share this remembrance of his mentor, Neil Smith. There is little explicitly about the West here, but there are lessons to be learned from both geographers and they certainly have questions worth asking.

A New Line of Defense For Wild Salmon Populations,” Ben Goldfarb
Most salmon restoration has focused on “emergency room” treatments. Guido Rahr of the Wild Salmon Center wants to change that by providing strongholds and processes that promote habitat and sustainable practices that eliminate poaching on the Russian River.

Embracing the Void,” Ross Anderson, Aeon Magazine
I’ve been waiting for Aeon Magazine to say something about the West, and boy, has Ross Anderson delivered. If you like, stars, land art, New Mexico, or unbelievably huge and complicated projects, you’ll love this story of Charles Ross’ project “Star Axis.”

First Skiers,” Mark Jenkins, National Geographic
My local ski resort opened this week, so there really isn’t a better time to think about skiing. First tracks were laid down about 8,000 years ago. That’s a lot of powder days. Be sure to check out the graphics and maps. And, be safe out there this winter.


“‘The Heart of Everything That Is’: The Sioux’s brilliant, unsung leader,” Laura Miller, SALON
Laura Miller’s review of Bob Drury and Tom Clavin’s new work praises the prose and research of this new biography of Red Cloud that celebrates his strengths, his honesty about his weaknesses, and his frustration with the racism and treachery of the US agents responsible for negotiating treaties with Native Americans.

Voices of the American West, Volume 1: The Indian Interviews of Eli S. Ricker, 1903–1919 and Voices of the American West, Volume 2: The Settler and Soldier Interviews of Eli S Ricker, 1903–1919, by Eli S. Ricker and edited by Richard Jenson. Review by David Woordbury, Of Battlefields and Bibliophiles
Almost 100 years in the making, these collections of interviews with Native Americans and soldiers document the often violent contact between people and provide a wealth of resources for any historian of the West, now in paperback.


The American West in Bronze, 1850–1925, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Last week Washington, DC, this week, New York. One of these days I’ll point folks to a fascinating exhibition that people living in the West might get to. But, if you are trapped in the hustle and bustle of NY, you may want to visit the Met to look at these 65 bronze statues that capture some of the spirit of the Old West. Or at least some of the spirit that urban elite clients might have wanted to own.


Governor Hickenlooper gave the evening address at the “State of State of the West Symposium

Randall Lake’s landscape paintings offer a reflection on his life as a dedicated Mormon and an openly gay man. 


As Climate Warms American West, Iconic Trout In Jeopardy,” Christopher Joyce, National Public Radio
NPR reports on how trout are affected by a changing climate in the West.


The Red Cross – Philippines is still accepting donations to help in relief of those affected by Supertyphoon Haiyan.

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