02 Jan

I’ve been having one of those weeks where for some reason my mind works only in list format- lists of things to do, new years resolutions, ideas for my Transcript Bulletin articles, database server IP’s for work, etc. So in keeping with this peculiar train of thought, this week’s round-up consists of two unrelated random lists that have been floating around in my head lately.

Faces I’d like to see less of in outdoor magazines:

Every outdoors nut loves outdoors magazines. I read them because I like to analyze the writing styles in the feature articles and look at the numerous gear ads (I imagine having enough money to actually buy the stuff). But these mags also hack me off because they all practically worship an elite pantheon of “adventure gods.”

Take Richard Branson, for example. The prettyboy billionaire Virgin CEO is everywhere. I’m hard-pressed to open any outdoors magazine and not see his his dyed blonde locks flowing somewhere within its pages. Sure, when he’s not doing photo shoots for outdoors magazines, he’s breaking world records, flitting around the globe on his planes, and building spaceships. But when you have that much time and money, what else are you going to do?

Then there’s Aron Ralston, the solo climber that got pinned under a boulder in Utah’s remote Blue John Canyon and had to cut his own arm off with a knock-off Leatherman. Outdoor magazines can’t get enough of him. But had Ralston taken a partner with him or simply not survived the ordeal, he would have been lucky to get a blip on the local news along with snowboarders buried in avalanches they’ve accidentally triggered and fools stuck on ledges.

And I admire Lance Armstrong all day long, but reading the major outdoor magazines you’d think he was the only person ever to don spandex shorts and ride a bike. I like the guy, but I’m not sure we need a cover story on him every other month.

Gee, that was a grumpy list, huh? Let’s get to the positive.

Some of my favorite writers:

I’m not really into fiction. What little reading time I get I’d rather spend with history, news, or real-life stories. I don’t have time for pretend. So I apologize that J.K Rowling and John Grisham don’t make my list. A good non-fiction writer can spin computer programming instructions into the most thrilling thing you’ve ever read. Here are a few of my favorites:

My favorite writer is freelancer Steve Friedman. I discovered him in Backpacker Magazine, but he’s regularly published in major newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post, and is the author of three books. His writing style is a combination of self-deprecating humor and what I like to call “thinking out loud.” I’d love to link to some of my favorite Friedman articles, but his website is under construction and the links to past articles have been (hopefully temporarily) removed. One of his more recent pieces, Lost in America, was featured in Best American Travel Writing 2007. Read it at

Another of my favorites is Tom Goodrich. Tom is a Civil War historian and the author of several books (my favorite is Scalp Dance). He currently writes for Wild West Magazine’s official blog. When he’s not writing books or shooting the breeze on his blog, Tom and wife Deb (who we’ll hear from on this website probably next week) can often be seen talking history in TV documentaries. Tom has a knack for digging to the heart of his subjects and telling stories in the words of the participants themselves. I always tell people my goal is to write campfire stories. These are the kind of stories Tom writes.

Dan Baum is another freelancer, whose articles have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Wired, and other national magazines. He collaborates with Margaret Knox and most everything, but most of their stuff appears under his byline. Dan’s work lately has focused on post-Katrina New Orleans, and his New Orleans Journal on The New Yorker’s website is an excellent read. He and Margaret are working on a book about New Orleans that’s due out next year.

Richard Menzies is best known for his work in the Salt Flat News, a quirky Wendover-based newspaper that ran in the early 1970’s. Menzies’ articles and unique photographs made the Salt Flat News a collector’s item. “The original idea was that we would have a newspaper where nothing happens in the middle of nowhere,” Menzies said in an interview with the Deseret News.

Menzies’ most recent work is “Passing Through: An Existential Journey Across America’s Outback.” This book chronicles Menzies’ experiences in the forgotten hinterlands of eastern Utah and western Nevada. The book is a must-read for anybody interested in these mysterious deserts and the people who call them home.

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Posted by on January 2, 2008 in Weekly Run-Down


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