McCandless' story isn't really told in the book or the film : comments

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  64     November 5, 2007 - 1:18pm | idiocracy

Medred teaches lesson about supertramp?

I thought the MOVIE was brilliant. But I wasn't focusing on the wilderness aspect. I didn't watch it to see what errors he made in survival techniques. Of course the kid was not all there, but I think there's more to it than that. I thought the movie was more about the relationship between Alexander and his parents hence the opening scene of the mom hallucinated hearing her sons voice crying out for help. It was a brilliant MOVIE. There is a story behind every mad act and sometimes exploiting it helps others reflect on there own lives which I think Penn does with excellent direction. What is Medred trying to say in this commentary?

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  63     November 5, 2007 - 9:41am | akkitty

in agreement...

I actually read the book and will not see the movie. He was rescued countless times before by not being prepared on his adventures and sadly, I must assume, he thought he would be rescued this time as well. It's unfortunate that parents don't realize what makes them happy often ends with sad and lost children.

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  62     November 5, 2007 - 9:20am | conradje

No respect for the movie or the book.

They both romanticize this kid and his little adventure. The problem with that is they both encourage young, impressionable minds, to follow in his foot steps. On other forums I have seen these kids proclaim Chris to be a real world hero and the bus to be a shrine to those who follow a different drummer. Bottom line, what that means is we will have copy cats up here next summer and many will not be as wise as the kid who was there for 3 days and left. If anyone else dies out there following this fool's dream, I think Krakauer and Penn should share responsibility for the death!

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  November 19, 2007 - 7:18pm | thelawrence71

Of course they romanticize

Of course they romanticize Chris and his travels. In college english 101, they call it creative writing. Guess what, if people do copycat and die, it is their perogative, not yours.

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  November 6, 2007 - 3:48pm | cmalone

reply to "NO RESPECT"...

"Howz about we put a remote camera in the bus so's we can watch how those wayfaring people REALLY survive and if they's in trouble we'll swoop in and save 'em!" Get real: From Genghis Khan to Steve Fossett ('round the world balloonist/pilot), MEN WILL CONTINUE TO BE MEN in searching out what they can find; many of them love to find themselves in any adventure on their own -- no matter what risks, relationships or psychological labeling are out there. Let 'em be...

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  61     November 5, 2007 - 9:05am | granskitten

No respect for Medred or Krakauer

I think Craig, Jon, and all you tough Alaskans should be sent to the bus with nothing, so we don't have to listen to all your B.S. anymore. Sure the kid was dumb, but his dysfunctional family was at fault and Penn was the only one to address this. This story is a lesson in compassion, not a venue for Alaskan egos.

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  November 5, 2007 - 3:38pm | gfdurocher

No Problem

Give me a knife, a waterproof lighter and a road flare, stick me on that bus on Friday, and I'll be writing up the story to share with kin over a beer in Anchorage the following week. No brag, just fact. Many of us have been in far worse situations.

The kid was a basket case and needed help.

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  November 5, 2007 - 7:06pm | smithandjones99

The following week?

You obviously have no idea what this story is about. So many people who comment on this story have not read the book or seen the movie. Alaska was only a small part of Mccandless travels and adventures.

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  November 6, 2007 - 5:38am | bertmaxak

Many of us know how the adventure ended.

We were here when it happened. Alaska was a big part of his travels, because it's where McCandless died. Many people commenting know the true story, so they don't care to read or watch the glorified, unrealistic versions.

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  November 6, 2007 - 7:18pm | smithandjones99

"they don't care to read or watch"

But yet they still find time to denigrate the book and film without a whiff of knowledge. Go have another beer and leave your ridiculous BS in the bar. You'll find Medred in the corner hitting on fat chicks.

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  November 7, 2007 - 10:37am | blatz_rox

They don't care to read or watch...

I read the book years ago & have re-read it several times. This was not a rational person. Hell, I knew at 10 years old that you don't go into the wild unprepared. Give me a break! Like a .22 caliber rifle is going to kill a bear!! Even a black bear. Maybe if you're extremely lucky & shoot em' in the ear. What nonsense!!! You must be one of those nuts, also.

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  November 15, 2007 - 7:32pm | smithandjones99

Kill a bear?

What planet did you read that book on? Go ahead and run for your gun when you see that bear, big hunter you.

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  November 7, 2007 - 3:30am | bertmaxak

Medred can have the fat chicks.

As I said, they know the true story. The book and the movie have been touted enough for anyone to know they are exagerated (to say the least), but if you want to get your 'knowledge' from the fictional accounts, so be it. Keep whiffing whatever it is that makes you happy.

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  March 3, 2008 - 9:20am | edudley15

oh yeah i guess your right,

oh yeah i guess your right, you must have all the facts, im pretty sure Krakauer and penn just decided to make everything up. do you know anything

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  November 7, 2007 - 10:20am | smithandjones99

They only know what Medred tells them

And Medred only focuses on a small part of the story. Krakauer explored Mccandless in detail and Medred seems incapable of that. Medred just keeps making his one small point thinking everyone else is missing it.

Medred doesn't seem to understand that it doesn't matter if Mccandless died from a potato or something else. It doesn't matter if he was stupid or naive and made mistakes. It doesn't matter if "normal" people think he was loony. Indeed, that is what makes the story interesting.

The fact is that Mccandless rejected a society based on the glorification of greed and gluttony fueled by in-your-face hypocrisy. It is also true that many, if not most, religions encourage humans to reject such a life. Yet few people do. And YES, Mccandless died because of his choices.

Many people relate to this desire to reject such a shallow society. Others are reinforced in their choices by his death. Pick a side.

On top of all this, Krakauer is an AWESOME writer. Read his book, Into Thin Air if you are so scared to learn about the naive boy who didn't want to wear shoes. One summer day, I witnessed a long-term Alaskan argue his "right" to enter the Anchorage library barefoot since he paid taxes. After a long and loud argument, the security guard let him in. I wonder what that Alaskan thinks of this? Further, I wonder if he would be tasered if he tried that in Fairfax, Virginia.

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  November 8, 2007 - 8:01am | bertmaxak

It doesn't matter if he was stupid or naive and made mistakes?

It only matters that Krakauer is an AWESOME writer and can glorify these attributes? I don't think so.

You are incorrect when you say they only know what Medred tells them. They know much more than Medred has stated, and more than Krakauer and Penn have made up.

Mccandless rejected a society based on the glorification of greed and gluttony fueled by in-your-face hypocrisy? Well, if that little paperback back-cover sound bite is true, then there's a large number of homeless people out there who deserve a moniker different from 'bum'.

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  November 8, 2007 - 5:12pm | smithandjones99


I am not aware that Mccandless asked for anything from anyone. You guys just keep making stuff up. If you read the book, you would know he worked quite a bit to finance himself. Bum? You better try again.

Every Alaskan I met in my 2 years there -with the attitude expressed here -, had not read the book. Not one.

I don't think Krakauer glorified the mistakes, I think he brought them to light as well as anyone. Just for some people, that is not the end of the story.

Was Mccandless any more stupid than the Alaskan kid four-wheeling without a helmet who crashed and died? Or the Alaskan kid that didn't turn on his avalanche beacon and died? Or the Alaskan sheep hunter who saw a bear and RAN to get his gun but was mauled before reaching it? Give me a break, Alaska is full of dumbasses who make mistakes.

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  November 10, 2007 - 5:53am | bertmaxak

Better try again.

I never said McCandless was a bum. I said if your comment of his rejection of society is true, then homeless people must also be philosophers. Come on, get it right.

The world is full of dumbasses who make mistakes, and get killed. When it happens from chance, or fate, or circumstance, it's usually tragic. When they do it to themselves on purpose, yes, they're probably more stupid than the rest. Then, when their actions are made out to be something prophetic and glorious, no amount of light will make them brighter.

You can choose to believe the made-up account of McCandless, but you're foolish if you think everyone else should.

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  November 14, 2007 - 7:16pm | smithandjones99

Fate? On Purpose?

I forgot, you guys have diagnosed Mcandless as psychotic and suicidal. I guess that is how you rationalized he died "on purpose." You live in your own world. And an Alaskan skiing on an Avalanche slope dies by "fate." Or a hunter running from a bear is mauled by "fate." You are just laughable in your hyocritical BS.

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  60     November 5, 2007 - 8:17am | akgurley



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  November 8, 2007 - 10:36am | ArcticFlava


You will find your CapsLock button located at the left center of your keyboard.

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  59     November 5, 2007 - 7:25am | ftjab

books in bus

I left most of the books in the bus that were used by John to do a base personality test on Chris. I found the books at the dump and the salavation army. Just goes to show you that from the outside looking in we can easily misinterpret things. The fact that the writers of both the book and the movie didn't want the truth to get in the way of a good story doesn't bother me too much. I just don't care for the story. The writer should have had Chris crawling to the park road that he knew about, just a day’s hike to the south. Now that would have resonance. A young man fighting for his life. A true hero's journey(albiet a silly one).
Otherwise I just see a young man, lying down to die, in an abandoned vehicle, along a road, as
nothing but another sad suicide.

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  58     November 5, 2007 - 12:23am | rimor12


I'll start this by stating I am an avid outdoorsman and have spent many days in the back country of Denali National Park and elsewhere in our great state. I also was employed as a bus driver in Denali National Park for 10 years as the backcountry bus driver and tour driver for DBL. I think that the point is being missed about Mr Medred's arcticle. By misrepresenting McChandless frame of mind Krakauer and Pean have created an incredibly dangerous impression of McChandless's intent and have created a misguided desire by many people to imitate him. I know this may sound patronizing but if you ask anyone experienced in the Alaskan backcountry what McChandless's frame of mind was and what the outcome was going to be you will find the same answer, in very colorful terms that he went out there to die. No grandious "self discovery" "finding himself" or any other nonsense unknowing people from the city may come up with. It is a sad story, one which really shouldn't be a movie but a sign post saying "Warning, may be hazardous to your health".

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  57     November 5, 2007 - 12:21am | celtic_diva_ak

Thank you, Craig.

I am sick and tired of folks (many of whom are posting here) who get their information and understanding of wildlife and the wilderness from Walt Disney cartoons.

These are the same folks who have turned McCandless and another mentally ill individual, Timothy Treadwell, into folk heroes.

Some of these same folks actually come to Alaska in an attempt to duplicate the "adventures" of these two men, putting themselves, Parks and rescue personnel and the animals they claim to respect in dire peril.

I have spent enough time in the Alaska wilderness to know that I no longer wish to go more than 3 days without a shower. A land-yacht is becoming more attractive the older I get. However, I still know folks who enjoy primitive camping and they always do so in a safe and responsible manner. Treadwell and McCandless did not come here to enjoy a temporary foray "into the wild." In actuality, both of these men exhibited suicidal tendencies and hinted that their journeys might be a "one-way trip."

Medred's article was not disrespectful to the dead, he was only doing the equivalent of pouring a cold bucket of water on the heads of folks who are too stupid to back away from the flames.

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  56     November 4, 2007 - 11:23pm | wilson1

You don't get it

Why does it matter that this dude was ignorant of the Alaskan outdoors and died because of it?
The story is about this kid's quest for self discovery while disavowing the trappings of our capitalistic society. If you can't relate to it, fine, but will all the macho outdoors people give it a rest. You are missing the point!

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  November 6, 2007 - 3:55pm | cmalone


At least he didn't take ANYONE WITH HIM -- there are a lot of killers in the world, and he may have had a self-destructive mission or mishap, but he didn't kill anyone besides himself!

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  December 2, 2007 - 6:34pm | LJB


If you think that he didn't take anyone with him, then you have never had a child or a brother. His mother and father and sister are also casualties in his selfish quest to kill the false being within.

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  November 5, 2007 - 5:46am | bertmaxak

We haven't missed the point.

Disturbed young man goes into the wilderness, horribly lacking even the basic knowledge, skills, and equipment to survive, and dies because of either his mental illnesses or sheer stupidity. Could have happened anywhere. What's not to get? A quest for self discovery while disavowing the trappings of our capitalistic society? Give us a break! If this were a complete work of fiction, that philosophical babel might wash, but the book and the movie are being portrayed as a true story, which they aren't. If they can't relate to it, it's because even macho outdoor people can only swallow so much bull at one time. I like human adventure and character introspection in a story just as much as the next person. Just don't try to sell me that it's true, when I know it to be a fairy tale.
Do you get it?

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  November 19, 2007 - 7:41pm | thelawrence71

Not sure

if you noticed, but the movie nor the book is considered a documentary. There is and always will be a creative side to "fluff" the story a little. Every person who writes a book no matter which category it is in or makes a movie no matter which category it is in will have "fluff." Get over it.
Don't like the book or the movie, then back the hell off and get the hell out of the way so the rest of us can enjoy. Are all Alaskians big pricks! Seems like all of you are so pissed at the world. Maybe it is because it is 1 woman to every nine men. Women are moving out of Alaska at a much higher rate than putting all lower 48 states together. Why, because you all are big pricks!

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  55     November 4, 2007 - 8:56pm | hatfieldrj

Good Morning, Midnight

Today's column mentions Jonny Waterman. An excellent book about his father, also a mountaineer and also one who struggled with mental illness, is Good Morning, Midnight, by Chip Brown. It might be of interest to anyone interested in a more in-depth treatment of the subject of mental illness in the outdoors context.

I include the following link not to shill for Amazon, but just because it provides a good capsule summary of the book.

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  54     November 4, 2007 - 7:49pm | thelawrence71

Alaska's Landscape, not the people

Once again, this article and those who commented from Alaska who just straight-out bash a deceased person are not the reason people love Alaska, it is the landscape. When I am in Alaska, I seem to hear banjos all the time! Who the hell would want to live there....
And don't forget, "Into The Wild" is about Chris not about Alaska. It just so happened that he died there. I almost wish it would have happened in the lower 48 instead of Alaska. That way we would not have to hear all you suv gas guzzling, 4 wheelin fat pot-belled ass wipes bitch!
And further more Craig, stick to writing and try running spellcheck before you post your article.

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  November 5, 2007 - 7:05am | bertmaxak

Congratulations, thelawrence71!

You have singlehandedly identified THE reason people love Alaska. And I thought it was just for the muktuk. I'm sure you wouldn't bash a dead person. Your ample human compasion, and great articulation are more than evident from your statements here. McCandless should have died nearer to you, so you wouldn't have to suffer your auditory hallucinations in Alaska. And also, that way you, "...would not have to hear all you suv gas guzzling, 4 wheelin fat pot-belled ass wipes bitch!" (By the way, you want Craig to use HIS spellcheck? I normally wouldn't mention it, but you brought it up.)

When you get off the crack pipe, Larry, maybe someday you'll see it's not the people of Alaska with a problem, it's you. Genuine humanitarian that you are. Why are people straight-out bashing a deceased person? Let me take a guess. Could it be because "Into The Wild" is NOT about Chris McCandless? Could it be because the story is about Krakauer's glorified and fictious version of the events of a man's death, and Penn's further bastardization of a stupid and tragic suicide? Could it be because the story IS about Alaska, and how it can chew up and spit out the ill and ill prepared? I usually don't wish harm on anyone, but McCandless did this to himself. Nothing heroic like it's being made out to be.

So, lawrence, keep up that marvelous attitude toward Alaska, because those of us who do want to live here, are genuinely overjoyed that you don't.

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  November 16, 2007 - 9:44pm | thelawrence71

The names Lawrence, not

The names Lawrence, not Larry. And for the record, the real problem is not those in the lower 48, it's the fact that most who live in Alaska would not last more than one day out in the outdoors during the winter time without a snowmobile. I mean correct me if I am wrong, did all of you in Alaska get a degree in outdoor survival? I got my degree in outdoor leadership out in British Columbia. I apologize for the negative remark I made about "...would not have to hear all you suv gas guzzling, 4 wheelin fat pot-belled ass wipes bitch!" but I have just gotten tired of hearing the same old story, that everyone who lives in Alaska are outdoor scholars cause you have lived there 24 years or your whole life.
And you are correct, Alaska can chew you up and spit you out but that goes for everyone, not just those in the lower 48. And I cordially disagree with you on "Into The Wild." You can argue from any angle you want, but it is not about Alaska, it is about Chris. Maybe someday Jon can write about you and how you have survived in the outdoors. Of course, your "Dora Explorer Tent" setup in your backyard won't make for much of an interesting story will it.

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  November 5, 2007 - 10:02am | wakenyian


Wow, I’m appalled by the ignorant statements spat all over this topic. I think that the sensitive issue regarding the book, movie, and life of this sad individual is respect, and, McCandless demonstrates the lack of it regardless if he was mentally unstable or not. Obviously he had a huge lack of respect for life; otherwise he would have been more careful with his own. Promoting suicidal behavior is absurd at best, and suicide is what his death was.
As to the rest of it, well, Alaskan wilderness survival requires a high degree of skill, capability, good old fashioned guts combined with an inhuman instinct and the most important, RESPECT enough for what you are doing that you acquire the discipline to make sound judgment. Duh! And I thought that was common knowledge. I suppose that is my misconception after living in Alaska for the past 24 years. Oh, and as a wilderness adventure business owner, Larry, if it was not for us Alaskan’s you would probably end up like McCanless whether you were attempting suicide or not. Stick with Princess Tours, definitely your best bet!
Gas guzzling SUVs? You must be talking about Anchorage and not Alaska. I prefer a guzzling diesel truck myself.

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  March 3, 2008 - 9:34am | edudley15

yeah i forgot when you

yeah i forgot when you mistakenly eat a plant thinking it is something else and get poisoned you are committing suicide. did you read the book, do you know how he died, you should look into that. im sick of this suicide bs

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  November 19, 2007 - 7:53pm | thelawrence71

What is your "Adventure"

What is your "Adventure" business. This should be interesting. Riding snowmobiles around from drinking hole to drinking hole is not an adventure but Alaskian stupidity. There is a reason the man to woman ratio in Alaska is 9 to 1; majority of the men are not fit for a woman.
And if you want adventure, I will have my mountaineer guiding company guide you personally up any mountain in Alaska. You will just have to carry the same weight of pack I do and clip up the mountain as fast as me. Or better yet, you can run 10 of my 60 siberian huskies on an artic expedition. Alaska can be harsh, but not even close to the artic expeditions I have been on and lead. Of course we don't use snowmobiles.

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  53     November 4, 2007 - 6:16pm | joyce_brothers

Craig is manly!!!! HE'S MANLY!!!!!

Hey Freud. As long as you are handing out uneducated, unfounded, and unreal diagnosis’s, why don’t you do some self analyzing of yourself. You ARE an outdoor God Craig. A manly man, who chops lumber, and hunts animals, scales mountains, and successfully goes into the wild and comes back unscathed. You are angry because no one wants to hear that story. As a “writer” you should know that we always feed off of the tragic more than the triumphant. No one wants to hear your boring stories of wilderness success Craig, because it has been told a hundred thousand times over. We want to hear about the interesting and grotesque story of Chris McCandless, because it is a truly unique story. People find him interesting and noteworthy because he didn’t have any fear about going into the wild. That lack of fear killed him. Who knows if he was schizophrenic, you certainly don’t. Stupid, unprepared, and naïve are universal conclusions that we can all agree on. You’re just pissed because no one wants to write stories about your tired exploits. OMG, once again, you like, totally ruin my Sunday.

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  November 7, 2007 - 10:53am | blatz_rox

Craig is manly!!!!

What a stupid & ignorant post!! Normal people go into the wild for a variety of reasons. But they do so as safely as possible. This guy had no clue, for whatever reason. We can't diagnose him, but he sure had some serious issues!!

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  November 5, 2007 - 7:49am | bertmaxak

Like, totally awesome! Listen to Dr. Joyce, ya know?!

Incredible. Totally. Someone with more Craig Medred issues than me. Like, unbelievable. Ya, Craig! Stop givin' out that phony psych advice stuff. Leave that up to the REAL doctors and REAL lawyers on this discussion board thing, ya know. This Chris McCandless story is sooo interesting, and we don't need you calling him no names. Chris was stupid, unprepared, naive and had no fear of the wild, and that's what killed him. So stop calling him schizophrenic. Oh my God, Craig! You're like, so lame. Don't you know? We like hearing about this gross stuff, even if it is, like, totally made up. Just not from you.

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  March 3, 2008 - 9:39am | edudley15

do you have a point or are

do you have a point or are you just being stupid, wait yeah your just being stupid.

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  November 7, 2007 - 10:57am | blatz_rox

Like, totally awesome...

What are you, a valley girl or a valley nut?? Like, OMG, you are ignorant, too.

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  November 8, 2007 - 8:11am | bertmaxak

Are you like, talking to me?

I'm like, more valley than any of you posers. Totally! Where's the original Valley Girl from? Don't know? Then shut up. I may be sarcastic, but I'm definitely not ignorant. McCandless was no one to be glorified. Period.

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  November 4, 2007 - 9:28pm | gimpedout182

Wow. That is in fact the

Wow. That is in fact the best response I've read to anything I've read in some time. Nothing short of AWESOME.

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  November 5, 2007 - 9:32am | sealion777

Valley Dudes

You guys put the Valley back into the Valley.

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  November 5, 2007 - 3:24pm | celtic_diva_ak


...perfect examples of why cousins shouldn't marry...

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  November 6, 2007 - 4:02am | bertmaxak

2nd cousin's okay, isn't it?

If I divorce my wife, she's still my cousin, right?

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  52     November 4, 2007 - 4:49pm | Jilleo

Does it matter?

I think the only relevant question in all of this back-and-forth bickering and false expertise is, does it matter what Chris McCandless actually was? Or does it matter what he is to others?

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  November 6, 2007 - 6:00am | bertmaxak

That's two relevant questions....

And they're both the same question. Do others see him for what he actually was, or do they see him only as what he is to them? That is the discussion here.

Is McCandless to be deified for what he actually was and what people see him as?

Or, is he to be scorned for the exact same reasons.

The villagers worship a stone idol as a God. Does it matter what it actually is? Or does it matter what they believe it is? In either case, write about it, or film it and people will come, and the experts, false and otherwise will bicker.

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  51     November 4, 2007 - 9:26pm | gimpedout182

Craig Medred: Skilled Closet Psychiatrist

An interesting argument, though the evidence presented documenting schizophrenia is a bit short ( by that I mean, "what evidence?"). Idealistic? Foolish? Suffering from some sort of internal conflict? Most definitely. However, if you look at the DSM IV definition of schizophrenia, which is the gold standard for such diagnosis, he doesn't fit the bill, at least based on the book alone. It's one thing to say that people are unfairly profiting off of his misguided behavior. It's a whole different story to call a man a schizophrenic posthumously, considering the negative connotations given to mental illness. Be careful what you write--people might actually believe it.

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  50     November 4, 2007 - 4:23pm | jdavis02rr

The analytical genius of Medred

During the four years I lived in Alaska, I only had to read Medred once or twice to know everything Medred has ever written. Reading this column means I don’t need to read Medred again for another 14 years. Thanks, Craig. Maybe Tramp was searching for the meaning of death. And regarding “shamness” (“fraud” is a legal term that doesn’t apply), all movies are fiction. Or didn’t you know that, Mr. Medred? Obviously (to use this much abused and overused word), no one will ever know what Tramp was searching for (if anything; when an Alzheimer’s patient goes missing, is he or she really “searching for anything”?). But regarding “normal people”, some of us (not Medred) actually know how to orienteer without maps, compasses and (especially) GPS devices (I got tired of losing maps and compasses; I only use a GPS when work requires it, never when traveling for recreation). No, I probably won’t read the book or see the movie. I don’t generally like wilderness adventure books or bear stories (having experienced so many wilderness adventures and bear stories myself). But I have traveled all over Alaska and Canada without a guide…and learned to tell about it. What happens to people in the “wilderness” is often not logical. Inside the Carlsbad Caverns Wilderness Area (an extremely rugged, dry, mountainous desert area above the famous caverns which I wouldn’t recommend to the faint of heart), an eastern lad once killed his hiking partner with a dull knife because (according to the survivor), the two were dying of thirst and the victim asked to be killed…within a few miles of the road out.

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