Prior to a full on Into the Wild film/book review…

Though I am thinking/writing/observing on the subject of Christopher McCandless, the main (but not only) character of Jon Krakauer’s superbly written “Into the Wild,” I am just going to post my response to a film review by Kyle Smith of the New York Post. It is largely in reference to a brief paragraph on Timothy Treadwell, a man who spent thirteen summers alone with brown/grizzly bears on the Alaskan coast before he was attacked and eaten by a bear. The reason the bear attacked is still unknown. I recently finished two books on Treadwell, so I was compelled to share.

First, Kyle Smith’s comments about Treadwell:
Both the cruel beauty of the film[Into the Wild] and this quality of its main character[McCandless] call to mind Werner Herzog’s similar, and similarly brilliant, documentary “Grizzly Man,” about Timothy Treadwell, a nature lover who lived among the bears in Alaska and treated them as big fluffy pets, until they ate him. Treadwell claimed, not very convincingly, to have a girlfriend (a woman he brought along who also died but whom he almost entirely ignored in his many video diaries). He too seemed uninterested in sex, or any other kind of human interaction.

My comment:

I appreciate the mccandless observations, but i’ve just finished reading “The Grizzly Maze” and “Among Grizzlies,” two books on Timothy Treadwell, and wanted to append some info short-changed in Herzog’s documentary.

His relationship with bears was much more complicated than “big fluffy pets” despite how some of Herzog’s video footage plays side of Treadwell up. Treadwell certainly behaved in his own eccentric way to pass the time, but he also had a unique talent to discern bear behavior and intentions, often forced into split-second decisions (whether respectful retreats, holding ground or bluffing an attack) when a bear got to close to him or began to charge. His knack held up for thirteen summers, but all along it was a risky business to convince himself that he too was bear, as he often remarked on video and wrote in his memoir “Among Grizzlies.” More than anything else, McCandless and Treadwell shared an independent spirit and over confidence grown from previous successes. However, sometimes it is also terrible luck–running into a desperate, potentially mentally-ill bear or (spoiler alert!) eating seeds previously unknown to be poisonous.

Treadwell actually had several girlfriends over the years and never seemed to have an aversion to sex, self-described and collaborated in interviews with friends.

From what I gather, he had selective problems with humans depending on whether they were sympathetic to his mission and trips to Alaska every summer or not. His best friend in Alaska, Joel Bennett the filmmaker, was amazed that a person who enjoyed attention and social interaction would go into the bush for months at a time thirteen years in a row like Treadwell.

Published in: on November 27, 2007 at 10:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Why is Michael Baisden spreading lies about Color of Change?

Michael Baisden, host of a daily radio show in Alexandria, Louisiana, began rallying in support of the Jena 6 case during the late summer of 2007. He talked about the case daily, gathering more and more information to educate his audience. On the eve of September 20, when thousands were on buses coming to the small town of Jena, Baisden even appeared next to Reverend Al Sharpton as they were interviewed by CNN.

Color of Change is the largest black-led online advocacy organization in the country, founded by James Rucker and Van Jones after Hurricane Katrina and the federal flood. Rucker, who previously worked for two years with as their Director of Grassroots Mobilization, is based in the New Orleans-area and began going to Jena and working with the families months before Baisden. He is the one who worked with the families on a statement that they could all agree on to appear as an online petition. That statement was only the second statement that all six families approved (the first being a facts and demands document made available through Friends of Justice). The petition, as word and emails spread regarding the injustice of the cases, garnered 45,000 signatures by the time Rucker and family members presented the pages to the LaSalle District Attorney’s office on July 31 (a description of this scene is in my previous post titled “Jena Bears Strange Fruit”).

Recently, despite likely knowing this information, Baisden has slandered Color of Change on his radio show, putting them in the same category as organizations that did fundraising for Hurricane Katrina victims, but then never distributed the funds. Yet, Color of Change has on its website the photos of cancelled checks and the family signed requests for funds that match those checks. $210,000 of $212,000 fundraised through Color of Change has been distributed so far.

In addition, Baisden and his guest Marcus Jones, Mychal Bell’s father, described Rucker as “shady.” While Baisden may have never met with Rucker, Jones certainly has (the petition being one instance and I witnessed a meeting in which everyone introduced themselves and their connection with the case–both Marcus and James were in the room and it was apparent James had relationships with family members as well as the ACLU organizers involved).

Color of Change responded by having their lawyer call Baisden’s producer to work it out, but Baisden didn’t back down from his comments. Now Color of Change has a petition on its website asking Baisden for an apology. With the documents they’ve put on their website proving that their money has been sent to lawyers representing the Jena 6, I signed on to the petition. Here is what I added:

“The grassroots movement that Color of Change and other organizations built prior to Michael Baisden’s involvement brought the case to a national stage. I have met James Rucker and the allegations that he is “shady” and that the families do not know him are false. I was present in Jena for planning meetings where James Rucker and Marcus Jones were in the same room and everyone introduced themselves. Rucker knows the families well, and the ACLU organizers on the case. Rucker was the person who presented the first stack of petition on July 31, 2007 to the Asst. DA of LaSalle Parish. The comments made by Marcus Jones are disappointing, as they falsely undercut an organization that has done so much work on their behalf; Michael Baisden’s comments are in some ways slanderous, spreading lies despite knowing the truth. I hope they recognize their errors and amend the divisions that they just created within the Jena 6 movement.
Thank you for your time.”

These disrespectful and malicious lies are one way to divide movements. From all I’ve ever seen or heard, Color of Change has been front line advocates and approached the families in a humble, accountable way. So it boggles my mind as to why Baisden would go to these lengths, stretching truth beyond the point where it bursts. Color of Change offers up its analysis, arguing that Baisden’s fundraiser day for Jena 6 is coming up and perhaps he wants other fundraising efforts to be distrusted, leaving his own fund more attractive for generous folks. If that has any truth, it is an unfortunate recurrence of ambition for personal power and status within a movement that has many unsuccessful historic precedents. It is what can deride movements precisely by falsely knocking out one of the movement’s pillars, one of its devoted and stable strengths like Color of Change has been for the Jena 6 families. Don’t let that happen. Demand that Baisden apologize and clear Color of Change’s name.

Published in: on November 9, 2007 at 10:00 pm  Comments (6)