Love Letter from Zion National Park, Utah
By Nick Lantz
We can only enter
the park through a tunnel. At the entrance, the rangers tell the
biggest RVs to turn back – they are too large to enter the promised land.
We see the burning faces of the spurned travelers as they swirl up dust in
the turnaround, how they will not meet our eyes as they drive away. The
eye of the needle – we remember, oh lord, how few pass through it. And
we are our own camels, our high-tech backpacks sloshing their bladders of
bitter water as we ascend the paved switchbacks towards
who knows what. We have seen your wonders of stone, oh lord:
the Sentinel, the Court of the Patriarchs, the Great White Throne, the slim
Virgin River that carved them. From the top of Angel's Landing, the park
unfolds like some messiah's dirt-red robe. Below, the fearless deer stroll
through our campsites, dipping their delicate necks into the trash cans and
unattended coolers. We can just make out the lonely blue nipple of our
tent, the drip of cars winding into the park. We cannot see
the places we've been: Provo, West Jordan, Devil's Slide, Moab,
Providence, Goshen, Moroni, Jerusalem, Enoch, or even Salt Lake City
where, in the mall, an eight-foot fiberglass Christ belted out beatitudes
from a tinny speaker hidden somewhere in his body. He said so much we
knew already. But he said nothing about those turned back at the gates of
paradise. What compass point do they follow as their looming caravans
roar through the desert? What land of milk and honey
We spent most of Sunday in Baltimore with my parents, an early celebration of my mother's birthday. We went to the Maryland Science Center, where we visited the GPS Adventures traveling exhibit and wandered a bit elsewhere in the museum before going to see Alice in Wonderland in the IMAX theater there. After the ad campaign, I was a bit afraid of an Alice without Alice, since it was all about Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, but I really adored the film and Alice was by far my favorite thing about it. Depp, in fact, was a bit of a disappointment -- his Mad Hatter is like the love child of his Jack Sparrow, Willy Wonka, and Ed Wood, which is entertaining enough, but it didn't feel as strikingly original as any of those characters did, though I loved his partial reading of "Jabberwocky."
The Red and White Queens are more memorable -- I wish the Red Queen had wholeheartedly embraced wanting to be feared rather than loved, there's definitely gender stereotyping going on, but given that this is Alice's story and she's a product of her time, it's fairly progressive and I love that Alice would rather be Elizabeth Swann than Lady Ascot. Without exception I adored the supporting cast -- Fry's Cheshire Cat, Rickman's Caterpillar, Sheen's White Rabbit, Duncan's Lady Kingsleigh in particular -- and visually it's stunning, with 3-D perhaps not quite up to Avatar's standards especially in the rapid motion sequences, but gorgeous dreamlike cinematography and costumes that evoke famous book illustrations and Disney characters yet really transcend them. After the movie we walked to Harborplace, where we had Subway and pizza -- no glamorous dinner because we wanted to get home so the kids could finish homework and the rest of us could watch the Academy Awards.
Here they are with Paul in the GPS exhibit...
...where Adam inspected this geocache...
...and Daniel looked at the Space Needle information.
Here's my dad with the kids making dry ice clouds.
This was our main reason for going to the Maryland Science Center, though.
Here are myself and Adam in the IMAX theater with our 3-D glasses on.
And here are my mother and Adam by the penguin statue outside the science center.
I'm writing this while watching the interminable Oscars, which I've been told I must discuss behind a cut tag for people who use their DVRs even though I don't see how anyone on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social networking site could avoid spoilers. All I really cared about was who would win the Cameron-Bigelow battle, and I didn't actually have passionate feelings about one over the other, since I thought Avatar was brilliant but I also really wanted a woman to break into the directing boys' club and I like Bigelow's work. So, I'm happy for her even though I'm not sure I can sit through the violence in The Hurt Locker. I was truly a bit more irritated that the always-mediocre Sandra Bullock won over two actresses who are vastly more talented but already had trophies and two who were probably deemed too new-on-the-scene to be worthy...Bullock gets bonus points, though, for calling Meryl Streep her lover.
I got pretty bored during the endless introductory speeches for the best actors (yay Jeff Bridges) and actresses, anyway -- for this they cut the original songs? And WTF with the original score dances! I did laugh a lot at the Steve Martin-Alec Baldwin opening, especially the Cameron-Bigelow trying-to-kill-each-other stuff, Steve Martin saying that like Precious, he was born a poor black child, and "Damn Helen Mirren...er, Dame." The Academy's definition of horror is pretty loose -- Twilight and Interview with the Vampire really don't count! Then again, so is their definition of science fiction, and I really loved seeing Chris Pine introducing District 9, a real sci-fi movie. This was definitely not my favorite Oscar show, nor my favorite year for movies, though from the clips tonight I now know that I want to see Up more than any of the other Best Picture nominees I haven't seen.