Monday, June 15, 2009

Conquering Richardson Road

This Saturday, P-Doug and I made our way to the other Nottawasaga River access we were interested in, Richardson Road. Actually, it was the one I spotted first and brought to his attention. He suggested McKinnon (where we went three weeks ago) as an alternate. But this weekend, we made our way to the river down the first road.

Seen from above, the road looks very open. Even with the trees crowding in, there's a definite space between them. And the road was, indeed, unmistakable nearly all the way down. But it wasn't really what I expected.

It was a bit after noon when we arrived. We parked at the end of the maintained road. We probably could have driven further, but first all, we came for the hike, and secondly, I really didn't want to bust an axel or something just to save ten minutes of walking. The road continued on down between two fields, till it came at last to a thick forest. It was overcast, so I wasn't all that concerned about the sun, but given that we were heading into wetlands, we got well set-up with bug repellent as we set out.

The forest trail was blocked off by a steel gate to keep out ATVs (thank you!!), but the way was also strewn with fallen trees every so often that would have made the trip impossible for them... some of them were troublesome even on foot. And they would have had to stay scrupulously on the trail. The nature of the road was unlike any I'd seen before. It was cut through a swamp reminiscent of things I've seen of the Everglades or the bayou in Louisiana. It had obviously been artificially raised above the swamp, with culverts cut into it that the swamp itself had seen fit to supersede with its own methods of transference over time. P-Doug was particularly impressed with what he called the high water marks on the trunks of the trees; they were at eye-height for us, even standing on the road.

As I said, there were a number of places where the swamp had taken it upon itself to balance the water on either side of the road. There were so many fords of water, streaming northeasterly, that I lost count of them. Six, maybe seven, and every one of them different in some aspect. Some were simply one foot in, one foot out; others were fifty feet wide. Some were deep with slippery clay bottoms; others were rafts of plants where I barely got my ankles wet. They were all a challenge, and one I would have delighted in wholly if it were not for the fact that I was carrying two of my cameras with me... and one of them had already been expensively repaired last fall after getting soaked in the Grand River. Otherwise I wouldn't have cared much at all about falling in. But as it was, I was concerned about the cameras, so I put them in the backpack for what little protection that would offer; at least they wouldn't be out, swinging around to potentially put me off-balance.

The road surface changed enormously as we went. It started off as dry gravel, became soft grass, and then in the forest, cool clay and earth. There were places where it was running wet. Mosquitoes were around, but they didn't seem really pronounced until we came to the strangest part of the road of all – completely overgrown with grasses, and ones that grew taller and thicker the further we went. In these places, great swarms of mosquitoes emerged to challenge us for our blood. Most were dissuaded by the bug spray, and those that weren't were often martyred to a quick slap. Even though they largely left us alone, the whining in the ears was highly disconcerting.

The grass on the road was so thick and full that I started wondering if we'd even know the river when we saw it, or would just fall in! Finally I could sunlit trees beyond the gloomy ones, and I knew we'd reached the river. But nature wasn't done with making it tricky yet. We encountered our big nemesis of the past couple of summers there as we approached the water's edge – stinging nettles. These saw-edged, stinging plants that are sheer torture. The slightest contact with them is like having a sharp blade run against your skin, combined with an itch. They really seem to concentrate near the edge of rivers, so for us, the last minute or two of getting to the Nottawasga was an ordeal that the mosquitoes couldn't hold a tiny candle to. They were raking my feet, my shins, my hands when I'd try to brush them aside. And just as we reached the river, we realized we were at the edge of a steep bank... with a very nice broad bank about fifty feet away to our right... through more of the forest. What could we do? We fought on through the nettles and finally reached the bank... where we stood on the clay, panting and cursing and waiting for the pain to subside.

This part of the river was strewn with old fallen trees and logs. There were plenty of places to sit down, so we did. We could finally look around. For all the trouble it took to get to it, it was glorious, and I got to see all the things I really love to see on these hikes. Everything natural. We had the river, places to sit, the bank to wander, the trees all around, and a sky that was first sheltering and then opened up the sun to us when we were ready to receive it.

We decided to try out the river, even though we knew it was too cool yet to really get far. Upper thigh depth seemed to be the prudent place to stop. P-Doug did find a fallen tree that was just exactly positioned to allow him to sit but not get too immersed in the cool water; I reclined on the bank. The bank itself was clay that would support us in some places, but swallow us to the knees in others. I developed a habit of crawling, which seemed to work far better than having to step, sink, haul myself out, and repeat over and over. We covered the place in footprints before we settled back to just enjoy the place.

After a while, we got hungry and wandered back to where we'd left all our stuff and took on the tuna and cracker snack packs he'd brought with him, and the navel oranges. P-Doug had seen evidence of a previous visitor, probably a local fisherman, and he told the sort of tale Tonto might have told the Lone Ranger as he interpreted the missteps, falls, and foibles he read in the clay. After we'd been there an hour and a half or so, we washed in the river, suited up, and prepared ourselves to run the gauntlet of stinging nettles, smothering grasses, tripping hazards, mosquito clouds, and camera-eating fords again. He picked a course that was mercifully sparse of stinging nettles, and off we went.

The trip back seemed considerably shorter to me than the trip down. I think I enjoyed it more. I measured it all out this morning and it was about two-and-a-quarter miles, about half of it the most challenging course I think we've undertaken. But it's exactly what I miss whenever the weather gets cold. So here's to summer.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I Buried Star Trek

Warning: spoilers.

I must be the only person on Earth who didn't think much of the new Star Trek movie. But, okay, I'll say it – I don't. The more time goes by, the less I like it.

I went in there expecting... well, hoping for... a look back at the characters we've all known and loved since before most of us were born. I anticipated young actors, steeped in the history of the show, working with reverence and love to really nail their parts, to put in performances that were tributes to the older actors who laid the groundwork in the 60s, and beyond. But we didn't get anything like that.

I'd heard through the grapevine that the movie was actually going to be an "alternate history". I was disappointed to hear that, because I knew that was Klingonese for "we're going to disregard anything inconvenient in the timeline you love to free ourselves to do whatever strikes us as cool". But, I had similar feelings when they started ST:TNG and the other spin-offs, and yet I found something to admire in every one of them (yes, even Voyager – now stop interrupting). What I mean is, I tried to go in with an open mind.

But they were throwing interstellar babies out with the galactic bathwater right from blast-off. What's the first thing that happens? Kirk's father dies. Now, I'm not the shrewdest guy in the world at picking upon where a plotline's heading, but even I got the message being telescoped here: Jim Kirk's going to be the Archetypal Troubled Kid (trademark, patent pending). You could smell it coming like a Ferrengi. And Kirk was born in space... not Iowa, as we heard time and time again in the TV spots for Star Trek IV... as well as from anyone you've ever met from Iowa (the rebuttal is, of course, "Yeah, but Bill Shatner was born in Canada!"). And I happen to remember that Jim Kirk had a brother named Sam who died in that episode of ST:TOS with the giant flying brain cells. So in the first three minutes of the movie, they had basically told me, "Oh, that guy you loved watching on TV as a kid? He doesn't exist. We've replaced him with this guy." Yeah, a smug, arrogant asshole. The traditional Jim Kirk was self-confident and kind of a pussy hound, but he was almost never what you'd call insufferable. But the one in the movie was. He was the guy in high school you just wanted to pound in the face with a stop sign so at least he'd get the message, one way or the other. I COULD NOT STAND THIS GUY AND WANTED HIM TO DIE... BADLY. Now is that any way to feel about Jim Kirk?

Scotty was completely someone else. I've liked Simon Pegg in the things I've seen him in... loved him Shaun of the Dead, and in Hot Fuzz (till it completely went off the rails half way through and started thinking it was The Wicker Man). But he just was not the Scotty I cared about. Scotty had his quirks, but he oozed professionalism and even a certain degree of stubborn, bullheaded military decorum. This Scotty was an anarchistic, addle-minded, goofy fuck-up with just enough brilliance to get by. He was almost the anti-Scotty.

Leonard McCoy was at least... well, you could glean where it was coming from. He seemed to have his roots in the original character. They never said much about Bones's past, but I still don't get the feeling it was as wild as they put it out to be. That seemed forced. He also seemed too old. He came across as being about 40, when Kirk was barely into his 20s. If there was a ten-year gap between their ages in ST:TOS, I'd be surprised.

Now Spock, on the other hand... his portrayal was for me the only really redeeming feature of the movie. I thought it was spot-on. The new version looked like Spock, acted like Spock (even the kid version had me nodding, yeah, that's him), sounded like Spock... yeah, he was Spock. That one they got right, and really nicely, too. Even so... Spock and Uhura?? Okay, I won't say "no way", but it feels really out of character for Spock, and gratuitous as well. Spock's had romances with human women, but... why another member of the bridge crew? Like we can't see where this is taking us in one of the inevitable upcoming sequels...

So I was largely disappointed in the (mis)treatment of the characters. But where they really lost me is when they blew up Vulcan. This is like doing a retelling of the American Revolution in which the British nuke Philadelphia and kill off poor Ben Franklin, just to make you FEEL something. And it worked: I felt fucking angry — at them. To be honest, once they did that, they'd crossed the line. This was not Star Trek... this was your hyperactive cousin's version of Star Trek on the living room rug, just before he crowns you with the fire engine that's standing in for a Romulan Bird of Prey. After that, I didn't give a shit what they did in the movie anymore. I'd checked out. I was just sitting there because I'd A) paid twelve bucks for the privilege and B) was there with a friend. Otherwise, I honestly think I would have been inclined to walk out.

To me, the overall sensation I have coming away from it is that it was hollow. Far too much history was packed into far too little movie. Kirk went up the ladder faster than Derek Wildstar in Star Blazers, which was laughable even when I was nine — and that was a cartoon. Forgive me for thinking one or two movies about Ensign Kirk that show him learning his craft instead of being born to it might have been preferable. But people don't have time for that these days. Hatch the Kirk, let it dry its wings, then get it killing people! Yeah!


I won't be attending any of the sequels. If I skip the next two, twenty-four bucks buys a bottle of hooch I can use to forget about the first one for a while...

Monday, June 08, 2009

Fusebox magic copier?

I had this weird dream this morning about moving things around in the basement of the house I used to live in a long time ago. There was someone there with me, but I don't know who. I wasn't even quite me, if you know what I mean. Anyway, there was this fuse box sort of in the middle of the floor, and we realized that anything you leaned up against it, you could get it to make copies of for you. We were doing this with small appliances, things like cell phones and laptop computers and that kind of thing. We tried it with a grandfather clock, but the copies we got were half-assed, like only partially varnished, with parts missing from the face, or with some of the gearworkings missing. That's about all I remember. Oddly enough, when I was dwelling on it getting ready for work this morning, I realized that this probably meant there were limits to how big or extensive the object to be copied could be. I know it sounds trivial, but it just seemed so weird to be working out the dream logic while I was awake, rather than in the course of the dream. I think it might make a good basis for some kind of story, if I can work out what the gimmick is.