Friday, January 30, 2015

Some cool passive entertainment

Usually blawg posts from me and my ilk are all about doing this or that silly athletic outing, but over the last week with inlaws and such visiting I've had some fun and notable very passive "activities" that are worthy of relating.

The Utah Museum of Natural History caused a big stir several years ago when they announced that they were building a huge new facility up against the hillside above the University.  Trail lovers who ran and rode the Bonneville Shoreline Trail went ballistic saying that the museum would basically bisect it and ruin that section and didn't it seem a bit contradictory to destroy a bunch of natural landscape to put in a museum of natural history (not to mention that it's way too far from any public transportation).  However, they went ahead and put it in, and I'll be the first to admit that they did a great job with it; the trail was routed well and it's probably as unobtrusive as a 170,000 square feet of architecturally-funky building jammed into a hillside can be.  And even though it's been open for nearly four years I haven't been there, even knowing that I would like it a lot.

The museum is stuffed with interesting....stuff.  Of course, since Utah is one of the world's headquarters for dinosaurs the displays of actual dinosaur skeletons excavated from the state is hugely impressive, they have some great weather displays (including a provocative display talking about the effect of global warming on Utah; does US Rep Chris Stewart  - one of Congress' foremost climate change deniers:  huffington post article  -know that this drivel is being displayed in his district?!?!), the geologic displays are as impressive and eclectic it should be given Utah's impressive and eclectic geology, and of course there is a lot of space devoted to the old desert native Fremont and Anastazi cultures. I have seen plenty of ruins and potshards (is that one word?) down in the desert, but had never actually seen the pots in their entirety:
Pretty amazing that they could be put back together like this.
and I was quite keen to see the shoe samples:

Old school minimal
Leather and thatched sandals
I was a little surprised to see a big display of evolutionary man stuff:
Do our  Creationist local leaders know about this heresy?
As I left the museum I felt like a bit of a dunderhead that I consider myself to be an enthusiast of the natural environment but I had never been in this amazing facility where it's easy to learn....a lot about our amazing state that I did not know. I'll be back.

While not quite passive, Sunday's activity was slow enough to be nearly so but was really fun and fulfilling: fellow Wasatch Backcountry Alliance board members Kim Finch, Mark Menlove and I took the Winter Wildlands Alliance board of directors out skiing.   I usually feel like 5 is too big for a group to ski together, but we merrily marched up with 17 people!  Our fellow Wasatch skiers would have been horrified to see such a posse, but since many people have inexplicably given up skiing during our interminable high pressure, we didn't have to share the quite-good snow with anyone else.  which is good, because one lap in the meadow chutes had it tracked wall to wall!  It was a great venue to show the WWA folks the terrain that we are fighting so hard to maintain these heady days of negotiating with the ski resorts, and I love taking new people out into the Wasatch and see their stoke at skiing such amazing terrain and snow; many is the time that folks have told me "that's one of the best runs of my life!" and Sunday was no different.  That's cool.    
17 folks simultaneously trying to avoid skin gloppage slowed progress a bit!
And these folks are the real advocacy deal:  it was announced this week that as a result of their efforts the Forest Service has created new guidelines/limits to limit snowmobiles' ability to encroach on backcountry ski terrain.   Hooray!

We love good documentary movies and as such we should take more advantage of the fact that the documentary-rich Sundance Film Festival is here, but we are always daunted by the prospect of actually deciding on a movie and then doing whatever it takes (a lot?  a little?) to get tickets.  But given our visitors we made it happen and saw Censored Voices, which is centered around the 1967 war in the Middle East where Israel is about to be invaded by Syria, Jordan, and Egypt simultaneously, but (because of the US's huge support) Israel counter attacked and in 6 days not only was victorious but also took a bunch of those neighbors' lands (I have never even heard of this war: isolationist, apathetic American!).  There was relief that the war ended so quickly, but a couple of soldiers did taped conversations with their fellow Israelis about their experiences over that week and it was a sobering reminder that the "Fog of War" (another great Sundance documentary from some years ago) that somehow takes any sense of decency from people and enables them to abuse, torture, rape, and kill each other over idealogical differences.  Along with a lot of incredible video footage from that war they showed images of those soldiers  -now old men -listening to the tapes for the first time since they were recorded almost 50 years ago.  A worthy watch if the movie makes it out of the festival circuit.

We also made it to the Great Britian Ukulele Orchestra - a wacky show of 8 folks totally given'er on ukuleles that ranged from fist-sized to a bass ukulele (it sounds like an oxymoron, but it's true!).  Like most people I know next to nothing about a ukulele beyond that it seems like a cheap weird little guitar, but these guys tore it down to the point where I'm sure I wasn't the only one thinking "I gotta get me one of those!"

Probably the most provocative event of my week of passive endeavors was the opportunity to hear supreme court justice Sonia Sotomayor speak at the U of Utah.  Again along the lines of stuff I don't know, I didn't realize that she had recently written and autobiography and was on a book tour, but of course a supreme court justice doesn't just show up at a Barnes and Noble to sign books!

Not surprisingly, she was great:  I am always so impressed by people who are clearly uber-smart but are still genuinely humble, yet clearly brim with easy confidence.  After a couple of introductions from the podium she was introduced and sat down in one of the two comfy chairs on the stage with Utah supreme court justice Christine Durham for about two seconds before she got up and started wandering around, much to the consternation of "those guys in the suits with the things in their ears who are trying to protect me."
Just wandering around the Huntsman Center chatting with 5600 people.....she then moved on to park herself among a bunch of high school students
In an era of hyperbolic national leadership it was a real pleasure to hear someone talk about having a ton of respect for her fellow justices despite idealogical divides because they all "share such a strong passion for justice!" and be such a strong advocate for education, because an educated electorate that understands complexity and nuance is much more powerful than blustery, emotion-based, simplified black and white views.   It was great to know that someone with the levels of soaring intellect, passion and integrity as Ms Sotomayor is in a position of such power for as long as she chooses (she did emphasize how difficult the job is; they get all the hardest cases!  So maybe not a "justice for life".....)

And so went my week of passive entertainment; tomorrow I'll be back doing hedonistic, mindless, and inexplicable outdoor pursuits at the Crowbar Rando Race up near Logan!

And for a bit of a summertime flashback, Canoe and Kayak magazine just published an article that was a bit of a re-write of the blawg post I did last summer of our Selway packraft trip with (the healing) Jim Harris' pics:

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