Sunday, July 27, 2014

Face Front, True Believer!

I have a framed copy of the picture Fenya and I had taken with Stan Lee in a place of prominence at work, and the other day, my boss asked me about the caption I had added to it.

"'Face front, true believer'," he mused.  "What's that from?"

"It's how Stan Lee used to sign off a bunch of his editorials, you know, 'Stan's Soapbox'.  That, and 'Excelsior!' and ''Nuff Said'..."

"But what's it mean?" he asked.

That took me aback.  What the hell did it mean?  It seemed obvious when I heard it, and even more so when I asked Stan to point like he was saying it, but on the spot like this, coming up with a concise explanation was tough.  I took a shot at it anyways though.

"I think it probably started with the Marvel/DC rivalry.  DC had these legendary heroes like Superman and  Batman, while in the '60s and '70s Marvel was this upstart publisher with these crazy ideas, like superheroes in real cities like New York, not made-up ones like Gotham City and Metropolis, who had bills and everyday problems and 'hang-ups'.  And it was still a time when comics were looked down upon, like one step above porn.  I think, ultimately, it's about being true to what you find enjoyable about comics, especially the way Marvel did them."

My boss seemed to find that a reasonable explanation, and it satiated my need for meaning too.  But back in May, just prior to Gaming & Guinness IX in Ottawa, Marvel Studios made a couple of announcements that, for many of us who consider ourselves fans, made us a little concerned, and maybe caused some of us to question that faith a little bit.

First, Drew Goddard, multi-time Joss Whedon collaborator and writer/director of the brilliant horror deconstruction Cabin in the Woods,was moving out of his position as showrunner for the Netflix Daredevil series.  Not long after this, it was announced that Marvel had parted ways with the writer and director of their Ant-Man feature (by the way, I don't care if he's second tier and maybe a bit silly, he's a charter member of the Avengers, show some respect), Edgar Wright, who has not only given us some great comedy hybrids with Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, etc,), but also has a remarkable comic adaptation under his belt with Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World.

Both men possessed the single most important element for for making a successful comic-based show: they are mad fans of the source material.  Goddard has been a fan of the sightless hero since childhood:
“You’re talking to a guy who had quotes from Daredevil painted on his wall while growing up. Even when I was 18, I still had the blood red door with the, ‘I have shown him that a man without hope is a man without fear.’ 
Meanwhile, Edgar Wright has been trying trying to make a film version of the tiny crimefighter since before there even was a Marvel Studios!  Losing these two individuals so closely together is one of the most serious blows Kevin Feige and the helmers of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have had to face yet, and had many fans asking, "Is this it?  Is this the end of the run?  Have the 'suits' taken over from the fans that ran this studio so well, or worse yet...have they 'grown up'?"

In Goddard's case, it was simply a case of having the opportunity to work on an even bigger comics project: the Sony Studios Spider-Man spin-off Sinister Six, about ol' Webhead's greatest foes coming together as a tea.  He has turned the reins over to another Buffy alumnus, Steven S. DeKnight (Spartacus, Smallville), and will remain on as a consulting executive producer.

With Wright, it's a little more complicated and perhaps a bit embittered.  In the end, it appears that Marvel Studios gave him a bunch of 'notes' on his script.  Notes are issues that the studio want to see addressed in a subsequent draft, like 'make it funnier', 'add a love interest', 'pare back the FX budget in the finale', or 'fix the pacing in the third act', that sort of thing.  With Marvel though, such notes may not have had so much to do with the story itself (although the tone might have been an issue), but also with how this intellectual property (i.e. the Ant-Man character) is handled, and also how it fits in with the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe the studio is trying to build.

In the end, Wright's second draft wasn't what the studio wanted, so they had some other writers take a crack at it.  When Wright read that draft, it was no longer the movie he wanted to make, so he and Marvel parted ways, and now Peyton Reed (who I only know for the Jim Carrey comedy Yes Man and a few episodes of New Girl) is going to be directing Ant-Man for a 2015 release.

It's unfortunate, but more surprisingly, no one actually appears to be the bad guy in this scenario.  In the end, it simply turned out that the studio that owns the property and the writer-director who wanted to make it appeared to have two different pictures in mind, and that's just how it goes sometime.  It's a bit sad sad that Wright had put so much work into his idea for so long and won't get to see it through, but on the other hand, he's free to go back and make his own, original films again.

For my part, Marvel Studios has kept the faith with their fantastic adaptations with a consistency that puts even Pixar to shame, despite casting a risky lead with substance abuse issues in a tentpole feature (Iron Man), putting the director of children's comedies in charge of an action movie (Iron Man again), right up through putting two television directors known mostly for comedy in charge of a massive action/conspiracy piece featuring one of the world's most recognizable characters (Captain America: The Winter Soldier).

Many people are surprised that the next Marvel release features the far, far lesser known Guardians of the Galaxy, a team featuring one half-human, two alien humanoids, a talking raccoon hybrid and a walking tree.

Being a fan of these characters in the comics for some time now, I immediately saw the potential for a fantastically entertaining and funny action film, but also a chance to expand the MCU into the realm of the cosmic; ground many thought would need to be ceded to Fox Studios, who control both the Silver Surfer, Marvel's pre-eminent cosmic hero, and his boss/nemesis Galactus, with their Fantastic Four license.  Bringing the Marvel Cinematic Universe off Earthnot only opens the door for more Thanos (the bad guy shown after the credits in the first Avengers movie), but also broadens the audience's mind for a more unconventional hero like Dr. Strange, Earth's Sorceror Supreme (coming in June 2016, but still uncast).

Many were skeptical about Guardians of the Galaxy being successful, being weird and unknown, and largely detached from the Earth-bound Marvel continuity) but early reports from its international release this past week have been very favourable; so much so, in fact, that writer-director James Gunn has recently been confirmed as repeating the gig on the sequel in July 2017.

Most importantly, the real target audience for this film -young people who love the MCU and may never have even seen an issue of Guardians of the Galaxy (which you really should, by the way; Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning did a bang-up job running the Cosmic Marvel continuity for about three years, starting with Nova and GOTG) but have been waiting for a new space adventure to take them off-planet in the same way Star Wars did for us.

Back in May, I was at Victoria School for the Arts for a couple of the girls' performances, and while there, checked out one of the student exhibits which featured sculptures made from corrugated cardboard.  There was a fantastically detailed acoustic guitar, and a miniature arcade cabinet with joystick (and remember, it's not like these kids have seen those things around a lot!), but most interesting to me was a life-size mask made to look like the one worn by Star Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy.

I loved seeing it there, and I loved seeing it even more a couple of weeks later, as the young artist who constructed it decided to wear it on stage to collect his academic honors award, because he's shown a willingness to go with the filmmakers to somewhere new, someplace colourful and fantastic and populated with intriguing characters and exotic aliens, and part of that willingness comes from knowing that this studio has yet to release a bad film.

And if further proof is needed that Marvel Studios 'gets it', take a look at this poster for the next Avengers movie, Age of Ultron, released as 8 interlinking character pieces over the past few days of the San Diego Comic Con:

Go on, blow it up.  There's just so much going on in here, I hardly know where to begin in describing its awesomeness, but let's have a go anyways, shall we?  What's to like about this piece of concept art from next summer's biggest movie?

  • The scale (jeepers, that's a lot of robots)
  • The action
  • Ultron's fixed jaw (apparently Ultron 'Prime', motion-captured and voiced by James Spader, will have an articulated jaw, unlike his comics counterpart)
  • The arrows sticking out of so many robots, like the hand of the one Hulk is smashing
  • Black Widow electrocuting a robot
  • Our first look at the Scarlet Witch doing...something cool and destructive
  • Quicksilver not only racing in from behind Black Widow, but apparently somehow severing a robot's arm as he does so
  • The finger scratches on Iron Man's helmet (that must sound awful inside!)
  • And best of all, tucked away in the background of the upper left corner, our first look at the android Avenger, The Vision!  With his trademark yellow cape, part of one of the most luridly coloured hero ensembles in comics!

The first Avengers was already an ensemble piece, and now they are adding three new heroes to the team, so a lot of people have concerns about dilution, which seems reasonable enough, but honestly, I'm still not worried.

Faith is a funny thing in that it doesn't require proof (and in some ways actually works better without it), but it can be reinforced over time with positive, anticipated results; faith being rewarded.  Marvel Studios' success has a lot to do with having business savvy fans in charge of looking after the properties they are responsible for, and making choices based on the kinds of films they themselves would like to see.  Other studios and publishers and 'owners of properties' (I'm looking at you, DC!) should take their cues from these upstarts, the same way comics did in the 1960s.  As long as Marvel is able to keep doing this, I'm not going to worry about the decisions being made, I'm just going to keep facing front, and believing.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Low, and From the Heart

How to best describe the heart of an adolescent girl? Strong, yet brittle; passionate, despite often being unfocused; possessing a nearly infinite capacity for both compassion and the possibility of being wounded. Like an egg, perhaps, or a diamond prior to being cut; potential and tragedy vying for dominance.


Cantilon Chamber Choir is preparing for their European tour, which departs Edmonton tomorrow and culminates in a competition in Hungary. Their director has been pushing them relentlessly towards the potential she knows they are capable of, with 3 eight-hour rehearsals in the past four days (and a half-day in between, for good measure).


On the way to her concert last night, Fenya was talking about the emotional component of the music they perform: "Heather got mad at us today for not being expressive enough. 'You should be on the verge of crying!' she said."


"No kidding?" I replied. Maybe it's the strength of the selections, but I find most of their music profoundly moving, even when I don't understand the language being sung.


Fenya nodded, exasperated. "Yeah, so I guess I need to get I touch with my inner heartbroken girl. So I apologize in advance if am a bit witchy tomorrow."


Audrey and I assured her we would give her all the slack we could, in recognition of the Herculean efforts she and her fellow choristers were making to hone their edge before departure Thursday. Enough progress had been made and tears shed that Heather had actually relented, and cancelled the full-day rehearsal that had been scheduled for Wednesday, allowing her some additional time to rest and pack.


During the concert they performed a Finnish folk song called 'Kaipaava', as arranged by the acapella group Rajaton. It's a powerful piece, the tone of which captures the brittle fierceness of adolescent longing, as a girl laments the gap between herself and the one she loves. Fenya had suggested this would be a good piece to record, since she got to come to the front and center of it with three other girls.



Now, it's no secret that the author likes to put up a good front, but is conversant with the fact that he is actually among the softest of toffees, so by the time Kaipavaa was finished, I could barely see. I'm sorry the limited iPad video resolution prevents you from seeing what I saw; beautiful young faces, united in song, but distorted by an imaginary unrequited love into expressions of anguish like something more akin to a woodcut by Gustav Doré. The Finnish lyrics, when translated, don't carry the severity, the omnipresence of pain that these talented teen vocalists bring to the piece:

And without the moon or sun to shine, this world it is so dark,

With a fa la la and a fa la la, this world it is so dark.

And for the sake of one fine boy my heart is troubled and sad,

With a fa la la and a fa la la, my heart is troubled and sad.

You are fine like the grass on the meadow, I am lowly like the earth,

With a fa la la and a fa la la, I am lowly like the earth.

Oh, if you knew, my beloved, how much I miss you now!

For sure you would hasten back to me and not tarry on your way,

With a fa la la and a fa la la, and not tarry on your way.


At the concert's end, I hugged Fenya tightly, cursed her for once again unmanning me in a public venue, and reminded her how proud she makes us, not just in her performances, but in everything she brings her considerable passion and talents to,


It is the heart - powerful, brittle, vulnerable, invincible - that makes such accomplishments possible, and Heather is right to push the choir to the point where others can see it as easily as those close to them can. If it doesn't pay off for the competition judges, I have every confidence that the efforts they have put in thus far will stand them in good stead elsewhere.




Thursday, July 17, 2014

The South End of North: Random Thoughts

Despite thunderstorm warnings for our last night in Waterton, we didn't get a drop of rain, which was especially wonderful because packing up a wet tent sucks something awful. We walked into town for some ice cream at The Big Scoop, ate it by the side of the lake, played a little Cthulhu Dice on the picnic table, and turned in. The next morning, we managed to strike camp and check out very close to the 11:00 target, despite my insistence on breaking in the new camp stove toaster we had purchased at Tamarack Outfitters in town.

I'm left with only a handful of largely random observations about the trip:

My Royal Netherlands Football Club (KNVB in Dutch) hat proved to be quite the icebreaker on the trip. Shortly after this picture on Going-to-the-Sun Road was taken by a nice fellow from Alabama (after I had taken one of him), another couple asked why I was wearing it. "Well," I replied, "it's not like I can cheer for the Canadians or Irish this time around, and the English went home early, and my wife's family is Dutch, so it seemed natural. Plus they just play really good, offensive football." This pleased them to no end, what with them being proper Dutch tourists, from Holland, who, at the time at least, were looking forward to the next day's game against Argentina.

Waterton's Townsite campground may be my new favourite. Our specific spot could have benefited from more shade, but tenting sites with power outlets are often built on hard clay or packed gravel on the open plains, next to mammoth RVs running their generators at all hours, so we made out all right. The picnic tables are big and non-splintery, and have a metal shelf built on to them for your camp stove. The bathrooms were spacious, modern and clean, and best of all, there were two double sinks out in the open where you could wash your dishes with hot water supplied at a nearby tap. It doesn't sound like much, but lugging a big pit of water back to your campsite and using propane to heat it up prior to washing supper dishes in a tiny washtub is something I will now begrudge every time I have to do it in the future!

Also, what a treat to be able to walk into town and back, especially after having enjoyed a pitcher of sangria during the tragic soccer match.

One of my favourite things to do when visiting the U.S., as we we did briefly, is to look for things we can't normally get north of the border, and usually these are food items. More often than not, they are snacks. Those of us not allergic to peanuts love finding Payday bars when we stop at a gas station, but during one fortuitous break, I came across 4 varieties of Kettle Chips you don't see in Canada:

And they were all delicious; Sriracha was probably the most interesting, but Cheddar & Beer was my favourite (and I could swear I used to be able to get it at Safeway here in Edmonton...). Audrey was also happy to find a tube of Honey Mustard Pringles, and found the empty can made a great receptacle for the shells from her sunflower seeds.

And lastly, In terms of travelling companions, I can recommend without reservation the following:

Sisters that care deeply for each other and help make each other brave when needed.

A wife who knows how important it is to be playful.

And a dog who is a laid back traveller.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The South End of North: Animal, Vegetable, Mineral

On our last day in the park, we wanted to go on a hike, so we drove up to Red Rock Canyon with some water bottles and beef jerky, and headed up the Snowshoe Trail, listed as one of the easier treks.


SnowshoeTrail is actually a former fire road, and as such, was designed with practicality in kind, as opposed to scenery. We were afforded the occasional view of the creek below, but starting out close to noon meant that the trees did not provide much shade, and we were under constant attack by particularly aggressive horseflies the size of bumblebees. We tend to be a fairly stubborn group, and we normally like to finish what we start, but in this instance, no one was having a good enough time to push on, so after about an hour of a sweaty, swatty, forced march, we recognized the foolishness of continuing, and decided to turn back.


Once we were back at the Canyon and re-hydrated, the girls headed down into the creek to get their feet wet. Red Rock Canyon is a tremendously scenic site for something so accessible; there are steps down into the canyon itself mere steps from the parking lot, and a bridge going across it that provides an excellent view, as well as access to the various trailheads on the far side.


I was content to watch the girls wade about, fearing that if I took my boots off, I'd never get them back on again. Leaning against the side of the bridge and seeing the girls scramble about the colourful rocks while snapping the occasional picture with my iPad (Glory was crushed to learn that her camera had failed to charge the night before) was a wonderful way to cool down from the hike, shortened as it was.


Despite being fairly shallow, the water was quite brisk, as one might reasonably anticipate from a mountain stream. Still, the girls gamely waded about, helping each other across the slippery rocks as they cooled off.


As we finished up at Red Rock Canyon, the girls both begged to splash about at another feature a little ways down the parkway: Lost Horse Creek. Naturally, I obliged them, and a short while later, all of us were wading about in a frigid, fast-moving stream.


I made my way across the point shown in the picture above, and even that brief immersion was sufficient to cut off ost of the feeling below my knees. The rocks of the creek bed, though smooth enough to spare even my dainty feet, were also slick enough to raise the concern of slipping, falling, bashing my head, and being washed downstream while unconscious, so after making my way across and back, I sat on the bank to let my feet dry.


Glory, meanwhile, decided to up the ante by changing into her swimsuit and wading into a depression that came up to her chest.


Once she had emerged unscathed, I made my admiration clear for her cautious approach, her lack of fear and her willingness to brave the cold waters that I deemed unfit for human exploration.


Once we had dried off,we returned to the Flex and headed back down the Red Rock Parkway towards the townsite and our camp. It was mid afternoon on a bright and sunny day, so we were pretty surprised to see a dark quadruped loping across the road near an upcoming corner. "Is that a..." I started to say, but Fenya, riding shotgun, blurted out, "It's a bear."


By the time we got to where it had been, it had scampered back around the corner and into the bush, but we weren't dismayed; after all, this was our sixth bear sighting in three days!


On our way back from Going-to-the-Sun Road two days prior, the sun was beginning to set, and knowing this to be a good time for spotting wildlife, I had asked Audrey if she would mind driving up the Red Rock Parkway before returning to camp. She kindly agreed, and on our return journey from the canyon we had found ourselves parked alongside the road next to a bench and a roadside information sign about glacial movement, watching a small black or brown bear stripping caterpillars off of a tree to eat. He continued, uncaring of our observation for 10-15 minutes before retreating into the bush, presumably having either eaten enough or become disinterested, but we were mesmerized the entire time.


Just a few minutes after driving away from the meadow, Audrey spotted a dark shape midway up the side of a hill, and sure enough, it was another bear. This one was digging in the dirt, audibly scratching and grunting as it tried to excavate some sort of rodent from its den. It was too dark for any sort of snapshot, but Glory did her best to catch some of the digging with her camera's video mode.


The following night,we took the same route, at about the same time, and this time we came across two bears in the clearing eating caterpillars. This pair were more animated than the solo ursine we had seen the evening before, pulling an 8 foot tree down to snacking level, and climbing up an even larger one to feast on the caterpillars at the 10-12 foot level, before stretching its legs to a neighbouring tree and crossing to dine there as well.


We probably sat there for 20 minutes before moving on, hoping there would be a similar encore at the hillside, but alas, there was not. However, on the drive home, as we exited the parkway and crossed the bridge leading towards the townsite, Audrey spotted our 5th bear, calmly making his way across the river, seemingly oblivious to the multitudes gathering in the picnic area directly behind him to snap his picture. We saw him clearly silhouetted against the dappled light reflected in the river, but by the time I had reversed back to the parkway to get a closer look, he had vanished.


Still, seeing six bears in addition to the badger, bighorns, bald eagles and mountain sheep we had already spotted made our time in Waterton a real high water mark in terms of wildlife spotting, and I am certain we will camp there again before too long.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

The South End of North: Beating the Heat

On Wednesday, the mid-point of our stay, the temperature was predicted to reach 31 degrees, so we decided this was a particularly good day to go to the lake.

Cameron Lake is about a 40 minute drive up the canyon from the Waterton townsite, along the Akamina Parkway. The primary reason for visiting is the boating, as you can rent canoes, sailboats and pedal boats, and some visitors bring their own.

We spent about an hour paddling along the western shore of Cameron Lake, ten minutes of which was probably spent in futile efforts to compose the perfect selfie. It turns out getting all four of us in the frame while including the magnificent mountain as a backdrop without tipping the canoe was a bit beyond our means. Audrey did manage to get a good shot of the four of us though, and the one I took of the three of them is one of my favourites from the entire trip. The lake actually straddles the border with the U.S., so our backdrop of Mount Custer is actually in Montana.

Even Nitti, ever the diligent traveller, was at ease during our brief time on the water.

We were warned to stay clear of the ice overhangs on the south shore, but we were only two thirds of the way across when we decided to head towards the centre and then circle back. It was a fiercely bright day, but the breeze across the lake was cool and refreshing, and we had all slathered on plenty of sunscreen before departing.

Fenya got a fair bit of canoeing in at Camp Wohelo last summer, and Glory is always game for new things, so we had a great time on the lake, even with the lack of coordination in our efforts.

After returning our canoe, and for reasons that defy understanding, the girls decided they wanted to take a refreshing dip in this alpine lake. My schedule has no room for a myocardial infarction so far from a hospital, and besides, I had 50 issues of Airboy comics on my iPad that weren't going to read themselves. Audrey also had a book she wanted to finish, so we dutifully lugged our camp chairs and some snacks over to a spot on the north shore that was shallow enough to hopefully have warmed up a bit, but had some trees around to shade pasty folk like myself.

After changing into their swimsuits, they entered the water gamely enough, but were understandably trepidatious about submerging themselves past the waist.

Even this was accomplished eventually however, but not without the requisite amount of squealing resistance.

(They stopped stocking the lake back in the seventies, and I saw no fish while I we were actually on the water, but tell me that isn't a trout jumping up behind Fenya after she finally gets her head in the water,)

I was pretty impressed at the girls' persistent efforts to overcome the cold, and it certainly perked them up in the wake of a relentless sun, but they couldn't last too long, and soon enough came to shore for some cheese curds and pepperoni sticks.

After some quiet time on the shore to dry off, we packed up and headed back to town, where we dropped the girls off at the campsite, and Audrey and I walked into town to see if we could find a pub to watch the Netherlands - Argentina semi-final to the World Cup.

We were soon ensconced in the Fireside Lounge with at least a dozen Oranje supporters, drinking a pitcher of sangria and nibbling on the house bison platter, but were crestfallen to see Holland leave the tournament due to a poor showing in the penalty shootout. Still, a great effort by the Dutch side, and a wonderful way to stay out of the heat.

After dinner, we decided to do the same thing we had done the night before, and take the road to Red Rock Canyon at dusk to see if we could spot any wildlife, but I will save the animal tales for my final post.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The South End of North: Going to Going-to-the-Sun Road

Not the best night's sleep on our first night in Waterton; we were a bit restless from our long drive, there seemed to be an inordinate number of loud diesel engines leaving or entering the campground after dark, and some individual thought this would also be a good time to test out their trumpet. I'm not proud of it, but this artistry very nearly moved me to murder, and only the knowledge that I would have even greater difficulty getting to sleep after such a violent act and the beguiling comfort of my sleeping bag prevented a positively Dostoyevskian tragedy from transpiring.

I arose early and got the hot water going for coffee so that when the ladies arose we could get under way as quickly as possible, as today we planned to cross the 49th parallel and traverse the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

The only road that crosses Glacier National Park in Montana, GTSR is one of the most scenic drives in North America, and a marvel of engineering. Its 50 miles cling tenaciously to mountainsides, passing glaciers and cliffside waterfalls as it ascends to Logan Pass, where it crosses the Continental Divide. The Icefields Parkway between Jasper and Banff presents comparable scenic vistas, but much of that drive is on the relatively flat areas and valleys alongside the river, punctuated by ascents and descents around places like Bow and Sunwapta Summit, with ample shoulders and opportunities to pass if needed. Going-to-the-Sun Road, on the other hand, is two lanes of winding,twisting road that very quickly prompts the driver to tighten their grip on the wheel and try not to think about the precipitous drop directly beside their vehicle.

We crossed the border uneventually, and about an hour and a half after we left the campsite, we were In St. Mary, MT, and the park gate. It's $25 for a 7 day pass that covers everyone in the vehicle, which is a bit of a bargain compared to Parks Canada's $20 a day. Just past the gate, the road construction begins, as the winters here are very tough on the road surface and necessitates an almost constant recovery effort. Since GTSR is strictly a two-lane affair, there are many spots along the first 15 miles where we need to sit and wait for oncoming traffic to pass through before the flagman waves us on. On a 29 degree day, the dusty road is hardly ideal vacation fodder, but the waits were never too long, and the scenery never stopped being breathtaking.

To be clear: this is never a road speedsters will be happy with. The circuitous twists and turns, precarious drops, narrow lanes, and wayward sightseers drifting across the centerline on a blind corner are all reasons for even a wary driver to keep their wits about them. This was part of the reason Audrey and I agreed to share the driving duties, with me taking the westward leg, and her taking the wheel for the eastward return. We would also let Fenya take shotgun for the trip in, and Glory on the way out.

Glory has recently displayed a bit of a knack for photography, and since we had no real deadlines, it was nice to be able to stop and let her frame up the shots she wanted.

When the road you are on is your destination, it is quite a bit easier to get your zen on, I found. Not having an appointment to keep, a reservation to meet, or some other constraint, it was easier than normal to get out and explore sights like Avalanche Creek, where we saw artists painting and sketching from the shade of the trees.

The road is quite a feat of engineering as well, with various bridges, tunnels, and switchbacks designed to scale the heights and manage the descents, as well as clearing numerous creeks and waterfalls.

The physical highlight was probably the Weeping Wall, about 20 yards of roadway drenched by torrents of water seeping off the rock overhang looming overhead. It's difficult to capture how cool it is in a photo, but I may update the post with Glory's video when we return home.

UPDATED: And here it is:

UPDATE II:  A little clearer and less squealy on the return trip:
There was also quite bit of wildlife to be seen at relatively close ranges; a herd of bighorn sheep was resting in the snow on the mountainside above the Logan's Pass Visitor Centre, until they got bored with that and trotted down across the road and into the parking lot.

A mother mountain goat and her kid showed up there as well.
At the end of the road (as it were), we stopped in West Glacier for some American style snacks (Hostess Fruit Pie for Glory, Payday bars for Fenya and Audrey, and a Leinenkugel Shandy for me), before swapping drivers for the return leg. And not to glorify being a scofflaw or anything, but sitting in the backseat of a vehicle with ample legroom on a hot day while twisting and turning through the mountain passes and sipping on an ice cold wheat beer with lemonade while admiring some of the continent's best scenery with my family? Pretty close to perfect, in my books.