Archive for Denali

out of the wild

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , on June 25, 2020 by xi'an

Two U of Toronto professors die on Denali

Posted in Mountains, Running, University life with tags , , , , on June 28, 2010 by xi'an

When looking for Radford Neal’s page in the CS department of U of T, I came upon this very sad item of news, namely that (climber and) Professor Avner Magen have been killed last month in an avalanche on Denali, along with Professor Andrew Herzenberg from the Faculty of Medicine at University Health Network. There is a donation site to support Avner’s family.

Into the wild

Posted in Books, Travel with tags , , on February 6, 2010 by xi'an

Over the past week, I have been watching Into the Wild with my daughter, one chapter at a time. This is a movie I was eager to see, primarily because most of it takes place in the Denali National Park. The views of the Alaskan wilderness are indeed spectacular and may justify watching the movie per se… The story itself is one of a planned suicide, with a kind of beauty in its relation to wilderness, but a suicide nonetheless. The main character (Alex/Christopher) moves into the Denali wilderness to cut all links with society and parents, and, inevitably, this ultimate rejection of society must meet with death once Alex runs out of bullets, matches or rice. The partial incoherence of his behaviour is well-exposed in the movie, when he burns his dollar bills in front of his useless car before working on a farm and cashing his salary, or when he buries his Thoreau and Walden books before digging them out a few weeks later. The scene where Alex kills a moose for food is a sad signal of how inadapted he is to the wilderness, ending up wasting the whole moose for lack of planning. The last chapter where he tries to get back into society somehow redeems the movie by giving depth to the character and by infusing a longing for alternative choices. His lonely death then does not seem so meaningless as it did in the midst of the movie.

The story is clearly compelling and I wish I had read the Into the Wild book before, as Jon Krakauer is also the writer of Into Thin Air that kept me mesmerised till the end of the book! But I cannot say I find the movie particularly well-done. The filming is unimaginative,  fakely amateurish with cuts of faded family videos and cheap multiple frames, while the acting is not always convincing. (Kristen Stewart is just as terrible as in Twilight!) As written above, the character of Alex only gets convincing when we realise he is doomed. Before that, he seems more like a spoiled child wasting opportunities and blind to the worth of the great people he meets.