A Film With Which to Laugh, Call Foul, and Most Likely Both at the Same Time: Vice

The Biography, Comedy, Drama, and Satire (BCDS) known as Vice is a really, really good film.  In order to be a great film Vice Writer\Director Adam McKay  (AA The Big Short, Anchorman) would have had to remove one or two of the aforementioned aspects or spent more time crafting Vice before its release.  I will take Vice as it is and you should too.

Hollywood produced BCDS films are usually extremely uneven, and ultimately a weak unsatisfying product.  From this perspective Vice is remarkably fresh.

Vice – in its simplest form – is about Dick Cheney and (in many respects) Dick and Lynne Cheney. The Cheney’s and their family move through relative obscurity to become high profile people (some would argue icons) who’s actions have a heavy influence on our daily lives.  Cheney navigates, negotiates, and interprets his way into becoming the most powerful Vice President in the history of the United States.   Vice presents the Cheney’s in all aspects of BCDS, and it is an enjoyable watch.

Because of public records, the Biography and Drama aspects should be considered relatively accurate.  These scenes are compelling and show a person, couple, and family that is loyal and sincere.  Some scenes are extremely powerful, and reinforce the positive aspects of these people.  Nonetheless, some are sobering and heartbreaking.

The Comedy aspects are funny and well placed. The Satire is hilarious and often completely unfair  – as it should be.  Do the Cheney’s discuss – in bed – their next steps in political life in Shakespearean prose?  Not a chance! However, in Satire they do, and it is over-the-top brilliant.

Are Dick and Lynne Cheney five steps ahead of everyone else?  Are Dick and Lynne Cheney critical thinkers and operational implementer’s?  My guess is they are to the highest degree (right or wrong, good or bad).  Vice presents them as such.  It is up to you to decide the implication.

Christian Bale (as Dick) and Amy Adams (as Lynne) are uncanny in their roles.  The performances by these two are a singular reason to see the film – even if you do not want to watch or deal with any other aspect of Vice.  The performances are solidified by the best makeup, hair work, and coaching as it relates mannerisms and posture I have seen in years – if not ever in film. Adams and Bale have remarkable on-screen chemistry.  Both were highly effective together in American Hustle (2013).

The role of the supporting characters are solidly built, but it might have made for an even better film if they had been developed a just a bit more. Vice is also sprinkled with funny cameo performances and a clever scene in the credits.

The ending scene – a monologue from Cheney – epitomizes Vice and its effectiveness.  Cheney looks us square in the eye and tells us how he see things.  The words and delivery feel 100% Dick Cheney.  My guess is those that have historically supported Cheney’s line of thinking – would easily cheer and defend the statement 100% – with no reason to apologize.  For those that have not historically supported Cheney’s thinking – they would use the statement as evidence to make their case against him.

Jeff’s Thoughts and Worthless Trivia

As many of you know, I am not a straight ticket political party guy. I have voted for Republicans, Democrats, and Independents for office – including the President of the United States.

I like being in the company of people who – while well read, and willing to stand up for what they believe – are willing to listen to opposing positions and the reasoning behind it.

I like people that step back at times and make fun of themselves.

My guess would be that McKay’s politics are liberal and would not like Cheney, but I am not sure that matters when I look at Vice as a film.  If you are making a BCDS you got to throw out your bias to a great degree or you will not make an effective film.  I think Vice is an effective film.

McKay has written and directed some of the silliest scenes in film.  When you add Will Ferrell to the creative mix, many are going to end up completely over the top – many succeeding and failing.  The warehouse\alley fight scene between the news teams in Anchorman is one of the better examples.

American Voters have historically been fickle with Executive Branches who inherit a war and then prosecute; especially if the U.S. starts out as the victim (Pearl Harbor, Marine Barracks in Lebonon, 911).  Cheney’s popularity is perhaps one of the best examples in history.  Highest and lowest rating as a V.P.:  68% and ending up at 13%.

Cheney is pronounced CHEE-KNEE.  The film seems to have missed the pronunciation completely.

Straddling The Line with Great Effect Again: BlacKkKlansman

With respect to general audiences, Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing, Clockers, Inside Man) has made a career being provocative, not crossing over the line, and not selling out.  Lee is a vocal and animated teller of american stories about people usually mired in the system (e.g., race, gender, education, occupation, location) who are about to challenge the status quo.

Materially more often than not, Lee is exceptionally effective at presenting the story on all fronts; script, production values, music, cinematography and acting.  BlacKkKlansman starring John David Washington in his first real lead role and Adam Driver (This Where I Leave You, Logan Lucky, Star Wars, Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi)  is no exception.

As quirky as the story-line may sound – Two Police Detectives (a Black Man and a Jewish Man) are able to team up and infiltrate the KkK in Colorado and National Headquarters.  Quirky?  Yes.  Truly happened?  Yes, at least in Hollywood terms adapted from a biography.

Lee’s frequent collaborator Terrance Blanchard has created a really solid music track to support the film. Charyse Irvin in what appears to be his first feature length film as Director of Photographer presents a compelling image.

Lee, as much as he wants you to believe he is operating totally in the moment, is a polished professional filmmaker who is operating per plan.  As an audience, we benefit.

Christmas 2018 – At The Cabin in Stanley

We decided to have Christmas at the Cabin in Stanley, Idaho in 2018.  It is located on Goat Creek.  The property abuts the Sawtooth National Forest\National Recreation\National Wilderness Boundary.  We access via a Private Road and need to cross Forest Service property to get to our cabin. The property is part of a small enclave which has a permit that includes our ability to plow the Forest Service Road and our private road in winter.  We chip in funds such that we have access to the cabin year-round.

 

Linda, Sage of the Wood River Valley dog, Kyle, Merry [Christmas] dog on Christmas day at the cabin. Not Pictured Valentine dog, Willow of the Wood River Valley dog and Jeff.

Jeff and Linda at Sawtooth Wilderness on Iron Creek. 1/2 way through 10K back-country ski on Boxing day 2018. A bit chilly at -2 degrees Fahrenheit.

Dawn on River Run on Baldy 12/23/2018.

Sage of the Wood River Valley dog, and Willow of the Wood River Valley dog working out on Christmas Eve at the cabin 2018.

skiing up Iron Creek Christmas 2018

Entering Sawtooth Wilderness – Sign in Required.

Following the Rules – on Christmas Day 2018.

Ready to Pump – Always! Jeff’s favorite Water Pump since 1982; The Iron Creek Campground Water Pump Christmas 2018.

The Forger’s Spell; A Dutchman’s Brilliance at Lying Instead of Flying

Eighty years ago, the most famous work attributed to 17th Century Dutch Golden-Age Master Johannes Vermeer was “Christ at Emmaus.”  A consensus of art critics and art historians hailed it as Vermeer’s finest work. The painting (with other masterpieces) were sold to Nazi Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring (Hitler’s #2) for approximately $35 Million in today’s dollars. Göring fancied himself as an art expert with the greatest of eye for brilliance and taste who could “plunder” the art -world.

After WWII, Dutchman Han van Meegeren was identified as the man who conducted these transactions which were deemed treasonous. van Meegeren was charged with the crime which included a death-sentence if convicted.  van Meegeren ultimately admitted to performing the transactions, but for a very different reason than plundering for the Nazi’s. van Meegeren claimed the works were fakes and part of a Con-game played against Göring. And how could  Han van Meegeren prove the art critics, historians, and  Göring had been duped? van Meegeren claimed he was the forger and repainted “Christ at Emmaus” while in police custody.

Edward Dolnick’s; The Forger’s Spell tells this true story and others related to it in a 349 page narrative that the best crime novelists would likely complement and applaud.  Throughout the book Dolnick asks and answers in great detail virtually all of the questions you might ask. Why would van Meegeren do it and how did he do it?

The Forger’s Spell is a superior and fascinating read.

As many of you know Johannes Vermeer is my favorite painter of art.  I have traveled the world to see his works in person.  As a gift Linda sent us to the Low Countries to his works and his studio.  The story is [here].

A Heist From a Different Mold: Widows

I like Heist movies – a lot.  I like the big noisy kind such as The Town, the predictable, such as the Italian Job (both versions) and sometimes the star vehicles such as Ocean’s [enter number in the series here].

My favorite Heist type films are the ones with less a violence and more guessing what’s next.  David Mamet’s The Spanish Prisoner and Heist come to mind first. Widows from Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave, Shame) is along this line of film.  It is not predictable and the lead characters play people who choose to perform a heist, against their better judgement, and are completely out of their element.  Instead of a comedic depiction of people out of their element McQueen delivers a serious take – deadly serious.  The reasoning for the heist provides a twist as well.

The screenplay for Widows is a collaboration between novelist screenwriter Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl, Sharp Objects) and McQueen.  Flynn and McQueen have historically been excellent at depicting the tension of inequity especially if it involves race and gender. Widows does not fall short in this area.

As with most Heist type films Widows involves an ensemble cast – led by Viola Davis and Liam Neeson.  All cast members are solid in their performances.  Davis as we have come to expect is superb. Collin Farrell is excellent – what a chameleon.

While not perfect, Widows is worthy of a theater ticket purchase.

Late Fall in the Garden District

By Wood River Valley standards it is late fall. Sun Valley is making snow on Baldy and Dollar Mountain.  Because it has been cold and clear – there is a great deal of snow on the ski mountains.  There has not been much precipitation otherwise.  So I decided to head up high into the Hemingway-Boulder Wilderness for the afternoon into the Garden District.  I call it that because the area has The Rock Garden and The Secret Garden.  My buddy Nappy Neaman established the names.  Each Garden is home to the Mountain Goats of the Wood River Valley.  Fellow back-country explorer Crist Cook and I performed a bit of reconnaissance yesterday; to establish light patterns and snow levels.  We determined I would be good to go; up into peaks above the valley floor.  My goal was to grab some shots of goats and capture a sunset shot of the Garden District.

The mornings have been chilly – 11 degrees at the house on this day.  The temperatures got up into the mid 30’s in Ketchum during the day.  The temperatures at 9-10 thousand feet north of town, including the Garden District peaked in the mid 20’s.  Seeing it was cold and I was staying through sunset – I brought all kinds of clothing layers, energy bars, water and head lamp.  Kyle (my son and co-owner of MESH Art and MESH Art at Heritage Hall ©) had me pack some hand-warmers and a hot thermos of coffee.  The ascent into the Garden District is a solid challenge.  The travel is all off-trail that includes tall Sage Brush and a fair amount of scrambling.  We (actually Nappy) have five primary spots to look for Goats in the Garden District.  I decided to journey up to the mid-point.  This effort involves dealing with two steep sections in just a few miles of cross-country travel.  Travel for me on this day includes lugging up a 1,000 MM lens in addition to a 50MM and 200MM.

Notes on the Goats (aka things I learned from Nappy): The mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus), lives only in northwestern North America, and is the only genus and species of its kind in the world. Its closest relatives are the chamois of Europe and the goral and serow of Asia. The domestic goat is not closely related to the mountain goat. The Mountain Goats of the Wood River Valley live at the very south-end of its native geographic range.  The Mountain Goats of Utah, Colorado, and even Glacier National Park are non-native transplants.

At birth, young goats or kids stand about 13 inches at the shoulder and weigh 5 to 7 pounds. Yearlings may average about 45 pounds and 2-year-olds about 55 pounds. Mountain goats continue to grow through their fourth year achieving average weights of 125 to 155 pounds for females and 135 to 180 pounds for males.

The breeding season occurs from mid-November through early December. Females (or nannies) do not breed until at least 2.5 years of age. After a gestation period of 6 months, kids are born in late May or early June and closely follow their mothers for the first year. Adult females rank highest in the social order. By association, kids also assume the superior status of their mothers who vigorously defend them until they are yearlings. Yearlings drop to the bottom of the social order and are forced to forage last in areas pawed out by other goats. Kid and yearling survival may be less than 50 percent depending upon the severity of the winter. If a goat survives weather, falls, and predation by cougars, eagles and other predators during its juvenile years, longevity is normally 10 to 13 years.

Female-juvenile (nursery) groups range in size from two to well over a dozen mountain goats, with some groups up to 70 animals. Large groups generally occur during early summer when goats congregate on prime feeding grounds or at mineral licks. As the summer progresses and the vegetation dries out, group size diminishes.

By the age of two, males or billies begin to disassociate themselves from nursery groups. Outside of the mating season, males tend to associate primarily with other males. Females normally inhabit the most desirable cliffs which are also often more visible and accessible than areas frequented by males. From late October to mid-December, males seek out females, so both sexes can be found together at this time of year.

Below are images from today’s adventure.

Late Fall Sunset on the Garden District – © Jeffrey H. Lubeck & MESH Art LLC – all rights reserved.

Mountain Goat in the Garden District. © Jeffrey H. Lubeck & MESH Art LLC – all rights reserved.

Mountain Goat in the Garden District. © Jeffrey H. Lubeck & MESH Art LLC – all rights reserved.

A Fall Stroll on Goat Creek

Goat Falls in the Sawtooth Wilderness Area of Idaho. © Jeffrey H. Lübeck MESH Art LLC – all rights reserved. Click on the image to enlarge.

After a late afternoon and early evening shoot on Friday on the upper-end of the Wood River drainage and the headwaters of the Salmon River – just below Galena Pass, I headed to our cabin located just west of Stanley in the Goat Creek drainage.

Technically in the Stanley City Limits (population 63) our cabin is on Goat Creek and completely surrounded by the SNRA and Sawtooth Wilderness.  While a real log cabin,we are on the grid with power, telephone, and high speed cable.  We have an easement agreement with the U.S. Forest Service to the property.  A small group of property owners pays to keep the Forest Service Access Road (Iron Creek Road) plowed in the winter. So we have year-round access.  The Lübeck’s use the cabin year-round.

The Forest Service keeps a few of the major drainage’s in the region trail-less and without a trail-head.  Goat Creek in one of them.  Direct access is allowed if it is not through private property – but you are on your own. That is unless you own the private property adjoining the SNRA and Sawtooth Wilderness.

Goat Lake, Goat Falls and Upper Goat Creek are accessible to the public via another route. That is the Alpine Way trail from the Iron Creek Trail-head a few miles west of the cabin. It adds a significant number of miles to the adventure.

On this day (Sunday) my neighbor friend Doug, his dog Lucy, and I decide we will meander up Goat Creek from our respective cabins to an overlook of Goat Falls and take in the last colors of the season.  The trip to the overlook and back is six miles.  Meandering on the creek adds some distance.

Goat Creek in Fall half way between the cabin and the Goat Falls Overlook. Click on image to enlarge. © Jeffrey H. Lübeck. all rights reserved.

Goat Creek in Fall half way between the cabin and the Goat Falls Overlook. Click on image to enlarge. © Jeffrey H. Lübeck. all rights reserved.

Color on High

Boulders Laced in Gold © Jeffrey H. Lübeck MESH Art LLC – all rights reserved.

Fall colors on the north end of the Wood River Valley of Idaho traditionally hit their peak during the last days of September.  On occasion the first week of October offers a last bright burst of gold and deep reddish orange.  A Seattle type rain mixed with snow soaked the valley all day Thursday.  Seeing virtually no wind accompanied the storm; Kyle, fellow MESH Principle Artist Ed Cannady and yours truly discussed that the leaves might hit another gear of color before full dissipation.

A few miles north of Ketchum and just past the Headquarters of Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA) Idaho State Highway 75 bends to the west – out of respect for the Boulder Mountain Range.  Just past Phantom Hill and Boulder Creek sits a lone Cottonwood tree.  The tree is way out front and away from its brothers and sisters that straddle Boulder Creek.  My initial memory of the tree was my first year as a resident of the Valley (1984).  Linda and I had taken possession of a Ranch Townhouse on my birthday in June and were repainting the inside during the last weeks of September.  Towards the end of each day we would tour our new home territory in our Candy Red Mazda RX7.  On one occasion we drove the RX7 as far up Boulder Creek as possible and hiked into the abandoned mining town of Boulder City.  On the return we stopped and I took a picture of Linda in her hiking gear sitting on the hood of the car with her arms wrapped around her knees.  The tree was out of the picture and off in the distance.

For 30+ years I have tried to capture the tree in full color with the other trees holding their leaves in similar condition and the peaks of the Boulders possessing a dusting of snow. Despite being on the lookout almost every fall – the combination has never occurred in my presence.  That is… until yesterday Friday October 5th, 2018.

The clear skies of the day were giving way to clouds.  The weather service was predicting a storm front would enter the region late in the day.  I had been shooting in the southern part of the valley earlier in the week, so I had not seen the Boulders and this area since the previous Saturday.  To my surprise was the tree in gold with all the other desired conditions in place.  I waited out at the tree for a little over an hour hoping to get late afternoon sun and interesting clouds with the hint of snow would present themselves.  Luck would have it all the factors came into play.

Out in Front © Jeffrey H. Lübeck MESH Art LLC – all rights reserved.

Remembering Billy on a Fall Day © Jeffrey H. Lübeck MESH Art LLC – all rights reserved.

The trees in the picture above straddle the Wood River. On the other side of the river is the Fox Creek trail.  The location is just south of the Fox Creek Trailhead.

The Fox Creek and Chocolate Gulch trails have been a major part of The Lübeck’s life in the region.  I am not sure there is a person who has hiked The Fox Creek Chocolate Gulch Loop more than Linda Lubeck.  The trails have served us for our hiking, running, biking, and even cross-country skiing fixes.  In our first years in the valley, I would run in the back-country with my friend Bill Ayub.  The Lubeck’s and the Ayub-Collier clan were almost inseparable.  During this period there was no trail on the river between Fox Creek and Chocolate Gulch.  Also, there were only trail-heads at Lake Creek and Chocolate Gulch.  It was obvious to Bill and I that a trail on the river between Chocolate Gulch and Fox Creek not only made sense but would be spectacular in nature.  With talked about the idea with Butch Harper and John Phipps of the U.S. Forest Service.  Both said that not only was it a great idea, but there were plans in place to create the trail (known as the Fox Creek Extension) and eventually a trail-head at Fox Creek.  Bill and I donated a boat-load of hours towards building the trail.  We took great pride in that effort as would run and hike the trail together.  Bill Ayub was a warm, curious, and adventuresome soul.  I do not known many people who were a Marine Colonel and a hippy free spirit.  Bill was! Bill passed away from Pancreatic Cancer just over twenty years ago.  His brother Eddy (a nationally respected Sports Trainer and Therapist) uprooted his whole life on a moments notice to care for Bill.  This type of cancer is well known for being fast and painful.  Bill braved it all with nary a whimper or complaint.  I had the honor and fortune to hold Bill in my arms during his last hours on earth.  I left Bill heading to Seattle on an evening flight for business and to pick up computers as Christmas Gifts for his kids (Brisa and Kane).  I planned to return in two days.  Bill would pass away overnight.  As I look at the trees in the picture above they bring me fond memories of Billy.

Hold It You Said Harper Dog Was With You © Jeffrey H. Lübeck MESH Art LLC – all rights reserved

Sheep graze with an alert guard to protect them near the headwaters of the Salmon River (aka River of No Return).  Behind the sheep and the gurad dogs is Galena Pass (8,701),  Lower Titus, Titus, Bromaghin, and Saviers Peaks.  Bromaghin and Saviers are the highest peaks in the Smoky Mountain Range of Idaho.  Six years ago on this day, Kyle and I summitted all four in an out and back surgical strike.

Harper Dog is a 103 lb Great Pyrenees.  She is owned by our friend Danielle Andrews.  Kyle, Jeff and MESH Gallery functioned as baby sitters during the day in Harper’s first years.  Now Harper stays with us a few days a month and when Danielle travels out of town.  Harper spends many nights and weekends with Jeff & Linda at their home as well.

Red Letter Day in Ketchum © Jeffrey H. Lübeck MESH Art LLC.

What a fall day.  Taken next to the MESH Gallery at Heritage Hall and Town Square.

Deep Red at the House © Jeffrey H. Lübeck MESH Art LLC.

The colors on the trees at our house in the Valley Club.

I am in the next foursome. © Jeffrey H. Lubeck – MESH Art LLC. – all rights reserved.

I male moose stands next to the 1st tee of the South Course at the Valley Club.  He said he was about to tee off and was waiting on Jack Dies.

Labor Day – Origins and Impact

Wagon Days Ketchum, Idaho 2018

The first Labor Parade – New York, September 5th 1882

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Today is Labor Day.  In the current times it signals the official end of summer. Summer vacations are in the memory books and schooling has geared back into play.  College football uses the weekend to begin its season in earnest.  On some years it shares the day of the anniversary of my marriage to Linda Ruth Hutchins (September 4th 1982).  This year our 36th Anniversary is the following day (Tuesday).

In my native Michigan, the Mackinac Bridge closes to automobile traffic for walkers to cross.  It my home of the Wood River Valley of Idaho, Wagon Days – including the largest non-motorized parade in the United States – comes to an end.

Labor Day came to fore in the early 1880’s as a means for trade and organized labor unions to petition for the 8 hour work day and celebrate the hard work of general laborers.  Two versions of its origins – Knights of Labor and American Federation of Labor – proposed in 1882 the first Monday of September be designated a national holiday.  Oregon was the first state to officially recognize Labor Day.  It became a U.S. Federal Holiday in 1894.  Canada celebrates Labor Day on the same day as the U.S.  About 80 countries celebrate International Workers Day or May Day (May 1st) to recognize the deadly Haymarket Affair in Chicago in 1886 (striking for the 8 hour work day).  Ironically, the U.S. eventually decided picnics, parades, and warm summer weather of early September was the better choice.

On this day, I plan on taking Sage of the Wood River Valley and Willow of the Wood River Valley through training exercises. They are our two Border Collies who joined the Lubeck family on Mother’s Day at the age of 12 weeks.  Shae dog (now age 15) will observe the endeavor.

Linda and I will go on a hike and a picnic with new some friends who moved to the valley this summer.

So what will you be doing this Labor Day?

Aretha See You on the Other Side

The Queen has passed on to the other side, and I hope that I have honor and pleasure to hear her perform in that venue sometime long into the future. Like my hometown of Detroit,  Aretha Franklin was a flawed soul that provided more to America than it could ever give back.  Aretha appeared to me as some who was big hearted, big bodied, naturally sexy, and completely confident.

Franklin, rightfully named the Queen of Soul passed away today.  She gave America music it would embrace without prejudice or condition.  Detroit, like Franklin, had problems and estrangement – but music has never been one of them.

While Franklin’s 1967 rendition of Otis Redding’s Respect is considered her signature song, I think Franklin’s version of Until You Come Back to Me [That is what I am Going To Do] is easily my favorite.  It was written for her by Stevie Wonder.  Franklin and Wonder were Detroit transplants (from Memphis and Saginaw).

Do you think Franklin’s voice and choices of music can be pigeon-holed or tied to a narrow genre?  Listen to her on Love is the Only Thing, Today I Sing The Blues, Think, and Freeway of Love.  What say you?

Jeff’s Worthless Trivia (and it is a Small World).

Aretha recorded A House is not A Home as a tribute to Luther Vandross at the Grammy Award winning Harmonie Park Studios in Detroit.  So why is the world small? Childhood buddies Brian and Mark Pastoria owned Harmonie Park Studios.  Brian founded the band Adrenlin – inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.  Adrenilin’s first performance?  Valentine’s Day 1975 in the basement of Jeff Lubeck’s home (aka Hilton-Londes Arena) First song? I’ve Got A Line on You Babe.  Lead Singer?  Ray Spitzley.