Wild Horse Reconnaissance

Later this month MESH Gallery’s very own equine photographer Claire Porter will capture images of horses throughout the region – from purebred to wild. I love horses but have no idea how to shoot them photographically.  Luckily for MESH, Claire is exceptional and exclusive to our gallery for the mountain west.

Over the fall and winter period we (Kyle and Jeff) worked through possible photo-shoots Claire could perform in 2018. With the assistance of Ed Cannady – another exceptional photographer and member of the MESH Gallery – locations and time schedules have been put in place.

My role for the photo-shoot of horses in the wild was to check out the locations identified.  This task was to start in the first week of May.  On Thursday and Sunday (accompanied by my buddy Doug) I took my first foray’s into the wild horse country abutting the East Fork of the Salmon River on the west and Lost River Range on the east.  It is named the Challis Herd Management Area.

The Challis Herd Management Area (HMA) is 154,000 acres of land controlled under the auspices of the United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  The role of the BLM in this region is to protect the land including the 185-200 wild horses living on it.  Since 2010, the non-profit organization Wild Love Preserve has participated with the BLM in protecting this HMA and five others located in Idaho.

The Challis Herd is believed to be made up of horses and burros descending from those brought to the region when livestock was first introduced in the 1800’s.  It is suggested the animals either escaped or were let go by their owners.  The Challis Herd is considered to be different in that genetic testing demonstrates they are materially larger and stronger than any other herd in the U.S.

The Challis HMA is about 50 miles north of Ketchum\Sun Valley as the crow flies.  However, given the multiple mountain ranges and river systems in between the drive time to the Challis HMA from the Wood River Valley takes about 2.5 to 3 hours. Luckily the route via Highway 75 to the East Fork of the Salmon River Road is exceptional and worth the effort on its own.

The Spar Canyon acts as the spine of the Challis HMA.  The Spar Canyon is mix of environments; narrow, broad, rocky, craggy, steep, flat, grassy and full of sage brush and dry springs.  The Spar Canyon Road is fairly gentle and well maintained from the East Fork of the Salmon River to U.S. Highway 93 south of Challis.  A normal sedan can navigate the route.  However,  the trails and jeep roads shooting off Spar Canyon Road are demanding and off-road rigs are required for exploration of any length.

I brought some basic gear for the reconnaissance to document what I uncovered.  And… yes, I ran into wild horses each day.



Beating The Odds: The Greatest Showman

Since its heyday in 1940’s through early 1960’s the movie musical has fought an upstream and mostly losing battle to possess relevance with the viewing public.  The Greatest Showman bucks the odds in the box-office but not with the majority of film critics.  If I am forced to choose? While no Singing in the Rain, Sound of Music, or West Side Story, I will side with the viewing public and box-office results when judging The Greatest Showman.

At its heart, The Greatest Showman is a family friendly version of the P.T. Barnum story told in a 21st Century narrative using positive and bright optics that focus on celebrating diversity and people of all kinds. So the Bearded Lady (played by Broadway star Keala Settle) can and will belt out a powerful song.

The Greatest Showman benefits from its male leads Hugh Jackman (X-Men, Wolverine, Prisoners) and Zack Efron (Neighbors, The Paper Boy, Dirty Grandpa) being performers with true Triple-Threat skills (Sing, Dance, Act) and credits.

The screenplay for the Greatest Showman is solid mixing of traditional film and popular television.  Oscar winning Bill Condon (Dream Girls, Chicago) and Emmy Winning Jennie Bicks (Sex and the City) are the films’ authors.  The lyrics to the 11 songs are from the Oscar Winning team of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (LaLa Land).  The Greatest Showman is the Feature Film Directorial debut for Michael Gracey.

The Greatest Showman does not benefit from its female leads possessing Triple-Threat skills.  While the performances from Michelle Williams, Zendaya, and Rebecca Ferguson are good, none are equals or superiors to their male-counterparts when a singing-dancing-acting number is presented.  For example, the Swedish beauty Ferguson (White Queen, Mission Impossible, The Girl on the Train) has a heart-melting presence on screen.  Ferguson does not dance and her singing is lip-synced by Loren Allred.  It should be noted that Allred’s vocals practically steal the show in the The Greatest Showman.  The Singer Zendaya can sing and dance but her acting is ridged and therefore must be the reason her screen-time and interaction with Zefron is limited.  Williams can do only a serviceable job at dancing, a good job at singing and is a terrific actor.

While fun and enjoyable to watch The Greatest Showman is not intended to be a true or accurate portrayal of the life of PT Barnum.  While many aspects are generally representative of Barnum, few if any aspects presented in the film would pass any serious scrutiny if historical accuracy is desired.  For example, the Lind story-line in real life did not include romantic overtones and it was Lind who drove a hard-bargain contract and exercised its cancellation clause.  The launching of the Circus did not occur until Barnum was in his 60’s.

What is missing for me in The Greatest Showman is not a true flaw, weakness, or production error.  It is one of style and choice.  The movie musicals judged to be the best of all time provided aspects their late 20th and early 21st cousins to not care to offer.  First and foremost is the singing and dancing.  In the movie musicals of the 40’s, 50’s and early 60’s the singing and dancing felt as if it was live and performed in single take (which of course is not true).  The song and dance routines between the leads was the focus of the film. The movies of this period were musicals that happened to be on film.  Today’s versions are films that happen to include some music and dance.

Sunrise on The Oregon Trail

Dawn on the Oregon Trail © Jeffrey H. Lubeck – all rights reserved – Courtesy of the MESH Gallery.

The volcanic high desert of the Oregon Trail in South Central Idaho provides huge contrast.  The band of fire that provides evidence of the grinding of the plates of land-mass on the continent stretches from the West Coast of the United States through Lassen Peak to Craters of the Moon to the Caldera of Yellowstone.  The fire on this day is the dawn of a new day.  However, as the sage and cooled molten rock landscape suggest, volcanic activity occurred as recently as 3,000 years-ago.

The First Day of Spring Approaches – And How Does That Look Deep in the Sawtooth Mountains.

So the first day of spring is approaching.  For many that means grass is greening, and flowers are starting to flower. In the high desert and mountains of central Idaho Spring may technically arrive, but usually only the valley floors can possibly suggest Spring is in play.  On occasion (about two in ten years) can I technically play a round of golf at the house and snow-ski the same day on March 21st.  Usually that ability is reserved for mid to late April.

So the image below displays exactly how the first sunrise of Spring can look in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho.


In The Limelight

In the Limelight © Copyright Jeffrey H. Lubeck – all rights reserved – Courtesy of the MESH Gallery

As the month of March progresses thoughts of what Spring and Summer will offer in The Valley begin in earnest, while the benefits of Winter remain.  One benefit is Spring Skiing and with daylight growing longer there is no better place to be than the Warm Springs side of Baldy in the afternoon.  With a warm sun as the spotlight the perfectly groomed snow softens to enhance the carving of turns for top-to-bottom skiing.

And the best of the best of the skiing?  Being in the limelight on the Limelight run (left of center).

Thanks to the U.S. Geologic Survey we know that there are only two lift-served ski runs in the United States that are of more than 2,500 feet in length, more than 1,250 feet of vertical drop and provide 30 degree angle throughout.  In short Steep, Deep and Long. The two? Al’s Run in Taos New Mexico and Limelight.  I have the privilege to say I have skied both many times.

After a third straight top-to-bottom ski of Limelight the late Warren Miller looked back up the run and then to me and said “when this run is groomed and the temperature is right there is no place on earth you can ski faster and farther – and we just did it three times in a row in under an hour.”

Jeff’s Worthless Trivia

In the late 1980’s  The Challenger and Greyhawk lifts on Warms Springs were proposed and created.  John Phipps of the U.S. Forest Service retained me for consulting – on this amongst other things – during the period.  It was fun to see the lifts go from concept to finished product.

Before the lifts were created the route to the top of Baldy was a two-step effort.  From the bottom it was Chair Lift #7 Lower Warm Springs as step number one.  Next it was Chair Lift #8 Limelight as step number two.  For virtually the entire ride hovering over this steepest and deepest of runs skiers in the Limelight could be observed.

In the image above the remnants of the cut in the trees for the Limelight lift can be seen.

I am honored to say I have skied Limelight with Bob “why bother stopping” Sigley many times.

Baldy Ski Map 1974

Baldy Ski Map 2018

Subtlety and Nuance Shine in a Fading Light: The Last Movie Star

Adam Rifkin’s The Last Movie Star is a wonderful piece of work that gains great strength and power as it progresses through its rather short run-time (94 minutes).  Ironically, The Last Movie Star is not about strength, but about dealing with fading fame, growing old, and dealing with it.  Then again, it may really be about strength as well.

Burt Reynolds (Deliverance, The Longest Yard, All Dogs Go To Heaven) is brilliant as the fading star, and Ariel Winter (Modern Family) is equally effective as the oblivious and self-absorbed young adult obligated to take care of him over the course of a weekend.

The Last Movie Star was written by Rifken specifically for Reynolds.  The storyline and methods to tell it are uncannily effective and reason alone to see the film. Reynolds is spot on being cranky, maudlin, and sincere in his reflection.  Winter is just as good at being irritating and shallow.

The supporting cast of the Last Movie Star assists as it plays the naive but sincere admirers, fans and persons related to the storyline.

15:17 To Paris: Be Gentle and The Amateurs Actually Help

15:17 To Paris the film by Clint Eastwood will likely not win any awards. 15:17 To Paris will not likely score high on critic or user reviews.

Ironically the reason the film is not a total throwaway is that 15:17 To Paris is based on actual events, stars the actual heroes, and the storyline is worth a nod of recognition and thanks to them.  The sincerity and true friendship of the heroes is apparent and makes the film watchable.

Selfishly, given what three friends from childhood (Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos, Spencer Stone) risked on a train from Amsterdam to Paris – we should all watch (with financial contribution) 15:17 To Paris.  These three men (and one other) received medals of honor from France and The Unites States for their heroism.  To Hollywood’s dismay there were no easy ways to include car chases down Russian Hill in San Francisco.

Honestly, 15:17 To Paris is stiff and stilted at the start and uneven throughout.  Mr. Eastwood owns this condition.  However, there are parts of 15:17 that work well – just not enough of them to carry the entire film.

Repeat or Rhyme Of Itself? A Look Into History: Mark Felt

Mark Felt – The Man Who Brought The White House Down is an intriguing film that looks into a big piece of U.S. history from the vantage point of Mark Felt.   And why is the name Mark Felt important?  Mark Felt was the Assistant Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.) who 30 years after the fact admitted he was “Deep Throat” in the Watergate affair. Mark Felt is Written and Directed by Peter Landesman (Concussion).  And similar to Concussion, Mark Felt moves smoothly, steadily, and what appears to be honestly through its 103 minute run-time.  However, remember Mark Felt is a Biographical Drama, not a documentary.

Liam Neeson plays the lead role of Mark Felt and Marton Csokas (The Equalizer, The Debt) plays the role of Acting Director of the F.B.I. L. Patrick Gray.  Both are superb in their roles and reason alone to see the film.  Diane Lane (Secretariat, Unfaithful) plays Audrey Felt with high-level level of faithfulness to what his known about her character.  The supporting cast of Mark Felt is packed with lead type players.  While many are small roles, each is excellent in terms of importance to the storyline.

Most of the writings about the person Mark Felt suggest he was a G-Man’s G-Man who followed the rules.  The vast majority of the time Felt follows the government’s rule.  However, when Felt believes some one or some body is undermining to great adverse effect the mission of the FBI or the safety of U.S. Citizens, Felt applies his rules.  The movie Mark Felt pulls no punches in showing how rules are applied in various circumstances, and lets you draw your own conclusion.

The settings for many of the scenes in Mark Felt compliment the film and its intent. Mark Felt is about the behind the scenes of things; the inner workings.  The government offices are not grandiose with perfect sightlines and lighting.  The offices look to be those of the period, heavy in wood and poor in natural lighting.  It makes for great effect.

Jeff’s Thoughts and Worthless Trivia

Mark Felt (Twin Falls) and his wife Audrey (Gooding) were born and grew up in the state of Idaho in the 1910’s.  They met during college at the University of Idaho and married in 1938.

In Hoover’s FBI, agents were deliberately moved around to as many field offices as possible, with the desired effect being an agent could go into any office and be effective.

So why include in the the headline Repeat or Rhyme Of Itself?  I believe if you remove the specific names, political parties, events, and timeline in Mark Felt and apply another relatively recent crisis in the U.S. Federal Government,  Mark Felt feels like deja vu’ all over again.  And while history does not repeat itself exactly – it at a minimum appears to rhyme.  Step back and think about it – the parallel’s always seem reveal themselves.   And do me, and yourself a favor, do not to the cherry-pick the institution. The foundation of the United States is built upon the separation of power and the check and balances it creates.  When one institution or body desires to force a change to the separation and balance (legally or illegally, in public view or shrouded in secrecy) history shows the U.S. moves to a bad spot with heightened speed.  By luck or greatness some set of people or institution(s) identify the issue and have the guts and resolve to address it and create the appropriate solution for the best of the U.S. citizens.

The Post: Highly Watchable Today and In The Future

Steven Spielberg’s The Post is a highly watchable film.  It is an efficient Political Thriller with a superb script, cast, staging, and direction.  My guess is that like most of the recent Spielberg films, The Post will not win the Academy Award for Best Picture, but over time I will watch it the most of any of the nominees.  Bridge of Spies (2015) is a great example.  Spielberg’s films since 2000 are nothing if not rich and complete in their presentation and they stand the test of time.

The subject and themes in The Post are as relevant today as when they occurred.  The Post presents issues before the people and the nation not in a sanctimonious partisan hack way, but as a legitimate challenge to who we are and what we represent.

A deep and talented cast, beginning with Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks The Post delivers with few if any weak links.

I strongly suggest you watch The Post, then All The Presidents Men, followed by Mark Felt (and or read The Pentagon Papers, All The Presidents Men and The FBI Pyramid).

Jeff’s Worthless Trivia and Notes

As many of you know I was an executive of a large Media Syndicate (Universal Press) and owned another (Asterisk).  While it should not be construed as I was of importance, I was acquainted in some fashion with many of the people involved in the story (so were the janitorial staff).

Meg Greenfield was a terrific Editorial Page Editor, writer, and a Pulitzer Prize Winner.  I was fortunate to be in her presence on a number of occasions.

I was lucky enough to meet Kathryn Graham and Ben Bradlee while with Universal Press and Asterisk.

I met Ben Bagdikian while he as at U.C. Berkley in the 1980’s.

The Shape of Water – Everything and Nothing All At Once

As The Shape of Water begins its 2 hour and three minute journey into your brain, I suggest you draw no conclusions about what is being presented until you have had some time to think about what you have just seen.

So while in the theater – go with the movie.  In the end you will be rewarded.  Why?

Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine, An Education, Layer Cake) is a joy to watch and embrace as the heroine who over comes the odds and stands above all others.  Hawkins performance is reason alone to see the film.

The Shape of Water is set in the 1960’s with many of the characters representing segments of the population (handicapped, devoted scientist, sexual persuasion, color of skin, Creature from the Lagoon) that had demonstrably more difficult challenges then than now.  Not to say it is easy for these segments today, but they could be arbitrarily kicked to the curb in the early 1960’s.  These characters are played by today’s most prominent film actors; Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer, and Michael Stuhlbarg.  Each of these three actors are, more often than not, a material reason as to why you like a movie.  They are good in The Shape of Water.

Then there are the bad guys.  Michael Shannon (Elvis & Nixon, Premium Rush, Take Shelter)  and Nick Searcy (Cast Away, The Fugitive, Moneyball) get to be really bad and they succeed in being believable.

So The Shape of Water while being almost arthouse in nature, staffed with the best of character actors in the industry is rather enjoyable to watch on the big screen.

Notes and Worthless Trivia from Jeff

Sally Hawkins in her roles in Layer Cake and Blue Jasmine is as good as it gets.  Both films are superb and Hawkins is a good reason as to why.

Michael Stuhlbarg co-stars in three films nominated for The Academy Ward for Best Picture in 2018:  The Shape of Water, The Post, and Call Me By Your Name.  Stuhlbarg was nothing short of brilliant in the lead role in A Serious Man.  Very cool to see this happen!