A Brilliant Exposition of American Life: The Rider


The Rider by Chloe Zhao tells the story of the hard-scrabble life of rodeo riders on a South Dakota reservation. The Rider is honest feeling to its core, and is presented in a simple yet elegant fashion.

The main character of The Rider is a recently injured rodeo rider named Brady Jandreau (played by Brady Blackburn). Brady must come to terms with the fact that what he feels he was born to do – riding – is now a life threatening event.  Brady has the support and love of his family and friends.  However, given economics and other hard realities of life, Brady will reach his decision on his own terms.

I knew little to nothing about The Rider going into the viewing. Similar to Winter’s Bone (2010) it is hard to discern if the The Rider is a documentary or fictional piece of work. It’s script is fictional injected with the truism’s of life and actual factual situations.  The Actor’s in the film are related or know each other in real life.  Zhao blends all of these aspects with terrific effect.


Covering the Great Basin to Meet Some New Family Members

There are new members in the Lubeck family.  Sage and Willow have endeavored to join up with Shae dog, Merry [Christmas] dog, Valentine dog, Kyle, Linda, and yours truly.

I decided pick up our Border Collie girls by traveling the Great Basin to the Los Angeles area (Chino) and back.  It took me 52+ hours to complete the 1,606 mile round-trip.

As is well documented I have made this trip many times.

We purchased the puppies from Nancy Olds owner of Larks Croft Border Collies.  Nani is an engaging person, and at 80 years-young – she has experienced much in life.  Nani has bred and raised National Champion Jump horses in addition to Champion Border Collies.  She and her (late) husband raised four children and has lived in the same house in Chino since the mid 1960’s.  Larks Croft Border Collies are a staple in the Ralph Lauren print ads.  Nani was born in Honolulu, HI and at the age of 3 1/2 was living next to Hickam Air Field and the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard when the Japanese attacked on December 7th, 1941.  Nancy remembers the burning sky, holding her mom’s hand during the attack, and hiding under her crib.

Below is my photo essay.

The Great Basin near the Pony Express crossing on US 93.

Starting the drop down to I-15 and Las Vegas.

Poppet (mom – far left) and her four pups. Willow 2nd from right and Sage 3rd from right.

Sage on her first patrol around the house.

Willow conducting her first review on the grounds around the house.

I Wish For Year in Provence or At Least Another Two Weeks

I cannot believe I am about to say this on record… I am desiring of a return trip France. To be specific, I want to return to La Mandarine in the village of Bonnieux located in the Luberon district of the Provence region of France.  More later on why I am surprised about by being on the record.  Let’s get back to Provence.

La Mandarine is the five acre Lavender ensconced farmhouse estate owned by Wood River Valley locals Lyman and Debra Drake.  Lyman and Debra are warm and inviting people who do a good thing for their community.  They donate use of La Mandarine to local charities for auction. Estate sounds pretentious and La Mandarine is the opposite.  Like the Drake’s the place is inviting, warm and simple.  Lyman is an Art Dealer by trade and La Mandarine is filled with wonderful artifacts – but they are complementary to the setting not overwhelming.

In the 21st Century can there still be quaint mountain-top villages in the south of France with area residents working the land a good distance away from freeway’s, Big Box stores and Discount Outlet’s for Disney Character merchandise.  Yes – Bonnieux. And then there is the village on the other side of the valley – Lacoste!  What a history for this village as well, for which I have another complete set of images and it is only 3 miles from the Drake home.

Seeing there are multitudes of travel guide narratives available, I will offer a pictorial essay to support my reasoning.

Bonnieux at Sunset © Jeffrey H. Lubeck – Courtesy of the MESH Gallery – all rights reserved. The village as the sun sets as seen from La Mandarine.


Bonnieux at Dawn © Jeffrey H. Lubeck – Courtesy of the MESH Gallery – all rights reserved. The village as the sun begins its day as seen from La Mandarine.


Ready For Visitors © Jeffrey H. Lubeck – Courtesy of the MESH Gallery – all rights reserved. The porch of the Drake’s home. It faces the village of Bonnieux (see images above). It is drenched in the warm morning sun and offers a cool respite in the afternoon. The view is as good as it gets!


Afternoon at the Farmhouse © Jeffrey H. Lubeck – courtesy of the MESH Gallery – all rights reserved. The afternoon sun on Hydrangea Bush next to the outdoor eating area of the Drake home. To the left (not in the image) is the wonderful swimming pool.

The Path to Heaven © Jeffrey H. Lubeck – courtesy of the MESH Gallery – all rights reserved. The route to the church at the top of the Village of Bonnieux.


Are We Going to Have a Problem? – © Jeffrey H. Lubeck – Courtesy of the MESH Gallery – all rights reserved. A resident feline seems to be questioning my intentions.



Stairs from the Heavens © Jeffrey H. Lubeck – Courtesy The MESH Gallery – all rights reserved. The cat monitored this image being captured.


Christ on the Cross in Bonnieux © Jeffrey H. Lubeck – Courtesy of The MESH Gallery – all rights reserved. Statue of Christ on the Cross in Bonnieux. On the facia in Latin: in-manus-tuas-domine-commendo. Translated to english: into your hands I entrust my spirit.
St. Luke 23:46; one of the Seven Last Words of Christ

Nice Place! What Are The Homeowners Association Dues and CCR’s ? © Copyright Jeffrey H. Lubeck – Courtesy The MESH Gallery – all rights reserved.


Glacier Water of Lake St. Croix © Jeffrey H. Lubeck – Courtesy The MESH Gallery – all rights reserved. A drive to the east offers some natural wonders.

The French Grand Canyon © Jeffrey H. Lubeck – Courtesy The MESH Gallery – all rights reserved.

Flamingos on the Rhone © Jeffrey H. Lubeck – Courtesy The MESH Gallery – all rights reserved. The Mediterranean Sea, Rhone River Delta and wild horses and pink flamingo’s of the Camargue are sixty miles to the south.

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.