Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Dalai Lama in Sun Valley

When His Holiness the Dalai Lama wrapped up his visit here, he made an interesting observation about jet-setters. He said that it’s remarkable that paper-rich people in our society pay handsomely to travel thousands of miles for meeting and celebrating with strangers, seeking spiritual enlightenment in faraway lands; yet we do not invest free time to cross the streets to get to know our own neighbors.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Enlightening Eastwood's Pale Rider / Version III

“The Only Tough Part about Having To Film in Idaho Is When You Have To Leave” (Clint Eastwood)

Enlightening Eastwood's Pale Rider

With a vision for a Statewide Movie Signage Proposal
By Jim Banholzer
And special lights from Brad Nottingham & Professor Tom Trusky
Watching Clint Eastwood movies, particularly his well-crafted Westerns are almost like enrapturing religious experiences for some big screen buffs. Each of his movies project priceless lessons; even when he portrays an antagonist, such as the callous elephant hunter in White Hunter, Black Heart. Astoundingly enough, Clint filmed much of Pale Rider right here in Idaho, with a theme as timeless as the Boulder Mountains. Clint plays a nameless preacher protecting a poor prospecting town from a gang of ruffians sent by a greedy mining corporation, to intrude on their claim. This striking film, the first Western of which he was the producer, was created in1984 around Boulder City north of Ketchum and over by the Vienna Mine near Smiley Creek. Pale Rider was the predecessor to Clint’s 1992 Academy award-winning gem, Unforgiven.
Each time I watch Pale Rider, I focus on the recognizable background terrain, sometimes freezing specific frames to find my way around in the mountains. As Brad Nottingham was a local then, he reminds us:
“For Pale Rider, there were some filming issues evident in the movie as you see it today, which brought comment: it was filmed in our typically beautiful late Indian summer, and some of the riding scenes were shot just before and after an unpredictable early season snow, which frosted the upper parts of the ranges, while quickly melting off the lower elevations. As a film viewer, a period of time that seemed to be about a week, appeared to toggle from summer to winter, which brought some criticism, I remember; but any of us mountain folk wouldn’t give it a second thought.
In addition, Clint made tremendous effort to restore the site that was disturbed by the building fronts, construction crew, and later the feet pounding of the actors and production crew on the little ridge and river drainage near the quaking aspen. Winter seemed to come quickly that year and for a bunch of us, it was hard to spot evidence of the film set trampling that next spring; though we tried. We also tried to find some kind of film crew artifact. My friend Lon and I located “the rock” that one of the miners was chipping on in an early scene from the film.
When it finally came out, Pale Rider sort of stunned people, because it was a break from the classic Eastwood tradition. He played an even quieter, low-key character, and I remember people being confused about connecting a “preacher” role to him. Others, expecting the active dashing and violent Dirty Harry way of life found this movie kind of slow and spacey; features I didn’t mind at all this time. I just soaked in the scenery that I knew was almost in my backyard. I had driven our old Buick Wagon up there, and forded the rocky river crossing half a dozen times, hiking up to some of the “real” old mining cabins and diggings.
Soon afterward, a local man, David Butterfield had us typeset and produce an exhausting field guide to potential filming locations across
Idaho, including information about accommodations and prices, in order to drum up more interest from Hollywood. After the book was published, I remember that there wasn’t much response, until the Bruce Willis engine began churning up sleepy Hailey in the 90s.”
While reading Brad’s insights, it struck me that the filming of Pale Rider was a significant enough event that we should commemorate it with a historical sign. Folks at The Idaho Transportation Department were receptive to this idea and revised the Wood River Mines sign to include such a tribute.

Part Two
Soon, after we relayed this information to Boise State University English Professor Tom Trusky, head of the Idaho Film Collection, Tom became enthusiastic about the Pale Rider tribute and expanded the idea with a “Statewide Movie Signage Proposal.” To quote Professor Trusky:
The tourist / publicity value of such signage is apparent and locals might appreciate such knowledge, too, if they are unaware of their cinematic heritage. As well, given the recent interest in bringing film production to the state, such signage would not only be public acknowledgement of Idaho’s considerable contribution to the film industry but also serve as a reminder to contemporary filmmakers of the Gem State possibilities.”
Although we now face tough economic times, and are sometimes unsure where money will come from to fix and maintain highways, Tom’s Statewide Movie Signage proposal is precisely the type of project with which we can enrich Idaho’s future. By merging the information superhighway with our back road signage, we could show the world how we stand on the cutting edge, as well as being able to cut through bureaucracy in hard times.
As technological capabilities continue to advance in affordable ways, it would be uplifting to see Idaho embrace the techno-generation by attaching to our already successful historical signage program, interactive items.
For instance, when traveling up Highway 75 past the North Fork Store, when reaching the perimeter of interest where Marilyn Monroe starred in Bus Stop, we could make an alert available for interested travelers’ digital devices. A short holographic film of Marilyn hypnotically dancing with a billowing skirt on driver’s dashboards would keep dozing dads chipper and alert, lending to driver safety. Then, for the next fistful of history, when reaching Pale Rider’s Phantom Hill, we could create the sound of bullets whizzing by your ear, for a subsequent alert. After a quick Galena Lodge pit stop for perusal over photographs stuffed with Idaho’s rich silver history; proprietors of the Sawtooth Valley could smilingly profit by providing related reading materials to satisfy recently western-whetted appetites.
Eventually, we could develop inexpensive solar powered information kiosks for our pullout areas. Our transportation department R&D teams could further engineer signposts to include efficient emergency communication devices such as the new smaller cell phone antennas currently under development. Additionally, we could imbed a camera within the untouchable hologram-eye to thwart vandals. When tampering is detected, we could program the sign to announce in Clint Eastwood’s sternest voice, “Go ahead! Make my day! Because you are now being filmed by an interactive sign commemorating Idaho films!” Stranded drivers in remote areas where cell phones often misfire could come to know these special signboards as secure places. Drivers passing by the Pale Rider signpost could even be inspired to take after the nameless preacher’s lead, and provide gracious assist to marooned travelers.
Certainly, ITD already has some technologically savvy leaders aboard. This is my third positive experience with ITD leadership, which proves to me that they utilize a high level of innovativeness in their daily working environment. I hope that someday soon, our leaders will advance these landmark ideas past the incubation stage to transform these signpost pullouts into something that truly enhances our landscape. And when that day comes; since Professor Trusky has ascended into that grand script in the sky, Brad Nottingham and I would be delighted to see our Transportation Department name the Statewide Movie Signage Proposal in Tom’s honor.
(End Part Two)
You can read more of Brad Nottingham’s insights on the “good guys” in the Idaho Film Archive on Pale Rider:
Complete text here:
Lastly a related poem:
The Rock
I know about where it is
this big rock with a candy vein of gold in it
scintillating under the stars
I want to find this Idaho Sword of Shannara
and lay me down under the silver fruit
Press the gold of my ear to the vibration
to sense if I can detect the echo of
when Lurch -or was it Jaws?
Split this baby in half
with an old 1863 hickory stick sledgehammer
I’ll bend up over the hill tonite
too itchy and scratchy for a truck in that rough spot
to see if I can’t see how these hills have changed
Yeah that’s it
I’ll pack up the DVD player
better bring a spare battery juice-pack
Cause it’s cold in those Idaho hills
I’ll freeze frame on the DVD
sections of Mountains in that backdrop
and compare it to our current status

I think of the nameless preacher in the movie
and for some reason the Beatles real nowhere man
jangles my juices like Satchel Paige on opening day
On spectacular evenings like these
Sometimes it feels like we’ll still be standing strong
long after these hills have fast eroded away
Original URL for Enlightening Eastwood story:
Footnote: Not long after posting the earlier missive to my personal blog, I noticed that it was getting twice as many visits as the rest of my stories combined. A year ago, Dave Worrall from the U.K. contacted me, mentioning that he is writing a book for Solo Publishing about Clint Eastwood’s Westerns and looking for some old photos of the Boulder City territory. After we exchanged a few e-mails, including a photo of the Wood River Mines sign, I suggested he subtitle his book “Clint Eastwood = Old West Action” since they are anagrams of each other. Furthermore, with a little photoshopping, he could design the equals-sign to resemble a smoking rifle barrel.
Footnote 2: With the Senate recently passing a bill, to create a fund to offer incentives to film movies and TV shows within the state, and with the newly created Idaho Film Bureau ready to offer these incentives as soon their funding comes through, perhaps portions of this funding could help with such a program. As the next logical step in the evolution of Idaho’s popular Highway Historical Marker program, perhaps the Idaho Film Bureau could even ask for donations on their website, from those who have favorite Idaho movies and would like to see those specific movies commemorated in such fashion.
Elaborations on vision for Statewide Movie Signage proposal
When ITD amended the Wood River Mines sign to include a tribute to Clint Eastwood’s Pale Rider it was not a full commemoration as we had hoped, however, they did recognize the historical significance of the movie. From my previous experience with Idaho Transportation Department personnel, I sense they have some highly capable leaders aboard and would likely be open to a proposal, which better honors Idaho films.
We should start with a prototype interactive movie sign, sticking with Pale Rider. After developing it, we then present it to ITD and the Idaho Historical Commission; perhaps even the governor. Besides the gimmick, I suggested earlier, of utilizing Clint Eastwood’s stern voice; we could design the sign to be vandalism resistant. Although millions of tourists have driven by the mountain goat observation telescopes near the same highway area as our proposed Pale Rider tribute, those instruments have been left mostly unscathed, since installed fifteen years ago. Interactive kiosks featuring short movie clips, designed in a similarly excellent manner, would automatically gain respect from most passerby. An editor I spoke with recently mentioned that arts and humanities grants are readily available to help jumpstart such projects.
Once we install the first interactive sign, we should have a press release. The movie industry will take note and want more of the same. This might be all we need for the project to take on a life of its own. After the movie signage proposal merges better with Idaho’s already successful Historical Signage program, we can enhance the project’s evolution by doing several things. For one, the film bureau could develop a “donate to your favorite movie” button on their website. Idaho’s Historical Society, Transportation Department and The Internet Movie Data Base ought to consider a similar donation option. After reading a few items about Idaho movies, some fanzines will likely find themselves wanting to contribute to a cool commemoration. Another timely follow-up would be to commission someone to write a guidebook to Idaho movies, including a map of the landmarks. The signs themselves could direct film buffs to other nearby movie signs.
If this highway project takes off, eventually the Idaho Tourism Bureau could develop Idaho or Northwest movie tour packages, including visits to movies under production. After tourists enjoy brief clips or holograms of the movie near the same site where it was filmed, an educated tour guide could speak more about the movie and answer relative questions. We could also program questions and answers into the interactive signs, along with a suggestion box that sends e-mails to the pertinent film bureau manager, etc.
Another thing the project could focus on is the surrounding areas where scenes from the various movies were filmed. For instance: When there is a diner where a breakfast scene was filmed, or a dance scene at a lodge, those places could be mentioned in the interactive signs / companion guidebook / interface devices and might be encouraged to display a plaque or aptly named items on their menus relating to silver screen scenes filmed in their establishments.
Although Idaho faces a budget shortfall, I believe this project is the kind we need to enrich Idaho’s future. The team at the Idaho Film Bureau is already aiming to do this, albeit on a larger scale. Now is an important time as any for us to invest in innovative ways in Idaho’s future.
Final footnote:
JEREMIAH ROBERT WIERENGA wrote a recent in depth article for Boise Weekly about Idaho struggling to gain a foothold in the film industry.
From the article:
“Although a late contender in this cinematic boxing match, the Idaho Film Office hopes our state’s celebrated scenery and enticing rebate incentives will bring film productions back to Idaho, which hasn’t billeted a big-budget movie since Dante’s Peak was filmed here more than 10 years ago.
“The film offices in individual states are economic development agencies,” Kathleen Haase (an industry specialist at the Idaho Film Office) said. “What we try to do is create an attractive environment in the state to lure productions to come to the state, spend their budgets, which are sizable … and hire our crew here. We hope to create jobs, and we bring in economic activity in [the] form of investment in the state from outside the state.”
The passage of the bill represents a major coup for the filmmakers who call Idaho home, but the battle is only half won. Although the measure has been approved, financial backing for the rebate still has not come through.
“We’re still hoping to have ours funded,” Haase said. “We’re at the mercy of the governor, our department and the Legislature as to funding.”
Initially, the
Idaho Film Office received a flurry of calls in response to the adoption of the bill but interest has waned.
“We had to be very clear that indeed we have not yet been funded, so we’re sort of in a bit of a holding pattern until that does happen … [We're] ready to go out there in anticipation of it being funded sometime,” Haase said.
There is hope that financing for the measure will be approved by next summer. Because the incentive is funded through the Idaho Department of Commerce’s budget, which in turn is approved by state government, passing the measure is merely the first step in implementing the program. Haase encourages local voters to call their legislators in support of budget approval. While the bill received a good deal of support from local filmmakers and public figures, she hopes that the public will now take an active hand bringing the backing necessary to expand Idaho’s film industry.”

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Honor Indigenous people with a Camas Lily license plate.

Kudos to Tony Evans for his four-part broad ranging Express series on Native Americans, and their close connections to our valley. Not only should every Southern Idaho Historical Society consider permanently linking to the series, but also, as one local scholar observed; it could be upgraded into a pamphlet or small book and made mandatory or recommended reading as part of local school curriculums.


Particularly interesting in Tony’s story are the parts about Native Americans powerful relationship with the Earth through the camas plant. It was refreshing to read about the annual Camas Lily Days Festival featuring “Indian dancing, arts and crafts and the traditional baking of camas bulbs in rock-lined fire pits covered with wet grass and earth.” As well as June’s energized Fairfield festival, something else nice that I would like to see is a tribute to the Native American / camas root connection through our Idaho DMV specialized license plate series. An artist rendering of the camas celebration, based on the popular Sacagawea dollar coin template would make a good fit.


For years, I’ve been a proud displayer of Famous Idaho Potato plates on some of my rigs, but as camas roots are four times more nutritious than our average russet, I would be happier than a sunny camas bluebird to upgrade to such new customized plates.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I can’t see driving 85

It’s remarkable that the Texas government is in the process of upping their speed limit to 85 mph on over 500 miles of main roads. Perusing through some of the Texas newspaper comments indicates that there is a strong majority in favor of this action. One notable commentator said “They’ve never had a problem on Germany’s Autobahn (where there is no speed limit), so why not raise it here?”


Perhaps this particular observer has not yet examined some of the Autobahn’s recent troubles: Two summers ago, on a day when “heavy rain suddenly gave way to blinding sunshine, catching motorists unaware,” more than 65 people were injured in a massive pileup, including 10 critically.


In early April of this year, 50 more cars were involved in another massive Autobahn pile-up, caused in part by a blinding sandstorm, created by plowed neighboring agriculture fields. This fiery crash left 10 dead and almost 100 injured.


One of my co-travelers has observed that I often drive like a country bumpkin. Perhaps it’s because, while negotiating local roads, I think of these dicey situations and my own beloved ones lost in fiery crashes. And my personal grief is not isolated, as our country loses over 30,000 motor travelers a year to road deaths; many of them on high speed rural roads.


However, since I’m mostly unfamiliar with Texas roads, maybe there’s something safer about them, that I’m not considering. It would be nice to hear from Dallas to see what that insightful Times-News frequent letter contributor Max Hatfield’s take is on this. As for myself, I can’t see how a dawdling country bumpkin like me can be reasonably expected to merge safely from highway ramps, onto the Interstate, with oncoming traffic buzzing at 85 and even faster!

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