I think I am beginning to overcome my fear of risk-taking. It’s important to recognize that the most difficult part of any project is the start. If you can just start something new then consistency will carry you the rest of the way.
Category Archives: Personal
Chaos at a Crime Scene
This week has been a little crazy for me.
The Town of Red River (New Mexico) held its 41st annual Memorial Day Motorcycle Rally last weekend (Friday & Saturday). It is arguably Red River’s biggest event of the year and tens of thousands of bikers were swarming through Taos County.
At about 5:00 PM on Saturday (5/27) gun fire could be heard in Red River at 400 East Main Street and the NM State Police along with local police descended on the scene within minutes. The violence that erupted was gang-affiliated, two motorcycle gangs – the Bandidos and the Water Dogs – had escalated a conflict. Eight people were injured, three of which were killed, all were gang members.
I was in Red River a couple hours before the incident as well as a couple hours after, not during the incident. Initially I drove up there to photograph the Memorial Day event. I never expected to return hours later to cover a crime scene.
When I drove up to the town the second time, the road was blockaded by the Taos County Sheriff’s Department. Even after showing them my press badge, they told me their orders are “no one comes into town.”
I turned my truck around, back-tracked a minute down the highway, and turned into a neighborhood to the town’s immediate west. A property owner was nice enough to let me park in front of his house after I told him I was a reporter trying to get into town.
“Just hop the fence right there,” he said pointing behind his house. “The Mexicans have been doing it for years.”
I climbed over one fence and walked onto one of the back roads that run adjacent to Main Street. My editor had previously informed me of a press conference to be held at the Red River Conference Center in the center of the town so that was my destination. On the way there, near the ski lift house, four County Sheriff deputies approached me. I introduced myself, show them my press badge, and they asked me, “you coming in or heading out?”
After explaining my intentions, they discouraged me from going further saying, “you probably won’t inside the building.”
The Sheriff deputies then continued their patrol past me to the west. They were all wearing bulletproof vests and carrying large rifles.
I made it to the Convention Center, photographing the area along the way, and sending the photos to my editor. At the Center I met an independent journalist from Texas (Laura Kenna, Laura and the Party Animals, https://youtu.be/3TOaJZeVchQ) who was also there for a press conference.
The press conference was not until the following morning but we did manage to get an exclusive interview with Mayor Linda Calhoun at about 9:30 PM who wanted to reassure the town that there was no longer any immediate danger to the town, all the suspects had been apprehended. The remaining danger was over potential retaliatory attacks between the two gangs.
As I was watching the story gain more traction statewide and eventually nationwide I felt pride seeing larger news companies citing the Questa del Rio News and using photos or video I had shot in those initial moments.
Is it enough to be almost famous?
This film is fantastic.
It’s a quixotic story about a group of artists who are always chasing their passion while looking to avoid corrupting their art with modernity with different forces pushing and pulling different character in different directions all for the sake of the art. The main character of William is pursuing his passion to reveal the “soul of rock n’ roll” to his magazine readers and music fans, the character of Russell is pursuing his passion for making music while he and his band mates navigate the music business, the character of Penny just wants to follow her “free spirit” and enjoy life wherever she is, and all of them have their own ideas of “pure rock n’ roll.” Meanwhile, the character of Lester surrounds himself in nostalgia and laments what he described as a “dangerous time for rock n’ roll.” The film is set in the mid-1970’s focusing on a young journalist on tour with an upstart band across the country.
It is mainly a “coming of age” story about a writer jumping into his chosen profession head first with no training with his over-bearing mother worrying him with her worry. It’s also somewhat of a time capsule for musicians and writers.
Life is horrible but we’re still here.
Walking on these streets
Walking through these trees
Always on my knees
Begging for release
Scraping by for the sake of Time
For the Time to go at least
Life does not get easier because life is not easy, no matter how much we pretend it is. The truth is that life is horrible and a part of becoming an adult is learning to deal with life, figuring out how to drive through life without falling asleep at the wheel and crashing into a billboard advertising an asinine product that nobody needs. No one is satisfied with life but we keep breathing and eating because we’re scared of what might be next. A lot of people even make up stories about what could come next to make waking up in the morning easier but no one knows what is coming next. All we can be sure of is this life, these moments right now, and yet humans always appear so sure of themselves. What do you think of that piece of irony?
Every day humans scurry about on the surface of this planet inflating the importance of every decision and stressing over every possible outcome as if we are looking up at a our god of choice and saying, “look at me, look at what I did today, I’m so fucking important!” And every day we find reasons to kill each other over which piece of land is better or whose imaginary father figure in the sky is better or whose made up group of humans is better because of this or that arbitrary genetic trait.
Every day humans seem to find a way to keep breathing in spite of the chaotic nature of the universe and THAT, I believe, is the most courageous thing about us; our courage in the face of chaos is our biggest strength as a species. In spite of all the other hungry animals on Earth, all the diseases, all the volcanic eruptions, floods, earthquakes, droughts, famines, extreme heat, extreme cold, in spite of all the things from this planet trying to kill us like a bad case of fleas human beings are still here. We are one stubborn group of primates who refuse to lay down quietly, we just keep breathing.
Life is horrible but humans do not have to be. Despite this chaotic universe trying to kill us at every opportunity we are still here in defiance of nature itself. I think that is beautiful.
Life is horrible but humans are still here despite that fact. We are here because of the inherent instinct to survive found in every animal despite the chaos of the universe. THAT is our light at the end of the tunnel, our saving grace, our chance at redemption. If nothing else, live out of spite.
Critical Thinking & Open-mindedness
Human history is NOT a zero-sum game.
Something that I’ve noticed particularly among my own generation is a tendency to think about aspects of human history in zero-sum terms from an ideological perspective. For example, assuming a person advocates for imperialistic colonization simply because he or she may be expressing some admiration for a specific head of state or a modern monarch. Another example would be assuming someone’s political ideology from one statement or admission regardless of how well acquainted you are with the person. This is fallacious because it ignores individual circumstances and stems from a pathological attitude towards how the world “should” be.
Understand that there is a distinction to be made between individual people and the culture or institution into which a person was born and the faults of a specific culture or institution does not rest solely on one individual. There are things we can learn from any human being from any past time period from the military tactic of George Washington to the political machinations of Adolf Hitler. The founders of the United States of America have plenty to teach students today from their courage in rebelling against the standing empire of the time to their political blind spots regarding institutionalized slavery in America. Human beings are complicated and human societies are complicated. Building a society cannot be done within one human life-time. The story of humanity is an amalgamation of all of our individual stories each as complicated as the next, each contributing something, and each with its own personalized agenda. A society is simply the building blocks that our fore-fathers and ancestors left behind.
Expressing anger towards Queen Elizabeth II for the negative consequences of imperialism and colonization makes as much sense as blaming the United States for the entire transatlantic slave trade.
Human history is a lot more complicated than the neat boxes that humans like to make for ourselves. Sometimes there is not one person we can blame for a particular social ill. Something what would be considered a social ill in one time period may not be considered such in another time period. Sometimes there are grey areas concerning ethics and morals. We can never point to one action by one person can condemn everything else that person ever did.
I think the best way to approach human history is apolitically and amorally. I don’t like to judge past humans for their actions (especially if we’re talking about a time centuries before my own) because our place of birth and upbringing play a significant role in the person be grow up to be. Many people like to believe themselves to be a good person regardless of what time period they had been born into, but the key question is how one defines “good.” Judging the past with a subconscious superiority complex is utopian thinking. Utopias are fallacious (and impossible).
This “black & white” thinking may be attributed to the rise of digital communications and social media where short writing and short attention spans usually dominate spaces due to the incentive towards emotional appeals and click statistics, exemplified by character limits for text postings. If I could name a single issue with digital discourse it would be lack of context. Most communication between human beings is non-verbal which means facial expressions and body language play a significant role in how we communicate with each other. From my experience, there is no way the full spectrum of non-verbal body language can be translated through digital channels.
One could also argue that the degradation of American news media goes as far back as the presidential election of 1960 with the first televised presidential debates but I digress.
Perhaps the digital media ecosystem created by internet connectivity has done more harm than good with the ease at which we can communicate across distances. When all you see in an argument is words on a screen or a cartoonish avatar, it subconsciously diminishes the humanity of the other person in your mind and the negative emotions are less tempered by civic decency. Unfortunately I cannot see a way to go back to pre-internet discourse. In a span of just twenty years we have developed lifestyles revolving almost entirely around this new digital infrastructure (whether we’re aware of it or not) and, short of a widespread collapse of our modern technology, I cannot see a situation where the genie goes back into the bottle. There is already a generation of Americans who have spent their entire childhood plugged into the world wide web (from tablets for toddlers to mobile phones in their adolescence).
Communications—everything from roads, to rivers, to writing and the Internet—enable groups of humans to share a consensus around the solutions to the five group problems. In short, communications allow a group to coordinate, and new communications technologies allow bigger groups to coordinate. The flip side of this is that communications technologies are disruptive. In laying the foundations for a larger scale of group coordination, they disrupt the balance of consensus. New methods of communication allow new voices—whether internal or external to the group, or both—to enter the group’s consciousness. New people—new to the group—do things differently. Suddenly, the consensus on how to solve the five problems breaks down, and the group begins to lose cohesion.Mike Martin, How the Long History of Human Violence Explains Why the Internet Causes so much Chaos, (Time, 2019).
Modern computing communications and our new digital media ecosystem may be causing another shift in consensus for humans on an unprecedented scale much like the invention of the printing press in the 15th century led to the Protestant Reformation and ultimately the Enlightenment period (which would lead to the 18th century revolutions that would help to shape the upcoming societies on the then-“New World”). Internet connections and the world wide web are the new printing press and, if history is any guide, the 21st century will be very tumultuous in the wake of the social upsets our new printing press is causing. Old ideological pathologies are resurfacing and finding refuge in secluded parts of digital media and the fractional nature of the ecosystem is balkanizing the discourse, cutting us off from the critical cross-examinations necessary for consensus and social cohesion.
What’s the solution?
I see only one solution to this fractionalization of discourse and it does not look promising. It requires increased self-awareness of individuals to recognize their media consumption as well as individual initiative to take more efforts upon themselves in reaching out beyond their innate biases and proclivities to make contact with their political opponents and ideological opposites. Government regulations or even self-regulations can help to better connect our media environments to coalesce people but it is ultimately on the individual to make the effort themselves in the long-term. Making an effort to seek out as many sources of information as possible – cross-checking, cross-examining, analyzing, and fact-checking for ourselves; reading as many books, newspapers, journal articles, anything we can get our hands on – that increased awareness for human history, human societies, and simply each other will go a long way toward progressing humans to a stronger understanding of each other. As in any strong personal relationship, communication and understanding is the key to strengthening our civic ties to each other. It’s not white people versus black people, white people versus latinos, Americans versus Mexicans or Canadians, North Americans versus Europeans, working class versus bourgeoisie, rich versus poor, or any other manufactured social division. If we all made an effort to bypass all of these superficial barriers, I believe there is nothing the human race cannot accomplish. By recognizing humanity more and working to actively bypass our tribal tendencies, we can literally unite our species into one planetary civilization and once again reach for the stars.
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Reading paper books and journaling in paper note books.
I think reading in the morning is a good habit to cultivate. So many humans have become so accustomed to mindlessly scrolling through digital feeds of information simply waiting for a moment of high emotion to propagate to a pseudo-network of others for validation, it is juvenile and demeaning. Taking moments for yourself to read on one subject or to merely write out your own thoughts can help focus a person’s mind and orient themselves for the day.
I challenge everyone to resist the urge to look at your phone in the morning and set aside time to read a traditional, paper-bound book and/or journal your thoughts on paper. You may be surprised at the results.
Current books of focus:
- Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
- Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough
- The Proud Highway by Hunter S. Thompson
- A Christmas Memory, One Christmas, and The Thanksgiving Visitor by Truman Capote
It’s hard to believe it’s already August, time sneaks up on you like that. It feels just last week I signed my employment contract with the Questa del Rio News but it was actually seven months ago.
We are more than halfway through 2022.
There was a brief time when I was contemplating a career in law. Indeed it was one of my motivations for relocating from Questa to Albuquerque in 2017. I had a vision in my head of becoming a defense attorney and advocating for Americans who lack the financial stability to ideally utilize our legal system. This brain worm infected my mind effectively enough to move me to New Mexico’s largest city and research how one gets accepted into the University of New Mexico’s law school. I bought the book LSAT for Dummies, attended a class about the feared admission test at UNM’s Continuing Education department, and was Googling financial assistance for prospective law students.
I think the singular test prep course at UNM was my first hurdle and what placed the first seeds of doubt in my mind regarding this potential career choice. The course was taught, not by a professor, but a lawyer (if my memory is serving me well he was a defense attorney for Bernalillo County’s Public Defender office). He may have been the most dry, uninspiring, and boring teacher under which I learned. The course was just one afternoon but his monotone voice was constantly lulling me to sleep. Perhaps it was the subject matter. If you can find me a teacher who can make test prep into an exciting learning opportunity then you should probably hire that person for your own entrepreneurial endeavors. The course took my mind from the idealistic vision I had crafted for myself back into the practical mechanisms of student life two years after I had completed my tenure as an undergraduate and it reminded me of the tedium that plagues American educational institutions. After that course I was less enthusiastic about returning to school.
For the next three years I would create a dichotomy in my mind dominated by a crossroads displaying my idealized versions of two career paths: one as a law student and one as a writer. In retrospect it was a rather silly conundrum since I was wasting time I could have been spending on either one of the two career choices. My advice to anyone placing such a dichotomous decision on themselves is to literally flip a coin. Whatever the outcome of the coin toss, you will know which choice resonates more with your desires after the reveal.
Today I like to think I’m developing a sharper eye for opportunities. I’ve moved back to the Questa area beneath the Sangre de Cristo Mountains for a specific deal on my housing that I would be an idiot to let pass by and I’m now working what might be a dream job to my high school self. In general life seems to be okay for me right now. I suppose my goal in writing this is to encourage anyone reading this who has yet to find some semblance of purpose to try setting up a long-term goal no matter what it is and aim at that for the time being. Changing your aims in the future is always a possibility but I think simply having something at which to aim your life is a good start creating a purpose for yourself.
Now I guess I just have one more thing to say.
As an ongoing effort to adopt a more positive mindset I have been cutting some metaphorical fat from my media consumption. The following video is an interview which I think may help anyone who is looking to develop some self-discipline and create an aim in life.
Why I write.
The word “politics” is rooted in the Greek word “politika” meaning “affairs of the cities.” I think this root definition is important to remember because it is a reminder that any kind of political organization must begin locally and communally. Politics starts with your relationships with your neighbors, your mailmen, your store clerks, your food servers, your teachers, your kids’ teachers, your co-workers, your bosses, your employees, etc. Maintaining positive (or at least neutral) relationships with the people within close proximity to us is how we maintain empathy for other people and build a healthy democratic society. News organizations can make communication within a community easier but they cannot replace individual initiatives. There must be incentives for individuals to get out and forge connections with others.
I think there are aspects of American societies that can be re-organized to be more efficient in application. Decentralization is the key to efficiency. One aspect of our infrastructure that we can start to re-structure is our food sources. Specifically, making our food distribution systems as locally sourced as possible with intentions to reduce travel times. Community gardens can be a decent first step to localization as well as encouraging more people to grow their own household food whenever possible.
I like to revisit my own values periodically with the intention to maintain a fluid idea of who I am as a person. Here is a list of philosophical values which I hold fundamental in my mind (at 31-years-old):
- Equality of opportunity
I have developed a distaste for political labels such as “conservative” and “liberal” although I still have a romanticist fondness for the term “liberal.” It might be better to explain one’s beliefs in detail and let other people place you into whatever boxes they’ve created in their own minds. I suppose one important thing to know me is that I have no patience to play insipid social games with other people, I prefer to be direct and tell you whatever is on my mind. I don’t care how you think I should speak/behave/react, I will live out my one life to my preferences and no one else’s. I write more for myself than anybody else, not to please anybody but to release my punditry to the world in my own effort to make it a little less shitty than it was when I was born. Interviewing people is how I keep myself in tune with other people despite my inherently poor social skills. I feel like reporting news is what I was born to do on this planet and I hope that I help to educate the public regardless of the publication to which I am contributing.
Book Review: “The Tender Bar” by JR Moehringer
Last week, I saw a trailer for an upcoming movie called The Tender Bar. Something clicked in me with the story and, after seeing that it was based on a memoir, I bought the memoir from Amazon the next day.
I flew through the book in a week.
It’s a true story about an east coast boy growing up without a father. While he has a strong connection with his single mother, he also yearns to learn what it means to be a good man and searches for father figures around him. The book is called The Tender Bar because the author forges a connection with a specific bar in his Long Island home-town where he’s drawn to the men who congregate there including his Uncle Charlie. The coming-of-age story culminates when the author writes of a transformative scene with his father, looking into the mirror after the near-violent altercation the author exclaims to himself, “my father is not a good man but I am not my father.”
The Tender Bar is a touching story of a young man struggling to discover the secret to manliness, the secret ultimately coming from the one place he never thought to look when he was a child.
The movie adaptation will be released through Amazon this December. Directed by George Clooney and written by JR Moehringer and William Monahan.
A nice day out.
Autumn leaves fall from their trees, guided by winds of fate and atmospheric pressure changes, and I obsessively count each leaf through a window analogizing each leaf as one of my many failures falling from the absurdly high expectations in my mind. Autumn colors are beautiful but depressing since all I can think of is the metaphor of death as the land slowly succumbs to winter’s bite. Yet there is also comfort in the act of surviving the winter because it is a reminder of the resilience of humans, a reminder of the best of the human spirit for endurance and progress.
52, 53, 54, . . .
I’m staring out the window now simply counting the falling leaves.
56, 57, 58, . . .
The bell above the entry door jingles and my eyes avert from the window to a beautiful woman who just walked into Elevation Coffee.
A glimpse into my mind as I sat at a Taos coffee shop enjoying a day off work.