Get out of Jail
Free? Not hardly. NM bail reform debate looks at those behind bars because they can’t afford to pay bailLocal NewsWednesday, February 10, 2016
State lawmakers are debating whether to ask voters to change the constitution and give judges more flexibility in New Mexico’s longstanding cash bail system.
As this year’s short session winds to a close on Feb. 18, legislators at presstime were inching toward asking voters to approve a measure that would allow judges to deny bail to defendants deemed dangerous. It would prevent judges from detaining people who are not dangerous but who remain in jail only because they don’t have money.
Currently, the New Mexico Constitution allows nearly all criminal defendants the chance for freedom before trial, so long as they can afford it.
The debate in Santa Fe—which is long on ideas of fairness and public safety, but short on data about the magnitude of the problem—coincides with a larger, national discussion about the fairness of the cash bail system, where those without enough money to post bail sometimes are kept behind bars for weeks, even months, as they await trial.
Community safety weighs on New Mexico policymakers as well, after a year in which two Albuquerque-area police officers were fatally shot in the line of duty. The accused in both shootings are men with violent criminal histories.
State lawmakers are being asked to balance protecting the public with a basic tenet of the American criminal justice system: that all defendants, dangerous or not, are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Supporters of Senate Joint Resolution 1 (SJR1) say it’s solid on improving equal access to freedom, regardless of ability to pay, as well as public safety and rational argument. It passed the Senate early this month, and House leaders say it has a good chance there, too.
The multimillion-dollar bail bonds industry is strongly opposed to that idea and backed a different bill, which would allow for the “preventative detention” of dangerous defendants but doesn’t address people who are poor and can’t afford bail.
What’s missing from the debate are hard numbers from New Mexico’s courts and jails about how many people are currently waiting in jail for their day in court solely because they do not have money. Hard numbers also would tell policymakers how many people are likely to be affected if the constitution is changed and estimate new burdens on an already overtaxed justice system.
“Do we have all the specifics, all the data? No,” says Sen. Peter Wirth, a Democrat from Santa Fe and co-sponsor of SJR1. “I would say that about the vast majority of bills we deal with. … Sometimes you don’t really know all the way what will happen until the law is on the books.”
But the lack of information doesn’t weaken the argument for changing the constitution, Wirth says.
"We have a system in which one person with resources is treated differently than a person without resources."
“We have a system in which one person with resources is treated differently than a person without resources,” he says. “That is inherently unfair and, frankly, unconstitutional.”
Gerald Madrid, president of the Bail Bond Association of New Mexico, says he suspects poverty could be used as an “excuse” for potentially dangerous people to get out of jail, yet he conceded his contentions aren’t based on facts any more than reformers’.
A dearth of data
The Administrative Office of the Courts, an arm of the state Supreme Court, gathered information from 27 of New Mexico’s 28 county jails from July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2015, to try to understand the scope of the challenge. Its report shows about 100,000 jail bookings during that period.
Nineteen of the 27 counties differentiated between people who were awaiting trial and those who had been sentenced to jail time by a judge. In those 19 counties, only a third of the people had been adjudicated and sentenced. But the data don’t answer whether the other two-thirds, would be eligible either for preventative detention or release because they cannot afford bonds.
Another glaring hole in the data: Bernalillo County’s massive Metropolitan Detention Center, which accounts for more than a quarter of the state’s bookings, was among the jails that did not provide a breakdown of the people locked up during that time period.
Arthur Pepin, director of the Administrative Office of the Courts, says in an interview that another source, court data, “seem to indicate” that about 40 percent of all the criminal defendants who appear before New Mexico judges don’t post their bond. But that is “not a scientifically validated number,” Pepin explains, because the state’s case management system is not designed to collect information about bail bonds.
The only other state to reform its bail system through a constitutional amendment—similar to SJR1—was New Jersey, where state lawmakers commissioned a study that found nearly 39 percent of people being held in that state’s jails before trial were there only because they could not afford their bonds. Voters later passed the New Jersey amendment.
Pepin says he doesn’t expect the situation with cash bail to look much different in New Mexico. In fact, because of its pervasive poverty, New Mexico may be worse.
“But I don’t have PhDs running around studying it, because we’re poor, and we don’t have a whole lot of money,” he adds.
A fiscal impact report prepared for SJR1 estimates a reduction in New Mexico’s jail populations by about 10 percent—roughly 700 people a year—saving taxpayers about $18 million. That figure is based on studies conducted in other states and does not account for the costs of pretrial supervision for defendants who are not deemed dangerous.
The lack of data in New Mexico also obscures how many people might qualify as dangerous under the proposals, which both would allow judges to make that call.
Pepin’s best estimates for how many people would qualify as dangerous vary from 85 to 5,000 a year, based on the number of people who post bonds of more than $10,000 and the number of violent felonies committed each year.
But even before the legislative session began, SJR1 had broad support from organizations that often don’t agree. As state lawmakers vetted the idea during a series of meetings in 2015, a number of groups signed on, including the New Mexico Supreme Court, prosecutors and criminal defense lawyers, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce.
Keeping dangerous people behind bars has received far more attention than has the fairness of keeping low-income people locked up because they can’t pay.
But a far greater number of people would be eligible for release before trial than would be deemed dangerous and ineligible for bond, state Supreme Court Justice Charles Daniels, New Mexico’s leading bail reform proponent, says in a recent interview.
Based on the experience of Washington DC ’s courts, where judges can deny bail to dangerous individuals, “we think the amendment would affect maybe 15 percent of people jailed who are dangerous, maybe less,” Daniels says.
Daniels and Pepin pointed to a number of studies from around the country—New York, Washington DC, Kentucky, Colorado and New Jersey—they say show the need for, and success of, bail reform. Some of the studies found that the bail system had a disproportionate impact on people of color. Others found that even a few days in jail can be devastating for many.
And two of the studies showed that people released from jail without the burden of a commercial bail bond were just as likely to return to court as those who had paid a bondsman to get out.
“Under our system of justice, you are presumed innocent,” Daniels says. “Yet, because of this money-for-freedom system … we ended up with something that only the US and the Philippines in the civilized world use today.”
Jeff Clayton, national policy director for the American Bail Coalition, an industry group that opposes SJR1, points to a contradictory study that found commercial bonds are more effective than other means in ensuring defendants’ return to court.
The report’s authors didn’t do a comprehensive study of New Mexico jails, “so this proposal is based on philosophy more than on information,” Clayton says.
Regardless, he adds, setting bail “is a decision that’s left to the judges now, and we should leave it like that.”Madrid, the Albuquerque-based bondsman and president of the state bail association, is harsher in his assessment.
“Guess what? Life isn’t fair,” Madrid says. “It’s more a matter of economics, I believe. If someone goes to jail, we believe they should have the ability or the option to post a bond. If they can’t do that or don’t want to do that, then they can wait in jail till they’re seen by a judge.”
He describes an argument for release from jail on financial grounds as an “excuse” and compares it to someone demanding a free meal in a restaurant. Further, Madrid says there is no requirement in SJR1 to verify that people can’t afford a bond.
“It just encourages lawlessness,” Madrid says. “These people committing crimes know that all they have to do is say they’re poor.”
Financial impacts on the industry would be swift and certain if voters approve SJR1, Madrid said. That forms the basis for part of his opposition.
“Well, of course we are” going to lose money, he said. “And that is true. But it’s not just the money. It’s the service we provide and all of the things that we do that we don’t get paid for.”
This story was published by New Mexico In Depth as part of its “Justice Project.” Read more at nmindepth.com
District 1Local NewsWednesday, February 10, 2016
As the March 1 municipal election draws near, SFR is bringing back an old favorite—our tradition of calling up candidates and testing their knowledge about the office they seek. The rules for Pop Quiz are as follows: We record the entire conversation and report the answers verbatim. No research allowed, and if they call back later, too bad. These four candidates for Santa Fe City Council District 1 are in the only contested council race. Three people are running unopposed for the other seats. To see who answered correctly, or came closest, check out the answer key below. Watch for the city judge candidates next week.
- What line item takes the biggest portion of the city budget?
- How much is the total gross receipts tax rate in the city of Santa Fe? And does the council have legal authority to increase it?
- What are the sources of the city’s drinking water supply?
- What is the living wage, and is it set to change any time soon?
- What are the steps for getting a new housing development approved?
a former city councilor and former
school board member
Are you talking all funds? I think that would be personnel services.
It’s 8 point … Hmm, I don’t remember the last percentages, but it’s better than 8 percent. Yes, they do.
The city’s drinking water supply includes the reservoirs out at the Santa Fe Canyon, wells within the city limits, wells and a surface collection system on the Rio Grande.
The living wage is $10 and … Oh, I can’t remember the cents, but it’s something like $10.80, and it’s due to go up a few more cents. It’s going to be somewhere in the $10.90 range.
A new housing development, you go through the planning commission—well, first you apply. Then you go through the planning commission; if it’s approved by the planning commission, you’re good to go. If there’s an appeal, you go before city council.
Kathryn P Kennedy,
partner at Skylight Santa Fe
Which line item takes the biggest—are you talking about in terms of revenue or expense?
I actually don’t think I know the answer to that. We just got access to the budget information just like five days ago, so we’re just trying to filter through it right now. That’s the truth. We just got the budget information from Oscar; all the candidates got the budget information at the same time. So that was cool.
It’s over 8 percent. Yes.
Well, the largest source is the Santa Fe Watershed, and the biggest component of that is snowmelt.
The living wage right now I believe is $10.66, and is it set to change, in the immediate future? No. … I think it’s set to go up, but it’s currently at $10.66.
A developer takes a plan, it usually goes through, hopefully there’s neighborhood meetings, and it goes through planning commission, and then from planning commission, it goes through the council, and in between those steps, it can go back and forth to the developer for redesign or for neighborhood negotiations. There’s certainly a negotiation process before it reaches the council level, and even at that point, council can send it back and offer recommendations.
founder of Native Hispanic Institute and artist
My answer is, is that I did not … they had a finance meeting where they went over all of these things, and I was invited, but then I wasn’t told, then it wasn’t followed up, and I didn’t get to sit down with the finance director and the rest of everybody else because I was not notified of the date and time. So I, I wouldn’t even want to guess that. I could guess, but I wouldn’t; it would just be a guess. So that’s my answer.
I don’t even know. I know the gross receipts combined tax of the state, you know on the gross receipts. It’s like 3.2 or something like that. Yes, they were given that under the state.
That’s like, the sources of the drinking water are like, oh gosh. This is … Wow. Let me think about that for a minute, let me think of the names. I keep thinking … oh gosh. I feel like a dummy. Where does it come from? I think part of it comes from the Santa Fe River, like the water surface I think, and then the Rio Grande. I guess, I don’t know. I think if I remember right, it’s treated in the Canyon Road Water Treatment Plant—there’s a lot of them actually. There’s the Buckman Wells, is that right? And then, I don’t know, I think there are some storage tanks. I’m thinking of the BDD treatment plant, Canyon Road Water Treatment Plant, I guess, city wells, Buckman.
It is set to change. And it’s $10.91, and I think it changes in March, March 1. I guess that’s $10.91 it’ll change to in March.
Well, I guess it could go through a lot of things. It starts with presenting a plan and then early notification—early neighborhood notification, then it goes through the committees, and then it has to get approved by those committees, and then it goes through council, and then any adjustments are made, and it might have to go through committees. It goes through the early notification, then through committees, then it goes to the council, then there’s public hearings and all of that in each one. Then if it gets approved in council, it moves forward.
former planning commission member, current marketing coordinator at Los Alamos National Bank
The total gross receipts tax rate is 8.33 percent. Yes.
The Buckman Diversion and, um, groundwater supply.
It is set to change in the next, let’s see, in the next couple months, I believe, and it’s set to go up to $10.90, I believe, a little below $11.
The developer would have to meet with land use staff to look at their conceptual plan and what they’re thinking in the area they’re thinking, and then see if it meets basic codes with their pre-development plan, and that takes a few months. So after they work out the details for making sure that it meets basic codes, then it’ll go on to, depending on the development, it’ll go on to the planning commission. Once the staff meets and understands what the developer wants to do, they decide if they make a recommendation or denial to the planning commission, and the planning commission will hear the development plan or at least the pre-development plan and review on the code requirements, and if it complies with the land use code, and also what staff recommends or doesn’t recommend, and it’s any adjustments they need to make or changes, and depending on the type of development, it usually goes on to the city council with the recommendation of either approval or denial, and the city will have to make a decision if the plan meets land use chapter 14 code requirements and is compatible with the city based on those code requirements.
On the night shift with two cops: a woman and her dogFeaturesWednesday, February 10, 2016
It’s sometimes just easier talking to the dog. At the end of a shift, as she walks back into the building from the parking lot, Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Deputy Vanessa Barnett often hears “What’s up, Jackson?” It’s not her nickname. Her fellow officers’ eyes are fixed closer to floor, where they land on Jackson, a striking 80-pound longhaired German shepherd who was born five years ago and is the four-legged member of the department’s single K-9 team.
Jackson is trained in patrol and narcotics and works with just one person, Barnett. Though he lives with another German shepherd at home, unlike most other dogs in Santa Fe, when his harness goes on, he snaps to and heads out to work.
Time and again, as I’ve travelled across the country during the last nine months, documenting K-9 units, this is a scene that’s played out. People find it much easier to talk to the animals than each other. As a coarsened, seasoned deputy crouches down to greet a peer’s K-9 at the start of a shift, I sense something much more significant, perhaps directed at someone else.
Barnett’s night starts at a briefing with the other sheriff deputies, where they talk about events that occurred in the day and that might play out into their evening. It’s 10 pm, the beginning of the graveyard shift, and I trail her through the dark lot to a new Ford SUV. This is Santa Fe 61, a vehicle specially equipped for Barnett and Jackson. Its back doors open automatically with the touch of a button on Barnett’s belt, at which point Jackson is trained to jump out and respond to her command. Next to the first aid kit that all officers carry for human medical needs, there’s a second kit with medical supplies for canines. The vehicle is equipped with an emergency temperature system; if the temperature rises past a certain level with Jackson inside, Santa 61’s alarms and sirens go off, notifying Barnett immediately. Also onboard is a selection of Jackson’s favorite toys.
Barnett and Jackson are very much sheriff deputies before they are exclusively a K-9 team. All kinds of things happen on these shifts, all over the 2,000 square miles of the county. As well as running the only K-9 unit in Santa Fe, Barnett is also only one of two women in the Sheriff’s Department, and at 5'4" and around 100 pounds, she has big shoes to fill.
Barnett patrols her “zone” south and west of the Santa Fe City Limits on the evening that I ride along. The Pojoaque native knows all the patrol zones well; she’s been with the department for 11 years. But even if she’s in Madrid, when the call comes for help from the K-9 unit near Chimayó, she gets there.
Jackson was trained as pup in Schutzhund, the discipline for working dogs required for police-type work. Born in a German kennel called Zwinger vom Waldhäuser Schloss, he’s from a strong line of police and protection dogs. Jackson has been busy in Santa Fe, seizing drugs, detaining suspects and finding hidden perpetrators. He helped last year when a man on an inmate work crew from the state pen escaped custody on Cerrillos Road. When it’s really hot in July, he is “rewarded” with buckets of water being poured over him.
In April 2013, a private donor gave Jackson a bulletproof vest. He didn’t wear one before that because of budget restrictions. A bulletproof vest for a K-9 can cost over $1,000. Only when a situation feels hostile does Barnett strap Jackson into the vest, to then go face the situation together.
Their strength as a unit is in each other. They are partners. From cuddling on the couch together, to finding heroin in a vehicle, to biting down on a suspect, it seems about as rich and complex as a relationship can get.
“He found a guy that almost ran over a Santa Fe PD detective. He was a burglary suspect, he fled into some houses, and we were doing a yard to yard search, and Jackson kept pulling,” Barnett tells me as she bounces along a back road behind the wheel of Santa Fe 61. “This was early on when, at first, I didn’t even know Jackson that well, not as well as I know him now. And he had pulled us into this yard and into this shed. And it had this big huge carpet over the top. I then sent in some guys that were on my search team. And sure enough, there was some guy, hiding wrapped up in a tent. And he was right there. He was telling me that somebody was there. That was a big moment for me.”
Getting Jackson and the K-9 unit up and running was quite a project. “When the last dog here retired in 2005, the handler soon ended up retiring himself, and then we didn’t have any dogs. I had wanted to do it, and I said to myself, You know what? Let me just ask them,” she says. “I wrote a memo to the sheriff that I wanted to start a K-9 program. They said, ‘Absolutely—but we don’t have any money in the budget.’”
Barnett didn’t give up. She received a donation from a citizen for whom she had been able to recover some property stolen in a burglary. Three years later, in 2012, after a lot of perseverance and a whole lot of patience, budgeting was finally approved for a K-9 unit. Barnett says she is grateful to the sheriff and everyone else who helped her establish the program.
“We got our dog,” Barnett says, smiling. “I was so happy. They called me up and said, ‘You’re going to K-9 School.’ I was so excited. I think it means more when you actually start something from nothing.”
Barnett became a deputy at the age of 21, after having worked as an emergency dispatcher.
"They called me up and said, ‘You’re going to K-9 School.’ I was so excited. I think it means more when you actually start something from nothing."
“I kind of knew a little bit—not a lot. When I first started working, I knew a lot of them looked at me like, ‘What’s this little girl going to do?’ … So I had a lot to prove, that I knew what I was doing, that I wasn’t afraid to get into anything. And I did. I jumped every single call that I could. I went to every in-progress thing. A lot of the times, I just had to handle stuff by myself, and you gain respect from these guys. They’re like, ‘Wow, she can kind of handle herself,’ and you just get a reputation: ‘Don’t let her size fool you, she’s …” Barnett trails off.
I suggest, “She’ll kick your ass,” and she laughs, saying, “Exactly.”
She applied the same determination to the K-9 training, and now, at 32, she’s one of just three female handlers in New Mexico’s law enforcement agencies. “I had to prove to these K-9 trainers that I was able to do it. And something as simple as picking up an 80-pound dog, carrying him on your back up a flimsy ladder up to an attic, and then bringing him back down the same way, you know—that gained a lot of respect,” she says.
Even so, Barnett lives a bit in Jackson’s shadow. And she’s OK with that. She laughs as she talks about catching a burglar in the act, detaining him and bringing him into custody without the assistance of other deputies. The next day, her superior praised Jackson’s courage, although he was not involved in the detaining and, in fact, had remained in the vehicle during the event.
Barnett and Jackson completed their first Basic Handler School Certification after a six-week program with former Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Deputy Kevin Sheldahl, who runs K-9 Services in Edgewood. An additional certification test is required for both handler and K-9 every year.
“Training is constant for the rest the dog’s working life,” Barnett says. “We train almost eight hours every week, and this needs to continue for the rest of his working life.”
Barnett and Jackson work together five days a week, primarily on graveyard shifts, from 10 pm to 6 am. It’s a slow night tonight. Jackson is quiet in the back of Santa Fe 61.We find a truck on the side of a dirt road on the Southside of town. A teenage boy is inside truck, fast asleep. He’s been kicked out of the house, and his truck’s broken down. He can’t stay, so Barnett calls another deputy to take him to a friend’s house for the night. The other deputy arrives: a big, old-school dude. They stand right by the driver’s door while the kid gathers his things and gets out of the vehicle, lights flashing, painting the scene. Both deputies have hands on their pistols. I zoom my camera in and focus in on this tense moment. The kid is wearing a Cardinals beanie and a blue flannel shirt. He looks like he’s freezing. As soon as he exits the vehicle, the hands come off the pistols.
I film the reflection of the side mirror as the kid walks past Santa Fe 61 and climbs into the other deputy’s vehicle. Jackson barks. And continues to bark, until Barnett is back in the driver’s seat.
No doubt, at the start of the next shift, the other deputies will ask Barnett how Jackson’s last shift was and how he’s doing.
I wonder if the reason they focus on Jackson more than Barnett is it’s the path of least resistance. Like Barnett, it could be one of them on that ladder, not knowing what, or who, may be waiting at the top. The kid in the truck might have a gun. He might get a shot off first. To speak to Barnett is to speak to themselves. To speak to the proximity of their own mortality. This is too much to face directly. Not today. Not now. At least not every day.
Still, through these conversations directed at dogs, I hear vulnerability, relief, the camaraderie of complex relationships. Sometimes, it’s just easier talking to the dog.
Eat at Bouche and #SFRfoodiesSmall BitesWednesday, February 10, 2016
Bouche feels like a place worth coming home to stay. Pull up a seat on their patio to enjoy dinner with a sunset-strewn sky over the top of their walled garden, or take a table indoors, among the hardwood floors and fireplace that recall a country coziness without overstating the point. Chef Charles Dale strolls the tables to check in on those enjoying a flawless and approachable menu. Make no mistake—while the wine list may be four pages (and wait staff happy to counsel you through those difficult choices) and the dinner menu a quarter-page, the emphasis is on well-considered food that draws from local and sustainable choices and the very best of French cuisine. Approachably casual black mussels in white wine and red chile sauce ($16/$26) are worth their weight in tiny forks—and, naturally, sneaking a dip of the housemade bread into. A mountain of truffle frites ($7/$9) dense with umami makes good company. Finish off with crème brûlée or the tart of the evening, which on our visit was built around all the natural sweetness of Colorado peaches.
451 W Alameda St., 982-6297
Dinner Tuesday-Saturday, 5:30-9:30 pm
These pictures are so sweet they make your teeth hurt. If you’re sweet on food photos, share them on Instagram using #SFRfoodies.
Jonny Leather thinks about you guys all the timeMusic FeaturesWednesday, February 10, 2016
You guys want to know what I like? I like when someone from another town moves here with an unbiased perspective on our music scene. Obviously—and it’s been said before—we live in a bubble, and we all know each other. A fresh perspective never hurts. I also like it when people agree with me about how a lot of people around here are doing it wrong. That’s why I went out for coffee with this guy Jonny Leather. He’s only been here about a year, by way of NYC, but some of you might know him already. He’s a photographer, a music blogger (meccalecca.com) and a freelance production manager for a number of New York-based magazines, but more importantly, he’s a ravenous consumer of music both live and recorded and isn’t sick of your shit (yet), so I found myself curious about what his deal is and what he thinks about what we’re layin’ down here. These are some of his thoughts.
There’s this whole idea that things are going on in Santa Fe, but they’re almost a secret.
“The house show, for example. Everything seems off the radar, and I don’t know if that’s out of exclusivity or necessity. It’s hard for DIY venues to promote because they aren’t official. I have felt welcomed here, there’s just not a lot to grasp onto.”
It’s a culture shock, both good and bad.
“In New York, I had places to book shows and went to a ton and photographed them. Coming here, I felt like there’s hardly anyone covering things. In New York, I had to ask myself what was worth writing about, because there are obviously better writers than me and people with more time to write. … Obviously, you guys cover music, but it’s hard to have one person trying to cover an entire city’s music [Author’s note: Amen, brother.]. I’ve gone from over-stimulation, which at a certain point was kind of crushing, to under-stimulation. I’m still getting used to that if you get one good show in a week, that’s a good week, a really good week. There was a whole month not that long ago where there was nothing I was excited about.”
There’s a weird divide.
“I’ve talked to some people who are booking around town about the idea that when a touring act comes through, a local needs to be on that bill. When I first moved here, I think it was a member of Thieves & Gypsys who pointed out the divide between local and touring acts, which is weird because for a scene on this level, it makes perfect sense to have locals. The local people don’t want to go to touring band shows, so we don’t get bigger shows; the best way to promote is to get the people looking for events—the people who live here—involved.”
Who cares what journalists say?
“Having locals open for mid or big-level touring bands can sometimes mean a shout-out online for these bands. Journalists are creating content; these bands don’t have to say anything, but it can change a smaller band’s life.”
You need variation.
“When you book five metal bands that sound similar on the same bill, that’s disrespecting the fans in thinking they only like that particular kind of music and couldn’t possibly like something else. Swans had soft folk artists open for them, and juxtaposition like that can be excellent.”
There aren’t enough young people to begin with, and there are so many distractions.
“Young people … it’s such a small group, and there are so many ways to get distracted, but a lot of the time, it just takes one person. It goes in waves, but if one person gets something going, the wave starts.”
A lot of what’s becoming really hip and popular is made on computers.
“It’s disengages from the realm of people interacting by playing instruments together, and it doesn’t seem to fit with performing live well. It’s introverted. DJ music is not that engaging to me.”
Storming the Beaches with Logos in Hand has been one of my favorites.
“I’ve been way into GRY GRDNS. And even though I’m thinking I’ve passed my indie/poppy music thing, Thieves & Gypsys are so good.”
Theater in Motley
Music, magic and mayhem, oh myArt FeaturesWednesday, February 10, 2016
Any artist will tell you, especially starting out, it’s easier to die from exposure than to sustain yourself with it. At the same time, while struggling artists fight to feed, clothe and house themselves, exposure is still the common nonlegal tender that’s offered.
The artists of the Julesworks variety show know that rule. They’re collected from the surrounding area and driven by a common purpose: to perform art. Though they’re not paid, the performers continue with their theatrics as a labor of love, toiling away at day jobs, exposure or no.
Without the time or resources to produce an entire play, the Julesworks Follies are a scripted and rehearsed series of vignettes running the gamut of comedy, drama and experimental performance art. This motley approach to theater appears onstage yet again Feb. 16 in Julesworks’ 42nd show, Not Quite Valentine’s Day.
It’s an almost vaudevillian endeavor, with multiple acts convening on the stage at the Jean Cocteau. “Vaudeville is a term that’s come up. In fact, [theater owner George RR Martin] himself during that first year used to tell people, ‘This is Jules; he’s crazy and he’s trying to bring vaudeville back singlehandedly,’ or whatever,” says Stephen Jules Rubin, producer of Julesworks Follies. “And I would laugh and [think], I’m not even sure what vaudeville is. It’s evolved over the years; it wasn’t even called the Julesworks Follies at first. It started as … a showcase for different talent in town, essentially people who have other jobs and don’t have the time to [commit to a full production].”
During the day, Rubin works two jobs. One is a part-time gig at the Jean Cocteau, and he is also a waiter at the Jambo Café. He first arrived in Santa Fe in the late 1990s, jumping into the local open-mic and short film scene. “After four or five years … I stopped wanting to do so much low- to no-paying film stuff because, especially the editing, I started feeling badly about getting really talented people to donate their time,” says Rubin. “Obviously, anyone who is in the Julesworks show probably would love to make a living off of it, but nobody really does. And not just Julesworks, but whatever their art is.”
And it is a variety show, but not only in the types of acts performed. Julesworks attracts a wide social strata of people into its fold. Company member and local musician Johny Broomdust (birth name John Widell) describes himself as a “friendly neighborhood lawyer.” Disenchanted with being a trial lawyer in Seattle, he turned his back on the rat race and now practices estate planning, mediation or other forms of low-key legal assistance. “Being a trial lawyer, you’re really the ultimate whore. You’re selling all of your creativity and energy,” says Broomdust. “I had a crisis of spirit and became less of a lawyer and more of a musician and entertainer. I would prefer not to have a day job. And were it not for some big expenses as a result of poor romantic decisions, I’d figure out a way to pay the rent playing music. It seems frivolous, but ultimately it’s not. The skills I was selling to people for $350 an hour can be used to do something with comedy and charisma and whatever else it is … to bring a little light to the people you encounter.”
Greg Sonnenfeld is a scientific software programmer by day, who even worked for NASA early in his career, but by night he’s an actor, director and sketch writer. “Me and my friend Laura saw this really cool flyer that had cats and unicorns and rainbows and guns; it seemed like something really cool,” says Sonnenfeld. “They said if you want to come and perform that they have some audience slots during the end of the show. We said hey, that’d be awesome, and we did like, two sketches I think.”
Sonnenfeld ended up on the crew and now is fully immersed. “I think it’s a place where you can really try out some creative things. I really hadn’t done it much since high school. It really gave me an opportunity to be in the performing arts. In high school I wanted to be an actor, but I thought, Nobody makes any money in acting—like one in a 100. So I became an engineer and a software developer instead.”
For the members of Julesworks, it’s not just a hobby. It’s art inspiring life.
“Whatever it is in human nature that drives people to express and tell stories, if you’re not doing it, it’s not healthy,” says Rubin.
Not Quite Valentine’s Day
7 pm Tuesday, Feb. 16., $10
Jean Cocteau Cinema,
418 Montezuma Ave.
It’s not just swans and stuffArt FeaturesWednesday, February 10, 2016
Different. Out of all of the words that one could use to describe the all-male modern dance phenomenon that is BalletBoyz, “different” resonates the most with the experience of watching these remarkably diverse dancers in action.
In the stereotypically feminine world of traditional dance companies, where tutus reign supreme and the focus tends to be on making the female dancers look delicate and beautiful, the BalletBoyz set themselves apart in that they defy expectation in a way that is thrilling, not only for the audience, but for the dancers as well.
“It’s always this idea of the man lifting the woman and making the woman look pretty; never the other way around. When I first joined the company, I remember the first time I actually took one of the guys up, and it was such a shock to me. It’s kind of an equal balance, you also have to learn to be lifted yourself, which is unusual. T
Founded in 2001 by Royal Ballet principal dancers Michael Nunn and Billy Trevitt, the UK-based BalletBoyz have won numerous awards for their innovative approach to dance, toured all over the UK and internationally, and are bringing their different style to the City Different on Thursday, Feb. 11, at the Lensic Performing Arts Center at 7 pm.
“Apart from us being an all-male dance company and having that different approach to what you would usually have from partnering with a woman, I think the thing that sets us apart from most other dance companies is the work that we do is quite versatile,” Waller says. “We’ll sometimes be doing quite classically based pieces. For example, in the show that we’re about to be performing in Santa Fe, the piece by Christopher Wheeldon is quite classical, and there’s a lot of ballet technique involved. On the other end of the spectrum, we’ve got loads of contemporary pieces that we do which are quite grounded and abstract in a way.”
Matthew Sandiford, who is also in his third season with the company, echoed this enthusiasm for diversity when discussing his decision to join the company after his completion of dance school. “I think for me it was the chance to work with dancers that are all so different,” Sandiford said. “We’ve all come from completely different backgrounds, and we’re all from different parts of the world. I think that’s what drew me in, the opportunity to work with somebody that’s maybe done a bit more classical training, and then somebody that’s done a lot more contemporary. That’s a really attractive thing about the company. In other companies you may have dancers that are all similar heights, all look very similar and have all done the same sort of three-years training at a classical dance school.”
Although the dancers in the companyhave varied appearance, having similar weights means that to prepare for partnering and lifting sequences, they have to be quite physically strong. It is not unusual for company members to work out before and after dance rehearsals to build and maintain the strength and stamina necessary to successfully execute these feats with grace and ease.
The Talent, their current touring production, features two commissioned works—The Murmuring by Alexander Whitley and Mesmerics by Christopher Wheeldon. The first piece is quite modern, physically demanding, while the second is more classical and technically challenging.
When asked what the audience could expect from the performance, Waller countered with the element of surprise, “A lot of people, when they come to see the show, it may not be what they’re expecting … Being all-male dance company, you’ve got a picture in your head about what an all-male dance company might be like. It might be something quite cliché, or something quite funny, or quite type-cast. It’s the complete opposite of that. It’s something that they don’t expect, and each piece that we’re going to be performing is so different so there’s something in the show for
7 pm Thursday, Feb. 11. $20-$55.
The Lensic Performing Arts Center
211 W San Francisco St.,
‘Thank You,’ in Any Language
Low-key new Italian restaurant beats Olive GardenFood WritingWednesday, February 10, 2016
When you live on the Southside, certain unalienable truths draw boundaries around your dining options. Yet if you’re looking for a meal away from home and don’t have a downtown pocketbook (who does?), this part of the city is a much better bet than the Adobe Disneyland.
When I recently enjoyed a leisurely dinner with four friends at Café Grazie (3530 Zafarano Drive, 471-0108), the bill for less than $100 was a sweet good night kiss. So that’s why I’m telling you about it, even if you live in the east or north reaches of the city. I know you have that friend whose neighborhood you never visit because you think there’s nothing good going on “down there.” Now’s the chance to cross over.
And what’s more, the restaurant is an additional homestyle Italian offering with Mediterranean flair, in a city dominantly inspired by Southwestern and Central American cuisine.
Our party missed out on the one menu item that appears to lean in that direction, an appetizer that our server described as “kind of like a chile relleno,” but with a roasted ancho chile that’s stuffed with veal and ricotta. She came back later to tell us they had run out of something it required, so we settled on the frito misto, a heaping plate of fried octopus, calamari and shrimp served with half a lime over marinara sauce ($10.95). Plus, while we’re waiting for that, out came the bread, warm and grilled with garlic butter, and a delightful simple salad. Like at Olive Garden, our young server beams, “only better.” We devoured every bit of all three dishes.
Heaping plates of pasta soon rolled out of the kitchen, among our favorites the spicy meatball linguine, with generous, juicy meatballs that come in a simple marinara sauce with enough kick from Pequin chile to interest my heat-favoring palate ($10.95), and the Grazie pasta pollo, a dish recommended by the server that features chunks of chicken topping the spinach linguini noodles alongside sun-dried tomatoes, piñón nuts and peas ($11.25). And in case you’re not up on your Italian, those are ll’s you pronounce.
Box up the leftovers? Yes, please.
El Salvador native Oscar Arias says the café is his first go at running the front of the house, though he grew up at family restaurants and hotels in Departamento La Libertad. The inexperience shows in a few details. For example, with no license to sell beer and wine, we all drank water, which was served in tiny cocktail glasses that, early on in the meal, were not replenished frequently enough.
Arias has done a bangup job of a low-budget transformation of a shopping mall space at the formed location of Wow Dawgs near Target. While the saltillo tile is the same floor from the hot-dog joint, with dog pawprints accenting the occasional tile, the place has a whole different feeling. Updated lighting fixtures, window trim and linen napkins and tablecloths are a smooth touch, but they don’t make up for the generic artwork that likely arrived in a shopping cart from the Big Box across the parking lot.
Also needing some attention, if Café Grazie wants to rise above, is the dessert menu. Notwithstanding that the super-friendly service deteriorated for our party after four other parties trickled into the restaurant, we finally asked our server if we could order dessert, and after we did, we waited 15 minutes for the arrival of two ice-cold desserts that might have been still frozen in the Sam’s Club box, artfully plated with what tasted like Hershey’s syrup. The créme brûlée cheesecake was better than the cannoli, but only marginally so. Next time, I’ll hit up the Baskin Robbins around the corner for the final course instead.
And there will be a next time, because the restaurant is still obviously working out some kinks since its Jan. 11 opening. It’s close to home, and I want to try that stuffed chile.
AT A GLANCE:
Open: Monday through Sunday, 11 am to 9 pm
Best Bet: Spicy meatball linguine
Don’t Miss: Grazie pasta pollo
Yet Another Comic Movie
There’s even a guy who gets killed by a ZamboniOkWednesday, February 10, 2016
When two major studios announced they were working on a Deadpool feature film, it was hard to imagine how 20th Century Fox and Marvel Studios were going to accomplish bringing a lesser-known cult-status character into motion picture territory. How could they possibly create a film with a lead who frequently breaks the fourth wall, who may be aware that he’s a fictional person (possibly pan-sexual), and whose wisecracking has the same lowbrow comedic resonance as it does in the comic series? Against all odds, it seems that this herculean task of mainstream cinema was completed marginally well, especially considering the current precedent regarding the glut of the nostalgia-driven licensing nightmares the US studio system is fond of churning out these days.
It’s important to touch upon the meta aspects of this character, since in a way, that’s the whole basis of his motivations. Self-referential and turgid with pop-culture call-backs, with even subtle jibes from almost all the film’s characters at the thin plot, the movie is a snide and sophomoric attempt at the superhero genre. But for some reason, that’s its charm. It’s as if a couple of young guys who loved comics wrote a movie starring one of their favorite characters, and the studio, somehow being cognizant of the source material and target audience, just let it all happen. The opening credits even lampoon the Hollywood system, declaring that it was directed by “an overpaid tool” and produced by “asshats.” Bundle up, because it might just be a cold day in hell.
Well shot, with an excellent soundtrack that turns up the absurdity of the situations the protagonist finds himself in to 11, the film is technically well contructed. An excellent decision was made on the part of filmmakers to mildly animate Deadpool’s eyes in the mask to better convey emotion. There’s precedent for this regarding the art style in comics for characters with full-face coverings.
A former Special Forces soldier, Wade Wilson/Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds), is a leg-breaker for hire who contracts cancer after falling in love with the classic “hooker with a heart of gold.” He is offered a way out: undergo extreme stress combined with chemical cajoling to activate dormant mutant genes in his DNA and, hopefully, evade cancer and death. All is not as it seems, and when the transformation occurs, everything goes south. Ed Skrein turns in a functional performance as Ajax, a British villain. And hey, there’s MMA fighter Gina Carano as the evil super-muscle, Angel Dust. End of plot explanation. It’s not really all that important, and it seems like everyone knows it. There’s even a line in the film that goes something like, “You should talk to that guy. It may deepen the plot.”
The ultra-violence wasn’t distasteful, since it was so over the top and typically used as a comedic device. It hits home, somehow. This movie is sort of a miracle-mile in filmmaking. It shouldn’t work—it shouldn’t be entertaining, but it is. It’s dumb fun, with an ironic patina of intelligence that quickly wears away after mere moments.
Deadpool, much like your socially inappropriate and yet (against your better judgment) still hilarious uncle, isn’t for everybody. If you’re a guy 18-35, you may like it. If you like meta satire on the Hollywood system, comic book movies, pop culture and ham-handed witticisms, it might just be for you. It’s chock full of full-frontal nudity for both genders, F-bombs and dismemberment, with a surface level of snappy dialogue that’s reminiscent of Kevin Smith’s Jersey Trilogy (Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy). If that’s your cup of tea, then go for it.
Directed by Tim Miller
With Reynolds, Skrein and Carano