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Morning Word: PNM Loses Support for Rate Increase

Morning WordFriday, July 1, 2016 by Peter St. Cyr
PNM’s Rate Request Loses Support
The Public Service Company of New Mexico wants to bring its share of the Palo Verde nuclear plant in Arizona into its New Mexico rate base, but not everyone thinks that’s a fair deal for consumers, including Public Regulation Commission staff. An independent hearing officer is examining the investor-owned utility’s double-digit rate increase request and will make a recommendation on it to the full commission after final legal briefs are submitted next month.

Lawmakers Scheduled to Testify in Griego Case
Next week, a dozen lawmakers are scheduled to testify at a preliminary court hearing to determine if corruption charges filed against former state Sen. Phil Griego merit a criminal trial. Judge Brett Loveless hasn’t ruled on this journalist’s motion to quash a subpoena to testify in the case. 

Meanwhile, Dan Boyd reports that the attorney general’s office won’t release records it received from the Legislative Council Service (LCS) office. The prosecutors, which had to go to court to ask a judge to order them turned over, claims the materials are confidential law enforcement records. SFR filed a similar request for the documents with the LCS. It's still pending. Ultimately, the files will become public if they are introduced as evidence during the criminal proceedings. 

Rio Rancho Lands 900 New Jobs
On Thursday, Gov. Susana Martinez, who hasn’t had a lot of luck attracting businesses to the state or creating jobs after getting her corporate tax cuts passed, announced 900 new jobs are coming to Rio Rancho. Martinez claims 40,000 private sector jobs have been completed during her tenure.

Supreme Court: No Right to Die
Yesterday started off as a slow news day, then the New Mexico Supreme Court released several long-awaited opinions. They voted against giving terminally ill patients the right to end their own lives, issued a controversial opinion on search-and-seizure procedures that allow police officers to pull over motorists if they can’t determine whether the vehicle they’re driving is insured through a license plate scan and threw out a workers compensation exception for farmers and ranchers.

UNM Reconsiders Employee Cutbacks
Joey Peters reports that the University of New Mexico, which had said there were no employee layoffs planned, is apparently reconsidering the option to cut back staff.

Johnson Rolls Out New Campaign Ad
Gary Johnson and Bill Weld have a new campaign video. It touts their “records as two-term governors (of New Mexico and Massachusetts, respectively) while drawing sharp distinctions among their positions and those of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.” 

Tribe Considers Reopening Police Training Facility
The Navajo Nation is considering relaunching its own law enforcement training academy.
The Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety says officers who are trained in the nation will be more culturally sensitive to Navajo values.

The nation closed its policy academy in 2012 because of operational and maintenance issues.
Iconic Breaking Bad Café Robbed
We missed this earlier in the week, but the Dog House Drive-In, an iconic Albuquerque restaurant and famous Breaking Bad television show location, was robbed at gunpoint last Sunday. Walter White and Jesse Pinkman are not suspected in the heist, but police say they are looking for a man who escaped on a bicycle.

We’re taking Monday off to celebrate the country's 240th birthday. Here’s to a fun and safe Fourth of July. Before we get the party started, one final shout-out to Joe Fatton. Thanks for copyediting the Morning Word for the past 18 months.

Game On: Inside Review

Developer Playdead nails it all over again with their follow-up to 2010's Limbo

Pop CultureThursday, June 30, 2016 by Alex De Vore

The Gist
In 2010, Danish developer Playdead turned the indie gaming world on its head with Limbo, a darkly ethereal platformer that followed a young boy’s quest to reunite with his sister while navigating through a sinister forest. The lack of overt narrative mixed with shocking moments of violence and mind-bending puzzles (also gigantic spiders) was perfectly paired with a grainy black-and-white art design, which meant Limbo was every bit as gorgeous as it was unsettling. Fast-forward six years, and Playdead has expanded and refined almost every aspect of Limbo for their follow-up title, Inside, another minimalist platformer that says more by saying nothing than most games accomplish with bloated and misguided attempts at storytelling. Inside is, in a word, flawless.

Players are thrust into the role of a young boy, who is desperately trying to escape from a nefarious and mysterious society that seems to have mentally enslaved countless men, women and children. We are given zero dialogue, and the control design is intentionally stripped to the bare minimum run, jump and grab commands. If this sounds lacking, it isn’t, and Playdead has brilliantly tapped into our subconscious need for narrative, whereby a lack thereof leaves us confused and uncomfortable.

And that’s the goal. Because of this, early sequences that find the young boy leaping from the jaws of advancing dogs at the last second or being pursued by shadowy masked figures are heart-racing micro-moments; we aren’t entirely sure what’s going on here, but we sure as hell don’t want to find out what happens if we’re caught.

Inside’s pacing is the stuff of dreams, with puzzle and environmental challenges ramping up at a steady yet manageable rate throughout the short campaign. Even head-scratchers that seem impossible at first become clear with effort, and no obstacle seems insurmountable, so long as you take a beat and really use your mind. Despite the shortness, the three-ish hours of content doesn’t feel like we’ve been ripped off ($19.99 is more than a fair price), and hidden spheres peppered throughout the varied environments (a farm littered with pig corpses, a rundown city, industrial areas, scientific facilities and more) add more than enough reason to enjoy multiple plays. If nothing else, the muted colors and background assets deserve your attention; it’s worth it to play again for that alone.

Meanwhile, the bizarre soundtrack and dystopian world-building collide in epic fashion, with sound design oftentimes there as spook-out fuel but other times serving as a rhythm-based mini-game based in movement. One such segment finds the boy hiding in plain sight by moving in unison with a long line of brainless humans; another requires him to strategically find cover every few seconds. These are but a few tense situations within a sea of tense situations, but if Playdead knows where to shine, it’s in the peaks and valleys of tension. Never are we pushed too far as the player, but we do find ourselves on the edge of our seat an awful lot.

The Bottom Line
If Limbo set the bar for cleverly juxtaposed darkness and simplicity, Inside just jacked it up about a hundred notches. Everything about this game meets or exceeds Playdead’s already stellar accomplishments with their previous effort, and it does so in a highly artistic fashion. We’re not about to spoil anything here, but for every moment you find yourself frustrated or confused by this game, keep in mind that it’s all worth it, by the time you get to the incredible ending. This one is a doozy, folks, and belongs in your collection immediately. 

The Score
5 out of 5
This is as perfect as games get and one of the best of the year.

The Details
Inside
Rated M (Dude. Those dogs.)
Available on Xbox One and PC
$19.99

The Fork

Happy Fourth of July Weekend!

The ForkThursday, June 30, 2016 by Gwyneth Doland

Ah, the midsummer holiday weekend. Hopefully, you have some time off, and you're in the mood for cooking and eating! How about Sonora dogs? Hot dogs wrapped in bacon and topped with a fiesta of condiments? Here's a beautiful little video that's part of the Localore project from the Association of Independents in Radio.

Have you ever made Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread? It's a genius method for bread that looks and tastes like an artisanal loaf, super crusty with a gorgeous texture. People who've made it become obsessed with it. Here's a loaf I baked a few months back. It's not even the prettiest one I've done—and I'm terrible at making bread! But Lahey, the slow-rise guru from New York's Sullivan Street Bakery, has a pizza crust recipe, too. And that could be perfect for this weekend.

This same technique yields the kind of flavorful, toothsome, gloriously bubbled pizza crust that I love. Here are Lahey’s instructions. That recipe makes four pizzas, which is more than I usually do at home on a Thursday, so if you want to do just two little pizzas, check out this adaptation at King Arthur Flour. The crust is a vast improvement over the basic dough I used for this little pizza—although a drizzle of balsamic glaze is a delicious distraction from a crummy crust.

Pizza on the grill is pretty appealing when the house is warm—and it’s super fun for guests, especially kids. Make a big batch of dough and let everyone design their own toppings. The pizzas cook in just a few minutes, so toppings like onions, bell peppers and sausage should be precooked. If you’ve never made one, Bobby Flay has a how-to here.

However you do it, serve some simple grilled or broiled veggies. Here’s a super enthusiastic endorsement of the toaster oven for things like broiling a dozen spears of asparagus. I have a Breville Mini Smart Oven, and it rules, but the bigger convection model has convection, which is great for things like Brussels sprouts, which definitely benefit from a little hot air circling around them.

And here’s a confession of which I am not ashamed: I have recently fallen in love with that grated Parmesan cheese in the green canister. I'm actually talking about the generic Kroger version. OMG. How mortifying, right? Well, I know a little person whose favorite meal is spaghetti with butter and this “cheese,” and while I hope this is a phase that won’t last (because scurvy), I have to admit: This is not a bad dish. Don’t think of it as Parmesan, don’t compare it to cacio e pepe, just float back to your own childhood and enjoy the mild saltiness of a canned Parmesan shaken over your spaghetti.

This might also be a good weekend to take advantage of all the fresh fruit that’s starting to come into the markets. There are tons of blackberries, raspberries and blueberries out there right now. Tossing them over a pastry cream-filled crust for a classic French fruit tart is a great way to show off beautiful berries. It takes awhile, but it’s not hard. Here’s a step-by-step recipe, with video from Fine Cooking.

You could also make a simple 1-2-3-4 cake and top it with whipped cream and berries. Martha Stewart does a nice version filled with a lemon curd whipped cream.

If you’ve got peaches or plums, you can do Marian Burros’ plum torte, which is, of course, great with plums but also pretty much any fruit you want to throw in there. You can flavor the cake with cardamom or oooh … instead, you could make a chai cream and serve it with grilled plums.

Or maybe you’ve had a long day, and you want someone else to cook for you. You could swing by Modern General (637 Cerrillos Road, next to Vinaigrette) for a seasonal crostata or apricot kolache. The hip store/café owned by the founder of Vinaigrette has a new café menu. It’s full of whole grains, many of which are for sale at the store. Highlights include a bowl of freekeh (roasted wheat) with feta, onion, fennel and olives ($7.50); avocado toast with cilantro, olive oil and lime ($5.25); and a pho-sole bowl with bone broth, chicken and hominy, garnished with sriracha and lime ($7.75).



What news do you want to see in this newsletter? We want to hear from you! Let us know! Email thefork@sfreporter.com


Morning Word: New Poll Shows Meteor Crash Outshines Clinton, Trump

Morning WordThursday, June 30, 2016 by Peter St. Cyr
Poll: Some Americans Favor Meteor Crash over Party Candidates 
OK, this is just bizarre, but a new poll shows that 13 percent of likely voters favor an object falling from space and crashing into earth more than electing either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump president.

The timing of the poll is perfect, since today is Asteroid Day, according to Space.com

Mum's the Word
Gov. Susana Martinez may be the chairwoman of the Republican Governors Association, but Dan Boyd has learned so far she has no plans to speak at the Republican presidential nominating convention in Cleveland next month. Maybe that shouldn't be a surprise, since Martinez still hasn't endorsed her party's presumptive nominee.

No Access 
Joey Peters reports Martinez administration officials won’t release an itemized accounting of the governor’s contingency fund. They claim it's not subject to open government laws.
The fund is unusual in that, unlike most state government accounts filled with public money, the state Legislature exempts it from required annual audits. But after NM Political Report filed an Inspection of Public Records Act request with the governor’s office this spring for six years worth of expense documents associated with the contingency fund, the office only provided broad summaries of the expenses.
Tracking Campaign Finance Reports 
Speaking of government transparency, New Mexico In Depth is partnering with the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government and planning two seminars on how you can follow the money in this fall’s general election campaigns.

Libertarians Concerned about Johnson's Poll Standing 
New Mexico Political Report’s Andy Lyman says members of the Libertarian Party, including Austin Petersen, who lost his own bid for the group’s presidential nomination in May, are expressing concerns that former Gov. Gary Johnson still hasn’t reached 15 percent in national polls, which he needs to qualify for the presidential debates.
“It’s definitely time to worry because the national election is in November and that’s going to sneak up on us,” Petersen said.

One of Johnson’s mistakes, Petersen said, was trying to appeal to Bernie Sanders’ supporters instead of Republicans who don’t agree with their party’s nominee.

“That in my mind was problematic because what I thought the real movement to tap into was the never-Trumpers who had no option,” Petersen said.
Group Claims BLM Biased  
Environmentalists claim the US Bureau of Land Management “favors oil and gas development over all other uses of public lands and doesn't ensure environmental protections for areas such as those near Chaco Culture National Historic Park.”
The Wilderness Society made the claim in its June 28 report, "No Exit: Fixing the BLM's Indiscriminate Energy Leasing," but oil and gas and agency officials in New Mexico argue that the BLM oversees public lands fairly with adequate consideration for all possible uses.

According to the report, "90 percent of the public lands managed by (the BLM) are open to oil and gas leasing and mineral resource extraction even in areas of little or no potential for developing these resources." That number leads to a broken multiple land use policy by the BLM and an unfair monopoly by the oil and gas industry at the expense of land use considerations such as conservation, according to the report.

New Mexico Oil and Gas Association President Steve Henke was the BLM's Farmington district manager before he joined the oil and gas advocacy group. Henke said the Wilderness Society is choosing to take "a one-sided view" of the BLM's mission without fully considering the actual land uses in place.
Millions for Indian Health Awarded
Health programs serving Native Americans in New Mexico are among dozens of nonprofits that have been awarded more $7.6 million in new federal Indian Health Service grants.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services agency says the grants are meant to make healthcare more accessible to Native Americans living in urban areas — and especially boost services in the areas of mental health, substance abuse treatment, immunizations, and disease prevention.

Cannabis Vote Scheduled
This November, California voters will decide whether to legalize marijuana for adult social use. Time magazine reports if the referendum passes, it would mean one in every six Americans, after a decadeslong war on drugs, would have access to legal pot, including the entire West Coast.
State officials estimate the measure would raise as much as $1 billion per year in revenue and reduce public safety costs by tens of millions.
Meanwhile, patients registered to legally use medical cannabis in New Mexico claim they’re being forced to consider buying their medication on the black market because their cards are expiring faster than the health department can renew them.

Guests on today's KUNM Radio's weekly call-in show, including State Auditor Tim Keller, will discuss the delays and other cannabis-related issues for an hour, starting at 8 am.

Illegal Fireworks Easy to Find and Buy 
Kids love the fireworks that explode hundreds of feet in the air, but it’s illegal to shoot the aerials from private property. Even with the restrictions, it didn’t take a local television station long to find a business selling the illegal stuff.

Witt Picked 
Eric Witt, a staffer in former Gov. Bill Richardson’s administration, will earn $105,000 managing the City and County of Santa Fe’s new joint film office.
County Manager Katherine Miller lauded the city-county collaboration as away to “maximize our limited financial and human resources, particularly in an area we both know is so valuable to our local economy.”

Mayor Javier Gonzales said Wednesday that the film industry is a “hand-in-glove fit” that he believes can bring revenues of some $100 million annually to the city and county.

Morning Word: Senator Raises Privacy Concerns

Morning WordWednesday, June 29, 2016 by Peter St. Cyr
Heinrich Raises Privacy Concerns
Matthew Reichbach reports that US Sen. Martin Heinrich put a hold on the Intelligence Authorization Act over what his office calls a “massive expansion of government surveillance.”

Inmate Lawsuit Settlements Revealed
The firm that had been managing health care services for the New Mexico Corrections Department paid out more than $4.5 million to settle inmate lawsuits since 2007.
Corizon faced more than 150 lawsuits filed by some 200 inmates in the nine years it had the contract, a sharp increase in the rate of inmate filings during the 2004-07 tenure of the previous provider, Wexford Health Sources, which the state fired over concerns about the quality of its medical care.
Former APS Superintendent Found Not Guilty
Yesterday, a jury in Denver found Jason Martinez, a controversial former Albuquerque Public Schools deputy superintendent, not guilty on child sexual assault charges. Martinez resigned after it was discovered he never underwent a background check at APS and left Colorado in violation of his release conditions.

Santa Fe County Budget Approved
Justin Horwath reports, “Santa Fe County commissioners unanimously approved a $338.6 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year at a meeting Tuesday.”
County Manager Katherine Miller told commissioners that the county’s reserves were healthy and would help cushion it against emergencies such as natural disasters, economic downturns or less help from the state, which is going through a budget crunch. She credited the board’s reserve policy, which calls for savings above state requirements, and said that one result has been better ratings from bond agencies.
Opera Has Rich History
Santa Fe Opera hits a big milestone. SFR's John Stege reports it’s turning 60 this year.

Swim, Run, Bike and Fish. Go Outside with SFR
If you’re into the outdoors, you’ll want to check out SFR’s Outdoor Issue this week. Check out some cool place to go play over the 4th of July weekend.

Bear Attack Victim Wants Law Changed
Speaking of the outdoors, a woman runner mauled by a black bear in the Valles Calderas a couple of weeks ago wants to help change the law the forces officials kill to animals who attack people in some situations.

Groups Want Trapping Expansion Haulted
Meanwhile, Deborah Baker reports, “Animal protection groups are suing the state in federal court, trying to block a major expansion of cougar trapping they say would also illegally snag endangered Mexican wolves and jaguars.” 

Rewritten

‘Sixty Meters to Anywhere’ author on how to stop being who you’ve always been, even, or especially, if who you’ve always been has a substance abuse problem

Outdoor GuideTuesday, June 28, 2016 by Elizabeth Miller

“People who have what I have” is as close as Brendan Leonard brushes in the trailer for his latest book, Sixty Meters to Anywhere, to saying out loud the words that sent him scrambling for a way to rebuild his life. But as the images tick by and the narration continues, it becomes clear that people who have what he had have a problem with substance abuse.

That road often isn’t scenic, and the stories written about traveling it frequently focus on its spiraling descents. Leonard doesn’t. He chooses, instead, to lay a little groundwork before quickly moving into the other half of the story. He writes about the slow ascent as he learns to define himself not by what he doesn’t do, which is drink, but by what he does, which is climb and hike.

The book begins on a snowy night in Iowa, when Leonard gets stopped for his second DUI. What unfolds from there is a crisply written and boldly honest retelling of the sharply edged and often lonely moments of recovery and reinvention. As part of abandoning a life of hours spent on the bar stool, he moves to Montana to enroll in a graduate program in journalism. A creative nonfiction professor first said his experiences in jail and rehab were ones worth writing about—a kind of permission granted, he says, to produce some of the essays that now appear in his book, more than a decade later.

"There are things that you can do if you just admit to yourself that you can do them. … It’s just a matter of having the courage to do it."

But Montana, of course, is surrounded by mountains, and those begin to consume more and more of his time.

“At the time, I didn’t really know what I was feeling, or why it was so important,” he tells SFR. “It was like, this is where I feel really good, here in these places where I feel small and where I’m in incredibly beautiful terrain. I think everybody feels that same way in some respects. Whether or not you communicate it, that’s one of the things you like about being outside.”

Among the realizations materializing is that in the West, no one would call these undertakings outdoors “hobbies”; they’re far more essential.

“It becomes this lifestyle, which is a really great thing for somebody like me who didn’t really have an identity, to be able to understand you could just make this the big thing in your life,” he says. “Yeah, you’ve got to go to work and earn money, but after that, you can plunge into the outdoors and all these different methods of travel—hiking, backpacking, peak bagging, mountain biking, ice climbing, rock climbing.”

The way he writes it in Sixty Meters to Anywhere, a reference to a standard length for a climbing rope, is, “I wanted to climb, to get out there and see it all—snow-covered peaks, rivers that cut canyons, the moonscape of the American desert—to bring it into myself and see what it made me.”

For Leonard, it’s actually now become the way he makes a living, as the founder of semi-rad.com, a website about outdoor sports and the people who surrender their lives (and paychecks) to them, and an outdoor sports writer whose work has appeared in Climbing, Adventure Journal, Alpinist, Backpacker, and National Geographic Adventure. His job has now taken him down canyons in rafts and to the tops of peaks on several continents.

He says the greatest compliment he’s received on the book so far, which was released earlier this summer, was from a friend who said it compelled him to think honestly about his own life. That’s the goal, Leonard says.

“I want this out there, and hopefully someone who needs it will find it, and it will change somebody’s life in a small way and allow them to live a better life,” he says. “That’s the point of all storytelling, to me, whether it’s just funny or they really identify with it or they realize they have a substance abuse problem or they have no interest in a substance abuse problem but realize they’re in control of their own life in some other regard and can make that choice.”

The decision to stop drinking may have been one of his toughest, its effects rippling through his family and his friendships. But we all face choices to change, or not. Fourteen years sober, he now jokes about too much coffee, too little meditation and the fellow runners in the park near his house in Denver who refused to shift their route with a trail redesign. Instead, they jump a nearly 2-foot-tall curb and wear down their former path through the grass. Change comes hard, no matter how it arrives.

“You’ve got to realize you’re just telling yourself one story,” he says. “There are things that you can do if you just admit to yourself that you can do them. There aren’t these magic people who are entrepreneurs or who change their life midstream. Everybody can do it. It’s just a matter of having the courage to do it. But we have all sorts of lies we tell ourselves, like ‘Oh I was raised differently,’ or ‘I didn’t grow up doing that,’ or ‘I grew up doing this, so this is the way I do things.’ You have a choice. You don’t have to have high cholesterol just because everyone in your family has high cholesterol. You can change that. That’s not this code that’s written that you can’t rewrite in this life.”



The Outdoor Issue

FeaturesWednesday, June 29, 2016 by SFR

We’re no strangers to the great outdoors in New Mexico. As home to the nation’s first wilderness area, we’ve long been aware that the blank places on the map can be some of our most valuable. And reasons to get out and see what the map doesn’t show you abound. We open this special Outdoor Issue with one answer to why a person might want to go play outdoors: Because it could change, or save, your life. OK, so you’d like to go, but where? We’ve got some ideas for that, too. And a surefire way to get and stay committed is to sign yourself up for something that’s going to test your limits. So try a triathlon, or Santa Fe’s new ultramarathon, which comes in sizes to fit most. Curious about how our trails system and our raft guides are doing? We’ve got those answers, too. However you choose to get out there to recreate and appreciate our wild lands, we just hope you do.




MetroGlyphs

06.29.16

MetroGlyphsWednesday, June 29, 2016 by SFR
Russ Thornton is a Santa Fe local who has replaced his first passion, cooking, with a new love interest, the weekly SFR comic he's created called MetroGlyphs. Reach him at santafechef@hotmail.com

7 Days

06.29.16

7 DaysWednesday, June 29, 2016 by SFR
1

BRITS VOTE TO BREXIT

And people all over America pretend like they understand what that means.

2

STATE COPS BEGIN 100 DAYS AND NIGHTS OF SUMMER CHECKPOINTS

Day drinking and night drinking are both bad ideas when coupled with driving.

3

CITY PLANS TO HANG UP BANNERS TO ‘BEAUTIFY’ CERRILLOS ROAD/ ST. FRANCIS

Because the upcoming underpass construction is not likely to be pretty.

4

CAPITOL HILL SIT-IN TOTALLY FIXES AMERICA’S GUN CONTROL ISSUES FOREVER AND EVER

Thank you SO much, elected officials!

5

NO MORE 90-DAY EMERGENCY HIRE POSITIONS FOR THE CITY OF SANTA FE

We’ll probably still have plenty of fireworks though, so don’t freak out.

6

USA TODAY FALSELY REPORTS CORMAC McCARTHY’S DEATH

What is truth but death anyway? He scowled. Sweat dripped off his chin.

7

FREE SUNDAYS AT MUSEUMS CUT TO ONCE A MONTH

Gotta make up for the corporate tax breaks somehow.


Free State of Jones Review: Civil Bore

MehWednesday, June 29, 2016 by Alex De Vore

There’s just something about war movies that draw us in as audiences. Oh sure, there’s the history and the shaping of nations and all that, but there’s also much to be said for the stark realism of a well-done battle scene or the chance to get a view of the terrifying conditions therein. Just look at Saving Private Ryan or A Very Long Engagement, and you know what we mean. This is the premise that draws us into the new Civil War drama, Free State of Jones, but the war itself winds up playing more of a backdrop to the politically charged goings-on which, coupled with some degree of revisionist history, ultimately leaves the new film from director Gary Ross (he wrote Big with Tom Hanks and probably other movies) feeling far too drawn out.

Confederate soldier Newton Knight (Matthew McConaughey) is sick and tired of fighting a losing battle for wealthy landowners, and when a young family member is conscripted and then killed right before his eyes, he just sort of leaves. Like, seriously—he just walks away and heads home to Jones County, Mississippi, and his wife Serena (The Americans’ Keri Russell). She’s pretty bummed out by his hero complex, though, and after watching him stand up to the Confederate envoy that comes to tax local farms (by taking all of their crops and livestock) for the bazillionth time, she leaves him. This somehow lands him in a nearby swamp with a small group of runaway slaves, and together they become a sort of safe haven for deserters and runaways.

Naturally, this doesn’t much impress the nearby general and his cronies, and so a sort of cat-and-mouse game plays out over the next five years. In this time, we see Knight’s Robin Hood-esque antics withstand everything from the KKK to the changing of Mississippi law to counteract emancipation and so on. Knight develops an even stronger sense of what’s right, becomes buddies with the slaves, fights for the poor and downtrodden and falls for a beautiful young slave named Rachel (Gugu Mbatha-Raw of Jupiter Ascending). The whole thing is reportedly based on actual events, but once Jones starts to toggle between the events of the 1860s and a descendent of Knight’s struggles with outdated and racist marriage laws 85 years in the future, it becomes hard to continue paying attention. If the goal here was to prove to us that Southern white people were just the worst in those days, we didn’t need a whole other subplot going down to prove it—everyone already knows! This adds painfully unnecessary length and overshadows more important story elements such as Knight’s buddy Moses (played excellently by Benjamin Button’s Mahershala Ali) working to provide black people and former slaves with the power to vote.

The whole thing smacks of the unfortunate white savior trope in film, and even if these were actual events, it diminishes the role that black people had in their own storyline during and after the Civil War. McConaughey continues his reign of being a super-intense dude, but if he’s not careful, he’ll have used up all of his True Detective/Dallas Buyer’s Club goodwill before he knows it.

It is conceivable that future high school history classes will be shown this film, but it’s just as possible it will be forgotten entirely due to its extra (read, boring) padding. It’s a damn shame they didn’t do better, too; Civil War films don’t exactly grow on trees, and we had high hopes.



Free State of Jones
Directed by Gary Ross
With McConnaughey, Mbatha-Raw, Ali and Russel
Violet Crown, DeVArgas, REgal 14
R, 139 min.


Morning Word: PNM Loses Support for Rate Increase
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