Monday, February 19, 2007

Just Getting Older

What's wrong with this picture?

I visited the State legislature a couple of weeks ago and wandered into a phenomenon that helps put definition to the slogan that the City of Santa Fe uses; the city different. I walked into the rotunda of the state capitol.

In the building dubbed “the merry roundhouse,” by the late radio newsman/commentator Ernie Mills, one might want to say that, with what can sometimes only be described as legislative antics of the House and Senate, there is a third ring; the rotunda.

It is the public square, albeit round. Groups wanting to display their influence are granted use of the room to show support or to protest their interests during the session.

The activities are often coordinated and accompanied with speeches, drama, song, and dance. Sometimes there are delicious refreshments served. At other times, you’re lucky to get a stale cookie.

This is former Lt. Gov. Roberto Mondragon in the rotunda on “Native American day,” as he spoke about the importance of water to New Mexicans, then played a guitar and sang for the assembled crowd.

Mondragon served as State Representative from Bernalillo County from 1967 to 1970, then with Gov. Bruce King from 1971–1974 and again from 1979–1982.

Mondragon ran in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate in 1972, as Democratic candidate for U.S. House of Representative in 1974 in the original 1st District, before there was a third district, representing the northern part of the state, losing to incumbent Manuel Lujan Jr. He then ran again in 1982 in the Democratic primary for U.S. House of Representative in the 3rd District, which was then held by current Gov. Bill Richardson.

Mondragon also ran for governor in 1994 and also ran for state representative from Santa Fe County in 1996 as a green party candidate, getting just over 10 percent of the vote.

Mondragon currently serves as Special Water Projects Coordinator in the Office of the State Engineer and Interstate Stream Commission. He specializes in acequia programs, and other water projects

According to a State Engineer’s press release announcing Mondragon’s hiring last year, he had also served as Director of the New Mexico Commission on Aging from 1975 to 1978, and was Director of the State Housing Authority in 1983.

Mondragon is a living cultural icon, a walking font of historic knowledge. He has worked with non-profit and profit-based organizations spreading New Mexico’s culture through bilingual programs. He is also an accomplished musician and uses song to impart his message.

So what's wrong with this picture?

This is election night 1970, when Mondragon learned that the local television stations had just projected that he and King had been elected. He looks like a kid; he probably was.

This is Russell Means of San Jose, N.M. This was the first time I photographed Means, though I have followed his politics back to the early 1970s, when he was a prominent leader of the American Indian Movement. AIM was known for several high-profile acts of civil disobedience, taking over public places including, Mount Rushmore, S.D. in 1970, Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, S.D. in 1973, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs offices in Washington, D.C. in 1973.

Means has a more mainstream political history, having formally run for the presidency of the Oglala Sioux tribe in 1974. He was defeated, but due to massive voter fraud, a federal court ordered a new election. The fraudulent government refused, and the court did not enforce its ruling.

Means unsuccessfully sought the presidential nomination of the Libertarian Party in 1987. In 2002, he ran for New Mexico governor as an independent, but the Secretary of State claimed he appeared 10-minutes after the deadline to file his paperwork and the State Supreme Court upheld the rejection.

Means is also known as an entertainer, having performed on television and in movies. He recorded two albums, started his own production company and wrote a best selling book: “Where White Men Fear to Tread, the Autobiography of Russell Means.”

When introduced at the rotunda, Means was credited with his film role as Chingachgook in the 1992 film adaptation of the James Fenimore Cooper novel, The Last of the Mohicans. The moderator, in introducing him, said, “that was another story.” Indeed it is, as I believe his moment of film fame was portrayed with the hardest believable hit ever delivered on film.

My associate and fellow blogger Joe Monahan calls “La Politico” an addiction. Monahan claims that when it gets into people’s blood, there is no known cure.

Mondragon seems blissfully content to try to spread the addiction, as well as Monahan does.

This is a picture of Monahan, on the left side, in the second row between the TV film cameras, taken at a press conference with Harris Hartz, of the Governor of New Mexico's Organized Crime Prevention Commission, Albuquerque Police Chief Bob Stover, Special Agent In Charge of the Albuquerque Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigations Forrest Putman and APD Dep. Chief Lane Vance, who was in charge of investigations in 1978.

What this makes me realize is that time marches on and we all are getting older.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Hello – Hello, I’ve Got To Say Goodbye!

What's wrong with this picture?

Over the past few days I have noticed, what I consider, a greater than usual number of drivers using hand held cellular phones while driving.

The ban on cell phone use was passed Feb. 5, at City Council on a 5-4 vote. Much has been made that the vote was cast along party lines in the nonpartisan chamber. I don’t think it much matters, after a major decision was made to make the offense punishable as a traffic code violation, instead of as a civil public nuisance, like the automated enforcement using red light cameras and photo radar vans.

Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chávez signed the bill into law Feb. 7, and the enforcement date will begin five days after publication. Publication occurred on Sunday, according to City Attorney Bob White who said in an interview that, like everything in City Hall there was a debate over whether the effective date was the fifth day or the day after the fifth day. “I settled that debate by just saying it’s the later date.” The effective date will be Sat. Feb. 17.

Chief of Police Ray Schultz also announced that talking on a cell phone would not be a primary reason for stopping a vehicle, according to Albuquerque Journal’s crime reporter T.J. Wilham in a copyrighted story. Unless an officer sees another violation while someone’s on the phone, talking will not be the sole reason to initiate a stop. Drivers should not put much stock in that though. When I worked the street many years ago, I read a study that said any driver would commit a technical violation once every mile driven. Since then, I think the level of safe driving has gone down, making it more likely that an officer may see a secondary offense. And because making the case against talking on the phone is so cut and dry, it will be an easy prosecution.

After the enforcement date, there will be a 30-day period where verbal warnings will be issued. There will then be another 30-day period where written warnings will be issued. According to APD Public Information Officer John Walsh, after the 60-days of warnings, citations will be issued.

My humble advice; don’t use your cell phone, it isn’t worth the risk.

So what's wrong with this picture?

This is a city transit driver driving an empty Sun Van west bound on Interstate 40 while talking on her cell phone. Mayor Chávez sent down an order banning the use of cell phones for city transit drivers. After getting this picture, I raised my camera again to take a safety shot and the driver held up her right hand to block her face. We were traveling in excess of 55 mph as she held her phone in her left hand. I can, at least, count to two; this means she had no hand available to hold on to the steering wheel.

I didn’t mean to cause her to try to hide and if I had so much as swerved my point and shoot photography might also be considered driver inattention.

Yeah, Sour Grapes

What's wrong with this picture?

This is the new face of multi-media journalism, Michael Amedeo.

The Albuquerque Tribune has started using video to augment their coverage, particularly with regards to interviewing candidates.

Editor in Chief Phill Casaus visited my intermediate reporting class at the University of New Mexico, last semester, on Oct. 24. He expressed an interest in adding an online video component to their Web site. This is an exciting proposition and an effective use of an emerging medium; web casting.

I gave him a resume and sent a portfolio, as I am interested in a part time job in the visual communications field. I thought that because the Tribune was going to limit its use of video, this would suit both of us well.

At the end of my cover letter, I wrote: “If you find yourself unable to offer any positions at this point, I would be available to consult with you about my ideas for developing a video component to the Tribune’s Web site.”

He demurred. Casaus said his reasoning for passing on my offer and resume was that he needed to consider purchasing equipment. He ignored the fact that I offered a package deal. This included my services and a studio in a box of state of the art equipment.

So what's wrong with this picture?

I was prepared to unleash on the Tribune’s efforts as being of amateurish quality. It probably was just sour grapes on my part.

I held off because the Tribune’s on-line video guru was scheduled as a guest speaker at my advanced reporting: multi-media class Wed.

Amedeo is a man who does not use his last name, Tumolillo and who, for the last four weeks, has been working on getting video on the Tribune’s web page, as an adjunct to their print edition. He is talking with my classmate, James W. Snyder at and our professor Dennis Herrick after Amedeo’s presentation.

Amedeo related some of the technical problems with software he is attempting to overcome, especially with compression of video; making files smaller so they will easily show over the Internet.

He’s one of the young breeds: talented, smart, resourceful and full of energy.

He received a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Oklahoma in 1998 and a Master of Science in Journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004, just before joining the Tribune staff as a reporter.

He’s one of those people who makes you pause and who unknowingly reminds you of your age. When you realize that you created your first video product three years before he was born, you look back on all your experiences, remembering how much you learned over such a very long period of time. The idea that going to school teaches one what they need to know is such a fallacy. Finishing school actually only prepares one to begin to learn, without the training wheels. I’m always amazed when I look back at all the things I’ve learned since the time I was led to believe I knew it all. What that view has taught me is the realization of how much I must not know and how little of it I’m likely to learn.

As I review the Tribune’s video work, I offer the following critique:

There are three areas: composition/ framing, lighting and sound, that are of major concern.

The Tribune’s school board candidate interviews show a progression of a trial and error learning curve.

The fact that well qualified still photographers were pressed into service is a start. However, they fell down on the basics of lighting an interview, by failing to follow the three-point or Rembrandt’s golden triangle lighting technique.

These interviews were over lit, especially with lighting the background for the head on shot, because it blew out the scene. The automatic exposure sensor of the video misread the scene, consequently trying to bring the bright area into its limited exposure range and by doing so, it inadvertently darkened the skin tones.

In the Marty Esquivel interview, as an example, the background is too bright, making his facial tones dark.

The C De Baca interview was more evenly lit and looked good. However, it has other problems related to framing.

The framing issue is greatest when shifting camera positions. The angle changes, from a head on shot, to a 90-degree profile, where the head size stayed virtually the same, are a problem. When I mentioned it to Amedeo he asked, “did it bother you?” I responded, that it did, and “then there was the rule.”

“There’s a rule,” he asked? That’s when I realized how much he was simply operating on raw talent.

In the visual community this kind of visual edit is called a jump cut or a junk cut. There is a rule that such changes require that the particular image change size by at least a third. Either the head is a third larger or a third smaller as compared to the shot before.

In the Esquivel interview, the head size framing issue is good.

The interview with Gov. Bill Richardson was an absolute mess. There was no effective lighting strategy in the governor’s office. I suspected that there was no trained or experienced photographer present, as the camera was simply pointed in the general direction of Richardson and left to run. Amedeo admitted he shot the video.

There was a huge amount of daylight streaming through an office window from the right side of the scene; the rest of the room was standard office lighting, Amedeo said. Failure to bring and set up lights caused the image to be very muddy. Compression software added to degrading the quality of the picture, Amedeo said.

If the technology is going to introduce problems, all the more reason to get the highest quality image possible.

The new video cameras are extremely seductive. They are capable of producing images that, us old-timers could only hope for from cameras in a fully lit studio. However, no matter how good the potential is, high production quality, lighting and sound, must be added to the incredible capabilities of the new technology.

These are some screen shots of videos with strong window light I have lit for UNM course work. The shot on the left is of Dan Vukelich, a one time Tribune editor who went on to be an investigative producer at KOB TV Eyewitness News and is now the publisher and producer of New Mexico Golf – TV at The picture on the right is of Professor and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the University of New Mexico School of Engineering Charles Fleddermann, in his corner sun-drenched office. In both cases, the lighting was evened out and the picture improved from the ambient light.

The common thread of the Tribune’s error is with sound acquisition. Their approach was obviously to go on the cheap. The use of a single microphone, rather than using individual audio pick-ups for each participant, degraded the quality of their product. It was so bad that when the transcript of the interview was published, words were altered. An example: in answering the final question, Richardson was quoted in the transcription as saying, “…How can it help? Well, there's a lot of Hispanics in this country that may take some pride that one of their own is vying for president.” When in fact he said, “…that one of their own is running for president.”

Tribune Managing Editor Kate Nelson, to the right side of the picture and Santa Fe Capitol Correspondent Kate Nash, two seasoned political reporters, had a sit down interview with Richardson in what should have been a premier piece. They asked good questions. However, the resulting video was a less than stellar audio and visual effort.

This was an admittedly rare opportunity to interview the elusive governor, but now that Richardson has announced his run for the Democratic presidential nomination, the greatest effort should have been made to produce a professional product. This video adds little over the print version. The editorial decision to run poor quality exposes a weak position, not one of strength. There comes a time when, as an editor, you simply have to admit that your journalist blew the assignment. It maybe a very difficult decision to own up to, but one of the distinctions between a professional and an amateur is that a professional won’t show you his bad work.

At a minimum, a small portable three instrument lighting kit, with stands, is required. It is an additional 10 pounds, but worth its weight in gold and golden light. Lighting a scene so that it doesn’t look like it has been lit, is an art form unto itself.

The Tribune also needs to invest in a variety of microphones, including four or five lavalieres and maybe a couple of wireless units, along with a portable audio mixer. Capturing good quality sound is also an art form.

Video work is not simply placing a camera in front of a subject. Letting a camera run as a reporter often does with a tape recorder, in order to capture accurate notes at a press conference or interview, is different. Video is a manned activity with a trained and experienced operator who can enhance the storytelling by controlling the camera. As Richardson moved, the camera did not follow. The wide-angle setting of the lens was set up to allow the governor to move around. Camera technique should replicate how humans interact while listening intimately to another person. If they move, the listener’s eyes will track the speaker. The camera should not be static.

There is a whole subset of skills associated with creating compelling video, that do not directly translate from still photography and definitely not from print media; radio experience will often time cover the sound component.

"We teach people how to write essays from the beginning of their schooling . . . but we don't teach people how to express themselves with media," said Elizabeth Daley, professor and dean of the University of Southern California School of Cinema-Television. "I think for anyone today in any field, you need to be able to do that. You also need to be able to understand how media works, because otherwise, you'll misread it all the time," Amedeo wrote, in a Jan. 16, 2006, article with an accompanying video clip for the Tribune, found on his web page

Daley, spoke about the need for everyone to learn the language of the screen, in her presentation, “Multimedia Literacy,” as keynote speaker at the New Mexico Media Industries Strategy Project conference, held in early Jan. Amedeo’s video clip was fraught with the very problems she advocated overcoming. There was a great deal of distracting background noise and Daley was in a bad backlit situation.

Taking control of the environment: lighting it and acquiring good sound and using a tripod all increase the ease for the viewer to receive the information.

Here is an example of a conference situation where I took the head of the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research at the National Science Foundation, Dr. Sherry O. Farwell, left, into a separate room to interview him.

Dr. Sanjay Krishna, right, a UNM School of Engineering Associate Professor for Electrical and Computing Engineering at the Center for High Technology Materials, granted me an interview in one of his labs, where there was florescent lighting and a low hum from the equipment. By adding some lights and attaching a lavaliere microphone on his shirt, close to his mouth, the video looked and sounded good.

One might think that a major news outlet, like the Tribune, would understand the value of using a professionally trained and experienced videographer. I suspect Amedeo and his colleagues will improve fairly quickly through hit or miss.

I applaud the Tribune’s efforts. The elimination of the trial and error process might be expedited if Casaus were to reconsider my offer.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

I’d Rather Watch Sausage Being Made

What's wrong with this picture?

This is State Sen. Shannon Robinson, (D) Bernalillo County, District 17, during the recent cockfighting ban debate on the floor of the Senate. This piece of legislation, in particular, seemed like a forum for excessive grandstanding.

With existing laws against cruelty to animals and gambling, specifically outlawing cockfighting would seem superfluous. Except there is an exemption for cockfighting; it’s not against the law now. It’s actually allowed.
“K. The provisions of this section shall not be interpreted to prohibit cockfighting in New Mexico.”

The current law has a list of exceptions that make perfect sense:
“(1) humanely destroying a sick or injured animal; or
(2) protecting a person or animal from death or injury due to an attack by another animal.”
E. Extreme cruelty to animals consists of a person:
(1) intentionally or maliciously torturing, mutilating, injuring or poisoning an animal; or
(2) maliciously killing an animal.”

Senate Bill 10, sponsored by Sen. Mary Jane M. Garcia, (D) Dona Ana County, District 36, right, strikes the exception and prohibits cockfighting.

Sen. Phil A. Griego, (D) Los Alamos, Mora, Sandoval, San Miguel, Santa Fe and Taos Counties, District: 39 opposed the bill and argued strongly against the ban using the argument and suggesting that the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo protected cultural activities, including cockfighting. However, article IX of the treaty delineates that the former citizens of Mexico, at the end of the Mexican-American War, were entitled to, “…the enjoyment of all the rights of citizens of the United States, according to the principles of the Constitution; and in the mean time, shall be maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty and property, and secured in the free exercise of their religion without; restriction.”

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo argument fails miserably as the other states that were covered by it: California, Arizona, Utah and parts of Colorado, all have outlawed cockfighting?

Another thought: I cannot think of any other “legal” activity that is so deeply underground. Could it be that supporters of cockfighting know that if they practiced their “sport” in the light of day, the general public would be even more outraged than they already seem.

The bill passed the Senate 31-11 and is on its way to the House, where has passed repeatedly.

So what's wrong with this picture?

There is an old saw that goes, there are two things you don’t want to see made: sausage and legislation.

It matters little what the debate is about. See fellow student Jo Fanelli’s blog at:

I enjoy seeing politicians verbally turn themselves inside out trying to make language support logic to illogical propositions. The use of rhetoric and hyperbole are common devices in this linguistic exercise. It should be expected. Robinson, however, got so worked up that he misstated the law. I wouldn’t normally get upset about such a gaff, but he made a huge blunder.

In talking about the potential penalties associated with this bill, Robinson tried to point out that, because ultimately, upon a third conviction, the penalty was a fourth degree felony.

The Senate Judiciary committee had reduced the original penalties for a first conviction from a full misdemeanor, with a fine of $1,000, and or confinement in the county jail for a definite term less than one year, to a petty misdemeanor, carrying a fine of $500 and or jail time of up to six months. A second conviction would be a full misdemeanor.

A third and subsequent conviction would be a fourth degree felony, carrying a possible punishment of a fine of $5,000 and or up to eighteen months in the state prison.

Robinson made the argument that because ultimately, upon a third conviction, the penalty was a felony, that felony rules applied to all cases; whether or it not it was a third offense.

He then went into hyperbole hyper-drive stating that one trying to enforce the ban would have to shoot the “felon” if they tried to escape a cockfighting event, whether they were owners of a bird or a child of a spectator.

What sets me off about this diatribe is that as a practicing attorney, a member of the state bar, Robinson could possibly get such a fundamental legal concept so completely wrong. The use of deadly force is only authorized when a felon is in the actual commission of a violent act that could kill or seriously injure another person or, while still armed, flees where they may continue their violent act. Then, and only then, may a person use deadly-force. What is so wrong about Robinson’s comment was it was made in the well of the Senate, while a number of students were visiting the gallery. They heard a prominent legislator make a statement, as if it were a fact of law.

I don’t call for censoring bad speech; I’m just raising the volume to say that Robinson’s comments were irresponsible because they are simply untrue. I am concerned that young impressionable minds will believe Robinson. How can Robinson justify the next “kid” who chases a car thief to recover his father’s stolen vehicle and shoots him, because “he’d heard a senator and lawyer say that was the law?”

After all that, I still had to stop at a Kentucky Fried Chicken to pick up some wings. No baloney!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Jerry T. Powell

What's wrong with this picture?

This is Jerry T. Powell, in 1978, when he was a lieutenant with the Albuquerque Police Department. At the time, he was the swing-shift commander of the Southeast Area Command. He would be promoted twice more, to captain and eventually to deputy chief. He was tough, but always friendly.Though we had our differences, ultimately he was a fair man.

He joined APD on Nov. 29, 1962, after serving in the U.S. Air Force. He retired from the city in June of 1988.

When I was president of the Albuquerque Police Officers’ Association, Powell would go out of his way to seek me out, in my office, whenever he had a planned change that might affect the working relationship with officers. He always got his way, not because of the simple showing of respect, but because of his thoroughness, attention to detail and he got it right. He would always quote the applicable sections of the contract, city and department regulations. He sought consensus, but didn’t demand it. It made him a rare breed.

So what's wrong with this picture?

Powell, 70, took his own life on Sun. Feb. 4., in Rio Rancho.

He always had the perfect uniform and motivated officers by ending his comments with “look sharp.” Same to you J.T., “Look Sharp!”

Friday, February 02, 2007

Nature Abhors a Vacuum

What's wrong with this picture?

In what seems a major change at the State Legislature, the Senate Conservation Committee moved a cockfighting ban measure out to the full Senate with a 5-3 do-pass recommendation. The committee has traditionally been the graveyard for other attempts to ban the “sport” in the state. If the bill clears the Senate and House and if the governor signs it, New Mexico will join every other state, except Louisiana, in outlawing game fowl fights.

The governor has joined Archbishop Michael Sheean, in supporting the ban. He is seen here leaving the state of the state address, opening the legislature a couple of weeks ago.

So what's wrong with this picture?

This is Pahl Shipley, the newly appointed Director of Communications for the Richardson for President campaign. Seen here, left, with the governor upon his return from his diplomatic effort to the Dufar region of Sudan. Shipley had been Richardson’s spokesman prior to announcing his run for president 12 days ago.

It seems Richardson has upset his otherwise friendly nationally syndicated radio talk show host, Don Imus, yesterday. Imus is a part time resident of Ribera, a small town northeast of Santa Fe, where he and his brother, Fred, run a ranch and summer camp. Imus insists it be called a "working ranch," for children suffering from cancer and other diseases.

Imus is upset with the governor for not moving quickly on helping transform an old schoolhouse in Ribera into a community center. Read all about it at where you will be directed to a video and to Imus’ blog,; you can listen to the seven-minute rant. Richardson was scheduled to be on the show Thursday, but the flap caused the Democratic presidential candidate to cancel.

Imus, in addition to calling ‘Big Bill” fat, was particularly irritated with the governor’s staff, including Shipley. The "I man” called the campaign staff, “not ready for prime time,” when they insisted he apologize to Richardson.

Imus gave me a Spanish lesson as he taught me how to say, "Beso mi culo!” translation; “Kiss my Ass!”

If you worry that game fowl fighting is about to be outlawed; don’t fret, nature abhors a vacuum. Just stay tuned for more Imus – Richardson – in the morning. Feathers will surely fly.