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 V.19 No.37 | September 16 - 22, 2010 

Culture Shock

John Bear, hard at work
courtesy of stevesbraccia
John Bear, hard at work

John Bear Given Culture Beat, Apocalypse Expected

It seems my journalism career has come full circle—I went from culture editor to police reporter back to culture editor; or arts and literature editor, as it were.

That’s fine with me. The police beat is one of the hardest. Police reporters are often alcoholics, drug addicts, generally depressed. I’m looking forward to writing about art, books, theater. It’ll be a nice change from murder, fires, car wrecks. My mood is already improving.

Being a police reporter usually meant no art and no literature, save for an entertaining police report narrative. Occasionally, a serial armed robber would do his thing with a certain artistic flair. Call it felonious performance art.

John Bear

I’ve been writing for the Weekly Alibi for four years as a freelancer. It’s good to be on staff. I feel like a made guy, a member of a Mafia family of word nerds, and a captain at that.

I started off as an editor at the Daily Lobo, the student paper of the University of New Mexico, in 2004. Within months I was named the culture editor. My section focused on music, movies, art and literature. It was at the college paper where I was first introduced, nay, seduced by the power of the snarky column.

After college, I worked as a police reporter in Alamogordo and Oklahoma. Art is not illegal in Oklahoma, but it is definitely frowned upon. A notable exception is The Flaming Lips. (True story: Citizens of Oklahoma voted the band’s “Do You Realize??” as the official state rock song. The state house of representatives failed to pass the resolution after some members insinuated that the Lips were foul-mouthed communists. The governor intervened.)

Being a police reporter usually meant no art and no literature, save for an entertaining police report narrative. Occasionally, a serial armed robber would do his thing with a certain artistic flair. Call it felonious performance art.

There was the infrequent case of accidental art. A nice man named Richard built a chair that tapped out text on a person’s back via a series of electric keys. He said he received messages from God on it. On July 7, 2007, at 7 a.m., at Richard’s request, I stood at a fence near his ranch. Richard, dressed in a black cowboy suit, complete with string tie rode up on a gray horse and handed me an amended version of the Book of Genesis, delivered by the Almighty via the chair.

I found it artistic, in a Philip K. Dick sort of way.

I’ve been trying to reintroduce myself to the Albuquerque art world. I went to a play and have hit up a couple of art galleries. Writing an art review took a several tries, a few false starts and a couple of failures. Then again, I didn’t know much about murder when I started the police beat; now I know too much. I saw an impressionist painting of a cow at The Kosmos on Fifth Street NW the other night. My cousin told me the painting was actually surrealist because the cow was wearing a tie. There’s a learning curve.

As I said before, I’m looking forward to the new job. It’s a nice change of pace. But it hasn’t been easy. In one week, I’ve already seen graffiti and roadkill art, as well as dead bodies on display. Maybe the beat change won’t be that much of a stretch.


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