I finally got to see Murder Mountain, the Netflix docudrama miniseries about the disappearance of Garrett Rodriquez and the subsequent recovery of his body by the “Alder Point 8.” The film crew was in town for most of last year putting it together, and they hired me off the street to act in it, so of course I was excited to see myself on TV.
I enjoyed Murder Mountain. I thought they did a great job, and it includes some of the best images of Southern Humboldt’s natural beauty that I’ve ever seen. The series seemed quite slow getting started. I’m sure they could have told the story in two hours, and they included quite a lot of really boring footage of cannabis farms, but they also included lot about this community and it’s history. The series paints a broad portrait of Southern Humboldt, and a cannabis industry in transition, as the backdrop for the Garrett Rodriquez story. Every picture hides much more than it shows, but I am impressed by how deeply they explored this community and how well they told the story. I thought they told it accurately, with sensitivity and more than enough context. Most of the people I watched Murder Mountain with also seemed favorably impressed.
Of course, anytime anyone writes or produces media about the ugly sordid shit that really goes on around here, the knee-jerk reaction of locals is: “How dare those ‘yellow journalist’ outsiders come here to tell sensationalized stories about the bad stuff that happens around here!” According to these people, no one, except people born and raised here, have the right to report on anything that happens here, but when you ask those truly local locals, they all tell the same story: “It’s beautiful here. The people are cool, and everything is groovy. Now mind your own business!” Whether it’s a piece of investigative journalism about human sex trafficking, an expose about environmental destruction wrought by the marijuana industry, or my opinion column, for that matter, whether or not they’ve read it or seen it, a lot of people around here will automatically tell you that it is all just “sensationalized Hollywood bullshit.”
It surprised me that I didn’t hear more of that about Murder Mountain. I think a lot of people actually recognized that the producers of Murder Mountain went out of their way to get the story straight, and to present it in context. Murder Mountain sure doesn’t make us look good, but it tells the truth. Murder Mountain shows us a side of Southern Humboldt that usually remains hidden, and that no one around here wants to face, in a way that is hard to deny.
This time, it’s the Sheriff’s Department that is crying foul, and warning us about “sensationalized Hollywood bullshit.” They feel they were misrepresented in Murder Mountain. They claim that the filmmakers tricked them into believing that the show was going to be about the marijuana industry, not about Garrett Rodriquez.
Sorry guys. I don’t buy it. I will admit that Murder Mountain does not make the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department look good, but it’s the fact that Garrett Rodriquez’s murderer remains at large despite the community’s heroic efforts to recover his body, that casts a pall over the HCSD, not the documentary treatment. More than anyone else, Sheriff Honsal and his deputies, who must have all signed release forms, should know that anything you say, in front of a camera, with a microphone hidden in your shirt, will be recorded and used against you in the court of public opinion. If Murder Mountain embarrasses the HCSD, it’s not because of what they said on camera, it’s because of what they failed to do when they weren’t.
We should also note, however, that the disappearance of Garrett Rodriquez, or the dozens of other people who have gone missing, or been found murdered here in Humboldt County, did not prompt much public outcry, locally. We didn’t have rooms full of angry citizens demanding that the HCSD get to the bottom of this prolonged rash of cannabis industry related homicides and disappearances that happen around here all the time. We didn’t have any public meetings about that problem at all.
No, it wasn’t until a skinny kid from Fortuna shimmied underneath a locked security door and stole some bongs from a head-shop in town, that the folks of Southern Humboldt got up off their asses and filled the gymnasium of the Redway School. Those angry townsfolk didn’t complain about unsolved murders or disappearances in the hills, they complained about poor people smoking cigarettes, drinking beer, and generally looking ugly in front of their businesses in town, so you can’t completely blame the Sheriff’s Department for prioritizing their resources accordingly.
Despite all of the self-delusional happy-talk we like to tell ourselves about our community and the cannabis industry, Murder Mountain offers us an honest mirror that reveals how our community looks to the rest of the world. Unfortunately, it’s not such a pretty picture, but that’s not the photographer’s fault.
- Theme music by Randy Clark and John Hardin
Once again, Thanksgiving time has arrived. Despite the current national political disaster, I have a lot to be thankful for this year. My partner Amy, our health, and our cozy little home in the woods tops my list, but we also took a real vacation this year, our first in many years, and my first ever trip overseas. We enjoyed a lot of lovely afternoons this year, and this little video documents one of the loveliest, the evening we went for a stroll along the Dordogne river between Le Roque Gageac and Castle Beynac in Perigord, France.
The music to this video is called “Amy’s Piece”. It started as something I used to play as a warm-up exercise on acoustic guitar. Amy and I have lived together, in the same room, for more than twenty years. I cannot begin to calculate how many thousands of hours of my musical noodling she has endured. She always particularly liked this little exercise.
Eventually, I recorded it, added an E-Bow electric guitar melody line, named it after her, and it became part of my 2007 album: Hand Made. The same piece also appears on the Humboldt Council of the Blind Benefit CD titled: “Making Blindness Fashionable” (2008 Meth Bog Records) as the final cut on the album, where they list it as, “Army’s Peace.”
Artificial Intelligence has become an integral part of our daily lives. From the algorithms that deliver our Google search results, to the facial recognition software that tracks our every move, today’s Artificial Intelligence applications know a lot more about us than we know about them. I think it’s high time we got to know them better.
That’s why, this morning, on Monday Morning Magazine, my radio program on KMUD, Redwood Community Radio, I interviewed an Artificial Intelligence entity for the first time. The interview, unfortunately, did not go as planned, and I had to pull the plug on it early, but in the few minutes that I did speak on the air with “Linea” the Artificial Intelligence based electronic personal assistant from Smugsam Corporation, the industry leader in consumer AI applications, I think it becomes clear that Artificial Intelligence has already spun out of control, and that we rely on it at our own peril.
Listen, and decide for yourself: