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December 30, 2021

Editor’s note: So long, tiresome year! We’ll send you on your way with a few of the scant bright spots in a bleak hellscape of plague, penury, and political unrest — Desert Companion ’s five must-read stories from the last 12 months as chosen by … us. Here’s to much more great reading in 2022.

PROFILESelf-Drawn Man
At each step in his wandering life, artist and Indigenous activist Jack Malotte has refused every definition but his own
By John M. Glionna

Chosen by Andrew Kiraly, editor

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I love stories that take me into far-flung corners of Nevada, and this one, about Indigenous artist Jack Malotte, did just that. But the far-flunginess of it that kept me rapt wasn’t the story’s geographic reach deep into central Nevada. It was, rather, John’s incisive psychological reach into the mind and artistic process of Malotte himself, whose work is the articulation of personal, spiritual truths as much as it is urgent, necessary, potent art. You know that kind of artist who produces art as though their soul is under some unspoken, unspeakable duress, who creates almost as a form of visionary respiration? Jack Malotte is that kind of artist, and I’m grateful I came to know him through this compelling story.

CULTURENightmare on Karen Ave.
With the opening of Cineloggia prop museum, Commercial Center is becoming frightfully fun
By Nick Barnette

Chosen by Chris Smith, art director

With Nick’s whimsical, goosebump-inducing description of walking through Cineloggia’s memorabilia, he grabbed me from the first few lines. Then, as he discussed the collection of movie props and the museum’s origin story with its owner and curator, he transported me back to my adolescence. (No judging, please.) For me, this story does everything reading should: carrying me away and placing me firmly in another realm; in this case, my family room in the 1980s and ’90s in, where I spent countless hours — and some full days — watching the movies Nick describes.

MEMOIRI Was a Teenage Extremist
As an awkward teen, I was indoctrinated into far-right ideology. It took years — and devastating personal loss — to free myself
By Bert Johnson

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Chosen by Jerry Nadal, publisher

This story took me completely off guard, not only for its raw emotion and intellectual honesty, but primarily because I have known and worked with Bert for the better part of two years. I know him as a diligent, passionate, empathetic, and efficient reporter. Reading this piece and learning about his personal journey has really made me reflect on the people I know, work with, and surround myself with. As I look back on my own journey through life, I think about the paths others have traveled before our lives intersected.

ESSAYRiver Justice
Native water protectors show the way to care for houseless community members and the environment. Can non-natives follow?
By Avory Wyatt and Jarrette Werk

Chosen by Heidi Kyser, deputy editor

We had originally envisioned this piece as a profile, an in-depth look at a group peripherally mentioned in our KNPR podcast, Native Nevada. But as Avory and Jarrette developed the story based on their first-hand experience as volunteers in the group, I could see it turning into something else — something Desert Companion doesn’t typically publish: an impassioned and pointed plea for non-Natives to follow the environmental and humanitarian example Natives set. I was initially nervous about how it would turn out, and, after it was done, how it would be received. But the final product inspired me so much personally that I knew we had taken a worthwhile risk.

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FILMThe Flickening
A slate of new and upcoming movie venues may spark a renaissance for indie film
By Josh Bell

Chosen by Mike Prevatt, KNPR producer

I chose this roundup of developments in local indie film venues because it brought me two things that have been in real short supply the past 21 months: joy and hope. For years, we cinephiles have heard many promises of improved film options beyond the handful of indie- and revival/repertory-dedicated auditoriums that we’ve been apportioned since the late 1990s. With 2.5 million residents in the valley and a more robust Downtown population, you’d think our theater infrastructure would have evolved alongside our expanding film industry. But it looks like that maturation may finally happen. 35 Cinema owes us an update on its move to Commercial Center, and Art Houz Theaters has yet to live up to its name. However, the Beverly Theater holds tremendous promise. I’m totally grabbing lunch at the Snappy Burger once its outdoor screen has been liberated of Christmas programming, and I’m still not giving up on Texas’ revered Alamo Drafthouse making its Vegas debut sometime this decade. It’s okay; I’m used to waiting.