Friday, December 19, 2008

Full-tilt fiesta season continues...

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — Just when I thought I’d O.D.ed on awe and wonder, I found myself infused with another dose of fiesta adrenaline.
The only dilemma was, which choice to make. Anyone who says there is nothing to do in Las Cruces must have been hibernating in a very deep cave.
Full-tilt fiesta season used to have its lulls and valleys. Now it’s a steady cascade of events with a couple of Superweekends, periods so crammed with relentless fun and pageantry that only the strongest fiesta animals can hope to survive.
After Winterfest weekend, I thought I might be one of the casualties, succumbing to one of the two chronic maladies sweeping the Sun-News this year.
I got the one that goes beyond Montezuma’s Revenge into Montezuma’s Vendetta, causing you to lose five pounds in 24 hours and later making you feel obligated to have at least a few Christmas cookies, a pitcher of Margaritas and a pint or two of peppermint stick ice cream to build up your strength.
Instead, I decided it was time to take a break and contemplate my choices. I bellied up the bar — Corie Lane’s Pure Energy Juice Bar at Tom Young’s, that is. I ordered a stiff drink: a supersize Immune System Booster, a concoction of lemon juice, lots of cayenne pepper and other industrial strength magic ingredients. Is it potent? Let’s just say, any bugs this drink won’t kill, you WANT to have on your side.
Thus fortified, I planned the rest of my holiday itinerary.
Last weekend, I was sorely tempted to run off to T or C for a soothing soak in Geronimo’s healing waters and the annual Elephant Butte luminarias beach walk and floating parade of lights and art hop, crowned with a community screening of “It’s A Wonderful Life” at the El Cortez Theater, a place I’ve always wanted to see and never manage to catch when it’s open.
But I’ve never missed joining at least one day of Our Lady of Guadalupe Festival celebrations and dancing, and I also wanted to catch the last day of the Border Artist Show. And I had my heart set on heading to first-century Judea complete with artisans and traditional foods, surveying the recreated marketplace, picking a “tribe” and joining a tour to see over 100 period-costumed, artistic Methodists create living Nativity scenes in the Advent Journey.
Could I I still fit in the “Living Christmas Tree” musical spectacular and the Mesilla Christmas Tree Lighting and the Ft. Selden Luminaria Tour and reenacters’ encampment amidst the ruins? And what about all those tempting weekend concerts with Vos Vaqueros and Celestial Sounds, and the Mesilla Valley Chorale? Could I remain standing long enough to join any or all of those sing-along ops?
I wondered briefly if I should have avoided all these difficult decisions and accepted offers to join loved ones for the holidays in the Pacific Northwest, New York or Florida.
Bemused, I wandered out to my yard, where the mid-December temperature hovered around 70 after a little cold snap that almost killed my petunias and neon lapis blue lobelia, but not quite. Confused butterflies still fluttered around my patio, trying to make sense of global warming.
And I attempted to choose from an astonishment of seasonal riches, missing distant loved ones, as we all do this time of year, but greatly comforted by the joys of life in my chosen querencia.
There’s no place like home for the holidays, especially if your home is Las Cruces.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

Friday, December 12, 2008

Wacky & wonderful holiday traditions

LAS CRUCES AND MESILLA — It’s the time of year for sacred rites that inspire joy and creative and touching Southwestern traditions that can conjure smiles, awe and wonder and sometimes amazed amusement.
Tanks of piranhas decked with poinsettias. Rolling fields of fluffy white stuff that turns out to be not snow, but cotton harvest remnants. Hand-crafted snowguys with red chile noses. Giant roadrunner sculptures made out of recycled trash, merrily lit with twinkle lights.
Gathering with amigos on Christmas Eve on the Mesilla Plaza. Watching dancers in feather bonnets and Our Lady of Guadalupe tunics at Tortugas Pueblo. Figuring out new ways to hang our cowboy boot stockings on a kiva fireplace. Homemade holiday tamales and (new to me this year) turkey and mashed potatoes with red chile gravy and cranberry-green chile sauce. Yucca pod wreaths and tumbleweed Christmas trees …
These are just a few of my favorite holiday things.
The holidays here are a wonderfully eclectic mixture of the beautiful and traditional … and the deeply weird. And it all just keeps getting better.
This is my 15th holiday season in this part of the state, and I’ve fallen in love with some traditional celebrations and been introduced to new favorites, some of which have died and been reborn in new forms.
I’m looking forward to the 2008 version of La Posada Friday on the Downtown Mall, especially after hearing tales from some good friends who grew up here. The way they’ve explained it, it’s sort of like a Christmas version of trick or treat. A friend said she and her buddies used to go from house to house asking if there was room at the inn, and has fond memories of being rewarded with tamales and biscochitos and all kinds of goodies.
This week, everyone will be able to enjoy singing followed by goodies and a piñata.
It’s one tradition I’ve seen reborn in recent years, along with “Los Pastores,” an ancient ritual with deep roots in the Mesilla Valley that has come back after a few tough years. It was started here nearly half a century ago by a group of Mesilla families who are determined to keep it alive.
When it comes to holiday traditions, Mesilla is probably ground zero in both the most beautiful and most weird categories.
Josefina’s Gate, possibly the most photographed adobe structure in southern New Mexico, is always beautiful this time of year, and was even before Josefina’s daughter, Kathleen Foreman, transformed her late mom’s adobe home into one of the region’s loveliest lunch and tea rooms. The late, great Josefina Gamboa Biel is credited with starting Mesilla’s tradition of luminarias, carols and drinks on the Mesilla Plaza on Christmas Eve. It’s one of the most wonderful ways to spend Dec. 24 to be found anywhere on the planet, in my opinion.
But I also like the weird stuff: Like the Mesilla classic that I think of as the outlaw redemption center tableau: a beautiful, life-sized Nativity scene perched on the roof of Billy the Kid Gift Shop, with an image of Billy hanging out below.
And right across the street, at La Posta, I always make a point of taking visitors to see the cages of parrots and tanks of piranhas flanked by banks of bright red poinsettias accented by darting, flashing bits of gold nearby. I don’t always reveal that the glittering goldfish aren’t decorations, but lunch for the piranhas. Somehow, I’ve always managed to schedule my tours to avoid feeding times.
Last week, it was wonderful to celebrate an event-filled Christmas Superweekend and what this year became its crown jewel: Winterfest.
I remember my first Christmas in Las Cruces, walking through the crumbling, dirty Downtown Mall that was then termed “a graveyard of high hopes.”
This month, it was a sparkling winter wonderland of promises fulfilled, as crowds drifted from the refurbished Branigan Cultural Center and relatively new Las Cruces Museum of Art through the 18 venues, including galleries and theaters, featured in the monthly Downtown Ramble and on to the spruced-up block housing the restored Rio Grande Theatre. Everything was aglow with electric lights and luminarias. There was music and dancing and treats and transport via horse-drawn carriages to more celebrations at Pioneer Women’s Park and the beautifully restored Court Youth Center.
It hit me, as then-toddler grandson Alex the great use to put it, in “one swell foop.”
In the last decade, many of our high hopes have been realized. Our downtown is becoming a delight.
Merry Christmas.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Thanksgiving Gratitude List...

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — It can be tough to be a Pollyanna if you are in the news business. You know too much.
I try to limit my online and news channel time once I leave the office, but these days, I’m as likely to hear an in-depth discussion of the latest crises in the hot tub at the health club as I am in the newsroom. More likely, in fact. We’re usually so busy dealing with some aspect of the latest dilemma that we don’t have much time to talk about it all.
But maybe we should. From talk show pundits to purveyors of “The Secret,” many have told us that we should ignore and dismiss from our life everything that seems negative and all will be well.
I agree that it’s a good idea to accentuate the positive and be a cosmic cheerleader whenever and wherever possible. But it can be a delicate balance.
There are other maxims that mature and responsible adults should keep in mind: like the ones about not hiding your head in the sand, and, of course, the admonition so dear to conscientious journalists: “Don’t kill the messenger.”
That said, there’s a lot to be thankful about, this Thanksgiving season. It’s a great time of year to sit down and make some lists, with an enlightened attitude of gratitude and some realistic fair and balanced reporting. Here’s a sampling of what’s on my list.
I’m grateful that my family has had a pretty happy, healthy year, and glad I got to spend some wonderful vacation days with some members of the tribe I miss having nearby, like son Ryan, daughter-in-law Shannon and grandson Alexander the great, during a beautiful summer in Idaho. There were some fun surprises, too, like a visit from my long-lost cousin Jim Bernard, who toured the country with his charming wife Deb and perky dog Sheba and, as fate would have it, showed up in both Las Cruces and Coeur d’Alene for fun renuion visits.
I mourn all the wonderful persons, places and things that have left Las Cruces this year, but I’m grateful for the faith and experience that have taught me that nothing good is every truly lost, that for everything we willingly set free, we get something better, sometimes in a different form.
I’m sad that some of my dearest friends have moved away to places like New York and Santa Fe, but grateful that we’re so profoundly bonded and that we can keep in touch with visits, phone calls and e-mail.
I’m even sadder that so many loved ones and relatives of loved ones have passed on to realms beyond cyberspace communication this year, but when I reflect on what good lives they lived and the contributions they made to making this world a better — and far more entertaining and interesting — place, I feel very grateful to have had the chance to spend some quality time with them on the earthly portion of their journeys, and look forward to meeting them all again in the great beyond.
I’m sad that we live, in 2008, in a world that is still at war on so many fronts, that has experienced devastating natural disasters, economic collapse, global warming, worsening ecological problems, record home foreclosures, and such formidible challenges with issues ranging from global violence and homelessness to poverty and health care.
But I am grateful for so many signs that we are finally realizing that we are all in this together, that the entire ocean is affected by a pebble, that we must hang together or we’ll hang separately. That we are all our brother’s keeper... and our sister’s, children’s, neighbors,’ parents’ and grandparents’ keeper, and the keepers and custodians of life on this fragile planet.
And I’m grateful that for all the challenges we face as a world, a nation and a community, by some wonderful milagro, many of us seem to be moving into 2009 with renewed spirit and a sense of hope far stronger than in what many would have considered better times. Somehow, there seems to be a strong and growing sense that we can provide care and education and compassion and a fulfilling future for every soul, that somehow, we still have everything we need to make things work, if only we will.
I hope your own 2008 gratitude lists are long and pray that your prospects, strength and relationships all grow and prosper in 2009. Happy Thanksgiving.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

Friday, November 14, 2008

She’s with the band: It’s in the DNA

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — When I heard about my grandson’s new band, I flashed back to the day his dad Ryan, less than a year old, warbled “The Star Spangled Banner” in perfect pitch, though the lyrics consisted of just one repeated word: “Noodle.”
I have vivid memories of grandson Alexander the Great’s first fiesta in Las Cruces, a festive 10-month-old struggling mightily to stand up in his stroller and shake his maracas at a Cinco de Mayo gathering on the Mesilla Plaza.
A few months ago, I still had a few inches on Alex, who has since turned 12 and last week informed me that he and I are now exactly the same height.
With two six-foot parents, I guess I shouldn’t be shocked at his swift ascension, and probably by the next visit, I’ll relive that teenage moment when my rapidly growing “baby” boy Ry reached down to pat me on the head.
It will be right up there with another deja vu musical moment that’s already here: Alex, like his rockin’ prodigy dad, has formed his first junior high band.
And I have the pictures to prove it: three members of the Duct Tape Bandits, clearly ready for their album cover close-ups, stare at me from a scenic autumn Idaho landscape.
It seems like only yesterday that Ryan was attracting a motley crew of young musicians and fans for after-school jam sessions, then rotating through a bunch of Pacific Northwest “Lego” band affiliations that were ever changing and involved performances with many groups whose names I cannot use in a family newspaper. Finally, he was recruited by the Sweaty Nipples, a group that lasted more than a decade, got a contract with a major label, landed on regular MTV rotation, went on a couple of national tours, recorded some major riffs for Nintendo and other major advertisers and even landed a Grammy nomination.
I don’t know if science has officially identified the DNA markers yet, but there is no doubt in my mind that music, and various other kinds of artistic creativity are passed down through the generations.
And that includes what is know in our tribe as the family “congenital defect:” a passion and propensity for writing.
I was about 6 when I settled in behind my dad’s ancient Smith Corona and taught myself to type, which brought an immediate response from my parents.
“Look, Doris, she’s taken up the family instrument,” Dad crowed.
Dad was an enthusiastic poet and essayist, though he made his living as an aircraft engineer and most of his poems were about flying or fishing, as I recall.
But the writing gene was clearly dominant in our generation. My big sister just retired after nearly 50 years as a reporter and erstwhile editor and publisher. My brother was a sports reporter who defected to the legal profession, but after retirement has produced some award-winning short stories.
As the middle child, I tried to carry on the legacy of both literary Dad and musical Mom, a talented pianist who played with a dance band in college.
Unlike my sibs, I sang in chorus and played in school bands and picked up the guitar in college. I composed music for a couple of public service announcements and picked up a co-credit on my high school fight song — for lyrics, not the tune — but it became obvious that in my genetic legacy, words were dominant and music was recessive.
But it’s now clear that I’m a carrier and the dominant musical gene has simply skipped a generation.
It wasn’t until my 40s that I enjoyed the thrill of all-access backstage passes at clubs and music festivals, as I authoritatively dropped my son’s name and was ushered past the fans and groupies to the sweet sound of those four magic words: “She’s with the band.”
Now as the granny of a Duct Tape Bandit, I’m looking forward to a new era of perks and privileges. If you’re looking for an inside track to hot sounds of the new Millennium, just stick close to me.
I’ll get you in. I’m with the band.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

Change the ways we celebrate

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — I’ve been dreaming of a minimalist Christmas and a laid-back New Year.
Whatever your views on the outcome of a long and exhausting presidential campaign, 2008 has been a very tough year on many levels. There have been a lot of stresses and strains, from national gas price wild rides, rollercoaster stock markets and other global economic and ecological disasters to local changes that include deaths of beloved community members and closures of some of our favorite restaurants, shops and galleries.
In efforts to counter hard economic times, there is a national trend to push the holiday merchandise even earlier and more aggressively this year, and many of us are having trouble getting on board.
It’s hard to get excited about decking your halls when so many of us feel we’ve been thoroughly decked ourselves.
But I think it’s time to celebrate change ... and consider changing the ways we celebrate.
I’m advocating a minimalist holiday in 2008, but I’m all for over-the-top excesses when it comes to singing, learning, being creative and artistic and joining forces to help and share with others.
Even though gas prices now seem to be in a downward spiral, in this frenetic year, many of us will have trouble mustering time, gas or airfare to get over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving ... and many working grandmothers, like me, won’t be able to travel to see the grandkids.
When we’re still embroiled in a conflict that has lasted longer than American involvement in World Wars I or II or our own Civil War, it’s difficult to sing about peace on earth and goodwill toward men.
And that, of course, is exactly why we should. And I’m all for singing. It doesn’t cost a thing but a bit of breath and has the potential to generate good cheer and rejuvenate weary souls. I’m officially encouraging singing at home, at school, in the shower, in the car, at your place of worship, in community groups and at your workplace. Maybe you can learn some traditional holiday songs of different cultures and faiths, if you have an ethnically diverse circle of friends and colleagues ... or especially ... if you don’t.
You can learn about celebrations and customs for everything from Christmas to Hanukkah, Kwansaa and Hajj and Al-Hijira, the Islamic New Year, thanks to the miracle of the Internet, if you’re cybersavy, or if you’re not, consider a little research with friends, libraries and multimedia stores.
Downplay the red and go green this year. Recycle ribbons and wrapping paper, or better yet, make or buy cloth sacks that can be recycled year after year. Or pack gifts in sturdy cloth totes and inexpensive canvas bags that can be used for groceries and other purchases throughout the year, giving a gift to the earth of more trees and less plastic in her landfills.
I also think it’s time to reclassify re-gifting from the category of social faux to socially responsible blessing. And recycle those family heirlooms and consider bequeathing long-admired works of art, jewelry and collectibles to friends and family members who would enjoy them.
When you do purchase gifts, think local. Support both the local economy and ecology by buying things produced close to home.
And at a time when the stock market is iffy at best, it’s hard to beat art as an investment. At the very least, you’ll support a creative artist and you’ll have an energizing and rejuvenating hyacinth for your own soul; something you love to look at or listen to or read that will give you much more pleasure and less stress than trying to keep an eagle eye on your 401-K.
This year, it goes beyond cliché to survival strategy: Remember the true meaning of the season.
Simplify, simplify. And whatever your holiday plans, think homemade, ecological, economical, and do-it-yourself.
In the words of the late, great Tenny Hale, “When you feel most like giving out, give outward.” Ask friends and coworkers if they would be willing to skip gift exchanges and take up a collection to give to a needy child or family.
Instead of big, elaborate parties, consider neighborhood and office potlucks or caroling groups. Or plan a little get-together with tea and cookies or a stroll around the neighborhood with a few close friends or family members.
Which is what the holidays are all about anyway: giving thanks, sharing with others and generating memories and good times with loved ones.
Happy simple, minimalist holidays to you.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

Friday, October 31, 2008

Traditions born in Las Cruces' recent decades

LAS CRUCES — Sometimes I still hear people say that nothing’s happening here and nothing ever changes in Las Cruces.
Those people have not been paying attention. I’m not a native, but I’ve now been here long enough to see the birth of some enduring traditions … celebrations and gatherings so rich and meaningful to many of us that they feel like they’ve been part of our community forever.
But in fact, some of our most cherished celebrations, institutions or events have been in Las Cruces about the same amount of time as I have (this is my 15th autumn here) or less.
A lot of my other favorite things were founded about the same time. The Las Cruces International Mariachi Conference, now one of the world’s largest efforts to preserve and nurture all that mariachi embodies, is celebrating its 15th year in 2008 and so are the Border Book Festival and the Doña Ana Arts Council ArtsHop.
Mesilla’s Dias de los Muertos celebrations on Mesilla’s Plaza, continuing today, are a bit younger though, of course, the roots of Day of the Dead commemorations are much, much older, and are among many ancient Borderland traditions that have been revived and celebrated by groups like the Calavera Coalition and other Las Cruces- and Mesilla-based cultural groups that are uniting the community to commemorate everything from the Gadsden Purchase and Mexican holidays to Christmas plays, pageants and customs that date back centuries.
In the past decade and a half, I’ve seen a lot of these new-old resurrections. The Rio Grande Theatre, identified to me when I first arrived as the state’s oldest adobe theater, was crumbling in 1994, when I got my first glimpse of the Downtown Mall. I talked to many who had fond memories of first movie dates and first balcony kisses there. Now it’s been lovingly restored and houses the Doña Ana Arts Council and a growing number of presentations. It’s the gem of an ongoing revitalization that has built on institutions like the Las Cruces Farmers and Crafts Market and added the burgeoning Ramble on the first Friday of each month, which now involves 18 venues, including theaters, galleries, museums and an open mic night.
What was once bemoaned as “the graveyard of high hopes” is well on its way to becoming the city’s corazon that so many have envisioned.
Some of our cultural cornerstones were firmly established when I got here and are still thriving and growing stronger.
The Las Cruces Symphony at NMSU was already a hit under the direction of Marianna Gabbi, an international superstar who was the first U.S. woman to conduct major symphonies in both China and what was then the USSR. Jerry Ann Alt was building on a rich legacy of talent in NMSU’s Choral Department, which now has six choirs and vocal groups. NMSU band and jazz and vocal groups, and the symphony under the direction of Lonnie Klein and local high school musical groups have attracted national and international attention in recent years.
Some cultural institutions made the big time decades ago. The Las Cruces Chamber Ballet, generally recognized as the oldest ballet company in New Mexico, still makes regular presentations and is carrying on despite the death of its beloved founder, Michele Self, who with her husband, Kevin, helped field generations of talented dancers, many of whom have gone on to perform in prestigious venues. And the LCCB presentation of “The Nutcracker” (Dec. 18 to 21 at the NMSU Music Recital Hall) continues to be a cherished holiday tradition.
Black Box is relatively new, but the Las Cruces Community Theatre was well established, along with The American Southwest Theater Company, which premiered works by local playwright Mark Medoff, including creations that led to movies, and two trips to Broadway (for “Gila” and “Children of a Lesser God,” which won a Tony Award and, in movie form, garnered Academy Award nominations for Medoff and an Oscar for Marlee Matlin’s performance).
Our movie roots run deep, too, and have blossomed with the advent of NMSU’s Creative Media Institute and Doña Ana Community College’s Film Tech Training Program. At last count, there were more than 20 movies in pre- or post-production in 2008, building what looks like a promising new tradition here, as we make a name for ourselves as Hollywood on the Rio Grande.
As you enjoy some of our thriving traditions this month, like RenFaire, Dia de los Muertos and the Mariachi Conference, think about the volunteers who have made them happen, and the blessings of being part of the community that keeps our rich cultural heritage alive … and fun.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450.

We're all in this together

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — What a surprise if it turns out that it took a global economic crises to finally make us realize we’re all in this together.
A thought for a tough month: True friends and a fiesta spirit will get you though times of no money better than money will get you through times of no fiesta spirit nor true friends.
I woke up after a night of tortured tropical dreams. My first thought in that moment when you realize that reality can be considerably better than one’s dreams: “Gracias a Dios: I’m in Las Cruces, not in Palm Beach.”
I remember hard times in the 1980s and 90s in the capital of arrogance and greed, in a Florida county that was home to some of the wealthiest and poorest people on the planet. I quickly learned that for the very rich, nothing is ever quite enough, even in boom times.
In the enclaves of millionaires and billionaires, were some of the surliest souls I’ve ever encountered, anywhere on the planet. Especially those who had come to the end of what money could buy and found themselves spiritually bankrupt. Morally bereft. And, too often, loaded for bear.
If they were so terminally crabby and anxious in good times, imagine what the watering holes of the rich and famous have been like this fall, with the worst financial news in most of our lifetimes, breaking in regular, relentless tsunami waves.
By contrast, Las Crucens seemed to be in pretty good spirits.
Among my colleagues, it’s generally accepted that none of us went into the new biz to get rich.
As Janis Joplin warbled in “Me and Bobby McGee,” Kris Kristopherson’s immortal ditty: “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”
And there is a certain liberation in not having zillions invested in the stock market, which means none of us has lost zillions.
People who have paid off their homes are having a little fiesta of celebration, and those of us who bought homes with mortgages we can still afford are breathing a sigh of relief.
Most of the concern and angst I’ve heard and felt in recent weeks in Las Cruces emanated from people concerned not about themselves , but about others.
It’s a phenomenon I’d already experienced in the most impoverished corners of some of the world’s richest communities. During mild recessions, I’ve listened to millionaires anguish relentlessly about having to give up their Lear jet to economize by flying first class, or cutting out one of their many annual yacht cruises or trips to Europe. At the same time, on the other end of the economic see-saw, I’ve been in the economic trenches with seniors on very limited incomes and single moms trying to support their kids on minimum wage jobs. And I’ve seen them quietly take up collections or anonymously slip a $10 or $20 bill (a lot for someone on minimum wage) into the pocket or locker of a coworker they knew needed help even more.
I’ve seen that sharing spirit in all kinds of places in New Mexico: graceful gifts of food, clothes and folding cash in hard times.
And lately, I’ve noticed something else: a sense that we are all in this together. In a world of wars-to-end-wars that never did, I wonder if a global economic crises could ironically be the thing that finally convinces us that our fates are all inexorably linked.
And maybe, if we can figure out some creative cooperative solutions for the crises over money and credit, things the world seem ready to react to with immediacy, it would go a long way toward convincing us that creativity and cooperation could be concepts to consider for resolving issues of health, and the ecology, to say nothing of religious, ethnic and territorial issues.
Wouldn’t it be something if this money mess finally helped us band together to resolve some of the messes that the lust for material goodies has been getting us into for millenniums? What if the global economic meltdown is what finally makes us realize we are all in this together?
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

Friday, October 24, 2008

Make plans for Superweekend

Next weekend is shaping up as a record-breaker, even for full-tilt fiesta season. Here’s what’s coming:
• Halloween: Oct. 31
• NMSU Homecoming Weekend
• Renaissance ArtsFaire: Nov. 1 & 2, Young Park
• Dia de los Muertos: Oct. 31-Nov. 2 on Mesilla Plaza, celebrations this week in New Mexico & Texas Borderlands
• San Albino Basilica Dedication Ceremonies: Oct. 31 - Nov. 2
• Carrie Underwood Concert: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 3, Pan Am Center
• Nov. 4: Election Day

Are you a newcomer to the Borderlands? Learn more about Dsy of the Dead customs below:

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Day of the Dead basics

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — Dia de los Muertos has been called “a day when heaven and earth meet” and “a celebration of lives well lived.”
In Las Cruces, it has become a beloved tradition, a time when Borderland cultures blend, showcasing and sometimes creatively combining Spanish, Mexican, American Indian and Anglo customs and beliefs.
Dia de los Muertos “is not a morbid holiday but a festive remembrance of Los Angelitos (children) and all souls (Los Difuntos),” according to a statement from The Calavera Coalition of Mesilla. “This celebration originated with the indigenous people of the American continent, the Aztec, Mayan, Toltec and the Inca. Now, many of the festivities have been transformed from their original pre-Hispanic origins. It is still celebrated throughout North America among Native American tribes. The Spanish arrived and they altered the celebration to coincide with the Catholic celebrations of All Saints Day (Nov. 1) and All Souls Day (Nov. 2).”
Continuing a Las Cruces Style tradition, here is a guide to some important terms and concepts relating to Day of the Dead celebrations, collected during 15 years of commemorations.
alfeñique: Molded sugar figures used in altars for the dead.
ancianos: Grandparents or elderly friends or relatives who have died; ancestors honored during the first (north) part of processions for Day of the Dead.
angelitos: Literally “little angels,” refers to departed children and babies, traditionally honored during the first day of celebrations, Nov. 1, and the third (south) part of processions honoring the dead.
anima sola: A lonely soul or spirit who died far from home or who is without amigos or relatives to take responsibility for its care.
calascas: Handmade skeleton figurines which display an active and joyful afterlife, such as musicians or skeleton brides and grooms in wedding finery.
calaveras: Skeletons, used in many ways for celebrations: bread and candies in the shape of skeletons are traditional, along with everything from small and large figures and decorations, skeleton head rattles, candles, masks, jewelry and T-shirts. It’s also the term for skull masks, often painted with bright colors and flowers and used in displays and worn in Day of the Dead processions.
literary calaveras: are poetic tributes written for departed loved ones or things mourned and/or as mock epitaphs.
copal: A fragrant resin from a Mexican tree used as incense, burned alone or mixed with sage in processions in honor of the dead.
Dias de los Muertos: Days of the Dead, usually celebrated on Nov. 1 through 3 in conjunction with All Souls Days or Todos Santos, the Catholic Feast of All Saints. Various Borderland communities, including Las Cruces, have their own celebration schedules in October and November.
Difunto: Deceased soul, corpse, cadaver.
La Flaca: Nickname for the female death figure, also known as La Muerte.
Frida Kahlo: Mexican artist who collected objects related to the Day of the Dead. Her photo often appears in Dia de los Muertos shrines or retablos.
Los Guerreros: Literally, “the warriors,” are dead fathers, husbands, brothers and sons honored in the final (east) stop in Dia de los Muertos processions.
marigolds: In Mexico, marigolds or “cempasuchil” are officially known as the “flower of the dead.” The flowers are added to processional wreaths at each stop, with one blossom representing each departed soul being honored. Sometimes marigold pedals are strewn from the cemetery to a house. Their pungent fragrance is said to help the spirits find their way back home. Sometimes mums and paper flowers are also used.
mariposas: Butterflies, and sometimes hummingbirds, appear with skeletons to symbolize the flight of the soul from the body to heaven.
masks: Carried or worn during processions and other activities, masks can range from white face paint to simple molded plaster or papier-maché creations or elaborate painted or carved versions that become family heirlooms.
Las Mujeres: The women who have died are honored during the second (west) stop of Day of the Dead processions. After names of dead mothers, daughters, sisters and friends are called and honored, it is traditional for the crowd to sing a song for the Virgin of Guadalupe.
Náhuatl poetry: Traditional odes dedicated to the subject of death, dating back to the pre-Columbian era.
ofrenda: Traditional altar where offerings such as flowers, clothing, food, photographs and objects loved by the departed are placed. The ofrenda may be constructed in the home — usually in the dining room — at a cemetery, or may be carried in a procession. The ofrenda base is usually an arch made of bent reeds. It is ornamented with special decorations, sometimes with heirlooms collected by families much like Christmas ornaments. Decorations may include skeleton figures, toys and musical instruments in addition to offerings for a specific loved one.
pan de muertos: Literally, “bread of the dead.” It is traditionally baked in the shape of a skull — calavera — and dusted with pink sugar. Here, local bakeries sometimes include red and green chile decorations.
papel picado: Decorations made of colored paper cut in intricate patterns.
Posada: Jose Guadalupe Posada, the self-taught “printmaker to the people” and caricaturist was known for his whimsical calaveras, or skeletons, depicted wearing dapper clothes, playing instruments and otherwise nonchalantly conducting their everyday activities, sometimes riding on horse skeletons.
veladores: Professional mourners who help in the grief process in several ways, including candlelight vigils, prayers and with dramatic weeping and wailing.
Xolotlitzcuintle: Monster dog, sometimes depicted as a canine skeleton, sometimes as a Mexican hairless breed. Since pre-Columbian times, this Dia de los Muertos doggy has, according to legend, been the departed’s friend, helping with the tests of the perilous crossing of the River Chiconauapan to Mictlan, the land of the dead.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

Thursday, October 2, 2008

What will you be for Halloween?

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — Glam or gore? Scary or sexy? Future E.T. or really retro Renaissance?
It’s that time of year again. Time to declare yourself, or maybe even reinvent yourself, if only for a day.
Or maybe several days. Costumes aren’t just a Halloween thing here in the Borderland. You’ll want to have something suitable for several occasions throughout a spectacular Full-tilt Costume Lovers Fiesta Weekend that starts with Halloween Friday and runs through Dia de los Muertos and RenFaire, both Nov. 1 and 2 this year.
Figure on a lot of pre-and post-parties, too. And election day is Nov. 4, so you might want to dress up as your favorite candidate while you’re waiting for election results.
After more than a decade on the local fiesta and costume beat, I shouldn’t be surprised anymore by the escalating gore. At Party World, you can even buy bloody simulated human body parts packed like meat in Styrofoam and plastic packages, and “French fry,” cartons filled with neat stacks of human fingers.
It seems that the scarier the times, the more frightening the Halloween costumes and decorations.
With prolonged wars on two fronts and more looming conflicts, the greatest economic dilemma in most of our lifetimes, devastating hurricanes, Midwestern floods, ecological disasters looming and burgeoning disease and food source contamination, just what can you do for a terrifying encore to very scary everyday life in 2008? Even hard-core gore seems somehow ho-hum this year. If you’re really serious about frightening others, maybe you should dress up as a salmonella-contaminated pepper or a stock market chart.
Or you could dress up as an crumbling bank building or failed brokerage house for a really scary Halloween party and add some angel wings or a skeleton mask to take your getup through to Day of the Dead celebrations.
But I predict that there will be a move away from extreme gore and a rush to creative escapism for all ages during this dress-up season.
And I have not been surprised by the national trend that finds more adults dressing up. By now, I’m used to seeing grown, otherwise macho Las Cruces men parading around in tights and suits of armor, accompanied by women in elaborate Renaissance gowns. And I’ve made many processions to local cemeteries accompanied by whole families in calavera (skeleton) drag, during Dia de los Muertos events.
There is something quite comforting in contemplating escape to that ultimate Better Place (presuming we’re headed for heaven rather than hell, of course).
It’s also kind of soothing to spend a weekend at the Doña Ana Arts Council Renaissance ArtsFaire, ambling around Young Park imagining that we’re back in what many of us presume were kinder, gentler times, those proverbial Golden Days of Yesteryear. Of course, we tend to dwell on the fairy tales and celebrations of flowering European culture ... and ignore the realities like plagues, wars, routine torture and inquisitions, and other daily miseries that prompted so many of our ancestors to flee the Old World in search of a better life.
And there’s no denying the clothes were cute. Particularly if you were a member of royalty rather than a serf or pauper.
But hey, reality is what we’re trying to avoid here, isn’t it?
It’s the one time of year when you have the chance to be whatever you long to be, from a fairy princess to a giant M & M or an inflatable body part. There’s no accounting for tastes, and this time of year, you don’t have to, so there. If you’re so inclined, you can even transform your baby into a pea pod or a miniature Elvis and dress your cocker spaniel up as Zorro.
Remake the world in your own image, or remake your image to reflect the world you want, just the way you’d like it to be. Go for it.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

Thursday, September 25, 2008

And the Question of the Week Answer is.....

ANSWER: It's Spirit Winds, 2260 Locust St. And P.S. If you're new in town, you might not know that their coffee, tea, lunches and snacks are a great treat after a long walk, too.
Now: What's the question? Read on to find about about teeny knights in semi-shining plastic armor and more.

Fall is the perfect time for an urban amble

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — Fall brings the days that make you want to go “Ahhh!”
We’re all ready for a respite after a summer that consisted mostly of dusty wind storms followed by months — not a day here and there or even the usually couple of weeks — but months of monsoons and hot, sticky, stronger-than-swamp-coolers, humid weather.
It was a season-long siege of the kind of barometric pressure that drove me from the Pacific Northwest and the relentless humidity that made me glad to say good-bye to Jamaica and South Florida.
But it looks like most of that’s behind us now. We have passed the crucial transition that my sister Sally used to call “Magic Day” in South Florida, a time when you could finally exit your air-conditioned building or car without being “muggied” by an instant blast of heat and humidity.
Magic Day seemed the best-ever this year, since it offered a relief not only from the triple digit temps that seem somehow natural in high desert summers, but also from this season’s 80 to 100 percent humidity, which seemed downright perverse.
Now is the perfect time of year to linger on the patio with friends, ignoring the weeds if you can, or clearing them out in cool morning hours that tempt you to garden a little longer. It’s a great time to choose the outdoor seats for lunch, brunch or an evening meal at your favorite restaurant. (If they don’t have al fresco seating, this is the best time to try to talk them into adding some patio tables and chairs.).
And it’s prime time for one of my favorite activities, the state-of-the-city urban amble.
Start our with a walk around your neighborhood. You’ll notice things you never see, zipping by at morning drive time, or even on a bicycle.
Not that you can’t multitask during your urban hikes.
Combine your stroll with a fiesta visit, for instance. Check out what’s new, or features you’ve forgotten, around the Meerscheidt Recreation Center, while you’re waiting for Roberto to finish the world’s largest enchilada at the Whole Enchilada Fiesta today.
Budget some extra time to wander around downtown Las Cruces while you’re visiting the Wednesday or Saturday morning Las Cruces Farmers & Crafts Markets or the Downtown Ramble through galleries and museums the first Friday of each month. Walk from the Downtown Mall to the library, and while you’re at it, see how the new Las Cruces City Hall is coming along and don’t miss all the entertaining art from the City of Artists Promotional Association lining the construction fence.
Or take a hike from the Mercado de la Mesilla to the Mesilla Plaza while you’re visiting Thursday and Sunday Mercados or one of the upcoming plaza fiestas, like next weekend’s Mesilla Jazz Happening.
Park on a side street and walk Picacho Avenue to check out the antique and second hand shops. Don’t miss Coyote Traders new location, right across from Sweet Old Bob’s S.O.B.. Antiques.
There are lots of fun places to investigate on and around the NMSU campus, too.
During your downtown stroll, stop by the Las Cruces Convention and Visitors Bureau and pick up more ideas, like the free Las Cruces Historical Districts pamphlet, with info for a walking tour of historic buildings in the downtown area , including the Mesquite Historic District and the Alameda Depot Historic District.
Bon voyage.
Introducing the Question of the Week:
My ambles have turned up some intriguing people and places and fun factoids.
Did you know, for instance, that there is a place in Las Cruces where some remarkable tiny objects are neatly organized in several small drawers with labels like “knights” and “duck devils” and two kinds of winged sprites: “regular” and “glow” fairies? If your computer or birthday cake could be improved with a tiny knight in armor or a luminescent Tinkerbell, do you know where to look? Welcome to my new Las Cruces Question of the Week feature. See answer above.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at, (575) 541-5450

Friday, September 19, 2008

Marketing the arts in Las Cruces

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — Welcome to Las Cruces: New Mexico’s Secret Cultural Mecca.
Las Cruces: The Un-Santa Fe. Easier. Warmer in the Winter. Bargain Paradise for Art Lovers. Our culture and chile are hotter and fresher.
Las Cruces: Fiesta Capital of the Universe.
Las Cruces and the Three As: Art, Academics, Agriculture.
Las Cruces and the Three Cs : Culture, Chiles, the Cosmos.
Las Cruces: Ground zero for art, literature, drama and history aficionados, home base for exotic day-trip adventures.
From Cloudcroft and Ruidoso to T or C, Deming, Columbus and Silver City, Las Cruces is the hub of southern New Mexico’s Band of Enchantment.
I may be a little rusty, but hey, I used to get big bucks for this in my advertising agency creative director days, summing up the merits of a person, place or thing in a logo…or 25 words or less.
I was pondering all this at the first session of the New Mexico Arts Convention. If you have ideas to share, there’s still time. Artists, art lovers and arts organizations are invited to drop in for the last session from 4 to 8 p.m. Monday Sept. 22 at New Mexico State University’s Corbett Center Student Union. For information, visit
The focus of the gathering is to market our region’s already considerable and rapidly burgeoning cultural resources.
I’m now in my 15th autumn covering the arts and entertainment scene here and I say, it’s about time we got our props.
I’ll remember 2008 as the year I took umbrage on behalf of Las Cruces. As delighted as I was to see Garrison Keillor and his Prairie Home Companion gang broadcast from Pan Am Center, it irked me that he ignored our local talent to import what many of us felt were lesser luminaries, as he characterized our territory as “a place where…you can drive your all-terrain vehicle around at high speed late at night, naked, drinking a beer and firing a shotgun…or maybe you just like to blow things up.”
I also sympathized when readers sent me articles in national publications which praised “quirky” and artistic Truth or Consequences and concluded that T or C citizens had become very creative about making their own fun because there is “nothing to do” in nearby Las Cruces, by implication a cultural wasteland.
Well, I love T or C and admire the town’s inventive spirit, but if they think there’s nothing going on here, they just aren’t getting out enough. T or C has a nice little group of galleries, artists, shops, big water, fun places to dine and stay and those fire dancers. But in the dance category alone, we have New Mexico’s oldest ballet company (Las Cruces Chamber Ballet), the new Pan American Dance Institute, the internationally-renowned Ballet Folklorica de la Tierra del Encanto, DanceSport, flamenco dancers, ballroom dancers, African drum and dance troops, beaucoups performers and classes in everything from Bollywood to square and salsa dancing.
We have hundreds of visual, performing and literary artists, many of them world class. We premiere several original plays here each year, including two that have gone on to Broadway by Mark Medoff, who won a Tony Award and was nominated for an Academy Award and is among those who are making Las Cruces a movie mecca, too. Filmmakers lured by incentives that range from exotic scenery and our new film school, Creative Media Institute at NMSU and DACC film tech training programs, have turned out dozens of films and TV projects in the last couple of years. Charlize Theron and Harrison Ford are among stars who’ve filmed here recently.
We have a remarkable number of theater companies and theaters devoted to performing arts and more in the works, burgeoning gallery districts in Mesilla, Downtown and the University area, art and cultural museums that mount increasingly sophisticated exhibitions focusing on luminaries that include Auguste Rodin, Salvador Dali and King Tut, plus museums devoted to natural history, railroads, farm and ranching, space, and history and archaeology. We have great singers and cutting-edge bands and musical groups.
The Las Cruces Symphony attracts national attention, internationally renowned performers and presents world premieres of commissioned works. Doc Severinsen chose Las Cruces for his farewell performance with our symphony and Mariachi Cobre, performing in a venue that has attracted big names ranging from Elton John and Janet Jackson to George Strait, B.B. King and Warped Tour pop and alternative stars.
I suspect we are home to more noted authors and poets than any city our size anywhere. And we might be able to claim status not only as chile capital but fiesta center of the planet: There’s RenFaire, International Mariachi, Border Book, Whole Enchilada, Rio Grande Powwow, Dia de Los Muertos, and a whole host of other regional fiestas that celebrate everything from arts and crafts to Borderland holidays, balloons, film, jazz, bluegrass, space and ducks.
But there’s no disputing that marketing Las Cruces as a cultural mecca is a challenge: How can we sum up all we have to offer in 25 words or less?
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at, (575) 541-5450.
Do you have a slogan to suggest? Let me know...

Friday, September 12, 2008

Post Vacation Stress Syndrome

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — I should have gotten a clue years ago, when I did a story on Holmes-Rahe Life Changes Scale, also known as the Holmes Stress Scale, which postulates that changes and life events can adversely impact your health. The Holmes-Rahe Scale ranges from 100 points for death of a spouse to 11 points for “minor violations of the law,” and 12 points for “Christmas alone.”
There are some whopping stress totals for events most people would think of us happy happenings such as marriage (50 points) and retirement (45), including two categories that used to surprise me: “change in recreation” (19) and vacation (13).
When you add recreation and vacation to something most of us do on vacation, like experience a change of eating habits (15), you can get a whopping 47 points right away.
Hmm. If the vacation is a honeymoon, you could conclude that getting hitched and celebrating it with a vacation is almost as stressful as losing a spouse, something to ponder.
But now, I’d like to talk about vacations and a syndrome I am identifying as PVSD or Post Vacation Stress Disorder.
I haven’t worked out a point system yet. But I have noticed, now that I am up to a whopping four weeks of vacation a year, that there are several stressful elements involved.
Planning a vacation is a lot like planning a conventional news story. Both involve the Five Ws: who, where, what, when and why, plus a great big great H, for “how.”
Many employers, including mine, put a lot of pressure on you to declare the “when” as soon as possible, preferably several months or even a year in advance. But a lot of that is contingent on the “who” element, and many of us have several people to consider in our plans, from the colleagues whose workloads will be impacted by out absence to the friends and relatives we hope to vacation with or visit. Then we have to consider where we want to go or meet with others and what we want to do.
Then there are all the hows: how to get there, how to make all the transportation and lodging arrangements, how to get all our work done in advance or arrange for others to take care of things, and how to fit everything we need for skiing, snowboarding, rock climbing, horseback riding, art exhibitions, nights on the town and more ... all in one suitcase or carry-on luggage, or the trunk of a car, or a backpack or the back of a yak, depending on mode of transportation.
Then you have to tackle vacation communication issues, which should rate at least 50 stress points, I decided on my last excursion.
I’ve long maintained that being completely out of touch could become the ultimate luxury in the new millennium. I struggled to keep up with my e-mail at antique computers and confusing office centers and in-room keyboards at various resorts and B & Bs. I realized I was wasting precious vacation hours grappling with unfamiliar systems. But the alternative is to pack your own laptop and worry about losing it or compulsively working ... or to return to face several zillion e-mails and many disgruntled souls who wonder why you ignored their urgent messages.
You probably couldn’t explain, because your cell phone wasn’t working in several remote areas you frequented.
In the end, we worked it all out. I’m almost over the malady I caught on the plane home, so I think I can weather the stress of the unexpected bills from the emergency ward visit, the humongous cell phone roaming charges, the whopping credit card bills and all the other little surprises.
The PVST stress point total and other costs? Quite a lot.
Getting away from the salt mines for two whole weeks and spending time in beautiful places with people I love and miss? Priceless.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

War of Weeds

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — Poison. Fire. Whacking. Yanking. Imported goats.
It’s an all-out war with formidable foes and Las Crucens are using diverse weapons of mass destruction.
A former neighbor took a blow torch to his, after waiting until his enemies grew tall and strong, lurking in surly, tenacious groups from the back patio to the front yard and spilling out into the curb strips. Maybe he figured he was picking on opponents close to his own size, so the violent fire power was justified. After all, he was clearly out-numbered.
Our conscientious janitor Bobby resorted to a substance that reminded me of the Vietnam-era Agent Orange excesses. One undiluted, full-tilt toxic attack upon encroaching forces cleared the interior, as coughing employees streamed out of the building. But one foe lingered defiantly by the back door, and still appeared to be in blooming good health a few weeks later. Others have established strong outposts in the parking lot, sometimes emerging from their subterranean barracks to break through blacktop and concrete.
Last week, I watched my neighbor Lois as she quietly, neatly — even artistically — disciplined her burgeoning enemies, while she trimmed the borders of her pretty little green patch of lawn with a weed whacker.
One of my former newsroom colleagues adopted a goat to help her cope with hers.
Auggh! Weeds, weeds, everywhere! What can you say about the ubiquitous bumper crop of 2008? What can you do about them?
After monitoring the battles of others, I’ve adopted a low-tech green approach. I pull them out by the roots, doing my best to keep after them on a daily, or at least a weekly, basis.
Tempting as it is to grab a hunk en route to the mail box or on the way to the door after work, after a few encounters with dangerously prickly insurgents, I try to remember to always grab a pair of gloves first.
And I am learning to heed the advice of an amiga who cleared her surly backyard jungle this year: “Never wear cheap gardening gloves.”
I wore a double pair of the flimsier kind to clear out a patch of weeds around my pretty blue yucca, which may have decided I was mounting a clear-earth offensive. I ran afoul of a very efficient defensive stalk-tip spike, and learned that one quick yucca jab could fill my thin gloves with enough blood for a vampire cocktail party.
Gardening may be a calming hobby, but weeding can be a blood sport.
So now I keep my new, heavy duty leather gloves with reinforced palms by the door when I head out to do battle. And I have abandoned my plan to hire small neighborhood kids to yank weeds, my grandparents’ strategy. They paid us a penny per weed. With inflation, the going rate would probably bankrupt me, anyway.
And I wouldn’t want to put tots in harm’s way. Some of the stuff tenacious enough to thrive in the desert comes with everything from barbs and hooks to a kind of organic Velcro. There can be some nasty bugs and critters lurking and buzzing among the weeds, too.
After weeks and months of the infestation, the intensity of the war still comes as a surprise to many of us who moved to high desert country to escape such trials.
And it seems especially unfair if we sacrificed green lawns for rockscapes. I purchased yards of supposedly weed-proof fabric, a wheelbarrow and truckloads of paver slabs and pretty, rose-colored rock to surround my adobe abode and hired two separate crews in recent years to install it all artistically.
My son gave me a leaf blower, which I faithfully used to wrangle leaves and debris so weeds could not gain a toehold...or roothold.
But this year’s one-two punch of dust storms followed by months of muggy monsoons clearly foiled our best-laid weed-proof rockscape plans.
I noticed this week that the only places weeds are not growing are in the enriched, fertilized, mulch-topped soil of my two narrow planting beds and container gardens. Go figure.
I’ve also noticed that the most diligent weeders fight a losing battle if your patch of land is surrounded by neighbors who are less conscientious. Are we our brother’s keepers and neighbors’ weeders? Should we organize neighborhood posses and devise strategic plans?
But some days, I must confess, I look out at strangely green Picacho Peak and the newly emerald Organ Mountains with awe and wonder. I squint a little and pretend I am in the hills of Ireland or in the pre-cattle, pre-population-explosion olden days when, we are told, much of New Mexico was verdant meadows and plains, rivers of grass studded with roaming buffalo.
Maybe it’s time to bring back the bison herds.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at, (575) 541-5450

Friday, September 5, 2008

Gone Fishing

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
COEUR D’ALENE, IDAHO — Alexander the Great caught a boisterous little bass on his very first cast off a pier on Lake Coeur d’Alene. Within a few hours, his catch-and-release total had mounted to 32 and I began to wonder if my grandson’s birthday rod and reel would be permanently bonded to his right arm.
I had planned family activities like hiking, canoeing, kayaking, swimming and maybe even horseback riding during my long-awaited vacation in the Pacific Northwest.
But once son Ryan presented Alex with his fishing gear, it was all over. They joined me for meals, a trip to an amusement park, an occasional swim or hike to festivals and art galleries, but if there were any opportunities to cast a line, the boys were there.
The fishing gene is clearly dominant in our tribe, and seems to get stronger if it skips a generation.
If my trout-frightening proclivities are less impressive, it is not for want of trying. I was the seventh granddaughter on my mom’s side of the family, and I think Grandpa was pretty disheartened in those years before his three grandsons finally got around to being born. As a result, I, along with any of my other sympathetic girl cousins he could recruit, got a basic education in archery, canoeing, shooting and fly fishing. My dad’s family were avid fishers, too, so I spent a lot of weekends rigging gear, wading through rivers, cleaning creels and gutting trout.
Frankly, I would rather have been playing with dolls, swimming or reading, but I tried to be a good sport. I feigned enthusiasm when happy campers shouted, “There’s a hatch on!” and deserted a warm and cozy campfire at dusk to attempt to fool hungry fish with graceful casts of hand-tied flies.
Then one day, it occurred to me that gutting a live trout is really very icky, for both me and the fish, no matter how quickly and skillfully it’s done.
This revelation was followed by an epiphany: Fishing is just an excuse for meditating around water, and I didn’t need an excuse. I filled my creel with wildflowers and waded home to enjoy the rest of my life.
I predict that my son and grandson will never have such a moment. The fishing force is strong in Ryan and young Alex. Their Jedi Knight quests in lakes, streams and oceans will continue as long as they draw breath in this life and, I suspect, if heaven is truly a place of dreams we design ourselves, in the next life, too.
There is no mistaking the reactions of a born fisherman: the thrill of the hunt, the cool evaluation of a likely fishing hole, the quickening pulse at the sight of a bent rod, the willingness of even a creature of the night on summer vacation to willingly rise at 6 a.m., if the fish are biting.
And there’s no question in my mind that the whole fishing thing is a matter of nature rather than nurture. Without any fish fanatics in his nuclear family, Ryan as a toddler still managed to rig his own gear with a stick and string, so he could fish in plentiful Oregon mud puddles until he was able to communicate to his parents his deep need to stalk salmon in the wild.
Alex, who spent many of his formative years in high desert country, recently turned 12 in the fecund fishing territory of Northern Idaho, and he’s making up for lost time.
Hanging with Alex in Coeur d’Alene put me in mind of my own days as a free-range child, back when relatively young kids could disappear for a whole Saturday or after school with no cell phones or angst, as long as we were home by dusk.
And that’s another thing that fishing is all about: freedom. More than dinner, conquest, sport or the thrill of the hunt, I think fishing is about saying goodbye, if just for a little while, to work and school and stressful relationships and urban problems, to movies and TV and iPods and PCs and video games and quests for material success.
When it comes to opportunities to commune with nature, with no demands or foes other than wily sparring partners with fins, I suspect there are all days when we all yearn to post a sign that the free-range child within us all lives on.
Gone fishing.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

It's Full-Tilt Fiesta Season

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — Full-Tilt Fiesta Season (FTFS) seemed to achieve full bloom very early this year.
It caught me a little off guard. Maybe it’s because I left the state for my first two-week vacation in 15 years and landed in a place where kids don’t have to go back to school until after Labor Day. Or maybe it’s the screwy weather: the summer monsoons and muggy weather that usually last for a couple of weeks in July and August, this year have stretched from June into September. And some events snuck up on me: The Community Foundation Ball (formerly the Mayor’s Ball), was in August instead of September and many of us seemed not quite prepared for the 2008 FTFS kickoff.
And it’s the biggest kickoff ever.
Most FTFS experts agree that the opening quack is Deming’s Great American Duck Races. Then there’s the Labor Day first down with the Hatch Chile Festival, New Mexico Wine Harvest Festival and the Franciscan Festival of the Arts and almost a dozen fiestas from Cloudcroft and Ruidoso to Silver City. Hillsboro, despite last season’s “last Apple Festival” declarations, couldn’t bear to resign from the festivities and this year replaced their traditional celebrations with an event local wags are calling the “UnApple Festival.”
From there, we’ll traditionally be in fiesta mode for the rest of the year.
This weekend, we added a new twist, a day I’ll call FTFF (Full-tilt Fiesta Friday). The Doña Ana Art’s Council’s ArtsHop, the big fall opener for artists and art galleries with a record 18 participating art galleries, iss on the same day as the opening of the Rodin Exhibit at the Las Cruces Museum of Art and the Downtown Ramble.
If you miss a FTFF event or two, don’t despair, there’s still a lot of full-tilt fiesta-ing in store for 2008. You can still catch the last day of the 28th annual Elephant Butte Balloon Regatta. Or lift off with the fans of balloons and crystal dunes joining for the White Sands Balloon Invitational Sept. 20 and 21.
Mesilla will host the Diez y Seis de Septiembre Fiesta, celebrating Mexican Independence Day, on Sept. 12 and 14 on the Mesilla Plaza.
The Mesilla Valley Maze opens Sept. 27 and runs through Oct. 26 on the Lyle Family farms on Picacho Avenue, where the u-pick gardens are already open. Stock up.
Save some room for the world’s largest enchilada, and some time for parades, music, dancing and more chile treats at The Whole Enchilada Fiesta Sept. 26 through 28.
October starts out with the Southern New Mexico State Fair & Rodeo, Oct. 1 to 5. All that down-home state fair fun segues into the sophisticated 7th Annual Mesilla Jazz Happening Oct. 4 and 5 at two venues at the Mercado Plaza and the Mesilla Plaza. Later that month, it will be time for more food, entertainment and wine at La Viña Wine Festival, billed as New Mexico’s oldest wine festival, Oct. 18 and 19 in La Union.
Get your costumes ready. You’ll need them for Halloween and other dress-up occasions coming soon. Dress as your favorite difunto (dead person) at Dia de los Muertos celebrations Nov. 1 and 2 in Mesilla. Build a altar on the Mesilla Plaza, help break a giant piñata and join a closing candlelight procession. I understand there will be some new inspiration this year: in the works is a unique “Nuclear Meltdown” exhibit at the Purple Lizard, featuring ghoulish brides in vintage wedding gowns.
Go really retro for the 37th Annual Renaissance ArtsFaire, Nov. 1 and 2 at Young Park. Shop for the holidays and enjoy arts and crafts, music, live theater, dancing and gourmet food treats
The International Mariachi Conference & Concert Nov. 5 through 9 offers a chance to see top international and budding student talents at showcases and concerts, along with a mariachi mass and a Parque Festival day of entertainment and cultural activities.
December offers a round of holiday activities, including New Mexico State University’s night of luminarias and the traditional Christmas Eve on Mesilla’s Plaza.
We’ll have many more 2008 FTFS special events to look forward to, including some premieres for all the films being made here, along with theater and gallery and symphony openings and presentations, school and church events and pageants, arts shows and some surprises.
It’s Full-Tilt Fiesta Season! Party on, fiesta animals!
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at, (575) 541-5450

Thursday, August 21, 2008

View "Becoming Eduardo" Trailer

See familiar Las Cruces (and Hollywood ) faces in a trailer for "Becoming Eduardo" now in post-production and slated for a fall world premiere at CMI Theatre at NMSU, just in time for entry in Sundance and other film festivals.

Read more about it in this recent update of 2008 film projects in our region (southern New Mexico.)

• “The Burning Plain”
Plot: “The Burning Plain” explores the mysterious connection between several characters separated by time and space: Mariana, a 16-year-old girl trying to put together the shattered lives of her parents in a Mexican border town (Las Cruces), Sylvia, a woman in Portland who must undertake an emotional odyssey to make up for a sin from her past, Gina and Nick, a couple who must deal with an intense and clandestine love, and Maria, a young girl who helps her parents find redemption, forgiveness and love.
Director: Guillermo Arriaga
Stars: Academy Award winners Charlize Theron & Kim Basinger
Producers: Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald, 2929 Productions
Release date: Venice Film Festival, August
• “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”
Principal locations: White Sands and southern New Mexico
Plot: The battle for Earth has ended but the battle for the universe has just begun. After returning to Cybertron, Starscream assumes command of the Decepticons, and has decided to return to Earth with force. The Autobots, believing that peace was possible, find out that Megatron’s dead body has been stolen from the U.S. Military by Skorpinox and revive him using his own spark. Now Megatron is back seeking revenge and with Starscream and more Decepticon reinforcements on the way, the Autobots with reinforcements of their own, may have more to deal with then meets the eye.
Director: Michael Bay
Writers: Ehren Kruger, Alex Kutzman
Producer: Michael Bay
Stars: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Jon Voight, Rainn Wilson, Josh Duhamel, John Turturro, Tyrese Gibson, and Matthew Marsden
Company: Dream Works, Paramount Pictures
Planned release date: June 2009
Note: The first “Transformers” film, which featured extensive location shooting at White Sands National Monument and Holloman Air Force Base, grossed more than $700 million worldwide.
• “Afterwards”
Principal locations: Includes Southern New Mexico
Plot: Nathan Del Amico is a brilliant New York lawyer who leads a life of professional success. His private life is pretty dismal since he divorced Mallory, his only love..until he meets Garrett Goodrich, a mysterious doctor who introduces himself as a “messenger.” He claims that he can sense when certain people are about to die, and that he is sent to help them put their life in order before it's too late. Though he doesn't believe the doctor, events in Nathan's life slowly make him think he's not long for this world.
Director: Giles Bourdos
Writers: Michel Spinosa, Giles Bourdos
Stars: John Malkovich, Romain Duris, Joan Gregson, Evangeline Lilly
Planned release date: December, 2008
• Year One
Principal locations: New Mexico, including White Sands
Plot: Zed (Jack Black) and O (Michael Cera) search for the meaning of life in a comedy set in Biblical times.
Director & Writer: Harold Ramis, Olivia Wilde
Producers: Harold Ramis, Judd Apatow
Stars: Jack Black, Michael Cera
Company: Apatow Productions
Planned release date: June 19, 2009
• “AH-HOS-TEEND (Retired)”
Principal locations: Las Cruces, Southern New Mexico
Plot: (Source do the spirits go when they are no longer remembered? And who shepherds them back to their native land? In a world where gods still live and die among men to explore questions of individual belief and cultural identity as well as the mystery and meaning of faith, two men are revealed to be much more than they initially seem. Nameless, a young Native American man is obviously lost and searching to understand who he is, as well as remember his name and his purpose in living. This quest begins at the Glittering World Casino and moves to the Running Indian truck stop nearby. There he meets Pete, who appears to be little more than an old man as lost as Nameless. But Pete is hardly lost, and knows the true nature of what Nameless is, and what he is really searching for. By the end of the film both Nameless and Pete find what they are looking for in the strangest of places.
Directors and scriptwriters: Chris Kientz and Shonie De La Rosa
Producers: Doña Ana Community College
Funded by: National Geographic and the Smithsonian Institute
Stars: Ernie Tsosie and Gerald Vandever
Crew includes: Film makers Antonio Hernandez, Bill McCamey and Mark Vasconcellos, 20 DACC students, special effects by Aaron Berger
Planned release date: Fall, 2008 for entry in Sundance Film Festival
• They Can’t Be Stopped”
Locations: Las Cruces region, Deming, Albuquerque
Plot: Synopsis. One night, one town must deal with an epidemic of deadly zombies set on devouring the world.
Writer: Mackenzie Ridgeway
Producer/Director: Jaron Whitfill
World premieres: Around Halloween in Las Cruces and Albuquerque
• “Becoming Eduardo”
Principal locations: Hillsboro and Truth or Consequences
Plot: Eduardo, a teen in danger or becoming a gangbanger, ends up being saved by poetry.
Writer: LouAnne Johnson, whose bestseller “My Posse Don’t Do Homework,” became the 1995 blockbuster film “Dangerous Minds”
Director: Rod McCall
Producer: Brad Littlefield
Stars: Include Julian Alcarez, Gary Perez , students from Alma d’arte Charter School for the Arts, as well as CMIstudent crew
Planned release date: Fall, in time for Sundance Film Festival release
• “Grave Mistake”
Principal locations: Southern New Mexico
Plot: When Alex King finds the people around him are turning into mindless Flesh-eating zombies, it’s up to him and his companions to fight their way to the National Guard Armory and to find Alex’s missing mother before they become LUNCH!
Writer, Director, Producer, Music, Monsters & more: Shawn Darling
Local cast and crew
Company:, (575) 521-9882
Planned release date: Maxim Media International and Brain Damage Films release DVDs nationally on Dec. 2
• “Red Sands”
Principal locations: Chihuahuan Desert and Las Cruces
Plot: In this monster movie, troubled kids sent to a survivalist camp have one last chance of getting it right, but after coping with the desert, wild animals, and drug dealers, just when they think they’re safe...monsters appear.
Director, writer, music, etc. Shawn Darling
Crew includes DACC film tech students.
Stars: Local
Planned release date: Not yet set
• “A Road to Paris”
Principal location: Las Cruces
Plot: Sexually starved Corrine Biggs, out looking for love in all the wrong places, accidentally discovers her pastor husband's dirty little sins.
Writer/Director: Constance Haspopoulos
Original music by David Kelly, University of New Mexico faculty
Producers: CMI for a short film production class of Mark Medoff.
Stars: Beth LeBlanc
Planned release date: August, 2008

Hot sources for film aficionados
• Las Cruces Film Office
Who: Crystal Downs, Las Cruces Film Liaison
Where: Creative Media Institute, Room 168 Milton Hall, NMSU
Mailing address: Las Cruces Film Office, MSC-3 CMI, New Mexico State University, P.O. Box. 3001, Las Cruces, NM 88003
Info: (575) 646-6360, (575) 571-1229, e-mail, Fax (575) 646-1741
• New Mexico Film Office
Who: Lisa Strout, Director, Jennifer Schwalenberg, Deputy Director,
Where: 418 Montezuma Ave., Santa Fe, NM 87501
Info:, (505) 476-5600, 800-545-9871, Fax 505-476-5601
• Creative Media Institute
Who: Jonathan Benson, Program Director
Where: 172 Milton Hall, New Mexico State University,
Info: ,(575) 646-5671, (800) 821-1574, Fax: (575) 646- 6321
# Milton Hall 172
• DAAC Media Tech Training Programs
Who: Rebecca Congs, Digital Imaging and Design, department chair
Where: Doña Ana Community College, Las Cruces
Info: 527-7573,,

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — Transformers, zombies and monsters. A teenage poet tries to make sense of the world. A troubled young man and a shaman search for the meaning of life. Two guys embark on a comedic quest in Biblical times.
And it’s all happening in our territory.
It’s shaping up as a big year, here in Hollywood on the Rio Grande.
From major big budget movies to creative indy and student films, there’s so much going on that there’s a good chance that a movie crew may be coming soon to a neighborhood near you, if it hasn’t already.
“The Burning Plain,” wrapped local shoots in December and earlier this year. Las Cruces and Portland, Ore., were primary locations for the film, which stars Academy Award winners Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger.
Diane Slattery, a publicist and assistant on the film, said “The Burning Plain” is expected to be finished “or at least a version of it will be finished” in time for a showing at the Venice Film Festival in August.
The plot focuses on a mother, Gina, portrayed by Basinger, and her daughter Sylvia, (Theron) who try to form a bond after the young woman's difficult childhood.
White Sands and southern New Mexico will again be principal locations for the film producers of “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” The first film in the series, which featured extensive location shooting at White Sands National Monument and Holloman Air Force Base, grossed more than $700 million worldwide.The current production has been preparing in Alamogordo since April and filming is expected to begin this fall. It’s slated to hit theaters next summer. According to, the cast includes Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Jon Voight, Rainn Wilson, Josh Duhamel, John Turturro, Tyrese Gibson, and Matthew Marsden.
Comedic superstar Jack Black and Michael Cera just finished shoots in White Sands for “Year One,” a buddy quest comedy set in Biblical times.
What’s the big attraction? Producton companies from around the world come seeking our unique and diverse locations. Resources and trained students emerging from Creative Media Institute at New Mexico State University and Doña Ana Community College’s Digital Video Project & Media Technician Training Programs are another lure, along with New Mexico Film Office financial incentives.
“The incentives are the No. 1 reason more media projects are coming here. New Mexico is now the third most desirable place for companies to make movies, after Los Angeles and New York. We have fabulous locations and infrastructure and a great relationship with other film offices in the state,” said Crystal Downs, Las Cruces Film Liaison, who reported this week that she has been doing some scouting for interested parties and may soon have some announcements about additional projects coming here.
Jennifer Schwalenberg, Deputy Director of the New Mexico Film Office noted that the John Makovich movie, ‘Afterwards’ did some location shoots in Southern New Mexico and a London production company is filming the David Parker Ray documentary in Truth or Consequences, scene of Ray’s crimes.
She said that a reality TV show, “Man vs. Cartoon” is filming this summer at Very Large Array, about 50 miles from Soccorro.
Several indy films are in production in Southern New Mexico, too.
Filming in Hillsboro and T or C this month is “Becoming Eduardo,” CMI’s first feature-length film. It’s based on “Alternative Ed,” a book by former Oñate High School teacher LouAnne Johnson, whose bestseller, “My Posse Don’t Do Homework,” became the basis for the 1995 blockbuster film “Dangerous Minds,” starring Michelle Pfeiffer.
Johnson is working with indy filmmaker and CMI professor Rod McCall on the film, which McCall said “is about a kid in danger or becoming a gangbanger who ends up being saved by poetry.”
The cast includes students from Alma d’arte, Las Cruces’ charter high school for the arts and its executive artistic producer, Irene Oliver-Lewis.
Producer Brad Littlefield of Open Range Pictures had praise for the company and crew.
“LouAnne Johnson is a lovely person to work with. Everything is going extremely well and there’s a lot of positive energy here,” Littlefield said.
The crew hopes to have the film completed and ready this fall to qualify for acceptance in the Sundance Film Festival in January.
It’s a goal shared by several independent film makers in the region, many of whom are working with CMI and DAAC students.
Writer and director Constance Haspopoulos is finishing “A Road To Paris,” produced by CMI for a short film production class of Tony Award-winning playwright and Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Mark Medoff. Also aiming for the Sundance Film festival is “AH-HOS-TEEND (Retired)” a spiritual quest movie filmed on locations in Las Cruces and Southern New Mexico by writers-directors Chris Kientz and Shonie De La Rosa.
Writer Mackenzie Ridgeway and producer and director Jaron Whitfill chose locations in Las Cruces, Southern New Mexico and Albuquerque for their thriller, “They Can’t Be Stopped,” set for world premieres around Halloween in Las Cruces and Albuquerque.
Could Las Cruces become the living dead epicenter of the planet? Believe it or not, “They Can’t Be Stopped” is one of two zombie films made here that are slated for 2008 release.
Shawn Darling’s “Grave Mistake” had a private premiere here and has just been picked up for national distribution by Maxim Media International and Brain Damage Films.
“The official release date for the film to DVD will be Dec. 2,” said Darling.
Darling’s Gryphon’s Egg Productions has just completed another deal with the same distributor for “Red Sands,” a monster movie set in a a survivalist camp for troubled kids that is currently being filmed in desert locations around Las Cruces.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

No more glamour in the skies

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
SOMEWHERE IN THE WESTERN SKIES — I’m not sure just when glamour finally vanished in thin air.
For almost a decade, it seemed like my feet barely hit the ground. This was mostly due to wealthy amigos in Santa Fe and Florida who thought nothing of booking a flight to Los Angeles for lunch, or firing up the Learjet for a week at their digs in Aspen or to meet the family yacht off the coast of South America.
It feels like I’ve spent years in airports, because I have — literally, a couple of years as an executive with the Palm Beach County Arts Council, running the Art at the Airport Program at Palm Beach International Airport, decorating the place with original art and greeting musicians flying in for South Florida concerts, or sometimes, just to perform at the airport and fly right back out.
And back in New Mexico, it seems like I’ve spent a lot of time aloft, in hot air balloons, small aircraft and perched on high vistas that seem almost like soaring in a little Cessna: living atop Picacho Mountain, hiking in the Organs, visiting Acoma Pueblo’s ancient Sky City.
I’ve spent a lot of time picking up loved ones at airports near places I’d rather live than leave.
Somehow, I didn’t realize that it has been a very long time since I’ve flown on a commercial airline myself. Before 9-11, in fact, back when the newspaper sent me with a delegation of Las Crucens to visit our Sister City in Nienburg, Germany.
Lately, I’d been wondering if my first and last flights would be to Deutschland, where I made my inaugural airborne trip as a 17-year-old exchange student, on an old Flying Tiger prop plane, that lasted more than 26 hours. (Yes, Virginia, we had jets back then, but the nonprofit group had lots of kids to transport and a small budget).
But even that flight had something that, I realized last week, has forever vanished in the no-longer-so-friendly skies of commercial air travel.
Back in the day, everybody and everything involved with aviation had an extreme glam factor. We teens dressed up in suits and nylons and heels for our interminable journey, like everybody else fortunate enough to travel by air in that era. We even dressed up to meet people at the airport, as they flew in on jets with designer paint jobs after hours of being pampered by stewardess in chic designer uniforms. And they were all stewardesses then: slim, chic, model-pretty young women, beautifully made up, meticulously groomed and accessorized, graceful in their high heels, even after a cross-country siege, serving cocktails and gourmet meals (with china, silver and crystal) and first class extras like elaborate sundaes and treats.
Ah, those golden days of yesteryear, I thought, as I headed off to the Pacific Northwest to see grandson Alexander the Great and his parents Shannon and Ryan (read about my Coeur d’Alene adventures in next Sunday’s travel feature).
Having listened to the complaints of all the passengers I’ve met at the airport in recent years, I wasn’t surprised by the delays, cancellations and security checks.
But I found myself still nostalgic for the glam factor, as we were herded into our crowded airborne corrals by beleaguered men and women in casual shorts, rumpled shirts and sturdy boots and sneakers, virtually indistinguishable from their frazzled, equally non-glam passengers.
As we weary cattle were watered and tossed bales of peanuts and stale snack bars on a connecting Las Vegas flight, I spotted a beautifully groomed blast from the past. One of our flight attendants was clearly a veteran of more glamorous times. She was probably in her late 50s or early 60s, with a chic, gleaming gray bob that seemed more appropriately dubbed platinum. Her snowy white blouse and beige trousers were crisp and tailored, especially in comparison with her unkempt crewmates’ outfits. She wore subtle, artful makeup, a string of pearls and discreetly lovely earrings.
For a moment, I almost expected that we would be blessed with warm, fragrant, thick terry towels to refresh ourselves as we landed.
We weren’t, of course. But I was impressed at how much just a touch of glam and consideration can ease the grimy, overscheduled, crowded, economically-stressed new millennium world of air travel.
We should all try a little harder, I thought, and some of us at least have our memories. If we must fly, we can vie for the steerage seats, lean back and think of those days of glamour in the skies, dreaming until we land.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

Friday, August 1, 2008

Have yourself a merry little August and support local artists

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — This year, let’s go for something crazy. Instead of Christmas in July, I’m moving on to a new concept: Art in August.
Let me explain.
Christmas in July is a pretty popular concept with type A Americans ... and, I must admit, with chronically early, always ahead-of-our-time Aquarians.
Most years, I thoroughly annoy many of my friends, colleagues and loved ones by announcing that I have all of my holiday shopping done by the Fourth of July. I don’t mean to be smug about it all. I’ve just found that it’s easier, less stressful and often considerably cheaper if you keep your eyes out all year for things you know are likely to delight your loved ones.
Of course, I’ve learned the hard way that you have to hold off on wrapping everything, or label it very securely, or you end up unwrapping and wrapping everything twice to figure out who gets what.
It also helps if you have secure storage areas like my double hall closets dedicated exclusively to gifts.
Despite massive recent giveaways, my closets runneth over this year. But necessity is the mother of invention, and that’s one reason I’m planning a quantum shift in my 2008 holiday strategies.
The other reason is that many artists are having a tough time this year. Several of my favorite galleries, shops and boutiques have closed and it can be harder for artists and craftspersons to find venues.
I believe that this, too, shall pass, but in the meantime we have an amazing community of talented artists in the Mesilla Valley and we need to do whatever we can to keep them here ... and keep them creating.
I think we should start our holiday shopping right now, and we should resolve to spend as much of our gift budget as possible on works of art, created close to home.
Some people are timid about giving art, figuring that it will be too difficult to come up with things that will really please all the people on their list. But the solution may simply be to enlarge your definition of art ... and the ways to acquire it.
A painting, drawing, fine art photography or sculpture are what come to mind for many when they think of art, and some think that it will be too hard to choose and too expensive to give such a gift.
Think again. With a little investigation, you can get a good idea of the tastes of a friend. Or you can play it a little safer and give a gift certificate to a gallery or even from a particular artist, many of whom have online galleries now.
If you’re having budget problems, many artists will let you buy art on time. Just could have your own Christmas club arrangement, and that painting that seems out of reach now could be yours after relatively painless monthly payments. In places like Santa Fe and Silver City, I’ve known elementary school kids, even, who have managed to buy little masterpieces this way.
Some artists may be willing to barter for goods and services, too.
And there are many artistic gifts that you may not have considered.
A book of poetry, photographs or a mystery, biography, novel or something on regional history could be the perfect gift for someone here, or someone far away who would enjoy knowing more about the place you call home.
And what about wearable art? Think about jewelry, tie-dye, woven, knitted, painted and embellished clothing, purses and accessories.
Performance arts are a possibility, too. You can give tickets to a play, concert or dance performance if your recipient lives close by or will be visiting during the holidays. You could stretch the budget by offering transpiration to a museum or gallery tour or a free performance, fiesta or event, or maybe make your own gift certificate offering a home-cooked meal at your place before or after the excursion.
And don’t forget music and performance CDs. Several great local artists and groups like the Las Cruces Symphony have terrific CDs available.
Those faddish items and electronic gadgets may be outdated before the year is out, but a gift of art could well become a family heirloom cherished by generations. A gift of art is a very personal way to inspire and support the creativity that represents the best of humanity, a very nice thing to share any time of year.
Merry Artistic August.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

Ready to join a gang? You may already have one.

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — It started one day in the newsroom when we discovered that many of us live in the same neighborhood — some of us within a block of each other, in fact.
“We should form a gang,” quipped Sun-News business editor Brook Stockberger.
We’ve discussed gang names. There are a few votes for the newsroom basketball team’s moniker: “Write Men Don’t Jump,” but many of us feel we shouldn’t mix our sports and ‘hood identities.
Then there are gang colors. I’m lobbying for black and blue. I know my color psychology. Blue represents peace and black is an authority color that clearly conveys “don’t mess with us” vibes. I’m also partial to purple, a peaceful, energetic hybrid that symbolizes spirituality, a quality that’s important for any gang I’d want to be part of in these challenging times.
Colleague Lucas Peerman thinks we need a gang handshake and we’ve been experimenting with variations on knuck-bumps, that classic contemporary pulled-punch knuckle-knocking greeting, combined with thumbs-up and peace signs. This will take some negotiation. We have both reporters and editors in the gang. Editors often think reporters are too wordy and sometimes reporters feel editors can ignore nuances and poetic expression. Compromise is called for and chances are both sides will have to sacrifice a thumb or a knuck-knock or two.
Then there are things like raps and tags to consider and various other slangin’ and bangin’ issues.
But it soon became clear that before we could get to any of that we’d have to resolve the turf wars.
Many of us live on the East Mesa. Other newsroom colleagues go home to cribs in diverse locales that range from downtown and the university area to Mesilla and Picacho Hills.
But the whole question of turf issues reminded me that we may be looking at the wrong gang models.
Maybe instead of gangstas, we’re closer to the “Our Gang” tribe — those cute little movie comedy kids with spotted dogs and strange hairlicks who entertained generations, decades before we were born.
Or maybe we should just forget the whole thing. Journalists are not by nature herd animals. The best of us are philosophers, souls who are known for their lone wolf tendencies to hang out at isolated ponds and desert retreats.
There’s no disputing that the forms of our old gangs are fading away.
As we move into Mojo (mobile journalist) mode and technology evolves to enable us to spend more and more time in the field, maybe our gangs will exist only in cyberspace and all our rumbles will be virtual.
It’s a little eerie, walking into the newsroom early in the morning to find that many parts of the old Sun-News building are a kind of ghost town, with retro-tech artifacts like our old PCs and the desk sets from our old phone system lined up against bare walls. The old press room is an echoing cavern, and if we want to yell “Stop the presses!”, we’ll need to first place a call on our new Voice-over Internet Protocol phone system to our sister paper in Farmington, where our old presses now reside.
Still, gangs are an All-American tradition, from the revolutionary rebels who joined to form a freedom-loving nation to urban teens immortalized in musicals like “West Side Story” and contemporary multicultural kids who are evolving from angst and violence into what is becoming a rich culture of art, music and dance ... and global tribes that transcend borders.
A well-known local educator told me she would rather work with kids in gangs than the nihilistic Goth kids, “because the kids in gangs have a sense of family” and there is loyalty, energy and purpose that can be the basis for all kinds of creativity.
Meanwhile, back in the newsroom, I have come to believe that there is a bit of Diogenes in the best and even the worst of us, some innate quality that wants to find the truth about why we’re here, where we’ve come from and where we’re going. Maybe there’s a gene or something in our DNA that compels us to seek truth and helpful informational tibits and share it all with others.
I know that’s why I’m still hanging out in newsrooms after all these years.
The turf has changed a lot, but they’re still my gang.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

Summer odds & ends

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
It seems to be a summer tradition among columnists. At least once a year, there’s a need to clean and clear one’s mind (and desk) and offer up a little smorgasbord of odds and ends, bits too small for a main course column but just too good to throw out.
Here’s mine for ‘08. Get ready to chow down.
+ + +
Here is a nugget of information from rockin’ tuba virtuoso Jim Shearer that surprised me, even after a dozen years as a woodwind instrumentalist myself: It takes more wind to play a flute than a tuba, he explained to me, because so much air is lost as the flutist blows over, rather than into, the instrument’s mouthpiece. So if you’re looking for a macho marathoner in the orchestra, look first to the flute section.
I’m still in awe of those brass section people, though, after watching ‘em do their thing on instruments like the French horn, trombone, tuba and trumpet. I’ll never forget seeing Doc Severinsen, then pushing 80, run up and down those steep Pan Am steps and still managing to make his full-tilt virtuoso farewell performance seem effortless.
Few appreciate the physical demands of many of the arts, from dance to music to large scale sculpture and painting. Buff ballerinas and athletic musicians and sculptors clearly have an edge in their demanding art fields. Maybe what we need are specialty gyms and fitness centers for artists...
+ + +
This comes from a local physician, who prefers to remain anonymous, in response to a recent article on summer skin care tips. He thought advice to see a dermatologist annually was excessive— and said visits that frequent are only necessary if there are indications/risk factors/family history, etc.
Plus, he noted, there aren’t enough dermatology docs to go around in Southern New Mexico. He even did the math for me, dividing the burgeoning population (I think that was shortly before the latest estimate of nearly 200,000 in Doña Ana County came out) by the number of dermatologists. Suffice it to say, they couldn’t manage to see everybody in a year, even working around the clock. So check with your primary care physician and see if you’re one of the ones who needs to see a dermatologist. Otherwise you’re off the hook. Go have some summer fun instead, but don’t forget the SPF.
+ + +
This is my favorite quote of the year, from Diana Alba’s July 6 story on prospects for the 2008 chile crop. Diana interviewed Jimmy and Jo Lytle of Hatch, whose crop includes Sandia, Big Jim, NuMex No. 64 and other delicious peppers.
“I praise God every day because my husband grows something that’s addictive and legal,” Jo Lytle said.
Amen. !Viva chiles!
+ + +
And speaking of chile, I have good news for those of you who read my recent list of the best green chile treats in Las Cruces and joined me in mourning the loss of green chile sundaes at Caliche’s.
As you will recall, I recently ordered a big scoop of their yummy frozen vanilla custard and asked for it with “your chile sundae topping.” Instead, my frozen desert was topped with chili con carne.
Adventurous though my palate is, I would not advise trying this at home.
Instead, look for Desert Farms’ green chile marmalade. Their booth at The Las Cruces Farmers & Crafts Market carries all kinds of chile goodies, including the Tia Rita line of chile powders and spice mixes. For other sources, give ‘em a call at (575) 525-969. I am assured that their just-hot-enough marmalade was the magic ingredient in the long-lamented sundaes of yesteryear, so now you can pick up frozen custard, or ice cream or healthier yogurt, sherbet or rice or soy frozen desserts and make your own. If you come up with a particularly wonderful hot & cold green chile sundae idea of your own, let me know.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at