Saturday, February 16, 2013

¡Viva Pluto! Get ready for Plutopalooza

By S. Derrickson Moore LAS CRUCES — Let’s get busy. It’s almost time for Plutopalooza and we have only about 17 months to get this fiesta off the ground, to coin an appropriately cosmic phrase. On July 14, 2015, the New Horizons probe, launched on Jan. 19, 2006, with Clyde Tombaugh’s ashes on board, will arrive at Pluto. Plutopalooza, which I first proposed in 2010, came to mind when I covered Clyde Tombaugh Day Feb. 9 at the Las Cruces Museum of Nature and Science, where they’re hoping to make the day an annual “signature event” of the new museum. It was a fun day, a great start and clear evidence that the spirit of Plutopalooza is still strong in our young ones (who built telescopes, in honor of Clyde, who did the same as a sky-watching Midwestern farm boy) and designed Pluto flags. I also met Clyde’s family members, friends and colleagues, along with astronomy buffs and fans of the legendary space pioneer and his work, which included, as we all know, the discovery of the planet Pluto on Feb. 18, 1930, “Clyde was my first boss, at my first job as an engineer at White Sands,” said Austin L. Vick, with the White Sands Historical Foundation. Vick’s group sounds like one of many organizations we’d like to involve in Plutopalooza, along with the Las Cruces Museum of Nature & Science, the NMSU Astronomy Department, the New Mexico Museum of Space History, the Space Mural Museum, and all the regional institutions named for Clyde, including an art gallery, elementary school and planetarium. If there are any doubters out there, I’d like to ask them how often the ashes of a man who discovered a planet in our solar system have actually traveled to that planet? Never! And since Clyde spent most of his life and raised his family here, we’re the logical place for the fiesta. It’s time to start brainstorming. We’ll need a site for a big screen viewing party to watch the first close images the probe sends back. We’ll need experts and astronomy’s big names to talk about what it all means. We’ll need technical advisors. I’d like to nominate Chas Miller, the NMSU astronomy graduate student who offered a presentation on the New Horizons mission at Tombaugh Day. He talked about Pluto’s five moons: Nix, Hydra, Charon, P4 and P5. I think we should have an international competition to rechristen P4 and P5, to help draw attention to Plutopalooza. I feel there should also be some effort to petition for reconsideration of Pluto’s status by those International Astronomical Union members who, at their still-controversial Aug. 24, 2006, meeting, defined the term "planet" for the first time, a definition which excluded Pluto and added it as a member of the new “dwarf planet" category. The logical scientist to spearhead this corrective course should be Neil deGrasse Tyson, who once championed Pluto’s demotion, but was a changed man after he profiled Clyde and interviewed members of the Tombaugh family & famous supporters of Pluto’s planetary status for “The Pluto Files,” a 2010 NOVA show on PBS. The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart summed up our love for the little planet: “We don't care what it really is. We just want to call it Pluto,” Stewart said. How about Stewart as Grand Marshal of the Plutopalooza parade? The possibilities are exciting. Pluto art exhibitions. Historical and scientific symposiums. A special event at Spaceport. A Pluto symphony. Pluto ballets and folklorico dances. Pluto operas and rock festivals. Pluto piñatas. Pluto green chile enchiladas. Pluto-inspired poetry and dramas. Pluto book talks by Tombaugh biographers. You get the idea, and I’ll bet many of you have some even better ideas. Send them to me, and let’s get this planetary ball rolling. ¡Viva Plutopalooza! S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style. Follow her on Twitter @DerricksonMoore.

Secrets of Chile revealed

By S. Derrickson Moore LAS CRUCES — Chef Clint Kifolo worked his usual magic at the Chile Pepper Institute’s 2013 New Mexico Chile Leaders Dinner at Stan Fulton Center. The annual February fiery feast starred chile in every course, starting with the NuMex Heritage 6-4 Green Chile Bisque. We were served shallow white bowls with pretty little piles of green chile, and what looked like a salsa mix of finely chopped colorful veggies and tiny tortilla strips. Then, we were encouraged to “play with your food” as servers poured hot cream over the bounty, while we stirred enthusiastically. The resulting bisque was one of the tastiest chile treats of a lifetime. There was a lettuce and tomato salad ignited with red chile ranch dressing and maple chile candied bacon, followed by the entree: pecan crusted chicken breast with a demi-glace of Holy Jolokia chile and cranberry, accompanied by cheese grits and grilled zucchini plants to cool our palates. Whew! ¡Y Olé! Then came an artfully arranged plate of warm goat’s milk ricotta with Holy Jolokia chile-orange marmalade and brown rice flatbread (the entire dinner was not only superbly chile-enhanced, but also gluten-free). Dessert was a chocolate cake served with potent dots of “Sancto Scorpion Fudge Sauce,” spiked with Trinidad Moruga Scorpion Red, announced as contender for the world’s hottest chile pepper at the institute’s 2012 Chile Leaders Dinner. As always, those chile people know how to show a girl a good time … and this year, Chile Pepper Institute director and NMSU Regents Professor Paul Bosland ended the dinner and kicked off the 2013 New Mexico Chile Conference with another even-hotter-than dinner revelation: the successful completion of the chile genome project. “We’ve now determined that the chile pepper has approximately 3.5 billion base pairs, which are the building blocks that make up the DNA double helix, compared to tomatoes, which have about 950 million,” Bosland announced. (I quickly consulted my soulmate Dr. Roger, a physician whose board certifications include genetics. As I expected, Roger was able to instantly tell me how many base pairs humans have: a mere 3 billion, half a billion less than our chile amigos.) Bosland continued the comparison: “The Human Genome Project determined we have about 20,000 genes. Chile peppers have about 37,000 genes. Whether that means chiles are more evolved than we are, I don’t know,” he quipped. I’ve been pondering that ever since. I’ve long known that chiles in general — and green chiles in particular — make everything better, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and even some beers and wines. And those vitamin-packed, endorphin-rush-inducing peppers also improve our health and sense of well-being. In my decades on the chile beat, I’ve talked to researchers who have praised and documented chile’s ability to cure diseases, jump-start those loving feelings, repel pests and delight cows (who are reportedly happier when chile is added to their feed). To say nothing of attracting thousands to tiny villages to celebrate fiestas in their honor. And decorating our lives in colorful wreaths and ristras. And now, it seems, we are just beginning to understand and help fully realize the potentials of our genetically sophisticated pepper pals. Here in the home of the Chile Pepper Institute, in Chile Capital of the World territory, I figure we have front row seats for the next evolutionary leaps. I can’t wait. S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @DerricksonMoore

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Artsy times in Cruces

By S. Derrickson Moore LAS CRUCES — Art will get you through times of limited money better than money will get you through times of no art. That’s my take on a famous saying from the 1960s and 1970s. And even if the economy is not all we might hope, when it comes to art, we’re always rich in the Land of Enchantment, and this year is shaping up as an especially prosperous time for the arts in Las Cruces and southern New Mexico. February For the Love of Art Month starts this Friday, and we’ll all have a lot to celebrate. The long-awaited, 59,000-square-foot, brand new NMSU Center for the Arts opens for its first public event in February: the American Southwest Theatre Company presentation of Thornton Wilder’s classic, “Our Town,” which runs Feb. 22 to March 10. We have so many theater companies, we’ve become known as the Broadway of the Southwest. And our reputation just got another boost with the historic first collaboration between NMSU’s Theater Department and the Las Cruces Symphony to present “Carousel.” Two internationally known artists, (and NMSU professors): Mark Medoff, whose laurels include a Tony Award and an Academy Award nomination, and NMSU Symphony conductor Lonnie Klein, teamed up with a talented group of more than 100 singers, actors, dancers and symphony musicians for a remarkable production that also was a homecoming for talented New York City kids with Las Cruces roots: Donald Groves, Maria Elena Armijo and Jessica Medoff. It’s been fun to watch generations of remarkable kids grow up here and make good in bigger ponds, in diverse fields that range from mariachi or Country-Western stardom to classical pianist superstars like Jeremy Denk. But it’s not all that surprising: we have both nature and nurture advantages here, with some extraordinary, talented souls who have chosen to make the Mesilla Valley their home base, and some wonderful schools and institutions for training and guidance. Consider our world-class resources: the Las Cruces Symphony, Las Cruces Chamber Ballet, top theater companies, the Las Cruces International Mariachi Conference, Creative Media Institute and top filmmakers, nationally-known, award-winning artists, playwrights, screenwriters, authors, poets, journalists, actors, dancers, choreographers, designers, composers, vocalists and musicians … We have an arts high school and many special arts and cultural programs for kids. In my time here, high school kids have been asked to play Carnegie Hall and NMSU choral groups have toured Europe. In the last couple of years, again, despite tough times, we’ve added some remarkable galleries, from Rokoko and Adobe Patio in Mesilla to clusters of imaginative studios and galleries downtown and in the Mesquite Street neighborhood, some of them home bases for an influx of talented artists from throughout the United States and around the world. Downtown Las Cruces is being transformed, with new shops, restaurants and galleries, the national awarding-winning, top-ranking Las Cruces Farmers & Crafts (and more and more fine arts) Market, a new look and a new outlook. New cultural organizations and events keep being created, and long-established groups have recently celebrated milestone anniversaries. Check out For the Love of Art Month happenings in today’s paper and celebrate by enjoying, appreciating and supporting our local bounty. Go to a concert or play. Applaud our vocalists, dancers, musicians and actors. Appreciate our authors and poets and playwrights and filmmakers. Contemplate our innovative multimedia geniuses. Invest in a piece of original art, from a piece of jewelry to a sculpture or painting. When it comes to art, we may well be poised for greatness. Or … look around. Maybe, we’re already there. Happy For the Love of Art Month. S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at 575-541-5450. Follow her on Twitter @DerricksonMoore.

My Big Bangs Theory

Las Cruces Style — S. Derrickson Moore By S. Derrickson Moore LAS CRUCES — While watching the presidential Inaugural ceremonies on my day off, I was struck by the diversity of the presentations and participants — and the strange obsession of many commentators. With a new Congress, and a rather fiery and controversial address by President Obama, what may well have generated the most comment was ... First Lady Michelle Obama’s new bangs. Those of Baby Boomers and older vintage will recall that there were other famous First Lady bangs: Mamie Eisenhower’s. I was just a tiny tot them, but I can remember that my parents really liked Ike, and my mom seemed determined to pay homage to the First Lady’s bangs through her daughters’ ’do’s, as she called them. Mamie’s bangs were short and curly, and ideal for my sister Sally’s short, naturally curly hair. To attempt a similar affect with my long, straight locks, usually in pigtails or a pony tail … well, my sibs remember my plaintive wails throughout my elementary school years: “Mom! You cut my bangs too short!” Like most Boomers, I grew up with several controversial idols with bangs: Elizabeth Taylor in her scandalous Cleopatra years, for instance. In the ’60s, the Beatles and assorted other Mop Top rock idols like Sonny and Cher made long, straight and shaggy both a political and fashion statement. When celebrity hairdresser Vidal Sassoon reached iconic status, my long, straight bangs were finally in, and I was the envy of all my curly-haired friends who resorted to ironing their locks. Mom tried to be happy for me, but I know, to her dying day, that she still regretted that I hadn’t been blessed with naturally curly Mamie-length bangs, nor the will and desire to endure what it took to achieve them by superhuman means. I’m not sure guys will never understand our big bangs theories and dilemmas, though they will take notice, and seem to admire those of us with bangs and compliment us when we adopt them. There are a lot of issues. The whole thing kind of reminds me of the old saying about the two happiest days in a boat owner’s life: the day of purchase and the day of sale. Bangs are like that, too. Most women and girls have experienced the miraculous power of bangs to transform and spice up your appearance. It’s an ageless phenomenon: adolescents can feel at once glam and secure, with a wave of hair to help hide everything from shyness to complexion issues. As you get older, bangs can conceal frown lines and help make graying hair look frosted and chic. But then there’s maintenance. You might be lucky enough to find the genius hairdresser of your dreams, but it is a law of the hirsute universe that bangs grow faster than any other part of your hairdo. Most of us try to get more bangs for our bucks and at least attempt to learn trimming skills ourselves, an avocation that can lead to online research, professional scissors, and, in emergencies or desperation, wild, manicure-scissored freakouts before big dates or job interviews. And just as familiar as the ecstasy of brand new glam bangs is the darker side of the process: the agony of trying to grow them out. In our teen years, we haunt slick magazines and online fashion sites that promise to ease the process with headbands, interim hairdos, wigs, scarves, or cute barrettes. Older hands might try perms or curling irons. (Is this the way our world ends: not with bangs, but a crimper?) And we all know that none of those things are really effective. It’s one of those things that can only be healed by time — or a haircut, reinstating the bangs. But don’t try to assign political goals or motives: they’re a daring, very individual commitment contemplated daily in mirrors, where the merits of bangs are in the eyes of the beholders. Especially when we’re late for a trim. S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at 575-541-5450. Follow her on Twitter @DerricksonMoore.