Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Easter in the Land of Enchantment



Like every other celebration I can think of, Easter has its own distinctive flavor in the Land of Enchantment.
There’s something spiritual, subtly beautiful, yet larger than life about spring in high-desert country. The soft colors of new spring growth blend gracefully with the beiges, browns and grays of rocks and soil. Mesquite is dotted with pale leafy chartreuse. Birds and their nests seem to slip in overnight on delicately camouflaged wings.
Then again, there are splashes of vivid color as exciting and flamboyant as the swirling skirts of a troupe of folklorico dancers. There’s nothing subtle about the blooms of cactus: crimson, fuchsia, magenta, neon oranges and yellow.
Steely gray branches of octotillo, which many newcomers presume to be dead, literally burst unto fire engine red blooms, as if to alert, wave to and flag down passing pollinators: “Hi, there, sailor bees. New in town?”
Agaves known as century plants can lead uneventful lives for years. Then, one special spring, they’ll decide to go for broke. Suddenly, the plant will sprout what eventually looks like a giant asparagus, an appetizer (or maybe even main course) fit for Godzilla or King Kong. At times, it seems like you can actually see it grow before your eyes: a few feet on Monday, and towering over your adobe abode a few days later.
Survival and procreation are serious matters in the desert. Birds and bees and prickly pears are all ready to get the job done when the conditions are right.
We Borderland desert creatures have our own ways of celebrating the season of renewal.
Artists and craftspersons add their own Wild West twists to traditions that have origins in other parts of the world. Red and green chiles spice our spring feasts and Easter dinners. Bright cactus blooms sometimes find their way into centerpieces of darling, pale pink buds of May, which usually show up in March or April here.
Though we live in a land the unenlightened may consider basic beige, especially during sandstorms, our souls are anything but pastel.
Given a choice, even our Easter eggs are likely to be dyed and decorated in bright fiesta hues.
Take cascarones, for instance. These are not your Midwestern mother’s pale pink, anemic yellow or whispery lavender hard-boiled future deviled eggs, or fragile blown-out shells with intricate decorations. These are FIESTA eggs, in vivid cactus bloom colors, filled with confetti and meant to be broken in a blaze of colorful glory.
I consider this a milestone year, because it’s the first time I’ve been able to go into a couple of local chain stores and buy cascarones by the dozen in nearly stacked cartons. It’s a benchmark, a harbinger — sort of like the year salsa finally overtook ketchup as America’s favorite condiment. (No matter what your cultural background, I think all sane and thoughtful souls could recognize this as triumph of good taste and All-American progress over outmoded tradition.)
Of course, the best cascarones are still hand-crafted by talented artisans. You can learn a little more about the festive eggs in today’s Artist of the Week feature on page E4 of this section.
I learned that Carmen Lopez has been creating her blingy little glittered beauties for as long as there has been a Las Cruces Farmers and Crafts Market. I’ve been a fan of Priciliana Sandoval’s pinata-cascarone-wand hybrids for two decades and even took some to our sister city of Nieburg, Germany, where the citizens were amazed and thrilled.
If you get a chance, pick up some handmade cascarones, or make them yourself and have some slightly messy (but worth it) adventures today after you bite off the ears of your favorite chocolate bunnies.
And if you take a desert hike, watch for jackrabbits and roadrunners who look like they’re on a special quest.
Who knows? They might be bearing baskets of treats.
Holidays usually come with a few surprises in the Land of Enchantment.
Happy Easter!
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news.com, @derricksonMoore on Twitter and Tout, or call 575-541-5450.

May the Force be with us



We ought to be in movies.
Actually, Las Cruces has already been in quite a few, and now the odds of getting in more are increasing.
On a recent warm spring day, we watched a group of desperados shoot it our on Main Street, a High Noon brawl staged by Old West Thunder and Flying Cloud Productions. Then we ambled past a stagecoach, down a short red carpet and into the Rio Grande Theatre, where we heard about the latest development in the Wild West history of filmmaking in the territory.
New Mexico State legislators recently approved a $550,000 appropriation to build what various speakers referred to as the Las Cruces film backlot, a resource that is expected to help draw filmmakers and creators of commercials, videos and other multimedia productions to our territory.
Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, construction should be well under way by the end of the year at Corralitos Ranch, west of the airport.
It’s territory already known well by top filmmakers, and those of us who cover their location shoots. I was there during filming of Steven Spielberg’s last Indiana Jones epic (the one with the crystal skulls, ETS and that now-notorious marriage ceremony).
I was also in the vicinity, during a vicious sandstorm, for a location shoot of Steven Soderbergh’s critically-acclaimed 2000 film “Traffic.”
They were looking for a “third world airport,” I was told, and after scouting possible locations in Mexico and assorted other sites around the world, they were disappointed to find nothing that seemed quite third-worldly enough — until they discovered the Las Cruces International Airport.
Hmm.
Other big-time filmmakers were more complimentary.
Oscar-nominated writer and filmmaker Guillermo Arriaga likes us so much he said he’d like to have a house here, when he came to Las Cruces to make the 2008 film “The Burning Plain.”
He brought along the  likes of John Corbett, Kim Basinger, and superstar Charlize Theron, whose teenaged self was portrayed by now-hotter-than-Bhut-Jolokia-chile Jennifer Lawrence (“American Hustle,” “Hunger Games,” “Silver Linings Playbook”).
Of course, Tony Award-winning, Academy Award-nominated writer Mark Medoff actually DOES live here, and has taken his plays to Broadway from Las Cruces and made several movies in the Mesilla Valley and around the state, including “Refuge,” “Homage,” “Santa Fe” and “100 MPG.”
At the Las Cruces Film Backlot Kick-Off, Medoff praised the bipartisan efforts that are helping to increase resources to lure productions.
“We hope it brings some more movies here and helps movie people see our area is as attractive as other parts of the state,” said Medoff, a founder of NMSU’s Creative Media Institute.
He was among those who noted new resources could give talented students who train here more opportunities to stay, live and work here.
We’re a natural, as they say in the biz.
Our star quality has been obvious from the beginnings of the film industry.
Thomas Edison’s company, in fact, shot the first film in New Mexico Territory and one of the first ever in the American West in 1898. “Indian Day School,” according to nmartmuseum.org, “shows a small group of Native American children and their teacher filing out of a Pueblo-style one-room schoolhouse, and then back in again.” Film pioneer D.W. Griffith’s “A Pueblo Legend,” was made around the time of statehood.
My first brush with New Mexico film fame came shortly after I moved to Santa Fe and was assigned to cover the filming of “Silverado.” It was old home week. The film’s still photographer was a photojournalist I’d worked with for years in Portland, Ore., and the writer was Larry Kasdan (whose credits include “Grand Canyon,” “Body Heat,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “The Accidental Tourist,” “The Body Guard,” “The Big Chill,” and screenplays for “Star Wars” episodes from 1980 to the newest episode slated for 2015 release).
I remembered him as the roommate of a hometown guy I dated at the University of Michigan. We talked about old times and mused about filmmakers’ fascination with the Land of Enchantment.
“Light photographs true here,” Kasdan said.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news.com, @derricksonmore on Twitter and Tout or 575-541-5450.


Movie Memories

We ought to be in movies.
Actually, Las Cruces has already been in quite a few, and now the odds of getting in more are increasing.
On a recent warm spring day, we watched a group of desperados shoot it our on Main Street, a High Noon brawl staged by Old West Thunder and Flying Cloud Productions. Then we ambled past a stagecoach, down a short red carpet and into the Rio Grande Theatre, where we heard about the latest development in the Wild West history of filmmaking in the territory.
New Mexico State legislators recently approved a $550,000 appropriation to build what various speakers referred to as the Las Cruces film backlot, a resource that is expected to help draw filmmakers and creators of commercials, videos and other multimedia productions to our territory.
Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, construction should be well under way by the end of the year at Corralitos Ranch, west of the airport.
It’s territory already known well by top filmmakers, and those of us who cover their location shoots. I was there during filming of Steven Spielberg’s last Indiana Jones epic (the one with the crystal skulls, ETS and that now-notorious marriage ceremony).
I was also in the vicinity, during a vicious sandstorm, for a location shoot of Steven Soderbergh’s critically-acclaimed 2000 film “Traffic.”
They were looking for a “third world airport,” I was told, and after scouting possible locations in Mexico and assorted other sites around the world, they were disappointed to find nothing that seemed quite third-worldly enough — until they discovered the Las Cruces International Airport.
Hmm.
Other big-time filmmakers were more complimentary.
Oscar-nominated writer and filmmaker Guillermo Arriaga likes us so much he said he’d like to have a house here, when he came to Las Cruces to make the 2008 film “The Burning Plain.”
He brought along the  likes of John Corbett, Kim Basinger, and superstar Charlize Theron, whose teenaged self was portrayed by now-hotter-than-Bhut-Jolokia-chile Jennifer Lawrence (“American Hustle,” “Hunger Games,” “Silver Linings Playbook”).
Of course, Tony Award-winning, Academy Award-nominated writer Mark Medoff actually DOES live here, and has taken his plays to Broadway from Las Cruces and made several movies in the Mesilla Valley and around the state, including “Refuge,” “Homage,” “Santa Fe” and “100 MPG.”
At the Las Cruces Film Backlot Kick-Off, Medoff praised the bipartisan efforts that are helping to increase resources to lure productions.
“We hope it brings some more movies here and helps movie people see our area is as attractive as other parts of the state,” said Medoff, a founder of NMSU’s Creative Media Institute.
He was among those who noted new resources could give talented students who train here more opportunities to stay, live and work here.
We’re a natural, as they say in the biz.
Our star quality has been obvious from the beginnings of the film industry.
Thomas Edison’s company, in fact, shot the first film in New Mexico Territory and one of the first ever in the American West in 1898. “Indian Day School,” according to nmartmuseum.org, “shows a small group of Native American children and their teacher filing out of a Pueblo-style one-room schoolhouse, and then back in again.” Film pioneer D.W. Griffith’s “A Pueblo Legend,” was made around the time of statehood.
My first brush with New Mexico film fame came shortly after I moved to Santa Fe and was assigned to cover the filming of “Silverado.” It was old home week. The film’s still photographer was a photojournalist I’d worked with for years in Portland, Ore., and the writer was Larry Kasdan (whose credits include “Grand Canyon,” “Body Heat,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “The Accidental Tourist,” “The Body Guard,” “The Big Chill,” and screenplays for “Star Wars” episodes from 1980 to the newest episode slated for 2015 release).
I remembered him as the roommate of a hometown guy I dated at the University of Michigan. We talked about old times and mused about filmmakers’ fascination with the Land of Enchantment.
“Light photographs true here,” Kasdan said.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news.com, @derricksonmore on Twitter and Tout or 575-541-5450.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

How do we cope with pain?



By S. Derrickson Moore
Pain.
If poet T.S. Eliot is right about April being the cruelest month, it’ll have to be a doozy.
If there was one theme for me this March, it was pain.
It seemed to be everywhere. I was braced for it when it came time to cover stories on annual commemorations surrounding today’s 25th annual Bataan Memorial Death March run, and “Never The Same,” a film about U.S. servicemen held as POWs by the Japanese during World War II. (The last screening will be at 7 p.m. Monday at the Rio Grande Theatre, 211 N. Main St.)
I talked to filmmaker Jan Thompson, whose dad was a POW, and Gerry Schurtz of Las Cruces, whose father and uncle, Deming natives, were both on the Bataan Death March. His father, Paul W. Schurtz, died. His uncle, Gerald B. Freeman, survived and became a surrogate father to Gerry and his siblings. Gerry was candid about the impacts on his uncle and their extended family — a long legacy of pain.
I went to talk to artist Kelley Hestir and NMSU students at Veteran’s Park, where they were doing their annual cleaning of Kelley’s sculpture, a deeply moving tribute to Bataan soldiers. I remember when Kelley first began working on the project, making molds of the feet of Bataan survivors and listening to their stories. And I knew the toll it took on creative, sensitive Kelley, who absorbed and conveyed their ordeal, their spirits and strength.
About the same time, I was working on a story about child abuse for April’s Healthy U magazine. I’ve been reporting on child abuse issues since I worked on a series in the 1970s, in otherwise progressive Portland, Ore., where there were then more laws to protect animals than there were to protect women and children.
I did my first interview with Gloria Steinem about that time, too, and remember her saying that the crucial first steps were to name the problems like domestic violence, and child abuse, which used to be just called “life” in a complacent world.
We’ve progressed on some fronts, but we still have a long, long way to go.
The A & E beat is usually a refuge, but this month, pain seemed to be everywhere. Both the director, Nikka Ziemer, and star of “Women of Lockerbie” talked to me about the “comic relief” in Deborah Bervoort’s award-winning drama, inspired by a community’s response to a plane crash caused by terrorists. (The play runs through March 30 at the Black Box Theatre.)
Karen Caroe plays a suburban housewife from New Jersey who roams the hills of Lockerbie, Scotland, looking for her son’s remains. Caroe is a brave soul who told me her role “was a little bit too close to home for me because I lost my daughter in an accident a couple of years ago and it opens a few painful wounds.”
On a personal level, a good friend I talked to after surgery was in so much post-op pain that I didn’t recognize her voice.
I had my own bout with an abscessed tooth that inconveniently began its three-day reign of throbbing terror on a Friday night.  My only other toothache of that magnitude came shortly after the birth of my son — without anesthetic. But it’s the pain of that tooth that I remember vividly.
I thought about that when Loretta Swit, who narrates “Never the Same,” told me how the film changed her life: ”It releases you from worry and anxiety. Nothing like that is ever going to happen to you. You give up all rights to complain about anything that will happen to you, and that is liberating,” Swit said.
I wish I could agree. Among my dearest friends is a woman who was in a Japanese camp from birth to age 3, a man who was the only member of his family to survive Auschwitz, and children and grandchildren of survivors of Nazi and Japanese camps during World War II. And in newsrooms and as a volunteer in domestic violence interventions, I’ve witnessed stories of pain and inhumanity that have endured for decades and crippled generations. Physical, mental, emotional and soul-deep pain.
And yes, there is something to say for comic relief and the release of art and expression. Some of us are blessed with innate coping mechanisms, and with friends, loved ones and support systems to help us bear, relieve and maybe eventually transcend our pain and grief.
My prayer is that more and more of us get the help we need and use what we’ve learned to go on to help others, to investigate causes and solutions and break the cycle of pain, cruelty and soul-crushing inhumanity that is the greatest threat to all God’s creatures.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news.com, @derricksonmoore on Twitter and Tout or 575-541-5450.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A brief history of time ... changes

It’s that time of year again.
Did you remember to set your clocks for Daylight Saving Time before you went to bed last night?
I suspect many of us put it off because it’s Saturday night, and we figure we’ll have the whole weekend to adjust to what is, after all, just an hour’s difference.
But what a difference an hour can make.
I’ve been through a lot of time changes by now, but I still find myself getting a little bleary about which season is which and am still prone to second guessing after all these decades.
Is it really spring forward in March and fall back in October, or is that just too easy?
Maybe we’re supposed to be counter-intuitive and spring back in the fall, when it seems logical that we need more light, and fall back in the spring, when mother nature is brightening things up anyway. Isn’t more light just gilding the lily?
But no, we’re supposed to move the clock ahead one hour in the fall and back an hour in the spring. Right? Right!
In recent years, I’ve come to rely on most of most electronic gear to be self-springers and fallers. I already ran afoul of that confident attitude when I set out to write this column and found our new news processing system was reluctant to let me express myself. No matter how I muttered and refreshed, I was consistently informed that March 9 is “not a publication date.”  No amount of attempted retries and arguments with my PC about the fact that we are a daily newspaper garnered any helpful results. In fact, the system calendar listed March 7. March 8 twice and March 10.
March 9 and I were caught in a time-space warp. After many call to IT, I decided the best course was to go to lunch. When I returned, so had March 9.
I gave at the office and now on to our homes. Cable and TV and DVR seem to take care of the time switch on their own. I’ll have to wait and see if my new iPhone and its family of aps can mange to transcend space and time changes without human help. That leaves the clocks in the car and microwave, my alarm clock and a slew of analog watches, some of which I rarely wear and never bothered to fall back with, so they’re set to go and ready to spring in to action if I’m not in the mood to risk nail breaks resetting my favorites for awhile.
Now for the humans. For confirmed creatures of habit, or their caretakers, time changes can be a transitional ordeal. Wrangling bedtimes when you aren’t sleepy yet, or waking up when you’re still exhausted. Negotiating mealtimes when you’re not hungry ... or feel like you’re starving.
For those on special diets or with chronic medical conditions, there are issues that can be irritating. Should you take your prescribed medications, or even your vitamins and supplements, at the same “real” time all year around? I split the difference by 30 minutes for a week or so and then forget about it. No problem.
In fact, having no recalcitrant children or grandchildren to get to school these days, I actually like this end of the time change.
After half a lifetime as an owl, I’ve been surprised to find I’ve transformed into a lark, a creature of the morning. If you wake up at 3 or 4 a.m. anyway, getting ready for work when the clock says 5 or 6 seems like sleeping in. And for the first week or so, getting home at 5 or 6  when we know it’s “really” 4 or 5 seems a little like playing hooky.
Maybe it’s that little end-of-the day bonus that makes many of us feel better this time of year. When I lived in the Pacific Northwest, I remember studies that showed a small amount of sleep deprivation for a short period of time could help alleviate mild depression. Or maybe it was the hope for an extra sliver of light after the long, gray, drizzly winter in the land of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).
Whatever the clock says, it’s spring, my favorite season.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news.com, @Derrickson Moore on Twitter and Tout, or 575-541-5450.

Confessions of a Michigan cowgirl


 By S. Derrickson Moore
Kids playing all over the world, but especially kids born in America, grow up as cowboys and cowgirls.
It probably comes a little more naturally if you’re born on a ranch in, say, New Mexico.
But you’ll find a way to cowboy up, even if you’re born in suburban Michigan, where the sand is not a desert, but the shores of a Great Lake.
You’ll ride the range, sing the songs and aspire to wear the hat and boots with spurs that jingle, jangle jingle.
I know. I was a Baby Boomer Midwesterner, and a dedicated cowgirl as far back as I can remember.
I can’t recall visiting a farm until I was in high school, and I confess I didn’t make it to a state fair until I moved to Las Cruces when I was in my 40s.
But it’s not as if I was a cowgirl who never saw a cow. Through some fluke of zoning, one of our neighbors was allowed to raise a calf on a large plot of land that adjoined our backyard. Poor Nicky had a brief, but I like to hope exciting life, figuring heavily in some inept roping, branding and rustling dramas staged by imaginative kids in our neighborhood, before disappearing mysteriously one day. We later discovered, to our horror, that Nicky’s fate was to become the young and tender burgers at a lunch play date. To this day, I can’t bring myself to eat veal, perhaps proving that I never had the stomach to be a real rancher.
But that didn’t mean I couldn’t be a cowgirl. I remember picking up lots of tips from the original Mickey Mouse Club, which offered the exciting “Spin and Marty” series at a dude ranch, along with all kinds of cowboy and Indian lore. They sang to us about the legend of the White Buffalo and how we’d see it, if our hearts were brave and true and we treated all men as brothers.
Our parents were not immune to all this cowpoke excitement. They were easy touches for cap six-shooters, BB guns, bows and arrows and cute little cowgirl outfits. My father, an aircraft engineer, took to wearing what looked suspiciously like a 10-gallon hat with his three-piece suits. I still remember how pleased he was, during a business trip to New York, when someone asked if he was a Texas cowboy.
The older I get, the more I understand those don’t-fence-me in cowboy urges for land, lots of land, and the starry skies above.
As Las Cruces becomes more urban, I find myself gravitating gratefully toward any bucolic encounters.
Every now and then, I take a little lunch-time detour to greet a horse discovered in a pasture in Mesilla or Picacho Hills or linger after an official assignment to commune with the cows at the farm and ranch museum.
And I understand why “Star Trek” creator, El Paso native and wannabe space cowboy Gene Roddenberry dreamed of the final frontier, where we could boldly go where no man (or cowgirl) had gone before.
The cowboy way transcends traditional genres and time and space. It’s about freedom, adventure, rugged individualism, courage, integrity, creative coping strategy and yes, style.
There’s an art and science to it all.
It’s bigger than the Wild West, America, or even planet Earth.
That’s why we founded Cosmic Cowgirls and Cowboys, a wild and wide-ranging outfit that might spontaneously add you to the herd at any time.
Late Pluto discoverer Clyde Tombaugh and his wife Patsy were charter members. Artist Sallie Ritter was instantly recruited for her visions of Western skies and an extraordinary painting in shades of cosmic cowgirl blue.
You could be roped and wrangled in the next cosmic roundup. Yippie yi yo kayah.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news.com, @Derrickson Moore on Twitter and Tout, or 575-541-5450.