Friday, May 30, 2008

You can help with new 'Eduardo' Film

About “Becoming Eduardo”
Based on: “Alternative Ed” by LouAnne Johnson, whose bestseller “My Posse Don’t Do Homework,” became the 1995 blockbuster film “Dangerous Minds”
Plot: Eduardo, a teen in danger or becoming a gangbanger, ends up being saved by poetry.
Those involved: Independent filmmaker Rod McCall, New Mexico State University’s Creative Media Institute, producer Brad Littlefield, students at Alma d’arte Charter School for the Arts
Filming: During July in Hillsboro and Truth or Consequences

How you can help:
Several things are needed for the film. See more details in story below. If you can help, e-mail producer Brad Littlefield at
• Loan of two RVs (Class A/Class C) during filming July 14 to 28
• New Mexico apparel designers or retail stores to provide wardrobes for young men and women of high school age
• Gas station owners or suppliers to provide gasoline

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — A best-selling author, a renowned independent filmmaker, local high school students and New Mexico State University’s Creative Media Institute are among those joining forces to create “Becoming Eduardo,” CMI’s first feature-length film.
The film is based on “Alternative Ed,” a book by former Oñate High School teacher LouAnne Johnson, who now makes her home in Hillsboro. Johnson had already made the big time before she moved to New Mexico with her bestseller, “My Posse Don’t Do Homework,” which 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 “Becoming Eduardo,” which McCall said “is about a kid in danger or becoming a gangbanger who ends up being saved by poetry. It’s a great human story.”
A whirlwind production schedule is planned.
“This is a blessed project. Everything has just come together. LouAnne and I met less than two months ago and we’re ready to shoot in Hillsboro and Truth or Consequences in July,” McCall said this week at Alma d’arte, Las Cruces’ charter high school for the arts, where students auditioned for speaking parts in the film.
Actor, playwright and Alma d‘arte’s executive artistic producer, Irene Oliver-Lewis, will portray a ballroom teacher. Other parts are currently being cast in Los Angeles, McCall said.
Johnson wrote the script and two versions of the tale, first published as “Alternative Ed,” she said.
“I used the pen name Alyce Shirleydaughter in honor of my mother, Alyce Shirley, who died from breast cancer in 1999. I self-published three books, including this one, and I donate 25 percent of the proceeds directly to Several commercial publishers are looking at it right now and when the book is republished, it will have the new title, ‘Becoming Eduardo,’” Johnson said.
Community help is making the project possible.
“We are very fortunate to have Mark Medoff, the legendary screenwriter and CMI’s artistic director, advise us on our script, especially since LouAnne and I wrote the script in record time. Mark has helped guide us. It’s sort of like painting a big building, and having trusted friends come though the building and point out the spots that you missed. CMI’s director, Jonathan Benson, has guided us,” and helped with CMI student assistants, McCall said.
In a phone interview from Los Angeles, producer Brad Littlefield of Open Range Pictures said filmmakers are hoping for community help with the low-budget production.
“What we need most would be two RV owners (individuals or a dealership) who would be willing to provide two motor homes (Class A/Class C) with air conditioning, to be used as cast and crew hospitality lounges during the shoot, July 14 through 28. Anyone willing to provide us with use of an RV will receive, in addition to film credit, on-screen roles as extras (if they or their children or grandchildren would like the exposure) as well as an afternoon on set and lunch with the cast and crew,” Littlefield said.
Fashion help is also needed.
“I’m very eager to work with and showcase local New Mexico apparel designers or retail stores who would like to feature wardrobes for young men and women of high school age. Also, any local gas station owners or suppliers who would be willing to provide gasoline for our production would be appreciated while we cover the vast miles of roads of New Mexico this summer. It is difficult to make movies in New Mexico these days with the astronomical costs of fuel,” he said.
If you can help, e-mail Littlefield at
Their goal is to have the film completed and ready this fall and to qualify for acceptance in the Sundance Film Festival in January, said McCall, a writer and director who has had two other films featured in the prestigious film festival. His credits include “Slice & Dice,” “Lewis & Clark & George,” “Paper Hearts,” “With Open Arms” and a teleplay for “Red Shoe Diaries.”

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

Holyywood on the Rio Grande: Indian Jones to new CMI film slated for "Hillywood"

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — It was a very big week for Cruceswood, aka Hollywood on the Rio Grande.
It started with a private screening of “Indian Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” May 22 at Telshor 12, many hours before the “official” movie opening.
The invitation-only event was packed with assorted state dignitaries, NW Mexico Film Commission staffers, regional film liaisons and people from all over New Mexico who had been involved in some way with the long-awaited production.
As fate would have it, I sat next to Brian Foster, manager of the Corralitos Ranch, 15 miles west of Las Cruces one of the films locations. He was able to clue me in when scenes shot in familiar local territory popped up.
I recognized Deming scenes shot at places I’ve visited and covered in the line of duty. Having interviewed the late, great Georgia O’Keeffe in my days with the Santa Fe New Mexican, her Ghost Ranch near Abiquiu was also a familiar sight.
If fact, the iconic fictional archaeologist’s first adventures in “Crystal Skull” took place in a composite Deming-Las Cruces-Northern New Mexico collage of scenery that was supposed to be Area 51, really a remote area in Nevada long rumored to be the site of lots of secret UFO stuff, with a lot of Roswell and Trinity Site atomic bomb stuff mixed in.
The story swiftly moved to locales that were supposed to be London, but were clearly recognizable to me as scenes from Connecticut, another place I’ve lived. I began to feel a synchonicity solidarity with Steven Spielberg, who was clearly doing a career retrospective montage...his latest Indiana Jone epic references everything from “American Graffiti” to “ET” and “Close Encounters.”
So it was an old home week for many of us in the audience. Despite all of Indiana’s derring-do (and it was kind of cool to see senior citizens still flirting and swashbuckling), the biggest applause from this selective audience came during the credits. Everything from the city of Deming to local craft services providers got thunderous ovations.
And rightly so. Great job, you all.
It was a roaring start, but the week’s cinematic adventures were only beginning.
Next up was the private premiere of Shawn Darling’s “Grave Mistake,” May 25 at the Rio Grand Theatre.
Shawn described it as a zombie movie, with scenes filmed in Las Cruces. He’s looking for an independent distribution deal, so maybe the world will soon be able to see zombies cavorting in the City of Crosses.
“We’re trying now to arrange a local showing that will be open to the public,” said Darling, who wrote, produced, directed and did the score for the film.
Finally, erstwhile Las Cruces resident and Oñate High School teacher LouAnne Anne Johnson is back with a new film project. Johnson had already made the big time before she moved here with her bestseller “My Posse Don’t Do Homework,” which became the basis for the 1995 blockbuster film “Dangerous Minds,” starring Michelle Pfeiffer.
Now she’s working with indy filmmaker and Creative Media Institute professor Rod McCall, on CMI’s first feature length film, “Becoming Eduardo,” based on Johnson’s book “Alternative Ed,” which McCall said “is about a kid in danger or becoming a gangbanger who ends up being saved by poetry.”
Kids at Alma d’arte, Las Cruces’ high school for the arts, auditioned this week for parts in the movie, which will be filmed in Hillsboro (beginning to be dubbed "Hillywood" because of an influx of people with movie connections) and other regional locations. McCall hopes to have it ready for the prestigious Sundance Film Festival in January.
They are looking for help with everything from cars and trucks to fashions. For more information on how you can help with the community-based film effort,keep checking my blog. Go to and click on blog zone and then Las Cruces Style.
And maybe we’ll see you — both in and at — the movies sometime soon.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

Friday, May 23, 2008

What's realy the best way to stay in touch?

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — It was a week of multimedia madness.
And it hit me that the more gadgets we invent and install to make it easier to communicate with one another, the more complicated it can get.
Some cousins from Florida surprised me with a visit. After finally navigating through messages on a total of three landlines, two cell phones and three e-mail sites, we spent some time deciding whether it would be easier for them to consult Mapquest or their GPS system to figure out how to get to my house for dinner. I realized I knew something even quicker and easier: I could just swing by on my way home from work, pick them up and take them.
Meanwhile back at the office, I was coping with our new phone system, which sends voice mail to two places: our PCs and a message menu we can access via our new phone set. Which, by the way, could give anyone a substantial case of feature fatigue, just trying to choose ring tones. Do we really need a sextet selection of two kinds (each) of percussion, saxophones and pianos? But having ventured into this seductive Eden of choices, I could linger for days, trying to figure out ways we could create a newsroom symphony, or at least a hot jazz number, if we could all choose harmonious riffs and get people to call us all in just the right rhythms.
But I digress. I figured the system would make things much easier, but I find call overloads have already crashed my PC’s e-mail system. When I tried to erase the old messages on my phone set, I somehow erased the new ones I hadn’t heard. And a recorded voice informed me it would probably take several minutes to complete the erasing processes, something I could do in a spilt second with a push of a button my old-fangled, less complicated voice mail machine at home.
While waiting, I did a little mulitasking. I took advantage of the immediacy of e-mail to fine-tune a primitive rite and work out some rain dance Internet-choreography with my soulmate in Iowa City. (You can thank Roger and me for those sprinkles we finally got in mid-May, ahem. )
A fellow Baby Boomer and I were muttering to one another that the latest waves of communication advances seem to be dragging us several steps backwards in terms of ease and intimacy.
The personal and sometimes beautiful human touches in snail mail letters and the warmth of a loved one’s voice over the phone are both more soulful than e-mail and texting.
And sometimes, surprisingly, much, much easier. A senior citizen BFF was noting that her arthritic figures have a very tough time trying to send text messages on her elegant little cell phone.
I admitted that I have yet to send a single text message, though my new phone is fully equipped and ready to text when I finally get with the program. I’d planned to wait until my summer vacation with grandson Alexander the Great, 11. He’s a congenital com-tech pro who worked on his first Web site when he was in nursery school. He has been very kind and patient about explaining new technology to me. And unlike adult tech geeks and salespersons, he really gets the concept of need-to-know basics, and does not attempt to overload my brimming memory banks with useless information or sell me exotic accessories I will never get around to using before they become obsolete.
After he is satisfied that I have the necessary survival skills, however, Alex will sometimes dazzle me with a virtuoso performance that could include anything from a show-stopping round of Guitar Hero to his latest claymation stop-action video production.
I hope to pick up some pointers for online videos, my next project in my ongoing quest to become a better MoJo (mobile journalist). A fun evening at the 2008 DACC FTTP DMF (alphabet soup translation: Dona Ana Community College Film Tech Training Program’s Digital Media Festival) convinced me that there are groups of talented students who were born knowing much more that I will every grasp, and it’s exciting to see.
But I am beginning to be even more excited about the prospect of spending time in a Shangri-La beyond the reach of signals that can follow me from office PCs and voice mail systems to cell phones, Blackberries and home laptops.
In the current explosion of multimedia madness, being able to be out of touch — at least for a little while — might just become the ultimate status symbol and luxury.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Every day should be Earth Day

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES— Carbon footprints. Global warming. Recycling. Sustainable lifestyles.
They’re more than buzz words now. There are encouraging signs that ecological concerns are finally going mainstream.
I started thinking about the greening of America while I was bundling up all of my newspapers for recycling.
I’ve always felt a bit guilty about being in a business that consumes so many trees.
It made me feel a little better to work for Media News Group, where, I discovered, one of the chain’s founders, Dick Scudder, is also a founder of the concept of recycling newspapers and co-inventor of a de-inking process that makes it easier to stretch more life out of the trees that made the Sun-News edition you’re reading now.
Or maybe no trees gave their lives to bring you the news today, and you’re seeing this online, like am increasing number of our readers. We’re posting over 1,300,000 hits a month online these days, and while I get an occasional twinge remembering the old local presses I have bid adieu, and the great guys who ran them, my tree-hugging self rejoices.
As a longtime journalist, I’ve had a front row seat for the greening of American attitudes. It actually started back in my Michigan childhood, when I was born into a family of avid ecologists. We called ourselves conservationists then, and even the most avid Republican members of the tribe were into preserving and creating wilderness areas. We were taught that vigilance is the price of liberty, and cleanup and maintenance duties were our responsibility for enjoying the beautiful lands of this country. On day-long river canoe trips and hikes through woodlands and beaches, we were expected to clean up after ourselves and others, taking along litter bags to pick up cans and plastics and do our best to remove any evidence of the carnage of less considerate humans who had gone before us.
So it was closer to first than second-nature to move as a young adult to Oregon, which was progressive in ecological activism. Portland then boasted more wilderness area within city limits than any metropolitan area in the country, and those areas were pristine and unlittered. Oregon had some of the first natural food co-ops, recycling centers and bottle deposit laws. Sometimes, when I see cans and bottles littering desert areas far more fragile than Oregon’s lush woodlands, I find it hard to believe that New Mexico hasn’t gotten around to a mandatory container deposit law, all these long decades later.
But I see signs of hope in the consciousness of a new generation. And I realize that personally, everyday measures, like recycling, replacing all my bulbs with compact florescents, and shutting off the running water while I brush my teeth, have become as automatic and painless as, well, brushing my teeth.
I can recognize natural fibers by touch, now, but I admit I was surprised to read the tag on my cuddly new nightgown from Dilliard’s and find it was blend of cotton and — get this — soybean protein fiber. Press releases for all kinds of groups and events now proudly announce that they are going green, recycling and cutting down on unnecessary extras. Restaurants offer healthy organic choices. We’re recognizing that a healthier world starts with ourselves and our families.
We have a long way to go, and the planet is truly in peril. But we’re waking up and greening up, and finally beginning to recognize that every day should be Earth Day.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

Friday, May 9, 2008

Bonds with moms are eternal

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — It started the way it always does, around the middle of April.
Fatigue, at first. A bone-deep weariness. Then a sadness.
I find myself longing to talk to my wonderful mom, and then, finally, when her May 1 birthday rolls around, I remember and put it all together. The cloud lifts and as joy kicks in again, I recognize the comforting source.
After 34 years, my body and soul still register the anniversary of that cruel April day when Mom changed venues, soaring beyond reach of summer drives, airline flights and phone lines.
I know my two siblings still feel it, too.
My younger brother Tom is a meticulous, practical, left-brain-dominant kind of guy.
He e-mailed last week with news about his latest geological research adventure. He had discovered an 1870 newspaper obituary. Our great-great grandfather, he informed me, had been killed by a freight train under mysterious circumstances.
“He was one of our Civil War veteran ancestors,” our paternal grandfather’s grandfather, Tom explained. “Over 60 Derricksons fought in the Civil War, all but two for the north. Most were related. Some were better-known, like the Captain Derrickson who was captured and refused to be involved in a prisoner exchange unless the South also released its black Union soldiers who were being held as prisoners. We also know about the Captain Derrickson who was Abe Lincoln’s buddy.”
He forwarded links to other sources to probe this mysterious death in the family so long ago, the grandfather of the grandfather who died when I was almost three-years-old, a few months before my brother was born.
Is it just coincidence, I wonder, this interest in the fate of a long-gone ancestor, unearthed, so to speak, near the anniversary of mom’s death?
As I ponder Midwestern mysteries, I feel a tidal wave of sorrow streaming from the South Florida coast to high desert county. My big sis Sally and I have always had a profound psychic bond, expressed delightfully, sometimes, when we discover we’ve given each other exactly the same eccentric Christmas presents, like sets of bright fuchsia beach towels. But there are soul-alarms hard-wired in our sisterly DNA, too.
Within a few days, Sally’s e-mail comes, and she’s been missing Mom, too: “Had a strange dream last week, she was standing there in a long flannel nightie, holding a candle. I woke up before I could understand what she was saying, but I worried it was a warning.”
Whatever life-changing triumph or trauma is headed our way, as Sally once put it when I was in high school and she was finishing college, “One of us has usually been there first” and can provide aid, insights or at least a shoulder to cry on for the other.
But we were all lost at sea, in uncharted life territory on that terrible day in 1974. None of us had lost a parent before, and we didn’t know what to do. We knew it was coming. We all traveled home to say good-bye shortly before she died. But I don’t think there’s any way to prepare for losing such an important person in your life. You discover there is an umbilical cord on both ends of this mother-child relationship, and when it snaps, it knocks the wind out of your soul.
Eventually, the pain eases, especially, ironically enough, if you’re lucky enough to have had a mom as wonderful as ours. She was a cheerful, creative soul, a talented pianist and artist and teacher. Officially, she taught art and American history, but really, she taught LIFE: 101, through post-doctoral studies. She taught us about nature, art, curiosity, optimism and mostly about love ... the full-strength, heavy duty kind that gets you through times of trouble and dimming hope, that maintains and renews your faith and connection with the ultimate, undying Source.
Yes, I miss her and wish we could share a lakeside walk, pick some wild flowers and spend some time with the family. Because of her, I have proof positive that the most important part of us lives on, and I pray that I can share that loving spirit with her great grandchildren who never got to meet her.
If you’re lucky enough to still have a mom in residence, cherish her. If not, this is a perfect time to share your memories with friends and family.
Happy Mother’s Day, everyone, and especially to you, Mom.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Welcome to the Las Cruces Dust Think Tank

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
Copyright 2008 S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — I’d like to announce the formation of the Las Cruces Dust Think Tank.
It all started when I was writing about the 2008 Spring Showcase of Homes, which should have generated a desire to hit the big time by selling publication and movie rights for the two manuscripts gathering dust in my home office closet, so I could afford one of those killer casas.
But instead, I found myself longing to retreat to my modest little adobe abode and get rid of more stuff. I’m in a Zen, minimalist phase that’s growing as fast as things accumulate. With the exception of the occasional irresistible piece of art, lately, I’m happiest when I’m giving stuff away.
I know most spiritual traditions teach us that the goal is to be without desire. Every time I dust and clean all the stuff I once desired, I feel closer to those ethereal ideals.
But I don’t want to get too lofty, since Madonna and I are still material girls, living in a material world.
So recently, I spent some time brainstorming about material goodies that I could still work up some enthusiasm about.
I find that mostly, I long for things that would make life easier, most of which exist only in my dreams, or the imaginations of people like Gene Rodenberry, creator of “Star Trek.”
When I was trying to book air flights for my summer vacation, for instance, I realized what I really want is access to the teleportation devices that were everyday appliances for Captains James Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard.
And speaking of transportation, I have some ideas about what I’d like to have in my garage. And I’m not talking hybrids or vehicles powered by ethanol, hydrogen or even water, which may soon become more precious than gas, the way things are going.
Nope. I want a car that runs entirely on wind or solar energy. Or how about both? No matter what global climate changes lurk, it seems likely that we’ll always have an adequate supply of sun and gusty blasts here in high desert country.
I have some artistic goals for my vehicles, too. I was looking at a Santa Clara Pueblo pot the other day and thinking how nice those matte and shiny black-on-black designs would look on the right car. Or how about an auto paint job inspired by wonderful white, black and brown Mimbres, Hopi or Acoma pottery? With no energy costs to worry about, I would think there would be a lot of latitude with auto design, too. Why not cars in the shapes of pueblo pottery?
And speaking of designs, I’m tired of waiting for Ralph Lauren to come up with this, so I might as well share my concept with the world. I want real art on my sheets, pillowcases, comforters and other household linens. How about some of those pueblo pottery designs and Mexican talavera motifs to match my tiles, dishes and pottery? C’mon designers, get with it.
And if I must go back to acquiring stuff, I would like better stuff to maintain it, please.
I want a self-cleaning indoor pool.
And that little round Roomba vacuum is a start, but what I really want is a dusting robot that climbs shelves and is able to leap to the tops of ceiling fans in a single bound.
I want a year-round heating and cooling system that keeps everything at my preferred temperature without seasonal change-outs or irritating and wasteful water run-off problems. I know, I know: Such systems probably already exist. I want to be able to afford them, and come to think of it, they should also be solar- and wind-powered, okay?
I’ve watched “Star Trek’s” counselor Deanna Troy order hot fudge sundaes in her starship food replicator, but I’m not sure about that. I think I’d rather have a system (again, wind- and solar-powered, please) that will grow organic fruits, grains and veggies in a pretty little patio garden, maybe with a robotic component that will then harvest, make it all into salads and casseroles, and serve or freeze everything for me.
And let’s contemplate some truly down-to-earth goals. I think I’d like to become the George Washington Carver of dust. GWC, you may recall, was the genius scientist who developed over 145 products based on the peanut. I just did a little online research and discovered he is also credited with creating 60 products based on the pecan, and managed to develop about 100 products from the sweet potato and (this shows my dust aspirations are within the realm of possibility); he created a “brilliant” blue and several other dyes from clay soils in Alabama.
Clearly, the world could use a dust genius about now, especially since it’s one commodity that the world in general, and southern New Mexico in particular, has in opulent abundance. And think of all the kinds of dust we can boast: Rio Grande River bed dust, mountain dust, prairie dust, defunct mine dust, cave dust, pecan dust, spicy chile-enhanced dust, Spaceport dust, vintage radioactive dust from the Trinity Site, and even, coming around to an earlier theme, pueblo pottery dust, some of it from prehistoric shards.
Hailing as I do from Mt. St. Helens country, I’ll start off the list with household cleaners, and exfoliating cosmetics based on volcanic dust (remember where pumice stones come from).
If you are tempted to scoff, keep in mind that silicone and dust are pretty close cousins. In fact, silicon dust could be the future of microtechnology. We could become the Dust Valley center, economic hope of the new millennium. And what could be more in tune with the timeless natural order of things? Ashes to ashes, after all, and dust to dust.
Now, let’s get our Dust Valley Think Tank going. Class of 2008, I have a theme song for you: “Dust In the Wind.” I think there may be the ultimate power source in there somewhere. Work on it and get back to me.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at