Thursday, April 30, 2009

Doggy adventures

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES —I dedicated most of a recent Saturday to something I’d never done before: a Star Wars marathon in official order of episodes I through VI.
So maybe I had some lingering Darth Vader-Evil Empire vibes to walk off when I headed out for my usual Sunday hike. I don’t know how else to account for my first dog bite.
I love dogs and they love me. Just about every dog I’ve ever met seems to sense that I am a person who was pretty much born with a cookie bone in my outstretched hand, who grew up thinking of dogs as my brothers ... and later, as my children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, all an integral part of my tribe.
I’ve made friends with strange dogs in strange lands all over the planet. I’ve befriended feral dogs in Jamaica trained to attack intruders on site ... at night, in a jungle, no less. In Germany, I rushed in where angels fear to tread, with members of a host family that included a quaking survivor of a brutal dog attack that so traumatized him that even humans could smell his fear at the sight of a tiny terrier. I made it my mission to show his kids that dogs could be your friends.
And all went well, for more than half a century.
It was a bright spring Sunday, as I prepared to cross the street and saw a couple walking their two dogs. One was a friendly-looking blue heeler who strained at her leash and came toward me, I thought, to greet me. I stopped, stood still, and held out my hand for her to sniff. She decided to bite me instead.
The desperado dog’s vet confirmed that the dog has had all her shots.
The Blue Cross hotline nurse said I should be able to get by with antibiotic ointments and bandages, if all goes well from here. As we traversed her diagnostic Web site together, we learned that if it had been a cat, monkey or alligator bite, I could have been in real trouble. I haven’t encountered any alligator victims since my days in Florida, but I’ve known cat bite victims who dealt with arms swelling to double size and even a lengthy hospitalization.
I’m crabby from a week without swimming to wait for the wound to heal. But otherwise, the major injury could be to my confidence in what has been dubbed “the family St. Francis of Assisi genes,” by my son, whose friendly animal magnetism vibes are so compelling that hummingbirds have been known to light and linger on his chest.
What motivated the chomp? The dog’s “mom,” who was very upset by the incident, said her dog had never bitten anyone before.
I was wearing a black hat, sunglasses and camouflage pants that day. Could I have conjured memories of someone who was once mean to the dog?
I did a little research and learned from that “Australian George Elliott developed the blue heeler in 1840, mixing native Dingoes with Collies and other herding dogs.”
Did I somehow trigger that doggy’s inner Dingo? Or maybe she was trying to include me in a herd?
As people spotted my black-and-blue-forearm and word got around, I heard some interesting stories from other dog lovers.
“My experience with that breed is that they can be aggressive and will bite,” said Michael Lambright, who told a tale of a 40-pound blue heeler who attacked Michael’s then-150 pound English Mastiff ... and the heeler then bit his own owner who tried to break up the fight.
You never know. Michael said he was once nailed by his beloved Brutus, a Rhodesian Ridgeback, in what he called a “jealousy-pack demotion” issue involving a new human member of the pack in his household.
“It's the only time in my life that I’ve been bitten by a dog with bad intentions. Puppy nips don’t count,” Michael noted.
I know how he feels. And I am determined not to let one incident daunt my lifelong habit of meeting and greeting man’s best friends.
I got a warm reception from the next dog I met, a darling pup on the patio at Milagro, and plan to continue my policy of offering cookie bones to new and old doggy amigos at the Saturday Las Cruces Farmers & Crafts Market and whenever else I get the chance.
In an ideal world, I could even dream of a peaceful, companionable walk through our ‘hood with that little blue heeler. I would like to be able to someday say that I patted the hair of the dog who bit me.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

Friday, April 24, 2009

You ought to be in movies...and probably will be, sooner or later, if you live in Las Crucess

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — Wags have christened us Cruceswood and Hollywood on the Rio Grande, or included us in New Mexico’s statewide designation as Tamalewood.
Maybe we should just stick to Las Cruces ... our own name is becoming synonymous with moviemaking.
It seems like the last couple of years have brought us hot premieres of films full of local spots we all recognize.
Last year’s summer blockbuster with familiar locations was “Indian Jones: Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” and this year’s, if the trailers are any indication, will be the new “Transformers” movie ... and a little later, the U.S. premiere of “The Burning Plain.”
While perusing movie trailers online, I’m already catching glimpses of White Sands and Organ Mountains in the distance and there will soon be more where those came from.
There are rumors about possible productions with budgets in the $20 million range whose producers are expressing interest in filming here. No names have been divulged, but we’ll keep you posted.
And as you’ll learn in today’s feature on this page, another three independent films are committed and firming up plans for productions here this summer.
I used to say that just about everyone in Doña Ana County has written a book and many people are working on their second or third. That holds true, and some days, it seems like we’ll soon be able to make similar claims for multi-movie makers.
In fact, if a film crew hasn’t already come to a neighborhood, mall, ranch, national park, military base of scenic mountain vista near you, I’d say it’s just a matter of time.
And don’t worry about dressing seductively and hanging out at whatever the contemporary version of a soda fountain might be, waiting to be discovered. And frankly, I wouldn’t invest a lot of money sprucing up your car or property in hopes your pimped out ride or palatial home will be tapped by movie scouts.
In my experience those movies dudes like us just the way we are: they’re looking for authenticity and often, the more weathered the better. Shabby adobe chic is hot now.
While I was doing interviews on a location shoot for “Traffic,” filmmakers confessed they had chosen Las Cruces International Airport because they couldn’t find any actual Mexican airports that looked battered and “Third World enough” until they discovered our charming, sandblasted, potholed runways.
My son’s band was once tapped for a two-day cameo in a Madonna movie, but what really bought him extended on-set access time was the producers’ choice of his old car, which rated a couple of weeks of on-camera shots, along with access to gourmet craft services meals for all the boys in the band.
Soon, I may have some stories of my own to add to the family filmography.
While I was checking out summer movies being filmed here, Mark Vasconcellos shared the plot for “Beyond,” Rob Walker’s tale about “a down-and-out reporter in a small college town,” looking for a big story. The reporter uncovers a plot to take over the planet by “aliens who cannot take life shape in our atmosphere and have infiltrated the city and have been impregnating local women to produce hybrids.”
Then he made us an offer that we, being bullish on Tamalewood, just couldn’t refuse.
He asked if the Las Cruces Sun-News building could be used as the movie’s newspaper.
I told him the offer couldn’t have come at a better time, and if he’s interested in local extras, he might be able to save some money on makeup, costuming and even special effects, since newsroom staffers Shari Vialpando, Amanda Husson and Brook Stockberger are all expecting babies — all human, rather than alien or hybrid, as far as we know — around the time of the shoot this summer.
Producer Vasconcellos shot back an enthusiastic e-mail:
“Wow! Coikeeedink!”
Now we’re looking forward to our 15 minutes of fame ... or, at least, our building’s moment of glory.
Soon, stardom could come to you, or someone or something close to you. Mark Medoff is seeking an “older RV” to be the “hero car” for his new film “Refuge,” for instance, and you may have just the star vehicle he’s looking for.
You ought to be in movies ... and chances are you will be, if you live in Las Cruces.
It’s just a matter of time. Stick with us, kid, we’ll make you a star.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

Friday, April 17, 2009

Fun & games with your newspaper

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES —Ah, newspapers. I read ‘em, write ‘em, frame ‘em, exercise with them, clean, garden, start fires, recycle and get crafty with them. They enrich and document our lives from cradle to crave. I hope we find a way to keep them going, in print, as well as cyberspace.
It’s become a routine: I get my copy of the Las Cruces Sun-News and head for the health club. I read it while I‘m on the treadmill, then I divide it into sections and use it instead of towels while I work out the circuit-training machines. Then I toss the paper in the recycling bins in the Sun-News parking lot.
An interesting note: Richard B. Scudder, chairman of our parent company MediaNews Group, earned his laurels as a newspaper recycling superstar as coinventor of the de-inking process that has been used in the manufacture of millions of tons of recycled newsprint.
Since my 20s (back in the Jurassic Age), I’ve been telling career day classes that I expect to outlive newspapers as we know them, and I don’t come of long-lived stock.
I figure that prediction came true nearly a decade ago, as much of the news business moved online. I love the range and flexibility and immediacy that has given us, but I must confess I hope the print product can hang in there for at least another decade, especially in places like Las Cruces, where we have a sizable Baby Boomer-and-beyond population.
And frankly, I’ve enjoyed sharing with my grandchild all the wonders of newspapers that you just can’t get online.
Sometimes, it’s a matter of record, I thought, as I collected a bunch of front pages from local and regional newspapers on the day Barack Obama was inaugurated and put them in an airtight container to pass on to Alex and maybe, his kids and grandkids someday. Newspapers could also be a sound investment — online prices for some editions skyrocketed within a day, I noticed.
I have friends who create a little archival package for newborns on their birthday or do Internet searches for newspapers published on the day, and if possible the place, or a loved one’s birth or marriage. The older the recipient, the rarer and more appreciated is the gift, she’s found.
There’s something about the real thing, framed or lamenated: birth and wedding announcements, a scrapbook of a budding thespian’s or a high school sports hero’s achievements, a news or feature story documenting a loved one’s honors, even a final obituary, that just would not be the same in any other medium. Hidden away on CDs, printouts from an online Web site ... somehow just don’t cut it in the historical artifact category.
Newspapers in print form are fun and comforting in so many ways. After you’ve read them, clipped and preserved what you want, you can even enjoy a little interactive activity — could Soduku and crossword puzzles ever be as much fun online? Do you real want to curl up in bed with your laptop or schlepp it along everytime you take a walk to the park, the beach or your neighborhood coffee shop, let alone on vacation?
And when you’re finished, those newspapers are useful for a lot more than lining bird or hamster cages, training puppies or wrapping fish and chips.
Consider our gardens: Newspaper can be folded into little containers for starting seedlings, which decompose nicely after planting. Shredded newspaper is useful in compost heaps and vital in projects like worm farming.
Use them as kindling for fires, or form them into more substantial fuel with tight rolling and a little water.
Fresh off the press, they are said to be handy as a clean surface if you have to deliver a baby in a traffic jam or someplace else where it’s not possible to boil water.
They are also great for polishing windows and chrome.
They’re cheap, handy padding when you’re packing to move or shipping gifts.
And they can be stylish gift wrapping, too. Wrap a kid’s gift in the Sunday comic section. With black ribbon or cord, even black and white sections can create a sophisticated package.
As we showed you in a recent feature, you can make kites out of newspapers. And most of us already know how to transform newspapers into hats and paper airplanes.
Ah, newspapers. I hope we find a way to keep them going, in print, as well as cyberspace.
In the interest of ecumenical multimedia cooperation, I did a little online research and discovered sites that will show you how to make all kinds of things out of newspaper, from beads and furniture to weapons, dancing dollies, handbags and decoupaged boots.
You get the idea — and if you have more ideas, please send ‘em along and I’ll include them in a future column (online and in print).
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

Friday, April 10, 2009

North & South (New Mexico) move closer

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
SANTA FE — When I lived in Santa Fe, it seemed like a daunting distance from Las Cruces. And even now, it sometimes seems that a long morning’s drive can take you to a very different world, when you end up in the City Different.
But this spring, not so much. It was old home week in Santa Fe. Give or take a few feet of snow, of course.
After a few weeks in the 70s and 80s here, I was prepared to ignore the forecast of snow and cold in the north, but sure enough, the flakes started coming down around Soccoro and got thicker until Belen and tapered off in Albuquerque. I discovered old man winter had already made his last stand in the City Different and there were a couple of feet of snow blowing in blustery drifts when I met old Santa Fe amigos at the Pink Adobe and the exotically-appointed Inn of the Five Graces. I might have been in Morocco.
It was clear I was not in Las Cruces anymore.
But within a few hours, I began to wonder. At a Museum of New Mexico (MNM) reception at La Fonda, one of the first Las Crucens I spotted was J. Paul Taylor, now a member of the MNM Board of Regents, with his daughter Mary Helen Ratje He was among visitors from throughout New Mexico on hand for an informational weekend focusing on the museum system, including a tour of the brand new, New Mexico History Museum, slated to open on Memorial Day. Other Las Crucens there for the special invitational “museum ambassadors” weekend included Dr. Tom Gerend, Linda and David Kinkaid and Thais and Jim Noble.
New Mexico History Museum director Frances Levine stressed that this will be a museum for all of New Mexico, and issued a special invitation for groups from our area to participate in the opening ceremonies that will include a procession from the St. Francis Cathedral to the new museum at 10 a.m. on May 25.
There’s a burgeoning multicultural lineup for the celebration.
“We’ll have low riders from Northern New Mexico and a group of Chinese Lion dancers from Albuquerque. Everyone is welcome: school groups, historical societies ... I think there are almost 100 historical groups in New Mexico. Come and carry your banner or send it to us and we’ll get someone to carry it,” Levine said.
If you’d like information about participating, contact Dorothy Bracey at (505) 473 9646 or e-mail
I headed out for dinner with old friends (Santa Feans-turned Las Crucens who have recently moved to Santa Fe again) and while we ordered a pizza, I ran into long-time Las Cruces artist Dave Rothermel.
He told me he’s opening a gallery in Santa Fe, DR Fine Art at 123 Galisteo St., a block off the Santa Fe Plaza.
“We’ll be opening May 1. I really like Las Cruces and plan to continue to spend time there, but the time seemed right for Santa Fe,” said Rothermel, whose latest gallery was in the Mercado de la Mesilla.
His “official opening” will be a reception from 5 to 8 p.m. June 5.
“The gallery will not only feature my own work but will include emerging and established artists. Special events and exhibits will include a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, famous celebrity artists, and selected works by noted contemporary artists,” David said, and promised to keep us posted on the details. To keep in touch, e-mail him at
The next morning, I hiked over to Santa Fe’s trendy Railyard District and on the way to the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market, passed by the Zane Bennett Contemporary Art, at 435 S. Guadalupe St., the new gallery of Ned Bennett and his wife Sandy Zane, the Southern New Mexico artist who exhibited here and owned White Raven Gallery in Las Cruces. Their current exhibits include the innovative “Waning and Waxing: The Resurgence of Encaustic” by the New Mexico Wax Group, and their Web site,, reports they will also be part of Art Chicago 2009 in May. If you’re in Santa Fe, check out their unique gallery space, which includes a sky-lighted, two-story central atrium, glass staircase and catwalk.
There’s a lot going on, with Santa Fe preparing to celebrate its 400th anniversary and our impressive state museum system commemorating some milestones of its own. Soon, I’ll be telling you about some intriguing fiestas and developments, and places to stay and things to do, if you’re making vacation plans. Or maybe just planning a little road trip getaway.
The north and south parts of the state seem to be getting closer all the time.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at