Wednesday, April 28, 2010

See Downtown Las Cruces transformations

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — It’s spring — and a perfect time to take a stroll or visit a fiesta and celebrate Downtown transformations.
I started with a little amble around some of the Alameda Depot Neighborhood stops on the Las Cruces Symphony Guild’s Home Tour.
Since I knew most of the people and sites on the tour, I thought there would be no surprises.
I was wrong.
The first thing I encountered was a fascinating diorama inspired by Las Cruces in the 1950s, created by artistic souls in the Doña Ana Modular Railroad Club. You can read about them and admire their work in the Artists of the Week feature in this section today or go see for yourself at the Las Cruces Railroad Museum during next week’s 3rd annual Railroad Days from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Check out another new addition, too: a 1909 caboose which is almost the same vintage as the museum’s home, the old Santa Fe Depot which is celebrating its 100th birthday this year.
Though I’ve long been familiar was the distinctive interiors at Lundeen Inn of the Arts, the adjoining Casitas complex was a revelation. Creative casita owners have created masterfully decorated adobes that rival anything I’ve seen in my days in Santa Fe. Their courtyard gardens are artistic wonders, too. Look for more about their gardening inspirations, including some great ideas you can adapt for your own backyards and patios, in Saturday’s Mi Casa section.
If you missed the tour, or even if you didn’t, you might want to join the Alameda-Depot Historic Tour, part of the Branigan Cultural Center’s series of neighborhood walking tours, from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday. Meet at the Pioneer Park Gazebo, 500 W. Las Cruces Ave.
I took a long stroll along the Downtown Mall last week, starting at the mall’s south (Alameda) end and ending at the new Las Cruces City Hall and Branigan Library.
I chose a Las Cruces Farmers and Crafts Market day (spring and summer hours are 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Wednesday and Saturdays). I checked out that Pistache tree that we now understand is going to be saved when the mall renovations are complete. Our tree is in full spring green leaf and looking good, especially with a gaggle of happy kids doing some impromptu spring dances around its trunk.
I headed north through the blocks of vendors offering some tantalizing lunch, brunch and breakfast choices, along with arts, crafts, fresh baked goods and my must-have spring purchases: fresh tomatoes and asparagus, plus local honey. A teaspoon every now and then really does help with spring allergies, I’ve found.
From there I headed up the north block, which looks very naked to those of us used to the old arches, but still has plenty of attractions, from galleries and museums to COAS Bookstore, a quilt shop and two theaters.
I ended my stroll with a visit to the Branigan Library and the new Las Cruces City Hall, which almost overnight has spouted some nice landscaping — including small trees, flower beds and ground cover — to keep the relocated lion statues company. I couldn’t resist zipping up to the highest floors to check out the views. Yes, you can see the Organs, but the new multi-level parking garage dominates the panorama.
How about brightening up all that gray concrete with something colorful: maybe some murals like the one next door at the library, or some of Tony Pennock’s historical masterpieces? We might even recruit the Las Cruces CAPA (City of Artists Promotional Association) artists to come up with something. They’re the ones who festooned the city hall construction site with panels of art so striking and popular that several of them were swiped by unscrupulous art fans.
If we’re going to pave paradise and put up a parking lot, let’s do it with Las Cruces style and make the parking lot, like our regenerating Downtown, an artistic delight.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sooner or later, war hits home

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — The ravages or war are never far from our doorstep.
Like many of us, I’ve recently learned that a loved one will soon ship out to the Middle East.
I got the news about my relative, a young doctor with a wife and new baby, about the same time I was trying to process some eerily relevant information.
I was reading Dr. Chris Coppola’s moving book, “Coppola: A Pediatric Surgeon in Iraq” (NTI Upstream, Chicago).
Like my relative, Coppola had a military scholarship that allowed him to complete his training, but also required him to leave his wife and three young sons for two tours of duty in Iraq.
As fate would have it, I was finishing the book about the same time I heard about the WikiLeaks ( release of a classified U.S. military video depicting the shooting from an Apache helicopter of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad on July 27, 2007. The victims included two Reuters news staffers, whose camera bags were apparently mistaken for weapons, and young children.
It’s hard to watch, in short or long versions.
The gunners, as they requested permission to shoot again and again, reminded me, strangely, of my grandson and his buddies, at about age 8 to 10, begging to continue playing video games.
I understand, or try to, the need for soldiers to keep their cool in combat situations. But I’m convinced that shooting another human being should be a very emotional situation.
And inevitably, eventually, it is, from what I’ve seen of loved ones who have shared their wartime experiences with me in situations that ranged from the first flights over atomic bomb sites in Japan during World War II to flashbacks from guerilla fights in Vietnam. Emotionally, you pay now or pay later.
Dr. Coppola does not hide his feelings as he writes of attempting to cope with the aftermath of the ravages of war on soldiers and young children.
“I already know that children do not fare well in modern warfare,” he writes. “Their proportionally larger heads, coupled with the fact that they are close to the ground, make children a particularly vulnerable target for a fragmentation weapon like a buried IED. The knowledge may not help me heal the child, but at least I am prepared.”
Or he thinks he is, but as he ships off from his home in the Southwest to two deployments with the 332nd Air Force Theater Hospital in Balad, Iraq, he sometimes risks his own life to save not only brave soldiers whose courage he admires, but also children mutilated in crossfire, or who have been unable to get medical attention for other ailments and conditions in war-torn-Iraq.
He sees very young burn victims die who would likely have survived in the U.S.
He plants cilantro in his dusty herb garden, writes sometimes anguished letters home and clearly establishes deep bonds with patients. He shares stories of Iraqi families and friends he’s made.
The war is very personal; consequences have faces, sometimes small, badly burned and mutilated faces.
Coppola quotes a colleague: “ ‘My son isn’t even one yet, and I see him in all the kids we treat,’ he says. It’s as if he read my mind.”
Tough though it may be, we should all do our best to read books like Coppola’s and watch the disturbing videos of a war that sometimes seems so far away.
It will hit home for all of us, sooner or later.

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

Friday, April 16, 2010

Wanted: Your ideas for festivals and good jokes

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — Heard any good jokes lately? Thought of any good concepts for new fiestas?
Q. What did the weary ghost whisperer say to the stubborn spirit that refused to go into the light?
A. Get an afterlife, kid!
That’s my original ghost joke contribution, which came to me after doing several stories on regional ghost hunters and paranormal investigators over the past year.
There are so many that I think we should have a fiesta of some kind, too, and I’m working on a name and concept. (Or maybe I’ll find a ghost writer to do it for me.)
In fact, good jokes and fiestas are the subject of this column and a proposed contest. I figure we just can’t get enough of either, so I welcome your ideas.
It’s easy and fun. Let’s start with onions, in honor of our brand new festival.
Q. What do onion armies use to control riots?
A. Tear gas.
Think you can do better? Me, too. Send me your best onion jokes.
A pecan festival is in the works, too. I did an ionline search and found our favorite nuts seem to be big in the knock-knock genre.
Knock, Knock.
Who's there?
Pecan who?
Pecan somebody your own size!
Let’s think up some jokes to go with our most popular fiestas.
Deming’s Great American Duck Race should be snap. Get quackin’ on that.
The Whole Enchilada Fiesta and the Hatch Chile Festival should also provide some hot inspiration. (Please remember this is a family newspaper when submitting your jokes, but feel free to laugh at whatever you want in the privacy of your own kitchen.)
I’ve just learned that ArtsHop has been retired, and this year, on Sept. 11 and 12, the Doña Ana Arts Council will host “Color Las Cruces,” a plein air competition and community arts festival with artists painting outside, “quick draw” contests, galas and special exhibits at area galleries.
So we’ll need some good artist jokes.
You know you’re an artist if...
• The highlights in your hair are from your palette and not Clairol.
• You clean your brushes in your coffee.
• You like to get plastered and paint the town red.
Q. How many artists does it take to change a light bulb?
A. Ten. One to change it, and nine to reassure him about how good it looks.
Q. How many surrealists does it take to change a light bulb?
A. Two. One to hold the giraffe and the other to fill the bathtub with brightly colored machine tools.
Hmm. Maybe we should have a festival to come up with great jokes and fun festivals. We could call it Chiste Fiesta.
We might even come up with an official state joke.
“I know we have an official state bird, flower, question, song and cookie, but I don’t think there’s an official New Mexico state joke — except for Texans,” quipped Sun-News Online Editor Jason Gibbs.
You get the idea. Times are still tough and we can all use some good laughs and fiestas. So get together with your amigos, have some fun and invent and share your best jokes, festival concepts, and/or joke and festival combos. Send 'em via e-mail to dmoore@lcsun-news,com or snail mail to S. Derrickson Moore, Las Cruces Sun-News, 256 W. Las Cruces Ave.
I’ll share your best efforts in a future column.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Stars shine and life is good in Tamalewood

Stars shine and life is good in Tamalewood

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — Talking to White Sands International Film Festival (WSIFF) executive director and producer Kierstin Schupack and legendary actor Wes Studi for today’s SunLife features reminded me again of how lucky we are to live here in Hollywood on the Rio Grande.
We can have serendipitous close encounters and sometimes even intimate chats with world-renowned actors, screenwriters, directors, producers, cinematographers and assorted other quesos grandes, all without having to put up with Southern California traffic gridlock, smog and earthquakes.
In fact, we might be getting a little blasé, when it comes to ops to meet our favorite stars. I recall deciding to call it a night, one freezing evening when Charlize Theron was running a few hours late to a Mesquite Street shoot. Directors have told me Southern New Mexico has become one of her favorite locations over the years, and I figured I’ll catch her on her next shoot here.
A few months ago, I walked out my patio, saw the “Due Date” film crew adjusting some giant lights, and realized Robert Downey, Jr. was probably shooting at the end of my block.
But I was already in my jammies and decided, what the heck, I’d just wait for the movie version.
And these days, we often don’t have to wait as long as the rest of the world. Sometimes, we get a chance for a sneak preview or a world premiere of a film destined to be a world blockbuster, and/or a future indie film fest award winner.
Our kids can stay in New Mexico and still get their movie trade union credentials and a dream film school education at New Mexico State University’s Creative Media Institute (CMI) and Doña Ana Community College’s CMT (Creative Media Technology) training program.
Keep up with local production schedules and casting calls, and you might get a chance for your own close-up.
I’d venture that a very sizable percentage of us have had a chance to be extras or even take a stab at a speaking role in a film production. Or maybe your house, farm, ranch, restaurant, auto parts lot, store, patio, pets, horses, cars or trucks have had a shot at 15 minutes of cinematic fame.
Many Las Crucens, some coming home or seeking a enchanted new abode after success in bigger metropolises, have found work in the film industry, providing everything from makeup, costumes and catering to stunts, set design, music and original art.
After my world traveler days, it occurred to me, over a decade ago, that if you find the just the right enchanting place, the perfect spiritual, scintillating querencia, you might be able to settle in and find that many of the world’s most interesting people will eventually show up in your own backyard ... or within easy commuting distance.
And here in l Las Cruces, Hollywood on the Rio Grande, I have found it to be true.
In fact, a lot of intriguing souls are already here. Some of them are famous and some are on the verge.
That’s why newcomers should pay attention and long-time residents should pay attention to newcomers, whatever their age and current status in life. You could be living next to a star.
That applies to filmmakers, too, so if you’re going to attend the White Sands International Film Festival, make time, when you’re planning your schedule, to check out the films and shorts by local students.
And you’ll have a chance to see a lot of familiar faces and regional locations at two WSIFF screenings of “Becoming Eduardo” at 8 p.m. Friday and 4 p.m. Sunday at Cineport 10. It’s based on a story by erstwhile Las Cruces teacher LouAnne (“Dangerous Minds”) Johnson, with director Rod McCall, producer Brad Littlefield, a CMI student crew and some local stars that include students from Alma d’arte School for the Arts. The film has already scored some prestigious awards and has been selected for film fests in Europe and Asia, McCall reports.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

Thursday, April 1, 2010

High desert lilies inspire Easter contemplation

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — How will you celebrate Easter today?
I’ve been monitoring the progress of my back patio lilies during this strange, hot and cold, sandblasted early spring.
Or I think they’re lilies. My visiting soul mate, a day lily aficionado, said those hopeful green shoots look like potential lilies to him. They’ve already been though a lot in high desert county, but seem determined to grow and bloom.
So it seems appropriate this Easter season, to sit in the sun and ponder one of my favorite quotes from the Son.
“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these,” Jesus advises in Matthew 6:28-29.
It’s a nice reminder that no matter how compelled we might be to gild the lilies in our lives, there’s no way to improve on the originals, the handiwork, for those of us who believe, of our Creator.
It’s something to think about in this time of new growth, planting seeds and resurrection.
There are so many things to contemplate during this holy season.
Jesus’ hopeful, joyous entrance into Jerusalem, remembered on Palm Sunday. A celebration and acknowledgment of a life well-lived, of healing and miracles.
The communion of the Last Supper, the horrors and betrayals, the Sanhedrin trial and the crucifixion.
And finally, the resurrection.
Every year, since I first heard the Easter story, it’s meant something a little different to me, with meanings that get richer and deeper. And somehow, it’s easier to feel closer to the real story here in desert county, away from the easier green springs of gentler climates.
In the secular world, for many, Easter is a less important holiday than, say, Christmas. There are fewer lilies to gild. The preparations, gifts, foods and the decorations seem lighter, more frivolous even, than the marathon Christmas holiday celebrations.
But Easter’s lessons are tougher. For those who focus on the spiritual meanings, Christmas seems easier, somehow, less complex than the messages of Easter. Christmas poses tests of faith for young Mary and Joseph, and the darkness of Herod’s slaughter of the innocents, but most of us dwell primarily on of the birth of the baby Jesus, the joyous angels and shepherds.
Christmas is remembering, with presents of our own, the gifts of the Magi, those holy and perceptive souls who recognized signs, portents and prophecies.
Easter is coming to terms with difficult, grown-up truths, like Jesus overturning the tables of the moneychangers at the temple, a vehement and dangerous stand taken against exploitation by those who turned a house of prayer into “a den of thieves.”
Christmas is peace on Earth, goodwill toward men.
Easter is acknowledgment of a more complex and paradoxical message in Matthew 10:34-39: "Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” To slay evil, to sever ties and delusions that blind us to higher truths. It’s a challenging, perplexing message that we lesser morals have sometimes tried to use to justify unjust wars, when we should have been facing and battling against our own demons within.
Christmas is promise and hope.
Easter is sacrifice, awareness and agony, courage and faith, tortuous transitions, wisdom and enlightened compassion, learning to make distinctions between lies and truth ...
Easter is an agonizing promise kept, mature hope fulfilled. And the truly joyous message that someone has traveled that narrow, difficult way before us, and left a well-blazed trail.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at