Saturday, July 31, 2010

Musical Theatre Southwest On Healing Path

A large fire recently devastated Albuquerque's musical theater company:
As devastating as it was to lose a half-century’s worth of costumes, props and archives in a warehouse inferno, there was never any doubt at Musical Theatre Southwest that, yes, the show would go on.

“The second the fire happened, we called a board meeting and decided within minutes that we were going forward,” says MTS Board President William R. Stafford. “We needed to get the crowds back to see that we’re back.”

Rising from the ashes meant extensive fundraising and outside-the-box planning to complete work on Thoroughly Modern Millie (the second of three productions in the 2010 season) for its three-week run. As fate would have it, Millie—adapted from a 1967 movie musical starring Julie Andrews—was an auspicious choice.

“It’s a good comeback for us because it’s an upbeat dance show,” Stafford says. “It’s about hope and renewal.”

According to director Terry S. Davis, Millie’s cast and crew rose to the challenge.
“The fire galvanized everybody into saying, OK, this will be a better show, a more special show, than perhaps even what we’d already committed to in our own minds,” says Davis. “This company has not only survived the fire but come back with an incredible energy and a fierce determination to make more great theater.”

Bernalillo Relatives

On Saturday, I got off to a particularly late start. There wasn't any clear direction what to do on this weekend day.

After having trouble contacting Cousin Fred, my sister Michelle and I decided to visit Cousins Max and Lucia, who live in Sandia Pueblo. We travelled there, but they weren't home, so we travelled instead to Aunt Senaida's place in Bernalillo.

Aunt Senaida reached the 90-year-old mark last February, and she is still going strong. She is now the last of her generation left in our family. When we mentioned that we didn't know where Cousins Ernie and Mary lived, she suggested that we go around the corner and visit their home.

We saw Cousin Phil, plus the affable half-pitbull Polly, terrier Princess, and extremely-nervous Chihuahua Bela. Cousin Yvonne was out of town, but she left her two-year-old daughter Destiny in the care of her parents Ernie and Mary. Destiny had the sweetest smile and disposition, and soon I was playing what amounted to air hockey with her: she had the green plastic dolphin and I had the brown plastic hairband. We played for more than a very pleasant hour on the living room table.

Eventually, we bade adieu, and travelled into downtown Bernalillo to eat at the acclaimed Range Cafe. Excellent food! On the way back to Albuquerque, we passed by Cousin Max & Lucia's again, but they still weren't home.

Powerful thunderstorms are now raking the Albuquerque metro area....

Towards Self-Sufficiency

My sister is excited by this portable solar oven, which was featured in an Albuquerque Journal article on June 2nd this year:
The Hot Pot was developed by Solar Household Energy (SHE) to meet the need for a revolutionary, low cost solar oven. The Hot Pot is a remarkably simple and economical means of using the sun’s energy to cook food.

Friday, July 30, 2010

If North Doesn't Work Out, Why Not Try South?

On Friday, I took a jaunt out to my hometown of Corrales.

I parked the car near the library, got out, and walked La Entrada Road and the Old Church Road (the path of our school bus back in the day, but in reverse direction). Lots of interesting thoughts along the way. Approaching the old San Ysidro Church, I was drawn into the cemetery by two agitated roadrunners, and met a photographer named Richard Sanchez, originally from the Dominican Republic, taking pictures of veterans' headstones on behalf of a veterans' organization. Nice fellow!

After that, following my sister's suggestion, I travelled north, to the Romero Road access to the wooded 'Bosque', and took a pleasant amble across the 'Clear Ditch' to the Rio Grande riverside. A sign proclaimed that the area was an active coyote area. That figures: the roadrunners are all the way across town in the cemetery, so it figures the clueless coyotes are up here!

Perhaps because Cochiti Dam was finished in the 1970's, which diminished the sediment load, the river these days seems to be entrenching itself deep into sediments laid down in previous decades, The river bank is at least three feet deeper than it was in the 1970;s. The old, chronic problem of sediment buildup in the Rio Grande riverbed (leading to the formation of 'yazoos') seems to be yielding to a new problem of river entrenchment, which will eventually lead to the water table dropping, which could subsequently lead to the dessication of drains like Corrales' delightful riverside 'Clear Ditch.'

After that, I decided to head north and explore Santa Ana Pueblo. I had no clear recollection that I had ever been to Santa Ana before, even though it is just a few miles away from Bernalillo, which I have repeatedly visited all my life.

The Pueblo Indians (one of whose Pueblos is Santa Ana) have managed to retain their integrity, and even their isolation, despite calling the heavily-trafficked Rio Grande Valley their home for centuries. How do they do that? Clearly they have ways. Since this was the first visit I was ever making there to my memory, that could be taken as evidence of their success in repelling visits. But what was their method?

I drove through Santa Ana Pueblo proper on a paved road, but proceeded further north, along dirt roads deep into reservation land, under the misapprehension (aggravated by Google Maps on my iPhone), that more of the Pueblo lay ahead. So, I kept driving north, along ditchbanks and along the edges of farm fields, scattering what appeared to be gophers or prairie dogs as I went, trying to find a way to cross to Highway 85. No luck. No access. The roads deteriorated, to the point where I feared I would get stuck in soft sand, or get hung up on my axles. I kept going north.

Finally I found an access point! It featured a locked gate. So this was Santa Ana's secret: physical isolation, enforced by locked gates, to deter interest and keep strangers at bay. Google Maps suggested there might be another access point even further north, but by now I was distrustful of the app. Suddenly, I had a revelation: if north isn't doing the trick why not head south instead? So, I took a loop around, and after much tedious travel ended up back at Santa Ana Pueblo.

I returned to NM 44 and crossed the river, in order to investigate the west side of Santa Ana Pueblo land (specifically the road to Jemez Dam). Then, I returned to my sister Michelle's home for a shower.

My other sister, Marra, invited all of us to go to the Albuquerque Isotopes/Iowa Cubs baseball game Friday night. So, Marra, her husband Ken, Bruce Warren, and myself headed off to the baseball stadium Friday evening.

The game started at 7:05 p.m. By 7:20 p.m., the Iowa Cubs had already scored four points. It looked like it might rain, and it started sprinkling a bit. Ken pointed at me and said "I have it it on good authority that it won't rain." I smiled and reiterated my considered meteorological opinion that it wouldn't rain.

Suddenly, the skies opened up. People stampeded from the open-air stands into a vast huddle underneath the grandstands. An hour-long wait ensued.

The rain slowly relented, and the baseball stadium folks began removing the plastic sheeting they had hurriedly thrown across the field, preparing to resume the game. But it was not to be. At 8:50 p.m., kicking water across the field, the umpire pronounced his verdict: the field was too wet to resume the game. So, the game was suspended (to be resumed, with a score of 4-0, on August 31st).

I took Bruce home, ate dinner alone at the Frontier restaurant, and drove back to my sister's place on a circuitous route, so I could take some photos of some of Albuquerque's neon signs.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Playing Tourist In Fanta Se

Today, my two sisters, my brother-in-law, and myself travelled to Santa Fe (The City Different) and played tourist.

First stop was the Veteran's Cemetery, where six relatives and one friend are buried. We paid our respects.

The Veteran's Cemetery is filling up fast, as the WWII Generation quickly slips the bonds of materiality. I wonder what will happen when the place completely fills? I thought of what New Yorkers say about Coney Island: it's so crowded now that no one goes there anymore.

Afterwards, we went to Santa Fe Plaza, cruised the Indian jewelry wares on display at the Palace of the Governors, and ate in the rooftop cafe area at the Coyote Cafe. We yearned to get that 'Santa Fe Look' - we got it by proxy, with all the pretty young people about - and absolutely stuffed ourselves.

Afterwards, we did some shopping, which is de rigeur in Fanta Se, the City Different. Then, we returned to Albuquerque.

In the evening, I realized I had three more 'Breaking Bad' sites to check off my list, so I went on a madcap drive around Albuquerque metropolitan area that took me into lots of new country. First, I stirred suspicions at the South Valley Economic Development Center on Isleta Blvd. in the South Valley, by taking lots of photos of the building exterior for no apparent reason. Then, I travelled down Broadway deep into the South Valley, got caught up in concert traffic heading towards the Pavilion Concert Center on the mesa south of the airport (I don't know the act performing). Then, I drove around Q Studios ('Breaking Bad' HQ), explored Tijeras Arroyo near the drag strip, passed through the area near the ballpark, and passed by the FAA HQ at Paseo del Norte, before returning to my sister's home. I nearly circumnavigated the city, seeing lots of places in the process that I had never seen before.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Obsolete American People

The slow recovery from the recession just highlights how superfluous the American people have become:
Have the American people outlived their usefulness to the rich minority in the United States? A number of trends suggest that the answer may be yes.

...The point is that, just as much of America's elite is willing to shut down every factory in the country if it is possible to open cheaper factories in countries like China, so much of the American ruling class would prefer not to hire their fellow Americans, even for jobs done on American soil, if less expensive and more deferential foreign nationals with fewer legal rights can be imported. Small wonder that proposals for "guest worker" programs are so popular in the U.S. establishment. Foreign "guest workers" laboring on American soil like H1Bs and H2Bs -- those with non-immigrant visas allowing technical or non-agriculture seasonal workers to be employed in the U.S. -- are latter-day coolies who do not have the right to vote.

If much of America's investor class no longer needs Americans either as workers or consumers, elite Americans might still depend on ordinary Americans to protect them, by serving in the military or police forces. Increasingly, however, America's professional army is being supplemented by contractors -- that is, mercenaries. And the elite press periodically publishes proposals to sell citizenship to foreigners who serve as soldiers in an American Foreign Legion. It is probably only a matter of time before some earnest pundit proposes to replace American police officers with foreign guest-worker mercenaries as well.

Offshoring and immigration, then, are severing the link between the fate of most Americans and the fate of the American rich. A member of the elite can make money from factories in China that sell to consumers in India, while relying entirely or almost entirely on immigrant servants at one of several homes around the country. With a foreign workforce for the corporations policed by brutal autocracies and non-voting immigrant servants in the U.S., the only thing missing is a non-voting immigrant mercenary army, whose legions can be deployed in foreign wars without creating grieving parents, widows and children who vote in American elections.

If the American rich increasingly do not depend for their wealth on American workers and American consumers or for their safety on American soldiers or police officers, then it is hardly surprising that so many of them should be so hostile to paying taxes to support the infrastructure and the social programs that help the majority of the American people. The rich don't need the rest anymore.

Checked Prepared Stuff Off The List

Today, driving in a big loop around Albuquerque, I checked off my prepared list of "Breaking Bad" filming locations. All that's left now is distant stuff, or cryptic stuff, or hard stuff.

Like, where is that Superlab?

Tomorrow, the family takes a jaunt to Santa Fe....

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Copyright Trolls

I found this story to be deeply-disturbing, mostly because, over the last eight years, I've linked reasonably-often to the Las Vegas Review Journal, and thus could be quite exposed. The only thing that might deflect a suit is that this blog has no advertising, and thus no income stream:
Borrowing a page from patent trolls, the CEO of fledgling Las Vegas-based Righthaven has begun buying out the copyrights to newspaper content for the sole purpose of suing blogs and websites that re-post those articles without permission. And he says he’s making money.

“We believe it’s the best solution out there,” Gibson says. “Media companies’ assets are very much their copyrights. These companies need to understand and appreciate that those assets have value more than merely the present advertising revenues.”

Gibson’s vision is to monetize news content on the backend, by scouring the internet for infringing copies of his client’s articles, then suing and relying on the harsh penalties in the Copyright Act — up to $150,000 for a single infringement — to compel quick settlements. Since Righthaven’s formation in March, the company has filed at least 80 federal lawsuits against website operators and individual bloggers who’ve re-posted articles from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, his first client.

Now he’s talking expansion. The Review-Journal’s publisher, Stephens Media in Las Vegas, runs over 70 other newspapers in nine states, and Gibson says he already has an agreement to expand his practice to cover those properties. (Stephens Media declined comment, and referred inquiries to Gibson.) Hundreds of lawsuits, he says, are already in the works by year’s end. “We perceive there to be millions, if not billions, of infringements out there,” he says.


Today, I decided to find Tuco's Safe House (Season 2, Episode 2 of "Breaking Bad"). I was certain it was west of Isleta Pueblo, along the railroad.

I have never travelled along NM Highway 6 before. It provides a shortcut of a sort, allowing one to travel between Socorro and Grants without going through Albuquerque. But I never travelled this highway because I lived in Albuquerque - I never had a need for such a shortcut.

So, I travelled NW, starting at Los Lunas, and finally ending up at I-40, 30 miles west of Albuquerque. No success. Tuco's Safe House features lots of sage. There is little sage SW of Albuquerque. Interesting country, though.

So, I returned to ABQ and visited Bruce and Richel Warren in Martineztown. Nice visit!

I returned to my sister Michelle's home about 5:30 p.m., and headed out again, this time south, along Broadway. Saw several Breaking Bad locations. I ended up at the Hard Rock casino/Hotel just east of Isleta Pueblo. Tried my hand at blackjack and made poor decisions: Loss = $120 + $2 = $122.

I returned along Isleta Blvd, eating dinner just before closing at Twisters (aka "Los Pollos Hermanos" in Breaking Bad). Great food (combination plate and green chili stew)!

Tonight, we are watching "Terminator Four: Salvation", which was also filmed (if that's the correct term, given all the special effects) in New Mexico. It was odd seeing the destruction of the Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope, and the immense man made caverns below the VLA, plus a robot/human chase staged in the La Luz Picnic Area on the west side of Albuquerque's Sandia Mountains.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Motor Monday

Today, I drove all about Rio Rancho, Corrales, and the NE Heights; in part looking for Breaking Bad locations, and in part just to refamiliarize myself with a a landscape that has changed in many, many ways over the last 30 years - since I moved away in 1980.

I discovered that the old homestead in Corrales is up for sale - just $449,600! A bit pricier than the $10,000 - $12,000 it was built for in the early 1960's.

Lots of rain today. While sitting in the Blake's Lotaburger at Edith & Osuna, I saw a baby toad hopping across the parking lot while the rain came down. So rare these toads seem in NM! A moment of amphibian Zen!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

West Mesa High School Class Of 1974 - 36th Year Reunion Picnic

On Sunday afternoon, I went down to Tiguex Park in Old Town Albuquerque to catch part of the reunion picnic. It was a good time - dunk tank, jump castle, DJ, a bit of dancing, hamburgers and hot dogs.

Afterwards, I walked around Old Town and did a bit of shopping. I even drove out to the West Mesa Walmart to pick up a West Mesa Mustangs T-Shirt (hope I bought the right size).

It began raining. The summer monsoon - finally - has started! These rains featured virtually no lightning: cloud heights are probably too low to get that abundant riming and resultant charge separation.

I started my efforts to locate "Breaking Bad" filming locations by first focusing on the hardest sites of all. I drove out to Unser Blvd. in order to find the 'Green Light' location where the money hand-off occurred. I couldn't find the location, so I drove south on Unser into the South Valley, circled back through downtown (saw Tuco's HQ) went back out to Unser again on Central, went north, went all the way into Rio Rancho (perhaps passing through the location I wanted, but it was raining and after dark), circled back around, got lost on my way to my sister Marra's house (had to find it using Google Maps because too many familiar landmarks have changed in that neighborhood), and ended up the evening watching 'Sherlock Holmes' and 'Poirot' with my sister and her husband.