Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas Letter 2015

Every year, I write a Christmas Letter and enclose it with my Christmas cards. Here is the letter for those who aren't on my Christmas Card list.

For much of the last decade, I've been writing the Christmas Letter in the form of a multiple-choice quiz, in honor of my college friend, Bruce Otis, who first started sending his Christmas Letter in this format.

Christmas Letter 2015 Marc Valdez -

Once again, it’s time for a Christmas Letter. Everyone passed last year’s multiple-choice quiz. Let’s see about this year’s quiz. Who’s been naughty and who’s been nice, and who studied?

2015 was a good year for Outer Space. In July, the New Horizons Mission reached Pluto. In September, the moon reached Minor Lunar Standstill in its 18.6-year-long precession cycle and there was an excellent Lunar Eclipse on September 27th. Evidence of recent flowing water was confirmed on Mars. These events suggest:
( ) We live in a kind and benevolent Universe;
( ) We live in a cruel and uncaring Universe;
( ) Neither of the above;
( ) 2016 will be even better than 2015.

Several people died in 2015 that we will miss: Reies Lopez Tijerina, Dr. George Fischbeck, Marie Petersen, Senaida Valdez Aragon, and Leigh Pettigrew. These sad events suggest:
( ) We live in a kind and benevolent Universe;
( ) We live in a cruel and uncaring Universe;
( ) Both of the above;
( ) 2016 will have its roll call too.

The year of 2015 was just as bad as 2014 in regards to rain in California. A meteorological phenomenon called the “Really Resilient Ridge” is repelling all of the winter rainstorms that make California habitable. The reason for the extreme drought is:
( ) Those little silica gel capsules you find in pockets of new clothes really suck out the moisture;
( ) Rain in California was never anything but a Hollywood special effect;
( ) If California is going to slide into the ocean anyway, does it matter?;
( ) All of the above.

Home repair was an anguish in 2015. In January, I picked a scab off a rusty pipe and the pipe sprayed water all over the basement. In September, I tried Front Porch Repair, argued with my homeless friend ‘Joe the Plumber’ about the way he was doing the work, fired him, hired a general contractor to fix the problems, and spent way too much money. What I learned from this was:
( ) Nothing;
( ) Can’t teach an old dog new tricks;
( ) Never fix anything ever again, ever;
( ) If California is going to slide into the ocean anyway, does it matter?;
( ) All of the above.

In March, ‘Joe the Plumber’ found he couldn’t adequately take care of his Black Labrador Retriever named ‘Bella’, so I agreed to take care of her. As I had once traveled with Sparky the Dog years ago, I once again had a canine companion to accompany me on long rambles around the neighborhood.

Bella is basically a canine barbarian, a goofball dog with few civilized refinements, but loyal and attentive. The best Bella adventure of the year was:
( ) Watching Bella lunge at cats all year long;
( ) Watching Bella lunge at a Guy Fawkes mask in the window of someone’s parked car in March;
( ) Getting hammered by a skunk in July;
( ) Finding a mysterious tree that whistled like a hot tea kettle in November;
( ) Seeing a person simply run away from us for no apparent reason in December;
( ) All of the above.

I saw 19 movies on the big screen this year, a surprising number! My favorite movie of 2015 was “Clouds of Sils Maria”, with Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart, and Chloe Grace Moretz, because:
( ) It had just actresses, no dudes;
( ) French has a different word for everything, and they spoke it, sometimes;
( ) Friedrich Nietzsche is now ready for his close-up;
( ) The Alps are pretty;
( ) All of the above.

2015 was a banner year for going to the theater to see shows. I saw at least 22 shows, including:
• “The Addams Family” (RTAA & RSP);
• “Mulan, Jr.”, Steampunk version of “Snow White & 7 Dwarves”, “Pirates of Penzance, Jr.”, “Fiddler on the Roof”, and “Teen Cabaret 2015” (DMTC YPT);
• “Into the Woods” (Sierra College);
• “Hairspray” (Berkeley Playhouse);
• “Proof” (Chautauqua Playhouse);
• “In The Heights” and “Dogfight” (Green Valley);
• “Always … Patsy Cline” (Cell Theater, Albuquerque).

Hard to say which show was the best, but I did particularly like “Catch Me If You Can” at RSP, because it was a story about slick criminality that I hadn’t seen before. Stories about slick criminality appeal because:
( ) There are always pretty actresses around;
( ) French has a different word for everything, and they never spoke it;
( ) The FBI looks sexy in the show;
( ) None of the above.

I also participated in DMTC shows:
• “Sweeney Todd” (Stage Manager);
• “Evita” (Ensemble);
• “Into the Woods” (Stagehand); as well as,
• Helped out at fundraisers (e.g., 4th of July Fundraiser, Halloween Haunted Hotel).

The hardest moments of the year concerned the 4th of July Fundraiser. We ordered too many BBQ sandwiches, couldn’t sell them all at full price, unloaded many at a loss, and were forced to eat the rest. What I learned from this was:
( ) There is never an actress around when you need one;
( ) French has a different word for everything, including obscenities, and we used them all;
( ) We live in a cruel and uncaring Universe;
( ) Never sell anything ever again, ever;
( ) If California is going to slide into the ocean anyway, does it matter?;
( ) All of the above.

Our final Haunted Hotel tour was specifically for our tween volunteers. As the Mad Scientist, I ask the guests if they are hungry, and whether they might fancy some "Rongere". One of the tweens immediately recognized the French word for "Rodent", snapped her fingers, and sarcastically responded "I don't THINK so!" I was amazed. In my day, no one would have understood. What I learned from this was:
( ) Farewell any idea about faking it in a French restaurant;
( ) There is always an actress around when you least need one;
( ) French has a different word for everything, and there are actually people around who understand these words;
( ) All of the above.

In 2015, I continued taking Zumba and hip-hop oriented aerobics classes at ‘Step One’ health studio with Pepper Von, Krystle Morales, and associates. I also started attending Jamaican Dancehall classes with La Toya Bufford.

I participated in a hip hop dance show - “The Debut” (K-Styles Dance). What I learned was:
( ) It’s time to release the inner Gangsta;
( ) I have no idea what I’m doing;
( ) French has a different word for everything, except maybe hip hop slang;
( ) If California is going to slide into the ocean anyway, this is the only stuff that’s going to matter;
( ) All of the above.

And more! I attended film festivals and concerts, went to museums, and saw Modern Dance, Ballet, and Burlesque shows. And also met a ‘Breaking Bad’ celebrity - Giancarlo Esposito (Gus Fring) at Sacramento’s Wizard Con in June - and saw another - Vince Gilligan at the Mondavi Center in December.
All this theater means:
( ) Nothing;
( ) I have way too much time on my hands;
( ) I enable narcissism;
( ) What do high heel shows and military transport vehicles have in common?;
( ) What was that about Burlesque?;
( ) All of the above.

I participated in Jamaican Dancehall workshops with the well-known Blacka di Danca and the most-amazing dance instructor I’ve met in years, Laure Courtellemont.

All this dancing means:
( ) I can avoid walkers and canes forever if I can just keep it up;
( ) Just stop it with the twerking already;
( ) Is this like burlesque?;
( ) None of the above.

I traveled to my hometown of Albuquerque, NM in February. I made a presentation to the 36th Annual Southwest/American Popular Culture Conference, called “Walter White on the Turquoise Trail: Native American History as Recapitulated in ‘Breaking Bad’ Through Filming Location, Mineral Type and Predominant Color”. The audience consisted mostly of philosophy students and professors. They liked the presentation because:

( ) It featured more maps than a typical philosophy lecture;
( ) I used bright, garish colors in my Power Point presentation;
( ) I had no discernable philosophy;
( ) Philosophers like TV shows;
( ) Like our overlord Donald Trump, I never ever apologized, not even once;
( ) All of the above.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!


My avatar for 2016 is Arthur, the House Pig, whose duties include keeping nervous customers happy and minding the large piles of fallen hair, at Doggie Den Grooming, on Montgomery Blvd. NE, in Albuquerque.

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