A year with Asian students

For now, let’s simply call them “Kitty” and “Tookta,” the second name pronounced with a long “o,” as in Tuke-tah.” We Trujillos have done it again; we’ve accepted two more foreign exchange students whom we understand are the only two such students in Las Vegas.

Two years ago we took Phaedra, from Belgium, and Ana, from Spain, into our home and “adopted” them for 10 months while they completed their 10th and 12th school grades, respectively, at West Las Vegas High School.

Each time we’ve dealt with their sponsoring agency, AFS-USA, Bonnie and I have wondered, “Why are we among the few in town to host foreign exchange students? It is so much fun and so enlightening, and besides it keeps us in touch with the school community.”

We’re proud of the caliber of students who’ve joined us. Yet we continue to wonder why geography has been scratched from the curriculum almost everywhere. Ana and Phaedra were surprised to learn that several students regarded them as sisters even after being told that they were from different countries and ethnic groups. Continue reading

What’s the opposite of fiction?

Back in fifth or sixth grade at Immaculate Conception School, Sister Mary Espantosa, ran us through the reading curriculum by telling us that books are generally divided into two classes: fiction and non-fiction. We’d wonder: Is that all? Either it’s fiction or it’s not?

Well, literature in the form of short stories, usually in prose, and consisting of “made-up” stuff, constitutes a mammoth genre. And what is the counterpart of fiction? It’s non-fiction. How many geniuses sat around a table coming up with a label that covers just about everything else?

There’s biography, historic literature, drama, essays, memoirs, science fiction, poetry and much more to the literary canon. And all we can come up with is made-up stuff or non-fiction?

Let’s say we’re discussing things we’ve been reading. Someone says, “I loved the role of Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby.” Most will recognize the work by F. Scott Fitzgerald as fiction: it’s something Scotty made up, about some fast-living, free-flowing, fun-loving, fool-hardy, fancy-dressing, financially fit friends and philanderers in the early 1900s. Continue reading

But it’s in black and white

Back in the olden days, in the era of black-and-white movies and TV-less households, the weekend highlight for many Las Vegans was going to see a Western, or at least something with lots of action, but no romance.

We had three movie houses in Las Vegas: The SERF, which has been transformed into a dance-dining hall but still retains its marquee; the Kiva, closed for decades, on Bridge Street, whose favorite flicks were in Spanish; and the Coronado, at Sixth and University. The building stands but no movie has been shown in decades.

I have a somewhat fuzzy recollection of a black-and-white movie about a newspaper mogul, possibly William Randolph Hearst, whose favorite line seemed to be “I only believe what I read in the newspapers.” Continue reading

Never ever double-space — ever

Doing research through old microfilms of the Optic, at Highlands’ Donnelly Library, I soon thought of abandoning the project — for several reasons.

For years, a laboratory somewhere would take each issue of the Optic, photograph it and convert it to a 35mm reel of film that contained the days’ news. But that didn’t make things perfect. Too often, there were pages out of order, pages that simply didn’t copy well, and lots of blotches that forced us to guess the content therein.

The microfilm machines — considered high tech in the ‘50s — were big, bulky, hot, noisy and fuzzy. But the main problem was magnifying the page sufficiently to make it legible. The manufacturers, it seemed, had removed the bottoms of Coke bottles and used them as lenses for the microfilm machines.

I examined some of the original copies we had at the Optic building on Lincoln Avenue and discovered that much of the material needed to be examined through a strong pair of eyeglasses, or a magnifying glass. Continue reading

The Ayatollah Raiders?

We were unwinding after having taken in some of the sights in Denver over the weekend. We boarded the capital city’s light rail toward our destination, which is about as close to the center of town as one can get.

Benji, our youngest son, and his family put us up for the night in a 24-story apartment house that places Ben a short block from where he works. And what is that work? Doing computers or something. What else does anyone his age do for a living nowadays?

It was a fine reunion, as we got together with our oldest son, Stan Adam, his wife and two young daughters. They came from a bit farther away: Denmark, as it was their turn to head west.

Around 9:30 p.m., we were the only rail passengers ­— until groups of noisy young adults boarded and sat in the car we had occupied. I enjoyed listening in on their chats. It seemed that each one increased his or her volume to make a point. Remember: In today’s society, the louder and more emphatic you are, the more veracity your comments carry. Continue reading

Addicted to Facebook

The first time I bought a totally portable battery-operated radio, I believed I’d gone to Heaven. Even though I was able to receive only one station, KFUN-AM, I enjoyed listening to the Game of the Day as I delivered papers on my Optic route, which comprised two streets across the tracks, Railroad (which we call Tough Street), Grand and parts of First and Second.

I taped the small radio to the handlebars and got fairly good reception. That made me a Brooklyn Dodger fan, as that team was on the air most often.

And I thought, way back in 1952 that sound technology had reached the highest peaks.

That was long before tiny, yet powerful, things like cell phones came along. And with them came something called Facebook, which I happily admit, has obsessed many, including and especially me.

I’m addicted. Day after day, I come across lots of drivel; if it’s not someone wanting to sell us something, it’s another person hoping to convert us. Continue reading

“And I’m like ‘wow!’”

There’s a phenomenon that I must be heir to, something I’ve mentioned before in this column. It has to do with hearing a word that seems new — and then hearing that word dozens of times, often that same day.

One of the words, which I’m not ashamed to admit came late in my life, is “comprise.” The first time I heard it and used it (incorrectly) in a sentence, I began hearing it constantly. It seemed everybody was using the word. My journalism teacher at the University of Missouri lectured on that term, and I pretended I knew ALL ABOUT “comprise” before he even explained.

For the record, “comprise” isn’t the same as “consist.” We can say, “The United States consists of 50 states,” but not “The United States is comprised of 50 states.”

To comprise means to include or embrace; thus, we can say, “The U.S. comprises (includes, embraces) 50 states,” but not “is comprised of.” Grammar lesson accomplished, let’s consider other usages.

As a teacher of speech for 32 years, I fought a losing battle in urging my students to speak and write forcefully, “con ganas,” as we still say in my Railroad Avenue barrio. It means “with force.” In those days as a teacher, I’d write a list of “flabby” terms that I believe work against us. Continue reading

‘Dress Me, Ultima,’ ‘Last of the Topekans’ quite popular flicks

Last week’s column about scrambled movie titles drew some interesting emails from local readers. We heard from Geri Herrera and Chad Boliek. And though it shames me to admit it, some of their responses were cleverer than mine.

  1. The first item dealt with an invasion at our own Memorial Middle School and featured a leader whose body received extra pigment because of exposure to the sun. According to Boliek, the movie, “Red Dawn,” featured Red Juan or Big Red Juan.
  2. This item was about a swordsman whose performance earned him low grades. Both Geri and Chad correctly came up with The Mark of Zero. Strange, but “The Mark of Zero” was a term I became familiar with early in my school days, studying under a nun named Sister Mary Muchos Zeros.
  3. Arnold Schwarzenegger as a beautician? Chåad titled that movie “The Triminator” and Geri called it “Conan the Barber.” My entry was “The Permanator.”
  4. This film dealt with the almost-local film, based on Rudolfo Anaya’s novel, “Bless Me, Ultima.” I mentioned the difficulty the curandera, Ultima, had in preparing the kids for school each morning. A guess by Chad was “Bless Me, Mrs. Doubtfire.” Though it’s clever, it’s off. Geri wins that round, with “Dress Me, Ultima.”
  5. The movie based on New York City teenaged gangs drew “Wet Side Story” from both Chad and Geri. Chad added “West Side Stormy,” which is much cleverer than some of the Run of DeMille titles I could have submitted.
  6. Another film featuring New York City scuffles dealt with how the hooligans styled their hair before a rumble. Geri suggested “Gang Bang,” which is close. I had chosen “Bangs of New York.
  7. This movie, directed by Philip Kaufman, features Ed Harris and John Glenn, who crash-landed in theaters. About the only thing we could decipher from the movie’s title is “The Night Fluff.” But both readers corrected the title and made it “The Right Stuff.”
  8. Roddy McDowall made sure to provide coverage for Charlton Heston’s bare behind in this movie. McDowall located clusters of low-hanging fruit to make Heston appear decent. Chad and Geri correctly answered “Planet of the Grapes.
  9. This item refers to an unusual fish dish wish in a classy restaurant, and an answer that was way too easy. The clue was about eating a dish of barbecued panda, and both participants posited “A Dish Called Panda.”
  10. A movie that tested readers’ spelling and punctuation skills dealt with commas. And in yet another too-easy item both Geri and Chad came up with “Coma.”
  11. Bill Murray starred as a member of a pork-chewing family that eschews beef but digs bacon and ham. These ingredients were best served after being run through a grinder. Hence, “Ground Hog Day.” Both readers received an “A” for this guess.
  12. Both readers correctly guessed the title of this item that starred Marlon Brando as a restaurant owner whose customers like a bit of fish added to their Cobb salads. And appropriately, both readers came up with “The Codfather.”
  13. This item I had hoped would stump all because it requires extensive knowledge of American History and geography. It deals with a novel by James Fenimore Cooper and covers a battle that went bad for one of the sides. The military leaders recruited their army from residents of the capital city of Kansas.

Continue reading

These titles are scrambled

Back in the olden days, news used to arrive via some very loud, hot, clickety-clackety Teletype machines that seemed to operate with an invisible typist. In reality, someone in the paper’s main bureau was writing and rewriting the day’s news, which arrived locally on sometimes-unattended machines. The Optic had its own Teletype machine, and back in the days when delivery of the hot topics from the local sources was spotty, we used much more “wire” copy, that is, news with out-of-area datelines.

Teletype machines were set to turn on at midnight, and by around 5 a.m., the blooming attached tape puncher would jam, forcing us to retype all the copy, or to decipher what arrived on rolls of perforated tape.

By the way, we saved the millions of perforations in a huge box that made perfect filling for Easter eggs, which revelers would crack on people’s heads during the church’s annual “ˆCascaron Dance” at the armory. (What’s a cascaron? Go ask grandma.)

My new shift began at 5 a.m., and the Teletype was guaranteed to jam around the time I arrived. Once, a paper jam wreaked havoc with some tabular matter, and the listings of the year’s top movies and TV programs arrived jumbled. Continue reading

Lemonade stand creates juicy news

A friend, Luke Phillips, who used to work in the composing room at the Optic, when it was on Lincoln Avenue, dropped a note recently, in which he explained that the city council session he covers in a California town had been meeting for three hours and had yet to finish Item #1 on the agenda.

Ah, the glamour people in the news business can experience amounts to pure splendor!

It’s true that members of the press try their darnedest to keep the public informed, even if the topics are mill levies, referenda, sewage treatment plants and endless processions of proclamations. And yes, I’ve done my share. People who cover government meetings generally receive that assignment the day they’re hired.

Even Jason W. Brooks, our new editor, has already written several items on our government.

I covered public affairs, first in Las Vegas, in the days when we had two municipalities, two school boards and two town councils. That kind of schedule doesn’t conduce to providing quality nightlife. The next batch came when I moved to Gallup and was allowed to cover the Town Council, the Indian Community Center, and the local school board. Continue reading