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

Grab a cup of covfefe; we’ve got ‘alot’ to cover

During my years of teaching, I don’t believe I ever had students — even at the college level — who consistently spelled “a lot” as two words. To that I say, “’Alot’ of students can’t tell the difference.” I believe the bigger problem is simply using the wrong word. There are, after all, many synonyms for “a lot,” including “many” and “plenty.”

When was the last time you heard someone confuse “compose” and “comprise”? I’ll wager that most people who (mis)use “comprise” do so in a sentence like “The U.S. is comprised of 50 states.” No! The U.S. comprises 50 states, and not the other way around. The country is not comprised of anything.

Yet another form of verbal confusion is using “compromised “when we mean “comprised,” which has an entirely different meaning and takes us in a different direction. For example, when my wife says, “I took out the meat from the freezer to “unthaw it,” I have had to compromise my grammar-cop personality in order to remain married.

Similarly, people often confuse “condone” with “condemn” and come up with something like, “I condone your stealing the money,” when they mean they don’t approve of the theft. Continue reading

OK — Maybe Facebook is addictive

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

Their attempt to please

A number of my columns have dealt with food. Growing up in this area, I’ve become accustomed to the real spicy stuff many moms serve several times a week.

But first, let’s define some terms:

  • “Señor Taco” is a term that should never be construed as an insult. It simply refers to a kind of amateurish way of cooking that adds tomato sauce and calls it chile.
  • Sopaipilla is spelled with two “i’s,” not one.
  • “Chile should never be pluralized; it’s chile that’s in your bowl, and yes, if we must put an “s” at the end of the word, we’re referring to individual peppers which add nothing but heat to the meal. So remember, the delectable stuff has only one “s.”
  • And it’s a big offense to spell the stuff “chili.” That’s only for flatland touristers.
  • Chile rellenos should not be confused with the common local surname “Arellano.”
  • Using the name “hot tamales” is redundant. By their nature they’re hot (or should be), and any tamale that is not hot (or calls itself hot, comes in a can.

As an inveterate eater of southwestern cuisine, I’m continually amused when I read recipes for “Hot Chile Sauce.” First, it’s not a sauce; chile is a food in and of itself, and the only modifications can be “red,” “green” or “Christmas, which gifts people with two distinct flavors.” Continue reading

We’re going for Round II

We’ve done it again. Or, to be a bit more accurate, let me change that to “We’ve almost done it again.”

I refer to our second round of hosting young people from far away as our foreign exchange students. The last round, we kept two girls from across the Atlantic, for almost 10 months. They spent the school year enrolled at West Las Vegas High School and stayed an extra month because their schools, in Spain and Belgium, respectively, run weeks later than most American schools.

Readers have probably read about Phaedra Wouters, the one from Antwerp, and Ana Granados, from a suburb of Madrid. They’re close in age to our own granddaughters, Carly and Celina, who live next door to us.

As we played softball with the four girls or picnicked with them high up in Gallinas Canyon, or had them read stories to us, we adults simply “lost” ourselves. That’s our way of saying we almost forgot which of the girls were blood and which were kin, their having blended in so well. I’ll admit going into a funk in early July when we drove them to the Albuquerque Sunport to see them off. I gave each of the teens a big squeeze, as if that gesture would shorten the time till we see them again. . . . If we ever do. Continue reading