Thankfully, 2006 was about more than just a dead-end war in the Middle East. Here in Albuquerque, our little art scene continued to blossom. It wasn't easy to narrow down, but here are my top 10 local arts events of 2006, in no particular order.
In the cold light of December, the final box office total for 2006 represented a slight improvement over the embarrassment that was 2005 (thanks almost entirely to the $420 million windfall that was Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest). But what about the quality of films? Honestly, 2006 felt like a lean year. There were bright spots, to be sure, but even some of the year’s most critically acclaimed efforts fell short of perfection.
So many bad films, so little space. Would that I could extoll the non-virtues of Doogal, Material Girls, Just My Luck, RV and Man of the Year. If only I had room to discuss Steve Martin’s systematic destruction of The Pink Panther franchise. Just a word or two about the endless, pointless horror film remakes (The Hills Have Eyes, The Omen, When a Stranger Calls, The Wicker Man, Black Christmas) ... But no. This is the worst of the worst, and we’ve gotta muck our way right to the bottom.
“Battlestar Galactica” (Sci-Fi) They ended one season with a storyline about a stolen election and picked up the next season with most of the human race devolved into suicide bombers under an inhuman occupation force. The miracle of this series is not that it discusses hot-button political issues, but that it does so while still being one of the most exciting, action-packed shows on TV. (That battle for the freedom of New Caprica just about gave me a coronary!)
Thanks for the Calories--I've gained eight pounds this year. Bad for my vanity, but a very good indication of the gastronomical happenings in our humble burg in 2006. Here are some of Albuquerque's other "big" trends of the year.
Yes, we know, Americans are fat. However, in 2006 the focus has gone from the entire population to just our kids. In an effort to put the damper on the "epidemic" of childhood obesity, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation managed to convince the country's top three soft drink companies to remove all sweetened drinks--such as Coke, Pepsi and flavored iced teas--from school vending machines and replace them with bottled water, nonfat milk and 100 percent fruit juices. If that weren't enough, the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Health and Human Services jumped in by urging food companies to make products that were more nutritious and to also change the way they market foods targeted toward kids. Lastly, they tried to instate minimum nutrition standards for those foods to ensure kids were getting all the stuff they need.
Hibernation is a beautiful thing. I love nothing more than to spend snowy winter months eating meat and soup (meat soup kills two birds with one stone) and holing up in my house. Last week was one of those rare times I've encountered since moving to Albuquerque five years ago. I woke up in the middle of the night with the vague realization it was cold, and I went to turn on my rarely touched heater. On my way back to bed, I glanced out through my window: Huge clumps of snow were pelting the glass. I was so shocked I opened my front door to have a look, only to find half my neighbors staring up into the sky like aliens had landed.
This being a forward-looking, progressive publication, I decided to review the top stories of 2007. Why rehash what you already know about 2006? So come along as we fast-forward through the next 12 months.
By Christie Chisholm, Steven Robert Allen, Marisa Demarco and Amy Dalness
After paging through hundreds of old articles, nursing several pots of coffee and wracking our brains for significant stories from the past year, our team of researchers stood back and stared at it: the best and worst list of 2006. It was awful—three times as many stories on how our city had screwed things up as there were stories on the city’s accomplishments. It looked dismal, lopsided, disjointed.
Dateline: Germany--A young woman who didn’t want to go to work came up with a simple solution late last month--she sent a text message to her parents saying she had been kidnapped. Police in the Bavarian town of Straubing said they had carried out a huge search throughout the region for the 21-year-old woman who disappeared on Dec. 23. She turned up at her fast-food restaurant job the following morning, saying the kidnappers had let her go. The woman was questioned by police and later admitted she make up the whole story because she owed a colleague 25 euros (about $40) and did not have the money. She now faces a fine of up to 1000 euros ($1,680).
2006's Six Great Things in Local Music—I know, I know. Somewhere in the history of journalism, someone said, "Let there be 10, or thy year-closing lists shall be struck from the hands of thy readers with lightning bolts." Quick! Drop your paper!
Chloe Day doesn’t know how to describe trip-hop. You might find that odd, considering she’s known throughout the World Wide Web for her trip-hop, goth and industrial music. Still, she knows it when she hears it.
N.M. Book Award—The New Mexico Book Co-op is unveiling a new book award to draw attention to the best books connected to our literary state. Judged by a panel of scholars and librarians, the contest is open to any author or publisher, as long as the book submitted has some tangible connection to New Mexico or the Southwest. Entries must have been published from 2005 through the present. Deadline is July 1, 2007, with a discount for entries submitted by April 15. For more information and categories, go to nmbookaward.com.
1. 2006 was so crowded with megawatt names in American fiction that it was easy to overlook (in my opinion) that the best fiction came from overseas. The very best of these imports was Alaa Al Aswany’s hilarious and terribly sad novel, The Yacoubian Building (HarperCollins, paper, $13.95), which depicts a cross-section of Egyptian life around the Gulf War as Dickens would, had he have been an Egyptian, of course.
Sick of nasty surprises? We sympathize. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to predict the major events of 2007 beforehand so as to avoid any unpleasant shocks to our already delicate state of mind? If we knew a giant asteroid would destroy every mammal on Earth on Aug. 14, 2007, at least we could live large for the next seven months. And just think of the boon to the hang-gliding industry.
Since birth. My relatives that died would come to me and they would give me information to tell my other relatives. Like my grandmother would talk to me, and my grandmother died in 1921. I thought it was just normal for everybody.
A long-overdue interview with Albuquerque’s “Captain Space”
By Scott Phillips
You kids today with your video machines and your DVD discs and your Internets--you can see pretty much any movie you want whenever you want (and in some cases, before it’s even been released). When I was a kid, we had to walk uphill, grab the TV Guide, circle the late-late movie shows we wanted to see and then manage to stay awake for ’em because there was no recording the things in those days, and if you missed Invasion of the Star Creatures, you never knew when you’d get another chance.
Really, when you think about it, New Year’s Eve is the most anticlimactic holiday. You sit around drinking and waiting for that crucial hour and then, with a lot of fanfare and a little bit of off-key singing ... nothing happens. Turns out, 12 a.m. Jan. 1, 2007, is no different than 11:59 p.m. Dec. 31, 2006. What a gyp.
An open letter from GiG Performance Space in Santa Fe
We are so grateful for the tremendous outpouring of support for GiG Performance Space (1808 Second Street, Suite H, Santa Fe) this holiday season. It has been really been nice to be on the receiving end of all this holiday cheer. And you have our sincere gratitude for supporting more than 200 great performances each year at GiG!
Promoter, producer, emcee, DJ, graf-artist, skateboarder, business-owner, punk rock frontman—Speed One fits a lot of places
By Marisa Demarco
Speed One is not bitter.
Sure, he's part of Albuquerque's early gen hip-hop, among the first in the 505 to record original material and promote local shows.
Sure, he was a member of Small Town Desert Funk Mob in ’96 alongside the now-famous Xzibit, who lived with Speed as the two finished their trek through Cibola High School. And though Xzibit dropped the "A" from his handle (it stands for Alvin) just like he dropped Albuquerque, Speed wishes him the best. "I'm content with what I'm doing," he says. "I get in where I fit in."
New Year's isn't so much fun when you’re under 21, what with all the hype around drinking to excess as one last hurrah for the passing year. But, honestly, the younger crowd has it easier in some ways: no need for designated drivers, no waking up next to a stranger or forgetting the events of the previous night. Take advantage of your freedom from alcohol-induced stupidity and enjoy a musically stimulating all-ages New Year. Here are a few places around town open to all for the dawn of 2007.
Virtuous.com is a friendly alternative to online ticketing giants
By Marisa Demarco
Albuquerque started seeing the virtuous.com tag on the Launchpad's calendar about three years ago. Working primarily with independent promoters, the advance ticketing service gets props for donating 10 percent of its profits to charities in the communities where the tickets are being sold. In Burque's case, that's Roadrunner Food Bank.
On Monday, Dec. 18, the City Council hedged part of Council President Debbie O'Malley's proposed big-box legislation. It voted 5-4 against a moratorium on approving new retail giants that don't comply with proposed regulations. In October, O'Malley introduced a bill that would regulate the look and location of big-box stores. The Council opted unanimously to refer the bill to the Environmental Planning Commission with amendments. The regulations will go to the commission and endure a public comment period before coming back to the Council for the final word.
I used to be amazed by Jeane Dixon and other famous prognosticators who annually predict events that will transpire months from now. Then I read that much of what they say actually misses its mark by a wide margin.
Dateline: China--If you’re a potential adoptive parent, China has two words for you: No fatties. According to U.S. adoption agencies, Beijing is tightening adoption rules, now requiring that foreign applicants be married, between the ages of 30 and 50 and with a body mass index of 40 or under. The new rules also bar parents who take medication for depression or who have a “severe facial deformity.” The changes, which take effect in May, come amid a surge in foreigners seeking to adopt Chinese children. Under national law, Chinese couples are only allowed to have one child. Female babies are often abandoned or put up for adoption by couples hoping for a male child.
Give Some Green—In last week's article about the grand opening of 516 Arts, I forgot to mention that the Downtown nonprofit arts organization seeks support from individuals as well as local businesses. So do you want to maintain Albuquerque's momentum as it speeds to catch up with Santa Fe as a Mecca of culture in the Southwest? Then open your wallet, and show them some green.
Latin American Posters at the National Hispanic Cultural Center
By Steven Robert Allen
On New Year's Day 1994, in the jungles of Chiapas, Mexico, a revolutionary group no one had ever heard of launched a highly conspicuous revolution. Calling themselves the Zapatistas—after the famed Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata—the group proclaimed to the world its outrage over NAFTA, the recently passed trade agreement that they believed would make Mexico's poorest citizens even poorer.
I’m hardly God’s gift to the kitchen, but I make a pretty good chicken-fried steak. I use only the shwaggiest ingredients, as required, and plus I’m from Texas. So when the steak comes out of the hot oil it’s perfectly crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside and ready for a nice pour of good ol’ milk gravy.
Only problem is, my gravy is so bland it makes Wonder Bread seem spicy by comparison.
All I do is I take a few spoonfuls of fry oil, heat it in a pan with flour and add milk, salt and pepper like my recipe says, but the gravy is bland. I still serve it on my chicken-fried steak, as is required, and it’s the better for it. But I want a better gravy. Any advice you could offer would be greatly appreciated.
I could pen a best-selling novel about some of the weird, inane or just plain ridiculous things I’ve heard people ask for when ordering food at a restaurant. My top three picks from when I used to wait tables (I was young and needed the money): No. 3: “Can I get a hamburger with cheese?” (“You mean a cheeseburger?” I asked. “No, just a hamburger with cheese.”) No. 2: “Can I get a glass of the pink wine?” And my No. 1 most irritating question, “My croutons are stale, can I get some new ones?”
Suzanne Sbarge calls it the M-word. As far as dirty words go, this one's fairly tame, of course, and she doesn't exactly cringe when she hears it. Still, Sbarge is eager to put Magnifico, the defunct arts organization she once served as executive director, behind her.
There are so many reasons to honor the passing of 2006. It brought us the Nintendo Wii, a democratic change of heart, a jobless Rumsfeld, Britney finally dumping K-Fed and my first kitten. There are also plenty of reasons to toast its demise, like the re-signing of the Patriot Act, massive flooding in Albuquerque, the rising death toll in Iraq and Mel Gibson's drunken “incident.” In retrospect, 2006 pretty much sucked until November. Getting my kitten was the best thing to happen before fall—the inevitability of 2007 must be rubbing off on the cosmos.
Award Winners--Gov. Bill Richardson recently announced the recipients of the New Visions/New Mexico Contract Awards. In its inaugural year, the program is providing 12 contracts totaling $160,000 for New Mexico-based producers and directors to create narrative films, documentaries, animation and experimental works.
Football fans looking for cinematic inspiration have had a pretty good 2006 season. Invincible, Gridiron Gang and Facing the Giants all hit movie theaters this year, giving touchdown lovers plenty of underdog teams to root for. Arriving late in the game, but with plenty of positive buzz, is We Are Marshall. Like the previous football flicks of 2006, this one is based on an inspiring true story--one that might just get Monday morning quarterbacks and non-sporting types cheering alongside one another for a change.
Movie musicals face a problem that not even films about dragons, fairies and/or hobbits run across. On stage, musicals work perfectly, functioning essentially as concerts with a slight storyline. On the big screen, however, suspension of disbelief is harder. Why are all these people singing? Why is that gang of juvenile delinquents dancing? Why are John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John flying into the sky in a convertible? It’s all so damn ... unnatural.
10. “The Dangerous Christmas of Red Riding Hood” (1965) Liza Minnelli starred in this lousy, long-lost musical which told the classic fairy tale from the point of view of the Big Bad Wolf. Vic Damone is the woodsman. Weirdest of all, Eric Burdon (from English band The Animals) is “Head of the Animal Pack.”
Lily Comes Home--Cutting-edge guitarist/composer Lily Maase (see Mel Minter's "Spotlight," May 18-24) has left the frozen coasts of Brooklyn, N.Y., for a sojourn in her hometown of Albuquerque. The purpose for her return is a "creative development residency" called Music in Motion. Lily will spend a week teaching classes and developing new material for her forthcoming album, unbind, due out early 2007. She's also bookending her visit with two solo performances at the Blue Dragon, giving listeners a rare glimpse at how music composition evolves (and through what looks like will be a period of intense refinement). Hear her Tuesday, Dec. 26, and again on Wednesday, Jan. 3, for the full impact. There's a suggested $5 donation for each 8:30 p.m. performance.
It was only life in 1999 that scattered members of Giant Steps around the country. "Jobs, wives, kids, promotions," sax player Mike Silva ticks off the list of things that come up, even for local ska heroes who made as big a stride as the Steps. "We didn't want to go on with just bits and pieces of our former band." Members realized they had gone as far as they were going to go, he says. Still, Silva remembers his time with Giant Steps as one of the best in his life.
Barbara Walters is an Idiot--Barbara Walters, in what appears to be shameless pandering to the lowest common denominator, brought the viewing public the “Ten Most Fascinating People” special Tuesday night.
The young man emerged from the bushes behind the Diamond Shamrock station on Central Avenue. He shivered violently. The temperature hadn’t climbed out of the low teens, and he had spent the night outside.
Employee-owned station breaks from corporate radio
By Marisa Demarco
The first thing Ellie Garrett does when she wakes up is the first thing many people do—she turns on the radio. For Garrett, the activity isn't recreation. She's checking. Checking to see that the station she cofounded with Sam Ferrara and Michael Warren in Santa Fe is on the air. Indie 101.5 FM began broadcasting July 4 with its "Declare Your Independence From Corporate Radio" campaign.
It's easy to become cynical these days. No sooner had the voters spoken at the polls last month with force and clarity about Iraq than we witnessed the spectacle of our absurd president digging in his heels and refusing to even consider ending the occupation.
Dateline: Ireland--Staff at the Mullingar Equestrian Centre in central Ireland were forced to postpone festivities after a wayward camel devoured 200 mince pies and downed several cans of Guinness intended for their Christmas party. Gus the camel, who was starring in the riding school’s Santa’s Magical Animal Kingdom show, tucked in to the holiday feast while staff members were getting changed for the party. “Gus found his way out of his pen and helped himself,” Robert Fagan, owner of the Equestrian Centre said. The 11-year-old camel, originally from Morocco, cracked open six cans of Ireland’s famous stout with his teeth after the door to his stall was left open. Gus appeared well after the evening’s feeding frenzy. “We were all looking forward to it,” said Fagan. “But you couldn’t blame him. He’s really a very gentle, docile sort of camel.”
How Merry?—Very merry. The New Mexico Symphony Orchestra presents its popular Very Merry Pops show this Friday, Dec. 22, at 8 p.m. at the National Hispanic Cultural Center and Saturday, Dec. 23, at 6 p.m. at UNM's Popejoy Hall. The program consists of fave Christmas and Hanukkah tunes along with a screening of the British animated film, The Snowman. The Albuquerque Academy Chorus and Manzano Day School Chorus will accompany. Tickets are $16 to $52 for the Popejoy show and $15 to $40 for the NHCC show. They're available at nmso.org or by calling 881-8999.
Bob's Fish and Chips is Really, Finally Closed--A "for sale" sign has loomed uncomfortably in front of Bob’s Fish and Chips for months, but the little drive-up kept turning out white paper sacks filled with frito pie and fish planks unabated. We figured it was a phase. We hoped that before Bob's finally got around to closing its doors, some benevolent fried food enthusiast would capitalize on a truly golden opportunity and seize up the orphaned fry shack. But Daddy Frybucks didn't make it in time. Last week, Bob's Fish and Chips served their last chili dog to Alibi Production Manager Tom Nayder.
I’ve had my share of food surprises over the years. Like when I was 14 and stayed overnight in a hotel for the first time and I went downstairs to take advantage of the “continental breakfast” only to find a box of donuts and a pot of coffee. What the freak is continental about those? I still haven’t figured that one out. Or the time when I was 16 and my dad’s buddies convinced me to try Rocky Mountain oysters at a fish fry. I chewed through a couple of them, nonplussed as to why everyone was watching me in breathless anticipation. I thought oysters came from the ocean—surprise!