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Mendez proud to spotlight Chicano culture

Mendez proud to spotlight Chicano culture

Author Matt Mendez found his writing voice after enrolling at Pima Community College in 2000. (Photo courtesy of Matt Mendez)










Matt Mendez, a former Pima Community College student and University of Arizona graduate, has grown into a successful writer.

His first book, a 2012 collection of stories about working-class barrio characters titled “Twitching Heart,” received widespread praise.

Author Manuel Muñoz wrote, “This is exactly how a winning debut should read—fluid and raw, redemptive and inevitable. Underneath the humor runs a gifted storyteller’s nuanced take on the paradox of the outsider. A triumphant first swing from one of the new stars in the next generation of Chicano lit.”

Mendez was born and grew up in El Paso, Texas.

“Both my parents worked full time, leaving me, my brother and sister with tons of alone time,” he said. “This solitude gave me the chance to make up stories.”

Mendez discovered filmmaker Richard Rodriguez in high school.

“He was the only Chicano I knew of making movies, so I decided I wanted to be like him,” he said.

Mendez started at PCC in 2000 after serving four years of active duty in the Air Force.

“I hadn’t been inside a classroom since high school, and when I moved to Tucson I quickly enrolled, wanting to start this new part of my life,” he said.

He first focused on media communications, creating short Super 8 films for class.

Meeting writing instructor Meg Files, “a mentor who changed my life,” spurred a change of direction.

“Reading poetry and writing poems for Meg’s Intro to Poetry class was where the idea of reading for pleasure first took hold,” he said. “It was something I had done sporadically as a kid but had quit as a young adult. That class turned all that machinery back on, thankfully.”

Files said Mendez stands out in her memories of students.

“I remember him in my poetry and fiction classes as an extraordinarily gifted writer,” she said.

“His work was lively and fresh—and sometimes very funny,” she added. “It’s one thing to have the talent, but Matt also has done the hard work to live up to that talent.”

Mendez also took advantage of Pima Writers’ Workshop sessions.

“I was working on a screenplay and wanted badly for someone to read it,” he said. “The experience of the workshop was great, listening to agents and presenters, to all these writers talk about their work.”

After publication of “Twitching Heart,” Mendez returned to the workshop as an instructor.

“It was great to bring our former student back to the college as faculty at the Pima Writers’ Workshop,” Files said. “I am so proud of him.”

Mendez didn’t decide to become a writer until he was about to graduate from UA with a bachelor’s degree in media arts at age 28.

“I had minored in creative writing to get better at screen writing,” he said. “It was during these creative writing workshops where I first read so many great stories, by writers I would never have discovered otherwise. It wasn’t long before my attention turned from film to stories.”

For Mendez, creating a story or character goes beyond writing about someone he observes. He develops characters with a life story.

Publication of “Twitching Heart” placed him firmly in the Southwest writers’ category. He’s proud to share his culture with readers.

“When many people think of Southwest writers, they first think of Cormac McCarthy or Annie Proulx, tired old westerns and their stereotypes,” Mendez said. “They rarely think of Latino or Native writers like Joy Harjo or Ana Castillo, certainly not of writers like Natalie Diaz and Eduardo Corral, Paul Pedroza or Isabel Quintero.”

People who don’t read have little empathy or insight, he said.

“That’s a big part of the reason so many people are willing to erect a wall in our backyard, are willing to destroy a part of the country and people they have no understanding of,” he said.

For students interested in writing, Mendez offers advice from his own experience.

“Read, learn your craft and get to work,” he said. “I started at Pima in 2000, and my first book was published in 2012. The second is coming in 2018. That may seem like a long time, but I can assure you it isn’t.”

The only thing artists can control is the amount of effort they are willing to give, he added.

“Anything short of all you can, really, will leave you disappointed.”

Steven Wilson focusing on solo work

Steven Wilson focusing on solo work

“Hand. Cannot. Erase” portrays a character based on a real-life tragic death. (Album cover art by Lasse Hoile)












Steven Wilson was born in Kingston, London and has been playing and recording music since his teens. He’s become one of the world’s most prolific musicians in past decades, working with musicians of every genre.

He’s best known as the multi-instrumentalist and singer for Porcupine Tree and Blackfield, and for remastering King Crimson’s back catalog.

Recently he’s begun focusing on solo work, simply recorded under Steven Wilson. His latest album, “Hand Cannot Erase,” has become one of his most well-received, gathering new fans from around the world.

“I am about 18 months into this particular album cycle, so there is always concern if there is anyone who wants to still come see you,” Wilson said. “I have been pleasantly surprised. Most of our shows have sold out.”

Wilson was touring in the United States during the 2016 presidential campaign and saw the reactions of Americans. He drew a connection to events in Europe, including the June “Brexit” referendum in which British citizens voted to exit the European Union.

“We went through the same thing with Brexit,” he said. “Never underestimate the power of the disenfranchised, white middle-class. I guess we are all surprised and disappointed that there are that many disenfranchised and disillusioned people, and this is their protest.”

Fans of all ages attend Wilson’s U.S. shows.

© Naki Kouyioumtzis.
Steven Wilson, on location, Oxfordshire.

“I am the type of person who enjoys playing to a diverse and collective audience,” he said. “The best vibe is when I have a group of young and old, male and female audience members.”

“Hand Cannot Erase” tells a story about a fictional female character based on the tragic life of Joyce Vincent.

“I first heard about Joyce Vincent when the story appeared in the news in 2006,” Wilson said. “A woman died in her apartment and her body was not discovered for two years.”

Like many people, Wilson initially assumed Vincent was an elderly woman. He learned otherwise after viewing a 2011 documentary, “Dreams of a Life.”

Vincent, 41, had been popular in school but slowly cut ties with acquaintances and erased her internet footprint. Her death went unnoticed.

“This is what led me onto thinking about how social networking, cell phones and all of this other great technology makes our lives convenient but also makes us passive and makes us further apart in many respects,” Wilson said. “I think social networking is actually very antisocial.”

It’s not difficult to imagine disappearing from the world by simply not being an active member of the online community, he noted.

“How easy would it be for someone who is unmarried, didn’t have kids and who did not have a presence online to just disappear?” Wilson asked. “The answer: Very easy.”

Wilson used those ideas to write his powerful “Hand Cannot Erase” album.

“The character was inspired by the circumstances of her death,” he said. “I took the end of her life and worked backwards to create a story of someone growing up, coming to the big city and beginning the process of disappearing from view.”

He called the creative process a gift.

“I tapped into so many different things I wanted to talk about, such as nostalgia for childhood, the idea of regret and social media,” he said.

After spending much of his life working with Porcupine Tree, Blackfield and No Man, Wilson is happy to concentrate on releasing music under his own name. He said it gives him freedom to move into any genre he wishes.

“I’ve still left the door open to return to those projects one day, but there is no doubt in my mind that what I do now as a solo artist is something I want to do for the rest of my life as a primary outlet,” he said.

Wilson is currently on tour and has no plans to slow down. Fans can expect new material next year.

For more information about Wilson and his music, visit His Twitter account is @StevenWilsonHQ.

Longtime writing instructor Meg Files retiring

Longtime writing instructor Meg Files retiring

Writing instructor Meg Files leads her final department chair meeting on Nov. 18. (Eddie Celaya/Aztec Press)


When Pima Community College writing instructor Meg Files earned a master’s degree in English, she didn’t realize teaching would become her vocation.

“I didn’t know I would love teaching,” she said. “Once I started teaching, I knew this is what I was meant to be.”

Files has reshaped the West Campus writing and journalism department since she arrived in 1987. At the time, the department offered just one creative writing class and one poetry class.

Nearly 30 years later, with Files as department chair, the program offers a wide range of classes.

Writing instructor Mic Denfeld has worked with Files since 1993.

“Meg is always the person who is looking for creative writing, how to encourage creative writers,” she said.

“As a department chair, she takes care of the curriculum, she makes out the schedules, hires new writing instructors and she is the go-to person for most issues that arise,” Denfeld added.

In addition to teaching, Files has written novels, short stories and poems. She has won many awards for her work.

“I like to be able to really inhabit a life, in a world other than my own,” she said. “Although some of the lives and the worlds I create have some similarity to mine, they are not mine.”

Creating stories involves a relationship with characters, Files noted.

“Someone once described a short story as like having an affair and a novel as like having a marriage,” she said, laughing.

In April, Files celebrated the launch of a second edition of her nonfiction book, “Writing What You Know: How to Turn Personal Experiences into Publishable Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry,” published by Allworth Press.

The book includes new information, new stories written by her students and sections about blogging.

Files also established the well-regarded Pima Writers’ Workshop in 1988.

It started as a weekend seminar and discussion group held in a portable trailer behind the West Campus A building with three faculty members and 40 students.

The workshop blossomed into an annual three-day event held at the college’s Center for the Arts complex with more than a dozen faculty and 300-plus students.

It held its final session last May, however, and Files will soon end her tenure as a full-time PCC instructor. She will retire at the end of the current semester.

“It has been an honor to spend much of my career here at Pima and an honor to work with my fabulous colleagues and all of my special students,” Files said. “They are all special.”

Files will still teach at conferences, do consulting work and continue overseeing the Tucson Festival of Books literary awards and masters’ workshop.

She also wants to finish a book she has been writing for a while, and hopes to write more.

Immediate plans include travel. She’s already booked a trip to Iceland, where she hopes to experience the Northern lights.

Files said she will miss her colleagues and students.

“They have been so inspirational to me,” she said. “There is so much talent here among the faculty and among the students. It is amazing.”

TOP 10: Activities for winter break

TOP 10: Activities for winter break

(D.R. Williams/Aztec Press)



It’s colder outside, the days are getting longer and winter break is fast approaching.

Some of us are finishing large semester projects and others are cramming for finals but many students are already planning their vacation.

With a full month off before a new term starts, it would be a waste not to fill it with fun. I already know I won’t pick up as many shifts at work as my dad would like or save as much money as my mom would like, but at least I’ll be happy.

You can spend your free time like a good little worker bee, but you’ll find me flying down ski slopes. Here are some great winter activities to keep you occupied:

10. Catch some rays

Sunbathing by the pool sounds like a summer activity but Tucson has sunshine 85 percent of the year. A 70-degree January afternoon isn’t unheard of, so take advantage during the break from school.

  1. Visit Winterhaven

Cool night air and houses decorated in vibrant LED colors represent the perfect combination this time of year, and a thermos of hot chocolate makes it even better. A canned food drive at the neighborhood entrance makes it all for good purpose. The show runs daily from 6-10 p.m. through Dec. 26. For details, visit

  1. Light a fire

Spark the fireplace to warm up after cold winter storms. It encourages cuddling and can set the mood for a wild night. Roast some marshmallows and relax without the stress of homework.

  1. Watch football

College bowl games start Dec. 17 and continue through Jan. 9. The onslaught provides a perfect opportunity to test the hypothesis that you can never watch too much football. If you reach your limit, try the Winter X-Games.

  1. Play in the snow

When Mount Lemmon finally gets snow, there’s always a rush to make snowmen or sled down hills. Take the vehicle with four-wheel drive or a set of chains and pile the family in for a quick getaway.

  1. Glide on ice

Holiday movies always include ice skating. Unfortunately, Tucson hasn’t had a rink since 2007 so you must go to Phoenix to scratch that itch. If you prefer hockey players battling on ice, the Tucson Roadrunners have home games through January. See

  1. Hit the road

Road tripping never gets old. The Grand Canyon looks amazing when it’s covered in snow. Chances are pretty good you’ve never seen the entire state, so break out the roadmap or just try to get lost.

  1. Chow down

Tacos, tamales, ham, fried okra, roasted potatoes — it doesn’t matter what cultural background you come from. We all have our favorite holiday foods this time of year.

  1. Take a stroll

Enjoy long walks through the desert at sunset with your dog. When the school days were long and you felt like you were losing, your dog still greeted you like royalty. Catch up on quality time because, no matter what grades you received, you’re still a winner in her eyes.

  1. Shred some powder

Dust off the skis or snowboard and head up the mountains. Snowbowl in Flagstaff has great snow and is close to the Grand Canyon. Sunrise in the White Mountains offers the best value for students, with season passes starting at $99 with proof of 12 credit hours. Mount Lemmon doesn’t have ideal slopes, but being an hour away is hard to beat when conditions are right.

BEST BETS: Your go-to guide for making the most of winter

BEST BETS: Your go-to guide for making the most of winter

(Photo courtesy of Fourth Avenue Street Fair)

Compiled by Katelyn Roberts

Since Tucson has limited chilly nights, locals have to make them count. This Best Bets is all about getting some fun in before it gets too cold and enjoying the holidays before we get too busy.


Tohono Chul Holiday Nights        

Dec. 9-10, 16-17

Paths along the Tohono Chul gardens at 7366 N. Paseo del Norte will be decorated with millions of lights as musicians and artists perform from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Telescopes will be available for star-gazing, and vendors will sell hot chocolate and treats.

Admission is $16 for nonmembers, $12 for members and $3 for children under 12.



“La Pastorela”

Through Dec. 11

Borderlands Theater’s “La Pastorela” holiday production is a comedic and culturally relevant nativity story based in the Southwest.

Performances will take place in the Cabaret at the Temple of Music and Art, 300 S. Scott Ave. General admission costs $22. Seniors get in for $18 and students for $12.



Zoo Lights at Reid Park

Through Dec. 23

Reid Park Zoo will celebrate the season with Zoo Lights, presenting animal-themed light sculptures from 6-8 p.m. each night. Food and drink will be available for purchase.

Admission costs $9.50 for adults and $5.50 for children ages 2-14, with discounts for zoo members. Tickets can be purchased online.



Luminaria Nights, Botanical Gardens

Dec. 11-13

Tucson Botanical Gardens, 2150 N. Alvernon Way, presents Luminaria Nights from 5:30-8:30 p.m. each night.

Festivities include live holiday music as visitors walk garden paths decorated with luminarias and colored lights. Children can visit with Santa Claus, and vendors will offer holiday drinks, food and treats for purchase.

Admission is $18 for adults and $9 for children, with discounts for members. Tickets can be purchased online 24 hours in advance.

Parking at the Gardens is limited to handicapped spots. Shuttles will run 5:20-9 p.m. from the southeast corner of North Alvernon Way and East Lee Street.



Fourth Avenue Winter Street Fair

Dec. 9-11

More than 600,000 visitors are expected to visit the annual street fair, which features 400-plus arts and crafts booths from 10 a.m. to dusk each day. Free and family-friendly activities include musicians, bands and entertainment.

Tip your baristas well (working the Fair separates the weak from the strong) and respect your vendors (most of them aren’t from these parts).



Winterhaven Festival of Lights

Dec. 10-26

Houses in Winterhaven display lights and decorations daily from 6-10 p.m. Admisison is free, but the neighborhood asks visitors to donate non-perishable canned food or money for the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona.



“A Southwest Nutcracker”

Dec. 10-11

 Tucson Regional Ballet’s “A Southwest Nutcracker” provides a local twist on the original. It’s set in the 1880s and includes coyotes, rattlesnakes and dancing chili peppers.

Performances will be at the Tucson Convention Center Music Hall, 260 S. Church Ave. Shows are at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 10 and at 2 p.m. on Dec. 11. Tickets can be purchased online and cost $36.



“The Nutcracker-Rat King”

Dec. 12-13

Moscow Ballet comes to Tucson for ballet performances of “The Nutcracker-Rat King” with crystal-embedded costumes and Tchaikovsky included.

Performances will be at University of Arizona Centennial Hall, 1020 E. University Blvd. The show begins at 7 p.m., and tickets start at $30.



Merry-Achi Christmas at the Fox Tucson Theatre

Dec. 16

What is more spirited and intense than mariachi performances and Christmas festivities? Nothing, that’s what.

Fox Theatre’s Merry-Achi Christmas features Mariachi Sol de Mexico de Jose Hernandez. Tickets are $24-$58, and the show starts at 7:30 p.m.



Downtown Parade of Lights

Dec. 17

Parade of Lights floats, vehicles and entertainers start making their way through downtown at 6:30 p.m. while Santa Claus waits at the Historic Train Depot for visitors. Admission is free.



“It’s a Wonderful Life” at Fox Theatre

Dec. 20

The magical 1946 classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” will screen at the Tucson Fox Theatre at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $7.


I.T. GIRL: Please burst my bubble

I.T. GIRL: Please burst my bubble


Despite the ease of access to virtually anything anywhere all of the time, technology still seems to stifle our growth as a coexisting community.

Filter bubbles are the reason you see posts from your closest friends, you laugh at most of the memes in your feed and you always see oddly accurate sponsored suggestions.

Social networks like Facebook collect information on the posts you like and share, your search history and the friends with whom you interact. The collected data plays a role in what you see on your newsfeed.

This results in an echo chamber called a filter bubble. Everyone’s bubble is different, but it isn’t directly created by you. It’s created by the website’s algorithm, which makes selective guesses about what you’d like to see next time you log into Facebook.

After a few clicks and an extensive search history, you become separated from opposing viewpoints.

Filter bubbles are the reason you don’t know too many folks outside your political spectrum.

They’re the reason a Trump win surprised many of us. They’re the reason the left sees the right as a bunch of racist hillbillies and the right views the left as a bunch of LGBT Satan-worshippers.

We just don’t understand each other. For something that was supposed to enhance communication, Facebook has done quite a good job of sheltering its users.

Brilliant coding goes into these algorithms and they’re quite handy, especially for businesses needing to know specific details about their clients. (Hey, I didn’t say it wasn’t also creepy.)

Krishna Kaliannan created in response to being completely baffled by the presidential election results.

The site’s tagline is “be more accepting of others.” Its purpose is to send news articles your way that you’d normally not read or even see.

Harvard Business School student Henry Tsai created Hi From The Other Side, which connects users with people who would normally not be friends. Its tagline is “Meet someone who supported another candidate.”

It’s a little more complex, a little more specific and a lot more committal. Its sole purpose: understanding each other’s ideologies.

If you’re interested but not ready to meet a stranger from the other side of the ideology spectrum, you can just subscribe to Hi From The Other Side’s newsletters. That allows you to live vicariously through previous matches.

Pima Community College and University of Arizona student David Bresnick, a junior majoring in computer science, is familiar with filter bubbles.

“I knew the election would be everywhere all the time, so I turned it off before it was literally everywhere,” he said. “I put on ‘Trump’ and ‘Clinton’ filters for Google Chrome, so no ads or anything popped up too much.”

Here’s why the stars are not aligned

Here’s why the stars are not aligned


Hello, I’m Ashley and astrology is my enemy. Now that I’ve introduced myself, let’s get on to it.

No, I don’t hate people who read horoscopes for fun. I’m talking about the people who are massively into astrology.

You know the ones:

  • The people who base major life decisions on what their horoscope says that month.
  • The ones who automatically hate anyone who is a Capricorn, for some unknown reason.
  • The ones who believe a Gemini and Scorpio are a doomed relationship.

We all know these people. We wish we could help them and they know they could help us.

Horoscopes are becoming a huge business and astrology is becoming even harder to ignore. Not a day goes by where I don’t see a tweet or Facebook post about how your sign controls your behavior and predetermines events or talks.

It’s exhausting having conversations, then casually being asked, “What’s your sign?”

Does it really matter? Telling someone I’m a Gemini never ends well. They assume I’m two-faced and unreliable, when I’m really just trying to live my life.

If I happen to be two-faced and unreliable, it has nothing to do with my zodiac sign. I probably just don’t like you. Or maybe I love drama.

I have a quick question. How could the position of celestial bodies have an effect on our lives?

How does the position of constellations, planets and stars have anything to do with what our month will bring? Or what your behavior will be?

I have many enemies just because I was born in June and happen to be a Gemini. Sorry, my mom couldn’t keep me in the womb longer.

I could sit here and write countless novels debunking astrology but I need to get back to my life.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking, “Ugh that’s such a Gemini thing to say,” but it’s not. You just can’t handle the truth and you hate science.

But what do I know? I’m a Gemini. All I do is cry and watch “Criminal Minds.”

Ashley Munoz is a junior at Pima Community College where she is studying journalism and creative writing. She is currently one of the photo editors on the Aztec Press.



Editor’s note: Each quote is from social critic Christopher Hitchens. Dec. 15 marks the fifth anniversary of his death.


Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec 21

“Alcohol makes other people less tedious, and food less bland, and can help provide what the Greeks called entheos, or the slight buzz of inspiration when reading or writing.”

Well, you can’t argue with that.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan 19)

“Take the risk of thinking for yourself, much more happiness, truth, beauty, and wisdom will come to you that way.”

No one is the boss of you but you, Capricorn. Take the bull by the horns. Call your own shots.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 18)

“How ya doin’?” I always think, What kind of a question is that?, and I always reply, “A bit early to tell.”

Ain’t that the damn truth!

Pisces (Feb.19-March 20)

“Beware what you wish for, unless you have the grace to hope that your luck can be shared.”

Wisdom. Take it. Use it.

Aries (March 21-April 19)

“There is nothing more; but I want nothing more.”

Aries, if you will simply accept that there really, truly is nothing else you’ll find that you make the most of all you have now.

Taurus (April 20-May 20)

“I became a journalist partly so that I wouldn’t ever have to rely on the press for my information.”

Don’t believe everything you read, Taurus.

Gemini (May 21-June 20)

“There can be no progress without head-on confrontation.”

Progress and force dead-weight knuckle-draggers to progress with you.

Cancer (June 21- July 22)

“You have to choose your future regrets.”

Choose wisely, Cancer, choose wisely.

Leo (July 23- Aug. 22)

“Exceptional claims demand exceptional evidence.”

Leo, don’t buy all the BS that folks try to sell you. Call them on it, demand the facts.

Virgo (Aug. 23- Sept. 22)

“Cheap booze is a false economy.”

Think on it, Virgo. Drink on it. Then wake up and think on it again.

Libra (Sept. 23-Oct. 22)

“Everybody does have a book in them, but in most cases that’s where it should stay.”

That’s right Libra. You may have a story to tell but that doesn’t mean the rest of us want to read about it.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 21)

“There either is a god or there is not; there is a ‘design’ or not.”

Come on Scorpio, drop that baggage. Use some common sense and allow yourself to continue along evolution’s path for you.

Former PCC student writes bestselling novel

Former PCC student writes bestselling novel


Former Pima Community College student Kathleen Glasgow reached the New York Times bestseller list this fall with her debut book, a young adult novel titled “Girl in Pieces.”

“I’m so grateful for the response that ‘Girl in Pieces’ has received from readers,” Glasgow said via email while on a publicity tour. “I never thought that my first book would be so well-received, let alone become a bestseller.”

The book discusses depression and self-harm. “It affects more than one million young women every year, yet we don’t hear too much about it,” she said.

pg13-ya-author-kathleen-glasgow Reviewers and readers alike have praised the book on the goodreads website and elsewhere.

“So painful, so hopeful. So perfect,” author Heidi Heilig wrote. “The pain of reading ‘Girl in Pieces’ was the most exquisite sort.”

Glasgow, who remains a Tucson resident, comes from a family that loves the arts.

“My parents were readers and collectors of art so we always had a lot of physical art, like paintings and sculptures, in our house,” Glasgow said. “My mother was a voracious reader –that’s where I first learned to love reading. We are all creative in our own ways.”

Glasgow began taking writing courses PCC at age 16 after attending Cross Junior High School. The courses and instructors had a major impact on her work.

“I had very encouraging teachers at Cross Junior High,” Glasgow said. “When I started attending Pima, I took classes with Jefferson Carter and his encouragement was really the seed that I needed to believe I could blossom as a writer.”

Glasgow incorporated many iconic Tucson locations into “Girl in Pieces,” including Fourth Avenue, Club Congress, the Rialto Theatre and Armory Park.

“There is no better place to find wonderful, weird, brilliant, kind and creative people,” she said. “It’s a great place to grow up, especially if you have a yen for music, books, arts. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to feature so many real Tucson places.”

Glasgow spent nine years working on “Girl in Pieces” and went through 14 drafts. During that time, she battled distractions and experienced losses.

“I had a full-time job, I had two kids along the way, my mother and sister passed away and I couldn’t write for awhile,” she said. “Life happens. But I never gave up.”

Now “Girl in Pieces” is a bestseller and Glasgow has received national attention. She has spent the past few months on a book tour across the United States.

“Touring was very exciting and I loved getting a chance to meet readers in so many cities, and to hear their stories,” Glasgow said. “I think my favorite cities have been Savannah and Nashville.”

Glasgow offers encouragement to anyone looking to become a writer.

“If you want to write, write,” she said. “Stay up late after the kids are in bed. Get up early before the kids get up or before you have to go to work. It might take one year, or five, or nine, to get your book published, but it can happen.”

Good books will find an audience, she added.

“Someone out there needs your story,” she said. “Trust me. They do.”

Stomping Grounds: Games and Gadgets draw loyal fans

Stomping Grounds: Games and Gadgets draw loyal fans


Store owner Mark Kadow keeps Games and Gadgets stocked with a wide variety of games. (Nicholas Trujillos/Aztec Press)


When a former stuntman/producer wanted to settle down two and a half years ago, he opened Tucson Games and Gadgets.

“I’ve traveled the world, lived in 14 different countries and then I had an opportunity to come back to Tucson, where I grew up, and try something else,” store owner Mark Kadow said.

“I said, ‘Why don’t I open up a board game store?’ because I’ve been playing games like Dungeons and Dragons for 30 years.”

A couple of weeks after thinking about the idea, Kadow obtained a business license and distributors for games.

Kadow opened his store at 2900 E. Broadway Blvd., #134. He plans to open a second location by the end of November at Tucson Mall, 4500 N. Oracle Road.

The Broadway store brings in loyal customers like Chris Novellino, who visited on opening day and has since made it his second home.


Chris Novellino sets up to teach customers about new games. (Nicholas Trujillo/Aztec Press)

“I can’t get the guy to leave,” Kadow joked.

Novellino is a photographer by day and an avid Living Card Game player by night. He follows a set schedule for coming into the store.

When he’s on site, Novellino can be found in a dedicated “Novellino’s Corner” teaching others about new games.

“I help out any way I can, teaching games, demo-ing board games,” he said. “Gamers have this stigma with nerds and geeks, and we indulge in that. We accept it with open arms.”

The store has created a community, or safe haven, for gamers. It welcomes customers ranging from the newest of newbs to the most seasoned veterans.

With Novellino keeping customers interested and Kadow keeping shelves stocked, it’s not hard for Games and Gadgets to make a profit.

Kadow reinvests his profits into the business so he can keep the lights on, provide the newest games and open the second store at Tucson Mall. Its location will be near the Animal Kingdom pet shop.

“The future is bright, come on in,” Kadow said. “If you haven’t played any games, then this is the perfect store. We aren’t going to jump down your throat. We want to know what you like and we want to help you.”

The new destination will be more than 4,000 square feet, double the size of the Broadway store. Décor will include dark wood and dim lighting. Hours will extend to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.

“It’s going to be an entertainment destination,” Kadow said. “We’re hoping to get something that has a Dungeons and Dragons type feel.”

The new store will also have multiple rooms available for different types of games, such as Magic the Gathering, D&D, X-Wing and Local Area Network parties.

Players will also have a chance to participate in virtual reality games.

Good shoppers can buy a virtual reality set for just shy of $800, but Kadow offers trial play. His setup regularly attracts quite a crowd.

Participants pay $10 for 15 minutes of playing time. Available options include shooting zombies in a darkened area with only a flashlight and gun, and defending your castle with a bow and arrow against incoming invaders.

“We’re approaching all types of entertainment,” Kadow said. “The virtual reality is just a small aspect of what we’re doing.”


Games and Gadgets

Address: 2900 E. Broadway Blvd. #134

Phone: 207-8013


Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-midnight



Note: A second store in Tucson Mall will open by the end of November.

Alt-rock band honors genre

Alt-rock band honors genre

Alternative rock has been stuck in a rut, falling more into the mainstream radio world and less into the “I want to write something that means something to someone” sphere.

It’s been quite some time since an alternative rock band made me feel hopeful for the genre.

Beware of Darkness is different.

“Rock is so stale right now,” lead singer and guitarist Kyle Nicolaides said. “Every rock band is writing very derivative and tonic guitar riffs and it’s such a bummer. I think we want to be at the forefront of that and just push the genre forward.”

I was lucky enough to speak with Nicolaides during KFMA’s recent Fall Ball music festival. I immediately got a sense for the passion and drive he has for the band and for the future it could have.

Nicolaides lists “The White Album” by The Beatles as a major influence, along with Led Zeppelin.

BOD has released its second album, “Are You Real?” after much anticipation. There’s no question it’s different from their debut album, “Orthodox.”

“It’s more focused,” Nicolaides said. “The first album, when I was writing it, I had no idea that people were actually going to hear it and I don’t think I was as focused on making a record that was cohesive.”

He called “Orthodox” very emotional and vulnerable. “I think with “Are You Real?” we just wanted to make a big rock record with every song being stadium-ready,” he said.

Every song on “Are You Real?” has a backstory inspired by true events.

“It’s stuff that’s happened to me and I had the wrong attitude about things,” he said. “It’s not less personal, but maybe a bit less emotional.”

BOD prides itself on making each act a personal and unforgettable experience.

“I want to have a Led Zeppelin, Beatles or even White Stripes run where it’s five years of just great albums,” Nicolaides said.

“Creatively and personally, I just want to write the best albums we can,” he added. “I want to be able to turn this into a headline band, sell out venues and just take one step after the other.”

Do yourself a favor and check out Beware of Darkness:


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Four end-of-semester music concerts on tap

Four end-of-semester music concerts on tap

 Compiled by Robyn Zelickson

Pima Community College will stage four musical concerts Nov. 29-Dec. 4 in the West Campus Center for the Arts. Each performing group will present its final concert of the semester.

Tickets for each concert cost $6, with discounts available for students, seniors, military, PCC employees and groups of 10 or more.

For further information, call the box office at 206-6986, email or visit

Jazz Ensemble: Nov. 29

Director Mike Kuhn leads the PCC Jazz Ensemble in its winter concert on Tuesday, Nov. 29, at 7:30 p.m. in the West Campus Proscenium Theatre.

The program will spotlight the 1935-45 swing era and feature pieces by Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington and Stan Kenton. Some modern jazz standards will also be included.

A highlight of the evening will be first trombonist Roger Wallace performing an arrangement of “Invitation.”

Wind Ensemble: Dec. 1

The PCC Wind Ensemble’s winter concert, directed by Mark Nelson, will take place on Thursday, Dec. 1, at 7:30 p.m. in the West Campus Proscenium Theatre.

Selections include a diverse mix of music, both old and new. One highlight will be John Williams’ “Harry Potter Symphonic Suite” as a tribute to the new Harry Potter movie.

Woodwind, brass and percussion ensembles will perform a variety of numbers and the evening will conclude with Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride.”

Chorale and College Singers: Dec. 2

The PCC Chorale and College Singers, under the direction of Jonathan Ng, will celebrate the semester’s end with a selection of popular and holiday choral works on Friday, Dec. 2, at 7:30 p.m. in the West Campus Proscenium Theatre.

The Chorale is a larger chorus and the College Singers are a more select a capella choir. Both groups will perform a variety of selections.

The evening will conclude with the two groups combining, accompanied by Susan Simpson on piano and Tony Martin on percussion.

A highlight will be “When the Saints Go Marching In,” arranged by John Rutter. Ivan D. Duran will perform a clarinet solo.

PCC Orchestra: Dec. 4

PCC Orchestra, directed by Alexander Tentser, will perform works by Mozart, Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky on Sunday, Dec. 4, at 3 p.m. in the West Campus Proscenium Theatre.

At the conclusion of the program, the orchestra will perform a series of “Harry Potter” themes composed by John Williams.

The orchestra’s mission is to provide education about classical and other orchestral styles. The group is made up of high school and college students along with community adults.


Best Bets: Festive holiday events delight all ages

Best Bets: Festive holiday events delight all ages


The holidays offer numerous traditional and festive celebrations. Here are some of the coolest upcoming events:

Native American Indian Heritage Month Social and Indian Craft Market

Nov. 25-27

Fifteen tribal nations will display authentic Native American arts and crafts, and present dance and musical performances at the Sheraton Hotel Ballroom, 5151 E. Grant Road, from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. each day.

Admission and parking is free, with donations accepted to help fund scholarships.



Tohono Chul Holiday Nights 

Dec. 2-3, 9-10, 16-17

Paths along the Tohono Chul gardens at 7366 N. Paseo del Norte will be decorated with millions of lights as musicians and artists perform from 5:30-8:30 p.m.

Admission is $12 for members, $16 for nonmembers and $3 for children under 12.

Other activities include viewing stars through a telescope, purchasing hot chocolate and treats, and stopping by the gift shop for a head start on holiday shopping.



Tamale and Heritage Festival

Dec. 3

The 12th annual Tucson Tamale and Heritage Festival presented by Casino Del Sol Resort, 5655 W. Valencia Road, will take place from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. in the AVA Ampitheater. The festival is free and open to the public.

Multiple vendors will sell red, corn, sweet and vegetarian tamales. The vendors will also participate in a tamale contest to determine who makes the best tamale.



Reid Park Zoo Lights

Dec. 7-23

Reid Park Zoo will again celebrate the holiday season with Zoo Lights, presenting thousands of sparkling lights with animal-themed light sculptures from 6-8 p.m. each night.

Food and drink available for purchase, including café items such as hot chocolate, s’mores and cinnamon rolls.

Admission cost $9.50 for adults and $5.50 for children ages 2-14. Discounts are available for zoo members. Tickets can be purchased online.

Details: Details:


Luminaria Nights, Botanical Gardens

Dec. 4-6, 11-13

Tucson Botanical Gardens, 2150 N. Alvernon Way, presents its 29th year of Luminaria Nights from 5:30-8:30 p.m. each night.

Festivities include live holiday music as visitors walk garden paths decorated with thousands of luminarias and colored lights. Children can visit with Santa Claus, and youngsters and adults may enjoy Art with Lego Bricks.

Numerous vendors will offer holiday drinks, food and treats for purchase.

Admission is $18 for adults and $9 for children, with discounts available for members. Tickets can be purchased online 24 hours in advance.

Parking in the gardens is limited to handicapped spots only. Shuttles will run from 5:20-9 p.m. at the southeast corner of North Alvernon Way and East Lee Street.



Fourth Avenue Winter Street Fair

Dec. 9-11

More than 600,000 visitors are expected to visit the annual street fair, which features more than 400 arts and crafts booths as well as numerous food and drink vendors from 10 a.m. to dusk each day.

Free and family-friendly activities including musicians, bands and entertainment.



Winterhaven Festival of Lights

Dec. 10-26

The 67th annual Festival of Lights at Winterhaven offers exceptional displays of house lights that leave visitors in awe. The festival runs daily from 6-10 p.m.

Hundreds of thousands of southern Arizonans visit each year.

The event is free to attend but the neighborhood asks visitors to donate non-perishable canned food or money for the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona.

Last year, the event gathered nearly $24,000 and more than 42,000 pounds in food.


What would George Carlin do?

What would George Carlin do?



Dear Mr. Bryan:

I was recently chastised at a friend’s party because I told a rape joke. I thought the joke was funny and I know a few others did too, but the overwhelming response was very negative. My question for you is: Are rape jokes ever funny or should they be completely off limits?

Not as funny as I thought?

Dear Not Funny:

I can’t speak on your rape joke because you didn’t share it in your question. I can, however, provide a confident answer.

Yes, rape jokes can be funny. Anything can be funny. It all depends on timing, delivery and content/context.

Your audience doesn’t matter. One shouldn’t sacrifice humor for the sake of those who could be offended by a certain topic. If this was the case, there’d be no humor in the world. We’d live in some strange politically correct dystopia.

Of course, some people are more sensitive than others. The world can be horrific, and there are folks who have dealt with rape on a personal level.

As a sufferer of childhood abuses, I find jokes about my hardships to be cathartic. Plenty of people feel the way I do but there are plenty who don’t.

My thoughts on rape jokes are in line with one of the greatest comedians to ever live, George Carlin:

“Different groups of people in this country say you can’t joke about something because it’s not funny. Comedians run into that shit all the time. Like rape. They’ll say, “You can’t joke about rape. Rape’s not funny.” I say, “Fuck you, I think it’s hilarious. How do you like that?” I can prove to you that rape is funny. Picture Porky Pig raping Elmer Fudd. See, hey why do you think they call him ‘Porky,’ eh?” —George Carlin

It’s important to take others’ feelings into account. Of course it’s safer, maybe smarter, to steer clear of these types of jokes if you’re not willing to catch a little Hell from all of the social justice warriors out there. But, you have your right to free speech. Hopefully you use it wisely.

If your intentions are pure, if you’re simply trying to make people laugh, go for it.

Never intentionally set out to hurt anyone’s feelings. If you do that, you’re just an asshole and hopefully someone will punch you square in the nose.

The bottom line? Anything can be funny. Taboo topics are always the funniest. Tell those jokes, my friend … and know there are plenty of people out here in the world laughing along with you.


Dear Mr. Bryan:

It hurts and burns every time I pee for weeks now. It’s becoming unbearable. I have no other symptoms. What should I do?

Scared to use the bathroom

Dear Scared:

I’m not a doctor but it doesn’t take a doctor to answer this question. You (most likely) either have an STD or a UTI.

Go to your doctor or closest urgent care, take the meds, follow their advice and do your best to keep it clean.

Abstain from sexual activity until you’ve followed the directions in the previous paragraph.

And some friendly advice: Don’t wait so long to do something about it if there is ever a “next time.” OK? OK.

You’re welcome.


Submit questions via email to, as a private Facebook message via Press or via Twitter @ aztecpressnews using #prettytiedupAP. Use a pseudonym.

Top 10: Black Friday/Cyber Monday shopping destinations

Top 10: Black Friday/Cyber Monday shopping destinations


Black Friday brings out the best and the worst of America. People line up days in advance and shove their way through crowds to obtain material items at discounted prices. Others wait to shop online during Cyber Monday. Whether you see more good or evil in holiday shopping, here are the 10 best destinations to satisfy your fix.

  1. Sears

Sears really does offer a little of everything, including clothing, shoes, appliances and tools. The city’s two locations at Park Place and Tucson malls will be open on Thanksgiving Day. Sales ads are available online at

  1. Kohl’s

Swagger lacking? Kohl’s stores carry clothing of all styles and should have some killer deals. Tucson’s three Kohl’s locations will be open on Thanksgiving Day. A sales ad is available online at

  1. GameStop

This one is for the gamers. GameStop will be packed with deals on new and used games, consoles and accessories. GameStop locations are usually a bit smaller, so should be an earlier stop on your list. There are more than a dozen GameStop locations in town. Find more information and a sales ad online at 

  1. Home Depot

“Do it yourself” starts here. For those who get a kick out of tools, lumber, gardening supplies and plumbing accessories, Home Depot should surely be on your list. There are seven locations throughout Tucson. Find more information and a sales ad at

  1. JCPenny

Another fine clothing store indeed. Don’t limit JCP to just clothing, though. It has one of the best selections of jewelry and accessories in the retail game. There are four locations in Tucson, including El Con and Tucson malls. Find a sales ad at

  1. EBay

The first website on the list! Seriously though, who doesn’t know eBay? You can find just about anything within reason. There will be deals online for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Find more information at 

  1. Best Buy

Now we’re getting to the good stuff. Best Buy is tech-head heaven, with just about every electronic device you could want including video games, computers, televisions, phones and movies. It’s difficult to visit and not find something of interest. There are three Best Buy locations in town. View sales ads at

  1. Walmart

The market giant offers some of the best Black Friday deals, but will also be one of the busiest destinations. If you do this often, you surely have a crazy Black Friday Walmart story. There are more than a dozen Tucson locations. Find a sales ad online at 

  1. Target

Target is like Walmart with half the crazy. It’s another store with a little bit of everything, including clothing, food, toys and electronics. All eight Target locations in town should be packed for Black Friday. Find a sales ad at

  1. Amazon

Amazon is another website where you can find just about anything. If you want to avoid physical contact, you can find that same big-screen television and possibly for a cheaper price. This fan favorite seems to be the future of shopping. Find a sales ad and more information at