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The Players PUBLISHER: Tom Price ASSOC. PUBLISHER: Janna Rodriguez AD MANAGER: Samantha Yniguez CONTENT EDITOR: Nathan Quevedo

Nyx Records

Local couple aims to make local music more accessible. Page 12

Summer Camp

Playhouse Merced offers children chance to shine. Page 16

WEB GURU: Kenneth Nelson DISTRIBUTION: Donna Nelson CONTRIBUTING WRITERS & EDITORS: Nathan Quevedo, Jim Kocher, K Chico, Theresa Hong, Amber Kirby and Montse Reyes. CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER: Dan Hong.

The Cover COVER: Cool Cool Summer at Lake Yosemite.

Summer Fun

DLM shows you some local fashions and fun for the sumertime.


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MODEL: Jennifer DeLaCruz

The Bug

Just a short drive away, this rustic resort offeres rare features. Page 22

UC Lab Tour

Issue 46 Volume 3

Robotics lab pioneering future of unmanned aeronautics. Page 28

SUBSCRIBE Would you like to get 12 issues of the Downtown Life Magazine delivered to your house for just $25? You will receive Merced County’s premier entertainment, culture and event publication right in your mailbox along with a host of gifts from the DLM and deals from local sponsors and advertisers.




Find Us WEBSITE: FACEBOOK: TWITTER: EMAIL: ADVERTISING: 209-568-6363 EDITORIAL: 209-777-6176 SNAIL MAIL: PO BOX 1604 Merced CA, 95341

7 PAGE SEVEN Where am I?

If you know the name of this Downtown building, email your answer to tom@thedlm. com or Tweet it with #WHEREAMI for a chance to win a $20 gift card to J&R Tacos.

Tip of the p Ca Congratulations to to the folks at 17th Street Public House. The Downtown Craft Beer Bar will officially open its doors on July 11. Tip of the Cap to Toni’s Courtyard Cafe, the Downtown eatery was named the California Small Business of the Year by Anthony Cannella. Do you know a person or an organization who deserves at Tip of the Cap? Send us your tips to

July Issue answers


Possessed by Paul James The Wizard of Oz The Art Hop Patty Ascher

Contributed Photo Possessed by Paul James will be performing with Willy Tea and Cole Thomason on July 24 at the Partisan. Tickets are $5 and doors open at 9 p.m.

Possessed by Paul James


one-man band from the live music capitol of the nation, Possessed by Paul James plays in Merced this month with some local favorites.

during Vietnam, he lives in Texas with his wife and son. Wert’s 2010 album “Feed the Family” won Alternative Country Album of the Year in the 10th Annual Independent Music Awards and he is also the star of “The Folk Singer,” a film PPJ is 37-year-old Konrad by Slowboat Films with Wert, who plays banjo, international circulation. fiddle and guitar in a folk/ Possessed by Paul James blues/punk style. most recently toured with Raised in a small Frank Turner of Epitaph Mennonite community Records, Chuck Ragan among pacifists, service of Side One Dummy, Jon workers and transplants Snodgrass and Chad Price

Suburban Home Records, Jim Ward and others through The Revival Tour in 2009. Check out Possessed By Paul James with The Good Luck Thrift Store Outfit’s Willy Tea and Cole Thomason on July 24 at The Partisan.

The Jump visit for an expanded story and to see the video.

Photo by Nathan Quevedo

MCOE Presents ... ‘The Wizard of Oz’ Join Dorothy and Toto on a magical quest to another land as Merced County students present “The Wizard of Oz.” The Merced County Office of Education, in partnership with the Merced Union High School District and the MCOE Foundation, is hosting the second annual Summer Performing Arts Program that will culminate in four performances of L. Frank Baum’s classic tale that spawned a Broadway musical and the well-known 1939 film adaptation. The play will be performed by more than 90 fifth through eighth grade students from throughout Merced County and 15 high school students from MUHSD that are volunteering for the program; the program began June 10 and runs through July 20. Performances are July 18 and 19 at 7 p.m. , July 20 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the Golden Valley High School Theatre. All performances are $5 and tickets can be purchased at MCOE, 632 W. 13th St. in Merced, or at the Golden Valley Theater starting one hour before each performance. For more information, call Lee Lor at (209) 381- 6601 or email her at llor@

JULY/AUG EVENTS 11 Art Reception

Gallery reception for Kimberly Zamora’s exhibit titled “Those who will be afraid” Multicultural Arts Center, 5:30 to 7 pm Facebook Event

13 30 Minute Parking

The band’s final show in Merced featuring Terra Alive, Tri Hards, Scrunchy and Outcomes. Make It Happen Facebook Event

20 The Art Hop

The quartely Downtown event that turns storefronts into art galleries is celebrating its 20th event this month. . Downtown Merced, 5 to 9 pm

17-25 “Dog Sees God”

The Merced College Theatre Society will be performing Bert V. Royal’s “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead” Merced College Theater, July 17, 18, 24, 25 7:30 pm Facebook Event

26 “Goonies”

Classic 1985 film will be screened at Downtown’s historic Merced Theatre. Merced Theatre, 7 pm

For a complete listing of events visit 10

Art Hop Roundup

The Merced Art Hop is kicking off its 20th event July 20 as shops on Main Street in Downtown Merced will turn into art galleries and local artists will showcase their art. This quarterly event, which is held from 5 to 9 p.m. , helps promote businesses and artists in the region with a specific focus on Downtown Merced. Families, art fans and residents of all ages can meet local artists, view art, and listen to live music, participate in art activities and watch performers in Bob Hart Square. This Art Hop we will have painter and performer Sangmei Goosby demonstrate Chinese calligraphy and small paintings, she will also play the Chinese harp (Guzheng). Artist of the Quarter painter Donny Clark will showcase his art in Binary Systems CPU Repair. More than 50 local artists will showcase their art in downtown businesses and an exhibit in Gallery 1637. Once again, the scavenger hunt will be part of the Art Hop, and participants who complete the activity will receive a coupon card and be entered to win the grand prize. Art Hop maps and scavenger hunt forms are located at the information table in Bob Hart Square.

Merced Art Hop Plans 2nd Annual Fundraiser The Merced Art Hop will have its second annual fundraiser on Aug. 22 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Merced Civic Center located at 678 W 18th St. , Merced. Merced Art Hop is a nonprofit organization and operates on an extremely tight budget; all proceeds will go to the Art Hop’s expenses and sustainability. The fundraiser will have music, hors d’oeuvres and drinks. Artists will showcase art and paint demonstrations and a team of artists will design clay art and auction off the final works. Like last year, there will be a silent art auction of pieces donated by local artists in addition to large community paintings painted by attendees at the Art Hops. There will also have two different raffles for prizes donated by businesses and donors. Admission at the door is $10 and sponsorship is available for the event and in the program. For more information, contact Kimberly at (209) 6580661.

Patty Ascher

Brazilian born Jazz singer Patty Ascher will be performing at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 3 at the the Merced Theatre. Ascher brings an alluring quality to bear on every one of her evocative tunes. From achingly beautiful interpretations of songs by the likes of Michel Legrand and Burt Bacharach, to heartfelt renditions of her own affecting Bossa Nova and R&B Flavored originals. Legrand calls Ascher “hypnotic on stage, a great diva.” Ascher grew up in a musical family from Sao Paolo, Brazil. She cits Brazilian divas Leny Andrade and Gal Costa along with American singers Nina Simone and Ella Fitzgerald as important influences. Her performances are amazingly diverse, you will hear versions of Louis Armstrong’s “Dream A Little Dream of Me,” “High Society,” and “St. James Infirmary” along with Bacharach’s “I Say a Little Prayer” and “What the World Needs Now is Love.” This unique evening filled with a blend of Bossa jazz and Samba with this beautiful and young talent is presented by the Castle Air Musuem. All proceeds will beneif the nonprofit museum, which features historic military aircraft. The museum is a great educational tool and this concert will help continue museum’s mission of “preserving aviation’s military heritage for future generations.” For tickets, visit or call (209) 381-0500. THEDLM.COM


Nyx Records Words by Tom Price

Photo by Tom Price From left, sound engineer Dan Hong and Nyx Records founders Jordan Cowman and Alison Rush at the Arc Studios.


ordan Cowman never has a shortage of ideas. One of Downtown’s industrious busy bodies, Cowman seems to have his hand in everything — from an allmale calendar sold to raise money for the Merced County Arts Council (MCAC) to poetry nights at Coffee Bandits. 12

He’s even started and LGBT action group and a comic book meet up, so when his talented fiancé, Alison Rush, was thinking about making an album he thought,“Why not make a record label?” In January, Rush released her debut album “Rarest Bird” on Nyx Records, a record label cofounded by the musician and her fiancé, Cowman. The couple partnered with local do-it-all digital producer Dan

Hong to record, master and package the album. “We were making this record with Dan and it just seemed like, why wouldn’t we start a record label?” says Cowman. “This is our totally real and not at all made up record level. The process was not painful at all and it was a lot of fun. And Alison is one of the hundreds of people that would like to have something recorded.” Rush’s album was received well at the albumrelease party back in April, and since then has spurred confidence in the trio to establish a boutique record label in Merced. Based out of Hong’s warehouse/studio dubbed “The Arc,” they are currently recording local artists with predesigned packages that can include everything from studio time, mastering and packaging, to promotion, booking and marketing. They currently have two recording engineers, Christopher Casuga and Skyler Francise, who charge the bands directly for their time. Hong doesn’t charge the bands a dime for using the space. “I basically said let’s pick a day and do it, “ says Hong. “Everything is sort of falling together nicely.” In addition to “Rarest Bird,” Nyx Records

recently released “Local Grind,” a live recording from a Coffee Bandits open-mic night. The album features 15 different artists and is available at Coffee Bandits. The group decided to release their albums without a price tag; consumers pay what they can for the album. “There’s a certain thing that happens and it’s what everybody calls a scene,” says Hong. “What happens is somebody takes the lead and somebody jumps out and starts doing something and suddenly 10 new bands pop up.” They are currently in the studio with local rock group Bus Stop Boxer and have many more projects planned. They hope their work and the growing music scene will inspire others to get out of the garage and into the studio. “The psychological power of having something recorded – something concrete – is amazing,” says Rush. “It’s really powerful to have concrete substation of the weird and random two years of songwriting, and the ability to give people that freedom and power to express themselves is really cool.” For more information, you can find Nyx Records on Facebook and on the web at www.nyxrecords. com.

The Jump visit to listen to a song from the “Local Grind” album. THEDLM.COM


Scrunchy When: 6:30 p.m., July 13 Where: Make It Happen Cost: $5 Info: Facebook Photo by Montse Reyes Local musicians give their band a second chance and they are setting the bar high.


Words by Montse Reyes

Is second time’s the charm for this talented band of local artists?


working title for a young band that’s still trying to find their footing, Scrunchy is a five-piece rock outfit based in Merced. The group is composed of members Kevin Abresinos (bass), Lemuel Abresinos (drums), Saul Preciado (guitar), Cody Leverett (guitar) and Lilly Obomsawin (vocals).

past January. The second time around, the group came a little more mature and with a clear vision of the kind of music they wanted to make. “We all just matured and set aside our differences. We realized that we were pretty good the first time around so why not try again,” says Obomsawin. Admittedly new with not much in their repertoire, Scrunchy covers music from bands with female vocalists, like Metric, Black Sheep and A Fine Frenzy. The band’s few original songs have a bluesy feel to them, says Obomsawin. She says the band In 2011, as sonically inclined college chooses choose to play music that pulls from students and friends, the five decided to each of their diverse musical backgrounds try their hand at making music together. and influences, playing music each member Unfortunately, the project didn’t last. They were together for about four months before enjoys. . “It’s literally throwing spaghetti fizzling out because of personal differences. at the wall and seeing what sticks,” quips They remained friends, however, and with Lemuel. Three-fifths of the group are classically plenty of time to reflect, they reformed this 14

trained musicians, no doubt offering unique backgrounds to bring to the table next to their fellow garage band counterparts. Obomsawin is a vocal performance major at San Jose State University and a previous member of the Chamber Singers at Merced College. Lemuel is a classically trained orchestral percussionist, jazz pianist and jazz drummer who studied at California State University (CSU) Stanislaus. Preciado picked up the saxophone in fifth grade and continued playing in school bands for ten years. Surroundings are key for the band, who have individually immersed themselves in communities that help stimulate them, whether that be through their local music scene, their immediate group of friends or even the Internet. The group admits that a sense of community has played an integral role, not only in this band’s development, but in the way they approach music as a whole. “It makes you feel like you’re not in it by yourself. You begin to think about music every single day and see it as more than a hobby,” Preciado says. “The community is you,” Lemuel adds, explaining that communities are made up of individuals who take initiative to build something positive, and all too often individuals adopt a defeatist mentality, consequently refusing

to contribute to their community. A move alien to their generation, in the seven years since the band’s inception, Scrunchy has chosen to avoid an online presence. However, despite not having a FaceBook page, a Soundcloud or Bandcamp account, a blog and not many live show performances, Scrunchy appears to be making a conscious and calculated effort to take all the right steps. They are careful to release any music that does not meet their personal expectations, failing to fall prey to pressure of releasing music for the sake of having something out there. “We’re really new,” Abresinos admits. “We haven’t reached the point where we want to have media out for the public to listen to. . .since we’ve been [playing music] for a long time, we know what sounds really good, so the bar is set pretty high.” Kevin adds that perhaps if they were younger or more novice musicians, they would call it a day and say the tracks are good enough — but they are not. The group strives for quality, choosing to take a little extra time to get things right. You can catch Scrunchy at one of their first shows on July 13 at Make it Happen on 18th Street in Merced with 30 Minute Parking, Terra Alive, Tri Hards, and Outcomes. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and tickets are $5 at the door.

The Local Review

Matt & Rosie Off The Air Recordings (2013) Matthew Sai and Rose Droll’s voices intertwine like clouds of smoke wrapping around each other, flirting together and winding apart before fading away into the sky. Their EP, titled Matt & Rosie, is a one off collaborative project between the two Modesto, CA natives. The result is a soft, simple, folk-tinged record that is definitely worth a listen. The album opens with “Catholic Whiskey”, one of their more upbeat tracks. Instrumentation is fairly minimal, as remains throughout the whole EP. Sai and Droll stick to piano and acoustic/ electric guitar, enlisting the help of drummer Chris Haupt. Though Sai takes the lead on vocals for the song, the music is really at it’s best when Droll is joining him.

— Montse Reyes

The Jump visit for the full review of the album and to listen to a sample song.

Contributed Photo Playhouse Merced Theater Camp students perform “Seussical the Musical.”

How I Spent My Summer Playhouse Merced’s Theater Camp for Children Words by Jim Kocher


he lobby at Playhouse Mer- people ranging from 5 to 12-years old. ced is typically a gathering Sitting on the floor in small groups, they are all taking a lunch break before starting place.

In the evenings, patrons are here before a show starts while they chat with friends, enjoy a pre-show beverage and listen to final sound checks from within the theater. By day, the Playhouse staff might hold a staff meeting in the lobby, or even a quick lunch break. During the summer days, however, all of that changes. On this particular afternoon, the lobby is filled with about 40 young 16

rehearsals for “Seussical the Musical,” the theatrical production they’ve been working on for the past three weeks. The room is now filled with lunch boxes, sandwiches, bottles of water and chatter — lots of chatter. These kids are enthusiastic about being a part of Playhouse Merced’s Summer Youth Theater Festival and any passerby can hear it. Playhouse Merced’s Summer Youth

Playhouse Merced Conservatory Instructor. These tireless three not only lead the charge for what takes place on stage for the actual show, but they also keep track of all the young people Contributed Photo and their movements Playhouse Merin and out of the ced conservatory theatre and then, instructor Danaelle during performances, Rodriguez. backstage. Rodriguez is Theatre Festival both directing and camp is designed to musically directing give young people “Seussical the an opportunity Musical.” “The to experience the summer program is magic of theater. one of my favorite Those signing up times,” admits and paying the Rodriguez. “It’s fun to see some of the $250 tuition not current students who only get to be on are enrolled in the stage in “Seussical conservatory come the Musical,” but also learn what goes out and perform, and to see some who are on in the creation getting on stage for of a theatrical the very first time.” production. Playhouse The Summer Merced’s Youth Theatre Young People’s Festival is run by Conservatory runs a triumvirate of energy, organization year round. “Grease: School Edition” plays and skill: Noelle Chandler, Playhouse August 2-4, 2013 and conservatory classes Merced Education begin in September. Director, Mike Check www. Kittel, Playhouse playhousemerced. Merced Associate Artistic Director, and com for more Danaelle Rodriguez, information.

The Jump visit for full story and to learn more about Danaelle Rodriguez and the conservatory. THEDLM.COM


Cool Cool

Summer Lake Yosemite Photos by Dan Hong

A perfect retreat any day of the summer. From family BBQs and wakeboarding to boat races and jet skis there is a ton of fun to be had on this little oasis.

Models: Joel Storey Jennifer Delacruz

Male fashions provided by: The Armory. Female Fashions provided by: Chloe’s

Models: Jeek Reff RayLo Cookie

Bob Hart Square/Downtown

Come to the heart of Downtown Merced where in the last year three new restaurants, a nightclub and bar have all transformed the entertainment district. And stay tuned for Third Thursdays in Bob Hart Square starting July 18. There will be live music, food and other entertainment in the Downtown Park.

Fashions provided by: Fitz Direct

H&W Drive-In

A Merced Summer Classic, H&W has is the home for hot rods and cool drinks. Try their amazing homemmade root beer and classic milk shakes.

Model: Alisha Shook

Fashions provided by: Chloe’s

Classic Double Bacon Cheeseburger

Two juicy 1/3 pound beef patties served on a toasted hamburger bun, topped with mayo, lettuces, tomato, pickles, two slices of American cheese, and two thick pieces of bacon.

French Fries

Classic crinkle cut french fries cooked to perfection with the perfect blend of unique seasonings.

Root Beer Float

Rich vanilla ice cream with H&W’s favorite root beer served in an ice cold mug.

The dishes in these photos can be purchased at H&W Drive-In, 121 W. 16th Street, Downtown Merced

Day Trip Even magazine publishers need a vacation sometimes. DLM publisher Tom Price recently took a summer break and headed up the mountain to the Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort. And of course he brought his notepad. Words by Tom Price

Photos by Tom Price The Yosemite Bug Cafe is located off Highway 140 a few miles past Mariposa. This hidden gem is treasured by it’s regulars and is a perfect locale for a day trip out of Merced.


e turned off Highway 140 a bit past Mariposa and a short distance before we hit Yosemite. We followed the arrows to “The Bug” and after driving up a steep hillside, a sprawling retreat was revealed nestled in the trees. A mix of living quarters ranging from dorm-style huts to multilevel cabins are scattered across the 50-acre property.

leash, we head toward to the Yosemite Bug Cafe located across from the parking lot at the bottom of the hill. Numerous people in tank tops, shorts and other summer garb wander around the grounds. It’s the sort of scene you might expect at a backyard BBQ: totally relaxed and friendly. We stride in the cafe where we are to meet Douglas Shaw, a former San Francisco-based stock exchange “gambler” who opted out for a change of scenery in 1996 and rolled the dice on an old retired Boy Scouts camp in the hills above Mariposa. When I first see Shaw, he is behind the counter, his iPhone stuck to My friends Oscar and Heather, who joined his ear (apparently he doesn’t have AT&T). me on the excursion are immediately taken He’s the embodiment of a San Franciscanby the scenery, but the first thing we notice turned-local-mountain folk. He’s got the . . . no cell phone service. NO CELL PHONE scruffy beginning of a nice summer beard SERVICE! yet wears the type of black-framed glasses Completely disconnected from our digital you might see on a Silicone Valley techie. THEDLM.COM


Like everybody else in the room, he’s wearing a big smile while members of his staff — a delicate mix of dependable local employeed and college students looking for summer travel opportunties — rush around him in the kitchen. I’m enthralled by the vibe in the room. It feels like that camp every sixth grader attends for school, but with beer, pork belly and pie. I immediately press him to tell me how and the heck he ended up in Midpines serving up fresh food and a fresh take on how to travel to Yosemite. “Authenticity is really the key to this

eat anything else. I had a chicken pot pie, Heather had a Kale salad and Oscar had pork belly. We easily ate every bite and got a little insight into how they work their magic. They have two large gardens on the property where they grow many of the vegetables that were on our plates. They use fresh, local and organic fruits, vegetables and grains. “We make an effort to be affordable and to make sure everything we use has some sort of benefit,” says Shaw. After dinner, we each had a piece of blueberry or strawberry pie that was out of this world. The whole time all I could do


get the impression that each of the visitors sees The Bug as their little secret: their retreat from the heat in Merced or their getaway from the hustle in San Francisco. thing,” says Shaw, who after leaving the stock game bounced around working in management at a few corporate hotels. “It helped me figure out that I was probably too independent and didn’t fit inside the corporate structure.” When he purchased the property, he says, there were only four workable structures located on the land. He opened it as a hostel-style getaway. For nearly six years, he operated it by himself, driving down to the city to buy groceries for the night’s feast, which he created and cooked in the kitchen. As he’s telling us these stories we walk across the property, which has grown substantially from four to 20 structures, including a spa, yoga room, massage therapy and relaxing bath tub rooms. “It’s crazy,” says Shaw about The Bug’s growth. “I guess I have a really hard time just sitting still.” It seems like there are secret hideouts around every corner. From couches on the edge of the lower deck of the cafe, to the public kitchen for travelers who prefer to prepare their own meals. And after Shaw treated us to our first-ever meal at The Bug Cafe, I wonder why anybody would 24

was wish I had access to social media so I can brag to all my friends about what I was eating. However, the uniqueness of this Midpines hideout is not limited to the cafe. Each room in the vacation rental has it’s own theme, from Victorian to psychedelic (think “Austin Powers” meets Duck Dynasty). Whether we are walking through the cafe or up the stairs to the village, it seems like everybody wants to come and say hi to Shaw. I get the impression that each of the visitors sees The Bug as their little secret: their retreat from the heat in Merced or their getaway from the hustle in San Francisco. In addition to the cafe, day trippers like us can also catch live music all summer on Friday or Saturday nights and they have an outdoor jam session every Tuesday night. Shaw says his clientele is about 50 percent international and the remaining is a mix of Bay Area and Valley visitors and it’s no coincidence that he has folks who return every summer to be a part of The Bug. For those of us in the know, this is our little secret. For rental prices and more information on the spa, café and live music, visit www.

CAFE AT THE BUG Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

0Fresh comfor t foods with vegan & vegetarian options 0We source local, organic or sustainable when sensible 0Famil y style dining 0Folk/Bluegra ss live music 0Right ab abo ve a Health Spa 0Excel lent for special e vents

Worth the Trip

Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resor t 6979A Highway 140 Midpines, CA 95345 For dail y menu go to Facebook or 866.826.7108 x6 THEDLM.COM


Photos by Tom Price Geri Brown and Norman Khuri sell their jarred goodies and olives at the Wednesday Farmer’s Market at the Promenade and the Downtown Market on Saturday.

The Pickler

Farmer’s Market regular creates magic in a jar Words by Amber Kirby


very Wednesday and Saturday tucked behind a folding table at The Merced Certified Farmers Market is a bit of nostalgic charm. Geri Brown, with her bright pickled beets, crisp pickled okra, delectable pickled green beans, and syrupy sweet jams and Norman Khuri manning the cigar-box register.

hayseed,” Brown laughs. The two joke about their courtship, “Turns out our sons work together and so we decided to join one another at the company dinner. Coincidentally, we both had dental work — a hundred dollars a plate and we were eating the clam chowder!” Khuri teases. The couple, both in their eighties, began business back in October 2012. “I was making the beans and okras as Christmas gifts every year for my family, he couldn’t sell his olives because of the cap (restrictions Brown was buying turnips off the back of a pick-up truck when she found Norman. on farmers selling the same crop at the market) and so I suggested we pickle some He was selling his famous cured olives. “I went to buy vegetables and came back with a of these green beans. And it just grew from 26

there,” she explains. Brown and Khuri hold a Cottage Kitchen License from the California State Department of Public Health, allowing for home kitchen food selling operations. Though the two aren’t certified by the market (a seller must grow their own crops to meet certification) the two purchase from local growers. Geri explains, “I help every farmer in town, but mostly we buy from Yang on McKee. Just this morning we purchased 20 pounds of okra. That’ll make about four dozen jars.” For the jams, they often get fruit from local growers, including Shasky’s Farms, another vendor maintaining a booth at the market. The art of pickling, though becoming

ever more popular in artisan circles, isn’t something Brown learned from Pintrest. The tradition was learned working at her mother’s elbow. When asked if her mother taught her to pickle she said, “When I grew up it wasn’t called teaching, it was ‘you get in here and do this,’ but at her elbow yes. I had the job of washing the jars mostly.” Every recipe is a memory and the timing and tasting — an instinct, an inherent knowledge. “Now the beet recipe is my mother’s, who would be 105. She also made a soup that my kids call ‘Granny’s Soup.’ They keep begging me to make it. I think I’ll have to soon!” Pickling is a process by which foods are preserved

through fermentation, usually with vinegars and spices. The success or failure of the taste is on par with the likes of wine makers. Time and attention to detail yield the supplest and aromatic batches. The foods usually hold a salty and sour taste, and flirt with the flavors of spices used during the process. With Brown’s, the vegetables come out unbelievable crisp with a hint of warm chili and fragrant garlic. Both Brown and Khuri have had their hands in the soil since birth and their families came to the country as many Valley families have — as cotton and peach pickers. Brown pioneered farmland out in an area called “Red Top” — old ranch-land around Chowchilla — with her first husband until he became ill. Khuri still grows the olives he cures. He expects his next batch will be in October. For now, the couple sells Brown’s jams (plum, apricot, apricot-pineapple, peach and pomegranate this fall), pickled okras, green beans, beets, and carrots, and soon plans to have pickled Indian peaches. When asked if we should fear them retiring soon, Khuri exclaims, “No! If you stop they’ll throw dirt on you!” But Brown says they do this mostly for the joy. “We enjoy the people. I take a cookie jar out for the children,” she says. “And if it all ended tomorrow, we had a good run.” THEDLM.COM


Photos by Dan Hong Dr. YangQuan Chen’s robotics laboratory is pioneering advances in unmanned aeronautics.

Unmanned Wonders Words by K Chico


ny high-tech lab has some security systems in place, usually in the form of key cards and sealed doors. In order for visitors to get in, they must be escorted by someone within the lab. Waiting to meet the DLM crew for their tour of YangQuan Chen’s robotics laboratory is a man wearing a 3-D printed Green Lantern ring. This should be good. 28

Brandon Stark, lab manager of the Chen lab, is the right hand man of the researcher who is spearheading advances in the unmanned aeronautics field. He has an impressive academic track record himself, along with a variety of hobbies, comic book heroes included. As in any laboratory that is working with electronics, the large room filled with bookshelves crammed with notes and reference books, is kept cool and free from dust. Although the lab was established less than a year ago , the undergraduate and faculty investigators are hitting the ground running during their first major summer. The principal investigator himself (often abbreviated PI) greets us and our escort as we walk in. Originally from Singapore, Professor YangQuan Chen is a friendly man with the curious joy of a man who gets to play with what he loves for a living. This lab, if not for the large group of researchers, could be accused of biting off more than it can chew. With more than a dozen major projects in the works and big ambitions for their first year, it seems

they have a clean, efficient formal hierarchy of tasks. This assumption, like many others, is fantastically wrong. There is no lack of respect, but while the physical structure of the lab is somewhat formal (plastic dividers between test areas and computer areas for safety, labeling of drawers and tape demarcations on the floors) the people are anything but. Two undergraduate girls are figuring out their schedules (they’ve settled on carpooling in at 7 a.m. the following morning to get a jump start on their projects) and a third young man is balancing a propeller two tables over for use in a four-rotor copter robot that has many uses ranging from building 3-D landscape maps to helping ranchers find stray cattle. An early student project in this lab focused on building a low-budget plane that could sense heat disturbances below. Think that sounds trivial? Not to those who work with natural gas pipelines. This could potentially save lives, replacing workers previously tasked to find leaks in hundreds of miles of pipelines that could cause explosive accidents with a small machine. Anything that keeps human beings away from fiery death is a good thing. I am handed a long plane, the first entirely 3-D printed in the lab. It is bright blue and strangely heavy. The plastic that the machines use to deposit the layers that build these pieces from the ground up is rather dense and smells like the packaging on new toys. There are multiple machines on every table, ranging from

traditional plane designs (fixed-wing) to insect-like helicopters with four or six rotors. The researchers hope to become a huge asset to the Central Valley agricultural community. Their work can save farmers and ranchers money – from building small planes that can distribute pesticides without a human pilot to surveying livestock, and even providing real-time checks for erosion or other land changes. Because of its wide range of uses, the lab strictly utilizes low-budget materials. They salvage parts from every crash and figure that breakage is part of the process. They use foam, plastic, tape, small circuit boards for controls (which are often designed in the lab) and anything else that would make the final products affordable to those they are meant to help. Part of their strategy is not purchasing from outside suppliers for parts. Instead, researchers print with a triple armada of in-house 3-D printers. My only disappointment is that they are not named the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria, however, the proud little MakerBot machines

are referred to in a way familiar to any sailor — the affectionate feminine form. During the DLM interview, the second machine has a small technical difficulty and the project is shifted to another printing bed. Brandon Stark, our Green Lantern lab manager, says during a series of directions to another researcher, “She’s being fussy again. Let’s give her a rest. Switch over to number three, she’s doing fine.” As with many new technologies, UAVs are not yet entirely accepted by the general public. Since they use similar technology to some military applications, perhaps this is understandable, however, Dr. Chen hopes that time will help ease the public’s discomfort, similar to the way that horseless carriages went from being shunned a century ago to becoming the huge automotive industry that exists today. If you are strolling along Merced and see a tiny plane zooming high above you, please don’t be alarmed. There is a researcher holding a joystick somewhere and neither they nor the plane mean you any harm. THEDLM.COM


Photos by Dan Hong The Merced College Theatrical Society begins its four-day run of “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead” on July 17 at the Merced College Theater.

Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead Words by Theresa Hong


ver wonder what exactly Charlie Brown got from Lucy’s impromptu therapy sessions? Did her tough words of wisdom (or not) convince Charlie Brown to strive for greatness or did he spiral into a black hole of infinite depression? And what about Lucy? If you’re anything like me, you have pondered over the fate of the beloved Peanuts crew at least once. The good news is, now you can follow them during their teenage years through “Dog Sees God: 30

Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead,” playing at the Merced College Theater July 17, 18, 24 and 25. Written by Bert V. Royal, “Dog Sees God” is an unauthorized parody that imagines characters from the popular Peanuts comic strip as teenagers. All character names have been changed, so the audience is tasked to put the pieces together themselves (for example, one can assume Charlie Brown is portrayed as CB, while it is implied that Schroeder is Beethoven). And although many parts are humorous, you won’t be seeing Snoopy doing his signature happy dance – not this time. “The play addresses a lot of pressing

issues teenagers and young adults face today — drug use, suicide, eating disorders, violence, identity crisis and sexuality,” explains “Dog Sees God” director Jason Best. “I was drawn to this particular production because I see myself in so many of the characters, and speaking with others who have seen the play feel the same way I do. I thought this was a very interesting and entertaining medium in bringing these important issues up front.” Best says he’s wanted to direct “Dog Sees God” ever since he first saw the play several years ago. The themes resonated with him on a deeply personal level. “When I was growing up, I was a victim of homophobia and it left a strong impression on me, as well as made me the person I am today,” he says. “But some people may not be able to deal and to me, this play drives home that. Yes, life can be unfair and shitty, but it’s going to be okay – always remember it CAN get better.” “Dog Sees God” is produced by the Merced College Theater Society. The group is independent from the Merced College Performing Arts Department and established with the goal of expanding the department while at the same time showcasing guest directors, actors and other talented individuals through productions that wouldn’t necessarily be a part of the department’s regular season, explains Merced College Theatre Society President and Merced College student Amber Rain Fowler. “I think the Theatre Society is a true representation of community theater – anyone can audition for a Theatre Society production – and we encourage,

welcome and appreciate new faces,” says Fowler, adding, “I think the term ‘community theater’ often is associated with unprofessional – nothing can be further from the truth. Our productions feature a wide variety of fresh talent and gives actors, directors, technical crew, costumers, and of course, our audience, an experience they won’t get anywhere else. I think bringing talented individuals together with different backgrounds and experience is the essence of community theater.” Best, who has acted in Merced College and Playhouse Merced productions, as well as directed several Merced College Theatre Society productions, agrees. “I really love being involved with Theatre Society productions because it gives us the opportunity to produce shows you probably wouldn’t see anywhere else in Merced, while offering real-life experiences to people who have varying levels of theater experience – and we embrace them all,” he says. “That’s why I’m so excited to direct ‘Dog Sees God’ – there are always new faces and new talent we showcase, proving that Merced really is full of talent.” Merced College Drama Professor Carin Heidelbach says she loves the fact that the Theatre Society has passionate members that are confident and motivated enough to produce something independently. “ ‘Dog Sees God’ is a great show with great parts everyone can all relate to,” she says. “I love how the Peanuts characters are reimagined and nearly grown, dealing with very mature, adult issues. I am confident they will put on a great production.” Both Best and Fowler say Heidelbach is a huge supporter of the Theatre Society, THEDLM.COM


offering her expertise and advice, as well as cultivating an environment that combines learning with real-world experience. “Carin is so talented – she’s a great teacher, mentor and actress – and she’s always willing to share her knowledge with us,” says Fowler. “I have learned so much from her; she really is a rock.” Best says “Dog Sees God” is entertaining in an unusual way using beloved characters to show the audience everyone has issues, and hopes audiences will not only be entertained, but reminded that actions and words are important – and can be so powerful that it can make or break an individual. “It’s OK that everyone has issues — ­­­ and that can be funny for sure, but it’s not OK for a person to berate another person because of those issues or because they don’t agree with their choices or lifestyle,” Best emphatically stresses. “My hope is that this play conveys the damage this type of bullying or criticism can cause in a smart and entertaining way ­— and that this type of torment shapes people and


doesn’t go away. So, please think before you open your mouth.” “Dog Sees God” will no doubt leave the audiences wanting more of these eccentric characters, leading me to question what exactly happens to CB after his teenage years. I asked Best what he thought. “I imagine CB as a successful writer for the New York Times. I mean, he had enough pen pals, so here’s hoping he’s an excellent writer,” he says laughing. “I truly do hope things work out for him.” But, of course, they must be teenagers, first. To catch a glimpse into anything but the wonder years for the Peanuts gang, don’t miss “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead.” For more information about the Merced College Theatre Society, go to “Dog Sees God” runs Wednesday, July 17, Thursday, July 18, Wednesday, July 24 and Thursday, July 25 and show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets to are available for $5 at the Merced College box office.

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Saturday, September 28th, 2013

Night of

1000 Stars Save the date and join the Mercy Foundation as we celebrate our 2013 Gala For more information visit our website at or call 209-564-4200

Visit our website at for a link to our special YouTube video THEDLM.COM 35


DLM (July)  
DLM (July)  

Arts, music, culture and entertainment in Merced and the surrounding area.