Bad news for Buena Vista Social Club fans: A group of seven Cuban musicians scheduled to play in Missoula this week as part of their North American tour won’t be rolling into town on the appointed date. Valle Son, one of the country’s popular son groups, recently became a cultural casualty of homeland security, their tour delayed pending approval by the U.S. State Department using standards yet to be determined.

Specifically, Valle Son have been unable to obtain the necessary permission due to the “Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act” (H.R. 3525), a provision to prevent residents of the seven countries listed by the State Department as “state sponsors of terrorism” from obtaining nonimmigrant visas. Cuba has been on the list since 1982, along with Iran, Iraq, Sudan, North Korea, Libya and Syria. Assuming the State Department gives them the go-ahead, there’s a chance that part of the Valle Son tour can still be salvaged—but it’s probably too late for Missoula.

“It’s really depressing,” says a spokesperson for the band’s Canadian record label, Caribou Records, who previously hosted Valle Son on a month-long tour of the Yukon Territory in the summer of 2000. “To my knowledge their INS [applications] have been approved. There’s just been a new regulation on these seven countries purported to have terrorist links. Now they’re just waiting.”

“Presenters are canceling because they’re not sure when the band is going to get here,” the spokesperson adds. “It’s terribly unfortunate, and our hands seem to be terribly tied.”

Valle Son were scheduled to appear at The Ritz. Says the crestfallen Indy arts writer assigned to write about the show: “They’re incredible. I can’t believe they were coming and now they’re not.”

Hey! That’s what I told my Dad I was majoring in at college, too! Back in junior high, I remember ridiculing a science geek friend of ours who told us that he wanted to get his Ph.D. in lasers. “Lasers?” we guffawed. “Whaddya gonna major in, light sabers, with a minor in warp drives and tractor beams?” As with most prepubescent ribbing about the future job prospects of our pimpled brethren, good ol’ Todd sure had the last laugh, as he’s now firing off experimental particle streams for NASA…and taking home a paycheck of galactic proportions.

So who are we to ridicule the scientific endeavors of Montana State University (MSU) summer student Kristen Susens, whose project for the Environmental Protection Agency involves research into hot tub technology. According to the Center for Biofilm Engineering at MSU—no, biofilms have nothing to do with the Wildlife Film Festival or late-night skin flicks on Showtime—the EPA is funding a five-year project to develop a standard method for testing the effectiveness of hot tub disinfectants. The current method, developed in 1965 and modified only slightly over the years, was designed primarily for swimming pools, and only looks at free-floating bacteria, not the biofilms, or slimy communities of bacteria, that accumulate in pipes, filters and seating areas of hot tubs. (One survey of Gallatin County hot tubs found biofilms in 87 percent of them, one-third of which exceeded state standards.) As the old testing method doesn’t take into account changes in water chemistry, periodically Susens adds a liquid to her research Jacuzzi that imitates the sweat, oils and urine of weary soakers. So what’s the yellow rubber duckie for in the research tank? Apparently, just shits and giggles.

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