And Snow It Goes
If I may be irreverent and politically incorrect, I have just one comment in regard to Patricia Calhoun's "Klondike and Snow Job" column in the November 15 issue: You go, girl!
After all, we are talking about polar bears--not toys, not cartoon characters, and certainly not real, live people with real lives. TV news is quite often an oxymoron in this dusty ol' cowtown. I hope Ms. Calhoun keeps writing them as she sees them.
Although I agree that the coverage of Klondike and Snow was ridiculous, I have to ask this of Ms. Calhoun: Where was her paper's coverage of the Million Man March?
Let he (or she) who is guiltless cast the first stone.
No more succinct and on-target assessment of the public's pathetically prolonged love affair with those bi-polar pets could ever be expressed!
Right on! Ditto! Amen, editor Pat!
If Calhoun will sneer and poke fun at "sobbing children" and thousands of parents who somehow felt robbed when Anheuser-Busch made off with a couple of bear cubs, she should--and probably does--expect insults in return. And she should--but probably won't--print them. Here goes:
I loft the improper digit in the traditional salute and say to Ms. Calhoun, "This, Sis, is for you!"
If any reader wants to know why Patricia is taking a last cynical and somewhat late parting shot at the deported bears, he need look no further than the glossy and colorful (and very profitable) insert in Westword that same issue, advertising Anheuser-Busch beer.
Calhoun's is not by any means the only newspaper so bought by Anheuser-Busch in its campaign to stock its subsidiary Sea World with polar bears. She is diminutive spuds. If she had a truly inquiring mind, she might try to find out, as a favor to the public, who else sold out--and for how much. Who else in the media, who else in the Webb administration, who else at the zoo.
Personally, I don't notice a hell of a lot of "warm, fuzzy" stuff going on in this town. Along come Klondike and Snow and--for a while, anyway--they have people smiling at perfect strangers. How dare they smile when there is world hunger! How dare they forget the budget or Bosnia for a minute and stand there with a silly, happy look on their faces! How dare a little boy stand at Northern Shores and sob, "Why do they have to go?"
Shall I go on? Shall I get really insulting? Here goes:
If Ms. Calhoun had suited up as a polar bear and wandered around at the zoo that week, she would have caused a panic. The crowds would have scattered, screaming, "Run for your lives! Ulu has escaped!"
I'll assume that your "Klondike and Snow Job" was written in only a mock-curmudgeonly tone--toward the innocent bears, at least. The various media, however, and the markets that drive them, deserve every possible abuse.
There is no longer a pretense that the "news" is any less market-driven than any other commodity--which it has become--especially on local electronic outlets. Ever try to find out what's going on in the world on Channel 4 or KOA on a Bronco Sunday? I'm amazed, on any given evening, how much more hard information a half-hour network newscast gives me than local affiliate shows up to four times as long. (And when I read the paper the next day, I realize how pathetic the Brokaw/Rather/Jennings reports were.)
But ultimately, not even local radio and TV stations, er, "bear" the blame--not here in the U.S. of A., where nothing has value without a dollar sign in front of it. Ever since the broadcast bean-counters began defining newscasts as merely other blocks of time in which to sell commercials, the "news" has grown increasingly less newsy. And this is only in response to a curious, sad--one may argue, even tragic--American strain of self-centered philosophy which, at the end of the twentieth century, has mutated into this: Hey, we won our struggle for individual liberty over two hundred years ago. So don't bore us, don't try to bum us out or guilt-trip us with high-minded stories about the homeless, the poor, Bosnia, the fact that the environment is going to hell on a major scale or that the health-care industry is robbing us blind. Don't make us look at any "big pictures." Instead, kindly shut up and give us a minivan. Give us our crook-like insurance companies, give us our rip-off DIA. Give us a green lawn and the money to pay someone else to take care of it. Give us Windows 95. Tell us what Jim Carrey thinks. And please, please, another helping of those that are, literally, warm and fuzzy: Klondike and Snow.
Unfortunately, it all fits together.
I like bears. Bears don't blow away other bears. Bears don't steal or waste my money. Bears don't wreck the environment with needless greed. Bears don't manufacture nuclear-radiation waste products. We can learn a lot from bears (perhaps only if it is subconsciously). Is there anything more important than bears? This is debatable. Wise old zen master says: "Nothing is `important.'"
Patricia Calhoun: I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed the "Klondike and Snow Job." I agree with you totally and think you're giving Dave Barry a run for his money with your fine editorial style. Thank you for getting the message out for all the wasted time we've had to endure listening to that crap from all the news stations and so on.
I think Lewis and Floorwax are okay, too.
I am writing regarding Michelle (Dilly) Dally Johnston's "Incomplete Assignment," in the November 8 issue, in which she lambasted Mayor Webb (unjustly, I might add) for just what, I don't understand.
Let me recap, as best I can, her article's accusations:
1. He made a campaign promise. To wit: I'll find an education czar. This was wrong?
2. He made a genuine effort to fulfill this campaign promise. To wit: I'll get this done before the beginning of the '95-'96 school year. This was wrong?
3. He appointed "a group of 27 ethnically diverse citizens from high school students to university chancellors who volunteered to take a list of 286 applicants and from it find the right person for the job--with the understanding that the process would be free from political cronyism." This was wrong?
4. He accepted the nominations of the committee and each subcommittee, reviewed those nominations and attempted to make an appointment. This was wrong?
In my estimation, the dunce hat has been placed on the wrong head. And you do not have an adequate supply of them. Consider the others named in your article.
J. Lee Carey
Is it really surprising to anyone to see Mayor Webb delay a decision, appoint a committee and then, when it's time to make a decision, cower to a few outspoken activists? My disappointment lies not with an indecisive mayor but with the weak man who fears making the right decision. When Mayor Webb appointed Carol Boigon, he should have felt it was the right decision.
Now is the time for Mayor Webb to send a message to the city, as well as to those affected by this appointment--the children of Denver. That message should be loud and strong: "When I make a decision, I stand by it and take responsibility for it."
Yet Webb was being politically blackmailed by Nita Gonzales and other allied forces. Ms. Gonzales obviously did not approve of what was right for the children when she stated she did not want a "white missionary woman" as a liaison to the mayor. She was more concerned about the color of the appointee's skin. She apparently feels that it is the person's skin color or culture that qualifies him or her for the job. In effect, she is turning back the clock to an era when the color of a person's skin did matter. She should be ashamed of the example she set for Hispanic schoolchildren and should apologize for such ignorant and bigoted remarks.
Congratulations to everyone at Westword for Michelle Dally Johnston's "Incomplete Assignment," which related a sad yet familiar morality play in which all of the villains seemed to be people of color. The tale of "how Mayor Webb's search for an education czar was hijacked by racial politics" made me nostalgic for the good old days when affluent white men like Ben Stapleton and Bill McNichols and their loyal party hacks controlled Denver politics. Back then, the city "fathers" always put the well-being of the community as a whole above partisan and private interests, didn't they?
To save DPS and the city as a whole from, in the words of Ms. Johnston, an "ambush" by "minority politicos" in the future, why don't we simply consider banning minority leaders from public office altogether? If the city council and school board are once again made up entirely of white people, then people like Kay Schomp will not have to worry about "Bosnia in (our) own backyard."
My thanks to the predominantly white staff at Westword for once again uncovering the petty "behind-the-scenes ethnic politics" engaged in by politicians of color. You might consider sending your expose to the folks at the National Review, the American Spectator, or Rush Limbaugh's newsletter. I am sure they would find the insulting tone and ugly message of the piece quite reassuring.
Brent A. Cruz
Let Us Give Thanks
I read with more than passing interest Michelle Dally Johnston's "A River of Asphalt Runs Through It," in the October 18 issue, concerning the planned residential development near the Chatfield Arboretum. Having been a resident of south Jefferson County for eighteen years, having enjoyed the trails in the arboretum, having been a Denver Post reader for the same eighteen years and a person interested in environmental issues affecting our community, I was reminded.
I was reminded that Westword has the courage to take on issues that the so-called major papers and electronic media do not. This story is just one of many examples.
I was reminded that there are still people of courage and conviction who understand that a recognition of the necessity of change does not involve the abrogation of fundamental principles. (Kudos to attorney Alison Maynard, who is donating her time to the Sierra Club groups, and Ann Bonnell, a nature guide with the arboretum who is apparently being threatened with litigation for the crime of speaking her mind.)
I was reminded that even in this, the greatest of all countries, the monied interests and the politicians (nearly all of them, it seems) are hand in glove with each other while the needs and desires of the general population are given little attention--when they are given any attention at all.
I could go on, but I'll spare you a flowery speech. Thanks for being there, Westword--for keeping us informed of events of importance that are quietly occurring in our community and that deserve closer examination.
Curtis V. Smith
That Tickles the Ivories
It was stunning to flip through the November 1 Westword to Alan Prendergast's "The Brico Requiem" and see a face from my childhood--in a younger incarnation than I'd known, at that. This woman was of mythical proportions to me even then. When my younger brother and I had to put away our blocks, we found the element of fun in imagining that the potato sack where they belonged was Dr. Brico, its opening her mouth hungrily gobbling the blocks. There was no disdain in this--just an instinct on which your article shed light. During my brief stint as Antonia Brico's piano student at age four (I was in way over my head), I didn't know of her accomplishments, and the famous connections meant nothing to me. The pictures of Albert Schweitzer on the picture-coated walls were of her grandfather, I thought, or some archetypal grandfather of us all.
Perhaps with the cataloguing of the concert tapes, I'll be able to hear the piano concertos my older brother played with the Brico Symphony in his youth and then fondly recall the gatherings afterward at a place called Bauer's. And then I'll indulge in one of my great loves--piano playing.
My son is very talented on piano and violin. He has perfect pitch, a photographic memory and can play the piano in the dark and the violin behind his back. He has won many honors with both instruments, including what I think was "Congress of Strings" in 1976, conducted by Dr. Brico. The musicians came from all over the United States; he was the only one from Denver.
I first met Dr. Brico in a doorway after a concert of her young students. I told her my son played the piano. She inquired about him, then invited us to her house to hear two piano students. They were great, and our family went to the public concert to hear them.
At a public library sale, I bought a small book by Albert Schweitzer. I was sure it was just private notes that he never intended to be published. In it was a picture of his leper hospital. I treasured the book very much but thought Dr. Brico would especially enjoy it. When I called, she said that she had all of his books, but then she asked the title and learned she didn't have that one.
When I gave it to her, she went to her room and came back with a fistful of rumpled bills. I said I didn't want anything but would like an autographed photo of her. It took her some time to find a brochure, to which she added a delightful autograph.
I was stunned and thrilled by Alan Prendergast's wonderful article. It is so precious to me.
What's the Alternative?
I would like to comment on Michael Roberts's November 1 Feedback column on the sorry state of Denver's commercial radio stations. It's pretty ironic, but ever since the Peak went on the air last year as a supposed alternative to what was already out there, things have actually gotten a lot worse than they previously were. If anyone still doesn't believe this, all they have to do is take the "thirty-minute channel-surfing test." This is where one scans our three pretentious "alternative" stations (KTCL, the Peak and KBCO) and sees if it's possible to go more than thirty minutes without hearing either Peter Gabriel, U2, REM, Natalie Merchant or Talking Heads. Sadly, nine times out of ten you lose. So much for "alternative," huh?
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Of course, this sorry trend is nothing new. KTCL has been going downhill for several years now, ever since they decided to dump their more or less freewheeling approach to music selection in favor of standardization and computer-generated playlists, not to mention their abandonment of a musically sophisticated audience in favor of the teenagers they seem to covet so much nowadays. The Peak, meanwhile, is about as alternative as General Motors, while good old, stodgy KBCO has adopted a "world-class" approach to everything, including groups like the Eagles and the Doobie Brothers. Need I say more?
There was once a time when alternative (or progressive) radio was about turning people on to good music. Now it's just about playing the hits. Today's "alternative" radio stations have become the lapdogs of huge American media corporations and have an army of "experts" and "consultants" planning out their every move. Like everything else in our society, money rules, and a lot of great artistic talent never gets heard. Once again, corporate America has fucked up a good thing, and it's got plenty of brainwashed suckers in the radio business who are more than eager to go along with its version of "alternative."
Is there any hope for commercial radio? It doesn't look good. But at least we have one good station here, KGNU (from Boulder), that devotes part of its day to offering some really good music that can't be heard on any of our so-called alternatives. Man, am I ever getting sick of that word.