Waiting can be murder: I am very impressed with the current "Penalty Zone" series. Steve Jackson has captured the very essence of the trials. Even though we know the outcome, I was as excited reading his work as I would have been reading a new novel. I can't wait for the next installment.
Weed it and weep: I read with great interest Julie Jargon's June 14 story on the Denver Botanic Gardens, "The Secret Garden," because just today I mailed a letter to the executive director and copied Mayor Webb. I attended the first Gardens concert, and, to put in mildly, it was a disaster. The rain alone should have been enough to cancel the event; however, the band was an hour and a half late and played for only about thirty minutes, leaving those of us in the audience saturated, cold and $31.50 poorer. As a member of the Botanic Gardens, I am appalled that they did not cancel the concert, reschedule, refund money or take some other appropriate measure.
I have never seen the Gardens look worse than this year. The peony bed was a huge disappointment. A sign says it's under construction, but the weeds are growing sky-high, and we stumbled across a dead squirrel! I hope the board of directors is sitting up and taking notice of what was once a great cultural attraction. Above and beyond their staff problems, they have an image problem with a hundred or so brave souls who waited for two hours in the rain for a half-hour concert. Not what I would call a bed of roses.
Excessive pruning: I worked at the Botanic Gardens for two or so years and resigned because no positive action was being taken about the working conditions. I certainly agree that the turnover is extremely high (I would guess over 50 percent) and that people are either fired, forced into positions that cause them to resign or treated in such a way that they can no longer tolerate the conditions, or their jobs are abolished.
Name withheld on request
New growth: I am writing a personal response to Julie Jargon's peculiar little piece on the Denver Botanic Gardens. I am the curator of plant collections at the Gardens, entering my 22nd year of service at that institution. I was interviewed and contributed to a much more expansive Westword piece twelve years ago; perhaps if you had been as thorough this time, you would have spared yourself embarrassment.
It is true that the DBG has seen an enormous growth and change in the last two years under Brinsley's management. Brinsley may be many things, but an ogre and a tyrant hardly fit his scholarly, British persona. He has transformed the DBG from a pleasant, provincial park into a dynamic and far more formidable enterprise with much higher standards and a vastly greater scope. There are those who like things small and tame; every knowledgeable gardener I know is thrilled with the changes at DBG, and so are our first-time visitors.
What are the changes? Our much deteriorated physical plant has been refurbished dramatically. An enormous emphasis has been placed on customer service, and, most important, Brinsley hired Rob Proctor as director of horticulture. Rob has brought in a team of outstanding regional designers (and empowered existing staff to join that team) to bring a new and much higher level of artistry -- and integrity -- to all facets of our collections. I have never been privileged to work with so many highly motivated, highly effective and brilliant people as presently serve in our horticulture department. I am professionally and personally offended by John Starnes's assertion that "there's a staggering level of waste there." What waste? We have a fraction of the carpet bedding that comprised most of the horticultural display when I first arrived at the Gardens. We no longer plant vast expanses of bulbs and annuals that are trashed in huge heaps, as they were for decades. We naturalize our bulbs, and all but one of the 24 gardens planted last year feature hardy plants, and the largest new gardens feature native plants and naturalistic design. Despite planting hundreds of thousands of hardy perennials, trees and shrubs last year and the driest July in years, our overall water consumption at the Gardens was actually reduced by nearly a quarter. Where is the waste in that, Mr. Starnes?
People resist great and unfamiliar new things; when these things are of the grandeur and excellence of what has come into being at Denver Botanic Gardens, one can expect some resistance. I do not deny that there has been some confusion from time to time, especially early in the process. But Jargon's article seems to suggest we throw out the baby and save the bathwater. For shame!
Panayoti Kelaidis, curator, plant collections
Denver Botanic Gardens
Perennial problems: As a longtime community gardener, I have seen this before. After promising us in 1996 that the community gardens would be left alone for the next ten years, then-director Richard Daley departed for greener pastures. Then a new director comes along, and the new projects' wish list remains the same $40 million. The already rejected parking garage is back in.
Isn't it amazing how one person's legacy is another's bureaucratic empire-building? I guess we can keep paving and building until hundreds more employees work there; so what if the total greenery keeps diminishing? The last time I looked, people could already view plants year-round.
Name withheld on request
Playing with fire: I'm responding to Mr./Ms. Ph.D.'s June 21 letter regarding Kenny Be's great Worst-Case Scenario in the June 7 issue, about Westy the cat spin-off merchandise:
Say, is your Ph.D. in "high and mightiness"? Because I only have a bachelor's degree, but I could figure out that Be wasn't encouraging me to go out and light my neighbor's poodle on fire. Let me translate for you: This cartoon was satirizing what always seems to spring up around these events that none of us finds funny: made-for-TV movies about JonBenét Ramsey and book deals for her parents; CDs, lapel pins and now license plates commemorating the Columbine tragedy.
Come down from your ivory Ph.D. tower, pal. Those of us you consider your lessers aren't quite as stupid as you think!
Name withheld on request
Birds of a feather: The point of my May 31 letter to Westword was not that I have a soft spot in my heart for white suburban males. My point was simply that putting people into stereotyped categories, as "Derf" does, is simply no great feat. In his June 14 letter, Rusty Belicek may have been right in asserting that I am a fool, as I have the fool's hat, unicycle and glow-in-the-dark juggling balls to prove it. He may be dismayed to learn that I am a vegetarian, pagan-festival-loving cat person who voted for Nader in the last two elections. On the eve of the Avs victory, I was bird-watching at Chatfield. This may make me a stereotypical Lynda Barry or Matt Groening fan, but please, Rusty, at least meet someone before you cast them in some narrow mold!
via the Internet
Music to his ears: I want to congratulate Westword on its letters-to-the-editor policy. Even when writers are highly critical of your paper, among others, you allot the space for their views, no matter how manic or misconceived. But I see through you. The letters are highly entertaining and draw a certain readership of their own. Often, the content identifies the writer as a nut job, and that makes it all the more fun. All you have to do is honor the writer's request and run it. We all benefit from people making complete asses out of themselves. While I am sure they consider themselves quite serious, they appear ridiculous when you give them what they want. The letter is in the paper and the writer imagines a humbled publication that has been "told real good." The rest of Denver is choking on Fat Tire and hilarity as they read it. Meanwhile, all Westword has to do is stand by and watch the self-destruction.
I especially enjoy readers who go ballistic over your music reviews. I'll assume the reviewers you hire know a little about music, but that is neither here nor there. The fun arrives by the boatload when the follower of a garage band, or one ranked higher, rankles over the reviewer's less-than-sterling comments about the trash coming off the stage. Word to the fans: It is music. It is entertainment. Regardless of your views, it isn't all good, and a lot of it is crap. But please, please, please, don't stop sending your nonsensical garbage to Westword's editor, because that is much more entertaining than the band's "music." As long as you think music criticism should be a federal case, we are all quite entertained. Rap is shit, and you don't have to like my review, either. See? I get it!
Keep up the good work. One hysterical letter can make the whole issue. The only sad part is that some writers waste trees or electricity to send them to you.
Name withheld on request
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Makin' Bacon: In John La Briola's "Birds of a Feder," in the May 31 issue, he wrote that Colin Bricker "also introduces a bit of slow dub electronica via his cameo as the William Caslon Experience ('Leaving Light' remix)." This is patently untrue. Short of being socially acquainted with Mr. Bricker, we have no relation whatsoever to him.
The William Caslon Experience is an ongoing down-tempo/ambient collaboration between myself and Denver muso Nate Butler. Since 1998, we've released four CDs, started our own label, American Bacon Recordings (americanbacon.com, where most tracks from our first two CDs are available for free in mp3 format), have been remixed by or worked with top U.K. electronic artists such as the Herbaliser (Ninja Tune Records), Fila Brazillia and Baby Mammoth (Pork Recordings), have done several remixes ourselves (Janet Feder's being one of them), and are generally swell guys trying to make a name for ourselves in a very competitive genre.
Sadly, the local (and national) scene hasn't embraced down-tempo to the extent that Europe, Canada and beyond have, so while our work speaks for itself there, here we're all but unknown. It's a bit disheartening to have the small amount of local press we have received be misleading. Having seen the Speak Puppet CD, I'm aware that the liner notes were a bit scarce, but we felt it important to set the record straight.