Snow job: I always look forward to your annual Best of Denver issue, but the "Denver, Why I Love Her" essays made this year's really special. I love Denver because it can snow three feet one day, and that snow will be gone three days later. I love the contradictions.
As your Best New Slogan for Denver says, "Denver: We Love It! Most of the Time!"
Altitude with attitude: In Denver, our burgers are made with buffalo, and our beer is made with love. We brew more beer than any other city. In our rarefied air, the sky really is bluer. The sun feels warmer because we're closer to it, but our coffee is cooler because water boils at 202 degrees. At this altitude, a golf ball goes 10 percent farther. So does a cocktail. We're the only city where our parks are vandalized by beavers (who are eating up the landscaping trees along the South Platte) and our park lawns are mowed by goats. Our airport is bigger than Boston. Denver's been burned to the ground, flooded, hit by earthquakes and tornadoes, bypassed by railroads and lost four Super Bowls, but we always bounce back. Our heroes? Molly Brown, who proved "unsinkable," and comeback king John Elway. The fourth quarter belongs to Denver.
Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau
For the birds: I remember being so excited to read the Best of Denver to find new restaurants, bands, places to visit, cheap fun, etc. Now it has become a ridiculous waste of paper, and my time. Too much useless information.
I skimmed through this year's Best Of hoping it was better than the year before. I was surprised not to find categories like Best Socks Worn By an Ex-Porn Star Who Visited Denver in 1972 or Best Floor Tile in a LoDo Bar to Puke On. If the person/s researching and writing for these issues are tired of actually doing it, get new writers. Or have the existing writers promise to stop going out and getting wasted while coming up with these categories and ratings. It has become tiresome high school drivel and too heavy with nonsense to carry around.
Best Use for the Best of Denver Before I Read It: lining my bird cage.
Best Reason Not to Print This Letter in the Next Westword: Too many people agree with me, and it's the painful truth. Please surprise me next year and make it worth my while!
Weather or not: I was thrilled to see KDVR's Bob Goosmann win Best TV Weathercaster. His honest, enthusiastic and informative style is like a breath of fresh air. I am glad that I am not the only one who is annoyed by the other affected, pompous, blowhard weathercasters who think they can accurately predict tomorrow's high temp to the exact degree. Now, if we could just get him off of Fox and have him replace one of the phonies on channels 4, 7 or 9....
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Drew, pardner! Hey! What's up with leaving Drew Soicher out of the drawing of your Best Morning News Team? In this viewer's eyes, the "team" consists of Kathy (Sabine), Kyle (Dyer), Gary (Shapiro), DREW and Gregg (Moss).
Drew is the only Denver sportscaster who presents professional sports in the manner that reflects what it really is: entertainment. How important is that? Especially on a TV station where sports reporting is in overkill, overdrive. (No locker-room funeral voices during Drew's reports! Leave that caca to Zarrella!)
Drew is good at what he does, and the formats he's developed for material delivery are the most innovative of any on the local networks. Without Drew, you've got no morning team! How about giving Drew the kudos he's earned and reissue a new character drawing with the whole team?
Editor's note: Best of Denver winners, beware! We've heard of numerous businesses trying to sell you signs, banners and other Best Of-inspired paraphernalia. Please note that you will be getting a plaque -- a free plaque -- from Westword commemorating your win; no other offer is connected with this newspaper. In any way.
Law and order, SUV: Regarding Julie Dunn's "A Gopher in Your Pocket?" in the March 20 issue:
Here we go again. Some animal nobody ever heard of is going to stand in the way of progress. In this case, the pocket gopher could halt construction along I-25. It seems to me that the only redeeming quality of this poor little wannabe rat is the ability to move and mix a lot of dirt, "creating patches for plants to grow." Well, so what? Home Depot does more than that. Without Home Depot, we wouldn't have Lowe's, let alone Wal-Mart and all the peripheral stores that go with all the massive parking lots.
And then where would all the people in Douglas County park their SUVs?
Oyster stew: As an old restaurant hand, I've been following Jason Sheehan since he arrived at Westword.
I thought he was too focused on being edgy at first, trying a bit hard. But congratulations, because now Sheehan's at the top of the profession's game in a rather quick turn. The last two reviews I've read, on Le Central ("The French Connection," March 13) and Lola ("The A List," March 6), show that he understands the business from both inside and outside and can communicate his knowledge, experiences and feelings -- and do it all very well indeed! I'm glad he's here.
Jason, keep growing and this world can be your oyster.
Editor's note: You're not the only one who appreciates Jason Sheehan's work, Bill. Competing against reviewers from newspapers across the country, including the top dailies, Sheehan was recently named one of three finalists in the Newspaper Restaurant Review category of the James Beard Foundation Awards. The winner will be announced at a banquet in New York City on May 5.
To BBC or Not to BBC: Regarding Michael Roberts's "Tanks for the Memories," in the March 20 issue:
I have found the coverage of the war by BBC World (carried by KBDI-TV, Channel 12, evenings) to be the most objective and informative -- and the least cheerleading -- of all the TV war news I've seen. The title, simply "Iraq War," doesn't inflame its viewers, and the captions don't roll across the screen competing for your attention, but instead merely summarize their stories' main points. (You can also access "The Beeb" at www.bbcnews.com.)
Cable channel 22 in Denver is shared by the Denver Public Schools and a German news network, Deutsche Welle, or DW-TV (www.dw-world.de), whose programs here are given in German, English and Spanish. However, since right after the war began, I haven't seen it on Channel 22. Perhaps the cable company thinks Deutsche Welle will tell us Americans something we're not supposed to hear.
The big shrill: KNRC's afternoon blabster, Enid Goldstein, "has grown increasingly shrill," Michael Roberts writes in the March 20 Message. Increasingly? She's a San Francisco Democrat who's always sounded like what you'd get if you crossed Nancy Pelosi, Algore and a Baghdad air-raid siren. Only she has a much smaller plastic-surgery kitty and no "all clear" signal.
Roberts caught Goldstein's paranoid portside political proclivities in the glare of his headlights for but a paltry paragraph -- hardly enough to even leave skid marks. Enid is a turbocharged Lefty who roars down the anti-Bush freeway with the Chicks blaring, not the little old lady who only takes her thoughtful pacifism out of the garage on Sundays. Meanwhile, Roberts gives KHOW's Scott Redmond the Clara Harris treatment for four long paragraphs because he's pro-America on this one issue. Redmond hasn't the throaty, big-block dogmatic horsepower of "Salt Flats" Enid, but he still aims his rattletrap '71 VW Microbus straight down the left lane on most other issues. How Roberts short-shrifting the politics of one commentator while exaggerating another's boosts the octane of the reporter's claim that the news media mostly pass on the right is a logical pileup.
Control top: According to Julie Jargon's "Reading, Writing and CSAP Scores," in the March 13 issue, "Two years ago, Governor Bill Owens decided that public schools in Colorado needed to be held accountable in a much bigger way than ever before. Just as students receive grades for their work, he reasoned, so should schools."
Take into consideration that the students aren't held accountable for their testing and know it...that the students regard the whole affair as if it's a day off, with no grading for them, no pressure, no big deal. So five seventh-graders leave the (suburban) school grounds, smoke a couple of joints, and are back at their seats. Their resulting tests are mumbo jumbo. They don't care, but the school does. It hardly seems a reasonable measure of the school's benchmark on teaching reading, writing and math.
I believe our schools are being rated on "how much control they have over their students." Discipline or lack thereof is the real criterion being rewarded. Let's call a spade a spade.
Capitalist prigs: Having been a fan of Westword for a long time, I always find John Cassella's rants against the inherent evils of capitalism and its jackboot followers -- including his March 20 letter about "Reading, Writing and CSAP Scores" -- a good chuckle. I think perhaps John should stop reading Jack London's Iron Heel so much. It's those "Republican Capitalist Swine" who want to privatize that most communistic and socialist affront to humanity -- public education -- into a stock-tradable commodity. Maybe John's actually a plant for the other side...hmmm?
It does make for good reading, though.
Bill Petersen Jr.
Adding insult to injury: Mr. Schell, your letters about Julie Jargon's education stories are insulting, baseless and untruthful. You obviously know little about education or teaching. The fact that you graduated from school does not make you an expert. You dare to describe teachers as "incompetent bums" and "twits." You don't offer evidence, only insults and name-calling. A yearly test like the CSAP is not a reflection on any teacher. Standardized tests are inherently biased, often measuring nothing useful.
You say that we don't earn our paychecks and that we receive bonuses for doing our jobs. Yes, there was a one-time stipend for some in struggling schools teaching subjects that lack teachers. My stipend was less than 8 percent of my salary. Clearly, this was not CEO-grade.
I came from the private sector. I worked as a software project manager and spent eight years working 55-hour weeks as a paramedic. Teaching is the most demanding position I have held. Being soaked with the blood of a stabbing victim or staying in the office until midnight to finish a report are nothing compared to teaching chemistry to a roomful of disinterested teenagers under the scrutiny of the ignorant.
Governor Owens decided that schools needed accountability. Nobody argues with that need. His plan was to develop a test upon which school evaluations would be solely based. The CSAP is excruciatingly difficult. Many adults would score unsatisfactorily. I suspect that Owens's reluctance to divulge his scores reflects his poor performance.
You complain that schools have cut some programs. This is an unfortunate necessity. In order to perform well on the CSAP, a student's literacy skills have to be above average. Even the mathematics portion of the CSAP requires well-developed writing skills. Because the CSAP is the sole test of school performance, schools are forced to spend disproportionate class time on literacy in order to improve their scores.
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Imagine that you move to Beijing. You're to attend school and learn in Chinese. Twenty-five percent of DPS students are in a similar situation. They've moved here but aren't English-literate. Many don't have the advantage of being literate in their native language. Somehow you blame the teachers because these students aren't proficient in English, and thus perform poorly on the CSAP.
Some responsibility must be laid upon the students and parents. Many parents dump their children into the schools, forcing teachers to be surrogates. Some parents don't spend time working with their children, reading with them or showing involvement in their education. Instead, students come from bookless homes where the television is never off.
I hope that most don't share your opinions. If they do, you'll find fewer teachers to deal with America's out-of-control and under-parented children. Many teachers will leave to go back to "real" jobs that pay better and are less stressful than teaching. Perhaps you could fill a vacancy. I'd love to see how much success you'd have.
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