The kids are all right: Regarding Michael Paglia's "Sunset for Skyline," in the May 15 issue:
I am one of the kids who used to hang out at Skyline Park, and to hear the language used by city officials and the media regarding the kids who hang out there is saddening and offensive. They are not "mall rats" there to pester the yuppies at their al fresco seating. They are just there to hang out, and as Skyline is a public space, it is their right to do so. The city could put anything there short of an electrified cage and the kids will still hang out at that space, so there is no reason to destroy it.
At the college I am currently attending, Skyline Park is in a textbook on landscape architecture. So its destruction saddens me, because I know the kids will always be there -- but unfortunately, Lawrence Halprin's masterpiece won't be.
No parking zone: I am in shock after reading Michael Paglia's article about Skyline Park being demolished. Denver is going to hell in a handbasket. What can I do? What can Denverites who care do? I was upset with the Denver Post building going down, I was furious about the May D&F plaza, but this is just too ludicrous. Closing public libraries and crying no money in the budget, then spending $3 million to destroy a park and build another?
All's well that ends well: Regarding The City, in the May 15 issue:
C'mon, guys, even we Atheists know that "The End Times" include the Rapture, not the Ascension.
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From gangster to wankster: Regarding David Holthouse's "Justin Got His Gat," in the May 8 issue:
You've got to be kidding me. Justin Green is unjustly serving a seven-year sentence? He's just a good kid who got caught up in the world of gangster rap? Please tell me this is some sort of joke. Dude ain't nothing more than a little wannabe punk who thought owning an assault rifle and singing along with 'Pac made him hard.
Poor Justin. His privileged upbringing with his lawyer mom and engineer dad and all of their friends of power "was not satisfying to [his] inner self, to [his] soul, to [his] heart." So Justin got real fucked up on Xanax and alcohol one night, threw on his fly Karl Kani and his visor (which he undoubtedly wore both backwards and upside down like every other dorky rich white kid trying to look gangsta) and went into a party with a chip on his shoulder and ran his mouth. Once things got heated, he ran home and got his assault rifle. That's right, his assault rifle, even though his mommy and daddy's influential attorney friends swear "he is a kind, respectful young man that [they] trust completely." Excuse me, Miss Former Denver District Court Attorney: No one who owns an AK-47 can be trusted completely.
So anyway, Justin brings his gun back and fires fifteen to twenty shots above the house by his own groggy admission, with one actually entering the home occupied by 25 or so people who have done nothing to this guy. After his ultra-brilliant escape plan of walking a stray dog to Wash Park to dispose of the gun failed, Justin decided he best find a suitable copout. So he chooses gangster rap. I'm sorry, Justin, but like you, I gravitated toward hip-hop for its alternating tales of anger, despair and power -- and not once did I stop off at the local gun stop and pick up an Egyptian assault rifle, let alone shoot up a house full of strangers. Although I certainly had no rich and powerful parents like Justin did, at least I had the sense to distinguish between my reality and the reality of Snoop, Cube, Pac, 50 or whoever else it is his dumb ass listened to.
So what do Justin's parents do about this? Well, take him to Spain, of course. Nothing would make a child see the errors of his ways like an exotic trip to beautiful España, right? These people are idiots.
But when it comes to idiocy, David Holthouse certainly gives Justin and his clueless parents a run for their money. How much harder could you ride this yokel's jock? You are supposed to be a journalist, Mr. Holthouse. Your story was so one-sided in favor of Mr. Green that you should never, ever be allowed to refer to yourself as a journalist. Dick-rider would be a better title for you. You are supposed to be objective and present both sides of the story. While it appears you did at least speak to the prosecuting DA, your writing makes it clear that you do not agree with her, and your attempt to make her out as the enemy is both unprofessional and obvious. You even go so far as to insult the judge, saying he had a "disturbingly loose" understanding of the case, because "no bullets were fired 'into the house,'" when you yourself report that one bullet in fact did. The story in itself is certainly an interesting one, but your blatantly biased telling of it leaves much to be desired.
And for Justin, despite your 150 IQ, your reading of Jung, your new colorful use of prison slang and even your new tough-guy prison tattoo, you are still just a rich kid who had everything handed to him and threw it away trying to act like something you're not. If you can't understand that, let me put in a way you may understand better: You's a wanksta.
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Teacher's fret: I have rarely been as troubled by an article as I was by "Justin Got His Gat." Justin Green was my student at George Washington High School. I cannot imagine that this kind, gentle soul who was so quick to flash a warm smile could be doing seven years' time in a Colorado penitentiary for a crime so nebulous, in which no one was assaulted nor any property damaged. It seems that he is punished for what might have happened and perhaps even for who he is.
Who is indeed responsible for this abominable crime that could have happened? Justin has certainly accepted his part, but what about the society that failed Justin? What sort of a society allows an individual to buy an assault weapon? Who, exactly, needs an assault weapon in this country? Unless I am mistaken, they are designed to kill as many people as possible in as short a period of time as possible. So why are they available if a person is not then allowed to go out and shoot?
Perhaps the judge who sentenced Justin and the attorney should re-read Camus's l'Etranger, for there is a strong parallel between the protagonist and Justin. Both are convicted for things other than the crime committed. Both suffer from alienation and from existentialist angst. Both have ironic names.
Wouldn't we profit more from Justin performing community service than becoming a hardened criminal? He has never harmed anyone other than himself. I, for one, have not given up on Justin.
Caught dead to writes: On a criminal-justice class trip in the fall of 2000, I visited Territorial Prison in Cañon City. As I walked past the controlled stream in the main yard, haunted by my trip to the "penthouse suite," I knew that the shadows from the nearby mountains would comfort me if I had to stay there extendedly. Time spent in a small cage with a cellie seems pleasant compared to death: That lesson is crucial in the pursuit of justice in Justin Green's case.
Both Justin Green's story and Anthony James's response in last week's Letters section mention Columbine as a single epitaph -- a mythic reference. The most important part of the last sentence is that Justin was alive to give the interview, while the Columbine killers are not. Justin probably had the natural response to the sight of another human at the end of a gun barrel: He repelled. He made a decision not to go postal, even though he had the letter stamped and sealed. If he'd wanted to, a 21-year-old man with previous experience using his gun would have had no trouble putting more than one bullet into a house. AK-47s are designed for easy use by military recruits; successful training and gruesome operation has been achieved in Africa among combatants as young as ten, often under the influence of narcotics.
As innovation produces and commerce delivers ever-increasing destructive power to even more people, our legal system must continue to support the choice of life. We must encourage people to stop committing crimes once they have started...particularly when they are close to murder. Our criminal-justice system must be a better option than a bullet to the head, or we'll see more cases like Columbine and fewer like Justin's. He, along with other inmates, can have a positive impact on himself and society. It sounds like he made huge strides during his time out on bail.
According to the FBI Uniform Crime reports, guns are the leading weapon used in homicides and suicides. Our riddled-with-loopholes, manufacturer-designed, NRA-supported gun code barely constrains the demands of consumers -- a small but extremely dangerous fraction of whom harbor serious criminal intent (see Oswald, Hinckley, Harris/Klebold, al-Qaeda, etc.). When early next (election) year, discussion turns to renewing a weak law designed to ban assault-style weapons, let there be a cry for the same kind of safety standards to apply toward all firearms that already exist for teddy bears, raw beef and other consumer products.
In the meantime, let's hope for peace, prepare for war, clothe the naked, feed the poor and thank God that Justin Green didn't kill anyone.
David J. Winkler
Both sides now: First, I would like to say that "Justin Got His Gat" was one of the best-written articles that I have seen in Westword recently. It not only showed us Justin's character and his side of the story, but also the views of the people who were victims of this unfortunate crime. Having met Justin via the art community, I found him to be an extremely intelligent, creative, respectful young man who found himself in a lot of trouble. Unfortunately, I don't agree with the sentence -- for anyone of any race. With his diagnosis and possible addictions, psychiatric help may have been more appropriate.
David Holthouse's article was very thorough and showed both sides. I really enjoyed the voice and the manner in which it was written. He should be commended for writing such a piece.
Jodi D. Ross
Xanax marks the spot: David Holthouse's article about Justin Green and his supposed subjugation to the message of so-called gangster rap made for a great cover story but failed to probe the real issue fundamental to Justin's plight. I went to high school with Justin, and I understand what he means when he says he feels like he was on a set, societally defined track from which there is no escape. However, it wasn't the fact that Justin sought release in rap music that led to his actions on September 7, 2001; it was his reliance on alcohol and readily available prescription drugs. For kids with introspective dispositions and high IQs, self-medication with booze, pills and other drugs can be the only way to feel normal sometimes. Justin did not unload ten to twenty rounds into the night air because of "A to the motherfuckin K, y'all." He did it because he was fucked up, and he wanted one of his actions to have a pragmatic effect on something. Holthouse hyped a reckless, stupid, adolescent action into a story about wannabe white rich kids being corrupted by black music.
I expect this shit from Fox News, not from Westword. Y'all are slippin'. (Uh-oh, I used a phrase probably from a rap song; better watch out I don't come kill you.)
Name withheld on request
Society's child: Of course, Justin Green's sentence was ridiculously out of proportion to his very foolish behavior! What is to be gained by incarcerating a 22-year-old young man with a clean record and an IQ of 150 for seven years? There was not a victim, no unalterable damage to property.
He was careening out of control, but this was his first offense. Must society permanently damage him for an explosive, temporary incident lasting seconds? With a bulging prison population at a monstrous cost, why throw more state money down the drain to crush the potential of a promising young man?
Why should our society be so punitive when the young man was so obviously in need of help? Six months' imprisonment would have been more than enough, and maybe that would have been too much. Instead, he needs intensive therapy and counseling and community service. His creative talents and his damaging experiences with drugs and alcohol, as well as his difficulties in developing into manhood, could be shared with others with more beneficial results.
Parents might learn to be wary of sending their protected child to an unsupervised college too far away. They must impress upon their children that their bodies and minds are precious and must not be tampered with by ingesting unprescribed drugs and excessive amounts of alcohol. Children must learn the value of money and that it should not be used for destructive items such as guns and ammunition.
Justin Green can be saved. His intelligence and talents are a gift to society.
But not in prison!
The white stuff: In the spirit of Michael Roberts's May 8 Message, what's the makeup of Westword's editorial staff? But wait, I already know the answer: Must be pretty slanted in a certain way, because that's the only possible way that a piece of tripe like David Holthouse's article on Justin Green could have possibly made it past the cutting-room floor.
If Justin's a victim of "gangsta" rap (the prophesies of the white folks everywhere are coming true!) and an overzealous DA, then it becomes impossible to assign any sort of responsibility to anyone who commits a violent crime. That's because most people who do violent things have had real problems in their lives: abusive families, nasty socio-economic realities, racial prejudice, just to name a few issues.
At least Justin has managed to retain his air of superiority, as his piece "Cellies" shows us. I'm sure idiots like Holthouse are smitten with that kind of crap. Maybe the Westword staff should re-read their Dostoyevsky, and while they're at it, hire a couple minority folks to give their publication some much-needed perspective.
Los Angeles, CA
This stinks! Regarding Jason Sheehan's Bite Me in the May 15 issue, here are a few quick ideas for the readers of Westword regarding other things that should be banned after the smoking ban is enacted:
1) Peanuts. We all know that peanuts can cause serious health problems for some people. So to be on the safe side, all peanuts and peanut products and ingredients should be banned from all public restaurants, bars, supermarkets and the front desks of low-brow hotels.
2) Perfumes and colognes. Anybody who has ever been trapped on an elevator with someone who neither knows nor understands how scents are to be used and has suffered the agony of recovering from that experience would breathe much better knowing this has been addressed, finally. I'm sure there must be people who have had to go to an emergency room after being exposed to co-workers (and bosses) and their insensitive use of scents and had no option to escape unscathed. What you do in the privacy of your home is fine, but once you step out in public, please scrub these scents off.
3) The ozone layer. We all know...oops, please excuse this thought...I've been told that the ozone layer is actually healthy and has been banned too much already.
4) Republicans. We all saw what the state legislature did this year, and let's face it: That was just plain unhealthy in general.
Once these suggestions have been accomplished, I'm sure all of us, and all of our fresh-smelling loved ones, will be able to take comfort in knowing that the world has been made a little safer. But there is still much, much more to do.
Food for thought: Regarding the May 8 announcement of Jason Sheehan's James Beard Foundation award:
Jason, good for you! I have enjoyed your restaurant reviews from day one. They are really well written and informative, and best of all, you don't take yourself too seriously -- unlike some of the restaurateurs in this town. It's only food, folks!
via the Internet
Who's on first? I've written before and I'll say it again: Jason Sheehan is an idiot! He rambles on about nothing when we just want to know about the food! How he ever got to be the number-one food reviewer is beyond me!
Name withheld on request
Masters baiter: Regarding Michael Roberts's May 8 Message about Ted Nugent:
Someone offended Lewis and Floorwax? 'Bout fucking time!
Art of darkness: Where have the gallery openings/ongoing exhibit listings gone? Westword is in large part responsible for bringing this city out of the cultural dark ages in the '80s. The arts and art patrons in Denver have come to rely on the up-to-date information you have so capably provided over the years. Please don't abandon the arts. In this economy, we need you more than ever!
A sight for sore eyes: I don't understand what people are complaining about with the listings. Since Westword changed its calendar format, I have gone to two galleries I'd never visited before, because the stories made them sound so interesting! I never used the gallery listings, because they were too hard to read.
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Spark plug: Please bring back the printed listings for art openings and ongoing gallery exhibits. I fully agree with the May 15 letter from Kate Thompson. The online listings are sloppy and difficult to access. The art community really needs the printed listings to inform artists and patrons. And perhaps more important, the printed listings can spark interest in a Westword reader who is not a regular gallery visitor.
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And she was right about the Cafe section, too. In ten years, I have never used the restaurant listings.
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Fluffy, not stuffy: I am very disappointed in the new calendar format. Please, please bring the old format back. Despite the small print, the extensive list of events you used to have in the old format made it easy to see at a glance what was happening in the Denver/Colorado area. Rather than a plethora of fluff focusing on a mere handful of events, I would rather have a comprehensive list of activities with contact information. Please go back to the old format.
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