You've gone too fur: I love Westword and I read it every week, but I hated the cover of the December 25 Year in Review issue. I am a cat lover, and the gun to the cat's head was in poor taste!
Crossing the feline: What a distressing photo we found on the cover of your December 25 issue. We were shocked. If you did it to attract attention, it worked. What a wonderful photo to see right before Christmas. Have you people lost your sensibilities? We have noticed a lot of radical stuff in your paper in the last couple of years. Stuff that's meant to shock or disgust. If you are striving to be on the cutting edge, you are going over the edge as the most disgusting rag in Denver.
This is the last for us. You have lost two very longtime readers.
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Hide and seek: I enjoy Westword and have as sick of a sense of humor as they come -- I'm not easily offended. However, I frequently find the graphics on your cover offensive and tasteless. I am committed to raising my inquisitive four-year-old without a lot of censorship, but often find myself hiding the Westword cover because it encourages his fascination with violence and guns and because we're already inundated with images of busty, slutty women.
This issue with the gun to the cat was truly over the top. It doesn't even really go with the story -- and I find it pointless, humorless and disturbing. I'm not a cat nut or anything, but my five-year-old niece is, and she asked me with big, worried eyes why they were going to shoot the kitty.
I'm up for dark humor -- if it has a point! Do we need to encourage and portray violence for no reason?
Puss in bullets: Regarding your "cat in peril" cover, I don't remember reading anything about the mutilated cats being shot before, during or after said mutilations. So what's with the cover shot? Now, I'm no cat fan, and I'm all for hitting the indifferent public over the head with pressing current issues, but at least hit us over the head with an accurate blow.
Copycat behavior: I just wanted to voice how disgusted I am about the picture on last week's cover. The cat is cute, but I feel with the gun pointing at the cat's head that the picture is promoting animal cruelty. People, especially the younger generation, tend to be easily influenced by the media. This photo is showing it's okay to put a gun to the cat's head. Then the other photo, on the Contents page, says it's okay to pull the trigger. I ask that you withdraw this photo from your newspaper and have an apology in the following issue. I am letting other animal lovers know about this photo. I will boycott your newspaper and let others know why until there is at least an apology and a statement saying your newspaper doesn't promote animal cruelty. Unless you do: Then just be silent, and we the public will know your position. Thank you for your consideration of the importance of this matter and your time.
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Cat woman: I live in the Denver area. I have not yet seen the cover of the December 25 issue -- I would hope there is no cat with a gun to its head. That would be so careless and irresponsible. I would be surprised if Westword is truly so insensitive. If there is a cat with a gun to its head, I hope there will be a big apology as soon as possible. Perhaps you should do an article on the overpopulation of cats and dogs and how 16,000 are put down each day due to not enough good homes for all of them. I receive rescue group e-mails, and they work so hard to save what they can -- often with their own money and hours and hours of selfless giving. They need help even getting people to help with transporting animals that people will adopt but are in another city or state. Every thoughtless picture or word can cause animals more abuse, and rescue groups are sensitive to this because they see the effects. They love these animals -- sadly, often when no one else does. It is a tragedy in this country that animals are not spayed and neutered to end the millions that are destroyed because there isn't a home for them. Education is desperately needed even to government officials, who all too often don't want to spend the money on animals, so the problem escalates. Please consider making it clear that your cover picture is not approval to harm any animal. Also, write on animal issues.
Editor's note: Thanks to Darlene and her friends Betty Jean Herner and Bobbie Flowers of New York City, who sent us identical letters bemoaning the copycat potential. Just one question: Why would those kids have access to guns in the first place?
Neil and pray: Regarding the "My Worst New Year's Eve" essays published in the December 18 issue:
I loved "Diamond in the Rough." It was very well-written, and I could feel her pain.
Rhinestone cowboy: Neil Diamond? You call that a story? I hereby wish my worst-ever New Year's Eve on the lot of you. Ellen R.'s myopic idealism being shattered in the face of reality doesn't make for good copy; it's real life! That story didn't even touch a nerve, except for pity.
But Scott Keating's story about the vet throwing his legs out the window -- now, that's a story! That's funny!
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Out with the bad year, in with the good: Thanks for all the great reading about the bad New Year's Eve experiences. Yes, "a river of puke" and alcohol did run through them -- but so did some very real emotions. The before-and-after versions by Alice Garcia made me want to cry; I'm so glad her dream came true. And Brian Lam's "New Town, New Year" helped me end 2003 feeling upbeat about Denver. Here's to a wonderful 2004 for everyone.
A piece of the auction: In response to Patricia Calhoun's December 11 "Nailed!," recounting the history of yet another failed business on Five Points' Welton Street, I would like to respond with some blunt observations by a 23-year resident of that neighborhood. The history of Welton north of Park Avenue West is a long one, characterized by many notable cultural achievements in the ongoing history of the African-American community and, therefore, in the history of the city itself.
However, it is one thing to extol and preserve a neighborhood's history, and quite another to engineer its future based solely on its past. The last few decades have witnessed dramatic changes in the neighborhood's cultural and economic makeup. Cultural diversity has always been a characteristic of the Five Points community, and today is no exception. Hispanics, Anglos, African-Americans and Asians populate the neighborhood -- not in individual ghettos, but in a healthy mix. Certainly it is no secret that any neighborhood's commercial district must reflect and engage those who surround it. Yet Welton has somehow become a sacred cow to the "powers that be" as a museum, albeit a living museum, of African-American culture.
So many of us, from all ethnic backgrounds, want a viable, successful and reflective commercial district. Whether it is owned and operated by an African-American or any other individual is irrelevant. What it must do is serve the needs of all the community, and attract those interested in the quality, diversity and charm of one of Denver's oldest neighborhoods. We do not want a politically correct attempt to fashion our neighborhood's character. We want to see the district evolve and grow -- not in ignorance of its past, but with hope for its future.
Editor's note: That property at 24th and Welton streets was to be sold by the Small Business Administration on December 16 -- but the sale was called off mid-auction, after last-second questions about the title came up. There were several buyers interested in the property, according to auctioneer Bill Warren, and the sale should be rescheduled early this year.
Turd-brained behavior: Please, Westword!
Find someone to review films for you who does not feel compelled to use terms like "sticky little turd," as Gregory Weinkauf did in his December 18 review of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
Bush-league behavior: It's comforting that Gregory Weinkauf finally liked one movie, The Return of the King. God knows he rips just about everything else that he reviews. It's a shame, because there's a lot to like out there, but obviously, Weinkauf can't grasp that concept. I also find it offensive that he brings his personal politics into reviews. Just because he writes for an alternative rag doesn't mean that he can blatantly denounce Bush in a review of The Lord of the Rings, for God's sake.
It's a shame, because I don't think I've ever seen a film critic commit such a blatant dereliction of duty. Shame on him! I don't care about Weinkauf's politics, and I don't think that most people do, either.
The surreal thing: I was very disappointed by the creative writing choices of Jason Sheehan in "Baby, You're a Rich Man," his December 11 review of Bastien's.
Editor, why was this so-called "reviewer" allowed to end the first paragraph with the line "totally fucking surreal"? Was this supposed to be clever, funny, rude, or reflect the mindset of the not-so-best-and-brightest journalism graduates? Unfortunately, the fine management at Bastien's will not be able to post the review for its patrons to read, as is the case with most positive professional newspaper reviews.
Can Mr. Sheehan feel proud to take this with him on his next job interview? How old is he?
It's a restaurant review, smart guy!
Tune in, turn on: I was born and raised in Colorado, so I love reading about restaurants I have visited or had planned to visit. When Jason Sheehan first came to Westword, I was working at Triana in Boulder, which he more or less gave a bad review, which I knew would have a direct effect on my next week's pay. I hated it and despised Sheehan.
But his attention to detail, the nuances he picked up, I noticed at Triana. I kept tuning in to more reviews and realized that he voices opinions and concerns a guest would want to point out during a meal but won't, knowing that he would ruin the experience for his date or family, thus quenching the good feelings that he might have had at the restaurant.
Sheehan's a great storyteller and keeps me engaged with his writing, as well as his personal and historical references. Keep it up.
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Carpet bombing: Thank you, Kelly Bastone, for your letter in the December 11 issue. I couldn't have put it better myself. Jason Sheehan is a jerk, his ramblings boring (especially about the carpet at Bastien's!) and his language offensive.
Color her world: Love that Colorforms bit in Jason Sheehan's December 11 "Color Coded." Great concept, cleverly conceived. I had to write to tell you that I liked it. Plus, it's true! Good job.
The penis mightier than the sword: After reading Dave Herrera's Beatdown in the December 18 issue, I gotta say good job. Most men without penises aren't able to do such a fine job of beating a man at his own game. I don't know all the details or inside info about Blister 66, but from where I stand, Herrera definitely seems to be taking the high road.
His aim is true: I can't tell you how much I enjoy The Beatdown. It's honest and down-to-earth writing, especially after reading Laura Bond's bullshit about New York and Texas bands for the last year and Michael Roberts's crap on Clear Channel and his infatuation with Barry Fey's and Chuck Morris's promotional crap. It's good to read true journalism.
I feel Dave Herrera's work at Westword has just started. Stay focused on the bands recording in Denver and the happening scene, and don't forget the poor, small struggling musicians who read his expert opinion and wisdom on music in the super-trooper spotlight.
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Fostering abuse: Laura Bond's "Nowhere Boy," in the December 4 issue, is a portrait of many adopted and foster children in our system. As a longtime foster parent and children's advocate, I'm always struck that these children were born with a great capacity to live a giving, useful life. As a nation, we tend to think of children as property of their biological parents. We send newborn babies home with their toxic parents, to damage that can literally turn those babies into lethal weapons against the rest of the world. There are usually many ghosts in these children's early lives who never are obvious when the damaged child comes to our attention but who bear great responsibility. Did the nurses at the newborn unit of the hospital alert social services to signs that these parents might hurt the child? If alerted, did a social worker investigate? Did that worker follow up or drop the case? Did a neighbor, relative, store clerk, doctor, etc., know that the child was being damaged but not seek intervention? It is up to all of us to seek help when children are being mistreated.
We need to ask ourselves when we will finally require some type of minimal skill and testing before people are allowed to parent. We require licenses to drive, practice certain occupations, even to fish. Aren't children's lives valuable enough that we should protect their rights to grow up in an environment that nurtures their ability to give to the rest of the world rather than turning others into victims? Until we begin to seek answers at the core of the problem, our system will continue to produce more damaged, lethal children.
A leg up: Although I represent seven mental-health consumer agencies, including the statewide mental-health consumer network, the largest drop-in/empowerment center in the state and the largest consumer advisory board in Colorado, I am speaking here as an individual. My son's experiences are so similar to David's that reading "Nowhere Boy" made me cry. I was told by Colorado Christian Home ten years ago that he was "the worst client" they had ever had and to "get out" while I could. But we wanted to stay together, and today, at age nineteen, he is the state's youngest peer specialist, facilitates groups of adolescents with psychiatric disabilities, and is working on establishing an adolescent activist group in Colorado.
I was very disturbed at the covert and overt attacks on Jefferson County Mental Health in Laura Bond's story and the letters published in the December 18 issue. If anything, JCMH is one of the two MHASAs in Colorado most valiantly attempting to maintain optional and consumer services in the face of statewide mental-health budget cuts that have gutted our system in unimaginable ways. Their policy of least-restrictive placement is directly in line with both the most conservative and radical consumer activism groups, in addition to being compliant with the law (reference the Olmsted Act).
Any type of mental-health illness in a child is nearly impossible to diagnose, as anyone with an education will tell you. All avenues must be explored, and in the meantime, community placement is always seen as the healthiest, most empowering placement available. Yeah, I had situations with my son just as bizarre or even more so than those described in the article, and I'm a single mom and had no support at that time. It was a horrible, seemingly endless nightmare -- but we made it.
I know and speak to hundreds of consumers a month statewide. The old days of the "us against them" (consumers versus providers) adversarial attitudes are over. Colorado consumers want to partner with their providers and work as a seamless team. After all, we want the same thing: optimal wellness for consumers. Yes, caseloads have doubled and even tripled. Yes, the majority of consumers are afraid to file grievances and complaints for dozens of reasons, certainly not just at JCMH, but everywhere. Our peers, friends and family members are being incarcerated in prison for symptomatic behavior, becoming homeless and dying because they have been cut from treatment. Most of the children in residential placement at Fort Logan are not there because of a diagnosis, but because they need a foster placement and have nowhere to go.
Let's not chew our own leg off here. Let's look at our elected officials. Let's look at TABOR and Gallagher and at the lack of parity in Colorado. Let's look at the fact that if we neglect the need of people with psychiatric disabilities today, we are going to suck this state dry fiscally in the years to come.
Offsides: Regarding Bill Gallo's "Busted Broncs," in the December 4 issue:
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Eat your words, Mr. Gallo. You did watch the Kansas City versus the Broncos game, didn't you? Honestly, I'll bet you didn't, since it seems to me you got your information and made your opinion based on anything but watching football! Your sports articles seem to jump around from one thing to another. There is no focus.
Get a grip. Go see a game, maybe two. Start watching other teams on TV to learn a bit about the sport. Or give up writing on football.