The blame game: The contrast between the message delivered by Patricia Calhoun's "Crash Course" column last week and that of Luke Turf's "Headed for Trouble" left me with a somewhat disturbed feeling.
Calhoun's column was remarkably sensitive given the horrible nature of the crime for which Mr. Romero was tried and convicted. She does not preach. Her writing here is full of compassion. The extra feature at the bottom of the page is also a dark tale, enhanced in its impact in some bizarre way by the gray shading behind the text. These are awful, awful stories that are told in a wonderfully effective manner.
Mr. Turf's piece, on the other hand, seems to be another of those trademark Westword attempts to raise sympathy for some asshole who was "wronged by the system," even though guilty of amazingly nasty crimes. Erik Jensen may be an incredibly stupid person for getting sucked into his friend's situation, but he could have just said no. And he should have just said no at a number of different moments as the wrongs just kept coming at him. Is he any less guilty because he is stupid? Is he any less guilty because he was so young? Are we to believe, as the article suggests, that the whole thing seemed to be a cosmic conspiracy against him, poor little stupid Erik?
No on all three counts. At least the article ends with "And Erik blames no one but himself for that." If he doesn't blame anyone else, why does Westword seem to be looking for a scapegoat?
A friend in need: I have a friend I used to work with who suffered a horrible tragedy. His teenage son murdered his wife.
It was unspeakably sad, literally. We didn't speak of it. My friend appreciated that I wouldn't bring up the subject, and we hung out together, skiing, playing cards and competing in pro golf tournaments. (We were both teaching pros at the time.) I wouldn't dream of bringing up this subject again, except that Westword already has. In your cover story last week featuring the plight of underage criminals who are sentenced to long terms, guess which case was used as an example.
It gets worse. The teen in this case, now in his twenties, was sentenced to life without parole. In an effort to get a new trial, he is introducing new "evidence" claiming that his parents sexually abused him, and other ugly accusations. His lawyer is even initiating a civil suit against my friend. Of course, none of this came out before. The Westword article is something less than critical of these accusations.
Roger Ybanez, if you happen to come across this, you have my sympathy. You've now been victimized twice over.
And a hearty thank you to Westword and Luke Turf. Nothing's too sensational to use to advance an agenda, I suppose. Victims be damned.
Blood will tell: As I began to read about Nate Ybanez in Luke Turf's "Headed for Trouble," the writing -- like Nate's mom's blood -- was clearly splattered on the wall. Just the one sentence that Nate's father had supposedly uttered, about how Nate was a "pain in the butt," was extremely telling. Obviously a comment like that does not come from loving, caring parents.
This does not excuse the vicious murder of Nate's mom; it might explain it, however, and hopefully carry a lesson that we need to listen to our children. Ignoring Nate's continual pleas, including his running away many times, is absolutely inexcusable (and is also a crime). If he had been listened to, it might have prevented the desperate act of murder in the first place.
Ruth Suli Urman
Setting son: It is too bad that Julie Ybanez doesn't have the opportunity to refute the allegations made by her son; too bad Nathan couldn't have gone to a school authority or a local authority to let them know what was happening -- if it was true. I only knew Julie briefly, mostly in conversations with her about her sister, my friend. I met both Julie and Nathan after her sister had a stroke, and they'd come to Kansas to visit her. They had supper at my house. I saw a loving mother and sister and a nice young man. Ironically, a year later this scenario unfolded.
The teenage years are difficult on everybody. I don't doubt that by now Nathan believes that his stories of abuse are true; how else could he live with himself after murdering his mother? But that doesn't make it so.
This story was entirely biased and I wonder how factual it was. Don't forget who the victim is here... Julie Ybanez.
via the Internet
The scales of justice: Why has so much attention been paid to Lisl Auman, and so little to people like Erik Jensen? Lisl was not a juvenile when Bruce VanderJagt was killed, but Erik Jensen was when Julie Ybanez was murdered. If Lisl gets a chance to have a life outside of prison, shouldn't some consideration be given for people like Erik?
Ursa minor: Regarding Michael Paglia's "Grin and Bear It" in the July 7 issue:
A giant blue bear whimsically peering in windows at the Colorado Convention Center? Sounds like a companion piece to the GGWG, another piece of world-class public art that has Denverites bustin' their buttons with civic pride. In case you're not au courant, that's the new acronym for the Giant Gay White Guys...
Broncs cheer: Despite being vegetarian for eight years, the fact somehow eluded Libi Striegl (whose letter was published in the July 7 issue) that precious few people (those old enough to read, anyway) give up meat because they don't like the taste. Of course it's okay for vegetarians to "pretend" to be eating meat when it's made out of tofu. It's not an issue of taste; it's an issue of conscience. And where, exactly, is she coming across all these "holier-than-thou" vegans? In my experience, the whole notion of the arrogant, self-important veggie is a complete fabrication by those who, inexplicably, feel threatened by the mere notion of some people choosing a meat-free diet.
As for that goddamn bear, between the random shrapnel littering the lawn of the Denver Performing Arts Complex and the parking garage mural taken straight from a retarded child's coloring book on 14th Street, the art of downtown Denver has to rank dead-fucking last in the country. The goofy, geometric bear makes a fine addition to our growing collection of atrocities.
Way to go, Bronco Country.
Drive, he said: Regarding Adam Cayton-Holland's "Captured by Gypsies," in the June 30 issue:
I drove a cab in Denver for eleven years -- quite successfully, I might add. And let me tell you, it's a very tough business! It's dangerous, it's entertaining and it's ultimately profitless, the way the business is structured. Want to waste your life? Spend eleven years before the mast (meter).
Truth be known, any Tom, Dick or Harry should be able to start his own cab company or put his own cab on so long as his cab is clearly identifiable, he carries the proper insurance and bonding and there are enough canny cab inspectors out there riding incognito to monitor service. But the "regulated monopoly" approach (Jay Gould all over again!) in Denver is anathema to good business and good service. It means higher fares so that millionaire cab-company owners can get richer. The riding public has no idea how much cab companies gouge their drivers and how much of that cost is passed on to the public. How would you like to drive eight hours on a slow business day just to break even? (I ran 66 trips in one day. I knew how to drive a cab. I was the hardest-working cab driver in the Western world.)
In any case, we don't really need any gypsy cabs. Both the drivers and passengers of such vehicles are truly captives. But the reason gypsy cabs thrive is the same reason any other black-market business gains a foothold: monopolies and bad politics invited them in. I once helped the former Yellow Cab co-op lobby the legislature to keep other cab companies out. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Hey, cab drivers: Get a life.
Don't try to grow a brain: Jason Sheehan, you know a lot about food. In the July 7 "Life and Death," you prove you know shit about zombies.
About "George Romero's brain eaters," any zombie fan knows that Romero zombies prefer entrails or any scraps of flesh they can get their rotting digits on. The "More Brains!" zombies are featured in Return of the Living Dead, directed by Dan O'Bannon.
As for "28 Days Later (where I spent the whole movie rooting for the zombies to eat poor, pasty Cillian Murphy and put both of us out of our misery)," zombies aren't in 28 Days Later.
And calling "guys who make zombie movies...freakish, obsessive man-children," aside from Romero and the above-mentioned Dan O'Bannon, what directors are you referring to? Just curious.
Please stick to what you know. Now make like a Romero zombie and go grab some ribs.
via the Internet
Swig party: "It's that bittersweet time of year when we must say goodbye to certain members of the Institute of Drinking Studies as they move on to greater responsibility, more disposable income and, with any luck, more time between binge-drinking bouts," Patrick Osborn writes in the July 7 Drunk of the Week.
Now, come on! There's more than one bloody opening (see above), and how many oafs are as well qualified in the art of slinging booze down their throats without getting a) married, b) arrested, c) hospitalized, or d) hit with a restraining order? At least have a tryout, something like Drunken Idol. Eight lovable lushes from across Denver compete for the prize of being an Institute member for a year (or a week, or a month, depending on state of their livers).
If you give me a tryout, I promise I'll be on my best (or worst) behavior.
Diamond Dave Morrell
All chalk, no action: Ahhh, the trials of having crossed paths with Patrick Osborn. I was recently an innocent barfly caught in the madness of these weekly drunks. (Don't believe me? Match my legs to your chalked-body pictures, Patrick. Ha.)
Here's my dilemma: I was inspired by Osborn's brilliance in getting Westword to fund his crazy antics, yet also put off by the lackluster mention of the Atomic Cowboy in his June 23 column. I was first tempted to invite him back out to Atomic to show him a blast (with fabulous service, of course) at my place o' business to make up for the shaft (seriously, we're a fun bar and were a bit surprised that anyone might think otherwise). Yet, I also have the contradictory urge to scrap that plan (if you can't beat 'em, join 'em) and apply directly to be a Drunk-of-the-Week trainee.
I can honestly say I quite enjoyed the Guns & Roses tribute. Let's face it: What girls out there would make such an admission, or let Osborn and his crazy drunkard friends chalk them up as if preparing for some inebriated amateur gymnastic competition? Hmmm.
You tell me. Osborn should either a) come out to the Atomic for one of the best nights of drinking around, or b) make it up to me by putting me through a proper boot camp to become a semi-celebrity drunk like himself, so that I may accurately represent the drinking scene in Denver and serve as public-relations specialist when breast-gawking and karaoke with pool-cue-twirling action gets out of control.
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He needs me, man.
May the Force be with you: Regarding Kenny Be's June 30 Worst-Case Scenario, "Most Popular Prizes for Converting Cadets":
When Air Force's passionate head-football coach Fisher DeBerry recently hung a banner declaring "Team Jesus," it clearly displayed a religious bias and a possible coercive element, but was this banner any more biased or potentially coercive than a compulsory class entitled "Respecting the Spiritual Values of All People?"
Since such a course is clearly not neutral towards religion, the Air Force Academy cannot condemn bias and inappropriate Christian proselytization one day, then make mandatory a class on religion the next day. Ban "Team Jesus," demand "Team Pluralism"? To avoid coercion in the name of religion, shouldn't the academy make the class "Respecting the Spiritual Values of All People" optional? When has a tyranny of the minority ever remedied a tyranny of the majority? Perhaps the rules in Baghdad, Iraq, should be a little different than the rules for Boise, Idaho, and no cadet or staff member should have carte blanche authority to proselytize -- but neither should the Air Force Academy, the Air Force, or the U.S. Armed Forces have carte blanche authority to prohibit religious expression or proselytizing from any of their members.
Will a cadet be allowed to ask her roommate to join her at the "gospel meeting" on Friday night, or the church service on Sunday morning? Will a cadet or staff member be allowed to advertise and/or use academy facilities to accommodate his Bible study or show movies like Jesus or The Passion of the Christ to his classmates and staff members? Will the five branches of the American Armed Forces have to start training "Sensitivity Officers" to make sure Toleration Orthodoxy is maintained (much like "Political Officers" were attached to units of the Red Army)? Will a precedent be set where every Christian college ministry on secular campuses (Campus Crusade for Christ, Baptist Student Union, etc.) has to purge its proselytizing efforts to remain on campus?
Did our founders give us Freedom of Religion or only a Freedom to the Private Expression of Religion?
In reforming the Air Force Academy from an alleged Christian bias, it is beginning to sound like the cure may be more dangerous than the disease. Neither general Christian expression nor Christian proselytization are criminal acts in the United States, even from her citizens at her military academies, bases, barracks, forts, etc. Religious proselytizing is both commanded in some belief systems, and perfectly legal in most of the free world. The right to proselytize one's religion is a right that has been paid for in blood.
Please, Air Force Academy, be very careful before putting restrictions upon that right.
Mexican standoff: Regarding Alan Prendergast's June 23 "Welcome to America," and the letters about the story published in the June 30 issue:
In Evan Ravitz's letter, he didn't bother to mention whether he was in Mexico legally or illegally. Why should U.S. citizens foot the bill for all these illegals coming over the border, taking our jobs, not paying taxes (because they are paid "under the table"), increasing our crime rate (90 percent increase in thefts, especially cars), trying to qualify for welfare and Social Security and doing a lot of identity theft. Several families live in one house, when the bylaws state one family per residence. Mexicans can't drive worth a darn and cause most of the accidents in Colorado and they don't carry insurance.
There is more to Alan Prendergast's "Welcome to America" story that needs to be covered. Frankly, Moises Carranza-Reyes should be deported to Mexico -- let that country's health-care system pay for what he needs! He is not a citizen and shouldn't be allowed tax-paid attorneys to defend him! Let the Mexican Consulate pay for an attorney for him!
The big chill: I was chilled to read the reactions of two of your readers to the story of Moises Carranza-Reyes.
Part of a George Bernard Shaw quote goes like this: "...I do not believe there is a man or woman on Earth who cannot [in some case or other] advocate ruthless persecution."
To me, the two letters sadly seem to offer supporting evidence.