Best Online Ramblings of a Renaissance Man

Wash Park Prophet

It's hard to pigeonhole Andrew Oh-Willeke, the erudite scribe behind the Wash Park Prophet blog. Is he a hard-nosed gadfly? A bookish legal theorist? A flighty postmodern philosopher? A romantic poet? In fact, he's all four -- and much more. One day he'll be crunching numbers on gang members in Colorado prisons, the next he'll be detailing the many judicial rulings that have relied on Wikipedia. After that, he'll write some verse based on a real-life Denver tourist who found the homeless more helpful than the cops. Then he'll expound on what society's obsession with zombie attacks suggests about the human condition. The result is sort of like a college semester squeezed into a web page -- minus the homework and the parties.
What do Spalding Gray, good design, a dog named Maddie, environmental awareness and "Mile High Stories" have in common? Hugh Graham! A longtime fixture on Denver's arts-and-culture scene -- a former Significant Guy, and the other half of artist/River North Arts District co-founder Jill Hadley Hooper -- Graham is fascinating to chat with, whether discussing his time as a stage manager for Spalding Gray; the design of the Frederic C. Hamilton Building; his dog, Maddie; the funny environmental newsletter Grist or his involvement with "Mile High Stories." If you can't get your daily dose of Graham in person, stop by his blog, which is as eclectic and delightful as Graham himself. And be sure to comment: He likes to know who's stopping by.
All of politics is personal -- very, very personal -- for the folks over at ProgressNow.org. Since lawyer (and former Westword intern) Michael Huttner started his troublemaking squad of truth-seekers, they've made news as often as they've reported it, creating the catchy "Both Ways Bob" campaign that gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez could never escape, offering a stylish video response to Marilyn Musgrave's disabled-vet ads, jumping so fast on inconsistencies in Scott McInnis's campaign that the former congressman took a pass on the 2008 U.S. Senate race, and now running a Presidential March Madness elimination. But ProgressNowAction.com isn't all fun and games; the blog's home is full of information and position papers, and its get-out-the-vote campaign just won a Golden Dot award from the Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet. Turn on and tune in.
When David Bennahum, the president and CEO of the Center for Independent Media, a progressive organization based in Washington, D.C., decided to create his first state-based spinoff, he looked to Colorado. His creation went live last year, quickly establishing itself as a lively and journalistically credible blog capable of breaking news about, for instance, irregularities in failed gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez's campaign. Reporters at mainstream outlets haven't always given Colorado Confidential credit when they've followed the site's lead, but they're definitely reading -- and that's what matters most.
Like Colorado Confidential, Colorado Media Matters is the initial regional foray by a national organization -- in this case, Media Matters, a Washington, D.C., outfit founded by former right-winger David Brock. Overseen by the indefatigable Bill Menezes, an ex-Denver Post staffer, the Colorado branch monitors an incredible amount of local TV, radio and print product with an eye toward ferreting out anything that smells like conservative bias. Knowing such detectives are keeping an eye on them is bound to make ethical journalists even more aware of being evenhanded -- and that's good for everyone.
Conservative pundits constantly fulminate about liberal media bias but seldom bother trying to prove their case. So props to the Independence Institute for "Unabashed Bias," an analysis that attempted to show that the Denver dailies regularly engaged in slanted coverage of referenda C and D, two 2005 ballot issues. Because Institute honcho Jon Caldara publicly opposed both measures, questions about objectivity are worth raising -- yet the findings themselves were often quite persuasive. That's putting your study where your mouth is.
After being closed since 9/11, this year the State Capitol dome finally reopened to the public. Although you now must sign up for a tour (free, but only available Monday through Friday) and still have to climb 99 steps to the top, your efforts are rewarded with a great view from the pinnacle of political power. And while the final steps leading to the outdoor balcony are still off-limits, that loss is more than made up for by the addition of Mr. Brown's Attic, a museum packed with Capitol memorabilia that's named after the man who donated land for the Statehouse.
State senator Ken Gordon didn't win his bid for Colorado Secretary of State, but his campaign was far from all wet. Building on his Best of Denver-winning ad from 2006, Gordon donned a wetsuit and hopped in a tank full of circling sharks at the Downtown Aquarium -- all to emphasize the fact that he never took money from special-interest PACs. "After working in the legislature for fourteen years," he said, "I found the time underwater with the sharks to be calming and restful." Clearly, those sharks were unaware that Amendment 41 would soon put the bite on them. But now that Gordon's back in the Senate finishing his term, he's making sure that the new law continues to have teeth.
While other political campaigns devolved to the usual heightened rhetoric and low blows, Ken Gordon and Mike Coffman kept the race for secretary of state not just civilized, but downright informative as they assessed problems with the system. And when those problems were so amply illustrated in the November election, Gordon and newly elected Secretary of State Coffman joined together to help sort through the snafus.
When Mike Coffman moved from the Colorado Treasurer's office to the nearby digs of the secretary of state, he left five-year-old golden retriever Buckley behind. The dog had grown up in the treasurer's office, and when a staffer asked if the dog could stay on, newly elected Treasurer Cary Kennedy agreed. This is one bipartisan pooch.

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