How low can you go? Bravo to Stuart Steers for helping bring to light what Wal-Mart is really about ("The Wal-Mart Crusade," December 12). For two years, I've been trying to get friends and family to realize that Wal-Mart is bad for the American economy. To realize that the low prices they pay for their low-quality goods come at a great expense to everyone from the high-school-educated single mother not allowed to work more than 32 hours (paid) at her "full-time" associate job, barely allowing her to provide care and shelter for her child (let alone pay Wal-Mart's outrageous health-care benefits), to the foreign child workers who are made to deal with working conditions that would be considered barbaric in the U.S., because Wal-Mart forces its foreign suppliers to constantly lower expenses.
I guess to some people, paying fifty cents less for the jumbo-sized toilet paper is a lot more important than how that cost savings is made possible.
Always Low Prices. Always.
Smiley farce: I've always known that Wal-Mart's prices are too good to be true -- and after reading Stuart Steers's story, I now know why. Still, thanks to Rollback Ralph (now I know the smiley guy's name, too), it's about the only place I can afford to shop this holiday season. I'm embarrassed to say that I go there...but I do.
via the Internet
Editor's note: Attorney Frank Azar and his clients were validated on Thursday, December 19, when an Oregon federal jury found Wal-Mart guilty of forcing hourly employees to work extra hours without pay.
In "The Wal-Mart Crusade," Azar's grandfather was incorrectly identified. George Saliba, owner of the Saliba ranch, was Azar's maternal grandfather. His paternal grandfather, William Azar, owned a different ranch near Trinidad. Our apologies.
Bathroom humor: I read with great interest Harrison Fletcher's article on Colorado outhouses and Kenneth Jessen's book ("The Unflushables," December 19). We have a working privy at our summer house in Maine, and as far as I know, we are the only family in our island community who still has one, uses one and, once a year, goes "honeydipping" -- shoveling out the waste and burying it in an ever-shrinking woodlot containing the remains of lobster dinners past.
Some have asked us why we persist in this quaint tradition. My Uncle Bucky's answer explains it best: "The minute you install an indoor toilet, your guests will never leave." Although none of my guests has ever complained about the privy (and all are informed -- quite solemnly -- about the facilities before being invited), each and every one of them eventually quits the island. The whole family agrees: Our much beloved outhouse is our best insurance policy against guests overstaying their welcomes. As for the family, we never seem to tire of it.
For the foreseeable future, our "wee house in the spruce" will keep the same tradition alive in rural Maine that Jessen's privies are perpetuating in the great state of Colorado.
William G. Harris II
The Fender trap: Thanks for Laura Bond's "House of Blues," in the December 12 issue. I don't know Durward Minor personally, but as a local bass player for 27 years, I know of him by reputation, and I have heard him perform. I wonder if I could visit him at the jail and show him my old Fender bass, which he could play a little during our visit. I'd be willing to go once a week if they would allow the bass in, and he could give me a lesson while he played, keeping chops and spirit up a little. This just tears me up, a man kept away from his instrument.
A possible solution to his problem would be for him to teach music, if a music store would be willing to put him on a W2 and give him enough hours.
Saxxon Woods Band
Minor key: I just finished reading the sad story of D. Minor. While I realize it might go against musician union rules, what if each of Mr. Minor's regular gigs changed his compensation to an hourly basis and scheduled his practice, writing and arranging time as part of an hourly job? So instead of receiving $50 or $100 per gig, he could get $50 for ten total hours of work: the five-hour gig and five hours of practice/arranging. The total cost wouldn't change...just the employment conditions. If the club owners can't do this, perhaps one of the bandleaders can. I'm sure that for each hour he's on stage, he would put in at least twice that in preparation.
If that plan fails, surely there are some musicians who could use lessons from Mr. Minor. Paying a minimum-wage rate for a couple hours' instruction from such a wonderful resource would certainly be a deal. If the state accepts McDonald's and Grease Monkey work at $5.15 an hour, why not music lessons at the same rate? I know the going rate for a lesson is much higher, but if you turn each lesson into a three-hour, rather than one-hour, session and factor in the time out of jail, I'd think it's win-win for everyone.
At any rate, I wish him luck. It's a shame to have a musical voice like his silenced this way.
via the Internet
Practice makes perfect: I have an offer for Adams County court services supervisor Susan Argo. If she can cover for me for just ten minutes at one of my music gigs, no practice or lessons permitted, I won't complain about her treatment of Durward Minor.
Ms. Argo has denied Mr. Minor's work release as a jazz musician because she doesn't understand how jazz and classical musicians work. Musicians contract for certain hours to perform but work far more hours preparing for those performances. Tax laws allow us to claim legitimate expenses pertaining to practice rooms, because practicing is essential to our livelihood. However, Ms. Argo insists on counting only actual performance hours as work.
Classical and jazz musicians are not analogous, as Ms. Argo thinks, to athletes in their desire for training sessions. The intricate muscle memory involved in rigorous musical technique is an entirely different and more fragile sort of thing. Letting one's chops go for a month can take many times that long to remedy. We must also keep music theory fresh to improvise well. Playing this music is so complex and demanding on mind and body that research psychologists often focus on these kinds of musicians as the best example of the human brain achieving its utmost.
Classical and jazz musicians are analogous to university professors in their preparation time. Professors typically spend only nine to twelve hours a week actually in front of a class. When I teach a university class, I spend many hours preparing for each hour in front of the blackboard. I spend a comparable amount of time preparing for each hour I perform my music, practicing technique exercises, brushing up on difficult spots, learning and transcribing new pieces. If I were a jazz musician, I'd have to spend at least twice as much preparation time. (Yes, playing good jazz is harder than playing good J.S. Bach.)
Ms. Argo apparently referred to "dream jobs," but this view of musicians is based not on actual music gigs, but on pop celebrity status and Pepsi ads. These may unfortunately be the only contacts that some people have with music, but they are only a tiny part of the music world. The seeming effortlessness of good musicians' performances isn't the result of a cushy job's being easy, but of years of dedication.
Ignorantly treating Mr. Minor as if he were some garage-band teenager who couldn't read music is an insult to all accomplished, hardworking musicians everywhere.
Barbara Goodrich, Ph.D.
The comeback kids: I would like to commend Julie Jargon for looking at the "treatment" of sex offenders in "Arrested Development," her article in the December 5 issue. Sexual offense-specific therapy is still in its infancy, and people should be made aware of the goings-on and the probable damage we are doing to people's lives. (Like it or not, sex offenders are people.) Make no mistake, when therapy for the mentally handicapped was at this stage, society found it acceptable to lobotomize them.
As a victim twice over of sexual abuse -- once as a child -- I would like people to understand that, contrary to what Gerald W. Moore suggests, a victim's life only need be ruined by sexual abuse if he/she chooses. If Mr. Moore's patients are as permanently traumatized as he suggests, perhaps Mr. Moore needs to take a new look at his treatment. While there are a handful of victims who were traumatized to a point from which they may never return, most victims hold the capacity to recover, heal, learn to love and have healthy sexual relations. We do need to be armed with the appropriate tools; we do need to feel safe. But how can we when there are few, if any, facilities truly aimed at rehabilitating perpetrators?
The reality of most perpetrators is one of low self-esteem, depression, anger and a sense that the perpetrator has little or no control over his/her life improving. Most therapists acknowledge this, but instead of focusing on solving these issues, they have a tendency to degrade sexual abusers, attempt to de-sexualize them and actually add to their low self-esteem, depression and anger. There seems to be an attempt to solve the problem by making the root of the problem larger.
Many believe that castration, or de-sexualization, would rid the world of "these people." Such believers are gravely mistaken. There are documented cases of offenders given large doses of drugs, such as Depo-Provera, which is used to suppress the production of the male hormone testosterone and curb sex drive and sexual fantasies, thus virtually castrating the user. Many of these men will still reoffend. Why? Because nobody has solved the larger issues. These men are still filled with low self-esteem, depression and anger. Understand, I am not excusing the behavior of the perpetrator. I am simply trying to focus on the issue in a rational way -- by digging deeper and looking at the whole person, not just the offense.
I want to feel safe in my community. T.H.E. and other similar "treatment" plans do not give me that feeling. With compassion and understanding, victims and perpetrators can move forward and learn to live healthy and happy lives. I know. I do. (Please withhold my last name, as others are not as at ease with my openness.)
Suffer the children: As a former newspaper reporter and survivor of chronic incest, I liked that Julie Jargon's "Arrested Development" let convicted child raper Robert Rosberg tell how he procures boys, breaks his probation by phoning children, threatens his victims into silence, grooms his sisters to prepare for destroying their children, and finds the path of least resistance.
I must disagree with Selkin's misrepresentation that sex offenders are not dangerous because they have a low "recidivism" rate. Recidivism used to mean "commits the same crime again," but the state redefined it as "return to conviction" -- and usually within three years of a rapist's first conviction. Surveys of adults have shown about 85 percent of child sexual abuse goes unreported. Of that reported, about 5 percent results in criminal prosecution, of which a fraction results in convictions. Of those convicted, 68 percent do not spend one day in a Colorado prison. Therefore, it is a well-crafted lie to equate a low re-conviction rate of sex offenders within a short time with a low danger of destroying children's lives.
Recidivism does not mean that only 25 percent of sex offenders are porking children -- which, if you do the math on how many innocent victims this produces, is still horribly inhumane. Recidivism means victims don't readily report these crimes because our system does little to stop the abuse or penalize the perpetrators. It means traumatized children don't make good witnesses in our court system. It means our DAs have very low conviction success. It means juries aren't willing to convict on the word of one child. It means incest reporters learn to shut up and take it.
I must also challenge the unsupported theory that mental-health therapy does any good for convicted sex offenders. They are not "sick," which implies they can be healed. They are criminals: intelligent, calculating con artists, disease transmitters, destroyers of families, oppressors, bloodsuckers and deluded torturers.
Sex offenders are causing a huge health-care crisis that we are now paying for in many ways. Sex offenders spread mental illness like a plague and should be quarantined. We should stop cursing future generations, whose futures we also depend on. Preventing this curse on our beloved children is truly paramount. That is humane.
via the Internet
There goes the neighborhood: Unlike some recent letter writers, I found the Westword articles dealing with Christianity -- some positive, some negative -- very interesting. David Holthouse's "Houses of God," in the November 28 issue, really raised my interests. Had it been a non-Christian school moving in on that neighborhood, I'm sure that Lakewood officials would have taken action much sooner.
Coming clean: Two questions for Mr. McCormick, CCU's vice president of student development, regarding his statements in "Houses of God":
1) Regarding your statement that "where we have a house full of nine women, well, you can just imagine what the heating and water bill is like." Sir, are you implying that the other "theme houses" where male students live are not as clean as the women's house because the male residents are not practicing good hygiene? That the male housing is dirty, as are the residents, because they keep neither clean in an effort to keep their water bill down? And that the men order out more than the "little women" do so they don't have to wash dishes and use more water? Don't think I'd want a bunch of Christian slobs living next to me, either!
2) "Theme houses are not dormitories...they still operate as a family-like unit because of this theme that keeps them all pointed in the same direction." Last I heard, dorms try to keep students pointed in the same direction: graduation.
Shelter from the dorm: Although David Holthouse's "Houses of God" was truly stirring, I feel it necessary to add a few details. I live next to Colorado Christian University in Meadowlark. Meadowlark is mostly Christian. Our issue is not with the religious foundation upon which Colorado Christian University has been established; our issue is the more than nine million dollars Mr. VanEssen has spent this past year buying properties solely for the use of CCU, with all, barring a few, located in my residential neighborhood. They can get away with this because former President Bill Clinton in 2000 signed the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act that gives CCU -- a religious institution -- free expression, allowing them to circumvent zoning restrictions. As outrageous as it seems, federal policy sanctions the virtual takeover of my neighborhood. We are mad. We are dedicated, too. Who will be next when a church or a college or university decides the residents around them must go?
Readers should be aware that there are two other such instances afoot in Colorado. Foxfield and Greenwood Village are under siege as well. Thomas Jefferson wrote that "a multitude of gods neither breaks my legs nor picks my pockets." Public morality is an extra-legal check on the avarice within all of humanity. I hope that someday our nation will again tolerate myriad faiths as we head today with lightning speed toward theocracy. It's safe, but is it right?
Michael W. O'Beirne, boardmember
Lakewood Civic Association
Neighborhood botch: I have several comments about the article on the Lakewood/CCU issue. The leadership of the neighborhood and the vast majority of homeowners who have been involved have focused their attention and energy on the issues they have with the city and CCU, and not on individuals. The incidents reported have involved only a very few individuals in the neighborhood. It is unfortunate that a large focus of David Holthouse's article was on the anonymous letter, which was an isolated incident. The recipient of the letter has apparently had ongoing heated relationships with several of her neighbors.
Perhaps Holthouse should check Lakewood police reports and court proceedings to get the true facts about vandalism and assault that were reported from Diane Caoua's perspective only.
via the Internet
Soulless survivors: Regarding "The Heart of Country," David Hill's profile of Dallas Wayne in the December 5 issue:
There will be nobody to listen to in another thirty years out of today's country crop. No Haggard, Jones, Nelson, Rodriguez or Tammy. Dallas Wayne is right, and Jim Reeves is turning in his grave. Hank Sr., Patsy Cline and Ray Price do not tour anymore. Madonna, Enrique Iglesias, Milli Vanilli and whoever are all Grammy winners. So much for Grammys and music in general. We gave them Smoky, Santana, Aretha, Janis and Marvin Gaye; in return we got Fat Boys, New Kids on the Block and Britney Spears. Music from the soul to music from the advertising media greed. Gracias, but no thanks.
Dallas, no man is a prophet in his own homeland -- but some of us hear your message.
Lip service: Yo, Laura Bond. I read your November 21 Backwash. Visionary ensemble? Force on the good side? And...hugs instead of drugs? What happened to staring at the sound? Charlie Manson blues? Wayne screaming Goddammit?! Is this the Wayne I knew? Is there room in this hurting world for more than one visionary from Oklahoma? My name is Brother Love. Let me tell you a little story.
I was a pseudo-spiritual freshman at the University of Oklahoma in fall 1983 and began going to shows of underground music with bands like Tulsa's None of the Above, White Cross, DRI, The Dicks and the Flaming Lips. The Flaming Lips were part of a local music scene that included Norman's Defenestration, which had vocalist Todd Meade, who later went on to form the Chainsaw Kittens. Among this scene was a cast of characters the likes of which I do not believe I shall meet again in my lifetime. The rumor was that Lips bassist Mark Ivins was just another student living in the dorms when my friend's brother became his suitemate; at the end of the semester, Mark was wearing the white face paint you see him in on the back of the Flaming Lips' first album.
Those days felt disjointed to me at the time, like calling myself Brother Love in the Bible belt of Reagan's America. There was nothing delicate about the balance between good and evil then, and some of us enjoyed calling ourselves evil. If the Flaming Lips was a shitty bar band, at least it was one of ours. Some bands, like Defenestration (which means the act of going or putting something through a window), didn't survive. I always respected ones like the Lips, who I suspect stayed together because they continued to enjoy making music on their own terms. That was the founding principle behind punk, anyway.
The last time I saw them play in Oklahoma was when they opened for Sonic Youth in 1985. Then I saw the Lips here when they played a second stage at a Lollapalooza. But I never kept in touch with them. I saw Wayne at Twist & Shout, but I couldn't hang around to catch up on old times. The most recent picture of him, I didn't even recognize; I guess we're all getting older.
Well, I'm sure that there is much that I left out. Watching this new collection of fans, they seem to be responding to something about the Lips that's new to me and I am only now discovering. What it means, I will have to consult my scriptures. I will continue to watch them as best I can.
via the Internet
Fun on the run: Westword, I love your publication and read it religiously. I recently relocated back to Denver from the Minneapolis area; it's good to be home. I am a professional club DJ and have been spinning for over seven years now. When I left Denver, I left in part because the club scene here was almost nonexistent. At the time, we had Club America at the Tivoli and Rock Island, and the after-hours club Synergy had just opened. My, how things have changed: It seems that there are a host of great clubs here now.
My concern is that we need to keep this progress rolling. Let's put Denver on the map. Let's start putting local talent on the tables for the betterment of our great city. Let's continue to encourage the Denver music market to flourish through progression. Sure, national talent is great, but how many people are we missing in our rush to book "moneymakers"? It's about the music.
Your mag has always been liberal in introducing the new and covering the fun. Let's keep the fun alive.
Nate Banker, aka DJ Detonate