Letters | Don’t forget the mercury at Xcel’s Valmont plant


(Re: “Is city’s municipalization plan the next ghost at Valmont Butte?” News, Feb. 28.) You guys hardly mentioned mercury. Fly ash doesn’t get all of it, especially when burning dirty coal.

There was a rash of meth house busts in East Boulder County beginning in about 2000. Shortly before that, supported by a local attorney for an environmental organization, Xcel got a pass from the legislature on being required to update its controls to best available technology.

Mercury is also emitted along with natural gas in leaking wells, the connection with meth being that both mercury and natural gas are soporifics.

Would taking over the Xcel plant create a huge liability for the city, paying the lifetime rehab bills for those unfortunately poisoned people?

Rich Rebman, environmental health specialist, Renegade Research/Boulder

Not a big fan of Georgia O’Keeffe’s artwork

(Re: “Far from flowers,” cover story, March 7.) Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings have been praised for decades. She is so popular that her work has graced many calendars. Her folk hero status and her romantic, weathered, mythic life has elevated her to the pantheon of art legends. But, sadly, her paintings are nothing more than crowd-pleasing calendar art.

Pretty pictures and a mythic life does not an important artist make. Elizabeth Miller writes of O’Keeffe’s line, form and color. This is the same line, form and color employed by other painters of her generation, such as Hartley, Dove and Benton. These are painters that we hear very little about today.

Carolyn Kastner, curator of the O’Keeffe show at the Denver Art Museum, states that O’Keeffe’s brushwork in the ’30s was “what the abstract expressionists were doing in the ’40s and ’50s.”

To say that O’Keeffe’s work was expressionistic and a progenitor to abstract expressionism is absurd. Her work is quite timid and conventional. There is nary a bold brush stroke in any of her paintings. The swirly lines and form evoke nothing more imaginative than the ornamental curlicues of decorative art. And color? There is nothing akin to anything expressionistic in O’Keeffe’s use of color.

Abstract Expressionists such as Pollack, DeKooning and Frankenthaler were bold and monumental in their application of paint. O’Keeffe reduces the boldness and monumentalism of the New Mexican landscape into something small and “pretty.” To say that O’Keeffe was a progenitor of Abstract Expressionism is like saying a tract house is the progenitor to the architecture of the Denver Art Museum. To see a true progenitor of the 1940s and 1950s we have to go back 50 years before the beginning of O’Keeffe’s New Mexico work to her predecessor at DAM, Van Gogh.

As for the Kachina paintings, they are nothing more than straightforward, pedestrian still lifes with none of the power the original figures evoke.

Thankfully, the curators included these Hopi treasures beside the paintings so that we can see how O’Keeffe’s mere descriptions pale in the powerful presence of the actual Kachinas.

The O’Keeffe show at the Denver Art Museum and the Boulder Weekly review are examples of how we, as an art-viewing public, elevate the popular culture reputation of an artist far beyond the mediocrity of their work. It is also an example of how we confuse calendar art for actual art.

CM Brown/Lafayette

More on the idea of bringing back the draft

(Re: “Want to bring back the draft? Here’s how.” Danish Plan, Feb. 21.) As a Vietnam combat veteran who served a year as a drill sergeant with basic trainees, mostly draftees, I occupy “high ground” in any discussion of the draft, our national security and the complex culture of armed combat and military service.

My Vietnam tour ran from September 1967 — possibly the high water mark of our efforts in Vietnam, including the Tet Offensive and counteroffensive, Paris peace talks, the death of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, Johnson’s refusal to seek re-election, the Chicago riots, the Wallace campaign and the election of Nixon. In short, I bridge the gap between Johnson’s war and Nixon’s war, and am probably the Boulder expert on ATP 21-114, the centralized curriculum of U.S. Army basic training units.

The armed forces, for a number of reasons, are reducing forces in the next few years, and lack the cadre, rifle ranges, barracks and drill fields for so many new recruits, particularly conscripts of both genders; the current draft law is an extension of the first peacetime draft — that of 1940.

Ending the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, moreover, would reduce any need for personnel, not increase it; generals and admirals would not salivate at any return of the drug abuse, rebellion, racial conflicts, political and cultural upheavals that so damaged the brand under LBJ and RMN!

Finally, it took six months of training, travel and leave to transform me from Michigan recruit to Vietnam warrior, which would delay the effects of any declaration of war. I am planning a visit to Vietnam Sept. 8-22 and will tour my old hunting grounds, the area below Ho Chi Minh City and My Tho, in III and IV corps areas.

I am certain a factor in initiating and sustaining our ill-starred efforts was the draft, a mechanism effectively providing a limitless line of human credit to tempt Congress, three presidents and even military leaders who saw the perils earlier than many suspect.

Over and out!

Mike Reade/Boulder