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Bob Dylan ‘croons’ Christmas music, and the reviews are in

PLUS: Bachmann and Beck, and Bachmann and NYT. Also, bomb-building for family time?

With apologies to whoever crafts Michele Bachmann’s speeches, but Minnesota’s grandest contribution to the arts still is Bob Dylan, and now the troubadour from Hibbing has released his, um, Christmas album. “Christmas in the Heart” arrived Wednesday, and the critics are alternately bewildered and bemused. The blog Brand X quotes Mojo magazine saying, “That Dylan’s voice is shot (albeit poignantly so) isn’t as glaring when he sings ‘If You Ever Go To Houston’; it’s when he attempts ‘Winter Wonderland.’ And throughout Christmas In The Heart Dylan makes Tom Waits sound like Antony Hegarty. Moreover, the mixture of kitsch and reverence is surreal, referencing both his jokey Theme Time Radio Hour persona and the Born-Again Bob’s true believer trip, reinforced by graphics that include the Three Wise Men as well as Bettie Page in a scanty Santa get-up.”

The PiPress’ Ross Raihala offers his take in a front-page review: “With all the subtlety of a neighbor’s snowblower at 5 a.m., Minnesota’s famed rock ‘n’ roll poet barrels through 15 yuletide favorites in a manner that’s both terrifying and hilarious.”

And then there’s this from the Washington Post: “From ‘Winter Wonderland’ to ‘Silver Bells’ to ‘First Noel,’ it’s a bizarre and bewildering collection that, in many ways, embodies the rough-hewn traditionalism and forehead-slapping surrealism that’s defined Dylan’s career. The man’s serrated croon isn’t just jarring — it actually gives these chirpy old chestnuts a sense of menace. And it is awesome.”

But Jim DeRogatis in the Chicago Sun-Times pans our boy Zimmy, saying: “Conceptually … ‘Christmas in the Heart’ is a success, simply because it’s so unexpected and downright bizarre. You might think that as he enters the sixth decade of his career, with 34 studio albums and countless live recordings to his credit, Dylan couldn’t come up with anything to surprise us anymore. Well, he just found something. Unfortunately, when it comes to the music, the album is a complete failure.” Sheesh. What kind of a Scrooge doesn’t like Christmas music?

The long, long slog to the Governor’s Mansion is well under way and the Strib’s Rachel Stassen-Berger got the duty at a forum attended by 11 candidates representing the GOP and DFL. If there’s a takeaway, it’s that a few of the Democrats are actually saying they’re going to raise taxes. This includes Mark Dayton and Tom Rukavina. Such heresy passed no Republican’s lips, thank you very much. Tom Emmer, considered by many a major contender, dutifully argued for smaller government. “You must first reduce the size of our state government and … you must reduce the cost of doing business in this state.” Just wondering here, but has a Republican ever NOT said that?

Remember how dad taught you to pre-drill holes before screwing stuff together? No? How about how to make pipe bombs? Just about everyone in town jumped on the story of the Prior Lake parents who … in order “not to stifle” their Little Unabomber’s curiosity — bought gunpowder and helped them assemble 8-inch pipe bombs. Frederick Melo’s story in the PiPress describes the sequence of events and the part where the family gathers parents of other kids who went on the bombing spree (at least two were girls) to uh … uh … “coordinate what each family would tell police, according to charges. Witnesses later reported the couple said ‘they did not want the police to parent their child.’ [Keep big government out our private lives!] … They also suggested getting all of the families together to tell them not to talk to police, to get their stories straight and make amends with all of the victims.” Roberta Masters [the mother in this case] allegedly told the group she ‘thought bomb making was educational.’ “

Apparently chickens are the new beagles. At least in St. Paul. The PiPress’s Patrick B. Anderson reports that the City Council is giving chicken owners a break on permit fees — down from $72 to $27 — but will still require a petition process for neighbor approval. Roosters are something else, though. Writes Anderson, “Because it was tied to the petition proposal, the stipulation banning roosters also was thrown out, Stark said. So owning male chickens is still within legal bounds, even though the city discourages people from buying them.”

Eric Kleefeld’s Bachmann-watching duties for Talking Points Memo is nearly a full-time gig. His post Wednesday was off an appearance our favorite congresswoman made on … wait for it … “The Glenn Beck Show.” And yes, she once again brought up the five children and 23 foster children she raised. Beck asked if she ever thought she’d be better off busting out of freedom-hating D.C.?  “Well sometimes you think that. But then I’d have to look at my five kids, our 23 foster kids that we raised, and realize I have to hand the baton of freedom off to them.” Hand off the what of the what? And while we commend and admire anyone taking in foster children, is Bachmann really suggesting she “raised” all those kids?

There’s nothing new in this morning’s New York Times piece on La Bachmann. In fact, it’s a classic of “he said/she said” quasi reporting. So why bother?

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Far better is Jon Stewart’s segment last night on Sen. Al Franken’s really quite clever bill requiring government contractors to eliminate language in their hiring contracts prohibiting employees from suing the companies if they are … gang-raped by fellow employees … as was the case with a Halliburton (actually KBR) worker by 19 of her co-workers. Believe it or not there were 30 “no” votes, all Republicans, many of whom were indignant about the transgressions of ACORN.

Audio-taped alleged swindler Tom Petters doesn’t think he can get a fair shake in Minnesota. The AP is reporting that his attorneys are asking (again) to move his trial — start date Oct. 26 — to either Iowa or Wisconsin. Why, you ask?  ” … he can’t get a fair trial in Minnesota because of what [his lawyers] called the ‘extensive, disdainful, relentless’ and ‘scathing’ publicity in the media since his arrest over a year ago.” I knew it. The media cooked up that alleged Ponzi scheme. Bastards!

David Phelps in the Strib adds more to the Petters picture with his piece this morning. From an outline of the government’s case, we learn that Petters felt “shame” as early as April 2006. For all those — including the media — who were spellbound by his lifestyle and “charitable giving,” Phelps reports prosecutors saying, “The [various] companies provided Petters ‘with the appearance of a corporate tycoon, which made it easier for him to lure in new investors,’ the government said, noting that ‘splashy’ charitable contributions also contributed to his image, ‘solidifying investors’ confidence’.” Not to mention the confidence of most journalists in town.

All right! The new Lyndale Avenue bridge over I-494 will be opening a month early
. Brian Johnson in Finance and Commerce says construction is wrapping and traffic can start rolling on the swank new interchange on Nov. 1: “Exactly three years ago, officials from the city of Richfield told Finance and Commerce that if all went well the new bridge could be open by Thanksgiving 2009.” 

Going 108 miles an hour in a Ford Focus
? Not a good idea. It didn’t end well for a St. Paul man in Iowa. The AP reports the cops had to lay out stop spikes, which blew out at least one tire … sending the guy into on-coming traffic and a semi … at which point he passed away.