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Bouquets and Brickbats of the cities

As it does annually, City Pages released it Best of the Twin Cities issue. This reporter used to write for that issue, and if things are now like they were then, the issue is mostly arbitrary and based on the whims of the individual writer; but, then, that’s how these things always are, and, read with that foreknowledge, the list is an enjoyable and idiosyncratic peek into what’s what in the cities formerly known as Pig’s Eye and Albion.

The big winner this year was Dessa Darling, the strikingly talented Doomtree collective member who entered hip-hop via slam poet nights at Kieran’s Pub, which is, unless we have our facts completely wrong, also the way the Sugarhill Gang got their start. Dessa (she’s becoming known by her first name, joining the company of Prince, Madonna, and Barbara — no, not Streisand, the French chanteuse) was showered with three laurels: Best Album of the Last 12 Month, Best Songwriter and Best Local Girl Made Good.

But Best Of isn’t just about tossing bouquets — they also toss brickbats, in the manner of the New Orleans newsweekly, The Gambit, which actually codified its praise and complaints into a section called Bouquets and Brickbats. So, for instance, CP took on Michele Bachmann, offering an admirable apologia for the amount of attention she receives: Upon declaring her Best Villain, they asked, “Does Superman pay too much attention to Lex Luthor? Does Batman pay too much attention to the Joker?”

And it’s not like Bachmann is some rural recluse who lives in a dilapidated shack and waves a shotgun menacingly at anybody approaching along her footpath. She actively courts attention and specializes in incendiary comments, which she insists she means metaphorically, even when she is saying things such as: “I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back. Thomas Jefferson told us ‘having a revolution every now and then is a good thing,’ and the people — we the people — are going to have to fight back hard if we’re not going to lose our country.”

Well, she got noticed all right. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which has been documenting extremism in the country since 1971, recently released a report pointing out that a “number of extremist groups in the United States exploded in 2009 as militias and other groups steeped in wild, antigovernment conspiracy theories exploited populist anger across the country and infiltrated the mainstream.” Guess who got name-checked? The quote: “While in the 1990s, the movement got good reviews from a few lawmakers and talk-radio hosts, some of its central ideas today are being plugged by people with far larger audiences like FOX News’ Glenn Beck and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn).”

They also offer up something called “Meet the Patriots,” which lists the movers and the shakers in the budding Patriot movement. No. 1 on their list, categorized under “The Enablers”? You guessed it: “When it comes to spreading fear of a menacing federal government infested with anti-American elements, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann can give even the most paranoid militiaman a run for his money.

As City Pages lets us know, there’s already been some blowback against this report; they offer this example from WorldNetDaily, which begins by identifying the SPLC  as a “left-leaning” organization. This charge is never demonstrated, although its one frequently leveled against the organization; there isn’t time now to deconstruct the argument, but, then, it isn’t really relevant. If the SPLC’s charges are accurate, it doesn’t really matter which direction they lean. And are the charges accurate? We can probably expect that to be hotly debated over the next few days, and we’ll peek in on that debate.

But the truth is, if you have to write a defense about why you’re not talking about somebody too much, as City Pages did, you’re probably talking about them too much. And so we will leave Bachmann behind for the moment, and head, where? Maybe Craigville, Minn., circa 1937, to a nondescript bar with three natty patrons and one who looks a bit like a stage version of a hobo, in this photo from the extraordinary Vintage Photographs page on Livejournal. They seem to be having fun.

Or maybe we’ll head to the relatively new Huge Theater, profiled by Chris Roberts of Minnesota Public Radio; it’s currently offering up an improvisational program inspired by the four-year-old Overheard in Minneapolis blog, which also sounds fun. Or “Queens of Burlesque,” at the History Theatre, profiled by Richard Chin of the Pioneer Press. But, on Monday, it’s back to Bachmann, at least until Gotham City is no longer bedevlied by her lethal electric joy buzzer and acid-squirting flower. And now, back to stately Daily Glean manor to see what else is going on in this fair city.

Karl Rove was in town Thursday, resulting in one arrest, as reported by Abby Simons of the Star Tribune. You’d think George W. Bush’s former senior adviser, whose political gamesmanship was noted for such viciousness that “Karl Rove Playbook” has entered the lexicon in the way that “Dirty Tricks” did after Watergate, would have garnered more outrage, but there are all sorts of new outrageous to distract us.

There is the Vatican, and years of allegations of a worldwide conspiracy to cover a seemingly endless and horrifying series of molestations, which, thanks to lawyer Jeff Anderson, is as much a local story as it is an international one. The St. Paul attorney’s case against the Catholic hierarchy is profiled by a team of writers from the Star Tribune, which prompted this contemptuous comment: “Forget about deporting illegal immigrants. Deport a priest and save a kid!”

Perhaps it is no coincidence that this comment is synchronous to a story demonstrating that Minnesota’s immigrants aren’t what the popular imagination might believe them to be. As MPR’s “Midmorning” sums it up, “A new report shows that in 14 out of America’s 25 largest metro areas, more immigrants are working in white collar occupations than in lower wage jobs. MinnPost’s Sharon Schmickle digs into the data a little more, looking into it from a local perspective, explaining that “[n]early half of the immigrants working in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area hold white-collar jobs — doctor, teacher, engineer and business executive, for example.”

In sports:A long wait for nuthin‘ ” says the headline for Judd Zulgad’s report on the Viking’s experience at the start of the NFL draft. The draft continues, however, so we’ll see what the next round will bring. Hats off to the Strib, though, for choosing a title that sounds like the pouty complaint of a 10-year-old ragamuffin, kicking the ground after not getting candy from Walgreens.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Kevin Reichard on 04/23/2010 - 12:02 pm.

    It’s Barbra Streisand, not Barbara. As in the Emmy- and Peabody-award winning television show, “My Name is Barbra.”

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