Click here to find out.
Click here to find out.
Dear Prince from Minneapolis
No moons over Miami
Or product-placed breasts
Just play your guitar
For your pests from the Midwest
Do it for Lovey and Dungy
And Obama and Oprah
The Rainbow Children
Of the now and
We'll be rooting for the home team
The Purple and the Gold
T.C. and Jackie and Arnellia
Shout-outs to St. Paul
Northside and Southside
And everyone in between
Can't hardly wait to see you
Do your sex machine thing
Yes, my twin brother
We've all still got faith
That you'll get our tongues wagging
And send us to bed
Then at the water cooler on Monday
We'll talk about "Head"
Dear Prince from Minneapolis
William Faulkner hated giving speeches. He once said, "I'm just a farmer who likes to tell stories." But on December 10, 1950, he went to Stockholm, Sweden to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. This is his entire acceptance speech:
"I feel that this award was not made to me as a man, but to my work--a life's work in the agony and sweat of the human spirit, not for glory and least of all for profit, but to create out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before. So this award is only mine in trust. It will not be difficult to find a dedication for the money part of it commensurate with the purpose and significance of its origin. But I would like to do the same with the acclaim too, by using this moment as a pinnacle from which I might be listened to by the young men and women already dedicated to the same anguish and travail, among whom is already that one who will some day stand where I am standing.
"Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only one question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat. He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid: and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed--love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, and victories without hope and worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.
"Until he learns these things, he will write as though he stood among and watched the end of man. I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal because he will endure: that when the last ding-dong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking. I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet's, the writer's duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail."
Ladies and Gentlemen, members of the jury.
Those of my trade, we are like the badger or the mole.
We work alone in darkness, guided by tiny
candles which we do not share, sweating to give birth
to replacement planets where things happen which don't.
And sometimes the hard jigsaw becomes a picture
and not a car accident. More rarely we place
our fingers adroitly on the frets or keyboard
and multitudes plummet through the small white trapdoor
which bears our hieroglyphs. Then we are taken up
into the blaze and shout of the conurbations
to make words in the air and strike the strange pose
from the clothing catalogue. But sometimes we see
a swallow in wintertime. And the talking horse
and the sad girl and the village under the sea
descend like stars into a land of long evenings
and radically different vegetables
and a flex is run from our hearts into the hearts
of those who do not know the meanings of the words
cardigan and sleet. And there is no finer pudding.
Now I am like that cow in the nursery rhyme.
The fire I have felt beneath your shirts. This surprisingly large
slab of Perspex. Your hands are on me. But this man
is another man. The clock chimes, my pumpkin waits
and the frog drums his gloved fingers on the dashboard.
May the god whose thoughts are like a tent of white light
above the laundry and the pigeons of this town
walk always by your side. My burrow calls. Good night.
I am sitting on the carpeted floor of my family's new apartment in Palo Alto, California, drinking a lukewarm bottle of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. It is Friday, Sept. 27th, 2002, my daughter's fourth birthday. She is bouncing around the room hopped-up on cake and ice cream and attention and is 90 minutes away from a full-blown melt-down. She is wearing the present my wife got her, a Dorothy costume from "The Wizard Of Oz," the new poster of which is tacked up on the wall, the new video of which is playing on the television.
Minnesota-born singer Judy Garland is looking more Technicolor radiant than ever this evening, singing as she so often has to so many dreamers her song about flying over the rainbow to a place that she's heard of once in a lullaby. In an hour or so, she will click her ruby red slippers--just like my daughter's, her third pair--and incant to the room that there's no place like home.
It is 9 p.m. I have just finished my first week of classes as a Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University, where I have been ruminating on the words of great scholars, authors, philosophers, scientists, sociologists, and journalists, and trying to figure out my own version of journalism's Five W's: Who I am and What I'm doing and Where I'm going and Why I'm here and When I might ever feel like writing about music again or, more precisely, if I will ever have anything interesting to say about music again. I am hanging with a dozen of my fellow students and new neighbors who have gathered in our apartment to celebrate the birthdays of Helen and our friend Huang Wen, a photojournalist from Beijing. I am wearing blue jeans, a Jayhawks T-shirt, and the bifocals I got this year.
I am a long way from home, but not as far away as Wen's new husband, Xiaoying, who speaks almost no English. He just got into Palo Alto from Beijing last night, and even though jet lag is starting to get the best of him, he looks game for a party, probably because Wen looks so giddy. He sits quietly on the carpet while Wen occasionally flits from his side to talk with the others. I get up and set my beer on a shelf next to a copy of Wen's harrowingly beautiful book "Target," which documents the war in Bosnia-Kosovo.
I tug on Xiaoying's shirt and lead him to my CD rack, motioning for him to pick out some music, but with little enthusiasm, because I've had the mute button on my "music is the universal language" and "music can change the world" rap for a while now: I have written so many variations on that theme and still the world remains unchanged and supremely fucked up and I am flat-out tired of self-parody and pep-talking.
My 250-strong CD rack selection is small compared to the one I left in my basement back home in Minneapolis, a fallow dust-gathering rock critic's graveyard. But there's enough jazz, rock, funk, folk, country, hip-hop, classical, blues, and world music here for anyone to find something familiar, something that speaks to them, something that reminds them of home. I hope that's the case for Xiaoying, anyway, a stranger in a very strange land, but he just looks confused.
After a minute or so, Wen comes over to assist and explain. She takes her husband's hand, squats down in front of the rack and fingers an aqua-colored jewel box. "This is the first one I see," she says; "Can we have this?" She hands it to me and flips over the disc I plucked from my basement a couple months ago, the disc I packed in a box and shoved into the U-Haul that my brothers and nephew and I drove through deserts and badlands and mountains from The Land of 10,000 Lakes to the Golden State.
Wen's request is for "Harriet," the 1994 self-release by Minnesota-born singer Terry Walsh and his band, 2 A.M. Wen asks if I'm related to the singer, and I tell her yes, that the singer is my brother, who at the moment is probably fast asleep in his home in East St. Paul with his wife Shannon and their one-year-old son, Ian.
"Your brudder?," says Wen.
"Yeah, my brother," I say. "Both my brothers have been in bands. Me, too. I was a singer in a band for a long time."
I am sitting in my office chair now, my out-of-tune-but-not-dead-yet guitar propped up in the corner over Wen's shoulder. An hour from now, it will be even more out of tune, thanks to windmills from my son Henry and his new buddy Kwan, the son of my new Korean friend Jong, but I don't mind. People are sort of drunk. Low-grade magic is happening.
"You did?," she says. The incredulous look on her face makes me want to tell her that I am still a singer, that once you're a singer you never stop singing; that 20 years ago I used to sing a song about my city, a fantastic place where singing in a band isn't so much an anomaly or a hobby as it is a rite of passion; a song about my local music scene that went, "Twenty years from now at kitchen tables we'll tell how our heydays have cracked and gone/They were the best of times, they were the worst of times/The age of wisdom and innocence/And everyone I knew was in a band."
I want to tell her and anyone else who will listen that that lyric still holds true today, and that I miss singing it, and that the other day I picked up the guitar and wrote a song, or more like a skeleton of a song, but whatever; it was the first one I've written in 15 years, and I want to tell her that it was directly inspired by the sound of Wen and the rest of our new friends from around the globe telling each other about their lives and what brought them to this place.
Instead of saying all that, though, I do what I usually do when words fail. I play music. "Harriet." The speakers are at eye level and people are talking, so I keep the volume low.
Marion and her mother, Theresa, whom some of us have taken to calling "Mother Theresa," talk about the rosary they brought Helen from their home in Bombay, India. Armando talks about his home, Paraguay, and my kids' birth country, Colombia. His teenage son Sebastian sits at his father's side looking bored but thoughtful. Armando's wife Maria Jose talks about her home, and plays with their baby, Candeleria. Hannah sits next to my wife and I, and talks softly about India, China, Pakistan, and the Afghan people she lived and worked with. Jong sits with Dong and their kids and tells the group the meaning of his name: "Top of the world." Nobody talks about the "weapons of mass destruction" and nuclear proliferation and pending war we've all been talking about every day since we arrived at Stanford.
Out of the speakers, my brother sings about life, death, cemeteries, spots on the map, and our old neighborhood in South Minneapolis. The one that drifts me off as always is "Harriet," his self-maxim to following your dreams and a tribute to Lake Harriet, the single most hypnotizing body of water I've ever stared into. Corny but true.
As the license plates boast, there are thousands of lakes in Minnesota, and the names are mythic (Spider, Cass, Bay, Detroit, Whitefish, Adeline, Big Wolf, Little Wolf, Moose, Kitchi, Leech) and interchangeable, for even if you've never been there, even if you've never heard of it, every Minnesotan--whatever that is--recognizes the lifelong lure of a dock or beach where they caught their first walleye, listened to the Twins on a fuzzy transistor, or saw the Northern Lights for the first time.
For city kids, the lakes are always beckoning; big puddles in the pavement that make urban living feel like a nature hike to be taken, or taken for granted. The city lakes go by names such as Nokomis, Como, Cedar, and Diamond, and I'm convinced their presence is what makes the place so special: There's something in the water, and about living so close to the water, and about gazing off into the water several times a week, that soothes and fires the soul.
Harriet is part of the lake Harriet-Calhoun-Isles sibling revelry of Minneapolis, and I love all three, but I'm partial to Harriet, the lake I grew up in and around, the lake that was and is just up the creek from my home, the lake my buddies and I would and sometimes still do drive around to talk about girls. The lake my mom and dad took us to many sandy summer nights, the lake I almost drowned in, the lake my wife and I walk around, the lake my kids swim in now.
Several generations of Minnesota boys and girls have necked and watched the moon rise and sun set there. Several others have skinny-dipped in it after bar closing time in the summer and skated on it before work in the winter. Still others have listened to their hearts and car radios and the sound of the crickets, which are louder than any other world-class cricket chorus you can put it up against, because Minnesota crickets and their frantic back legs realize that their time on earth is short.
So they do what all Minnesota creatures do in the summer: seize the night and serenade the stars as loudly as they can for as long as they can.
I am sitting on the carpeted floor of my family's new apartment in Palo Alto, California. Across the way, Judy Garland says to nobody but herself, "The next time I go looking for my heart's desire, I won't need to look any further than my own backyard." Over the murmuring voices of citizens from six continents, my brother sings to me, "Harriet, next time I look into your face, you'll be the same old place, but I'll be a different man."
Cameo, "Word Up." So my friend Meghan and I go to the still-fabulous-after-all-these-years Arnellia's for the late show Friday night by these '70s funk stalwarts, not really expecting much. We're feeling a little conspicuous, not for being one of four white people in the packed club, but for the fact that we are not dressed in our Sunday best and I forgot my derby.
We hang for a while up in front of the stage, then stand in back, digging on the Prince-centric opening band. Just before Cameo goes on, I have the Marvin Gaye (chicken wings, fish sticks, fries, all double-salted to heart-attack proportions-pleasure) and a Corona, and pretty much feel like I've got the world by the tail.
Then the funk starts flying. Synth and bass and all that yow. The dance floor fills. "Candy," "Skin I'm In," and, of course, the now-I-can-die-happy "Word Up." We shuffle-dance like the old-schoolers most all of us in the house are (all except for one child-woman who wore her jeans "like she'd been packed into them with an ice cream scoop," as Woody Allen once described Earl "The Pearl" Monroe's girlfriend) and I wake up the next day wondering Did I really dance to Cameo doing Word Up LIVE last night?
Seems I did, though the core of the group -- Tomi Jenkins, Nathan Leftenent, and Larry Blackmon -- came without Blackmon's signature red codpiece. Alas; here it is now, for all your crotch-gawking pleasure. Yow.
Molly Maher & Her Disbelievers, "Let's Pretend We Never Have Met" (from the forthcoming CD Balms of Gilead). All hail the new honky-tonk heroine of Minneapolis, who plays every Wednesday at Nye's, and whose band is as good a bunch of poker- and semi-twang-players as has ever graced the time-stopped stage of Lee's Liquour Lounge, which they ripped up Friday night opening for the revamped Jack Knife and the Sharps, still shit-kicking and seducing new generations of swing-dancers after all these years.
An East Side St. Paul girl who sounds as tough and sexy as that thumbnail suggests, Maher's got a lived-in voice (Balms opens, fittingly, with the lonesome-whistle sound of a departing train that seems to say, "Baby don't get too attached, I'm not long for you or this town") whose weariness is bouyed by a fierce underlying ambition and an obvious love of music and people.
All of which leads to all sorts of sticky situations in the world of bars and bards. This insta-evergreen -- every bit as memorable as its kissing kindred cousins "Strangers In The Night" or "The Night's Too Long" -- captures that moment when the whiskey and music coagulates into a full-on crush. In the end, though, the gnaw of possibility is soothed by our benevolent barmaid's suggestion, "You forget about me and darlin', I'll forget about you."
Luckily, she doesn't slam the door on her way out the bar. While playing a yearning slide guitar that sounds not unlike her permanently open heart, Maher explains herself, and sums up the bittersweet plight of anyone who has ever tried to balance the black magic of the neon night with the healing hush of the drabby day:
Yes I sound sweeter
When I've had a few
I get a little bit crabby
When it's comin' on new
It's not that I've lost
My taste for you
It's the light of day
That makes me blue
MySpace Nation to "Prairie Home" Star: "Maybe You Should Try The Search Engine"
By Jim Walsh
Not long after my friend Brianna helped me bumble my way onto my MySpace account, I found myself sitting at the 331 Club in Northeast Minneapolis with a female artist friend who was being interviewed by a fanzine writer/wanna-be blind-date.
My friend was doing all the heavy lifting, charming as ever, but the dude was flailing in the early rounds and up against the ropes. She's in her late thirties, a cabaret dancer and singer; he's in his late twenties, a computer guy, and he was losing her. Her real-world experience and class was trumping his D&D sweathoggery, and she was polite but bored silly: His screen-saver eyes and inability to make conversation with an actual live and in the flesh beautiful woman was getting the best of him. Finally, he came with it.
"I'm sorry I'm sort of out of it," he said. "I spent ten hours on MySpace today."
Ouch. Dude. Quicker than you can say "premature ejaculation," the sexual tension dipped from pulled hamstring to limp rubberband; I got up from the table and bailed -- sorry, doll -- because I couldn't stand to watch him fall into the quicksand of his own libido. I hadn't thought much about the poor sod since that night, until this past Sunday, when I read Garrison Keillor's Salon.com column, as published in the Star Tribune.
It's a semi-funny piece about how newspaper readers look so much "cooler" than on-line readers, and takes a shot at "[people who] sit staring at computer screens, sometimes with wires coming out of their ears, life passing them by as they drift through MySpace, that encyclopedia of the pathetic."
Fair enough. Another ill-informed off-the-cuff dig at technology and the isolation it creates, from someone who should know better. And while Keillor may be smart enough to know that "Garrison Keillor versus MySpace" is a potential ratings bonanza that would make for a hilarious little culture war (God knows we don't have enough wars -- cultural or otherwise -- going on nowadays), it seems to me that G.K. picking on MySpace is a lot like Donald Trump picking on the intern who fetches him his coffee and comb. (Keillor doesn't have a MySpace page, but this cat does).
Keillor's also smart enough to play the curmudgeon card to the hilt, so when he typed the word "pathetic," he undoubtedly puffed up and chuckled a bit as he padded his pipe and sat in his home library in white and snowy St. Paul. He probably tied up the belt of his smoking jacket, first edition of The Great Gatsby and the latest issue of Sven and Ole Jokes That Never Get Old at his elbow, snifter of brandy at the ready, knowing full well that some trendy knucklehead like me would sigh the sigh of the faux culture-war weary and take the bait and take up a defense of MySpace.
"Allright, I'll bite," chimed in Dustin Freeze late last night, in response to an email bulletin (your kid can explain it) I sent out to my friends (ditto) on my MySpace page yesterday. I asked them to comment on Keillor's crack, and to tell me what the underground community means to them.
"What keeps ya coming back is people's songs change, people's profiles change, it's like watching a social html painting," said Freeze. "Then there is the fact that the best way to find your friends is to look at your friends' friends. It's a dynamic that is socially empowering to idiots whom are not charismatic enough to meet and remember peoples' names on their own. It's like an existential mnemonic social iconography for the common folk.
"Never forget, Rupert Murdoch owns it all.
"This was just a whim responce. I'll stop now. It's my birthday for another 2 hours and I have more Summit to drink.
"Garrison Keillor's dismissal of this resource smacks of privileged elitism," wrote Dwight Hobbes about the essay -- which, tellingly on both sides, few MySpace nation citizens had actually read as of yesterday (and editors and publishers wonder why there's a sudden fire sale on newspapers.) "MySpace.com affords equal opportunity grass-root access to widespread exposure for writers, musicians and other artists who otherwise would beat our heads bloody against the mainstream's brick wall of petty, self-enamored exclusion. Keillor spoke volumes about himself, evincing ugly, ivory tower arrogance, with that graceless quip."
"Open letter to Garrison Keillor:
"On myspace I have:
"met musicians and discussed music with them
"met writers and discussed writing with them
"met philosophers and discussed philosophy with them
"met atheists and discussed atheism with them
"all of which has made me more confident and excited about my own music, writing, philosophy and the Universe we share.
"Of course some people are annoying.
"146M of anything can be annoying.
"But people are wonderful.
"Maybe you should try the search engine?"
Ms. Von Fate: "I just don't understand how anyone could actually think that walking into Starbucks unshaven, wearing pajamas and a raincoat, with several newspapers under their arm could make them look like anything other than a hobo. An eccentric hobo, perhaps, but a hobo nonetheless. Definitely not a mafia kingpin.
"Anyway, I personally use MySpace to keep in touch with friends who have moved away; long lost family members; and occasionally I meet people who have something brilliant to say that I otherwise wouldn't have had a chance to hear. The same goes for music. There are so many creative, energetic, unsigned bands on MySpace that it's almost hard to know where to start listening. So much amazing talent would go even further underground and under-appreciated if it weren't for MySpace. And that would just be... pathetic."
Barb: "myspace is connections, for me like meeting all sorts of people at the brick of the tv show northern exposure....my husband and i are getting together with a couple from indiana @ the birchwood cafe before cloud cult's cd release at first ave (whenever that will be)... myspace is all about lovely, simple togetherness on a bitter wintry day..."
Along with personal expression and a lot of the bad poetry, writing, and music that comes with it ("vanity press," to some; "one man's trash, etc." to others), MySpace serves as a marketing and promotional tool that has historically been the sole domain of radio, television, and newspapers. Most of that is now being bypassed altogether by MySpacers who have either grown sick of the molasses moves of the corporate middlemen/gatekeepers, or who have never dealt with them in the first place, growing up as they have in these truly DIY times.
Greg from Gin House Jed: "Like many other musicians, I have a MySpace page to supplement my website. I find the Myspace page more 'interactive' and have tended to direct more people there. Specifically, on the good side, Electric Fetus contacted me through my Myspace page and ordered 50 cds from me to stock the Borders Rosedale store when we played their grand opening in November. Also, being a fan of Robert Wilkinson, I went to his "Snaps" show at Kitty Kat Club last fall. Had I not seen that show posted on the friends bulletin board, I would have missed that show. In general, I think it's great for keeping up with the local bands, especially the lower-profile bands. However, if I needed Myspace to validate my existence or fulfill my life beyond that... hmmm... I'd be in trouble and I'd have to agree with GK..."
Kristi: "MySpace = another one of life's sweet little studies in human behavior. People are forever fascinating, with their goodness and creepiness shining through. We're all just living our lives, passing time. We just like to see other people's styles of doing so. There's something endearing about the whole set-up, the glimpse of a person's life and of what it is they're made. I swore I'd never be on MySpace. Now I refer to it as CrackSpace because I find I just HAVE to look. And as far as the new people I've 'met,' it seems to be similar tastes in music that have most often facilitated that connection. And amen to that."
E: "it has levelled the playing field between musicians, music critics and music fans. instant feedback from a show can be delivered from the observers to the performers and viceversa within seconds."
Jeremy From Earplug Radio: "It may sound strange but Myspace has become a viable marketing option. We have made connections in just a few short months with people that would have taken years in the past. Our marketing has been done exclusively on Myspace."
shugE: "I refused to participate in the whole myspace thing for a long time, and even now I still very much resent using something that makes money for the likes of Rupert Murdoch and many of the other evil corporate sponsors/advertisers. I had to create a page last summer because a booking agent refused to book me for a show unless I had mp3's .. that day. I made the page and now over half of my gigs are booked through myspace and I cancelled the expensive website I had in the works."
Fancy Ray McCloney: I've talked with George Clinton, and kept track of Little Richard through his band members.
"Plus discovered SO MUCH Good Music (I've bought many cd's of artist that I stumbled accross here).
"Best of all - I've gotten gigs based upon people finding me Here on MySpace. I'm talking $$$ - Comedy Gigs, Commercials, and TV Roles.
"Myspace: Gigs, Music, Comedy, Friends, Fans, Freaks, Writers, Road Managers, Blogs, Fan Clubs, Networking, Porn Stars, Events, Bulletins, and MORE!!!
"MySpace has been VERY_VERY Good To Me!"
Keillor should know that he can go on MySpace right now and befriend dead soulmates like Joe Strummer and J. Krishnamurti, and, call me pathetic, but I take great joy in the fact I can leave a message for T.S. Eliot and Emily Dickinson , and be damn sure they'll get it in the astral plane-tripping tin-can phone connection that is MySpace. (Dude, Virginia Woolf left me a comment the other day!)
Jim Meyer: "At my age, friends and ex-lovers have scattered from here to Pasadena to NYC. It's such a faster way to reconnect. Also, for the musical artists I seek, widely deemed irrelevant by the current power demographic the mainstream courts so desperately (talk about pathetic...has [Keillor] recently read the Mpls. based daily paper for which he jots...those opinion pieces I can barely get started), it has been a godsend in finding those who do art more purely, and are gratified by passionate single responses be they from Wisconsin, or Wimbledon.
"The ['pathetic'] statement is only true on the most superficial level. Also, it lets people be fun and wacky and silly in ways that are somehow rather hard to do in person. It's a weird kind of public privacy that lets people let down, where they might not if they met at a restaurant and felt they had to be polite or on point."
halle? : "myspace is the electronic ultimate zine. not only can we rely on blogs to keep us up to date with family and friends [er for those that take it seriously], but we can also connect with people who have the same extreme fetishes/interests that we may have once tried to hide and find an entire new community to connect with"
Pamela: "My best friend at college told me if I wanted to keep in touch with him after he graduated then I'd better join MySpace. Of course I did and was happy to find the added bonus of having an outlet for my writing. One year and 47 blogs later we're still in touch and I'm still in love with MySpace."
Electric Warrior: "MySpace is here because as peacocks we all need to flaunt our feathers somehow. Underneath all the pretense we just all want someone special to think we're cool."
Dozens of people emailed to say that they have fallen in and out of love on MySpace, had sex on MySpace, had epiphanies on MySpace, and met like-minded soulmates through this "virtual address book" and "electronic friend center." Spirituality pages of all stripes abound. Some have used it as a stay against loneliness, or a balm against the ache that comes with broken hearts, parents' deaths, divorces, and their own (sometimes well-documented) crack-ups, break-downs, and break-ups. In other words, it is often the human element stripped down to its rawest form.
Julia, a high school friend of mine from Minneapolis: "Maybe facebook doesn't count. but on both sites, i've connected with people i normally wouldn't. people i'm too scared to talk to at school. when everything got bad with my break up, i commented on a girl's site who was going through the same thing. she goes to my school. we started talking. she came and met me in real life with a rose. she makes me smile and we like each other a lot. it's scary...thinking of being hurt again but everything seems to be making sense.
"i think that sites like this are so much more than anyone gives them credit for. sure, complete internet life or relationships will never work in the end. but it's not about making your life on the computer, it's about expanding your horizons."
Which, ironically enough, Keillor has made a career out of doing for himself and his fans. Every day on radio stations across the world, Keillor delivers "The Writer's Almanac," a reliably inspiring celebration of art, artists, writing, and writers. Two days after his MySpace shot heard 'round the block if not world, he finished his installment of "The Writer's Almanac" with the words of Susan Sontag's son, David Rieff, who said his mother had "an unslakable kind of curiosity, of interest in the world. She is someone who can go to an opera, meet someone at two in the morning to go to the Ritz and listen to some neo-Nazi punk synthesizer band and then get up the next morning to see two Crimean dissidents."
Sontag would love MySpace. So would some part of Keillor -- the part, perhaps, that waxed nostalgic about Minneapolis's folk/blues/hippie scene of the '60s in his forward to West Bank Boogie. Because at the moment, a similar global boho community of loners, non-joiners, extroverts, introverts, party animals, and poets gathers at every hour of the day and night around the great electronic fire pit that is MySpace. It's all happening under the nose of the likes of Keillor, who has spent his life championing ideas, weirdos, and words, and who obviously loves to help writers and laborers of all kinds -- otherwise he wouldn't conclude "The Writer's Almanac" every day with his trademark-patented sign-off,
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.
Too bad Keillor is, or is play-acting to be, so out of touch he doesn't realize that for millions, MySpace is a good way to keep in touch. Plus you can be naked while doing so, which is always a good thing.
Jim Walsh can be reached at www.myspace.com/themadripple
by Jim Walsh
Don't sprain your brain trying to put into words what Bill Batson means to this town; all you'll come up with is some jive about him being somewhere between The Foshay Tower and First Avenue in terms of icon status; that the big lug deserves a statue next to Mary Tyler Moore on the Nicollet Mall or at least a plaque on the servant's entrance to her house in Kenwood or, at the very least, a rock 'n' roll high school named after him in his native northeast Minneapolis.
All of which lowballs it, as you will discover when you ask a few people who know him best to articulate Batson's impact, and, to a person, they all let out the exact same "words fail" spit-take and start stammering right along with you.
"I have no problem calling him a legend," offers drummer Tommy Rey, who joined the Batsons when he was 17. "It's amazing to me that he doesn't slow down. I mean, guys come and go in this town. They burn out, they disappear, they change, but these guys just keep going. He never quits. He just rocks, and he does it better than ever."
You're to be forgiven if you're not instantly familiar with the name Bill Batson, who will celebrate his 50th birthday this Saturday at the Turf Club, with his bands the Mighty Mofos, who will do a 25-song tribute to The Who that promises to be, um, slightly more satisfying than that running-on-empty Brit institution's last stop here, and the Hypstrz, who will do what the Hypstrz have been doing for four decades: turning their amps up and laying to waste most other versions of what is known as rock music.
"I think we might have to set up a spanking machine for him that night," says Ernie Batson, Bill's brother and partner-in-crime since Bill asked his older brother to join their first band, King Kustom and the Kruisers. None of the Batsons' bands have a Myspace page, web site, or publicist, but it says here that Bill has the respect of most everybody who has ever made his acquaintance, and remains the embodiment of what Iggy Pop said about fame: "Anyone can be famous. What matters is what you're famous for."
What Bill Batson is famous for is his integrity -- as a person, frontman, local music supporter, and soundman at the 7th St. Entry who, according to former First Avenue manager Steve McClellan, "trained 90 percent of the soundmen in town. The good ones, anyway."
"He's one of the hardest-working men in the music world," says Bob Mould, ex of Husker Du and Sugar. "Bill and I worked together for many years, and I could always count on him to 'be there.' In our business, where travel is demanding, chemicals are abundant, and egos are fragile and inflated, Bill was always punctual, sober, and straightforward."
"We're not dealing with fucking Saint William, here," says former Mofos bassist Jim Boquist. "He is a tough S.O.B., and I could tell you stories about him settling up [with club owners at the end of the night] that made me glad to know him. There is no one better to have in your corner."
The first time Mark Engebretson met Batson, Engebretson was a timid rock fan with dreams of being a singer. He saw King Kustom at the Snail Lake Ballroom. He knew Ernie, who was friendly, but not Bill, so he asked the guitarist for permission to go up on stage. Just to see what it felt like. When he crept up there between sets, Bill came from out of nowhere and screamed, "Get the fuck off the stage, man!"
"I'm still not sure he was kidding, but I always say he's one of the top five people in the world," says Engebretson, singer for the MOR's and Whole Lotta Loves. "He's why I started singing. He influenced me, and tons of people. When we first started our band, we just sucked. And he and Ernie would come over to the basement and just cheer us on at our practices."
"He's always wanted to see people do as well as they can -- for the most part," laughs Ernie. "He can be pretty disdainful of people who are not making the best use of their abilities. He likes people who have something on the ball and are making an honest effort to do something. He doesn't like music that is paint-by-numbers or cut-and-paste, or doing the obvious or not putting any personal stamp on it. He's always telling me about some new band he saw: 'They're not great now, but they've got something going on.'"
In that sense, it's no exaggeration to say that Batson's work ethic and no-bullshit approach helped sow the seeds of Minneapolis's persnickety rock legacy: Be original. Work hard. Have fun. If you follow your heart, people will help you. If you pose, they will ignore you.
"He's always hated bands that were contrived, American Idol contestants," says McClellan. "He likes the new and fresh, and sees the energy in kids and says, 'They may not have songs right now, but they're a good bunch of kids. Bring 'em back and let 'em open for U2.'"
The image of Bill Batson on stage is indelible: the wild eyes, searching the floor for collaborators, the maniacal grin daring anyone in the joint to tell him there's a better band on the planet at the moment. Clapping his hands like a butcher readying his next cut. Slicking back his hair like a greaser before a race. Jousting with the microphone stand like a javelin thrower.
But in the end, another, quieter, image may capture him best: at the end of the night, or between sets of someone else's band, wrapping up a guitar cord. One end looped around his elbow, the other in the palm of his hand, a bemused look on his face that suggests the wisdom of one who knows himself and the key to rock.
"There's a way that Bill wraps cords, and it's the right way," says Boquist. "He showed me. And I've wrapped my cords his way ever since. You take the two quarter-inch plugs and put 'em together in your left hand and pull the remaining cord in your right hand, then you bring that loop up to the plugs and when you get it to a reasonable length, you do that one wrap-around like you're tying your shoe. It's not rocket science, but it saves cords and they pack better, and I learned that from Bill."
The Mighty Mofos, The Hypstrz and Superhopper perform Saturday night (9 p.m.; $5) at the Turf Club, Snelling and University, St. Paul.
What About You Boy?
by Frederick Manfred
"What about you, boy?
Is your work going along?
Are you still making candles
Against darkness and wrong?
The whole thing is to blast.
Blast and blast again. To fill the
With songs, poems, temples,
Anything at all. Attack. Attack.
Open and let go.
Even if it's only blowing. But blast.
And I say this loving my God.
Because we are all he has at last.
So what about it, boy?
Is your work going well?
Are you still lighting lamps
Against darkness and hell?"
1965, Thorp Springs Press, Berkeley, CA
Find everything you're looking for in your city
Find the best happy hour deals in your city
Get today's exclusive deals at savings of anywhere from 50-90%
Check out the hottest list of places and things to do around your city