Tuesday, May 31, 2011 2:10 PM
Minneapolis and St. Paul, despite their cold climates and reputation for Minnesota Nice, is the home of a large and influential hip-hop music scene. Since 2008, a year’s worth of local hip hop culture culminates in Soundset, a day-long festival organized by record label Rhymesayers Entertainment that exposes underground acts and brings superstars to the Twin Cities. Droves of stoned 14-year-old suburbanites (sporting squinty eyes, hooded sweatshirts, and braces), skateboarders, hip-hopsters (sporting flat-billed caps and overpriced beers), graffiti writers, photographers (sporting press passes and caffeine pills), car enthusiasts, and aspiring artists (sporting demos and new shoes) pack the festival. The Soundset 2011 lineup in particular was a lush cross-section of the genre and the community, truly a “state of the art” festival.
No matter what type of hip hop you enjoy—from glitzy East Coast to dirty South to ultra-chill tropicalia—there’s a little something for everyone at Soundset. The West Coast duo Zion I & the Grouch interwove themes of healing and heroics between threads of reggaeton flow and dubsteppy beats. Looptroop Rockers came all the way from Sweden for Soundset (imagine the Beastie Boys with Viking beards) and, more than any other artist at the festival, critiqued geopolitics—especially northern European conservatism. 2Mex, an L.A.-based emcee, managed to twist Weezer’s “Say it Ain’t So” into blistering break-up confessional. Budo & Grieves rocked an actual bass guitar and an actual vintage synthesizer (surprisingly rare for a hip-hop festival, apparently), lending old-timey grooves to the young duo’s clever rhymes. Up-and-coming Minneapolis rapper MaLLy spat playful intellectualism at lightspeed, whereas Southern rapper Curren$y and his Jets crew spouted home-cooked swagger. Old-school hip-hop crews Dilated Peoples and De La Soul played classics from their 20-year back catalogs. And of course, who could forget the really big names: Doomtree, Brother Ali, Outkast member Big Boi, and Atmosphere.
(Check out photography from the entire concert at the
Rhymesayers Flickr stream
Perhaps the best example of the festival’s variety was embodied by Slaughterhouse, a supergroup with members who cut their teeth in Detroit, Brooklyn, Long Beach, and Jersey City. The group took some time out of their machine-gunning, bass-bombing set (they’re called Slaughterhouse for a reason) to pay homage to the music scenes that spawned them—their DJ spun subgenre-defining cuts from Naughty by Nature, Eminem, and the late Nate Dogg.
Soundset 2011 was among other things a memorial; more than a few of hip hop’s big names and influences have died over the past year. In March, Nate Dogg lost a long battle with strokes and heart complications. Less than a week ago Gil-Scott Heron, the spoken-word poet who brought us “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” died, which may be due in part to an HIV infection. Every tenth person, it seemed, was sporting an “R.EYE.P” t-shirt honoring Minneapolis rawk-sympathetic rapper Micheal “Eyedea” Larsen, who died last October. It was strange watching Larsen’s former cohort DJ Abilities spin alone. The day’s overcast skies seemed fitting.
My favorite performance of the festival came from a veteran of underground hip-hop: Blueprint. Artistry and legitimacy are the biggest concerns on Blueprint’s recent release, Adventures in Counter-Culture, where the rapper explores what he sees as the stagnation and celebritization of hip-hop. The Ohio-based emcee expresses his sentiments best on “Radio-Inactive,” a relentless, sci-fi-beat laden jam from the new album:
I made this in my basement, when you wasn’t even there
To express my feelings, not to be played on the air
So am I wrong or secure if I really don’t care
If this ever turns into something that anybody hears
Man I’m an artist, these other dudes shook
I write my album on my sidekick, no paper, no notebooks
Then rhyme for five minutes straight with no breaks and no hooksNo punch-lines, no similes, so I’m easy to overlook
Most of the artists at Soundset closed their performances with bangers, hits or golden oldies with teeth-rattling bass and memorable hooks. But not Blueprint. He closed his set with the sung track “So Alive,” a short hopeful piece about the bittersweetness of life.
Image courtesy of Rhymesayers Entertainment.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010 5:16 PM
When news of a terror plot in Portland, Oregon broke last week, it was initially reported that the alleged bomber, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, may have a stepmother in Minnesota. Investigators have neither confirmed nor denied the report, in large part because the Somali populace in Minneapolis and St. Paul is so vast. “Chances are, for a Somali outside of Somalia, there is a good chance he's going to have a relative here somewhere," FBI Special Agent E.K. Wilson told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “So I guess we just kind of assume that. But does that mean there is a tie to the case in Minneapolis? No.”
While there is no official link between Mohamud and Minnesota’s Somali community, which is the largest in the nation, the Star Tribunegoes on to report that the Portland bombing plot “lends a fresh urgency to their efforts to reach out to young people and to fight extremism.”
“Minnesota has recently been at the center of one of the largest counterterrorism probes since the 9/11 attacks,” report Star Tribune staff writers Allie Shah and Richard Meryhew. “The focus stems from the recruitment of at least 20 young men, nearly all of Somali descent, bye the terrorist group Al-Shabab.” As a result, “Minnesota Somali leaders had already been working to protect young men in their community from the lure of radicalism and gangs.”
In May, Utne Reader published an excerpt from the Virginia Quarterly Review, “Homegrown Jihad,” which examined the roots and depth of that allure, particularly in Minnesota, where the first U.S. citizen to carry out a terrorist suicide bombing was radicalized. His name was Shirwa Ahmed, and one morning in October, 2008 he drove a SUV packed with explosives into an intelligence office in Bassaso, a port city in the Somali state of Puntland. Five people were killed.
While Ahmed’s story is markedly different from Mohamud’s, who grew up relatively privileged and assimilated in Beaverton, Oregon, Somali leaders in Minnesota worry that his actions will resonate with kids who feel disenfranchised or disillusioned.
As Abdisalam Adam, secretary of the Islamic League of Somali Scholars in America, tells the Star Tribune: "There seems to be a feeling of, with the youth, something is missing."
Thursday, August 12, 2010 2:14 PM
Can we put humility aside for just a moment? Good. Utne Reader’s art director, Stephanie Glaros, is awesome. Not only does she singlehandedly shape what the magazine looks like, she also finds time to shoot evocative photography. Lately, Glaros has been shooting documentary portraits of interesting people she encounters outside of the office, including a photo essay submitted to JPG titled “The Girls Next Door,” which profiles the ordinary, hard-working women employed at a strip-club near her apartment.
“I was firm in my middle-class ‘feminist’ belief that stripping degraded women, and that guys who went to strip clubs disrespected women,” says Glaros. “But living next to a club changed that perception, and now I feel that supporting sex workers is the feminist thing to do.”
Glaros captures the women during their downtime; some touch up their make-up, enjoy a quick cigarette, or, in Giana’s case, work on homework for business school. “I now believe these girls deserve respect,” says Glaros, “or at the very least, tolerance. Many that I've spoken to are either students, or single mothers. They are trying to pay their bills and still have time to spend with their children, or to further their education. They should not be made to feel ashamed of how they earn their money.”
Glaros was also recently interviewed by 3x3.
Sources: 3x3, JPG
Images by Stephanie Glaros.
Friday, January 09, 2009 10:18 AM
The bottled water industry has been quite busy sweet-talking consumers into disregarding the environmental impacts of their product. But in certain cities, like London and Minneapolis, their message is running up against robust campaigns to make tap water trendy.
Style is strategy across the pond, where Londoners will soon sip their city’s tap water from a “signature serving vessel” designed to rival even the prettiest packaging of bottled water, according to World Changing. Selected from a design contest as part of the city’s London on Tap campaign, the sleek carafe will be produced and sold to London restaurants, bars, and hotels as the vehicle to deliver tap water to patrons. “Though a gimmick for sure,” writes Julia Levitt for World Changing, “the contest is a smart way to bring high style and sophistication to simple tap water, which is both less expensive and less wasteful than bottled water.”
Minneapolis is also marketing its water to residents with an $180,000 campaign set to run throughout 2009. The effort is part of a “progressive citywide campaign to cut down on waste,” according to the Twin Cities Daily Planet, and will attempt to build loyalty to the tap water brand by pushing its high quality and environmental advantages.
Image by Rickard Berggren, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008 3:30 PM
A wiry thirtysomething guy bikes out of the Whole Foods parking lot, a pannier of organic produce strapped to his rack. He’s on his way home to make dinner after a couple of hours volunteering at the local Obama campaign headquarters. He inches down the driveway, waiting for an opportunity to turn right into the busy rush-hour traffic.
He sees an opening and jumps into the lane, pedaling quickly. But he’s not moving fast enough for a hulking SUV whose impatient driver doesn’t want to change lanes. She tailgates him for several yards, laying on the horn, then swerves into the other lane and tears past him, yelling something about getting on the sidewalk. The cyclist gives her a one-fingered salute, then notices a McCain-Palin sticker on her bumper.
We are all guilty of certain prejudices. In the escalating (and increasingly dangerous) tensions between car commuters and bicycle riders, battle lines are drawn. As an avid cyclist leaning fairly hard to port, I had very little reason to interrogate the stereotypes embodied in the scenario above. But eventually a few needling questions penetrated my insulated sphere of thought: What if there are conservatives who ride bikes? What the hell do they look like? And where can I find them?
On the Internet, of course.
“I am a gun-owning, low-taxes, small-government, strong military, anti-baby murder, pro-big/small business, anti-social program, conservative Democrat,” wrote Maddyfish, a poster on Bike Forums, an Internet discussion forum where everyone from the casual hobbyist to the obsessive gearhead can discuss all things bike-related, from frame sizes to the best routes downtown. There are dozens such forums for bicyclists and I recently crashed three of them—Bike Forums, MPLS BikeLove, and Road Bike Review—with a simple question: Are there any conservative cyclists out there? Maddyfish (an online pseudonym) was one of the first to reply: “I find cycling to be a very conservative activity. It saves me money and time.”
And just like that, biking conservatives came out of the cyber-woodwork, offering their own mixtures of bike love and political philosophy. “I do not care about gas prices or the environment. I care about fun and getting where I am quickly,” wrote Old Scratch. “I’m a Libertarian,” wrote Charly17201. “I am extremely conservative, but definitely NOT a GOPer. … I ride my bike because it provides me the opportunity to save even more money for my pleasures now and my retirement in the future (and my retirement fund is NOT the responsibility of the government).”
The more liberal bikers in the forums repeated some variation of this formulation: “Drive to the ride = conservative; bike to the ride = liberal.” In other words, conservatives load bikes onto SUVs and drive them to a riding trail, while liberals incorporate their bikes into every aspect of their personal transportation, whether utilitarian or recreational. For moneyed conservatives with a large portion of their income budgeted for recreation, high-end bikes and gear have taken their place along golf as a rich man’s leisure activity.
But there are conservatives who integrate bikes into their lifestyle just as thoroughly as their liberal counterparts. Mitch Berg is a conservative talk-radio host whose blog, A Shot in the Dark, is divided between political content and chronicles if his experiences commuting by bicycle. “I grew up in rural North Dakota, and biking was one of my escapes when I was in high school and college,” he told me. “It’s my favorite way to try to stay in shape. And if gas fell to 25 cents a gallon, I’d still bike every day.”
Berg doesn’t believe there’s anything inherently political about riding a bike. “But people on both sides of the political aisle do ascribe political significance to biking. The lifestyle-statement bikers, of course, see the act as a political and social statement. And there’s a certain strain of conservatism that sees conspicuous consumption—driving an SUV and chortling at paying more for gas—as a way to poke a finger in the eyes of the environmental left.”
The impression that bikers are liberal is reinforced, Berg feels, by the most vocal and political members of bike culture. These are the folks who corner the media's spotlight (and draw drivers' resentment) with high-profile events like Critical Mass, a group ride that floods downtown streets in many cities at the end of each month as riders zealously reassert their rights to the paths normally traveled by cars. Similarly, when the price of gas climbed to $4 over the summer, the media couldn’t run enough stories about the unprecedented popularity of bike commuting. Activist bikers leveraged the newfound media attention to promote certain messages: that bicycling is an inherently political activity; that cyclists care about traditionally progressive causes like environmental protection; that more tax money should be allocated for bike paths and a transportation infrastructure that takes vehicles other than cars into account.
“The faction of bikers that is fundamentally political has done a good job of tying [bikes and politics] together,” Berg says. “The Green Party has wrapped itself around the bicycle.” But for many, biking is political because everything is political: “You need a public infrastructure to [bike],” wrote Cyclezealot, on Bike Forums. “So, cycling will always be affected by politics, like it or not.”
When politics does bleed into cycling, does it create tensions? I asked Berg if he ever feels outnumbered on group rides dominated by liberals, and if those differences ever come to the fore. “Of course,” he replied, “On several levels. I’m a conservative. I don’t believe in man-made global warming. I’m biking for reasons that are partly personal and partly capitalistic; I don’t want to pay $4 for gas.” But he has made liberal friends based on a common love of cycling. So has William Bain, a retired Naval officer living in the Pacific Northwest whose bike commute is a 43-mile round trip. “Cycling is the common bond I have with my liberal friends,” said Bain. “We can get in a heated passionate argument about politics and then go out and try to ride each other into the ground. Good clean fun.”
Berg and Bain have allies in the government who see bicycle advocacy as a nonpartisan issue. Take Republican Greg Brophy, a Colorado state senator and an avid cyclist who competes in road bike marathons and uses his mountain bike to haul farm equipment. Brophy worked with Bicycle Colorado to pass Safe Routes to School and is supporting a “Green Lanes” bill to give bicyclists safer routes through metro areas.
Conservative cyclists don’t tend to get help from all their political allies, however. Some right-wing personalities know that biking is a hot-button issue and make pointed attacks on cyclists while reinforcing the liberal-cyclist stereotype. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s hard-right columnist Katherine Kersten earned the ire of the Twin Cities bike community in 2007 when she characterized Critical Mass as a mob of “serial lawbreakers” bent on ruining the lives of honorable citizen motorists. “Are you rushing to catch the last few innings of your son's baseball game? Trying to get to the show you promised your wife for her birthday? Critical Mass doesn't give a rip.”
Last fall, Twin Cities talk-radio host Jason Lewis made on-air remarks decrying the “bicycling crowd” as “just another liberal advocacy group.” He recycled a common anti-bike canard—that bicyclists have no rights to the roads because they don’t pay taxes to service those roads—before issuing a call to arms: “The people with the 2,000-pound vehicle need to start fighting back.” Lewis’ comments seem especially reckless in light of recent events: In September alone, four Twin Cities cyclists were killed in collisions with motor vehicles. One conservative blogger celebrates bike fatalities and gleefully anticipates more. “Keep it up,” he tells cyclists, “and the law of averages says we’ll have a few less Obama voters in November.”
While such critics tap into right-wing rage at all things liberal, conservative bikers appeal to a saner tenet of their political tradition: the free market's invisible hand. “Let the market roam free,” Berg exclaimed. “The higher gas goes, the more people will try biking.” And where there’s money to be made, bikes and bike-share programs will emerge. When the Republican National Convention came to the Twin Cities in September, for example, a bike-share program was there to greet it. Humana and Bikes Belong made 1,000 bikes available for rental during the convention, with 70 bikes staying behind as part of a permanent rental program.
Conservatives on bikes represent the breakdown of party-line stereotypes. They are heartening examples of crucial divergences from the lazy red/blue dichotomy the pundits are relentlessly hammering in these last frenzied days of campaign season. They are a microcosm in which a stereotype falls away to reveal an actual individual. What's more, they represent not just the abandonment of tired clichés, but more bikes on the road—something all of us on two wheels, regardless of our political idiosyncrasies, can agree is a good thing.
, licensed by
Tuesday, September 23, 2008 11:14 AM
For nearly ten years, Jennifer Ilse and Paul Herwig have been staging productions in their own backyard—literally. The Off-Leash Area Contemporary Performance Works is headquartered in the couple’s garage, which they converted into a 38-seat theater.
But there’s nothing amateurish about the company’s production values, and with more than a dozen original productions to their name featuring luminaries of the Twin Cities theater scene, Ilse and Herwig are garnering acclaim for their performances and set designs.
The garage shows are still intimate, informal affairs: “While we have the full support of our neighbors, to minimize neighborhood disturbance, attendance to events at Our Garage is by reservation only,” the Off-Leash Area website reads. “After each performance the audience is invited to Our Backyard to visit with their fellow patrons and the artists for an evening by the fire pit and for refreshments.”
I suppose it’s this sort of ingenuity that has allowed the Twin Cities to boast more theater seats per capita than any American city outside New York.
opens next month in the Off-Leash garage; check the website for showtimes.
Image by dmealiffe, licensed by Creative Commons.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008 9:24 AM
We all know how much fun it is to gather around a television with like-minded friends and shout snide things at the unpalatable speeches being broadcast. Now imagine doing that in a theater filled with 300 drunk liberals.
That’s precisely what I did last Thursday, at the tail end of Daily Show creator Lizz Winstead’s multimedia satire, Shoot the Messenger. The show holds weekly performances in New York City, where Winstead and her ensemble spoof the week’s headlines during a parodic morning news show called Wake Up World (“America’s only 6-hour morning show!”)
But last week, in dubious honor of the RNC, Winstead’s troupe brought their show to her native Minneapolis for three nights at the Parkway Theater. Each evening’s events went beyond mere theater to include live feeds from the RNC and musical performances from revered protest singer Billy Bragg and local legends Dan Wilson, Jim Walsh, and Grant Hart.
Before the show, the Parkway’s seats were mostly full of chatty people munching popcorn as the onstage screen showed eminently believable ads for the “24/7 Infonewsment Network’s” fake shows, such as Poll Dancing with sexy anchorwoman Emily Rackcheck and MedicAsian with Dr. Vijay Jay.
Winstead and her co-star Baron Vaughn starred as Wake Up World’s chipper, clueless hosts Hope Jean Paul and Davis Miles. Hope Jean Paul is, like her creator, from the Twin Cities area: “I’m originally from Coon Rapids,” she chirped, to which Vaughn (who is African American) replied, “Wow! Sounds like my kind of place!” Naughty laughter erupted and Winstead replied, “Now, Davis, try not to be offended by the name, just because it contains the word Rapids.”
That joke set the tone for the show, whose mix of absurdity and topical satire has made Winstead’s more famous brainchild the Daily Show a media phenomenon for over a decade. Wake Up World, even more so than the Daily Show or its cousin the Colbert Report, is an acerbic and overtly partisan takedown of our leaders’ hypocrisies and the 24-hour news cycle’s vapid excesses.
In true morning-show form, Winstead and Vaughn hyped insipid segments like Lumpy the Cancer-Sniffing Dog, who they promised would find the one lucky audience member with a malignant tumor. A pro–big oil energy “expert” was brought in to discuss his new book The Town Pump: Alternatives to Alternative Energy. And a member of private security contractor Blackwater sat down with the hosts to discuss his new miracle fitness regimen: “Extreme Waterboard Abs.”
Pulchritudinous newsgal Emily Rackcheck delivered hourly news updates in a low-cut sweater and miniskirt. Bloviators Hunter Carlsbad (wearing a bowtie) and Daniels Midland (host of the Complication Room) shouted at each other during a Crossfire-style segment touted as “a debate between both sides of the political spectrum: the Far Right and the Right of Center!”
Winstead also tailored the show to the region with pre-taped biographical puff pieces on Laurie Coleman and Michelle Bachman subtitled “Behind the Taut Canvas.” There were ads for “a 31-part investigative series” called White in America and a gauzy video appeal from Sarah Silverman for charitable donations to private contracting firms.
After Wake Up World concluded, the evening shifted gears for its second segment, where Winstead reappeared as herself and sat down with liberal talk-radio host Ed Schultz to discuss the RNC—specifically Palin, whose fur-coat photo Winstead captioned “Wasilla DeVille.” Schultz was witty and affable, assuring us that McCain’s campaign would buckle under the weight of its own hypocrisy: “Look, everything’s going to be fine. And if it’s not, then we get another vice president who might shoot someone in the face!”
This marathon mix of political discourse, satire, and campy theatre was only a prelude, however, for the evening’s main event: a massive group viewing of John McCain’s speech. The audience, now well-lubricated and ready to laugh not so much with satirical glee as incredulous derision, filed back into the theater as McCain’s hagiographic video was playing on the giant screen, which had been tuned to MSNBC’s live feed from the convention.
As the man himself took the stage, the theater audience erupted with boos and squeals. The people around me gladly obeyed the rules of a drinking game Winstead had announced earlier: that we hoist our glasses every time the word maverick was used. Genuine cheers burst forth when MSNBC’s cameras zoomed in on the IVAW and Code Pink protestors who had infiltrated the hall.
As the speech dragged on and John McCain’s smiling rictus became increasingly creepy, the Parkway crowd got rowdier and my convention fatigue peaked. Around the moment when the last poorly programmed image appeared behind the penis-shaped stage, I fled the theater for some fresh air. When I went back inside a few minutes later, I encountered a completely different scene which cleared my head, the perfect antidote to the televised nightmare we’d just seen: Dan Wilson was playing his ubiquitous and charming hit single “Closing Time” to a much smaller crowd gathered near the front of the theater, kicking off one of Jim Walsh’s famous Hootenannies. Then Grant Hart took the stage, and the aging avatars of the Minneapolis counterculture settled further into their seats to watch their heroes perform, resting after a long evening—and week—of politicized sensory overload.
Friday, September 05, 2008 12:14 PM
“I wasn’t sure for a minute if this show was going to happen tonight,” singer Zach de la Rocha told the frenzied crowd of Rage Against the Machine fans Wednesday night at Target Center. The people roared. Only a day before, the police had shut down the Ripple Effect Festival at the Minnesota State Capitol just as de la Rocha and his bandmates were arriving to make an all-but-surprise performance.
The resulting fracas put a heady spotlight on Wednesday night’s show—as if Rage weren’t already sufficiently politically charged. Following 9/11, Clear Channel banned every one of the rap-metal band’s numbers on the notorious list of “songs with questionable lyrics.” In 2000, the evening of a Rage performance across from the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles ended in violent protesters/law enforcement conflict, soon after which the band split up—remaining disbanded for six-and-a-half years.
Last night, no rust was apparent. Alert sirens wailing, Rage took the stage in darkness. Fans screamed. Floodlights snapped on. Four figures stood in orange jumpsuits, black hoods over their heads. Even as the bass pounded, the sight of those iconic garments was chilling. Rage played a fever-pitched “Bomb Track” clad in that attire, recognizable only via de la Rocha’s inimitable voice and Tom Morello’s unmistakable finesse with the guitar.
Bassist Tim Commerford and guitarist Tom Morello jam during “Bomb Track.”
After the first number, Rage executed a quick-change off stage, re-emerging in street gear and belting out “Testify” to an ecstatic audience—many of whom, doubtlessly, were seeing Rage for the first time, having either missed the boat or been too young in the ‘90s. At least, there has to be some explanation for the googly-eyed delight splashed across everyone’s faces. This wasn’t standard-issue rock star gawkerdom: It was as if Che Guevara himself had just burst out of Brad Wilk’s kick drum.
Rage cranked through an impressive set with seemingly boundless energy. (At one point I found myself wondering how any of the spry guys have knees left, after years of jumping, bouncing, stomping, and leaping. De la Rocha’s unrelenting vocal chords present an equally vivid mystery, although one perhaps enlightened by this detail: He sipped a mug of what looked to be hot tea between several songs.) Quite frankly, too, I’d be remiss if I didn’t harp on Morello’s fantastic guitar playing; his fingers looked like a piece of cloth fluttering in wind as he poured them over the frets.
At the end of the evening, after Rage closed with “Killing in the Name,” de la Rocha took the pitch down a notch, evenly entreating fans to demonstrate discipline when they momentarily flooded out into the riot-cop-lined streets of Minneapolis. It was a noble effort (and showed remarkable restraint) from the fiery frontman, although the message was somewhat diluted by his politically-stirring between-song commentary and a light display that read: RNC F*CK YOU. But his words clearly came from a place of genuine concern, and, really, there’s only so much you can do when you’re trying to convey nuanced approaches—such as “peaceful, but not passive”—to a stadium arena’s worth of people.
Which is why, almost inevitably, there were some people not content to leave it at that, and a portion of the crowd dispersing into First Avenue began a slow, somewhat disjointed protest that ended with 102 people being detained several blocks away for “blocking traffic.” Minneapolis law enforcement was clearly prepared for the worst: Riot-gear-clad officers were present on foot, bikes, and horseback, as well as in squad cars, motorcycles, and mini vans (plus a small vehicle that looked like offspring of a golf cart and a Hummer). Here are some photos from the post-Rage ruckus:
The aforementioned small vehicle, from which Minneapolis police chief Tim Dolan instructed the crowd—which was blocking the street—to disperse. The area was thick with curious onlookers, most of whom didn’t clear out, presumably because they didn’t consider themselves part of the protest action.
The Minnesota Peace Team, a squad of volunteers trained in de-escalation techniques put together especially for the RNC, was present, as were the Guardian Angels. The two Peace Team members pictured above successfully talked down a shirtless concert attendee, who stepped forward (alone) and danced ridiculously as the mounted police attempted to advance their line.
Eventually, a more organized group of people emerged, hoisting a banner made of four defaced American flags. A group of people collected behind the flag, which the bearers carried forward in a challenge to the police line.
Things seemed as though they would come to a head as the flag-bearers marched into a blockade on Seventh Street; all officers present, including bicycle and mounted police, pulled on their gas masks. If it was a scare tactic, it wasn’t apparently scary enough: The crowd of onlookers remained placidly stationed along the sidewalk. One gleeful fellow (was he protesting? gawking? did he even attend the show?) skipped past me and naively chipped: “We’re gonna get gassed! Something big is gonna happen now!”
When the police barricade dispersed, the protesters made an impromptu march down Seventh—where, eventually, police surrounded and detained them, a “tame” round-up, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. All but two individuals were given citations and released. “In a way, for most fans, it was the perfect end to a Rage concert: defiance of arbitrary authority without painful consequences, just enough real danger to get the juices going. (‘Fuck you, I will do what you tell me, but only after shouting at you for a while!’),” writes Peter Scholtes for the Minnesota Independent.
Images by Julie Hanus.
For more of Utne.com’s coverage of the Republican National Convention, click here.
Monday, June 30, 2008 11:35 AM
A custom-welded, 10-passenger, beast of a bicycle (complete with a purple velvet banana seat for the driver) was just one of the highlights on this past Saturday’s FRAME x FRAME gallery opening-barbecue-bike ride, which—as if it weren’t enough to squish all those activities together—also kicked off the Minneapolis leg of the Bicycle Film Festival (BFF).
The ride meandered leisurely through the city, making use of Minneapolis’ top-rate trail system. At the Minnesota Center for Photography, riders paused to have their portraits shot in the parking lot—posing with bikes, of course. Word is the photos will run as a slideshow during parts of the Minneapolis BFF, which takes place July 9-12. (The festival tours to more than a dozen other U.S. and international locations, so stay tuned for our online coverage of the Minneapolis event.)
The ultimate destination was the One on One bicycle studio, where the opening reception for the FRAME x FRAME photography exhibit was already underway. The show features work by six local photographers: Mark Butcher, Mark Emery, Jason Lemkuil, Kelly MacWilliams, Heidi Prenevost, and Kelly Riordan, and will run through July 13.
As I wandered through the gallery—noshing on hyper-local grub provided by Common Roots Café—I couldn’t help but feel, well, cozy. Bikers sometimes get a reputation for being insular, unfriendly, a clique on two wheels. Not here. The photos on display at One on One wrap the room in welcoming colors. From giddy shots of the Stuporbowl to portraits of riders in a back-alley derby, FRAME x FRAME makes biking look like what it’s supposed to be. Fun.
Image courtesy of Kelly Riordan.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008 12:28 PM
Another feminist bookstore nearly disappeared this month: the Amazon Bookstore Cooperative in Minneapolis. As it turns out, Amazon will no longer be a co-op, but the bookstore will stay open. “After surviving the invasion of chain bookstores, weathering the shift toward digital media, and body-slamming Amazon.com with a lawsuit, did you honestly expect anything else?” writes the Twin Cities alt-weekly City Pages. Well, yes, actually. Amazon owners and patrons expected the store to close by June 30, and several articles eulogized Amazon in the past few weeks.
The store’s savior is Minneapolis resident Ruta Skujins, reports Minneapolis Metroblogging. Skujins, according to MinnPost.com, is an editor at the lesbian publishing houses Regal Crest Enterprises and Intaglio. (Ironically, the first link for “Ruta Skujins” that popped up in a Google search was her Amazon.com profile. On the bright side, the page lets curious patrons peek at the new owner's taste in books.)
Skujins looks to have the necessary business sense to make Amazon thrive, and plans to transform it into a neighborhood spot in addition to being a home for the feminist and lesbian communities. (She hasn’t ruled out a name change for the store, either.) I stopped by Amazon last Friday, and the neighborhood was hopping—a family getting ice cream before strapping the toddler into a Burley, 20-somethings chatting over wine and appetizers at the corner café, hand-holding couples taking a walk around the block. If Amazon can become an inviting community space without losing its feminist personality, it could have a long life ahead of it.
Image by anonfx, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, December 20, 2007 4:25 PM
Anyone who attended Aimee Mann’s traveling Christmas show expecting the usual holiday fare—chestnuts roasting, sleigh bells ringing, that sort of thing—might have been taken aback by the first song, a tune of hers called “Jacob Marley’s Chain”: “I’d rather just go on to hell/Where there’s a snowball’s chance that the personnel/Might help to carry Jacob Marley’s chain,” Mann intoned, the minor key melody and existential weight of the song signaling that this was not going to be a holly-jolly affair.
Mann acknowledged the irony straight away when she spoke to the crowd at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. “Usually, I’m a hater,” she said, wryly overstating her relentlessly melancholic nature. But then she confessed that Christmas was in fact her favorite holiday, and she went on to lead the audience through a variety-style show that celebrated the season in its own bittersweet way, including a reading of “The Christmas Song” complete with chestnuts. Mann, it turns out, mines the holiday for all its pathos, making her peace with it by exploring the other side of the glitter.
She turned “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” into a slow-smoking ballad, the languid pace giving her room to embellish the melody like a jazz singer. Of course, she played “I Was Thinking I Could Clean Up for Christmas” from The Forgotten Arm, its sad-junkie lyrics forever at odds with its incredibly catchy hook. And although she departed from the holiday theme to deliver several songs from her gem-packed Magnolia soundtrack, their wistful nature fit the night’s mood perfectly.
Mann performed a few songs at a time, and in between these mini-sets came the variety part of the show, a weird mix of film, comedy, and better-than-average talent show. New York smartypants songwriter Nellie McKay was a strange sprite in a pink, girly-girl dress and sparkling gold shoes who had crowd members exchanging is-she-serious glances, especially on her “Christmas Dirge,” which pleaded, “Please don’t chop down another Christmas tree,” and called such behavior a “fetish of the flesh” before turning into a lost-love lament. Take her seriously at your peril.
Singer-songwriter Adam Levy of the Minneapolis band the Honeydogs, whose music Mann has championed, contributed an inspired version of “Snow,” a Harry Nilsson song popularized by Randy Newman. Paul F. Tompkins of the Daily Show delivered just-funny-enough monologues and a Grinch cameo, and young comic Morgan Murphy took a hilarious turn as a beer-swilling “Hanukkah Fairy.” Finally, Mann showed clever film shorts in which she approached Ben Stiller, Will Ferrell, and other Hollywood friends about appearing in her show, only to be shot down repeatedly.
It was an unusual hodgepodge, to say the least, but that’s what a variety show is all about, and somehow it worked, the hostess holding it all together with her casual, lanky grace and a healthy dose of self-deprecation. She called it a “difficult Christmas experience,” but it wasn’t difficult at all. That part is yet to come.
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