Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Get Out of Town October 29

(October 29) Fall has always been my favorite time of the year. The weather is reasonable – warm during the day (except for today) and cool during the evening. You can wear almost anything you own, from shorts to sweatshirts.

The highlight of the fall season is Halloween. It’s the perfect holiday – no pressure to purchase gifts, no religious dogma, no family obligations. But it’s also a great father-son bonding holiday. From the time he was barely walking, Halloween was always my kid’s favorite holiday. Even during the great blizzard of (I think) ’92, when we received over a foot of snow, we still made our way to a number of homes for free treats.

Unfortunately, that bitch ex-wife moved my son out of town, so we have rarely been able to spend the holiday together. And now that he is in his mid-teens, he obviously would rather spend the time causing havoc with his goofy friends.

But Halloween is no longer just a kid’s holiday. It’s become one of the biggest party events of the year. It’s a great night to drink, ogle women, laugh obnoxiously at morons, and just act like a complete imbecile.

Of course, I wouldn’t be myself if I didn’t have some stuff to bitch about. There are things that I absolutely hate about Halloween, as you’re about to hear.

First off, there’s Thriller – the album, song, and video. The album is the most overrated recording by the most overrated artist of all-time. It became the template of every record Michael Jackson has released ever since – all thankfully with shrinking sales. Now I’ll admit that there are moments on that disc that aren’t too bad. Unfortunately, I can’t think of any right now. But Thriller – the song- was the filler tune that concluded the album. If every other song on that disc hadn’t already been released as a single most people would probably still not even be aware of it.

But we are aware of it, because of that godawfully insipid video directed by John Landis. I don’t want to be too mean to Mr. Landis, as he did direct Animal House, one of my favorite movies of all time, but a bunch of dancing ghouls, a Playboy Playmate-turned crack whore, and a thirty minute running time did nothing more than set the stage for future movie studio budget videos for crap tunes.

Yet every Halloween the video channels pull this garbage out of their files for constant airing. I seem to recall VH1 running it for 24 hours straight a year of so again. Please spare us this misery this year.

Now let’s talk about costumes. And I have some serious bitching here. First off, I don’t need to see any more beefy dudes dressed up as women. It’s a serious buzz kill. If that’s your deal, then fine. If that’s the case, there is a bar in town that caters to that activity 365 times a year, and at least the people who frequent that establishment know how to pull it off. Really, I don’t want to see any hairy legs in high heels sitting in an un-ladylike way while drinking mass-quantities of PBR’s.

And please, when designing your costumes, think about where you’re going to be hanging out. If it looks like your favorite bar is going to be a little past the capacity limits, maybe that bulky costume isn’t the best way to go.

I remember back in the mid-90’s when Janitor Bob was at their peak. They were so popular at the time that even on normal nights one got to know their neighbors a little more than they wanted. Well, the band played on Halloween and there is nothing worse than 1,000 costumed people crammed into one bar. If you weren’t careful you were liable to lose an eye, or get stabbed in the crotch by some strange costume accessory. It was a miserable experience.

And I can’t bitch about costumes without talking about clichés. You know, the pregnant nun, the Kiss guys, Elvira, etc. The Scream movies are almost ten years old; please retire those masks (and the other standard horror movie characters). But those aren’t as bad as the “crazy, wacky” costume of the year. I don’t know what it is this year, but every year there’s a costume that all of the normals believe is wild and crazy. Remember a few years back when seemingly every couple was Monica and Bill? God, those people thought they were clever…but they weren’t. Or the couples who think they’re dressing as punks when they actually look more like members of the Knack. What will be this year’s cliché? Tough question, but I’ll bet we see more than a couple Siegried and Roys.

Moving away from costumes, let’s bitch about a few other Halloween clichés. What’s a Hudson bitch-fest without a rant about television? Please, let’s get rid of special Halloween editions of television sitcoms (except for the Simpsons). Renaming ABC “A B Scream” is simply embarrassing. Most of these shows are awful enough without trying to write in a costume party. Or the morning news shows that will inevitably decorate their sets and give helpful hints to parents for a safe Halloween experience.

While we’re at it, can we retire those horror movies that we’ve already seen a million times? I have friends who enjoy some of these movies, but I’ve never understood the appeal of Jason, Freddie, and Jamie Lee Curtis. They’re not scary, the plotlines are as poorly written as Steven Seagall flicks, and the acting is even worse. But if you do need to watch one of these movies, please go for the original. There’s no point in the endless remakes of Night of the Living Dead or Texas Chainsaw Massacre. They’re the cinema’s equivalent of Mandy Moore’s new covers album.

To wrap things up, I must bitch about the latest trend in trick or treating. I’m sorry but I think it’s wrong to trick or treat at the mall. The candy’s lousy, the mall staff could care less about the kid’s costumes, and it’s all just a gimmick to get mom and dad to buy some more unneeded crap. Trick or treating is supposed to all about wandering around the neighborhood, or a few neighborhoods, and seeing who gives out the best treats. For every house that gives penny suckers and tootsie rolls there’s the home that hands out real candy bars and sometimes other treats.

The mall scene is another example of how our nation has become a land of fear. There are all of these myths floating around about razor blade apples, poisoned candy, and abducted children. If we lived in Compton maybe this fear would be real, but there has never been a proven case of tampered treats. As for the abduction angle, I can’t think of an evening that would be more safe than Halloween. Everyone that’s handing out candy has their lights on; and there’s kids and adults all over the place to report any strange activity. So I plead with everyone to let their children have a good time – plus I got a buttload of candy to hand out.
Get Out of Town October 22

(October 22) Imagine, if you can, the following hypothetical story. Let's say that out of nowhere, a complete unknown candidate emerges for a major local political office. Imagine the public reaction if one of the local television stations is completely up this person's ass, flashing grins whenever this person's name is brought up. Nothing but positive statements are read about this candidate; with no rebuttals from critics or political opponents.

Ok, maybe I just described Fox News. Just kidding…sort of.

What kind of uproar would we see if this sort of situation would occur. Everyone would be completely up in arms. That station would be the laughing stock of the state.

But that's exactly what's happening with the situation concerning the possible move of the Minnesota Vikings' training camp to Sioux Falls.

This rant is not to once again debate whether the Vikes should or should not move here. That was handled last week. My stance then, as is now, is that while I would love to see the team in this city, I don't believe that it's worth spending millions of dollars on fields and other renovations to entice the team.

One point from last week carries over to this discussion, however. If you recall, one of my main beefs was that KELO head cheese Mark Antonitis was a member of the organization who are preparing the proposal. As someone who represents a company who reports the local news, his personal involvement raises questions about the quality of news that his channel provides. Well, we know the quality of KELO news, or at least my opinion of those knotheads.

Anyone who believed that there was no conflict of interest should have seen their Sunday evening broadcast. Their top story at 5:30 and 10:00 was the fact that everyone at a local sports bar, including fans of the Denver Broncos, was in favor of the team's move. Well, duh. That's like going to a Nascar event and asking if those attending like racing. Or going to a strip club and asking if the patrons like firm breasts. Even an ass man is going to nod in agreement.

Certainly, there is room in local television news for fluffy, obvious stories such as this. But the role of local news is not to be simply cheerleaders. Their duty is to report every aspect and angle of any major story, with as little obvious bias as possible. Don Jorgensen's eyes should not light up whenever the topic is discussed. Financial issues should be discussed and investigated. As I said last week, this group is already inflating the figures, with the three million that Mankato claims it brings to their city now becoming a million a day, and over a million in sales tax revenue per year. Inquiring minds want to know how they came up with these figures, and why is their such a huge discrepancy?

The tactics used by KELO, and to be fair the other local stations, stray from their obligation on reporting the news. Not that is anything new. They're all famous for their creativity…and that's not a compliment. There are voices in the community that are upset about the five to fifteen million that may be spent, and it's not just the Skyforce players pissed that their girls will be stolen by multi-millionaires. I hear some of these voices everyday, and whether they are right or wrong in their bitching, their views deserve to be heard.

Some listeners may wonder why I'm singling out television news. After all, a well-know talk radio host is also on the committee, and most local radio stations have had few negative comments. Cade is a loud and proud fanboy…and he should be. Radio and television have different news standards. Radio stations such as this one are entertainment. While news is a part of the program, it's not the major focus. There is no obligation for music stations to have news reporters, or to investigate stories. The news that is read is mainly short headlines to keep their listeners semi-informed, or as a launch for opinionated chatter.

Television news, on the other hand, has much larger standards. They do have duties to be fair and balanced (oops, poor choice of words), to show diverse opinions, and to do everything in their power to keep commercial interests out of their broadcasts. Unfortunately, these lines have been blurred in recent years, which is why we have the Sioux Valley/Ace Hardware/Lewis Drug/insert more advertisers here Healthbeat, or the Subway Hit of the Week. Although most of these tie-ins are innocuous enough, the mere fact that television stations are in bed with their advertisers raises many questions as to how real news stories, including this one, are covered.

One final thought - when I was reading the article in yesterday's daily paper, I noticed that this committee is looking at calling the Howard Wood/Arena area "Vikingland". Hmmm, I wonder who came up with that cliché? Already, I can imagine KELO's new headline - "Vikingland comes to KELO-land".

(October 15) The views that I’m about to express are bound to be not very popular. They’re sort of against the grain of the current wave of support. Like that’s any different than normal. But I wanted to warn everyone, and also plead with those that don’t agree to just listen to what I have to say.
I must say that like everybody else I would love for the Minnesota Vikings to move their training camp to our little city. It would be great to spend a summer afternoon watching a real professional team (at least during a good year) working out and evaluating rookies, free agents, and grizzled veterans. It certainly would be great for my family’s businesses, as I would bet that a 290 pound offensive lineman can easily devour more food than the average family. And it would be good for the fine bartenders at Acme to have a few actual multi-millionaires slipping them a few generous tips instead of those cheap bastards that usually hang out there. And, of course, there’s a whole crop of young, stupid, slightly overweight young women just salivating at the thoughts of a lifetime of generous child support checks.
So yes, I am in favor of the Vikings relocating across the border. But here’s where my conservative side kicks in. I don’t want any government entity – city, county, or state – paying a dime to entice the team. Wait, I take that back. I probably wouldn’t be upset if a few thousand was spent on upgrading the locker rooms, or even the extra practice fields the team claims to need. Actually, I’d prefer that private funds were used, but let’s not quibble on the minor points.
What I don’t want to see is a major outpouring of money, particularly a dome covering for Howard Wood Field. Even the cheapest roof is bound to cost tens of millions of dollars, and, despite what the supporters claim, I don’t see a decent return on that investment.
Now let’s talk about the financial impact on our city. Obviously, there would be some extra cash floating around, from players, coaches, reporters, and the dozens of fans who would actually take vacation time to watch their team practice. But let’s get real. Officials from Mankato say the three weeks the team is in town results in 2 – 3 million a year. Keeping in mind that political-types and chamber of commerce officials tend to inflate numbers even more than those involved with Jazzfest, the figure is probably a little less.
But that doesn’t stop the locals from bragging. The initial reports stuck to Mankato’s figures, but suddenly that number seems to be taking a giant, albeit improbable, leap. Now it’s up to a million per day! How can that be?
This is the sort of rhetoric that has made so many of our citizens disillusioned with the Pavilion. Remember, they didn’t need a parking lot, and six months later we built one anyway. And we were also sold a lie that the facility would be self-sufficient, yet we still kick in six figures per year. You get the drift.
A lot of the major players in that building, and other taxpayer-funded enterprises, are now involved in begging the Vikes to SooFoo. Let’s talk about a couple of the bigwigs that met at Monday’s heavily-publicized meeting. The self-professed leader of this motley crue is Sioux Valley’s Kelby Krabbenhoft, the man responsible for using profits from his non-profit hospital to put their name on seemingly every weather machine, scoreboard and artificial turf in eastern South Dakota. While I don’t doubt that he has a passion for the sport, it seems obvious to me that he has a master plan that has nothing to do with Daunte and Randy.
It’s my belief that he sees this bid as a way to get the state to pay for a domed stadium, and his company would take credit and would get their name on the building for a pittance. Does the words Sioux Valley Doppler 3000 Stadium ring a bell? Get used to it. If the Vikings turn down our bid then he’s got the ammunition to get it built anyway. I can hear it now - “we’ve got to build it so we don’t lose our next opportunity”. Other members of the panel, including former Mayor Rick Knobe, have also been pushing for a domed stadium for years.
Please, let’s not again start in on this supposed need for a domed stadium. It’s a myth that big-name bands are just screaming for an opportunity to play in a half-empty Sioux Falls stadium. Our local semi-pro and minor league teams can barely fill their current locations; the demand for their tickets is unlikely to suddenly double or triple. We may have a larger population than Fargo, but we don’t have our own version of Moorehead or a real university to draw fans. The concert industry, like the record industry, is going through some tough times right now, and there are few bands that cross enough genres to attract the numbers needed to be profitable.
And a dome is not even needed for the team. There are very few days in late July and early August where the weather would affect the team’s practices. If a storm does come through, there’s always the Arena. The Storm plays during that time period, so there is a field for light workouts. One more thing – 10,000 people are not going to turn up to watch a scrimmage. Maybe the first time they host a scrimmage this could happen, but otherwise there’s about as much chance of that regularly occurring as there is that Jenna Jameson is going to marry me.
Let’s now talk about a representative of the state’s largest media outlet - KELO’s Mark Antonitis. As a member of the media that has a duty to report on both sides of the issue, Antonitis has no business being involved with the bidding. Certainly, having the team in town will be a boom for their reporters, but how can we trust any of their reports on this story? So far, they’ve been nothing but cheerleaders, even stating last night that “virtually everyone in (the mythical world) of KELO-land is in favor of the move”. Really? I guess that can occur when you only give one side of the story.
One final question. The reported plan includes an offer for the players and staff to live in the Sheraton during camp. Who pays for this? If it’s the city or state, then the hotel should be reimbursed for only their actual expenses. There’s no way that a private business should profit from the government.
Let’s be real. It’s highly unlikely that no matter what we give away, or whatever buildings we construct, they’re not leaving Mankato. Or at least not moving any further than St. Cloud. Given the fact that the team is trying to break out of their Metrodome lease, and rumors see them eventually landing in San Antonio or Los Angeles, maybe it’s for the better that we don’t get screwed.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Get Out of Town October 8

(October 8) Before I begin, I have a couple of mini-topics to throw out at you. First off, here’s my thought of the day. Why didn’t that tiger that attacked Roy make his way to the Celine Dion show down the street? Then the animal would have became a national hero.
Secondly, did you know that the FCC has ruled that the “f-word” is now acceptable for broadcast? Earlier this year, Bono from U2 uttered the word while accepting a Golden Globe on NBC. Conservative groups filed a complaint to the government agency, which issued the ruling earlier this week. The bureau wrote, “the word may be crude and offensive, but in the context presented here, did not describe excretory organs or activities. Rather, the performer used the word to emphasize an exclamation.” In other words, I can say that’s “f-ing” great, but I can’t say I want to “f” Liz Phair.
Ok, with that out of the way it’s time to send someone the “f” out of town. As anyone who regularly listens to this segment, I cannot stand partisan politics. Politics is supposed to be an exchange of ideas, and political parties are designed to bring forth multiple ideas to solve our nation’s problems.
Unfortunately, politics in this day and age is nothing but showmanship and character assassination. At times, it seems like nobody on either side of the fence is interested in anything but power. This is why we get nothing but scream-fests on Fox and CNN, and why otherwise rational people still believe Janklow did nothing wrong.
Being as our state is generally more rational than most of the rest of this country, one would think that partisan politics would not play a role in running our government, particularly in our state legislature. Republicans completely run the show in Pierre, so there should be no need for silly games. Whatever Bill…I mean Mike…wants, he has the votes to get.
Yet there is a legislator from our fair city who takes great delight in pretending that he’s the local version of Trent Lott. It’s become his mission to embarrass anybody who doesn’t think like his party. Earlier this week, he crossed the line in my mind.
I’m going to tread a bit lightly while dealing with this man. You won’t hear me calling him a moron, or a Nazi, or any other disparaging term…even though he may resemble those remarks.
You see, this man has a day job. He’s a lawyer, one of the few professions even sleazier than politician. And I don’t need to be sued. I have enough problems in my life without that sort of headache.
The man in question has been in the running for a boot up the ass for quite some time, but there has always been bigger fish for me to fry. But after reading Monday’s daily paper, it has become time for the man to get his due.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m talking about Republican Representative Matt McCaulley, who made headlines earlier this week with the announcement of his plan to introduce a bill to ban any sort of state income taxes.
I’m not here today to debate whether this state should have an income tax. That’s for another time and place. In fact, there’s probably no need to talk about this issue for quite some time, as it’s unlikely that we’ll ever see such a tax.
Income tax is a four letter word in this state. Just mentioning the words sends shivers down the backs of a vast majority of voters. In fact, the last time it was seriously discussed was in the 1992, and a ballot issue over this issue was shot down almost three to one. In the mid-70’s, the Democrats, who had a slim majority in the Senate, killed their party over this same issue. They’ve never been the same since.
As mentioned earlier, the Republicans have such a majority in the legislature that even if somebody did try to introduce such a bill it would be shot down quicker than I am on a Friday night. They have the votes and they have the money to fight any such future proposal.
McCaulley’s bill is nothing but political pandering; a method to put people in a political box. Anyone who votes against this bill, even if they just object to putting this ban in the constitution, could be painted as pro-tax in any future campaign. Keep in mind that our constitution already includes a prohibition against any new tax or tax increase without a vote of the people or a two-thirds vote in each house. Keep in mind that future generations can and will have completely different economic and philosophical challenges to deal with. Why tie the hands of those living in the next century?
In other words, this bill is just a waste of time and money designed for future radio and television commercials. And for McCaulley, it’s just business as usual. This is the same man who wasted our legislature’s time with votes supporting the President’s tax cut, the Iraq war, and the controversial nomination of Miguel Estrada to the U.S. Court of Appeals. That’s fine if McCaulley supports all of these issues; but since our legislature has no jurisdiction their opinion means nothing. Again, it’s just fodder for future races.
And McCaulley is also responsible for the “anti-Daschle” bill; a controversial piece of legislation that passed last year that would have prevented Tom Daschle for running for President and the Senate at the same time. If Daschle had decided to run, he would have been the only Senator in the race who would face this restriction. Yet McCaulley claims that he wasn’t even thinking about Daschle when he penned this bill. Yeah, right.
My Google search yielded a few other facts about Representative McCaulley. He’s against industrial hemp, stating that “it’s questionable as to whether there’s even a market for it.” As someone who once worked at a local retailer who sold hemp clothing and jewelry, I can assure the honorable Representative that our state is losing a ton of potential revenue on imported hemp products.
McCaulley is also in favor of home-schooled children participating in high school activities, and earned a thumbs down from the NEA for introducing a bill allowing anyone to teach in a public school.
Probably most damning is McCaulley’s work last year to enact a number of bills to restrict Native Americans from voting. One such bill would require any absentee voter desiring to vote by mail to apply to the person in charge of the election for an absentee ballot. The application would have to be in writing and be administered by a notary. This would be quite a hardship, particularly for those in ill health, in certain areas of this state where the county seat is miles from the voter’s residence.
These bills were the result of 2000’s tumultuous Thune/Johnson race, where large numbers of Native Americans led to allegations of voter fraud. McCaulley was behind the scenes on this mud-slinging, which culminated in three allegations of paid votes. All three allegations were dismissed by the Attorney General, a Republican, as being fabricated to support the Republican claims. Yet McCaulley used the words “voter fraud” to push these bills through the legislature.
It’s time for McCaulley to take his political bonfires to a state that thrives on such infighting. Maybe he’d be better appreciated in California.