Tuesday, June 27, 2006
It rarely has anything to do with their actual qualifications for the position. For example, while I have nothing against Gary Hanson, does he really know anything about regulating utilities? If he wasn’t the former mayor of the state’s largest city would he have had a shot in hell at winning? Doubtful.
With this in mind, one of the biggest shockers of state politics has to be the controversy over the upcoming election for state public utilities commissioner. What should have been a shoo-in for incumbent Bob Sahr turned into a controversial withdrawal from the race and a cluster-fuck of a state convention that almost led to the Governor’s brother looking for a nomination.
The story began a few weeks ago when a number of political blogs reported receiving a suspicious email regarding some sort of investigation into Sahr. What is most surprising about this case is that despite the long-running clichés of bloggers running wild with rumors and speculation nobody to my knowledge reported the contents of this email.
On the eve of the Republican convention, the Argus jumped into the act. Without any real facts, they dived headfirst into the story. For at least four straight days they reported that there were rumors of an investigation. They had no facts to report, but that didn’t stop the city’s best tabloid journalists from ruining this man’s career.
At first, Mr. Sahr rejected the quiet calls for him to take his name off the ballot but finally relented. Yet he admitted that his reason for stepping down was because of the rumors, although he denied that he had done anything wrong.
Weeks after these stories began to circulate, we still have no idea what’s going on. Is there an investigation? What are the charges? The local media is getting so desperate that I even received a couple of phone calls from a television station asking what I had heard. Now that’s desperation.
I have heard a few rumors, but I really have no idea if my sources know what they’re talking about. And if what I heard is true, I don’t see how this should make any difference in his ability to not only run for reelection but to do his job. I know very little about Mr. Sahr, but I’m extremely disappointed that he’s not fighting back. I would if I was him.
What’s most disappointing about this charade, however, is the fact that members of his own political party used a “scorch and burn” tactic against one of their own. It’s bad enough that we have these tactics are acceptable at all, but it’s very disheartening when a party brings down one of their own. As the Republican blog South Dakota War College reported on Monday, “what right did these people have in creating mayhem in the personal lives of the Sahr family? Did the saboteurs give any consideration to them?” It’s sad, but I have a feeling this won’t be the last time this happens.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Gabe's bathtime mohawk!
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Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Despite the idiotic blathering of his critics, however, he didn’t just attack for the sake of headlines and notoriety. When Dave Munson mishandled our city’s finances, he was correct to lead the commission to investigate the situation. He was also correct in his opposition of sweetheart deals that would benefit only a handful of businessmen who had become too comfortable with making money off the city’s back.
Yet I’m not saying that every move he made was a stroke of genius. I still feel that he, along with Vernon Brown and Andy Howes, were complete fools when they sat on the second floor of a downtown business to watch the Loopers waste another Friday evening. The so-called problems of the Loopers could, and should, have been solved just by a constant police presence. Instead, we built a giant “no fun allowed” sign on the downtown borders.
When Smith announced earlier this year his plan to run for mayor, he was immediately the front-runner…at least until everybody and their dog entered the race. He ultimately finished fourth in the initial race, but I believe that he not only enjoyed politics but would eventually become a player in bigger and better political races. Who knows, though, maybe it will still happen.
Smith’s resignation threw our city’s government into a bit of a tizzy. Nobody quite knew what should be done to replace him. About the only thing they could agree on was that the replacement had to reside in Smith’s district. Well, duh. Some wanted the commission to appoint a person; others wanted pubic hearings.
This past week, a decision was finally made. The dozen people who have expressed interest in the position will have fifteen minutes to make their case to the commission members in a public meeting. Each commissioner will then write down his choice, and those individuals who receive a vote moves on to the next round. After another public hearing the commissioners will make their final decision on July 17.
In my mind, this process is a mistake. There should be a special election that gives the people of that district the right to decide who represents their interest. This is one area where taxpayer cost should not be a concern. With that kind of thinking we could easily become a dictatorship…which would actually please a few morons who want to control the government for their own personal gain.
The process that our commission has decided to use will not result in any sort of new blood reenergizing the office he will hold. Too many of the people that have applied are old names who have held political positions in the past. Jerry Noonan, for example, has been a county commissioner but has lost at least twice in city commission races. Yet I could see the city choosing him for the job. It’s a similar situation with Tim Kant, Tam Baker, and a couple of other candidates. We all know that De Knudson will just ask her bff (best friend forever) Dave Munson to ensure that the person he likes the best will get the job.
This is not the time for our city leaders to adopt a “safe mode” work ethic. We’ve had a couple of tumultuous years with quite a few questions that still need answers. We, or at least the citizens of Smith’s district, deserve more than a status quo-loving professional politician to keep our fine city sort through the growing pains that will be inevitable as we continue to grow and grow. Let the people decide just who that person should be.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Today we’ll talk about my return to the courthouse. After the hassles of my first attempt, and with the announcement of the state’s fifteen day grace period, I blew off picking up my already-purchased plates. I didn’t want to be one of a couple hundred people with the same idea.
This past Monday at approximately eleven o’clock, I once again pulled into the county courthouse parking lot. It was not refreshing to see that the parking skills of my fellow Minnehaha County residents had not improved. Only a few people had the ability to park in a straight line, let alone between the yellow lines. I almost went next door to the cop shop to find somebody to administer drinking tests to these clems.
Having been led to believe that lines do not exist for the majority of the month, I figured this would be a quick trip. Boy was I wrong! Once again, the line was at least a hundred people long. (I was later informed that it was an hour wait.)
Since I had already paid, I walked right up to one of the windows and asked the clerk if I needed to wait in line for my already-purchased plates. The reaction of this woman made me wonder if courthouse supervisor Pam Nelson possesses one of those magic wands that was used on Will Smith in Men in Black. She couldn’t comprehend what I was talking about.
I explained that I was previously present during the crazy day when the computers broke down…and received a stone-faced stare. “Let me take care of this person and I’ll look into it”, she finally responded.
After waiting ten minutes for a simple renewal by the person she was waiting on she waddled over to the far side of her office. Five minutes later she waddled over to the other end. Finally, she returned with my plates. “What was your name? Bill Hudson?” “Um no, it’s Scott”, I replied as I quickly retreated out of the building.
Let’s get this straight. The courthouse problems are more than just a result of a faulty system in Pierre. Lines don’t just occur at the end of the month. Just what is the problem?
I said this two weeks ago, and I’ll say it again. The major problem at the courthouse is the staffing. There is no sense of urgency; these are not customer service people. At best, they’re the bastard parents of the convenience and video store employees of Clerks. They’re collecting a paycheck, and they’ll do anything that results in fewer tasks to be performed.
According to a member of the county commission, the fingers should be pointed to Pam Nelson. She’s an office manager, not a manager of customer service. People who work in office settings don’t need to schedule smoke and lunch breaks with customers in mind. Customer service settings do need this sort of order. And they also need reliable employees. A few weeks ago, six out of twelve scheduled employees called in sick on the same day. Even my family’s business doesn’t have these problems.
What’s the solution to these “waiting game” problems? It’s simple – get rid of Nelson and hire somebody from the private sector who has retail experience. Use incentives to encourage employees to get busy people such as you and I in and out of the building as quickly as possible. Something has to be done soon!
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Thus a million rumors began. Supposedly there were plans for a surprise appearance at Coachella, followed by a full-fledged reunion album and tour. Some even speculated that the band would latch on to a Guns ‘n’ Roses reunion tour.
A few days later, the truth was revealed. There was a reunion of sorts, but there were no plans for a full album or tour. Rhino Records was preparing a 20-track greatest hits compilation (currently set for a June 13 release) comprising their tenure at both Twin Tone and Warner Brothers, and the band had reconciled to record two brand new songs for the project. Since Mars is no longer involved in music, he supplied backup vocals and Freese, who has toured and recorded with Westerberg in the past, provided drums.
The resulting tracks, “Message To the Boys” and “Pool and Dive”, pretend that 20 years have not passed since the band’s heyday. Both tracks would fit perfectly on either Tim or Pleased To Meet Me. “Message To the Boys” does “borrow” the riff from Westerberg’s first solo foray, “Waiting For Somebody”, but is propelled by a pure power pop chorus.
This compilation is just the beginning of a sort of “’mats-mania” planned for the next two years. The entire catalog is currently being remixed and remastered, with Tim and Pleased to Meet Me tentatively scheduled for a fall release. The remaining albums will be reissued next year, along with a box set that will be chock full of unreleased material and a DVD compiling television appearances and live clips.
With all that in mind, it seems like the perfect time to take a look back at arguably Minneapolis’ greatest rock ‘n’ roll band. A group that combined Stones-y raunch, Faces’ debauchery, and punk rock momentum with early ‘70’s AM-radio bubblegum pop. A group who’s commercial aspirations were derailed by self-destruction and drunken excess. A group that sounds as fresh today as it did in their mid-80’s heyday.
Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash (1981)
At first glance, these eighteen songs simply followed the usual loud/fast rules of the time. The song titles were simple; the music even more so. Yet Westerberg already had a knack for sensitive lyrics; at this point he just kept them buried behind a wall of sound.
Key Tracks: “I’m In Trouble”, “Shiftless When Idle”.
Stink EP (1982)
Late, great guitarist Bob Stinson is the star of this thrash-fest, as his guitar is turned up to a Spinal Tap-ish “11”. Eight songs in less than twenty minutes, performed primarily in triple-time speed. The only exception to this furious attack is “Go”, a British Invasion-ish ballad that finds Westerberg daring to show the world his insecurities.
Grade: B- (a half-grade penalty for brevity)
Key Tracks: “Kids Don’t Follow”, “Go”.
The band’s third release finds them gaining more confidence in the studio. Elements of blues, power pop, folk, country, and straight-ahead rock were added to the mix, although the results are arguable a bit unfocused. Like the earlier releases, though, the band created tunes around every-day life, such as traffic lights (“Run It”), boring “trendinistas” (“Color Me Impressed”), and loneliness (“Within Your Reach”).
Key Tracks: “Color Me Impressed”, “Within Your Reach”.
Let It Be (1984)
The band’s first true classic album…and song. In a parallel universe, “I Will Dare” would have been the biggest song of the year. Instead, it’s the voice of a whole generation of bored and lonely young adults. Like Hootenanny, the album careens in and out of various genres and influences, yet it sticks together by simply oozing drunken belligerence. Sure, there’s plenty of silliness in songs such as “Gary’s Got a Boner” and “Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out”, but these tunes are balanced by the harrowing loneliness of the glorious “Unsatisfied”.
Key Tracks: “I Will Dare”, “Unsatisfied”, “Answering Machine”.
The guitars are toned down a bit on their major label debut, but this probably due more to the secret hearing problems of producer Tommy Erdelyi (aka Tommy Ramone) than any attempt to cross over to the mainstream. While the music is tempered just a tad, this is Westerberg’s songwriting masterpiece. All but a tune or two (“Lay It Down Clown” for one) are classics, from the pure pop of “Kiss Me On the Bus” to the anthems “Left of the Dial” and “Bastards of Young” before concluding with the masterful morning-after ballad, “Here Comes a Regular”. Hopefully, the remastered version set for release this fall will right the sonic wrongs of this release.
Key Tracks: “Left of the Dial”, “Little Mascara”, “Bastards of Young”, “Here Comes a Regular”.
Pleased to Meet Me (1987)
With Bob Stinson no longer in the band (dismissed due to, get this, heavy drinking), Westerberg played all the guitar parts in the first purely digital rock album. Marred perhaps by a bit of filler tunes, the best parts of this album are as indispensable as anything they’ve ever recorded. In fact, “Can’t Hardly Wait” may be an even better single than Let It Be’s “I Will Dare”. “Alex Chilton” probably sold more albums for it’s namesake than 20 years of recording and touring, and “I.O.U.” is the most ferocious rocker the band ever recorded.
Key Tracks: “I.O.U.”, “Alex Chilton”, “Skyway”, “Can’t Hardly Wait”.
Don’t Tell a Soul (1989)
A blatant attempt to “play the game”, Don’t Tell a Soul purposely tempered the sound and ferocity of the band. Westerberg was writing less about everyday life; the songs were still sound but somehow less compelling. Most of the second half of the album smells like filler, although “I’ll Be You” was the closest thing to a real hit the band ever saw.
Key Tracks: “Talent Show”, “Achin’ To Be”, “Darlin’ One”.
All Shook Down (1990)
The most underrated Replacements album started life as a Paul Westerberg solo project. When Warner Brothers refused to release it as such, the rest of the band made cameo appearances alongside noteworthy session musicians. While it never truly rocks as a true Replacements album should, the majority of the tunes are top-notch, reminiscent of middle-period Ray Davies.
Key Tracks: “Merry Go Round”, “Nobody”, “Sadly Beautiful”.
All For Nothing/Nothing For All (1997)
While still a worthy collection, this double disc set could have been much better. Hampered by the inability to use any Twin Tone material, Warner Brothers insanely pulled four tracks off each of the albums the band recorded for the label. Great songs from Tim are inevitably excluded for so-so tracks from Don’t Tell a Soul, despite the fact that there was plenty of room on the disc for more material.
For collectors, however, there’s a second disc of b-sides, live cuts, and outtakes. Although collectors have in their possession plenty of outtakes that are superior to some of those included, this was a nice bone thrown to hard-core fans.
Key Previously Unreleased Tracks: “Can’t Hardly Wait (Tim Version)”, “Portland”, “Satellite”, “Another Girl, Another Planet”.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
“I got something for you to kick out of town,” he spat at me. “The fucking awful way people drive in this town. No wonder we’re rated as the number one safest city to drive – everybody drives fifteen miles under the speed limit.”
To make matters worse, his problems with local drivers actually affected my day. You see, we share the same wonderful hair stylist, the divine Ms. Lori, and the slow pace of the road caused him to be ten minutes late for his appointment. Since my haircut was right after his, this obviously meant that I was now ten minutes or so behind my day’s schedule.
I told him that I had addressed this issue before, but after my experiences the past few days I decided that it was worthy of another look. Before we get to this, however, let’s talk about this silly “rating”.
While everybody in the media and local government were smiling over this “award” (and I’m sure city leaders are already preparing signs for placement all over the city limits), it’s sort of a misleading statistic. Did these same press-release news stories also include the fact that we are the only city of our size in the nation that has no sort of cross-town highway system?
Of course not, and that’s the major flaw. With few high-speed sections of pavement, it seems pretty obvious that the vast majority of accidents in the area would be minor fender-benders. There are also very few curvy roads, and only a couple of bridges. You have to be doing something extremely stupid to be involved in a serious accident in this city.
I actually thank the Lord, however, that we don’t have many highways, bridges, or non-straight streets. Nor for my convenience, though, as I would give away my next-born child-that-I’ll-never-have for a highway that would get from the east side to the west side in less than a half hour. But I’m the type of guy who thinks of the betterment of the entire community.
No, this town has enough trouble driving as it is. Besides their obvious fear of the gas pedal, our residents just don’t understand the concepts of merging, turning, red lights, yellow lights, stop signs, turn lanes, construction areas, parking lots, parking spaces, 41st Street, 12th Street, Minnesota Avenue, Phillips to the Falls, the Post Office, City Hall, County Courthouse, Wal-Mart, Hy-Vee, Best Buy, etc. etc. Yet somehow these cretins believe they can multi-task and talk on their cell phone while they’re slowly weaving in and out of their lane.
Not that the city helps us out. They’re too busy coming up with the worst places to place traffic signals. Why was the First Lutheran Church light reactivated? Why do they keep erecting these stupid extended green systems that favor the lanes that have the least traffic? Why aren’t the downtown lights flashing yellow and red on Sundays? Somebody please also tell me why seemingly every McDonalds in town has their own personal light.
Along with the light systems, the city and state certainly enjoys creating confusing and overlapping construction projects. Why not have multiple projects on major streets that are close to each other? Hell, why not have major construction on separate sections on the same road? It’s always cool to force six lanes of traffic to move to a narrow two lane road that few people knew even existed…somebody in the Planning Department must get a serious woody at the thought of making life miserable for all of us.
My KELO buddy is right – driving in this silly city is a pain in the ass. As comedian Jim Norton is famous for saying, “it stinks and I don’t like it”.
Sunday, June 04, 2006
By Jennifer Ordoñez
June 12, 2006 issue - The Replacements never had a big hit—just love from critics and fans, compelled by both the raw, smart music and the rock-and-roll behavior. Original lead guitarist Bob Stinson died of an overdose in 1995, but his brother, Tommy, continued to play bass. Since the band broke up in 1991, singer-songwriter-mastermind Paul Westerberg, 46, has had a respectable solo career, and makes good money writing songs for films ("Saved"). Now the Mats have reunited, sort of. Westerberg, Stinson and a ringer on drums (original drummer Chris Mars dropped by to sing backup) recorded a pair of Westerberg songs for a new "Best of" compilation to be released on June 13 by Rhino Records, and the band has a few others in the can.
ORDOñEZ: I've got a bunch of questions.
WESTERBERG: I've got two answers. No, and no.
Excellent. Thanks for your time ... So. How involved were you in putting together this "Best of" package? Or was this purely a record-company thing?
Yeah, I washed my hands of it. Not being able to pick the winners in the past, I let the powers that be choose the songs.
Tell me about the new song "Message to the Boys."
I wrote that, oh s---, I don't know, 13, 14 years ago. I always kept it in my back pocket in case we ever played again. This is something I dread having to divulge, because we have enough weird fans as it is, but it's sort of in honor of one of our more dedicated fans who used to come see us all the time and, eventually, you know, ended up dead. I don't want to encourage that at all, but it was something that affected all of us. We could spend the whole time talking about dead people involved with the band, but we don't want to do that.
What was it like getting back together?
We were a little uncomfortable at first. I didn't even recognize Tommy in the hallway because he had dyed his hair black. It had been that long since we'd seen each other. But by the third time we'd played together, he said, "Hey, let's go," which pretty much means "Let's pack a suitcase and go make a record." I told him I had a movie to finish, and I said, "I'll see ya in the fall. Let's see what happens." Those two aren't the only songs that we cut in the course of a three-month period.
So there might be a Replacements album of new material?
Right now, no. But I don't think it's out of the realm of us making one, Tommy and I.
And Chris Mars?
He's very responsible now and has, like, an art career. He's matured to a point where I don't think he wants to relive the past. Chris just came down and hung out and said hi. You know, Tommy hadn't seen him in about 10 years, and it was amazing. We hung around, sang a little, goofed around and then he took off. That's kind of the way the Replacements started and ended. You know, a guy walks away.
And [guitarist] Slim Dunlap?
I got a general consensus from everyone involved that he wasn't interested in it. Tommy and I are kind of the heart and soul of the band, so why bother him? Leave the poor man alone.
What is he doing these days?
I know he plays solo—he does his own little Dylanesque act, so I'm told. You know, we live like six or seven blocks away and I haven't seen him in 12 years.
And Chris lives in the neighborhood, too?
Much farther away. At least a mile.
Are you annoyed when people say that the Replacements gave birth to bands like Goo Goo Dolls?
I just wish there would be a newer one we could be blamed for. About a month ago, [Goo Goo Dolls lead singer] Johnny Rzeznik called me up and said he had something to give me, which of course frightened me. I ended up having one of the road cats go over, and he'd bought me a 1965 cherry red Gibson guitar, probably worth $4,000 or $5,000. He'd just gone into a shop, picked it out and wanted to give it to me. That was a lovely gesture.
You guys must all have mortgages. How much of an issue is money in doing all this?
We only gave them two songs. So that kind of indicates what kind of money they gave us. We turn down a lot of offers to perform. Tommy's got other commitments, and I've got a baseball team to coach.
Is there a magic number that would get you guys on the road again?
Well, that would be the magic question. No, it's more the willingness. I don't know what it would take for us to actually rehearse these old songs ... Also, in the course of the last six years I've gone from being completely sober to one inch from death to completely sober again. Right now I'm very healthy, but I know secretly, in the back of my mind, that when you go on tour, that's when you tend to weaken when it comes to whatever vices you might have. I know Tommy's aware of that, too. So a little part of the reunion thing is us being afraid of getting back together and falling into our old ways and not making it home.
You and your wife have a son now.
Yeah, Johnny. He'll be 8 in a couple days. I coach his baseball team. We played last night, and the third baseman from the other team said they'd lost their last game by 43 to nothing. So I started stopping our guys on third base and holding 'em up, but we murdered them anyway.
Is Johnny aware of what you do?
Yeah, he gets more reminded of it by his friends at school. The classic one so far has been "Daddy has arrived in an ambulance because he drank too much wine." And the other day a grown-up comes to the door with a child, and he was, like, "Hi, Paul. I want you to meet my daughter, blah, blah, blah. She wants to be a singer. Honey, why don't you ask Paul what it's like to be a singer?" And I knelt down and, "Well, strangers come to your door at dinnertime and, you know, everything else is fine. Bye." Johnny was there and he goes, "That's weird, man."
Is Johnny into music?
Yeah, he plays piano, and he's starting to fool around with the guitars and of course he goes right for the drums. He wanted to come down and see the Replacements play—if you want to call it that—in the studio. So he was there checking out me and Tommy. He thought we sucked.