The danger of having an opinion (5×8 – 5/30/12)

Local music and local heresy, the lure of the Oil Patch, Marina Keegan’s last essay, wishing away Jim Crow, and what happens to all the VHS tapes?

First, a Wednesday Morning Rouser:



(Photo: Nate Ryan/The Curent)

I once confused Trampled with Turtles with Dead Man Winter and heard the pathetic guffaws from a local music reviewer, but I’m also old enough that these things don’t matter too much to me. Still, the reaction surrounding a writer’s conclusion that the local music scene thinks too much of itself has been fairly entertaining and illustrative of something, though I’m not sure what.

It started last week when MPR’s Chris Roberts suggested this is the golden era of local music.

A commenter on The Current’s (excellent) music blog disagreed:

There have always been talented people in MN, there are just a million bands nowadays and better ways to promote. Frankly I think it’s a little embarrassing how the press and radio fawn over the scene. There are good bands that have had some success but no real genius and no superstars. Nothing built to last as near as I can tell. The local critics seem to be tooting their own horns. They think everyone’s great. Self importance? Gb Leighton pulls in more people than any of these indie bands. Hey press do your job and do some actual critiquing.

Posted by jeffjordan | 10:55 AM – May 17, 2012

whoops didn’t mean to rip any of the musicians, just the press. don’t get me wrong there are great bands in town. MPLS just looks like some solipsistic backwater when the media crows on and on about how great we are. Out of towners tell me “wow you guys sure are proud of yourselves huh?” Would it kill you to write a negative review of a new local band? Your good reviews hold no water with anyone I know. Smalltown-itis.

Posted by jeffjordan | 11:05 AM – May 17, 2012

Suddenly, it really wasn’t about the music anymore. It was about the media, and the radio stations. It was a theme picked up by Laura Buchholz, who happens to work for A Prairie Home Companion, who roasted both in an op-ed in the Star Tribune:

I’m not going to name names, but I know a local drummer who winces if you call him a local drummer. I imagine it’s the same chilling dread I feel when I see the phrase “female writer.” Why not just be a drummer? Why not just be a band? Why does it all have to be about you, Minnesota?

Yes, it is possible that Minnesota has a good music scene. It might even have a great one. I don’t care. But do we need to make out with ourselves so much? Are there no hall monitors in this high school?

The day I was writing this was Minnesota Music Day, as pronounced by The Current. It also was Art-A-Whirl weekend, so it would have been the day to scramble over to Grumpy’s Northeast to see two of your favorite local bands: Gay Witch Abortion and Seawhores.

Come on, people.

It was just an op-ed by someone who based her musical taste on the names of bands (there wasn’t anything about the quality of music here) — not entirely unlike a grumpy female Andy Rooney, but the local music scene circled the wagons in a way that confirmed that Buchholz has just a little bit of a point.

It spilled over to the Letters to the Editor section today.

Does the local music scene take too much pride in itself? It certainly does. Does an out-of-touch writer (for “Prairie Home Companion,” of all things) stooping to insult other local artists over such a trivial detail as their name help matters? I can’t imagine it does.


Somewhere in the middle there’s a conversation to be had. Yes, some music stinks. No, you don’t hear or read many reviews about it. People tend to love that that’s local more.

But judging a band by its name is not a substitute for a critical ear. Local bands don’t seem to get the same critical review that out-of-market bands do, but maybe that’s a different angle. The local music artists and the local music press seem to run in the same circles. Is it even possible to critically review a local pal? (Note that even the commenter on the Current blog seemed reluctant to “rip” local musicians)

That would make a great article for a local music critic to write.

(h/t: Julia Schrenkler)


North Dakota’s Oil Patch has brought boom times to the state, but does it threaten the higher education aspirations some parents have for their children? For some graduating high school students, the money is too good to pass up, the Fargo Forum reports.

Others, however, say they plan to go on to college if only to get out of North Dakota.



(Photo via Facebook)

Marina Keegan of Massachusetts graduated from Yale last week magna cum laude. Last weekend, however, she died in a car crash.

“Marina was someone who looked at the world and knew it had to be changed, but at the same time saw there was beauty in it,” said Yael Zinkow ’12, Keegan’s close friend.

She had written one last essay. It was included in Yale’s commencement program. And now, it’s sweeping across the Internet.

We’re so young. We’re so young. We’re twenty-two years old. We have so much time. There’s this sentiment I sometimes sense, creeping in our collective conscious as we lay alone after a party, or pack up our books when we give in and go out – that it is somehow too late. That others are somehow ahead. More accomplished, more specialized. More on the path to somehow saving the world, somehow creating or inventing or improving. That it’s too late now to BEGIN a beginning and we must settle for continuance, for commencement.

Find her essay, “The Opposite of Loneliness” here.


When Dorothy Flood was a girl, she and her grandmother often traveled by train from New Jersey to North Carolina. At the Mason Dixon Line — Baltimore — the train stopped, and blacks were ordered to a separate car. Recently, an organization that grants wishes to people 65 and over granted hers: She rode the rails in the first-class dining car.

It’s like old times in the Bemidji area this week, however. An eight-foot burning cross was set on fire near the Northern Township home of a white woman with two mixed-race kids.


Maybe you shouldn’t toss out those old VHS movies you’ve got…


A Minnesota man is scheduled to appear in court today after allegedly being caught with more than 400 fish. Officers seized the fish as well as the man’s boat, motors and trailer. If he is convicted, the man could face jail time and a fine. Today’s Question: How strict should Minnesota be in enforcing its hunting and fishing limits?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Confronting college costs.

Second hour: Comedian and writer Lizz Winstead.

Third hour: Summer reading for kids.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Live broadcast from the National Press Club featuring the CEO of the Girl Scouts of America, Anna Maria Chavez.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: The Political Junkie.

Second hour: When it comes to the standard test that screens for prostate cancer, a government task force essentially told men they’re better off not knowing. Few expect doctors and patients will stop ordering the tests. And if it comes up positive, performing maybe unnecessary procedures. Do you want to know? Plus, the President’s auto czar on Romney, the bailout, and Bain.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – The American dream — what does it mean in politics? To a self-described skinny black kid with a funny name, it meant winning the White House. And what Barack Obama sees underlying the American dream is part of what distinguishes him as a Democrat. NPR’s American Dream series continues with the view of the dream from President Barack Obama and his political party.

Law enforcement officials in Minnesota say prostitution has largely migrated from the streets to the Internet. They’re concerned this has given traffickers enormous new reach into the homes of potential new victims and customers who browse ads online. MPR’s Sasha Aslanian will have the story.

People representing the different sides of the Fairview/Accretive controversy are expected to testify at a hearing called by U.S. Senator Al Franken. Attorney General Lori Swanson, the interim CEO of Fairview and a senior VP of Accretive are on the list, which also includes patients who say they were hounded by the debt collection agency. MPR’s Elizabeth Stawicki is following the story.