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Photo by Todd Buchanan

Baseball at the Dome

When the Minnesota Twins move into Target Field next year, we shall rejoice. Baseball is meant to be played outdoors, and summer here is a fleeting and precious gift—an offering not meant to be wasted under a Teflon sky. It is worth a reminder, however, that the Twins do not begin their season on a sunny summer day. They start in April, when Mother Nature does not tend to bestow precious gifts. And for all that is wrong with the Metrodome, there is something special, magical even, about watching a game of early-season baseball while cradled in a dry seat heated to the temperature of the Caribbean Ocean, knowing the chill of spring is at bay. The Twins’ season opens against the Seattle Mariners April 6.
 


KEEPING TRACK

Bike Trip

It’s springtime in Minnesota, which means, despite the occasional flurries, it’s time to reclaim our status as a bicycling mecca. Here, the numbers on our passion for pedal power.

5 Minnesota’s rank among all states as a “bike friendly” place, according to the League of American Bicyclists
1,300 Approximate miles of paved bike paths in Minnesota
3.8 Percentage of commuters in Minneapolis who get to work via bicycle
1 Number of cities in the U.S. in which more people commute to work via bicycle than in Minneapolis
1,020 Number of bicycle crashes in Minnesota in 2007
81,505 Number of auto crashes in Minnesota in 2007
47 Length, in miles, of Minneapolis’ Grand Rounds Byway
62 Length, in miles, of the Lake Wobegon Trail, in west central Minnesota.
$385 Average cost of a new bike in the U.S.
$9,369 Average cost, according to AAA, of driving a car last year.
 


Welcome to Paganistan

Celebrating spring in the occult capital of the country 

BY TIM GIHRING


FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS, all over the world the arrival of spring has been marked with various rituals by Druids, witches, heathens, and all other manner of pagans—but perhaps nowhere in greater numbers than right here in the Twin Cities.

This is, after all, Paganistan.

The name originated as a tongue-in-cheek reference to the flood of pagan believers who began arriving­ in the early 1970s for the annual witchcraft conventions known as Gnosticons, sponsored by Woodbury-based Llewellyn Publications, the world’s largest independent occult publisher. Many never left. And many more came after a Kentucky occultist named Lady Sheba prophesied in 1974 that the first pagan temple in America would be built—where else?—in Minneapolis.

Thirty-five years later, the temple still doesn’t exist, but the metro area—estimated to have more than 10,000 pagans—is now known throughout the worldwide Wiccan network as Paganistan. It’s paganism with a distinctly Minnesota flavor, says Murphy Pizza, a University of Wisconsin PhD candidate studying the Paganistan phenomenon. “In San Francisco, the pagan community has a serious, hippie flavor. They make a big ritual out of jumping into the ocean during Yule,” she says. “Pagans laugh about that here. In Minnesota, the pagans do potlucks.”
 


THE NORTH STAR STAT

Green Streets: The Twin Cities tend to be cited for eco-friendliness almost as often as they are for the lovely winter weather. But do we really deserve our tree-hugging rep? The answer seems to be a resounding yes. According to a study done by Popular Science, Minneapolis is the 11th “greenest” city in America, while St. Paul was the 12th. In another ranking, however, the order was reversed. National Geographic’s Green Guide named Pig’s Eye the fourth most green city in the U.S., while Minneapolis was 19th.
 


The Truvía Taste Challenge

Earlier this year, Minnetonka-based Cargill introduced its first-ever consumer product: a no-calorie sweetener called Truvía. The company doesn’t need help getting the word out—it’s spending $20 million on a splashy marketing campaign—but we thought it might be helpful to report how Truvía, you know, tastes—and how it stacks up against its main competitors: Splenda and Equal. To do so, we conducted a highly unscientific taste test with a half-dozen unsuspecting Minnesotans.
 

Tea

It’s much easier for people to identify flavors they don’t like than those they do. That was bad news for Equal, which was found to have a conspicuous aftertaste, and good news for Truvía, which, in the words of one tester, was “very sweet—but not in a gross way.”
Winner: Truvía
 

Coffee

Our coffee tasters also found Truvía to be really, really sweet, so much so that they recommended using less of it than the other products. That said, it was also the least offensive, narrowly beating out Splenda.
Winner: Truvía
 

Strawberries

There’s a strawberry on the cover of the Truvía box, so one might figure it would run away with the category. Not so. Tasters actually preferred Equal, mostly because it changed the taste of the strawberry less than the others.
Winner: Equal


Nosh on This

A few years ago, when Phillip Guttman was asked to bring a dessert to a Passover sedar soiree, he rolled up his sleeves and reached for a box of matzo. Guttman transformed the crisp, dry, Kosher cracker with a schmear of toffee, a coating of chocolate, and voila! Matzel Toff! was born. When partygoers noshed through the first batch and demanded more, Guttman knew he was onto something. The Minneapolis native quit his job as a writer to focus on perfecting the quirky confection. Two years later, Matzel Toff! has made its debut at a number of notable shops, including New York City’s iconic Dylan’s Candy Bar, and in Minnesota at Max’s and Mort’s Delicatessen. Just in time for Passover, it’s also available online at Matzeltoff.com in the original milk chocolate flavor, as well as our favorite: dark chocolate with sea salt. The certified-OK Kosher treat is free of preservatives and artificial flavorings—to which we say: L’Chaim!
­—ELIZABETH DEHN
 


How to Be a Better Minnesotan

Telling an Ole and Lena Joke

We’ve been telling them all our lives, these bittersweet jokes about ourselves, like the one about Ole loving Lena so much he almost told her. Or the one about Ole and Lena driving to Minneapolis for their honey-moon: Ole puts his hand on Lena’s knee. Lena says coyly, “Ole, you can go farther if you want to,” so Ole drives to Duluth.

To properly tell an Ole and Lena joke, says Drew Jansen, the composer and lyricist behind How to Talk Minnesotan: The Musical and Church Basement Ladies, you have to choose your targets carefully.

“There’s a perverse respect built into Minnesota humor; the secret is to let people see themselves in the joke without embarrassing them,” Jansen says. “It’s best if at the end of the joke the innocent person—the one everyone assumed to be dumb—turns out to be the smart one.”
—TIM GIHRING
 


Cheap Seats

A new troupe meets the recession head on

BY TIM GIHRING

Peter Moore, the longtime local director and actor, recently found himself out of work. So did Bob Davis, the Guthrie Theater regular, as did several other well-known colleagues. So Moore hatched a theater company of his own, a flexible new troupe in which the area’s best actors can work whenever they’re available—at a price patrons can’t refuse. Ten Buck Theater, with its home at the Parkway Theater in South Minneapolis, is “Good theater for hard times,” says Moore. The price never varies, and no reservations are necessary. “I heard the president’s call for everyone to contribute in this tough economy,” says Moore. “This is the way artists can contribute. It’s a way to keep working and to still get people out to see live theater.”

The troupe’s first production, in February, was a variety show featuring a host of artists familiar to Fringe Festival regulars: Joshua English Scrimshaw, David Mann, Ari Hoptman, Allegra Lingo. This month, Moore is tentatively planning to stage Autistic License, a favorite at the Illusion Theater a while back. The cast is TBA. “Sometimes I call this company The Got a Minute? Rep,” says Moore. “What can we put together in three weeks?”
 


Talent Scouted

A Tamarack winner becomes a Mankato author’s first novel

We hate to say we told you so, but we think we were onto something when we named Nicole Helget the winner of Minnesota Monthly’s Tamarack Award back in 2005. Turns out Houghton Mifflin thought so, too: Helget’s short story, “The Turtle Catcher,” serves as the first chapter in her debut novel, recently published under the same title.

Some readers may recall that Helget’s first book, The Summer of Ordinary Days, a memoir about growing up on a farm in southern Minnesota, caused a stir when it first came out. The book contained portrayals of family members that were none too flattering, including a scene in which her father mercilessly beat a cow to death. The Turtle Catcher, too, is unflinching. Set in a rural Minnesota town full of German immigrants during World War I, it recounts a friendship that develops between two unlikely characters—and it’s full of images that are vivid, violent, and arresting. But no one should be shocked by Helget’s talent: If her first two books are any indication, she’s got a bright future ahead of her.
—JOEL HOEKSTRA
 


The Curtain

Who’s up, who’s down in local arts and culture

RISING

Mayda
The funk phenom releases her debut album after a series of national TV gigs

Beyond Borders Film Festival
The second annual showcase grows into its global theme with more movies and guests

Peter Rothstein
His Theater Latte Da debuts the “aerialist musical” with Passage of Dreams

McKnight Foundation
The funder aims to cut arts grants by 14 percent in 2009

Minnesota State Arts Board
Governor Tim Pawlenty proposes defunding the state’s major arts grantor

FALLING
 


Blockbuster... Or Bust

Tony Kushner’s highly anticipated new play, The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures, is expected to be a smash when it debuts at the Guthrie Theater this month. But how have past premieres by the company fared? 

BY TIM GIHRING


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