Tag Archives: josh preston

Fmr. DFL Chairman Brian Melendez

Being out of town for the last several days I have not had the opportunity to write the articles I’ve been meaning to, but I assure you that the Gary Snyder and maybe even the Lawrence Krauss story will go up this week. Until then, enjoy the very first giraffe ever drawn from February ’11.

Brian Melendez is the former Chairman of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (2005-2011), lawyer, contributer to Black’s Law Dictionary and most impressively: the guy with one of the highest ranked reviews of Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised (9th Edition) on Amazon.com. A graduate of Harvard, Melendez is perhaps one of the smartest guys you could ever hope to meet.

Also, he draws really terrible giraffes as I discovered when I approached him at a DFL event celebrating his years of service. Now that I have called in my one favor for the years of volunteer work, I am not sure how to feel. After all, all I got was the following and weird look – was it worth it?

Oh yeah.

Advertisements

Minnesota Orchestra Trumpeter Manny Laureano (No Osmo Vänskä)

Today’s post comes from another friend of mine, Sean Jacobson, who is a student at St. John’s University. Having known him for several years now, I can say that he is serious when he writes that “there is very little in this world that I enjoy more than classical music.” In fact, I would even add that such enjoyment rests on a fine precipice that, with one stumble, could send him careening into obsession and thus a life spent locked away with as many cats as there would likely be pianos. But I’ve digressed.

Sean had the great fortune of seeing the Minnesota Orchestra perform at his campus a few weeks ago and (as you will learn) thought it would be a good idea to solicit a drawing from famed conductor and notorious sourpuss OsmoVänskä. Unfortunately that cold April evening only saw Mr. Vänskä carve his name into the Wall of Shame as the orchestra’s Principal Trumpet Manny Laureano made history [Clarification Needed].

Without further introduction, I now present to you what will likely be the best-written post you find on this website for a while:

A (Somewhat Artfully Embellished) Tale of Classical Giraffes

As those who know me will tell you, there is very little in this world that I enjoy more than classical music. One of those things, though, one of those rare interests that can contend with Mahler, Beethoven, or Shostakovich for my love and adoration is the noble giraffe. As a child, when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I would proudly answer “a giraffe!” no doubt hoping to capitalize on my then-disproportionately long neck. Naturally, then, a giraffe drawn by a professional classical musician…well that would just be the bee’s knees.

Manny Laureano

Such were the thoughts going through my head recently when the Minnesota Orchestra performed on campus. As I sat entranced watching the concert from the second balcony the thought, nay, the revelation, nay, the divine mission struck me: I had to get a giraffe drawn by the conductor, Osmo Vänskä. As the first half of the concert closed with a brilliant tuba feature, I set off to seek out the maestro. As I wound my way around the back of the hall and into the rear lobby I noticed a group of musicians huddled in a circle intent upon something in the middle. My mission temporarily on hold due to curiosity, I decided to examine the situation more closely.

It was then that I noticed that one of the three musicians was none other than Manny Laureano, principal trumpet of the orchestra. Let me put this in perspective for a moment: I’m a music major. The Minnesota Orchestra is one of the world’s best ensembles and one which I have idolized since I first saw them live in ninth grade. I play trumpet. Manny is an artist of the highest caliber. Put it all together and you have me hyperventilating like a pre-teen girl meeting a varsity quarterback. I cautiously approached Manny and the other two no-doubt virtuosic players (who, I am embarrassed to admit, I have completely forgotten the names of). One of them was playing a game of chess against Manny who promptly put her in check. I couldn’t help but think that either he was a pretty awful chess player or was making an extremely bold gambit. Certainly, he had put his opponent in check, but in doing so he left his queen wide open to attack. As I meekly intruded, introducing myself as a trumpeter and giving the pitch asking for a giraffe from any of the three, I watched Manny’s gamble pay off as his opponent, no doubt focusing on her king, missed the opportunity and blocked attack rather than going on the offensive. Manny made his next move and proceeded to begin drawing a giraffe while the other bystander and I made small-talk about giraffe fight videos on YouTube. I was impressed by Mr. Laureano’s ability to multi-task as he sketched the giraffe while still continuing to dominate the chess board.

Clearly impressed as well, the bystanding musician commented “Oh yeah, that’s pretty.”

“Mmhm. She’s gonna have some eyelashes too,” was the trumpeter’s response.

Breaking for a moment from the game as he began to draw the horns, Manny asked “They have some kind of unit on their head too, don’t they? Like big-ass goats, right?” Mr. Laureano proceeded to finish the drawing, promptly declare checkmate, and play a Rachmaninoff symphony. Cause that’s just how he rolls.

Now, a giraffe from the principal trumpet is a beautiful victory in itself, but it still left the big fish to be fried. As I watched Osmo conduct the second half I was almost certain I saw his baton trace the outline of a giraffe in mid-air. Determined to acquire a giraffe from the director, a squad of friends and I surrounded the backstage area and loading dock to intercept him. Musicians and instruments flooded out the doors one after another, but the maestro was nowhere to be seen. Figuring that he had already snuck out the door, the team and I gave up the chase and headed for home.

Just as hope was dwindling, though, I caught sight of the back of a particular curly white-haired head as I passed the backstage doors one last time. I reversed direction and walked in. Sure enough, it was Osmo Vänskä himself. I waited for a lull in the conversation he was having with another musician and interjected.

“Er…excuse me, Mr. Vänskä, I was wondering if I could make a somewhat strange request.” He slowly turned around and gave me a look unlike any I’ve encountered before. It was a look of mixed surprise, unease, and impatience, a look I can only describe as one most people might give if they were ordering a meal at Taco John’s only to find they were out of Potato Olés. Every eye in a twenty foot radius turned and stared at us. After a break of silence that seemed to last an eternity he spoke:

“Well, that depends.”

I gave the pitch and watched as the spectators’ faces broke into smiles and laughs, as if to say “Why what a brilliant idea! Please, Osmo, give this eager, doe-eyed young lad a giraffe!” The look stayed on the conductor’s face with a coldness as harsh as the desolate Finnish wasteland from whence he came. “I’m very busy.”

I was stunned. The possibility of a rejection hadn’t even crossed my radar. “Sir, it’ll only take 30 seconds of your time, you can do it right now.”

Osmo was unmoved. “I’m going to be out of the country next week, I’m very busy.”

“30 seconds, sir. It doesn’t need to be a masterpiece. In fact it’s best if it’s not.”

Cold. So cold.

After a while of trying to convince the maestro (a while, I should mention, that almost certainly would have been long enough for him to draw a freaking giraffe) I gave up, and walked away empty-handed.

I bet Vänskä’s giraffe wouldn’t have had such pretty eyelashes anyway.

1: "I think I left it on the grill too long.” 2: “Yeah, this is an Awful Giraffe.”

Blogger and Deep Sea Biologist “Southern Fried Scientist”

Late on Thursday (or was it a very early Friday?) I was surprised to find a mention to the @AwfulGiraffes  twitter account (a mention and its context now lost to my ignorance of the site’s functions) from @SFriedScientist from SouthernFriedScience.com, a science blog run by three Carolinian graduate students with an interest in marine biology. Thinking it may be a long shot, I figured I’d extend an invitation to him to contribute to the website. It didn’t take long to get the following reply:

@SFriedScientist: @AwfulGiraffes at the rate @kzelnio and I are drinking, there is real potential for a DNS/SFS collaborative giraffe.”

Shortly thereafter I received this – what I can only perceive to be a threat:

1: "I think I left it on the grill too long.” 2: “Yeah, this is an Awful Giraffe.”

1: "I think I left it on the grill too long.” 2: “Yeah, this is an Awful Giraffe.”

Offensive. Fucking offensive.

I am sick and tired of people portraying scenes of giraffes being mercilessly slaughtered. No one would like to see a dead giraffe. Even more so, no one wants to see someone eating said dead giraffe. Whether one is T.C. Boyle, a mammoth excavator [giraffe still to come] or a someone who studies “population structure and connectivity of deep-sea hydrothermal vent endemic invertebrates in the Western Pacific,”  it’s still tasteless.

Dear readers, as you may already be well aware, I am not someone one could call a “scientist.” Sure, I know what you’re thinking, my literate internet pal: “But you’re a political scientist and you’re a part time lecturer on theoretical physics!” And you’re absolutely right, friend, but my biologicy background extends as far as reading Richard Dawkins’ The Greatest Show on Earth (2009) and a score of 1 on an high school AP exam. The reason why I am saying all of this is because I would like to believe that I am someone who should not be drawing snarky cartoons regarding esoteric divisions of biology that are way over my head:

"I keep boiling but these fuckers dont die."

Oh, I’m so funny!

Assuming every picture I found on Google (“Hydorthermal Vent Animals” to be an actual hydrothermal vent animal (including the Cyclops Kitten and James Cameron), I can only extend, on behalf of the world, a sincere thanks to SFriedScientist for holding back from the public’s eye the creatures perhaps best confined to an H.P. Lovecraft tale. (But not too much thanks since you totally – to the misfortune of all – failed on the James Cameron front).

Fmr. MYDFL chairman Arron Olson's pretty awful giraffe drawing

Fmr. MYDFL Chairman Arron Olson

Arron Olson is the former chairman of the Minnesota Young DFL, a constituency caucus within the larger Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party designed to organize around issues pertinent to young people. He also apparently believes that giraffes wear kneepads.

Fmr. MYDFL chairman Arron Olson's pretty awful giraffe drawing

(Spoiler: they don’t).

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak

R.T. Rybak is the current mayor of Minneapolis, MN, (serving since 2002) and a former writer for the Minneapolis Tribune who has also contributed to MPR. More importantly, he’s been known to crowd surf at First Avenue concerts. Yeah, that’s Minnesota for you.

So I will start by saying that I have nothing less than the utmost respect for Mayor R.T. Rybak. The guy is kind, smart, passionate and is often the best speaker in the room regardless of the venue. With that said, it is with a heavy heart that I must report the following: when I invited the mayor to participate in GDBWSNBDG at a recent local foods banquet in Montevideo, MN, the first reply I got was “What does a giraffe look like?”

Needless to say I was speechless. Though I do not know the mayor on a personal level, I have spoken to him at enough political functions to know that this question must have been in jest. Or, at the very least, a question of metaphysics.  After all, I as an armchair philosopher I can sympathize: what does anything truly look like?

At least for both his sake and mine this is the story I’m sticking to.

“Well, they have long necks,” I said.

“Right!”

He then took the notebook from my hand and began to draw, clarifying that he would need to draw a rough draft. (One could say that he was drawing a rough gir-aft, but one should probably not say that because it would make them look like an asshole).

Figure 1: Mayor Rybak’s Rough Gir-aft.

Commenting on his work (“Hm, not bad!”) he then tore the draft from the notebook. Becoming serious, he took to his art like a bird to flight …

… If said bird was filled with helium, therefore making it a fowl-ish Hindenberg.

Normally the story would end here, but the moment he finished (taking the time to “touch up” the work with neck-arms and a pigtail) he then took the sketch and ran off. Not knowing what was going on (and hoping to get my notebook back), I followed only to see that he had sought out his wife with cries of “Honey, honey, look what I drew!”

The reply? “That’s very nice, Raymond.”

Yes, very nice indeed.

Robert Bruininks' Pretty Awful Giraffe Drawing

President of the University of Minnesota Robert Bruininks

As you will find on his Wikipedia page, Bruininks has been working with the University of Minnesota since 1968 and was named the 15th president of the system in 2002. In May 2010 he made his intentions clear that he would be stepping down as president, which led the creation of a search committee that eventually selected president-designate Eric Kaler of New York. So with that said, it must be made clear that of everyone I have approached asking for a drawing, my confrontation with President Bruininks had to of been not only the least fruitful (he drew an amoeba and labeled it “Bob’s Horse”) but also the most awkward.

I found myself in the Twin Cities campus in the McNamara center on February 10, 2011, for a luncheon with the Board of Regents to discuss the state of the university financially, the direction it would be moving down the road, how students could work with the administration, etc., and happened to run into the president. While I have seen him at several functions, my personal interaction with him has been light to say the least; even so, my few interactions with him have been nice to say the least. So I did not think this would be that big of a deal (it certainly had not  been so with other folks), but after making the pitch all the president could do was stare at me.

“I’m sorry, what did you say?” He asked.

I repeated myself, trying to maintain my confidence; this is after all a serious business.

“I guess I can do that,” Bruininks says, taking the pen and paper from my hand and using a nearby table for a flat writing surface. Compared to those who use a single, solid line to create an outline, I see that he uses the pen to scratch a half-inch long head followed by a peanut body, which is then given legs and a tail (?). Out of the desire to be polite I try to bite my tongue – this is the worst thing I have ever seen; absolutely no effort – and can feel my tongue shed blood when declares, “It’s not much, but I’ll call it ‘Bob’s Horse.'”

He then signs it and hands it to me.

I die a little bit inside.

Robert Bruininks' Pretty Awful Giraffe Drawing

This is not a giraffe.

Novelist and Short Story Writer T.C. Boyle

After flocking to the Richfield, MN, Borders like a vulture looking for cheap deals on books I would hesitate to pay full price for, I found myself wandering Minneapolis with a dear friend talking about whatever we could to fill the morning air. It just happened that we made our way to the Minneapolis Central Library where, to our surprise, one T. Coraghessan Boyle (website) was having a reading/signing for his latest book When the Killing’s Done (2011). Boyle is the winner of the 1988 PEN/Faulkner, has written for the New Yorker and all around interesting fellow when you consider the following scene:

Life, says TC Boyle, “is tragic and absurd and none of it has any purpose at all.” He is sitting contentedly with a glass of wine in the west room of his Frank Lloyd Wright house in Montecito, California. “Science has killed religion, there’s no hope for the future with seven billion of us on the planet, and the only thing you can do is to laugh in the face of it all” (The Gaurdian, February 28, 2009).

Never one to not exploit what I can only believe to be Fate for my own profit, I thought this to be a good opportunity to collect content for what by now is on the verge of becoming my generation’s Facebook. My friend and I were only able to catch the last few minutes of the event – in fact, only the question-and-answer period – in the standing-room only auditorium and were fortunate to find ourselves so far in the back that we happened to be one of the first few in line for the signing. Quickly finding ourselves at the front of the line I gave him the typical pitch, finding myself particularly nervous as I did so, able only to find relief when he said “it would be a privilege to draw a giraffe for your website” with the catch that he make it “special.” Where I am sure other websites would be thankful regardless, GDBWSNBDG is a respectable website with its standards so I added a counter-catch saying that it could be anything but a horse, which is something a certain University of Minnesota President misunderstood.

This is what I got:

 

As I squinted my eyes, confused, Boyle clarified that it was actually an alligator eating a giraffe.

Well, OK.