Tag Archives: minneapolis

Singer and Spoken Word Artist Dessa’s Awful Giraffe

Dessa (Courtesy of Zoe Prinds-Flash Photography)

Dessa (Courtesy of Zoe Prinds-Flash Photography)

Dessa (Web | Twitter) is a singer and spoken word artist from Minneapolis, MN, and also a member of the hip hop collective Doomtree. She is the author of four books of poetry including Spiral Bound (Doomtree Press: 2009) and A Pound of Steam (Rain Taxi Press, 2013). Dessa is an immensely talented artist, and if you’re interested in seeing her perform, check out her recent reading at the Walker Art Center.

The following comes from Mr. Will Moore who met Dessa when, in spring 2013, she visited St. John’s College. When asked how the famed singer responded to his request, Moore said, “She was very pleased to draw a giraffe for us.”

Dessa GiraffeWhat an eloquent story for such an elegant giraffe.

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Giraffe Art By US Congressman Keith Ellison

US Congressman Keith Ellison (MN-D)

 Keith Ellison (twitter) is a U.S. congressman whose district centers on Minneapolis, MN, and happens to be the first liberal politician I have ever seen in person (way back in the 2008 summer of my youth). He is the first Muslim elected to Congress, a co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus and thus a national voice on progressive issues. I try my best to keep my politics out of this blog, but I’ll admit that he’s a personal hero of mine. (I’ll also refrain from commenting on whether or not he is a better artist than Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan).

(But let’s be serious – it’s not partisanship to say that Ellison’s giraffe is clearly better. It’s artistic elitism.)

There is not much of a story behind this piece. In February 2011 I was speaking at a University of Minnesota rally at the state capitol (at which Ellison was also making an appearance) and approached the congressman shortly after he left the stage. While everyone else was approaching him to shake his hand, take a picture, and so on, I pulled him aside behind the stage and made The Ask.

And without missing a beat, asking “why?” or offering any resistance at all, he took the notebook I put in front him and began to draw. As you can tell, this was not something he just dismissed; he took it seriously and tried to make something he could be proud of.

Well, as proud as one can really be of this.

Minnesota Twin Gene Larkin's Pretty Awful Giraffe (4-16-11)

World Series-Winning Minnesota Twin Gene Larkin’s Giraffe Art

The following comes from a good friend of mine, Andie Whitaker (twitter), who besides being active in the Twin Cities political scene also runs a blog called Goodbye Disposable Hello Cloth. After running into Gene Larkin at a hardware store in Blaine, MN, as he was there promoting the store and signing autographs, Andie was kind enough to wait around and get what I can only describe as the best damn submarine-giraffe I have ever seen. For those unfamiliar with Larkin, he is a former switch-hitting first baseman and right fielder for the Minnesota Twins. One of only seven Twins to play at both the 1987 and 1991 World Series, Larkin is perhaps best known for hitting a game-winning single during the latter championship game.

Photo Credit: John Iacono/Sports Illustrated

So, that’s pretty sweet, right?

I had the opportunity of meeting Gene Larkin at a hardware store in Blaine, MN. He was there as part of a promotion for the store. Many fans began lining up to meet the Twins legend at least an hour before he arrived. All of these fans were waiting patiently with their baseballs, bats and cards in hand with a great deal of excitement. There I stood in line with a blank sheet of paper and those surrounding me in line gave me a look as if I was lost.

When it was finally my turn to talk with Larkin and get his autograph, in a shy voice I asked: “I have a unique request for you and I hope you are willing to help me…” As I explained to him that I would like it if he drew a giraffe for me and why, he stares at me with the most confused look.

“You want me to draw a giraffe?” Larkin says, repeating the question likely with the hope that I was joking.

“Yes. A giraffe.”

He then told me that if I were willing to wait until everyone else in the line had received his autograph, then he would “look into this giraffe thing.”

I waited patiently and it seemed as though everyone within the hardware store was gawking at me, but I continued to wait, certain that my patience would result in a very special giraffe drawing.

And I was right. My perseverance did pay off.

Once the line has subsided, he called me over. He stared at the blank sheet of paper for a few seconds, pondering if this was something he really wanted to do; he then expressed concern in his ability to accurately draw a giraffe. So I began to quell his fears the best I could:

“Well, they have long necks.”

He scribbled the head of the giraffe very fast, so he could begin drawing a neck, followed by the body.

“They also tend to have a pattern, much like spots.”

He adds a few squiggly spots to the submarine-like giraffe.

“And they tend to have four legs.”

Larkin draws four box-like legs and declares that he is finished, baffled that this is what I had waited for.

I shook his hand and thanked him for his time and his “masterpiece.”

Minnesota Twin Gene Larkin's Pretty Awful Giraffe (4-16-11)

What the hell does one say?

Normally I would insert a really snarky comment down here regarding an individuals’ inability to draw giraffes, but all I can do is silently shake my head in shame.  I am disappointed, Mr. Larkin.

Our Apologies for Missing Friday’s Post

Normally we like to try our best to post a new giraffe every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but unfortunately we dropped the ball yesterday. Instead of scheduling a new giraffe I found myself bumming around the Twin Cities visiting friends, writing, walking DinkyTown and giving Michio Kaku‘s powerpoint presentation to a crowd of 500+ at the University of Minnesota Bookstore as he calmly stood beside me with laryngitis (podcast and giraffe to come).

Needless to say: I was busy.

Also, I made my way over to see the always funny Sam Lipsyte at Magers and Quinn booksellers. Lipsyte is a satirist/black humorist/terrible artist whose latest book The Ask (2010) is a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (Slate did a nice review here).

Though your Friday was likely an empty one filled simply with decisions of whether or not you should kick it in the front seat or sit in the back seat, I will make it up to you by making this Monday (4/11/11) extra awful with a double post – I just have to decide which giraffes to use.

In other news:

  • Many thanks to Dillon McBrady for not only obtaining a giraffe from U.S. Senator Al Franken, which will make its way online in the near future. Also, thank you Dillon for bringing to light U.S. Congressman Collin Peterson‘s refusal to help his constituents in their entrepreneurial undertakings.
  • PrettyAwfulGiraffes.com would like to publicly apologize to U.S. Congressman Tim Walz for causing a recent controversy that has the potential to overshadow Nixon’s Watergate. Our bad, dude.
  • A friend of a friend was able to get a giraffe drawn by Philip Glass, who according to Wikipedia is “considered to be one of the most influential composers of the late 20th century and is widely acknowledged as a composer who has brought art music to the public.” Pretty sweet, huh?
  • It’s very likely that we’ll have buttons and stickers ready in the next two weeks. Be sure to join the Street Team and tell all of your friends to do the same.
  • I’m not sure what to do with the giraffes that have been finding their way to my inbox lately. Should I just throw them up online and let the people decide? Help!

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.