Best of the Twin Cities®

Best Of 2009

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Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment

Best Reading Series

Though smoking has been banned here for years, it's likely that one will remember a night at the Books & Bars Book Club as having been thick with cigars. At one session, participants debate Nabokov, the pronunciation: "It's Nabokov." "Nabokov. I'd always heard Nabokov." "Why would anyone with such a difficult name even write, anyway?" "It's Nabokov. I know. I was a graduate student in English." Thus begins a round of slow, sarcastic applause for the self-professed grad student. Pints of cheap beer are sipped. Then the participants contemplate Lolita, the month's book. And it's apparent that this is how literature was meant to be discussed—in public, at a neighborhood bar, with mildly inebriated strangers. In its fourth year, Books & Bars—the monthly reading group sponsored by The Onion, Magers & Quinn, and the Bryant-Lake Bowl—has become an indispensable means for promoting reading within the community, giving new meaning to the term "literary buzz."

Best Art Gallery

Guest Best: Robyne Robinson

When the economy goes south, usually so do art galleries. Minneapolis has seen its share come and go, including the latest casualty, and perhaps the most difficult to bear: Flanders Contemporary, which has been a champion of both local and international artists. While many galleries still represent the best of our community, only a handful offer more than the traditional, soulless gallery experience. In its fourth year, Art of This Gallery creates shows that delve into the current sociopolitical climate and encourage audiences to discuss more than just the artists' pedigrees. It has unpretentiously curated exhibits that match the more established galleries in both content and the strength of the artists. Clearly tapping into the zeitgeist of America's need for spiritual and political change, Art of This last November hosted Matt Bakkom's moving exhibition "Graduates," a collection of 664 portraits of U.S. military pilots from the 332nd Red Tail Fighter Group produced between 1943 and 1946. Black Americans knew the 332nd as the Tuskegee Airmen—black men who suffered racism, politics, and war to become one of the most decorated units of the Army Air Corps in World War II. Their strong, stoic faces show little evidence of their struggles, but they gave hope to millions—just as Obama's election as president does today. Nonprofit, artist-run galleries are as fragile as glass; let's hope directors David Petersen and John Marks get the community and financial support to preserve Art of This for young artists and patrons alike who want more than ever to discuss relevant issues that can shape our entire community.Robyne Robinson is an Emmy-winning anchor at Fox 9 News. She is an avid local arts activist, collector, former gallery owner, board member on several arts organizations, and jewelry artist.

Best Radio Station

It was 16th-century philosopher Francis Bacon who first declared that knowledge is power. And though it's now a cliché, it's still true. No other radio station (and possibly no other media outlet) empowers listeners more than Minnesota Public Radio. With a crack (if pared down) squad of reporters covering local issues professionally and thoroughly, and the indispensable resource of National Public Radio programming, no other station provides better news and entertainment to the Twin Cities. When news breaks, MPR's team relentlessly tracks down the stories and sources on the scene for hourly news updates. Their peerless combination of current-events coverage and interview-centered programs (Kerri Miller's Midmorning, Gary Eichten's Midday), NPR's sterling stable of programs (All Things Considered, Talk of the Nation), and a handful of music shows (such as American Roots) make KNOW the Twin Cities' peerless source for useful information and entertainment.

480 Cedar St., St. Paul, 55101
MAP
651-290-1500
Best FM Radio Personality

Let's get one thing straight right off: Mark Wheat's voice is a dream. Never have we wanted someone to read us bedtime stories more than him. The British expatriate delivers the English language in a hyper-nasal form of his own invention, complete with imaginatively placed commas, semicolons, and other pauses both alluring and enchanting. One can hear Wheat's passion for music. Keeping fans company from 7 p.m. till midnight, he intersperses the Current's indie-rock mainstays with local tunes from bands that are still scrabbling for stage time at the Hex or the Uptown Bar. The man clearly has a fire under his ass to find the best new stuff out there, and it's equally clear that no DJ in the Twin Cities has more love for music both local and worldwide than Mark Wheat.

Best AM Radio Personality
Al Malmberg

It's been a pathetic year for Twin Cities AM radio. There were firings and layoffs at most of the major outlets in the AM landscape, but perhaps none was as sad as WCCO cutting Al Malmberg, an overnight institution for more than a decade. Malmberg's velvety voice and eagerness to connect to his faithful listeners made his fans especially devoted. An odd combination of listeners, including sleep-deprived parents of newborns, forlorn teenagers, and third-shift workers, all took comfort in Malmberg's nighttime antics and chitchat, which got them through the dark early-morning hours or gently guided them to the land of nod. Malberg's firing was made worse by WCCO's choice to not even allow him a farewell broadcast. Adding insult to injury is the show filling Malberg's slot: the generic, syndicated Overnight America with host Jon Grayson, a St. Louis-based anti-Malberg. So, we award Malberg the title of Best AM Radio Host with a heavy heart.

625 2nd Ave. S., Minneapolis, 55402
MAP
612-370-0611
Best Local-Music Broadcast

From the Soviettes to Skoal Kodiak, from Tapes 'n Tapes to P.O.S., KFAI's weekly local showcase MN Soundtrack knows how to hit its spots. In just an hour and change of commercial-free FM, a listener can take in a weekly portrait of our local music scene that is staggeringly flattering. Hosted by Jackie and Jonathon, the show is curated with a scholar's care and brought off with an intimate familiarity, making a great primer for anyone who wants a taste of Gay Witch Abortion to help shed the stress of a long and fruitless work week. It's wisely positioned in KFAI's broadcast day to boot—in the 7:30 to 9 p.m. slot every Friday. It's the perfect warm-up to the Kitten Forever show you'll be seeing at the Entry a little later in the night.

1808 Riverside Ave., Minneapolis, 55454
MAP
612-341-0980
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Best Reading Series: Books & Bars

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