A fair and balanced internet: James Lileks gets Buzzed

A fair and balanced internet: James Lileks gets Buzzed

The conservative blogosphere can breathe a sigh of relief: James Lileks will not be reduced to covering dog park hearings in Chaska.

The veteran Star Tribune scribe, whose bite-sized column "The Daily Quirk" was recently mothballed, had been threatened with suburban beat exile. But last week, Lileks took on his new role as self-described "word content poobah" of the Strib's fledgling online community, Buzz.MN.

He's already proven prolific in his first week at the helm, posting more than a dozen items ranging from a long meditation on Google's plans to digitize scores of volumes from the U of M library to a brief quip about the weather. He promises podcasts and video features in the near future.

The goal is to provide an identity to a site that's badly needed one since launching last year. "What it lacked probably was a consistent driving voice that gave it a particular shape," says Lileks. "I'm trying to give people a reason to go back to it two or three times a day."

Now Lileks faces the tricky task of convincing his fellow ink-stained wretches to contribute content to his new internet property.

"It is difficult to look at people who are working very hard and say, 'Hey, can I have some of that?'" he says. "Really, there isn't anything in it for them when it comes to the end-of-the-week paycheck." —Paul Demko


Beg Your Pardon

Last week, a key committee of the Minneapolis City Council voted in favor of strict new panhandling rules. No surprise there: Downtown business intrests, city pols, and the media have been moaning a lot about the dire menace posed by street beggars.

The new rules would make it a crime to ask for spare change within 10 feet of a crosswalk, liquor store, or convenience store; within 80 feet of an ATM or bank; and within 50 feet of any entrance to the Minneapolis Convention Center.

Second Ward Councilman Cam Gordon, the only member of the Public Safety and Regulatory Services committee to oppose the measure, cautioned that the restrictions might effectively rule out "every place in the city." Gordon also warned that a literal interpretation of the new rules could make it illegal for a wife to ask her husband for spare change at a parking meter.

Assistant City Attorney Timothy Richards responded that he didn't think "that particular scenario" would be a problem.

Gordon then inquired about a section of the proposed ordinance that forbids verbal solicitation by groups of two or more persons. Couldn't that standard be applied to politicians and campaign managers who are soliciting donations?

"We cannot distinguish between the panhandlers and the campaign managers," Richards said.

Neither can we. —Mike Mosedale


Targeting Hucksters

A California businessman claims that local retailing behemoth Target stole his idea.

Back in 2005, Zane Murdock pitched Target a line of "Huck Dolls"—action figures featuring snowboarders, kayakers, and figures engaged in other extreme sports. (To "huck," in X-games vernacular, is to catch air—whether via surfboard, skateboard, or other means.)

During the pitch session, Murdock mentioned a fledgling product line of Huck shoes. The shoes were already being sold in national retail chains such as Dick's Sporting Goods.

Target passed on the Huck Dolls (can you blame them?), but less than a year later, the company began selling a new line of shoes under the Huck moniker, according to a lawsuit filed by NSM Resources last month in U.S. District Court.

The complaint alleges that Target wrongly infringed on the company's trademark rights. Jerome Rice, NSM's attorney, says that Target changed the label on the shoes from "Huck" to "Samuel" after he alerted the company to the problem.

"What that says to us is, 'Okay, you've caught us with our hand in the cookie jar, and now we've taken it out,'" Rice says. "I don't know how many Huck shoes they sold. There are a lot of Target stores all over the world."

NSM is seeking an injunction barring Target from utilizing the Huck name, along with damages for the shoes that have already been sold. Target has yet to file an answer to the lawsuit, and company officials did not return calls seeking comment. —Paul Demko


Shuffling Towards Gomorrah

A lot of strange promotional swag turns up in the offices here at CP. Recent deliveries have included a thong, a single Nike sports shoe, a Japanese floral arrangement, a pair of high-quality binoculars, kobe beef on dry ice, and a string of anal beads.

This week, however, the mailman actually brought us something useful: three brand-new iPod Shuffles.

The iPods came courtesy of publicists at the Minnesota Orchestra, which is pimping its free Day of Music, the July 13 kickoff to the Sommerfest concert series. And they featured preloaded tunes by the artists who will be playing at the 24-hour marathon.

We returned our iPods—City Pages cannot be bought for $80!—but the Orchestra apparently had better luck with the other 26 that went out in the mail. (Macy's, the event's sponsor, ponied up the presents.)

"I've already been able to place a couple of publicity things around town as a response to them," says Minnesota Orchestra public relations coordinator Sandi Brown. "Any time something like that precedes your publicity pitch in the mail, people are more responsive."

Sorry, Sandi, but we're holding out for an iPhone. —Michael Tortorello