Off Beat

Eternal Optimist

There's a heartwarming yarn Rep. Steve Sviggum (R-Kenyon), Speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives, uses to warm up a crowd. It seems a woman at his church, Vang Lutheran, asked to be buried with a fork in her right hand. The church has a lot of potluck dinners and folks are usually advised to "keep your fork," because the promise of dessert awaits, he tells people--"True story." By his own admission, Sviggum uses the tale frequently in his speeches, suggesting that the best is yet to come. Apparently, so do a lot of other people. Karl Bremer, a writer for the House DFL media office, has heard the story and earlier this month was surprised to find the tearjerker recounted in Ann Landers's advice column. (Off Beat found the parable all over the Internet, too.) Sviggum says he heard the "story of hope" at a political convention, and admits no such incident ever happened at his church. "I've told it many, many times," he says. As to why he claims it happened at his church, Sviggum calls that the art of storytelling: "You personalize it somewhat to make it a story that people identify with. But I'm always very careful to say it's only a story." Sviggum, now in his 11th term in the House, faces no significant opposition this election year: there's no DFL candidate running in his district this year. True story.

Mischke Mania

If past and present KSTP-AM talk-radio hosts Jesse Ventura and Barbara Carlson can bask in the glow of national media attention, so can T.D. "Tommy" Mischke. The host of the is-anybody-really-out-there program "The Mischke Broadcast" (8:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m. weeknights) is profiled in the September issue of The Atlantic Monthly by James Fallows. The nationally known scribe portrays Mischke as the lynchpin of one of the funniest, most unclassifiable shows on radio. Fallows got hooked on the program during a trip to Minnesota last year and now listens to the program on the Web ( from his West Coast home. Ex-KSTP host Gov. Ventura tells Fallows that Mischke "really is a unique talent." Garrison Keillor, meanwhile, e-mailed Fallows that he hadn't heard enough of Mischke to offer comment, but did deem his work "interesting."

Disputing a Dead Domain

Who says you can't beat some venture-capital dollars out of a dead Internet horse? has been much ridiculed in recent months as the ultimate symbol of Internet-boom excess. Before going belly-up in May, the London-based online clothing retailer burned through an astounding $188 million in just six months, according to published reports, much of it on luxury offices and five-star hotel rooms. In June, another e-tailer,, scooped up's remains, including its domain name, for an undisclosed price. Earlier this month, Minneapolis-based Boo, Inc. filed a trademark infringement suit in U.S. District Court against both and The 10-year-old company alleges that its consumers are being confused by its online rivals and that business is suffering. The local company wants the Internet retailers barred from using the name, as well as cash damages. Mike McGuire, who teaches Internet law at William Mitchell College of Law, notes that domain name disputes are nothing new. "In the end it's going to come down to who was the first owner to use the name and is there confusion in the marketplace as a result," he says. "If you can boil down trademark law to its essential elements, that's it."