Smoke Gets in Your Byline
Considering the price of a pack of Marlboros these days, Off Beat--a cheapskate during the best of times--couldn't justify investing in a copy of Smoked: The Inside Story of the Minnesota Tobacco Trial. Then last week the Star Tribune made it easy for us by excerpting the bejeezus out of the 480-page tome. Funny thing about those excerpts: The Strib credited the authors as "David Phelps and Deborah Caulfield Rybak," but if you peered closely enough at the teensy reproduction of the book above that credit, you could see that it's actually "Deborah Caulfield Rybak and David Phelps" on the cover. Why the switch? "Who works for the Strib and who doesn't?" laughs Rybak, noting that while she's a freelancer, her co-author is a longtime staffer at the Newspaper of the Twin Cities. Rybak says the Strib's nod to their homeboy is fine with her, given that the book-cover decision, which was made by a coin toss, means she's the one destined for Library of Congress posterity. "Anybody might feel bad if they lost the coin toss--I'm the Library of Congress referral. But this? Oh, God, no!" As for the book, Rybak says it's selling as well as can be expected. "They only printed about 5,000 copies, and I think we're reaching about the halfway point on it," she reports. "We had been getting lots of interest from attorneys in other states, but now that the [national] settlement has been reached, I think it'll slow down."
Just a Closer Walk with Jesse, Part 1
More than a few political pundits viewed the election of Jesse Ventura in apocalyptic terms, but some apparently took it to another level. "Divine election" is what Rubel Shelly deems it in "The FAX of Life," a weekly dispatch zapped to "interested Christian business professionals" from the offices of the Woodmont Hills Church of Christ in Nashville, Tenn. "What has happened to Jesse Ventura is minor compared to some other people that I can name," Shelly rhapsodizes in the November 9 edition. "Moses, Rahab, David, Peter, Dorcas, and Lazarus are featured in Scripture among God's elect for eternal life.... Isn't God's grace genuinely amazing? It takes people with no hope of heaven and makes them into children of God! And it leaves surprised onlookers slack-jawed with an unforeseen outcome. It's sometimes so astonishing that--like Gov. Ventura on the morning after--our biggest challenge is to believe it has really happened." The full text of the divine dispatch can be found on the Internet at www.woodmont.org/whf81109.html.
Just a Closer Walk with Jesse, Part 2
Off Beat got a half-hour audience with the guv-to-be Himself last week. (He was able to squeeze us in right after his photo-op with a guy from the Minnesota Zoo who was decked out in a life-size dolphin suit.) Some highlights of the conversation: While taxes and fiscal policy in general remain his top priorities, Ventura says he wants nothing to do with Republican entreaties for a billion-dollar budget cut. (One major cut he does intend to push for is the elimination of the inflation index, which swells many expenditures in the state budget by the percentage of the previous year's inflation rate. And those who thought they'd heard the last about legalizing prostitution and industrial hemp are in for a surprise. Though he says legalizing prostitution "is not on the front burner," Ventura adds that as governor he feels he can "lead the way and educate people that there are alternatives to the methods that have been pounded into people's heads. If you take emotion out of it and look at it from a business standpoint, there are different answers that might want to be looked at." As for hemp, Ventura vows to "move forward on that a little stronger, because it brings business and we're losing out to Canada on it." And finally, Ventura on the rigors of the job: "I'm having the time of my life right now! It's nice--when you're governor, you can kind of dictate your own way. I can walk around now and say, 'Jump!' and there are four people who say, 'How high?'"
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