In Which I Take Umbrage

I opened my electronic correspondence this morning to discover that, scattered among the many missives from such devoted readers as Floyd Whopping Cock, there were a number of notes from acquaintances calling my attention to the fact that in the pages of the Southwest Journal local media rascal David Brauer was weighing in on the future of my employer, Rake Media Worldwide.

Make no mistake, Mr. Brauer deserves great respect as an endangered species, one of those veteran, hard-living, ursine warriors of The Fifth Estate. The man is, in fact, a veritable pillar down at the local branch closet of that storied institution. He has held a dizzying number of positions in our local journalism community –not unlike (in the interests of full disclosure) yours truly. He has worn many hats, and has often wielded his pen like a sword of righteousness. That said, it would be tempting to opine that Mr. Brauer has grown too big for his britches, were his britches not so undeniably commodious.

What I’m trying to say, I guess, is that when a fellow of Mr. Brauer’s stature has something to say, folks all over the Twin Cities and even out into the dark rural outposts where people still give a horse’s patoot about the Big Ideas and ideals on which this great nation was founded…well, dammit, folks can’t help but sit up and listen. They damn well should, at any rate.

I have to confess that Mr. Brauer is one of these increasingly rare characters that can make a man sick with rumination. The miserable wretch toiling in obscurity would pay dearly for a critique from a writer with Mr. Brauer’s bona fides. And when Mr. Brauer deigns to offer his critique for free, his audience would be wise to pay careful attention, even when what the man is offering is transparently equivocal disdain, much of which he has offered before.

In Mr. Brauer’s piece in this week’s Journal he jabs his rapier squarely at the heart of The Rake, and as a proud and devoted employee I feel compelled to engage the old warrior –at, I fully realize, my considerable peril.

It is apparently Mr. Brauer’s opinion that The Rake has a bit too much attitude and not nearly enough relevance for his refined taste. To which I can only counter: Show me the attitude, you wonky prick. And at the very least please be so kind as to tell me what ‘relevance’ means in such a degraded and increasingly irrelevant marketplace of ideas.

I’ll insist to my dying day –which is likely any day now– that I am fiercely proud of much of the work we have done and continue to do at The Rake, and I will argue with my last breath that that work has been and continues to be relevant to a fault. For instance: our popular "Hum’s Hot-Button Hot Tub" feature brought together some of the keenest political minds and social critics in the Twin Cities (and, yes, they were in a hot tub provided by Watson’s Pool and Spa, and, yes, they were sipping wine courtesy of a fine Lyndale Avenue purveyor of spirits) to hash over such important and timely issues (or so we perhaps foolishly believed) as teen pregnancy, crime and punishment, the scourge of methamphetamine, and the 35 Most Romantic Weekend Getaways. I like to think people –readers and participants alike– learned something and were entertained.

Or tell me if you would, Mr. Brauer, what exactly wasn’t relevant about our three-part "Hunger Sucks" series, written by a fasting liberal Lutheran minister, a series we promoted by having the entire staff march the half mile down Washington Avenue to Cafe Brenda, where we simply stood with our faces pressed to the windows for fifteen minutes in mute solidarity with those who cannot afford to dine in the Warehouse District, or even to dine at all.

I could give you examples all day. We’ve written about orphans, for crying out loud –hell, probably dozens of times. We’ve written about foreign countries and the people who live in them. We (ok, I) have written about clowns, but I honestly believe it was a respectful piece, and entirely deficient in attitude. We’ve even published fiction, which I will insist on considering a brave gesture even if journalists like Mr. Brauer choose to regard such work as irrelevant.

And, sure, we’ve had our fun. I’m not going to apologize for the fact that we’re a fun bunch. Every once in awhile it’s nice to do a little something to turn those frowns upside down.

We haven’t, of course, always succeeded at squaring the product with what we’d like it to be, and like everybody else in a struggling business we’ve had to contend with all manner of the usual challenges, disappointments, and occasional (sometimes frequent) bland compromises. But when push has come to shove –as it so often has– we’ve always at least tried to tackle subjects that we find interesting, provocative, and worth caring about.

So the issue, Mr. Brauer, is not whether or not The Rake is for sale; the issue is what, precisely, is for sale, and not what that thing costs, but what it’s worth in a sense larger than the crass realities of economics. And I can assure you that what is for sale in this instance –if, in fact, anything is for sale– is a proud magazine staffed by hard-working people who care passionately, are broadly curious about the world we all live in, and strive mightily every month to capture some of that passion and that curiosity in a relevant context. I love the people I work with, and I know that what is for sale –if, in fact, anything is for sale– is a constellation of hopes and dreams. Individual dreams and communal dreams. Good dreams, decent dreams, dreams of at least one more tomorrow brighter than today. A dream that a group of increasingly beleaguered people can create something meaningful and entertaining and worth more than any price tag can ever reflect.

Such dreams can be tough things. They are tough things, and they can make a man bitter. You all know that. David Brauer obviously knows that.

I hope that you will understand me. I hope that my intentions are clear. And I bid you good day. I bid you good night.