Editor’s picks: Jay Gabler’s favorite Daily Planet stories of 2010


As 2010 wraps up, we’ll be highlighting the year’s stories in a number of ways—for example, we’ll be publishing a list of the most-read stories and a list of the most important stories. First, though, editor Mary Turck and I are compiling some of our personal favorites. Here are five stories in arts and lifestyle coverage this year that I’m especially proud of having published.

Everything Must Go

Effort, risk, creation: Everything Must Go and the process of making and funding new work in theater
by Katie Kaufmann (photo by Scott Pakudaitis), January 21
Executive director Jeremy Iggers always emphasizes that the Daily Planet should not just be a publication that disseminates news, but a community of people sharing information and perspectives. We don’t want to be a one-way street, and an excellent example of that was in January when Sheila Regan wrote a review of the play Everything Must Go. Katie Kaufmann, one of the creators of the play, wrote to say that she believed Sheila’s review underestimated the difficulty of producing original work. We invited Katie to tell her own story, and she did, in a blog entry that shared her first-person experience bringing a new production to the stage. Katie’s blog entry and Sheila’s reviews are complementary perspectives on the piece, and together they exemplify the kind of back-and-forth dialogue that we’re always pleased to see, and that we’d like to see even more of. As a critic myself, I was very glad that Katie shared her perspective in a thoughtful public essay—we occasionally hear privately from artists who feel their work has been ill-served by our coverage, but if that’s so, why not make the case publicly, to the same readers who read the original coverage? Katie did, and I’m glad for it.


Basilica Block Party 2010: Weezer, Spoon, Eric Hutchinson, Grace Potter, and a hip-hop trio raise the roof on Friday night
by Jay Gabler, with photos by Jay Gabler and Meredith Westin, July 11
The Twin Cities’ many outdoor summer concerts are about more than just the music—they’re also about the crowd and the sun and the grass and the food and the beer. With two cameras clicking, Meredith Westin and I were able to really capture the spirit of the Basilica Block Party and Rock the Garden. The biggest development in our arts coverage this year was the vastly improved quantity and quality of original photography we published, thanks in large part to Meredith’s first-rate contributions, which inspired a number of other photographers—me included—to contribute to the Daily Planet. Above is Meredith’s photo of the seminal local hip-hop artist Eyedea, who died in November at the tragically untimely age of 28.

Man jumping

Fringe 2010: A Standing Long Jump—3 stars
by Matthew A. Everett, August 11

At a time when many mainstream publications are moving away from arts reviews toward short preview blurbs, I’m proud that the Twin Cities Daily Planet regularly publishes intelligent, provocative, and entertaining criticism. In this blog entry, Matthew Everett reviews a Fringe Festival production that’s only about 45 minutes in length, but about which he writes 2,149 words. To give you a sense of perspective, that’s longer than the full-length cover-story features in many monthly magazines. Matthew didn’t love the play, and he explains exactly why in a long review that shows the production and its creators tremendous respect and attention. Pieces like this devote serious, careful, passionate attention to the arts, and I’m proud that the Daily Planet can be a home for them.


My grandmother, New Ulm, and the life of a community
by Jay Gabler, October 11
Among the hundreds of pieces I’ve written for the Daily Planet, this essay was one of the most rewarding. I woke up early on the morning of my grandmother’s funeral, and wrote this blog entry explaining who my grandmother was and how her life was part of the larger New Ulm, Minnesota community. Members of my family told me that they were pleased with the way I captured Grandma’s spirit, and they shared the piece with their friends as a way to communicate a sense of why we were lucky to have Grandma for the almost 91 years we did. Not that I don’t love reviewing Cirque du Soleil, but this was a uniquely meaningful piece of writing for my family and me.

Al Pitrelli

“My life is what it is”: Al Pitrelli on Christmas, heavy metal, and the whiskey-fueled birth of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra
by Sheila Regan, November 10
Often it seems like the main reason we have staff meetings at the Daily Planet is to trade stories about how great Sheila Regan is. From reviews to investigative exposés, Mary and I know that if we put Sheila on a story, she’ll do it right—very right. When the Daily Planet was invited to send a reporter to meet the the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s guitarist Al Pitrelli, I thought (as I often do), why the hell not? A little puff piece previewing the group’s St. Paul appearance would have been fine, and I knew Sheila would make it a fun read. When the article came in, I knew from the opening lines that this was something special.

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editor’s picks: mary turck’s top daily planet stories of 2010

“Can I buy you a coffee, sweetie?” he asked in his thick Long Island accent as we were walking into the hotel café. “Or maybe a Martini?”

“Coffee sounds good,” I said.

“Smart girl.”

Sheila sat down with Pitrelli for a surprisingly frank, and very funny, talk about the origins of the bombastic holiday hit machine. Not only did we learn the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s secrets (when the group first met to discuss the idea of founding a holiday-season rock orchestra, Pitrelli and other members were passing a bottle of whiskey around under the table), we got a strangely moving story about a journeyman guitarist who makes a fortune playing overblown Christmas carols. “48 years has been a series of accidents and turns that have just led me to be in this seat sitting next to you having a cup of coffee in this lovely hotel today,” Pitrelli told Sheila. “I couldn’t have scripted it, I couldn’t have told you what I did…my life is what it is.”