NYC-based internet strategies consultant and author Rex Sorgatz showcased quite the sense of humor when he lived in Minnesota — although Garrison Keillor did not laugh.
The founder of MNspeak, a now-defunct community news website, “had no marketing budget so I made a series of T-shirts that were under the MNspeak brand,” Sorgatz said during a recent trip down memory lane. “There was a picture of Minnesota and over it it said, ‘Land of 10,000 Fakes.’ There was one that said ‘Lake Street Is For Lovers,’ which is the name of an old Lifter Puller song; Lifter Puller was a Minneapolis band that became the Hold Steady when it moved to Brooklyn.”
But the T-shirt that sold out was a riff off “A Prairie Home Companion” and prompted a cease-and-desist letter from Keillor’s lawyer.
Sorgatz is considering wearing the last of the T-shirts Tuesday at 7 p.m. when he is at Finnegans Brew’s tap house in Minneapolis signing copies of “The Encyclopedia of Misinformation,” an A to Z “compendium of deceptions throughout history” in essays, puzzles, graphs and charts annotated with extensive footnotes.
The official subtitle is: “A Compendium of Imitations, Spoofs, Delusions, Simulations, Counterfeits, Impostors, Illusions, Confabulations, Skullduggery, Frauds, Pseudoscience, Propaganda, Hoaxes, Flimflam, Pranks, Hornswoggle, Conspiracies & Miscellaneous Fakery.” Whew.
Sorgatz’s discussion partner will be his buddy, the great Mpls.St.Paul magazine senior writer Steve Marsh. Be sure to wish Sorgatz a happy birthday Tuesday
Q: How old were you when you learned to spell the word encyclopedia?
A: [Silly laugh.] I’ll say reference books were always my favorite books and I don’t know why exactly, but I’ve always liked the idea of little compendiums of knowledge. Even today, my house is packed with things like “The Dictionary of the Middle Ages,” “The Encyclopedia of Philosophy,” “The Dictionary of Thimbles,” “The Dictionary of Classical Mythology.” Weird because I’m an internet person and the internet has made almost if not all of these obsolete. If I ever want to go look up something about the Middle Ages I would never go pick up my book. It’s not really an encyclopedia. It’s a bunch of essays. It pretends to be an encyclopedia so I can write stuff that’s interesting.
Q: How much mischief are you and Steve Marsh going to get into Tuesday?
A: I think it’s going to be a good talk. We are both interested in some of the same topics that are around trust in the media and artificial intelligence, deception in social media. I think it will be a fun, wide-ranging conversation about general deception, like online especially.
Q: Did you ever deliver one of those “A Prairie Ho Companion” T-shirts to Garrison Keillor? (Not that I would recommend he wear it now.)
A: [Long laugh] You know, I have one left and I am for sure going to bring it to Minneapolis. I will probably wear it on stage. Lots of people contacted me when Keillor went through his most recent incident and asked me if I had any interest in reproducing the T-shirt. I said no. In the era of #MeToo, I don’t think that a T-shirt with the word “ho” in it is a really good message. I almost went to court with him. I had the ACLU offering pro-bono legal services to defend it on a First Amendment basis. I decided not to do it. I didn’t want to be the kind of person who was in court defending the use of the word “ho.” [Laughter] Meantime, I know I’m right. He ceased-and-desisted me a full year after I was sold out. I’m like, “Why are you going after me now? I don’t even sell them anymore.”
Q: Do you think Keillor would sue you now if you started reproducing them?
A: I hope so. I really doubt he wants more attention now.
Q: Explain this recent tweet you wrote on Twitter: “millennial offered his seat to me [Sorgatz laughed] and it almost came to fisticuffs.”
A: We have this thing in New York subways where it’s a nice thing to offer up your seat to an older person. [He barely got through this, laughing every other word] It made me angry some guy thought I was old enough.
C.J. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and seen on Fox 9’s “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.