A Minnesota legislator had a bit of a jocks-vs-goths meltdown this week when he declared best-selling comic book writer and novelist Neil Gaiman to be a "pencil-necked little weasel who stole $45,000" from the state in the form of a speaking fee (that the writer ultimately donated to charity). The remark came from House Majority Leader Matt Dean, who is trying to pass new legislation changing the way programs for culture and the arts are funded in Minnesota. The Republican apologized after he was admonished by his mother.Matt Dean, a Republican, is attempting to pass legislation that would require arts and culture organizations like Minnesota Public Radio and the Minnesota Zoo, among others, to compete for grants rather than continue being funded through taxes. Star Tribune writer Mike Kaszuba characterized the move as "unusual" and one that House Legacy Funding Division chairman Dean Urdahl "struggled" to even explain during a hearing.

The confusion seems to come from Urdahl's statement that interests could still receive the same money they were originally earmarked in a bill that was actually passed less than a week ago if the new version is passed. The distinction, Urdahl confusingly told the Star Tribune, is that a competitive grant program removes "nearly all the earmarks." The Minnesota Republican admitted the legislative maneuver was "unusual," and Democratic Representative Ryan Winkler suggested the entire ordeal is a show for the benefit of Tea Party Republicans with an agenda against Minnesota Public Radio, which he referenced sarcastically as "big radio" and "big public broadcasting."

Neil Gaiman's role in this apparently pointless legislative machination began in May of last year, when he made a four-hour appearance at the Stillwater Public Library. The writer of The Sandman, American Gods and Coraline was paid a hefty five-figure fee for the event, which came from the Minnesota Legacy Fund, which itself is monies collected from sales tax and designated specifically to pay authors of Gaiman's status their going rate and bring them to local libraries. On his blog, Gaiman wrote last year that he was told the fund does not rollover from one year to the next if it's unused, so he accepted the high fee and subsequently donated it to "a social/abuse charity" and an "author/literature/library related charity."

In response to Rep. Dean's hilarious cry-baby remarks, Gaiman wrote the following on his blog:

1) It's funny. Sad that this is the kind of thing that elected officials say in public, but still funny. It's the kind of thing that you expect to hear at school from fourteen-year old bullies, before they tell you that they'll be seeing you by the lockers with their friends, not what you expect to see from an adult.

2) It's kind of nice to make someone's Hate List. It reminds me of Nixon's Enemies List. If a man is known by his enemies, I think my stock just went up a little.

3) I like "pencil-necked weasel". It has "pencil" in it. Pencils are good things. You can draw or write things with pencils. I think it's what you call someone when you're worried that using a long word like "intellectual" may have too many syllables. It's not something that people who have serious, important things to say call other people.

Gaiman also wrote that he was in fact paid $33,600, not $45,000.

Dean, who told The Star Tribune that he "hates" Neil Gaiman, later apologized for the insults during an interview with Minnesota Public Radio -- the very artistic and cultural enterprise whose funding he is attempting to endanger.

"My mom is staying with us right now because my wife's out of town," Dean said. "She was very angry this morning and always taught me not to be a name caller. And I shouldn't have done it, and I apologize."

Word to your mother, Representative Dean, from all of us at ComicsAlliance.

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