Sometimes it seems we get so little good news. It’s just exhausting. The economy. Discord. Partisanship. Crime. In this world, whatever comes across the news transom that is fun or interesting is worth noting, because there is something awful right behind it. And so we shall mention that the van driven by the character Uncle Rico in the cult film “Napoleon Dynamite” now resides in Minnesota, “somewhere in Lake Calhoun area,” according to gossip blog LOL/OMG. It’s this van, and for an unexpectedly large group of Americans, it is as iconic a vehicle as, say, the Batmobile, which is also in Minnesota (one of them, anyway), or the Delorean from “Back to the Future,” which, as it happens, also made the move to L’Etoile du Nord. They’re all owned by the same guy, and you can rent them out if you like, although it’s a bit pricey. But good news is rarely free.
In more good news, via the Star Tribune, a University of Minnesota researcher was a recipient of one of the $500,000 MacArthur Grants popularly knows as “Genius Grants.” The recipient was Marla Spivak, an entomologist best known for her work with bees. Another winner: David Simon, creator of “The Wire” on HBO. What do beekeeping and “The Wire” have in common? As the opening theme to the highly regarded show tells us, when you walk through the garden, you gotta watch your back.
And now, on to the bad news. According to Frederick Melo of the Pioneer Press, the last adult bookstore in St. Paul has shuttered. Melo offers a summary of the hard times we are in for adult entertainment: “The Belmont, a strip club at the same intersection, was briefly transformed into a police precinct [station]. Also gone are such infamous adult clubs as the Payne Reliever on Payne Avenue, Casey’s and Raquel’s Rap, a ‘sauna’ that advertised ‘Frank Adult Discussion’ with nude women on West Seventh.”
Speaking of St. Paul and bad news, Chris Havens of the Star Tribune offers the following discouraging headline: “For many in St. Paul, taxes to go up.” Specifically, according to a presentation of the Joint Property Tax Advisory Committee, “More than half of St. Paul homeowners are going to see an increase on their 2011 property tax bills.” Havens didn’t seek responses from people whose taxes are likely to climb, but he got them in the comments anyway: “Are MY taxes going to be used to pay for 3 meals a day for someone elses kids?? That is WRONG!!”, one writes, because, gosh, nobody would ever want to make sure our society has a social safety net that prevents children from starving.
There’s apparently a new weapon on the street, and it was recently used to render a Mankato man unconscious, according to Robb Murray of the Mankato Free Press, republished by the Pioneer Press. The weapon is something called “Blast Knuckles,” which are, in essence, brass knuckles with contacts on the front that cause it to act like a stun gun. The victim in the story was approached by two young men who asked him where a party was. “Not here,” he replied. And then they allegedly placed the stunning device up to his head and knocked him unconscious. If the number of Blast Knuckles videos to be found online are to be believed, a lot of young people believe that these stun devices are a prank, perhaps figuring it’s cheaper than driving around in Uncle Rico’s van. They must not have heard about David Cornelius Smith, the man who was Tasered at a Minneapolis YMCA last week, and who died shortly afterward.
When you’re discouraged enough by the news, it’s easy to think little or nothing can be done about any of this — and we’re in an especially pessimistic time, with stories such as this one, from Tom Scheck of Minnesota Public Radio, titled “Gov candidates face hard choices on health, human services programs” and detailing how there will be a surge in needs for state-funded social services in the next few years, just when the state is facing an economic crisis that will leave it strapped for cash to pay for such things. The story details the three major candidates’ approaches, with a dire warning from DFL candidate Mark Dayton that simply cutting them doesn’t solve anything: “You take a butcher knife rather than a scalpel to an existing program and you just do more damage, and actually cost taxpayers more because all of these people flood to emergency rooms rather than neighborhood clinics.”
Ugh. Let’s turn to the arts for some good news: In this declining economy, it’s rare to hear about a new print publication, much less one that seems to be doing pretty well. Of course, that newspaper is called Busted, and, as detailed by Dawn Stevens of FOX 9 News, consists mostly of mug shots of people arrested in various Minnesota counties. One supposes that a case could be made that this is an example of using tragedy as entertainment — as profiting off human misbehavior and tragedy. The publishers make the case that they offer a social good, and the people who sell it argue it’s entertainment. One supposes the same discussion could be had about the newspaper industry in general, or any industry where there are profits that follow tragedy. “I got the shotgun, you got the briefcase,” Omar Little once said. “It’s all in the game.”
In sports: Well, at least we won’t lose the Timberwolves, if the Associated Press has it right. This despite the fact that, as the AP puts it, the Timberwolves “tied a franchise record for futility last season by winning just 15 games in the first season under president David Kahn and coach Kurt Rambis.” It’s all in the game.