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Dem convention can’t help but bring back our 2008 political memories

Rybak speaks at gathering; a strong State Fair year; praise for Walker Art Center’s bathrooms; a BIG burger; and a horrific crime story.

Editor’s note: Former Glean writer Max Sparber is filling in for Brian Lambert for a few days.

The headlines from this past evening are, of course, about the Democratic National Convention, with its rousing speeches from the floor and determined protesters in the streets. And it’s hard not to feel a hint of jealousy. After all, wasn’t it just four years ago that we hosted both the Republicans, with their own rousing speeches (including a star-making turn from Sarah Palin) and protesters, as well as hosting Barack Obama, who declared his victory in the primaries over Hillary Clinton from the Xcel Energy Center. There, Obama and his wife, Michelle, touched fists together, which FOX anchor E.D. Hill immediately dubbed a “terrorist fist jab.” Oh, what times those were. Now St. Paul is silent, guarded only by unspeaking sentries of Snoopys and Charlie Browns. Sure, Mayor Rybak was at the DNC, stumping for Obama, but unless Obama commented on the intensity of Rybak’s eyes, as he did back in 2005,  it was bound to be a letdown.

Well, no matter. We still have news of our own, some encouraging, some distressing, an occasional surprise, and some absolutely horrific. Let us start with the better news before we get to the worse.

We’ll start with the State Fair, which is, after all, where we Minnesotans gather without too-many protests or fist jabs. Alas, there was an occasional stabbing and one face kicking. It was a very good year, according to John Brewer of the Pioneer Press. This year, the Fair saw the second-highest number of attendees ever, and this is an event that has hosted Theodore Roosevelt (he gave his “Big Stick” speech there), as well as an embalmed whale.

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Jessica Armbruster of City Pages brings us good news for the Walker Art Center:  Its bathrooms are finalists in America’s Best Restroom competition. As restroom choices go, this is a good one. It doesn’t have the absurd grandeur of the urinal in Stasiu’s, neither the tidy class of the restrooms in Cosmo’s, but it does have a minimal, almost futuristic severity — one can imagine spaceman Bowman from “2001: A Space Odyssey” blowing an airlock and floating into this restroom as Hal begs him not to. Better still, John Waters once drilled a glory hole into one of the stall walls, and what other bathroom can claim something at once so arty and so trashy?

And while we’re on the subject of notable Minnesota achievements, the New York Daily News is reporting that the Black Bear Casino in Carlton, Minn., built the world’s biggest burger. The monstrosity weighed in at 2,014 pounds and spread out over 10 feet. An official from Guinness, which certified the record, declared that the burger tasted really good, but we Minnesotans know something was missing. It’s just not really from the Gopher State unless some maniac has melted cheese inside the burger and left it in there at magma-levels of heat. But, then, with a burger this big, the entirety of Carlton might have been destroyed like Los Angeles was in the movie “Volcano,” with former Guthrie actor John Carroll Lynch melting into the cheese after trying to leap across it to save a local. I feel sure I am not the only one who remembers this movie.

Lastly, the nightmare: Joy Powell of the Star Tribune offers up a horrific tale of Stillwater resident Demetrius S. Ballinger, who is accused of raping four 15- and 16-year olds over a four-hour period in a Woodbury motel bathroom. This is a tough read, so consider yourself warned. The galling tale began as a group of friends gathering for a party and ended, for one of the partygoers, in a hail of gunfire — perhaps from Ballinger, and certainly from police as he fled the room, killing him. “It had to be horrifying for those kids,” prosecutor Fred Fink says — a statement that, in its simplicity, sounds like an understatement.