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Times of change bring good and bad

The good: a new heart scanner; the bad: Cottage View drive-in’s fate, and tough times for Penumbra; and more.

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

There was a moment in American history when a biracial man rose before an audience and expressed something that changed the world. I speak, of course, of Prince. The date was Aug. 3, 1983, the place was First Avenue, and, as captured on video, the event was the very first performance of “Purple Rain,” an apocalyptic vision of love at the end of time. Matthew De Abaitua of Hilobrow digs into the performance, functionally annotating it, in the first  of a series of essays about his Purple Majesty, and it’s about as good a piece of rock journalism as you’re likely to find. Nowadays, when Prince seems most famous for door-to-door proselytizing for the Jehovah’s Witnesses and for suing YouTube posters, it’s refreshing to be reminded of the moment when he changed American music.

We’re at a time of momentous change just now, albeit little of it involves First Avenue. A cursory glance at the Star Tribune produces stories about the St. Paul Crime lab revamping itself to the tune of $140K, Mercy Hospital testing out a new heart scanner and stadium architects showing their designs to Vikings fans. Honey, I know, I know, I know times are changing. It’s time we all reach out for something new.

There are some disappointing changes as well. The classic Cottage View drive-in, which may have one of the greatest signs in the Twin Cities, will soon be a Walmart, as reported by the Pioneer PressThe Penumbra Theatre — inarguably one of the Twin Cities’ most significant theatrical institutionshas suspended programming and laid off 16 full-time employees as the result of a budget crisis, as reported by KSTP. Even the monarch butterflies are suffering, the result of this dreadful drought, which has diminished the milkweed needed for their diet, according to WCCO.

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It’s not the end of time predicted by the Aztecs or by Prince, but it’s pretty depressing anyway. If you know what I’m singing about here, come on and raise up your hands.

The forthcoming vote on gay marriage isn’t really much of a change. After all, LGBT folks already can’t get married here. Nonetheless, it feels significant, as articulated by the Rev. Meg Riley in the Huffington Post in a column titled “61 Days Till Minnesota Votes on My Family.” “So I’m sitting with this question: Would it hurt or help this vote if people understood that they were not actually voting for marriage equality but against flaunting the corpse of marriage equality in the streets for all to jeer at?” she asks bitterly, but I think Prince really summed up the frustrations when he sang, “I never wanted to be your weekend lover.”

At least gamblers have something to look forward to. Jean Hopfensperger of the Star Tribune informs us that electronic pull-tabs are in the final stages of testing and may be available to bars and restaurants as soon as Sept. 18. This would make Minnesota the national leader in electronic pull-tabs, which is a claim that I think we can all feel ambivalent about.

Speaking of leadership, Obama name-checked a Minnesota business in his speech Thursday night at the DNC, referencing Marvin Windows and Doors. “[T]hey understood their biggest asset was the community and the workers who helped build that business  —  they give me hope,” Obama said. As the Strib’s Rachel E. Stassen-Berger points out, Obama neglected to mention that the Marvin family gives almost exclusively to Republican candidates, but perhaps this is the bipartisanship that Obama has championed.

Were he to respond to Stassen-Berger’s comments, I think I know what Obama would say: You say you want a leader, but you can’t seem to make up your mind.