Off Beat

Wing Ding

Each month, the U.S. Department of Transportation ranks the big airlines in on-time performance. According to November 1998 DoT figures released last week, Eagan-based Northwest Airlines made local headlines by virtue of having taxied to the gate punctually 86 percent of the time, second only to TWA. Putting aside the fact that airlines report their stats on the honor system, and the fact that a flight is considered "on time" until it's more than 15 minutes late, Off Beat has sat on more than one "on-time" flight that spent as much time at the gate as in the air. So has Steve Loucks. "I've been on flights that leave more than a half an hour late and, lo and behold, we still make our arrival time," says Loucks, spokesman for the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) in Alexandria, Va. "So you're talking about a lot of cushioning time." NWA spokeswoman Marta Laughlin defends her airline's timetables, arguing that it doesn't make sense for carriers to post overlong flight-times, because that would discourage customers from flying those routes. "The idea is to get from point A to point B in as quick and efficient a way as you can," she says, "and it's not driven by having good DoT stats." Then again, the way Off Beat sees it, the on-time sweepstakes is won by whichever airline fudges its schedules the best.

Hennepin Avenue Buffalo to Roam?

Last week the Walker Art Center announced it was buying the Allianz Life Insurance complex, its neighbor to the south on Hennepin Avenue. The sale does little to uncloud the murky expansion plans of the Walker or its tenant the Guthrie Theater--a topic freelancer David Brauer probed in these pages last fall ("Political Theater," 9/16/98). Nor is it great news for the bison statue that for the past half-century has stood in front of Allianz's offices. "We'd like to move it with us, but we have to explore the practicality of that," concedes Jack LoSapio, Allianz's VP of human resources. "Would we damage it in the process? Would it fit in, complement a future site?" Might the buffalo become an addition to the Walker's permanent collectionif it proves unmovable? Well, maybe. "The Walker hasn't developed plans for the site yet, so a decision on the buffalo would be made at a later day," offers art center flack Karen Gysin. The 12.5-ton granite sculpture was commissioned in 1948 by Allianz forefather North American Life and Casualty as a symbol of the company's "massive strength and vitality." John K. Daniels was 73 years old when he began chipping away with a three-pound hammer and a pneumatic drill. The Norwegian-born Minneapolis artist, who died in 1978 at age 103, was a crusty fella who espoused a theory that the moon is only a semisphere and also believed the U.S. government spent too much on sewers and not enough on art. "Fortunately," he once told the Minneapolis Star, "the Greeks didn't have plumbing and were able to build the Parthenon."

The Past Is Present, Part 2

Off Beat is pleased to report that you can learn cool stuff if you read the paper every day. Just last week we learned about Dr. C. Walton Lillehei, whose exploits at the University of Minnesota a half-century ago ensured his place in medical history as the father of open-heart surgery. Interestingly, the source of our edification was neither of our esteemed local dailies. G. Wayne Miller, staff writer for the Providence Journal in far-off Rhode Island, says he was inspired to pen his recent nine-part series, "Into the Heart: A Medical Odyssey," when he heard Lillehei lecture in 1991. The 44-year-old reporter, who last year authored Toy Wars, a book about the battle between Mattel and Hasbro, is already at work expanding his heart piece into a full-length manuscript. To that end, he's looking for more local input. In particular, he says he'd like to interview any living relatives of Sheryl L. Judge. "She was the fifth child of Jean L. Judge and Norma M. (Cambern) Judge, who lived on South Eighth Street in Minneapolis at that time," Miller elaborates. "Mr. Judge was a construction worker and Mrs. Judge was a homemaker. Sheryl was born March 29, 1949, and died following heart surgery on May 31, 1951." Ditto for Jessie Weddle, about whom Miller knows even less: "Jessie was 20 months old in July 1955, when he became the first person in the world to survive open-heart surgery using Dr. Lillehei's heart-lung machine"--the device that eventually made such surgery commonplace. Contact Miller at gwmiller@ids.net or call him at (800) 452-1967, ext. 7380. And check out his series on the Web at www.projo.com/special/heart/.

 

At Off Beat our motto is "Staying informed so you don't have to." Call (612) 372-3788 or send an e-mail tooffbeat@citypages.com with any poop that's fit to print.

 
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