Off Beat

Darn That Spittle Buildup!

AS IF THE CEO-shares-popsicle-with-rug-rat commercial wasn't enough to establish Sun Country Airlines as the Pollyanna of the transportation industry, the local upstart had to go and hold a "Great Smile-Off" last week, offering two round-trip tickets per month for a year to the person with the most persevering puss. Off Beat couldn't help but feel a little out of place among the contestants last Thursday at the Hubert H. Humphrey Terminal; dour journalist types like us normally wouldn't be caught within a mile of a group this giddy-looking. Even the losers walked away cheerful: Cara Smith, who was disqualified in the afternoon, cited "spittle buildup" as her downfall, while sincerely wishing the others well. When all was smiled and done, winners Meg Edmonsen, Olga James, Catherine Goode, Kim Simon, and Kari Ann Shiff had grinned for 20 jaw-busting hours (with only donated subs and the vocal stylings of Sun Country CEO Bill La Macchia Jr. to sustain them through the night) to beat out 80 other contestants. Out of altruism--or perhaps sleep deprivation--the women decided that the spirit of sharing was stronger than the spirit of competition and agreed to split the prize among themselves while declaring Shiff Sun Country's "Ambassador of Smiles." Off Beat was long gone by that time, of course, but according to the airline, Shiff had this to say about her formidable facial endurance: "I just wanted to smile, and so that's what I did....It was a really fun event!"

Right on the Mark

ONE OF LOCAL freelancer David Brauer's steady gigs has him penning pieces for the Chicago Tribune, and so it was that last week readers of the Second City daily got an eyeful of the simmering dispute over whether Minneapolis's Whittier neighborhood will indeed become the home of a half-scale replica of the scaffolding that buttressed the Washington monument during its recent renovations. Brauer's article duly chronicles the tiff that pits neighborhood activists against one another, with prospective benefactor Target Corp.--and designer Michael Graves, the man who created a line of housewares for the discount store and the mind behind the scaffolding project--caught in between. But, as Brauer subsequently pointed out on the civics-centered local e-mail list he operates, Minneapolis-Issues, his editors deleted one curious fact from his description of the proposed site. The story notes that according to a designer for Graves's firm, the new version of the scaffolding will rest in Washburn Fair Oaks Park on a grass mound that's 10 feet high and 67 feet in diameter, with a circular sidewalk all around it, farther out. What got blue-penciled was Brauer's observation that viewed from high above, the resulting pattern will look a lot like...Target's own logo.

Net Nannies

Late last month we got an e-mail from the Minneapolis Police Department's Community Crime Prevention/SAFE team that began: "These sites were previewed by the Minneapolis Police Department SAFE Unit staff in January, 2000 and found to be appropriate for youth." What followed was a list of three dozen kid-friendly Web sites, from Disney (www.disney.com) to Bill Nye the Science Guy (nyelabs.kcts.org/openNyeLabs.html) and Sports Illustrated for Kids (www.sikids.com/index.html). And what, we couldn't help but wonder, possessed the Minneapolis Police Department to plunge into the role of cyber crossing guard? According to department spokeswoman Cyndi Montgomery, last fall some of the civilians who work in the community-policing program picked up a list of kid-friendly sites at a crime-prevention conference and decided to check them out and then pass on the information to community members and block clubs. "They reviewed them from the common-sense aspects," Montgomery says of the exercise, which is characterized in the e-mail as "a starting point for safe Internet usage for families." The criteria, she says, were fairly simple: Is the information geared toward kids? Are there good pictures? Are the sites colorful? "It was never that we were claiming to be Internet experts," she concludes. Still, Off Beat has been sleeping better at night, knowing the MPD's got this newfangled e-stuff covered.

 
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