Off Beat

Embrace Clicks-and-Mortar Initiatives!

THOSE HAND-WRINGING NAYSAYERS who fret that the Twin Cities have failed to become a dynamic center of the online economy can rest easy. Minneapolis, we're proud to say, is home to a breakthrough no other digital utopia can boast of: the Web Economy Bullshit Generator. This invaluable tool is the creation of 32-year-old information-technology consultant Dack Ragus and can be found at his Web site, Click the "make bullshit" button and out pop instant buzzterms guaranteed to have venture capitalists throwing large sums of money at you: "envisioneer synergistic e-services," for example. And "incubate next-generation deliverables." And "unleash wireless functionalities." Ragus tells us he plans to make the bullshit generator accessible via cellular phone as well. ("So if you're in a meeting and you need some bullshit, you'll be able to pull it up," he explains.) Ragus's year-old Web site also features his unique takes on Twin Cities boozing and golfing, as well as stock and movie picks. "The Web's got a pretty low barrier of entry. I just had a lot of different points of view on different things and felt the need to express myself," says Ragus, who plans to launch a weekly online radio broadcast next month featuring "downtempo," or "chill-out" music--a Valium-ized version of techno.

Has Anyone Seen Shem?

IT SEEMS WE'RE not the only ones Shem Shakir has been avoiding. Shakir, president of the nonprofit Frogtown Action Alliance, refused to answer staff writer Paul Demko's questions about the lawsuits, unpaid bills, and other pesky matters that have plagued his organization (see last week's cover story, "Arrested Development"). St. Paul police don't seem to be having any better luck with Shakir. In July, after Marion Whitlock became the second former Alliance employee to sue Shakir and the Alliance for sexual harassment, the economic-development group filed a counterclaim accusing her of embezzlement. Investigators have dropped the matter. The reason: The Alliance failed to cooperate with police. In his incident report, Det. John Cannefax, who looked into the allegation, notes that he repeatedly called Shakir in search of evidence, but received no response. "You can cry wolf, but you're gonna have to help us," comments Jim Konen, the assistant Ramsey County Attorney who made the decision not to press charges. "We can't see what's in your mind."


THOUGH THE SCATTERED initiatives to build the Twins a new stadium were temporarily pushed off center stage by the coming of Culpepper & Co., some people still have ballparks on the brain. We checked in with Tom Goldstein, who a year ago wrote the cover story that introduced local honchos to architect Philip Bess and his small-scale-stadium ideas (see "Ballpark Frankness," September 8, 1999). Goldstein says the 17-member committee Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton formed in July to study the issue is scheduled to have its first meeting as this issue goes to press. Meanwhile, last week the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on a panel discussion in that town, during which economist and stadium curmudgeon Mark Rosentraub took that city's team owners to task for refusing to pitch in big bucks for the $370 million stadium they want built. St. Louis Cardinals president Mark Lamping, who has pledged a mere $120 million for the big fat ballpark he proposes, responded in predictable ballclub-owner fashion, by saying Rosentraub's notions were ridiculous. Given that cogent analysis, Off Beat wondered if Lamping might have offered any other insightful observations in recent months. Which led us to this juicy tidbit from the May 28 edition of the Post, courtesy of the Nexis news database: "I wonder what city services the city of Minneapolis has eliminated because of the decline in tax revenue [generated by baseball fans]," Lamping told the paper. "There's less risk to city services by growing Cardinals baseball than by doing nothing and running the risk that a Minneapolis situation could develop."