Off Beat

That's Fung Shway

WE SHOULDA SEEN it coming. The flack was e-mailing us from Seattle. But it seemed so innocuous: "Kirsten Lagatree, best-selling author and feng shui expert, will be available in Minneapolis to talk about how your readers can be more productive, creative, and maximize their professional lives by some simple arrangements in their office or desktop." Readers, schmeaders, thought Off Beat. What about us? And what might Ms. Lagatree make of Paul Demko's cubicle? And how do you pronounce feng shui, anyway? Bring on Kirsten Lagatree! So on she came. But along with a press kit and a copy of Lagatree's 1998 tome Feng Shui at Work: Arranging Your Work Space for Peak Performance and Maximum Profit, her escort from the PR firm was toting a Microsoft keyboard and mouse. Turns out the tour is being bankrolled by Bill Gates & Co., who've glommed on to the ancient Chinese art of interior decoration as a marketing opportunity. "Choose curves for calm," the press kit's "Five Keys to Home Office Harmony" suggests. "Straight lines or sharp angles in your home office cause an interruption in the flow of energy....Try using Microsoft's Natural Keyboard Pro and IntelliMouse Explorer for optimum comfort." Otherwise, having the very personable Ms. Lagatree visit your office is a lot like having your mother visit your office. "Clutter is nothing but a series of postponed decisions," she averred, beholding one of our tidier work spaces. And then, very gently: "Dead plants are really not good feng shui."

Some Verve

IF YOU HAPPENED to pull up on your browser last Thursday, you'd have been treated to a vision of hooded members of the Ku Klux Klan encircling a burning cross, right beneath the smiling mug of Rod Grams. The Web site, which bore a striking resemblance to the Republican U.S. Senator's "official" campaign soapbox, proclaimed that the "Minnesota Chapter of the KKK Endorses Rod Grams." Kendal Killian, a 22-year-old Minneapolis waiter with a penchant for Web tinkering, was surprised by the popularity of his political parody: By the time Off Beat got through to him, he'd received messages from several news outlets, as well as from the Grams campaign, which warned that the faux site probably constituted a copyright violation. "I guess it is," Killian mused. "It was patterned too closely to their site. I'm not going to get myself in any trouble here," he added, pledging that he'd go home after work and dismantle it. (By Friday morning, after a mere 24-hour existence, the site was down.) And what, we wondered, inspired the joke? "Obviously, I'm not a big fan of Rod Grams," Killian explained, though beyond that he was at a loss. "I was supposed to go golfing, but it was kind of rainy out. So I stayed in and came up with this." The benefits of notoriety aren't lost on Killian, who intends to turn into an open forum for dialogue on issues like light rail and publicly funded ballparks: "I guess this is a pretty good publicity stunt to get it going."

Playing the Numbers Game

LAST MONDAY STEVE Cramer, executive director of the Minneapolis Community Development Agency, stood before the city council's Community Development Committee to report on how the city is faring vis-à-vis its affordable-housing goals. (Last September the council resolved that by 2002 the city will create 2,110 units for residents who earn less than half of the metro's median income of $63,000.) According to the nine-page report, a mere 38 affordable units were demolished last year, while a whopping 534 new ones were constructed. Great news! Except those numbers don't jibe with the count kept by area homeless advocates--who were present at the meeting, and who didn't hesitate to pounce on Cramer. Why, they wanted to know, had he failed to include the 770 units torn down on the near-north-side site of the planned Hollman redevelopment? Because, Cramer countered, the Hollman decree gave the city no choice but to tear those down. So how, the advocates rejoined, could he justify boasting that 192 new housing units are being built on the site? And is it plausible to count 73 new shelter beds as affordable housing? When Cramer was unable to come up with satisfactory answers, council member Jim Niland suggested he go back to his calculator. New numbers are expected by the next full council meeting, on September 29. But Niland isn't optimistic. "It's disingenuous to count numbers in the way they are, and it clearly shows that the resolution we passed last year is inadequate," he scolds. "We need to put money into building housing where the need is the greatest, instead of pouring money into boutique housing along the riverfront."