When Geeks Get Violent

Trivia events turn deadly in tough competition:

In St. Louis County’s VFW Halls and school cafeterias, a mistranslated Latinate, a misremembered movie quote, and even a sports record misstated by two at-bats have been motives for murder.

Fourteen homicides struck neighborhood Trivia Night fundraisers over an 18-month period starting in 2001. The seemingly trivial reasons behind the killings led a prosecutor to label it “Ground Zero for Senseless Murder.”

Oh, sorry, I misread the headline. It’s “Trivial events turn deadly in tough neighborhood,” which is much less amusing than where my mind went.

Commissars Admit Failure of 5 Year Plan, Create 7 Year Plan

Two stories out of O’Fallon, Missouri, today allude to the failures of top-down community planning and optimistically endorse more top-down community planning.

First, we have the story of how small businesses beamed down into New Urbantopias sometimes fail:

Some businesses are doing well. The customers are flocking to the Listons’ neighborhood-style tavern, patterned after the one they used to run in St. Louis’ Dogtown area.

Nearby residents drop in Curbside Cleaners with not only piles of dry-cleaning but also newsy updates about their families and kids for co-owner Donna Stuart. And at the Churchill Coffee Express inside the local branch of the St. Charles City-County Library, owner Robert Tock says he has a loyal group of sippers lining up at his door at 6:30 a.m.

But for other merchants who rely on foot and car traffic and a bit of impulse buying, it’s been a rocky few years.

Late last year, the Boardwalk suffered a major blow when Dave and Kathy Grabis closed their corner grocery market, to the dismay of many loyal customers who considered the couple the mom and dad of the fledgling neighborhood.

“Dave leaving was definitely a downfall for this area,” said resident Gisell Sterner, as she dropped off clothes at the dry cleaners.

It was the second failed retail endeavor along the one-block strip, following the closure of a Roly Poly lunch shop.

Two other small-town mainstays – the ice cream parlor and the pizza shop – both hit hard times early on, and their original owners sold the business to new entrepreneurs who both have watched the car and foot traffic to their shops dwindle in the aftermath of the grocery’s failure.

In January, things didn’t get easier when WingHaven’s free trolley stopped service because of a lack of ridership.

Never fear, though; the central planners are still at it:

Business owners and residents are now optimistic about negotiations under way between an area convenience store owner and WingHaven’s developer – McEagle Properties – to open a market in the same location as the former grocery.

Because the New Urbanists believe the corner market will trump super Schnucks, Dierbergs, and food-slinging Wal-Marts. Because they say so, they continue to push for it. Because if they will it, the citizens will shop there.

In other news, O’Fallon is going to apply for state money to revitalize its downtown:

If all goes as well, it could be O’Fallon’s dream come true.

The City Council gave staff the OK to apply for Missouri’s DREAM initiative program.

Known as the Downtown Revitalization Economic Assistance for Missouri, the DREAM initiative is a new program created through a partnership between the Missouri’s department of economic development, development finance board and the housing development commission.

The goal of the program is to offer technical and financial assistance for communities to more efficiently and effectively start the downtown revitalization process.

Additionally, the program is supported by professionals who are dedicated to help cities rebuild central business districts and shortens the redevelopment timeline, according to DREAM officials.

“What it does it combine existing incentive packages and brings it all under one umbrella,” said Jim Curran, O’Fallon’s director of economic development. “More cities are taking a look at the program that may not have qualified in the past due to medium income or population.”

Leaving aside that the revitalized downtown will probably cause more of the New Urbantopia businesses in WingHaven to collapse, we’re struck again with an instance of the government or other planners trying to induce demand for a service by providing supply of the service. In the case of both the development and the downtown, there’s no one there who needs a small urban grocery or whatever, but the planners want their kitsch, so they’ll spend their own money or our tax dollars to resuscitate faux urban areas.

The original downtowns sprung up where people crowded together to live for commerce, trade, and security. Since we have better, cheaper mechanisms for travel to and from work and commerce, we don’t need the congested areas any more. Those downtowns and their businesses and their housing emerged because people needed it and demanded it. Not because someone decided that the land needed x density of population and y numbers of businesses within walking distance.

And trying to impose such won’t make it so. But it will waste a lot of money in the process.

Also, It Will Build An Army of Supervillians

Radioactive scorpion venom may help treat brain cancer:

The search for cancer cures can at times produce some curious treatments, but the latest study just might stun you.

Neurosurgeons at St. Louis University are among the doctors injecting radioactive scorpion toxin directly into the brains of patients with a deadly brain cancer.

When you think about this and the use of botox for cosmetic purposes, we might be now living in the golden age of intaking deadly substances for medical benefit.

Open Source Humor

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitschin’.

I thought of that punchline, but for the life of me, I cannot think of a setup that justifies it. I ask you, members of the open source community, to do my work for me and provide it.

Live In An Ugly House In Ellisville, Go To Jail

Remember, citizen, your property rights are conferred upon you by your government. As this story illustrates, your government can arrest you and run you out of town at its displeasure at your standards of maintenance:


    An inspection found the homeowner in violation of five housing laws. The roof was too worn; the driveway was cracked and shifted; the trim, siding, doors and windows had exposed surfaces from a lack of paint; there was open storage alongside the house and in the backyard; and the posts that once held up a fence needed to come down.

    Despite the letter, the violations remained. Court dates came and went. Hordesky didn’t show. In March, the municipal judge issued warrants for his arrest. Ellisville police officers searched for him at his house. No one answered the door, but the back entrance was unlocked. They later went inside and snapped pictures.

    The house was deemed a health hazard, and the electricity and gas were turned off. A condemnation notice was stapled to the front door. The city brought in St. Louis County’s Problem Properties Unit, which routinely handles similar cases. Jeff Young and Rehagen, the two inspectors who work the southern half of the county, have a caseload of roughly 135 properties. They encounter hoarders often, but seldom in upscale neighborhoods.

    The day of his arrest, Hordesky posted a $500 bond. After discussions with the Problem Properties Unit, Hordesky eventually agreed to sell the house. He recently provided the city prosecutor with a sales contract, and the closing date is in mid-August.

Please, don’t offer defenses of the community here, for we cannot have a discussion. A priori we differ enough that I won’t want to hear exactly what arbitrary standard you feel justifies this government taking.

Joseph Kittinger, Jr., Award Winner

It’s been a while, but we here at MfBJN confer upon Canadian (!) Tom Tilley the Joseph Kittinger, Jr., Award for Demonstrable Manliness for this incident:

    A man stabbed a black bear to death with a 15-cm hunting knife, saying he knew he would otherwise become “lunch” after it attacked him and his dog on a canoeing portage in northern Ontario.

    Tom Tilley, a 55-year-old from Waterloo, Ont., said his American Staffordshire dog Sam growled a warning, then rushed to his defence as the bear came at them on a trail north of Wawa on Friday.

    As Sam battled with the nearly 90-kilogram bear, Tilley jumped on its back and stabbed it with his knife.

Gall as big as church bells.

(Link seen on The Other Side of Kim.)

Previous Kittinger Award winners:

Book Report: I Ought To Be In Pictures by Neil Simon (1981)

Like The Mystery of Edwin Drood, I bought this book for $2.00 at the St. Charles Book Fair in that orgy of hardback buying that’s populated the top of my sole to-read shelves with overflow of unrelated tomes. Since I’m in the midst of a long nonfiction hardback to be reported later, I picked this book up for a quick bit of levity in between.

As some of you know (all of you who aren’t dammkidz), Neil Simon was a prolific playwright circa the later middle decades of the twentieth century. Many of his plays were even made into movies. Oddly enough, I have a sort of cultural touchstone with this particular piece from that era; my brother, as a boy, received upon him the schtick that he was a button collector, and he had a I Ought To Be In Pictures button, no doubt reminiscent of the time where this play travelled to the Melody Top or the Riverside Theatre in Milwaukee. But I bought the book because I wanted more drama in my life, not some envy of my brother’s button collection. I think I stole inherited it, anyway, when either he needed some money in high school or when he abdicated many of his worldly possessions when joining the Marines.

The play is a simple two act with three characters: a nineteen year old New York girl who arrives at the door of her father’s California bungalow sixteen years after he abandoned her; the almost-failure screenwriter father; and his movie business girlfriend with some substance. The action takes place in the bungalow and deals with the daughter who wants to be in pictures… or maybe just wants to reconcile with the father she never knew.

It’s a short play, and a simple conceit. I liked it enough, but perhaps if I spent too much time on it, I would think it too facile or not complex enough to speak truth to power. Perhaps Simon ain’t Shakespeare. But in 1602, Shakespeare wasn’t Shakespeare, either.

Books mentioned in this review:


Ask Dr. Creepy

Dr. CreepyDear Doctor Creepy,
Today at work, I told an inappropriate joke that, while inappropriate, was also subject to misinterpretation. Someone mentioned using a false name of “Bob,” and I rejoindered with, “Because everyone likes a floater.” One woman in our group gasped appropriately at the tastelessness, but I later thought that she might have gotten the joke wrong. A floater, as you know, can refer to a bloated corpse fished from a body of water; however, in the common vernacular, it can also refer to a piece of excrement which does not go down the drain with a single flush.

My question is, how can I let these people know that while inappropriate and crude, I am above the common proletarian scatalogical humor?

Signed, Stepped In It

Dear Stepped In It,

As you know, it’s perfectly acceptable to make ghastly comments and inappropriate remarks about death to show that you’re either a trenchcoat wearing purveyor of the same or hiding your stark terror at mortality behind a flippant front. However, when it comes to creeping people out with your humor, it’s more important to let the recipients of your wit wonder about your motives or how you could make that joke than to have them think you’re a nice guy.

So let the miscommunication stand. Your apparent cluelessness and lack of decorum serves well enough to creep people out whether its ghoulish humor about decaying flesh or poop. Although the former is preferable, the latter will do, so to speak.

Sincerely,
Dr. Creepy

The Haze Spectator

July 24 Downtown

A rich, velvety mouthfeel combines with the flavors of oak, earth, smoke, mangoes, and just the sweetest touch of tannery. A rich, summery haze that represents the genre well but ultimately doesn’t rise above the genre enough to be memorable on its own or to transcend its peers.

82

St. Louis City Makes Do Without FEMA

When searching for a scapegoat or man-made entity to shake its impotent fist at after the recent storms, the city of St. Louis settles on Ameren UE:

    City officials expressed frustration today that Ameren Corp. has kept them in the dark while more than half of the city remains without power.

    Mayor Francis Slay — whose own home has lost power — said the utility has been “playing it very close to the vest” about when power would be restored to St. Louis.

    “They have been very, very vague,” Slay said in a briefing to aldermen at City Hall. “They don”t really promise anything specifically — I think intentionally so.”

Dear politicians:

When dealing with actual concrete things, such as incompletely troubleshot interruptions of service, undiagnosed downed lines, and incomplete timetables of unknown repairs on undiscovered problems, people in the real world don’t make rash promises that they probably cannot meet. Although this is commonplace in your industry, how about you just shut your yap, sweat with your constituents, and never consider about how your efforts to hamstring public utilities might actually have helped lead to the situation you’re in now?

Nah, nevermind. Use this as a pretext to puff your three-pieced chest up and to further meddle with all the incompetent power of preening government.

Almost a Blog

Robert B. Parker’s "blog" on Amazon.com.

One post with 61 comments from readers. I cannot fault him for not keeping up with it; blogs are facile mechanisms for writers who aren’t doing five pages a day, no more, no less, for profit.

Apparently, Our Deadly Heat Waves Are Lacking

How can we feel national pride in our deadly heat waves?

    At least six deaths have been blamed on the heat, and the weather was suspected in at least three others.

Compare to the more nuanced, reasonable, and thoroughly progressive, socialist-minded continent, as demonstrated by France:

    The death toll in France from August’s [2003] blistering heat wave has reached nearly 15,000, according to a government-commissioned report released Thursday, surpassing a prior tally by more than 3,000.

    Scientists at INSERM, the National Institute of Health and Medical Research, deduced the toll by determining that France had experienced 14,802 more deaths than expected for the month of August.

Hopefully, government intervention, regulation, and meddling can solve the crisis we’re having in the lack of actual deaths in our deadly heat wave.