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The Middle Class is Dying. You’ll Be Renting Forever.

Plus a sweet comic book story, embarrassing suburbanites, and a skeptical take on Pepper the robot in today's Flyover.

a small, cute, green and white house in a yard with some leaves and grass
lyricbaritone via Flickr

Welcome back to The Flyover, your daily midday digest of what local media outlets and Twitter-ers are gabbing about.

Homeownership: A Fairy Tale

Minnpost’s Greta Kaul has the story on a June U.S. housing report with bleak implications for hopeful homeowners. The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies found that the current annual income needed to afford the median Twin Cities home is almost $104,000, or almost $21,000 more than what the median Twin Cities household takes home in a year. And that disparity isn’t limited to the Twin Cities. Rochester, Brainerd, St. Cloud, Duluth—in every larger Minnesota metro, the income necessary to afford a home is higher than what the median household makes. But don’t worry: There’s bad news for renters, too! “Since 2019, the share of Minnesota renter households that are considered ‘cost-burdened,’ which means they spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, rose from 40 percent to 43.2 percent in Minnesota,” Minnpost reports.

The Robot Is Bad

If a robot pitch is dangled in front of an assignment editor, ooo baby, you better believe you’ll be seeing a robot news story. The genre, however stupid, is simply irresistible to the cigar-chomping newsmen who call the editorial shots. The fruits of that phenomenon bore out Wednesday, when every newsroom in the goddamn state breathlessly reported about Pepper, a UMD-concocted caregiving robot that’s programmed to help—and definitely not steal the data of and/or neglect—nursing home residents. Lots of lip service was paid to Pepper’s bad jokes and attempts at getting nostalgic as a human might, but almost nobody asked: Do these old folks, most of whom likely fear iPads to at least some degree, want this 4-foot humanoid freak harassing them?

The Star Tribune talked to: a professor who helped unleash Pepper on the world; a commissioner with Minnesota Department of Human Services who helped fund it; and an executive from Monarch Healthcare Management who, we’re promised, won’t replace pulse-having nursing home workers with robotic underlings that corral our elderly with cold, lifeless, indifferent precision. Finally, mercifully, one resident gets a single quote in the Strib. “I’m excited just to talk to her,” Mary West says, “tell her all about my kids and hope that she remembers.” Jesus. At the end of my life, I hope I’ll be subjected to experiences that are at least a little less bleak than the future is.

Adult Suburban Man Wonders: Where Is Batman? 

To hear the Star Tribune Editorial Board explain it, reader letters are chosen for publication based on three pillar goals: “To add insight to public discussions; to reflect the balance of what readers are saying, in the proportion they’re saying it; and to offer compilations that are engaging to read.” On Wednesday, they certainly nailed that last part. As a tone-setting hors d’oeuvre, we’re treated to a headline that includes “Minneapolis mayhem,” followed by the succinct subhed: “Help.” Above, the head-scratching decision to run a photo of the bat signal projected on a Mexico City skyscraper; “Could we borrow it?” the caption reads. And those panicky decisions were all made by the—we’ll be generous and say Twin Citians—who comprise the Ed Board.

The top letter, which has been receiving rightful mockery online, is by Jenni Charrier of Orono. She recalls an evening downtown to celebrate her large, adult son’s birthday, one that was ruined by people asking for money and an “obviously high” man. “I no longer felt inclined to return to the city that I have loved for more than 30 years,” writes Charrier, who, we can’t stress enough, doesn’t live here. In our estimation, Minneapolis Twitter really should have teed off on the following letter from Mark Luther of Wayzata: 

Chef’s kiss, Mark! 

True to its mission of diversity of thought, the Strib Ed Board published a third letter on Minneapolis public safety, this one from an actual resident, who struck similar hair-on-fire chords. Look, the Fourth of July downtown chaos was concerning, but we can’t let a bad night inspire even worse ideas. Or amplify them.

Comic Shop Owner’s Death Brings Outpouring of Love

Comic book and collector shops are social spaces, where people of all ages chat, make friends, tell stories, and regularly meet up to check out new releases. That is certainly the case for Rochester’s Book Review, a beloved shop owned by Craig Cotten. After falling ill in late June with pneumonia, doctors soon discovered that Cotten was also suffering from septic shock and leukemia. He died on July 5. Through a GoFundMe page and the shop’s social media, family have been deeply touched to see how many people loved Cotten and his store. 

“My kiddos would always shout to him that he was their best friend,” writes one patron. “Craig would secretly sneak me special packs he’d make up for the boys—so they could finally pull that special, rare card they were looking for.” 

“I’m glad we got to introduce him to our newborn son last month,” writes another. “Craig was all smiles when he got to meet him.” 

Cotten started working at The Book Review in the ‘90s, eventually buying the comics and sports card shop in 2006. The shop’s Facebook post updating patrons of his death has nearly 60 comments so far, all from people who clearly loved Cotten and his shop. Kelly Moore, Cotten’s younger sister, says she always thought her brother considered himself a lone wolf. “We are absolutely overwhelmed with all the messages from people,” she tells Bring Me the News.