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You Can’t Un-See This Hidden-in-Plain-Sight U of M Logo Detail

Plus more Park Point billionaire commentary, Phillips becomes a bot, and workers take over Wild Rumpus in today's Flyover news roundup.

3:45 PM CST on January 22, 2024

University of Minnesota |

Red circled added by Racket’s graphic design team to highlight the arrow.

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

Ski-U-Whaaa?

The headline here is "Street Name Signs In Quasi-Public Areas," an installment in the ongoing street-sign series by Streets.mn contributor Wolfie Browender. But the focus of our blurb comes from a bit buried in the body of Browender's report: Have you ever noticed the downward arrow featured in the University of Minnesota's "M" logo? Browender hadn't either, writing, "As an aside, while researching this article I noticed a downward-pointing arrow in the negative space of the U’s Block M (below). Despite a thorough internet search, I have been unable to find any reference to or explanation of this." (We've reached out to the U's PR department for any sort of comment; we'll update you if/when we hear back.)

Wild, right? I'm a U of M grad and today marks the first time my brain has processed that, in hindsight, screamingly obvious arrow. What possibly diabolical and/or benign things could it represent? (Certainly not the upward trajectory of tuition costs!) In any case, this is not the university's only cryptic visual. Coffman Memorial Union has long been rumored to resemble the head of a gopher—another one of those things you just can't un-see. While we're on the subject of gophers, please revisit my previous bombshell reporting on: a) Is the rodent featured on the Minnesota History Center's "Greetings from Minnesota" mural a squirrel or a gopher?; b) Does the cartoon varmint resemble a dinger? The answers will force you to reckon with the taxonomic origins of Goldy and, perhaps, reality itself.

Update (1/25): The U of M PR department got back to us with this message from researcher/archivist Katelyn Morken...

The "Block M" has been associated with the University of Minnesota through athletics dating back to the early 1900s, but not widely used by the University until the 1980s-early 2000s. As far as we know, the creation of the "Block M" has not been identified within our historical documentation, rather, we have photographs of its use over time—as seen here in a 1933 photograph of Oscar Munsan painting on the Little Brown Jug, used during the game between UMN versus Michigan. Unfortunately, because we do not have reference to the creation of the "Block M" or who designed it, there is no information related to the negative-space arrow found in the letter.

Kathy Cargill, Park Point, 'Pay-to-Play Playgrounds,' and the Dawn of Neofeudalism

In her first crack at writing for MinnPost, Minnesota Daily columnist Kelly Rogers seized on the drama surrounding a Cargill heir buying up Duluth's Park Point to address heavy topics such as this country's apparent slide toward neofeudalism. (She acknowledges that, as a "broke college student," she possesses a predisposition to loathing the billionaire class.) The mysterious real estate moves by Kathy Cargill's LLC represent the broader dilemma of murky shell corps gobbling up communities at the whims of their ultra-rich funders, Rogers writes, and, even more broadly, how income inequality influences the built environment. The columnist uses those systematic quandaries as jumping off points to explore proposed legislation that would ban corporate landlords in Minnesota; click here to read my conversation with the author of that bill. Concludes Rogers: "Passion projects of the uber wealthy cannot continue to supersede public interest. The cities we call home must be built collaboratively if they are to exist for us all."

Dean Phillips Is Literally a Bot

Look, we're trying to implement quotas on how often to write about the vanity presidential campaign of Dean Phillips, the scion to a liquor fortune and, for a little while longer, congressman from Minnesota's Third Congressional District. We tried oh-so-hard to exhibit restraint, though today's Dean misadventure was too funny to pass up: a shadowy cabal of tech bros has debuted a literal Dean Phillips AI bot they're calling... Dean.Bot. Terrific! So excited for the future of electoral politics! From the Washington Post last week:

A new super PAC backed by Silicon Valley insiders is mobilizing to spread Phillips’s ideas in an unusual way. This week, they launched Dean.Bot after weighing the implications of using a sophisticated AI tool that can chat like a real person—one of the first known uses of artificial intelligence in a political campaign. The techies behind the bot are getting help from activist hedge fund billionaire Bill Ackman, who has described the fight as protecting Democrats from nominating a candidate who can’t win. The PAC has already raised $4 million to target New Hampshire voters with short confessional-style videos—targeted social media ads featuring Phillips and supporters making his case.

Look, I don't disagree with Phillips, who's currently polling at 7% ahead of Tuesday's New Hampshire Democratic primary, when he bemoans the broken two-party U.S. political machine. I think he raises valid concerns about the re-electability of President Joe Biden, whose rubber-stamp support in the deaths of 25,000+ Palestinians is killing him politically. But is the solution a self-appointed trust-fund centrist savior, one who (at least briefly) views Ron DeSantis as a potential political bedfellow and pals around with the dumbest people on earth (Ackman, Steve Schmidt, Forward Party of MN founder Andrew Yang, et. al.)? I bet Dean.Bot would answer in the affirmative.

Workers Take Control of Wild Rumpus Bookstore

We're pleased to conclude this Flyover on a sweet note: Ownership of Minneapolis bookstore Wild Rumpus—a magical Linden Hills destination for kiddo books and living in-house animal mascots—was transferred earlier this month to four current workers. Collette Morgan, who co-founded the shop in 1992, tells Publisher's Weekly that she's ready for retirement and viewed young booksellers Timothy Otte, Jessica Fuentes, Beth Wilson, and Anna Hersh as the ideal stewards of her legacy. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“The store was back in the black after weathering the Covid closure and my son was not interested in taking over," Morgan tells PW. "I definitely put out notice privately that I wanted to find someone to carry the torch, and this quartet of employees came forward with a valid Letter of Intent. My fondest wish!" And don't worry: Wild Rumpus, which is also licensed as a pet store, isn't going to lose its assortment of birds, chinchillas, cats, and fish. "Of course, the menagerie is sticking around," Otte confirms. "We four are all book and animal people. That’s what brought us together.”

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