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The six blocks of Vietnamese-oriented stores on El Cajon Boulevard are an object of curiosity on a trip between here and there. Passersby might raise eyebrows, and then the red light changes to green.

For the local Vietnamese community, these fading buildings — the pho restaurant, the supermarket with the fish counter — mark the center of a community. Now, this Little Saigon may finally get some official recognition and, perhaps, some badly needed revitalization.

Our story takes you into this community, where a new generation is questioning old traditions and wondering why merchants aren’t doing more to promote themselves to people who aren’t Vietnamese.

In other news:

• Last year, we exposed an epic real-estate scam that relied upon rented identities to buy dozens of condos in North County. Last month, the feds finally arrested the man behind the swindle in Northern California.

Now, court records reveal lots of details about the investigation, including what it revealed about the suspect’s interest in offshore companies, Iraqi dinars and Vietnamese Dong. And guess what the feds found in his pockets when he got arrested?

• Ready, aim, fire! Critics of San Diego’s public schools have fired the first round of shots in a new battle over the future of the district.

They issued a new report that compiles existing statistics and uses them to create a mostly negative picture of how students are faring. The mayor dropped by a press conference yesterday and sounds worried too, although it’s not clear if he’ll go for a proposed solution: take much of the power away from the existing school board by adding a bunch of new — and non-elected — members to it.

• The Navy Broadway Complex isn’t exactly Bodega Bay, and Rod Taylor is nowhere to be found. Still, the Photos of the Day will make you think of a certain avian Hitchcock movie and want to avoid all phone booths. Whatever they are.

Elsewhere:

• A debate in Mission Valley between City Council candidates Howard Wayne and Lorie Zapf promised some early political fireworks last night. But it fizzled out. CityBeat reports via Twitter that Zapf bowed out at the last minute: “Says she had family in town … somewhat vague.” (Family in town is an excuse to miss an event instead of a reason to attend an event — any event — that leaves them behind?)

• SDG&E is planning to spend $600 million to finance a Montana wind farm after the power company had trouble getting credit. (U-T)

• A towing company that works for San Diego and a coalition of local governments has lost its contract with National City because of “several incidents, including one in which an impounded car was taken out on a 155-mile joy ride and was spotted by its owner near a Spring Valley hamburger joint.”

• Back in May, the Reader reported that the San Diego News Network website was sacking people. But it continued to operate, posting news roundups (imagine!) and columns about topics like gray hair and dating.

Guess what: Now, the Reader says, SDNN is going out of business.

In a related story, Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.

• The Episcopal bishop of San Diego “has sent a letter to clergy of the diocese approving a process to celebrate same-gender blessings,” the Episcopal News Service reports.

Clergy don’t have to offer the services. They must get the bishop’s permission and go through some red tape if they want to do so. St. Paul’s Cathedral, in Bankers Hill, may perform a same-sex blessing later this year. “We’re really excited about it. We’ve been wanting to do this for as long as I can remember,” a sub-dean said.

• Finally, the San Diego Comic-Con officially begins with a preview night today.

Among other things, panelists will explore the inner minds of comic-book characters. One panel will tackle whether Batman has “Empty Nest Syndrome,” while another will examine whether Mr. Freeze and The Penguin suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. (BIFFF! POWWW! MOTHER ISSUES! ZING!)

This kind of analysis isn’t exactly new. As I reported from Comic-Con a few years ago, psychologists in the 1950s warned of deep, dark deviancy in the comics. They looked askance at everything from those eternal bachelors Batman and Robin (they do spend a lot of time in tights) to Wonder Woman’s early interest in being tied up and spending quality time with the ladies.

Things have changed in comic-land. Gay characters are all over the place, like the new classmate of Archie, Veronica & Co. And I hear the Caped Crusaders plan to open a B&B in a nice Victorian fixer-upper. Very suspicious.

— RANDY DOTINGA

Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com...

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