Too Many Sticks: Losing the fight against fifth-grade fascism

As warm winds blow and winter snow melts into vernal rebirth I am reminded of springtime in the fifth grade when the fascists won the war. It was April of 1991. A championship for our Minnesota Twins seemed as unlikely as the fall of the democratic republic my friends and I created on the Cherry… Read More →

Talking animals keep us from cracking up

Our son George circled March 20 on his calendar long before our current public health crisis. That was the day the new “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” game would be released for his Nintendo Switch. I must admit that I reacted to George’s palpable anticipation with a healthy dose of fatherly skepticism. “So, you’re an animal… Read More →

Iron ships sail into economic storm

Economists study the market’s “invisible hand,” but when it comes to the economy Iron Rangers believe what we see. That’s because here in northern Minnesota economic indicators ride in iron ore cars pulled by diesel engines on steel rails. With our own eyes we see Minnesota’s iron mines operating despite the historic shuttering of the… Read More →

New urgency for rural broadband

My family and I live down a long dirt road in rural Itasca County. Mud season reminds us of the challenges of rural life and the thin tendon joining our home to civilization. This world seems even farther away during the coronavirus pandemic sweeping our nation and the world, but it’s still there. We still… Read More →

Recycling a limited solution in disposable society

The attendant at the dump extended a pair of Inspector Gadget tongs into the recycling bins to retrieve contraband. His sworn enemy is styrofoam. “If I could un-invent anything on earth it would be styrofoam,” he told me this month. He also told me that the rules would be changing. Itasca County now must pay… Read More →

Homebound on a global scale

Who buys soup at Target? Apparently everyone, because the soup is gone. But we can get soap. So let’s get soap. Walking the aisles of the store last weekend my phone rang. It was my sister Alyssa in Italy. She’ve been living there almost two years now but was hoping to come home for a… Read More →

2020 Hindsight: Revisiting the future of our past, Part 3

This is the last of a three-part series. See Part 1 and Part 2. There is no historical blind spot quite like the recent past. The living defend their memories, true or not, with self-interested passion. The recently departed are far more saintly than the long dead. Over the past three weeks I’ve been exploring… Read More →

2020 Hindsight: Revisiting the future of our past, Part 2

This is the second of a three-part series.  Last week I told you about a 1998 Hibbing Daily Tribune special section entitled “2020 Vision.” Back then, reporters interviewed local people about what they saw happening in our region by the year 2020. They got a lot right. For instance, many predicted the rise of health… Read More →

2020 Hindsight: Revisiting the future of our past

This is the first of a two-part series. Look around. Somehow we’ve stumbled into the year 2020. We write 2020 on our paperwork. We gird for a 2020 election season that seems anything but futuristic or forward-thinking. In short, 2020 seems nothing like the sci-fi utopia of our dreams. And, frankly, I feel ripped off…. Read More →

Questioning our past to understand today

The word “nostalgia” comes from the combination of ancient Greek words for “pain” and “coming home.” Literally, the word described the ache that came from longing for a home that will never be the same. Nostalgia is the pain of leaving home. And it could be considered as powerful as a drug. When you peruse… Read More →