A billion reasons why PolyMet debate misses the point

“Look here, now!” the North-Going Zax said, “I say! You are blocking my path. You are right in my way. I’m a North-Going Zax and I always go north. Get out of my way, now, and let me go forth!” “Who’s in whose way?” snapped the South-Going Zax. “I always go south, making south-going tracks…. Read More →

What you are getting wrong about the Iron Range

Comparing the Mesabi Iron Range to Appalachia is always tricky. On one hand, there are apt likenesses. Both feature small towns and an economy built around mining. Both showcase the razor’s edge between capitalism, the environment, and the rights of workers. On the other, historical differences are strong. Appalachia is much bigger than the Iron… Read More →

Hear the latest Great Northern Radio Show from Bemidji

Last month I brought my Great Northern Radio Show to Bemidji State University for our latest blend of Northern Minnesota-themed variety programming. I think it turned out well, with plenty of funny bits and good music. The program aired live on Northern Community Radio and featured a sold out venue at the Thompson Recital Hall… Read More →

Ulysses S. Grant: the forgotten emancipator

My great-great-great grandfather Peter Crist lost an eye fighting for Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in the Army of the Potomac. Crist would stand just a few miles from the Appomattox Courthouse when Robert E. Lee surrendered to Grant, ending the U.S. Civil War. After the surrender, my maternal ancestor would guard the White House on… Read More →

When crisis meets crisis, opportunity becomes clearer

Sometimes it gets hard to keep track of all the crises. At the state level or even regionally here in Northern Minnesota, we’ve got plenty of worries to choose from. Any one of them could keep us thrashing in bed all night. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Let’s review. Employment Crisis “Double… Read More →

A Northern Minnesota movie comes home

No industry confounds the people of Middle America more than the entertainment business. Hollywood and New York stand as shining beacons of wonder, drawing the ambitions and hopes of our teenage thespians and aspiring new media pioneers. But buried beneath this extravagant reverie is a truth; we are typically the rubes shelling out for tickets… Read More →

Seizing real power in our times

Sometimes I have a great notion that a tall building could be erected on the corner of First and Howard in downtown Hibbing. Bustling with commerce, brimming with human progress, this grand edifice would become a beacon for a new age of internal improvement of our Iron Range city. We could restore the parks, scrub… Read More →

Farewell video stores, your strange era is over

Forbes, Minnesota, lies on the four corners of Highways 7 and 16 just off the central line for the Duluth, Missabe, and Iron Range Railroad. The railroad was there before the roads, one of the early routes hauling iron ore from the Mesabi Range to the docks in West Duluth. Those tracks were the reason… Read More →

Great Northern Radio Show hits BSU this Saturday

The dawn of March in Northern Minnesota is like those sample stations at your local grocery store. Try this sausage on a toothpick. Here’s a tiny pie on a tiny plate. Tastes pretty good. But do you live in a world where you can just buy a box of those special foods? Are these rare creamy… Read More →

The horrible, solvable problem of hunger

A mother flees an abusive husband with her four children. She hasn’t worked in a long time and her parents live out of state. She’s leaving the shelter soon, but isn’t on her feet yet. An retired contractor wracked with a bad back can’t pick up jobs anymore. He is alone. One day he finds… Read More →