COLUMN: Holiday season inspires potpourri

This is my Sunday column for the Nov. 27, 2011 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

Holiday season inspires potpourri
By Aaron J. Brown

On the game show “Jeopardy” you sometimes see the category “Potpourri.” This is high-class way for intelligent people to say, “We don’t know where this stuff should go.” In rummage sale ads this is called “misc.” In a family, this is called “a recent college graduate living in the basement.”

The holiday light show at Bentleyville opened down in Duluth last week. New this year is a dinosaur themed light display. The dinosaurs signify a living reminder of the carbon-based fossil fuels needed to maintain electrical service to the annual attraction. In the spirit of the holidays, we are all reminded that the base elements of our earthly corpus maybe be used to turn the blades of a turbine many thousands of years from now. Also, Santa has a new house this year.


We’re doing a little better on Christmas shopping this year compared to last. Much of it was done online and now we’re going to fill in some odds and ends with local shopping. One thing is certain. Based on the bestsellers list on the other night we see that many people will be receiving a coffee cup in the shape of a toilet this year. Go tell it on the mountain.


A recent headline over at the rival newspaper in Duluth read “Winter brings gloomy outlook for SAD sufferers.” One could also argue that in addition to sandbagging those with Seasonal Affective Disorder, the season also promises snow, cold and the gradual shortening of days followed by the eventual lengthening of days as the earth’s axis tilt back toward the sun. In a related story, gravity continues to exert its powers disproportionately on the obese.


I have to congratulate our old friend and former neighbor Jack Lynch for his arts and sciences award from the St. Louis County Board. When we moved into the house next door in 2000, Jack had just “retired.” That obviously didn’t take. Good thing, because Jack has done some of his finest work just recently, documenting the unique and complicated history of Hibbing and the surrounding Iron Range.


Like many small-time writers littering the likes of newspapers like this, I hope to publish a novel. I’ve crafted quite a few compelling excuses why I haven’t finished my novel yet. “These kids are everywhere.” “It’s important to build a Twitter presence before completing a chapter.” “I must research in order to write the seminal work on fantasy football!” But the best excuse I’ve heard yet comes from blog discussion on According to one modern thinker, advances in neuroscience might make the novel obsolete.

You see, the novel is considered by some to be the true expression of the human experience. Over hundreds of pages readers grow to understand characters and their motivations. But, Austin Allen explains a Marco Roth essay contending that that scientific understanding of the human brain might explain so much that such expression would become redundant. You simply need to read the brain scan. I am almost entirely certain this is why I can’t decide between first-person and third-person point of view.


The Spirit of Unity Parade is slated for 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1 in downtown Hibbing. This holiday promenade is a latter-day tradition downtown. As a member of the Cherry High School marching band back in the ‘90s I recall the parades early days. My memories of the occasion included temperatures so low my trumpet literally froze in the open valve position. I could only play low C, middle G and high C. You can actually play “Taps” that way, but that is very much not in the spirit of unity.

Nevertheless, the holiday season is here: the cookies, the family, the shopping, the songs, and – of course – the snow. Be ready to dig out or, if you prefer, dig in.

Aaron J. Brown is a writer and community college instructor from the Iron Range. He is the author of the blog and the host of the Great Northern Radio Show on 91.7 KAXE.


  1. I like the idea of that dinosaur light display. It can serve as a reminder of the long scope of history, and perhaps reduce the importance we invest in our silly human mythologies.

  2. Interesting thought on the novel. Technology does change the way we think. It is one reason why I think we are in need of some changes in the way we deliver education. This article ( was really interesting in making me see that the brain does change based on what we consume. So perhaps we SHOULD do more reading of books AND do more writing while acknowledging we may not need to do as much as we used to.

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