Monday, October 31, 2011 By Aaron Brown
Monday, October 31, 2011 By Aaron Brown
Magnetation's Site #1 is Keewatin, where workers have been toiling beneath a giant inflatable dome on top of mine dump assembled in the early 20th Century. A new scientific process allows them to extract and ship iron ore that was once considered waste. Magnetation recently announced a deal to ship material to
It's all about high iron and steel prices. Magnetation is growing exponentially, the Range is close to opening a new taconite plant in Nashwauk, and established companies like Cliffs Natural Resources are posting record profits.
CORRECTION: AK Steel is based in Pennsylvania. Magnetation is working with a different customer for its expansion project that is based in Mexico.
Sunday, October 30, 2011 By Aaron Brown
Thundercloud Rodriguez and two associates attempted to rob an Iron Range mayor, his wife and two friends as they walked home late one night last May. The mayor and his friend fought them off before Rodriguez bit Cannata in the face. This is a thing that happened.
The hometown paper, the Hibbing Daily Tribune, has made a practice of referring to Rodriguez as "mayor biter" in its story, starting with "alleged mayor biter" a couple months ago and now "admitted mayor biter" in the sentencing story.
Saturday, October 29, 2011 By Aaron Brown
By Aaron J. Brown
Always the words come, “how can you live here? It is too cold.” And I say that it is not too cold; it is temperate. We live in the very definition of a temperate climate with “hot,” “cold” and “miscellaneous” holding power in a weather triumvirate. To say that we are too cold is to say that you prefer reality without anything unpleasant. Good luck with that. We in northern Minnesota accept the world as it is: Often disagreeable, but worth living for – if only out of spite.
Or should I say we accept the worlds as they are. In a place like northern Minnesota the seasons don’t just change the weather, they change our way of life. Our very routines morph like the leaves of trees, viscosity of water, or flights of birds. Each season is a new world built on top of the old, forged by the progress of time.
Consider for a moment summer, the season we’ve now safely left behind. We each built our summer habits: bike rides, swims, walks to get the mail and books read on the porch swing. The air smelled of pollen and open water; grass smooth like carpet. The sun burned into the evening, seven o’clock like a lazy afternoon.
That’s all over now. Dinner means night. The metal trash bins at the dump turn cold to the touch, brisk wind rattling the heavy plastic covers. Above, we see trumpeter swans glide over the demolition pile, wings whistling.
Gunshots crack the wind. Bird season, you know. The other day George piped up from his seat at the table.
“That big bird is lookin’ at us, bwaaaahahaha!”
After a pause, Molly Dog added: “Bark! Bark! Bark! Bark! Bark! Bark! …” And then she digressed.
It was a pair of grouse, of course. The birds must know they are safe in my yard. I’ve decided not to shoot any non-threatening animals so long as I am gainfully employed. Peeping birds, another sign of fall.
As the patriotic fervor of an election year approaches, I can’t help but notice that the only bald eagles I see these days are working the low end of the food chain. Nothing invokes American exceptionalism like the emergence of a majestic eagle from the chest cavity of a deer recently dispatched by a logging truck. Ben Franklin may have had it right about the national bird all along, his preference being the wild turkey – the original “angry bird” whose inopportune deliciousness prevented it from ascending to prominence. Eagles, meantime, are a summer inspiration, an autumn interloper.
Just this past week I grew to accept the leafless forest, branches like bony fingers to the sky. I know I’ll always need a coat and now maybe a hat. The car’s air system is set to red. It won’t see blue until Easter, if then.
We journey now to another new world, one with the first wet snow of the year, boots and shovels. Add 15 minutes to your drive; no more making up time on the back roads. Seeing stars means your eyes will freeze. Listening to the iPod gets tricky with gloves on and off, so we settle for old songs and this is what makes us grumpy. No, not the cold.
Yes, when it is cold here it is very cold, but all things belong in their place. That season – still nameless – will come, revealing a new world of frost crystals, snow mountains and dazzling night skies. There is no guarantee we will survive to the next season, but most do. Maybe you and maybe me. Let’s leave the past behind and set out upon land made new by time.
Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor. He writes the blog MinnesotaBrown.com and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on 91.7 KAXE.
Thursday, October 27, 2011 By Aaron Brown
This was the height of the Cold War, a time when many Americans wondered if Soviets were human or animal. Hibbing was by far the smallest and most remote town on the exhibition tour.
Traveling with them was an interpreter, Roman Kiselov, who was asked by reporters if he knew much about their northernmost stop and the predicted weather that awaited them. “Yes, I have heard of Hibbing,” he said. “It is like Africa compared with Moscow in winter.”
Reading this story, replete with glorious anecdotes, feels like watching a version of Rocky IV in which Ivan Drago really does break Rocky. Seriously, read this.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011 By Aaron Brown
My dad never followed sports when I was growing up. He fixed engines. When he was in school he fixed engines. Today he fixes engines. He's a big fan of engines. I like engines, too. I cheer for them to work.
I grew up loving baseball (despite my inability to play), its mechanics and rhythm, coming of age just as the Minnesota Twins won their two World Championships. So that choice was easy for me. I played football slightly better and grew to like the Minnesota Vikings because my grandpa's entire house is made up like a viking temple -- both real and football vikings being involved.
So today I'm the typical casual American sports fan and I can already see the budding reality that my boys will be Twins fans and Vikings fans. They point out Twins things and Vikings things to please me. They sit with me on Sundays to watch games. Henry has worn a Twins cap since he was 4. On the other sports they will be as confused as I because their father attended one of the 8 percent of Iron Range high schools that didn't have hockey and neither he nor they can bounce balls effectively.
Monday, October 24, 2011 By Aaron Brown
Business North's Ron Brochu explores a study showing the economic impact of Great Lakes shipping, which is strongly influenced by the Port of Duluth and northern Minnesota iron mining.
Maritime commerce on the Great Lakes Seaway system created nearly a quarter million jobs last year and salaries of $14.1 billion, according to a report released Tuesday. In addition, it's also the most environmentally friendly way to move cargo, according to a long-time industry participant.Great Lakes shipping will face new challenges in coming years as the locus of economic control shifts toward the Pacific. Temptation to send iron ore and grains overland by train to the West Coast will only rise with commodity prices. Nevertheless, the remarkable infrastructure and location of the Great Lakes will ensure its well use, if not its market share, into the future.
(Photo: Ron Reiring, Creative Commons).
Sunday, October 23, 2011 By Aaron Brown
By Aaron J. Brown
We are a nation of workers, productive workers, innovative workers who can complete almost any task while maintaining an active presence on Facebook and Twitter. Of course there are many jobs that don’t allow time for Facebook and Twitter, but you’d better watch out because those jobs aren’t “safe.” Most of those jobs can be completed overseas where Farmville is far less of an abstract concept. Times like this get me thinking about the jobs I’ve had over the years.
A lot of people remember jobs they completely and definitively hated: “take this job and shove it’ jobs if you prefer. I’ve had some jobs that seemed lousy at the time, but every job I’ve had taught me something or at least gave me some pretty good stories. I’ve produced and delivered pizzas, radio programming, daily newspapers printed on actual paper and in one job I literally monitored other people’s jobs, making sure their jobs were OK. I currently teach at a community college. If I do my job well my students find jobs of their own.
Delivering pizzas was a challenge in the pre-GPS/cell phone days. The worst part of delivering pizzas then was the time I you wasn’t delivering pizzas and had to make the food that the cooks hated making. I spent one Fourth of July making vats and vats of coleslaw for a street dance crowd in an Iron Range town. Shredding cabbage. Hand mixing it with whatever that white stuff was. I’ve never been able to eat coleslaw since.
I left the pizza place to work as an overnight disc jockey. This was a pretty cool job for a high school nerd because it inferred the possibility of an exciting social life while providing cover for the lack of such. The worst part of this job was wading out in waist deep snow to whack the giant satellite dish with a stick when it iced over.
Being a newspaper editor is supposed to be prestigious. I remember having to restart the computer server a lot, hearing the Macintosh BONG sound over and over again so that I could access that AP photograph of Tony Blair that my readers would be waiting to ignore in that day’s afternoon edition. It was also an unspoken rule that anytime someone unstable entered the building with an incoherent rant it was my job to discern its purpose without getting stabbed. The man with a Popeye cap and a full-sized crucifix strapped to his back was my favorite.
Perhaps the most important job I haven’t mentioned yet is my job as a dad. We’ve got three young boys and raising them is an absolute, unmitigated joy a significant majority of the time. The worst part of the job was probably the diapers. New parents know that the diaper situation is going to happen and, though it starts awkwardly, you quickly get into the rhythm. But the poo business is a marathon not a sprint. It’s not the first mile that gets you, nor can you predict when your soul will face its greatest challenge (hint: 12 hours after an abrupt dietary change).
I’m one of those modern dads who changed a yeoman’s share of diapers over time. It’s hard work, I say. Better than producing coleslaw in bulk, but only because the hefty bags were leaving the house, not entering it.
The diaper days are gone now but the work remains. These boys need guidance, from reading to zippers and tie shoes. I does not appear that the work will stop until I need help tying shoes myself.
Every job has its importance. If didn’t stink just a little bit, we might not appreciate all the rewards life has to offer.
Aaron J. Brown is a writer from the Iron Range. He is the author of the blog MinnesotaBrown.com and the book “Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range.”
Friday, October 21, 2011 By Aaron Brown
In addition to being one of the best and most locally-focused media organizations I've ever experienced, KAXE has been one of my most generous supporters. If you read this blog, if you read my columns, if you listen to my radio work, if you followed the details of my long journey from radio show idea to last week's radio show, please do your part. Join KAXE at an amount you can afford. It is very important.
"Between You and Me" is on hiatus for this Saturday after the fundraiser. Tune in next week for more on my next on-air contribution for that unique program, just one of many produced by KAXE. Your support will also help us further develop the Great Northern Radio Show, which we hope to bring to new heights in the coming year.
Nothing says northern Minnesota like KAXE. Help them out today.
Friday, October 21, 2011 By Aaron Brown
Anzelc lost his daylight motion 9-4, but gained support from Reps. Tom Rukavina, Carolyn McElfatrick and citizen member Joe Begich. That is an unlikely coalition, but time will show these folks got this one right. It feels to me a little like the movie "12 Angry Men." By the time the legislation is introduced it might count on more votes yet.
Opponents of the amendment included Sens. Tom Bakk, who sneaked the 2008 privacy provision into conference committee, and David Tomassoni, whose been Excelsior's most forceful advocate. They said that the 2008 legislative audit (which revealed irregularities in the Excelsior loan expenditures) only showed $40,000 in misappropriated money.
That's a well-spun historical perspective. The audit did indeed find that amount but then included a statement from auditors that much of the entire loan expenditure could not be discerned due to uncertain usage of recorded spending. Hundreds of thousands of dollars went to Twin Cities law firms that provide all manner of services, some that would have been appropriate and some that would not have been inappropriate, including lobbying government for more money on the taxpayer's dime. And in the next session, with no fanfare, a law that further shielded public knowledge of that spending was passed by Bakk, Tomassoni, et. al.
Not a coincidence. Not good policy. Nothing anyone involved should be proud of. And, all told, the matter relates to a small percentage of what has since become $40 million in government spending on this project.
I've written extensively on what I perceive to be the political and bureaucratic failures of the Excelsior Energy mess. Some smart people legally exploited some big holes in Iron Range economic development policies. The big financial risk, which appears to have failed for largely predictable reasons, was born by the taxpayers. Now everyone is responsible but no one will take responsibility.
I suppose have nothing else to add. I encourage you to read Passi's story and make your own judgements. This issue has been sown and we shall reap what grows ... or what does not.
Friday, October 21, 2011 By Aaron Brown
This crossed the wire just recently. You can click the link below to see the speakers and sessions:
All residents of northeastern Minnesota who are interested in local food and food access are invited to a workshop on Tuesday, November 1st from 4:30 pm to 8:30 pm at Itasca Community College and the University of Minnesota’s North Central Research and Outreach Center. Farmers, farmers’ market staff, and agency and non-profit staff who work on issues of health and food access are especially encouraged to attend.
A delicious local food meal will be served in the ICC Dining Center. Cost of the workshop, including the meal, is $10. Thanks to the generous support of Blue Cross, that fee is waived for the first 100 people to register. Also through Blue Cross support, travel scholarships of $25 are available for up to 40 participants. Find the registration form and brochure online at www.misa.umn.edu; or contact Jane Grimsbo Jewett to register: jewet006[at]umn.edu, 218-845-2832.
*Twinkies, in this case, are a metaphor and should not alone bear the blame for our woesome times.
Thursday, October 20, 2011 By Aaron Brown
Rep. Tom Anzelc (DFL-Balsam) made efforts to seek more IRRRB transparency for economic development projects after the failures of the Excelsior Energy project to create jobs despite $40 million in public financing. He tells me that his motion failed, but that he was not alone in voting for more transparency. The DNT, Mesabi Daily News and others covered the meeting. I'll post links to those stories when they come across.
(Disclosure: Anzelc is a friend and neighbor and I've run his legislative campaigns).
Wednesday, October 19, 2011 By Aaron Brown
Check out all the subtle angles in Triangle Lake:
check out the artistry.
UPDATE: How could I miss this one?
Wednesday, October 19, 2011 By Aaron Brown
The 7:30 air link out of Hibbing flew overhead and when it was gone there was total silence. They were out there in the north woods. A mile, maybe. Get here, bus. Get here.
(Photo: Fredrik Matheson, used through Creative Commons; not my driveway, but an artistic rendering of how it felt this morning)
Monday, October 17, 2011 By Aaron Brown
The first rebroadcast of the Great Northern Radio Show on 91.7 KAXE will be Thursday from noon to 2 p.m. You can listen on the radio or streaming live. I'll post an update when we have the podcast ready for download.
Almost 200 people were in our studio audience and we heard from many more listening at home. Considering the number of other events going on around Hibbing and the whole Range that night I felt we got a good share of the audience.
I can't say enough good things about our performers, musicians and crew. The show was smooth, professional and a tremendous amount of fun. Now we set to build on our success. Tell your local public radio station you'd like them to run the show! (It will be available at PRX for very little cost, free for independent public stations). Tell your friends and share the podcast when it comes out. If we build enough momentum we can do even more with our second show, which will be announced in coming weeks.
Monday, October 17, 2011 By Aaron Brown
This past Saturday in Hibbing, Minn., as I was hosting a little radio show on one side of Highway 169 the 8th District DFL was holding a central committee meeting, fundraising dinner and the first scheduled Congressional Candidate forum across the street at the Park Hotel.
Four candidates are vying for the DFL nomination to run against Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN8) in this one-time labor bastion located in northeastern Minnesota. Those candidates are Jeff Anderson, Tarryl Clark, Daniel Fanning and Rick Nolan. Barring a surprise late entry from a well-funded or well-known figure, this is your DFL field as we approach this winter's precinct caucuses and party endorsement process. It's entirely possible that all four will forge into a contested primary next summer.
This is my understanding of what went on at the meeting:
- About 200 people attended the dinner (not a bad crowd for an event this far north).
- Tarryl Clark did not attend, having opposed the scheduled straw poll among central committee members.
- Anderson, Fanning and Nolan were well received in the forum, the content of which I am not aware.
- Nolan won the straw poll, a fact he's since touted in campaign press releases. That said, the straw poll appears to have been limited to central committee members, so he won 21-8 over Fanning -- with several undecided.
Indeed, the Saturday event was supposed to clarify a few things about this unusual, hard-to-pin DFL race for the party's best legitimate pickup opportunity in 2012. It did ... a little ... sort of. Here are some stray observations:
- Rick Nolan probably demonstrated that he is doing the best at securing the support and confidence of party regulars. Others have support within the party, but Nolan seems to be setting up as a landmark in the field. I'd call him a frontrunner for the endorsement.
- Fanning, who just got into the race last week, over-performed a tiny bit, probably earning himself some attention and a chance to catch up to the pack. He still needs a boost.
- Anderson can't be happy with the straw poll result, but he's already touting some kind of union endorsement this morning at 11, the first full union endorsement.
- Nolan had announced individual endorsements from union figures on Friday, some activists and Rep. Kerry Gauthier of Duluth, a former CD8 chair.
- Anderson and Fanning both announced various mayoral endorsements from around the district last week.
- Clark did not announce any endorsements, but was the only candidate in the field to announce fundraising numbers, $228,000 in the third quarter. Her press release headline: "Clark amasses war chest to take on Cravaack." No warm and fuzzies there.
The net result could be an endorsed Nolan running in a primary against a well-funded Clark and potential insurgencies from Anderson or Fanning. The outcome of such an event is not clear at this time.
I think most DFLers would rather start running their candidate for Congress against Cravaack a lot sooner than August. I doubt most DFLers will agree on a candidate until after the primary. Thus, as before, we shall see in due time.
Sunday, October 16, 2011 By Aaron Brown
By Aaron J. Brown
With the dismal conclusion to the Minnesota Twins baseball season, coupled with the dismal beginning of the Minnesota Vikings football season, this Minnesota sports fan is rethinking loyalties. No, I’ll not be advocating for fair-weather fan behavior; I’m merely preparing for the winter. In other words I am advocating foul-weather fan behavior.
What does this mean? In a word: Detroit. I love that the Detroit Tigers beat the Yankees in the MLB playoffs and that the Detroit Lions, a perennial football doormat, are off to a strong start in the NFL. And sure, the city is stained with a reputation of blight, crime, corruption and unpleasant weather – to the point where Cleveland, Ohio, jokingly defends against its own similar problems by saying “We’re not Detroit.”
There are still a lot of reasons I want to like these Detroit teams. They’re original franchises that go way back. The Tigers have kept that crazy “D” font on their caps. The Lions uniforms look like new steel rolling off an assembly line. One time when I was 11, on a trip to Pennsylvania with my grandparents, we stayed in a motel in Gaylord, Michigan near the Mackinac Bridge and the only thing on TV was a Detroit Tigers game. It felt comfortable. My grandpa was stationed at a base near Detroit during the 1950s. That’s where he met my grandma. The ore of the Iron Range went a lot of places, but often spent time in Detroit.
And, of course, there’s the underdog story. Detroit. Knocked down by the decline of the American manufacturing industry, the flagging of American cars in the marketplace and the social ills of a place that lost its purpose back in the ‘80s. And now, according to its native son Eminem and the Chrysler Motor Company, Detroit is set for a comeback.
You want a place like that to come back. Why? Well, I’d be lying if that particular story didn’t apply to us here on the Iron Range, too. If the Range were as big as Detroit in 1972, we’d probably look about the same as Detroit in 2009. In truth we’re just smaller and more dispersed; our geographic isolation allows us to shield many of our worst problems from the view of late night comedians and sociologists.
It could be further argued that both Detroit and the Iron Range are coming back, in their own ways, but not without great new challenges.
The website www.detroityes.com provides an interesting look at a city shaped so completely by the Industrial Age. Here, one takes a tour of once-mighty buildings in the very act of decay or even destruction. You learn about the history that made the city great while watching evidence of its greatness on the wane. It’s a fascinating political, organizational and artistic experience, even with the old school HTML coding. What makes it work is the fact that the site clearly wants Detroit to win – and not just on Sunday afternoons.
As with Detroit, a combination of industrial efficiencies, favorable political winds and market demand makes Iron Range iron mining a booming sector, poised for growth. But also like Detroit, the Iron Range must face the fact that the place we knew in the ‘70s really is gone. We can deny it. We can litigate it. We can look at old yearbooks. But the future will be different than the past, and even a successful recovery of a dominant industry won’t justify the continuation of policies and planning that failed through the ‘80s and ‘90s.
Demographic change, even the way people work, will require new, parallel economic growth. Sometimes what’s really needed is effective contraction. Detroit is rethinking its future by condemning unlivable neighborhoods and replacing them with green space. On a smaller scale, many of our Range towns should consider the same. Empty houses mean social problems and economic inconsistency. Ask a demographer. Ask a police officer. Ask an economist. But if you’ve lived through decline you don’t really need to ask anyone.
It’s time to cheer for the underdogs, and I don’t just mean the Lions. I mean us. No one outside our area counts on the Iron Range to do much more than provide necessary minerals and a couple kids to help dock the big fishing boats driven up from the Cities. No one counts on Detroit to do much more than fulfill stereotypes and keep dying. It is interesting that for how different Detroit is from the Range how much we share common problems and, perhaps, solutions. Let’s start winning.
Aaron J. Brown is a writer and instructor at Hibbing Community College. He is the author of the blog MinnesotaBrown.com and the book “Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range.
Saturday, October 15, 2011 By Aaron Brown
The Great Northern Radio Show debuts at 5 p.m. today on 91.7 KAXE in northern Minnesota, streaming live all over the world at www.kaxe.org. If you wish to attend our live show at the HCC Theater please arrive by 4:30 for free seating. Though there is no cost, we ask that if you are able and willing to consider becoming a member of KAXE, an independent, nonprofit public radio organization that does vast amounts of local programming.
Many thanks to the readers at MinnesotaBrown for your support in this major endeavor. "Normal" blogging activities will resume in a few days.
Friday, October 14, 2011 By Aaron Brown
Today we are one day away from showtime and the final preparations are coming into place. We've had pleasant coverage from MPR, the Hibbing Daily Tribune, Range News Now and the original DNT story has gone out on the AP wire. KAXE has begun their fall fundraiser "Rhyme and Reason," and have been promoting the show. It's my hope that you'll give us a listen or even come out the theater to show your support. If you can, pledge your financial support to KAXE for the coming year, giving what you can to keep a truly independent public radio station for northern Minnesota on the air.
I've profiled many parts of the show, Ed and Matt Nelson, Iris Kolodji, De Elliot Brothers jug band, the Great Northern Radio Players and the like. Today I'll tell you about the rest of the show, or at least the parts I'm not keeping as a surprise.
This show features many students at Hibbing Community College, which (disclosure) is where I work as a communication instructor. The newly reconstituted college choir will be singing in the show and members of the HCC Philosophy Club will be making an appearance as well. Several people in the show are past or current students as well. The HCC community really has a lot to celebrate in the Great Northern Radio Show. Though our show aims to travel in the future, our artistic heart and soul will always be based here.
And I'd be remiss if I didn't thank the Iron Mining Association of Minnesota for underwriting the show.
Saturday will be special. Please join us, online, on the air or in the theater. And show your support for 91.7 KAXE by becoming a member. As you might imagine I'm not doing an essay for "Between You and Me" this Saturday morning, breaking a long streak. I will be calling in, though, and sharing some backstage stories between 10 a.m. and noon.
Thursday, October 13, 2011 By Aaron Brown
Josh Anderson: Josh is another former student of mine from the days I coached Hibbing's speech team. He's also an actor and singer who wandered off to St. Thomas in the Twin Cities and remains there to this day as an admissions representative. He's coming back Saturday to perform in our show, including the rather challenging task of the show's only comedic musical number.
Scott Hanson: Known locally as the lead voice of Radio USA, the Range's top-rated country station, Scott has made the leap not only into acting, but into public radio. He'll also be doing some foley work. People who know him from the radio will enjoy seeing a different side of Scott's talent and we're glad to have him on board.
Nickolai Koivunen: By far the member with the coolest name, Nickolai is the keyboardist for our sketches, scoring original sound for the radio drama and two of the sketches. He'll also be doing some foley work. As a tin-eared American, I must admit his work has been a lifesaver for the sound of the show.
Pete Pellinen: Pete's theater and musical background on the Range goes back decades, directing and conducting countless shows in the region and performing in scads more. He's an actor (Union Member #3 in "North Country" with Charlize Theron, Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson), Soudan Underground Mine tour guide, opera singer and one of the people who's fought to restore the Lyric Opera House in Virginia. For our purposes he's damn funny and talented, and he'll also be doing some Finnish music with his son Jack for the show.
Marty Rice: Marty is a veteran of the HCC Theater troupe under directors Mike Ricci and more recently Patty Laine. He's a versatile performer who now hoses down dust for U.S. Steel's MinnTac mine. He can sing, but we're not having him do that. He plays a jilted lover and robot, respectively.
Michelle Rice: Michelle is the only female member of the troupe (Sorry! That wasn't planned!) and makes the difficult transition from sultry physicist to dispassionate Iron Range TV reporter during the show. She's another HCC Theater regular who we're glad to see back on stage.
All together this is a talented group of people and they'll put on a great show this Saturday evening 5-7 p.m. at the HCC Theater and live online and on the air on 91.7 KAXE. Join us!
Wednesday, October 12, 2011 By Aaron Brown
Today I'm highlighting one of the biggest elements of the show, De Elliot Bros jug band. "De" Elliot Bros. are from Duluth and include a handful of experienced and versatile musicians. I lost count on how many instruments they'll be bringing with them. At least two of the guys are trained as "one man bands." De Elliot Bros. are part comedy, part folksiness, part tradition and all entertainment.
Friends and followers of the blog know that the hiring of a jug band was a seminal moment for the early production of the Great Northern Radio Show. Going with a jug band means you publicly reject the notion of the typical guitar/bass/drum/vocal set seen on late night talk shows, and adopting a different sound. For a guy producing his first variety show, this brought a flood of worries. Now that I've had some time to work with the music and the band, led by longtime Duluth musician and artist Elliot Silberman, I am no longer worried. You're going to like what these guys are doing this Saturday. They'll be the first thing you hear when the show begins at 5 p.m. on 91.7 KAXE, live from the HCC Theater.
De Elliot Bros. are just one of the musical elements of the show, which veers into singer/songwriters, classical selections, popular tunes and a full choir. Many numbers draw from our Iron Range location, but some will certainly surprise you.
The Great Northern Radio Show doesn't have a house band. It has a house jug band. And there is a difference. See you Saturday!
Tuesday, October 11, 2011 By Aaron Brown
Each day this week I'll be sharing a story about the Great Northern Radio Show, an original live radio variety show debuting 5-7 p.m. Saturday on 91.7 KAXE from the stage of the HCC Theater in Hibbing. You can follow the show on Facebook or find out more at KAXE.org.
Today I'm sharing the official trailer for the Great Northern Radio Show, a music video featuring one of the show's top talents Iris Kolodji. Iris is a senior at Hibbing High School and a student at Hibbing Community College as well. She's had a great deal of theater and music experience in Hibbing and has been preparing some excellent music for this show. She's the show's youngest headliner and is my pick to steal the show.
Here she sings Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues," complete with a video tribute to Dylan's iconic early music video (replete with show details). She sang this specially for the trailer. She'll be singing other material in the show itself. Iris's accompanist on this piece is Mitchell Zubich, who will also be a part of Saturday's show.
Please share the video far and wide! We need all the buzz we can get.
Monday, October 10, 2011 By Aaron Brown
Today I'd like to introduce you to Matt Nelson and his dad, Ed. I met Matt when he was in high school and I was coach of the Hibbing High School speech team. Matt was a good writer then and has only gotten better through college, to the point where he's arguably better than me. (I'd argue, of course, only because I'm a writer trained to protect my ego to the death).
Matt has penned the largest, most ambitious sketch in the Great Northern Radio Show, a full comedic radio melodrama set at the bottom of the Soudan Underground Mine, where Matt worked as an intern two summers ago. If you know the Soudan mine, you know that A) it's an important historical mining site and state park, but B) it also houses one of the world's most sophisticated physics laboratories, studying those neutrinos you've heard about in the news, and C) it was the site of a massive underground shaft fire last summer.
Matt combines these dramatic elements and more to create one of the more amusing parts of our show this Saturday. I'm sure you'll like it.
Matt's dad Ed is also in the show, and he's no slouch either. He's a historian at the Grand Rapids Forest History Center and formerly of Ironworld. Ed is the guy who tells lumberjack stories to the kids and makes fun of them for wearing watches in the 19th century, though that joke doesn't work as well now that kids don't wear watches. I'm sure he now includes cell phones. Ed has written a lumberjack dialogue and will be a part of the show along with Matt.
The show has something for every generation, literally!
(Photo Ed and Matt at the Apple Store, per Matt's blog).
Monday, October 10, 2011 By Aaron Brown
10 a.m. to noon
8787 Silicon Way
Mountain Iron, Minn., Renewable Energy Park
Monday, October 10, 2011 By Aaron Brown
Last week Fanning, an Iraq war vet and Duluth-area organizer, announced the endorsements of Chisholm Mayor Mike Jugovich and Buhl Mayor Craig Pulford, two active central Range mayors well known in DFL circles. Nolan had previously announced a gaggle of DFL endorsements from current and former DFL officials. Jeff Anderson had announced endorsements from Range figures like Ron Dicklich, Gary Cerkvenik, Kim Stokes and Jerry Janezich, once a rumored candidate himself. Before that, State Sen. Roger Reinert of Duluth and Rep. Carly Melin of Hibbing had endorsed Anderson.
These endorsements paint a larger picture of a muddled race in which Anderson, Nolan and now Fanning are divvying up local support while Clark leads the fundraising race. As I've said recently, it will be impossible to say which candidate has the legs in this race until some sort of competitive comparison can be made. That opportunity may arise this Saturday, Oct. 15 at a DFL forum and possible straw poll at the Park Hotel in Hibbing.
That event, of course, will be happening at the same time as my non-political (and arguably more entertaining) Great Northern Radio Show, also in Hibbing across the highway at the HCC Theater. Quite a night in old Hibbing! Stay tuned...
Sunday, October 09, 2011 By Aaron Brown
By Aaron J. Brown
When I was a kid, maybe 11 or so, my mom showed me a picture from a Minnesota history book she was reading. The image showed the thin, rough path that connected Duluth to the Iron Range before there were any roads or modern highways. The path was one cart wide and cut through a massive white pine forest that no longer exists.
I recall paging through this book many times in the years to come, always fixating on this picture. Someone was the first to plot this trail. Someone was the first to cut the brush and mighty trees, even before the commercial loggers. And someone was the first to drive down this ominous, seemingly endless road to what was then nowhere. All of this occurred in the lifetime of several of my then-living relatives.
In this modern world we are told there is nothing new, nothing left to explore. Of course, the land itself has indeed been populated several times over. Buildings and businesses have risen and fallen like so many years’ corn or tomato plants, some years better than others. But the human need to explore and innovate in order to adapt is no less strong.
Instead of building paths in new wilderness, today we build new paths over the old to reach higher levels of human capability. Or at least, we should. The fact that this might seem fantastical is, in essence, the whole of our economic morass in the United States and northern Minnesota.
Adam Bengtson is the CEO of St. Paul-based Endorse Communications and a former executive director of the Bloomington Chamber of Commerce, specializing in state chamber of commerce internet issues as they relate to online job creation.
“If you think of people who lost their jobs and are on the unemployment lines, the only place they can go is where the jobs are,” said Bengtson. “New jobs seem to follow the contour of where the high speed lines go. Access is a big issue in determining where businesses will place their operations.”
I’ve written before that high speed internet is the infrastructure issue of our times, and should rightly be compared to those early cart paths through the untamed forests of northern Minnesota. Today, many northern Minnesotans don’t use high speed internet as part of their daily lives, but in a few years we can predict that most will – at home and at work, to the degree there will be a distinction between the two.
Bengtson is a web developer who lives in Rosemount on the southern edge of the Twin Cities, a suburb that overlooks southern Minnesota’s sprawling farmland. He has farming stock in his family, including an uncle who’s looking for new markets and techniques online. For these reasons, rural high-speed internet has become Bengtson’s cause to the degree that he joined a lobbying effort sponsored by the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association and other internet organizations. The group spoke with members of Congress this past week.
Also before Congress and government boards these days is a merger between AT&T and T-Mobile, two of the nation’s biggest wireless service providers. The merger has run into opposition from several large states and the U.S. Justice Department because of antitrust concerns. However, the merger has garnered support from several prominent Minnesota leaders because of the implications for wireless coverage in rural parts of the state, including here in the north.
“Minnesota benefits more than other states,” said AT&T Minnesota President Bob Bass.
Bass says his company would quickly cover up to 80 percent of the state with high-speed wireless service if the merger goes through (a prospect that appears unsure at this time). Using T-Mobile’s acquired wireless spectrum would allow AT&T to cover more territory with deeper coverage, bringing better coverage north of Chisholm and Nashwauk and farther into northern Minnesota.
Such expansion is welcome, especially given the slowness of traditional internet providers to invest capital into their own high speed lines. Public efforts to expand the lines have been spotty, subject to a difficult-to-understand grant process. The political will for major state or federal investments has been lacking. But wireless internet coverage is subject to its own limitations, particularly in the data needed to stream media or upload large files.
From Bengtson’s perspective, both wireless and fiber optic lines need to be a part of the state’s internet future.
“You don’t know where the next innovation will come from,” said Bengtson. “I work from my office and I work from my iPhone. I think we need both.”
Northern Minnesota’s resource-based economy is holding its own as steel prices and those of other minerals stoke old desires to mine our way to prosperity. Indeed, every indication is that good mining jobs lie over the horizon. However, regional economic prosperity will require more. For a region with such a unique tax structure owing to taconite production it would be pure folly not to build new pathways to economic diversification while we still can. That is, in fact, the point of such a tax structure.
The challenge of blazing new trails isn’t as clear as 100 years ago when we marched through virgin forests. We must now build railways of electrons and data, requiring the courage of a new generation not inhibited by fear of change.
Aaron J. Brown is a writer and speech instructor at Hibbing Community College. He is the author of the blog MinnesotaBrown.com and the host of 91.7 KAXE’s Great Northern Radio Show on the HCC theater stage Saturday, Oct. 15 at 4:30 p.m.
Friday, October 07, 2011 By Aaron Brown
If I sound a little tired it's because there's a lot going on to prepare for next week's Great Northern Radio Show, airing live 5-7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15 from the stage of the Hibbing Community College Theater (arrive before 4:30 p.m. for free seating). We're doing rehearsals this week leading up to the show and the prospect of the script coming to life is satisfying, electrifying and terrifying.
You can hear "Between You and Me" Saturday morning from 10 to noon on 91.7 FM in northern Minnesota and streaming live all over the world at www.kaxe.org.
Join us next week for the Great Northern Radio Show and the start of the KAXE fall fundraiser. You'll be hearing a thing or two about this in coming days.
Wednesday, October 05, 2011 By Aaron Brown
Magnetation is already expanding its scram mining operations into a second site. The company feeds its raw ore materials to Mesabi Nugget on the east Range and is planning to ship raw ore to Mexico on very long trains.
This comes in addition to Essar Steel Minnesota's ongoing construction of a new taconite plant near Nashwauk that will also create a couple hundred jobs and perhaps more if the company proceeds to its original plan of a steel mill (a prospect that is not yet assured). The western Mesabi Range could well be the growth region of the Range as new technology allows for mining of hard-to-reach or hard-to-process ores. I don't think people would have predicted that when Butler Taconite in Nashwauk closed 30 years ago.
Tuesday, October 04, 2011 By Aaron Brown
This is a really interesting case of the "rubber" of fiscally conservative policies meeting the "road" of those policies' effect in economically challenged areas. Further evidence of hard choices ahead in budgeting and at the ballot box.
Tuesday, October 04, 2011 By Aaron Brown
Fanning joins previously announced candidates Jeff Anderson, Tarryl Clark and Rick Nolan. His entrance may not be a surprise, but neither is it certain how he will affect the dynamic.
Fanning's veteran credentials, interesting narrative and outsider status make him the true dark horse in the DFL race. I think he draws support evenly from the three current candidates, and I'm not sure where that puts him, or them. An upcoming DFL forum at an 8th District DFL dinner on Oct. 15 in Hibbing will be an early test of skill and support for all the candidates.
Fanning will hold a campaign kickoff rally at noon Sunday in the Kirby Lounge at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
Monday, October 03, 2011 By Aaron Brown
A retired miner and Vietnam vet, Ciochetto was like a lot of guys you see on the Iron Range. But he remained curious and open to new ideas into retirement. He got into social media and the internet a bit and was a frequent commenter on this site. Ron was a member of the 10 a.m. Sinclair gas station coffee assembly in Keewatin with my grandpa, a group dubbed the Keewatin Policy Makers by the mayor.
When I speculated that I believe Michael Dukakis's motorcade passed by my family junkyard when I was a little kid, I thought for sure I was just an over-imaginative kid. But Ron told me a story from his dad, a Chisholm police chief, who said that Highway 7 in central St. Louis County was a prime route for dignitaries driving to the Range from Duluth, including Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale. Ron was a thoughtful person.
I'll miss Ron's comments and the e-mails he would send. He served his country, worked hard and loved his family. My deepest condolences to his family and friends.
A memorial gathering for Ron Ciochetto will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 4, with a time of sharing at 6 p.m. at Rupp Funeral Home & Cremation Service Chapel in Chisholm.
Monday, October 03, 2011 By Aaron Brown
Take a right at Lake Wobegon and head north to the Iron Range — to a place where things are just a little less folksy than the world portrayed by Garrison Keillor.
“It’s like Lake Wobegon with a lot more alcohol and social strife,” Brown said. “The Range is just a little more confrontational and edgy as a people. We’re trying to have some fun with some of the Range traditions and ethnicities.”
I guess I should have better anticipated the Prairie Home comparisons. I hope people take that comment in the spirit intended. The show itself will feature much more gospel music and fishing songs than it will highlight our strife. On the Range strife is implied, not stated.
The Great Northern Radio Show will air 5-7 p.m. on Oct. 15. Admission to the HCC Theater is free, but we ask that people arrive before 4:30 p.m. for seating. The program will be broadcast live on 91.7 KAXE with live streaming on KAXE.org. Rebroadcasts and a podcast will follow.
Sunday, October 02, 2011 By Aaron Brown
A Great Northern radio dream come true
By Aaron J. Brown
We all have dreams of one kind or another. A lot of people grow up dreaming of playing pro ball or singing in front of an adoring concert crowd. I keep a tune about as well as I catch a ball, which is to say I’m prone to dropping both. So whatever aspirations I had in these areas faded long ago.
In my mid-20s I was involved in a live public radio production reprising H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds on stage in Superior, Wisconsin. Around this same time I suddenly aged into the demographic that listens to “A Prairie Home Companion,” Garrison Keillor’s popular variety show that achieved national fame from humble Minnesota roots.
Having worked in radio and as a writer, these shows gave me a taste of the history, energy and cultural significance of a format that began with the advent of the broadcasting industry. Things got so bad that I started watching Lawrence Welk reruns on Channel 8 Saturday nights. My wife sometimes wishes I wouldn’t, but admits that I could be doing worse on Saturday nights.
So after the birth of my three sons and my home mortgage I developed a new dream. I’d produce and host a show like these ones, featuring all kinds of music, talent and stories about northern Minnesota, a place that seems to matter more to me each year. This show would be rooted in tradition but cut a modern edge, the product of a media diet that started with Johnny Carson and now includes Conan O’Brien. In addition to my job as a college teacher and writing this column, I’ve been writing for 91.7 KAXE – Northern Community Radio, the independent public station that serves most of the area north of Duluth, including the Range. One day last summer KAXE gave me the green light to produce a variety show for their airwaves.
I knew things were getting serious when I hired the jug band. Have you ever hired a jug band? There’s a certain feeling after you do a thing like that – neither good nor bad, a sense that you have altered the universe in an unpredictable way. Da’ Elliott Brothers out of Duluth will bring three musicians and a couple dozen instruments.
Pete Pellinen and son Jack from Virginia will do some Finnish folk song duets. Iris Kolodji, a student at Hibbing High School and Hibbing Community College, will sing a couple solos in the show. The revitalized Hibbing Community College choir under the direction of Dorothy Sandness will also do a couple songs. Music throughout the show ranges from popular classics to traditional favorites, fishing songs to gospel.
We’ll have a company of actors – Pete Pellinen, Marty and Michelle Rice, Josh Anderson and Scott Hanson performing an original radio drama written by the up-and-coming writer Matt Nelson, a Hibbing native. There’ll be a couple of original sketches and a set of lumberjack stories by Matt’s dad Ed. And I wouldn’t be a showman if I didn’t promise some surprises and special guests.
The theme of our show is “Hard Time Good Times.” In a lot of different ways we’re going to try to show how the people of the Range have endured bad economies and difficult lives with grace and hope over our storied history. The HCC theater program ended this year due to budget cuts. Every arts group on the Range faces a difficult challenge over the next few years. I hope you’ll join us as we fight back with humor, stories, music and, of course, a jug band.
Aaron J. Brown is a northern Minnesota writer who teaches communication at Hibbing Community College. He is the author of the blog MinnesotaBrown.com and the book “Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range.”