"No News Is Good News"

Bed 31 is covered with a thin white blanket, awaiting the post-surgery arrival of Deng Yilian, 52, native of tiny Malu in southwest China’s Hunan Province. To the left, on Bed 30, Deng’s daughter Cotton, 29, now of Shanghai, is seated, legs crossed; to the right, on a bed inexplicably labeled 31+, her son Mondy, […]

On Sofas and Sublimity

I first encountered an Uta Barth photograph six years ago, wandering through a group exhibition of eleven artists at the prestigious Getty Center in Los Angeles. The works were high-concept, low-execution, clearly the product of expensive art school educations, and, like pretentious dinner guests, unjustifiably boring. Then, turning a corner, I stopped dead in front […]

Gimme Grain!

At 9:28 a.m. thirty-one grain traders are milling around a trading pit—an octagon about the size of a pontoon boat, recessed into the hardwood floor—at the Minneapolis Grain Exchange. Steps are wide and lazy, chests are thrust outward. Several of the men (and they are all men) discuss the price of downtown real estate; a […]

The Mysteries of Dr. Evermore's Forevertron

The southbound highway out of Baraboo, Wisconsin, passes Delaney’s Surplus and then, in rapid succession, a fifteen-foot radiator penetrated by a giant key, a twenty-foot iron heart with a ray gun protruding from it, and a giant scrap metal chicken with plumage partially constructed from brass doorknobs. A dirt road hairpins from out of this […]

Made For America

Why rent when you can own? At my neighborhood shop in Shanghai, well-ordered racks are full of the latest Hollywood releases, the Hollywood catalog dating back to the mid-1960s, and a middling selection of Chinese films and television series, most of which sell for between eighty-five cents and two bucks. The majority have English and […]

Who Are the American Muslims?

A Saturday night in late summer and downtown Rochester was completely dark except for an exceedingly lively block of First Avenue Northwest. At one end, a tall Somali man leaned into the window of a black Chevy Cavalier and spoke with a woman wearing a red silk hijab, or headscarf. Behind the Cavalier, three Somali […]

Love Knows No Borders

Viewed from room 1238 of the White Swan Hotel, the jagged ten-story tenements of Guangzhou, China, are softened by smog. Below, the United States Consulate complex sprawls beside century-old British colonial structures. “Pretty good view, isn’t it?” asks Paul Stueber, an earnest forty-four-year-old drum instructor from Minneapolis. He packs a baby bottle into a blue […]

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Church and State

Every Wednesday morning at 10 a.m. during the legislative session, Chaplain Dan Hall hosts a two-hour prayer meeting. It is held around a long wooden table in Room 118 of the State Capitol building, just around the corner from the governor’s office. Attendance varies, averaging about twenty people who know Hall from his work as […]

A New Job

On December 1, a mandatory three-day orientation begins for newly elected members of Minnesota’s House of Representatives. It all starts with a jovial chartered bus ride to a conference center outside of Monticello. Meanwhile, back in St. Paul, fourteen defeated, soon-to-be-former House members will be closing up their offices as part of a disorienting, but […]

The Man & The Woman on The Hill

A red sun is setting over the lake, its hue cast through the shutters of a rustic living room where a small television atop a white wicker stand is tuned to a Twins game. “Get some hits, damn it,” seethes the increasingly agitated sports agent on the wicker couch. “Crying shame.” The agent glares at […]