Made in the Shade

Last December I was in Minnesota, chatting with workers at Peace Coffee, a Minneapolis-based one-hundred-percent Fair Trade coffee company. To these guys, who make local deliveries on bicycle, Starbucks is the enemy. It’s a huge, non-transparent corporation; only a small percentage of its coffee is Fair Trade; and it doesn’t re-invest in the communities where […]

Buffalo Ridge

I’d read plenty about Buffalo Ridge, the windiest swath of Minnesota, located in the state’s grassy and treeless southwest quadrant, before I ever got there. I’d heard stories of hats blowing off, of windburn, of tumbleweeds that just kept tumbling. People living in the area are said to suffer perpetual bad hair days. But it […]

The Revolution Will Not Be Silk-Screened

Ernesto “Che” Guevara has come a long way. Once best known as a fierce companion of Fidel Castro, he now graces the T-shirts of revolutionaries, as well as assorted hipsters, celebrities, and stoners who couldn’t find Che’s native country (Argentina) on a map. Since the release of The Motorcycle Diaries, a film based on Che’s […]

High on the Job

On a typical workday, Jeff Speed arrives at work at six-thirty in the morning. He has half an hour to climb twenty stories up to the little capsule where he works, which is at the top of a crane. He brings food with him—with only half an hour for lunch, there is no time to […]

Public Icon, Private Property

Imagine: It’s springtime, there’s a sense of optimism in the air. Best Buy is about to open its new corporate headquarters in Richfield. Everyone’s talking about it. Some say it will usher the Twin Cities into a new era; others argue about whether or not that’s a good thing. Wanting to include the community in […]

St. Salesman

My mother’s house wasn’t selling. No one was even looking at it; a total of four open houses had yielded less than a dozen people, most of them curious neighbors with no intention of buying. When she shared her troubles with co-workers at the hospital where she works, a fellow nurse directed her to obtain […]

Hack the Vote

It’s not hard to get away with rigging an electronic voting machine. No matter how thoroughly the machine is tested, you could always hack it to, say, give every tenth vote for Candidate A to Candidate B, but only if it’s November 4. Anyone testing the machine on November 3 or 5 would find everything […]

By Any Other Name

A joke that starts off “a duck walks into a bar,” has good odds of being funny. Ducks are funny. A joke beginning “a water buffalo walks into a bar” just doesn’t have the same ring. But “a can of Spam walks into a bar”—now that’s hilarious. Spam’s one of the funniest things about Minnesota, […]

May Day, May Day!

Last year, President George W. Bush issued a proclamation designating May 1 as Loyalty Day. “Whether born on American soil or abroad, Americans appreciate patriotism and loyalty to our country,” he read from a prepared speech. “Americans affirmed this sense of loyalty for their homeland during and following the attacks of September 11, 2001.” As […]

It Only Hurts When I Act

Once upon a time, medical students learned from real people in actual hospitals, interviewing them about their all-too-genuine conditions. But thanks to the insurance-industry bean-counters, hospitals began discharging patients after shorter and shorter periods of time, and only the sickest hung around long enough for study. These patients could tolerate only so many repeated exams […]