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"The world's quietest room is in Minnesota," Andrew just told me. "That seems appropriate, somehow."

I had to laugh. Andrew still thinks my dad is so quiet he doesn't even say all the words in his sentences, and just expects the people around him to be used to him enough to fill them in.

(After he said this I paid extra attention the next time I was around my dad, and I'm sure he says all the words. But the fact that I found this plausible enough to have to check? Probably says a lot.)
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So my Congressman wants to run for governor.

This is interesting (well, to probably zero people but me who read this blog, but...) mainly because he has made a living off the balancing act between representing a rural area and being a Democrat.

Everybody else who's so far declared they want the DFL endorsement is from the Cities, and Walz is not. He represents all of the bottom bit of Minnesota, which has a few not-very-big towns and otherwise rural farmland like what I grew up on. So the NRA likes him, but he's progressive enough that Planned Parenthood does too.

The first political opinion I ever remember being made in my presence was my dad saying he liked Paul Wellstone because he stuck up for farmers, and I've been proud that the farmers in my state are happy to back reasonably progressive politicians. But recently -- since I left Minnesota, really, so I haven't been able to follow this as well -- Republicans have been peeling off those DFL votes outside the Twin Cities. Tim Walz stuck around.

And he seems to want to deal with this urban/rural divide by dismantling it. Sounds good to me! "Walz says he plans to start by focusing on how advancements in the metro area benefit the rural areas he represents, and vice versa." Which is awesome, and happily I also believe it to be true.

Of course to get through a gubernatorial (crap, I've forgotten how to spell that; I've been away too long!) primary his less-orthodox stances on guns and the environment (being pro-farmers-not-going-broke is sometimes anti-environment, unfortunately...) will get more attention. But I've read some interesting quotes about that, especially “In the metro, you’ll probably hear that he’s not progressive enough, but there’s enough people that know we’ve got to take the governor’s race or we’re Wisconsin, we’re toast.”

A year or two ago I was reading a lot of articles (here's an example) about the diverging fortunes of Minnesota and Wisconsin, neighboring Midwestern states with similar histories and presumably similar potential, except that when we elected tax-and-spend Mark Dayton (DFL) as our governor, they elected union-busting tax-cuts-at-all-costs Scott Walker (R).

Minnesota got hundreds of thousands more jobs, a budget surplus, and tons of money for education, but Wisconsin now serves as a terrible warning to us next door: reduced education spending, increased taxes on ordinary people to pay for tax breaks for the wealthiest, basically refuted trickle-down economics all by himself.

Yes Minnesota has a century or so of progressive politics that makes this seem unimaginable, but so did Wisconsin before Walker...and Minnesota's previous governor, a Republican who saw Minnesota as nothing more than a stepping-stone to running for president, refused to raise taxes even when infrastructure got so bad that a huge fucking bridge fell into the Mississippi River.

Meanwhile as soon as Walz announced, GOP-aligned groups immediately called him a “Washington insider” and a “Democrat socialist.” Socialist meaning only what it always means in America, a mean name to call someone, but it's not something that Minnesotans are really afraid of. And honestly it's the least I'd expect of someone I'd hope to vote for!

“The focus now is getting to know Minnesotans and getting Minnesotans to know me,” Walz said, and this has been borne out so far in that the Twitter account he and/or his staff seemed to forget he had -- and that I forgot I followed last autumn when I thought I should be paying more attention to the tools in my arsenal against Trump -- has been pretty busy in recent days. As long as it still gives him time to vote against everything Paul Ryan tries to get through the House, I'm happy with hearing more from him as he campaigns.
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I wrote to my senator what must be earlier this week but feels like a million years ago, after seeing lots of him being a badass at nomination hearings, particularly Sessions', just to say thanks and keep up the good work. I checked the box saying I didn't need a reply but I got one anyway last night. It looks like what he's sending to anyone who writes to him on the subject.
As a Senator and a member of the Judiciary Committee, I had the opportunity to question Senator Sessions during his confirmation hearing. That's a role I take very seriously. During Senator Sessions' hearing, I pressed him on his misrepresentation of his record on civil rights, as well as on the issue of voter suppression, and I shared a story about the impact of Trump's divisive rhetoric on Minnesota's immigrant and refugee communities. I was not satisfied with the answers he gave to me and a number of my colleagues' questions, and after careful consideration of Senator Sessions' record, I do not think he is up to the task of being an attorney general for all Americans. I cannot vote for an attorney general nominee who is not fully committed to equal justice for all, including the LGBT community, minorities, immigrants, and women. When his nomination comes up for a vote in the Senate, I will vote no.
Shame he voted for some of the others though.

And my other senator has voted for all of them so far.
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Mom was telling me about a story my dad read in the paper (ie the Minneaapolis Star-Tribune) about a woman who was prevented from putting the Hillary Clinton yard sign she wanted in her yard by fear that her house, or even she, would be attacked by people who didn't like it.

Mom says this seems possible to her. She said around them all you see is Trump signs, and that this story helped make her think that it might not be that the support is so skewed but just that other people are more tentative about supporting the person who doesn't advocate violence against people who disagree.

And this is fucking Minnesota. Yes like that Cracked article talks about it's the country and not the city. But damn if this is what it's like living in a blue state, I would not like to be living anywhere less white, with less cultural encouragement towards reticence (we got onto this topic anyway because Mom was talking about how she's had to make sure not to talk about politics with her best friend, or my aunt's partner...).

I remember Mom talking in 2012 about feeling a bit lonely as (though she didn't put it like this) an Obama voter in a sea of people who couldn't sufficiently get past their racism to consider voting for him. It sounds even worse this year. She talked about being frustrated that people aren't basing their decisions on facts, and of being worried about what will happen after Trump loses. I know this is all stuff I, like any other follower of American politics, has read in tweets and thinkpieces, but for my mom who lives in a world totally separate from any of that to come out with the same things is weird.

I did my best to reassure her that it'll be over soon -- in recent elections I've missed being in the thick of it and helping out on various campaigns, but this year I've been nothing but happy to be missing out on the worst of it and how it's talked about in American news -- and that I've already voted and done my bit, and that he won't win. But I don't think she was very reassured.

And I've promised that Andrew and I won't talk about politics with my family at Christmas. I fear I might have to bite my tongue so hard it completely comes off, but I hope things will have calmed down by then.
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Talked to parents on Skype, about Sweet Martha's cookies and Jacob Wetterling.

The end-of-summer Mondays off are now passed, in both the U.S. and the UK. But the weather's still warm and muggy. If this year is anything like past ones, the first cold snap will bring with it my worst homesickness. It's enough to make me hate fall almost as much as I hate winter.
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Someone scoffed the other day that Minneapolis's ‪#‎blacklivesmatter‬ protests were doing no good by moving from the Mall of America to the airport. That inconveniencing capitalism is fine but this was just "fucking up the most stressful travel of myriad innocents."

But it did a lot more than that. I was one of those "innocents" who flew into MSP during the protest. My parents say it took them twenty minutes to go the last two miles to the airport, but they were still ready to greet us while we were still languishing in baggage claim. Still their slight inconvenience, and the sight of police cars and people being bussed away from the protests, has sparked a lot of conversations, starting just after the hello hugs at International Arrivals and going throigh two family Christmases and even a trip to the bank today.

As I listened to the bank staff -- sweet middle-aged ladies who've never been anything but kind and friendly to me -- talk about how the protesters deserved to be arrested, and did you hear about the person who missed a flight to be with her dying mother and ended up not getting there until it was too late.

I didn't hear about that. I don't know any more about it, or even if it's true. But I know if enough passengers are disrupted on enough flights, there are going to be sad stories. I wonder how many people on how many planes it took to get that nugget of pathos to give white people their righteous indignation.

I'd be life-defining amounts of heartbroken if I missed my mom's last moments...but I can't help but think of how much easier it is to find stories of people of color killed by police for no reason other than the color of their skin than it is to find heartstring-tugging stories among all the people going through a huge busy airport two days before Christmas.

Today we found out that the police officers who killed Tamir Rice will not face any consequences for that. He was murdered for no other reason than being alive while black, for being a boy while black.

This is part of an epidemic. And it won't change without some conversations, among white people. And the only thing that's made those conversations start to happen among my family and my rural Midwestern community? Is the airport protests.
He was twelve. He should be thirteen by now and he never will get to be. And that is an injustice no one is being held accountable for. He was twelve and he can't ever be thirteen.
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Now that he's endured the Christmases, Andrew's safely ensconced with his laptop at the desk in my bedroom, which I just next to a window. Here are his observations so far:

It's all white! The ground is white and the sky is white. That's all wrong.

There's a bird out there that keeps eating from the feeder and then looking in the window at us like "What? What is that?" and then going back to eating.

That is a fat squirrel. It has a huge bottom. It's shaped like a pear!
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The Current

Jan. 3rd, 2015 07:52 pm
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I'm unduly excited that I finally got my favorite radio station working on the internet for me. I do a lot of digital-radio-listening on my phone, and it hadn't worked for me since I got this phone last March! That's a long time to go without the steady, reliable flow of music I love, music I am content listening to, and music I need to know about. One reason 2014 didn't seem a very musical year was that I didn't have easy new(-to-me) music discoveries from The Current.

Today I found a workaround (as a note to myself, since I'm sure this won't mean anything to anyone else: the main Twin Cities station doesn't work, but the Northfield one does! I don't get it, but whatever) and I'm basking in aural joy.

Bill DeVille's on! He's a DJ (my favorite even before The Current existed! I remember him on Cities97!) He played "September Gurls" a bit ago and though I hear Big Star a lot now cos Andrew loves them, it was this guy who introduced me to their music. He seems to like similar things to me, but he knows about a lot more than me! An ideal musical guide. Plus his voice kinda reminds me of my dad.

I love The Current partly for being full of the kind of DJs associated with rock music's early days on the radio; maybe not quite as larger-than-life as those characters -- this is still Minnesota! we're never more than the same size as life -- but there is a sense of personality and enthusiasm behind the music that's lacking from more rigidly programmed stations.

(Plus I'm utterly fascinated by the weather reports. They're so unlike anything else I hear these days that I can't help but stop reading my book when I notice one, and I am somehow soothed and homesick at the same time.)
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Amidst the doomy news of a slew of Republicans getting in, I was almost afraid to check on my beloved state.

But Minnesota's dangerous progressivism has once again not betrayed my faith in it. I really really wanted Mark Dayton and Al Franken back, and I got them.

And (though I feel a bit less invested in this because I can't vote in her district) we finally got rid of that embarrassment, that blemish on the good name of our state, Michele "Crazypants" Bachmann! Woohoo!
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It's nice that, along with all the horrible dreams, I've been having some comedy relief ones.

Last night it was that my dad had a Paul Bunyan statue built along the side of their driveway, so you could see it from the road. He was so proud of it.

(This is especially funny if you know how completely Not My Dad such a thing would be. You'd never catch him as the protagonist of a magical realist movie.)
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Well if I'm going to have insomnia, at least I've got a lovely thunderstorm to entertain me.

A friend from Washington (the state) moved to Ohio a little while ago, and started saying things like "omg, Midwestern thunderstorms!" on facebook. Only then did I appreciate how lucky I was to grow up with such weather.

And this is a particularly good one, too, the kind that makes me wish I had company to share it with, someone whose eyes I could catch and smile in mutual recognition of the brightest or loudest bits. Thunderstorms can be seriously destructive and scary but they remind those of us lucky enough to have them to be grateful of sturdy walls around us, and for the company of people to mutter to about our mutual experience.

I saw the first flash of lightning so long before any other signs of weather that I had time to convince myself I'd imagined it before there was another one. After a good long time of increasingly-frequent flashes, a few minutes apart or so, I started to hear thunder in the distance. No rain, so I could savor the gentle, rolling thunder along with the lightning. Tons of lightning, a proper light show. Gradually louder, and some of the peals go on and on, but it's rumbling rather than cracking and there's still no rain so I don't think the storm can be very close. Just once the thunder is so intimidatingly violent and loud overhead that I don't blame anyone who believes in a thunder god. Then finally there is rain, in a short intense burst of white noise so different from the Manchester rain, which I always say sounds like someone throwing gravel at the windows. Now the thunder seems to be quieter again, receding; we must just be catching the edge of the storm here. The lightning is still filling the world with light every few seconds, eerie in its relative silence -- this is not one of the storms where you can count "one Mississippi..." to see how far away it is -- but the sky is brightening too as we get on. towards dawn. A couple of hours now I've been watching and listening to this storm, and (along with one of my favorite radio stations, which plays ambient/electronica music over Apollo-era astronaut and mission-control chatter) it's held my attention better than any movie of similar length.

Now I think it's gone. I find myself holding my breath, listening for more thunder.

Ah, there it is. Not done yet.
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Ever since I first got here British people have been telling me that they love to talk about the weather. This has always mystified me -- maybe because of the people I know? -- because compared to what I'm used to no one talks about the weather at all. I remember hearing forecasts on the Today programme that go "Rain in the northwest, otherwise nice." That's it!

Whereas my dad still talks about isobars because a local TV weatherman used to go on about them. My grandpa got irate at me once for not being able to answer to his satisfaction the "what's the weather like in England now?" question when I was visiting; I still remember him demanding "but what's the temperature?" like he was Jeremy Paxman, because I didn't have a number ready for himself. My dad has a rain gauge that measures down to hundredths of an inch, so it's not at all unusual for him to tell me "yeah, we only got seven hundredths." After talking to a few friends and relatives, a good Minnesotan will be able to give you a comprehensive picture of the wider weather situation, comparing rainfall or snow accumulation or temperature/windchill/heat index differences thanks to their equally precise family and neighbors.

Maybe it'd be different if I hung out with farmers here too, but as things are the only place in British life I now encounter sufficiently-detailed weather reports is during rain delays on Test Match Special. It's quite sweet and soothing to hear the details of the direction the storm is moving, the appearance and growth of water puddles, the wind and the color of the sky.
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Your mom apologizes for telling you she has cancer when you just lost your job. Both of you feel worse for making each other feel bad.

Your dad talks about golf at first. When he mentions the cancer thing, it's only to talk about supplemental insurance and time off work and how my mom is getting to Rochester for her appointments. To some people this might seem cold and callous but it's actually the most reassuring part of the conversation to me.
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Despite Andrew getting fed up with the mosh pit, and us getting separated when I failed to follow him away from it on account of having insufficient mass to overcome the momentum imparted on me by selfish men all around me, it was almost worth being right at the front for the beginning of the Hold Steady gig.

Craig Finn comes onstage with his arms outstretched like a magnanimous messiah who really does love us all. There's such intensity in the frenzied way he thrusts his arms, hands, fingers at us as he delivers his lines with the speed and power of a machine gun. His eye contact seems genuine no matter how quickly it moves from one area of the crowd to another. It wasn't long before his gaze fell upon me, with a renewed smile and a thumbs-up for the Twins jersey I was wearing.

Finn doesn't sing as much as he tells stories, and for a while those stories were loosely connected by a small group of characters, one of whom is called Holly (short for Hallelujah). A lot of the stories center on Minneapolis, "my hometown" Finn always explains in the live gigs in the middle of "Your Little Hoodrat Friend." So much as I admire him, and as much joy as his work has brought to me, I've no desire to meet him; having to introduce myself as Holly from Minnesota would hardly be believed, especially so far from home.

Yet you don't have to have my name and my provenance, or even my Twins paraphernalia, to feel special. If you stand within Craig Finn's sphere of attention at a Hold Steady gig, you won't go home without feeling you matter, and you are important, and you belong somewhere or at least you can if you want to.


Apr. 21st, 2014 06:08 pm
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Of course everybody wanted to know what I thought of Martin Freeman's Minnesota accent. But they all talked way too much and too fast for me to think they sounded Minnesotan!

Ironic for a weekend when I was worried I was talking too much. (My brain felt so Full Of Things by the time I went to bed last night I thought I wouldn't be able to sleep.)

He was doing the accent as well as he could've been coached to do. Clearly there were a few things they'd all been told to concentrate on -- and it wasn't the actors' fault how unbelievable most of the dialogue was!

I enjoyed the first episode a lot and can't wait for the next one, and it's been a long time since I said that about anything on TV!
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Everyone else on this bus has a coat or a jumper on, and I'm in a sleeveless dress and sandals.
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"I don't mind the two-run homer so much, of course," I said to Andrew. "But an infield error in the second inning of the...season?! We don't need that!"

Andrew cheerfully agreed with me, but I imagine it's like when he tries to tell me things about Doctor Who.

Only difference is, it's not nearly as difficult for him to find people who know or care what he's on about (as last week proved, when he, James and Stuart sat around in our living room speaking their own little language).

This is a lonely place to be a Twins fan. Still, I'm so delighted to see baseball again, I'll be okay for a while on my own.
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Except at self-confidence. But that's no shock. We might be the most sensible state in the union, but it's no big deal.

Heavy snow

Dec. 19th, 2013 09:41 pm
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This picture was captioned, on the BBC website, as "There was heavy snow at Llysdinam, Powys, on Thursday."

It's so difficult not to become one of those really obnoxious Americans, the "you call this a mountain/lake/winter?! Why, where I come from..." type, at times like this. But actually what I really want is not to win a competiton but to impart the wisdom of my people, the salt and snowplows and shoveling your damn sidewalks, that allow us to survive winter with such alacrity.


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