Where to Eat Somali Food in Minneapolis

Qoraxlow_11RBG-e1517608934558New story at Roads & Kingdoms, featuring beautiful photos from Priscilla Briggs.

A few months before I moved to Minneapolis, I stopped at a gas station while visiting the city looking for a place to eat. The cashier and two customers—all of whom were Somali—conferred for a minute, then pointed me up the street to a building that didn’t look much like a restaurant. The windows were dark and the façade was strange, but high on the roof was a sign that read: Qoraxlow Restaurant #1 African and American Cuisine.

I walked inside. The place was run down: a giant TV played CNN, there were no menus, and the credit-card machine was broken. But once the door closed, the sound of talking and laughing, and the smell of rice and goat meat, brought me straight back to East Africa. I’ve never tired of eating at Qoraxlow since.

That was nearly a decade ago. Somalis had started landing in Minneapolis in force a few years earlier. After the Somali civil war started in 1991, people came to Minnesota to work in meat-packing jobs in the western part of the state. By 2010, according to Ahmed Ismail Yusuf, author of Somalis in Minnesota, their numbers had grown to somewhere between 36,000 (the U.S. census number) and 70,000 (the community’s estimate). Before long, you could find places like Qoraxlow across Minneapolis. For someone like myself, with young kids and little extra money for the kind of globetrotting I did when I was younger, these places felt like an escape. Sometimes I would meet old Somali men who spoke Italian and young ones who spoke Swahili. I could eat sambusas and drink chai and feel refreshingly far from home.

Read the rest here.

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The Sound of Silence

c87f36d1-9a1e-4052-a68c-aa3806ad8a6c-1New story at Slate on Cuba’s Sonic Attacks:

A few weeks after the 2016 presidential election of Donald Trump, several people working for the U.S. Embassy in Cuba fell mysteriously ill. Some lost their hearing. Some had headaches and a pain in one ear. Others reported feeling dizzy or nauseous, having trouble focusing, or feeling fatigued. Later, some would have a hard time concentrating, remembering things, sleeping, and even walking.

These symptoms were “medically confirmed,” as the State Department’s medical director Charles Rosenfarb put it, and brain scans were said to show abnormalities in the victims’ white matter, which transfers information between brain regions. The illnesses were believed by the government to be “health attacks,” carried out by a foreign power, though as Todd Brown, assistant director at the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “investigative attempts and expert analysis failed to identify the cause or perpetrator.”

Nonetheless, investigators concluded the illnesses, which ultimately affected 24 people, were likely the result of a “sonic device.” This conclusion seems to be primarily due to the fact that some diplomats reported hearing a high-pitched noise in their homes and hotel rooms.

Despite a lack evidence for such a weapon, or any known way it could affect white matter, the sonic weapon theory proved irresistible for both media outlets and for Cuba hawks like Sens. Marco Rubio and Bob Menendez, both of whom immediately transformed the sonic weapon into a handy political weapon.

Read the rest here.

The Year in Stories: 2017

Some of my favorite pieces from last year:

DEFe-8sVYAAA0biTeaching a Stone to Fly: At the World Stone Skipping Championship (Minnesota Monthly)

The Kiwis’ Edge in America’s Cup: Drones (New York Times)

Impact of the Creative Class: Richard Florida Can’t Let Go Of His Creative Class Theory.  (Belt Magazine)

Dispatches from the Ruins: Why we love the apocalypse (Aeon Video)

grann-bookQ&A with David Grann on “Killers of the Flower Moon” (Nieman Storyboard)

Against Pessimism (The Rotarian)

A year of sunrises (Star Tribune)

Aging Gracefully: How to be wise (The Rotarian)

In the Heart and Out in the World: A profile of David Coggins (Alive Magazine)

feb-coverEducation on the Front Lines: In Nigeria, a university president takes on Boko Haram (The Rotarian)

Writing the Self: Some Thoughts on Words and Woe (Poets & Writers)

On the trail of history: Rotarians from three countries resurrect the forgotten Great Western Trail (The Rotarian)

Friday Night Bikes (Bicycling)

 

Worst Year Ever? Never.

ColumnArt_Nov17_CutlerNew column from The Rotarian:

The idea that 2016 was the worst year ever started circulating after several celebrity deaths (Prince, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen) were followed by an election that did not go the way many people wanted it to. After that, the worst-year-ever meme became unstoppable, and in 2017, the drumbeat of decline has not stopped. Offhand, I can think of a lot of things that are worse than a cold winter day: the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 1929 stock market crash, the Bataan Death March. But it’s true that things do feel worse than they actually are. Part of the reason lies in the 24-hour news cycle and its never-ending flow of bad news. As writer Jia Tolentino put it in The New Yorker, “There is no limit to the amount of misfortune a person can take in via the Internet, and there’s no easy way to properly calibrate it. … Our ability to change things is not increasing at the same rate as our ability to know about them.”

Whatever the reason, the downbeat trend has accelerated among people of all political stripes, and it is noteworthy because it goes directly against the strongest current in American culture: our optimism, our sense that problems are meant to be solved and that solving them is our job. Since our country’s founding, America has been a can-do place, a place of possibility. Our creed has always been a certain sometimes naive faith that things will work out for the best. And for the most part – believe it or not – they have.

Contrary to what you might think, violence is at all-time lows, as is the rate of global poverty. War deaths are fewer than ever in betterangels-250x381history. On most indicators where you might think progress is not being made, the opposite is probably true. Nicholas Kristof recently pointed out in a column in The New York Times: “2017 is likely to be the best year in the history of humanity.” He continued: “Every day, another 250,000 people graduate from extreme poverty, according to World Bank figures. About 300,000 get electricity for the first time. Some 285,000 get their first access to clean drinking water. When I was a boy, a majority of adults had always been illiterate, but now more than 85 percent can read.”

Read the rest here.

In the Heart and Out in the World

A profile of David Coggins from Alive Magazine:Coggins

When David Coggins first moved into his studio in 1996, he thought he might keep it spare, minimalist.

“It was such a beautiful, raw space,” he says, “with all those windows and nothing in it. I was just so wowed by it

The room was part of the old warehouse for the defunct Grain Belt Brewery next door. It was massive, at 3,000 square feet. The outside walls were a beautiful, patchy brickwork with arched windows. Concrete columns ran floor to ceiling. It had an old-world, industrial feel, a remnant of another era.

But those who knew Coggins shook their heads, knowing minimalism was unlikely. And, before long, the studio started to grow over with art and worldly objects. An old Spanish cabinet, small collections of stones, a plate of dice, spools of twine huddled together on a table.

“I like to have beautiful things around,” Coggins says, “and old things, and important things and odd things that I’ve found over time that have meaning. I always love coming in, especially when I’ve been away. When I’m here, I don’t ever want to leave.”

“When you step into that studio,” says Tom Rassieur, who curates prints and drawings at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, “it’s a transformative experience. You’re in this deeply personal, expansive, mesmerizing space. Your eye just goes everywhere. You feel like you could spend all day looking at these things that are a mixture of David’s own creations and things that he loves. It’s a Gesamtkunstwerk if there ever was one—an all-encompassing art work. In a sense, it’s a modern version of a 19th-century studio. It’s the most amazing environment.”

Read the rest here.NLxBObop6tHNPAsLoXPiszFyuXJ7UBxGECwoHBVDKSc

The Impact of the Creative Class

Garrett-MacLean-sNew piece in Belt Magazine:

When Richard Florida’s new book came out earlier this year, I saw some of the reviews and was intrigued. It was called The New Urban Crisis: How Our Cities Are Increasing Inequality, Deepening Segregation, and Failing the Middle Class — and What We Can Do About It. I was interested in the subject. After the 2016 election, who wasn’t?

My interest, however, ran a little deeper than most. Some reviews billed it as Florida’s “mea culpa,” or his “act of penance” for his 2002 book, The Rise of the Creative Class, in which he argued that young, creative workers were the new engines of economic growth and that cities needed to court them in order to prosper. In the beginning, everybody wanted to believe in this “Creative Class” theory. And for a while, so did I. But by 2012 I had serious doubts, and I wrote a critique of Florida’s theory that went viral. Five years later, with the publication of his new book, I wondered if Florida had finally taken my critique to heart.

NUCI didn’t always feel that way. When I first came across Florida’s theory, I myself was a young, creative worker, and I loved the idea that people like myself were economically significant, and that by simply moving to a city we would cause it to flourish. Not long after The Rise of the Creative Class was published, my wife and I moved to Madison, Wisconsin. According to Florida, the city needed us and somehow we were the keys to its future. Yet as a freelance writer, subject to the extreme ebb and flow of income (mostly ebb), I often found myself biking around town, too broke to even afford a cup of coffee. At these times, I wondered: How exactly was I fueling Madison’s economy?

Read the rest here.

See also:

The Fall of the Creative Class

Still Falling: On Chickens and Eggs, Cause and Effect and the Real Problem with the Creative Class

The Price of Everything