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C-SPAN’s BOOK TV & American History TV Visit St. Paul

Posted byAlison Aten on 24 Sep 2014 | Tagged as: History, Interview, Literary

stpaul_lcv-1

C-SPAN’s Cities Tour recently visited St. Paul, profiling various literary and historic sites and interviewing local historians and authors. Featured segments were broadcast on BOOK-TV and American History TV and can be viewed via the hyperlink above.

Minnesota Historical Society staff as well as MNHS Press authors Paul Maccabee, Dave Page, and Adam Scher helped C-SPAN share the stories of the Capital City’s rich historical and literary past.

BOOK-TV features include:

F. Scott Fitzgerald in St. Paul with Dave Page, co-editor of The St. Paul Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald

Cultural History of St. Paul via the  Minnesota Historical Society’s Gale Family Library with Patrick Coleman, acquisitions librarian

The Nazi and the Psychiatrist by Jack El-Hai

The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Story by Kao Kalia Yang

A profile of indie bookstore Common Good Books

Poet Laureate Carol Connolly

American History TV stories include:

The Minnesota State Capitol with historic site manager Brian Pease

Gangster History in St. Paul with Paul Maccabee, author of John Dillinger Slept Here

Early Life and Career of F. Scott Fitzgerald with Dave Page

Toys of the ’50s, ’60s, & ’70s with author and curator Adam Scher

Tours of the Alexander Ramsey House, James J. Hill House, and Historic Fort Snelling

Living Here, Loving Minnesota with Marie Porter

Posted byAlison Aten on 27 Jun 2013 | Tagged as: Authors, Food, Interview

Living Here, Loving MinnesotaAn occasional series highlighting local authors and their favorite ways to spend a Minnesota weekend.

Marie Porter is the author of the newest title in our Northern Plate series, Sweet Corn Spectacular.

Win a copy of Sweet Corn Spectacular by entering Marie’s Corn Haiku Contest!

Marie Porter

Sweet Corn Spectacular

What is a typical weekend for you?

Oh, man, I’m not sure we have anything resembling typicality in our LIVES, never mind weekends!  I guess the closest thing to typical we’ve had lately is that weekends usually involve a lot of work on the house.  We had our house smashed badly in the 2011 tornado, were under-insured by $60k+, and have been picking away at DIY-ing a lot of it.

What are some of your favorite local Friday night activities?

When the weather is nice and cool, I like getting out for scenic walks or drives.  When the weather is too hot, we become about as local as possible—holed up in our house, watching movies.

What/where do you eat on weekends? What’s a typical Sunday breakfast at your house?

Well, aside from renovation stuff, I like to use weekends to hash out recipe ideas I have, whether for my blog or for upcoming cookbooks.  What we eat varies wildly depending on what I’m working on at the time, and it isn’t necessarily seasonally “appropriate” at all times, either.  Due to the nature of publication schedules, we may eat a full Christmas dinner in early summer!

Lately, I’ve taken to making a batch of muffins almost every Sunday. It’s a great weekend breakfast and works for easy to-go breakfasts for my husband for the week.

What’s your weekend reading like?

When I have time to read, it’s usually catching up on blog entries and/or reading up on DIY techniques. (Like teaching myself to demolish and tile our bathroom!)

What is your top Minnesota getaway?

Duluth!  I’ve lived here for seven years and only recently made it up to Duluth.  We’re looking at maybe making it a monthly thing—sitting on a rock by the shore does a world of good for me, reminds me of home.  It’s great for de-stressing!

Bug Buzz

Posted byAlison Aten on 12 Apr 2013 | Tagged as: Authors, Children, Event, Interview, Nature/Enviroment

Bruce GiebinkBill JohnsonMinnesota Bug Hunt

It may be snowing in Minnesota, but bugs will be crawling out soon. Today we chat with Bruce “the Bug Guy” Giebink and photographer Bill Johnson, collaborators on Minnesota Bug Hunt, a new children’s book about insects big and small, fierce and friendly.

Find out why they are both fascinated by the Mantisfly.

How did you become interested in bugs?

Bruce:

Although I’ve had naturalist tendencies since I was a kid, I wasn’t especially fascinated with insects as a group until I took an introductory entomology course in college. I had no idea of the incredible diversity that exists in the insects. They come in a nearly endless variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, and more species continue to be discovered on a daily basis.  Many truly do look like mini alien creatures! Once I began to study them more closely, I started to appreciate their amazing ability to survive and adapt to their environment.  As a group, they interact with each other and the environment in some truly amazing ways. One area I find particularly fascinating is how insects interact with each other and plants on a chemical  level. Although many insects live in a visual world, even more exist within an amazing world of smells.

Bill:

One of my earliest memories is from around age three or four and I was looking at some hollyhock flowers and saw something fly into one. Being very curious, I walked up to the flower and for some reason stuck my finger in it. Well, the flower bit back. That was a big surprise for me! After a few seconds, I realized that it wasn’t the flower that bit me, but some large insect that quickly flew out of the flower. Later I determined that it was a large bumblebee that had stung me, only because I had just poked it. Because of that, I made it a point to find out what did that and why it did that.  To this day, happily, that investigation continues.

If you were a bug, what bug would you be?

Bruce:

I’d want to be a praying mantis. Mantids are very active and alert predators with excellent vision. They have a very good idea of what’s going on around them. Within the bug world, they are a top predator, so there aren’t many other bugs you’d have to worry about eating you–except perhaps a larger, hungrier mantis! Most can fly, so you’d be able to fly around, just for the sheer joy of flying or to escape danger or to check out different habitats. For an insect, they also live a fairly long time (2.5–4.5 months).

How do you get such detailed images?

Bill:

With the right equipment, patience, and practice, it’s really not that hard to do. The best lenses to use are referred to as “macro lenses,” specifically made for close-up photography. When working at such a small scale and subject matter, depth of field is almost nonexistent, so the addition of a flash or multiple flash units is required to achieve sharp detail.

What is your favorite cool fact in the book?

Bruce:

The crazy life cycle of the Mantisfly. By appearance alone, the Mantisfly definitely qualifies as a bizarre bug! It’s got grabbing front legs (like a praying mantis), a really long neck (about the only other bug I know with a long neck is the Giraffe Beetle, another bizarre bug!), and beautifully patterned wings (like a lacewing). The life cycle of the Mantisfly is so unusual and detailed that I had a very difficult time keeping the description as short as it is. I wanted to say a LOT more! The world of bugs is truly full of weird and wacky characters. The more you look, the more you find. If I had been a part of creating the movie A Bug’s Life you would have seen some REALLY WEIRD and CRAZY bugs, some behaving in a truly WEIRD manner!

Bill:

I like the Mantisfly life cycle story. In the insect world, it’s eat or be eaten, and you do what you can to be successful in one and try to avoid the other. To do that sometimes requires being really sneaky or devious as well as being able to show off bright colors, startling patterns, and weird body shapes.

What do you hope readers will get out of this book?

Bruce:

When readers (or even those just looking at the pictures) pick up this book, I hope they’ll appreciate the incredibly detailed pictures and want to know more about what they’re looking at. When they read about a particular insect, I hope they’ll say, “Cool!  I didn’t know they did that!”

After seeing all the different sizes, shapes, and colors of the insects in this small book, I hope they’ll appreciate the incredible variety or diversity that exists in the world of insects, even in a temperate location like Minnesota and the Upper Midwest. I hope this tiny glimpse into the hidden and mysterious world of insects will pique their interest enough to want to explore their own backyards, woods, and ponds to find their own bugs. Once they find them, I hope they’ll want to learn more about them, such as what they are, what they eat, how they protect themselves, etc.

More than anything, I hope they develop an appreciation for all the many important jobs that insects do and begin to realize how important they are to the natural world. In many respects they truly are “the little things that run the (natural) world.”

Meet Bruce, Bill, and some bugs tomorrow at Red Balloon in St. Paul at 10:30 a.m. Click on the hyperlink for the title, above, for more events with the authors.

The Rockwell Heist: An Interview with Author Bruce Rubenstein

Posted byAlison Aten on 21 Mar 2013 | Tagged as: Authors, Event, History, Interview, True Crime

The Rockwell Heist by Bruce RubensteinIn 1978 seven Norman Rockwell paintings and a supposed Renoir, later discovered to be a forgery, were stolen from Elayne Galleries in St. Louis Park. It is still the biggest theft in Minnesota history, and no one was ever convicted of the crime. Veteran crime writer Bruce Rubenstein, author of the new book The Rockwell Heist, details the story of the theft, the investigation, and the twenty-year quest to return the art to its rightful owners. Mr. Rubenstein recently answered some questions about his new book.

Why do you write crime stories, Mr. Rubenstein?

Because I always have something to write about. At least that was my standard answer when I was a freelancer selling articles to weeklies and monthlies. There is more to it than that, of course. People who write about business, or politics, or any number of other things always have something to write about too. But with crime your story has a dramatic hinge. And people are fascinated by crime.

Why were you drawn to the story of The Rockwell Heist?

It had everything a writer could ask for–feisty, sympathetic victims, bold villains who were part of a colorful local underworld, a sexy female con artist and her quasi-sympathetic dupe, a quest to recover the stolen paintings that went on for decades with one twist after another, hundreds of pages of files and many knowledgeable people to interview. And nobody got killed. I’ve been writing about crime for a long time, and I’m pretty tired of murders. This art theft and the many attempts to trade the loot for cash or something else of value seemed good-natured compared to the kind of crimes I’ve written about in the past.

Did you manage to solve the crime?

I found out who did it. So had the investigators. Like many crimes, it went into the books unsolved, even though the perpetrators, locally based professional criminals, were identified. There simply was not enough evidence to indict them. Their names were blacked out of the files, but I got in touch with one of the FBI’s informants and he told me who they were.

Why? Did he want credit? Notoriety?

No, in fact he went to great lengths to remain anonymous. It’s a phenomenon I’ve encountered many times. There are people who like to talk. There’s nothing in it for them. Just the opposite. In many cases they are risking their lives.

You say that the value of the paintings that were stolen has mushroomed to more than $1 million by now. How much did the thieves realize?

Not much. The value of Norman Rockwell’s work waxed and waned during the time they retained possession of the art, but it didn’t really take off until long after they’d turned it over for a pretty minimal price to the mobsters who’d hired them to steal it.

So the theft was a failure, even though they got away with it?

Not at all. It accomplished exactly what the real authors of the act, Miami-based mobsters, wanted it to accomplish.

What was that?

I’m afraid you’ll have to buy the book to find out. I’ll tell you this much: the Rockwell paintings were peripheral to their real objective.

Well, if the mobsters didn’t really want the Rockwell paintings, what did they do once they got them?

They offered them for sale through a stolen art network in Europe. The evidence suggests that the paintings were  bought and sold several times there, and maybe again in Argentina, before someone who was attempting to enter Brazil surrendered them to the Federal Police in Rio de Janeiro, probably in return for expedited processing of an application for Brazilian citizenship. Brazil doesn’t extradite its citizens to face charges in other countries, and wanted criminals often seek refuge there.

How much are the paintings worth now?

Rockwell’s work has undergone a critical re-evaluation in the last decade or so, and several of his paintings have sold for more than $1 million. The collective value of the Rockwells that were stolen from Elayne Galleries is conservatively $4 million.

Bruce Rubenstein will talk about his book and sign copies next Thursday, March 28, at 7 pm at Common Good Books, and Thursday, April 4, at 7 pm at Once Upon a Crime. Please click the hyperlink to the title, above, for details.

Tasteful Taxidermy

Posted byAlison Aten on 27 Nov 2012 | Tagged as: Interview, Nature/Enviroment, Videos

“DIY Death Rituals,” “Sing Like a Voyageur,” “Field Dress a Deer,” “Crop Art 101,” “Detasseling Corn: The Hows and Whys,” and “Tasteful Taxidermy” are just a few of the chapter titles in The Minnesota Books of Skills: Your Guide to Smoking Whitefish, Sauna Etiquette, Tick Extraction, and More by Chris Niskanen.

Chris is no stranger to the art of taxidermy. In his book he profiles Marv and Betty Gaston of Taxidermy Unlimited, but for today’s blog post he wrote up the story of Francis, below:

I was driving home from Best Buy in Woodbury when I saw a badger lying on the shoulder of a two-lane highway. It appeared to be perfectly intact after getting hit by a car. It was August.

Another SUV had stopped in front of me, and a woman with several older children were inside. About the time I pulled over to investigate, a teenage boy jumped out of the SUV, and soon the two of us were standing over the dead badger. He couldn’t believe what he was looking at. I was surprised, too, to find a badger in Woodbury. We discussed the matter with his mother, and while she was intrigued by the idea of bringing it home (they had stopped first, so had dibs), she understood that on such a warm day she needed to get it either in a freezer quickly or to the taxidermist. I volunteered to take it because I knew a taxidermist who could do the job immediately. When I brought it home, my five-year-old daughter was fascinated by the story and the face of this young badger, struck down in the prime of its life.

The taxidermist did a marvelous job, and later that winter (taxidermy takes a while to complete) the entire family went to pick it up. My daughter was now in love with the adorable young male badger mounted tastefully on a board, looking like he was peering through grass. She insisted on putting it in her room, and ever since, Francis (named after the children’s book character, also a badger) has been adorned in pearls, earrings, and doll clothes. Up close, Francis is an amazing animal, with his flat head, powerful shoulders, and long, sharp claws, but he doesn’t appear menacing.

He’s been a great way to talk about wildlife and science with our kids, plus he’s a swell conversation piece. My wife, bless her heart, has always embraced the idea of having Francis in the house, which is key if you ever plan to do something like this (warning to any spouses who see roadkill and fancy having it mounted for display in the home). The other lesson learned here is that taxidermy isn’t what is used to be. Francis is like a museum piece, and because we enjoy nature so much and have designed our home around the nature that surrounds us, he fits pretty well into our decor.

*****

For a glimpse at more of the Niskanen taxidermy decor, watch Fox 9’s M.A. Rosko as she sharpens her Minnesota skills with Chris in his home.

Chris will be on KARE 11 Sunrise tomorrow (11/28/12) around 6 a.m., and listen for him on Minnesota Public Radio soon too. (We’ll update links here.) Please click on the book title link, above, for upcoming signings with Chris.

Original Short E-book: Minnesota Voter ID and the National Debate

Posted byAlison Aten on 22 Oct 2012 | Tagged as: Interview, MHS Author in the News

Jim RagsdaleMinnesota Voter ID and the National DebateMinnesota Voter ID and the National Debate: What You Need to Know is a new original e-book short by veteran reporter Jim Ragsdale. The book is available for $0.99 from most popular e-book vendors, including amazon.com, bn.com, kobobooks.com, and iTunes.

Our post today is from author Jim Ragsdale:

In rushing from event to event covering the photo ID issue in Minnesota for the Star Tribune, it is hard to find time to put what’s happening into a national and historical context. I tried to do so in this piece, and to direct readers to court cases and books that do that far better than I.

The experience helped me understand why making any change in our voting system is so difficult.

This most basic right (and rite) of citizenship is how “We the People” choose our leaders. But the meaning of those words in the preamble to the Constitution has divided us since the days of George Washington. The framers fought over who should vote. The Civil War, the women’s suffrage movement, the Civil Rights movement, the draft and the Vietnam War — all enlarged the meaning of who “We the People” are, and who can vote. Seven amendments to the Constitution have been needed to expand and clarify voting rights and election procedures. Nearly a century passed between the Fifteenth Amendment of 1870, which protected voting rights of black men who had been enslaved, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was needed to end Jim Crow laws in the South and enforce the Fifteenth Amendment.

So the photo ID movement sweeping the country, despite its common-sense appeal in a society where IDs are required in virtually every transaction, runs headlong into this history. And it is not ancient history. In my lifetime, people have fought and died on our soil for the right to vote.

I hope readers can begin to see this historical and national context as they watch the ID drama unfold.

Jim Ragsdale on Twitter: @jwrags

Twitter handle for the book: #minnvoterid

Anton Treuer and the Real Story of Thanksgiving

Posted byMary Poggione on 11 Oct 2012 | Tagged as: Book Excerpt, History, Interview, MHS Author in the News, Native American, Videos

Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to AskAnton Treuer, author of Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask, was on NPR’s Tell Me More earlier this week, discussing the real story of Christopher Columbus.

I think there’s a growing awareness that Columbus didn’t discover America–that the place was densely inhabited by other human beings. But certainly the Columbus experience would change the entire world. But in spite of the fact that Christopher Columbus wrote lots of letters and kept many journals, and by his second voyage there were many official scribes, army officers, priests, writing about the experience, over 500 years later this piece of history gets sugarcoated a lot.

And you know, we now know as a fact of history that on Columbus’s second voyage, the Spanish instituted a gold dust tribute, whereby those who failed to bring a certain quantity of gold dust would have their hands chopped off. And we know for a fact of history that the Spanish cut the hands off of 30,000 people that year on the island of Hispaniola–what’s now Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

“And we know that within thirty years, the two million people that the Spanish estimated to be inhabiting that island before contact were completely annihilated. And that is a textbook definition of genocide. And we have so successfully sugarcoated the history that we have obfuscated some of the most important parts of that story.”

Check out Anton Treuer’s answer to “What is the real story of Thanksgiving?” from the book Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask.

Treuer’s recent in-depth television interview on C-Span’s Afterwords is also now available.

Living Here, Loving Minnesota with Kim Ode

Posted byAlison Aten on 20 Sep 2012 | Tagged as: Authors, Cooking, Interview

phpyDC97BAn occasional series highlighting local authors and their favorite ways to spend a Minnesota weekend.

Kim Ode has spent most of 2012 talking about her latest cookbook, Rhubarb Renaissance, and is trying to decide what food to tackle next. She remains a member of the St. Paul Bread Club and also plays trombone with the Calhoun-Isles Community Band. Kim  Ode

What is a typical weekend for you?

“Typical” changes with the season, given that in summer, we’re on our sailboat on Lake Superior whenever possible. Otherwise, I’m happiest tucked in at home, putzing in the garden or organizing shelves–unexpectedly satisfying! Wherever I am, cooking for friends often is involved, usually with a recipe I’ve never tried. I like to pull people out onto the culinary tightrope with me!

What are some of your favorite local Friday night activities?

After a week at the Star Tribune, I rarely want to leave the house. I’m a locabore, I guess, but a happy one. If I’ve planned to bake in my brick oven on Saturday, then Friday nights are for mixing bread dough so it gets that long overnight rise to develop the best flavor.

What/where do you eat on weekends? What’s a typical Sunday breakfast for you?

I’m happiest when I’m cooking for myself and others, but Tosca in Linden Hills is a small gem with great squash ravioli. Mill Valley Kitchen in St. Louis Park manages to be sumptuous and healthy. I love Travail Kitchen and Amusements in Robbinsdale but know enough not to fight the weekend crowds.

Sunday breakfasts is plural. My husband gets two eggs over easy, toast, and bacon every week because that’s what he lives for, emphasis on Once A Week. While I will reserve some bacon for myself, I love to eat leftovers for breakfast–last night’s potstickers or pizza or mashed potatoes. And sourdough toast–with mayonnaise and garden tomatoes in the summer or with mustard and baked beans in the winter.

What is your weekend reading like?

After the newspaper (duh), I’ll riffle through cookbooks or magazines during the day. For whatever reason, I read best at night, mostly nonfiction, although the Strib’s books editor, Laurie Hertzel, always has good fiction writers in mind. I just finished reading chef Marcus Samuelsson’s memoir, Yes, Chef, and it’s terrific. My biggest challenge is holding off on rereading Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series. I have read the twenty books three times and have vowed to let at least five years pass before diving in again.

What is your top Minnesota getaway?

Has to be Lake Superior, anywhere on that spectacular body of water. Grand Marais’ great hug of a harbor is a top destination.

Living Here, Loving Minnesota with Klecko

Posted byAlison Aten on 31 Aug 2012 | Tagged as: Authors, Interview

phpyDC97BDanny Klecko is the CEO of the Saint Agnes Baking Company in Saint Paul and the author of the MHS Press book, K-9 Nation Biscuit Book. He is currently hosting twelve days of food demos at the Minnesota State Fair, in the Creative Activities building. If you would like to hear more stories from him, check out his popular blog site The Last American Baker.

Klecko

1. What is a typical weekend for you?

When you service hotels, restaurants, and casinos there is no such thing as a typical weekend. Saturdays are interesting because I can find myself running products to my farmer’s market booth or bringing baked goods to one of our accounts that may have forgotten to order. To me it has never seemed like work. I love the energy that surrounds the Twin Cities food scene.

If I am lucky enough to get the weekend off, you’ll find me on a baseball diamond teaching kids how to hit baseballs. Saint Paul has produced legends like Mauer, Molitor, Morris, and Winfield, but I had a group of kids this summer that might give these legends a run for their money.

2. What are some of your favorite local Friday night activities?

On Friday evenings I like to attend all types of events. I don’t care if it’s an intimate show at Patrick’s Cabaret or something bigger, like a Timberwolves game. Oftentimes I find myself not even watching the entertainment because I become more intrigued by how these venues light their spaces or how they control their traffic flow.

3. What/where do you eat on weekends? What’s a typical Sunday breakfast for you?

When you service 300 commercial accounts, you have to be careful when you give a personal endorsement. To put one restaurant on a pedestal means you might upset the other 299 concepts. With that being said, I’m going to go out on a limb and be honest with you. When my family goes out together, we always do breakfast. If you live in or around the Highland Park area, is there any other choice than the Copper Dome? I’ve lived in this neighborhood for 20 years and I swear to Caesar their staff hasn’t turned over a single employee in decades.

However, if I am by myself, I go to the Day by Day Cafe. Overall I would say they offer the most complete breakfast for sophisticated guys like me.

4. What’s your weekend reading like?

During the weekends, if I want to indulge myself, I’ll usually mix myself a Rusty Nail and read poetry. During the winter months I will either review the classics like Carl Sandburg, Ezra Pound, or Saint Paul’s own Poet Laureate Carol Conolly. When my son comes home from college in the summer we read nothing but poems from Russia and Poland.

5. What is your top Minnesota getaway?

The thing I enjoy most about Minnesota is there are more getaway options than I have time for. But, if I want to go someplace special, someplace that offers intrigue or romance, I’m heading north to Duluth. My wife is more adventurous and likes to go to spots that we are unfamiliar with. In fact just a couple of weeks ago she made me go to Luverne. If you check out my Facebook page, you’ll see her standing next to a scale-sized plastic buffalo.

David Nichols on MPR!

Posted bylucia.randle on 17 Aug 2012 | Tagged as: History, Interview, MHS press, Native American

php5sRMFzAuthor of Lincoln and the Indians, David Nichols joined MPR host Cathy Wurzor on Tuesday morning. The topic of the morning show was the Dakota War of 1862, with Friday being the anniversary of the first battle of the war. Specifically discussing Abraham Lincoln’s participation in the war, and discussing the government’s Indian policy, Nichols was brought on to shed more light on the subject. Together, Nichols and Wurznor talk about the war and that chapter in history.

Check out the show here!

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