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JP Rennquist - Author Archive

A dad, a husband, DJ, radio producer, toymaker, and rabble rouser in Duluth, MN. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of my employer, my wife, any of my kids, my Duluth Hillside neighbors, other large mammals, etc.

It’s not the snowfall, it’s the snowdrifts »

“It’s not the snowfall, it’s the snowdrifts.” I just realized that’s kind of a northcountry version of “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.”

I give yesterday’s storm about a 6 out of 10 for Duluth snowstorms in terms of intensity and general nastiness. However, I think this might be the biggest drift I’ve encountered in the 12 years I’ve been at this house.


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Getting to the Bottom of the Proposed Polymet Mine Part 2, Winona LaDuke »

After much, much hand wringing and editing and processing and sweating and arguing with myself, here is a passable video of the lecture by Winona LaDuke that was delivered on Feb. 8 at the College of St. Scholastica. I think that the message she is sharing is important to hear and try to understand, whether or not you agree with her conclusions. One of her central theses seems is that people have been living and thriving in this region for thousands of years and in the past 100 or 200 years there have been significant and undesirable, even toxic, changes to the land, the waters, and the creatures and people who populate this region.

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Getting to the Bottom of the Proposed Polymet Mine, Part 1 »


I’m hoping that this video, featuring Paula Maccabee of Water Legacy, will be the first of several that I will be able to share over the next few weeks.

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Trampled by Turtles’ song deserves Oscar »

There I was, sitting in a cavernous multiplex theater at Duluth 10. The movie, The Way Way Back, is one that I had actually chosen by accident. Or chosen erroneously, I mean. The Mrs. and I were on an impromptu date night and picked The Way Way Back thinking that it was actually another movie I had heard about.

A good 30 minutes in I realized both my error, and that the film was not what I had hoped for, a fluffy summertime coming-of-age story, and that it was instead a sort of dark, introspective coming-of-age story that just happened to be placed in a summer setting. At points during the movie I could actually viscerally feel my own awkward teenage summer loneliness flaring up in some deep, dark buried place in my gut. So the film makers nailed that part.

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Duluth knows how to do snow removal, but where does it all go? »

I was very impressed to happen upon this epic snow removal operation on Second Street on Thursday at about 11 a.m.

You might be able to see in the photo that this clean-up convoy of sorts includes numerous heavy construction vehicles stretching from where this was taken at about Second Avenue East, all the way back to Fourth Avenue West.


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Mysterious “Headless Snowman” in Duluth’s Canal Park »

I think that PDD needs to solve the mystery of the headless snowman, preferably in the form of a song, an epic poem, or maybe a short story in the style of O. Henry or Charles Dickens. Ok. Go.

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Where in Duluth? “Thou Shalt Not Steal” »

Where in Duluth?


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Getting Lost in the Valley of Silence »

Yesterday I had a rare 90-minutes to myself and after some meandering I ended up behind St. Scholastica looking for the sunset. I never really did find it, but I did see some other stuff.


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RIP Mike, Mike and Tom Graffiti on Central Avenue, West Duluth »

I’m not sure when this changed but I just noticed it today.

For decades, the names of two guys named Mike and a Tom were spraypainted unceremoniously on this wall, now that has been painted over.

I met the new owner of the Italian Village a month or so ago and he seems like a great guy. He also seems to be doing a lot to expand and spruce up the storefront. So today I was only a little surprised when the graffiti that was painted on the side of the building years decades ago had been covered up by what looks like will eventually be a new mural.

Here is a post by Paul Lundgren from a few years ago with some fun history and comments about the two Mikes and the Tom who had their names painted on the building. According to the comments, it has also been painted over before, so perhaps it’s not gone forever.

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Rainbow over Park Point »

From this afternoon.

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Duluth Primary 2013 Final Arguments »

In one of the most off, off, off election years of recent memory we can really focus our grey matter on pretty much hyper-local politics. In a year like this we get a little more mainstream media coverage of the smaller races, but even still, there are a few candidates who I haven’t met or really heard much about. I’d hate to base my decisions on who to vote for in the primary on who has the most yard signs out, or worse, how I feel about the people who have the yard signs in their yards. So, PDD …

"I Voted" photo, shamelessly cribbed from Tim Kaiser's FB Page

"I Voted" photo, shamelessly cribbed from Tim Kaiser's FB Page

So I am asking, who are you voting for this Primary Day and why?

In the interest of moderation and well-reasoned discussion maybe try to support your feelings and instincts with actual, you know, facts and evidence. Bonus points for spouting your own opinions and not those that have been fed to you by interest groups or ideologues. I haven’t voted yet, and I’ll be reading through the comments before I do, so here is your chance to sway my decision. Polls close at 8 pm. I live in the Duluth Hillside but you can talk about any Duluth-ish race, because, you never know, maybe you can sway someone else’s vote, too.

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Skyline Art Gallery features local artists; showcases Duluth history »

This weekend I visited the Skyline Art Gallery for its grand opening. This location, right near the crest of Thompson Hill is an area that I recognize as the spot where I feel like I am “home” and the awe-inspiring views of the great inland sea and the cities of Duluth and Superior open up before your eyes when approaching on I-35 from the south. I’m sure that many others have a similar sentiment, the owners of this gallery could be included in that group.

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DNR moves to formalize changes to Threatened, Endangered and Special Concern lists »

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is moving to formalize proposed changes to the list of endangered, threatened and concerned species which was last updated in 1996. A media release was sent out today:

Twenty-nine species, including the bald eagle, wolf and snapping turtle, were removed from the list; 180 species of plants and animals were added; 91 species had their status either upgraded or downgraded while remaining on the list. The changes were based on large amounts of new information gathered by DNR and other researchers.

The “bald eagle, wolf, and snapping turtle” reads like a “who’s who” list of beings that are considered sacred to local Native American people. Although I am not aware of any plans for a turtle (Mikinak) hunt the DNR did authorize a highly controversial eastern grey wolf (Maiingan) hunt in 2012. A bald eagle (Migizi) hunt seems unthinkable, but many people would have said the same about a wolf hunt 15 years ago.

Someone at the DNR also thought maybe that it would be a good idea to frame the discussion of endangered species from the perspective of European explorers in the 17th and 18th centuries, rather than focusing on the healthy hunting and land-use practices of the Dakota and Ojibwe people who managed the lands for centuries before the Europeans arrived. You can look it over here while I knock this chip off my shoulder. (Screen grab below)

Source: Updating MN list of endangered, threatened, special concern species

Cultural faux pas aside, I think that some of the most significant changes to the listings are the inclusion of moose, and a large number of fish, plants, and insects to the state’s protected lists. For example, after eyeballing the charts accompanying the release, listings for dragonflies, mosses, lichens and plant-life have increased maybe ten-fold or more since 1996. I’m no biologist by any means, but I think that there may be both good and bad news in this report for environmentalists, hunters, loggers, farmers, and miners. Not that a person couldn’t be more than one (or all) of those things concurrently. But the enormous increase in threatened/endangered/special concern species overall is somewhat alarming to me.

The entire list is here (it is an enormous pdf). A shorter summary is here

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The Economics of Sulfide Mining: Benefits and Costs »

This address was given by Dr. Tom Power, Professor Emeritus at the University of Montana about a week ago in Duluth.

Dr. Power’s lecture was presented by the Friends of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and in association with the Duluth Chamber of Commerce. The forum was moderated by Duke Skorich. I’d like to thank the Clyde Ironworks facilities staff for doing something that I think more facilities should do, they made the house PA system available for media to run a direct, clean line for recording purposes.

I’m going to be doing ongoing coverage of this issue in my role with WGZS-FM in Cloquet which is a radio Service of Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. I am interested in thoughtful reactions and comments related to this material. Resources and other sources of information and even rebuttals, etc would be helpful to me. As ever though, let’s keep the discussion cordial and productive.

Dr. Power references a number of slides during the presentation and I did also take video but I am low on broadband and time this summer so I don’t know when that video will ever be available publicly. However, you can download a version of the powerpoint here here (pdf)

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“Communities of Color” leaders take issue with UMD’s lack of diversity »

I have been working as a radio producer lately, and I increasingly find myself in situations where I need to try and be even-handed and to try to represent different perspectives on nuanced issues. Racial diversity is one of those things that keeps popping up for me.

The issues surrounding racism and inclusion are loaded with bad history, a lot of grey area, and many answers that seem to pull good people in opposing directions. Potentially worst of all, people just stay with the status quo, trapped by indecision.

So on Friday I was out trying to cover this hastily announced press conference at UMD. (I got the announcement in my Facebook inbox sometime around lunch, and the gathering was at 4 p.m.) From the start I could see that this was a good topic for PDD. I intended to edit this up and add some captions and titles on Friday and post it here to see what folks had to say.

Then I left my laptop power cord at work and with gas at $4-something a gallon I decided to just let it go and try to just relax and spend some time with family this weekend. That was the right call because I did enjoy myself and had a great time with my wife and kids. Also, I did not have a response from the university until today.

The response from UMD Chancellor Lendley Black is posted below the video.


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Where in Duluth: Buzzfeed edition »

I was reading through this list of things Minnesotans are [allegedly] too nice to brag about and I saw this picture, figured it was from Duluth, and it is.

From Buzzfeed, the ultimate warming house in Duluth, MN

Minnesotans do brag about all of this stuff all the time, but it’s fun to see it on Buzzfeed. Click the pic to see the entire post, several items have a Duluth connection.

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Where in Duluth? »

Where in Duluth?

Duluth is where the heart is. Where in Duluth, MN?

Bonus points if you can figure the swatch of land that the heart covers. I’m stumped on the scale there, but at a minimum I’m thinking Proctor and maybe Esko and a township or three.

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Doug Moen, R.I.P. »

Doug Moen passed away yesterday following a tragic fall.

UPDATES: * The Facebook Event Page for Doug’s Memorial is here. It takes place at Clyde Iron Works on Saturday, March 9th, 2013. Attendees are encouraged to wear something vintage if they are so inclined. Everyone is welcome.

* Another gathering took place March 2 at Tycoons and there is a nice write-up about it in the Duluth News Tribune: Friends Remember Vintage Clothing Collector’s Generosity.

Doug Moen, RIP.  Photo courtesy of Kip Praslowicz

Doug Moen Portrait by Kip Praslowicz

Doug was well known around Duluth and actually far and wide for his vintage costumes, furniture and decorations. His most recent business incarnation, the Retro Mall on First Street, was profiled on PDD last year: here.

Doug was also very well known as a friend to many, including many cheapskate artists and performer-types. There used to be a sign in his costume shop that read “Friends of Doug Pay Double” or something like that. But his friends didn’t pay double. My memories of Doug are of him always being ready to help out a friend, usually on short notice, and always on a budget. I was involved in a few businesses in the 2000s and Doug made immeasurable contributions to those endeavors, especially at the NorShor and Speedy Wienie. Immeasurable contributions, always for free or cheap, and always with amazing grace and kindness.

Another miraculous gift of Doug’s was his ability to come up with great ideas for a look, a style, or a project. And then he could help you find the supplies to make it happen.

Doug would occasionally work with film crews who were working in Duluth. He helped out with costuming on the Academy Award nominated 2005 film North Country. Doug often related how he was told by the Hollywood pros who toured his extensive costume collection that he should insure his collection for at least a million dollars. Like Doug himself, it turns out, his collection was actually priceless.

According to someone close to Doug, the word is that he was helping a young guy who needed a couch when he fell down an elevator shaft and later died of his injuries. I am not surprised that he was helping someone, but I was shocked to see that he died.

One of my prized curio possessions that I got from Doug is a giant, white tarp. “That I’m going to have to charge you for, JP.”

“Sure, Doug, how much?”

“How about ten bucks.”

We called it “the Love Tarp” and I used to set it out at Movies in the Park because it was easy to find, and big enough for a big group of people. Everyone was welcome. And that, in a way, is a bit of a tribute to Doug all by itself.

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Karen Diver discusses another recent court decision against Duluth »

At risk of setting off an avalanche of flaming comments here on PDD I am going to post this interview that I worked on today.

The City of Duluth’s request for an appeal of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals full panel has been denied. Karen Diver came in to the WGZS studios today to discuss her take on that decision and the way forward. In addition to all of the legal wrangling and tribal sovereignty issues that she takes up in this interview, I also thought it was interesting when (toward the end) she addressed a desire to cooperate with Duluth businesses and establishments including the NorShor which is much beloved by many a PDDer. I have divided interests in this matter personally and even if I did have a fully formed opinion about what would be “right” I am not really in a position to express it here. And anyway, I don’t have a fully formed opinion. And that’s where you come in PDD:

What do you think the FDL Band should do going forward? What do you think Duluth should do?

(Please note that the video may provide some context, but really this is a radio interview, not television, the lines are blurred on social media).

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Idle No More Jingle Dress Dance Event in Duluth, Radio Documentary »

Here is something that I have been working on. A one-hour radio documentary collection of sounds and voices from the Jan. 11 Idle No More Jingle Dress Dance demonstration through the streets of Duluth. It airs at 11 a.m. today on 89.1 FM WGZS in Cloquet. In case you are like the other 100 million people who will be instead listening to and viewing the inauguration of President Obama at that time on this Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday I have posted it online for people to listen to anytime in the form of a YouTube video.

I am still unhappy with some of the mix, the narration and my writing, but I am happy with being able to share these voices talking about this remarkable, historic event.

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