Robin says: "If Dan Reetz didn't exist, it would be necessary for Cory Doctorow to invent him." He's talking about this interesting Russian guy who lives in North Dakota who built his own book scanner.
I was already 16 years old when I first set foot in a McDonald's. This was partially because my mother wouldn't let us eat fast food, but also because we lived 80 miles away from the closest one. It turns out that the location in continental America that is furthest from a McDonald's (145 miles) was actually very close to where I lived.
North Dakota is home to protectionist policies ranging from agriculture co-ops to state-run insurance to a law demanding that all pharmacies be locally owned (banning the only advantage of a Wal-Mart: cheap drugs). There is the state-run Bank of North Dakota, which in a year that saw private banks taking federal bailouts, returned $30 million to the state's general fund. More importantly, these state organizations operate in competition with private business, a fact that keeps everyone honest and is a system that, while quite successful and popular here, is clearly going to destroy America if partly implemented on any national scale, such as with health care.
This nails the contradiction of the state, which has two of the more progressive senators -- Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan -- yet is culturally more red than Utah. If you ever wondered what a libertarian socialist economy would look like (and who hasn't?), North Dakota is basically it.
Conrad, the senior senator, was on Charlie Rose recently, speaking about the glories of social co-operatives. Co-operatives!
The Awl: Midget Wrestling in North Dakota. I don't know how this story came about, but a strange coincidence: I used to drink in this bar three times a week.
Chuck's "What I've Learned" in Esquire. "When I read criticism, I never learn anything about the record or the movie or the book. I mostly learn about the writer."
Who's not totally getting fucked over by the economy? North Dakota! (My family is small-town bankers from NoDak. This quote from the story is pretty much them: "Our banks don't do those goofy loans.")
North Dakotans are the most extroverted and agreeable people in the country, according to recent research visualized on this map. So fuck you guys.
ESPN Mag has an excerpt from Chuck's newest novel, Downtown Owl. I can guarantee this will be the only book to ever feature a passage about my high school sports+girls rival -- Wishek, ND (pop. 800).
Klosterman in Time Out. "People talk about how strange it must have been growing up on a farm in North Dakota. But I think kids who grow up in Manhattan have the weirdest understanding of what the world is like. They essentially don't even live in America. They live in this place where nobody drives, where you can get anything you want at any given time, where diversity is normal. A political moderate here is somebody who, like, doesnt want McCain to die. To me, that would be weird."
"Google on Monday said it has a plan to have American consumers from Manhattan to rural North Dakota surfing the Web on handheld gadgets at gigabits-per-second speeds by the 2009 holiday season." Finally, some good news for North Dakota!
Best NYT Mag Heffernan column so far: In Defense of Lurking, which spins internet lurking as an age-old phenom called reading.