Regional Rivalries

We have a joke here in Minnesota: “What’s the best thing to come out of Iowa?” “Interstate 35.” Apologies to my Iowan friends, but I’m sure that you just turn the joke around anyway.

An interesting feature of life in the United States is the rivalries that exist between various regions and states. Some rivalries are sports-based, some are rooted in cultural or perceived cultural differences.

I recently ran across this fun cartoon that depicts how various states in the midwest view each other.

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Regional rivalries or stereotypes exist in China as well. Beijingers generally look down on everyone, as do people from Shanghai. People from Shanghai think that Beijingers are only interested in politics and Beijingers think Shanghai people are money-grubbing. The northeast is considered by the rest of the country to be full of drunks, and everyone thinks that people in Guangdong only think about making money.

What are the regional rivalries in your area?

Image source: @BestPixMN

Who Can Turn the World on With Her Smile?

The great actress and comedienne Mary Tyler Moore died on Wednesday. She got her start on television playing Laura on The Dick Van Dyke Show, and later starred in her own show, simply named, The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

When my family moved to the Twin Cities in 1973 from Pakistan, the show was already a hit. Having lived outside of the US nearly all of my life, I knew little about life and culture here. Sitting down to watch the show with my family every weekend was an important piece of my “re-enculturation.” It was especially exciting to see my new hometown featured in the opening credits. It remains one of my favorite shows to catch on DVD.

Because the show was set in Minneapolis, it has always had a special place in the hearts of Minnesotans. Here’s what the Minneapolis StarTribune notes had to say:

In the process of creating a pop-culture icon, Moore and the show sold the Twin Cities as a progressive metropolis.

To this day, tourists cruise through the Kenwood neighborhood to catch a glimpse of the Victorian house where Richards resided during the show’s early seasons. In 2002, the city of Minneapolis and TV Land teamed up to erect a statue on the Nicollet Mall, commemorating the moment in the opening credits in which Richards hurls her tam in the air after a satisfying day of shopping.

In 1999, Entertainment Weekly named the shot as the second-greatest moment in TV history, behind only John Kennedy’s assassination and funeral.

StarTribune columnist James Lileks produced a short video on the impact the show had on our city. You can see it here.

Minnesota Public Radio also did a nice story yesterday on how Mary Tyler Moore made Minneapolis a star.

And just for memories, here is a clip of a scene that is often ranked as one of the greatest TV scenes of all time, from “Chuckles the Clown’s Funeral.” (email readers, go here to see the video)

Farewell, Mary! Thanks for the laughs, and for helping me adjust to live in America!

How are the Roads?

For centuries (maybe millennia), a common way for people in China to greet each other has been to ask a simple question: “have you eaten yet?”

When I lived in China’s northeast region (“dongbei”), it seemed that every chance meeting or new conversation began with “leng bu leng?” Are you cold?

We are now in the grip of a winter in Minnesota and I’ve noticed that most conversations begin with some variation of “how are the roads?”

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This afternoon they weren’t great, thanks to a powdery snowfall that made for some slippery driving.

So, remember, should you happen to meet a Minnesotan, be sure to ask, “how are the roads?”

Image credit: by Ruin Raider, via Flickr

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Friday Photo: Minneapolis

In December, we did a family outing to the museum and observation deck of the Foshay Tower, Minneapolis’ first skyscraper. Completed in 1929, and modeled after the Washington Monument, the art deco building was the tallest building in the city until 1972. Today it is a hotel. You can see the reflection of the Foshay in the neighboring glass building. If the weather is great, as it was when we visited, the observation deck offers a great view of the Twin Cities.

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If you’re in Minneapolis or have plans to visit, and the weather is decent, this is definitely worth a visit.

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Why Do They Ask Me That?

A few weeks back I was talking with a businessman from Germany who was trying to navigate the complexities of life in Minnesota.

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“Why,” he asked me, “do the checkout clerks in stores ask me how my day is going?”

“And when they ask, how should I respond??”

He was completely flummoxed!

I assured him that the question was not being asked out of a genuine desire to know, or in order to elicit an elaborate and detailed response; rather it was merely a greeting, a way of saying “hell0.”

I also told him that the appropriate response to such a question is some variation of “great!,” and that it would be polite for him to follow with some variation of “and you?”

The poor man just shook his head in disbelief, and I then got to introduce him to the concept of “Minnesota Nice.”

Since then I have been thinking and reading about Minnesota Nice. It often gets a bad rap as being simply a fancy term for passive aggression or conflict avoidance.

This video from TPT Rewire gives a fuller explanation:

To my mind, however, a key feature of Minnesota Nice is just being pleasant. And after living for nearly 3 decades where interactions in stores and other service venues ran the gamut from robotic to indifferent to surly, I kind of like the polite banter at the check-out counter. So what if the clerk doesn’t really care how my day is going. Is it wrong to be pleasant?

I’ll take Minnesota Nice over Surly Socialism any day!

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An Ode to Minnesota

On a morning when the (real) temperature is Minus 11 (or 11 below, or negative 11, or however you want to say it), this poem pretty much sums up life in Minnesota in January.

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(I do not know the origin of the poem. It seems to have been published in a local city newspaper, then posted to a Park District Facebook page, then picked up by a Facebook friend of mine. That’s how the Internet works, I guess!)

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A Chinese Football Fan

I used to be a Minnesota Vikings fan, which is to say that I used to actually care whether or not they won games. That changed in 2001 when, after being undefeated for the entire season, they were beaten by the New York Giants in the NFC Championship Game, 41, to 0!

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I was living in China at the time, so wasn’t able to actually watch the game; but when I heard what the score was I made a vow that henceforth I would never again care whether the Vikings won or lost. There is just no point.

A friend on Facebook tipped me off to a great post written by blogger Chris Gehry about the heartache of being a Vikings fan, titled How to Survive Being a Vikings Fan. He writes about the despondancy of his young son at Minnesota’s loss to Seattle on Sunday:

I don’t think I’ve ever seen another human being so disconsolate.

After about ten minutes of sobbing, I gathered Isaiah into my biggest, most fatherly bear hug. After his chest stopped heaving quite so violently, I held him by the shoulders, looked him level in the eyes, and said, “Son, now you are a Vikings fan.”

Those are almost the exact words I said to a Chinese college student who was watching the game with me on Sunday. He’s been in the US for almost 3 years and has become quite the football fan. His loyalties are a bit divided, though, since his host family last year were hardcore Packers fans.

In this game, however, his heart was decidedly with Minnesota. As the game progressed and it looked like things were going Minnesota’s way, I put on my Debby Downer hat and tried to prepare him for what I believed would be an inevitable loss, most likely in the waning moments of the game. He would have none of it, especially when Minnesota was up 9-0.

“Don’t get your hopes up,” I said. “The Vikings will most likely blow it. This is who they are. This is what they do. Trust me. I have been watching them for 40 years.” He would have none of it.

And when the kicker missed a 27-yard field goal with just 22 seconds left to lose the game, I turned to him and said, “Now you know what its like to be a Vikings fan.”

After a few minutes of sadness and disbelief, he pulled himself together, changed the channel, and began cheering for the Packers!

Image credit: Business Insider