2002: Innovation and Invention

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Wing Young Huie, “Corner of Chicago & Lake, Minneapolis, Minnesota, ca. 1982.” from the exhibit, Lake Street USA

Lake Street USA was initially a six-mile public art exhibition of 600 photographs taken by Wing Young Huie, accompanied by the words of the people in the photographs talking about their lives and their neighborhoods.The exhibit challenged the perceptions and misconceptions about the city by providing intimate glimpses into the everyday realities of its inhabitants. Photographs and text were hung in store windows, bus stops, street level mural-sized screens, and on the sides of buildings – the entire exhibit visible from the sidewalk or street. At the exhibit’s conclusion, a public auction of all 600 photographs was held, with the proceeds donated to Lake Street community organizations. Ruminator Press published a book about the project by the same name, which went on to become a 2002 Minnesota Book Award finalist for the Nature & Minnesota category. Studs Terkel wrote of Huie’s remarkable photographs, “they have a touch of early-century Lewis Hine, a hint of the Great Depression Walker Evans, and a dash of Edward Hopper’s paintings, reflecting the loneliness and apartness of the ‘them’ who are really us.”

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A single poem—heart-rending, fearful, raging, beautiful, grotesque, even hilarious—lets us know we’re not alone in dealing with cancer. That was the idea behind  The Cancer Poetry Project which sought and drew more than 1,200 submissions from published poets, first-time poets and everyone in between. The 2002 Minnesota Book Award-winning result is an anthology of 140 poems, plus the story and people behind each.

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William Kent Krueger won his second Minnesota Book Award for Popular Fiction with Purgatory Ridge – another Cork O’Connor mystery. How many writers have balked at being asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” Kent remembers well the germ of the story for his 2002 Book Award-winning mystery here.
It was a big year for inventions. Some had more of an impact than others, and are seen everywhere today. Others, not so much…
  • Japanese toymaker Takara introduced its Bow-Lingual dog translator. Attach the radio microphone to your pet’s collar, and a handheld receiver “translates” his barks, growls and whines into such phrases as “I need to go out,” “I’m lonely,” and “Who’s there?” How does it work? Samples of dog noises were collected, interpreted by animal behaviorists and put in a dog database. When Fido barks, the sounds are transmitted and matched to the database. While not in widespread use today, the Bow-Lingual did go on to win an IgNobel Prize the following year. We say, when in doubt, feed him.
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  • Another invention of 2002: Wireless Headsets. Bluetooth technology developed by a consortium of electronics manufacturers to connect various digital components over short distances let you walk around town with your cell phone tucked away in your pocket or briefcase and a tiny headset tucked into your ear. The biggest drawback (besides looking like a Secret Service agent): the headsets need to be charged regularly.
  • And if you think vacuuming sucks, you’re not alone. A group of M.I.T. brainiacs created Roomba in 2002, a robot that vacuums your house for you. Its sensors keep it from bumping into walls and furniture or falling off staircases. When it finishes a room, Roomba beeps proudly and turns itself off. We’ve been wanting one for eleven years, and counting…

A passionate and poetic writer, Louise Erdrich lent both elegance and wit to her most ambitious novel to date, The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse. In this book (which won the Award for Novel & Short Story), Erdrich wove a tale that spanned nearly a century, the strange and compelling story of Father Damien Modeste, a beloved reservation priest who hid his true identity as a woman beneath his cassock. The Last Report was up against two equally powerful titles for this category: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger and In the Company of Angels by N. M. Kelby.

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Former Vice President Walter Mondale welcomes then-freshman Sen. Paul Wellstone to Washington, D.C., in 1991. Photo by Terry Gydesen

Eleven days before his 2002 U.S. Senate election, Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash in Eveleth, Minnesota. His wife, Sheila, and daughter, Marcia, also died on board. Wellstone’s sons, David and Mark, were not on the flight, and now co-chair the Wellstone Action nonprofit organization in honor of their parents.

Click here to check out all of the 2002 Minnesota Book Awards winners and finalists.

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