Friday, August 17, 2018

The State Fair

In the nineteenth and most of the twentieth centuries the Minnesota State Fair, like other fairs, had a serious purpose with entertainment adjuncts. The primary reason for its existence was to provide, in a time of difficult transportation, black and white media limited to print, and slow communication, a meeting place for vendors and customers of agricultural equipment and livestock. This was in a country where the majority of economic activity and employment was closely related to agriculture. Machinery manufacturers displayed the latest farming equipment which farmers isolated in the hinterlands were happy to travel to the city and evaluate. They brought with them their cattle, horse, pigs and chickens, hoping to win ribbons for their quality and perhaps sell some as breeding stock to other farmers.

Additionally, this gave others an opportunity to sell unusual sights and experiences to the farmers and their families. Midways with terrifying rides and girly shows, rigged games and freaks, were the subjects of conversations for the next 364 days back in Ottertail County. Foods that were unlikely to be available at home were sold to those who spent the entire fair on the grounds or were just visiting for the day. Horse races and car races were a staple of entertainment.

The state fair has changed. Travel is no longer the uncomfortable experience of the past. Agriculturalists jump into air-conditioned diesel 4x4 crew cab pickups and after a couple of hours at most are at the fairgrounds. Since most dairy herds are fathered through the artificial insemination process, there's no need to even own a bull or display your own. The 4-H, an organization for rural youth, encourages animal husbandry and members send and exhibit their cattle but the practice is a remnant of the past. Pigs and chickens are a sight for city and suburban children that have never looked on one before.

Farmers can chat over the phone with machinery dealers and look at equipment in operation via computer. Some even go to the manufacturer's plants to watch their very own monster tractor being assembled. Tractor and combine companies no park fewer and fewer of their wares wheel-to-wheel on Machinery Hill for granger's inspection.

The fact is that much of what made the state fair an attraction in the past is now provided by other, more spectacular sources. Horse races are contested, with pari-mutuel betting, at a track on the other side of the city. Car races are held regularly in other locations as well. The scary Midway rides aren't nearly as exciting as those at the permanent amusement park down the road. Television and movies provide a steady diet of freaks.

So,what's left? As always, food. And music. For a time there was a rival exhibition called "Taste of Minnesota". Attendees were able to buy and eat a variety of over-priced and unhealthy food while listening to generally bad music. Sadly this institution failed. The State Fair was quick to fill the void and as time has passed transformed itself into its own "Taste of Minnesota". It actually admits as much. Local papers tout the inventive culinary choices available.

 While Earth, Wind & Fire is one of the great musical groups of all time, the band hasn't had a top ten album since 1981.

 Instead of cud-chewing bovines and roaring race cars, fair goers will get to see local musical acts that they've probably never heard of.  Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake, Taylor Swift and Pitbull aren't on the fair schedule.

In his book Old Glory, Jonathon Raban describes his impressions of the Minnesota State Fair:

     The state fair sprawled across a hillside and a valley, and at first glance it did indeed look like a city under occupation by an army of rampaging Goths. I'd never seen so many enormous people assembled in one place. These farming families from Minnesota and Wisconsin were the descendants of hungry immigrants from Germany and Scandinavia. Their ancestors must have been lean and anxious men with the famines of Europe bitten into their faces. Generation by generation, their families had eaten themselves into Americans. Now they all had the same figure: same broad bottom, same Buddha belly, same neckless join between turkey-wattle chin and sperm whale torso. The women had poured themselves into pink stretch-knit pant suits, the men swelled against every seam and button of their plaid shirts and Dacron slacks. Under the brims of their caps, their food projected from their mouths. Foot-long hot dogs. Bratwurst sausages, dripping with hot grease. Hamburgers. Pizzas. Scoops of psychedelic ice cream. Wieners-dun-in-buns.
     Stumbling, half-suffocated, through this abundance of food and flesh, I felt like a brittle matchstick man. Every time I tried to turn my head I found someone else's hot dog, bloody with ketchup, sticking into my own mouth. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Seventy-three Years Ago This Week

the U.S. Army Air Force dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan and another on Nagasaki. The last living crewman of the three aircraft sortie, tells his story of that day here.

Image result for atomic mushroom cloud

 The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: 70 years later - Photos - The atomic bombing of ...
All Americans should be very happy and proud that our government was willing and able to exact revenge on a population that unanimously supported an effort to kill or enslave all of us. Incinerating Japanese teen-age girls walking to school was important in that they were the ones that would be supplying the kamikaze pilots of the future. This week should be a national holiday and there should have been a prominent national monument erected to memorialize these two explosions.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Donut Awards

A sign in the bakery section of a local supermarket.

The sign does not indicate the nature of the award or who may have presented it. No one in the bakery knew anything about the award. No copy of the award was posted. It all seems rather suspicious.

Most donut awards are presented to people that can eat the most donuts in the shortest period of time. Donut Bar, a business in San Diego, claims to have numerous awards for super donuts, if you can call feeding one to Ellen Degeneres on television an award. They don't display copies of any awards on their website.

Any donut bakery may have won a blue ribbon at the Cerro Gordo County Fair in Mason City, IA or even the big blue ribbon at the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo. No such ribbon, even a red or white one from a lesser fair, like those given out at the Phelps County Fair in Holdredge, NB, is visible anywhere in the supermarket. Evidently, the country needs a donut contest, like the failing Miss America Pageant, to authenticate the quality of the donut and root out donut impostors.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Supporting the Police

Signs such as this one are often planted in yards all across America. What do they mean? What is the property owner saying when he posts a sign like this?

First of all, the resident has little or no option in supporting his local police, unless he fails to pay the taxes that finance public employee salaries, That, however, will create other problems but paychecks are unlikely to bounce. Perhaps the sign poster could augment the salaries of policemen by simply giving them money or other things. That might be considered bribery but it's done all the time. Maybe the poster could lobby for increased pay for the police but that's an issue that's handled by their union and city officials. He could call up the mayor and make his wishes known but the effectiveness of that tactic is unlikely to be meaningful.

In any event, the sign itself is the issue. The poster is saying that he, somehow, supports a portion of the public workforce. Not the water and sewer workers, not the tax assessors, not the building permit bureaucrats, not the clerical staff at city hall, not the fire department. Only the police. Don't the others deserve support as well?

Even supporters of police must admit that there are criminals in police forces. Internal affairs departments are among the busiest sections of big city law enforcement. Do they also support the burglars, child molesters and thieves that are occasionally rooted out of police departments? Of course they would say "No" to that. Ergo the reality is that they are supporting the concept of police, the institution, not each individual policeman.

After reading this sign, what should the proper response be, at least as far as the poster is concerned? Is the sign meant to make passers-by more supportive of the police or is it meant to send a signal? If the latter, what would that signal be? Could it be a signal to the police themselves?

Second, how would a lack of support for the police be shown? We can think about that for awhile.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Ayn Rand Is The Patron Saint Of The American Motorist

Philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand was a proponent of Objectivism, among other things, and the author of The Virtue of Selfishness, a work that maintains that the fulfilling one's own needs produces the optimum for everyone.

Perhaps with little or no awareness of Rand or philosophy, American drivers fully adopt her viewpoint. Speeding, recklessly changing lanes, closely following other drivers and running red lights, evidently in the firm belief that their time is more valuable than that of others would be encouraged by Rand. American drivers should have a small photo of the lady taped above the radio or a small statuette in her honor glued to the dash board.  

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Why Are There Tariffs?

Back in the days before Model Ts and gramaphones most federal tax receipts were gathered from tariffs on imports.This article explains how the process actually worked. Until 1913 there was no income tax in the US, federal income came from tariffs and excise taxes. Consequently, the federal government was a much smaller part of the economy.

Nobody looks at tariffs as a federal revenue enhancement now. Income from tariffs is meaningless in the US budget. Tariffs are rather meant to "level the playing field" between international sellers of goods that have different production costs or enjoy state subsidies. In the case of many Chinese imports to the US, the Chinese advantage in lower labor costs and government subsidies supposedly gives their sellers an advantage over their US competition. Tariffs on various products are meant to hobble the Chinese to the extent that the American counterparts to these products will have a an advantage in price.

This brings up some interesting questions. First, and perhaps most important, as a free person shouldn't an American have the right to spend his money on anything he wants at whatever price he can negotiate? Where does the government get off telling a consumer that he must pay more for a Korean washing machine because the Whirlpool Corporation is having trouble turning a profit?

Second, US trade negotiators decry the subsidies foreign governments give their own producers. This while American farmers are subsidized perhaps as much as any on earth.

Some economists have brought up the thought: "What would happen if the Chinese or the EU members or the Mexicans simply gave the products in question to Americans?" Well, we don't need to speculate. It has happened.

In 1886, the French people gifted the Americans with a copper-clad statue now known as "The Statue of Liberty". In many ways it has become symbolic of the country itself and is recognized everywhere as an American icon.

The statue was designed by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and built by Gustave Eiffel, the same Frenchman that built the lacy steel tower in Paris. It wasn't an American project.

The point is that there were surely American sculptors and engineers capable of producing a similar or even better representation of lady liberty than these two croissant munching bell epoque poseurs. If the US really needed a giant green lady to welcome voyagers to New York harbor, someone from the local artistic community could have been hired, and paid, to produce it. Since it was a gift and supplied for free no Americans benefited financially.
 Mount Rushmore Wallpapers

The country didn't need the French to finance Mount Rushmore. The federal government paid for it and American sculptor Gutzon Borglum blasted away the rock that hid the faces of four American heroes.

Texas State Fair attendees are welcomed by Big Tex, a world famous sculpture, purchased in its original form for $750. The lofty fellow has gone through many changes through the years, not all good.


An electrical fire in 2012, on Big Tex's 60th birthday, destroyed the guy, but the Texans brought him back to life for the fair the following year. Didn't need any Frenchmen, or Chinese, to do it, either.
 State Fair and Lululemon debacles top most popular stories ...
 Summer Fun at Top Amusement Park of Minnesota -
Legendary lumberjack Paul Bunyan, together with his monster blue ox Babe, greet fishermen and hunters on their way to the Minnesota north country. They're an American product, not an import.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Big Waters Classic Southside Sprint 2018

The Chicago Avenue-48th St. neighborhood of south Minneapolis, seemingly in a state of transition, was the site of a much-reduced local road cycling scene on July 22 as it hosted the annual Southside Sprint. There were large, competitive fields in all classes and fine weather conditions for the urban race that circled the business district and determined the state criterium champions.
 Melissa Dahlmann and father. It was the second consecutive womens' state criterium championship for Melissa.  A week later she became the women's 1-2 state road racing champion as well.

Jennifer Hale crosses the line first in the womens' 1-2 race to collect a $408 crowd prime.

Category 3 rider Risa Hustad took a break from her track riding to get a podium spot on the road.