Cakes and Gramsci

There is a 104 year old lady who is entering the cake making contest at the Minnesota State Fair. She has won many ribbons and wants to win some more. She attributes her robust age to beginning every morning by thinking, “It’s going to be a wonderful day.” I am going to try this. Once again I quote Gramsci:

“I’m a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will.”

Gramsci and a 104 year old champion cake maker… Models for this era…

Farmers’ Market Report

The Farmers’ Market is back in serious operation. I got kalamata olive bread, craisin wild rice buns, and asparagus. There was lots of asparagus. I had to restrain myself and not buy too much. That was it for my purchases, though there was more bread, eggs, cheese, green onions, herb sets, lettuce sets, flowers and flower plants, tomato plants…

Being the Majority

I’m reading the blog of Camestros Felapton — his history of the political struggles in the SFF community over the past decade or so. What fascinates me about SFF rightwingers is their belief that they are a majority. That they represent the opinions and values of the great mass of Americans. The Hugo vote must be somehow fixed, because in a fair election the books they liked (and which they often had written) would win. The people who believe the American election was stolen are much the same. Of course Trump won, they think, because most people supported him. So if he didn’t get the votes, there must be some kind of fraud.

I find this belief baffling. The Hugo Awards clearly represent the opinions of Worldcon members. They are the ones who vote on the Hugos. When Hugo nomination time rolls around, people do point out which of their stories are eligible. There may be a little politicking: people asking friends to vote for them. But that’s it. There is no fraud, even if you — or I — don’t like the results.

Polls and recent elections suggest that the majority of Americans who vote favor the Democrats, though not by a huge amount. The Electoral College makes it harder for Democrats to win presidential elections; and the way the Senate is set up (two senators per state, regardless of population) favors Republicans, who tend to represent states with low populations. And there is gerrymandering and laws that make it more difficult for people of color to vote. Still and all, in spite of this, Democrats are the majority of the voting population. With all his failings, Biden is more popular than Trump.

Of course the belief that there is some kind of fraud legitimates attempts to overthrow elections. As a number of blogs have pointed, the final argument seems to be: any election that a Democrat wins is fraudulent, because real Americans will always vote Republican.

The Plague and a Zoo

A Visit to Como Zoo and Japanese Garden  

Three silverback gorillas 
knuckling in the sun,   
two feather-duster ostriches, 
too hot to run, 
picking grass along a fence, 
while giraffes with shambling elegance  
perform a kind of mating dance.     

Bears and monkeys! Maybe cranes,   
though not in view. (The sign remains.)  
A deep, green garden,   
a silent pond,  
shining koi,  
and so we end.

I went to Como Zoo with a friend yesterday. I did not write this poem after that visit, but visits to the zoo are all pretty similar. It was pleasant.

The best part is probably the Conservatory, which is a classic 19th century conservatory, full of palm trees and orchids. We skipped the Japanese Garden, due to fatigue and heat.

I don’t know how the rest of you feel. I am unsettled now that Patrick and I have been vaccinated and can (in theory) go out and about. I have now been out with friends three times, all of us vaccinated and taking precautions when around others: masks and distancing and much washing of hands. Each time I go out, I feel like a hermit crab that is being forcibly removed from its shell. Yes, it’s worth it, but boy it is hard. (A hermit crab would probably not feel anything was worth getting pulled out of its shell.)

It’s possible we will get back to normal. What is normal? And in which countries? And when will the next pandemic arrive? One problem with writing SF is, one has a pretty dark imagination. In SF only the idiots say, “This isn’t a problem. We will get back to normal.”


I was reading the group blog Crooked Timber yesterday, and there was a discussion of immigrants. When do they become assimilated? The answer of course is, when the Borg finally win. But aside from that… The English apparently have a test. Ask people who they rooted for in world cricket matches. If they root for India or Pakistan or the West Indies rather than England, they are not assimilated.

One of my childhood memories is what a big deal it was when members of Scandinavian royal families visited Minnesota. They came here because the state was very heavily settled by immigrants from Scandinavia. They were visiting their relatives, and their relatives were excited by this. “Our king!” “Our crown prince!” At some point, the visits mostly stopped, I suspect because the older members of the immigrant community died, and the younger ones felt less connected to the Old Country.

A number of years ago, I met a young man at the local Finnish store. He was probably third generation Finnish-American. He was studying Finnish at the university and planned to move to Finland. My father’s parents came from Iceland, so I am the second generation born in North America. I studied Old Icelandic at the university, because Modern Icelandic wasn’t offered. I’ve been to Iceland twice. My brother has been many times. Over time, connections attenuate. But not always. The wonderful Minnesota poet Bill Holm, like me a couple of generations away from the Old Country, was described by Icelanders as being more Icelandic than they were.

There is no question in my mind that I am American. But it’s also clear to me that I am Icelandic-American. When do people assimilate? Some people get rid of the Old Country connections as quickly as possible. Some remain floating between two cultures, which is not a bad place to be. In 3 or 4 generations, the connections may vanish — or may not. Why does it matter?

Oz and Detroit

Thinking about children’s books led me to think about Uncle Shelby’s ABZ Book:

“O is for Oz. Do you want to visit the wonderful far-off land of Oz where the wizard lives and scarecrows can dance and the road is made of yellow bricks and everything is emerald green? Well, you can’t because there is no land of Oz and there is no Tin Woodsman and there is NO SANTA CLAUSE! Maybe someday you can go to Detroit.”

When I moved to Detroit in 1968, it seemed like a magical place to me. Every time I turned down an unfamiliar street there was another car plant. Many had been designed by the firm of Albert Kahn, a legendary industrial architect, and they were beautiful. The Detroit Art Institute had the Diego Rivera frescoes of industry in Detroit, which are still there, though most of the factories are gone, torn down. I’d go to Greek Town, which is apparently a tourist trap now, but was a genuine Greek neighborhood, full with taverns full of Greeks. I’d buy a bottle of Retsina, bread and cheese and to to Belle Isle, a park in the middle of the Detroit River, and sit under a tree and eat and drink.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, if someone had given me the choice of going to Oz or going to Detroit, I would have been hard put to make a choice. As a kid, I would have picked Oz. As an adult, I think I would have gone for Detroit. Those Rivera murals are wonderful, and so is Belle Isle and Retsina.

And so was an Albert Kahn factory, lit up by the night shift, shining at the end of an unfamiliar street.

End of February

It’s glorious out. 41 F. No wind. A bright, clear, intensely blue sky. The snow on the Farmers’ Market roofs is melting, and the falling drops of water shine in the sunlight. I put on a light jacket, but didn’t bother to zip or to take a scarf. Very nice. I got a loaf of craisin walnut flax bread and a loaf of wild rice bread and then came home. Because I slept badly, I plan to spend the day lazing.