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Collected editorials

Politics and the truly atrocious

Knowing things that ain’t so

One of the bits of fannish filklore is that SF writers predicted everything about going to the moon except that it would be a big TV event. I’ve known that for a long time. I’ve repeated that bit of irony now and then. Turns out it ain’t so. In rec.arts.sf.written Butch Malahide wrote:

That didn’t happen in the real world–I watched the TV coverage of Apollo XI as intently as anybody, and I don’t recall there being any live video of the actual landing–but like most everything else, it *was* predicted in a science fiction story: Harold M. Sherman, “All Aboard for the Moon” (Novel–45,000), Amazing Stories, April, 1947. Apparently never reprinted, so I’ll quote a couple of passages from the story.

p. 35, column 1:

“I’m also indebted to the General Electric Company of Schenectady for permitting me to install a hitherto untried sending and receiving radio set which beams radio waves of such high frequency that we are confident they can penetrate both the Heavyside and Appleton layers which surround the earth, at respective levels of sixty and two hundred miles, so that we can keep in constant touch with this planet during our travels and while on the moon.

“These new instruments, in conjunction with the television apparatus we are carrying, will permit us to scan some of the moon’s surface and project back to earth the actual scenes as we are witnessing them. You know, of course, that television waves travel in a straight line and from the vantage point of the moon they can be beamed directly to earth. In fact, could a television station be established on the moon, we could then beam all television shows to the moon and relay them back to earth on a straight line so that they would be receivable everywhere.”

p. 95, column 2:

“We’ll be coming in for a landing in a little over an hour,” he said. “We’ve got a lot to do to get ready. I’ve already set the automatic cameras to take pictures of the lunar landscape as we approach. Wilbur, you’ll have to stand by the television and radio and keep them both in operation. If possible we want to televise our landing back to earth.”

It hurts to know that I’ve been wrong for forty years. If only I had started reading Amazing Stories a couple of years earlier I could have set all of my fellow SF fans straight.

Classic moments in taste

Our Lady of the Large Black Dog claims that she can count on me to point out really “garpy” stuff. I believe her to be right. It is one of my merits that I have an unfailing eye for the truly atrocious.

National politics, 2008

Barring an extraordinary surprise, the Democrats will nominate a black man rather than a woman, thereby following a long national tradition. After all, the USA gave black men the vote half a century before it gave the vote to women.

Alas poor Hillary, she was before her time; if history is any guide we shan’t see a woman president until 2056 – if then.

One of the upsides of the great race is that the national media discovered South Dakota and the corn palace. I didn’t see it, but supposedly Wolf Blitzer, et al, abandoned the candidate du jour to gawk at the Corn Palace and mutter amongst themselves “have you ever seen anything like that?”

Local politics, 2008

I did vote in the primary; naturally I didn’t vote for a winner. Since I am a South Dakota Republican (it’s what Massachusetts Democrats become when they change color from Blue to Red) I had quite a few irrelevant options. I dithered between voting for undecided, Mitt Romney, or Ron Paul – Huckabee not making it through my rather porous filter. (Huckabee strikes me as a potential Nehemiah Scudder.) It was quite a close call, but in the end I voted for Ron Paul. After all, he is the Republican version of Ralph Nader.

There were various nonentities running for the SD legislature. I guessed well and didn’t manage to vote for any winners. (In that category, even the winners are losers.)

The big local race was for the county coroner. The incumbent is a dentist named Dr. Boller. He is even older than I am, so much so that he did things to my teeth when I was a wee lad. He is a nice chap and all that, but my memory is long and I do not forgive. My readers who are concerned with the course of American Democracy will be pleased to know that incumbents can lose.

Then there is the matter of the Hyde County states attorney. I suppose that most of my readers have forgotten recent doings in Outlaw County so forgive me for a brief refresher. Last year our then Chief of Police shot his wife whilst she was sleeping in bed. He claimed that it was an accident. The South Dakota Department of Criminal Investigation believed otherwise. There were little things, e.g., the fact that he was cleaning a loaded gun in the middle of the night, that the gun had three safeties, that he unfortunately hit his wife in the middle of her forehead, and that he was in the middle of several extramarital affairs.

One of those affairs was with the Hyde County states attorney, one Jennifer L. She was the person who would have been responsible for prosecuting our Police Chief if the State had not removed management of affairs (you should excuse the expression) from her delicate hands. It may be just as well – at the time she announced that she was defending him.

This created an interesting situation. The position of States Attorney (don’t ask me to explain the title) is an elective position. However Jennifer was an appointee, who had been appointed by the Governor to fill out the term of the previous States Attorney. In the normal course of events she would have run for election and as the incumbent would have easily been re-elected. The course was not normal; Jennifer’s popularity suffered a striking decline as she, perhaps quite wisely, played least in sight for several months. (She was never charged as an accomplice in the alleged murder of the Police Chief’s wife.)

For reasons quite unknown to me, we have two official attorneys, the aforesaid States Attorney and the City Attorney. I gather that the City Attorney is responsible for the civil affairs of Highmore, whereas the States Attorney prosecutes local malefactors (or not, if she doesn’t make it to the trial.) Given that both positions are not particularly onerous part time positions, I don’t quite see the need for two lawyers when one could handle the duties quite handily with plenty of time for golf, but who am I to question the wisdom of The Way Things Are Done.

As it chances, our City Attorney had entered the primary as a candidate to become our States Attorney. Ours was not the only county where she was running – she was also running in another county. Jennifer filed a suit against the City Attorney to bar her from running in more than one county. Our City Attorney said, in effect, the hell with this, I don’t need this trouble and dropped out of the running. For one brief shining moment we had no candidates at all for the office. Pity that these things never last.

Our City Attorney persuaded her father to run in her stead. Her father also is a lawyer. The fact that he once was disbarred is one of his chief merits – he should fit right in with the way things are done around here. However at the last minute a second lawyer filed for the job, one Dan El Dweek who is a Highmore resident and has never been disbarred and/or to the local bar.

The upshot is that we have no Republican running, no Democrat running, and two independents running. That is the way things should be. Would that our country had such wisdom at the national level.

For those who might be wondering, Ken Huber, our former Police Chief, is residing in a Graybar Hotel in Sioux Falls. His trial is scheduled in September. The Graybar Hotel in question being in Sioux Falls is a bit of South Dakota trivia. Back in the good old days when the state was organizing itself, Sioux Falls had the choice of being the site of the state prison or the state college and chose the state prison. Having attended the state college (now the state university) I can only applaud the wisdom of the Sioux Falls city fathers.

Incidentally, the latest gossip is that Jennifer and Ken got married so that she won’t have to testify against him at his trial. I don’t believe a word of it, but it fits in with the on going soap opera.


My eldest sister tells me that we have enough Swedish ancestry to claim Swedish citizenship. I wanted to check into it, but there doesn’t seem to be a Swedish consulate in South Dakota.


95% of all drivers know themselves to be better than average drivers. Equally well, 95% of all programmers know themselves to be superior programmmers.

This page was last updated June 4, 2008.

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Collected editorials