19 November 2020

Updates from South Dakota

South Dakota has been in the national news a lot lately, and not just because Governor Kristi Noem has been vigorously defending the reelection of President Donald J. Trump in every venue she can find.  She was very active on Twitter but now she's moved to Parler:  

"It's official, I've joined @parler_app! Find me at @GovernorNoem. We need social media platforms that respect and protect FREE SPEECH. We need a whole lot more respect for Freedom and Personal Responsibilty in this country."

Wait until they hear that she's trying to figure out a way to stop Amendment A - which legalized marijuana in this state - from happening, because "it's just not right for South Dakota".  So much for Freedom and Personal Responsibility, right?  Constitutionally, she can't do anything about it, but I'm not sure she's aware of that.

Meanwhile, I know she doesn't care about the virus.  We are in a fearsome situation up here, complete with long articles in WaPo (here and HERE), USA Today ("The Dakotas are 'as bad as it gets anywhere in the world' for COVID-19"),  Forbes (South Dakota is the most dangerous place to travel in America), dire statistics in the NYTimes, and a Governor and a Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken who refuse - ABSOLUTELY REFUSE - to impose a mask mandate or a shutdown or anything else, because "freedom and personal responsibility."* 

How's that working?  Not so well:

South Dakota total cases – 68,671; 1 out of every 13 people in this state (pop. 880,000) has/has had the virus
South Dakota active cases – 19,240; 1 out of every 46 is currently active for the virus
South Dakota deaths 674 – 1 out of every 1,360 has died

Sioux Falls total cases – 22,440; 1 out of every 10 people in metro Sioux Falls (pop. 230,000) has/has 
had the virus
Sioux Falls active cases – 6,115; 1 out of every 38 is currently active for the virus
Sioux Falls deaths – 185; 1 out of every 1243 has died

And - from Johns Hopkins itself - a 56.4% positivity rate for testing, the 2nd highest in the nation.**

Heck of a job, Kristi & Paul.  Maybe you can start a noir folk duo and sing about Freedom & Incubation around the nation.

Oh, and on top of everything else, back on November 10th, "South Dakota health officials acknowledged that they include NICU (intensive care unit beds designed for infants) in their total count of hospital beds available in the state — a key metric that the governor has used to defend her handling of the coronavirus pandemic."  (Rapid City Journal)  In case you don't know, adult human beings, no matter how old and frail, cannot fit into baby pods.  

LATEST NEWS: there's the case of Attorney General, Jason Ravnsborg.  If you remember, he had an accident on a dark night on a rural road and "thought he hit a deer."  Instead, it turned out that he killed a local man, Joseph Boever.  But no one discovered that until the next day, and in the meantime Mr. Ravnsborg had been driven home by the local sheriff, etc., etc., etc.  Well, we finally got an update -  November 2nd, which seems so long ago - and it turns out that the results of the investigation so far are that Ravnsborg was distracted at the time of the crash, and Mr. Boever was holding a light in his hand when he was hit and killed. (NOTE: Deer not only have more legs than humans, they don't carry lights.) But the exact time of 911 call, and the victim's autopsy and toxicology report - and any charges - are still pending. Oh, to be white and hold high office... (Argus Leader)  

And then there's our local neighborhood goings on.  I came home from the grocery store the other day to find a white quad pick-up truck parked in front of a rental house across the street.  Big deal, right?  Except as I inched past (it's a narrow street), I noticed that the window on the passenger side had a small "Police" on it.  And, as I pulled into our driveway, I saw 4 guys get out of the truck, all wearing dark bulky blue sweaters with epaulettes, etc., on them, blue jeans or camo pants, and a very large gun strapped to their thigh.  Well, I was planning on taking a walk, but decided it wasn't the right time.  Instead I went on inside, made a cup of tea, and watched the show from my living room window, which is shielded by a large porch and an even larger tree from outside prying eyes.***  Our boys in blue went from room to room - at one point a woman came scurrying out (in 30 degree weather) wearing sweatpants, t-shirt, and flip-flops to get something out of her car (I'm betting ID) - and started taking stuff in (apparently to search a little deeper, shall we say) and bringing stuff out.  They stuck around for over an hour, and then left.  My personal guess is that they already had someone under arrest back at the station, and were searching for drugs and/or weapons.  (Yes, they found some.)  

Meanwhile, you can't get all your entertainment from a 1919 version of a picture window.  My latest favorite entertainment - besides endlessly looping New Tricks - is Victorian Farm on Acorn (via Amazon Prime) - For one thing, I'm an historian, and the reenactors are historian Ruth Goodman, and archaeologists Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn.  (I have a couple of Ms. Goodman's books, BTW.  Great stuff.)  Shire horses!  Sheep!  Cooking with coal!  More sheep!  Victorian Christmas!  Pigs and sheep!  Yes, life was hard, but it's absolutely fascinating, and I could have used a lot more than 6 episodes of it.

Speaking of Victorians, I'm rereading my way through my library of great Victorian mysteries:  I've mentioned these before on SleuthSayers, but I'll bring up a couple again, because they're brilliant.  And they're long and complex, which helps in these days of social isolation.  

Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White. Here two young women's identities are stripped from them as one dies and the other is declared dead and sent to a madhouse for life. What happened? Who died? Who lived? How can the truth be proven? Besides an endlessly twisting and turning plot, there are amazing characters: a magnificent heroine in Marion Halcombe, the ultimate Victorian cold-hearted bitch in Mrs. Catherick, and the worst guardian known to man, Frederick Fairlie, who really should have been shot at birth. And then there's Count Fosco, one of my favorite villains in all of history, with a face like Napoleon's and the heft of Nero Wolfe. Watch him as he plays with his little pet white mice and, at the same time, his irascible "friend" Sir Percival Glyde. Meet his completely subservient wife, who spends her days rolling his cigarettes, watching his face, and doing his bidding. He loves sugar water and pastry and plotting, and he never, ever loses his temper or raises his voice. His only weakness? A passionate admiration for Marion. But can that actually stop him? Don't count on it.

In Mrs. Henry Wood's East Lynne, the ostensible main plot - and a true Victorian corker it is! - revolves around Isabel Vane, an Earl's daughter who, unbelievably, is reduced to poverty and marries attorney Archibald Carlisle (SO much beneath her in birth). Mr. Carlisle is such a miracle of common sense, rectitude, honor, and beauty, that I have to admit after a while I get tired of hearing how wonderful he is. It almost makes you cheer when she is eventually unfaithful to him with a former suitor, who seduces her, impregnates her, and abandons her (the "Lady! Wife! Mother!" scene is worth the read in and of itself). Lost - in every sense of the word - and alone, Lady Isabel is believed killed in a railroad accident. However, she is only disfigured beyond recognition (isn't that always the way?), and comes back to be the governess in her old home, to her own children, and to the children of her husband and his new wife, Barbara Hare. That in itself would keep almost any soap opera running for YEARS. But what really fuels this sensation novel is the second plot, about the murder of a local gamekeeper, whose daughter, Aphrodite Hallijohn, was "involved" with multiple suitors, among them the clerk of courts (I can believe that one), a mysterious Captain, and Richard, the brother of the second Mrs. Carlisle. Richard and Barbara are the children of the local Judge, and Judge Hare does his best throughout the novel to find, convict and hang his own son. Barbara's whole goal in life (other than being the perfect wife to Mr. Carlisle) is to clear Richard's name. Each and every character is involved in the solution to this murder, and the shifting identities of various people - at least three people live in disguise for major parts of the novel - are obstacles, keys, and clues to what really happened in that hut so long ago.

Mrs. Elizabeth Braddon's Lady Audley's Secret curled many a person's hair back in the day, especially once it was revealed that what they thought was the secret - a secret that should be solved by anyone of moderate intelligence early on - is not The Secret at all. Let's just say that Lady Audley is a work of art, and perhaps the source material for all suicide blondes. Once again, a spicy Victorian stew of bigamy, mysterious deaths, hidden identities, even more mysterious (and convenient) arson, betrayal, adultery, heartache, and suspense, all served up at (for a Victorian novel) a fairly rapid clip. 

One of the reasons I read so much Victorian fiction, BTW, and especially now, is because the Victorians were really good at writing morally good characters.  As Janice Law said on Tuesday, "Evil is easy in writing, goodness is tough to do, a fact that might drive the philosophical to notions of original sin." But the Victorians - who definitely believed in original sin - mastered the art.  From Miss Matty in Cranford to Ruth in Ruth, Emma in Emma, Felix and Lance Underwood in The Pillars of the House, Daniel Peggotty, Annie Strong, Miss Mowcher, and Wilkins Micawber in David Copperfield, Marion Halcombe and Walter Hartright in The Woman in White - the Victorians were masters of dishing up characters who were morally good yet unique individuals.  (Notice, I have not mentioned any of the sugary sweet heroines - they're as much stereotypes as Snidely Whiplash.)  

Anyway, from more modern times, also in my personal library, are yards of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe - novels, short stories, novellas.  Just take me to the brownstone and drop me off, okay?  I'll take some Eggs Burgundian, a look at Wolfe's library and orchids, a long discussion / debate about literature with Wolfe, and a long chat on almost anything over drinks with Archie.  

Also Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse books (my favorite is The Wench is Dead); our own Janice Law's Francis Bacon series; Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther series (personal favorite The Lady from Zagreb); Len Deighton's Harry Palmer novels; and Somerset Maugham's short stories - including  the Ashenden British agent stories.  (Ashenden supposedly influenced Ian Fleming.)  And yards of Agatha Christie.  And Sherlock Holmes.  

Also, non-fiction:  The Death of Woman Wang (how and why a man got away with murder in a poor province in 17th century China), and God's Chinese Son (biography of the founder of the Taiping Rebellion) both by Jonathan Spence; and Memories of Silk and Straw by Junichi Suga, translated by Garry Evans (pre-WW2 small town Japan).  

In case you're wondering, part of the reason I've fallen back heavily on my own library is because the Sioux Falls library hasn't done interlibrary loans since March, and I've read most of what they have.  And I really can't afford tons of new books all the time.  Just a few here and there.  So...  Back to the classics!  

Finally, last Sunday, I gave a sermon based on Hebrews 13:3: "Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering." About what I've seen, done, heard - I also talked about AVP and quoted one of our AVP Facilitators - Sly Sam - poems! Sermon begins around 22:50.

Meanwhile, have a Happy Thanksgiving, and stay safe, stay well, stay masked.  

*We finally imposed a mask mandate in Sioux Falls last night - but with no penalty for noncompliance.  

**Worst in the nation as of today is Wyoming, with 90.6% - whatever's going on there, don't go there.

***I am apparently entering the Miss Marple / Miss Silver phase of my life, but then again, I've always been nosy.  


  1. Meanwhile, I found out this week that platypuses (or is it platypii?) glow under black light. Check out the New York Times! https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/13/science/platypus-glow-ultraviolet.html

  2. Our Texas Governor is doing the media rounds again as the medical system in various major cities becomes overwhelmed and continues to promise no new lockdowns or mask mandates. He and the crooked AG Ken Paxton are still suing El Paso for having the nerve to follow science and try to impose a partial lockdown so they do not have to add yet more morgue trucks to the 12 they have in a parking lot. Here in Dallas, we are not as bad off as El Paso and some other cities, but are own unmasked idiots seem to be trying to make us number one.

  3. Here in Buffalo, we were in the yellow zone for Covid-19 cases until yesterday when Gov. Cuomo put most of western New York in the orange zone. This means restaurants can stay open for carryout or outdoor dining (in this weather?) only, no gyms, barbershops, nail salons etc. until further notice.

    Eve, from one tsundoku sufferer to another, I sympathize. And it may or may not interest you to know that Amazon does not allow a person to post a review unless one has spent $50 on their site within the past year. To me, this means all the books & CDs I bought for my daughter when she graduated high school, everything I purchased on Amazon even before I met my husband 21 years ago ... doesn't count for my status as a "member of the Amazon community". We won't even mention the Rollator my sister bought for me after I broke my hip & paid to have sent to me overnight ... yeah, this is why Jeff Bezos is the richest man in the world 💰

  4. Kevin, it does seem to be a contest among some, doesn't it? Personally, I haven't dined or drank anything indoors since March, and I'm not going to until next March at the earliest. I want to live. And I don't care about shopping. I just want me and my husband to survive.

  5. Eve! It's wonderful seeing you in action! Nicely done.

    I got to love the Victorians and Edwardians. Wilkie Collins was a childhood read and I was hooked.

    Eve, considering your COVID warnings, I suspect you know exactly how frustrated Cassandra felt.

  6. Yes, I understand Cassandra like never before.
    And I can hardly wait for the next update on Ravnsborg. That should be a hoot, especially since he's not just AG, he's a SD elector! How could he be replaced now?


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