Spirits of the Vasty Deep

a review by Bob Roman

Spirits of the Vasty Deep by Brian Stableford. Snuggly Books, 2018. 297 pages $17.95

stablefordBrian Stableford has been around for a long time. He’s been on my shit list for a long time, too, though for not as long but long enough for me to have forgotten why. Occasionally, an author will cop an attitude or pander to an ideology or write very poorly or write something otherwise irritating and: Enough! Time is too short and swift to bother with any more. In the case of Stableford, possibly it was his 1970 novel, The Blind Worm. Or perhaps not; I mention that novel because I have a copy that was issued as an Ace double novel and I can’t otherwise imagine what the problem was. I picked up Spirits of the Vasty Deep because I had forgotten about The Blind Worm. And that was a good thing because this is a good book, a good gothic novel: terror and medievalism with science fiction elements and some modern add-ons from The Da Vinci Code.

Gothic is not a genre that I’m particularly fond of at all. And the novel begins in a pretty standard Gothic way. Author Simon Cannick, having lost his Bristol apartment to a new landlord and sky-rocketing rent, moves to isolated St. Madoc in coastal northern Wales where he had, to his surprise, inherited a cottage. And then there is the partially ruinous Abbey and the secretive family that has for time out of mind resided there. Is there anything not Gothic in that set-up?

Well, the protagonist is not a helpless and to-be-victimized female, but a geezerly obscure author, possibly based somewhat on Brian Stableford himself. The terror is pretty mild and there is more humor than might be typical. Much of the early part of the book is basically dialogue in a pseudo-scholarly, nerdy Da Vinci Code vein. Somehow I did not find that boring. Stableford wrote well enough to bring it off.

Stableford does play some misdirection games regarding who the important characters are and who are secondary. It maybe helped, for me, that the characters are mostly geezers. Being one myself, there’s a certain pleasure to be found in identifying with them.

So what happens? Read the damned book: seriously, this is a good read, folks. Brian Stableford is now officially off my shit list though The Blind Worm hasn’t gotten any better.

Face Like a Frog

For those as are hip re: animation, Sally Cruikshank is classic. I’m not hip. I’ve just discovered her. This 1987 short has music by Danny Elfman (!). Apparently there are copyright issues between the two of them (go to the YouTube page for the story) so this may be a very temporary post as the guard dogs are afoot. If the video stops working, click the YouTube link above. I really like this work. That shouldn’t be surprising as I also like Fritz the Cat.

Vote!! November 6

“Voting never makes any difference.”

“If voting changed anything, they‘d have made it illegal.”

I generally respond by pointing out that it usually only takes up no more than an hour of your time, often less, and what do you expect from such a small investment of time? Quite frankly, I’ve spent days on picket lines to less effect. With early voting and vote by mail you have really no excuse. This is your last chance.

And for those who complain of not being able to “vote my values”, why do you assume this is all about you?

Your vote does make a difference, in some contests more than in others and in some elections more than in others. Which side you’re on is beside the point: if you value some degree of nonviolence in how we settle disputes, get to the polls on Tuesday, November 6, and vote.

Happy Birthday, Debs!

On this day in 1855, Eugene Victor Debs was born in Terre Haute, Indiana. He is notable as having been a leader in the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, an Indiana state legislator, a founder and President of the American Railway Union, a founder of the Industrial Workers of the World, and a founder and five time Presidential candidate of the Socialist Party of America.

The Eugene V. Debs Foundation maintains his home in Terre Haute, Indiana, as a museum.

Debs saw himself, and the Socialist Party, more as a catalyst than as a vehicle. My currently favorite quote from Debs illustrates this nicely:

“I am not a Labor Leader; I do not want you to follow me or anyone else; if you are looking for a Moses to lead you out of this capitalist wilderness, you will stay right where you are. I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I led you in, some one else would lead you out. You must use your heads as well as your hands, and get yourself out of your present condition; as it is now, the capitalists use your heads and your hands.”

Broken Politics?

In this video, Vox teams up with the American Enterprise Institute’s Norm Ornstein and Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution to cast shade on the Republican Party:

“Over the past few decades, both Democrats and Republicans in Congress have moved away from the center. But the Republican Party has moved towards the extreme much more quickly — a trend that political scientists call “asymmetrical polarization.” That asymmetry poses a major obstacle in American politics. As Republicans have become more ideological, they’ve also become less willing to work with Democrats: filibustering Democratic legislation, refusing to consider Democratic appointees, and even shutting down the government in order to force Democrats to give in to their demands.”

It might surprise you that I have some misgivings about this argument.

Part of it is that I challenge the very existence of a “Republican” or a “Democratic” party. As political parties are understood in most parts of the world, parties here in the States simply do not exist. Fragments of parties exist. The opposing caucuses in legislative bodies exist and they have important consequences — committee assignments, work priorities and the like. There’s something of a party bureaucracy that mostly serves as a conduit for money and as a vendor of political services (polling, data processing, etc.) all of which is available elsewhere. If you are a candidate, you have no obligation to use your party’s services. And there are party clubs. But none of these entities have any organic connections among them. And the parties do exist in the electorate: People self identify as Democrats and Republicans. If there is anything real and vitally consequential about American political parties, it is mostly to be found in the electorate’s self identification. But beyond that, what we see as political parties are entities that have been partially taken over by the government and have, at best, vestigial independence apart from the government. State laws, mostly, govern party structure, party officials, party candidates, even what constitutes “membership” in a political party. Oh yes: finances, too.

This varies from state to state and among the various U.S. territories. We don’t have a two party system but rather over 50 different party systems in this country. A few have multiple party brands, others but two. When you drill down to the local level, you often find a more various political landscape.

The “asymmetrical polarization” that this video documents is a phenomenon that is primarily manifest in the parties’ constituencies. It’s reflected by and amplified by professional politicians and activists for their own ends, but it would not exist in government if it did not exist in the electorate.

The polarization is a result of something that has been in the works since at least the Great Depression, when New Deal Democrats, bothered by Dixiecrat sabotage and obstruction, dreamed of realigning the “parties” in ideological terms. The “Democrats” would be the liberals; “Republicans” would be the conservatives.

Fast forward to the 1960s and both sides were working on this project, including Norm Ornstein and the American Enterprise Institute (out of the wreckage of the Barry Goldwater campaign) on the conservative side. On the left in the 1970s, you had organizations like the New Democratic Coalition (not to be confused with the “third way” folks of later decades) and the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee. The so-called Reagan Revolution and the increased use of primary elections over conventions pretty much accomplished the project. By the 1990s, at latest, the Republican brand had become the brand of conservatives. The Republican brand is not “more” ideological today, it’s just more confident and less willing to compromise than it was in the 1980s.

If one of the our two political brands becomes clearly and dogmatically defined (in this case, the Republicans), the other brand will opportunistically begin to incorporate everyone alienated from the first. It’s also easy to see how “asymmetry” in early stages would feed upon itself unless somehow interrupted. It also seems likely that the social democratic / progressive wing of the Democratic brand will have difficulty dominating its vehicle in the near term at least: too many political refugees with money.

So what is Ornstein complaining about? Given the racism underlying the current Republican brand (it wasn’t always so, at least in this geezer’s life span) and the shifting demographics that promise it less than a majority, it is easy to see how Ornstein and Mann sense disaster on conservatism’s present course. And they’re not alone.

Oh, boo hoo.

Aside from the blatant expressions of bigotry, there’s really not a huge gap in policy between the Trump Republicans of 2018 and the Reagan Republicans of 1980. The most obvious differences are based in personality more than anything else: the audacity of ignorance is remarkable in 2018. Reagan may have about as factually challenged as Trump, but Reagan was an amiable fellow to his friends and was willing (with some exceptions) to be steered. Trump is a stubborn old coot. Today’s open bigotry does count for something, also. I expect without it we might have at least some movement on immigration policy because population growth is the easiest way to grow an economy… among other less benign rationales. But beyond that, what’s new? This is Goldwater / Reagan conservatism rampant.

But how does ideological polarization work when the structure of our governments (both on the Federal level and on the level of the States) demands some degree of consensus? (Think of the “checks and balances” that you learned about in high school civics class.)

The answer, obviously, is not very well.

And that’s a problem for us lefites, too.

Don’t neglect to vote!

Yip Abides for a Year

The first year in review

October 31 was the first anniversary of Yip Abides: 417 posts, though there were a few missed days. Blogs are basically stacks; the newest entries are on top. Older posts are buried like geological strata. So here are the best of those 417, in my humble opinion: 116 posts of Yip Abides’ first year, by category, in reverse chronological order – as if the blog were a queue instead of a stack. Let the posts buried by time stand forth!

There’s a lot of good stuff that did not get included below, so exploring will be rewarding if you care to do so. The categories are a good way of focusing your browsing, depending upon your interests. While tags have something of a social function in WordPress, vaguely similar to Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms, I’ve used them here as a subject index. Unfortunately, with the theme I’m currently using, you can’t browse by both category and tag.

And what is in store for the coming year? Fewer posts, most certainly, perhaps not even one each day as I expect to have other irons in the fire than just this blog. There’s been a distinct tendency toward photos over other content lately; that would be easy to continue. In any case, I’m making this up as I go along so you’ll find out as soon as I do.

The first post: Hello World.

Photo Wall

Rock Island in Bureau Junction – old GP7 1275 on the Peoria line.

Birdman Lives! – the man and the mural.

Terror in the Subway! – Tyrannosaurus CTA.

Winter Has Come – photos from 1358 W. Greenleaf.

Mash Note – everyone should get at least one.

28 Thoughts on Trees – trunks, light and leaves.

Wallartee 2 – murals from the hippie underground.

Artists of the Wall 2017 – the annual mural arts in Loyola Park.

Wallartee 5 – two murals under the CTA Red Line @ Pratt.

Wallartee 6 – mural under the CTA Red Line @ Farwell.

Pounce! – Gargoyle gonna getchu.

Artists of the Wall 2018 – the annual mural arts in Loyola Park.

Teddy Bear’s Picnic – Lunt Avenue at the CTA Red Line.

The Face in the Door – stare at the door and the door stares back.

Carpets of the Sun – grasses and sedges and sun and shadow.

Beeves in Summer – cool cattle in shades…

Whirl – we spend our lives circling the edge of an event horizon.

Reflexions – water and light.

Paranoia Agent in Rogers Park – actually, Little Slugger has come.

Without the Shadow, Would We Know the Light? – a meditation.

Bird on Cable – the bird professed to know me but I found our acquaintance hard to swallow…

Cat & Floor – This is your floor on catnip.

Lurking – Troll @ work.

Spun Glass – you really need to see this! IMHO, it’s way cool.

Groot Home Chicago – return to roots. But wait! There’s more.

The Gizzard of Odd – oh my…

Rapid Transit – the CTA Red Line @ Jackson. It’s a long way down…

The Last Evening of Summer – Leone Park Beach.

No Idea – will the last person leaving…

On Fullerton Avenue – what is it?

A Botanic Afternoon – my annual Fall pilgrimage to the Chicago Botanic Garden.

The Light! The Dark! The Day! – and Captain Beefheart

Video Wall

The Gunfighter – almost certainly the best comedic western since “Blazing Saddles”.

Wild West Fan Co. – maybe the best comedic western since “Blazing Saddles”.

Frankie Sinatra — Geezer demons in a music video. I hate music videos.

This Won’t Hurt a Bit – except for the wallet biopsy. Health care in America.

Bindle Bros – there’s a hipster born every second.

Waltzing into Anarchy – bugger the bankers and politicians…

I Trust Youin the face of orchestrated hate.

World Builder – a very sweet virtual reality love story.

Descendants – keep this in mind on Valentines Day should you think of flowers. (Whoopi Goldberg!)

Alien Love – a truly alien love story… or maybe it’s a music video.

You Gotta Believe in Something – Nina Paley sez to Moses.

Over Time – a most amazing muppet wake: a must see.

I Hate Music Videos – but I keep watching this one: Cats!

Catnip: Egress to Oblivion? – classroom drug education.

Monsieur COK – which came first: the capitalist or the egg?

Fugu & Tako – the charismatic sex appeal of being a puffer fish.

Human Fountains – mind blowing… with an incredibly sweet soundtrack.

Happiness! – and the commodification thereof. A great Steve Cutts animation.

Hyper-Reality – the singularity doth come & gone but alienation remains.

AMA – you geezers think that Esther Williams was great? Hah! Watch this underwater dance!

Mom Commercial – happy Mothers Day? Amazing!

Long Term Delivery – a bizarre comedy about a secret division of the USPS.

Flamingo Pride – a hoot, especially if you watch it all the way to the very end.

Time Travel: UGH! – warning: immature content. But you’ll love it anyway.

Dissonance – for Fathers Day. Love and madness.

Curmudgeons – a geezer love story. (Danny DeVito!)

La Vague – spells gone wrong: tres cute!

The Head Vanishes! – A trip to the sea side singing a different tuna…

Final Offer – if John Grisham wrote science fiction…

Love & Theft – full screen and headphones recommended.

Fish Heads – I regret the existence of this video. And the song. So will you.

Who Will Pay? – If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu. Really.

Apollo 8 – Earthrise, 50 years later.

The Kings of Siam – Halloween is coming.

Poetry

Worthless – a powerful commentary written and performed by Agnes Torok.

A – it’s entropy, after all.

You Look Good in Red – yes, you do.

On Having an Infected Finger – after having helped loot a cigarette machine.

If You Were a Whale – imagine that.

The Cat Got His Tongue – and more as well.

Subway Love – by Max Stossel.

Apocalypse Rhymethe anthropocene in rhyme by Oliver Harrison

Caffeine Zombie – can’t wait to get up in the morning and have some nice…

Waiting – for love and trains.

Eye – cats, all the way down.

Politics

It’s a Hard Rain That’s Gonna Fall – about a small 1991 strike that stopped an anti-union jihad from beginning in Wisconsin. That was then.

Employment and Survival in Urban Americaan interesting public event that later became a major part of the “Obama is a socialist” narrative pushed by conservatives.

A Living Wage: It’s the Law! – on the passage of living wage ordinances for Chicago and for Cook County.

No More Business As Usual – remember Enron?

What I Saw of the 2018 Women’s March

The USA PATRIOT Game – part of Chicago DSA’s campaign against the USA PATRIOT Act.

Debt and Taxes – a subtle mix of malice and incompetence back in 2005, and it only got worse from there.

It Was May Day and I Couldn’t Stop Smiling – with a half million people in the streets: sure!

What Do Hotel Workers Want? – old Sam Gompers knew…

Wal-Mart Rampant – Chicago surrenders while proclaiming victory.

But Is It Organizing? – unions and workers’ centers.

A Small Battle in a Larger War – Jorge Mujica’s 2015 campaign for the 25th Ward.

Our Revolution: It’s a Start – Bernie Sander’s post-convention organization.

Everyone Is Joining the Resistance – anger to action.

Dubya and his band of thieves – don’t imagine they’ve given up on mugging the elderly.

Fake News – If it’s fake, it’s not news. If it’s news, it can’t be fake. Really?

Wrapped in Steel – Chicago’s southeast side at a time of transition.

The OTHER 9/11 – Time to rub your nose in it.

Brett Kavanaugh – All his sins remembered…

Prose

Tom Broderickrest in power, as they say.

Julie Was a Free Spirit – that was then…

But We Were Always Like Thatthis could be about several different things…

The War of the Roaches – soon to be a BBC 4 documentary featuring Tony Robinson?

Bureau Junction – a postcard and some family history.

The Answera sad mix of father and son and cultural change.

Mysterious Neighbor – some things are best not known.

The Tail – a shaggy shark story.

Reviews

Why Socialism Failed in the U.S. – discussing “It Didn’t Happen Here: Why Socialism Failed in the United States” by Seymour Martin Lipset and Gary Marks.

The Really OTHER America – a review of “The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America” by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge.

Don’t Sleep with Stevens! – Timothy J. Minchin’s account of labor’s mid-20th Century campaign to organize the South.

The Wounds That Never Heal – a review of “Flashback: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Suicide, and the Lessons of War” by Penny Coleman.

When the Democratic Party Lost Its Soul – a review of “Kennedy vs. Carter” by Timothy Stanley.

Anarchy! – a review essay of “More Powerful Than Dynamite” by Thai Jones and “In Search of Sacco and Vanzetti” by Susan Tejada

Bad Moon Rising – Arthur Eckstein’s account of the FBI and the SDS. Do si do!

In This Corner of the World – Sunao Katabuchi’s incredibly beautiful but troubling animated video of WWII Japan.

Dr. Potter’s Medicine Show – a review of Eric Scott Fischl’s horror fantasy novel, because I like barkers.

Design with Nature – a retrospective on landscape architect Ian McHarg’s influential book and the documentary movie based on it.

Which Side Are You On? – a review of J.D. Vance’s memoir, “Hillbilly Elegy”.

Djinn City – a review of the new fantasy novel by Saad Hossain.