Monday, March 28, 2011

Yet Another Review: “The Kingdom”, by John R. Mabry, Apocryphile Press

To anyone who doesn’t know in advance that there are many more forms of Catholic (Old Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Anglican, etc.) than Roman, the first few chapters of “The Kingdom” will be a series of surrealistic shocks. The preface shows what seems to be a standard scene of a wizard summoning a demon, until he brings out the avocado. The first chapter reveals a friar (not a monk) falling into a miserable depression because he’s just been dumped by his (male) lover. After that we meet the rest of the Berkeley Blackfriars, most of whom are married – not usually to other Catholics – or Gay, or pot-heads.

And these are the good guys: specialists in demon-hunting, whose skills are soon needed in a wild caper among witches, sorcerers, demons and bishops’ synods. No, there’s no hypocrisy here; these friars are Old Catholics, with a widely tolerant and free-wheeling interpretation of Christianity that isn’t fully explained until well into the plot.

Equally free-wheeling is the writing style, full of merry vulgarisms and puns, jumping happily between half-a-dozen viewpoints, oddly fixated on drooling, yet infused with a broad compassion for everyone – even, ultimately, the involved demons themselves.

Perhaps I’m biased, since I used to live next door to Berkeley and recognize various thinly-disguised locations there. It also helps that two of my friends were married in the Old Catholic church, so I was familiar with it before ever I read the book. Even so, I can honestly say that “The Kingdom” is like no Christians-versus-demons Fantasy novel you’ve seen before. This is a true original, and shouldn’t be missed.

--Leslie <;)))>< Fish

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

On Wisconsin!

If it weren't for other examples of incredible political stupidity, I could believe that Wisconsin's Gov. Scott Walker was a "stealth" Socialist playing the Red Tactic to revitalize the American labor movement. He couldn't have done a better job of it if he'd tried.

The evidence, however, argues for stupidity. It's rather well known to Wisconsin voters that Walker, whose previous political experience as county supervisor was a disaster for his county, only got his current job because the infamous Koch brothers gave him $1 million and a good advertizing agency to get him elected. It's also obvious that what Walker promised them in return was to gut the labor movement in his state. Now why did they choose Wisconsin, long a union state, instead of some likelier place like, say, Mississippi? Because they believed that, if they won in Wisconsin, they could knock down the unions in all the other states. And why did they think they could succeed? Because we've reached the point where the rich and powerful speak and listen only to each other, and have totally lost touch with the vast numbers of the people they rule. Ironically, this blind spot created both the Tea Party and what is now shaping up to be the first General Strike in America in decades.

Anyway, Walker tried to pass the first version of his bill on the excuse of saving Wisconsin's almost-gone state budget. Apparently he truly believed the standard Right-Wing lie, that paying a living wage and benefits to one's bottom-level workers somehow costs any business -- govt. or private -- more than the enormous salaries and golden parachutes of middle-to-upper management. (He blithely forgot that the govt. workers' unions had already, months earlier, agreed to take a pay cut in order to keep the state from going bankrupt.) He also seems to have assumed that the only govt. workers' unions in the state were the SEIU and the NEA. He'd forgotten all about the police, firemen, garbagemen, sewer-workers, electricians, and so on. He also assumed that, once he'd inveigled the legislature's Republicans into line, the Democrats would give up and fold.

Well, we all know what followed. The Democrat senators fled the state, so as to leave the legislature with less than a legal quorum, and govt. workers by the thousands staged a huge protest march on the state-house plaza. Walker ordered the state troopers to go hunt those missing senators, and told the capitol city cops to clear away the protesters -- only to learn that the state, county and city police had unions too. By this time all the other unions in the state -- including the IWW, if you please -- had gotten involved, the story had gone global, and people were expressing solidarity with Wisconsin workers from as far away as Poland and Egypt. The little pizza shop on the state-house plaza was doing a land-office business feeding the protesters, and was getting donations from all over the world.

At this point anyone with the sense of a goat would have backed off, but not Walker. A clever hacker got his personal phone number and, pretending to be one of the Koch brothers, phoned him and nudged him into talking freely. We know what Walker freely admitted to, because the hacker recorded the conversation and then put it up on YouTube. Even then, Walker lumbered on; he cut all reference to anything financial out of the bill -- thereby killing his argument that he was only trying to save the state money -- and (in a secret session, likewise illegal) used that as excuse to force the bill through the state legislature even without a quorum. His buddies the Koch brothers began paying for anti-union TV ads all over the country, which convinced nobody. The runaway senators returned to a heroes' welcome, a state supreme court judge declared a hold on the bill until its legality could be proved, and the collection of the state's unions started seriously discussing General Strike. People all over Wisconsin, not to mention elsewhere, began joining -- or rejoining -- unions. The ripples from Wisconsin are quietly spreading out all over America.

That's where things stand right now, and it's an unfinished story with farther-reaching implications than the disaster in Japan or Qaddafy's slaughters in Libya. The American labor movement has been dormant, if not comatose, for decades -- and what it couldn't do for itself, in all those years, two stupid millionaires and one stupid governor have done for it.

--Leslie <;)))>< Fish

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Month's Upheavals

Helloooo, I'm baaaack! I was away in California, attending two conventions and a couple weeks of studio work (putting down all the guitar-tracks for the remake of "Firestorm"), where I caught a nasty cold that wiped out my upper vocal range, so it'll be awhile before I go back to cut the vocal tracks. After that, I spent nearly a week catching up on the backlogged email. So anyway, I'm back.

And quite a bit has happened while I was gone.

First off, there's the govt. workers' revolt in Wisconsin. Heheheheh. There's nothing like a good noisy strike to separate the sheep from the goats -- or, in this case, the Conservatives from the Libertarians.

Note that troglodyte-Conservatives, who howl that govt. workers shouldn't have unions at all, always seem to think that govt. workers are only clerks and schoolteachers; they don't seem to think about cops, firemen, sewer-workers, garbage-men, bus-drivers, janitors, or other blue-collar types. That's why so many of them (including Gov. Walker himself) were so dismayed and amazed when the Gov. ordered the local cops to haul union demonstrators out of the civic square, and the cops instead joined the protesters. Of course, the Conservatives always howl that Unions Are Evil -- "outdated", "unnecessary", "corrupt", "invented by Lenin", etc. -- with a blithe disregard for facts or history. It's also amusing to note that Conservatives -- after years of howling about how distant the govt. has grown from the people -- are willing to turn around and claim that govt. workers shouldn't have unions or strike against the govt. because the govt. is us. Their real complaint is all too obvious; most of them are bosses, and unions put a check on bosses' power (and, of course, cut into their income).

Libertarians, on the other hand, bother to do their homework and look at the facts -- such as the fact that unions existed in the Middle Ages (when they were called "guilds"), in ancient Rome, in ancient Egypt, and in fact just about everywhere in the western world where the rich and powerful lorded it totally over the poor and (otherwise) powerless. Libertarians will also point out that freedom includes freedom of association, and that it's perfectly natural for people with similar problems and similar goals to organize into groups in order to further their own goals: sewer-workers no different from the AMA, and factory-hands no different from the GOP. They'll also note that societies with lots of unions tend to have better economic, educational and political systems than countries where unions are illegal and persecuted. They'll also note that the labor union (and the consumers' union) -- not the govt. -- is the naturally-evolved check and balance on the boss, whether company or corporation.

As a result, I think we'll be seeing a serious split in America's political Right over the Wisconsin strike.