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Ephemeris  November 2011

 

 

Nov 30, 2011: If I am too old for 'alienation' or other disaffected states of mind I might have found congenial in my younger years, whatever the reason, 'they' are making it difficult. It is to say that it is one thing to keep one's distance, to keep things at arm's length and to maintain one's civility in the face of an onslaught of what we are pleased to call endless consumerism from which, short of recourse to a monastery cell, there is little escape. It is one thing to keep swallowing one's hostility to some Das Auto ad and the little nations of clever, smarmy auto-buying people it would spawn, as if we do, in fact, abide in a sci-fi flick featuring zombies or God knows what; and it is another to thing to arrive at a place where one says it's over - game, set, match, and my, but we blew it, after all. I dislike it in myself - this getting 'shrill' of voice - but it is becoming harder than ever to avoid having to say that much of what the culture offers is nothing but cheap nihilism in collusion with cheesiness or a cheerful abandonment of sensibility. It is just that I believe a minimum amount of sensibility is necessary to the maintenance of a life worth living - as in 'the life examined'—I can only conclude that people who swear by the lack of sensibility enjoy being screwed, blued, tattooed because they like being f—ked over, and the more market forces doing it to them (so that they will be induced to buy more vacuous products) the better. Arts and Entertainment, anyone? It was one thing when early rock-and-roll was simply fun, even joyous in a mindless sort of way. It was another thing when rock-and-roll got 'heavy' and took on substance, and I do not mean substance abuse. Along comes heavy metal and then it all lost me, as did everything else - from punk rock so-called to I don't know what: I stopped listening. It does not mean there has not been good music in the duration, a plethora of good songs; but that my cowardly ears migrated to a different frequency and stayed there, no doubt quivering all the while, the frequency in question inhabited by the old standbys of country blues, classical music, opera, flamenco. You get the idea. Oh, and Mr Brahem. I read in A History of the Christian Church that, second century A.D., and the church had by then sunk some serious roots and was off to the races. The average Christian, whatever that might mean, was probably insensible to the 'higher' theologies of a Paul or a John, and yet, this person was willing to countenance a regimen of fasting and alms-giving and other rigours - for a generation or two, at least; and, in the collective sense, said person probably felt his or her self a citizenry apart (from the Roman, the pagan world); considered his or her self a second Israel. Good? Bad? Ugly? A matter of indifference? I cannot vouch for the scholarship, but the immediately above seems to accord with much of what I have read, only that in this go-round something that ought to have registered with my parlous brain long ago only now kicks in, as I have often wondered as to the mentality of the early Christians. This business of a 'citizenry apart' - what were the implications way back when? Political? Social? Economic? There was martyrdom, to be sure. There was also the broad boulevard to power, however winding the course might have seemed at the time. All things being equal, it did not take all that long for the Christian mind-set to become the dominant mind-set of the state, courtesy of Constantine, however spiritually nominal that mind-set might have gotten to be by then. (It was early on observed that the people who had most difficulty with being 'Christian' were the well-heeled.) But are there parallels between then and now worth noting, seeing as things are, if not unravelling, then in a fairly shaky condition, rubbery at the knees? Vacuums have appeared; something will have to fill those vacuums. Plenty of people expect a Moloch on steroids to rear up and roar and menace. Early Christians wrote apocalyptically of the Great Whore, Babylon-Rome and so forth and so on - for all the good it did. Because Christian or not, the Roman state muddled on for a while until its structure was finally overwhelmed by stresses for which it had less and less wherewithal in its responses. A very generalized view, but there it is. I make no predictions. But if one were to go by appearances—Things are going badly for acquaintances of mine out in the boonies of the Townships. All sorts of medical malaises—A way of life coming to an end—This much has always been predictable—

Nov 29, 2011: I receive a come-on in the mail. It would have me subscribe to a literary rag, eight issues worth of sterling value by way of countless numbers of beloved authors and artists only one of whom has a name I recognize. So either I am that far out of the loop or I am looking at the names of those who have just graduated in their thousands from Creative Writing School, no doubt, as certified Prousts. On the envelope - one of those envelopes with windows, or the kind that no sane person should ever open - the dreaded rhetorical question is posed: Can a magazine be smart, funny and Canadian? I ask you, why would any magazine wish to be smart, funny and Canadian unless it be part of its belief-system that to be so effing clever, and we are so effing clever we can hardly stand ourselves, is the same as having something to say and to have awesome 'chops' in the saying of it? And yes, all the while we will pretend we have gotten over that little matter of our inferiority complex in respect to almost every other body of literature in the world, I mean I don't care what the Foreign Office is peddling, these days, as cultural propagandaI mean we got on our magic dancing shoes, do we not, and we're not even in Kansas— Yesterday, randomly, I extracted from my book shelves Cicero's Letters, Vol. III and started in reading - for the hell of it. As it turned out, the first letter on which my peepers alighted gave vent to the notion that, on occasion, there is pleasure to be had in letter-writing and in letter-receiving. Dear Servius Sulpicius, you old sod—In the meantime I have on the go an item of snail mail that I have yet to post as it seems to me what it offers is spiritually paltry and altogether too brief. It is part of a regular correspondence in which I have been engaged for some years - I have never met my respondent in the flesh - and it is the only such correspondence I have, as the rest of it has been swallowed up by a sump hole of electronic dissemination. Is this a good or bad or wholly indifferent development? I suspect the worst. When I had my fill of Cicero and his archly cheerful tone - all politics, of course, as he was a most politic animal - I read a guest editorial on Conservative Colonel's site Sic Semper Tyrannis. This op-ed of sorts concerned itself with a blight that it characterized as 'wordiness'; how there is so much of it about - this obligatory self-expression. I am certainly culpable in this regard, more so than most people, as I see fit to post on a near daily basis, and how can any person have that much to say? (I know of people who wish to make a living from their 'postings', and to do so, to attract advertising revenue, they are obliged to post two to three times a day—At this rate, civilization is going to burn itself out in a matter of weeks—) The aforementioned op-ed, however, is a fairly smug and patronizing affair, and I resented its air of moral ascendancy in all things grand and not so grand. Nonetheless due must be accorded; and it has a point worth making when it suggests that words, so many many words, are used to hide the fact that our words are literally devoid of thought. The author of the piece had even invoked Talleyrand and his notion that words were invented so as to disguise what one was really thinking. Talleyrand had in mind state-craft, no doubt, art speak not having been dreamed up yet—I best stop now lest my cheap shots get that much cheaper—Morning. Nikas. Alexandra the waitress is playing games with my sensibility and my auditory sense as she now raises and now diminishes the in-house radio's decibels and its obnoxious fare. Is hers a stab at humour? Is she in a manic-ky phase of her usual moodiness, one so thick one could not hope to penetrate it with an ax? Is Eddie the owner-cook in cahoots? Larry the software entrepreneur? Bastard


Nov 28, 2011: I do not seem to have been expunged from Thistle's list of interlocutors. I expect I have been insufficiently lectured and am to be kept in availability for the purpose. In any event, the man reports he has wearied of critiques of 'neo-liberalism', seeing as he has recently attended a conference where such critiques were much in evidence. For all that, the gear stick is lodged in the critique position, unable to attain cruising speed or come to some sort of action without blowing the engine first. It is not good news for Nepalese women in Delhi brothels. London Lunar reports that it appears a quite famous monastery in Syria is to be shut down and its presiding Father expelled from the country. What it most likely means is that a certain portion of the populace will have lost its mouthpiece and there will be no accounting of its whereabouts, given the pervasive violence in respect to the on-going crackdown. Earlier this morning, I read a blast and a counter-blast to do with policing and the OWS movement to the south of here. The 'blast' suggested that the police have been orchestrated nation-wide from a source on high, as high as the congressional level. The counter-blast, while in sympathy with the aims of the movement, suggests otherwise; that the police action has been 'local'; has been prompted by local concerns, local decision-making, the only input from outside being advice as to how best proceed so as to attain desired ends - even if by means of pepper spray and truncheons. The implication: no fascism yet in any symphonic sense—I have no idea as to the truth of any of the immediately above. I am reading a history of the church, which it is, in my estimation, a history of the mind as well. I suspect the author of the book, born in the 1860s, deceased in the 1920s, did not consider that he was up to anything special; that his book reads like a textbook, even as he was at pains to point out that there was a different 'Christ' for each of the gospel-writing apostles, and the implications of this reality, then for the church; and that one might as well be reading of varying outlooks when it comes to astrophysics or the anthropological record, as read of what was coming out of Antioch or Ephesus or Jerusalem, or Tarsus, for that matter, by way of thinking on a certain matter—That though the book is a mere textbook, and discounting the probability that the author was a believer who understood that the church was engaged in 'propaganda' early on (he might have been a closet skeptic), I am struck by the quality of the debate within. That, in comparison, our little expanding universe of this or that theory and quantum mechanics and Wal-marts is not as rich, our intellects bending or being bent to nothing more than any ready-to-hand reductio ad absurdam as discourages any use of mind other than to contemplate this or that knee-jerk response to any part of the chain of cause and effect, the sound of clattering keyboards everywhere in their aggregate the sound of all that data-mining applying the coup de grâce to true knowledge—But then, it is Monday, and in Nikas Larry the software entrepreneur is already giving me a look. What craziness am I up to now? True knowledge? What's that? When will my ship come in? That's knowledge of a kind, isn't it?

Nov 27, 2011: No doubt, I deserve the censure I have just been accorded by one Thistle, a perfesser by day, and by night - well, I have no idea. My use of the doublet poet's use (see previous post) is the offending item in his view, and it busts me down to the rank of 'post-modernist' at which level I am back to peeling spuds and cleaning toilets in the literary equivalent of boot camp, and he is the DDS - dreaded drill sergeant. To be accused of post-modernism is a serious charge, as there is nothing in the stuff (especially the literary theory stuff) that I can see and have ever seen but a ready-to-hand excuse for moral and intellectual cowardice. When Bowering some decades ago informed me (with all the enthusiasm of a Fresh Believer, of a new recruit in the cause) in the Waldorf Hotel beer parlour - Vancouver eastside - that the subject matter of any poem is language, I bridled then and I bridle now. Not possessed of much of anything that resembled an assailable intellect back then (not that there has been any improvement in that department since) and in want of academic certification, I nonetheless 'instinctively' appreciated that my interlocutor in his guise as a 'poet' was telling me he was in no way responsible or accountable for anything he had written, was writing, and would ever write - to the tune of 101 publications, apparently, because, you see, it's all just language, anyway. The criticism Thistle levels at me I myself have made any number of times in respect to any number of poets—But I believe I detect in Thistle's cavilling a false assumption on his part that, 1): women, willynilly, get glassy-eyed when in the presence of poets - definitely not true in my case, and that 2): I have some sort of audience, some clout, as it were, that bears looking into - also not true. I am more or less, and have been more or less, pissing into a very loud wind, and the only figure qua figure rendered more marginalized and more absurd than I by contemporary realities is some old-fashioned aesthete who would still ornament his livingroom with leather-bound editions of French symbolist poetry and a tiger rug. I mean, sheesh, get real—For all that, I will here contradict myself as per my own reservations concerning that doublet poet's use, and will stand my ground on the poet's right to prattle even if, in the vast majority of instances, a poet's prattle is not worth anyone's time or trouble, including a fellow poet's time and trouble. I will prattle - if only to amuse myself, and if the word 'god' materializes occasionally in the prating, so be it. Am I to get all rubbery-kneed at mention of Durkheim? Or the notion the best available evidence? A question arose, last night, at table in Nikas: what is the latest possible date on the calendar that a dark horse candidate for the presidency can throw his or her hat into the ring and be legal, and how much of a war chest will he or she then require over and against the war chests of his or her rivals who will have had more time to deepen their pockets? It is in MH's head that there will be such a dark horse candidate to the south of here, one who is at the moment cleverly biding his or her time so as to best elude the running of the gauntlet that is the media snouting about (think pig and truffles) for his or her little sins of the flesh. Labrosse, on the other hand, thinks that, no, there will be no such candidate; that it is already too late in the game and et cetera; and, truth to tell, none of us knows what the rules of the game stipulate, but that it is an interesting question—Still, as Labrosse knows something of the world of finance and how it works, he broke down the European debt crisis for our benefit, and then seemed to remark that it is not as bad as it looks and it is worse than it appears, how do you like them apples, have a nice day. A nemesis of his then entered the restaurant, as if to take it by storm. Fellini Woman. She had exchanged her black borsalino for something red with a round brim orbiting its crown - a chapeau like that the prelates wear in Fellini films. She is convinced that Labrosse is a secret admirer of her charms, and he may well be that; but that he is too shy to own up to it. She is one of those aging egotists whose egotism does not deeply offend, as she imparts a little atmosphere to otherwise drab Montreal-NDG evenings of mild-mannered, easy-come, easy-go ideologues in the mood for pizza. E on shift seemed to be engaged in a tad more extensive chat with the woman than was customary; and perhaps, sheer mischief, was amplifying her suspicions regarding Labrosse. In any case, I scribble all this down in a fresh notebook with intent to scribble more. I am having at Sinclair Lewis's Arrowroot. Though it is early days yet for the thing, I am thus far nonplussed by the depiction of mid-west academe of the early part of the last century. In A History of the Christian Church, I am reading that the years 70 to 110 A.D. are, alas, obscure when it comes to the church and the apostles; but that so much must have been happening and happening quickly, not the least of which was something of a stand-off between Paul's mystical notion of 'union with the body of Christ' and James's notion of 'law' and 'ethic' as being the only reliable basis for a pursuit of the exemplary life—Yes, Godawfully boring, I know, but this sort of thing interests me as it bespeaks naturally contending mentalities that the Christianity of those days did not invent; outlooks on what boots it that have been with us since a time as old as the hills and are with us now—


Nov 26, 2011: I prefer my conversations open-ended. But Thistle would remind me, just in case I had not yet heard about it, that 'God is dead' (in light of certain remarks made in the post previous). Why then would I even introduce any notion of any god whatsoever into polite and right-thinking society? To put it as simply as possible, no ands, ifs or buts about it, there is no god or else George Bowering's list of publications would have been stopped at a baker's dozen. At least Thistle gets off a good shot now and then—But if a man has a daughter who wishes to know about God his duty is clear: tell her that it's a dead letter, so stop being silly—By now you will have surmised I am irked. I do not consider that I have a religious bone in my body: my use of the word 'god' is a poet's use, not a zealot's. I insist on it, and it is this insistence, I suppose, that has soured relations between me and academe and all sorts of perfesserly types; that renders me wary of any sort of dogmatism whatever its source; of parades of certainty and the inevitable concomitant frog marches; and if a conversation is not open-ended, then the only point of conversation is the opportunity it affords this or that interlocutor to congratulate his or her self for having heard and recognized the sound of his or her voice, and that it is a pleasing experience. Otherwise, yes, I 'hear' Thistle loud and clear when he paints a picture of my old stomping grounds 'the Drive' on Vancouver's eastside - the little park there unwelcoming to the remnants of the 'occupiers' now that they are evicted from Vancouver proper in light of the upcoming Grey Cup hoopla - that the 'park' still belongs, as if from time immemorial, to the local artists and poets and ne'er-do-wells who've passed the smell-test - the artists, in any case, off to their studios now to produce for the Christmas markets - the poets to Joe's for cappuccinos and pool - ne'er-d-wells to the food bank—To be sure, the system must be changed: but just don't sleep and litter in the park, hey guys—I am done with Tacitus's The Histories. The manuscript breaks off with his account of the 'collapse' of Civilis north of the Alps, Civilis one of the more successful opportunists hoping to parlay hostilities between Roman and Roman to the advantage of his own ambitions. In the chapter just prior, Tacitus writes nonsense about Jews as part of his leading up to the siege of Jerusalem, Titus the 'gentleman' besieger—That is to say Titus was utterly ruthless and typically thorough in a typically Roman way, for all that he was in a possession of a most pleasant temperament—(He did manage to befriend and charm the captive Josephus who would give the world a couple of monumental histories)— Because I am dabbling in a tome entitled A History of the Christian Church, and because the OWS movement is in the news, I am reminded of an old paradox still very much with us: how it is that the law does not vouchsafe virtue, let alone anything like a state of grace—And that to challenge some hegemony one often has to put oneself outside or beyond the 'law', as did Paul to some extent when he challenged Jewish legalism; and when he suggested that one's ultimate fealty was not owed to the Roman emperor. For all that, it is unclear to me just how much Paul wished to undermine the Roman way of life, if at all, his Roman citizenship a matter of some importance to him. Socrates then comes to mind, how he both challenged the Athenian citizenry for their lazy and self-serving thinking and yet, held himself to be subject to Athenian law, even as that law saddled him with a death sentence—

Nov 25, 2011: London Lunar finds it unbearably moving: Jimmy Durante addressing his late wife by her pet name Mrs Calabash. Good night, Mrs Calabash, wherever you are—To be sure, the numbers of people who can remember that the man once existed and was a show biz personality (as opposed to a 'celebrity') have diminished considerably—Whatever has brought this on? I was reading in Tacitus of the city - then a fort-town - of Cologne (Köln); and I was idly wondering to what American town I might compare it - Detroit? - when I gave up on comparisons, Cologne, in any case, an example of how fast a town with imperial backing might grow. It was what was at stake in the year 69 A.D. as the hostilities between Roman and Roman played out: the imperial holdings—German tribes trying to rile up Gauls against Roman rule, all parties playing all sorts of ends against all sorts of middles—It rings bells. The Moesian dropped by Nikas, last evening, for supper, and I joined him at table. Hungry boy: two lamb pitas with fries. He accounted for his movements of the past couple weeks. He read out to me passages from Pessoa, whom I likened to Leopardi; only that the Moesian suggested that Leopardi on the whole wrote a sharper sentence, and et cetera. The Moesian ventured further afield, quoting to me from Orwell; how it is that we live in a time of universal deceit, and we recognize it as such; and we ought to be screaming bloody murder and we are not; that the very fact of our recognition of all the spin and the bs and the outright lies has somehow rendered us passive and glassy-eyed. A few gestures of homage in the direction of Schopenhauer then ensued; and even Nietzsche's name cropped up as worthy of a plaudit; and in respect to the man I was told by the Moesian something I did not know; that Nietzsche was hospitalized more than once for excessive masturbation. Übermensch, indeed. The ears of E who happened to be on shift perked up at mention of the immediately above, she in one of her glowing moods. The Moesian looks around him. He sees catastrophe lurking everywhere in the not so far distance: rising waters lapping at a shifting shoreline. He is a writer. He is unsure what it means - to be a writer. And then he is doubly unsure what it means to be a writer in these sorts of times, and et cetera. And I understand that I really cannot help him much in this regard, if at all. You're on your own, pal. Just don't give into the cleverness that passes for writerliness in these parts, even if you're wise to it—We repaired to the apartment. MH (who has always thought there was something fishy about Abstract Expressionism and its career in the market place) put into the Moesian's hands an article she printed off that speaks to how the CIA supported the practice of abstract expressionism over and against Soviet realism in particular; but that the former 'art practice' was, in any case, an evolutionary advance on any sort of 'realism' or - what? - representational painting? Is art-speak a flasher always just around the corner? Is Lascaux cave art to be forever damned as primitive? Do we know more about what it means to be human than Horace the poet, for example, two thousand years ago? The Moesian rested his case: everything's a sham, and that includes Beatniks. But not Frank Zappa - he was alright—We were joined by a Literary Thug of our acquaintance who soon demolished, with not a little hilarity, notions of string theory and time travel, and what, pray tell, is he going to tell his daughter who wants to know about God? Well, none of us knew what he might tell his daughter about God, and yet, here it was - or that something once upon a time tumbled out of the Alexandria of Philo (syncretism - the Hellenes - the Jews) and got as far as the person of Literary Thug occupying space on my couch, more able to countenance a multi-dimensional universe than that there are mult-universes; and then - oh well - but what do we know of quantum mechanics? - and he had choice words for Current Prime Minister who has been - but never mind. Are these the best of times? The worst of times? Just your average garden variety times of nickel and dime holocausts? Which, in their aggregate, throw up some pretty impressive numbers? I noodled on the guitar by way of an old Cuban love song. London Lunar disapproves of the lone guitar. (He is, in some respects, aesthetically-challenged. La Paloma orchestrated is schmaltz; arranged for the guitar it is gorgeous.) A correspondent of mine in Manchester sent me a missive to do with Domitian. Perhaps this man's character was misrepresented in history (and no doubt, it was), and he was not quite the monster that Tacitus, among others, made him out to be. He was certainly not among the angels—From Tacitus then: Assuming an ingenuous air of abstraction and looking as if butter would not melt in his mouth, he posed as a connoisseur of literature and poetry. What he was after was to hide his real character and—George Bowering has now cranked out 101 books. There was an animated film entitled 101 Dalmatians. There was a dog named Pongo—Are we expected to read all those books? Just wondering - in some freely associative way—

Nov 24, 2011: Larry the software entrepreneur drifts to the rear of Nikas where, in my booth, I am attempting to scrape a few thoughts together. So much for the life of the mind. Seems that Larry the software entrepreneur wishes he were 'well-versed'. Kind of like being well-hung, so I remark in an idle stab at a jest; but that, in the end, neither of us know if Black Friday is pre-holiday or post-debauch in respect to the American Thanksgiving that is upon us. And then Larry is on about Penn State and the errant coach and the vulnerability of 14 year old boys to 'predators'; and apropos of nothing, I suppose, I go on about the old Greeks and their culture of mentoring, any abuse of which was presumably frowned upon, any overweening sexual indulgence. Here Larry the father looks distinctly apprehensive. The coach in question seems a little simple-minded - perhaps he had no idea he was up to anything beyond the pale - but how could he be simple-minded and coach football at that level? - no, he is probably pretty clever - got away with it so long - a couple of weeks in prison ought to settle his hash - won't he be popular - it's only right - and so forth and so on—I am reading in A History of the Christian Church how the Stoic notion of the logos informed a great deal of Christian thought; how it was probably a staple of the communal life of the Essenes who might have counted among their number an apostle or two—I used to pronounce the word logos as readily as I might have cursed a hammer that I had inadvertently applied to my thumb. I am much more wary now when it comes to the high-flown—And perhaps it was as simple as this: one came to a place, albeit it was on the other side of the world, practically speaking, and set up housekeeping. Then again, perhaps it was not so simple. Or perhaps two opposing truths might constitute the 'truth' of it in light of American Thanksgiving, those pilgrims delivered half-dead from a sea voyage. And then, soon enough, the natives will give them pause whom they will more or less exterminate. High and perhaps quite unreal expectations of a new life will be disappointed in any number of ways—One had come to God's country by virtue of the fact that one had left behind all that had corrupted religion and got in the way of a pure worship of God and the living of a life appropriate to such worship; one was, willynilly, in a state of superior grace—In other words, never mind trying to imagine the intellectual life of an early Christian - what about those Mayflowerites, those Puritans about whom we think we know so much? In any case, my re-reading of Tacitus was put on hold by a reading of Berlin Noir, which it is a crime fiction trilogy. But I am back at Tacitus and his work The Histories, and I find that Rome is undergoing an acute grain shortage; Domitian - son of the new emperor Vespasian - is acting up and prefiguring the monster he is to become when he gets to be emperor, and there is the Tempio di Giove Ottimo Massimo, Rome's most important temple, to reconstruct; as it burned down during Vespasian's attempt (69 A.D.) to enter the city and claim his throne—Imagine topsy-turvy times, and the White House burns down, and you might have an inkling of how the Romans felt; and what they felt was 'end of empire' if not 'end of days'—Earlier this morning I read that the Thanksgiving weekend will see a spate of new Kennedy books,and a reviewer of them, besides noting all the differences between JFK and Current President, can hardly overlook the similarities, chief of which is the ambient hatred in the air of the presidential person, and the hostility to his politics in general; and that one might say that, yes, Oswald the assassin acted alone, but he had his little helper in the guise of the aforementioned hatred - a kind of home field advantage that was the political climate in Dallas—


Nov 23, 2011: P.M. Carpenter, so it seems, Prominent Political Commentator to the south of here, has not much use - beyond that of its entertainment value - for the OWS movement. When it gets down to the grunge work of politics - the door-to-door canvassing and such for the purpose of procuring votes, then, and only then, might it effect some change to the means and to the ends of 'doing business' and living an honourable life on this earth. Says Mr Carpenter. (He is one of the few honest pundits out there on the American scene. He is relentless in his adherence to first principles; he is not in the game to score cheap debating points unless, of course, there is need of a cheap laugh, given the pervasive malaise that besets everyone in respect to the state of the politics—) He cites Mencken and Mencken's disdain for the sort of mass psychology that will croon itself to sleep at night with sweet delusions of its efficacy. Ditto for Thistle. He never understood why the movement in Vancouver chose to occupy the art gallery in the first instance, as it only underscores the fact that artists, when they are not spray-painting nudes ostensibly for charity, serve the one per centers (seeing as it is only the one per centers who can afford their prices). And you think graffiti and rap and whatever else serve the ninety-nine per centers? But now that the movement in that town double-parked by the sea has shifted over to the new courts facility, it might possibly highlight the notion that the justice system is an arm of the ruling class—Well, one can dream, and perhaps, Thistle dreams—Myself? On the one hand, I am heartened by the fact of the movement. On the other hand, the peripatetic cynic in me considers that there is no true change without some consensus as to the necessity for change; otherwise, there is going to be conflict to one degree or another, and heads will get cracked—Big wet gobs of snow fall on Montreal-NDG just now at the height of the commuter rush. Politics? We don't know nothing from politics. Sure, we want glitter and sparkle and limelight and yet, we really don't want to be noticed all that much - a lot of bother - and then there's snow - messy stuff—The Epicureans of old had it that the soul was material and death was no evil as there was no consciousness in death. Did it follow for them that the lack of consciousness in life was an evil? The Stoics considered that one participated in the divine inasmuch as every one of humankind had within his or her self a spark of the divine; and this consideration did a great deal for enhancing the case Christianity would come to make over and against Isis or Mithras— And this is as far as I have gotten in my rehash of a re-reading of material I once engaged years ago: the history, any history, of the early church—I did not know that Sinclair Lewis, author of Main Street and Babbitt, among other books, died in Rome, 1951. I wonder what he found there to fill his spirit, apart from the fact of ill-health and that he was, for one reason or another, forced to settle in the place? He was writing poems there, it said, in his last months. I wonder what sort of poems he was writing. Had he stumbled on reality - how it is kind of bittersweet, after all? For let us say that reality is some jasmine-scented view of what comes of vanity and political trumpery: stones and echoes in collusion with the cheap thrills of the present.


Nov 22, 2011: I arrived at page 835 of Berlin Noir, a crime fiction trilogy; and it was the last page of the opus, wouldn't you know, (barring the author's note that I also read). Even so, for the life of me, I do not understand why the book was written. My questions and such reservations as I had at the outset continue to hang in the air unaddressed. Did the author mean to entertain us, using wise-cracking Nazis as stand-up comics? A quest for filthy lucre on his part, and movie rights? A history lesson with lots of illustration? A seminar in forensics? I do not mean to come off unfairly here in respect to the writer. I do not intend cheek for cheek's sake. The author's note suggests that, at war's end, American intelligence operatives began availing themselves of the very highest ranking Nazis (some of whom apparently faked their own deaths so as to escape war criminal trials and retribution - part of the book's plot-line) for the purpose of gathering intelligence on the Soviets, thereby setting the stage for all the morally dubious behaviour that ensued throughout the Cold War and beyond—Life stinks, but someone's got to live it—In any case, none of it seems revelatory in my estimation, but perhaps the author wished to express his own deeply considered indignation as to the fact by way of writing a 'thriller'. I would not even know how to begin reviewing the book, were I to do so in some professional capacity and in so doing, betray my strictly amateur status—I would have to begin by confessing my ignorance of crime fiction in general, and how the reading of it more often than not reduces me to a state of the giggles. There were instances near the end in which the whole enterprise threatened to degenerate into a thousand and one clichés of crime fiction writing, even a cheapie car chase - at no extra cost to the allotted budget allowed for any unscheduled mise en scene —Each time the protagonist received a conk on the head, he was swallowed up by endless tunnels of dark, by a metaphysical prefiguring of his imminent mortality—Curiously enough however, the worst effects of the biggest cliché of them all - gritty realism - were avoided by the author's magisterial use of gritty realism, and it was laid on luxuriously thick—But politics? Did someone mention politics? How it is we are being railroaded ever deeper into the bowels of the asylum to the south of here? Is there a connecting tunnel between the current moment and the 30s-40s? Or is each new world that arises autochthonous; a post-modern celebration of the notion of discontinuity, or that one thing has nothing to do with another thing ever? That there is really nothing awful happening in our time, given that all that awfulness got lived already in the lives of our parents and so forth and so on—We began, MH and I, to watch a BBC miniseries (1960) devoted to Shakespeare's 'king' cycle of plays. A very fey Richard II enjoyed a death scene (he is stabbed shortly after he is disposed as king) so über-gothic, so over the top, that it astounded; that it brought forth out of MH a single but very much a heartfelt monosyllable, a wow. Still, what were they on about in all that intricate palaver? Or so I was asked. Power, I said. Even when a young Sean Connery is pitching woo at some wench, they are on about power. Not everything is politics, as per the thinking of the 60s, but everything is power—You don't say, said a bemused MH, she announcing that she had had enough of Shakespeare for one evening. I did briefly visit Nikas, last night, and Labrosse, and E who was on shift, her newly acquired bangs imparting to her an air of life is all Breakfast at Tiffany's. It seemed that her swain enjoyed those bangs, given that it was his birthday recently, and the new hairstyle was a way of acknowledging the reality of another day older and deeper in debt. But now he intends to have his mum in town on a stay-over, and he would have it that E perform some extra housekeeping in light of this visit. I said: "Hell's bells, girl, don't you think it behooves him to do said work?" She simpered. She fluttered eyelashes. There was a dollop of justice in my remark—

Nov 21, 2011: I had every intention of attending a book launch, last evening, but I resorted to cowardice and not a little sloth and stayed in. I watched, instead, some BBC production called Ten Days Until War - or something like that, a little drama purporting to treat with personages who had had reservations concerning the upcoming invasion of Iraq. Why the rush to hostilities? Why this pulling of the rug out from under the feet of the UN weapons inspector? That he was in the process of assessing what Saddam had or did not have by way of WMDs. I am sorry to say it was not a good production, this BBC attempt to render up a little history and perhaps provide a cautionary tale about 'winging it' when it comes to regime change. Liberal interventionism, my arse. Moreover, there is nothing more debilitating to a moral view of life than moral ascendancy and manufactured objectivity; than clever ruses designed to demonstrate that one was not a prig in one's protestations. On the other hand, even if I am coming it a little high in my suspicion of what the BBC is up to here - did it not play a circumspect game as war fever gathered pace? - the production overall did not seem to come off in a very coherent fashion. It might be stretching the sense of a word a bit much were I to consider myself 'moral' person. I am not entirely convinced that human beings are born innately 'moral', but if March 19, 2003 (the date of the air strike on the Baghdad palace preceding the hostilities proper) is not necessarily the lowest point in the history of humankind, it is far from its highest, and I despise the perpetrators (of a stunt every bit as cheap as the Nazi incursion, for instance, into Poland); most of which yankee and Brit perpetrators still live and gad about nicely, thank you very much, and are up to their slimy necks in the next game, which it is that real men go to Tehran. They call it realism. They call it whatever they are pleased to call it, but it all amounts to another cheap thrill and yet more cocktail party chaff. (Had I gone to the launch, as planned, I might at this moment be waxing wroth in respect to poets—) Morning. Nikas. Larry the software entrepreneur. He seems to have the world well in hand. The Albanian waitress with the startling eyes. She seems to have the world well in hand. George the owner-cook and Nick the old Cretan stopped by for some chin-wag - they seem to have the world well in hand. I dreamed I was cruising through the Latin of Lucretius and his worship of the indifferent stare of Venus the goddess who, for all that she was a pagan deity, was every bit a realist. Perhaps I will write an ode on the subject and it shall feature a Beltway lobbyist who has remaining in his or her bag of tricks half an ideal. Is it not what poets do - write odes? When not filling out grant applications? I am going fifteen rounds with Albioni's G minor Adagio on the guitar. Some fiendish fingering for one such as myself who has heretofore trucked with simpler chords—

Nov 20, 2011: It seems that in Berlin Noir, a crime fiction trilogy set in the Nazi era, the hard-boiled private detective, ex cop, briefly an SS man, not only 'encounters' his guilt vis a vis what went on, he becomes a Catholic, if only because he has no idea why he should have survived some Russian camp and other hazards of the times; he becomes a Catholic even if the church has a dubious record in respect to the Nazis and their program of genocide; he celebrates mass for no other reason but to remind himself that one has a life, and what one does with one's life has consequences. He seems to accept that, as any priest might have told him, there is no such thing as 'collective guilt'; that guilt is 'personal', and one either chooses to own up to it or not. Whatever the truth of it, and despite my limited acquaintance with the pulpier sorts of crime fiction (I read Crime and Punishment when I was a teenager, and it seemed to matter), it strikes me that Herr Gunther's conversion or reversion makes him a rather unique character for contemporary genre writing, perhaps even for writing in general. On the other hand, it is this same character who, when in the presence of an American intelligence officer in Vienna, finds himself somewhat repulsed by the figure inasmuch as Americans seem to think they can make deals with God; and this deal-making, of course, puts them rather hubristically on an equal footing with The Deity—Apart from this little theological snit on the part of the protagonist, the writing does not concern itself that desperately with the metaphysical - so far, and I have not much farther to go before I reach book's conclusion, about which I am trying to speak as if hundreds of other writers have not already spoken on the events in question. Yesterday, MH and I watched American Beauty, a 1999 movie about American suburban life. It seemed a better movie than when we first viewed it shortly after its release. It disappointed us then, striking us as yet another overly-hyped satanic millwork. But that the culture, as per the flick, spawns manic-depressives ought not surprise anyone. It has been general knowledge all my life, though I suppose one might say that each decade invents its own language by which to treat with the subject. One is always staring at the abyss of one sort of ruin or another; but that, tomorrow, and one is going to be rich beyond one's wildest dreams, and one will have one's brains f—ked out, at last. This sort of thing. "Indeed," said MH, "those crazy physicists with whom I was keeping time, last week, in New York, and they are a fairly other-worldly crew, even they are thinking product, product, product 24/7—" She paused a moment, and perhaps wondered if she herself were not fatally entrepreneurial—If one is not buying, one is selling; and if one is doing neither, then - well, there are ditches to dig - there are padded cells— Morning. Nikas. The jaws of Alexandra the waitress work away on a wad of gum. She has got a table full of young Filipinos first thing. Clearly, they have partied through the night. There is always a male about with fingernails painted black. I do not know if black fingernails are the equivalent of Oscar Wilde's green carnations. Perhaps they only indicate that such a male plays in a band and looks for stardom. Otherwise - ritual and plumage—The rutting moose scoops out a trench in the turf, pisses in it, the smell of which attracts moose darlings who then wallow in the muck and revel in the perfume of sex—Ah, those crazy wild suburban days and nights. P.M. Carpenter, Prominent Political Commentator to the south of here, seems to think that by this time, next year, the electioneering drawn to a close, ballots cast, the Republican Party will have annihilated itself. If there are any serious people left standing, they will have to consider reinventing the party and its politics. Or not. MH tells me there are poll-monitoring souls who assert that the Republicans will sweep - sweep everything. Comedians will subsequently jest:Tell me again, how's the climate up your way? The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny—Madison. It is worth repeating, is it not?

Nov 19, 2011: I do not recall who first came up with the notion that we have at our disposal our own free will. Augustine? I will have to revisit my 101s if only to remind myself that I never got much beyond them in any official capacity. Still, something I read, this morning, suggests that if one is in the hunt for free will, one may as well forget it: there is no such thing. The brain rules. The brain, like some I'm wise to all your games babysitter, puts up with the mind that is just along for the ride. The mind is no more to be glorified than a built-in home entertainment centre. The cynic in me has always figured as much - since when? - since the child in me first noted in adults their depressing proclivity for patterned behaviour. The poet and the child very often used to range far ahead of the scientist, and perhaps, it remains true, however much poetry has been ruined by way of the trivializing antics of those (poets and arts bureaucrats) who would save poetry from the indifference to it of Babbitts and barbarians and assorted philistines. And what of the indifference to poets to the avocation of it all? I am in Nikas at my accustomed hour, speaking of patterned behaviour. Perhaps Alexandra the waitress is on a drug regimen. It is not that her newfound cheer is insincere; it is just serviceable enough. I am not one of those who insists on cheer or that it should, in respect to my person, be of blue chip quality; and there is the cheer of a certain kind of person that renders one suicidal; but even so, Alexandra had been wallowing in morosity - not to put too fine a point on it. On the other hand, one might note that at least she had the courage of her 'morosity'; she - in her dealings with the Nikas clientele - made no attempt to disguise it with the ilk of plasticized smiles. Last night, MH dragged me up the street to a church basement. "Book sale," she said. A vaunted gigantic book sale—It was anything but. However, in aggregate - the inevitable D Steeles. The M Crichtons. Lots of Gorky Parks. The Shoes of the Fisherman—Sede vacante—A vague recollection in me of gravitas—Boxed sets of condensed novels with Readers Digest imprimatur. The odd Canadian foray into serious writing the covers of which, for all the glossy sheen, came off even more forlorn and wan—Books and manuals devoted to utilitarian ends: gardening, cooking, carpentry, computers. Some new-agey how to brew up a revolution. Something comedic, as in: how to survive progress—The like. One noted the presence of Serious Readers. I would not know how to best describe them as such, but they tended to be the more vicious sorts when it came to grubbing through what was on offer, and they were of all ages; and somehow, this was unaccountably heartening. One was tempted to declare of them that here were people not entirely swept up and bulldozed under by the digital fait accompli of the times. I like the smell of old pulp even when the smell of old pulp, on occasion, depresses in geriatric surroundings; and that, come a Sunday (Dimanche) one might sidle back to the church and sample jazz and reflection and prayer, no less. There were elderly Presbyterians seeing to the cash and the bagging of books and keeping an eye on things, they in suspenders the tail-end, perhaps, of two thousand years of church history. In fact, it is what I purchased for the round sum of a loonie: A History of The Christian Church (updated in the 1950s), the scholarship availing itself of the exertions of all those Germans who began to take the bible out of the mouth of God and re-situate it in the maw of the history of humankind. On the inside page was ball-pointed in block lettering: EMILY DRYSDALE CLASS OF '63. A part of my brain - or was it a part of my errant mind? - wondered what has become of poor old Emily Drysdale? Part One of the tome is entitled: FROM THE BEGINNINGS TO THE GNOSTIC CRISIS. My sort of book. Ah, books. To be sure, the mind may be nothing more than smoke and mirrors, an illusion, a God-perpetrated jest, but its ticket was punched somewhere along the line and so, it has to be reckoned with. Then there is this: Great is the power of memory, exceedingly great, O my God, a spreading limitless room within me—Perhaps Augustine's words explain how it is some poets I have experienced over the years get so giddy with themselves and words, and seem to be falling forever through a bottomless space—I suspect as much in myself—

Nov 18, 2011: She do a little of this - she do a little of that—Big Bill Broonzy's Long Tall Mama—Well, I am trying to learn the piece, a facsimile thereof, if nothing else. And then I went down the street to the local music shop and came away with a classical guitar - beginner's instrument Quebec-made and so, in addition to the above-mentioned tune, I now have Albioni's Adagio in Gm with which to come to grips as well as Albéniz's Recuerdos de viaje—Enough to keep me out of trouble for a while in Montreal-NDG. Even so, with Labrosse and MH in 'bratwurst' later in the afternoon (and the newly renovated hole-in-the-wall needs some wearing in), it was observed, accurately or not, that in respect to events unfolding in Greece and Italy, fascism will look like order. It is to say that it is the hour of the technocrat and how it is the technocrat has been imposed upon the people of a sovereign state —The people, of course, are no guarantee of enlightened policy, just that - well, it's the principle of the thing - even if the people will come around and genuflect to their masters in the end—It was also observed that the full 'amplitude' of the American misadventure in Iraq has yet to be registered; and Labrosse asked if I could spell I R A N, and it seemed that I could; and Labrosse further suggested that Chrétien, in a rather spirited fashioned, had challenged Bush to make a case for the invasion, and when Bush could not - to our then prime minister's satisfaction, the PM told a story of the elephant in the bedroom—Or was that Trudeau cooking up an allegory? That it did not matter how tender the elephant was in its ministrations, the elephant being the U.S. of A.—In any case, this is how three of us amused ourselves in 'bratwurst' coming on the supper hour. And sometimes a remark, if turned this way or that like a prism to the light, will take on perhaps some unintended meaning: Man is a rope stretched between the animal and Superman - a rope over an abyss—Nietzsche in histrionic mode. Evening, and I rejoined Labrosse, but in Nikas, this time. E was on shift sporting new bangs. Labrosse characterized them as 'impish'; then wondered where on earth he gets these words, seeing as English is not his mother tongue. It was, however, Chuckie's birthday, Chuckie being E's swain, hence the bangs—Dave the trucker, also at table, spoke of his wine and roses days working on a fishing boat off Vancouver Island, Comox. The odd jest was rendered vis a vis the more famous resort spots in places like Port Hardy and Alert Bay, not that, as Dave the trucker put it, he could remember much of it. For no reason that I could think of, I said I missed the early morning smell of the sea. But the rest of it - what I rather vaguely typify as post-modern Vancouver - you can keep the thing—

Nov 17,2011: The Vienna of 1947 that the crime fiction trilogy Berlin Noir describes is one I recognize from my visits there in the 80s. Oh, and Berlin, too. The postwar pettiness, the nickel and diming, the scrambling for life's smallest boons, seems to have extended well past reconstruction into cozier times - as a mentality that might have outlived its usefulness but was impossible to expunge in the course of a lifetime. I recall a Berlin pensione where, at the breakfast hour, I would watch an old woman and her daughter treat with the ubiquitous breakfast roll and marmalade and coffee. No doubt she had her reasons, but the cold-eyed old woman was beyond savouring every bite she deposited into her mouth as if it might be her last - it was a metaphysical exercise, this ingestion of hard on the outside, chewy and soft on the inside flour and yeast concoction; it was perversely sacramental; it was scavenging on a corpse that was once a country; it was the refusal to admit that something had gone so heinously off the rails, and the sight of it drove me mad - all that endless masticating (I wanted to reach across the length of the table and strangle the wretched woman who reminded me, I realized later, of my Berlin grandmother whom I detested, all of her bitterness and repressed carnality concentrated on her intake of sour milk and pumpernickel), whereas the daughter ate up her roll with something resembling a normal human appetite. It is perhaps one reason why I can never allow myself to have the airs of a connoisseur when it comes to food and why I cultivate, on the other hand, my barbarian pose. I love 'cuisine' as much as anyone, but, d—n it all, food is food—I would find Berlin, so everyone told me, to be an 'exciting' city. It was nothing of the kind, but it was where my mother grew up and it was where my uncle still resided, and it was the origin of the 'family closet' and secrets and mysteries savoury or unsavoury, mostly unsavoury, I am sure. Which is why I do not trouble myself with much of Europe and why I am much happier in Italy when I am on the continent - where pettiness, as such, is at least conducted with some irony and abundant theatricality. Rome. I am lunching in a workingman's trattoria. "Tedeschi alle due" I hear. Genuine alarm in a weary voice. Sure enough, man and woman in lederhosen and befeathered hats are at the window examining the posted bill of fare. Malocchia - In that instance the Evil Eye is either appealed to or warded off, I am not sure which; just that it works and the pair trundle away to menace some other establishment—MH is back from a brief foray into the Empire State. She had reason to be there, but it was also an occasion to catch up with the lives of old friends. She reports that the eeriest thing about small-town America remains, after twenty or so years of noting it: the huge malls with their empty parking lots and empty stores. She thought it telling, too, the lack of traffic at the border as she went over and came back across, but it could be she had simply gotten lucky in that regard—She was full of yankee energy, however, something that she still prizes, even if I quipped that half of that energy tends toward the psychopathic; or that, once absorbed, as per Thistle, it becomes psychotropic—Morning. Nikas. Larry the software entrepreneur is on about more of his peeves, just that he enjoins me to keep mum on his more choice peeves and so, alas, here I mum. P.M. Carpenter, Prominent Political Commentator to the south of here, takes - if not a dim view of the OWS movement - then a bewildered stance vis a vis the phenomenon. If I read him correctly, it seems that he wonders if it can ever amount to anything that might truly challenge the status quo and all its henchmen and henchwomen and henchkinder. Or that perhaps, in the hope of avoiding, of by-passing, of doing an end-run around all that was ideologically hidebound in the Old Left and all that lent itself to evil, the movement can remain 'nice' and 'sanitary' and still move the plutocrats off their fortified rocks—At mention of the immediately above, one of a sudden has an image of 13th and 14th Italian city-states with all their towers attesting to the wealth and the power of the elites within them—Thistle, in respect to the movement, is contemptuous, but is also, at the same time, quite willing to be entertained by the spectacle. I do not know if this bespeaks high intelligence on his part or a cynicism that makes my cynicism that of an interloper on the scene. London Lunar has written a book that, chapter by chapter, keeps blowing up in his face. It has to do with his interview subjects. With peoples' vanities. With the wonderfully magical stuff of ego of an age that is more or less an inexhaustible petrie dish for overweening ego. As I idly plunked on my guitar, last night, the TV screen luridly over-ripe with the likes of Paris Hilton and her girls strutting about the landscape with their vacuous minds and even more vacuous appetites, I thought to myself: "Savanarola, that hideous grim figure part Newt Gingrich, part Elmer Gantry, beckons at this, and is besotted and is repulsed. Bonfire of Other Sorts of Vanities is in the offing. If this, what I'm seeing just now, and admittedly, this 'if' just might be something of a stretch (are there normal people still extant anywhere?) - but if this is the true face of America, then by all means, let the empire slide into oblivion and stay there. This is so much worse than the old Roman decadence in which the pursuit of pleasure did not necessarily entail the surrendering up of one's mind at the door as the price of admission." Or some such mode of thought—

Nov 16, 2011: Who is Thistle? I could report that he is something of a mole high up in Canadian ruling circles. Or that he goes about in rubbers and filthy windbreaker and is insulated with pulp fiction and relieves himself in parks; but that he is granted access to a computer once a week. I have already described him as a family man, his middle name not 'Trouble' or 'Danger' or 'Quickdraw' but Vognbjerg or 'wagon mountain' - which could indicate he is distantly related to anyone who, before a camera, ever portrayed a wagon scout or wagon master for the silver screen. The Hallelujah Trail anyone? In any case, despite what has been reported here in the course of recent posts, Thistle, in fact, loves poets; it is just poetry that renders him senseless and numb and without a paddle for his canoe of state. That a lot of debris, a lot of consumer excess - fridges and cars and whatnot - seems to be washing up on west coast beaches in the wake of the Japanese tsunami concerns him greatly: there might be haiku entangled in the mess, radioactive haiku, at that. Is it a threat to Canadian poetry? We shall see—Now is love stronger than hate? Are there numbers to back the assertion? Is there a viable measure? The concluding image of Pale Criminal, novelette the second in the crime fiction trilogy Berlin Noir, is unblushingly Homeric - that one of falling leaves, each leaf a representation of a single life and, by implication, a generation of humankind. —Burning the dead from ash, oak, elm, beech, sycamore, maple, horse-chestnut, lime and weeping willow, the acrid grey smoke hanging in the air like the last breath of lost souls. But always there were more, and more still, so that the burning middens seemed never to grow any smaller, and as I stood and watched the glowing embers of the fires, and breathed the hot gas of deciduous death, it seemed to me that I could taste the very end of everything—Great literature? Probably not. But the point is taken—There has been in my mind the incessant going off of an alarm for some time now, one that notes the perverse human appetite for more of the same in light of the quote above, one that relates to a world war and a holocaust. Or that there is no such thing as a lesson that, once learned, need never be repeated, no matter what gets said by way of speeches on Remembrance Day; and that any number of politicos are beating war drums as we speak, and the heat has barely gone off the Iraq invasion and the police action - so-called - in Afghanistan. Back to Berlin Noir, the author saw fit to advise the reader that Julius Streicher - one of the infamous brutes of Nazi-dom - was judged by his Nazi peers as 'unfit for human leadership'. Surely, irony is intended here. The pages of the third novelette now breached, and we have, eh voila, post-war ambience; the vanity of men: how the vanity of men conduces to cities populated mostly by women, and regulated by the rigours of classical economics or black market systems: scavenging, pimping, whoring, everyone an impromptu Johnny-on-the-spot aide de camp to anyone who has largesse to dispense. Baghdad? Kabul? Particularly in light of the faux economy grown up around the foreigners and their armies—And then, when those foreigners and their armies pack up and leave - what then? Berlin Noir has gotten to be an odd duck of a book. I am not deeply read in crime fiction and have no great warmth of feeling in respect to the genre, as most of what I have read is little more than the endeavour to justify a risible plot line. For all that, the book in question seems to labour under an embarrassment of riches, however much it must be constrained within the dynamics of genre writing. Every now and then a sentence here or a paragraph there wants to bust out of the cage and morph on the wing into 'serious literature'. Perhaps, by the time I have finished with the thing, I will have 'gotten it' and will be able to report that, what do you know, mesdames et messieurs, all along I was reading serious literature. Or else - but - enough for now. The final novelette drifts into post-war Vienna and Third Man territory, even to the extent of reprising the 'bombed about a bit' dialogic from the opening minutes of the famous movie. I come across the sentence: I wondered what genealogy of debauch had jaspered his once handsome face— I envy the author's 'jaspered'— Apropos of hardly anything, anything at all, there is a scene in Monkey Business (Marx Brothers) that involves puppets and a puppet theatre and a larking Harpo, and it is pure Atellan farce in conjunction with a bit of whimsy. It is all that, that is, if one could say one knows what 'pure Atellan farce' is - in conjunction with a bit of whimsy, and one does not, strictly speaking, know. Otherwise, my correspondents have been busy and have been on the blower to me. From Vale Perkins (Eastern Townships) star-gazing, early morning BBC (radio) and Syria—From Jerusalem, discontent with the government of the hour for any number of reasons. From somewhere in Scotland, the dulcimer and its modalities, and the knock-on domino effects of bank slash speculators some of whom are scallywags. It would seem a sleeping police state has bestirred itself into action against various chapters of the OWS movement to the south of here. It has not gotten grimly thuggish yet, but these being the times that they are, anything can turn on a dime. Current President may be punished for his sins with another term of office. Some thoroughly vacuous idiot may inherit the wind. I might inaugurate candle-lit soirees, readings from Shakespeare and the odd, assorted poet, and plunk a little Albéniz or Blind Blake on the guitar - for a fee—

Nov 14, 2011: There is some strange sex in the crime trilogy Berlin Noir that caught me by surprise, inasmuch as I was thinking, as a certain scene presented itself, that here we go, more gratuitous fluff. Not to harp on it overly much, but the scene in question occurs when a mother, grieving the murder of her child at the hands of a serial killer, a moment of intimacy having arisen somewhat spontaneously between comforter and comfortee, instructs her lover to use her roughly. The lover happens to be a private investigator (he is the novel's protagonist) who is now returned to the 'force' to work on a 'special case' (at the behest of a Nazi kingpin looking to get something juicy on other Nazi kingpins - like Johnson and Nixon trying to get the dirt on each other, the Paris Peace Talks at stake, oh, and an election?). In the course of his leg work the 'bull' is beginning to understand that the killings themselves are an attempt to whip up anti-Jewish feeling amongst the populace at large. They are a frame job, insidiously so. In any case, he refuses the woman, not because he is noble - he is far from noble, but because, as he tells her, whatever it is she wants done to her ought to be 'done with love'; and he just does not have the stomach for - love? - at this particular juncture in time— A, the little wretch, ensconced in Vancouver, tells me that she now understands she will have to accustom herself to the fact of rain. As if there is nothing else in west coast life that will necessitate adaptation, a change of plumage. Otherwise, I must look after her 'husband' or Labrosse (theirs is a mock marriage - it is a game they have enjoyed playing) whom she has left behind to divert himself as he sees fit - ah, with biographies of prominent Canadian politicos. That'll see him as right as rain—I see that Montreal, and in particular McGill U, is now on the map when it comes to the 'occupy whatever' movement; has had a 'riot', has had an episode of riot police and pepper spray and truncheons—It is true I do not pay enough attention to 'local news', but it would seem that someone somewhere in the local nexus overplayed his or her hand. Here is as good a point as any to bring on Thistle and his impatience with me. The fact that I made mention in the post previous of the American Dream, that I even went so far as to spell the words out, speaks to my on-going naivety; that I ought to know it was only ever a fiction; that all fiction is 'ideological'; that I ought not have bothered; that everything is 'political', even the breath one draws; everything is the 60s, man—See what I mean, jelly bean? Apart from the keelhauling Thistle has imparted to my carcass, he seems to have no great regard for Cat's Table - another Ondaatje instance of legerdemain, and he has even less regard for poets - but then we knew that - and, as for the Occupy Whatever movement, here we have an instance of young middle-class spawn and aging hipsters in a classic case of Fighting The Establishment Revisited; and all of this will go away, and the real fight - well, will there be such? And I suppose passing kidney stones cannot be pleasant, the morphine notwithstanding—London Lunar? Yet again he has been downsized or upgraded to perform the function of someone's punching bag. Or he has been made to walk the plank (on account of a book he wrote), his booked passage on the Good Ship Lollipop now rescinded. Were I to profess a love of oud music would I automatically and willynillyingly be culpable in respect to 'orientalism' as per all the E Said's of the world? What of my love of the Three B's as well as Mozart? The fact that I prefer Puccini over Wagner - does that make of me a lesser fascist? I suspect, now that the plot has turned, or the worm, if you will - and I am talking Berlin Noir here, the author will endeavour to present for the reader's delectation the spectacle of a not terribly moral being becoming a source, in some way large or small, of resistance to the Nazi ethos. Well, we will see: I may be proven spectacularly wrong. I have either passed the point or I am close to it when it was intended that I ask myself if this blog-post-journal is worth my time and yours; whether it has been nothing more than a species of vanity, me playing at The Electric Horseman with a moustache bushier than that of the anti-corporatist Redford, and ought I to continue with said blog-post-journal-come-what-may? Economically, it makes no sense whatsoever that I should continue. But then, neither does making poems. Nor the playing of something on the guitar that I cannot hope to master, though the mucking it up provides me pleasure. Yet the pleasure principle is insufficient justification for passing commentary in a semi-public forum—The professionals do not inquire of themselves whether or no they believe they have anything to say. It is understood they have something to say. Now there's a pleasant fiction

Nov 13, 2011: I was acquainted already with the Nazi predilection for spiritualism. So that when, in the crime fiction trilogy Berlin Noir, the séance scene manifested itself - like some moody ghost come to a well-appointed dining table in Outremont or Belgravia - I was not taken aback. I was, however, rendered a trifle wary: ah, research. Research. Research. Takes the place of understanding, should understanding be in want on the part of the author. What would Melville have done with this material? Even so, as I pushed on, it struck me that it does not matter much what motivates a collective to happily function as a collective, be the spur the American Dream or Jupiter Best and Brightest or the quest for racial purity or any other 'shared value' - any quest for anything at all; what matters is its boredom threshold, at which point, when boredom kicks in, wheels generally start wobbling. The thought is perhaps not much of a thought as thoughts go, but that I happened to be reading crime fiction at the time the thought would do its worst, and not Tacitus or, better still, Durkheim, smacked of a rather satisfying collusion between 'thought' as such and divertissement—Apparently, I missed the hordes, last night, who came to chow down at Nikas, though E on shift seemed none the worse for it. The old expression strong on her feet came to mind; and were there a Waitressing Competition somewhere that scores points for stamina and pleasant manner - but without the chilling how may I serve you smile - and were E to enter, I am certain she would acquit herself well. Labrosse was in a philosophical frame of mind; and for starters, he ventured to say that the OWS movement was something bigger than animus vis a vis the banking world (and he bade me to consider that it is mostly ordinary people doing ordinary jobs in that world. It bears repeating that Labrosse worked in the financial sector—). I agreed as to the point made, and kicking the can a little further down the Broad Boulevard of the Intellect, I suggested that perhaps Current President does not 'get it', even if he thinks he does - and, and - and here Labrosse interjected: Labrosse: "Mais oui. He has already shown that he doesn't get it." More Labrosse, and I paraphrase: : "And, you know, I just get the feeling that Americans are looking for a way of saying something. So how do you say that this guy making $15 an hour cleaning the factory floor is going to be let to die, and the next guy who comes along to clean that floor is going to make a buck-fifty an hour, and only that, no benefits, side perks, residuals of any sort - the new reality - the new new brave world?—" Sibum: "You say it by saying torture is cool and health care be d—mned and immigrants - watch yourself. You don't necessarily say the American Dream is dead, gone, never to return, but deep down you know it's true, and perhaps you even consider that it was always something of a mirage - that the people who always tend to get ahead are people who started out ahead in the first place. But the thing about the language - it says that people prefer to wake up in the morning with the illusion, at least, if not the reality, that they have a handle on 'stuff' - that it might be a strange world getting stranger, but hey, someone's got to do it—" Labrosse seemed to think that my words were not totally wide of the mark—He started going on about his hero - Chrétien. The man had something that has gone MIA in the world of politics: the ability to be himself while at the same time, not making a complete arse of himself as he wandered off script, unlike, a Bachmann, for instance, or a Perry or a Cain, three Republican magi, among others, in the hunt for a nativity scene—Oh, and there was Trudeau, too. A politician not to be sneezed at. Indeed, E, crushing the eggshells of a thousand fallen Humpty-Dumpties, a thousand debacles, underfoot; and despite her not entirely inconsequential grasp of current affairs, clearly has no idea of the depth and breadth of the vacuum that has opened up in the political world seemingly everywhere; a vacuum that number-crunchers will now fill by way of taking the lead of some two-step or other, the Berlusconis tripped up; but that, all that will be effected is an increase in the echo-factor: yet more spin. Of late, I drift on the guitar from Fahey's Stompin' Tonight on the Pennsylvania-Alabama Border to Albéniz's Recuerdos de viaje Op. 71 No. 6 Rumores de la caleta (Malagueña). The two men have more in common than one might think: they both composed - Fahey for the guitar, Albéniz for the piano (much of the latter man's pieces were transcribed for the guitar). They were nomadic. They made use of both classical motifs and folk tunes. But here I ought to cease and desist: I am not a musical scholar. I am just someone who loves music, so much so I might go for days at a time not listening to the thing, as it takes such a hold of me that it renders me no good for anything else. Even so, I favour Puccini over Wagner. In Hammersmith somewhere, London Lunar groans.

Nov 12, 2011: As to whether or not I have had anything to say, these past few months, there is always that point of view which ventures to say that one has not had anything to say for years—Morning. Nikas. The place is curiously church-like, this morning, if one can associate churches with the sound of humming fridges and ventilators. Even the lighting seems unusually dramatic— I would like to believe there is some truth in an article I read, earlier this morning, one suggesting that the Occupy Wall Street movement has wearied of so much more than just bankers and their predations; it has wearied of everything. 'Everything', then, signifies an empty culture, an emptier pop culture, and the attendant rigours of the rat race that is getting a whole lot more people nowhere at much quicker pace—Trouble is, the prose of said article has all the savoir faire and aesthetic lineaments of airbrush guitar—As I said already, it is quiet in here, blessedly so. I may, however, have spoken too soon, Alexandra the waitress, having put on her face in the ladies' room, advancing on that part of the restaurant where the controls to the radio sit. London Lunar reports that he is low. He has been blindsided once again by another review, this one even more redolent with bravura sneers than any review previous, and some specimens of the 'any previous' have been doozies. Me, I have Albéniz on the brain, in particular his Op. 47 No. 8 Suite Española-Cuba (Nocturne). I do not have enough lifetimes left in my life in which to learn all that I wish to learn to play on the guitar. 'Bratwurst', so I understand, is up and running again; and I rather expected a summons from Labrosse, last night; that we might go and celebrate the re-opening with a ritual libation in situ, and give Jamal the gears while we were at it, but no, nothing. Do we care so little for the most innocuous of our pleasures that we cannot get off our duffs so as to pursue them? Enter Irish Harpy with retinue. Retinue, today, consists of hubby and nothing but hubby. Soon enough, she is at it; she is picking at my demographics. Indeed, I do, in fact, pack around a truck load of Teutonic genes. She says - sportingly enough - that she is a 'squarehead'. Irish Harpy: "Well, it's what the French (in Montreal) call the Irish." Husband arches his brows. Is Irish Harpy flirting? I have reached a patch in my reading of Berlin Noir, crime trilogy, where I fail to see the point of the thing. No doubt, this outlook on my part will reverse itself over the course of a few more chapters. As per Maimonides, live a thousand years and one will have seen it all, done it all, been it all, virtue nothing more than timing and the luck of the draw.

Nov 11, 2011: In the person of Julius Streicher, one of the more prominent and infamous Nazis (apparently he used to gad about Nuremberg cracking a bull whip in his glory days), it comes to together. At least in the crime fiction trilogy Berlin Noir it does: public and private depravity, on the strength of political cogs and wheels and media, unite into a consummate madness that carries all before it. It is perhaps true of any polity - that the public and the private spheres mirror one another to some extent, so that what differences there are between said polities are a matter of degree. I bring all this up for mention because 1), I happen to be reading Berlin Noir, and 2), I wonder if the fictional Streicher will bear any resemblance to the man of historical record; but that, 3), we seem to be passing through another patch in the affairs of humankind in which political cogs and wheels and media so aggressively manufacture instant firestorms on a daily basis so as to accomplish political objectives, none of them savoury. I might point out that Streicher was in the newspaper business - propaganda and character assassination his forte, Jews in high places his favourite targets, and his example has its corollaries in the current moment, though the game has been refined somewhat and rendered a touch more subtle in its operations—Morning. Nikas. Larry the software entrepreneur takes the place by 'storm', and already he is on about something. Ah, boxing. I gather he attended a bout, last night. Eddie - owner-cook - wants to know how it went. I gather it went so-so - at six to one odds for someone or other. I learn that Larry used to box himself and is quite intimate with the sport in its Montreal manifestations, and that he even writes about it - in French. Journalists come to him for a little inside dope on things now and then. His chief peeve: how is it that all these fighters can go 38-0, the inference being then that so many of the bouts are rigged, these fighters having only to square off against patsies and fall guys - until, I guess, something lucrative comes along. Not only that, the public happily swallows the lies the promoters tell in respect to their fighters, and the public not only swallows the lies, but the public waxes expertly on boxing matters from their Monday morning quarterbacking armchair at Drunkin Donuts - over there (and here Larry raises an arm and extends a finger and points it - Sacajewa-like - in the general direction of the iniquitous den of intellectual giants across the street). Yes, well—The thing is, a Literary Thug of my acquaintance also writes about boxing and so, it strikes me that I ought to effect a meeting between these two aficionados of the sport. We aim to please. It has been a spectacular autumn, unless my memory of past autumns is playing tricks with me: not too cold but crisp enough. I lament the fact that 'bratwurst' has been closed for renovations, terrasse season curtailed on this account. One might have got in some extra scribbling on site, the leaves swirling about, poetry in every passerby. You know where you are / you're in the jungle, baby / you're gonna die—Guns N' Roses (on about cause and effect). Human life must be some kind of mistake—Schopenhauer. A ticket to heaven must include tickets to Limbo, Purgatory and Hell—Thoreau. Yes, yes, yes. Gloomy stuff. Winter then.

Nov 10, 2011: A PBS program on the nature of time and string theory left me indifferent to the nature of time and string theory. Moreover, if time is something that is personal to one, well, I already understood that by way of any number of experiences; no need of science to pile on and say, guess what, time isn't all Big Ben— Apropos of nothing here, if certain reports are to be believed, it would seem that all of eight men run Europe inasmuch as they control banking and the economy and will depose of prime ministers who are insufficiently attuned to market forces—In the crime fiction trilogy Berlin Noir (set in the Nazi years), it is the juxtaposition of fantasist politics (and their attendant monstrosities, let alone the cruelties) to everyday crime and everyday perversion such as are grisly enough that grabs one and deposits one in an hermetically-sealed atmosphere of menace and unreality; and then, one does not know where the one nightmare begins and the other leaves off - they have become so intertwined—'Bratwurst' still undergoing renovations, I met up with Labrosse at Honey Martin's yesterday afternoon just down the street. A heart throb of a barmaid coaxed some beer into a couple of mugs, served us and then, with all the good will in the world, left us to our own devices. Whereupon Labrosse, getting some of his intellects back, remarked that the best thing Current President can do is get himself a new cabinet. It would signal he is serious—And then, leaping when he might have zagged, he informed me that Eggy's ashes have still not yet found a home, or an urn, as it were, but that, perhaps in the spring - or so the lawyer that Eggy sired, in recent communications, has informed Labrosse —Whilst he graced me with this bit of news, someone sang (courtesy of an I-Pod or Pad or whatever the thing) that they were so lonesome they could cry—An odd occurrence then ensued. There I was on a barstool, Labrosse to my right sorting through his thoughts, the barmaid and her elderly interlocutor to my left - they were talking some downtown jazz club - and I saw myself, of all things, in the Byzantium of Michael Psellus, eleventh century (which it was a turning point in the fortunes of the empire). I was in a not unpleasant monk's cell happily engaged in writing up some history or other—Time, on occasion, collapses, telescopes in reverse—The I-Pod or Pad or whatever the thing then rendered up Spanish Harlem, and in the few minutes it took for the singing of it I might have been parked on that stool for a thousand years. Well, things were getting too awfully poetic, wouldn't you say? Labrosse ventured into a discussion of greed versus systemic glitch as to what boots it for scandal; and he said that they were 'both' real enough: there is greed and there is systemic glitch, and the one brings pressure to bear on the other. In any case, the instance in that bar of an unofficial Happy Hour struck me as vastly reassuring for no reason the spelling out of which would satisfy: just that it was nice to be reminded that here were certain persons intent on drinking somewhat purposively; that, at least, they were engaged in the honouring of gods that had little to do with the gods of filthy lucre; as it seemed to me the people in the place were not overly pushed around by a nexus of culture and fashion and market forces, the I-Pod or Pad or whatever the thing notwithstanding. That sort of person would arrive much later in his or her gaggles, as if parachuted from the sky; and they would set about making a scene, one of life's little pastimes. We had enough, Labrosse and I, and home, and MH was idly watching the old version of The Quiet American, Audie Murphy one of the movie's stars. It was the version Graham Greene apparently detested as it misrepresented the character of his American spook, making him out to be more benign than he actually was. MH then told me that the most recent version of the movie was delayed in its release date on account of the imminent invasion of Iraq, that 'government' had leaned on the producers—We had our supper. MH returned to her painting. I meant to reacquaint myself with John Fahey's guitar piece Stompin' Tonight on the Pennsylvania-Alabama Border, a composition a few passages of which I have yet to quite get the spirit of—A lovely, well-balanced little epic composition—I was derailed by time and string theory. Fell asleep; had a dream. In the dream a very prominent Canadian poet rebuked me for not playing along with the boys (and gals). What was his problem? I woke up, miffed that I had been importuned by his protestations. I recalled that I had been texted earlier in the day by the Moesian. He had had occasion to be reading in a 'polished, steel and glass' venue called The Spoke, Toronto. Where else? 'Overpriced drinks.' 'Egyptian towels'. 'Soap made of the lipsucted fat of rich housewives dreaming of tight-bunned personal trainers'—The reading went well. Between them Letterman and Steve Martin got rather cloying. Charlie Rose gives me hives. The thought does visit me now and then, Rilke's thought that, sometimes, it is best to curb one's tongue as one only adds to the monstrosities and the cruelties—

Nov 9, 2011: Thistle, it would seem, does not care much for poets. Who knows how many of them he has had the good fortune to meet? They are, he says, always obsessing; obsessing about things with which no one else bothers. How things end? Is there anything that ends well? Perhaps United Church ministers get better cachet from mulling over the big questions, but at least they remember to ask for donations. Poets? Theirs is a self-generated aura of being specially attuned to the true import of heavenly choirs (when it comes to the operations of the universe) and then - but don't get me started—Alright then, Thistle, we shan't. Even so, Thistle has not yet exhausted pique. Thistle: "And when all my ology students dream of their $90,000 a year salary as their recompense for whatever ological functions they shall foist on the public at large upon graduation, and dream of not much else ($90,000 a year? - is that all? - seems like less than beer nuts—), then who gives a flying f—k as to whether or not God preceded the Big Bang? And whether or not the U.S. of A. has degenerated into a proto-fascist state is even less a matter of idle chitchat." Last night in Nikas, Labrosse and I had not much to say to each other. When Dave the trucker joined us, we had even less. Dave had just completed a haul to Winnipeg and back - a round trip- of two and a half days - and he looked it, his eyes benumbed in shadow. Northern Ontario. Lethal. Behind Labrosse, ensconced at table, was Fellini Woman. If there is a museum somewhere in the world devoted to Marcello Mastroianni artifacts, she has raided it and come away with the hat - that one MM sported in 8 1/2. She wears it not badly; coming off a bit like some outback rider in high heels, hair plush down to her shoulder blades. Her table was heaped with purses, notebooks, wallets, and one exotic cigarette case. And though I have heard the woman describe herself as an 'independent business owner' (pyramid schemes?), one of the notebooks was open to a page on which there seemed to squat what suspiciously looked like a few stanzas of verse. Perhaps she attends a writing workshop so as to unwind from the pressures and stresses of maximizing profits. Two tables further down, a loud, rather overbearing Asian fellow was dictating reality to the same mousy blonde at whom he always dictates. Some men who continuously bray and harp on a single note are simultaneously blissfully unaware of the effects they perpetrate on polite society—And then, when Fellini Woman approached him (her radar had alertly caught something in his patter that mine had not - some errant measure of heavenly choir musica for which he is the ever the chosen medium), and the two of them exchanged business cards; and the mousy blonde rose from her chair to curtsy as if at royalty in the person of Fellini Woman, the scene imparted to the expression 'thick as thieves' a brand new career. Yes, and: This concluded events on that day. Tacitus. Or this: Striking proofs of the nature of fortune, whose treacherous surface combines the peak and the abyss—But then, we have engineered a world in which 'fortune' as such no longer plays a part and so, we have satisfied a dream as old as the world's first ever policy wonk, or Hammurabi, have we not?—I do not know if one can properly say that the history Tacitus wrote on the year 69 A.D. reflects anything, anything at all, on current reality; but if politics is as general as it is particular, then it is possible that the post-civil war spectacle he paints of factional strife, the jockeying for leverage and the jealousies writ large between the contenders, and the prosecutions and counter-prosecutions - the practice of law nothing more than an instrument of destruction, bears a smidgen of resemblance to the Beltway. Much about your good people moves me to disgust, and it is not their evil I mean. How I wish they possessed a madness through which they could perish, like this pale criminal. Truly I wish their madness were called truth or loyalty or justice: but they possess their virtue in order to live long and in a miserable ease—Nietzsche. And, to be sure, I like the quote; and it is a quote the author of Berlin Noir chose to place at the outset of his trilogy's second novelette: The Pale Criminal. A few chapters in and one gets: Just when you thought that things couldn't get any worse, you find that they've always been a lot worse than you thought they were. And then they get worse—Well, now there are fewer overblown similes in the writing and the author has afforded more scope for forensics. Otherwise, otherwise—A, the little wretch, texted Labrosse with her letter of resignation now that she is off to Vancouver to live a new life and avail herself of better cocktail mixes and beaches. Our table will be in need of new recruits. I idly contemplated learning to play the Tannhaüser Overture on my guitar, and said as much to London Lunar. He hissed: what next? A slide version of The Ride of the Valkyries?

Nov 8, 2011: I dreamed that in a poor man's supermart, there by the tomato bin, I met a young woman who had been arrested for taking part in an anti-Wall Street demonstration. She was looking at a couple of day's worth of jail time, and she was troubled. I figured I ought to be more troubled for her than I was. Even so, I said a few things that might conceivably allay her anxiety—Then politics led to cosmology. Just that, from this part of the dream I woke, seemingly in full revelatory mode; or that the 'spew' or the Gross Bang which eventually made for the earthly soup that made for life; which made for the jokers who became the gods, is still in play, of course; and if the gods could not help themselves in being anything other than the jokers they started out as, even now, we cannot seem to help ourselves—London Lunar, in his capacity as a seller of books, reports that when a writer dies, nine times out ten, all interest in the writerly personage dies along with him or her. Is it a mercy? Morning. Nikas. And old Nick who once manned the kitchen here, Nick the old Cretan, has popped in - just to be social; to complain a little. Getting older, my friend. It seemed to me, by way of last evening's news, that all those Michael Jackson fans exulting in the doctor's guilty verdict were sick, sick, sick. They certainly took some of the stuffing out of the notion that the public, in its infinite wisdom, is wiser than the policy wonks who would manage and massage its druthers—The crime fiction trilogy Berlin Noir that I am reading, the first part now read, has taken on a pretty dark hue, to say the least; and I suppose it is good to be reminded that people in their millions died for no other reason than that a collective had gotten so tiny of spirit, as if a black hole had come about in its soul and eaten all the light—Otherwise, no, my question as to why anyone would write a crime thriller as a Nazi 'period piece' other than to exploit, exploit, remains unaddressed—In any case, if the Nazis gloated in their use of power, the Americans demur in respect to the fact of theirs; whereas the power the Romans wielded in their day strikes me as having been the least compromised with overblown fantasies of competence and phony principles; and that those few stoics and even fewer epicureans, and here and there, the odd besotted poet, who had the odd reservation about this perpetual carrying of a big stick really meant it, perhaps more so than our contemporaries who study the beast. Yes, in the name of Bush the father, the son, the HG. Or that, from Nixon's hijacking of LBJ's peace feelers (the Cong - Paris - 1968) to Reagan's manipulation of the Iran hostage episode to the Florida election, 2000, we have had a political party thoroughly smitten with power mongering, even if it's only just politics; a forty some year long infatuation with a moral ascendancy not sillified with the left of centre pieties of the same game - the only game in town; and for the life of me I cannot see how any of this is going to end well—

Nov 6, 2011: There is in The Histories of one Cornelius Tacitus a brief account of a fellow named Regulus. Who had attained a detestable eminence by engineering the ruin of the house of the Crassi and that of Orfitus. In other words, the man made a living by way of economic pillage. He seems to have come on the scene in Nero's reign and to have tailored his aspirations accordingly, as he did with Nero's successors. One may as well be reading today's news. Corporate scavenging. Modernity's Berlin of the 30s and Nazi graft. Our present moment. Ah well, Regulus. Regulate. As a one-time press secretary to LBJ would have it, our present moment began in the 70s with pushback on the part of corporate types to the Clean Air Act and the like. 'Men of action in the capitalist world' signifies that money trumps the ballot box—Modernity, too, is about message control, not necessarily as Orwell had it a la Big Brother and the End of Thought, but as daily background noise and the End of Thought, inasmuch as thought cannot compete with Arts&Entertainment—Labrosse advised me of his presence in Nikas, last evening and so, I went down and saw instantly why I had been summoned: in a word, N. N, in her capacity as Montreal-NDG's loneliest woman, is Labrosse's nemesis. She has it irrevocably fixed in her mind that he is her heart's desire. She is a nurse. She is a hockey enthusiast to extreme. She will chatter at Labrosse from across the restaurant on the particulars of the game currently in progress on the TV screen; and she will be thoroughly oblivious to the fact that, with grim determination, he is ignoring her blandishments. Though she is anything but attractive, she is not, at first blush, a stupid woman. Still, there is something missing in her faculties. Or else she is one of those persons of either gender who simply abandon their wits when in the presence of the 'Other'. If Cavafy had known anything of hockey and northern loneliness he might well have consigned a few verses to this woman Eros-possessed in some peculiar fashion. In any case, of a sudden, she disappears. The place is hopping with patrons but is now eerily quiet, even so. Labrosse seems to be breathing a little more easily, even if he is not pleased with the chef's salad over which E, on shift, clucks her tongue apologetically. "Oh dear." The two couples behind Labrosse conduct a spirited exchange of views in some South Asian dialect, or so I surmise. Another odd clucking sound, not E's, seems to accompany clipped off vowels. One hears French, Haitian French, English, Italian at the various booths and tables, and in the kitchen, smatterings of Greek and Albanian—E with her high collar reaching for her near opaque chin, nonetheless moves through space like an endlessly cheerful courier, one bringing good news and news of disaster: there's no more sole to be had. I'm so sorry. Female winged messenger laden with menus and baskets of garlic toast—But where did N get to? E: "Very likely the toilet—" It does seem a sensible surmise. E, continuing: "But maybe elsewhere, if you're lucky. Oh dear. You're not so lucky." The woman has re-emerged, and now, she has ample excuse to stop off at our table and kick the can around. N, her pale blue eyes roiling behind thick murky lenses as she surveys the TV screen on the wall: "Looks like we've got two of our boys in the penalty box." Labrosse, perfectly capable of looking for himself: "You don't say." N: "Oops, no, I was wrong - three of our brave stout hearts—" Labrosse is gallantly nonplussed at receipt of this news. Like the passenger of a car who has yet to trust any driver's driving - ever, he prefers his own empiricism to that of others. It strikes me that this woman, be she loony, terribly lonely or both, is the last of a breed: the last Canadian to believe, and without the faintest suspicion that the reality could be otherwise, that the body-politic to which her heart strings are attached is still a decent-minded body-politic and would not harm a fly, no matter the fly's country of origin or ethnic particulars. And all the while, she has been preparing her exit from the immediate stage; she has pulled on her coat; she has settled up with E; she now bids Labrosse a 'good night'; she bids Sibum a 'good night' but he, the effer, pretends to be absorbed by the hockey action and he will not hear her. She remains rooted to the spot, that one, knowing as she does, that Sibum will cave and get his act together and respond - if not with grace, then with civility, and return her bid of a 'good night' syllable for syllable. Trouble is, he is afraid to view her countenance and its weight of weariness and resignation, for all that is there for any half-wit like himself to register, should one be in the mood for it. And when one is the last of a breed what else is there but weariness and resignation and the fact of one's tongue that simply will not cease its nattering? As for Berlin Noir, a trilogy of crime novels that I happen to be reading, I am out on a limb in respect to it. It is to say I cannot possibly assimilate yet another novel to do with the period of the late 20s to the early 40s, let alone the innumerable movies on tap, the books of history, the articles, the essays, the journals and diaries. But as I read through the first hundred pages of the opus, it seems I am being provided with a fresh occasion in which to ask: well, what do I really know about any of it? Is there anything intelligent left to say? Is there any room left on the hay wagon? I have not read the Sebald who, according to a photographer friend of mine, documented the fact that the pre-Nazi Germans were the highwater mark of western culture, and it has been all downhill since; I have not read Ann Michaels and that book she wrote that I can never trust—Which brings me to a memory of an important interlude in my life, one that occurred early on. Heidelberg, the 50s, is the scene. My Berlin grandfather (he had been a contractor and something of a boulevardier in his day) has my hand tucked in his. Sunday promenade. Each family member dressed to the nines. The old man and the boy do not know a word of the other's language, and yet, with his weary and resigned and somewhat embittered eyes, the old man is attempting to carve a communiqué on the boy's soul, one of terribly serious import, of intelligence he is not likely to receive from any other source in the course of his life. There was, and still is no doubt in my mind, that what my grandfather wished to say was for the most part benign; that it had nothing to do with what or what he might not have done; with who he might or might have been. The thing is, did I ever 'get it'?

Nov 5, 2011: London Lunar speaks of the tingle factor in respect to the arts. Well, poor fellow, he has just been to see The Flying Dutchman. At which he counted seven 'tingling' moments. Alright then, lest you think I am taking undue advantage of an innocent; lest you come to believe I have no other aim in life but to appeal to the cheap seats and play for laughs, I might point out that, in all the poetry readings I have attended over the years - more than any sane entity might wish to own up to - I have experienced five or so such 'tingle' moments, as when the hairs stand up on the back of one's neck at the sound of a god speaking through his or her medium—Five episodes then of transport from the mundanities— Good odds? Lamentable odds? But indeed, the tingle matters—There was not much tingle to be had, last night, in Nikas, unless it was the sight of the Romanian waitress with her new French movie actress look. "Oh yes," her laughter said, "I really mean it." E was also on shift - in her happy, happy mode. She was probably looking at an evening of good tips. I was, as customary, at table with Labrosse. He considered that Inside Job, a documentary on the financial crisis of 2008, was a 'good summary of events'. He found some of the testimony of his peers in the business world hard to take. Often his tone of voice in respect to me and my views on capitalism has redounded to something like this: look, poet, remove business from the world and how do you expect to eat? Perhaps, so I sniff here, he is now prepared to cut me a little slack. Mehdi the trucker and his daughter appeared. The daughter inhabits some fifth dimension in the realm of commerce. I know none of the details; just that she has been often homesick for Tehran but has also sold UNICEF cards to hockey stars in a West Island shopping mall, and loved doing it—"There are no good Persian restaurants in Montreal," she advised, and she continued: "for that, you have to go to Toronto—" Oh dear. Mehdi suggested that the economy is shrinking, given that fewer goods are moving about in fewer trucks. The observation countered Labrosse's sense that, while the economy is not exactly waxing in a robust manner, it is not necessarily waning, either. Labrosse keeps tabs on this sort of thing. "Well," said Mehdi, and I am paraphrasing the man, "I haul cement around. And if I'm hauling less and less cement around all the time - well, what do you think? - you draw your own conclusions—" Mehdi then inquired after D the pedagogue from whom we have not heard in some time, the school year in full swing. "He's become too exalted for our company," I remarked. "Flyé," said Labrosse, having recourse to a Quebecker-ism. "Yes," said Mehdi's daughter, "they don't speak a proper French in Tehran." "Because," Labrosse responded, "they speak a too proper French. They ought to relax." We were full of beans, we were, at our table. In the back of my mind, as I looked out the window at the winter pall beginning to settle in for the next six months, was Berlin Noir, the crime fiction I happen to be reading. If nothing else, I supposed, one could say the book is a portrait of the first truly modern city of the western world, what with the department stores and theme-based cabarets. It did put me in mind of Grand Hotel, of Erich Maria Remarque (an author who was important to me in my teens), of Peter Lorre in M; even of Petronius's Satyricon - one of the world's first novels that immortalized a banquet at which sat all sorts of noveau riche types, and the Nazi luminaries were of similar ilk. Now and then in my life I have wondered why old money gets huffy and kind of touchy at times, and picky about the company it keeps—Of late, P.M. Carpenter, Distinguished Political Commentator to the south of here, has been intimating that Current President looks increasingly re-electable; and yet, yesterday, Mr Carpenter seems to have reversed himself on this score, saying that with the electorate in question and its appetite for punishment - that is to say, it keeps putting crooks back in office at a much faster rate than it removes them in the first place - anything is possible. It re-elected Bush, didn't it? The cheap smile on my face suggested that I have been saying something along similar lines for years now. But then, which is it, Mr Carpenter? How will it play for a betting man come November, 2012? I put the question to the man and he responded in short order: the times they are confusing. Cute. I have been meaning to write up a proper little essay on the cozy little nexus between corrupt literature and fascistic politics, only I keep forgetting to do so or I am much too lazy; and besides, I have no stomach for any antipathy I might incur from humourless sorts who, on the surface, take aesthetically appealing swipes at the corporate world only to vote with their feet in the world of academe, art speak their true allegiance, the more misdirection the better—March Violets, indeed. I think the hard-boiled 'sniffer' in Berlin Noir is starting to worm his way into the Thought Central portion of my head - like some inane jingle —I didn't need my deer-stalker hat to realize the place had been turned over, from top to bottom—'Bernie' having a sniff around in Berlin Noir.

Nov 4, 2011: 71 pages down and some 764 to go and I will have read Berlin Noir, a crime thriller trilogy set in the Nazi era and in the years immediately following. The incessant use of overblown simile is something of a concern, but then, as I have read relatively little crime fiction, I am not accustomed to the tricks of the trade. One might as well say one is a little put out by the fact that Shakespeare's sonnets happen to rhyme. For all that, Berlin the city, the physical reality of it, matters to me a great deal; perhaps because I am the child of a Berliner now in her eighth decade, even if I went on to become the child of other things - oh, Vietnam, for instance, and all that has since attained the status of it's a matter of historical record, you ninny, surely you can appreciate—But to return to Berlin Noir ( before I get so far down a tangent that I lose the thread of my thought such as it is), can a literary 'stunt', that is to say, a grab bag of jokes and asides in their aggregate, impart a worthwhile testimony to the horrors of a particular decade? Will the writing simply piggyback opportunistically on an infamous period in the affairs of humankind with no other end in mind but the acquisition of filthy lucre? One has no objection to filthy lucre. One has eyes to roll at the stomach-churning spectacle of intellectual smoke and mirrors. Perhaps a cheap stunt is much to be preferred to what is pretentious, portentious, or, as it were, 'literary'. I will continue to read and will let you know, as we do aim to please—Otherwise I have been tasked and must complete a little ditty for a certain Mr Dan Wells who is, apparently, a publisher of books and a magazine; who cracks a restive whip; who affords one precious little time in which to treat with said task; who probably wears a rumpled borsalino in bed—More grist for the mill of literary criminality, however. Morning. Nikas. Enter Irish harpy and retinue. Husband appears fatally demoralized on this go round. Son, despite it all, has his p & v in order. Soon enough he is at it, reporting on an exchange of views he has had recently with an unidentified party: "Well, if you're a lawyer, go lawyer." The gods are dumbstruck. The man bears watching. There is unsuspected talent here. Son considers that when it comes to America the world is piling on. He is not only a budding contrarian, he has budded. As with my catch-as-catch-can grasp of the Italian language, he has just enough grasp of a subject - any subject you care to name - with which to land himself in trouble. Ah, but now husband is on the comeback trail. He attempts an engaging anecdote, he the most pleasant, the mildest of men. And life will turn a corner and get on with life, whether or not all roads lead to Rome, his wife the empire's most zealous traffic cop—She gave me a smile that was as thin and dubious as the rubber on a secondhand condom. No, not a Irish harpy smile. Far from it. A starlet's smile with which one of those overblown similes from the aforementioned book did treat—And I dunno. Really, I don't


Nov 3, 2011: I am sent an apparition by London Lunar. It is an ancient photograph of a Romanian poet-translator. I am guessing the 1930s but the image could as easily hail from the 1860s - Paris, perhaps. A Parnassian of dreamy countenance and wavy hair with holes in the soles of his shoes. London Lunar quips: "Count Dracula?" I have always had a weakness for symbolist poetry, though I am as much in the grip of plain speaking and no-nonsense writing as any post-Leninist habitué of metro diners. Il est des parfums frais commes des chairs d'enfants—And, hey buddy, could you pass the salt? At some point in recent conversations, I submitted to MH that the problem with cosmologies I have come across of late is that it is assumed that increased familiarity with the workings of the universe will render us 'at home' in it; and there need never again be any cause for dread and a milieu reeking with deities. It is a psychology similar to that of those bankers who, when buttonholed by alarmed economists and ministers of finance, responded that everyone should take a pill and relax - all be well. We are expert. We are prescient. We are competent. Yes, and when I stumble over counter-culture mentations such as find it desirable that consciousness should be separate (weaned) from religion and politics and the like, I get nervous: can the next hegemony be far off? We are never more silly than when we attempt to extricate ourselves from ourselves and yet, extricate we must—Morning. Nikas. Enter Larry the software entrepreneur in brilliant orange, the look on his face: how did I get into this? I guess there's no way out, eh? Oh well. How'd the game turn out, last night? George - owner-cook - asks after each our welfare, and that is as far as that goes, given that all must be well, as his interlocutors can, in fact, respond. Alexandra the waitress has been fairly diligent in keeping the radio decibels suppressed, so much so I have been startled, at times, by the sound of my mental processes. However, it seems those decibels do creep up in the course of the morning; and by the time I reappear - which is generally around one in the afternoon - those decibels are back at their accustomed crushing intensities—In any case, I am not so much interested as to whether or not Greensleeves, which it is a piece of English music, may be truly attributable to Henry VIII, but if so, then I wonder if it were not some tongue-in-cheek production of his, he with his spousal sextet. Alas, my love, you do me wrong, / to cast me off discourteously—It goes around in the mind, this morning: Henery the Eighth I am—Otherwise, I press on with Tacitus. Civilis, barbarian with probable Roman citizenship, a Roman civil war in progress, very nearly succeeds in detaching the whole of Gaul from the tender mercies of Rome, but in the end he has to accommodate himself to the fact of Vespasian and the upper hand Vespasian has come to enjoy, hostilities winding down, and Civilis thereafter disappears from history—What, like Sitting Bull? And if it is true that he alone of all the animals has this freedom of imagination and this unruliness in thought that represents to him what is, what is not, what he wants, the false and the true, it is an advantage that is sold him very dear, and in which he has little cause to glory, for from it springs the principal source of the ills that oppress him: sin, disease, irresolution, confusion, despair—Montaigne. Mischievously enough, I suppose, that whilst I might picture the Buddha in position vis a vis his fig tree, I might also see Monsieur Montaigne at the same time hanging out on a limb of the same tree, monkey-like, not necessarily in disagreement with the master, but not necessarily in concurrence either—I am continually amazed, at age 64, at the extent of my ignorance. Five will get you ten that we cannot emotionally, let alone intellectually, bear up under anything like a full cognizance of what our existences amount to in the scheme of things - not much, really. On the other hand, I have known cats and dogs and the odd bird who knew without the slightest hint of doubt that they were the centre, the summum bonum of the evolutionary scheme. Those happy egoists—

Nov 2, 2011: He adhered to the school of philosophy by which moral virtue is counted the only good and wickedness alone evil, while power, rank and other accidentals which do not lie within a man's will are reckoned neither good nor evil. Ring any bells with you? Is there, in the above aggregate of words, a description of a contemporary member of Congress? Of Parliament? Despite the presence of the words 'good' and 'wickedness' that operate like black holes in the sentence, like a pair of flickering absolutes, is there not a bit of slickery ground, some scope for what is now conjured up as 'moral hazard'? On the other hand, and despite the fact that a great many people will tell you that philosophy is a dead horse, no matter how much we flog the thing; that it is about as relevant to anything that truly matters as - what? - a Sunday school god, I suggest that we all of us have philosophy in our mentations insofar as, now and then, however minimally, we find ourselves for whatever reason, explaining why we do what we do. For example: I am what I am because - well, you see, greed is good—Against this background - conflicts within the senate, a sense of grievance among the beaten, an inability on the part of the victors to command respect, Rome uncontrolled by either laws or emperor - Mucianus entered the capital and concentrated all power in his hands. No, I suppose those words just broached bear very little, if any, relation to the prevailing geist on this particular continent; just that, every day that goes by, excepting when I am out in the country as I have been, I see all sorts of Mucianuses on Sherbrooke St, Montreal-NDG, looking for their moment in the sun—The words in bold type all belong to Tacitus, he the writer of The Histories, an account of a rather bizarre year in the course of human affairs, that year being 69 A.D—I have been, in fact, out in the country. For a few days of big stars in the night sky at night. And kindling detail. Whereas MH weeded and raked and consigned leaves to a fire. Whereas I wielded a hatchet and ax and otherwise lounged about. There were hunters everywhere, as it is hunting season; and neither MH nor I had any desire to be unduly surprised by the presence of one anywhere on our mythical back 40. They do give one pause, those guys, perhaps because, when one passes by them parked at the side of the road, they seem to have the demeanor of school brats let out of school for recess—On one of the evenings, my Vale Perkins correspondent asked for a kitchen concert, and I was happy enough to oblige; so much so I toted my guitar over to her place and played the part of a roving ambassador for Arts&Entertainment&Concomitant Political Patter. Her boyfriend and his buddy were at table over supper. They were talking auto parts and truck leasing. Family violence. Anti-depressants. Seems to be a great need of anti-depressants out in the boonies. The scotch did me fine. Moreover, besides doing my rendition of a blues man in conjunction with the centre cannot hold, I finally got around, at long last, to reading Georges Simenon, three novelettes worth. Detective fiction. His fiction seems mercifully to have little to do with forensic realism; it is dedicated, quaintly enough, to notions of psychological realism. In other words, though Inspector Maigret, pipe smoker and beer drinker, is a likeable enough fellow, his view is quixotically that of a pessimist. People are stuck on their treadmills. They rarely escape them. Life grinds people down - not to jewels but to shapeless lumps of pain and misery. Violence has less to do with a predisposition to violence and more to do with errant conclusions based on flawed perceptions of reality; or it has to do with quite homely motivations; that is to say, with the acquiring of an edge, a leg up. It is stuffy Europe. It is provincial France, Belgium - Anywheresville on the continent—It is the world from which Gauguin fled, for instance; it is the world at which Toulouse Lautrec cocked a bit of snoot—(Woody Allen, despite his cinematic heroics, does not make much of a Lautrec)—It is a world that seems eerily familiar, and yet it is eerily exotic; as if one too many bank ads have rendered us incapable of recognizing our own circumstances and the true quality of our lives. Simenon, in truth, does not seem terribly interested in police procedure; it is only a pretext for his inquiry into what boots it for his panoply of assorted humanity. None of us are terribly good; none of us are terribly evil; we are just 'average' and predictable, barring anything that might come along to rattle each our cage and force each our hand— I also had occasion to introduce my Vale Perkins correspondent to the 'moving picture' The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. She was moved. She must have been, as those were tears she was wiping away from her cheeks. "My," she said. "Goodness." The movie involves a present-day cowboy and a moral obligation on his part. It also treats with the possibility for redemption in the person of a rat-faced effer, member of the infamous Border Patrol, and that is all I will say here on the subject; just that the cantina scene is, as ever, pure magic. She had lying around a recent issue of the Economist. One of its editorials suggests that politicians across the board in not a few nation-states have been less than forthcoming when it comes to the true state of the economy over-all. She and I also discussed (partly because I had a previous discussion with MH on the matter on the drive out from the city) whether or not there is something in the air which smacks of a desire for a new religion, a rebirth of an old religion, at the very least, a 'something', at any rate, a 'new politics' that might get us out of a deep, deep funk in respect to everyday life and the way its business gets done—Waking up, finally, to the fact of the plutocracy? Well, how shrill can shrill get? Thistle reports on an election campaign in B.C. The Vancouver mayoralty? The premiership of the province? In which a Bicycle King is pitted against some anti-chicken Queen. Beats me. And seeing as the contenders are both developers, it follows that, between the two, there is not much from which to choose. Yes, don't I miss the Vancouver that only riots for sports events whilst occupying the Art Gallery grounds in contempt of capitalism is sort of jejune? Come the Grey Cup, and rioters will vie with rioters for rioting space—It is otherwise pissing rain out that way—London Lunar reports chaos on the home front. Romanian carpenters in his bedroom? Shop-looting in Hammersmith?


 

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