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Ephemeris  June 2011

 

 

June 30, 2011: Slobgullion is a word, and not because Melville, writing Moby Dick, made it up. Credit for the word is presumably owed the good Nantucketers in respect to a certain economic activity of theirs, or whaling. They and all their kissing cousins in the body-politic, roundabout this time, were getting serious about dispossessing the dispossessable, acquiring land and wealth, building towns and cities and systems of transport and the whole nine yards—It is still taught, is it not, what went on? Now and then there was bliss to be had in all this robust exploitation, to wit, and quite apart from medicine shows and miracle elixirs: — I found it strangely concreted into lumps, here and there rolling about in the liquid part. It was our business to squeeze these lumps back into fluid. A sweet and unctuous duty! No wonder that in old times this sperm was such a favourite cosmetic. Such a clearer! such a sweetener! such a softener! such a delicious mollifier! After having my hands in it for only a few minutes, my fingers felt like eels, and began, as it were, to serpentine and spiralise—Ishmael, in Moby Dick, talking about 'squeezing sperm'. As I sat there at my ease, cross-legged on the deck, after the bitter exertion at the windlass, under a blue tranquil sky, the ship under indolent sail, and gliding so serenely along; as I bathed my hands among these, gentle globules of infiltrated tissues, woven almost within the hour; as they richly broke to my fingers, and discharged all their opulence, like fully ripe grapes their wine, as I snuffed that uncontaminated aroma, - literally and truly, like the smell of spring violets, I declare to you, in that inexpressible sperm, I washed my hands and heart of it; I almost began to credit the old Paracelsan superstition that sperm is of rare virtue in allaying the heat of anger; while bathing in that bath, I felt divinely free from all ill-will, or petulance, or malice, of any sort whatever—Economic activity, anyone? So much for social acerbities—I sat a while with Labrosse, last evening, in Nikas; and then later, I was called to attend upon him and A at the 'bratwurst' terrasse, to which I brought my guitar and my version of Desperate Man Blues, bewildering not only myself but a few Persians, as well. Labrosse made it be known that, one of these days, Canadians may come to appreciate their senate, that body of deliberators that spawns little by way of legislation but keeps an eye on things, and there are things on which to keep an eye, that being Labrosse's main point. Even so, his was a rather cryptic remark, to be sure, but we will let it stand as such, and then segue to this: that we are not, in principle, opposed to arts funding, just that money should not be thrown away on what is unworthy. It bears repeating that it is one thing to encourage the development of untested talent; it is quite another to continually reward that which will never move past its - I meant to say mediocrity, but I really mean to say its Godawfulness—While it was still light out, Labrosse observed that he did not like the colour of the cloud overhead. "Well, it's rain," I said. It seemed a reasonable statement to make. "Not at all," Labrosse said, "it's suit." "Suit?" I answered, no doubt as dumb as all get out. "Oh - soot," I said, "you mean soot - as in combusted detritus—" Labrosse's turn to look startled—But was Montreal-NDG now one of the Cities of the Plain? Soon, A took to howling, and it was not for reasons of plaisir. Her job has been driving her crazy. Men are silly. She has not the range of sight that Labrosse and I have due to our seniority to her in years, but now and then I can see that she sees things in the corner of her eye that she believes she ought not see, and she has no idea why, as we are not talking the ingestation of miracle elixirs—


June 29, 2011: Morning. Nikas. Romanian Patricia, waitressing, is either happy to see me - her first customer - or she puts on a brave face, a long shift ahead of her. Such cheer. She is a curious creature whose rather scrawny physique manages to exude the personality of a voluptuary, her demeanor always pleasant, a deep reservoir in her, however, of something so much more moody. Otherwise I have set aside for a brief spell Melville and Moby Dick; and I meant to set aside politics, too. Only that the setting aside reminds me that, the other day, P.M. Carpenter, Prominent Political Commentator, responding to a note I had written him as to why I thought he should plow more deeply in his jottings on the American scene - just that the minutiae of it all perhaps does not permit him to do so - he responded, saying, Yes, the unknowable is inherently shallow, be it religion or the future of American politics—Well, something of a witticism, at any rate—But in lieu of Melville and politics, I have grabbed my old guitar from the closet (it will require some lemon oil and a cloth, given the years it has spent in its exile) and I have already begun having at Desperate Man Blues and the process of reacquiring the calluses on my fingertips that I long since lost - to - of all things - literature. What was I thinking? And now, on this note, and in lopes Too Tall Poet who lives in the neighbourhood, who is a mid-morning regular here; and I guess he simply wishes to touch base. He sort of shivers himself down into a seated position at a booth across the aisle—Ah, he is off to Italy in September. And when was it that I fell in love with Rome? Can I spiritually afford this conversation? And then - creative writing workshops - huge slagging here at mention of the obscenity - they all do it - every last one of them - and Pound? Where's Pound buried? (Why, the Isola di San Michele, Venice, of course.) And now Irish harpy and retinue, or husband and son. And the fact that Too Tall Poet and I are obviously discussing culture in too close proximity to her - the two of us a couple of ponces who ought to know better - is enraging her, and her eyes bulge—

June 28, 2011: It is, of course, hopeless, and I should have known better. London Lunar is only able to observe that while John Fahey may have been a 'fine guitarist', he (London Lunar) remains unmoved by the music, and furthermore, he cannot warm to solo guitar in the first place, and besides - but enough. One may as well say that one cannot listen to a sea gull unless it be accompanied by the London Philharmonic, Sir Adrian Boult at the helm—And then, last night, a viewing of an episode of The Sandbaggers (Yorkshire Television, 1978) concluded, the episode quaintly enough entitled A Proper Function of Government, the series a kind of history of the Cold War as seen through the machinations of British spies, sans car chases, and I subsequently endeavoured to warm A up to Fahey's music, and she was not bowled over—Oh well. Labrosse, seeing what was coming, had already taken his leave—One tries. And one tries to come to grips with the near unnatural fact that upon exposure to the aforementioned music, and the first note is barely struck, and the spigots are turned on, the tears welling up. Sail Away Ladies. On The Sunny Side of the Ocean. When The Catfish Is In Bloom. Springtime in Azalea City. The Dance of the Inhabitants of the Palace of King Phillip XIV of Spain—Perhaps it is by way of this music that I now and then 'disappear', escaping into Linear B—In any case, I am, for the most part, a wary creature; I do not come to sobs at the drop of a hat. So that, listening to Fahey, you may hear 'guitar music'; I hear something else, a something on the order of Virgil's Eclogues or Georgics, and not bucolic Italy but America. No? No takers on this little assertion? Irony and lyricism not of some shallow post-modern ditch of a mind, but of a full-bore well-spring—So much so that when I came to Canada (Vancouver) and my poetic practice promptly fell apart, and I was at a loss to understand why - a different use of the English language, a different sentence? - and it was Fahey who helped me keep mind, body and soul from flying apart also, while I went mute and waited for the time when 'English' would again begin to make some sense—And for all of Bob Dylan's mastery of Americana, I think Fahey had a more profound sense of it; but then, this is an argument that deserves a book rather than a few tossed-off sentences, a book that I am not qualified to write—And yet, to further complicate matters, since we are on the subject of Americana for the moment, this morning, I read that the notion of the 'American Dream' has always been a ludicrous notion inasmuch as the attempted realization of it brought catastrophe to the Indian and now, seemingly, to the land itself, and to everyone who currently has not entree into the club of the one per centers. The 'land' has been much on my mind of late, inexplicably so, and a people's relation to it is a mystery to me as I am pretty much an urban sort. It just seems to me that the colonists, irrespective of what they did or did not do to the Indian, and irrespective of how well or how badly they treated the land, nonetheless formed a bond with the 'land', as they found it - either in Kentucky, say, or Oklahoma; or they developed an attitude toward that land that, over time, attained a mystical strength of bond, and Fahey's music reflects it. A most peculiar amalgam of insanity and heartbreak and delusion and pigheadedness and murder and wholesale slaughter and sheer beauty—Whatever London Lunar claims he gets from Richard Wagner, I get from Fahey, at least on the level of the poetry inherent in the music, the, d—n it all, the Weltanschauung in the neighbourhood of what is 'folk' and what is 'epic', hence 'folk epic'—But if I keep this up any longer I will not be able to stand my own company—So then, prior to the viewing of The Sandbaggers, capitalism perhaps beginning to get a glimpse or two of catastrophes in the offing, and monstrous moral questions floating about in a muck like so many rusted freighters freighting dubious goods, and Labrosse and I nursed a beer each on the 'bratwurst' terrasse, A not yet ready to receive us. Labrosse made note of the fact that the rich always evade their taxes, as they are better positioned to get away with doing so; and apart from the truth or untruth of claim, it reflects that Labrosse has gone from being a man of the business world to one who is increasingly critical of it - as per men who, having been at the levers and now retired, may at last speak their minds? Economic ruin, he said, was going to benefit gangland immensely, and he doubted that Canadian gendarmes will have the wherewithal to cope. South of here, should the people get it into their heads to lash out and revolt, it is likely to be a mindless affair, and it will only hand the plutocrats more excuses to to play it with a heavy hand thereafter—It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things—Machiavelli, but with a caveat: that, in this particular political climate in which we find ourselves, it is not the innovator who incurs the enmity of the well-heeled and the entrenched so much as it is the well-heeled and the entrenched who have been doing the innovating—

June 27, 2011: Do I believe all that malarkey over the jaws of exploitation (previous posting) relentlessly grinding on? Yes, d—n it all, I do. Forgive my cheek here, but I have even viewed the occasional flick on the subject, the latest being a Slovenian number treating with a little business that has come to be called 'human trafficking', which sends liberals into morally ascendant swoons. Besides being a filthy business, it serves a need, this enterprise, as there are people who will risk anything and pay any price to get from A to B, including the prospect of prostitution and worse: death at the hands of those who deal in spare parts of body - hearts, kidneys, livers et cetera - quite the little trade it is. Money always finds a way to generate and regenerate cash-flow. Otherwise the flick is about bad food, bad drink, bad sex, the title of which is easily divined, should you look for it in the sentence preceding money always finds a way— Somewhat apropos of the above, Stubbs would have it in Moby Dick, attempting to set Pip straight on the consequence of carelessness in the conduct of his work: That though man loved his fellow, yet man is a money-making animal, which propensity too often interferes with his benevolence—In other words, find oneself outside the boat and at a loss in the water, the reality is this: one is less important to the crew than that whale the crew endeavours to kill and capture for considerations of profit. Nonetheless, so much for Stubbs and sermonizing: Pip's in the water again - through his own fault, and is only by chance rescued, the essence of an existential condition being that of one knowing oneself in a state of rapidly increasing isolation on the indifferent mug of the ocean, spooked and terrified whales, and who knows what thrashing about one's body. It occasions a kind of introspection and: He (Pip) saw God's foot upon the treadle of the loom, and spoke it; and therefore his shipmates called him mad. So man's insanity is heaven's sense; and wandering from all mortal reason, man comes at last to that celestial thought, which, to reason, is absurd and frantic, and weal or woe, feels then uncompromised—Morning. Nikas. Something of a tiff seems to have developed between Alexandra the waitress and myself, and I am at a loss to explicate why. Just that - Gross Generality Alert here - it does seem there are certain women who will put up with most anything until, of course, they will no longer put up with anything, and then one finds oneself become the object of another's undying hatred. Certain 'Mediterranean' women with whom I have had some experience fit this characterization quite well, and Alexandra has all the criteria—For all that, I have been quiet and unassuming, these past days. No wine cow. No 'bratwurst' terrasse. In lieu of the pleasures, I read what Mr Hedges writes, this morning; and he writes of the death of newspapers, and the implications are not good, and I do not see how they can be otherwise. That even corrupt newspapers, that is to say, newspapers accomplishing not much more than the hewing of wood and the hauling of water for entrenched political and financial interests - even these manifestations of the fifth estate contribute something to what might pass for a 'democratic society'. But then you can mosey over to Truthdig and read 'em and weep on your ownsome—Yes, when the local excuse for a newspaper would come via the land line with its begging bowl and beg, I declined to fork over, partly because it is a piss-poor newspaper, and partly because I am cheap. But I wonder now if I have not badly miscalculated, that the thing has been worth keeping afloat for the sake of principle, even if no one on the staff seems to have the remotest idea as to what a half ways decent poem might look, sound, and smell like. The arts section of any newspaper tells me, if no one else, how many brain cells are available for the rubbing together so as to spark a worthwhile understanding of X,Y and Z, and it is all too often a horror story, and the NY Times itself often peddles such horror. A musical education is necessary for musical judgment. What most people relish is hardly music; it is rather a drowsy revery relieved by nervous thrills—Santayana. Well, viva those nervous thrills, I guess. A harsh, elitist estimation of the state of culture in our times, but one not without a smidgen of the reality of it—The fact that I trouble myself and the odd person out there with these posts is a sign of how badly things have degenerated - I am not a reporter, for instance, and cannot properly insert myself into that vacuum which has been forming up by the dying away of newspapers. And though I have opinions and am not, for the most part, shy about expressing them, these 'posts' do not constitute in and of themselves a broad and sunny boulevard to capital T Truth. I am a poet, a marginal entity, at best. And by way of the craft of poetry, I am indirectly an 'artist', if one keeps to a strict definition of what it is an artist effects, and does not expand the definition to include - oh - smearing s—t on canvas, and, eh voila, awt! Just that, by virtue of the above, I have other functions to perform besides those of a Socratic gadflying; besides squatting on some pillar as per a latter-day Simeon Stylites, making commentary on God and how best deal with those gallstones—That I appear to have become a parody of this Simeon fellow frightens the hell out of me and it should frighten you—

June 26, 2011: Rebarbative. "There's a word," I said to myself, yesterday, "that I haven't heard in a long while. Useful word, that one. Suits the times." Yes, and there it was, spilling from the lecturer's maw in the course of his televised lecture on Marx, and he used the word with every confidence that he would be understood, his audience such a knowing audience, bemused and flattered to the core; and when one is rosy and peachy-keen with every confidence that one will be understood, it is an unmistakable sign that tribalism is in health; it is, among other possibilities, academe. In any case, yesterday; it was Lenin in the morning and then Marx before tea time. It was a kind of counter-orbit in play, as if the historical Lenin had preceded the guy who used to hang about the British Museum while thinking class conflict—And that Marx the avatar of inevitable progress, the Marx of a generation twice removed and then some from my own, was now all Schopenhauer or some such, as it were, but not quite a thorough-going nihilist who must strike some sort of deal with Shiva the Destroyer in order to snatch reality from one set of tracks and plunk it down on a different set—In retrospect, I do not mind that those men who were coterminous with my grandfathers had such naive notions of what they thought Marx was up to; at least they believed something above and beyond the fact that Jesus may or may not have loved them and that General Electric ever gave a rat's ass for their material well-being; as it was with old Felix my first Vancouver landlord, he a union man with short wave radio (Radio Moscow); who believed in booze and sex on Sundays, and garlic pickles—And then this, or that while the jaws of exploitation relentlessly grind on, someone or other manages to dish up a madcap flick even so, and if it is not one of Rossini's operatic ditties, then it is Mr P Sturges and his The Palm Beach Story (1942); that it is unabashedly about money and, in the particular, about not having money. Coming across it by chance, once I had had enough of Marx Redux, I wondered if, oh, is this the bourgeoisie phase of capitalism in its purest aspect - laughs, misdirected affections, Paris fashions, snotty millionaires, unsnotty millionaires, and a Quail and Ale society of hosers much given to anarchism on trains, as in a cappella song-binges and the shooting off of shotguns?—In the meantime, as per Moby Dick that I am reading in fits and starts (but always with plaisir), never straying far from a metaphor, Ahab is still in the hunt for his whale; and every breath he draws brings him one step closer to his doom. Kind of like life, eh? And London Lunar is, it seems, meeting quiet and unassuming poets at quiet and unassuming parties (capitalism - late stages?); and I must say I did not know that such entities exist. Must be the London eau—Or that Time is the only test of honest men; one day is space enough to know a rogue—Some cat named Creon spoke these words in Oedipus the King, Sophocles.

June 25, 2011: I read, this morning, that Alexander Cockburn over at CounterPunch, is having it in for libs and social democrats, especially those who in their respective parliaments vote for austerity packages. He envisions Lenin guffawing in his grave at the spectacle of Germany preaching to Greece over fiscal responsibility and such, Germany that never fully paid to Greece what it owed by way of reparations - this Germany that once upon a time occupied the place. Also, there is that strange little saga of DSK and the hotel maid, this DSK who was in the running for ' managing director' of the IMF (that is a species of fiscal bully), who has sights on the French presidency with social-democrat backing. Yes, it is more than probable that DSK raped the woman, but it also appears that she is in it for the money - only DSK has none - only he is married to a woman who has loads of the stuff - but even so the hotel maid appears to be in receipt of bad legal advice and will wind up getting short-changed—Opera buffa? Money is like muck, not good except it be spread—Bacon, Of Seditions and Troubles. Well, what with Mr Cockburn and Mr Hedges who are august personages in journalism and given to patriotic dissent - what with both of them dissing liberals in a big way, what is a liberal to do, as, for all my disgust with the lot, I am, I suppose, one of those, if not as well-heeled as most? Attend another function? Write an op-ed? Move some money around? A new diet, then. And yet, though I would not have much liked Herr Lenin or the world he wished to usher in - on the backs of those he would liberate, credit is due where credit is due; a guffaw is a guffaw when it is deserved. I'm back, or so one can hear Mr Lenin say, and you blew it. You've got bragging rights to nothing now—We always congratulate ourselves for being wise to the behaviour of others all the while we assume we are wise to our own. How seldom is this latter bit true. You see, I have just had occasion, this morning, here in Nikas, to ask Alexander the waitress if she is irked with me. And because she took more than a few seconds to consider the question, I can only assume that she is, in fact, irked with me - in more than some existential sense, and I have not the foggiest as to the reasons why. Only that I only learned, yesterday, that the price of a cup of coffee went up - well over a week ago, and I have been paying the old rate—Ah so—Guffaw? No, that was a snicker—Your money or your life—Heavy taxes should be laid on servants in livery, on equipages, rich furniture, fine clothes, on spacious courts and gardens, on public entertainments of all kinds, on useless professions, such as dancers, singers, players, (that of poet?), and, in a word, on all the multiplicity of objects of luxury, amusement and idleness—I have always suspected Rousseau of priggery—What an arse—

June 24, 2011: Many the wonders, but nothing walks stranger than man— Sophocles, Antigone. Indeed. And there was the Pulitzer winner Mr Hedges, this morning (his quality of mind striking me as a peculiar mix of Jeremiah, Dostoyevski and C.C. Baxter, The Apartment, 1960) - there was the journalist in full future shock mode suggesting that we will have to accommodate ourselves to much smaller scale economies and modes of living sooner than we think; and we will habitate like monks in doll-sized monasteries, cenobites with braided hair, no doubt; and goodness, sans the braided hair, I already pretty much exist like that, as any number of people known to me do - in Montreal-NDG; just that most of us refrain from overdosing on bean sprouts. To be sure, I accept the man's estimate that things are bad and likely to get worse, but how it is we are going to live come a future good, bad or horrific - well, predicting it is a mug's game; and if I were a prophet of doom who really meant it, I wonder if I would be lurking about in the media spotlight. Let us suppose that you have overcome every obstacle and that, aided by fortune, your merit has been recognised, and you have obtained not only celebrity but glory, and this not after death, but in your lifetime, let us see what profit you will derive from it. Well, men will desire to see you and to know you personally; you will have the pleasure of being pointed out with the finger; and honour and respect will be shown to you in your presence: these are the greatest benefits which you will gain from your literary glory. It would seem likely that you would gain these honours more easily in a small town than in a large city; since the latter are subject to all the distracting influences of power and wealth—And so forth and so on. Leopardi, Essays, Dialogues and Thoughts: Parini's Discourse on Glory. And if you have not cottoned on to the immensity of the tiny tick-like bite of sarcasm in the above words, small bite that might just parlay itself into a large fever, well then, what can I say? Even so, London Lunar has been accorded the prospect of a live radio interview. A country and western station in Montana has seemingly lost its way. Nonetheless, London Lunar holding court at his Cecil Court bookshop, downtown London, will field questions and rattle on - in regards to his second Syria book The Pigeon Wars of Damascus, Biblioasis. Which I can find in myself to recommend. (It is presented to the public as a travel book; it is far more substantive than that.) Hedges is right, of course: a capacity for both public and private intelligence is under concerted attack - yes - in the sense that a great many people out there for their own reasons, some of which involve profit maximization, want us as ignorant boobs. London Lunar is also right: we like our Silly Season and cheap laughs or things would not have come to this pass. I take refuge in Linear B—Yes, and apropos of the previous posting, I had thought to begin this offering with the observation that science, for all that it fills in the picture of just what our material reality is, it also but another rock that we crawl under. That is to say, it has become all too easy to convince ourselves that we know a thing or two, and yet, when it comes to the recognition of some sort of emotional truth vis a vis the carnivale of our psyches and the actual condition in which we find ourselves at any given moment, we are lamentable. For all living things both move and are moved with some object; so that this is the term of all their movement, the end, that is, in view. Now we see that the living creature is moved by intellect, imagination, purpose, wish, and appetite. And all these are reducible to mind and desire—Aristotle. It is odd, is it not, how certain words may not only suggest what a wondrous and complicated thing life is, but that those very same words, should you twist their sense ever so slightly, have quite a chilling effect, and one is howling at the moon—

June 23, 2011: We gave a flick a viewing, last evening - Labrosse, E and I. L.A. Confidential, 1997. Neo-noir. Labrosse was not impressed. "Another impossible American movie," he said, his intelligence so very obviously insulted. E sighed. The fellow who portrayed the overly ambitious Detective Exley was the image of an old boy friend whose favours she once enjoyed. Myself, I had a more generous opinion of the thing. However, those scenes in which this or that corrupt official gets come-upped, is on the butt-end of some rough physical treatment while getting come-upped, though consummately gratifying, reflects, perhaps, a measure of fantasy: how often in life is a lumpenprole allowed to turn the tables on the well-heeled, even if he or she does happen to carry a badge? The fates of criminals differ. One gets the cross, another the crown, for the same misdemeanor—Juvenal. At some point in the course of the night, I dreamed a painter, her paintings, and dogs. They were sacred parts of a sacred world that I was obliged to honour with the appropriate worship. D—n near a revolutionary act in a world in which everything, not already cheapened, is well on its way to its discounting—On the other hand, it might have been that soy sauce-balsemic vinegar marinade that was an essential component of my dinner fare—London Lunar brings it up: Afghanistan - this in light of the news of the proposed draw-down. In respect to which it strikes me as somewhat odd that I 'feel' nothing, absolutely nothing, not even an well, it's about time. That a kind of numbness has set in after the past ten years of - is it too grand a word for the - what? - the emotion - spit out it then, boy - the rage? Perhaps the arguments concerning Current President - that he has been doing just fine, thank you very much - that he has been quite the disappointment - that he has proved worse than Bush in some matters - perhaps these arguments testify to just how truly bad things have been. There he was, accorded such a heart-felt thumbs-up from the body-politic. There he was, walking into the White House. It was almost immediate - the hamstringing, the sound of tendons snapping and a mind reeling - the imbroglios heaped on his plate so prodigiously sticky and unmanageable— The man who sticks it out against his fate shows spirit, but the spirit of a fool. No man alive can budge necessity. Euripides. In matters of science the ancients were, of course, on very thin ice. Otherwise—

June 22, 2011: It is sometimes comedic, sometimes harrowing - to know where one truly stands in relation to - to Betelgeuse, for instance. "Ew," I hear, "keep your distance." The thing is, it is not clear - in terms of astronomical measure - just how far the eccentric solar mass is from our sun and from the terrasse at 'bratwurst'; but that its complexion is somewhat ruddy has been noted from antiquity. Is Betelgeuse a drinker as well as a war-monger? It is also clear that one's verses are not going to cut it in certain polite societies, the Canadian edition of which seems to be roughly divided between belchings and garpings and juryings, and the pomp and ceremony of gloved hands colliding in a space-time continuum that does not conform to ordinary physics. Or that the laws of gravity do not apply here, so much so that 'bad' means excellent and 'good' signifies heinous— Still, I have to hand it to E who, so I learned, last night, took it upon herself to tie up a certain loose end. A couple of months before Eggy packed it in and departed from us, another member of our little assembly died - alone and undiscovered - in his apartment, and what became of the body has been a mystery - until E, on a whim, sashayed into the local funeral parlour just the other day and was told that the body is in fact interred at a verifiable locale. I could have done as much myself, only it never crossed my mind to do so. In any case, it will necessitate a pilgrimage in the near future—(It is perhaps worth saying that in death Fast Eddy has gotten himself a great deal more attention from the female of the species than he ever rated when, in all good faith, he was drawing breath, his quota of doom.) We were, gender-wise, a mutually off-setting society of four, last evening, at the 'bratwurst' terrasse. A, E, Labrosse, myself. And, to hear Labrosse tell it, the Tea Party to the south is an electoral irrelevance, and so forth and so on; and while he rattled on about politics, and he has plenty to say on the subject, I was putting it to myself what a life devoted to purely sensual living might be like, and the answer seemed to be that in these parts it would be a short one, north of the 49th parallel no South Sea island. For all that, Labrosse continued (even as, in some epicurean fashion, he massaged from A's calf its burgeoning cramp - she had been to rugby practice), saying that the Brits, following upon their conquest of Quebec, pretty much left the way of doing things here intact. They instituted no draconian system of oughts and musts that one must knuckle under, and this, to some extent, explains current day Quebec, whether or not the church still signifies—Just that, in Canada overall, the aboriginal land question will not see a solution, not ever, and not E or her children, should she have some, can settle that hash, tie up that loose end—On the other hand, it is in the air - so saith Labrosse - it is in the air everywhere that all the citizenries are getting fed up with the fact that their governments are lying to them about nearly 'everything', no matter that these governments, for their own part, quite chuffed in turn, say, "But you don't understand - we're the good guys - there are reasons for why we say what we say—" This gets said a lot in the U.S. of A. Labrosse's point is, and you may recall that he is no wild-eyed radical, far, far from it - his point is that this thing that is in the air is hotting up and will eventually break, like a storm breaks, releasing unmanageable energies— Otherwise, I am still looking for London Lunar's so-called turning point in respect to the plot in Melville's Moby Dick. Unless, of course, I have long since missed it. Perhaps such a turning point in the plot has the Pequod raising Java Head, a geographical feature that bespeaks a gateway, a way into what was the fabulous emporium of South Asia now (mid-19th century) subject to western greed and machinations of a different order than that of local pirates who merely exact carrying charges—Ahab to and fro paced the deck; in his forward turn beholding the monsters (whales) he chased, and in the after one the bloodthirsty pirates chasing him. . . .And when he glanced  upon the green walls of the watery defile in which the ship was then sailing, and beheld, how that through that same gate he was now both chasing and being chased to his deadly end. . . . when all these conceits had passed through his brain, Ahab's brow was left gaunt and ribbed, like the black sand beach after some stormy tide has been gnawing at it—On the other hand there is this - from Ishmael: But even so, amid the tornadoed Atlantic of my being, do I myself still for ever centrally disport in mute calm, and while ponderous planets of unwaning woe revolve around me, deep down and deep inland there I still bathe me in eternal mildness of joy—Whatever the quality of a seemingly over the top prose, the sentence's conclusion as spoken by a whaler, protoypical imperialist- in eternal mildness of joy - yes, those words are some kicker, alright, and it signifies a feature of life that seems to have absented itself from us—

June 21, 2011: Too wordy, says the ex-Montrealer to me in regards to my scribblings. The man long since hied himself off to Aussie-land where, one suspects, he has cultivated his Calvinism amidst exotic humours and bizarre birds. Well, I like the fellow, always have, he one of George Orwell's knockabouts who took up one of the ologies so as to pay for his habits; and one of the ologies, and not the habits, have, no doubt, ruined him—In any case, in deference to his grotty psyche, a short posting—But there was something of a quorum, late last night, on the 'bratwurst' terrasse. Labrosse, A and myself. The pleasant temperature of the air extolled, 'yuppie flu' was given some shrift. That is to say, was there ever such a malaise that was described as such? Or are the words just so much nonsensicality that, like an advert jingle, burrowed into in my brain; that, on occasion, leech out? Has the yankee empery now got a bad case of it, what with the wars and all the home front contretemps? Yes, well, the late 60s when the ex-Montrealer and I used to knockabout Vancouver beer parlours and cock a snoot at the literary types who themselves were calumniating formalists— Those days quite gone—

June 20, 2011: No, I do not believe there is a bird more relentless in its practice of birdness than a Montreal crow at first light. What think you? Crow throats harsh with selections from Carmina Burana - with verses all lamentation and bubonic plague?—Morning. Nikas. Pleasant morning, actually. Pleasant Nikas - what with that long, street side flower box out of which blooms impart impressionistic splotches of colour to the scene - just to get us clear of the Middle Ages and into the 21st century - which is shaping up - what? -into something rather ominous-looking at the present hour - but who can say?—It is the well-intentioned review that shills for literature that sticks in my craw, however; how it is everyone should become a reader—But of course, everyone should. Still, it does not work, turning the act of reading literature into an onerous injunction of thou shalt not be stupid and unlettered and thereby luxuriate in obnoxious ignorance—It might have worked half a century ago - some rap across the knuckles with a stick, but now people simply do not care, so much so that even the prospect of pain cannot penetrate to that part of the brain from which the ought-to-care signals emanate, care for - say - Carlyle's Sartor Resartus? And why should any Dick or Jane give a toss? Dick and Jane are amply and aptly shilled, handsomely distracted with whatever it is other shills for other endeavours have going for them: guilt-free, work-free pleasurings of inexhaustible variety, so it seems. But if you must have pain; if you are an out and out masochist and have abs that you wish to preen, because it gets you a leg up in the rat race, or pride of place at the country club, or sex, be my guest, go forth and jog, secure in the knowledge that the jogging gods go with you to see that your grimace is a proper offering to their ministrations—Now in Moby Dick, Melville compares the tail of a whale (no way to offset the clanging rhyme here) to an ancient Roman wall - it has to do, trust me, with the tissue structure of the former in relation to the brickwork of the latter—oh, never mind. But it is the starting point, this observation on Melville's part, for the pretext of an excuse for a disquisition on beauty and strength; or that 'real strength' does not mar 'beauty' and vice versa—But will it hold up in a court of law - yes, and in the 21st century, at that? Speaking of which, to judge by Mr Hedges's latest (in Truthdig), yet another instance of jury tampering in respect to the American judiciary has occasioned a ruling against an act of conscience (acts of conscience, admittedly, just might include a great amount of Silly Season, no question) in favour of caving to corporatist interests—It is a tiresome piece that Mr Hedges has written, especially as one expects he has had no takers for the call to arms he sounded some months ago on general principles, and he has taken up hectoring so as to salve his pique—If you cannot get a quorum of tennis players on the court, you will forfeit the contest to the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed less worthy—Yes, and Melville going through the anatomy of a whale point by point is, no doubt, building toward something - a climax, perchance; and since it has been many, many years since I last read his book, I find myself in a state of genuine suspense as to what might come to pass. Will Melville the amateur-hour naturalist win out over Melville the novelist? Will I mind much if this proves to be the case? Surely, some sort of show-down between Ahab and the white whale will have to come about or the first publisher of the tome might have had cause to wonder if he could sell the effing thing. Or did quality of writing trump both melodrama and sales back in those days? Not likely, but just a thought, anyway. And either the dead whales thus far encountered in the 'writing' are what is rotten in the state of Denmark or Melville's ship of state is the Pequod - arch yankee capitalism, and I will have lost an argument to a boring lot of academics such as keep Charles Olson in the running for American Oracle, he who, in a way, claimed special relations with whatever seemed metaphorical in Melville's scribblings—I was idly watching a game of baseball, yesterday. The game is one I have loved since boyhood, no matter that corporatist entities have nearly ruined the sport—I was paying particular attention to the hitters and their batting styles—I might have been watching not so much batters batting but 'science' at the plate, science governing every little aspect of the swing - from the tic of an eye to every nervous little hitch of a body part—Ought I to worry that the poetry of the swing has lost out to some friggin' manual and its highlighted talking points?—Is not technique that which might elevate the mediocre player to the exalted ranks of 'good' or 'good enough' - though greatness is probably out of reach? Greatness? Or that which committees decide upon lest some Hercules or Homer prove unmanageable in light of the committee agenda and cast too intense a shadow on a level playing-field? We (excepting perhaps the he or she who drives your local sanitation truck) flatter ourselves that we are sane, quite grown-up, graduated, one might say, from those moldy old millennia when the problem-child ruled the roost and pirating was how one got shoes for the baby and kudos from the wife. Sure then. And here's a little responsible sin and safe sex to go with your coffee—Enjoy. As if Larry the software entrepreneur isn't gaming the game for all he's worth, the dear—

June 19,2011: One of my correspondents out in the 'vale' reports that when it comes to fund-raisers for the Hysterical Society, which is history to you, of a local kind, what with the sushi and a jazz pianist, things can get lively. But why, exactly? She does not feel at liberty to say—Whereas another of my correspondents in the same neck of the woods, and they are almost legion - those correspondents, reports that her 5 in the morning investigations into the matter of dark energy (as with the accelerating expansion of the universe), that is to say, her walkabout around the 'mountain' not only brought her a vista of the lake and surrounding splendour, but one of cottage folk asleep in their mansions, Massachusetts plates on their Priuses—It could be that her view of things is a trifle jaundiced—Now I may or may not write myself a poem entitled Three Old Farts Playing with Cell Phones - perhaps when I am feeling sufficiently playful—But there we were, TOFs on the 'bratwurst' terrasse - Labrosse, DW and I - drinking beer, scarfing down on some Persian eggplant concoction. We were giving education anxiety something of an airing by way of discussion. Which it is the standard nightmare to do with writing exams. Which it is - if you are one like me who dropped out of university - the nightmare that one can never graduate from anything and is always mired at the back of the class. Which it is performance anxiety, and we are not talking sex - at least, I do not think so - though DW can rattle on about the triple roots of Arabic word stems, as he studied once, that language. Which it is DW expatiating on the fact that the school year is about to wind down, and a significant portion of his little charges - he is a pedagogue - is staring in the face the fact that as much as they loathe school they loathe home and the abuse that is to be had there more and so, a kind of tristia has set in for them. Deep, deep melancholy in the ivied halls of Verdun—(that is a district, distinct mind-set of Montreal). Which it is Labrosse regarding us with fatherly indulgence, as he is senior and has privileges; as it is that life has unfolded for him like a well-thought out plan—But the converse did have its moments. An of example of which follows: or that, within the confines of a single sentence, Security Council resolutions applying (or perhaps not), Labrosse managed to pack in mention of Rwanda, Bosnia, Clinton, Dallaire. And it was a challenge DW took up with a will and some panache, he suggesting that Canadian governments have done despicable things in their times, and here was an instance born of deference to those who really pack the football around whilst perpetually moving the goal posts—Yes but—Yes but, my arse—What, shall we talk Broadway musicals? Yes but, the Americans are going to pull up stakes: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and things are going to look a little different and have a slightly different feel. DW: "Oh? Not quite. Hardly. Pakistan? Are you kidding? They'll be there for generations, at least. Pakistan is tailor-made for cash-and-carry diplomacy and arms disbursements and what-have-you - adventurisms along the lines of The Life of Riley, as a recent incident demonstrates - some American spook having himself a nice little shootout in - I forget which city—" Labrosse: "Well, call me on my cell phone in a couple of years, and we'll see who's right." DW, unfazed: "And Syria? What thuggery. Thuggery at its most sublime - the regime facing extinction should they relax their grip, hence the viciousness—" Yes, and even London Lunar wonders if Assad is not dead— But here, here all that is permitted by way of politicians are Wal-mart politicians, nothing on the order of a Trudeau or a Lévesque, a state of affairs that suits the Harperites fine, as their opponents lack coherence on all fronts: which it is they cannot speak for anyone, let alone themselves—As if Ignatieff was going to pull a Harry Potter—Indeed, as reported by Dio Cassius of Marcus Brutus (and to be gleaned from Leopardi's Essays and Dialogues: Brutus and Theophrastus): O miserable virtue, thou wert a bare word, and I followed thee as if thou hadst been a reality; but thou wert subject to fortune


June 18, 2011: I have never much warmed to Wordsworth, magus of the bucolic, a kind of ivy-wreathed Quaker—With the exceptions of his sonnets, some of which I rate as highly as I do the sonnets of Shakespeare and Donne, theirs being verse cruising on all cylinders, Wordsworth, for the most part, leaves me a little restive. Nature as the highest truth, however true it is, does not interest me, though, of course, it perhaps had to be said for there to be a 'romantic' age, in the first place. (In light of which I prefer Keats's nature, and would otherwise forget it all and happily get soused with Byron—) But on waking this morning, my first mistake was to engage with what was characterized as a mini-film, its subject matter the post-Stanley Cup Vancouver riot. In the viewing of which I was reminded how Wordsworth caught it for going off his early radical notions in favour of conservative sentiments more suitable to his mature years. Could have been the news from France - those - what to call them? - show trials of the revolution - street theatre without the bank adverts—And try as I might to detect sentience in the mayhem, and in spite of the fact that the ideological and the doctrinaire make me glassy-eyed, I would like to have seen on the part of the rioters, and did not see, something, anything at all that might have resembled consciousness political or otherwise—What I saw was a great deal of inebriate smugness, and not necessarily well-heeled smugness, at that—But perhaps I missed something - like the sober personage who sits down at a table of guffawing drinkers and has a lot of catching up to do. Smugness is the chief evil of the day. All that comfort food, all that instant spirituality slithers in one's maw, distends one's stomach and one's disposable soul, and one has not had the slightest inkling that one's pleasure sits on the back of some effing wretch somewhere—Trash a BMW? Well, mais oui, to everything its season. But should you not know what it is that is being trashed, and why? Wordsworth then, on a theme of dissolution: —Some casual shout that broke the silent air / Or the unimaginable touch of Time— But of course, a Georgia Street ramble is a far cry from the ecclesiastical ruins of England and tweedy melancholy, but even so - carnage is carnage—The human race and every small portion of it, the individual excepted, consists of two classes - those who govern and those who submit to be governed. As neither laws, nor force, nor the the progress of philosophy or civilization can prevent a man from belonging to one class or the other, all that he can do is to choose between them, if choice is open to him, which it often is not—Leopardi, Thoughts. In any case, I also see that P.M. Carpenter, Prominent Political Commentator, is cossetting Mr Sullivan of The Daily Beast, its provenance - along with the musings that are to gleaned from Slate - prime yuppie meat. Could be the beginning of the end for Mr Carpenter—Well, something got into me as I walked into Nikas, this morning: there I was jiving away, snapping my fingers, a cool cat, kemo sabe—Am I not a pastiche? Which it is another way of saying a la William Carlos Williams: am I not the happy genius of my household? Alexandra the waitress thought so, but then she is desperate that someone might amuse her. Ah, Vancouver. Once a poet's town. Once one could easily enough envision Wordsworth, not Gary Snyder, on a constitutional jaunt around Stanley Park; picture him heading up to his deep Haro Street digs or - nix nay that - how about an amiable tumble with the boys over points of philosophy and plates of raw fish?—What are the evils that befell the town? I hardly know where to begin—Official CBC pap. Responsible sin. That non-smell peculiar to hard drives - as opposed to the reek of the sea and wood chips and bad beer - some drifting, tangling mist from off a humongous Chinese sequoia—As when the Christians throttled pagan old Antioch, so something or other - walking-talking-post-modern-kewpie dolls then - forced the rubbies and rummies east of Nanaimo Street all the way to Saskatchewan—Ancient history, I guess—But one might think that with people who pretend so hard at living that they might come up with better street theatre, apart from the derring-do around Hastings and Main, to be sure—Quebec. What with the climate here, there is not much time to pretend at anything—


June 17, 2011: It was Les FrancoFolies for Labrosse, last night, so, no gathering about the wine cow at Nikas in the evening, high level talks on matters of import and not-so-import in the offing—It might be said that I have let him down once more, however, as, in the way one might forget a birthday or an anniversary, the fact of the festival slipped my mind once again and I have not, shall we say, attended. Apparently, to hear Labrosse tell of it, and it is a sore point with him, anglophones like myself give the happy goings-on a miss, though they might trouble themselves with Atlantic City or Vegas or the nearest golf course—In any case—Yesterday afternoon, I happened to scribble: Hot. 'Bratwurst'. Some Persian schtick on TV. A limping starling that has been hanging about the terrasse - looking for bits of bread, discarded peanuts? And whatever became of that skeleton of a whale that the ancient Romans lifted from the Syrians and brought back to Italy, that mélange of bone that had adorned a Joppa temple? That must have titillated any number of would-be Italian anatomists, phrenologists and the like? Melville seems to think that, with the exception of the Jonah story, the story of Perseus rescuing Andromeda from Cetus (sea serpent? whale?) is the oldest story going of a 'whale man'. Perseus apparently founded Mycenae, but his name might mean 'city-sacker'. Violent times, those were, or so it would seem. Melville conflates the 'whale' with the dragon of St George and the dragon fame; that it is a story interchangeable with that of Perseus; that it is a story that takes the largest bite out of London Lunar's imagination; that, indeed, vis a vis the whale one might mention Kit Carson, Crockett, Hercules, Vishnu, London Lunar all in the same breath, and without so much as raising a blush—Ah, the ancient battle between experience-superstition and science-ideological rationalism - as it would have all the infinity of infinity were it not for the fact that, as a species, humankind looks to be finite, let alone the universe itself —But why pester one with all this reasoning on the subject? Speak out! You have seen him spout, then declare what the spout is; can you not tell water from air? My dear sir, in this world it is not so easy to settle these plain things.  I have ever found your plain things the knottiest of all. And as for this whale spout, you might almost stand in it, and yet be undecided as to what it is precisely—And so, the life of the mind, as per Moby Dick. Or a shaggy dog tale a la Mr Melville. Furthermore, from the same source: And so, through all the thick mists of the dim doubts in my mind, divine intuitions now and then shoot, enkindling my fog with a heavenly ray. And for this, I thank God, for all have doubts; many deny; but doubts or denials, few along with them, have intuitions. Doubts of all things earthly, and intuitions of some things heavenly; this combination makes neither believer nor infidel, but makes a man who regards them both with equal eye—The sounding whale as a metaphor for deep thinker? Sometimes one wakes in the morning and one's - what? - zest for life - but was there ever such a daft misalliance of words as zest for life, prime verbiage for a bank advert? - though undiminished, is, nonetheless, subject to considerations of realism; or that one's arguments are still a matter of a dialogue that only exists between one and oneself; that the world truly is going to the dogs, and these are not mollycoddling, cuddlesome, huggable mutts; that there is news that is no-one else's business, but it is not good news - as if it could ever have been; that, perhaps, it is too warm out there for one's best comfort; and that, well, not all problems have a gratifying solution, if any solution at all. So yes, it is morning; it is Nikas; it is Alexandra the waitress chewing her wad of gum at a pedestrian rate. Just that she alarmed me as I, bent on coffee, entered the restaurant, and, good golly, Miss Molly, she called me by name - a first and so - why? - she who generally responds to my witticisms with little else but a humouring smile. The fact that we have the sort of brain we have suggests we do not live life so much as we languish in a perpetual state of possibility, some good, some bad, the rest of it indifferent— (I am moved to the thought as I observe Alexandra at her delimiting routines, going about her tasks, ministering unto wretches, her morning regulars)—London Lunar has commenced the writing of a new book. It happens, you know. And though he has not reported as much to me, I believe that he has had momentary twinges of regret in respect to the enterprise; that somehow life has 'funnelled' him to this point; but that there is something of the doctrinaire in this 'funnelling'; that the man, like myself, is easily put off by the doctrinaire, and tends to chafe against it—Then again, if there is something penultimate in the endeavour of the book, one cannot very well shrink from one's writerly duty— Let Hecuba speak: Why do we make so much of knowledge, struggle so hard to get some little skill not worth the effort? But persuasion, the only art whose power is absolute, worth any price we pay, we totally neglect. And so we fail; we lose our hopes—Euripides, Hecuba. Or: The cause of this difference is that in modern works the style counts for very little, whereas in the ancient writers it counts for very much, if not for everything . . . . that in treatises upon principles and duties, novelties are not to be sought for, but he is reputed the best writer who gathers together the ideas floating in the minds of men, and expresses them in the most graceful manner—Leopardi, Moral Discourses of Isocrates. Oh well. I thought it worth a shot—

June 16, 2011: Fury. No other word applies. I am not sure what that was on TV, last night, that I watched - some arty-farty channel's documentary offering, to be sure; but even allowing for propaganda values; even providing sufficient latitude to the possibility that the film-makers might have 'misconceived' a point; or that the effort on their part was just more liberal swoon, the end result in me was fury pure and simple. You see, some functionary of government, intelligence agent, and the just mentioned words stretch the sense of said words, had it in his brief to, shall we say, quiz a child, or if you prefer, a teen; all this at a notorious place of incarceration where enemies of state hailing from other places, but far-off places, are sequestered and kept for years without charges or legal recourse. And this functionary, well, he who had all the imagination of a gnat, he imagined that he was on top of his game; was ever three moves ahead of his interviewee; or that the interviewee was only gaming, not suffering - what torture, you know? - we don't do that sort of thing - it's all a myth - and those other guys didn't do that to you, either - but that a 'kid' as transparently stupid as only a kid can be could not possibly match him in a contest of wits, especially as he is trained in the arts such as pertain to his job-description. He's got his diploma. Besides, look, he is a nice guy, Mr Nice Guy, eh? if something of a step-and-fetch it entity for another nation-state; can't be helped; comes bearing gifts, comes with micro-waved Big Macs. He with his suburban bonhomie. That one that internally monologues: there but for the grace of Whatever - that I sit here and continually applaud myself at how clever I are. And so forth and so on. So that this Cretinesque, he with all his verbal appurtenances and stratagems, did manage to put me in mind of certain poets I have met who imagine themselves wits, if only because they will manage to elicit from an audience or three deep in a state of sensory deprivation the odd hopeful chuckle, the audiences in question so desperate they will grab at any straw—Enough. Mediocrity is mediocrity; it is all too often lethal. In some parts of the citizen-body it does breed disgust with 'authority', yes, even hereabouts, and whatever benefits of the so-called doubt I may have been willing to extend (out of politeness, civility, what have you, even as I am a barbarian) to the Current Regime of Imbeciles, have been erased - and forever, by dint of this having viewed the business end, or rather the soft core pornography of 'human values' at play. As for the 'kid', he is, of course, ruined. His will not be a life - if he survives. A jangling of nerve-endings until he dies. So when Xerxes heard of it he was full of wrath, and straightaway gave orders that the Hellespont should receive three hundred lashes, and that a pair of fetters should be cast into it—Herodotus, History. But yes, whence the quote? That the Hellespont is a body, true, but a body of water—Oh, never mind, the point of the quote being how it is we are such vainglory and consider ourselves as having such control over how things pan out—Now, after many digressions on the anatomical features of the sperm whale, the action in Moby Dick resumes—And there is speechifying on the part of one of the whalemen that is not a computer programmer's speechifying; that is only remotely human to us, perhaps, given where it is we stand in relation to what we currently deem is human; but that is so much more human in a manner of speaking than much of what I hear around me; or, whale chase in progress: 'Oh! see the suds he makes!' cried Flask, dancing up and down - 'What a hump - oh, do pile on the beef - lays like a log! Oh! my lads, do spring - slap-jacks and quohogs for supper, you know, my lads - baked clams and muffins - oh, do, do - he's a hundred barreller - don't lose him now - don't, oh, don't - see that Yarman - oh! won't ye pull for your duff, my lads - such a sog!  such a sogger! Don't ye love sperm? There goes three thousand dollars, men! - a bank! - a whole bank! The Bank of England, - Oh, do, do, do! - What's that Yarman about now?'—And then, in regards to the hunted whale: But the bird has a voice, and with plaintive cries will make known her fear; but the fear of this vast dumb brute of the sea was chained up and enchanted in himEnchanted in him - is this writing or what? And what brutes we do be, as if there remains any longer a question that we are anything else and otherwise. So, fury. And then curiously enough, in the sense of what follows - that is, not the impotence that so often attends a spate of fury, but rather a kind of delusion, as when one imagines that by way of words one might nudge another toward an encounter with not only a want of justice, but with the vast and over-arching stupidity of our kind that so often masquerades as 'progressive', as enlightened behaviour—For the inquisitor believes he is as enlightened as any department head—Insensibly, sleep arrives. Then some dream world that one may or may not recollect upon waking—Morning. Nikas. Alexandra the waitress has on her hands a genuinely stark raving mad woman in her 60s or thereabouts who is thinking of coffee in terms of a price that was relevant to the market when she was last an ingenue. Vancouver has rioted. Or one says there has been rioting in Vancouver, this sort of acting out one of those secondary effects of lotusland-itis. Lack of class in a putative world class city, as Boston prevailed and stole the Stanley Cup. Or else there were other excuses for the mayhem. The looting, the car-burning, the what-not—London Lunar makes mention of the sickness of spirit that seems to be obtaining in Syria, what with the crackdown, and I say, to one degree or other, in one way or the other, here, there and everywhere, this same sickness of spirit pervades. It is one thing to speak of an angry populace; it is another to speak of a mob, and still another to speak of spoiled brats who have bragging rights to all the savoir faire of boobs and boors—

June 15, 2011: In a transition zone between Montreal-NDG and 'the next district over', I bumped into Labrosse who was either walking for his health or simply taking his attaché case out for an airing. Asked what I was up to, I replied that I was on my way to the jaws of doom (the nature of which will soon enough become apparent in this posting). He laughed and hoped I would have a good evening; perhaps, we might meet up, later. Then, arrived at my intended destination, I was promised, but did not receive, a world of quiet delight. Poetry reading. Enough said. From which M, a Literary Thug of my acquaintance, and I beat a retreat when it was the decent thing to do. We found ourselves on Greene Avenue. The bar was one I used to infrequently frequent. Zounds and passing strange, but the barmaid remembered me, and not unkindly, from ten years previous. It was impressive. Perhaps she was, as A would later put it, a 'cougar', just that I am no spring chicken, far from it, even if M might pass for one, he glowing from a number of factors, or that we had made good our escape; that he had his first just published novel hot in his satchel; and that the pint he was drinking happened to be quite a good beer. He began to speak in in old school pulp-fictionese - of the barmaid: "She wore a low-cut leopard-print dress—She—" We looked around and knew we were among the smug the males of which were entities with whom she was infinitely and inexpressibly bored. Another retreat was sounded, but not before heartfelt felicities of parting were exchanged with the woman (though I doubt I will ever return to that place—)—So, to 'bratwurst'. Where Labrosse and A were holding court on the terrasse, and with some aplomb. Greetings all around, and then I made a silent observation in respect to M and his ambitions: or that here, among these non-literary types who could care less, he was going to find more 'caring' and 'respect' than amidst the supportive darlings of ten thousand literary evenings—What I had witnessed yet again in the course of the evening was how it is a 'community' reinforces decades of bad habits in a writer or two—Truth to tell, any hopes I had had of toughening up M for a life of crime, that is to say, the practice of literature, were dashed on the spot. Both Labrosse and A - perversely if convivially? - went into mollycoddle mode. Labrosse: "Congratulations on your book." A: "Cool." M: "I'm touched." We were soon enough joined by another Literary Thug of my acquaintance or M2; and he, too, was cosseted and petted; and he could not quite camouflage the fact that he had begun to purr. (All this time, E was in the emergency ward of some unnamed hospital, and in one of her cell phone texts to me she stated that she had embarrassed herself by fainting there, the news of which put Labrosse deeper in a state of fatherly ministrations, A unmoved. Labrosse: "I could've told her which hospital to go to - where she wouldn't have had to sit for hours and hours—") At about this point, Labrosse and M and M2 embarked on a discussion of the state of Canadian politics, whereupon A confided in me that she was angry all the time, and it was getting her down. I responded with the observation that her anger signified that she was at least alive. But angry with what? Oh, her place of work. Silly men. The stupid culture. And that, perhaps, she had not yet found herself and might not ever—Well, serious words that I will not sully with misplaced comedy—On the 24th of July he (Leopardi) writes to Giordani: 'In fine, the superb disdain professed here for literature and all things beautiful begins to nauseate me: especially as I cannot persuade myself that the height of human knowledge is to know politics and statistics. Indeed, considering philosophically the almost perfect uselessness of all the efforts from Solon's time until now, to obtain the perfection of political systems and the happiness of peoples; I am somewhat inclined to laugh at the fury of calculations and of political and legislative fantasies; and I humbly ask whether the felicity of nations is possible without the felicity of individuals—And so forth and so in this vein, from a Memoir of Leopardi by James Thomson. And when you're right, you're right, even if you've been dead for a century and change, and - furthermore—But the thing is, M2 had startled me - thusly: he put it to me that he had expected to find the story of the Trojan horse in the Iliad and it was not there. I immediately had the sensation I was missing both my brain cells. I was exquisitely puzzled. (Had I not read my Homer?) Sibum: "And the Odyssey? Is it not there?" M2: "No, correct me if I'm wrong, and I'm sure you will, I think it's in the Aeneid." Well, somewhere in the Odyssey, the men who were in the horse are described - that much I could remember, but though I have read the Aeneid more than once I could not just then recall mention of Greek treachery—Uh oh, not promising—But no matter. For I recently came across in Moby Dick a sentence or two that struck me by virtue of the fact that they had not been neutralized by the PC of National Geographic or Mr Suzuki, sentences testifying to an unconditional love of nature, to wit: How is it, then, with the whale? True, both his eyes, in themselves, must simultaneously act, but is his brain so much more comprehensive, combining, and subtle than man's, that he can at the same moment of time attentively examine two distinct prospects, one on one side of him, and the other in an exactly opposite direction? If he can, then is it as marvellous a thing in him, as if a man were able simultaneously to go through the demonstrations of two distinct problems in Euclid—With this quote, I would extol not so much Melville's grasp of natural science but his wondering mind—And it stands in some relief, that is, it stands out by comparison to a poem to which I was subjected at the reading, one that was smugly but lamely endeavouring to marry notions of evolution to Greek myth and ought perhaps to have left either field of inquiry alone - every cliché of intellect known to humankind trotted out, each one certified by a doctorate and CBC's blessings—However, with Melville, I confess I cannot quite get what he entirely signifies by Plato's honey head, though it be the head of a whale into which one of the whalemen fell and from which he had to be rescued, Queequeq doing the honours—Which brings to mind (this, too, perversely enough), that M managed to get off a truly grotesque joke about a leper and a prostitute such as I will not relate. In fact, the evening did seem to come to a natural enough conclusion with his view of a flick in which Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty once were featured, or Splendour in the Arse—Better to go home laughing than crying, I expect—I did not even bother with Letterman, that other canary in the mine—

June 14, 2011: Silver City (2004, John Sayles) the flick is not as glib as Wag the Dog the flick or as well-heeled as Primary Colors the flick, but it means it more, means the politics; is much too heavy on the propaganda, perhaps, at the expense of art; that it includes in its bag of tradecraft something of a send-up on the younger Bush and his speechifying—But yes, if it is no great movie, it is no waste of time, either. —And the dark dawning of our modern day when we can neither endure our vices nor face the remedies needed to cure them—Livy, not Sayles, and not some bible-thumper. Otherwise, Labrosse was at the controls of the wine cow, last night, in Nikas. He did not necessarily believe, but was prepared to believe, the buzz going around that game six of the Stanley Cup final between Boston and Vancouver was yet more evidence of match-fixing. E could not address the matter with anything like pertinent intelligence. So when I asked her if she actually cared about the outcome, she demurred, suggesting, however, that girls do like to watch hockey now and then, if only to have bragging rights to some intangible far beyond my inadequate ability to perceive what they perceive—She in turn put it to me if I cared, and I shrugged: "Not really." It was to be understood, though, that my indifference was not to be construed as anti-jock sentiment - far from it, but that my knees are quite destroyed from past indulgences in many campaigns in many places, and that even in the sports I prefer to hockey the spectacle of overpaid male divas on occasion sours my appreciation of a 'beautiful game', whatever it be. And when Labrosse began to gratify his jock-dream that is the game of golf, or how he once got to play with Watson and Trevino in some charity event (or he at least was able to hang about in their exalted company), and the recollection on the part of Labrosse was obviously as close as he was ever going to get to a religious experience, I received this look from E that was somewhere between her usual rolling of the eyes and a newly acquired expressiveness redolent of something sharper, a bit more shrewd—That is to say, let him - Labrosse - rattle on - there is nothing to be done about this—Now from Leopardi's Dialogue Between Frederic Ruysch and His Mummies: R speaking: —These arguments will perhaps satisfy the Epicureans. But they will not satisfy those who judge differently of the soul; as I have done until now, and shall do much more in the future, having heard the dead speak and sing—Yes, it is like this, sometimes, conversations after the fact knocking about inside one's skull, even chatter from a previous evening's verbal gambolings—And now for those of you who frequent these posts, I do intend to get back to Melville and Moby Dick, as some of you wish that I would. But I have been finishing up Patrick O'Brian's naval series set in Napoleonic times, eighteen novels down, two to go. And I let myself get sidetracked by a sleazy pulp read the reading of which I think I will terminate, as I too easily tire of the wink wink nod nod style of genre writing that claims limitless authority for its subject matter - police procedure and legalese, in this instance - and then presents you with cardboard cut-out personages meant to pass for characters, perhaps, such as jiggle about at the ends of so many piano wires, intricate jigglings, to be sure - ah, bearing some resemblance to characters I have met in the work of more literary-minded authors of some renown—And there is the fact of Andersonville, or what I suspect will prove a grim tome to get through; and besides, every year I revisit Tacitus, Livy, Thucydides, Herodotus and others—Regular readers of these posts also know I have a bone to pick with P.M. Carpenter, Prominent Political Commentator, American, whose writings on the minutiae of the politics down there I respect; his belief, however, that pragmatism trumps principle leaves me unmoved - though, yes, he is in the right of it mostly when he suggests that the left of centres are in the main an insufferable lot - no need to continually harp on the fact that the right of centres are bat-s—t, banshee demented and lunatic—Eh voila, some choice, eh? What's to choose between? The buzz in the air that the hockey is fixed may be ludicrous buzz, but that the political game is fixed, mais oui, but of course - here we have a plausibility factor, Houston. There has been buzz to the effect of a major circumvention of standard politicking on the part of a significant portion of the electorate, but a rerouting of efforts not necessarily akin to the ventings of the Tea-Partiers, though Mr Carpenter finds any such expedient less than pragmatic—I began to circumvent in my literary practice sometime ago, early 80s, I think, when I would say "Homer" and "Virgil" and "Propertius" and in a pinch "Yeats". I cast my unprepossessing shadow across Square One, that is. No more assuming that the mere fact of me opening my mouth, knobbly lines of poesy then spewing forth, meant, willynilly, a d—n thing—And then, apropos of nothing in particular, but because it suits the hour: Proprium humani ingenii est odisse quem laeseris—Or: It is part of human nature to hate the man you have hurt. Or a people, for that matter—Tacitus.

June 13, 2011: I read this morning of LBJ's - that would be Lyndon Baines Johnson, President the 36th of the U.S. of A. - less than glad-hearted regard for Martin Luther King, despite the president's civil rights legislation such as would guarantee him 'legacy', a mysterious archival substance to which MLK might have proved something of a threat. I was not surprised to read of this presidential animus; I am still gobsmacked in my sixth decade that I was once ever under the sway of anything faintly resembling an ideal or two—Last night, a TV advert suggested that one 'diagnoses success', and then one takes appropriate measures in the getting of the item, and yet - what? - what the advert perhaps inadvertantly implies is that success is a disease. Which, of course, it is, a most thorough-going malaise as conceptualized by banks and other corporate entities—Yes, and you are one of those who, with clear mind, determined what it was you wanted, and then, ruthlessly efficient in your overcoming of obstacles and people who stood in your way, you went and got the thing, because love was never ever going to carry all before it—Just that, most people upon waking, look around them and wonder how it is they woke in this particular mess as opposed to that one—I have spent too large a portion of my life not expecting persons to act honourably but thinking that they ought to - once or twice in each their legendary careers—I often view myself as quite the most absurd creature to be walking about in these parts - Montreal-NDG. A great deal of rain seems to have fallen of late on the district. And, well, I like a woman who reads not only Stendhal, but Graham Greene and Maugham, too, however much it is true that anyone under the age of forty-five will have absolutely no idea that the above named authors ever existed, much less committed words to a page—Idle thought that now and then materializes only to disappear into the swamps from which it arose in the first place: or that awt has morphed into the evil it once might question every so often—Morning. Nikas. Larry the software entrepreneur waltzes up to my booth from his table with a page from La Presse on which is an automobile advert. Larry: "Here's the car I think you should be driving." Sibum, after having had a gander: "Goodness." Well, the vehicle design - it is absolutely predatory, looks like a sci-fi bug of some kind—Le 2012 Sportsback? - Russo-Baltique?—Larry? He is a fine fellow. But for all he is a fine fellow, it is not always clear to me that he is entirely happy with his mode of making money and the life that the making of it leads him to live; but I could be mistaken and I frequently am so mistaken—I see that I wrote in my notebook while out in the vale (the Townships), this weekend, that: I decided to read a Greek tragedy after breakfast, and I did read one, and I idly thought there was some connection to be made between The Trojan Women of Euripides and Andersonville (which I have started to read and am a long way from finishing) of Mackinlay Kantor, as both works have to do with the treatment of captives taken in hostilities—The main thing, however, was the countless sparking of fireflies in the ditch along the landing road, and above the thick grasses of the horse meadow; and then, down by the lake, there they were - those fireflies - sparking out over the water while fishermen on the dock tossed their lines among them, the moon a smudge in the cloudy sky, C&W playing softly in the speakers of a pickup truck—In truth the very strength of genius, industry, and labour, which philosophers and scientists expend in order to establish their glory, are the cause in course of time of the extinction or obscuring of it. For from the discoveries which they make, and by which they become famous, other discoveries arise, so that little by little their fame diminishes and at last falls into oblivion; since it is very difficult for most men to admire in others a degree of knowledge which is inferior to their own. Who can doubt that the next age will have discovered the falsity of many ideas which the wisest of our philosophers now hold to be established truths; or that it will greatly surpass us in it knowledge of the truth?—Leopardi, from Parini's Discourse on Glory. Just that, besides so much else, we have overcome ego, have we not? And happily we regard ourselves as but so many willingly enthusiastic way-stations, torch-passers in the annals of time and space—Who can doubt it, having viewed Charlie Rose's shows, those perpetual displays of amiable and large-hearted celebs all humble as pie?—I had been to Georgeville over the weekend. It is a lakeside village lush from rain. In a studio there I watched the art world in its motions and behaviours, its imperatives and niceties and all sorts of whatnot. I got some inkling of a century's worth of wealth and summer cottages—Some nice people. Some not so nice people. Some pleasantly confused individuals. Some not confused at all. And so forth and so on—

June 10, 2011: E's sentimental education seems to have been, in geographical terms, a matter of Hackney, the V&A, the chunnel, and Paris. Oh, and best give the Tower of London a pass. So Disneyfied. Bangladeshi food is to die for. And there is a lot of off-license drinking in the streets—So cool. Her sentimental education perhaps got somewhat less sentimental when she, making mention of some arts boondoggle controversy here on the home front, I remarked in turn that the liberal-leaning types, the left of centres had better get their act together and sort out a mess, so much arts funding generating so much juvenalia that it is an insult to kids, and lest the right of centre pit bulls who want to deep-six government patronage of the awts win the moral ascendancy argument by default. Her lashes fluttered. Was this one of those so-called moments of truth? Had I become a zealot in her absence? In any case, I expect London Lunar considers himself to have had a close call, what with E larking in his neck of the woods, he unaffected by the E-effect, a perpetual rolling of the eyes—Listen, my friend, I was born to love. I have loved, and perhaps with affection as intense as can ever exist in a living soul. Now, although I am not yet, as you perceive, of an age naturally cold, nor perhaps even lukewarm, I am not ashamed to declare that I love no one, except myself by necessity of nature, and myself as little as I can. Nevertheless, I am wont and ready to choose rather to suffer myself than be the cause of suffering to others. And of this, however little you know of my habits, I believe that you can be my witness—Well, is this Eleander doing the heavy lifting here, talking away to Timander, a frothing at the mouth egomaniac? Or a realist? Or what, exactly? From Leopardi's Essays and Dialogues.

June 9, 2011: Last evening in Nikas, after an intense rain squall, Labrosse in his customary chairman of the board fashion observed: "Based on remarks you've made over the years, I can only conclude that this literary scene of which you speak is a free-for-all in the worst sense." "You may so conclude," I responded. And so as not to burden the man at the controls of the wine cow any further, I carried on - but between me and myself, like so: "It's like a war that's run out of agitprop. Even so, by sheer momentum, it simply goes on and on, a self-generating circus of ego and carnage trumpeting shock and awe. The anti-elitists carried the day, yes, but a long time ago now. No one has seen fit to inform the darlings that the old systems of privilege they demolished have been grown over by new ossifications of spirit. At least the old ilk pretended to standards—" At this point Labrosse kicked in with a further observation, perhaps because he saw that there was smoke curling from my ears: "All you can do with anarchy is to let it burn out. People are walking between the raindrops out there—" "Yes," I said, "there's no arguing with it. With the scene, that is. Otherwise, people walk between raindrops at their own peril. Me, I'm at the mercy of the fallacy in my argument. That is to say, if I've looked askance at the self-anointed, I can only find that I, too, have been hanging out a shingle—" Labrosse: "Whatever." For literature in and of itself is a fine thing, but on the TV Boston was looking to thrash Vancouver again. Stanley Cup. Vancouver of course has lotus-land-itis. No one who has ever been there can ever entirely flush it from their system—Well, there are days, and you may choose to credit me this or not, when I have no opinion whatsoever in respect to the state of the arts and the state of poetry in particular. Yes, and despite the fact that the practice of poetry has become some sort of boondoggle in which there are more fifteen minute packages of fame to be had than in any other human activity, including congressional sex scandals and dancing with the stars. One noodles in a closet; one graduates to a workshop; one is stamped as a brand; one is fed into the system; one is published, prized, apportioned a tour. The public, bless its still beating heart, overrun with cue cards and laugh tracks, says, ah, genius, that is, until the next one comes along in the next quarter hour. But like I said, there are days when I have no opinion on any of this. It's simply there. It is no longer credible but it is there, one tableau among others in a mysterious realm in which equally mysterious market forces apply—What has brought on in me this notion of the lack of credibility that would have been heretical a scant decade ago and now is a matter of so much ho hum indifference? It must be that poem I had occasion to read last summer for official reasons tantamount to reasons of state, that one authored by a lass (in all innocence perhaps) that bespoke her masturbatory fantasy in regards to the poet Bob Bly, perhaps because he has been touted as having more than just a yeoman's capacity for spiritual transcendence—Something in me snapped as I read. It was, some might point out, long overdue. Where have my wits been? I have no overweening need to upset any apple cart. Just that much is out of balance, out of true on so many fronts. In the arts there is perhaps no one thing to single out and blame. One might create a little, and much generalized, scenario for the current geist, thusly: "The preacher blames rockandroll. The rock star blames religion. The scientist says not enough science, the philosopher not enough reason or perhaps too much reason. The poet says, and I have been one of those, not enough poetry. But maybe there can be too much poetry—The politician looks to get re-elected. He, she, it will say anything—" Every generation is corrupt, decadent, fraudulent - in comparison to some other generation. What separates out one from the other is the willingness to continue to honour what is worthy and to retain one's faith in new possibilities without the 'making it new' subside into mere cant and self-excusing mediocrity. When that willingness dies, all bets are off. But I have been shrill—I am told by someone who would know about such things that the generation now approaching middle-age has been having itself a little baby boom. Does one laugh? Does one cry? Here is a little Leopardi, turned to in desperation, the page selected at random: DIALOGUE BETWEEN A SPRITE AND A GNOME: Sprite. Oh, are you here, son of Sabazius? Whither go you? Gnome. My father has sent me to find out what the deuce these rascally men are plotting now. He is very suspicious about them . . . . and so forth and so on—

June 8, 2011: Labrosse and I, we had the point on the 'bratwurst' terrasse, by virtue of the fact no one else was around, save for Flora running the place, and her very preggers daughter seething with impatience over the imposition of the presence in her womb. Labrosse and I, we were for some reason or other, concentrating our focus on passing couples of all ages and genders. One couple in particular caught our 'eye'. An old man with flaming white hair combed out to impart to him the appearance of one hurtling through space as he ambulated. The old woman, maintaining a distance of three feet or so behind his augustness, trudged along - as if on a death march. Old man and old woman of indeterminate 'old' years—They had been through thick and thin, no question, only to 'arrive' at a place all brimstone; only to breathe an atmosphere all gall. She sported a ton of cosmetics on her visage, gypsy-like scarf binding her forehead. He wished to pile abuse on her, but could not trouble himself, in the end, to do so—Were they 'failed' artistes? Montreal-NDG. Steamy afternoon—Later, the old man (who now had the mien of an old-school film director, shiny kerchief tied around his throat) was observed to emerge from the liquor store, two bottles of something or other in each his meaty grip. I said: "Well, it's a solution of sorts. One for him and one for her." Labrosse let loose one of his Gallic chuckles. Still later, I heard a bit of dialogue from an old comedy entitled Midnight - with Claudette Colbert. Every Cinderella has her midnight. Who says there is no truth in this world? The flick is one of those impossibly light-hearted affairs that, nonetheless, within the parameters of said light-heartedness, manages not to offend one's intelligence, unlike so much of what passes for comedy in this our culture of late stage capitalism - as per stuffy, pedigreed pundits. Well, how late and how stagey is it, really? It was the kind of comic flick in which there is always a comic, demented pianist muggering some Chopin etude to death. Poor Chopin. I do not believe he was so very boring as all that—Yes, and when London Lunar observes that no art form is capable of more rot and of sullying the human soul more than film despite its glories, I believe he almost has a point. Another 'art' practice comes to mind—Oh and, before it slips my mind, in regards to that old couple above, this thought from Leopardi: He who has little communication with people is seldom a misanthrope. True misanthropes are not found in solitude, but in the world. This is because it is practical experience of life, and certainly not philosophy, that makes people hate their fellows. And if someone who is a misanthrope withdraws from society, in his seclusion he loses misanthropy—As much as I worship the great Italian poet, this Leopardi, in this instance I cannot concur. I have known hermits to nurse grudges for decades, and in thorough-going separation from the fray - the point being, there is no separation from the fray, not ever—

June 7, 2011: The BBC 1976 adaptation of Robert Graves's I, Claudius was a wrap, last night, all thirteen episodes; Claudius the old man divested now of all illusions and delusions but one - that the poisons that lurked in the mud were not going to hatch out in the end, and the republic was dead, dead, dead, the empire having legs for several centuries yet. Like so, whether or not it makes any historical sense, analogies but another mug's game, my eyes are sadly jaundiced vis a vis the entity to the south—Which is to say that, the republic decidedly inert, one does not talk politics as possibility any longer; one talks it up as one might the vagaries of the weather. They decided to ban unions in Michigan. You don't say. So-and-So, a Dem, would you believe, has sent the dear darlings snaps of his crotch. You know - this sort of thing does goes on. Jesus wept. But So-and-So - now there's a piece of work - this one who's been stepping and fetching it for certain K-Street factions for eons now - well, he-she-it has just passed GO and collected on the rebound—Labrosse, as I have intimated in previous postings, was quite caught up with the character of Claudius, what with his own interests in politics (Canadian), and history (Canadian), and the fact of his years. He did not know, however, that before the Roman incursions into 'Gaul', what were to become the Brits and what were to become the French each belonged to a wide-ranging culture (druidic) with its belief in metempsychosis, the immortality of the soul, a notion which Labrosse has thumbs-downed for some centuries now, anti-cleric that he is—A, the dear? Well, she said she was declaring for Livia, the wife-mother-empress in whom ambition by far burned more brightly than any other passion. But what had she thought of Claudius? She thought him, oh, a poor old sucker, a wise old fool - you know - but - c'est la vie—Labrosse figured him for a man who could not bring himself to rock the boat - a failure then, as per Claudius's own estimation of himself—In this culture of ours we are not allowed to view ourselves as such as it would truck too close to unholy pessimism and besides, then banks and other market forces would have less easy marks for their upbeat adverts—We went for a nightcap. As ever the 'bratwurst' terrasse was a poem of café light and moody maple foliage - Antiochan-like on the St Lawrence—(Melville, the author of Moby Dick, might allow the analog a moment's breathing space, but William Carlos Williams, the good doctor and poet bringing about a golden age of American poesy of American only provenance? Not likely.) I was astounded to hear that A had never ever, in no way, shape or form, heard of the actors Laughton (who was once slated to play the part of Claudius for a project that never got off the ground) or Bogarde or—Whereupon I began rattling on that DeNiro was no Cagney, not even close—That Nicholson, flake par excellence, was only credible in a movie of which existence she had no idea, or Five Easy Pieces, her eyes getting glassy now, petulant —Moral excellence is concerned with pleasures and pains; it is on account of the pleasure that we do bad things, and on account of the pain that we abstain from noble ones—Aristotle. But yes, whatever—Labrosse then kicked in with an observation that a revolt was brewing in the PQ, which it is a political force in these parts, what with three of its members opting to sit as independents in the National Assembly that, to non-Quebeckers, is our provincial parliament. Labrosse was pleased to make the observation; it brought us roaring back to the 21st century— I woke this morning and listened to the Patria Oppressa chorus from Verdi's MacBeth for no sake other than that of General Principles—And E, so I was told by A, last night, at 'bratwurst', was now on our turf again, her sentimental education at an end; and it would seem that London and Paris had each survived the E-effect - the dimpled smile, the perpetual rolling of the eyes, the I hear you look and I get it, man, even, of course, as when she does not. It was a warm night, and Persians that one might or might not 'get' were happily getting pleasantly and mildly drunk. Even so, a serious young non-Persian couple, having placed their infant child on the table at which they sat, stole a moment for themselves. All the while the babe wriggled and gurgled as if something out of Virgil, the famous prophesy poem, perhaps the one long considered by Christians to have declared for the Messiah though it was not declaring for any such entity at all - rather it was heralding the likely inception of a Roman Golden Age - that mother then with a most pensive look on her face, one that seemed to see deeply into things and yet did not recognize that it saw anything but the most immediate concerns—A decided that she was going to roll, to go home, convinced that culture is nice, so far as it goes, but liquor's quicker and Bob's your uncle—

June 6, 2011: As I was casually reading on the particulars of anti-matter, it seemed to me just then that I was not much different from a dog lifting his snout into the air, endeavouring to ascertain what was on the breeze—I had been listening, too, to sacred music - that of Sebastien dé Broussard (he composed in baroque times) - and this courtesy of a visitation from a complicated Torontonian, that is, he left the cd behind. Part of the text of this music is a dialogue between the 'soul' and God; the soul would repent of its waywardness and reunite with God, and the God would welcome back the errant soul, only, on the part of God, is it pride of ownership or unconditional love that speaks? Because, as I heard out the music, I had a somewhat piecemeal meditation, as it were, on love between humans; how difficult it is for us to love without conditions, much less love at all. And how often have I heard discussed what techniques are best suited to deliver this 'love without conditions', and I submit that without the fact of the love itself, be it conditional or not, and depending on the depth of the desire the 'one' has for the 'other, and desire is always a complicating factor that may or may not foment besetting conditions, no technique as such is of the slightest use. The more one has to think about 'love' the less there is of it to know. Clumsily expressed, yes, but something like that—But what has brought this on? Surely not Quid non Sanctus amor? Fortiter ambiit, Christo Virgineum fundere sanguinem—Or: What can divine love not accomplish? She had no other ambition than to spill the purest of her blood for Jesus Christ—And yes, so little separates the best sense of those words from that which is morbid, melodramatic, even narcissistic - but, basta—I had also been reading in Patrick O'Brian's The Yellow Admiral, a naval novel set in Napoleonic times, of an oboe quartet (Mozart's?) played on ship by Aubrey the captain, Maturin the surgeon, another officer, and a midshipman; how there had been some anxiety as to how well the rookie oboe would come off in the fray with the violin, viola, and cello; but how, and without much preparation to speak of, the muddling through went very well, indeed; only that, shortly after, the oboeist - the midshipman at play up among the yardarms - slipped and fell to his death. As if nature, life, or some Jealous God simply cannot tolerate instances of human perfection - there is always some due for a moment of grace—Which leads me to this: switch from the music of a sacred motet to a sports telecast, say, and of a sudden, how coarse an instrument is the human voice—Yesterday, rummaging through a box of items I had long since forgotten I had lying around, I came across an envelope stuffed with postcards - images of paintings that hang in the National Gallery, London, that I had bought there once; the question to myself now being: why these five in particular? Well, the one - it is Piero di Cosimo's A Satyr Mourning Over a Nymph. It happens to be one of my favourite paintings for reasons I have never been able to explicate, and it might well be the dog that does it; the squatting dog calmly looking on as the stricken satyr bends to the dead girl, dog as mute poet of the scene —So much so that in my brief career as a publisher I called my little press after that dog: The Red Dog Accounts. Another postcard refers to a painting by Claude: Landscape with Aeneas at Delos - it reminds me of certain paintings by MH. Another by Claude, and by Dürer - it escapes me now what I thought to have brought back to mind when and if I would refer to the cards—(Which brings to mind, almost a sequitur, Kydde's injunction never to write verse about a painting, any painting, as the verse can never be as good or as compelling as the painting itself)—But in any case, a posting, today, chockful of loose ends: anti-matters, dogs, virgins, nymphs, musicke, and dilemmas of grace—Here follow words redolent of the operations of the mind: from Moby Dick, Chapter Seventy-Two: Stubb and Flask Kill a Right Whale; and Then Have a Talk Over Him (and bearing in mind that the lashing on of the one dead whale is meant to balance the fact of the other dead whale lashed to the ship's opposite side—): As before, the Pequod steeply leaned over towards the sperm whale's head, now, by the counterpoise of both heads, she regained her even keel; though sorely strained, you may well believe. So, when on one side you hoist in Locke's head, you go over that way, but now, on the other side, hoist in Kant's and you come back again; but in very poor plight. Thus, some minds for ever keep trimming boat. Oh, ye foolish! throw all these thunderheads overboard, and then you will float light and right—Ah, Melvillean humour. This poking of gentle fun at philosophes and pedants—Whereas Academe brings out the homicidal in me—And it would seem, and it is far from comic, that the Israeli and Syrian regimes continue their macabre pas de deux on the backs of Palestinians, and the yanks keep meandering on stage and off again, and a fat lot of good it does them—

June 5, 2011: At Noble Mens table NED every day Eats / and rails against all but the Bubble that treats. / To what real Use does He manage his sence / Who ne'r opens his mouth but at others Expence?—Prior having at Martial in the 17th century. Cited for the sake of General Principles. Arts funding? And this according to London Lunar, and unsubstantiated at that, but that it seems, from dear old Montreal, a dance troupe wended its way to dear old London in Britannia-land, and desported itself amidst Paying Customers; danced coyishly nude with yellow wigs; and whereupon, having performed, got serious, leaped into the awdience, waggled pr—ks in faces, mooned, spread ye olde butt-cheeks. Artistic triumph? Colony collapse? Failure of imagination? Should Paul Revere have reversed course and warned the Brits - as apparently, Ms Palin thinks did happen - that Les Habitants were imminent? Is this even amusing? Paying Customers, it seems, tittered. Had they but considered a while, they might have demanded their money back. Ponces and putzes then did get what they deserved in the first instance. And - You say that your arsehole is not for use? (Or: another translation of a Martial-ism, as per Peter Porter.) I myself had something of a cultural afternoon, yesterday. There was a visitation. Eh voila, expatriate American-Torontonian, one well-connected to the elite wing of the Old Guard of Black Mountain poesy. One need not like the verse of Charles Olson but should one not be steeped in projectivist practice, one is, as a poetaster, even at this late stage, among the wretches of the world. O, speech-rhythm - as old Walt might have put it. O, speechifying kinetics. Sibum, a twifle irked: "Energy, you say? Flailing about, fecklessly waving arms in the air - it is, I suppose, energy of a kind, that is, if you're speaking of poetry that is distinguished by a show of energy—" A look of bemusement having shadowed his face, it now lingers just a little on my interlocutor's countenance. (It is a look that also says it would never stoop to pulling professorial rank, but—) And one of the unwashed would fain speak of poetic matters that are best left to his intellectual betters. He then blames the sorry state of Canlit on the fact that it adhered too much to the examples the Brits provided. Sibum, and that would be me, blames it all on the rush to be yankee-like in everything, even to the wearing of baseball leggings as one composes immortal stanzas. God only knows what the likes of an Alden Nowlan thought, but it did not flatter those who were so prodigiously projectivist on the coast halfways across the world from him. My interlocutor however was not a complete blithering idiot (but racing gloves?); he thought Strand's reputation overblown. He agreed that whatever was left to be destroyed, after the Black Mountain juggernaut had had its innings and taken over Academe, was destroyed by another in-coming Academe addicted to arty-farty hermeneutics, the strait jacketing of language, the application of electronic shock treatments circa the 50s to the brow of the muse. Let's render her a blithering, stuttering, slobbering idiot, while we're at it—And so forth and so on. As for the neo-classicizing youth of the moment who imagine they have come to the rescue? Equip them with Swiss knives and dispatch them to the wilds—It's all Lord of the Flies with them, anyway—I had meant to write, this morning, that a certain Proust, it being Marcel Proust I had in mind, the über-novelist of my youth, when he shut himself up in his cork-lined digs, was only being sane; was only doing the natural thing as per what a novelist ought to do, that is, recapitulate, reexamine, sum up, if possible, and above all, lull death into a state of sleep; in other words, cheat one's own mortality. A surprising amount of people I have run into since my so-called apprenticeship years do not have much regard for Proust the fey aesthete, it being an activist age, notwithstanding the fact that despite all the activism, things continue to fall apart at ever-increasing rates of velocity—Last night, I watched a flick entitled Passion Play. Recent release featuring Mickey Rourke and Bill Murray and a starlet with twitchy lips. At first blush, it was almost good. One might say almost better than good. A certain train of thought was observed to get up a head of steam in my mental operations as I viewed. That is to say, as dreadful as things are to the south of here, what with the state of politics and the state of the economy and much else, and what with the prevalence of persons determined to steer the good ship of state straight into the jaws of the nearest ship-sucking Charybdis, there must be other personages - the law of averages declares that there have to be other personages in indeterminate numbers - who, in some shape, form, or manner are pushing back against all that cheats life, against the thinking-outside-the-box-that-is-itself-the-box; and the flick in question perhaps spoke to some of that. A very big, very large perhaps. O. Henry, remember him, might have served up the movie's ending—A bit troublesome, that. Bill Murray, whom I can take or leave, depending on a flick's levels of cutesy-pie shamming, did acquit himself well in the role of a gangster—Indeed.  So, hail and farewell, visitation. You know, Hardly any of us have ethical energy enough for more than one really inflexible point of honour— As from Shaw.

June 4, 2011: Two more I, Claudius episodes bit the dust, last night, Claudius the palace gimp now in the thick of it as the improbable emperor. About to be cuckolded, about to be drained of the last of his fine illusions. And it has been almost touching, observing Labrosse, long out of the marital fray, identify more and more closely with the Claudius figure as the episodes come and go, politics as such and 'history' not really the point of them; just this instance of a wretch surviving love and hate against a backdrop of imperial madness and palace intrigue. And what with Messalina's machinations, Livia - in the eyes of the young A - the always-scheming Livia now a goddess in her posterity, courtesy of Claudius and the senate, seems like someone's sweet old grandmother who would never harm so much as a fly—"Livia's looking better all the time," said A, having a deep drag of her cigarette, taking Messalina's measure, and what a monster, say what? That A was at first horrified by the fact of Livia who was wife to Augustus Caesar and empress has now been superceded by fresh horrors—Even if 'systems-management' thought dominates nearly every aspect of our lives, 'unherdable cats' is still, so I reckon, the true reality of politics and the wielding of power, that is, reality along existential lines. Claudius would bring down the corn price; his ministers would game him, agitating for their own interests in respect to that matter of the corn price. Messalina, using sex as a weapon, has her eye increasingly on the prospect of power. Herod, once a reliable friend, of a sudden thinks he is the messiah; and some maniac out there, no doubt, wishes to reinstall the republic—Some 2,000 years ago, and as recently as this morning—Some feminists of my acquaintance would argue that there is no such creature and never was such a creature as a Messalina; she is just the product of an over-heated male imagination—This, too, is part of the aforementioned reality, the always seething mix of pretenders and other combatants—A simply shrugged as I put this to her. For me to know and you to find out, fella. Besides, who cares? Got fish to fry—She was applying cuddles to her very needy, very neurotic cat—Earlier in the day, I had occasion to be downtown. It was good to be downtown -  on St Catherine, that lively 7 mile long emporium for which I have a peculiar fondness. Energy greater than the sum of its parts—No matter in what crass manner market forces reduce the always trendifying hoi polloi to the sum of their craven appetites—No matter my quarrels with things, I have a weakness for carnivale and bazaar—Wound up at Ziggy's on Crescent St, the anglo party street - for you non-Montrealers. MH and I had a pint on the terrasse, and among other questions, posited this question: what were 45 to 60 year old women in this 'party' atmosphere wearing and why? And so forth and so on—Later, back in NDG, and I had hooked up with Labrosse at the 'bratwurst' terrasse (before moving on to A's digs and our viewing of I, Claudius), and he was going on about the 'eye of the ostrich' as if it were the key to life's central mystery, and I will have to investigate, but not here, not just yet. In any case, I am not up to much - this being a lazy post. I will simply remark that one is reminded now and then how it is one deals with the fact of power: one learns how to survive it. One catches the sun on one's face of an afternoon on St Catherine. Or, if one is compelled to do so, one asks what - not who - but what are we really? It is the one question which both literature and science share, for all the quarrels I have with either department of inquiry. Let science say we are so many combinations of so many molecular constituents, and it says a great deal, yes, but it does not say 'everything', even as science is in our faces with the fact that there is no 'everything' without the material basis to which it has exclusive bragging rights—Enough. Should have stayed at Ziggy's taking in the show, watching middle-aged hoser-tourists in the company of girls try and relive their frat-rat days or whatever it is they were up to a la some circus of Theocritus the raconteur and ironist. Or this: Though he has watched a decent age pass by, a man will sometimes still desire the worldOedipus at Colonus. Sophocles.

June 3, 2011: It has been a long, long time since I first encountered the word scaramouche. But there it was yesterday in Moby Dick, page 227 of the edition I possess. Is not Palin a female scaramouche figure of affected speech and roguish predilection, given the part she plays in American politics? All she lacks is the black mask and black hip-hugger jeans— And God knows she will probably trot out those items of fashion when appropriate—In any case, I have now long been told that my paranoia in regards to a Palin presidency is beyond silly and I ought to grow up. Of course, only a Melville would liken the decapitated head of a whale to Judith's Holofernes. (Try as I might to presume to liberate Melville's novel from the usual clichés of American literary criticism, all I can see at this very moment in that leviathan's severed head is the 'republic' dead or still breathing, but only just—) And leave it to Ahab to view that very same head as his own personal crystal ball; he would fain have intelligence from it; that it, when attached to a still living body, had perhaps crossed paths with that other whale - or Moby Dick himself. And then it could be I finally came across what London Lunar considers to be the novel's so-called turning point; that a mad man mad with religion on another whaling ship is warning Ahab not to pursue the white whale; that it is a sacred object; it is the Shaker God Himself, and so forth and so on; and of course, Ahab is not so circumspect let alone superstitious. No, he is utterly mad but utterly rational in his madness, a man of reason not so far removed from our secular selves—A reasonable London Lunar observes that there are attendants at the V&A (The Victoria and Albert Museum - he was on the premises to have a look at an exhibit of Watteau drawings which he announced were exquisite) whose only purpose in life seems to be that of preventing tots from stripping off in the courtyard pool—There ought to have been nudity in protest at such puritanism—In Toronto David Mason the bookseller sold out of his copies of my Hoffer memoir and wants more. I do not know if Toronto deserves him or if Toronto even knows it has him - to deserve or neglect. (I have been to his shop on Adelaide myself a couple of times, times when I have regretted my impecunious state.) For all that, it has finally happened, though, in actual fact, it got a foothold in our collective sensibilities long ago: WRITING IS A BUSINESS! Ah, clarion call to arms. Otherwise it is an advert for a seminar-scam - subset of official CBC culture as would rope in wannabe writers of outsized egos and professionalize the things - that appeared on my computer screen. Well, I suppose one has to make a living and sometimes one has to scam so as to make said living, but even so—Me, I have no objections to the likes of a Stephen King who quietly goes about amassing his fortune, and who, on occasion, can write, but even so—I spit on this notion that WRITING IS A BUSINESS; I scorn it, I show it the sole of my hairy foot. Why warm the warm and fuzzies of all the Harperite-Tony Blairites walking-talking adjuncts among us who people arts bodies and fob verses off on the unsuspecting and call it a career? They have got all the press releases they can possibly use. It is not about keeping one's character - what? - clean? - available to one's conscience? - for the sake of 'political writing' but for writing in any capacity—Yet lest you think I rally more than teach, / Or praise malignly arts I cannot reach, / Let me for once presume t'instruct the times, / To know the poet from the man of rhymes—Pope. And that to have a new wrinkle on one's arse is to have learned something new— Verily and amen.

June 2, 2011: The new blue and white checkered tablecloths in Nikas are the talk of the town. Well, of Montreal-NDG, at any rate, and failing that, what area the 484 exchange covers—enough. But they reinforce, those table cloths, the general Mediterranean island coloration of the ambience - light tints of the aforementioned blue and white as well as green - enough. What, I'm a colorist now? These colours, however, make of that plaster figure of Artemis in her niche not an interior woodland's huntress so much as a fishing village's protective deity—And that's just fine with management here. In any case, one day, I just might work up a full-blown essay, if it has not been done up 10,000 times already, and if I can stand the ghastly aspect of the subject matter: tribalism among youths - or how it is everything one sees on TV sit-coms is replicated at any gathering of youths anywhere. Papua, too? Now Melville, and by Melville I mean that author of Moby Dick, was a poor ecologist. How can one eat what one also burns as light, i.e. whale blubber? In the chapter entitled The Shark Massacre, Melville describes how the whalers treated with sharks that would feed on the whale carcass affixed to the side of the ship, and how wounded sharks simply exacerbated the so-called feeding-frenzy as they began to feed on their own, causing a prodigious turbulence in the waters—Nor was this all. It was unsafe to meddle with the corpses and ghosts of these creatures. A sort of generic or Pantheistic vitality seemed to lurk in their very joints and bones, after what might be called the individual life had departed. Killed and hoisted on deck for the sake of the skin, one of these sharks almost took poor Queequeg's hand off, when he tried to shut the dead lid of his murderous jaw. / "Queequeg no care what god made him shark," said the savage, agonisingly lifting his hand up and down. "Wedder Feejee god or Nantucket god; but de god wat made shark must be one dam Ingin." Yes, and despite all that progressive-mindedness such as descries in us the holdovers and hangovers of superstition, perhaps this quasi-religious perversity on our part is the best part of our reason, after all, as it at least holds out some feeling in ourselves for that which is outside of ourselves in nature—It was almost an erotic embrace, the business of securing the dead whale to the ship— This done, a broad, semi-circular line is cut around the hole, the hook is inserted, and the main body of the crew striking up a wild chorus, now commence heaving in one dense crowd at the windlass. When instantly, the entire ship careens over on her side; every bolt in her starts like the nail-heads of an old house in frosty weather; she trembles, quivers, and nods her frightened mastheads to the sky. More and more she leans over to the whale—Even so, I do not believe I have yet come across what London Lunar credits as the novel's turning point, as if there were a plot in which a point could turn; and I also do not believe that, in London Lunar's mind, whaling ships and attendant sharks count as a metaphor for yankee capitalism, the man's mind much too, shall we say, subtle for that sort of ham-fisted analogy—Speaking of which, by way of some other guilty party, a Literary Thug's piece of work, I was sent a message in which this medieval Latin emphatically occurred: entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem. To do with Occam's famous razor, with 'shaving away unnecessary assumptions from any argument. Literary Thug wished to have it known: Occam's razor good, our deconstructionists bad because, as ever, they assume they have created the universe, and ahead of schedule—Disco, I suppose, was Apollonian—Indeed, there was a band - will Quebec own up to it? - that was called Caesar and His Romans. There really was. Last night, Nikas, Stanley Cup finals underway, Vancouver having gotten in somehow - a reason for some feckless diners to cheer—But Labrosse had been going on about the surveillance state - since when does he care? - and A was telling me how much she had enjoyed her last rugby practice, and there was on one of her biceps a purplish-green bruise the color of a tornadic sky—But then this fellow, a tall, aged hippy, ashen-faced, sporting something of a misanthropic demeanor far removed from the old peace and love days, getting about with a cane, he drags himself up to the cashier; he blurts out with some conviction, "Go Bruins!" (That is, Boston, you see.) He got the silent treatment for his pitch at martyrdom. Standard issue Canadian response.

June 1, 2011: Ingrid Bergman, in Notorious: —I'm only fishing for a little birdcall from my dream man . . . . / . . . . / . . . . not a peep—Otherwise, according to Labrosse (this as we nursed a beer each, 'bratwurst' terrasse, muggy afternoon): "The three essentials for the 6000 Sherbrooke block west are as follows - 1), Drunkin' Donuts; 2), the dog spa - the traffic that goes in and out of the place and the contribution its clients make to street theatre; 3), schizzes of all genders. Should any of it disappear, we would have to reinvent the missing portion or we could not call it a neighbourhood. Yes. Mais oui." Or Theocritus should not have verses to write, e.g. Gorgo: O, what a flibbertigibbet I am! Why, I hardly could get here / safely, Praxinoa, what with the size of the crowds and the traffic, / Everywhere fellows in uniform: great coats! hob-nailed boots! The / Way seemed interminable; you live farther away all the time, dear—from Women of Syracuse or Devotees of Adonis, Theocritus, as translated by Daryl Hine. Like so I have often heard my fur-capped Ninotchkas, afternoons in Nikas—Now that long, low-slung white convertible, top down, that just went by - are we going to argue it for an eternity, Labrosse and I, whether it is a Pontiac or an Olds circa the late 60s, and a Theocritus write us up? Quel antique! Invocatory. Just that it has been done to death - that peculiar nostalgia of cars and sex—Has there ever been a nostalgia quite like it? The Edwardian period? Rome's Silver Age? Surely France had an epoch or two when a previous epoch seemed all the more sweet for being prior, antecedent to a hellish patch—And then Jamal, part capitalist, part jester, proud owner and driver of not only a Jaguar but a Cadillac, too, materialist sod, he goes and suspends a pot of primroses and tunias right above our heads, and he takes such pains to achieve an aesthetic effect, an imp's grin on his mug—Now trekking by us - the Irish vagabond—No, we hardly care for what sociology has to say for this white-haired old geezer-man. Yet one wonders what mileage those rubbers of his get, the ones he wears in all seasons? He has quite a temper, yes, but his eyes are ice-blue and twinkly and he does not seem inordinately unhappy. I have exchanged the odd word with him. I can with some confidence avow that he is quite civilized—OTHERWISE, as George Stanley the poet said a long time ago out on the coast, it being one of his more prescient remarks, summer brings out the little fascist in all of us. You see them on the street, getting belligerent for the sake of their bliss, trailer trash comportment and demeanor of no never mind, one's own feelings about it irrelevant and beside the point, as one is incidental to their obtaining of bliss, for all that one has nominal sympathy for the obtaining, Montreal winters so effing protracted. I once had a friend - PPP was his code name - who, what with his snooty Westmount address, refused to cross over west of Decarie into my frontier, not even if I were to pay for the drinks, as for him to do so would make him a traitor to his class, never mind that he was only ever vaguely middle-class, if that, being a remittance man. Poor soul, he wound up in Coquitlam, B.C., in the new burbs, one of those peculiar wastelands. So he is one to talk, he the artiste the equivalent of a Gauguin who somehow forgot to get out there - to the South Seas, a man then of stillborn epiphanies. Yet, he had a deep and abiding grasp of art history, and in this regard he is, even as we speak, still an oracle, if he has not succumbed to his miseries, he meant for a better age than ours. OTHERWISE, the usual appalling news. It is said, it is unequivocally stated, that all doom-predictions turn out 100 per cent wrong 100 per cent of the time—To be sure. And, Santayana: The young man who has not wept is a savage, and the old man who will not laugh is a fool

 

 

 

 

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