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Ephemeris  February 2012

 

Feb 29, 2012: It is an old wiseacre remark of mine that one may as well take the auspices or some such and read bird livers for a hint of what gives, man, as consult the ologies for the condition of one's immediate circumstance and attenuating psyche. This remark is brought on by the presence of Numa in Livy's The Early History of Rome; and by how he came to be Rome's second king (after Romulus who was something of a warlord). Numa was 'divinated' into office. Whereupon, he went about cementing alliances with the neighbouring towns and making treaties (as he figured, apparently, that the waging of war was not, we repeat, was not a civilizing influence); and he also went about setting up the Vestal virgins and a priesthood so as to 'foster community' amongst what had been so many cattle rustlers. And he also had something to say about leap years, it being a day just now in February that indicates a leap year has come around again— Enough. I have been reading that the imperial adventure in Afghanistan is on its rather shaky last legs. I have been reading that the last resting place of the last Incan emperor (the Spaniards did him in in 1533) has been located in Ecuador; and the more I read about the Incans the more I am led to reflect on, say, the Hittites. Who were a people to be reckoned with for a while. I read that Marie Colvin's photographer whom I commented on in a previous post, injured in the shelling that killed the journalist with whom he was teamed, has finally been extracted from Syria at the cost of some lives, perhaps as many as nine. And had John Fahey the guitarist-arranger-composer lived up until the present day, he might have found the fact that he was living out of a car and washing dishes in a shelter a less surreal experience; that he would have had plenty of company and even something of an audience. Stomping on the Pennsylvania-Alabama border, indeed—Morning. Nikas. And where oh where has Larry the software entrepreneur gotten to these past two weeks or so? Not taking the waters in Thailand or Atlantic City, I take it. What, he has had a tiff with Alexandra the waitress over butter? This bears investigating. Oh, and that Fahey knew a woman named Søren Kierkegaard who may or may not have been addicted to corncob pipes—It appears that Syrian police raided the monastery at Deir Mar Musa, a place especially dear to London Lunar's heart, on account of Father Paolo, among other reasons, the man being one of life's true saints—The evil that is transpiring in that country is accorded highlight values by virtue of the fact of the diplomatese of a community of nations in respect to the 'system'; or that the 'system' is all one has with which to deal in some logical fashion with a power struggle in a vacuum, the most vicious kind that there is; and in any case, it is a situation that was partly brought on by the sheer insanity of great power ends and means and ways and what the hell—In other words, all one has is one's hypocrisies when it comes to restoring balances that were never much by way of balances in the first instance—I suppose I have just stooped so low as to indulge an opinion. What is less the ilk of 'opinion' is the fact that people will go around under the impression they might appeal to something like an humanity so as to ameliorate some horror or other, as if such an humanity actually existed. Is it not a creature as mythologically suspect as the unicorn and the above mentioned Numa and the well-read athlete? I had been meaning to say that Canadian political scandal, in contradistinction to its American cousin, is generally a more muted affair, less ambitious in scope, and a great deal less securely seated in the certainties that one has both a God-given right to foment scandal and to unleash the hounds of the NYPD on scandal anywhere in the world—I meant to write all this up, with a side foray into the state of poetry, but other items, as you can see, caught me up—

Feb 28, 2012: Surely the argument has been made a thousand times in recent years that there are far too many literary prizes being handed out, all those rewards for good behaviour testifying to the increasing irrelevance of literature to even its most ardent cheerleaders. I used to be ardent; used to rattle my pom poms for the home team—You mean that, no, no argument has been made? Well, I never. Morning. Nikas. I have been reading up on the Santorums to the south of here, but right here - here in this establishment - a couple of noisome flakes have flushed me out of the rear of the restaurant to the front, and consequently, I am being treated to a spectacle of snow removal by specialists, not to mention all the darlings starting up their engines for the trek into work, and all the dears queuing up wherever dears queue - at the bank, at the bus stop. I do not know if the city, properly speaking, works, but it 'works'—As for the Santorums et al, they are too vile for even the likes of me to treat with, inasmuch as they are in aggregate a kind of force that bends light, in which process a great many nominally sane persons seem to lose their minds testifying to their already self-evident greater sanity whilst attempting to hold up an end of an argument. The American political scene. Is it worth the sacrifice of one's sentience? My correspondent who lives in Wales tells me she has been listening to the guitar of that arch American John Fahey of late, and that the man's 'unbearably flowing guitar work is like a smooth river underneath which are dangerous currents'. Her words, by way of synchronicity, echo mine of the post previous to this one, as when I spoke of menace. My suspicion is that Fahey died a paranoid nutter - a not uncommon mode of dying in the New World; or he died in full cognizance of the general futility that is most of life once child-bearing and child-rearing are removed as factoring justifications for what boots it. Art. It is a damnable business. All the art collectives to the contrary, the writers' unions, the workshops and lah de dah et cetera and et cetera, but art takes no prisoners. The Albanian waitress with the startling eyes got the hint, my wild gesticulations, and dropped the decibels emanating from the radio—

Feb 27, 2012: Fabulous George, Nikas owner-cook, was late for opening hour, this morning and so, as I stood there baffled, beating my chest against the cold; as I looked around and took in the traffic commute and the dirty snow, it struck me how nice it might be to once in a while espy parrots flitting between umbrella pines—When Fabulous George finally showed up (along with Alexandra the waitress who seemed quite bemused by the fact that I had not sense enough to wait for them indoors somewhere), and George unlocked the door to the premises and we beetled in out of the cold, the smell of tomato sauce (mingling with that of some disinfectant) overwhelmed my senses and memory bank; and I was returned to my days as a pizza cook and franchise manager. There is nothing of nostalgia in any of this, far from it, and you may shoot me if ever I suggest there is. It was no big deal, being 'manager' (it was only ever humiliation), as a manager in respect to the franchise of which I speak made no decisions as such; was little more than a stock boy who kept the stores up to snuff and measured out how much alcohol was being consumed lest waitresses be siphoning it off on the sly, let alone some dipsomaniacal flinger of pizza dough, and all at barely legal recompense. The odd customer complaint was fielded, real management thus bulwarked from any exposure to reality other the realities of the financial sector, which were the only realities real management cared about. But enough of that—My Japan correspondent tells me he listens a great deal to John Fahey's 1968 Vanguard album Requia. This album includes one of my very favourite Fahey compositions: Requiem for John Hurt, John Hurt being the great blues man; and that Fahey said that Charlie Patton, granddaddy to a lot of blues men, would have composed such a requiem had he thought of it, but of course, he wouldn't have thought of it, being Charlie Patton—My Japan correspondent is himself an 'amateur' composer; and in his message to me he twice had use of the word ostinato, which it is the constant repetition of a melody or pattern, but that in Italian signifies 'stubborn'. For all that, this correspondent looks forward to walking about in cherry blossom season now imminent over there. He is also a poet who got the hell out of Dodge, i.e. Canada, so as to preserve that part of his soul as might contemplate things poetic. I have an opposite methodology; or that, now and then - no guarantees, of course - a little irritation can make for pearls. "Say what?" Or so I can hear some chirpy local culture critic say— In any case, I do not see that nationalism has ever done poetry anywhere any favours—And it is to be noted that whoever it was performing the Canadian anthem at last night's NBA all-star game in Orlando performed it miserably; just that his American counterpart did little better, she oversinging the oh say can you see and so forth by a long shot, as if trying to top the recently deceased Whitney Houston—As for that, in light of the recently killed in Syria Marie Colvin the journalist whom London Lunar often saw on the streets in his neck of the woods, London Lunar reports that her photographer, who was injured in the shelling that cost Colvin her life, has refused evacuation for himself thus far so as to let other more seriously hurt people have a chance to get out; and that, besides, he will not leave except in the company of Colvin's corpse. He is being characterized as a fool for this. Well then, let's hear it for fools. Et cetera. And apparently, were I to start taking in the Brit TV series (not the American flick of the same name) The Singing Detective, I would be treating myself to 'modernism's last dying gasp.' Well, you know, the classical ideal comes around once every five hundred years for a short stay, corrupts a few poets, and then buggers off—I hear that Fahey used to haunt any venue where one might come across undervalued classical vinyl records, as he collected them and probably flipped them for renumeration—

Feb 26, 2012: I had John Fahey's When The Catfish Is In Bloom on the brain, this morning, six-thirty - yes, that soon. Mention of the man and his music were part of an electronic missive I had received from a Fahey enthusiast. So, nothing for it, I softly had at the guitar, attempting to sort out the pertinent melody on the high string of a variant open C tuning—Later, while having at some quite other endeavour, I managed to glean a few snatches of Livy's The Early History of Rome to do with the so-called 'rape of the Sabine women' (the rape was more about abduction than outright sexual violence). The notorious event occurred in the course of a fest - the Consualia (and if Consus was the protector of the grain harvest, the party, so to speak, was thrown in honour of Neptune in his guise as patron of horses; a party to which the denizens of all the neighbouring towns and villages were bound to show, which was Romulus's cunning little plan all along—). It was, in any case, Rome celebrating the fact of itself; that it could now boast 'fortifications' and other appurtenances, however rude, of 'town' life such as might attract the more practically-minded women of the surrounding area, as all the Randolph Scotts had no prospects for wives and so, if there was to be a future, unassailable logic, as it were, took over—There is in Fahey's Americana compositions a quality that reflects high spirits, a near unbearable lyricism, and - well - eventually, one is going to sound on the word 'brutality'; or, if that is too over the top as a word, the ever-present hint of menace that I will always associate with the 'American' segment of my life offers itself as a candidate for the melange. Is the mix of high spirits, near unbearable lyricism and brutality to be found, say, in Chopin's etudes? Perhaps. As you can see, my head is in a muddle, or I put it at such risk, picking up my instrument at too early an hour, throwing myself a curve thereby, and possibly irritating neighbours—Now every once in a while a movie that one has never heard anything about comes along, and it turns out to be a 'sleeper', that is, a good if unheralded piece of work. The flick in question? One False Move. It features a leading lady with a 'haunting' countenance, one that one does not forget. It features very good direction on the part of a certain Carl Franklin; and if Billy Bob Thornton is not necessarily high on my list of great actors, but that it is evident he has an undeniable grasp of certain aspects of Americana; and, as he had a hand in the movie's screen treatment, one might suggest that, thriller though this flick is (it plots the course of menace from L.A. to rural Arkansas), it is an intelligent noir-ish instance of the genre. Enough said. Just that a director who announces he is going to 'break with all the conventions' is generally setting himself up for a pratfall or shamefully engaging in special pleading; this time around, the man makes good on his claim. He reminds one that, even with a modest budget, even when cash-strapped, one can still make good and worthy art—Morning. Nikas. Alexandra the waitress is in a civilized mood and has set the radio's decibels at humane levels—

Feb 25, 2012: It has been a rather un-wintry winter in these parts, but, last night in Montreal-NDG, and elsewhere, too, I take it, the elements declared themselves, and Labrosse and I from our vantage point in Nikas, watched the snow fall and swirl about with intent and havoc in mind—One looked for one's childhood delight in the fact of snow. One heard diabolical chuckling of a kind. E was on shift, burbling that she had been in Sudbury and lived to tell the tale. Clearly, it was not a besneakered holographic projection prancing about the place, being all things to lonely males. Patricia the Romanian, in her capacity as waitress, though she sported lilac leggings and a dangerous grin, was less generous of her inner reserves of good cheer, married, as she is, to an immense but personable hulk of an Olympian athlete—For all that, the weather was bringing in partisans from the outlying foothills, and they were desporting themselves with bottles of wine and dinner chatter, musketry parked at the door, hostilities to be resumed at some point in a foreseeable future—Otherwise, I was in a funk, having spent the best part of an afternoon attempting to master the old, bloodcurdling ballad Pretty Polly, unable to sustain one cursed note of the thing. (Still, I liked my little arrangement which worked somewhat suggestively off the traditional melody—) A correspondent of mine in Wales tells me she has a method for teaching crazed poets who wish to 'sing' how to gird their vocal loins and sustain, brother, sustain. Does it involve pain? The news coming out of a certain S country in the Middle East contributed to the aforementioned funk as well as - but never mind - if one hardly knows where to begin, at times, when it comes to a litany of X,Y and Z, why should one assume one knows where it is all going to end? Competing studies in science suggest that we, as a species, are either nasty, brutish beasts without all that much meaningful life in us of which to brag, or we are, what do you know, cuddlesome and cooperative, and quite endearing, actually. Well, which is it? On occasion, the thought has crossed my mind that the ologists ought to be subjected en masse to one of Mao's celebrated finishing schools—I have been brazening it out for some months with a very long poem. Now I have jinxed it, no doubt, with this mention of it. I have not got beyond the falling out such as occurred between the she wolf-suckled Romulus and Remus or the forerunners of the Katzenjammers, just that I am once again reminded that the Old West had nothing on early days Rome in which cattle rustling played such a prominent part of daily agendas and Joel McCrea prayed to Jupiter best and Brightest. A day in the life of London Lunar the bookseller had him scrambling, yesterday. A man wearing wooden shoes wanted books on pike fishing. So sorry: no books in said shop on said subject. Customer, perhaps punitively, then proceeds to lecture one and all on the biggest pike caught ever, and where. (Not the Upper Nile.) Upon conclusion of this bit of vaudeville, a certain Ms Nibs announced she was in the market for books signed by immensely, really, really, really, really, stupendously famous people. On the order of Churchill and Branson the rich guy. T.S. Eliot then? Nah. Not on any sensible person's radar. Me? I know poets out there who imagine they have careers and cachet - as poets. Lamentable. Sad, sad, sad. Yes, and why not the ensuing quote, as per Montaigne: Alas, poor man! You have necessary ills without increasing them by your invention, and you are miserable enough by nature  without being so by art. You have real and essential deformities enough without forging imaginary ones—Kind of puts the kibosh on what buzz there is in a hill of beans—

Feb 24, 2012: P.M. Carpenter, Prominent Political Commentator to the south of here, he goes apoplectic on a daily basis now, seeing as what remains of an abomination of an election year is still much too much; is more than sentience can bear. The man has learned the hard way that he has a 'soul', as it is that very item, apart from his wits, that is truly in tough for the duration, should an unassuming, halfways innocent citoyen have to continue bearing witness to what passes for learned discourse amongst presidential contenders and attendant politicos. Meanwhile the left-wing press, in a somewhat Pavlovian manner, talks up its utter disdain of 'conservatives'; and on this score, I am agreed with Mr Carpenter: or that those conservatives left-wing intellects would spurn are not conservatives in any true sense of the word, they are radicals; they are radical departures from something or other once characterized as not necessarily being a brick short of a load. Anyone who would still honour the New Deal and social security and healthcare and so forth and so on - this 'anyone' does, in fact, reflect a 'conservative' spirit, as why trifle with what has worked, the odd snafu notwithstanding, and conservative - as a word signifying something other than sound and fury - need not be a malignancy upon the land and the shadow the body-politic casts on it. Otherwise, as if a new ice age were dawning and beckoning for us, my vaguely left of centre self surveys the terrain and sees not much more than a short growing season and acres beyond numbering of scrub—In Livy's The Early History of Rome that I have been rereading, albeit backwards, a mean and nasty hombre, the king, as it were, has had Romulus and Remus put out to be exposed to the elements; but that a 'she-wolf' has come across the infants and opts to suckle them, and the boys will grow up and challenge the old authority and become rivals between themselves and yet, even so, will get the ball rolling, and Rome will become Rome - eventually. I sometimes wonder if what made my hairs stand on end that first time I stood on the Palatine Hill was no so much the spectacle of what remains of the imperial abodes but the ghost of the deeply ancient worship of Pan, a divinity of sorts who was worshiped there, the celebrants getting up to all sorts of mayhem; and perhaps they knocked back copious quantities of white lightning as per a caricature of any redneck anywhere. The only other place where I experienced this same standing up of hairs on the back of the neck is on the map as Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. Still, so far as I can ascertain, Pan was never known to kick up his heels in the vicinity, and I do not believe that Edgar Allen Poe ever meditated on the site and yet, hairs just do not stand up of their own volition—The Moesian has seen fit to write a review of some verses of Amy Clampitt whom London Lunar once had the acquaintance of, he describing her as very 'New England if that makes any sense' - his words. I hear through the grapevine that at the Argo Bookshop, which it is a book-lined corridor connecting quotidian banality to the nether realms of the urge to poesy, that some stalwart or other got carried away at an open mic session (scuttlebutt says he managed to acquit himself well, in any case), and delivered up a poem written by a certain obscure but, as it happens, notorious poet; and apparently there was acclamation all around, and that much revelry ensued, perhaps at Grumpy's bar. It does happen now and then, even in a world consecrated to divesting the muse of any distinguishing characteristics other than those of some appallingly tedious frump utterly devoid of sparkle in the eyes—

Feb 23, 2012: Now begins the whole bit with the upstart Aeneas and the Latins and the Etruscan pushback (in Livy's The Early History of Rome, Book One). I have been reading the opus backwards and have arrived at the start which gets the ball rolling with the mythical. And yes, it is obscure stuff; but then, to judge by collapsing standards, so is Lee's rather coy refusal to surrender to Grant after Petersburg and Grant's 'throbbing headache' - all this leading up to Appomattox. Ditto for who was in collusion with whom, October, 1973, it being one of those Middle Eastern wars and a Kissinger shadow-play. And then a good time was had by all in this another panel discussion I caught by chance, last night, serial seminar-ing on the part of various contestants to do with income disparity in the U.S. and Canada. It was an exchange of views for the benefit of a cheering Ottawa crowd, some of whom were Members of Parliament. One was either induced to sing It's All Over Now, Baby Blue, or one was appreciative of the fact that there was discourse on the march in a certain echo chamber; all the while I was being asked if I wished to play along with a poetry spank-down at some Ontar-I-O beachhead somewhere, and I indicated that, well, I might be an old slut but I draw the line at S&M my taxes pay for. The news coming out of Syria eludes any words I might have still lying around with which to register disgust, a lack that is complicated by competing scenarios such as purport to identify the puppet masters behind the scenes and to what the strings on which they harp are attached. One hears the tinkly music of a craven scramble for position and leverage. Putin, perhaps, has another look at his cards. Current President, perhaps, imagines he has a more exotic game to master—I really can't say—Even so, there is no greater instrument than the 24/7 news cycle with which to reinforce the idea of one's impotence in the face of unfolding events. Livy is on record as having said, two thousand years ago, that the reading of history is a curative, a way to restore equilibrium in an unsound mind, as if only unsound minds have any truck with the annals of this and that. He was right to a certain extent, no matter how risible those words come off as now; only that if the reading of history may acquaint an individual or three with something like a familiarity with sanity, on a collective level, forget it - the passions of the moment rule, and people are always in thrall to the sound of their voices, even when they mean well and have the commonweal to accomplish. Apropos of nothing, I wonder what the Goncourt brothers would have made of Leadbelly singing Bourgeoisie Town in Washington D.C., had the Goncourt brothers persisted into the 20th century; had the Second Empire survived Bismarck? Another instance of vulgarism pervading the salon? The Goncourt brothers were siblings, of course, and party animals of a kind who collaborated over the years on the writing of a diary (their Journal des Goncourt such as surveyed the social and literary life of their times) and who co-authored a number of novels. London Lunar puts me straight, says that Assad had his chance to help bring about political reform in his country (Syria), and he funked it, and there was only one direction in which to go thereafter, and it has been downhill—

Feb 22, 2012: The last months of the year brought a period of peace though disturbed, as usual, by the political conflict. The angry commons refused to take part in consular elections, at which by the votes of the patricians and their dependants Titus Quinctius and Quintus Servilius were returned to office. The new year resembled the old, beginning with internal dissension and ending with foreign war and the patching up of political quarrells—There are dozens of such quotes scattered throughout Livy's The Early History of Rome, but for a quote of a different savour there is always this one, to be found in Livy's preamble to the same work: —and the dark dawning of our modern day when we can neither endure our vices nor face the remedies needed to cure them—This quote marks the fact that Rome is now in the era of the Caesars and that Roman history has come to have a different feel to it. And then one casts a pallid eye on the antics to the south of here; or it is as if one is hearing echoes from a deeply distant past that, even so, emanates from a rusty tin can that had contained baked beans —Non-sequiturs to follow. One, that so much political failure is self-inflicted. Two, that the proof is in the pudding, or that the liberal's worst nightmare is not so much a Joe Stalin or a Joe McCarthy as it is an enemy eminently capable of wit and satire, or that which was once a liberal monopoly in, say, Esquire—Otherwise, Labrosse had his eye on Fellini Woman, last night in Nikas. He has wondered what makes the creature tick, this sixty-ish bombshell who swaggers about in hauteur and heels and a black prelate's hat; who seems to run pyramid schemes for a hobby and who consorts with ne'er-do-wells at Drunkin Donuts. It was a very slow night, and, besides Labrosse and myself, she was it, along with her partner in crime - another babe seemingly her twin in age and looks. This one is a loudmouth, and she was, at the moment, bemoaning the fact that she had fallen for yet another loser, motherf-ck, God-d-mn it all, anyway, and is there a god in heaven? Labrosse, no question, was being sized up, not in terms of what might possibly constitute winning, but along the lines of how badly can I lose and still keep my self-respect? Fellini Woman seemed to think it best that her companion come to stumble naturally on a conclusion without any enabling factor muddying the waters, Fellini Woman wearing her waistline as a proud memento of who knows how many debauches. Later, I scared up quite by chance a panel discussion on TV, which it was men and women kicking at the can of a 'vision for North America' and what values there may or may not be such as America, Canada and Mexico might share. Clearly, each nation-state had kinks the one with the other to iron out and an act to get together, as there is a bad moon rising. Among the takers in regards to the discourse on display, there were optimists and there were pessimists. The token American seemed a pleasant enough fellow, clearly a 'winner', something of a hot dog, able to cheerfully weather what 'thoughtfulness' his Canadian and Mexican counterparts had to put on the table—I have been having a go at Robert Johnson's 32-20 Blues and the Reverend's Buck Rag. That would be the Reverend Gary Davis who was something of a guitarist. I was sent a video clip by my guitar teach of one of his students having at Dilermando Reis's Eterna Saudade, and it is lovely and very well played, and beyond my skills. One might speak here of a crushing realization—Even so, I thought I had in the aforementioned blues piece by Robert Johnson the Texarkana equivalent of a bit of verse by Archilochus the Greek poet (early 7th century B.C.), just that I cannot now find the verse, and it is all perhaps a joke my memory is fomenting at my expense—But while Johnson sang, brutally enough, of taking his 32-20 and cutting her half in two (with a bullet), Archilochus's lampoons caused two daughters of the nobility to go and hang themselves, or so it is said—He is lumped with the likes of a Juvenal, Villon, Skelton. Theirs is not the highest type of poetry, so prates in some collegial fashion a book entitled Greek Poetry for Everyman. Oh yeah?

Feb 21, 2012: There has been in a previous post reference to a figment of Labrosse's tortured mind: something along the lines of an 'Afghan' snowbird that is, nonetheless, well-represented in these parts. Last night, in Nikas, while scarfing down some 'cheese pockets' and fries, which it is an Albanian variation on a theme of poutine, Labrosse came up with the correction: Harfung des neige. Or Arctic owl or 'snowy' owl. Well, that closes that loose end of a chapter, just that the bird has been turning up, of late, in odd places - like Hawaii, breathing down the neck, no doubt, of its food source—Are there lemmings in Honolulu?—Also, to continue from a post previous to this one, as per the insistence of Literary Thug #1, we all of us have our god or gods, even if religion is separable from the state, and, but of course, best that it is separable; just that it is not so readily excised from 'life'. I understand the sentiment and accept the reality of it, although it is often times quite dismaying what certain kinds of people would make of the inevitability: awful stained-glass art, for instance, mind-numbing hypocrisies and the most ludicrous of double-standards when it comes to sex; oh, and shopping malls—Next question: But why is that some hymns are so transcendentally gorgeous and others are just - what? - drearily programmatic, out and out propaganda? Literary Thug #1 who must answer for having raised the question in the first place perversely enough had no answer, nor have I; and I certainly have no desire to further vex Thistle's already strained patience on this score, he who is academe in good standing somewhere in the west where the sun still sets, and who asserts that the slightest sniff of religion will turn a good brain to rot. Perhaps London Lunar's brand new Watermark fountain pen, which it is a triumph of engineering, allowing for the man's opposable thumb, has the ken of such things as when one cannot live with a certain item and one cannot live without it. With his newly acquired instrument, the man intends to insurrect against the tyranny of the computer screen and perhaps even go to Brazil—I have been reading Livy's The Early History of Rome backwards and have finally arrived at Book the first, one of my favourite stretches of writing in all literature, if by literature, we include historical writings in addition to poems and novels and Twelfth Night and Globe and Mail lollapaloozas. Historical writings such as Xenophon's Hellenica which I have also begun to read and should have read years ago. Then there is John Fahey's music to ponder and the possibility that he may have died mad as a hatter, somewhat paranoid and quite probably embittered. A typically American death agony? Which brings to mind Huysman's the French aesthete, author of À rebours, usually translated as 'against nature'; how he, as an end of century decadent, demonstrated the necessity of assuming absurd postures, at times; who, in his later years, returned to his childhood faith (Catholicism and mysticism); who had begun writing as a 'naturalist' a la Zola; who had an excellent eye for detail; but that because of cancer and related maladies, had to have those eyes of his sewn shut, and he accounted this as due to pay for his earlier egotistical cant by way of penitence. Fahey, apparently, disowned everything he ever composed or arranged—There is something of the superstitious in any true artist—I woke up with one of Fahey's open G compositions on my mind, this morning, as well as with one Appius Claudius. This individual, 5th century B.C., was a man the Roman plebs most loved to hate as he was contemptuous of them, as when poverty only reflects the failings of the poor, and yet some accommodation must be made for those same poor—Morning. Nikas. Alexandra the waitress watches some crockery obey, albeit in slow motion, dictates of gravity. A satisfying clatter as crockery hits the parquet floor and smashes. A release of tension in the woman's being, her homeland - Greece - under the gun, from the looks of it, nothing more now than an administrative province of Germany—

Feb 20, 2012: In Nikas, last evening, Labrosse caught me up to speed in regards to political developments on the Canadian scene, most of which has now escaped my consciousness. What had he to say? Something about a certain justice minister and American-style scandal. The courting of China. And else—Oh, and that a certain Trudeau, fairly brash young thing, had it known that he could understand, at times, why your garden variety Quebec separatist might wish to decouple from the rest of the country, and so forth and so on. And I countered with an idle remark, one to the effect that, as MH has been sequestered in Ottawa these past couple of weeks, she has discovered that she 'misses' Montreal, and, can you beat it? even ragamuffinish Montreal-NDG. And that it has always seemed to me that I keep encountering anglos in these parts who have more in common with Quebec than with, say, Albertans, only they hush-hush the matter or simply fail to realize it—And Labrosse, awfully spry on his feet, got back to me with the following, to wit: "Yes, there's an expression for it - for those types of which you speak. Westmount Squares. And there's an expression for the expression: oxymoron— No, that isn't it. Come on, what's the word? You're the poet, for eff's sake." Yes, well, if I understood that verbal redundancy would have something to do with the word he sought, I did not know the precise word he wished to procure for the purpose of characterizing his Gallic sense of riposte. But then, as if indefatigable indeed, he had it: pleonasm. "Ah," I said, "but of course. Pleon words. Westmount Squares: Play on words. Heh heh. Or for those of you at play in the fields of the Lord in Idaho or Hounslow, Westmount Square is the gateway to a shopping complex and a metro station. 'Westmount Squares' also typifies the odd inhabitant of Westmount, a borough of sorts where live Westmounters, who are well-heeled English speakers, for the most part, and a bit sniffy; and they always know that you are certainly an un-Westmounter as you migrate through their territory like someone's sore thumb—" In any case, such a violent pun seemed to render the evening unfit for other amusement. So I took my leave of a very much pleased with himself Labrosse and returned to the apartment, expecting to hunker down with John Fahey's arrangement of In Christ There Is No East or West, a guitar piece I have been wanting to acquire for my dubious repertoire. The phone rang. It was Literary Thug #1 sounding low. Eventually, he drifted over at some point, bringing wine and a heavy heart, he having been forced to play the disciplinarian paterfamilias in respect to a child, and he would much rather philosophize. So we philosophized. That he started in on the American civil war perhaps did not do much for lightening a spiritual burden. Even so, I was asked to recall why the war was fought in the first instance; or - forget slavery, forget the 'economic action', it was about preventing a certain passel of states from slipping the noose of the union, and there it is, all she wrote. Alright then - and, well - the likelihood or not of hostilities with Iran. Nah. Don't think so. Too fraught with peril - the threat of war is more profitable to the war machine than any actual violence—And furthermore: there is no question it's getting dumber, this 'dumbed-down' culture in which we find ourselves flailing about. Don't you think? And that no, not all religiously-minded people are drooling idiots. Are the opiated masses. "For Chrissakes," said Literary Thug #1, "that flunkey commentary on the part of anyone who imagines she or he has ingested Marx through the nose really burns my arse. Evangelicals, however? Well, different story. Yes. Too bad they're what most unbelievers associate with being 'religious'". A spate of silence in which the heat with which the man had expressed himself dissipated from the immediate atmosphere. Then: "But it heartens me - it really does hearten me to know there are people around who have the courage and the peace of mind to sacrifice their lives to a principle, or that there are things more important than one's precious little life. Isn't that what Socrates was about? And not to put too fine a point on it - Christ?" I decided it was not the best of times to play devil's advocate, or that Socrates may not have been up to anything especially noble—We continued on about this, that and the other thing. The phone rang. Irate voice: "Well, when do I get a nickname and some play in your musings. This is your publisher speaking—" I advised that I would certainly address the matter. The aggrieved party rang off. To Literary Thug #1 I said: "Publishers. Sleazy lot." Oh, he knew. He knew. I do not know how much his heart was weighing by the time he departed; he was not exactly bouncing off the wall—But  - to round things off here - I see that the Pulitzer-winning journo Mr Hedges has written, this morning, of love; managed to tap out a little disquisition (Truthdig) on the 'power of love'; that it and it alone provides humankind with life's meaning; that 'God', as such, is to be experienced not as a noun but as a verb; or that the 'divine' is only ever experienced  when one is in a condition of love; just that - caveat - there is such a thing as pseudo-love (just as there is pseudo-poetry) and so forth and so on. It is not exactly Dostoyevski, Mr Hedges's writing, but it has a quality of in a nutshell urgency—'Urgency'. 'Urgent'. For some reason or another, the immediately aforementioned words occurred an unusual number of times in conversation, last night, with Literary Thug #1. Otherwise, to he sure, he is circling about the beginnings of the novel he wishes to write - knock wood. Big predator cat positioning himself for the initial pounce. Then, or so one imagines, the chase. Then, eh voila, the success or failure of the endeavour—But he really means it. Just as those big predator cats always mean it, always—

Feb 19, 2012: A sociologist of some sort, a bit battle-scarred from the looks of it, having survived various internecine rivalries and departmental wars, in the course of power-pointing his raft of statistics on a TV ideas-show, suggested that we can, at last, account ourselves as civilized. The reason why? Death by way of violence, and for all the mass slaughters of the previous century, has been steadily on the decline - since when? - since we got ourselves a life on the farm after long, long innings put in as hunter-gatherers. At least this is the drift I think I caught. So then, we are more civilized, and yes, Virginia, there is such an animal as 'progress'. And human nature does change - and, good golly, Miss Molly, for the best. Or else we are simply more craven, and the more transparent we are to ourselves the more hidden we have become to each our inward-looking gazes. We have gotten lazy in respect to dispensing violence against fellow creatures: we need no longer look our enemy in the eye. Too little cost-effective, that. With a button and a toggle, and eh voila, and we can snuff a wedding party from a continent away while simultaneously ordering in for pizza—Indubitably, we are more something today than we were the day before. We are always something. We are always becoming something. Civilized, however? Virgin Radio here in Nikas makes my case, that gaggle of dears offering up sanitized mayhem and lifestyle tips. And one is violated in one's mental regions; one is impinged upon in those resort hideaways; one is dismembered by merciless hackery. Hyperbole?—The sociologist was something of a peacock, quite an aggressive one, a less than socratic sneer comprising the timbre of his best seminar voice. Perhaps he had in his sights types like me who espy little to cheer about in contemporary life. So, hey guys, let's drown the effer in numbers—As if I were the offending anti-intellectual—As per yesterday's post, what I.F. Stone - in his book The Trial of Socrates - accused the philosopher of fomenting upon an unsuspecting Athenian populace was 'negative dialectic', a little game in which the philosopher simply bludgeoned his interlocutors into insensibility by way of in your face irony and paradox. On occasion I myself believe in the necessity of the absurd, it being the only appropriate response to a kind of normality that is and ever was inherently absurd from the get-go, and, and—And a man can go to all the trouble of displaying his feathers in the process of making public declarations of fact but it does not mean anything more than that he has displayed his feathers—As easy to say we are civilized as to say we are not—But that the seas are rising is real enough—London Lunar shivered a great deal from the wet and cold in Palermo. He was shocked, shocked he said, at the level of poverty he saw there, the inner city crumbling, no yuppies around to gentrify the remains. He ate an octopus, head and all. Still, the Piazza Armerina was a pleasant surprise, what with the mosaics depicting bikini-clad girl athletes—Mousike. It is a Greek word that connotes music, yes, but it may also connote all the arts in the sense of something like 'noble endeavour'. Socially, the artist in the old Greek scheme of things had about as much cachet as a garage mechanic and yet, there was more of a regard for art's sacred mission than exists with us who have made of the artist some insufferable icon of God only knows what, one cobbled together out of fraud and supercilious hubris—

Feb 18, 2012 (late): Two heroes of my youth have a go at each other in I.F. Stone's The Trial of Socrates (Anchor Books, but originally published by Little, Brown and Company, 1988). Those two heroes are, in fact, Mr Stone and Mr Socrates. Mr Stone because he was a newspaperman who published and edited the I.F. Stone Weekly - a 'legendary venture in independent one-man journalism' - which it is a little rag that I used to read religiously. And Socrates because he was, well, socratic. Trouble is, Mr Stone in his book destroys that schoolboy's image of the 'secular saint' and replaces it with an image of something quite a bit less savoury. If Socrates always got the best of the arguments in Plato's dialogues - seminars and battles of wit in which Socrates has star billing, in Mr Stone's opus the gadfly gets busted down through the ranks and winds up being deemed a fascist. At best he is a proto-fascist such as are becoming increasingly prevalent in our day. Hailing from the middle-class, he is the worst sort of snob and an implacable enemy of all that is 'democratic', of all that is pro-demos. As such, he was the butt of the jokes that the comic poets cracked, those poets who saw in Socrates the sort of mind that lives only for thought and so is divorced, as it were, from what's real; (and yet Socrates does seem to have taken the gibes in stride, and he certainly did not lack for a sense of humour)—Mr Stone's characterizations do not square with what has long been my view of the man; even so Mr Stone may well have all the weight of the evidence on his side. I see Socrates as not so much a contrarian but as a philosopher, indeed, one whose gift to his fellows is his challenge to their premises and their quality of wits. Athens, to show its gratitude, put Socrates to death. Mr Stone argues that this was a tragedy of the highest order, just that Socrates might easily have survived the trial had he been a more 'reasonable' fellow, less zealous in his prejudices, less contemptuous of the 'commons'. Socrates could only have had a death wish, as Athens was proud of its reputation as an 'open city', one in which anyone could speak freely without fear of penalty; one in which the free exchange of ideas was de rigueur. (Of course there were interludes of outright tyranny in which personages in their thousands were proscribed, interludes such as the Tyranny of the Four Hundred and the Tyranny of the Thirty.) The question in my mind of late is as follows: what does one who is democratically-inclined do when one begins to lose faith in the ability of the commons to tell right from wrong, to exercise common sense, to even 'care' when it comes to the political process? (It is not that I myself am particularly political or ever have been; just that, to put it baldly enough, I sense a sea change in progress, one in which we all of us may well wind up kissing our 'democratic' rights good-bye.) In any case, no immediate answers to my question leap to mind. Socrates - or rather Plato, inasmuch as Socrates was Plato's creation for all that Socrates actually did walk this earth - may have been in every fibre of his being a reactionary wanker always sneering at the 'pepple', but I suspect Mr Stone, on his side of the argument, of romanticizing the demos. As per George Orwell, for example, the 'people' were certainly changed by industrialization and paid a steep price for its benefits. So will we - for all the supposed boons the technological revolution still very much in progress will bring us. For an instance of such a price to pay, and to quote what is already an awfully stale cliché: we are 'dumbed down' and we are not in the slightest embarrassed or shamed or in any way bothered by the reality. No, we rather like it. We like it lots. Otherwise, I do not know if London Lunar managed to molest any almond blossoms whilst in Sicily this past week. My excuse is Ottawa where I have been for the past few days. What, besides Parliament, makes Ottawa Ottawa? London Lunar's early career there, Labrosse's, too? The Elgin Café: 'Your 24 hour patriotic poutine place'? The heavy traffic at the bottle depot? The brick and frame? Lack of a budget outlay for the removal of snow and ice from pedestrian pathways? John Metcalf the somewhat socratic auteur? Back in Montreal-NDG, and I gave Alexandra the waitress in Nikas the gears, accusing her of eating up all the profits. She, being Greek, gave me a look, one which said that she will bide her time. I will get mine—

Feb 15, 2012: I had occasion to be downtown, last evening, and was told that, as streets go, Montreal can boast better than Sainte-Catherine. That the honour more properly belongs to a Saint Laurent or a Saint Denis or to a couple of other streets whose names have just now slipped my mind. But for a street that is just a street however long, that may even revel overly much in the commercially tacky and tawdry; that otherwise is not particularly pretentious, I will take it and smile as I take it. I also had occasion to observe - it came at me from out of left field, as it were, that it does seem that the most resilient part of nature, more so perhaps than a granite cliff face, is the human ego in relation to bad poetry. Not that the poetry reading I attended was inordinately awful - it was not - just that, earlier in the day, I had inadvertently received an electronic missive, the import of which is as follows: say the word 'text' and you, too, can collect a million dollars or pass go for another kick at the can or pass through life henceforth as awesomely authoritative on all matters X, Y and Zed. The voiced page. The staged word. Grow your own text! How fetishy. How TV red eye ad. Maximoose! Maximoose! The people luffs ya, said Commodus the wicked emperor. Text? What happened to 'book'? Or 'poem'? Sharks must keep moving so that they can breathe, but must the mediocrities and intellectual hacks of the languidge-based community continually reinvent their mediocrities? Yes, they must - apparently, and call it the reinvigoration of the writing process—And they will have you know, these good persons, bulwarks and stalwarts to a tee that they are, that they are keeping what is fascist and reactionary and grossly less than salutory at bay; that they have all the lollapaloozas of the mind in their sights. Do not count on it. The odds are much much greater that they are at the gates on the inside and have an understanding with the enemy—Yes but, Norm, they've got tenure, the rotters—The evening's featured reader spoke a little about 'truth' in betweenst poems, and it was refreshing to hear. That someone would seemingly utter off the cuff remarks on 'truth' while not obviously denominational or delusional - good golly, Miss Molly, it was eventful. It was eventful to be reminded that 'truth', as a word, is not always so spring-loaded as to blow its mouthpiece to smithereens upon immediate vocalization of any signifying bent you may care to identify. Good to be reminded that while 'truth' is endlessly debatable, there are 'truths', some of which even exist in a state of nature. If you doubt me, try standing in front of a moving bus—Later, at the bar, the same man who had made a few idle remarks on 'truth' spoke of a kind of cynicism prevalent in the in-your-face geist of the moment, but neither he nor I got much further in our discourse, as some lunatic now had hold of the mike and was baying at the moon, a tortured psyche in full amplitude, at the height of its power to vex. Stand-up comic, I believe. I am all for healthy cynicism, considering that, as such, it is nothing more than the content of a concentrated skeptical mind, but one that does not rob the living of their capacity for joy, or any other emotion many-splendoured or not—One of the young 'warm-up' acts at the poetry reading had been wandering about the bar, looking deeply troubled. As if it had dawned on him that he might not have acquitted himself as well as he would have liked. I was not going to disturb his agonies. The onset of a little self-awareness - a precious thing. Got a ride home with Literary Thug #1. With all the sangfroid of a man about to plant a victory garden, he announced he was going to write a novel. Touch wood. Still, the way things are going, it may be necessary - this little cabbage patch to be—

Feb 14, 2012: So, in my reading, I come across Horatio, this morning, 'Horatio at the bridge', and we are not talking the bridge of a cruise liner. The reading prompts a memory of grade school where I, among others, was once upon a time regaled with stories of famous early Romans like Horatio and Cincinnatus, the point being that my enduring interest in Roman history came about quite naturally (or unnaturally - if you take the view that a fourth-grader was the victim of a brain-washing), and that it had nothing to do with making a fashion statement or coming it high as a showy contrarian. Of course, the stories presented to us were one-dimensional affairs, as were the stories of early American heroes like 'I cannot tell a lie' George Washington and the fatally wounded cherry tree—In any case, an army of Etruscans (Clusiums) was pouring down the Janiculum hill and about to cross over the bridge into Rome proper; only Horatio took it on himself to stall their advance while his compatriots set about sabotaging the bridge behind him. Which was effected, and Horatio winds up in the Tiber, armour and all, and still he manages to swim to safety despite the spears and arrows raining down all around his person. (He got his reward: a portrait bust in the Comitium and as much land as he could plow in a day.) He had been taunting the enemy all along: "See? See what a free man can accomplish?" Et cetera and so forth. And by that time, Rome had been free of its kings and the hated Tarquins in particular for roughly a year, and freedom still had some 'buzz'. Even so, such an exotic tale. It is not that I doubt the veracity of it, but that, putatively 'free', we are not as free as all that, and people who are as free as all that we deem nutters or outlaws or spaced-out gardeners (and in rare instances, artists). There are those who like to play at soldiers. What of whistleblowers? All are threats to the established order, to the 'system'. Even heroes, as such, are double-edged commodities and not entirely trustworthy; and we suspect that, deep down, they are either psychopathic at worst or a brick short at best. We are necessarily flunkeys, that is, if you wish to eat and see that your garbage is picked up. Quite possibly the liberty that Horatio thought he enjoyed was in itself an illusion, and he was just something of a peacock who liked flexing his pects; or else he desired to be loved. Besides, the 'people' - the plebs, the commons - they were decidedly fickle, and as likely to court the hand of their natural enemies (the patricians) as not. Freedom, I suppose, of a kind. In my lifetime I have known the odd person or three, men and women who have had strength of character to live as freely as possible according to their own lights, their own thoughts. It may seem we all of us do as much, but not really. A stale truism, but here it is: we are creatures of a herd, tossed about by cross-currents, directed by prevailing blows, and then, it is too late and we are already arrived at an ill-omened juncture as defined by time and space, one not terribly user-friendly. We look around and would unroot a conspiracy—Then we (as if we were all of us football coaches or business counsellors or Wal-mart floorwalkers or presidential hopefuls or rah-rahers of some kind) set about turning calamity into opportunity—For Americans, and to some extent Canadians, cannot tolerate failure and do not do metaphysics, and pessimism is verboten. It is a good thing as, who needs the whining? It is a bad thing as, very seldom, is anything learned. And the farce drum-rolls on—

Feb 13, 2012: "Well," said Labrosse, "It's not that I think it's happening, but one can see it happening easily enough: one country starts taking over another country like corporations do - without a shot being fired. Seems to be the direction in which things are headed." It was early in the evening. Nikas. Labrosse, I think, was in a mood. Ah, he was in a mood, one verging on funk, he going on to state that, though he has enjoyed watching The Wire so far, he could wish for a bit more discussion amongst us of this 'poh-leese' drama; and 'us' would include E, student-waitress; and in Labrosse's estimation and sometimes in mine, the more school time she puts in the less capable she seems of discussing anything beyond boys and what's cool. Besides, pleading schoolwork, she had opted out, this time around, on the first two episodes of season the third, Labrosse and I having just finished viewing them. In any case, I suggested to Labrosse that he was missing terrasse season at 'bratwurst' and the warm months hereabouts when all the neighbourhood knows good conversation and a half decent beer are to be had whenever Labrosse is holding court on the premises. But back to his earlier train of thought - and I put it to the man: "What you seem to be thinking leads one to speculate as to whether or not Germany is still a menace, even if the European Union, so-called, was designed to prevent another 'risen' Germany." Labrosse, answering: "It does look that way now and then." He, however, and there is in him an ex-financier that must have his innings - he cannot abide a simplistic view of Greece as a put upon commons at the mercy of rapacious bankers. "They didn't pay their taxes - what did they expect?" And one was, by the tone of his voice, invited to draw the appropriate conclusions in light of a farce becoming tragedy—And so forth and so on—And then a wild goose chase, to wit: of a sudden Labrosse had this idée fixe in his head that there is a bird native to Quebec the English translation of which would render it something like Afghan Snow Bird—Me, I was incredulous. Afghan? Quebec? Labrosse, somewhat sheepishly: "Well, wait a minute - bear with me—" Furious googling ensued on handheld devices on the part of certain clientele and Nick the waiter and the cook in the kitchen, business slow; but no such crittur emerged from any data base known to the sentient mind. Still, had Labrosse chance-stumbled across the origins of a new mythological beast on the order of the phoenix or the unicorn? As they were thus discoursing, they discover'd some thirty or forty Wind-mills, that are in that Plain; and as soon as the Knight had spy'd them, Fortune, cry'd he, directs our Affairs better than we our selves could have wish'd: Look yonder, Friend Sancho, there are at least thirty outrageous Giants whom I intend to encounter—Mister Quixote, as per Cervantes—

Feb 12, 2012: Just past midnight, and to decompress a little from an afternoon and evening of guitar playing with a fellow John Fahey devotee, I turned on the TV, and there it was: a movie I had not seen before, an oldie with Marilyn Monroe in it, or Bus Stop, based on a play by William Inge. And it was the scene in which she, as a modern saloon girl, and with an implausible redneck accent, to boot, sings That Old Black Magic to a world largely indifferent - her obvious charms notwithstanding - to her artistry. She looked near grotesque, as if she had been on a three day bender; and whether it had been her actual condition at the time of the filming or whether it was an impression I was meant to have as per the screen treatment, I could not say. Even so it was painful, hearing her out, her performance a case she was making against whatever void in the universe had been staring back at her since life in the cradle, and would continue to stare back at her as long as she breathed—My eyes heavy with wine and imminent sleep, I lasted only a few minutes more; but they were minutes in which it was beyond doubt evident to me that every male in the movie was coming off as absolutely inconsequential and irrelevant to the fact of her joys and trials. Just one of those things? Are we characterizing an entire culture here?—In any case, it had been an all afternoon and evening affair of guitar music and general discussion. We comprised, in our persons, two autodidact guitarists, one of whom I shall designate as 'Tricky Finger'. His girlfriend in cahoots. And Literary Thug #1 who perhaps had no excuse. But what is it about Fahey's music? Well, I do not know, but it was one item of discussion. There was the 'political situation'. There is always that. Oh, and the 'fifth hammer' - courtesy of Tricky Finger which has to do with a cave and four miners with hammers whom Pythagoras heard by chance, which led to his invention of musical scale; but that there was a 'fifth hammer' (just as there was a 'third man' - in that classic The Third Man - alright - enough larking about—); that Fahey, no doubt, had his ear glued to that fifth hammer even as he gave voice on the guitar to the other four; that perhaps now and then a poet comes along who also hears that fifth hammer; that even a painter might 'hear' it—Some conversational energy was spent on the following item: the stunning loss of a culture's ability to focus on anything for longer than a few nanoseconds, and how it is we have become a culture of coprophiliacs inasmuch as the culture in which we are mired is eating itself for want of anything to say. Let us have a poem, or so you suggest? No one need any longer write such an outmoded thing. All one need do is announce that one intends to write the wretched item in question and the deed is done. A kind of conceptualist thingamajig, eh, kemo sabe? And perhaps, too, in our conversational meandering, we scraped up against a certain ghost ship or that which used to freight metaphysical inquiry; but that perhaps we were leery of boarding the craft lest it harbour alien creatures and our 'terms' be shown up as insufficiently up to the task of engaging anything remotely other worldly, let alone this-worldly, as would be more to the point—Indeed, in response to a request I put to him that, in twenty words or less - or more, should he wish to go to town on it - he define religion in the best sense of the word or I would know the reason why, Casablanca Rick responded: 'a small knob on a big door'. Not bad, I thought, for all of seven going on an infinity of words—

Feb 11, 2012: It snowed a little overnight, and the temperature has dropped. Nikas. No, Montreal-NDG is not the centre of the world-hive but it may as well be, a few mopey worker bees at the bus stop gritting their teeth and bearing up otherwise; an aging Nikas regular picking his way over the pavement with a cane, his heavy with disappointment wife having already lost patience with his rate of pace; having already divested herself of her winter coat and hat inside the restaurant; having already ordered from a menu that she must know by heart - her frame of mind perhaps the heart and soul of the precinct—Ye gods, but I am having a chat with Alexandra the waitress. For once the radio and its decibels are not the matter at hand, elsewise the good woman and I would be engaged in a Cold War stand-off. No, we are discussing Greece and its economic woes. Trouble is, Alexandra the waitress's English is not up to the task of a point by point analysis of what boots it and yet, the fact of her being on the verge of tears is eloquence enough for the moment, she saying, "Once again, Greece is being sold." There is unmistakable fury in her tone of voice. Much earlier this morning, I started in on Book II of Livy's The Early History of Rome. I have been reading the tome back to front for I know not what reason, a tome that I have read before front to back any number of times when the mood strikes me. In any case, I am gradually working my way toward my favourite part of the book which is Book I - to do with Rome's origins, though even Livy admits that what history there was for those times, even in his day, was hazy at best. Even so, Livy's guesswork and outright mythologizing has in it the force of great poetry and that, along with the opening chapter of Frazer's The Golden Bough, a chapter entitled The King of the Wood which tells a tale of the ritual murder of Italian kings, occupy a central part of my working imagination, more so than, perhaps, the pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock so as to avail themselves of a New Jerusalem. At the outset of Book II Livy gets the ball rolling by saying that, from now on, he is going to be writing real history, now that we have embarrassed ourselves somewhat with the 'poetic'; and he embarks on a little lecture in which he states that 'monarchy is a necessary precursor to a democratic republic'. I would know this to be the fact without actually having to read Livy's words, as an encapsulation of his words has been scribbled in some distant past in the top margin of the page. The scrawl suggests that premature liberty only leads to disaster—And so forth and so on. Arguable? But of course. Livy goes on to claim that the Rome of his day enjoys a hard won political maturity even as, with another part of his tongue, he condemns Rome for its decadence. Which brings me to this: or that, at some point in the morning so far, I had occasion to hear out a fellow, a cultural critic of some kind, suggest that 'America' has failed and could not have but failed, given that its very raison d'etre is its addiction to the Other; and by 'other' what is meant is some convenient enemy always near to hand; that this is how, as a matter of daily routine, any American forms and maintains his or her identity. There was the Indian - savage brute, for example, a serious impediment to the cause of civilization (as a Puritan would understand civilization). There was the Mexican and how Texas was got from him. There were the commies, of course. The Nazis had been the one enemy that perhaps were a legitimate object of American hostilities. Now there are the Islamists. And tomorrow? There was the North-South divide that produced a civil war the effects of which are still very much in evidence, in which slavery was not so much the issue at first as were two antagonistic modes of life: the industrialism of the north over against the mint julep, plantation culture of the agrarian south. The critic argues that if it is a question of malaise, it is one that obtains as much to the pyramid's bottom as its top; in other words a mere change of leadership will solve nothing; true change will require a wholesale change of heart on the part of the entire populace, an operation akin to 'yanking out the psyche by its roots'—We would be talking more than just politics here—Otherwise, last evening, I sat a while with Labrosse in Nikas, E on shift volubly burbling as she went about her business. What's with her? Turns out she has been dying to put me in the loop in respect to something or other. Turns out she is happy happy because she has just been made a teaching assistant to her professor in French language studies—Well then, a reason to clink glasses, one of Sudbury's daughters come up in the world, to be sure. Congratulations proffered, and, still happy happy, she skips away - in green sneakers, until the next boon shall ravish her. Labrosse then tells me that the state the game of NHL hockey is in has been breaking his heart; he finds it more and more difficult to countenance a goon show that seems to have all the legitimacy of a marketing program. Obviously, a gladiatorial spectacle is what the public wants and what the ownership will mandate. His penultimate year in the financial world, and he had bucked the headwinds stemming from the front office, which got him quarantined to an entire floor by himself in an office tower—"Ah," I said, "walking the hall." Labrosse, as if the euphemism had universal reach: "Yes. They don't need to break your kneecaps any longer. It's so much easier for them to just render your life pointless—" ('Walking the hall' characterizes a 'whistle blower' who has not been stripped of a job but has been stripped of a desk, and who cannot collect a pay cheque unless he or she shows up for work every day. It is said such things go on as a matter of routine at Foggy Bottom and other governmental departments of a certain nation-state to the south of here. Just rather shamelessly repeating scuttlebutt that goes the rounds—) London Lunar, so as to further indulge his godfather reverie, did manage to get on airplane, and he does intend to sniff an almond blossom or two in Sicily unless the unseasonable cold has something to say about it—But is there a thread that ties all the disparate parts of this post together? Could be. Repeat quote: In antiquity this sylvan landscape was the scene of a strange and recurring tragedy—

Feb 10, 2012: Thistle has seen fit to tell me I have failed to strike a chord with him, of late. Well, has he a chord to strike? Apparently I have been pecking away at matters of culture and religion with all the avidity of a pigeon-bird pecking at what appears to be food under sheets of grungy, pavement ice—I may as well be playing mumblety-peg with sticks of dynamite, flinging words like 'culture' and 'religion' around as if I, too, were a beady-eyed perfesser—Ought to restrict these posts to saturnine (as in surly) gossip—As when London Lunar intends to go outdoors and perform an anti-snow dance, today, his escape route to Heathrow compromised by the stuff and so—He has been increasingly exercised in recent weeks by the pharmaceutical industry. It insists on cooking up drugs for more and more newly diagnosed maladies of spirit (especially in children); drugs as will turn brains to mush, or whatever parts of the brain have not already been bludgeoned to a pulp by the pop air our gills would process—I sent a raving screed to P.M. Carpenter, Prominent Political Commentator to the south of here, that was wrong in its particulars but right in its essence. It is to say, should one wish to ask if things in general (and what I mean by 'things in general' is a kind of moral climate in which one need not fear losing one's job should one feel a need to critique one's boss - something along those lines) - well, to return to the question - should one wish to ask if things in general have improved under the Current Administration as opposed to what was the the status quo of the administration previous, one would have to reluctantly conclude that, no, things in general are no better, not by a long shot. Conformity, conformity, conformity. Time-serving. Rat-finking. Message control. Outright delusion. My grandfather's generation had other words with which to describe what is essentially the same phenomenon: Orwell's depiction of a little softshoe number as did yank a whole society into oblivion. I have no desire to see a return of the Sixties and gratuitous weirdness and the market forces all that spawned; and I would concur with the notion that not everything that stumbles into one's mercurial little mind is the stuff of sublimity, but—And it strikes me that perhaps, just perhaps, there was a greater chance that one's thoughts back then, however erroneous, were at least one's own—

Feb 9, 2012: It is often said, and it has always been said, that humankind has to or ought to live in harmony with what surrounds it. With 'nature', for example. With the gods. With God. The spirits. 'Nature' again. Nature as perceived through 'science'. Ah, sustainable growth. Because look at what capitalism is doing to us. Et cetera. Well, say what you will in apology for or in diatribe against, but capitalism is doing something to us and it is not especially pretty. Last night, I dreamed I am in some town or other on a visit, and I am out for a stroll in a residential area; and I come across a barefoot, black toddler who has just fallen on the sidewalk and is now crying. It looks to be a fairly well-heeled neighbourhood, a trifle worn at the edges, though high amounts of debris and excrement lying around certainly disconcert. I try and establish which of the nearby houses might be the child's home. I expect the child's mother to come flying out at any moment, intensely suspicious of me, a stranger. Nothing. Only silence. Even the child ceases to cry. There is just no one in the vicinity. Then, one of those bizarre dream shifts, and I am in a taxicab with the child, hoping against hope that the child will recognize something familiar and communicate something to that effect, as we drive through various local streets. Cabbie of unknown provenance is irritated with this exercise and I am irked with him for being irritated. I know he could he making more money hauling passengers out to the airport, and so forth and so on, but even so—For all that he has no use for sentiment and samaritan delusions, I tell the man, "Got to find where this kid lives, so let's just get on with it." The dream now ends or fizzles out. But not before I am running through my head how, now that it is clear I am going to have to deal with the authorities, I am going to get passed down the chain of command - from the cops to the ubiquitous social worker in a game of who will take responsibility for this orphan? Dream science advises me that dreams, in and of themselves, may be utterly pointless; may be nothing more than an expenditure of superfluous energy the brain releases in opportune moments, as when one sleeps, but perhaps I can see in the dream my habitual pessimism reflected—In any case, I am not interest in arguments that militate for or against the existence of 'God' or the efficacy of religion or lack of the same, but I am interested in equilibrium, in notions of 'balance', much of which seems to work out its acquired 'kinks' of its own accord, except when what is ideologically ham-handed gums up the works. The record shows us that a society may get on just fine for a while even when out of whack, but eventually, as the stresses pile on, the being out of whack will do it in. Yes, and 'religion poisons everything' - or so I believe someone famous who recently died is credited with saying. Alright then, double fine. And I suppose it follows that we must learn to live without religion. Any suggestions? I can certainly do without the infantilisms of Jesus loves me, yes I know (which I venture to say has a lot more to do with narcissism than with religion in any true sense). For all that, I do not see how it can be argued that religion does not speak to a very deep-seated need in our psyches to make sense of things; to even go so far as to 'order the cosmos'; and because science may answer for the intellect but does not do much for the soul (it cannot deal with the soul because it cannot, on its own terms, admit of its existence); and because art - through its having become little more than a career option and a commodity-making machine, and this would include poetry - only fails the 'sacred', then I predict - dangerous that, this making predictions - I submit that the need in question, unaddressed in any genuine sense, will, in time, spawn monsters. As simple as that. It is arguable that those monsters are already arrived. History, even recent history, is chockfull of such occurrences as those monsters who do not, as such, object to your having life, though they are blood-thirsty enough; just that your existence should profit them. At any rate, one cannot mouth the word sacred and, willynilly, one is in the realm of the sacred. What is sacred may or may not come about in all sorts of ways: a fallen meteor may find itself of a sudden an object of worship while a sacred mount may require centuries before it can enjoy the benefits of veneration. One might abuse the word sacred in respect to the game of baseball and yet, not really offend against the spirit of the sacred, but to suggest that nothing is, ever was, or ever can be imbued with whatever it is we might mean by the word sacred is a species of spiritual suicide. It is what the poet ought to be doing among other things: reminding the public that certain things in life are, indeed, sacred, and to ignore the fact is to put oneself in very serious peril. But it is balance you wanted, am I right? Well then, the Uffizi - or art gallery. On the one hand, you have da Vinci's Annunciation. Cold, February day. Not a tourist in sight. On the other hand, you have Titian's Venus. (Venus with Cupid, Dog and Partridge.) Which it is a portrait of a woman who has ministered unto herself. As per London Lunar: "The sacred and the profane in the same space. So far apart in theme, and yet totally entwined. Made absolute sense." And when I remark that I have just come across a little write-up of the painting and it seems that the writer could care less about the woman and is enthralled with the dog, London Lunar merely observes: "Ah, English. Must be an English critic." Balance restored—

Feb 8, 2012: So I rant and rave a while in my scribblings, and the sinking feeling in my gut tells me that, as an exercise, it is only indulgence of a low order: it contributes nothing to anything. You ought to be thanking me for sparing you a for instance. But even with the pertinent facts pretty well established, that we cannot handle a civilized discussion in respect to climate change gives rise to the following question: how then can we expect to field a conversation to do with God or No-God or whether a purely secular world will free of us all the evils that have beset our species since we started barbecuing the food we eat? When the general in Apocalypse Now (in a briefing session early on in the flick) suggests that all is conflict - rationality versus irrationality, good versus evil, and that 'good' does not always win out, he is only stating what we always suspected since we were tadpoles in the backyard having at bicycles sans training wheels, Heraclitus and Schopenhauer coursing through our neural networks like the Goodships Lollipops, and spiritually the general is closer to the Greek poets than he is to an army field manual—But you can have all that - all those neural networks and all the cool fetish items that go with them, including your personalized Charlie Rose sweatshirt. The fact that I continue to write poetry, however beside the point it is in a world that cannot tolerate a mystery, let alone an instance of silence for a duration of time lasting longer than a nanosecond, indicates that I still believe in the presence of the muse in human affairs. It certainly beats saying I have pressing matters of a sociological, economic, political and psychological nature, as well as overweening notions of careerism, bearing down on the seat of my sentience each time I feel a poem coming on like some episode of epilepsy, like some hissy fit, and, eh voila, I have wandered the wilderness and come home to my very own Identity Crisis. So then, yes, I would rather go about 'musified' than be one step removed from the awesome majesty of 'I exist, therefore I am a computer or some such—' And you still want to leave metaphors to lab techs and scientists? And yet, what makes us think that poets will prove any braver than those Dicks and those Janes already far gone in their knuckling under to those movers and shakers for whom the only realities are profit maximization and the techie means of achieving that end? Never mind that a lot of people will have to continue to die in obscene numbers so that this or that CEO might obtain his or her bonus—I do not much care for the word spirituality either; it only encourages specious thought in glassy-eyed flakes who require no additional encouraging, but even there, to be asked to inhabit a world in which everyone is convinced one is, at last, blessedly free of error such as one has known error - how will it stack up any differently from how it has stacked up these past forty thousand years?

Feb 7, 2012: Circa 450 B.C. or thereabouts, and Rome lurched and careened and more or less wobbled from one political crisis to the next, and it was seemingly par for the course: there was no waking up to any other reality. At one point in the proceedings, the tribunes - to be loosely defined as men who spoke for the interests of the commons as opposed to those of patricians - so as to defuse an 'explosive' situation, interceded in favour of the latter, which only caused the patricians to round on the consuls who represented their interests and who claimed to govern for the general population as a whole. It just goes to show that, when it comes to appeasing the one per centers, do not expect gratitude—Now and then, as I scour the news for tea leaves and ill winds, I only receive for my pains a certain knowledge incommoding my gut, or that 'things' are far from bottoming out yet; and while it is not difficult to see what the plutocrats are up to, however hazy the attributions are as to what constitutes a plutocrat (and perhaps it is all about a portion of the populace that would have itself matter more than any other portion) it is not all that easy to make out who the 'good guys' are, if there are any. That is to say, anyone who expects a leg up from the economy, the media circus, the 'virtual' world, and all the ways in which the economy, the media circus and the virtual world are interlocked, is in collusion with Babylon, as am I. There is no other way of putting it. Or else, one has to accept then that certain personages at the top of the food chain who have a better grasp of certain realities than you will ever have, really do have your interests at heart, and that a few misunderstandings and errors in judgment have unfortunately given rise to - well, you may complete the sentence. Morning. Nikas. The radio is blissfully silent. Perhaps Alexandra the waitress has forgotten that the thing exists. I am all for such amnesia. I left E and Labrosse to their own devices, last evening, as I passed on a viewing of the finale of season two of The Wire, what with the cold raging through my body. Even so, used to regarding myself as a stalwart, after initially detecting something akin to guilt in me in regards to my absence, I stumbled across the odd nerve ending that was being tickled by a condition of mind known as guilty pleasure—Well then, another chicken and egg question. What comes first, the brain or the brain when it comes to guilt and guilty pleasure? In other words, apply this or that surgical procedure to the organ of which we speak, and one deals a fatal blow to the bogeyman of guilt; unless, that is, as per Plato, guilt is one of the Eternal Forms antecedent to the human species. But no, not very likely—So then, those of you out there who wish to dispense with the gods and all the attendant superstitions and the encumbering mythologies once and for all, now you have your methodology. You have always had it, even you bible thumpers. God knows you are succeeding, to judge by what passes for sentience in the public arena—

Feb 6, 2012: This morning, I am very much a dull boy. This state of affairs began coming on at some point yesterday, a cold in the works. I had met up with Labrosse in Nikas who was entertaining a woman the name of whom I should know but have forgotten, Labrosse treating her to wine that she was drinking with a pronounced Calvinist flourish: the look on her countenance suggested that drinking wine is not the sort of thing she does everyday. However, the fact that she is a perennial art student has not prevented her from articulating the odd intelligent observation in respect to art and the art world and all the human flora and fauna that inhabit such departments of the spirit. Meanwhile, nearby, the dreaded hockey groupie was well-established at her booth. And with what blind optimism was she directing at Labrosse her off-the-wall patter, whether or not the man wished to find himself in communications with a tease. "The team's playing with heart, you know—Really playing with heart—Maybe that's why it's winning—" She getting giddy with herself, Labrosse was unimpressed with her powers of analysis. And yet it has to be said that the rotter encourages her, and I do not believe it has anything to do with chivalry in respect to her harrowing loneliness, the kind of loneliness that can pervade, all by itself, an entire metropolitan area—Apropos of some chance remark regarding economic downturns, the art student began describing life in Oshawa where her parents live. Would it be fair to characterize the municipality as a GM town? "Company town, anyway," said Labrosse, "one trick pony." We were not an inspired threesome. And after a bit of this and a bit of that, discourse concluded on a satiric note, as when the art student, her observation based on some theatrical skit she had recently seen, defined art as anything that is useless. (The inflection in her voice hinted at 'tit-useless', but temptations resisted are a test of character.) For instance, you don't have any use for that crockery in your cupboard, well, now it's art. Ditto for those used tires in the basement—Later, I took a gander at the Super Bowl, expecting it to be a much more obnoxious affair than it came off, the usual bombast that one associates with the spectacle seemingly muted. But then I was moving back and forth between channels and so, may have missed some of the more stellar moments of full spectrum dominance. Even so, the half-time show was positively silly and thoroughly bankrupt as a moral force, shilling for I am not sure what - world peace, was it? Mr Hedges, the Pulitzer-prize winning journo, writes this morning of black-clad anarchists crashing the occupy-everything party and pissing on the parade. He is not best pleased. Ah, punked by nihilism. Here in Nikas, the Albanian waitress with the startling eyes finds my poetry 'deefeecult', and yet, she is well-educated, too well-educated to be mopping restaurant floors with such a besetting mix of I'm not so full of myself that I can't mop the odd floor or two and rage. Enter Irish harpy and retinue about whom I have not written in a long while. She, in case you have forgotten, was born to complain and nitpick and harass, and yet, it has to be said that she is one of those people who are necessarily 'store-minders' and 'standard-setters', as in, why is it so difficult to have a clean restroom? Because the night shift are lazy bastards—Husband was born for a kind of martyrdom to spousal devotion that is, in reality, nothing more and nothing less than a path of least resistance. Cost-effective. Just that, in matters of the soul, one must always operate at a loss or find oneself drifting along with such clichés as the living dead—Now pass me a tissue, would you, and otherwise, keep your distance—

Feb 5, 2012: Perhaps he is feeling lonesome or otherwise put upon, but AB flings his hat into the ring with a certain abandon, noting all the while that girls are a lot like people. Damning, no? Or so he puts it. One imagines what he has got on his plate, and one leaves it at that, lest one call into question his good standing in the community. And yet, when it comes to 'fluff' and romantic entanglement, the best scene in a movie like Moonstruck is that one in which the old man and his pack of dogs wind up howling at the moon somewhere by the East River—Morning. Nikas. It is on again, this battle between Alexandra the waitress and myself. (Eddie the cook-owner, with all the moral compunction of an emergency session of the UN Security Council, won't lift a finger to restore justice to this otherwise fine establishment.) The hostilities have to do with the radio and its decibels. Virgin Radio? Virgin, is it? Suggesting what? Integrity? There is nothing maidenly about it. I am hearing some toothless hag gone clear out of her mind. Once music was music and pop had nothing to do with 'popular'— And once again the Crazy Professor inundates my inbox with his advertisements for hisself such as present him cutting a ravishing figure; or that he is Socratic and a rebel, to boot, taking on mighty academic establishments hither and yon - and, fine, I am all for that, just that I suspect underneath it all the man is actively seeking to regain tenure with all the penchant for whimsy as had an Elagabalus, one of the more 'eccentric' Caesars. The man may have the best intentions in the world when it comes to the pursuit of knowledge with or without a little sun worship thrown in and general desportment amidst whoopee cushions; and I may share some of his political outlook, but the proof is in the pudding when it comes to art; especially when it comes to 'awt' and related matters, and the man has not a clue; is, in this respect, a paid up member in full of such coteries as constitute the oppressing party, a constituency of megalomaniacs as deem themselves to have a finger on this or that pulse when all they have a hold of is some love-handle or another of the public exchequer—In any case, my hypnotic gesturing in the general direction of the psyche of Alexandra the waitress is availing me not a whole lot. The decibels, if anything, are creeping onwards and upwards. I am bowled over by the sheer inanity of the voice of one Bryan Adams; that, and Nevada and Romney's little triumph there and a slavering P.M. Carpenter - Distinguished Political Commentator to the south of here - rubbing his hands in anticipation of the electoral debacle looming on the not so distant horizon; that one in which he contends the Grand Old Party will either self-herniate or blow itself to unretrievable smithereens. Perhaps I am unable to see the self-assured, smiling countenance of the creature known as BUSINESS AS USUAL even when it is parked scant millimeters from my mug, but as these are the sort of times when everything is written in quivering Jell-O, not union shop concrete, let alone stone, extra degrees of difficulty are in play when it comes to what the future will be, que sera sera—

Feb 4, 2012: I should know better than to think I can take a word as freighted with baggage as 'culture' and run with it for a little while (as per the post previous) without encountering an overpowering urge to drop the thing at some point in the proceedings and relieve myself of a burden—Accordingly, we had an evening of it, last night. Whether or not we reenacted the Feast of Solomon, what with its 22,000 oxen and any number of fatted fowl, remains open to question, but - yes - we had an evening of it. We began having an evening of it at the residence of Literary Thug #1 with a proper sit-down dinner in famiglia. Somewhere in the proceedings he had occasion to observe that he had thought himself so clever, selecting Etta James' I Last as his wedding song, only to discover that, as far as wedding songs go, it is one of the most popular— So much for trend-setting—We feasted. Labrosse then instructed a rather precocious boy child of twenty months in the art of building bridges whereas, on the guitar, I was shamed by a girl all of twelve as she performed Blackbird with noteworthy aplomb. We moved on to my apartment - Labrosse, Literary Thug and I - where we met up with MH and were later joined by the Moesian and the contessa. The contessa is very Italian and very French—Trilingual and, I suspect, impish—Labrosse, in good form, began reminiscing about his parents and how close they were to one another in the course of their long marriage, and how little they complained of all the children they brought into the world - eleven of them - and the struggle to keep food on the table. In a sense, or so he seemed to be saying, he was only just now, at the advent of his seventh decade, beginning to understand what it was they had and what he had been given as a result—This homage of a kind on his part led to a discussion of how, in his opinion, the Scots and the Irish and the Italian and the French in this neck of the woods all seem to find it easy enough to establish common ground as opposed to how it seemed to go between the French and those Brits, plenty of whom, even now, here, there and other places, are still doing their version of noblesse oblige. MH attempted to account for this common ground by way of religion - or Catholicism, a cue for Literary Thug to bring up his Protestant upbringing and how it was that the 'emotions', as it were, did not get a lot of play in his family life, though 'duty' did and 'ethical concerns' and such. Not a touchy-feely lot— I riffed ever so briefly on seventh-generation Canadians, some of whom I have known and lived to tell the tale—The Moesian kicked in, saying that in Mexico one often comes across 'little kids' in the streets late at night; and one is tempted to conclude that there is no parentage for them, no home life, when, in fact, theirs is a culture in which prescribed bedtimes do not figure much. Which is how MH was reared - on the farm in Catholic Ohio. Which explains somewhat the imp in her—Which led to a discussion (do not ask me how we got there) of honour killings, now that a trial is in the news in respect to such deeds—Which led to a remark on my part, by way of a detour through early Roman history, and how a certain 'honour killing' had a great bearing on the political battles between the patricians and the plebs. In the end, so as to kick a can down the road and break up a political as well as a legislative stalemate that was crippling Rome, and even if was no ultimate solution, recourse was had to the 'law'; or that law, as such, eventually trumps everything, even God. Which, so Labrosse pointed out, is how the Canadian judicial system seems to be dealing with the honour killings: as a matter of law, not 'culture'. Labrosse: "Between the corpse and the cause there is no rope—" Well, at this juncture a few quizzical looks did manifest—Time to give this line of inquiry a rest—So we picked up a couple of guitars, Literary Thug and I, and managed to effect something that resembled music. Conversation continued to flow, even if the Moesian interjected a lyric or two of song from Love in Vain (the train pulled into the stay-shun), addressing them to no one in particular; and Labrosse, dressed all in black, began to look suspiciously like the devil doing an imitation of Johnny Cash. He did depart with quite the smile on his mug. The Moesian and the contessa seemed awfully content at the moment of their leave-taking. MH had the look of the cat who swallowed something or other—Literary Thug thundered as to why it always has to be something or other—Why can't we be more precise?—Even so, he appeared to be in a state of mood-uplift as he clambered out into the good night. No one had paid the slightest attention to me when, for one deranged moment, I had sought some opinion as to what 'culture' is and is not - I was not asking for encyclopedic knowledge - just a passing commentary or two - and all I had got for my trouble was an uh, oh, fill his glass with something, anything, and shut the effer up—

Feb 3, 2012: I dreamed, last night, that I set a few critics straight on poetry in general and related cultural matters. My goodness, how I managed to get them to sit still long enough to hear me out defies my comprehension. But in any case, it escapes me now what it was I said to them in the particular. Perhaps I said that I have never liked this notion that we make up culture as we go along. It bespeaks a deep and dangerous ignorance of what culture is; that the essence of any culture is, like poetry, indefinable, and yet, there it is in one's face. One embraces it; one rebels against it; one shrugs and sips one's Turkish coffee, as one will do twenty years down the road, provided one is around to do so. To tear a culture from the heart and mind of a person is akin to ripping out his or her intestines. In other words, one tends to take the culture one was born into and raised in for granted, but one will certainly know its absence, especially when that absence occurs through some catastrophe or other—This making up culture as we go along so as to suit, so as to justify this or that whim of the moment - it is nothing more than market forces behind the curtains of which various Wizards of Ozzes count their proverbial gains, be they critics or bankers or artists on the make. Phlimphlammery. On the other hand, cultures are not static, never have been. Nor are they eternal. They do, for one reason or another, get trifled with, become uprooted. They are suppressed; they have even been obliterated from all consciousness; but the consequences of such a disappearance are real enough. One is deracinated, set at the margins of life. Sometimes, what is at the margins becomes part and parcel of the heart of the matter, as did the fact of jazz, if not the musicians who performed the stuff. Perhaps what used to be signified by 'alienation' describes that odd peregrination of an art that projects far beyond where its practitioners stand, and then alienation got to be a buzz word at parties and a driver of bad poems—Rootlessness then. But, again, even urban blues had its roots, did not just mushroom up from nowhere—Troubador poetryBabylon—To say that culture is the product of an 'organic' process, as is any plant, is to state something that is true enough; but it is also to render rather abstract and impersonal what was concrete; was so much a part of all one's senses that to discuss it is almost always beside the point. Culture is more than the music one listens to, more than the latest hit parade or best-seller list; more than a quarrel as to how much Puccini an opera company should indulge; it is how one thinks and feels and loves and eats and takes life and writes a poem; and so forth and so on. Why am I on about this? Morning, Nikas, and I am sitting here shaking my head, a spew of disconnected thoughts to follow. Alexandra the waitress is folding napkins while a Greek metropolitan in black religious garb holds forth on satellite TV. Eddie the owner-cook is in the kitchen yelling the word frites into his cell phone. Freedom is precious, but playing at 'culture' is mindlessness and nothing but. There is no avante-garde. There has not been one for years. Picasso may have turned the art world inside out, upside down, but he was a Spaniard and, for better or worse, accordingly 'cultured'. Some African figurine might have influenced his art (I don't know, did such a figurine work its magic in his eyes?), but how he chose to interpret the object did not make him ein Berliner—I had better cease and desist—In Livy's history of early Rome, circa 450 B.C., the commons and the soldiery have taken matters into their own hands, 'occupying' the Sacred Mount while the patricians get out of Dodge. It is an attempt to force the senate into actually making a decision about something; that is to say, what is to be done with those decemvirs who have co-opted the political process at the expense of the plebs, even if that process was not all that healthy or balanced in the first instance? It is too complicated a story to relate in a few sentences, but as I read along, I view the current occupy everything movements to the south of here and elsewhere in the world in the light of a 'commons' about to find the end of their respective tethers. Tonight, a number of persons of my acquaintance and I will reenact the Feast of Solomon. There may or may not be reports forthcoming—

Feb 2, 2011: Morning. Nikas. Off-kiltre just now, I had every intention of venting; only I will wind up remonstrating with myself should I vent—I also meant to speak of the interiors of taxicabs as being a kind of sacred space, inasmuch as the passenger, en route somewhere to who knows what end has stepped outside his or her routine briefly, and is looking at the world with a different set of eyes. This is even true to some extent for those people who practically live in taxicabs: frequent flyers of all persuasions, and socialites and hookers and druggies, not to mention the cabbies themselves. Alright - not much of an argument—It is snowing in Montreal-NDG. Languidly. Even so, Alexandra the waitress is, at the moment, having to deal with the customer (not me) whom she most hates to serve - a fellow who is the neediest-whiniest fellow in all the world—I suppose he has his reasons. Last night, I had a vague urge to watch a Figgis flick while working through a few exercises on the guitar. However the flick - one of those split-screen jobs, the screen divided into quarters, count-em, those petit-fours - began to mightily irritate me, and I will put up with a lot when it comes to flicks. It struck me then that when one is young and concerning oneself with 'art', one wants to get at what's happening, man, but that, in the course of one's aging, something shifts and one wants to get at what happened, and without a whole lot of fuss and bother and extra degrees of difficulty. What was the movie achieving, if anything? Or so I asked myself. The ham-handed answer: the fetishization of the personal. The voyeur has had his or her set of eyes doubled. Trouble is, none of the characters on view are terribly noble. Ah, here's the thing: they're just kind of - human, you know, it happens. And verily, people might be hollow at their cores, just so many self-automated machines running through such options as appetite and need and 'desire' and various aggressions bring to the table; but, come on, are people that excruciatingly and vacuously and appallingly empty? Oh dear. Really? Switching channels brought me to Peru and some jungle tribe once thoroughly isolated from the contemporary world now subject to the predations of all that would exploit the environs for this or that resource. More switching, and I was delivered unto the world of 'nature'. All will be henceforth explained. Sexed up nature show equals now I guess I must know something as nature has told me so. How different is any of this from those old Sunday school jingles, those that could drive a person mad: Jesus loves me, yes I know—In any case, I have come to view these sexed-up nature shows as obscenities. The one in question was a doozy. But before I get into it, one more click of the channel button, and there I was somewhere in Africa, men through primitive means engaged in slaughtering cows on an industrial scale. Is the whole world an endless loop of carnage? What has gotten so out of whack that this butchery is necessary? Or so I asked myself, wondering if I was, indeed, only born just yesterday. And one of the workers was even heard to say: "What is flesh and blood will suffer—" And just in case we here in La-La Land did not get it, and even as he intimated that he recognized he was not particularly 'civilized', he repeated his mantra treating with flesh and blood—The nature show then. Its celebrity of the moment: a great white shark, carcass thereof, one suspended from a block and tackle apparatus. Curious feature: its stomach was in its mouth. Doughty scientist explains it thus: shark was trapped in a net. Shark panicked. Because shark must keep moving in order to breathe. Breathing is effected by the passage of water through the gills such as do the business of extracting oxygen—Doughty scientist loves sharks. Fine. But there seems something grotesque about all this happening on camera, all this tough love, love of—What, precisely, is being loved?—So there is the grotesquely dead shark. More scientists in orange protective gear. Radioactive beastie? S&M? Well, they are going to flense, flay, gut the thing; that is, they would dissect it with some end in mind, and we are going to know stuff. Fine. We are genuinely going to know stuff. But to this sort of knowing come about in this sort of way, I think I prefer the old superstitions, the old Indian reverence for the bear or the buffalo just killed - and for food and hides et cetera; and that a 'noble' death has made life possible; and that one doesn't crap on one's nest—And then Mr Dawkins, the misty-eyed fellow with the cushy Brit accent that suggests that, yes, life is kind of sacred, but evolution is sacreder, as it is all there is (and, who knows, the man just might be right on that account; but that the way he crushes his vowels and consonants with that velvety voice of his, it suggests he must regard himself as awfully sacred, too), he extols the exquisite design of the shark - look at the miracle that nature has wrought, while on the other channel, humans - bona fide top of the food chain - they keep hacking away at the cows with machetes in a state of barely-controlled mania; and, yet another channel-flip and voila: Egyptian soccer riot - some 70 persons dead; and, all of it, all those channels and all that carnage - it brings to mind Juvenal the poet-satirist and how much he loathed his exile in Egypt two thousand years ago, as he saw the people in situ as unhinged; but that, life was just as brutal in ways peculiar to itself at the centre of the empire, or Rome. I surrendered. I might as well have been the shark that got itself enmeshed in a net, bringing up my own stomach. But here's Letterman to return us to sanityWho's on first? Yet another comedian? So all the Sarah Palins have destroyed the Grand Old Party or the Republican wing of a two-party system. So all the Dawkins tell the 'believers' that there is no god, and since, there is no god, there is no sitting at the Right Hand of God, just that Dawkins and the like fairly ooze with being 'elect'; and that there is so much obscenity in the world and zealotry, and drone warfare, capitalism in a state of rot, deracination reinvented on a daily basis, ought not surprise me or anyone. I could have saved myself a lot of grief by deep-sixing the idiot box—Could have just sat there and smugly plunked away on the old guitar—

Feb 1, 2012: A little bird directs my ear to a certain furor that has apparently erupted in merry old England, to do with an eminence in the poetry world and Carol Ann Duffy who may or may not be considered as 'eminent', I have no effing idea. Just that the former has, it would seem, deemed the latter as having all the savoir faire of Mills and Boon, or, for those of you who wish for the homegrown analog, Harlequin Romance. I can only assume the former meant to effect a judgment in respect to the latter's verse. Perhaps it is the most important bit of business to have come down the poetry turnpike since Ezra Pound got his mitts on Eliot's Wasteland. God knows that a great many squalls since then - trumpeted as a 'game-changers' - have been so much street-theatre akin to the Executive Branch making up reality as it goes along. On the other hand, I am also given to understand that, as 'news, this is old news, a month stale now; and it may be nothing more than a few bored journos looking for a splash. Well, the politics of literature as well as the politics of contending personalities always fascinate - at least, I am fascinated. But is this politics any different in essence from that which one sees played out in the current primary campaign? What is the relation of the 'politics' to truth? Is 'truth' something one can spread on one's toast, let alone sample in a body of verse? Steady on, we are not going to get post-post-post-modern here, are we? Whatever the case for or against 'truth', PPPM (post-post-post-modern) is turf incapable of providing sufficient nutrients for even thalapsi arvense to attain critical mass, stinkweed to you, kind madams and good sirs. In any case, I know what it means to hold with an unpopular opinion in regards to literature. One may as well have some overt opprobrium emblazoned on one's forehead like Nazi or banker or pedophile or Lawrence Welk. Worse than harbouring an unpopular opinion is to be in possession of a genuine opinion as opposed to being in a state of mucking about with feints and theatrical plumage designed to communicate a great deal, everything that is save for what it is genuinely on one's mind. It is the sort of game poet-critics play. It is all about quick feet and follow-through—How does one keep one's sanity in such a roiling 'moral' climate, if 'moral', as such, is not the over-stretching of a once perfectly good word? Is Current President merely a lackey for monied interests? Does he really care, I mean really give a toss about the health of the republic? Does the fate of the souls of Regular Jane and Average Joe exercise his consciousness just before he dozes off at night? What of the more histrionic permutations of Regular Jane and Average Joe all of whom must keep moving like sharks in cultural seas lest the culture wars die down to a dull roar and Cachet depart the pavilion? Does the groupie create the star or the star the gobsmacked? Chicken and egg? Last night I dreamed that various entities were vying for a single parking space. This little dust-up transmogrified itself into contest between a jazz crooner and a rock group each claiming to have authentic bragging rights to the Keys of the Kingdom or that which might deliver us from our proverbial 40 in the most barren of outbacks. Morning. Nikas. The pen just ran dry, oh dear. Eddie - owner-cook - to the rescue. Provided of course that my use of his uptown squib-maker will bring him fame and fortune. Indeed, he taps his foot. We are waiting on you—Waiting, no doubt, on my magic to effect its thing—In Livy's early Rome, things have come to a head with those decemvirs clamping down on the plebs; with them throwing a spanner in the usual way of doing business between class and political faction—Voices are heard declaring that the struggle will be bitter—And in America—Alright then: Old Europe if you must. In which There are four classes of men who pay the debts of the state; the proprietors of the land, those engaged in trade, the labourers and artificers, and, in fine, the annuitants either of the state or of private people—Montesquieu—Perhaps the immediately above is nothing more than the reflection of a by-gone antiquity. If not, then surely the following is, as per Socrates in Plato's Republic: —Socrates: Then beauty of style and harmony and grace and good rhythm depend on simplicity—I mean the true simplicity of a rightly and nobly ordered mind and character, not that other simplicity which is only an euphemism for folly?—

 


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