Ephemeris is updated every few days, then archived at the end of each month 





February 27, 2024: A certain Carpenter The Carpentariat stole a march on me, and went and posted a few words to do with the Reagan years and where he had been in his head in those days, the suggestion being that he was, perhaps, partially out of his mind even if he was going about gainfully employed. A certain ratio of politics to booze and vice versa…

Some acquaintances of mine have testified to the fact that, during those years, they were not ‘paying attention’. Cornelius W Drake was writing the great Champaign-Urbana novel. Talking Avocado was writing a book on Hemingway (while reading Proust secretly). Lunar was learning to love the bomb even as he now says, of Marjorie Taylor Greene, the ‘loud know-nothing’: “Marjorie, dance for me.” She could well do such, provided certain cookies transpire and crumble just right. Could be she will wind up as Secretary of State. SoS, man. No pun intended.

As for Magnolia, the last I heard from him, he was contemplating whether or not to attend a poetry reading of an evening. Would he be disappointed? Would it prove a waste of time? Would he return home homicidal? Should he have stopped off at that pub on the way?

The other day, the young Jaime, in town, popped into my local for a visit. He was teaching a course in Ontario, he said, on literature and ‘wellness’. I must say I nearly fell out of my chair in a fit of laughter. Synchronicity: that very morning the Comptroller of the Universe had let me know that ‘wellness’ is a Very Big Word nowadays, and then she bailed as my look said: “I don’t want to know.”

Well, there in my local, I began to vent a little about various matters, poor young Jaime regarding me politely, according me the benefit of the doubt. He looked in all directions but one, that one which would have had in his sight an old fuck (or me) who thought he knew what he was on about. I had been about to say I was detecting a Dear Abby strain in the writing of Proust as per his The Guermantes Way, but then thought better of it. Moreover, I had not expected Proust, through his narrator the young Marcel, to be so caught up with the military, but there he was going on about the aesthetic qualities inherent in a discussion of military matters with his military pals. Proust was a sly one. He may have believed in the separation of church and state, but as for his ‘I’ and the ‘I’ of his Marcel, not a whole lot of daylight there, as the one ‘I’ went about his business and the other ‘I’ looked on, and perhaps gestured hypnotically from time to time.

The Comptroller of the Universe had had more to say, involving what she called ‘pie chart art’, or that, so far as I could understand it, and I grant you I may have misunderstood, but that when it comes to a breakdown of funding of the arts and who gets what, it winds up pitting one demographic against another so that a certain percentage of whites are pitted against a certain percentage of blacks who are pitted against transgenderals who are pitted against some chess club who are pitted against Bolivians who are pitted against kayakers who are pitted against Women Against Clark Cable who are pitted against lovers of dogs and The Radetzky March (as written by one Joseph Roth,1932, the Austro-Hungarian empire come-a-cropper.) Comptroller of the Universe bailed on the pie-chart too, once she saw how perplexed I was, and how it was not worth her while to put me back on the straight and narrow.

And yet, in one telling passage, Proust described the various sensations that grabbed hold of him the first time he heard a voice on the other end of a telephone line. The voice happened to be his grandmother’s whom he loved dearly. It was the first time that, though they were often enough separated one from the other in real time and real space, he had felt ‘isolated’ from her. To hear her voice on the phone like that was chilling and ‘isolating’. She may as well have been a manifestated spirit in Hades, hence no longer among the living. Fast forward. Walk down any city block in any city anytime anyhow: countless myriads of humanity transfixed by their mobiles… Sure, we feel ‘connected’. We are well past such superstitions as ‘disconnectedness’. But how connected are we really?

Postscript I: The Art of Mary Harman

Postscript II: Dedicated to Cornelius W Drake, strictly anticlerical, but who wags his finger against the sin of despair, from the Catholic Miguel de Unamuno in his Tragic Sense of Life written just prior to the outbreak of the first world war: … …. He who looks for reasons, strictly so-called, scientific arguments, technically logical reflections, may refuse to follow me further. Throughout the remainder of these reflections upon the tragic sense, I am going to fish for the attention of the reader with the naked, unbaited hook; whoever wishes to bite, let him bite, but I deceive no one. Only in the conclusion I hope to gather everything together and to show that this religious despair which I have been talking about, and which is nothing other than the tragic sense of life itself, is, though more or less hidden, the very foundation of the consciousness of civilized individuals and peoples today—that is to say, of those individuals and those peoples who do not suffer from stupidity of intellect or stupidity of feeling. … ….

Postscript III: Lunar: ‘I'd say yes to what you just suggested about Navalny [being more dangerous dead than alive] but for the fact Putin has pretty well eliminated all opposition and there is something about the Russians and their herd mentality, their wanting to tow the line and their weakness for strong leaders. A Putin gone berserk, throwing about a few nukes, I'd say there is no country he hates more than this one [England]. America he has a grudging respect for, but England in particular ... whoops.’ [Whoops? Whoops what?]

Postscript IV: More Cornelius W Drake: ‘As for your funk, its sounds remarkably similar to what millions are suffering from: political overload. I don't happen to be one of its victims, but damn [,] I've met enough of them to know its symptoms. As I understand it, the final and only possible cure is cessation — of following politics. Going cold turkey, like with cigarettes. I'd go mad if I DID stop. I understand why others do although I see it as a repudiation of one's civic duty. I'm old-fashioned about this. I still believe in what Americanists call the founders' republicanism, in which the good society is one where citizens are fully informed, fully engaged. When good people exit the scene they may momentarily feel better, but in doing so they're handing government over to the very worst people. The good people won't feel good for long.’    

February 20, 2024: Lunar made mention of the fact that Navalny (Alexei) has never come up between us in conversation, but that the news of his death (could it have been anything but a ‘rubbing out’?) is strangely most depressing, as if anything can happen now and most likely will. And then, seeing Navalny’s wife on TV casting aspersions on Putin, declaring her enmity to the man, put me in mind of Agrippina who had it in for Tiberius. She may have suspected him of having had a hand in the poisoning death of her Germanicus – her husband (Tiberius’s nephew and adopted son). Germanicus had been popular with the Roman people, something of a challenge to the imperial authority, although I suppose one should not push the conspiracy analogy too far.

And then one wonders, speaking of Gaza, if there is a word in the English language (other than genocide) which would describe to a ‘t’ what Israel is doing to it, bombing, killing, depriving it of food and medicine, making life itself uninhabitable, right up to the point (timed to the nano-second) where it is obliged to draw back, lest the authorities-that-be that are doing the bombing, the killing, the depriving it of food and medicine, making life itself uninhabitable, have a thorough-going corpse on their hands. The Latin words coitus interruptus is a candidate for a euphemism for such on-again, off-again procedures, which would then bring on a sexual metaphor involving certain anatomical features of the human body. Still, the English equivalence has yet to occur to me, though I suppose there are a thousand Hollywood A-list and ten thousand B-list flicks that could supply the odd synecdoche handily enough, as well as locker-room banter and not a few torture chambers.

Moving on, Proust not only inhabited the world of which he wrote, he had blueprints for every iota of it stacked up in his brain; he was not outside looking in, though even if he had to have been there - outside looking in, he would have made quite accurate observations, being repertorial in his every waking moment in his cork-lined room, making of the act of writing a fetish, and when that might have proved unwholesome, doubling down. For when we are in love, all the trifling little privileges that we enjoy we would like to be able to divulge to the woman we love, as people who have been disinherited and bores of other kinds do to us in everyday life. …. Good God, some fifty pages later, and the man is still stalking the duchess... …. In any case, being in the world one writes about is common to all authors, but if Proust had written westerns instead of his superannuated romance, he would have had on chaps and spurs, twirled a pearl-handled pistola, spun the chamber, sighted along the barrel, fingered a handlebar moustache, all the while having his food delivered by mule train to his hotel room….

I have always divided the world of fiction writing into two literary camps: the Proustian and the Lampedusan. (Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa who was a Sicilan prince, famously authored The Leopard, published 1958.) The one goes heavy on exposition; the other leans more toward the spoken dialogue of its characters, though that does not mean that the expository is entirely discounted. But whenever I come across dialogue that begins to flap in the breeze, as it were, and given what has been our contemporary distaste for the expository as being too stuffy, an intrusion on the action, even downright pompous, as in pontificating, I wonder sometimes if ‘dialogue’ is being made to do too much, which then renders it unnatural when it ought to be the most natural thing in the world. Dialogue in Proust is secondary to whatever he has going on, but no matter; it often serves as a breather from his cinderblock paragraphs. I have some English translations of Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano novels that are nothing but dialogue, exposition stripped to the very least minimum, way beyond ‘bare’, and the effect, as much as I like the TV series, is disconcerting and unsatisfying. Why would I always need a speed read? And then, I had a go at some other series-viewing, a cheesy thriller sort of display, and at first, I thought my computer was ’buffering’ and then I realized that the ‘dialogue’ was all herky-jerky on purpose, as if the interlocutors had absolutely no faith in the language they were speaking to carry even the slightest load of meaning, some generation X,Y or Z malaise and so, as a disaffected boomer (I was hijacked into it by the accident of birth) I tuned out. Now and then realism is way over-rated. It may perhaps be said that this longing of faith, that this hope, is more than anything else an esthetic feeling. Possibly the esthetic feeling enters it, but without completely satisfying it…. To rip Miguel de Unamuno (who was writing a century ago) completely out of context, as he went on to talk about beauty and eternity, that the one is the child of the other even though ‘momentaneity’ is our lot.

Which brings us back to Mr Proust in The Guermantes Way: The resurrection at our awakening—after that healing attack of our mental alienation which is sleep—must after all be similar to what occurs when we recapture a name, a line, a refrain that we had forgotten. And perhaps the resurrection of the soul after death is to be conceived as a phenomenon of memory.

Well, as for the immediately above, I, for one, do not insist, but there it is. And Proust, though he wrote in a recumbent position, worked awfully hard.

Postscript I: Lunar, a Londoner, has it thus: … …. ‘what remains to be seen is whether America will dance to his tune. Suppose the worst happens and Russia, on a flimsy pretext such as rescuing native Russians living there, invades Estonia. Do you really think America will risk a major conflagration? Oh yes, there would be posturing, troops on the border, grand speeches, etc, but would they actually go to Estonia's rescue? What makes me think that realpolitik will be the order of the day? And we'll let bygones be bygones, Boris. The second half of the 20th century right through into this one has been a series of proxy wars. Direct confrontation, no thank you because that'll be the end. Who would be prepared to take the gamble? There is no other answer: Putin. After all, he has won every gamble to date. One reason Trump could get in is that nobody in America has the stomach for a major conflict. So I guess I'm talking all-round political impotence. Remember what Russian Boris told English Boris: we will flatten you with a single bomb. Oddly enough, I think we would be one of the very few [to]go to war over principle. There's still a heavy-breathing ghost of that here. Yours, in doom and gloom.’

Postscript II: And Cornelius W Drake of Champaign-Urbana has his pushback: ‘Of course the major question is, Who's in the White House? If Biden, a respecter and builder of alliances, the U.S. would be there as fast as American troops already stationed in Europe could get to Estonia, with another 100,000 on their way. There is no question of that. Article 5 would kick in and then Putin would get his ass kicked, which he knows, which is why he has never tested NATO. If Trump, lord only knows. But he could be forced into it. Only Congress can declare war and appropriate its funding, but the president is commander in chief. Hence, a conflict. Yet politically (which is all Trump cares abut) if the public is outraged by a Russian invasion of a NATO member — which it would be — and Congress follows public opinion, which it would, since it's a whore, then Trump would likely capitulate, and somehow make Estonia's defense his idea. In short, either way, I can't see the U.S. staying out of it.’   

Postscript III: Talking Avocado: “Weren’t you talking about Grant, Ulysses S at one point? If the Union hadn’t been a democracy, he would’ve come out of the war (civil) as a Sulla, a Marius, maybe something even worse. But whom am I kidding? I’m not a civil war buff. And I know just enough Roman to say ‘the Ides of March’. Oh, and pass me some of that eel that was primed on human flesh. Otherwise, otherwise… If there is such a thing as reincarnated souls, I wouldn’t like to have been Faustina the Younger. Just saying. Maybe there’s going to be a spring out here on the coast. I’ll bet you can’t remember what an arbutus tree looks like. Should I continue or call it a day? Have you ever read this Buday fellow? I have a friend (you don’t know him) who speaks in tongues. Every Thursday at two in the afternoon at the pizza place…. Alright then, signing off…”

Postscript IV: The Carpentariat

Postscript V: The Art of Mary Harman

February 14, 2024: Cornelius W Drake of Champaign-Urbana with its Parisian flair and sandalled café women, ‘outside of ordinary’, brings to my attention that Lincoln, as in Abraham, would have written excellent screen treatments, having read only two books in his life: ‘Shakespeare’, and the bible. Could be. No art house spinning of one’s tires he. The inexpressible respected, not beat over the head with a verbal tire iron. Could be. But does what was the moral compass of the better minds of the 1860s carry over to this point in time, when the only moral compass is power, and nothing but power, though one is permitted a nicety or two and the faint scent of chrysanthemums held over a stench, neo-liberalism and Christian nationalism having between themselves gladiatorial spectacles, the bodies piling up, heavy bag workouts required (see extreme boxing, beating the crap out of the nearest body at hand)?

Early on in The Guermantes Way, Proust or Proust-Montcrieff (Montcrieff being the English translator of Proust’s French, pardon my French) is painting up a theatre scene: a certain stage box as is sacred to a certain princess or that she is sacred to it – the Princesse de Guermantes coquettish, amorous, alive, ‘hasn’t been sparing with her pearls’. A few paragraphs, a few cinderblocks of paragraphs later, and: Our imagination being like a barrel organ out of order, which always plays some other tune then that shewn on its card, every time that I had heard any mention of the Princesse de Guermantes-Baviére, a recollection of certain sixteenth-century masterpieces had begun singing in my brain. … …. Certainly, I was very far from the conclusion that she and her guests were human beings like the rest of the audience.

I suppose I might feel the same were I suddenly whisked to La Scala or the Met, or the coat room of the Smilin’ Buddha, which was a cabaret and perhaps still is, though not in Berlin, and… And then from the same stage box the Duchess, cousin to the princess, extends a white-gloved hand to someone or other, waving a greeting to that someone in the cheap seats below, and thereby, the Duchess acknowledges the existence of Marcel the fantasist narrator. His world, as it goes in cheap English, has just been lit up. On the morning after or a few days on (I lose my sense of time in the prose), he, Marcel, stalking the Duchess in the street outside her hotel residence, sees her red, sour, sulky face. Decidedly not the face of a goddess. It is a face not thrilled at the fact of his existence. He will have, as it were, in cheap English, a come-down, a wordless beat-down; he will be reminded of his place in the scheme of things.

And moralistically minded op-ed types might say of a young man: ‘He will have been made an adult in the room. He will have grown up. Because all that glitters…yessir…’ Could be. In the meantime, this young Marcel has some musings on the great actress Berma, she the reason why there were theatre goers in the theatre in the first place, on what ‘art’ is or is not; that something in La Berma’s performance must correspond with something in Marcel’s mind formed in advanced of her performance, for Marcel to see her work as art. Or ought Marcel, more cheap English here, venture outside the box, as it were, and instead of himself, by way of his mind, setting the terms for what art is or is not, allow her to dictate terms… &c… A negotiation of sorts. Well then, who is the better writer then? Proust or DeLillo? Or does the question obtain? Are we going to settle up with: ‘different worlds, eh?’ One-two, buckle my shoe. A stitch in time… That will, no doubt, settle someone’s hash.

Now, an idle thought getting idler: Shakespeare and his ‘arias’, or that ‘language’ is his chief character…

Or an even idler thought that could do with a shot of something medicinal: I was watching an episode of The Young Montalbano (Inspector Montalbano at the start of his career) based on the writings of Andrea Camilleri, and in one scene there was an image of a baroque Sicilian church framed by a chalk-white cliff, and for an instant in my eyes, they merged – church and cliff, and I did not know where the one began &c, whereupon the next thought, or that, towering office towers, and well, what about them? That they are unable to merge with anything except other towers, as, between them, they have supplanted nature. Just a thought idling, idling way, receding into the distance. To your health. No Birkenstockian eco-statement intended here.

Received: In the Belly of the Sphinx, a novel by Grant Buday, Brindle & Glass, 2023

Postscript I: The Carpentariat

Postscript II: The Art of Mary Harman

Postscript III: Talking Avocado: “What was that you were on about? The inexpressible? Can you please tell me what signifies in Yout’ without Yout’ [Youth without Youth] which, so I take it, in a film by Francis Ford Coppola, is a meditation on ‘time and consciousness’. It’d better be, because I can’t see what the hell else it’s about, other than that the hero gets to make love to his old flame who died, who'd gotten herself reincarnated somewhere along the line…. And that the Nazis weren’t necessarily the brightest pennies in a bag of loose change. I guess you had to have been there, and I guess I’m in a snotty pique, given the politics of the hour, and the obscenities in full thrall, and I do mean Gaza. Do whales do art house in their sonar clickings? And what’s this language stuff on your part? I thought you’d walked away from all that, turned your back on it in something of a huff, having been to one too many art installation venues and open mic nights in some poet’s garage. For similar reasons, I avoid tree houses and college cafeterias. The whole shitteroo is falling apart, ain’t it. I can talk to you in Montcrieffian English, sure, or I can barrel vault, speak architecturally at your moral lapses Gibbonese-style, decline and fall and all the rest of it, but, as stated, I’m in a pique and so, my moral compass is so much sputtering. There’s a president and there’s a de facto prez down there. Who’s running the country down there? Or do we care? Have we as a nation-state (which all the world thinks is preternaturally polite), have we been welching on our commitment to NATO? News to me. Hey, you forgot to mention that whilst Proust was lost in the eyes of the princess in her stage box, in the crystalline effect of her gaze, mere mortals in the seats below, his world was falling apart, La Belle Epoqué long since over and done with, its wad shot, though the band was playing on, even worse to come. And here we are bidding five Pontiacs in an election year, rubber hand…

Postscript IV: Cornelius W Drake quoting an historian on ‘lesson-learning’ and ‘generalizing across contexts, so don’t be mouthing off about Weimar and Trump: ‘In John Lewis Gaddis’ definition, contingencies are “phenomena that do not form patterns.” They are the branching points of history at which things could have easily been different because of unpredictable, unusual, and often small occurrences whose importance is sometimes clear only in hindsight. Contingency accounts for the importance of human agency and the fact that people may react differently to similar circumstances. Through this concept, historians challenge the idea that any given event was inevitably determined by large structural forces.’ Cornelius: "Inevitable" is a tricky word, but I disagree that "large structural forces" can essentially be dismissed by policymakers and historians. Not to sound too Marxist here, but the simplest way to frame my opinion is "People are people, and they haven't significantly changed in 2,000 years." Which means many of Rome's and [William] Shirer's forces are in play today. Simplistic, yes, and obviously context and contingencies can't also be dismissed. But historical forces are unmistakable.’

Postscript V: Whereas Lunar, he will be terse, as in: It will be Putin, ultimately, not any American president, calling the shots. America has never been so irrelevant on the world stage. This is not to say I don't fear the Orange Beast getting in, which I suspect may prove to be the case. A few months ago, I'd have said no, highly improbable. And as for the upcoming attack on Rafah the mind boggles. Or, and try catching your breath: Otherwise, the news: the humiliation visited upon Biden has left me speechless. Remember Reagan, the people surrounding him had the decency to keep his dementia under wraps. Biden clearly does not have dementia but he has the old age muddle that already afflicts me. … ….

Well, the Man Has a Point, But Department: If anyone were to tot up our deeds and our actions, he would find more outstanding men among the ignorant than among the wise – outstanding in virtues of every kind. Old Rome seems to me to have borne many men of greater worth, both in peace and war, than the later, cultured Rome which brought upon its own downfall. … …. From Montaigne’s An Apology for Raymond Sebond, 16th century. The thing is, as great as Montaigne’s essays are, when I see a news clip on TV of a Trump rally, I can only say: how the ignorant have fallen, this is not simplicity, it is Bedlam and the Collective Psychosis ward.

Riddle Me This Department: Was it Tacitus who wrote that it is human nature to hate whom you hurt, or was it Elmer Fudd having at Bugs Bunny? Q&A then: When does a people lose its right to outrage over something that has been done to it, the having-been-done-to-it horrific, true enough? When it goes and does its payback, but that the result is a thousand times worse that the original provocation, Jehovah the Great Vengeance Taker saying all the while: “Really? You can go this far? So much for the notion of a body count, Genesis 18.” And so much for the sense of the word sadîq which (so I read) can lie with ‘righteousness, ‘innocence’, too (if I have got that right). But ‘righteous innocence’? Ah, I suppose that adjectivized noun, like history, is written by the ‘winner’, just that I do not see any winner here.

Overheard in My Local Department: “What am I doing? I’m waiting for the Valentine’s Day parade. What? No takers? Hold on… was that a snort I heard? He gets it. He knows what I’m talking about. That I’m no heart throb. Okay, okay. I’ll finish my coffee and skedaddle. Gotta work anyway. Ottawa and Quebec and the city want my taxes. But what I want is a peck on my cheek. There. Right there.” … ….

February 8, 2024: The other day, I suggested to one Cornelius W Drake of Champaign-Urbana that ‘clown car’ is too stately a euphemism for what Republican Party politics has become, which is a result one gets when one prepares for an endoscopic procedure. Otherwise, in a 28,000 page biography of Ulysses S Grant that I happen to be reading, I read that the ‘Wide Awakes’ were a ‘youth vanguard’ supporting Abraham Lincoln’s bid for the presidency. What went around comes around in some fashion or other. I read about Ely Parker. He was a Senecan Indian. He wrote the final draft of the Confederate surrender terms at Appomattox. He also served, at President Grant’s pleasure, as Commissioner of Indian Affairs. Grant and Parker had known each other a long time. Sometimes politics qua politics can get past the constraints of race and gender, as can friendship. Who would have thought? Drake asked: “28,000 pages? Really? That long?” I answered: “Well, a lot was happening. The Mexican land grab… new territories opening up… slaveholders worried they might lose their leverage in Washington. And, and… But you know all that.” Drake’s response: “The origins of the nation were grisly: Jamestown, cannibalism…”

The Guermantes Way, volume three of Proust’s seven volume À la recherche du temps perdu, opens with short, seemingly stubby sentences in contrast to an ocean's worth of elliptical sentences that preceded it. It has an attitude, this opening: “What reality? Thou shalt have no other reality before me.” I damn near got whiplash as I read the inaugural pages. It led to a long description of an evening at the theatre, the box seats replete with theatre-goers replete with class distinctions, and who needs to know what play was being staged? The sentences, by now, are settling down, various paragraphs so many quiet, reflective stemwinders, stemwinders being a word that characterized political speechifying of the 1850s USA, senators on the warpath. Or that my use of ‘stemwinders’ in this instance, and with respect to Proust, may well be guilty of the charge of 'misuse of language'. (But, but... I happen to like the word, even if I do not care for bombastic rhetoric.) In light of which, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was to the point. In light of which, I can live in a universe that permits a 28,000 page biography so long as each page has a point….

And I said to someone recently… to the Comptroller of the Universe… that Shakespeare is the inner and outer limits of the language we speak. She had no objection to the statement. “No kidding,” she said. But she had no reason to object, either. She liked the flick Shakespeare in Love. Who knows, perhaps Shakespeare was as boyish as the Shakespeare the flick portrayed, kind of yuppyish. You can look but you will not find the following words in the flick: Give me leave to speak my mind, and I will through and through cleanse the foul body of the infected world. (Truly not an ad for hand wipes.) Shakespeare may not have had Trump to deal with, but he had his enemies at court and in the theatre-making business. As for Prince Williams, as king he will bring about a WhatsApp monarchy, so says Lunar about to quote Geoffrey Hill on what can and cannot hold. I know someone who knows someone who knows someone who is 365th in line for the throne....

Postscript I: The Carpentariat.

Postscript II: Is it possible to be happy without hope? From Miguel de Unamuno’s Tragic Sense of Life.

Postscript III: Talking Avocado: “So you’ve set the DeLillo aside. (Underworld.) Was it the voice? Hey, the voice has some merit. But maybe anything past 300 pages is overkill. Or is this ridiculous, arguing length simply because something happens to take a while? Does that mean a quarterback shouldn't throw the long bomb on a hail Mary? There’s serious length in Killers of Flower Moon, and Scorsese’s film is hard to sit through, no question, depicting, as it does, evil and delusion all due to greed (oil money), and it's a New-Old World menace, honeybunch, and because dreams are what dreams are made of, and there will be blood, and at the end of it, after all the killing, after it all culminates as an episode for a reality radio show, The Lucky Strike Hour, and it’s rah rah rah for J Edgar Hoover’s early version of the FBI, hey, we got the bad guys, and it’s a distortion of the actual history, no mention of the murders of all those members of the Osage tribe on that radio tribute, and one feels one has just been jerked by a rope, that one had had slack for three and a half hours, and then, like a fish on a hook, you’re reeled in. What would Aristotle have said? Catharsis? No, the film is pure poison, and it’s poison that stays with you. Trump as an incarnation of William K Hale the film’s villain in chief… Alright, I’ll knock it off. All that country blues in the background… it works somehow. Okay, okay, knocking it off…”

February 2, 2024: It was the first taste of sudden death and ruination, I reflected, ever experienced on a great and massive scale. So wrote William Shirer in his The Nightmare Years 1930-1940 on the ‘conquest’ of Poland. Tanks, bombers, dive-bombers… September 1, 1939. I do not know if Gaza suits the description of a ‘great and massive scale’, but surely there cannot be that much left of the place to obliterate. So then, where are we? We are in the month of February, 2024, a year just crackling with potential for catastrophe. ‘Canned goods’ is what the Nazis called concentration camp criminals who were to be outfitted in Polish uniforms and ‘left drugged and dead on the ground’ so as to show that they had ‘attacked Germany’, hence the Nazi excuse for the bombing campaign, and, extra touch, the dead bodies would be shot up with bullets for realism’s sake… The old false flag flying high, rippling in the breezes…

In The Knight’s Move, which is the title of the first story in the TV series Once Upon a Time in Vigata, the protagonist, having been framed for murder and malfeasance, having won acquittal, released from prison, takes a late evening ride through the town on horseback (the year is 1870 or thereabouts) and, well, the man muses, to this effect and I paraphrase, and bear in mind that most of the town has gone beddy-bye: ‘The whole maze of greed, arrogance, ruthlessness and connivance suddenly falls asleep. It’s as if even evil and corruption tire themselves out….’ Yes, and I suppose you had to have been there. But the way it was filmed, the way the scene was delivered, and what do we have? We have one of the more poetic moments I have ever encountered in TV drama where one does not expect much by the way of poetry to rear its head good, bad, ugly or otherwise. The series is based on the writings of Andrea Camilleri, the man who penned the Inspector Montalbano series set in contemporary times in the same fictional Sicilian town…

And there is a flick entitled Monsieur Verdoux, about a man who offs women for their money. Charlie Chaplin and Orson Welles wrote the thing. Charlie Chaplin directed it. Charlie Chaplin played the role of the serial killer with aplomb. In the course of the flick there is an exchange between M. Verdoux and someone or other, something to this effect: “Good and evil – too much of either is not good for people.” Rejoinder: “You can’t have too much good in the world.” Rejoinder to the rejoinder: That’s the trouble. There’s never been enough [good].” But I rest my case, even if I am not exactly sure what the case is that I would make…. … …. A great nation such as ours rises always from her material ruins, but it will never rise from her moral ruins…. I suppose one can turn that remark to reflect any number of political ends, but what ho, France, eh? And the year was 1870, and ought Paris defend itself against the Germans? &c.

Postscript I: The Carpentariat On general principles and there are plenty of them.

Postscript II: Slick Williams of archtop guitar fame chiming in: ‘Interesting you’re reading [Miguel de] Unamuno.  I don’t know much about him save the famous (and apocryphal) “vencer no es convencer” (“to win is not the same as to convince”) in the face of fascist victory in Spain.’ Slick, unlike you, I have yet to Chet Atkin 'Muskrat Ramble' on my guitar. And I only read Unamuno intermittently, when I get a certain metaphysical itch and it requires a certain pith with which to scratch it. But thanks for bringing it up, and I hope this finds you well.

Postscript III: But in response to a question that I put to Cornelius W Drake of Champaign-Urbana, I received this: ‘The only sexist part of the Haley thing (Ms Haley being the last contender left in the ring going up against what people are calling the ‘Orange Jesus’, you know, of the presidential sweepstakes) is that women in politics need to be more careful with anger, lest men think they're a "bitch." Same with color. Obama had to control his anger lest he be seen as "an angry black man" …. It's certainly crazy down here, but it seems the Biden-T[rump] race is improving [for Biden?]. Probably because of the crazy. So I hope they keep it [the crazy] up. It's driving voters away.’     

Postscript IV: And Lunar in a pique: ‘I remain at odds with you with respect to which is the greater menace, another Trump term or the insane censorship coming from the Left, which, naturally enough, is the mirror image of the Right. The policing of our thoughts is worse than anything Trump could achieve. The rotting away of the spirit. All one needs to do is to observe how self-censorious people have become, publishers and the like.’ To which Cornelius W Drake possibly has the come-backer: ‘I gather Lunar genuinely believes the left's pronouns are a greater threat than a wanna-be dictator?’ Perhaps this has been an episode of Jeopardy or the Weimar Republic.

Postscript V: I had made mention of the Pennsylvania man who recently decapitated his father (for being a civil servant?) and then went on an anti-Biden rant, and Lunar got back to me with an observation: ‘Hmmm, I'd describe that as abnormal behaviour.’ Perhaps on both our parts, this has been an episode of Fawlty Towers.

Postscript VI: Talking Avocado: “If you’re not going to chat up Proust, I’m not going to play.” Dear TA: I have yet to obtain for myself a copy of The Guermantes Way, the next volume on my list to get to, volume number three of the seven volume À la recherche du temps perdu, and that would be Proust, and I would rather give my local bookstore the cash than go through Amazon or some other venue that charges the moon for shipping. Capiche?

Postscript VII: This post's last words to Mr Drake, on account of his virtuous living which did include drumming to all hours, oil painting, booze, cigs, and throwing his weight around on various debate forums, and in reference to events on-going in the ‘Strip’: Have to run in a minute, but I cannot imagine having to watch the body of my small child being buried in a plastic bag and covered with dirt by a bulldozer. No question I'd go mad afterward. Absolutely no question.