Ephemeris by Norm Sibum

There were no cabs to be had at two in the morning, New Year’s Day, so I crashed and burned on Juniper’s couch. Golden Girl had been out painting the town some colour or other. A brief cell phone exchange revealed she was in attendance at the ‘oddest’ party. What, everyone in togas? Had she wandered into a Tarantino cantina or some sick joke of a movie? In the course of the evening I had a look at a Walser novel that happened to be in the vicinity, and it was looking to substantially change my outlook on Sebald, perhaps for the worse, when someone turned up the Hank Williams and declared that, indeed, Walser is to be preferred. Even if I could see at a glance the obvious good qualities of Sebald’s Vertigo, I have not been able to warm up to the prose overall. Then again, the book is my first stab at the man’s work and so, it may yet grow on me, as might Leviticus for a little light reading. It counts among its virtues sprinklings of what I deem are the obligatory surrealist flourishes or the spiritual fallback position of the European intellectual. It is something I would have wholeheartedly embraced in my more tender years, but now no longer take on trust. Yes, when all else fails, look at things from some seemingly benign and familiar, if just a tad discombobulated perspective, and things will appear bizarre, and even bleaker than all get-out. However, so far, at least, Sebald always comes up with a Plain Jane observation that restores one to a transitory sanity of sorts: Casanova likened a lucid mind to a glass, which does not break of its own accord. Yet how easily it is shattered. One wrong move is all it takes—One can only respond, as follows: “Amen, brother”, and continue howling along with lonesome Hank. The Venice Sebald writes of is pretty much the Venice I know from the times I have been there knocking about from calle to rio to fondaca. A great town for depressives. A city that was once one of the world’s most predatory communes has spawned so much writing from the minds of western civilization’s true loners, desperados seeking desperado escapades of self, not to mention cheap thrills in the sack. Ah, Venice, says Indiana Jones, emerging from some sewer, he just a regular guy, in one of Spielberg’s slickery productions. I recently had occasion to be on St Denis. I was marking time in the poutine joint I frequent once a week, Haydn in the speakers, my guitar lesson rescheduled to six in the evening of the day following the great snow storm. The snow was banked high everywhere. Christmas lights. The eatery’s blinking red ouvert in its oval frame signified that, more or less, give or take this or that impending world catastrophe, all’s well with things, even in Harper’s fair nation-state which he is magnanimously handing over to enthusiasts of a certain economic imperative or other. In the meantime something other than social justice seems to have died out in the country: the honest unprepossessing Canadian whom merit does not throw into an exhibitionistic tizzy of cutting edge activity. Enough. Thistle returns to the fold after an extended sabbatical from his obscure ological endeavours. He rather airily notes that he keeps on wanting to give the gears to all those who insist on defending Current President over and against his enemies natural and unnatural and light years beyond the pale. He might even have a case to make, should Current President bargain away the store to those slick-dilly, devil-may-care Tea Partiers in the lower House. MH and I went to see Lincoln, the movie containing subject matter that not even the glossily slick Spielberg treatment could manage to fatally undermine as an entertainment bonanza (not that we have anything against being entertained), and we found ourselves ambushed. It is to say the movie ‘moved’ us, or else we were soft in the head, manifesting early signs of oncoming dementia. Or perhaps you have to have been a feckless yank once upon a time to be in a position to receive the full effect of such prime moving, aesthetics aside, and, knock me over with a feather, the movie did not lack for aesthetic values. It will probably be debated for a while as to whether this Lincoln of Spielberg,in comparison to Tarantino’s Django Unchained, is just so much fluff, if not downright revisionist history. The latter movie is hyped as being a great deal more hard hitting, for all that Spike Lee has apparently dissed either effort as being dishonest and craven from inception. (One hastily assembled essay riddled with typos that I have just read does assert that Tarantino’s effort is nothing more than a perpetuation, through the agency of Hollywood and its sleaze, of the old slave plantation mode of doing business. I suppose this means that now I will have to go and see the damn thing myself before I take anyone’s word as to whether or not it is a grotesque insult to an entire people.) Lincoln does look to run interference for the Sitting President who admires President the sixteenth, but then, as implied, neither Spielberg nor Tarantino have my unreserved respect as artists. It is possible they figured they owed Seriosity and Gravitas a gesture or two, let alone owe a country, given the booty they have garnered for themselves and the knife’s edge on which the U.S. of A. teeters—It may have been the Moesian who commented to me that the young men of his generation have confused pornography with erotic experience; and hey, perhaps it is true of an entire way of life top to bottom and through all the post-WWII generations. —As I left the gardens I paused to watch a pair of white Turkish doves soaring again and again into the sky above the treetops with only a few brisk wing-beats, remaining at those blue heights for a small eternity, and then, dropping with a barely audible gurgling call, gliding down on the air in sweeping arcs around the lovely cypresses—A deceptively simple, disarmingly prosaic sentence from Vertigo that I admire not so much for its writerly virtues, but for the fact that I know those Verona cypresses, and I was happy to have been put in mind of them. A London Lunar message tells me an aged poet whom I shall not identify has been obsessed of late with a certain bit from a Robert Louis Stevenson poem that goes like this: “Brave lads in old musical centuries / Sang, night by night, adorable choruses …” Sounds poncy at first blush. All Gilbert & Sullivan-ish. But perhaps the tender mercies of one’s 8th decade situate a guy for the right appreciation of the import. By the looks of it, Thistle will be chortling as we speak, seeing as P.M. Carpenter, Prominent Political Commentator to the south of here, has rounded on Current President for what appears to be his mishandling of the negotiations in that matter of the ‘fiscal cliff’. Mr Carpenter has been the President’s most ardent and intelligent apologist, and by a country mile; but he nonetheless can smell a stinker when he smells it. Could be the campaign was overly long and arduous and the team has flamed out. Mr Carpenter pleads intellectual integrity for his turnabout. I cannot plead any such thing in respect to the fact I was a social democrat once, until social democrats got so high on moral ascendancy, and right-wing pinheads have been skidooing circles around them ever since.