Ephemeris by Norm Sibum

London Lunar keeps whispering Walser into my ear, the Swiss writer who wound up in an asylum, cracking jokes at his own expense. I suppose it means I will have to read the man, some fine day. London Lunar also continues to assert that with Spielberg (the film director) there is ‘always’ something missing, and so it is with Lincoln. Well, I liked the movie and yet, something about it has been nagging at me ever since; perhaps, then, magisterial Lunar might well claim a point. I do seem to recall experiencing gratitude for Tommy Lee Jones’s entrée into the proceedings in his capacity as Thaddeus Stevens, the Radical Republican (not to be confused with the radical Republicans of our day) who was resolutely, if flamboyantly, dead-set against slavery. Things did seem to liven up a little in Spielberg’s history lesson. I managed to get into a mild dust-up with P.M. Carpenter, Distinguished Political Commentator to the south of here, in respect to the recent Inaugural Day ceremonies. The yanks, said Mr Carpenter, love a ceremony as much as the Brits. Yes but, I meekly countered, the Brits are not unacquainted with irony—For all that, Mr Carpenter is probably (and distressingly) right, suggesting that at the state level, as opposed to the federal level, when it comes to the nuts and bolts of political derring-do, the wing-nuts still have the better of the game; progressives are always too busy congratulating themselves for this and that, especially when they get a sniff of ascendancy. I read of Current President being likened to Conan the Destroyer, now that he has been persuaded of the fact he cannot work with his political opponents through the agency of reason. Well, I never. Golden Girl, salonista par excellence, threw another soiree at which the above and other matters were abundantly discussed. And JP was still mulling the word ‘doxology’ for possible exotic liturgical applications—All this while a new school of aesthetics was being conceived before our very own astonished eyes – The Punk-Pre-Raphaelite Academy– in the person of a forest-born wild man of Ottawer swinging from chandelier to chandelier clad only in his woollies. I expected him to drag his conquests amongst the ladies off to the vintage Cadillac hearse parked just outside where, no doubt, his monocles occupied the dashboard—I merely remarked that, these days, you know, as in these days, all an actor needs to do, so as to establish his or her acting creds, is to show passing acquaintance with cell phones and cell phone protocol and cell phone patter whilst the sky is falling down on their heads or some asteroid is tearing up the atmosphere. It must make for an easier time of it writing dialogue. Otherwise, Mr Thomas Craven, my man, Kansas-born (1889) art historian and drifter, in his book so quaintly titled Men of Art,posits a question that might strike many of you as dumb, to wit: does technical proficiency trump a sense of the poetic when it comes to painting the human figure? In other words, as he had been discussing Giotto, that painter’s wild men do not convince us on account of the realism with which they were drawn but because the results strike us on some emotional level. —It is not a matter of rules or precepts, and though governed by the artist’s individual preferences, resolves itself into an intricate scheme of relationships wherein line is arrayed against line, contour opposed to contour, mass balanced by mass, the whole welded together into a single unit. Sometimes the design does not come off: in each creation the artist embarks upon a voyage of discovery; nothing is absolutely pre-determined – one movement calls up another, a rhythm demands its foil, new ideas intrude, the stubborn materials of life refuse to accommodate themselves to a formal plan, and must either force a change of structure or be cast aside; and the end is always a compromise between the human document and the abstraction. A design may be perfectly ordered, flawless in its adjustments and in the relationship of the integral parts, and still be without meaningAnd so forth and so on. But was someone to write, or attempt to articulate once again, the sentiments I have just quoted, he or she would be dismissed as a flake as well as irrelevant to whatever art considers itself to be any longer. Indeed, have read such attempts, and they are flakey. And was I to rattle on along these lines, I would risk the charge of flogging dead horses. So then let these be the last words (as sent to me by JB in respect to Yeats and Charles Monroe the bluegrass musician whose song Down in the Willow Garden echoes the original song on which Yeats based his little poem): In a field by the river my love and I did stand, / And on my leaning shoulder she laid her snow-white hand. / She bid me take life easy, as the grass grows on the weirs; / But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears.