Ephemeris by Norm Sibum

I woke up one morning, after an evening of televised RNC, the words ‘cause and effect, ‘cause and effect’ chug-chugging through my consciousness with all the rhythmic aplomb of an ancient steam locomotive larking through Apache territory. Cause and effect. Cause and effect. Or else, in my sleep, I had slipped or been slipped into a rehabilitation program for intellectuals gone off the rails, the remedy one that champeened a return to basics, to basics, to basics, forever. Why? What was all this? Like I said, the RNC. Or that I had witnessed a brilliantly evil speech. Brilliant because highly articulate, however platitudinous. Evil because simultaneously heartfelt and insidious. Condoleezza Rice. One of the prime architects of a prime debacle – Iraq. The purely Orwellian savour of ‘strength is peace’. Which it was once upon a time if considered from a certain point of view, but not like she meant it, not as per full spectrum dominance. And having been startled out of one’s wits by this speech, one might have found oneself skewered on the horns of an improbability: Republican Party as intellectual integrity? I am not otherwise sure what it was that I was looking at beyond business as usual when it comes to national political conventions. Formalized corruption masquerading as politicking. Blatant pitches of father knows best and so does mom. Egregious distortions of the record and reality. To be expected. One is trying to get a president elected, after all. One wants to throw a different sort of shadow across the corridors of power than one has been throwing. But the Rice speech floored me even if I was already sufficiently prone, ensconced on the couch, prepared to be disheartened, discouraged, depressed. Just that this was something else. A something else that prefigured what? Capital F fascism on the half shell? Or was I yet again letting myself be suckered by a hound baying prettily at the moon, a liberal’s willies on the loose in me, as ever? Silly me. After all, it might have been nothing more than a woman serving notice that, hey, she had been right all along. And she had met the boys at their own game, gone toe to toe with them, smacked them up some, and prevailed. Otherwise I was Stendhal in another life, and with a ringside seat at intimate little power plays not between but among the sexes. What about (in The Charterhouse of Parma) Clélia, Fabrizio’s love and the key to the enigma within him? That, though worldly glory left him more or less indifferent, the fact that he could not love had haunted him unduly, and then the girl, and here it is that he could not get past ‘love’ in order to love the girl the way she was meant to be loved. (Something like that. I’m no lit-crit.) As for her, was her near absolute sense of personal honour the real thing or was it nothing more than a conceit of the early 19th century in the mind of a male author besotted with his female dramatis personae? Otherwise a woman with whom I had coffee the other day (she has returned to ‘classical piano’ after a long hiatus) - told me that what mattered was the joy of the music; forget a bunch of competitive nastiness and performance under combat conditions. As she related to me the tribulations she underwent so as to attain art’s true high ground, the poetry world a rather brackish pond from which she wished to extricate her best foot going forward, I had been thinking all that rough and tumble was right up her alley, as no one is more ferociously zealous of her moments in the sun than this trouper; but I think she really meant it – that business about the joy of it, as the look on her face announced she had been cuffed about quite a bit in her foray into classical purity, which it was a program situated in Vermont: three weeks of workshop and recitals, she easily twice the age of her far more experienced rivals, her battle gear, alas, rusted up. Parsifal with skirt and ponytail. (That aforementioned Rice woman plays Brahms on the old ivories. For the joy of the music? To chill out Bush? To show up Dick Cheney and her other arch-nemesis Rumsfeld?) Otherwise I still find Buster Keaton moves me more, in the end, than Charlie Chaplin, though Chaplin truly keeps having his ‘moments’ in those old silents. London Lunar has a thing about eyes. Let us quote him about eyes, he speaking of a young female friend who has fallen into the clutches of a cult: ‘Surely all she needs to do is watch a Tom Cruise movie to be cured. People have said he was a great actor once but all I ever saw in him was someone acting. The face is stupidly handsome, just like Mitt Romney’s is, the stupidity behind the eyes wholly exposed, which is why, I guess, the former has forbidden subordinates to look him directly in the eye. Madonna, if she were male, would be Cruise.’ Now did I imagine it or did I hear on Virgin Radio that one can get oneself a celebrity mentor, just in case you were thinking to go famous? And in a surveillance culture, too. Because MH has learned that one cannot just make out any old money order any longer; one has to tell someone or other what it is for and for which personage, in detail, that it is intended. And then one more evening, in the vale this time (Eastern Townships), of RNC viewing at Miss J’s, and for a moment there, and that Great Wag (and what a wag he proved to be) Clint Eastwood seemed to have won Romney the election or at least united the party behind the man, all to the shouts of U S A! U S A! U S A! Alright then, Eastwood’s little stunt was moronic and offensive, no question, or somewhat slyly libertarian; but after an endless succession of plastic personalities leading up to the rather Stupendously Scripted Self-Avowal of Bottomless Virtue with the double-t pronomen or MiTT, and it was out to accept the party’s nomination of it as the party’s best shot at the brass ring, one might be forgiven for according Eastwood the distinction of having afforded conventioneers a brief reprieve from drooling idiocy. (That black lib female senator from a northern state sure did know how to fawn, I’ll grant her that.) He tossed off a quantity of soft-core bile; and intentionally or not, he exposed the bitterness and disillusionment and out and out hatred at the core of American life such as the Dems, in their own way, will paper over, you wait and see. Indeed, a lot has been happening in the ensuing days: the Democratic Party convention, the Quebec election, that shooting that took place in the course of the victory lap, someone’s carcass tied to a chariot. The horror that all Cassandras undergo is not so much that they see what others cannot see, but that language fails them inasmuch as they will have already failed language by ticking off some god or other who then severs their lifeline with any verbiage that could possibly matter. For all that, The Charterhouse of Parma. It is Stendhal stirring up a little lustre for the fact that one can plow deep with a light touch.