Ephemeris by Norm Sibum

If I had something clever to say about anything, I would have said it by now. These somewhat peevish words will tell you we are in a mood. The tone in a few responses I have received to my usual daily communications with various personages suggests I am, as ever, a naïf. Didn’t I know we were being monitored all along, and extensively at that? To be sure, I had my suspicions, and perhaps I could even say that I knew, just as one may sometimes presage the weather by one’s aching joints. It is all plenty depressing, in any case. I have always said and will continue to say we will regret the day we put all our chickens into the computer and have made it impossible to function in this world without the damn thing. And I will always be considered as lacking in realism for broaching the thought—At the cabin in the vale, drizzly twilight upon us, MH threw on a DVD, and we proceeded to watch a work by Pasolini. Uccellacci e ucellini. The hawks and the sparrows. Crude translation: the big birds will eat the little birds in a dog eat dog world. But the comic actor Totò features in the film, this jack of all the arts, including poetry-writing, mooning and philanthropy. Truth to tell, I am not sure what it was we watched. A parable about Catholicism and Marxism in which father and son wander the country outside Rome and do stuff unto others as stuff is done unto them? As when they each have sex with a ravisher named Luna in a cornfield, among other doings and other stuff? All the while they are accompanied by an ideological, leftwing snob of a crow? And then there are those dentists having a Dante convention? Some flick within a flick, as when, in a flashback to medieval times, our heroes are now monks of the order still wandering the countryside, endeavouring to carry out St Francis’s injunction to preach to the birds and alter the natural order of things? Well, one cannot say that they succeed: the big birds continue to eat the little birds. So yes, the film is amply comic and even absurdist in an ain’t we havin’ fun sort of way. Perhaps it carries the suggestion that a little harmless nuttery is sacred to the gods, however much P. M. Carpenter, Distinguished Political Commentator to the south of here, intensifies his rhetoric against a species of nuttery that is seriously hazardous to the mental health of his nation-state. And then MH wonders why I bother myself with all that, inasmuch as there is lots of tawdry scandal to remark upon right here in the true and hallowed north of something or other that boasts a noble collective for a citizenry. But ah, that surveillance business, wouldn’t you know. And the Fourth Amendment too, Section 8 to us of the Charter of Rights. What? Its day is kaput, fini, trumped by asymmetrical pushback, put out of its misery? And who’s reading whom? Do they do reviews, those who are reading whom? All the while I have been reading a pulp treatment of murder in the Athens of Aristotle’s time; and, but of course Aristotle would be the featured sleuth as well as Honourable Hombre-Defender of Those Accused by various agents of an oligarchic bent, all this against the inevitable backdrop of political roilings such as threaten to tear apart the fragile fabric of the democracy. Attunes one’s mind to the X, Y and Zed of all that with us is breaking down and coming undone, and has been for some timeAnd if there really is life in these parts that is not just a figment of an imagination gone virtual or viral or vindictive, I have also been reading the memoirs of David Mason, the well-known and perhaps notorious Toronto bookseller. The memoirs contain a history of the country that one does not often come across involving the intricacies of how a polity educates itself through the movement of books from X to Y to Zed. I do take booksellers at their word when they declare that, without their services, there would be no civilization. (I no longer have any idea as to whether the services still apply in any truly significant way.) I was also reading Durrell’s Bitter Lemons when the book was rudely torn from my grasp by another party, just as I had come across these particular words: ‘—his saintly soul bore all with great firmness, patience and faith…and when their steel reached his navel he gave back to his Savior, a truly happy and blessed spirit.  His skin was taken….’ These are words that have to do with the flaying alive and the eventual death, at the hands of the Turks, of one Bragadino on the island of Cyprus, 16th century. This fellow had been helping to defend the locals against the Turks and their plans for a franchise merger. Could be the story of his amazing equipoise in the hands of his torturers is apocryphal, part and parcel of Christian propaganda. Could be that some people die well. Could be there is some reason why the words have stayed with me, as I am not in any sense an apologist for the faith. London Lunar, in a quixotic fashion, has become the owner of twenty volumes of the OED, simply because some other dubious character, one Captain Kydde, had to blow town and abandon them to Lunar’s tender mercies. One wakes up one morning believing oneself to be a wretch or a genius or just another average put-upon entity of which this earth claims near countless numbers, and the next thing you know, twenty volumes of a dictionary occupy a shelf for which one had other designs: one’s collection of seashells perhaps. I have been introduced to the songs of Ola Belle Reed, banjoist and mountaineer balladeer deceased. Undone in Sorrow.You Led Me to the Wrong. What a voice! And one exclamation is here to be followed by another, and against my own standards concerning this particular item of punctuation, but: what a force of nature this woman undoubtedly was! I do not know what Golden Girl thought of the guitar recital given by Glenn Jones at the Casa del Popolo on St Laurent; or whether it meant anything to her that Mr Jones was a friend for many years of John Fahey the American primitive guitarist-composer so-called; but she thought it excellent when I went up to Mr Jones at recital’s end and made mention to him of Fahey and Augustin Barrios (Paraguayan guitarist-composer of the early 19thcentury) in the same sentence, and he was not in the slightest bit fazed. Oh, he said, he had attempted to learn one or two of Barrios’s pieces and found them ‘difficult’. It seemed that Mr Jones in his music had managed, wittingly or unwittingly, to draw those two guitar worlds closer together, an aspiration that has become something of an obsession with me. It is now just past the lunch hour at Nikas in NDG, humidity rising. Where we up here are at least a stone’s throw from any surveillance site down there. Where we are but a cat’s whisker removed. Some pop singer on the radio intones: no, I can’t live that way. None of us apparently can, but we are. There is a movie I caught by chance (last night, in point of fact), a movie I have seen before but thought nothing special of. This time around, given the current revelations in the news, it seemed a great deal more compelling, even if directed by de Niro; even if featuring, among other thespians, a pre-mastectomied Jolie who normally does not portray put upon wives, for all that their husbands might be the heart and soul of espionage. Yes, the early days of how the world got to be America’s sandbox and the antics peculiar to such a playground—We note the passing away of Alan Dayton, an American-born painter of portraits who was a follower of these posts, and the only reader of them who saw fit to occasionally send me his thoughts on the items, be those thoughts approving or not. I liked the man, and in London, Ontario where he lived he photographed me with a view toward an eventual portrait of my person which he had asked to paint. The thing is, I do not photograph well and I generally do not relish having a camera pointed at my mug; but the session came off without me chafing too much. And I was certainly curious as to what he thought his eyes were telling him; and I had the overwhelming sense, as he clicked away with his vintage Minolta, that we were living out some obscure part of Augustine’sConfessions or an even earlier part of early Christianity before the intellectual turmoil of the time went mainstream and became an answer of sorts. It was an odd sensation, and if he was feeling it, he seemed at his ease even so. The man was a genuinely affable American; and by affable I mean open, interested and in no rush to judge. Such Americans do exist, for all that he was agonized in respect to where he thought the land of his birth was heading, but enough said. We did not speak of it all that much. Sometimes there just is not anything to be said.