Friday, July 29, 2005

On Hiatus.

-- “a period when something is suspended or interrupted.” –
I love that word.
And I am about to take one.
A hiatus I mean.
From what will I be hiatusing?
Oh! glorious days of non-work stretch out before me in their vacationary splendor.
Beginning right now... right this minute. The freedom is exilherating.
The downside [for me, if not you] is that I may not be around here, splashing around in the ol’ bookpuddle as regularly as I have been wont to do.
Instead I will be splashing in and/or around the Pacific Ocean!
Tramping the shoreline and inner forests of Vancouver Island.
On hiatus.
Cyber-wise, I am not sure if I will be able to be around to service the hundreds... no, thousands.... no, hundreds of thousands of faithful and hopefully addicted Puddle readers who depend on me daily to fill their world with meaning and silliness.

Being on hiatus is no excuse however, to neglect books and/or things literary.
In fact, it is the best time to indulge in the finer things of life.
[Note: In my opinion, the only time a thinking person can avoid books with impunity is when they are in a coma.]
Hence, tomorrow morning I will begin the reading of Jose Saramago’s novel entitled Baltasar and Blimunda. Oh yes. Where I go... the books go.

And by the way.... I KNOW what you are thinking.
You think that I have chosen my holiday destination based on my love for The Toucan.
[see Love-Blog entitled “Still Smitten” of June 18th].
But no.... well... maybe.
There may be some truth to that theory.......



Splash du Jour: Friday

-- F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896 – 1940) --
"What people are ashamed of usually makes a good story."
Have a great Friday!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Splash du Jour: Thursday

“...nobody ever became a writer just by wanting to be one. If you have anything to say, anything you feel nobody has ever said before, you have got to feel it so desperately that you will find some way to say it that nobody has ever found before, so that the thing you have to say and the way of saying it blend as one matter – as indissolubly as if they were conceived together.”
-- F. Scott Fitzgerald, in a letter to his daughter. –
Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

F. Scott Fitzgerald claimed that success (in writing) was not to be found in original themes. In his own view, there were “but two basic stories of all times – Cinderella and Jack the Giant Killer – the charm of women and the courage of men.”
Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


I was rather looking forward to writing an essay today about the history of the American Bestseller. However, my work was fairly dependent upon a certain book being here at the Chapters bookstore (my personal research center). Now I am here... have my coffee in front of me. I am set. But the book is not in stock!
Now I am just staring into space.....
The book is called Making The List: A Cultural History of the American Bestseller 1900-1999 and it is written by Michael Korda. It is an excellent resource. I am familiar with the book because a few years ago, I wrote the very essay I wanted to re-write today. And when I wrote it I made great use of Korda’s data. I submitted my essay to a website which no longer posts that particular section, and not having saved it in my personaI files, I’ve ended up losing the original work. It was just a sort of survey of the way bestsellers have grouped themselves over the past twenty to thirty years or so.
The amazing thing is observing how certain authors have really dominated the bestseller lists in our modern times. I am thinking primarily of authors like Danielle Steele and Stephen King.
The reason why I wanted to rewrite, and re-examine the data is because female authors are really muscling out the men on bestseller lists as of late, and I find this interesting, in a noteworthy sense of the word.
One need not even mention the phenomenon of J.K. Rowling’s stories [reportedly, she made $44 million in the first 24 hours of the new Potter book being on sale] but Danielle Steele continues to sell books like crazy also.
A recent study, which examined 50 years of the New York Times bestseller list has found female authors rising to take half of the top spots in the past 20 years. One newspaper (The Telegraph) claims the jump in popularity for woman authors has been due to the proliferation of book clubs which tend to consist mostly of women.
A gallery of Oprah’s favorite books from her website, which has long been a popular resource for book clubs, lists ten female authors to seven male.
There was a time when women had to assume fictitious male names in order for a publisher to consider their work! There are so many examples, but I guess I think most readily of “George” Eliot or “George” Sand or the Bronte sisters, who assumed male names. Of course, back then there was nothing hilarious about that, but today?

The reverse scenario is about to emerge!
My prediction is that if current trends continue, male authors will soon be forced to assume feminine identities in order to boost sales.

Our store shelves will then be filled with stuff by...

Stefania King.
Thomasina Clancy.
Donna DeLillo
Daniella Brown.
Gillian McEwan
Jamie Patterson
Roberta Ludlum
Deanna Koontz
Joanna Grisham
Raylene Bradbury
Louise de Bernieres
Michelle Crichton
Yolannda Martel
Josephine Saramago

....I think you get the idea.
The amazing thing is that the phenomenon of the bestseller has always fascinated me in an almost inverse proportion to how much I read them.
Because I don’t. I really don’t read too many bestsellers, but I do think about them a lot, and I always wonder WHY people are reading them.
One day I will re-write my essay, and present it here.

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

“Mostly, we authors repeat ourselves – that’s the truth. We have two or three great and moving experiences in our lives – experiences so great and so moving that it doesn’t seem at the time that anyone else has been so caught up and pounded and dazzled and astonished and beaten and broken and rescued and illuminated and rewarded and humbled in just that way ever before.
Then we learn our trade, well or less well, and we tell our two or three stories – each time in a new disguise – maybe ten times, maybe a hundred, as long as people will listen.”
-- F. Scott Fitzgerald, in an article entitled “One Hundred False Starts” - Saturday Evening Post (March 4th, 1933) –
Have a great Tuesday!

Good Luck, Cape Canaveral!

Monday, July 25, 2005


All day long I’ve had one question rolling around in my head and it simply will not let me alone. Now I am sitting here at Starbucks, drinking a coffee, and still thinking about it. If for no other reason than to exorcise the quandary of it all, I will here elucidate my current thoughts on the matter.
The question is this:
What happens when a witch falls off her flying broom?

At first glance this may seem like merely a whimsical question concocted for an extremely brief moment of possible hilarity, a question for which no real answer is intended or expected.
But no. Nothing of the sort is going on. I don’t even think the question is very funny, to be honest! I am asking it in all earnestness and want to submit it to the due process of valid interrogation.

Let us imagine that next Hallowe’en, you are pretty much minding your own business, doing what you usually do on the evening of October 31st, namely, answering the door for all the hobgoblins and Frankensteins that are out trick or treating.
True to form, this year you yourself are again dressed as Chris Farley’s SNL persona, motivational-speaker Matt Foley, as can be observed in the midst of his trademark gyrations at the top corner of this blog! The scary part is that this is not a costume. The resemblance was not intentional. It is the real you in that light blue blazer!
So... a small flock of trick or treaters have just arrived on your doorstep and are holding forth their pillowcases and plastic pumpkins in hopes that you do not give them something that falls into either one of the two most dreaded categories: anti-Hallowe’en religious propoganda and fruit.
You have flicked the porch light on, adjusted your glasses a bit, tugged on your belt a few times and bellowed out in a loud voice.... “Well... la-de-frikkin’-DAAAA! What have we here?”
The small assemblage of ghouls and Saddam Husseins laugh as you turn to get more handfuls of candy from the big bowl in the hallway.
Just as you turn back towards the kids, the witch flies by.
A real one though.
There she is, just over their heads and a few blocks distant.
You freeze.
You pee your pants a bit.
The kids see the instant terror on your face.
Just as they all turn to see what is causing such concern, the witch lets out a raucous cackle and kicks her heels. The broom lurches forward in a wild spurt of speed and she topples backwards.
Boots over nose-wart, she falls from the broom.
Thinking you’ve staged the event, the kids turn back towards you and applaud.

But what happens next?
There are only a limited amount of possibilities to consider, and I intend to do so.
At what point, and to what degree, does normal gravity over-ride the powers of witchery?
Does the witch plummet to the ground, in which case all of the magical power of flight must be supposed to reside in the broom, which, (one would think), would still be buzzing around in some sort of blindly erratic witchless flight path in the sky until it (what?) crashed into something?
Or when the witch falls, does the broom fall also? Simultaneously?
In other words, is the broom merely a normal broom, vested with aeronautic power only when the hands of the witch are upon it? Can it fly at all, without the witch at the helm?
Herein lies a problem though. If they BOTH fall, then it would seem to me that both are subject to an outside power that has simultaneously failed them both. As though a spell were suddenly broken.
Is witchery subject to gravity?
The fact that she was flying around at all (prior to falling off) would seem to answer that question “No.”
But if, upon falling from the broom, she merely floats in the air and does not plummet, we must wonder what the hell she needs the broom for in the first place! Perhaps for greater speed?

Let’s say she does fall. Like a screaming bag of rocks and hair!
Well, if the witch has her own magical powers which she can conjure at will, certainly she would conjure some quickly, to save herself prior to hitting the ground. However, if she in fact does this in this instance, then one must inquire once again as to the purpose of the broom in the first place. If she is now sort of still flying (as it were)... broomless, prior to hitting the ground, surely she could have flown in this fashion earlier, when she initially set out from her lair, and prior to the accident which we have observed.
If the role of the broom is merely to provide something to sit on while in flight, might the witch not have been better off to select one of those plush La-Z-Boy recliners, with the pump-action footrest thingy on the side there? Wouldn’t she rather fly around town in that? I know I would.
Perhaps recliners and sofas do not steer as well as a broom?
Is maneuverability the thing?
[I am not being sarcastic, and in no way am I ridiculing the principles of witch-flight... I really and sincerely would like to come to some conclusions in these matters....]

Here is yet another scenario which is entirely possible. As the witch accidentally falls from her broom, it swoops down quickly and catches her up before she reaches the ground.
This is not a satisfactory answer for me. It seems too cartoonish. Remember, we are talking about a real Hallowe’en witch here, not some trumped up thing. Anyone who believes this latter scenario [the Swooping-Broom Theory] to be a valid possibility, probably also believes that WWF wrestling on TV is real. Or that Tom & Katie will spend Christmas together this year!

At any rate, I think that I have exhausted at least a few of the possibilities.... I feel a lot better for just having talked it out a bit, you know? Thanks for hearing me out.
There are inherent problems in specifics, related to witchflight and sudden effects of gravitational pull. There is just no way around it. Like other things in life, there are no easy answers.
For now, I am going to pacify myself with unsettled vacillation [is that even legal?] between the only two possible (mutually contradictory) conclusions I can maintain as being currently tenable.
They are this:
1) Witchflight is a myth. Witches exist, but do not fly on brooms.
2) Witchflight is real. Witches exist and fly on brooms, but never ever fall from them.

Splash du Jour: Monday

This week, I would like to focus the Splash du Jours on the words of the great American writer-icon, F. Scott Fitzgerald.
“My whole theory of writing I can sum up in one sentence. An author ought to write for the youth of his own generation, the critics of the next, and the schoolmasters of ever afterward.”
-- F. Scott Fitzgerald, in the first flush of success at the appearance of This Side of Paradise in 1920 –
How magnificently – if sad to say – posthumously – he fulfilled that ideal. His all too brief literary career, consisting of a dozen years of commercial and critical success followed by distractions and disappointments, ended in 1940 when he suffered a heart attack at the age of fourty-four.
Now, sixty-five years later, more copies of Fitzgerald’s books are purchased each year than were sold cumulatively throughout his entire lifetime.

Have a great Monday!

Saturday, July 23, 2005


A few days ago during on my lunch break I swung past the Library to return a book.
While I was there, I logged on to one of the public computer terminals to email a friend.

Afterwards, just as I turned to leave, I noticed a table laden with a display of children’s books, and the theme seemed to be Space Travel. All manner of books with rockets or Martians or random aliens on their covers, Madeleine L’Engle stuff sprinked throughout.... and I paused for a second glance.
One title seemed to jump out at me and literally abduct something from deep within me.

I stared at the cover. I stared at the title. I was looking at an old friend who had changed in every way except name. It was wonderful, the nostalgia that poured into me as I repeated the name of the title over and over in my mind.... “Mushroom Planet, Mushroom Planet” still without having yet touched the book.
Then it hit me.
Not the book, but my recollection of it.

The memories. My brain finally located those one or two enzymes assigned to the far-distant memory of perhaps one of the very first books I had ever read as a child.
The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet, by Eleanor Cameron.
So what did I do?
I scooped it up. And signed it out!
And I have just now finished re-reading it, after an interval of thirty-some years.

It is an absolutely wonderful story, yes, even in my old age, it is.
The original cover is the one displayed at the top of this blog. Having been re-issued many times now, current versions have a new, updated cover. If I had seen the original version, I would have recalled the book immediately, for my childhood Mushroom book had that cover.
In the story, David Topman and Chuck Masterson (don’t they just sound like astronauts?) are two boys that build (out of random pieces of aluminum sheeting, plasti-glass and old boat parts found in Cap’n Tom’s garage) their own spaceship!

They do this in response to an ad that David’s father saw in the paper, placed there by a Mr. Bass, who is promising “an adventure and a chance to do a good deed” to the boys who build the best ship.
The mission is to go to Mr. Bass’s home planet, Basidium X.
Mr. Bass is (of course) a Mushroom-Person who has somehow drifted to earth, travelling as a spore, many eons ago. He is the only person on earth who can observe Basidium X from its orbital position 50,000 miles from earth (one-fifth as far as the moon) because he has invented the Stroboscopic Polaroid Filter which, when attached to the lens of his telescope enables him to see the otherwise invisible Mushroom Planet.
The boys create their ship, and they present it to Mr. Bass. I just love the sign in front of Mr. Bass’s place, when they arrive.... “5 Thallo St. ALL SPACE SHIPS WELCOME!”
It is not only the best, but apparently the ONLY submission, and so they are immediately thrown into plans to leave earth for Basidium X that very night! At midnight.
The premise is so wonderfully crazy that I love it.
They are to arrive at Basidium X promptly at 2 a.m. (25,000 miles per hour, in case you are keeping track of gas mileage and all).... and while there they are to see if they can discover what the current state of the planet is by retrieving a “canning jar” of Basidium air.... and then they are to leave promptly at 4 a.m., and to be back home in bed by a little after six! Landing safely on their beach in Monterey California, a few blocks from their actual house.
When the boys tell their parents about this upcoming trip, of course, they are not believed. And so there is no panic. In fact, David’s mother sets out the appropriate clothing that he has requested for the journey.
Little do the grownups know that these boys ain’t playing games!
They are actually going. And they do. Right on time. David, as commander, has been given a little folded up piece of paper which he keeps in his wallet and periodically checks, to see if they are on course, and stuff like that! (I love it!)
Everything is going to schedule, right to the minute. NASA could learn a lot from this Mr. Bass guy!
When the boys get there, they meet two of the Mushroom People (the planet is covered in tree-tall mushroom growth, and the inhabitants look very mushroom-y too)... these natives are called Mebe and Oru, and the boys soon learn that these two are doomed to be beheaded if they cannot find a solution to the current environmental/ecological problems regarding their essential food supply on Basidium X.
The very authoritative King Ta has ordered these executions, and the boys are soon pleading with him to allow them the allotted two hours to solve the mystery. They are taken on a quick tour, given a quick historical de-briefing, and led to The Place of the Hidden Water. Here is where the dying vegetation, essential to the Mushroom People is located.
The boys are initially stumped. They are grossed out at the overall sulfuric smell of the place.
Later, when they are just about to leave, Chuck begins to eat a bit of his lunch, and herein the mystery is solved. I won’t say more because I know that all of you want to run out and buy this book today and read it.
Suffice it to say though, that just before they left earth, Mr. Bass reminded them that they needed to bring along a mascot, and (pressed for time) all that David could scrounge up was an old hen in the chicken coop by the name of Mrs. Pennyfeather. So they took along this.... chicken, into outer space.
Mrs. Pennyfeather ends up saving the entire race of Mushroomites, Mebe and Pru are spared, the boys are planetary heroes, King Ta rewards them by giving them his ceremonial necklace, and they return to earth safely, whereupon, the next day they prove to their parents that the whole thing was real.

There are many moments of doubt, whereupon the reader wonders if the boys are dreaming this whole adventure up. (I’m sure I wondered this much less with the first go-around, thirty-some years ago).
But it is really so well-written. So fanciful. I consider it a children’s classic.
The fact that it, and the whole Mushroom series is still in print, attests to its classic status.
Originally published in 1954, this book of 195 pages still can speak to a generation of kids, I really think it can. In fact, I hope that it can.
It is written for age levels 9 to 12, if I am reading correctly, and the author does not talk down to her readers. Here are some of the words I noted, to show that the author respects the brains of kids....
-- Cogitating, elliptical, polarization, stroboscopic, azimuth, fluid resinoid silicon, tarsier, viridian, verdigris. –
It is filled with poetically descriptive moments.... like this one, where the crazy tin ship is bringing them home, and the boys are observing the earth’s curve, surrounded by the deep, deep black of space.... “Far, far off swam the sun, a blazing ball sourrounded by its flaming corona, and so terrible in its brilliance, uncurtained by earth’s atmosphere, that they could not look at it at all. On the opposite side of the sky, still in sight, hung the round, silvery-shining orb of the moon.” (146).
The poetry is in words like “terrible” and “orb” and the phrase “uncurtained by earth’s atmosphere” is an example of wonderfully respectful language in a book for kids.

And here is something interesting... I cannot say that I truly RECALLED too many specific moments in the book. Reading it now, so many years later, it was for the most part, new to me. However, for as long as I can remember remembering, I have always felt that I would love to see the earth from outer space.

I’ve never stopped to really wonder where this seemingly ingrained desire comes from. But here in the book, right at page 7, David asks his father (who has just read to him Mr. Bass’s ad in the paper) “What would the earth look like from way out in the sky, thousands of miles away?”
I wonder now, if reading this thirty-some years ago, was perhaps the genesis of my own fascination with that question.
Again, in the first chapter, David tells his parents he would like to find a planet just his own size. Then his father says to him... “But I’m afraid that’s not possible David. Not for ten or twenty years yet, or maybe even fifty. Might be something to look forward to though.”
Well, it is now roughly fifty-one years since David’s dad, Dr. Topman said that to his son.
For kids, it is something to still look forward to.
When I was just a kid, I was once rooting around in a box of my elder brother’s old school projects. One was a sort of pictorial essay about outer space. And I remember reading his words.... “Man has not yet gone to the moon, but there are plans that he may do so in the very near future.”
I remember reading and re-reading that line he had written, because at the time I was reading it, man had already been to the moon and back! And so I remember having this little kid’s sense of having a place in history. This for-so-long elusive event had happened in MY LIFETIME. In the lifetime of my brother. It was something that had not happened yet, in both of our lifetimes, and now had! We were living in exciting times. And we still are. In many ways, our current times are very much more exciting, more momentous and monumental even, than were the days of the late 1960’s and early ‘70’s, to which I am referring.
However, because of so much modern-day information overload, so much data, so little anticipation of what’s next on the technological agenda, I think we may be in danger of losing our ability to be amazed.
Nowadays, the youngest of elementary schoolkids can tell you that even a few inches of unprotected surface-area WILL spell disaster for any spacecraft and crew upon re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere.
It was so nice to read Cameron’s book and suspend my imagination for a wee bit. To believe that a dang old chicken can save the fate of an invisible planet hovering between here and the moon. To not worry about the logistical problems of a space ship constructed of Cap’n Tom’s random odds and ends. To just climb inside the thing and believe in it as much now as I did the first time around.

The Mushroom Planet Series, consists of:
-- The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet
-- Stowaway to the Mushroom Planet
-- Mr. Bass’s Planetoid
-- A Mystery For Mr. Bass
-- Time and Mr. Bass

I want to read them all.... sometime between now and age ninety!

Friday, July 22, 2005

Splash du Jour: Friday

"I think of novels in architectural terms. You have to enter at the gate, and this gate must be constructed in such a way that the reader has immediate confidence in the strength of the building. "
-- Ian McEwan –

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Poetry Week: Day Four

Here is another few wordsworth, from Cipriano’s Poem-Vault...

The Rider

A sparrow turns its head.
Quivering, the vigilant forest edge
Yields to a gathering unease
The thump of approach.
Hooves stamp the hilltop.
A triumphant tossing of mane, a steamy huff.

The Rider, wheeling the great beast about,
Surveys the foggy terrain he has crossed.
Silence reclaims itself.
He thinks.

This man knows nothing of Parliament or Congress,
Matches or ballpoint pens. Electricity is gibberish.
Air the exclusive domain of feathers.
Television, centuries hence.

Yet the Rider knows two things
As well as you and I do.
Love and the lack of it.

© Ciprianowords Inc. 2005

Splash du Jour: Thursday

I beg you to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without ever noticing it, live your way into the answer.
-Rainer Maria Rilke
Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Poetry Week: Day Three

Here is a poem that I wrote so long ago that I can’t remember the date.
At the time, I was just beginning a part-time job as a gardener. (No, just kidding).
But it was back in the days when everything I wrote came out in King James Version.... and it even rhymed, and stuff.....

To All Slugs In The Grass

My gardening debut will be on morrow morn
when this field and thy home shall together be shorn.
At seven precise, while dew on the grass
still glistens, my rotors will merciless pass;
And if you would escape the unfeeling blade
where ‘tween lawn and slug no distinction is made,
Then heed thou this edict, my slippery friends
for on vacancy then your existence depends…

And publish it wide, from Slug King to Slug Peasant
that shunning advice would be naught but unpleasant.
Be blessed, I have oft been acquainted with pain
and I have no desire to render thee twain,
As groundsmen before me who came without warning
and clogged up their mowers with thee in the morning.
Now leave slimy trails, and freedom pursue;
Make haste, lest at seven, thou be snipped in two…

And forgive in advance my disturbing your sod.
I pray for thy safety, commit thee to God
Who alone knows I have no intention to kill…
and as for my own soul, I pray that I will
Receive His forgiveness, if any be torn.
Now “Away, get thee hence!” and with these words I warn.

© Ciprianowords Inc. 2005.

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

"Absence diminishes little passions and increases great ones, as wind extinguishes candles and fans a fire."
-- François de la Rochefoucauld –
Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Poetry Week: Day Two.

Thus far, the response to my request for poetry submissions has been underwhelming!
So, here is another one from me.
A few months ago I was having lunch in a food court in the mall and a nearby table of fun-loving, laughing kids inspired me to write the following words on the back of a napkin.
This is one of those times when I would LOVE to explain to a reader what is being said in the white spaces, between, and around the letters that make up the words.
But I won’t. Authorial explanation always devalues a poem. Denudes it.
To some readers it may seem that this poem is an admission that I need to see a good psychotherapist, and while that may be true enough, putting these words out here on display is at least a good sign that I am not in denial! Right?


Three kids are in love with their sandwiches.

The one in an olive-colored shirt alternates between
cookie and sandwich and pop and laughter while
cramming it all into his freckles he marries a monstrous
beast develops liver disease plastic tubes keep him alive until not.

The one with thick glasses and mustard on his laughing lip
secures a fortune in the stock market loses it all
night watchman finds what he was on the sidewalk.

The one in the red jacket with the laugh like
rain falling her only child dies in the womb after a long
bout with cancer she too succumbs to life.

It is beautiful to watch them with their sandwiches.

© Ciprianowords Inc. 2005.

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

The first part of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings was published on this day in 1954. In this passage from his 1938 essay "On Fairy-stories," Tolkien says that he took the saga-path early and above all others:
I had no desire to have either dreams or adventures like Alice, and the amount of them merely amused me. I had very little desire to look for buried treasure or fight pirates, and Treasure Island left me cool. Red Indians were better: there were bows and arrows (I had and have a wholly unsatisfied desire to shoot well with a bow), and strange languages, and glimpses of an archaic mode of life, and, above all, forests in such stories. But the land of Merlin and Arthur was better than these, and best of all the nameless North of Sigurd of the Vˆlsungs, and the prince of all dragons.

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, July 18, 2005

Poetry Week!

I am inaugurating Poetry Week. Starting right now.
We’ll see how it goes.
Given the heat and humidity as of late, I am feeling a bit more perspirational than inspirational at the end of the work day. So, I will reach into the vault and extract a few of my original poems and present them here.
Ahhhh.... that’s easier than sipping iced-tea!
One downside is that the original indentation does not translate into the blog format. In other words, no matter what, everything becomes left-justified.
Do you have any of your own poems that you would like to see bookpuddled?
Send them to me. Obviously, they must be 100% original works.
If I post them here, I will ask your permission first.
And this next thing is very important: Who is the JUDGE of whether they are "good" or not?
My cat and me.

I will definitely send you a reply if you send your stuff to:

I’ll start.
I wrote this poem about 640 years ago.

Good Poetry

Imagine the centuries of eyes
Herrick’s To Anthea, or Jonson’s To Celia
have seen
cast down, scanning right to left,
lower, licking vowels.
Loitering at the left ankle
upon the final thee of each.

Spread open, the poem yields itself
watching as we gaze.

The while, it asks for two things:
that we Hear and Listen.
Perhaps thirdly, for Time –
Let time sharpen our dullness, as
only time can.
For this is poetry’s only promise, that
we will never return
to find it gone.

Oh, to possess the better ones.
Yet, indiscriminate and wanton
these favorites seem unfaithful.
But remember this:
Good poetry never marries.
It retains the right to court.
To romance.

To grant, never spurn, attention.
To lend, never criticize, understanding.
To love, never ask, to be loved.

No wonder good readers fall.
Convinced that they were in some way
worthy of the charms
of good poetry.
© Ciprianowords Inc. 2005.

Splash du Jour: Monday

“I told her she wouldn’t make any money at children’s books, and she should get a day job.”
-- Publisher Barry Cunningham on telling author J.K. Rowling she shouldn’t be relying on Harry Potter to build a future for her and her daughter. –
[Today, Rowling has a personal fortune roughly TWICE that of the Queen of England....]

Of other literary significance: On this day in 1817, Jane Austen died, at the age of forty-one. She had been increasingly ill over the previous year and a half, probably from a hormonal disorder like Addison's Disease.
Have a great Monday!

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Hell Freezing Over?

Fellow Bookpuddle-ites!
The following is an actual question given on a University of Washington chemistry mid-term. The answer by one student was so "profound" that the professor shared it with colleagues, via the Internet, which is, of course, why we now have the pleasure of enjoying it as well.

Bonus Question: Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic (absorbs heat)?
Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyle's Law (gas cools off when it expands and heats up when it is compressed) or some variant. One student, however, wrote the

"First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time. So we need to know the rate that souls are moving into Hell and the rate they are leaving. I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it will not leave.
Therefore, no souls are leaving. As for how many souls are entering Hell, let's look at the different religions that exist in the world today. Most of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell.
Since there is more than one of these religions and since people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all souls go to Hell.
With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in Hell to increase exponentially. Now, we look at the rate of change of the volume in Hell because Boyle's Law states that in order for the temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of Hell has to expand proportionately as souls are added.
This gives two possibilities:

1) If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter Hell, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will increase until all Hell breaks loose.

2) If Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in Hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell freezes over.

So which is it?
If we accept the postulate given to me by Teresa during my Freshman year, "...that it will be a cold day in Hell before I sleep with you", and take into account the fact that I still have not succeeded in having an affair with her, then #2 above cannot be true, and thus I am sure that Hell is exothermic and will not freeze over."


Saturday, July 16, 2005


I am once again having a coffee at Chapters.
A different one than last evening, but a Chapters nonetheless.
And the evidence of Potterdom is everywhere. There are pallets of books, I have counted at least three of them.... you know, those big boxes that are sometimes used to display watermelons in the supermarket? Full of Harry Potter. On skids.
It is hard to truly fathom the amount of books that were sold, and that continue to be sold today, and into the future. In the paper there are stories of post-midnight lineups, 300 and 400 people deep, at local bookstores. Waiting in line. Eager to buy a book. I love it.

Strolling though here today, on my way to the Starbucks, I casually picked up a novel called Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry. He is an award-winning Bombay-born Canadian writer. If I recall correctly, one of his books, A Fine Balance, was an Oprah Book-Club selection.
As I was waiting for my coffee, I was reading the back dustjacket of Family Matters....
“His books will be read long beyond his lifetime.”
-- Montreal Gazette

That really struck me.
Can you imagine?

I mean, can you imagine being the author, and seeing this written about your work, and displayed right there on the back of your work?
His books will be read long beyond his lifetime.
Mistry seeing this, would read it: My books will be read long beyond my lifetime.
That, to me, is truly an incredible thought, but obviously (given that the horrors of Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, or Orwell’s 1984 don’t come to pass).... it is true.

His work will outlive him.
On shelves, in libraries, in bookstores, he will live.
Ninety years from now, a young man can go into his grandparent’s basement and glance at an old lopsided bookshelf down there in some spidery recess of the room and find this very book (the one I am holding in my hands perhaps) and flip it open, and read it.
The words that speak to me now (for instance) can as loudly speak to him, then.
This is the magic, and the power, of the written word.
As long as there is the combination of availability and comprehension, the book is eternal.
This is why what the writer writes, is even more important than what the writer says, or even says about what he/she writes.
The writer will die.
The writing, will not.
Writing, vis a vis, the written word is like the actor that survives his own performance, even though partway through he is called upon to die. And to die convincingly.
The writer may change as a result of mixed reviews, but the writing will not. Here too, it is permanent, once set down.

I imagine the following conversation which is not at all real, yet I hear it:

I think that there is a connection between writing and the fear of impermanence. It [writing] is borne of a need to perpetuate THOUGHT. If I do not write it, it will die. More correctly, it will not LIVE.
Does it not live if I keep it within, here where the thought itself is gestating, and developing?
Yes, but it will not live in any separate sense. The thought dies with the thinker, and the thinker will most certainly die. But set the thought down, and it more than lives. It runs. Set it free. Set it loose.
On its own?
Yes, on its own. If left in its embyonic stage [the thought of the thinker] it will die as surely as a fetus would, were its yet pregnant mother to perish. The cord must be cut, and only when ready, and only by writing. To write is to detach the best of yourself from yourself.
This seems to suggest that our grandest thoughts are MEANT to be transmitted to others. Not witheld, in other words.
Agreed. In my opinion, it is sad to contemplate the books that went to a coffin, unwritten.
And what of our basest thoughts? Are they meant to be transmitted also?
Perhaps, yes. One thing is certain though. It is the grander thoughts that are the most difficult to transmit in writing. We are not as prone to desire transmission of our baser thoughts, as we are our grander. And that is why it is so difficult to write. We want to be worthy of ourselves. The “masters” are those who have broken through this specific barrier in human communication, using the written word as their vehicle. Trusting....

This imaginary conversation was broken up as I went to get another coffee.....

Now I am back.
And I hear you say to me...
“Ahh Cipriano, your little pseudo-dialogue as recorded above.... do you not see it for its elementariness? Really, all that your imaginary friends are suggesting in their little tete a tete is that if we do not write something, it will not be written.”

“Ahh yes dear reader of such things, it is very elementary, I agree. But do any of us really realize how serious it is? Do I myself? I must not, for I have never been read by others, and have never published anything to be purchased on a single obscure shelf, much less by the watermelon skidload after midnight in stores. But, were I to die today, oh, the stories, oh the poems that would turn to dust.....”

Someone who was one of the “masters” said it like this:

When a man in a melancholy mood is left tete a tete with the sea, or any landscape which seems to him grandiose, there is always, for some reason, mixed with melancholy, a conviction that he will live and die in obscurity, and he reflectively snatches up a pencil and hastens to write his name on the first thing that comes handy.
-- Anton Chekhov, in his short story “Lights” --

Friday, July 15, 2005

Vive la Potter!

I am sitting in the Starbucks at Chapters.
That’s right.... CHAPTERS!
I have received serious blog-flak for continually using the word “mega-bookstore” as to my constant whereabouts, so I have decided to reveal that it is actually a Chapters (to be more precise, it is several of them) that I live at.
In..... in....(what else?)... a mega-city!

So today is the day.
Think of how long the world has been spinning in space.
No, seriously, think about it.
A long long time. Even before there was human life on this planet (are you with me here?)
Dinosaurs, and stuff. Then a slimy thing climbed out of the ocean.
It got jiggy with another slimy thing and then the offspring was a wee bit smarter than mom and dad. These youngsters had the sense to stay on land and mate with other things, less slimy than themselves.
The resultant progeny were even less slimy and scaly, and most importantly, they were ever more intelligent. They were so smart that their tails receded, shrinking right into their butts, sort of like.
Walking upright was next on the agenda.
Being thoroughly umbrella-less, caves became the real estate of choice.
[Fast forward a couple of epochs, I’ve got a self-imposed word-limit I’m trying to deal with here......]

Mankind learns to communicate verbally.
“sretpahC ta evil I” says one guy.
“I od oS. !yaw oN” says the other.

Then, actually somewhere between five and ten thousand years ago, mankind learns to write.
Way later, this guy Gutenberg invents a printing press and next thing you know there is a world of poetry and literature and odes to skylarks and Pulitzer Prizes.

I am giving this rather simplified synopsis of the progression of mankind [watch for my full-length book on the subject, due in ’06, entitled From Slime To Salinger].... just to say this.
Are you ready?
There will probably be MORE copies of a single book sold today (actually tomorrow, beginning at midnight tonight) than has ever been purchased in a single day since the world started turning.
Since slime was crawling out of the ocean and meeting other slime-things.
The book I am referring to (like you don’t already know) is J.K. Rowling’s new Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince. As I write this... the minutes are counting down.......
I am sitting in the store right now and every single person on staff is dressed in Potter-garb.

Over yonder is Hermione, and there’s Harry himself, striped scarf and all. And there is undoubtedly Professor McGonagall re-stacking some shelves.
I feel as though at any moment someone is going to come riding by on a broom.
There is a crew of carpenters erecting a sort of castle type structure in the entrance to the Children’s Books section (I am not kidding) and at ten o’clock.... this place is going to go hog wild.
They are having magicians, all kinds of activities.... all manner of frivolity..... and all of this kafuzzle is over the release of a BOOK?

And I have not even read any of the books myself. But I do not care. Any sort of euphoric magic-spell-frenzy thing that gets people reading this much is a good thing. Anything that can excite this much anticipation about a new BOOK.... among young people, I am all for it.
All of the windows are painted over with Harry Potter scenes. It’s great fun.

At midnight, huge boxes, in bookstores all over this city, and all over the world, will be torn open and books will be snatched up by near-rabid, slavering fans who will finally (tonight, late into the night) be getting their new fix of Potter.
I have no wise Potter-lore to share wth you.
I have done no research on the topic. No web-searching for Potter trivia.

But this morning, as I was leaving for work, Heather Reisman (the owner of Chapters/Indigo!... my landlady, if you will) was on TV saying that in the next two days, her stores are expecting to sell more copies of Potter than all of the Dan Brown stuff that has been on the bestseller list for the past sixty-five years (well, that is not a direct quote). The point being.... in the next few days, the new Rowling book will outsell all previous sales of Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons and The DaVinci Code COMBINED.
Isn’t that simply fascinating?

When I was a kid, we only got this excited about pot!
Now.... the kids are craving Potter!
Civilization, and mankind in general, is still evolving!

Vive la Potter!

Splash du Jour: Friday

I once heard a preacher who sorely tempted me to say, I would go to church no more. Men go, thought I, where they are wont to go, else had no soul entered the temple in the afternoon. A snow storm was falling around us. The snow storm was real; the preacher merely spectral; and the eye felt the sad contrast in looking at him, and then out of the window behind him, into the beautiful meteor of the snow. He had lived in vain. He had no one word intimating that he had laughed or wept, was married or in love, had been commended, or cheated, or chagrined. If he had ever lived and acted, we were none the wiser for it.... This man had ploughed, and planted, and talked, and bought, and sold; he had read books; he had eaten and drunken; his head aches; his heart throbs; he smiles and suffers; yet was there not a surmise, a hint, in all the discourse, that he had ever lived at all.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson, from his speech delivered on July 15th, 1838 to the graduating class of Divinity College in Cambridge Massachusetts. –

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Atwood's "Voice".

I have just been sitting here sipping a coffee after work, and reading the latest Walrus magazine. Walrus is my favorite magazine. It is published ten times a year, out of Toronto, and has a real Canadian-y slant to it. It covers world events / arts and culture, has in-depth profiles, investigative journalism, fictional pieces, poetry, reviews.... and it is very attractively put together. You can see it (and subscribe) at
On page 79 of the new July/August issue there is a wonderful short piece by Margaret Atwood, who (as you probably already know by now) is my favorite female writer in the world.
In light of yesterday’s thoughts about my own nightmare and stuff, I found her words to be very timely. In all seriousness, this vignette of hers is so well-done and artful that I shall not taint it by commenting upon my interpretation of it.
I have heard Margaret Atwood speak and have spoken with her briefly myself. During that time, I admit that I felt a bit like “falling on my knees” before her “voice” (as she wittily suggests men are prone to do). She very graciously submitted to my convoluted request that she sign a first edition of her Surfacing in a rather specific way....
At any rate, this vignette of hers is obviously not about her actual voice... however, it is worth mentioning that rarely have I heard a voice as entrancing, as captivating, and I might add.... unique, as the voice of Margaret Atwood. When she speaks there is such a gentleness and surety. There is a nasally tone that is not due to congestion. Nor is it irritating to the listener, as most nasally tones can be. Her every sentence is filled to the brim with such profundity and well-reasoned wisdom, that a listener like myself is left wondering how such a weighty torrent issued forth from such a demure aperture.
This is the voice of Margaret Atwood.

by Margaret Atwood

I was given a voice. That’s what people said about me. I cultivated my voice, because it would be a shame to waste such a gift. I pictured this voice as a hothouse plant, something luxuriant, with glossy foliage and the word tuberous in the name, and a musky scent at night. I made sure the voice was provided with the right temperature, the right degree of humidity, the right ambience. I soothed its fears; I told it not to tremble. I nurtured it, I trained it, I watched it climb up inside my neck like a vine.
The voice bloomed. People said I had grown into my voice. Soon I was sought after, or rather my voice was. We went everywhere together. What people saw was me, what I saw was my voice, ballooning out in front of me like the translucent greenish membrane of a frog in full trill.
My voice was courted. Banquets were thrown to it. Money was bestowed on it. Men fell on their knees before it. Applause flew around it like flocks of red birds.
Invitations to perform cascaded over us. All the best places wanted us, and all at once, for, as people said – though not to me – my voice would thrive only for a certain term. Then, as voices do, it would begin to shrivel. Finally it would drop off, and I would be left alone, denuded – a dead shrub, a footnote.
It’s begun to happen, the shrivelling. Only I have noticed it so far. There’s the barest pucker in my voice, the barest wrinkle. Fear has entered me, a needleful of ether, constricting what in someone else would be my heart.
Now it’s evening; the neon lights come on, excitement quickens in the streets. We sit in this hotel room, my voice and I; or rather in this hotel suite, because it’s still nothing but the best for us. We’re gathering our strength together. How much of my life do I have left? Leftover, that is: my voice has used up most of it. I’ve given it all my love, but it’s only a voice, it can never love me in return.
Although it’s begun to decay, my voice is still as greedy as ever. Greedier: it wants more, more and more, more of everything it’s had so far. It won’t let go of me easily.
Soon it will be time for us to go out. We’ll attend a luminous occasion, the two of us, chained together as always. I’ll put on its favorite dress, its favorite necklace. I’ll wind a fur around it, to protect it from the drafts. Then we’ll descend to the foyer, glittering like ice, my voice attached like an invisible vampire to my throat.

Splash du Jour: Thursday

Literature encourages tolerance - bigots and fanatics seldom have any use for the arts, because they're so preoccupied with their beliefs and actions that they can't see them also as possibilities.
— the Canadian literary scholar Northrop Frye, born on this day in 1912 ---

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Just Give Me TIME!

Last night I had a scary dream.
In it, I had been asked to speak at some sort of commencement... some sort of gala. I had been given the honor of speaking because I was some sort of famous guy. I think I was a famous writer, I swear. See, this was the genre of the dream.... part wish-fulfillment / part nightmare!
Let me preface the telling of the dream by saying that I typically do not recall my dreams.

It is as if I forget them as soon as I awaken. I am not much of a night-time dreamer. I do my best dreaming while awake. But this one I did indeed dream at night, and I remembered it, and I have been thinking about it now and then, throughout the day.
I only remember the essential fragments of the thing, and this also is typical of me. I rarely remember a dream in detail.
So I had been asked to speak at this official function, and there would be hundreds, maybe thousands of people present... all decked out. It may have been a graduation cermemony of a university. Let’s say that it was. So that’s what it was, a prestigious university graduation.

I would have to rent a tux and the whole nine yards.
So far so good.
See, I ENJOY public speaking.
Most people hate it.
I recall Jerry Seinfeld talking about this common fear, and quoting some data about it. He said that “public speaking” was the #1 fear of the majority of people. And #2 was “death.”
Seinfeld got a lot of great mileage out of it.
He quipped: “Death is #2? That means that most people, if they have to be at a funeral, would rather be the guy in the casket than the guy giving the eulogy!”
That is not only hilarious, but also probably contains more truth than many people would be willing to admit, or realize.
But as for myself, I actually enjoy public speaking. In a former career (lifetime) I did much of it. I was planning to make it a full-time thing, you could say. I have often been asked to speak at events and formal functions, as well as lecture in certain settings. I love it. I must say, I profoundly enjoy it.
I most enjoy it when I have been assigned a certain topic to cover in a lecture format. From the moment I am made aware of the expectation of an upcoming speech, I am in preparation mode. My mind immediately becomes preoccupied with the assembling of facts, anecdotal stuff, allusions, examples, jokes, antics that will enhance audience attention.... the works. In a word, “I get right into it.”
It is my forte. It is my element!
Truth is, I love being behind a podium, with a sea of listening faces facing me.
I do not have the usual nervous-voiced, tongue-tiedness that accompanies such an adventure for the majority of people (as Seinfeld’s meticulous research was pointing out).
However, having said all of this, let me back up and state the one essential ingredient without which my surety in this realm of public speaking falls to pieces.


I need adequate time to prepare.
I am great at appearing to ad-lib (hell yeah!).... but not great at ACTUAL ad-libbing.
When I have had the adequate preparation time, there is no stopping me. I deliberately plan my speeches to sound as though what I am saying is extemporaneous.... but it isn’t. It isn’t extemporaneous at all.
For one thing, I have too much respect for the audience to overly rely upon “getting my stuff as I walk to the podium.” In my opinion, once a good public speaker begins his/her speech, the time for research is OVER. They should only have one thing that is still preoccupying their mind, and that is speaking effectively.
I have spoken in front of enough thousands of people to know that no amount of inspiration (divine or otherwise) is going to help me if I have not done my homework regarding what I have to say. From the very moment I first open my yapper, and the people are listening, I am aware that no “spirit” (Holy or unholy) is going to help me if I do not already know what I am talking about, and have not rehearsed in my mind exactly HOW I want to say it.
So, just give me time. Give me a topic, and some lead time... I’ll be OK.

This is the reason that my dream last night turned into a nightmare.
See, when I had been asked to speak (in the dream), I had originally thought that the invitation was to merely come forward at a certain point in the proceedings and “say a few words”.... almost like a toast. Say something funny and/or Socratic. You know?
Four minutes at the MAX!
Then sit down again.

So... no biggee. I readily accepted, and thought no more of it.
In my dream I am thinking I can easily rifle off a few witticisms, have the crowd in a veritable paroxysm, then as they are gasping for their next breath, I can literally finish them off with a final flourish.... bow ridiculously, exeunt omnes, Bob’s your uncle, I’m the Hero, vive la France, que sera sera, all that jazz, fade to raucous applause, and I’m signing autographs in the foyer after the show.....
But NO! It was not to be.
Here, in my dream, the night before the event, I am at a sort of preliminary soiree, shmoozing, and in fact I am holding a snifter of some sort of wonderful inebriant, the contents of which have me halfway to a state known as socially comatose, and here I am gabbling with some exemplary chap. In fact, he is the chancellor of the university, the very man who asked me to “say a few words” at the following evening’s gala!
“So, are you all ready my boy?”
“Excuse me?”
I say to him, sipping more elixir.
“Tomorrow evening. All eyes on you... and all that? We’re all so looking forward to it. I’m sure it will be grand,” he says, looking not at me, but around the room, in that way that seems to suggest the unspoken words better-you-than-me.
Something sobering hits my drunk-radar, bent antenna and all!
I set my drink down and turn to him, hoping I am wrong.... “Yes, I do have a few sentences in mind. What do you suggest? Three – four minutes perhaps?”
He is startled.
Then we both are.
There are no mirrors so I cannot vouch for myself, but the look that I am looking at is what we call “startled” and it says to me:
“Oh goodness no. No, no, no. We would most certainly think moreso that a minimum of thirty or even forty minutes would be appropriate.”
[Not only my external, but internal organs are now turning white..... in a subconscious spasm I kick the cat off the bed..... but the guy in my damn dream keeps talking....]
“There must be some misunderstanding. You are our KEYNOTE speaker.... sometimes we call it PLENARY. All eyes on you, my friend....” he raises his glass to me.
[In my dream I am peeing my tux.....]
“.....All eyes on you....”
[In real life I am peeing the bed.....]
“.....All eyes on you...”
“....All eyes on you.....”

No time to be brilliant no time to be brilliant no time to be brilliantbrilliantbrilliant brill... brillBRILLbrillBRILLBRILLBRILL......

Thank GOD for the alarm clock!

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

All positive religion rests on an enormous simplification of the manifold and wildly engulfing forces that invade us: it is the subduing of the fullness of existence. All myth, in contrast, is the expression of the fullness of existence, its images, its signs; it drinks incessantly from the gushing fountains of life. Hence religion fights myth where it cannot absorb and incorporate it.
-- Martin Buber, in The Legend of Baal-Shem. New York: Harper and Bros., 1955. --

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Feats of Memorization!

“Better to keep it in the old heads, where no one can see it or suspect it.”
-- Granger, in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451

I’ve been thinking about memory.
More specifically, memorization.
In Ray Bradbury’s dystopic nightmare Fahrenheit 451, all the books are being burnt, in favor of wraparound TV screens that allow for more complete social control. The hero, Montag, who begins as a fireman helping to incinerate the books, becomes a convert to the secret resistance movement dedicated to preserving the books and, along with them, human history and thought.
Towards the very end of the story he is running from the Mechanical Hounds and staying ahead of the helicopter searchlights until he lands up in a forest where fellow insurgents are hiding out.
As he gets aquainted with them, he learns that each of them has become a book, by memorizing it.
Montag suddenly feels unworthy of such devotion... “I don’t belong with you,” he says.... “I’ve been an idiot all the way.”
But they take him in.

Montag is introduced to Socrates, Jane Austen, Plato, Charles Dickens, Marcus Aurelius, and many more, all of them reciting the books they have assimilated, or “devoured.”
Later, as they move on in the darkness, Montag is seen squinting at the others suspiciously, and one of them rebukes him, saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
They all laugh and move along, downstream.

I am not very good at memorization.
I cannot imagine a world in which literature could only be appreciated by way of memorization, or recitation.
The lengthiest piece I have ever committed to memory is Psalm 139, from the Bible. One sonnet of Shakespeare. Most of my own poems.
Other than this..... oooh... I do not want to live in Montag’s world.
How is it that some people have such prodigious memories?
I marvel that some actors can recite from memory what amounts to an entire play, the whole performance. A 90 minute monologue.
I have read that there are people who have memorized the entire Bible, and others that have memorized the entire Koran (Qur’an). I just find that to be so incredible.
Feats of memorization become even more mind-boggling to me when they involve numbers or mathematics in general. Here is a recent news story that I found to be simply amazing:

Japanese Sets Math Record for Reciting 'Pi'
(source): AFP

July 4, 2005— A 59-year-old Japanese psychiatric counselor set a world record of sorts Sunday by reciting "pi," or the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, to 83,431 digits.
"I thank you all for your support," Akira Haraguchi told reporters and onlookers when he finished the overnight 13-hour feat at a public hall in Kisarazu in Tokyo's southern suburbs at 1:26 am. The ratio is about 3.14159.
According to the authoritative Guinness Book of World Records, the previous record for reciting pi from memory — 42,195 digits — was set by a then Japanese university student in 1995. Haraguchi had already recited the ratio up to about 54,000 digits last September but was forced to end the attempt when his time ran out at the facility hosting the event. There was no time limit set for the hall where he achieved the new record which he said would be submitted for recognition by the Guinness Book of World Records.

So, this guy correctly recited an endless line of digits from memory for 13 hours!

Then there’s me.
I am Memorizationally Challenged!
I work with numbers all day, either entering them into a computer, or reading them off of a screen. Literally, all day long I am looking at numbers, but I have found that I can only really retain them in clumps of about four, maybe five. When something I am working with has ten digits or more, I blow a fuse.

I have to break it down into parts. I cannot (or very rarely) look at a ten digit number and then turn to someone and recite it.

Recently my phone O.D’d.
Kaput. Finished!
So I bought a new one, and plugged it in. Then an interesting thing happened.
I realized that I do not really KNOW even one phone number!
All of my frequently called numbers were pre-programmed into the old phone. I was relying, and relying HEAVILY on my phone’s memory.... not my own.
Perhaps our modern world is geared, with its gadgets and techno-help, to unintentionally make us more forgetful. Maybe we have less need to remember things.

Less need to memorize.

What is your own greatest feat of memorization? A speech? A lengthy poem? The names of your nephews and nieces, according to age? A dialogue scene in a movie? Your zip code or postal code?
Your own phone number? Your name?
I mean, all I know is this one thing about you, that you have successfully memorized the name of the most consistently interesting blogsite on the internet!

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

"A spirituality revolution is taking place in Western and Eastern societies as politics fails as a vessel of hope and meaning. This revolution is not to be confused with the rising tide of religious fundamentalism, although the two are caught up in the same phenomenon: the emergence of the sacred as a leading force in contemporary society. Spirituality and fundamentalism are at opposite ends of the cultural spectrum. Spirituality seeks a sensitive, contemplative, transformative relationship with the sacred and is able to sustain levels of uncertainty in its quest because respect for mystery is paramount. Fundamentalism seeks certainty, fixed answers and absolutism, as a fearful response to the complexity of the world and to our vulnerability as creatures in a mysterious universe. Spirituality arises from love of and intimacy with the sacred and fundamentalism arises from fear of and possession of the sacred. The choice between spirituality and fundamentalism is a choice between conscious intimacy and unconscious possession."
-- David Tacey, in The Spirituality Revolution. Sydney: Harper Collins, 2003. –

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, July 11, 2005

Leon Uris's Mila 18.

I’m still not over it.
Still thinking today along the same lines that I have been focused on for days.
Terrorism and/or terror and/or the Holocaust and/or all of the above.
I have one portion of my bookshelves devoted to this subject matter, it is something that I have been interested in for as long as I can recall being able to read.

Even as a kid I would trundle home from the Library with my arms full of non-fictional books covering specific events of World War II, much to the consternation of my mother. I remember, my aunt was over for a visit at the precise moment when I came through the door with an armload of goriness... and she picked up one of the books I had set down. It was called The Sinking of The Bismark.
I remember the look she gave my mother.... a look that was serious, and she said something to the effect of “What is the matter with your son?”
It was a perfectly sunny day.
Kids were out playing.
It was sunny outside.
I was at the library, dragging home books about real-life WAR.
This is obviously a DNA problem!
I am not kidding you when I tell you that as I thumbed through the books over on the couch, I could hear my aunt not only commenting upon this one idiosyncrasy of mine but also adding to it the troublesome fact that I preferred corduroy to denim. [And it was true]!
“He does not wear jeans” she said in hushed tones.
What the hell was wrong with me? Was I some sort of under-developed Winston Churchill?
Would I be chewing cigars and leading a bulldog on a leash the next day, if not quickly re-directed?
I was about nine or ten years old at the time.....
But my mother (bless her soul) never discouraged me from this innate propensity.
This love of the printed word, and of history.
Never once did she ever reveal to me that there was something wrong with me.
And I am very thankful for that.
As I got older, the interest in that particular period of world history (World War II) never really diminished, but began to focus itself upon the horrors and atrocities committed by Hitler against people he did not like. Not only the Jewish people, but all manner of people.
But obviously, specifically the Jewish people.
I am vehemently opposed to racism and bigotry of any kind. Prejudice in general makes me want to vomit. But I found that nowhere did it hit me more viscerally than in some of the things I began to read concerning the Holocaust, and Anti-Semitism in general, which has a history that goes far beyond the twentieth century. In both directions, continuing into our present age.

In my adult life, I have become moreso preoccupied with fiction.
Fiction has become a new love which has not so much displaced any previous loves, but rather has enhanced them. I love when the two worlds merge.
We call it historical fiction. Along these lines I have loved reading Edward Rutherfurd, and even Dickens (whom I would argue is often writing historical fiction).
But nowhere have I been as moved, as immersed in the historical moment, as when reading Leon Uris.
Now I know what you may be thinking.
Uris is not consistent.
He will write the best book in the world, and then follow it with a real dud. (Though I speak in the present tense, Leon Uris passed away in 2003. I am still in denial. I love[d] him).
Uh-huh. I have heard it. And there is truth to the argument.

A God In Ruins. I have heard some critics contend that they themselves could have eaten a bowl of alphabet soup and randomly regurgitated a better novel.
But this does not excuse any of us from our duty to read him at his best. And when Leon Uris is at his best, there is no-one who can write better.
I would mention three of his books that I would consider as being some of the finest literature I have ever read.
These are 1) Mila 18, 2) Exodus, and 3) QBVII.
In that order.
My favorite is his Mila 18, the fictionalized account of the uprising in the Warsaw Jewish ghetto.
Here is a review I wrote many moons ago. [for].
[In the comments section, you will find some notes on my other favorite Uris novels, to date.
I am looking forward to one day reading his books Trinity and The Haj which I have sitting here..... jumping off the shelves, toward me......]


"Engrossing" is the one word I would use to describe Mila 18. Once I was into it, I could barely put it down long enough to tend to other necessary things... like eating and sleeping. I lost weight! I became skittish! And not since reading War and Peace have I felt so riveted to a story.

Uris digs down deep into the soul-stretching time of Nazi terror in Eastern Europe, a period of history I am always interested in learning more about. His book is filled with non-stop action, it is tense, it is nerve-wracking. There is a scene where several of the ghetto prisoners are in a desperate scramble along an angled rooftop, and I felt that if one of them had slipped I surely would've fallen off my chair and landed amidst the ravenous guards in the courtyard down below. Their reward for NOT falling is to be trapped end-to-end along a single beam in the rafters of that same rooftop for more than a day and a night, unable to make a sound beyond breathing, while rats knaw on them, and the guards furiously stomp about just above their heads, longing to exterminate them as though they were rabid animals. While plumbing these almost unbelievable (but sadly, too true) depths of human cruelty, hatred, and injustice against fellow man, this book also scales the heights of human courage, loyalty, and dignity. And running throughout Mila 18 is the interwoven story of romantic love during perilous times. Because of the peril, some loves are lost and they die; others are found, they are born and they grow.
As the resistance forces in the ghetto begin to realize that they cannot stave off the Nazi onslaught indefinitely, the desperation increases... and one man on the other side of the wall (the reporter Christopher de Monti) willingly enters the ghetto. The woman he loves is there. But even beyond this, ever since the Nazi Horst von Epp ridiculed Chris by telling him that he represented "all the moralists in the world who have condoned genocide by the conspiracy of silence" Chris has known that he has a historical role to play inside the walls of the Warsaw Ghetto. He risks his life to become the one who will retrieve and publish the meticulous hidden journals that have been kept up by the chronicler Alexander Brandel. In this he succeeds.

It is a remarkable fact of history that while all of Poland fell to the Nazi power in less than a month, this rabble army of Jewish resistance within the ghetto (lacking any decent weapon) held at bay the world's mightiest military power for 42 days and 42 nights! In the end, there are precious few survivors of Mila 18. But this is not a book about death.

It is a book about life.

Splash du Jour: Monday

Today, July 11th, is the 45th Anniversary of the publication of Harper Lee’s award-winning novel, To Kill A Mockingbird. I own a first edition.
The author has said: As you grow older, you'll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don't you forget it - whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash.
Have a great Monday!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Remembering the Franks.

No, this is not going to be a blog about hot-dogs!
Nothing about picnic preparation....
Perhaps it is the lingering effects of my subject matter yesterday (terror) that have me thinking of her today.
Anne Frank.
When I think of terror, (and by terror I mean not only the fear of sudden violent death, but the more abject fear of living... fear of breathing too loud) I guess that my mind turns most readily to accounts of the Holocaust era and to specific stories I have read of what it was that human beings were forced to endure throughout those years.
Anne Frank needs no introduction. If you do not know who Anne Frank is.... I would ask you, “Who is reading this sentence to you?” Surely anyone who can read has either read her, or read of her.

I have done both. The two books of her own authorship are The Diary of A Young Girl and Tales From The Secret Annex. Each book illustrates not only how Nazi terrorism traumatized the life of this young girl, but also how her spirit overcame it.

It was exactly seventy-three years ago yesterday, (July 9th, 1942) that the Frank family, along with another family, the Van Pels (later, Fritz Pfefer joined them) entered their hiding place in what became known as the Secret Annex. It was located at 263 Prinsengracht in Amsterdam Holland, in an empty section of the building owned by Otto Frank's company. [Otto is Anne’s father]. While business continues as usual in the lower part of the building, there are a total of eight people hiding, day and night, in this annex above. Before too long, the entrance to the Secret Annex is concealed behind a movable bookcase. Anne writes: “Now our Secret Annex has truly become secret… Mr. Kugler thought it would be better to have a bookcase built in front of the entrance to our hiding place. It swings out on its hinges and opens like a door."
[The people in hiding are helped by Otto Frank’s four employees: Miep Gies, Johannes Kleiman, Victor Kugler and Bep Voskuijl. They arrange the food supplies, clothing, books, and all sorts of other necessities. In addition, they keep the people in hiding up-to-date with the news from Amsterdam and beyond].
The Frank family [Dutch Jewish] had planned to enter the Annex on July 16th, but “call-ups” had meant that they had to enter seven days earlier. Germany was at the height of its conquests. Without the immediate refuge of the hiding place, the Franks would have been summarily hunted down and transported to their deaths!
And so it is that I pause to think of them today, July 10th, 2005. Exactly seventy-three years ago, they awoke to their first day of life in the Annex.

When Anne Frank opened her eyes to her new world that morning, she did not see scratchy black and white images. Things were very much in color. Red was red. Green was green. Her hairbrush, having a pink handle, was still pink. This was not something being clattered out on a newsreel. She was not yet a part of history. She was a young girl full of life and dreams and hope, now mingled with foreboding and terror.
If she were to look out upon the street through a small hint of window, she would not see a bland and dismal panel of generic greyness bordered with trees made entirely of black twigs. These are our images, painted colorless upon the past. No, Anne would see life as usual. Vibrant birds flying past the window, and things going on without her. If an Aryan-approved girl walked by, she may have been talking to a doll that had yellow ribbons in her hair.
Anne writes: "Not being able to go outside upsets me more than I can say, and I'm terrified our hiding place will be discovered and that we'll be shot. "

Twenty-eight months they spent in such seclusion and fear.
Then, on the morning of August 4, 1944, a car pulled up at 263 Prinsengracht.
Several figures stepped from the car, again, in techni-color, no newsreel.

One was an SS sergeant, Karl Josef Silberbauer, in full uniform, and with him, at least three Dutch members of the Security Police, armed but in civilian clothes.
Those in the Annex had been betrayed. Kugler himself was forced to pull back the bookcase and lead the police to the terrified eight.
Otto Frank describes what happened at this point:
“It was around ten-thirty. I was upstairs with the Van Pelses in Peter’s room and I was helping him with his schoolwork. I was showing him the mistake in the dictation when suddenly someone came running up the stairs. The stairs were squeaking, I stood up, because it was still early in the morning and everyone was supposed to be quiet - then the door opened and a man was standing right in front of us with a gun in his hand and it was pointed at us.”

The eight people in the Annex were arrested, as well as two of their helpers, Victor Kugler and Johannes Kleiman. The “authorities” were sure to also round up all of the valuables and cash they could find.
All of the valuables, that is, except Anne’s diary, which lay strewn on the floor, and was later retrieved by two of the helpers left behind.
Anne and her sister Margot were transported to the concentration camp at Auschwitz, and then later, transferred to Bergen-Belsen. A typhus epidemic in the winter of 1944-’45 killed thousands of prisoners, including Margot, and a few days later, Anne. The bodies of both girls were probably dumped in Bergen-Belsen’s mass graves.
Otto Frank was the only one of the eight to survive the concentration camps. Until his death in August of 1980, he devoted himself to sharing the message of Anne’s diary with people all over the world.
If things had been otherwise, Anne Frank may have just celebrated her eighty-sixth birthday a few weeks ago. Because things were as they were, she never celebrated her sixteenth.

I think of the Franks today because I choose to.
And because it is important, very important to remember important things.
That is all.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

The McEwan Report.

Since the tragic events of Thursday morning in London, I have felt somewhat remiss in my lack of comment, here at the peaceful puddles of Bookpuddle.
How does one even comment on such a tragic thing, without sounding horribly inadequate?
I was looking everywhere for the image of the Union Jack at half-mast, to post here... but what is that really saying? How feeble!
So I have said nothing. Talked about War of the Worlds.
But I happened across an amazing piece by the author Ian McEwan, a writer whom I greatly admire, and whose work I read most voraciously.
It is from The Guardian, and is presented here, in full.

How could we have forgotten that this was always going to happen?
Ian McEwan watches oddly familiar scenes unfold in the heart of the capital after the bombings.

Friday July 8, 2005


The mood of a city has never swung so sharply. On Wednesday there was no better place on earth. After the victory in Singapore, Londoners were celebrating the prospect of an explosion of new energy and creativity; those computer-generated images of futuristic wonderlands rising out of derelict quarters and poisoned industrial wastelands were actually going to be built. The echoes of rock 'n' roll in Hyde Park and its wave of warm and fundamentally decent emotions were only just fading. In Gleneagles, the summit was about to address at least - and at last - the core of the world's concerns, and we could take some satisfaction that our government had pushed the agenda. London was flying high and we moved confidently about the city - the paranoia after 9/11 and Madrid was mostly forgotten and no one had second thoughts about taking the tube. The "war on terror", that much examined trope, was an exhausted rallying cry, with all the appearance of a moth-eaten regimental banner in a village church.
But terror's war on us opened another front on Thursday morning. It announced itself with a howl of sirens from every quarter, and the oppressive drone of police helicopters. Along the Euston Road, by the new UCH - a green building rising above us like a giant surgeon in scrubs - thousands of people stood around watching ambulances filing nose to tail through the stalled traffic into the casualty department.

Police were fanning out through Bloomsbury closing streets at both ends even as you were halfway down them. The machinery of state, a great Leviathan, certain of its authority, moved with balletic coordination. Those rehearsals for a multiple terrorist attack underground were paying off. In fact, now the disaster was upon us, it had an air of weary inevitability, and it looked familiar, as though it had happened long ago. In the drizzle and dim light, the police lines, the emergency vehicles, the silent passers by appeared as though in an old newsreel film in black and white. The news of the successful Olympic bid was more surprising than this. How could we have forgotten that this was always going to happen?

The mood on the streets was of numb acceptance, or strange calm. People obediently shuffled this way and that, directed round road blocks by a whole new citizens' army of "support" officials - like air raid wardens from the last war. A man in a suit pulled a Day-Glo jacket out of his briefcase and began directing traffic with snappy expertise. A woman, with blood covering her face and neck, who had come from Russell Square tube station, briskly refused offers of help and said she had to get to work. Groups gathered impassively in the road, among the gridlocked traffic, listening through open windows to car radios.

On a pub TV the breaking news services were having trouble finding the images to match the awfulness of the event. But this was not, or not yet, a public spectacle like New York or Madrid. The nightmare was happening far below our feet. Everyone knew that if the force that mangled the bus in Tavistock Square was contained within the walls of a tunnel, the human cost would be high, and the rescue appallingly difficult. Down the far end of a closed-off street we saw emergency workers being helped into breathing equipment. We could only guess at the hell to which they must descend, and no one seemed to want to talk about it.

In Auden's famous poem, Musee des Beaux Arts, the tragedy of Icarus falling from the sky is accompanied by life simply refusing to be disrupted. A ploughman goes about his work, a ship "sailed calmly on", dogs keep on with "their doggy business". In London yesterday, where crowds fumbling with mobile phones tried to find unimpeded ways across the city, there was much evidence of the truth of Auden's insight. While rescue workers searched for survivors and the dead in the smoke-filled blackness below, at pavement level men were loading lorries, a woman sold umbrellas in her usual patch, the lunchtime sandwich makers were hard at work.

It is unlikely that London will claim to have been transformed in an instant, to have lost its innocence in the course of a morning. It is hard to knock a huge city like this off its course. It has survived many attacks in the past. But once we have counted up our dead, and the numbness turns to anger and grief, we will see that our lives here will be difficult. We have been savagely woken from a pleasant dream. The city will not recover Wednesday's confidence and joy in a very long time. Who will want to travel on the tube, once it has been cleared? How will we sit at our ease in a restaurant, cinema or theatre? And we will face again that deal we must constantly make and remake with the state - how much power must we grant Leviathan, how much freedom will we be asked to trade for our security?

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005

Here (below) is the poem by W.H. Auden, alluded to in the above piece:

Musee des Beaux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;

How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there must always be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Brueghel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

W.H. Auden
December 1938

Our thoughts are with the people of London.
We, who were elsewhere on Thursday morning, are the “someone else.... eating or opening a window or just walking dully along.”
What I am personally struck with is the sobering realization that “elsewhere” is perhaps becoming an ever-diminishing place to be.

Friday, July 08, 2005

War of The Worlds.

Here is the briefest movie review in history:

I expected more from the film.
-- Cipriano --

I just got back from seeing the movie and I think I may have been a bit too hyped up about it, I expected it to be a bit better, I think.
The special effects were really quite excellent, they were probably my favorite thing about the movie. No, wait... Dakota Fanning was the best feature of the film. She is just brilliant in it.
I guess I felt that there was just not enough real good story behind this thing. Not having read the book by H.G. Wells, I was quite in the dark about the real story, but I mean here, the screenplay, it just did not work for me. I felt that the alien tripod monsters were too machine-like. What I mean by that is simply that there was not a clear idea of what/who was controlling them, nor of what they were after (other than the vaguely understood desire to kill all humans)... but WHY!
In the end I am still not sure of just how it is that they are defeated. And when Tom and Dakota escape from the clutches of one of these tripod-beasts, all of a sudden it is as though this one was the only one, and they are free to walk away from it... when previously, there were hundreds of the things stomping around. A lot of loose ends... and I don't mean the kind of loose ends that are meaningful and needful in a good story. I mean just.... loose.
However, before the movie started, there were the coming attractions, and I saw for the first time the trailer for the movie-verson of C.S. Lewis's book The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. Now THAT looks good! I will definitely be at the theatre on opening day, for that one.
I still have faith in the movies.
They still move me.
But this one, I am going to give it a measly 3 stars out of five.

Splash du Jour: Friday

I write what I would like to read – what I think other women would like to read. If what I write makes a woman in the Canadian mountains cry and she writes and tells me about it, especially if she says “I read it to Tom when he came in from work and he cried too,” I feel like I have succeeded.
-- Kathleen Norris, on the publication of her seventy-eighth book --

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Living On Fourteen.

From time to time I enjoy sharing my original poetry with readers out there in Bloggerland.
By way of introduction to this one, I will just mention that I live on the fourteenth (top) floor of a downtown building, overlooking the city.
And I must do my laundry in the basement’s laundry room.....

Living On Fourteen

I am convinced of it.
Something adrift in communal laundry-room air
spawns the philosopher / political strategist / polemicist
in folks that are elsewhere, none of the above.

Today, two graying hens, churning more froth
than a chorusline of Maytag agitators
reminded me that in this room
we know everything.

Religion, Louise, has always been a primitive response
to the deeper, intrinsic need for superstition in mankind.
I thoroughly agree, Myrtle, and I am exceedingly glad
that both propensities have gone the way of the dinosaur.

My basket of warm towels in tow, I faintly smiled
and entered the elevator for my minute of ascent.
Reaching my own floor, I stepped out and, still smiling,
walked the length of what is really the thirteenth.