Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween!

Well, it is a night for basic witchery and all-out goblinry!
And a perfect night for it... the moon is mysterious, as clouds drift past. The streets are wet, there is the threat of rain. And [I swear this is the truth] an actual witch just flew past my fourteenth floor apartment.
Sounded like a Toyota Tercel!
OK, I've got a few treats for you.
First, some words from a very funny guy, on Halloween. Ye must click HERE for this, ye ghouls and boys.
Secondly, and this is even better.... in fact, if you've only got time for one re-routing tonight, I urge you to click on this second option, for it is my own thoughts on the physicdal properties of actual witchflight. Seriously, you really need to read this before you retire for the evening.... CLICK HERE!
Happy Halloween, all!

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Splash du Jour: Tuesday

There is something haunting in the light of the moon; it has all the dispassionateness of a disembodied soul, and something of its inconceivable mystery.
-- Joseph Conrad

Have a safe and scary Halloween… after you read my own scarrrrrrrrry Halloween poem!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Splash du Jour: Monday

I am currently reading an absolutely fascinating book, Alain de Botton’s, The Architecture of Happiness.
Sent to me by a friend. → T.y.L.i.I.
“The most attractive are not those who allow us to kiss them at once (we soon feel ungrateful) or those who never allow us to kiss them (we soon forget them), but those who coyly lead us between the two extremes.”
-- Alain de Botton

Have a great Monday!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Brilliance of the Bard...

Recently I finished reading an excellent book.
Stephen Greenblatt’s Will In The World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare.
It is worth mentioning that writing about this particular imaginative genius requires the biographer to call upon colossal reserves of his own imagination! Speculation. It is as if to know about the man who wrote the immortal lines, one must read between them. The sparcity of source documentation regarding Shakespeare’s life would send anyone less hardy than Greenblatt running for other topics to ponder! Other books to write. But Greenblatt wrote this one. And man, the result is fine.
He has succeeded in sifting through a wealth of incidental knowledge and historically-based inference to provide any attentive reader with a coherent, chronological life of the Bard that reads like an epic novel.
Is every shred of it factual and unable to be presented in a different light?
No.
No biography is.
But such is perhaps especially the case with Shakespeare, extant documentation being as fragmentary as it is. In uncountable details he will forever be a mystery, but what a blasted good interpretation Greenblatt has given us here.
Everywhere, and by that I mean on practically every page of these 390, the author employs phrases such as “it seems likely that,” or “this being the case, Shakespeare would have,” or “Then, sometime in the mid 1580’s,” or “it is possible that hints may lie...” in order to get the point across. In this sense, there is nothing positively dishonest in these pages, but rather, we see an almost constant reference to the author’s need to be speculative.
His method is to begin each chapter with some bare-bones or otherwise undisputed sort of “fact” [if you will] and then proceed onward, enfleshing this skeleton with the sinew and muscle of corroborating evidence.
Is some of it hearsay?
Hell, yeah!
But for me, [someone who is convinced that being any sort of Shakespearean purist is a waste of time], I just merrily flip the pages, reading like a voracious tiger. And tiger-like, blissfully oblivious of what I do not know. When it comes to Will-ology, if someone like Harold Bloom is frustrated “not because we do not know enough, but because there is not enough to know…” then, surely to God, I myself am not going to lose any sleep over the issue of Bard-bio accuracy!
Greenblatt’s Shakespeare emerges as a man capable of forming the most passionate love stories and poems, while he himself endures an unhappy marriage, and enjoys few amorous adventures. Here is a man who creates the raucous Falstaff, and is himself not necessarily the life of the party. A man who associates with the greatest revelers of his day, and yet does not seem to succumb to the same depths of debauchery and criminal low-dealings as did they. A man who rose from ignoble beginnings to the heights of fame, success, and riches. An enigma in so many ways, from start to finish. The glovemaker's son, destined to command entire sections of modern-day bookstores, four centuries on. That is who you meet here.
I could go on and on about specifics of the book, but I won’t. There are many synopses you can find that would be better than mine. Perhaps the most useful thing I can say is that reading literary biography can be about as exciting as eating a bowl of dust. This book was not like that at all. It was exciting, and engaging, from page one to 390. And fun.
Not that I’ve read very many, but for now I am going to conclude that this is the best book about Will.
In the world!

Some former words on the subject...
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Saturday, October 28, 2006

"Can't tell a book...

… by its cover!”
Yes, I know!
I know that we cannot judge a book by its cover, but nonetheless, purely in the realm of the aesthetically pleasing, I must pass out some Bookpuddle blog-kudos to whoever it was that designed the cover of Richard Ford’s new book, The Lay of The Land.
This is going to sound so superficial of me, but this is the best book cover I have seen in a long time.
Just look at it.
Everything about the coloration is perfect.
The symmetry of the word versus image ratio. The fact that the title speaks of land, but the image shows only an expanse of water.
This is the best looking dustjacket I have seen in a long while.
I hate bad dustjackets.
Look at how good this one is.
Just the other day I stared at this book cover for quite a while, and, knowing nothing of the author, almost bought the thing, based on how good its cover is.
Has anyone out there read the thing, or anything by the author?

If I myself ever write a book, I want it to shamelessly blare its worthiness from the bookstore shelf like Richard Ford’s new one does.

P.S. An update, many hours later. I had another look at the book this afternoon and can now attach specifics to my previous random-kudos.
Dustjacket photography: Chris Jones.
Dustjacket design: Carol Devine Carson
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Friday, October 27, 2006

Splash du Jour: Friday

The only winnable nuclear war is the one we prevent.
-- Cipriano

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Four Sentences...

She stole it from someone else, and now I myself am stealing this little meme-game from Dorothy’s current blog, and the instructions are as follows:

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the next four sentences on your blog along with these instructions.
5. Don't you dare dig for that "cool" or "intellectual" book in your closet! I know you were thinking about it! Just pick up whatever is closest.

OK, so, following these instructions to the “T” I grabbed the absolute nearest book, which was closer than about a foot and a half away, and here are the four sentences:

Sabina could not understand why the dead would want to have imitation palaces built over them. The cemetery was vanity transmorgrified into stone. Instead of growing more sensitive in death, the inhabitants of the cemetery were sillier than they had been in life. Their monuments were meant to display how important they were.

If anyone can correctly guess which book this excerpt is from, I promise you that The Bookpuddle Foundation© will promptly send you $320,450 in the mail!
[NOTE: To help you out a bit, the image shown in this blog is such a good subliminal hint that I am now lowering the cash prize to $1.99 in Canadian funds!]

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Splash du Jour: Thursday

The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It’s not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time.
-- John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America, 1962 –

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

East of Eden

Today’s Splash du Jour has had me thinking about Steinbeck. I love his stuff.
My favorite of his novels, [thus far] has been East of Eden.
Steinbeck proposed four potential titles before he settled upon East of Eden. I looked up the phrase in the Bible and found that it appears twice in Genesis (3:24 and 4:16); both accounts denoting an instance where man allegedly experienced a separation from the blessings that God had intended for him.
I think this is very significant as we consider what Steinbeck was writing about in his allegorical novel. He says in Chapter 34, "We have only one story. All novels, all poetry are built on the never-ending contest in ourselves of good and evil. And it occurs to me that evil must constantly respawn, while good, while virtue, is immortal."
The contest is in ourselves!
Surely this is what East Of Eden quietly teaches us while we enjoy the sweeping story, so well told. It is deadly realistic, as beautiful and revolting as is the actual human potentiality for good and evil. With brilliance, Steinbeck contrasts a sea of temperaments in these characters, and shows us all the while that life is much more than the choices we make, but it is never any less.
Adam Trask is the representative of good intentions, of a conscience which responds to the good as the eye responds to the light. Samuel Hamilton also represents a similar (perhaps even more well-honed) goodness. But Adam is the one who has been deceived, by a force every bit as essentially evil as Eden's serpent in the tree. This force is Cathy, a character so reprobate that evil isn't something she does, it's something she is that infects everything she does! After abandoning her twin boys Caleb and Aron to the care of their father (Adam) she returns to her life of debauchery. The boys grow up unaware that their mother is a serial murderer and owner of a whorehouse.
Because Adam never fully recovers from his shame, his loss and disillusionment, he is not able to convey the appropriate unconditional (equally distributed) love to his sons. This leads to jealousy and rivalry in his boys, and is a generational replica of his own childhood.
How can one summarize such a vast epic story? But for me, one of the most powerful scenes and a turning point (perhaps the denouement?) is when Caleb finally sees his mother in all her non-glory, and says to her, "I don't have to be you." The reader can notice that really no-one is the same from this point on, there is a real unraveling here. For Cathy (now "Kate"), this marks the beginning of her own self-destruction, the awakening of her own conscience. She's been defied!
One of the tendencies of the modern age is to deny radically the absolute nature of conscience, reducing it to a matter of temperament, or to a product of history or social environment.
But East of Eden plows right through a tangle of sociological, psychological, and historical half-truths to the elementary fact: CONSCIENCE EXISTS.
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Splash du Jour: Wednesday

I wonder if I will ever be this famous for my literary achievements…
Little presses write to me for manuscripts and when I write back that I haven’t any, they write to ask if they can print the letter saying I haven’t any.
-- John Steinbeck, soon after publication of The Grapes of Wrath

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Splash du Jour: Tuesday


Hamlet: What’s the news?
Rosencrantz: None my Lord, but that the world’s grown honest.
Hamlet: Then is doomsday near: but your news is not true.
-- Shakespeare, Hamlet, 2.2.240 –

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Splash du Jour: Monday

If I am ever lying on my death bed, having lost the will to live, just bring me a kitten.
If it doesn't revive me, let me go.

-- The euthanistic sentiment of someone very dear to me. –

Have a great Monday!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

My BIHBTARBNAR List

When it comes to the topic of “Books I Have Been Thinking About Reading But Not Actually Reading” right at the top of the List would have to be this one… Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead.
I have been thinking about reading it for about sixty-seven years now.
And I even have this [as shown] pristine hardcover 1968 reprint of the original 1943 Bobbs-Merrill first edition.
So what’s the holdup?
From whence cometh my January molasses attitude toward diving into this book, which begins with the immortal sentence “Howard Roark laughed.” [?]
I don’t know. Honest to God. I have wanted to read it for so long.
When I consider some of the books I have been wanting to read for eons, I notice that they do tend to have a lot of pages… that’s at least one determining factor. For instance, here is my current BIHBTARBNAR List:

1. The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand
2. Middlemarch – George Eliot

3. The Odyssey – Homer

4. Barney’s Version – Mordecai Richler

5. Trinity – Leon Uris

6. Sophie’s Choice – William Styron

7. Russka – Edward Rutherfurd

8. The Crimson Petal and the White – Michel Faber

9. Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand

10. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas


Does this sort of procrastinatory thing happen to you also?
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Friday, October 20, 2006

Splash du Jour: Friday

Apparently we are now living, in America, in what is referred to as the Post-Torture Era. Which, being interpreted, might possibly mean that if we need to torture you, we will use a post!
-- Cipriano --

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Literary Purloinage

I am reading a book but not buying it.
And by “not buying it” I don’t mean “not believing it”…. I mean, “not purchasing it.”
So let’s talk about this for a moment here.
The fine art of reading entire books in the store but not buying them, because, [for one thing] I do it all the time!
The book in question is Alice Munro’s new one, The View From Castle Rock.
Does my conscience bother me that I am slowly making my way through this book every day by taking it off the shelf and reading the next chapter, but never buying it?
Not really.
Thing is, as soon as the book came out I did buy a copy of it and sent it to my reading partner, in the mail. So, in a sense, I did pay for the thing at one point in the continuum of my overall purloinage. [← Is that a word? It should be.]
Therefore, in an ethical sense, I truly believe that my going to hell after I die will have much more to do with other issues!

There is the problem of detection, though.
The behavior I am describing is understandably frowned upon.
They [The Store Authorities] don’t like the books to go into the Starbucks section, [where I pretty much live…] in fact, there are signs everywhere forbidding such action, and occasionally someone working for the bookstore will tap me on the shoulder and say, “Sir, did you purchase that book?”
I must admit, it is a bit unnerving.
I’m sure the look on my face is at least a bit like Adam’s was when God finally showed up and asked him how the apple tasted!
But I have devised a neat way of circumventing the possibility of guilt feelings ruining my reading session. Before I sit down with my coffee, I remove the dustjacket of the book and hide it somewhere. That way it looks as though I am reading one of my own books, and no one bothers me. No tap on the shoulder. No voice from heaven. I read on in Edenic bliss.
Later, I simply replace the dustjacket and put the book back on the shelf.

I have friends who do the same.
They read the books but do not buy them. One instance in particular, comes to mind. For the sake of anonymity, I will call this friend of mine Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
In other words, his real name is probably not Tim. [D’oh!]
OK, so Alexander Solzhenitsyn was doing just what I am describing here. Over a period of time, he was reading a whole entire book in the store. I'll never forget. It was was M. Scott Peck’s, The Different Drum.
And as he read through the thing, he would tell me all about it. I began to know exactly what chapter he was on…. exactly where he was, in the book.
So one day I went to the store before he himself got there and I found the very book he was reading. Luckily, there was only one copy on the shelf. I opened up to the chapter I knew he would be reading that evening, and I placed a sticky note on the very page. [These are easily removable and would not damage the book].
On the note, I wrote, “Don’t think we don’t see you Mr. Solzhenitsyn. We have been watching you read this book, every day! Signed, The Management.”
And I placed the book back on the shelf, and left the store.
Needless to say, Alexander called me that very evening, telling me of his adventure. Said he felt like he was back in the Gulag!

Well, I must go. I am at the Bookstore right now!
And I sort of forget where I placed the dustcover this time around…. it may take a bit of looking….

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Splash du Jour: Thursday

Will you understand, Winston, that no one whom we bring to this place leaves our hands uncured? We are not interested in those stupid crimes that you have committed. The Party is not interested in the overt act: the thought is all we care about. We do not merely destroy our enemies; we change them.
-- George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, 1949 –

Sobering huh?
All the same, have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

My Work Is Trying To Kill Me...

The title of this blog is actually a plea.
While I have your attention, please, call the Humane Society and report to them that you've been made aware of an old dog that is being mistreated!
Seriously, this picture to the left is a picture of me after work today.
Because of a confluence of about nineteen unfortunate things, coupled with the fact that even at the best of times my workplace is a living hell and virtual realm of Unending Torment, I am in the midst of one of the worst work weeks ever.
I am saying all of this to justify the nakedness of my blog, I guess.
I'm out of gas. The tank is empty.
Like tonight for example, worked from 8 a.m. till 8 p.m.
I could not even bring myself to go to Starbucks after work and read. No energy. None.
Just came home to my cat, Jack. And talked with him a bit.
Bulldog to Ragdoll!

So, please be patient with me.
This blogpage usually reflects the true state of my Inner Comedian and/or Inner Book Enthusiast.
But right now, both of these personas are wondering which bridge they should jump off of.
I'll be back. I'll be back. I'm going to get some medication.
In the meantime I am thinking of something that the legendary Robert Frost once said:
"By working faithfully eight hours a day, you may eventually get to be a boss and work twelve hours a day."
Hmmm... all I know for sure is that I worked a full twelve hours today, and I sure ain't no boss!
Two roads diverged in a wood.
I took the one more WORKED upon!

All the best to you!
May you never find yourself in a place of employment, as relentless, as unrelenting as my own.
Cheers!
-- Cip
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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

The problem with religion – as with Nazism, Stalinism, or any other totalitarian mythology – is the problem of dogma itself. I know of no society in human history that ever suffered because its people became too desirous of evidence in support of their core beliefs.
-- Sam Harris, in Letter To A Christian Nation

Have a great Tuesday!
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Monday, October 16, 2006

Splash du Jour: Monday

Part of a reader's job is to find out why certain writers endure. This may require some rewiring, unhooking the connection that makes you think you have to have an opinion about a book and reconnecting that wire to whatever terminal lets you see reading as something that might move or delight you. You will do yourself a disservice if you confine your reading to the rising star whose six-figure, two-book contract might seem to indicate where your own work should be heading. I'm not saying you shouldn't read such writers, some of whom are excellent and deserving of celebrity. I'm only pointing out that they represent the dot at the end of the long, glorious, complex sentence in which literature has been written.
-- Francine Prose, in Reading Like A Writer

Have a great Monday!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

For The Love of Pumpkin

Just the other day… no wait, let me state the following disclaimer → What you are about to read may be rather difficult to believe.

OK, just the other day at work, a bunch of us were sitting around the big oval table at lunchtime.
Chowing down, and talking.
I guess the topic of Thanksgiving dinner was raised…. as in, “So, did you eat a lot of turkey?”
That kind of mindless mumble, where you yourself forget your question before anyone answers it. Flies in the same room are having more meaningful conversation!
[For those of you who may be CCC, or → Canuck-Calendar Challenged, last Monday was Thanksgiving Day here in the Great White North. You know? Where turkeys walk around pre-frozen and need only to be knocked over, thawed out, and shoved into pre-heated ovens?]
Anyhoo, someone asked, “How about the pumpkin pie? Eat a lot of pumpkin pie?”
And Mike, a co-worker of mine said, “I have never eaten pumpkin pie in my life.”

BLASPHEMY!
OFF WI’ ‘IS ‘EAD!
I was like…. “Excuse me? What the hell did you just say?”
[Flies stopped talking].
“Really. I’ve never eaten pumpkin pie,” he meekly repeats, as we all stare at him, agape. Eating our microwaved leftovers.
Seriously though.
What planet is this guy from?
He is about 45 years old, Mike is. And human, I think.
I mean, I am still wondering how he could have possibly been alive this long of a time, and not ever eaten pumpkin pie.

Pumpkin pie is….. wait now, how does one even say it correctly…. let me try…. OK, pumpkin pie is like, the REASON there is an autumn strewn amongst the other three seasons!
How can one even describe the merits of a well-made pumpkin pie?
For one thing, it is so…. pumpkinny and all.
So cinnamonny and nutmegetty-ish.
Spicy, and just the right amount of mushy.
So good with coffee.
It’s just got everything going on.
It’s just so good it makes me want to seriously kick old people in the shins.

I’ve got pumpkin on the mind because right now I am sitting here in a Starbucks, and I am eating a gi-normo slab of their trademark October Pumpkin Cheesecake© .
It is heavenly good. Really. I’ve got maybe two forkfuls of it left on the plate.
And every morsel of it is being chased down with a sip of the best damn coffee this side of the Rio Grande. This is living. It really is.
OK. Last forkful, right here. Going down. A sip of coffee.
I’ve gotta go.
There’s an old guy, just sitting there, three tables down….

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Saturday, October 14, 2006

Technical Issues...

Hmmm.
Just a question I would like to toss out to fellow users of BLOGGER.
Has anyone out there updated their blogger site to the new "Beta Blogger" that is being offered in a "pop-up" sort of feature every time I post a new blog?
If so, was it beneficial? Is there a problem with any data being lost in translation?
I am sort of paranoid about doing the switchover, and yet.... I am more curious than ten cats in a bag!
At one point I proceeded to switch over [can one save their current front-page appearance template?] and a warning sign came up, declaring basically that from that point forward there was no return to the good ol' days.
There is no way back to Kansas!
So I quit.... proceeding.
I can't help it, I am a cautious individual!
Any suggestions and/or testimonials from braver people than myself, yea, to the BETA-PIONEERS out there, would be greatly appreciated!
Thanks!
-- Cip

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Friday, October 13, 2006

Angela's Ashes

Just tonight I picked up Alice Munro’s hot-off-the-presses book of short stories, [The View From Castle Rock] and read the first one. It is terrific writing, and really memoir-ish. Having recently read Margaret Atwood’s Moral Disorder, I note that both of these veteran authors have come out in 2006 with very memoir-laden fictive reminiscive-ish stuff.
In the Foreword, Munro sort of explains what she is doing here... "These are stories.
You could say that such stories pay more attention to the truth of a life than fiction usually does. But not enough to swear on. And the part of this book that might be called family history has expanded into fiction, but always within the outline of a true narrative. With these developments the two streams came close enough together that they seemed to me meant to flow in one channel, as they do in this book."
And also, she tells us she will be "...exploring a life, my own life, but not in an austere or rigorously factual way. I put myself in the center and wrote about that self, as searchingly as I could. But the figures around this self took on their own life and color and did things they had not done in reality."
Of course, I note all of this here, so that James Frey can take note of such definitiveness!
Reading the first Munro story tonight reminded me of perhaps one of my favorite memoirs I have ever read. Frank McCourt’s, Angela’s Ashes.

Charles Dickens once said, "In the little world in which children have their existence, whoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt, as injustice. It may be only a small injustice the child can be exposed to; but the child is small; and its world is small."
Angela's Ashes amounts to a brilliant recollection of childhood injustice which is indeed... LARGE!
As I read the book, I was appalled at the depth of poverty that Frank McCourt and his family endured, and yet, I can't count the number of times I actually laughed out loud at the way in which the story is told. I've never read anything so simultaneously light and weighty. McCourt is witty, and is always in character, and that character is the child who was an eye-witness to every event. (An intriguing, fiercely narrative writing style is consistent throughout the book. ie., there are never any quotation marks).
The story is a powerfully moving disclosure of the perils of alcoholism.
If Frank’s father could have just walked PAST a pub even once without going inside and spending every cent he earned or borrowed that day…. well, it would constitute a miracle! His dissolution put the family in a state of destitution. The amazing thing, to me, is that he spent that precious money so shamelessly. Mother and children practically starve while dad staggers home in a drunken stupor night after night. Frank says of his father's false promises... "He'll give us a nickel for ice cream if we promise to die for Ireland and we promise but we never get the nickel."
Injustice.

In my opinion, the redeeming majesty of this memoir is that through it we learn a wondrous fact... that shamelessness, irresponsibility, and stupidity do not necessarily have to be handed down to the next generation.
Frank broke the mold, and chose self-awareness as his aspiration. I believe that the crucial turning point in his life came when, at the age of eleven he was convalescing at a hospital and came to the conclusion that "it's lovely to know the world can't interfere with the inside of your head." As readers of Angela's Ashes, we become the grateful recipients of this precocious revelation.

Mr. McCourt has received much recognition for his book, and all of it is deserved. I have no idea what he has gained monetarily from its publication, but somehow I think it's a bit more than his aforesaid promised nickel. Way to go. You are an inspiration to the world.

I have his follow-up, ‘Tis, sitting right here, brand-new like, on my shelf?
Why have I not read it yet?
Umm.... I'm too drunk!

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Splash du Jour: Friday



Have a great Friday!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Splash du Jour: Thursday

I have, all my life long, been lying till noon; yet I tell all young men, and tell them with great sincerity, that nobody who does not rise early will ever do any good.
-- Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) –

Thank you Sam. I myself cannot recall even one weekday in the past 95 years when I actually wanted to get out of bed when the alarm clock told me I had to do so!
Including today! Having said that…

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

Detested sport,
That owes its pleasures to another’s pain;

That feeds upon the sobs and dying shrieks

Of harmless nature.

-- William Cowper (1731-1800) The Task.

I am embarassed that we live in a world wherein sport-hunting and bullfighting still exist.

Have a great Wednesday, all!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

I have lain in prison for nearly two years. Out of my nature has come wild despair; an abandonment to grief that was piteous even to look at; terrible and impotent rage; bitterness and scorn; anguish that wept aloud; misery that could find no voice, sorrow that was dumb… Now I find hidden somewhere away in my nature something that tells me that nothing in the whole world is meaningless, and suffering least of all. That something hidden away in my nature, like a treasure in a field, is humility. It is the last thing left in me, and the best; the ultimate discovery at which I have arrived, the starting point for a fresh development.
-- Oscar Wilde (1854-1900). De Profundis, 1905 –

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, October 09, 2006

A Short History Of Myth

Just thought I would pop on by to say a few words about a truly excellent book I have recently read. Karen Armstrong’s A Short History of Myth.
But first, as you can see in the “Currently Reading” sidebar thing, I am just now working my way through Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.
I was forced to read through a wee piece of it in high school, but back then I was a halfwit, and hence, I did notte lyke it at alle!
Now I am older. More mature! No more a halfwit.
I am a wholewit!
And I am luvving thys booke!
Just read The Miller’s Tale today. I laughed out loud.
It is amazing that something a guy wrote like…. over 700 years ago can make me, a modern-day wholewit, laugh out loud!

OK.
Karen Armstrong.
There are no words I can adequately conjure, to express how much I love the writings of Karen Armstrong.
Ever since reading her two memoirs, Through The Narrow Gate and The Spiral Staircase, [I’ve written of these, here]
I have personally identified with her arduous spiritual journey, and have appreciated her scholarly pursuit of greater insight into matters both religious and spiritual.
I say all of this preamble only to acknowledge that I am probably predisposed to speak favorably of this book of hers, on myth. So forgive me, but yes.
This book is real good. She has hit the mark, again.

It’s not a deep-sea dive into a dark, pressurized, unoxygenated world.
It is a wonderful, gliding skim across the surface of human history, like a skipping rock… touching down upon several epochs, six, in fact, where mankind has experienced profound seismic shifts in their mythmaking.
After an amazing introductory chapter entitled “What Is A Myth”, Armstrong takes us there. The flat stone skips, from The Paleolithic Period [The Mythology of the Hunters, c.20000 to 8000 BCE] to:
The Neolithic: Mythology of the Farmers (c.8000 to 4000 BCE)
The Early Civilizations (c.4000 to 800 BCE)
The Axial Age (c.800 to 200 BCE)
The Post-Axial (c.200 BCE to c.1500 CE)
The Great Western Transformation (c.1500 to 2000)

I will greatly summarize by saying that this is essential reading for anyone wanting an overview of the evolution of myth.
And her progressive argument, especially as it culminates in the concluding chapter, is the best I have ever come across in its explication of myth as an art form.

Other than the late Joseph Campbell, I believe there is no one better equipped, to teach us about myth, than Karen Armstrong.
At the end of it all, at chapter 7, have we arrived anywhere?
Thankfully, no.
The stone is still skipping, and this author knows that.
And not only this. She shows us that the stone will never sink, and that there is no shoreline, on the other side, where it will ever come to rest.

“There is never a single, orthodox version of a myth. As our circumstances change, we need to tell our stories differently in order to bring out their timeless truth. In this short history of mythology, we shall see that every time men and women took a major step forward, they reviewed their mythology and made it speak to the new conditions. But we shall see also see that human nature does not change much, and that many of these myths, devised in societies that could not be more different than our own, still address our most essential fears and desires.”
-- From chapter 1, A Short History of Myth

I could say more, but it would save a lot of time if you would just click here and order the book for yourself.
Bookpuddle rates it five skipping stones out of five.

*****

Splash du Jour: Monday

When I see my friend after a long time, my first question is, Has anything become clear to you?
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journal, May 1847 –

Have a great Monday!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Mugs of Puddle-land©

Ahhh, dear friends.
I wonder if it is just me, or do some of you also, have favorite mugs?
See, it is a peaceful Sunday morning here at The Bookpuddle, and a LONG weekend, at that! And so, it begins with some coffee.
I have a shelf full of coffee mugs to choose from. In fact, all of them will not be represented here, in today’s installment of Favorite Mugs of Bookpuddle-land©.
It’s funny though, noticing how I have tended to gravitate towards, and favor, certain coffee mugs over the years.
Here are a few….
First, there is this one.

It was given to me by this friend that was a girl.
Christine. I looked after her cat [forget the name] when she went on some trip somewhere. I recall that on the night before she returned, the dang cat escaped, and I had to chase the thing all around the neighborhood, at one point having to climb under a neighbor’s porch, and grab it by the tail, while it squacked and hissed like ten geese In a bag! That was about ten years ago, now.
It has become one of my most frequently used mugs.
Then, there’s this one:


Given to me by Jodi, after she made a trip to New Orleans. It figures into my top-five used mugs of all time. It’s from a place called CafĂ© du Monde.


Then:

I bought this mug at the gift shop of a ski-resort called Panorama, in British Columbia. Guess what? The whole time there I did not ski. I was too depressed over a breakup with a girlfriend. I just lounged in the hot-tub while my friend Mike and his wife Carole hit the slopes. One night, in the lodge, I stabbed myself in the hand with a fondue skewer! It’s called….. self-crucifixion.
Not to be too depressing or anything, but about four years later, Mike committed suicide, leaving his wife and three children in the process. The mug remains. I use it often. It is dear to me, reminding me of how great of a person Mike was.


Here below is one I use when I want to drink deep.


It is a gi-normous mug. Was given to me as part of a birthday present… I cannot even remember how long ago….. it’s big. Harold Bloom big!

And now, for my favorite mug.
Given to me by my friend Tim, and his wife, Jodi. [same Jodi, as above].
My Tolkien mug.

Look at the curvature of that handle. It is perfect, in all of its ways!
Yep, somehow, this one has claimed its place as…. Chief Mug!
I have probably drunked at least a thousand coffees from that mug.

***********

Friday, October 06, 2006

"For ever England..."

One of my favorite poets, is Rupert Brooke.
I happened upon the poetry of Rupert Brooke in an old old (truly ancient) used bookstore in a serene corner of Vancouver Island... something about this aged, sepia-colored, hardcover beauty of a book made me feel it had been abandoned by someone else and left there especially for me to find. The rest of the day I was on the beach with it, and each new page further convinced me that I had stumbled upon greatness. Each phrase carried a thoughtful hush along with it, and I felt that to breathe was an interruption. Time and time again I have been brought back to the poetry of Brooke, and this collection has become one of my treasures. Someone abandoned it for me to find, and yet it has become something I would run back into a burning house to retrieve.
These are brief poems about love and longing, doubts, serenity, nature and goodness, frivolity, victory and jealousy, and stirring wartime sonnets that express a noble idealism in the face of death. These latter are grouped under the author's title of "1914" and are his most well-known series, perhaps not only because of their perfection, but also because of their prophetic nature.

Brooke lived a brief but eventful life (1887-1915). He was brutally good-looking.
Thick, wavy hair. Lamp-lit blue eyes. With the outbreak of World War 1, he was commissioned in England's Royal Navy, and took part in a disastrous expedition at Antwerp which ended in retreat.
At the age of 27, he died from blood-poisoning on board a French hospital ship off the coast of Skyros, Greece. He was buried at night, by torchlight, in an olive grove about a mile inland. Reportedly, if you go there you will find a little wooden cross with just his name and the date of his birth and his death marked on it in black. The fifth poem (entitled The Soldier) in Brooke's sonnet sequence begins... "If I should die, think only this of me: That there's some corner of a foreign field that is for ever England."

The back cover of my Dodd Mead first edition says, “If your criterion of a poet be that he should posess fire, a joy in life, a classical taste, an Hellenic eye for beauty and grace, a sense of the lovely, and be able to differentiate that best of all things, Love. from that worst travesty, Sentimentalism, you will be among those who will turn for solace and true enjoyment to Rupert Brooke.”
-- S.P.B. Mais

And just tonight, in doing some research for this blog posting, I have found out that there is a book out there, entitled, The Letters of Rupert Brooke, and [hence]… I’ve gotta have it. I’ve gotta find it.
To read some of Brooke’s work, for yourself, here is an excellent site.
To read a former blog of my own, discussing one of his poems, click here.

In the meantime, Puddlers, I wish you a great Thanksgiving Day [Canada] and Columbus Day [U.S.A.] weekend.
To all others, the same. → A great weekend.

**********

Splash du Jour: Friday

An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it is also more nourishing.
-- H.L. Mencken, A Little Book In C Major, 1916 –

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Splash du Jour: Thursday

There is in every village a torch – the teacher:
and an extinguisher – the clergyman.

-- Victor Hugo

Have a great Wednesday!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

Strange is our situation here on Earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to divine a purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: that man is here for the sake of other men – above all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness depends.
-- Albert Einstein –

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Nickel's A Nickel!

Well, I pretty much knew it would happen one day. I knew it.
And it did. It happened today.
Starbucks has raised the price of their coffee.
Damn!
I just ordered one. I am still drinking it.
I have dabbled in some of the fancier drinks, yes. Became quite enamored of the americano for quite a long stretch.
But then, I guess as I became more and more ensconced in my middle-aged overall unfancyness [ie., I used to wash my car every couple days. Now I wash it like annually, if that! And even then, only through the automatic dealie]…. umm, I have just gravitated, like one of those descending Tetris© chunks of block, into the well-fitting groove of the average normal COFFEE!
I order a grande “bold” coffee.
I am well aware of how much it costs.
It costs $1.96. For the past CENTURY it has been $1.96!
But today…. today when I ordered my grande bold, the barista-girl said, “$2.01, please!”
$2.01?
This is highway robbery!

I know what a lot of you are thinking now…. oh yes, you’re thinking, “Hey! Ease up, Cipriano! That’s only a nickel.”

But no. See. You are not taking into account how often I am purchasing the grande bold. Don't forget! I practically live here @ Starbucks!
See, I have just done some preliminary calculations.
And, given that this five cent increase does not skyrocket into like seven or ten cents in the near future…. even if it remains at five cents, this will mean that in the next year alone, I will be shelling out an extra [hold on here…] yeah… → $1,458.15.

See what I mean? That’s a lot of moolah!

**********

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

Philosophically speaking, when I was a kid I could not really relate to Aristotle.
However, I was heavily influenced by Playdough!

-- Cipriano

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Splash du Jour: Monday

Days in the past cover up little by little those that precede them and are themselves buried beneath those that follow them… Our self is composed of the superimposition of our successive states. But this superimposition is not unalterable like the stratification of a mountain. Incessant upheavals raise to the surface ancient deposits.
-- Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time

Have a great Monday!