Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Year in Review

Another year has come and gone. Is about to leave.
I read almost 40 books in 2006, and so it turned out to be actually a slow year for me, reading-wise.
Usually I will be reading closer to 50 books, or thereabouts.
As I reflect on the past year’s reading, several books stand out as being exceptionally good. To call them the “best” is inaccurate, I don’t even really like the word at all. But they were exceptionally enjoyable, and well-written. They were, [an equally horrible word] my favorites.
Throughout the past twelve months you have heard me babble on about most of these, so here I will merely list them.

The Bookpuddle© Favorite Reads of 2006.

Fiction:

The Way The Crow Flies– Ann-Marie MacDonald
Life Mask – Emma Donoghue
Seeing – Jose Saramago
My Life As A Fake – Peter Carey
The Book of Revelation – Rupert Thomson

Non-Fiction:

The End of Faith – Sam Harris
Will In The World – Stephen Greenblatt
The Architecture of Happiness – Alain de Botton
The Year of Magical Thinking – Joan Didion
Letter To A Christian Nation – Sam Harris

I am currently reading Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead and I am quite sure that it will displace one in the fiction category, but I must wait until I turn the last page to make such an assessment.

Happy reading to you all, in 2007!
**********

Friday, December 29, 2006

Am I converted?

Well, I hesitate to write of this, because I know that I am going to be razzed by my pseudo-macho-friends as soon as they read of it, but... [OK, here goes...]
LAST NIGHT I WATCHED A MUSICAL!
And that's not all! [...Heaven help me...]
I LIKED IT!
Here's the lowdown, the scenario...
A while ago, my dear dear friend, [a lover of musicals and the entire musical-genre], she sent me the DVD of The Music Man. An early 1960's production, starring Shirley Jones and Robert Preston.
Previously, I had voiced my opinion that I am not a great fan of musicals, in general. I think that this was part of why she sent me The Music Man.
To cure me!
It may have worked, because I really enjoyed the thing.
I had been waiting for the right moment to watch this movie and last night, the moment arrived. I was having a sleepover at my mom's place, here on vacation. It's the first time I had ever been to her new apartment... so we [just her and I] cuddled up [sort of] on the couch and began to watch 151 minutes of singing and dancing.
I was surprised at how much we both enjoyed the thing.
After watching a non-stop assortment of modern movies over the past week, all of which contained enough swearing and violence and mayhem to send my dear old mom into convulsions, it was really refreshing to experience such a well-done, wholesomely good [innocent-like] classic movie.

It is so well choreographed. It is so funny.
And Shirley Jones, [as Marian the Librarian] is a total hottie!

So, all in all, I highly recommend this movie to one and all.
It may cure you of musical-ignorance, as it has done for me!

Here's an extremely brief synopsis of The Music Man:
Confidence man Harold Hill arrives at River City, Iowa, intending to cheat the community with his standard scam of offering to equip and train a boy's marching band. His real intention is to skip town with the money since he has no music skill anyway. Things go awry when he falls for the hottie librarian named Marian Paroo. She becomes savvy to his shenanigans but is impressed with the way is which he inadvertently enriches the town with a love of music.
T.y.L.i.I.
************

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Statement

Please indulge me in my continued praise of the work of novelist Brian Moore.
Today I am thinking of The Statement, originally published in 1996, and subsequently adapted into an award-winning movie starring Michael Caine.

The setting is southern France, 1989.
Pierre Brossard is a man on the run for his life.
For over 40 years he has been in hiding, counting on the complicity of the Catholic Church to perpetuate his anonymity. During WWII, Brossard was a member of the "milice" and as part of his duties at the time he personally shot 14 Jews in a clandestine pogrom and subsequently co-operated in the sending of many Jews from France to extermination camps.
Through his many connections, Brossard managed at one point to obtain an official political pardon for his war-crimes, but now (in 1989) the charge of "crimes against humanity" has been added... with the result that even some of his strongest supporters have turned against him. There is a renewed interest in his case; he's running out of places to hide... and he has more pursuers than ever before.

Moore has written a great meditation on the historical processes and conditions that make war crimes or crimes against humanity so difficult to pursue. Brossard is demonstrative of the expertise with which such "criminals" are able to exploit various forces of compromise, immunity, asylum and refuge.
Many questions are subtly raised by this book. The Church here affords a sort of refuge to the retributive justice that the outside world demands (concerning Brossard's obvious past crimes/sins)... but what of Brossard's inner torment? Even if the Church offers (grants) Divine pardon... does the pardon of man/society necessarily follow? Should it? (I hope not). What do we make of priestly absolution when it proves ineffective as conscience-cleanser? Is this question being answered when, with his final breath, Brossard tries to be penitent and sense God's pardon, and all he is afforded is a final look (in his mind's eye) at the people that he has killed?

It is a story told by a genius writer, Moore didn't even know how to disappoint a reader. The short quick chapters make you quickly forget whatever else you had to do today... you won't stop flipping the pages till your done. He changes the "I" of his narrator constantly, and never loses the reader for a moment. I've read almost all of his many books and consider this among his very best. This is a book that had significant meaning for the author (a sort of purging of his own shame at his father's conservative Catholic belief and initial support of totalitarianism during WWII). Moore commented, concerning The Statement, saying --> "I never thought that novels changed the world. I still don't believe that. But I just thought that this was a story which really should come out."
It should.
***********

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

existence: a poem


existence

i would like to watch a stream descend
its babbling course between mountains
before ever a human eye was in a head
and whether you choose the book of
genesis or darwin as your text surely
there was such a time in history for no
doubt the inanimate came first either way.
secondly, to hear the first bird clear its
throat and sing would be nice and whether
you believe in god or not it is just
another way of saying that being around
when existence started happening would
be something i am totally interested in.

© Ciprianowords Inc. 2006
**********

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

agnes in hiding.

Can you find the hidden cat in the above picture?

You know what’s funny?
SHE THINKS YOU CAN’T!
Her name is agnes, that’s right. It must be spelled in lower case, just like e.e. cummings would do it!
She has had enough of the bustle of Christmas and is trying to hide herself amid the foliage and unopened gifts.
You know what?
I can somewhat relate.
In the midst of all the visiting, do you ever just slink away and find a place to be alone for a few moments? I do.
I think I am part cat. My brain is cat, I think!

Happy Boxing Day [whatever that is] to you!

************

Monday, December 25, 2006

MERRY CHRISTMAS!


"At Christmas, I no more desire a rose
Than wish a snow in May's new-fangled mirth.
But like of each thing that in season grows."
-- from Love's Labor's Lost

Merry Christmas!

I have some great Christmas Day news!
I called Claude last night. He is my professional catsitter/caregiver.
Seems that Jack has made a full recovery.

He is back to eating and drinking in his usual voracious way! And the litter box? Well… the litter box is as it should be. In need of constant…. maintenance!
[Poor Jack, suffering the humiliation of my divulging public information about his bowel situation!] Poor kitty. Poor kitty.

On the heels of this good news, I nearly feel off my chair when I opened a certain Christmas card containing a monetary gift which will more than pay for my entire trip to Mexico next month!

Alas, along with the above good news, there lurketh some bad.
I weighed myself.
On a digital scale… the kind that do not lie.
A few days ago, when I arrived here, it read 177.5 pounds.
This morning it said 183.
I wish I was kidding.
And there is a whole turkey [another one] waiting to be eaten, tonight.
There is gravy in my bloodstream!

***********

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Silent Night...

Marcellus:
...Some say that ever 'gainst that season comes
Wherein our Savior's birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long;
And then, they say, no spirit dare stir abroad,
The nights are wholesome, then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,
So hallowed and so gracious is the time.
Horatio:
So I have heard and do in part believe it.
-- Hamlet, I.i. 157 --

Merry Christmas to all!
*********

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Idea Novelists.

Just a little update on my holidays…
I AM THOROUGHLY ENJOYING THEM!
Oh, it is just so relaxing to sit around and visit, sip coffee, read a bit, and eat dead animals.
Last night it was a turkey.
Tonight, → turkey carcass soup!
Tomorrow, there will be yet some other animal that was running too slow, fated to end up in our festive holiday cauldron!
I come from a long line of non-vegans!
Carniverous to the core!

I’ve been reading Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead.
As I vowed to do, so have I done.
I am reading Rand for the Holidays! As I am only 138 pages in, [of 695] I will hold my comments for later.
For now, I just want to mention something that caught my eye, on the back of my ancient used-paperback novel.
This Signet edition was published in the early 1970’s. [Fountainhead was originally published in 1943].
The back of the book quotes the New York Times as saying, of Rand: “A writer of great power. She has a subtle and ingenious mind and the capacity of writing brilliantly, beautifully, bitterly… This is the only novel of ideas written by an American woman that I can recall.”

I paused upon reading that last line, and sort of looked at it again.
What exactly is the critic suggesting?
Was it so startling that a → “woman” ← could write “a novel of ideas”?
It seems…. well, not like something that would be an acceptable statement today, for instance.
Is it true that there were not many American women novelists “of ideas”?
It was bothering me so I did some research.
And well, it seems true that it is a bit difficult to find what one might call American women novelists of ideas, from that era. I’m talking about the 1960’s – 1970’s.
I came up with writers like Sylvia Plath, Susan Sontag, Toni Morrison. I’m sure there are many more, but the thing is, it is difficult to find them.
It is amazing how male-dominated the world of literature was, in those decades.
I wonder if this is still the case? I would think that it is NOT!
Most of my favorite contemporary writers are female, and I would say that they are writing great “novels of ideas.”
So I am currently concluding that the blurb on the back of my Fountainhead is quite wonderfully archaic.

But help me out.
Tell me of a few more American [female] novelists of ideas, that would have been writing in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s.

**********

Friday, December 22, 2006

Put it on your list!

A few days ago I wrote about one of my favorite books by Brian Moore. The Luck of Ginger Coffey.
Today I am thinking of another excellent Moore book.
The Great Victorian Collection.
As is the case with a lot of great books that should still be in publication, this one is now out of print. The only place you will find it is probably in some dusty old used bookstore.
But if you love a great novel, I encourage you to put this one on your Next Time I Am In A Dusty Old Used Bookstore List!

The book is a dream come true…....literally!
Anthony Maloney is assistant professor of history at McGill University. At twenty-nine years old he is already a specialist on everything Victorian. If there's anything to know about the Victorian era, Anthony knows it.
While attending a series of seminars in California, he decides to indulge in a few days of rest and relaxation before heading home to Montreal. One night, alone in his hotel room, Anthony has a profound dream about London England.
He suddenly awakes and when he looks out his window, finds that down below on the huge hotel parking lot, a complete exhibition of Victorian culture has appeared overnight.
He climbs out of the window and wanders among the endless aisles of Victoriana and is soon met by a man asking, "Are you in charge of this?"
Without understanding why... he replies "Yes," and from that moment when Anthony claims ownership of The Great Victorian Collection, he will never be the same.

What follows is a truly realistic treatment of what would happen to someone who found themselves in this truly unrealistic situation.

A bewildered Anthony tries to process the fact that his "dream" brought this spectacle into existence, while everyone from the hotel manager, the law enforcement agencies, the press, television media, and the surrounding community descend upon him for an explanation of how he has done such a thing. 

We're not talking about a few doilies and candle-snuffers here! Hell, no!
There are gigantic working fountains... a locomotive... entire buildings that were not there the night before! Previously unknown collections within the collection... rolltop desks with handwritten letters locked within!

Of course, he does not have an answer. He only knows it's there. Everyone sees it. And he's responsible for it.

This collection consists of vivid replicas of existing Victoriana, and experts are called in to vouch for its authenticity. Most find that the stuff is so "good" that it is indistinguishable from the originals which are still located in their respective museums and locales around the world.
There seems to be no other explanation for how such a monstrous display has appeared here in Carmel-By-The-Sea (overnight, no less) than to conclude that Maloney DID in fact "dream" it into existence.

As such, he becomes a worldwide celebrity. 
Many people believe his story, and many do not. The plot revolves around the way these supporters and detractors affect Maloney's psyche. It appears as though the previously unextraordinary and perfectly normal professor is now on the verge of going completely bonkers. And who can blame him?

The problem becomes the uncertainty that surrounds the perpetuity of the Collection.
What will become of it? Will it slowly fade? Will it disappear overnight, as quickly, and inexplicably as it appeared? Is Maloney responsible (though his continued dreaming) to keep it in existence?
And what should be done with it if it does last forever? Should it become a Disneyland-like tourist attraction?
Maloney finds that if he tries to manipulate the Collection in his waking state, it begins to deteriorate.
And the Collection becomes a nightmare to him. Can he turn over to the world what he has created? He attends to it with a jealous possessiveness, and finds that he cannot let go of it. Psychologically, the Collection imprisons him, creates unendurable insomnia, and other life-threatening perils.

Because of the initial scandal, and subsequent absence from the University, Maloney has long since lost his professorship, only to be offered it once again after he becomes an established celebrity.

Should he return to Montreal and try to re-establish a somewhat normal life... or stay with the Collection?
He is torn. His dream becomes a living nightmare.

There is so much more to the plot than I'm saying here in this review because I don't want to ruin anything for readers. There is the usual Moore romantic dalliance thrown in, and it's wonderful stuff.
The beauty of the book is the way Moore makes such an unrealistic situation seem like the most normal thing that could have happened. The way that Maloney and those around him react to the Collection seems very natural, very believable.
And all in all, the book reminds me why Moore is definitely one of my favorite writers of all time. This one is a real page-turner from start to finish.


Hope you are all winding down from your work routines, and planning some good rest and relaxation with friends and family over the holiday season.
May not a one of you find yourself stranded at the Denver airport!
Tonight, I am going to eat a turkey.
-- Cip

************

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Splash du Jour: Thursday

Well, it is holiday time! I am on my way, literally out the door in minutes, for the airport.
Leaving Jack in the [hopefully worthy] care of the catsitter.
He seemed to be doing a bit better today. We are still not out of the woods yet, but he seems a bit better. Thank you for all of your warm feline-wishes!

Can any of you recall what happened to me LAST YEAR when I was leaving for Christmas? That was just scary. Downright scary!

I may not be around much [on Bookpuddle] because I am not sure of my computer access out on the prairies, so let me take this chance to wish you all a happy holiday season!

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

Just as the water of the streams we see is small in amount compared to that which flows underground, so the idealism which becomes visible is small in amount compared with what men and women bear locked in their hearts, unreleased or scarcely released. To unbind what is bound, to bring the underground waters to the surface: mankind is waiting and longing for such as can do that.
-- Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965) –

Have a great Wednesday!
*********

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Twice Daily

Thank you for your concern about Jack.
Some have written to me [email], and some [below] have commented on today’s Splash!
Jack says, "Meow!"
I spent the entire morning with Jack at the vet’s. Let’s just say…. it was a lucrative venture. → For the pet hospital!
But, having said that, if what Dr. Ellison prescribed for Jack works out, it is worth it all.
Truth is, I am at my wit’s end. I mean, what is the next step?
Televangelists?
Some guy on a phone-in line, with his hand on the screen, as Jack extends his paw toward the TV? “I see you Jack! Oh, yes! I see that paw! Just believe! Just belieeeeeeeve! [and send money!]”
I missed a full day of work today, over cat issues. See, I am scheduled on a flight out of Dodge, like…. tomorrow night, basically. Time is of the essence.
Today, I was almost going to cancel my entire Christmas holidays. I was in the waiting room, literally pacing [I’m not kidding!]
Then the doctor came out, and told me that the news is not as bad as it could be. Jack does not have “crystals” [as of yet] but he does have a bladder infection, and with the proper treatment, he will most likely make a good recovery. Treatment consists of a tablet of Clamavox, twice daily, for 14 days.
And some Phenoxybenzamine [...ahhh! Memories of high school!]…. also twice daily. Along with the dope, I had to buy a bag of the most expensive cat food that has ever been sold on the face of the earth.
I’m thinking of cooking some of it up for myself.

Or putting it in a big bowl and not telling guests.
"Wow, Cip! Awesome party snacks!"

My professional catsitter is now going to be making way more money from me, than was originally planned.
The "once every two days" dramatically changed today, to TWICE DAILY!
I am going to be bankrupt!

[All donations welcome! There, that's my own televangelist bit!]

Aside from this news about Jack, I am reading The Fountainhead, and loving it, thus far.
Thank you for your thoughts, toward a fully recovered Jack!

***********

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

The cat does not offer services. The cat offers itself. Of course he wants care and shelter. You don't buy love for nothing. Like all pure creatures, cats are practical.
-- William S. Burroughs –


My poor cat Jack, [shown] is not well.
It is tearing me apart.

All the same, I wish you all a great Tuesday!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Splash du Jour: Monday

He had grown up in a country run by politicians who sent the pilots to man the bombers to kill the babies to make the world safer for children to grow up in.
-- Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven, 1971 –

Have a great Monday!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Coffee, and Coffey

I am just sitting here [at home] on a lazy Sunday afternoon, sipping my coffee, and thinking of Coffey. Leafing through my old old copy of the book.
The Luck of Ginger Coffey. A novel by Brian Moore.
It is one of my all-time favorite Moore novels. I’ve written of this man’s work on Bookpuddle, a few times before. [Like here and here.] He is superb. Even though so many of his books have become movies [most recently, The Statement, starring Michael Caine], Moore [1921-1999] is not nearly as well-known as he deserves to be. I think this is the case with so many great authors.
Yet I can pretty much assure you, when you discover Moore, you unearth treasure.
In the meantime, let me take a few moments to tell you WAY too much about Ginger Coffey…

The story explores one man's heroic attempt to shift position in the world. Ginger Coffey leaves the unpromising economic situation in Dublin to pursue his idea of the Great Canadian Dream. With wife and daughter in tow, he arrives in Montreal in the dead of winter with $15.03 to his name. He has been waiting a long time for this golden opportunity. It soon becomes apparent however, that Canada was not as eagerly waiting for him!
He manages to land a job at The Tribune, but rather than his desired position as journalist, he wallows among the other galley slaves as a lowly proofreader. They collectively suffer under an exploitative and humiliating boss, MacGregor. Because of his radical Irish optimism, Coffey is blind to the emptiness of the editor's promise to promote him to journalist "one day soon". Before that mysterious day which never seems to arrive, Coffey is further forced to augment his meager wages by accepting a job as a diaper delivery man for a company called TINY-ONES© .
Is this the Utopia that he crossed an ocean for? Utopia-shmopia!
But while his Great Canadian Dream is shattering he hears some trans-Atlantic gossip that suggests the situation back in Ireland is even worse! So his choice of Montreal is now an irrevocable one, if for no other reason than it at least affords him some anonymity until he hits the big time. But even this anonymity is brutalized one day when he encounters an old Dublin girlfriend while he is in the full garb of his TINY-ONES© uniform. This is only one of a series of humiliations that Coffey experiences, not the least of which is the fact that his marriage is threatened, and he fears that his wife Vera is involved with an associate of his. His fears are correct... her involvement with the successful journalist Gerry Grosvenor amounts to a sort of clandestine infidelity, but unknown to Ginger, it has not been adulterous. At any rate, soon they are poised for a divorce. But the coup de grace in Ginger's bad luck comes one cold winter night as he stumbles out of a bar after drinking far too much of a mixture of wine and Coca-Cola. While waiting for the bus, he feels the need to unburden his bladder somewhat, and (thinking that he was up against an unoccupied office building) relieves himself in the doorway of one of the biggest hotels in the city! He is arrested for indecent exposure and has his (hilarious) day in court. In this case, the luck of the Irish turns out to be a six-month suspended sentence.
It looks like things could get no worse. Coffey returns home to gather up his things and leave his family. But amazingly, his final courtroom incident has led to some genuine "luck" in the life of Ginger Coffey. A great final chapter shows us the joy that comes from true forgiveness and reconciliation. Ginger Coffey must resign himself to the fact that some very simple things in life (the renewed love of his wife, the steadfast love of his daughter) are like the consolation prizes in his uphill run through life. In the end he celebrates the retention of roughly no more than what he arrived with in Canada... his original $15.03. But, along with that fortune, he now has a new understanding of what makes life important.

This was Moore's first novel with a Canadian setting, published in 1960 after the Irish-born author himself had spent twelve years living in Canada. He was personally familiar with what it is like to be an immigrant emerging from Montreal's Dorchester Street bus terminal into the same sort of frozen slush, snow and gloom that Ginger Coffey experienced. And Moore's interest in this novel seems to be an investigation into the ways in which public myths (the Great Canadian Dream) reflect and encourage private fantasies (I'm going to get rich when I get there). Coffey's conclusion was that "life was the victory... going on was the victory." That the true challenge and test in life resides in the private domain, in intimate relationships. It is for this reason that the central drama of the story, which is intertwined with Ginger's search for wealth and public recognition in the New World, is the collapse of his marriage to Vera. Moore deals with these serious themes in a novel that is very light to read and even "comic" at most points. Ginger Coffey is an unforgettable character... the quintessential well-intentioned optimist/dreamer.

You can buy your own cup o’ Coffey right here.
Brief Brian Moore bio.
**********

Friday, December 15, 2006

Splash du Jour: Friday

America’s one of the finest countries anyone ever stole.
-- Bobcat Goldthwait –

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Severe Serendipity!

Well, tonight’s blog is not only LATE, as in, it is already night and I should be sleeping with Jack [who is a cat, by the way!]… but also, tonight’s blog has absolutely nothing to do with books, or things bookish.
I am drying my freshly washed laundry right now.
Bed linen!

Remember a few days ago when I mentioned my friend, the one who sent me the signed Alice Munro book, unaware that the signature was authentic, [which has since been proved authentic by a team of researchers?] Remember that?
Remember how I said that she is “forever doing these sort of serendipitous things?”
Well, it happened again, the serendipity!

See, I have to do my laundry at the pay machines, downstairs.
And so, I had done a load of bed linen.
Well, I went down to the laundry room with some change in my pocket. Each dryer load costs $1.75. I had $3.25 in my pocket. [This is going to take a bit of math here folks!]
OK, so I place my $1.75 in the slots. A one-dollar piece, what us Canadians call a “loonie” [because it has a “loon” on it] and three quarters. Throw the sheets and pillowcases in. Fabric softener sheets. Slam the door.
Punch the plunger with the money in it.
KERPLUNK!
Money goes into the netherworld! The same planet that eats your socks, I guess!

No action! The thing is deader than six wigs!
I say, “Hey, hey HEY!”
The guy yonder, who is putting his load of clothes in a washer says, “No! It ate your money?”
“Yes,” I say, loud enough that Jack probably turned his head, 14 floors up! “And I don’t have enough to try another machine! I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH CHANGE! I’m a quarter short!”
The guy gives me one of those looks that says, “Damn, I’d help you out but I don’t have any extra change either!”
I was mad!
“Arrrrgggghhh!”
How am I supposed to sleep tonight on soggy damn…..!!??

AHA!
Like a flash of lightning, a vision of the top of my fridge passed through my noggin!
Quarters! American ones, though!
But quarters, nonetheless!
Once, a long time ago now, and I mean like YEARS ago, my serendipitous friend sent me a series of American quarters, special editions, that had famous scenes from different U.S. states on them. Like, for instance, the Delaware one had Paul Revere [or maybe it’s Rip Van Winkle, or even Hoss Cartwright, I’m still not sure] riding a horse and stuff.

I took the elevator up to my place and ran to the fridge!
YES!
They are still there! After all this time.
I grabbed one of them. It had a sort of….. fuzz on it. I scraped this stuff off while I descended in the elevator, praying all the while, “Lord, please bless this Yankee quarter. I really need it to have a good sleep tonight. And you KNOW how badly I need a good sleep…. so please, dear God, if you help this fuzzy foreign quarter to fit in the tray real nice, if you just miraculously Canadianize it tonight, I promise that I will become a missionary to…..” [by now I am placing the thing alongside the other two, and PUSHING the tray forward]….. BINGO!
The coins fall…… the light goes on…… I’m in business…… just as I say….
"HAWAII."

Yes…. missionary to Hawaii… Waikiki!
Missionary to the Macadamians!
I hear they are NUTS!
And I hear that there are way too many heathens there…….!

Thank you my serendipitous friend.
You unintentionally, inadvertently, silently, touch my world, yet again!

************

Splash du Jour: Thursday

"Now, now my good man, this is no time for making enemies."
-- Voltaire on his deathbed when asked by a priest if he renounced Satan –
← Here he is, looking very Michael Bolton-ish.

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

Are there books in this world?
Can I see them? Touch them?

Read them?

I shall never be, for one minute, bored!

-- Cipriano –

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Bookopoly

I want this game!
Bookopoly.
And I don’t even LIKE games.
Seriously, I don’t. Board games and me, they are not a great mix. Scrabble is an exception. But other than Scrabble, board games for me are more like BORED games!
But look at this new game I have discovered.
[And by the way, I discovered it while discovering a great blogsite. → Stephanie’s, The Written Word.

Here is a brief description of what goes on, in Bookopoly:
Roll the dice and advance to Read. Collect Bookstores and trade them in for Libraries. Who knows! You may soon be elected President of the Book Club or you may be tossed out of the game for three turns and sent to WATCH TV!

I wanna play I wanna play I wanna play!
But I have a dilemna.
NO ONE TO PLAY WITH!

I feel inspired.
I would like to INVENT a board game, called Bookpuddle©.

Roll the dice and advance to Splashland. Collect book "puddles" and trade them in for book "oceans". Who knows! You may soon be elected Cap’n Readsalot of The Big Puddle or you may be slowly drowned by the Puddle Master in three inches of water, or made to walk the plank for writing in the margins!
**********

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

“I am Jack, hear me roar!”
Look, I pretty much have very ittle input as to what ends up on the Bookpuddle Splash du Jour. This thing was NOT my idea of what a cat is supposed to be doing on a Tuesday morning!
I was sleeping!

He woke me up. Said, “Strike a pose!”

So, here I am! Bare naked! No shower. No coffee!

Can I go back to sleep now?


Have great Tuesday!
*******

Monday, December 11, 2006

Munrovian Authenticity

Readers of this blog will know that I am a great fan of Alice Munro.
I am sort of an Alice Munro junkie.
Recently, as part of my birthday treasures, my reading partner sent me a beautiful, slipcovered book.
Selected Stories, by Alice Munro.
In a little attached note, she said, “I don’t think the signature in it is authentic,” or something to that effect. The book was not new when she purchased it, and there inside, was the following autograph:

My friend thought that the book was sold too cheaply to have been a signed copy, and it had not been advertised as such.
So, I did a little research. After nearly an hour of digging all over the internet, I finally located a REAL, GENUINE signature of Alice Munro.
This is what I found:
So… you be the judge!
What do you think?
Is the signature in my book authentic?
The real McCoy?
I am convinced that it is!
The style of the writing is so amazingly close. Keeping in mind that there may be years and years between each of these signings, I think we have a definite match!
Oh yes, I think that my dear friend inadvertently, and unintentionally, sent me a genuinely signed copy!
She is forever doing these sort of serendipitous things!

Comments by all handwriting experts out there in blogland, are welcome!

************

Splash du Jour: Monday

Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge even when there is no river.
-- Nikita Kruschev –

Have a great Monday!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Drumsticks

Today’s blog is just me rambling.
[And so how is this any different than any other blog you write, Cipriano?]
What I mean is, today I totally absolve you from all obligation to read on.
I wave my priestly hand in front of your face and say, “Te absolvo.”
What I mean is, → THIS STUFF WILL NOT BE ON THE EXAM!
It’s just too cold to go outside today, and so I’m thinking about junk, in the warmth of my apartment.

I received an email from a friend, and in it, she said:
I clearly remember knowing in third grade that I wanted to play saxophone.

When I read this, those dreamlike squiggly vertical lines, like heat radiation on the highway ahead, appeared before me… just like in the movies.
I slipped into a reverie.
See, I clearly remember knowing in about first grade that I wanted to be a drummer.
To play the drums. It was always in me. Innate.
At my birth, tympanies were pounding. [Just ask my mom!]
Immediately as I received the strength to walk and cause mayhem, I began pounding on stuff. No warning whatsoever. Just severe pounding, apparently.
“Pounding on what, Cipriano?”
On STUFF.
Basically on anything that didn't move, and sometimes on stuff that did!
Like I would take my mom’s pots and pans out of the cupboards, set them up, and beat on them with spoons and any other sort of weapon at hand.

My parents began to seriously consider where they might be able to sell me.
Soon I discovered the wonderful drumlike properties of our kitchen chairs. So I pounded on them until the stuffing came out. My mother, rather than killing me, kept sewing new covers for the chairs. I literally remember our chairs, having been re-covered and re-stuffed a dozen times, looking like big muffins. They were no longer flat, but had a peak to them. Guests would sit down and give you that look, you know? The look that wonders what sort of strange hemorrhoidal problems would cause this particular family to sit on these mountainous muffin-chairs.

One day, one of them asked.
You may think I am kidding, but I am not kidding.
His name was R--- S--- . In an age of Google-search, I don’t want to reveal his identity, even though he is deceased now. But OK, his first name was Red.
My father was a salesman, and Red was a visiting client of my father’s. At this time I was in Grade Three.
I was in an advanced state of Thing-Pounding already.
Sitting atop his own Muffin-Chair©, Red observed me off in the corner, rhythmically destroying something. Thing is, Red was a musician, and he recognized that I had talent. He and his wife Connie played clubs… mostly country music. He acknowledged to my father that my pounding was quite good.
“Really?” said my dad. “We always thought that maybe someone had dropped him on his head, like early on….”
“No, no. He’s really cutting a groove there,” said Red, adding, "If we can only get him to un-cross his eyes while he's doing it, we've really got something good here!"

Next time Red visited our place, he brought [epiphany… sound the tympanies]…. a pair of drumsticks. And he gave them to me.
It was like REVOLUTIONARY!
My pounding became increasingly Neanderthal, in its savagery.
We had a piano downstairs. No one played the thing. It was only there because the movers could not remove it when we bought the house. [How it ever got there, I still don’t know. Was the house built around it?]
Anyway, one day, with my new drumsticks, I pounded all of the ivory keys, chipping them at the fronts, where there was a bit of overhang. The result was…. umm… a real jagged keyboard. I ruined the piano, aesthetically, at least.
My parents knew that they now had to either sell me, or kill me, or re-direct my energies.

Deciding on this latter option, they had a surprise for me one day when I got back from my Grade Three schoolday. I will never forget it as long as I live.
I sat down on a Muffin-Chair© and my dad looked at me, and said, “Maybe you should go downstairs, and see what is there.”
I was wary. It seemed like a trick.
But I ran down the stairs, just the same.

And there it was.
A marble-blue, five-piece set of Baxter Percussion drums. With cymbals and the whole nine yards. All set up.
I promptly beat the living hell out of them.
I was in heaven.
My parents, now at the foot of the stairs had this look on their face. Again, a combination of, “What have we done?” and, “Where can we sell him?”
As my daily drumming shook the cups and saucers from their mooring in the cupboards on the floor above me, I was often rewarded with that same look, every time I made my sweaty ascension… asking for victuals to provide me with the energy to continue my senseless thrashing!
I marvel at the endurance of my parents.

Baxter Percussion [as a company] does not even exist anymore. I graduated from that set to a ten-piece set of silver Pearls, and from there to a set of custom-made Milestones.
One day I may blog about the [regrettable] reason I forfeited a career as a professional drummer. It is indeed sad, the story.
Nowadays, it is the steering wheel of my car that receives the brunt of my latent energies. I cannot even tell you how many times I have been playing a virtual concert on the thing, with the radio blasting, only to look over and see someone in another car, giving me that look.
The same old look!
The one that wonders from what height I was dropped, as a baby.

*************

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Light, yet filling!

Amsterdam is not a masterpiece, nor what I perceive to be the crowning glory of Ian McEwan, but it is a fine novel... well worth the time spent in its pages. Who else can say so much, while using so little tree bark?
McEwan's skill is best seen in his ruthless dissection of character, and in this book, he stretches two guys out like laboratory frogs. We see their guts, (the inner workings), and follow the disintegration of a lifelong friendship... Like the hissing of live grenades, there is a brooding that lurks in his pages...yet McEwan keeps it all closer to being light and comical than heavy and morbid.
My own [McEwan-like in its economy] summary would be -- This story addresses the way that vocational (professional) ambition can supercede and radically displace the naked commitment of friendship.

The dustjacket of my hardcover version depicts a duel taking place in a forested area.

Does a duel take place in the book?
No. Not in a PHYSICAL sense. But, suffice it to say... the dustjacket is appropriate in a way that will not be understood until the very final pages. And you will want to get to those pages.
This is the perfect book to take along with you when you know you will have 4 or 5 hours of non-interrupted reading time... (train, plane, bus, coffee-shop). If you can't find time to read McEwan, I must say to you, "Wow, are you ever busy!"
Amsterdam won the 1998 Booker Prize!
For a great synopsis of the book, click here.
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Friday, December 08, 2006

My Birthday Day

What did I do today?
Well, the company I work for rewards its employees with a day off, for their birthday. It doesn’t have to be taken on the actual day though. Mine was Monday! But I chose today, Friday, as my Birthday Day off.
So, I began December 8th with some near-comatose hibernation.
Then I awoke and made a nice breakfast, and lounged around a bit.
Then I drove down to the post office where a parcel awaited me. It contained yet another Alain de Botton book. Plus, another package was there, containing a book that Random House sent to me, for free. They do this all the time [on a regular basis] and I am very grateful to them for doing so.
Then I needed a coffee, so I came here to Chapters/Starbucks where I have been lazily reading this great book by Canadian writer, Alistair MacLeod. Good old Saskatchewan boy, just like me! Granted, he was raised in Cape Breton, but BORN in Saskatchewan. And it’s where you are born that really counts, no?
Anyway, the book is called No Great Mischief, first published in 1999. It won the very prestigious and coveted International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and I say “coveted” because the prize includes something like $100,000 if I am not mistaken.
For a guy like me, such a prize would be very coveted, indeed. My own personal financial constraints are currently so severe that I am forced to wear a wristwatch that hasn’t worked in years! [I refuse to throw it away because, after all, it still shows the correct time, twice a day!]

My preliminary report on the book, now that I am 100 pages in, is that it is magnificently written. Memoirish in style, yet beautiful fiction.
From the back cover:
Alexander MacDonald guides us through his family’s mythic past as he recollects the heroic stories of his people: loggers, miners, drinkers, adventurers; men forever in exile, forever linked to their clan. There is the legendary patriarch who left the Scottish Highlands in 1779 and resettled in “the land of trees,” where his descendants became a separate Nova Scotia clan. There is the team of brothers and cousins, expert miners in demand around the world for their dangerous skills. And there is Alexander and his twin sister, who have left Cape Breton and prospered, yet are haunted by the past. Elegiac, hypnotic, by turns joyful and sad, No Great Mischief is a spellbinding story of family, loyalty, and of the blood ties that bind us to the land from which our ancestors came.

I agree. It is “spellbinding.”
A great way to spend a day off.
What time is it, anyway?
Whoa! I’ve either been here for twelve hours or….. oh! Yeah, I forgot!
This thing ain’t ticking!

**********

Splash du Jour: Friday

I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.
-- Galileo Galilei –

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

My Old Goat

Are you ready for this? Are you ready for Wierd and Whacky Fact About Cipriano # 452?
← I have had the same wallet since December of 1983.
My girlfriend Suzy got me this wallet, for my birthday. And since my birthday is December 4th, I guess my wallet has just turned 23, this past Monday!
Wild, huh?
You probably have many questions you would like to ask me, right about now, am I correct?
Like this one……. “Cipriano, have you ever considered maybe buying a new wallet?”
→ “No.”
This one works just fine!
23 years is a long time, one just doesn’t discard an old friend like that! Not even for these new-fangled “billfolds” of our modern day and age.
This wallet is made by Tilley©.
English goatskin!
That’s the best kind of goat! The English ones. Real durable.
The plastic insert portion, where I keep licenses, credit-cards and pictures of Jack, those things commit suicide every year or so, and I just buy the refills, but the wallet itself…. hell no, it’ll be around long after I myself am deader than three banjos.
And I do this neat thing with this wallet. I flip it open real quick, put it up to my ear and say stuff like, “Kirk to Enterprise.” I guess I’ve probably done that gag somewhere upwards of…. sixteen thousand times, give or take a few? People love it. If they laugh real good, I’ll sort of keep going… “Beam me up, Scotty. There’s no intelligent life here.”
See, you can’t even do that with a lot of the newer wallets!

Question #2: “Hasn’t anyone else ever bought you a wallet as a gift?”
→ “Yes.”
I made her take it back to the store. I even went with her. Together, we traded the wallet for a shirt.
I am a one-wallet man!
Seemingly, I wallet for life!

Question #3: “Do you wear the wallet in your back pocket?”
→ “No.”
I don’t want to mar the natural curvature of my buttock area.
Plus, it’s just uncomfortable and it looks stupid.

So, why all this thinking about my wallet?
Well, let me tell you. I just did something really really stupid.
I am in the Starbucks section of a very big, bustling, bookstore. Even as I type this, I am still here in the place, so the trauma is still fresh, yes it is!
I was looking through my wallet for some reason, took it out of my jacket pocket and was rifling through it, actually I discarded a few items that are out of date. Housecleaning.
A book on yonder shelf caught my eye and I got up to go look at it, leaving my Mac laptop and my wallet, both of them OPEN on the table. The book distracted me, and I wandered a bit more, and then I went to the washroom.
[Seriously, do you have to tell us everything?]

Well, when I finally got back to this table and saw my wallet laying there, I nearly had a seizure. I mean, this place is crawling with people. And they all look like thieves, I am serious!
For about five or ten minutes, all of my ID, my cash, credit cards, licenses, membership card for the Roger Waters© Fan Club…. all of this was left vulnerable and exposed.
The fact that no one stole it must mean that we are truly meant to be together, this wallet and me. Destined for togetherness, perhaps for another 23 years, who knows.
Sure, part of its internal organs are held together by some clear packing tape…. but hey, so are some of mine!
DON’T THROW AWAY WHAT YOU STILL CAN LOVE!
&
NEVER UNDERESTIMATE AN ENGLISH GOAT!
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Splash du Jour: Thursday

Barbara Cartland’s eyes were twin miracles of mascara and looked like two small crows that had crashed into a chalk cliff.
-- Clive James –

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

Like having a wardrobe fall on you with the key sticking out.
-- Anonymous lady describing having sex with Nicholas Soames –

Have a great Wednesday, all!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Too Much Eggnog?

My Uncle Victor tells a story.
It’s not the kind with a real beginning or ending, and it has no moral. At least none that I can detect. It’s not the kind of tale one would tell if one were trying to create a good piece of fiction…. this is why I think it is true. As in, historically true. As in, one could have videotaped the event described, if camcorders had been invented at the time [and they weren’t]. It is told with such technicolor and sincerity.
My Uncle Victor is old. He is my dad’s eldest brother. I think he is about 118. He has a home-rolled cigarette in one hand and uses his other as an ashtray. And the only time my immediate family ever really sees Uncle Victor is around Christmas time. And we know that at some point we are going to ask him for the story. When we do, he will fidget a bit, and adopt this perfect expression of curious bewilderment, as though he himself does not have a blessed clue as to what story we are referring to. As though he will now have to reach way back, and tell the thing to us for the first time. And we will prepare ourselves to laugh as though he is doing just that!
Like I said, it’s not really a story, it’s just a vignette, a scene, and it’s the way he tells it that just levels us.

He says that he and his brother, [my Uncle Louis] were walking to school one hot summer day. And of course, back then, the schoolhouse was at least 38 miles away, right? In fact, all schoolhouses were this far away from wherever you lived! It’s like they were purposely stationed where no human residential life existed!
So there they are, these two boys, walking and talking away when they notice this snake lazing about in the sun, on a hill. Well, of course, being boys, they’ve got to go and pester the thing.

“Well,” says Uncle Victor, “we poked that damn snake with a stick and honest to God, it rolled itself up with its tail in its mouth and rolled down that hill like a wagon-wheel.”
There are all manner of gyrations that go along with the telling, and usually by this point my sister and I are falling off our chairs laughing. I know it doesn’t sound like much of a story, but believe me, if you knew my Uncle Victor, you’d know that this thing is a doozie!

So, I am hoping I can hear The Rolling Snake© story when I go back home soon, for Christmas.
But I am wondering if any reader can help me out here.
Is it possible that this story could be true? I mean, from a seriously reptilian perspective, can snakes even do this? Is it possible? How would their vertebra accomplish such a thing? I am referring to the muscular manoeuvre involved in getting up and rolling like that!
Has anyone else ever seen such a thing?
Has my Uncle Victor just had way too much eggnog?

**********

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

"I suppose we do live in an era of specialization, where people are supposed to be curious about only a few things. That never seemed very plausible to me. It always seemed natural to be quite curious about a lot of things."
-- Alain de Botton –

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, December 04, 2006

A Bookpuddle-shaped Cake...

Well, yes.
Today is my birthday.
"Aww geez, Cip. None of us knew. If you would have told us, we would have baked a cake! In the shape of a book, or a.... puddle, or something."
I know you would have, I know. But see, I didn't want to trouble you with all of that razamatazz.
As it ends up, my day could not have been more extremely normal. I worked almost 12 hours, and I am beat to shreds.
In many ways, it was rather horrid.
But you know what? Any day that we are alive and healthy, is a good day.
And so this day has been for me, a good day.
And now that I am officially nineteen, I can legally buy beer!
Everything's good!

Please forgive me for posting a fair bit of my own poetry lately, [but I am going to do it again, in minutes]... but I promise, after this one, I will put a leash on that dog, OK?
It's just that if someone were to ask me for a representative poem.... a poem that I consider to most reflect the totality of my life, thus far lived, I would ask them to read this thing, called Diameter.
Thing is, most people.... no... ALL people that have ever read it, have unanimously concluded that it is the wierdest piece I have ever written, and maybe it is. It's just that I myself could talk about what this poem means to me, for hours.
So, in a selfish way, it is a poem that I am sending to myself, after a long day at work.
And [I guess] just as selfishly, asking you to read it.
Funny thing is, last year, on this day, I did the same thing. Posted this poem, and I said, back then:
Maybe by next December I will have done something better, to displace this little thing as my own personal anthem.
I haven't.
It is still here.
I am a year older.

But this poem isn't.
All the best to you, and thank you for the bookpuddle-shaped cake.
It's the thought that counts.


Diameter

There exists a precise area on this planet
the exact length of a sputtering infant
where tiny lungs drew for the first time
air, and I was born.

Forty years later I seek its diametric opposite,
the furthest earthly point from that first breath.

Perhaps it falls upon the ocean.
I float there, and as I pass the spot
rest my hand on the black surface,
look up at the stars and imagine
my life a sword that splits the world in two.

Perhaps it is a terraced plot of dirt.
An aged farmer quietly tills his garden
while I kneel and grip the soil,
look up and try to impress upon him
the importance of this little row of beans.

© Ciprianowords Inc. 2006
*********

Splash du Jour: Monday

If the soup had been as warm as the wine, and the wine as old as the fish, and the fish as young as the maid, and the maid as willing as the hostess, it would have been a very good meal.
-- Anonymous

Have a great Monday!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Love Will Ask

Love Will Ask

Have you ever heard the fire…
When every crackle awakened something inside? And some unsaid
Wordless… desire magnified
flame fed?

Have you ever felt the wind…
Sea-borrowed, seem to release forever? And some unwept
Tearless… peace altogether
overswept?

Have you ever seen the eyes…
That longed to know the very soul they beheld? So true
They spoke, and cried… and held
You?

© Ciprianowords Inc. 2006
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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Staying Faithful

For those of you who do not already know it, I am in love with Nicole Kidman, and have been for quite some time now.
And don’t even say it.
I know what you are thinking → “Cipriano,
honestly. You are so superficial. Falling for the Aussie barbie-doll!”
But hold on here!
It [my love] is
not just about her ferocious good looks, which… you’ve gotta admit, are pretty darn ferocious.
No.
There is also the money to consider!
Just today, ensconced at Starbucks, I read the following in the paper:


Nicole Kidman is the queen of Hollywood when it comes to money.
The Oscar winner, who earns as much as US$17 million a movie, tops the fifth annual list of highest-paid actresses released Wednesday by the Hollywood Reporter.
Kidman, 39, ranked second on last year’s list behind four-time top-earner Julia Roberts, who didn’t make the list this year. She spent time with her two-year-old twins. In second place, with $15 million a movie, was Reese Witherspoon, 30, who won the best-actress Oscar this year for her performance in “Walk The Line.”
Renee Zellweger, Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz placed third, fourth and fifth, respectively. They also made $15 million for each film.

Rounding out the top 10 are Halle Berry ($14 million), Charlize Theron ($10 million), Angelina Jolie ($10 million), Kirsten Dunst ($8 million to $10 million) and Jennifer Aniston ($8 million).


Now, I don’t care which way you are slicing any of those apples, but in all cases, that is enough moolah to quit my job the next day after saying “I do.”

You’ve done well for yourself, Nicole.
Yes, Reese and Renee are doing OK too, but you're doing... MORE OK!
We’re talking about the difference of a couple of million$ here. And with the way I am buying books lately, every little bit extra helps!

No, I am going to stay faithful to Nicole.
So what if she is at least a foot taller than me!
So what if she does not even know my name!
So what if she does not even READ MY BLOG!
**********

Friday, December 01, 2006

It Snowed Today

This morning I was sent a beautiful poem, from a friend.
She often sends me wonderful things like this, on the computer, and also in the actual mail. So many times these little mailings have coincided with events that were taking place at the time, [and impossible to be known to her] that I’ve been forced to conclude that she is clairvoyant.
Or an alien, perhaps.
Whatever the source of her powers, she is downright Nostradamian!
Today’s coincidence involves the fact that the first real snowfall has hit my fair town. It’s still coming down, now more as rain, but earlier, it was snow. The first of the year.
So, this morning, at 7 a.m., Ms. Nostradamus sends me this e.e. cummings poem.
And here it is:

beautiful

is the

unmea

ning

of (sil

ently) fal

ling (e

ver
yw
here) s

now

e. e. cummings

I just love the way e.e. cummings does what he does, with words and letters. Once, quite a while ago now, I wrote a blog, outlining his methodology. To see it, click HERE.
But for now, let me simply say that the bracketed letters are independent of the rest. Read them separately.
If we do that, what we end up with in this brief little hummingbird of a poem is the following:

beautiful is the unmeaning of falling snow (silently) (everywhere)

Isn’t that gorgeous?
But to summarize e.e. cummings like this and say, “Hmmm, neat!” is a travesty. There are a hundred other things being done, visually, spatially, aurally, with these few words.
The way it is structured is itself “falling”, like snow. We must read it from top to bottom, from a higher point, to a lower one.
I love how the bracketed words, along with the inner word, capture the main thrust of the entire piece → (silently) falling (everywhere).
He has even made the parenthetical words form a cohesive thought:
beautiful ← → now.
And “now” is not even a word (per se) in the poem. It is part of the word “snow” broken in just the right place, and set apart.

Today it snowed.
This is all I know.
She is prophetic, this woman!
What if I awake one morning and see that she has sent me Thomas Philipot’s 1646 poem entitled, “On Myself Being Sick of a Fever”?
What then?
Should I just accept my fate, crawl back into bed and wait till it passes?

**********

Splash du Jour: Friday

If we let people see that sort of thing, there would never again be any war.
-- Pentagon official giving his reasons for censorship of Gulf War footage –

Even though the above photo is not fiction, I wish us all, a great Friday!

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