Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

. . . everybody is involved in fiction. People turn themselves into characters in their own dramas and they turn other people into characters in their own drama, so they fictionalize other people constantly. They project onto other people roles that they carry around in their heads, probably left over from their childhoods and families, and they see other people in their lives as those roles. Often quite unjustly. By studying real fiction, they might gain an insight into how they themselves are fictionalizing and into what is really fiction, that is, what they've made up about other people and what is really there.
-- Margaret Atwood --

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Splash du Jour: Monday

Say to a blind man, you’re free, open the door that was separating him from the world, Go, you are free, we tell him once more, and he does not go, he has remained motionless there in the middle of the road, he and the others, they are terrified, they do not know where to go, the fact is that there is no comparison between living in a rational labyrinth, which is, by definition, a mental asylum and venturing forth, without a guiding hand or a dog-leash, into the demented labyrinth of the city, where memory will serve no purpose, for it will merely be able to recall the images of places but not the paths whereby we might get there.
-- The doctor’s wife in Jose Saramago’s, Blindness

Have a great Monday!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Time Slips Away...

Every holiday is too short.
That is my considered opinion.
Every holiday runs short of time.
This is what I believe.
All holidays are too brief.
That is my conclusion.

And that impending Monday morning, that swirling bilious cloud, is like the boiling atmosphere above Mount Doom in Mordor.
You know? Middle-Earth?
The Lord of the Rings?

My summer holiday is over. Is ending. Breathing its last gasps.

I have had a terrific time, sure. Visiting a great friend. Sleeping-in to the point of hibernation. And even my awake times have been wonderfully somnambulistic.
Ahh… holidays. So soon they end.

Tomorrow, I will again awaken much too early, get in my car and drive straight into the seething maw of Mount Doom.
One thing that never ceases to amaze me, however, is the following.
As much as I love to read books, and truly, in many ways, it is a major passion with me, [the love of reading]… I find that I do not really read any more when I have unlimited tracts of time stretching before me, as when the rumblings of Mount Doom are still spewing ash upon my back!
In other words… on holidays, I do not read as much as expected.
I bring with me much more than I ever consume.

For instance, in the past week, I have not even finished reading a wonderful book, by Michael Ondaatje. It’s called Divisadero. His new one.
The book is a gem. It is gorgeous. But somehow [I know not how, I do not understand the cosmic forces that restrict me]… I have not even finished this one book.
What ends up happening, is that my “time” becomes more sporadic… I only have snippets of it, in which to really read. Thus, a wonderfully convoluted book like Divisadero, [and by the way, reading Ondaatje at the best of times requires some good concentration and intellectual connectedness]… such a book becomes disjointed.
Even when I was in Mexico in January, I only managed to read a portion of one book.
It is a mystery to me, how unrestricted access to time seems to hamper my actual reading time!

Thankfully, such is not the case with all people.
A fellow blogger friend has recently returned from a holiday in the Bahamas and reports that she managed to read six books in less than two weeks!
BRAVO, I say!
Not everyone is as time-challenged as I am, when it comes to vacation-reading.

And now, I am going home with my unfinished Ondaatje.
And then tomorrow…. back to Mordor!
You know what I need?
A ring that makes me invisible.
No, no, I’m being serious. I think this would really help me.

People passing by, on the beach, would just see this book sort of floating there, pages being occasionally turned.
The book held by no one.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Splash du Jour: Friday

Even if I had all of your present, all of your past, in a cinematic (linear) presentation, I would still be missing the interior. Always outside each other, we humans are.
And I - well, I am squinting to see you better, peering through whatever fogged over window I can press my nose against. Without being too intrusive.
-- Anonymous

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Matrix: Part 1

a) It’s called sleeping in.
b) It’s called being lazy.
c) Sometimes referred to as… holidays!
Me, exhibiting option b), above.

I am still on holidays and I am being so lazy that I dreamed my way right past a posting of the morning’s Splash du Jour. See, [insert excuse, here ] last night my friend and I began watching The Matrix at about midnight, and then had a big discussion about the movie afterward.

I finally “get” the thing. The Matrix. I concur with my friend that it is a philosophically interesting story. For years he has been alluding to this movie in our conversations about life and in those moments I have always stared at him like a zombie, not knowing what he is talking about.
Now I get it!
All of this junk that we do…. my typing of this blog entry, the “fact” that I am hungry right now, my addiction to Starbucks coffee, and hamburgers…. ALL OF THIS IS NOT REAL!
It’s an illusion.
We are all part of a gi-normous computer-generated program, engineered, overseen, and monitored by machines!
We are living in the Matrix.

So, I am going to do the only thing that an enlightened person should do.
I’m going to shut my laptop and go back to sleep for an afternoon nap!
As the character Cypher says while chowing down on a piece of steak…

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

I said something which gave you to think I hated cats. But gad, sir, I am one of the most fanatical cat lovers in the business. If you hate them, I may learn to hate you. If your allergies hate them, I will tolerate the situation to the best of my ability.
-- Raymond Chandler –

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


I am going to lose a portion of my [wonderfully intellectual-based] following with this blog.
I already know that!
The decent [unhorned] folk will leave me!
Because see, I am going to suggest that you all should love AC/DC as much as I do!
And I know, ahead of time, that most of you [those that do not wear running shoes and white socks, four days of the week, as I do]… you are going to criticize me.
You are going to tell me to grow up.
Michael Buble is the new normal.
Josh Groban!
Josh Groban?
You should get the new Maroon 5! You’ll be converted.

I do not want to get with it.
I want to keep listening to AC/DC.

Like I did tonight.
Listened to this very DVD, [shown above] on a system comprising the furthest advances of companies such as JBL, Sony, Samsung, and Pioneer… we [us middle-aged guys] have been able to assimilate this masterpiece tonight, as though we were sitting in this very concert!
[Minus the second-hand smoke!]
I will not tell you if there was any first-hand smoke.
Such information is restricted. Classified. Not for the curious blog-ears.
All I know is that [post-concert] my eyeballs have a different postal code!

The only important thing for you to know is that [site-counter be damned]….. I LOVE AC/DC.
If they came to my city and the tickets were $400?
I would even buy YOU a ticket.
Thing is, it is all about energy and passion.
If I would have run HALF the mileage Angus did, on his many stage-runways, in this one concert, I would have died from no less than eight consecutive heart attacks.
I can respect that kind of stamina.
These guys have got that, in spades.
Buy this DVD, and you’ll see what I mean.


Splash du Jour: Tuesday

Everything is collage, even genetics. There is the hidden presence of others in us, even those we have known briefly. We contain them for the rest of our lives, at every border that we cross.
-- Michael Ondaatje, in Divisadero

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Splash du Jour: Monday

“Every city has a sex and an age which have nothing to do with demography. Rome is feminine. So is Odessa. London is a teenager, an urchin, and, in this, hasn't changed since the time of Dickens. Paris, I believe, is a man in his twenties in love with an older woman.”
-- John Berger
Have a great Monday!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Room With A View

I am currently in Phase 1 of a much-needed two-phase holiday.
Phase 1 begins here in Toronto where I am staying at the Sheraton in the very heart of the City! My friend and I arrived yesterday afternoon.

Here is a picture of the place.
[CN Tower in background.]
It is grandiose, and I am having the time of my life.
Relaxing. Drinking coffee [← There is a Starbucks right IN this place, on the main floor…. now that’s my kind of hotel!]

Traversing Yonge Street.
Eating great food.
Finding outrageously wonderful used bookstores. [This afternoon, I bought a beautiful biography of Hemingway and Milan Kundera’s Immortality].
I’m reading the newest Ondaatje.

The weather could not be more beautiful.
I am loving life.
Almost to some sort of seemingly illegal degree.

This is a view from my 10th floor hotel window. [There are 43 floors].

Things are looking good, from Room 1079.
That is Nathan Phillips Square, directly across from us.
And the symmetrically gorgeous curvature of City Hall. What an amazing piece of architecture, built in 1964. I was one year old. I remember it well!
Bay Street stretches northward.
See, [below] the old stone building there, to the right?

That’s the Courthouse. Directly behind the Courthouse is The Eaton Center, containing more retail outlets than any herd of women could get through in any one day!
So… I just thought I would drop by to say Hi. Let you all know where I’m at.
I need to behave myself for just this one more night, and try to stay out of that Courthouse!

Cost of gas to get here $10.00
Cost of room 1079 $400.00 per night.
Cost of used books I bought today $3.17
Cost of four cans of Boddingtons Pub Ale, chilling in an ice bucket $10.00


Friday, July 20, 2007

'Twas a Dark and Harry Night...

Well, tonight’s the night, right?
At the stroke of midnight, about 18 majillion kids are going to be lined up in front of half a bazillion cash registers, with the new Rowling offering, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in their wee hands. Some of these kids will already have read half the book by the time the coin in the Rowling coffer clinks!
Seriously, even though the last four books in the series are each over 600 pages, children as young as 8 are reported to devour them in a matter of days, if not hours.
Come morning, people the world over will have already discussed the book online.

The Harry Potter phenomenon is unprecendented and staggeringly impressive, when it comes to book sales.
Someone has estimated that from this one new book alone, author J.K. Rowling will be wealthier to the tune of something around 6 or 7 friggillion dollars. Or as she likes to think of it, more than 3 friggillion pounds!
If all of the currently sold Harry Potter books were placed end-to-end, the line would stretch from Orlando to Jupiter [← and I don’t mean Jupiter, Florida, I mean Jupiter the planet]…. stay with me here… the line of books would then circle the planet Jupiter four times, and then stretch on out to pretty much connect all of the dots in The Big Dipper, where they would then come back down to earth, stopping just this side of Davenport, Iowa.
That’s a lot of books.

In all seriousness, consider the following statistics, regarding book sales of other famous books that are not nearly as gi-normously off-the-scale as are the Potter series:

→ Gone With The Wind (1936) 30 million.
→ Anne of Green Gables (1908) 50 million.
→ The Catcher In The Rye (1951) 60 million.
→ The Da Vinci Code (1995) 75 million.
→ The Lord of The Rings Trilogy (1954) 150 million.
→ Harry Potter, Books 1-6 → → → → 325 million!

Will I be in the lineup tonight? Will I be one of the majillions?
I have never read even one Potter book. Nor even seen one of the movies.
Therefore, I am not qualified to comment on whether or not they are good books [well-written] or whether they are drivel or hogwash or masterpieces of literature.
What say ye? Do you like the books?
I know that you’ve read them, so ‘fess up. You are one of the majillions.
So tell me. What do you think of all this Pottermania?


Splash du Jour: Friday

In the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season; the Christians called it 'Christmas' and went to church; the Jews called it 'Hanukkah' and went to synagogue; the atheists went to parties and drank. People passing each other on the street would say 'Merry Christmas!' or 'Happy Hanukkah!' or (to the atheists) 'Look out for the wall!'
-- Dave Barry –

Have a great Friday!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

"No. Sandra Cisneros cannot hold her own. Who did they take out of the damned anthology to put her in there? Maya Angelou - bless her heart - she is not the writer that Willa Cather was."
-- Anonymous, [but this is her cat, RP] and I agree with her comment[s] –

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

"Science is interesting..."

For those of you unfamiliar with Richard Dawkins… why?
No, but seriously, I am halfway through his latest book, The God Delusion, and I am finding it to be a positively exhilarating read.
And I use that word in its true meaning, not just in the sense of “exciting” but hmmm… animating!
Reading The God Delusion makes me feel happy.
Because it makes so much sense of things that have [traditionally] not made sense.
And things that make sense make me happy.

Many people, many readers, do not like Dawkins.
They feel that he is too scathing and barbed, and it’s true that he criticizes religion with all of the tact and gentleness and indecision of a barracuda.
He has absolutely no time for the hushed tones and unwarranted [← in his opinion] respect that religion, and religious “faith” is granted in our day.
And he pulls no punches. He is not unclear.

Right in the Preface, he sets forth his literary goal → “If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down.”
Hmmm… Dawkins is not exactly the kind of guest-speaker you want at your next Women’s Aglow meeting, that’s for sure.
Nor will he be seen spreading butter across muffins at the next Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship Breakfast anytime soon!
Hell, no.
Admittedly, as little as three or four years ago, I myself [a former Christian minister] would have thought of Dawkins as somewhat of a Devil Incarnate. But, since I no longer even believe in a physical “Satan” per se, I have even less reason to believe that Dawkins is him.

Actually, I don’t even see what all of the fuss is about.
Can even one thinking person in the world today refute a page or paragraph of The God Delusion without resorting to the aid of subjectively held beliefs that have not a single shred of objectively-proven and/or scientifically verifiable evidence in their favor?
I think not.
Having said this though, I realize that objectively-proven and/or scientifically verifiable evidence, regarding religion, is not for everyone. For instance, it’s not for my mother, bless her soul. But it has become important for me, as an intellectual.
And apparently, it has become important to many people, as this book is still the #1 bestseller [at least in Canada] among non-fiction books today!

The chapter titles alone make me salivate like a Pavlovian dog:
-- Arguments For God’s Existence.
-- A Deeply Religious Non-Believer.
-- The Roots of Morality: Why Are We Good?
-- Why There Almost Certainly Is No God.
-- What’s Wrong With Religion? Why Be So Hostile?

A friend asked me why I bought Dawkins’s book in the first place.
I said, “Because it’s so shiny!”
Think about it!
Excellent marketing by Houghton Mifflin… they’ve employed all the tactics of the fish lure!
Shiny. Silver. Flashy. Plays tricks with the eye.
All other books look bland, when compared.
I picked the thing up, and at random, [if there is such a thing] turned to this Dawkinsian question → Why are scientists so cravenly respectful towards the ambitions of theologians, over questions that theologians are certainly no more qualified to answer than scientists themselves?
[I have a degree in Theology! It's on my wall, over there!...]
The hook sunk deep into my cheek, I was dragged to the cash register with the shiny book.
Dawkins has been summarily filleting me ever since!

So, to supplement my reading [and by the way, prior to this I read Christopher Hitchens’s new one, god Is Not Great… seems my heresy knows no bounds!]… as I was saying, to supplement my reading, I have looked to that greatest of modern-day resources…. Youtube.
I’ve watched umpteen video-clips of Dawkins in full flight!
But, I want to leave you with a link to one of these clips, one in which Dawkins [uncommonly] says only a few sentences. It is an excerpt from some sort of conference called Beyond Belief 2006.
Watch as the world-renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson politely perambulates around what he really wants to say to Dawkins…. watch as he takes a wildly circuitous route to his real question to Dawkins, which amounts to → “Richard, why do you have to be so nasty?”
When I first watched this clip, and it finally came ‘round to Dawkins offering his very brief rebuttal…. I spewed coffee from all three of my nostrils! [Don’t ask. Birth defect.]
I laughed out loud so vehemently, and so suddenly, that my cat Jack ran and hid under the bed.
I hope that the ever-effervescent Dawkins has a similar effect upon you, dear reader, even if you only have TWO nostrils! [Which deficiency, by the way, proves beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I am higher up on the evolutionary scale than you are, what with my extra one and all]!
Here is…. THE CLIP.

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

Mystics exult in mystery and want it to stay mysterious. Scientists exult in mystery for a different reason: it gives them something to do. One of the truly bad effects of religion is that it teaches us that it is a virtue to be satisfied with not understanding.
-- Richard Dawkins, in The God Delusion

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Portrait Of A Marriage

Just yesterday, Danielle at A Work In Progress posted a blog about a novel called The Edwardians, written by Vita Sackville-West.
Although I’ve never read any of Vita’s novels, the posting reminded me of an excellent biography of the unconventional marriage of Vita, to Harold Nicolson. I read it several years ago.
Written as a sort of posthumous confession, Portrait Of A Marriage is the true story of a forty-nine year marriage that survived constant bouts of reciprocal infidelity.
To throw another stick into the blaze, both Vita and Harold loved people of their own sex, and yet their marriage not only survived these bouts of unorthodoxy, sexual incompatibility, and long absences, but became stronger and finer as a result.
As stated in the Foreword, "each came to give the other full liberty without inquiry or reproach. Honour was rooted in dishonour. Their marriage succeeded because each found permanent and undiluted happiness only in the company of the other. If their marriage is seen as a harbour, their love-affairs were mere ports-of-call. It was to the harbour that each returned; it was there that both were based."
Interesting, to say the least!

The story is told in five parts; two by the protagonist Vita Sackville-West, and three by her son, Nigel Nicolson.
After his mother's death in 1962, Nigel discovered among her personal items a travel bag containing a large notebook. It was a manuscript, an autobiography written by his mother when she was 28 years old.
For a decade Nigel held on to this manuscript, and in 1973 (his father having passed away in 1968) it was published here in Portrait Of A Marriage.
Parts 1 and 3 consist of Vita's autobiography verbatim; parts 2 and 4 are Nigel's commentary, each prefaced by a very useful chronological timeline.
Part 5 summarizes the remaining years of the marriage, showing how they "made out of a non-marriage a marriage which succeeded beyond their dreams."
The basis of this certainly unconventional marriage was what they called a "common sense of values." Total frankness.
There were certain things that were wrong absolutely, and as long as they agreed on what those things were, it did not matter much if in other ways they behaved outrageously. For them, marriage as an institution was actually "unnatural" and only tolerable for people of strong character and independent minds if it were regarded as a lifetime association between intimate friends.
Understood and experienced as such, a successful marriage then became "the greatest of human benefits" and therefore, husband and wife should strive hard to achieve it! "Each must be subtle enough to mould their characters and behaviour to fit the other's, facet to facet, convex to concave. The husband must develop the feminine side of his nature, the wife her masculine side. He must cultivate the qualities of sympathy and intuition; she those of detachment, reason, and decision. He must respond to tears; she must not miss trains."

Of course there will be readers who feel that these two developed these other sides of their "nature" to an extreme perhaps?
Detractors however, should be sure to validate their criticism with a marriage of 50 years plus... for here was one that lasted 49, and was inexorably defeated only by physical death itself.
Truly bizarre? Yes indeed.
These two individuals were so extraordinary and UNIQUE that I think it important to note that their story should not be viewed as a "how-should-we" story, but rather, a "how-did-they" story. In this, it is magnificent as it stands.

The author did a tremendous editorial job of putting it all together. Anyone interested in V. Sackville-West's writing [as I am] will find this work to be a wonderful whetting stone. As I did.
A great read.
Check out Danielle’s blog on The Edwardians.


Splash du Jour: Monday

Give me books, fruit, French wine, fine weather and a little music out of doors, played by somebody I do not know.
-- John Keats –

Have a great Monday!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Sun Also Rises

One of my most recent reads has been Ernest Hemingway’s [1926] novel, The Sun Also Rises.
Hemingway is one of those authors I have wanted to explore for a long time [along with James Joyce, Saul Bellow or John Updike] but I have inexplicably never really gotten around to it. Actually, this is not entirely true… I did read Hemingway’s memoir-ish A Moveable Feast, and loved it.
But The Sun Also Rises was my second look at Papa, and I do want to read more.
It was entirely coincidental that I was reading it during the same days [seasonally speaking] in which the novel itself takes place.
The bullfights of Pamplona, along with the daily early-morning three-minute suspension of sanity known as the Running With The Bulls takes place from early to mid-July.
And that is where we find ourselves in this book.

Jake Barnes, [whom I could not help but identify with what I know of the persona of the author], is an American journalist stationed in Paris. He likes bullfights, drinking, fishing, and….. not working.
This book is like one long, extended party, where people venture from café to bar, and stay in either place only long enough to suggest the next rendezvous, the next café or bar where they will consume as much alcohol as is humanly possible!
I’ve never read of such wanton dissipation since, well….. A Moveable Feast!

So, in the first portion of the book we meet all of Jake’s friends, beginning with Robert Cohn, the Jewish writer, ex-boxer. Cohn is the only person in this book that is not a severe alcoholic.
Then there’s Lady Brett Ashley, the sort of English dame hottie that everyone not only wants, but also… has! Jake and Brett maintain a close, although platonic [for reasons I will not get into] relationship throughout the course of the book, and they are paranthetical characters, in my opinion.
The ever-insouciant [and ever-soused] Mike Campbell is Brett’s boyfriend [well, she has others, too] and he hates Robert Cohn, not only because of Cohn’s Jewishness, [racism abounds in this book] but because of the fact that Robert loves Brett.
Then there is Bill Gorton, sort of a happy-go-lucky guy who rounds out this fivesome of ne’er do wells. A spicy amount of secondary characters are peppered throughout, but suffice it to say, these principal five all end up in Pamplona for fiesta week, where they trample and gore their way through all of the hotels and bars like a wild herd of multi-horned rhinos!
At one point, a brief fight breaks out between Jake and Robert Cohn, and the following few lines illustrate the near skeletal way that Hemingway writes.

Jake narrates:
I swung at him and he ducked. I saw his face duck sideways in the light. He hit me and I sat down on the pavement. As I started to get on my feet he hit me twice. I went down backward under a table. [from ch.XVII].

I went down backward under a table?
Anyone writing this sparsely [not to mention disjointedly] nowadays would not be published.
And yet. And yet… there is something about this book that is good.
Something that makes it well worth reading. Hemingway [successfully] gets away with this sort of austere, clip-clop style… utterly devoid of pretense. Leaving you with the feeling that you have a brother, or maybe an uncle, that would have related these events to you in much the same way.
Or maybe even a Papa.
I enjoyed The Sun Also Rises, in a non life-altering way!

So what am I saying about this, my second foray into Hemingway?
Am I ‘fer it, or ‘agin it?
I say overall, it is a thumbs up! Read it.
Hey, and now that I think of it, I read Old Man and the Sea way back in high school.
But it was required reading, so…. doesn’t count.
Reading under duress does not count!
Cip's P.S.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Nabokov = Genius

So today at work, Sean comes up to me…. OK, backtrack.
First of all, Sean is this guy I work with and he is the only person in my entire workplace that actually reads.
And by “actually reads” I don’t mean actually CAN read [a few others there, “can” read…… I think]… but I mean he DOES read. And he reads good stuff.
Like he just finished reading some Henry Miller. He reads Hemingway. He recently got through Joyce’s Ulysses. [← A feat I have yet to attempt.]
Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar.
He reads good stuff. And he’s only 22 years old. Horridly, I am twice his age.
Chronologically speaking, I could be Sean’s dad!
[Thankfully though, recent DNA testing has proved the foregoing sentence an impossibility!]
Now Sean is reading Nabokov’s Lolita, a book I read a couple of years ago.
So today at work he comes up to me and says something about how wild it is that Nabokov is writing in English.
I paused.
And you know what?
It is remarkable!
Nabokov, I mean.

How can someone write so well in a language that is not his first language?
I am looking at my copy of Lolita and sure enough [I knew this beforehand but still looked, to be sure]… there is no “Translated by _____” in the frontispiece of Lolita.

So, with just the slightest amount of research I find that Vladimir Nabokov wrote his first literary works in his native language [Russian] but rose to international prominence as a masterly prose English stylist for the novels he composed in the United States.
Get this His family spoke Russian, English and French in their household, and Nabokov was trilingual from an early age. In fact, much to his father's patriotic chagrin, Nabokov could read and write English before he could Russian.
So, I hate him.
No, but seriously, how can he be so brilliant?
It’s not fair.

What I mean is, I consider myself to be fairly intelligent, as compared to other things on two legs and all, but, my native [and only] language is English, and I CAN’T WRITE IN THAT LANGUAGE, AS GOOD AS THIS GUY!
Lolita is a masterpiece of the ENGLISH language!
So I hate Vladimir Nabokov…. starting right now.
No….. now.

I want to run out onto my balcony and bang my head on it!
[See, even that sentence could have been written more betterer!]
No. I want to run out and date a fourteen-year old girl!
[Can I even say that on the internet?]

Now watch!
My PG rating is going to go Triple XXX!


Friday, July 13, 2007

Splash du Jour: Friday

Let the rain kiss you.

Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops.

Let the rain sing you a lullaby.

The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk.

The rain makes running pools in the gutter.

The rain plays a little sleep-song on our roof at night--

And I love the rain.

-- Langston Hughes (1902-1967) -- April Rain Song, 1921

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Splash du Jour: Thursday

It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.
-- Albert Einstein –
[Can someone please get this guy some conditioner?]

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

The novelist is out there early with a particular necessity that may become the necessity of us all… It is to deal with life as something God did not offer us as eternal and immutable.
Rather, it is our human destiny to enlarge what we were given. Perhaps we are meant to clarify a world which is always different in one manner or another from the way we have seen it on the day before.

-- Norman Mailer –

Have a great Wednesday!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Splash du Jour: Monday

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

Have a great Monday!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

On Chesil Beach

On Chesil Beach, by Ian McEwan.
Nowadays, in premarital relationships, sexual compatibility is something that most couples do not wait too long to find out about. Typically, we’re getting to this part quicker and quicker it seems, and I would venture to say that this is an area fraught with less mutual confusion than say for instance, the depth of true “love” between the two people. Compatibility in other realms taking a [shall we say] front seat while the people themselves are [ahem] in the back one!
In other words, [generally speaking now], courtship includes sexship!
Yeah! Well!
→ Meet Edward and Florence.

We are told in the very first sentence [the author does not court his reader long]… They were young, educated, and both virgins on this, their wedding night, and they lived in a time when a conversation about sexual difficulties was plainly impossible.
When was this time?
Pre-sexual-revolution England.

Thing is, Edward and Florence are in love. They’ve got that part of things in order.
They’re 22 years old. They’ve got the world by the tail.

Florence, daughter of wealthy parents, has her musical interests.
Edward loves history, and dreams of being a writer.
McEwan paints a rather idyllic sort of atmosphere surrounding the couple, Edward becoming increasingly involved with the Ponting family, even moving into their villa just off the Banbury Road. He plays regular tennis with Geoffrey, the future father-in-law, and lands a job working in the family business.
What could be wrong in this picture?

Well, in the midst of all of this splendor and promise, there are things that both of these youngsters avoid confronting, on a communicative level.
Edward, well aware of his own sexual inexperience, is startled to find that even his slightest advances toward Florence are met with seemingly undue resistance. Yea, even revulsion.
Florence, we are told in one brief, almost hidden away sentence, thinks that Edward has been with many women, before her. This misinformation fuels her reticence and fear.
McEwan seems to suggest [albeit so subtly that the reader must guess at it] that Florence has experienced sexual abuse at the hands of her father in the past.
Point being that lack of communication, like termites, is eating away at what could be a perfectly good building.

And so here we are at The Wedding Night.

The real Chesil Beach, shown here.
We are on Chesil Beach, at this resort…. well, not us, but these two are there.
And McEwan writes so forcefully that we cannot help but become wicked voyeurs.
Yea, we lean in closer, to be sure we hear every word… see every eyelash flicker.
They are having a very lackluster, fear-fraught dinner.
And then the moment arrives.
The bed.
False signals are flying every which way, like penalty flags at a soccer match.
McEwan is all about moments. About antecedent causes, and how moments in time can change us forever.
Well, for those of us who appreciate this aspect of his work, [and I am one of them] he is not about to disappoint us here. Everything about this novella is compact and quick, and believe me, it comes to a ragingly lopsided climax now.
Quickly. No words wasted.
It is not spoiling anything here for me to say that the bed scene is an absolute disaster. An emotional armageddon.

But the true tragedy is yet to appear.
On Chesil Beach.

Not to over-moralize here, but the book made me ask myself a question.
At what point do we attend to the physical matters of relationship?
Is the correct answer to be only after the wedding day, as many religions [and presumably, “God”] would tell us? As Edward and Florence did?
Far be it from me to attempt an answer to that question that would suit all people.
But, this book surely provides one look at the devastation that can result from an unrealistic commitment to delayed gratification and lack of open communication.
Whatever else we want to think about sex, one thing that rings true in this book is that it is profoundly important.
And to think otherwise, and enter into marriage in a state of mutual sexual ignorance, can be life-threatening.

And yet, On Chesil Beach is not even about sex.
It’s about “love and patience” which, as Edward realizes on the last page, [and decades later] could have saved the day. Could have “seen them both through.”
We are given hints that Florence has learned the same thing, too.
Sometimes, [in fact, perhaps all the time] to do nothing, is to have done too much.
The armageddon of the bedroom scene was fixable.

What an amazing, amazing book!
Days later, I re-read the last 50 pages or so, aloud, to a friend, and even knowing it all ahead of time, had to stop several times. Couldn’t go on.
The last chapter, the fifth one, is among the most moving pieces of writing I have ever encountered.
On Chesil Beach is the eighth McEwan book I have read.
I’ve loved each one, but I think I like this one best.
So, in my opinion, Chesil Beach is five stars out of five!
It will become a beloved novel to everyone who will have, or is having, or has had a love relationship with another person. And you’ve gotta admit, that’s a huge audience.
Such is the appeal, of On Chesil Beach.




Saturday, July 07, 2007

Piano Abuse

Just today, in cyber-conversation with my favorite person in the world, she asked…
Did you have a piano in the house when you were growing up?
[This blog is my answer.]
We did.
We had a piano in our house.
But no one could play the thing.
The house is not ours anymore. As to the fate of that piano, I am not sure. But I reckon it is still there, in that house on Argyle Street!
The reason I can be almost sure of it, is because the only reason we had it, is because when we moved there, in 1972, the former owners of the place could not get the piano OUT!
Somehow the original family got it INTO the house, but could not get it out, because of a certain bend in the stairway.
Faced with this problem, my dad just bought the thing from them.
As in, he paid a bit extra I guess. And we had a piano in the basement.
But no one could play it.
And no one ever did!

The closest anyone ever got to doing anything with that piano was when yours truly here, Cipriano The Great© , beat the living hell out of the poor thing with my drumsticks.
See, I was a drummer! [CLICK HERE for the full report.]
Since birth, I have wanted to hit things, with sticks!
So naturally, seeing that old piano sitting there….. just looking at it for so long… well, it started to bug me.
One day I went over to it, [it was one of these upright jobbies, like in the picture, above]…. and I opened up the lid, and pounded on the naked, exposed, quivering strings there. Never in the history of the world has there been greater piano abuse than what I inflicted on that thing!
And then I went one better.
Closing the lid, I commenced pounding on all of the nice white keys, with the drumsticks, chipping the ivory all to hell. All the keys were now jagged and busted-er than a Jack’O’Lantern’s grin!
[I have since learned that there are countries in the world where such a thing is punishable by death!]
But we lived in Canada, where nearly everything is perfectly legal!
That piano remained so neglected that no one ever even noticed its dental injuries.
Much less questioned the guilty!

And for all we know, it's still sitting there in its dungeon.
Chipped, and unplayed.


Friday, July 06, 2007

Splash du Jour: Friday

In dark ages people are best guided by religion, as in a pitch-black night a blind man is the best guide; he knows the roads and paths better than a man who can see.
When daylight comes, however, it is foolish to use blind old men as guides.

-- Heinrich Heine, Gedanken Und Einfalle

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Wanna Winna Swashbuckler?

Ever wonder what a swashbuckler is?
Well, now would be a good time to make up your mind, as to a definition.
Because Isabella at Magnificent Octopus [and isn’t that a magnificent one, above?] is having a Book Giveaway.
She is going to send someone a real good swashbuckler of a novel.
To be eligible, however, you must post a comment at her site [CLICK HERE], and give your definition of what a swashbuckler is?
Hmmm…. I myself want to get that book she is offering, even though “swashbuckler” is not a genre I am too familiar with.
Here is what the dictionary says about the word:

swashbuckle |ˈswô sh ˌbəkəl; ˈswä sh-|
verb [ intrans. ] [usu. as adj. ] ( swashbuckling)
engage in daring and romantic adventures with ostentatious bravado or flamboyance : a crew of swashbuckling buccaneers.
ORIGIN late 19th cent.: back-formation from swashbuckler .

One thinks of pirates! All manner of mayhem. Some hero coming to the rescue.
Perhaps a damsel or two in distress?
I think of The Lord of The Rings as a swashbuckler in many ways, except for the “romantic". There is not much romance in Tolkien.
To be honest, I think of Jim Crace’s recent work, The Pesthouse, as being somewhat of a swashbuckler.
I think I am somewhat Swashbuckler Deficient.
But…. if I win Isabella’s little contest, perhaps things will change!
Even though this radically diminishes my own chances of winning anything, I will say it again…… Cast Thy Vote!


Splash du Jour: Thursday

"Time's fun when you're having flies."
-- Kermit the Frog –

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

If there is poetry in my book about the sea, it is not because I deliberately put it there, but because no one could write truthfully about the sea and leave out the poetry.
-- Rachel Carson (1907-1964) -- accepting the National Book Award for The Sea Around Us, 1952.

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

Remember that as a teenager you are at the last stage of your life when you will be happy to hear that the phone is for you.
-- Fran Lebowitz –

Have a great Tuesday!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Happy Canada Day!

To everyone, Canadian or not!
In just a matter of minutes this very scene will take place. The Snowbirds will be flying right past my apartment.
I missed it because I was writing this blog about it happening.
No, just kidding.
I saw them.