Friday, November 30, 2007

From One Puddle to Another...

One thing I despise, is boredom.
I hate boredom.
I am seldom bored.
But I am very prone to being bored, when driving.
And I hate radio.
So, last night, when I was faced with the prospect of 3 hours on the highway, I made a last minute decision.
I pulled into a record store. Having no clue what I should buy, I aimlessly wandered. I just knew that a good CD or two would get me through the highway drive. The first one that caught my interest was the latest Rush CD, Snakes and Arrows, so I nabbed that.
Then, I happened across this new one called Famous, by Puddle of Mudd.
Picked it up, it looked intriguing. My Reading Partner has spoken highly of them, for years. Hmmm… what really got me, was when I flipped it over and saw that certain tracks were produced by Jack Joseph Puig. I remembered the amazing work he did about a hundred years ago with a now defunct “Christian” outfit called Sweet Comfort Band.
So I bought the thing.
WOW!
It is fabulous.
When I discover good music like this, I always get excited about it. Now I want to collect other CD’s by this band.
The first track [Famous] is a killer good song. What’s it like? Well…. really punchy guitar, terrifically raspy, screamy vocals, and an overall sound that somehow reminds me of Three Doors Down.
The next song, well, no…. I’m not going to go through the whole songlist, they are ALL good.
The penultimate song, called Radiate, reminded me of Oasis. The CD alternates between wonderfully raunchy rock sounds, sometimes laced with expertly placed profanity, and nice melodic lovesongs [sans profanity].
I urge all Bookpuddle readers to venture into this…. this other Puddle.
Puddle of Mudd.
One thing this CD ain’t….. is boring!

********

Splash du Jour: Friday












Faithless


I’ve got my own moral compass to steer by
A guiding star beats a spirit in the sky
And all the preaching voices –
Empty vessels ring so loud
As they move among the crowd
Fools and thieves are well disguised
In the temple and the marketplace

Like a stone in the river
Against the floods of spring
I will quietly resist

Like the willows in the wind
Or the cliffs along the ocean
I will quietly resist

I don’t have faith in faith
I don’t believe in belief
You can call me faithless
But I still cling to hope
And I believe in love
And that’s faith enough for me

I’ve got my own spirit level for balance
To tell if my choice is leading up or down
And all the shouting voices
Try to throw me off my course
Some by sermons, some by force
Fools and thieves are dangerous
In the temple and marketplace

Like a forest bows to winter
Beneath the deep white silence
I will quietly resist

Like a flower in the desert
That only blooms at night
I will quietly resist.
--- RUSH – Neil Peart, lyrics to Faithless


Have a great Friday!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Splash du Jour: Thursday

“If a girl looks swell when she meets you, who gives a damn if she's late? Nobody.”
-- Holden, in ch.17 of Catcher In The Rye

Here’s a little quick morning exercise for you.
How many of the Top 10 Banned Books of the 20th Century have you read, you naughty thing, you?
I’ve read five of them. Click HERE.

LOOK SWELL, and have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

In discussing what is meant by being born again (or better, in view of the Greek, "born from above"), in chapter 3 [of the Gospel of John] John makes it abundantly clear that what is being talked about is the fact that all humans are to have two births -- the natural birth from "water," as a human baby, and a second birth, which is spiritual. The "born again" experience is that of recognizing one's true nature as a spark of the Divine -- the light that gives light to everyone coming into the world. It has nothing whatever to do with what evangelicals describe as recognizing one's status as a sinner and "accepting Christ as Saviour." There is nowhere in the Gospels where this condition for "becoming a Christian" is ever laid out in the manner, for example, in which the famous Evangelist Billy Graham presents it. The traditional church teaching that we all, by our very nature as part of the human family, are contaminated by "original sin," that is, by the sin of our mythical forefather Adam -- Paul says that "in Adam all died" (because of his sin) -- and that we add to this by our own sinful acts, has been the basis for clerical control all down the ages.
-- Tom Harpur, in Water Into Wine


Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

Do you think God gets stoned?
I think so . . . look at the platypus.
-- Robin Williams –

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, November 26, 2007

44 Seconds

“Out, out brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow.”
-- Bill Shakespeare –

Yesterday and today, I have succeeded in asking all of my colleages at work a very simple, yet off-putting question. [You can try this yourself right here, it will be fun, I promise you].
One by one, and only when alone, I have presented the following preamble and question:
“I am only allowing you two to three seconds to answer this question OK? I want your first impression, not a mathematically worked out equation. It’s very simple, and it is not a trick question. Remember. TWO or THREE seconds, I want a quick answer. If you take longer than that, I don’t wanna hear it. Ready?”
[They nod, because they know I am weird, and they love me for it....]
“OK, here goes. Here is the question.....”

The average human lifetime consists of HOW MANY DAYS?

One Mississippi... two Mississippi.... three Mississippi.
Any longer than this and the person disqualifies themself from my experiment, because what I am looking for is not how well someone does cranial algebra... I am looking for IMPRESSION..... for IDEA!
For.... pre-conceptions!
And Holy Hypotenuse! Did I ever hear some doozies for answers!
The most bizarre (I am not kidding)... was one guy who blurted out “Eight million!”
No actually the worst was one fellow who said “400”..... so I rephrased the question and then he said some astronomical amount. Most people though, when asked, said around 90,000 to 100,000.... stuff like that.
Amazingly, only one person even came close to what a reasonable estimate would be. He said 30,000.
All in all, this two days of research makes me glad that I am not working at a place that is trying to eliminate cancer from the earth, or build better nuclear reactors!
No, we’s just simple folk..... and with all due respect for those I spend nine hours a day with, the question isn’t all that easy if you have not given it any thought before.
The truth of the matter is this.
Average lifespan around the world is around double what it was 200 years ago. It is now around 65 for men, and 70 for women. Remember, this is WORLDWIDE. When we begin to look at specific countries, Japan wins the longevity contest, with men usually cashing in the chips at 77.6 years, and women saying “sayonara” at 84 to 85 years.
British men are saying “cheerio” at 75, while the dames are dropping the teacup on the floor a few months shy of 80.
French dudes are kickin’ it at 74.9 while the femmes are saying “fermez la porte” at 82.4.
In the U.S. of A., men are living to 72 and women to 79.

I am giving all these stats to show how I arbitrarily arrive at my own personal benchmark of 74 years.
I am going to be somewhat generous and say that most of us are probably going to say goodbye to it all at around 74.
So.... having said this.... how many days are there in 74 years?
Answer: 26,645.

74 years = 888 months = 3,848 weeks = 26,645 days = 648,240 hours = less than 40,000,000 seconds.
None of us will live for a million hours.
Not since the earlier pages of Genesis have people routinely lived for millions of hours.
To live just one million hours, you would have to be 114 years old.

Can I tell you now what fascinates me the most about the length of time that we do live, whether it be 70 years or 80 years or 95 years? Or even TEN years?
What fascinates me the most is how hard our hearts work during that time!
Just think for a moment of the earliest memory that you can recall. Perhaps a family vacation when you were a child. Or a pet dog you got for your fourth or fifth birthday, something like that.
Now consider, from that time to this moment..... your heart has been pumping like mad!
Never stopping. Never taking a day, or even a moment off. Never missing a cue.
Recently I read a book by Dr. Sherwin B. Nuland (a surgeon), and of the heart, he said:
“Pushing out about 70 milliliters of blood (2 1/3rd ounces) with each contraction, this vigorous pump drives some 7 million milliliters (more than 14,000 pints) each day, in 100,000 rhythmic and powerful beats.”
WOW!
OK, so I got the calculator fired up again....

Nuland’s observation means that if you are 40 years old, your heart has already re-directed 25,550,000 (25 ½ million) GALLONS of blood through your body in an endless series of 1,460,000,000 flawlessly orchestrated convulsions! Almost a billion and a half times! It has never taken a weekend off, and even while you slept, it carried on.
If that is not fascinating, I don’t know what is. A half pound of meat, does all this work.

OK, so I want to put into perspective now..... try to visualize what is being talked about here.
I think of Niagara Falls.

I LOVE Niagara Falls and I have been there perhaps ten times in my lifetime.
At peak periods, 150,000 gallons of water a SECOND pour over the American side of the Falls, and over on the Canadian side (shown in the image, above), it is 580,000 gallons. A second.
This translates to almost 35 million gallons per minute over Horseshoe Falls.

Over a period of just forty years, your heart has already pumped 25.5 million gallons of blood.
This is the equivalent of the amount of water cascading over the American Niagara for 170 seconds, or nearly three minutes. And at Horseshoe Falls.... it is the equivalent of 44 seconds of the thunderous cataract.
44 seconds.
Believe me, I have stood at those Falls many a time, the spray on my face.
That’s a lot of water.
That’s a lot of blood.
2 1/3rd ounces at a time.
No man-made machine in the history of the world is as efficient as your heart is.

Put your hand over your heart.
If you are somewhere around 40 years old, you have had nearly a minute’s worth of Niagara Falls go on under that ribcage.
And you, like me, have been largely oblivious of the sheer mechanical frenzy of who you are.
One minute gone.
One minute left.
***********

Splash du Jour: Monday

It's a shame that the only thing a man can do for eight hours a day is work. He can't eat for eight hours; he can't drink for eight hours; he can't make love for eight hours. The only thing a man can do for eight hours is work.
-- William Faulkner –

And out the door I go…
Have a great Monday, y’all.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Conceit: The Review

Conceit, by Mary Novik.
Forget your high-school textbook anthologies!
Mary Novik’s Conceit is nothing like that!
Hers is a brilliant and complex work featuring a sparkling cast of characters who step off the page as breathing – yea, sometimes panting.
A flawed, and sometimes tormented panoply of human beings.

Donne, whose literary fame rests on both his theological meditations and poetry and his earlier sensuous Cavalier lyrics both to Ann More and to his reputed mistresses (pre-Ann) forms the cog of the wheel of this narrative.
This poet’s extremes, as any student of 17th century English literary study knows, is the core of the Donne dichotomy.

For to say you like John Donne is to be met with the question: Which Donne? The Cavalier – who loved all he touched, or the enigmatic, untouchable Priest, whose writing reflected a man grappling with Puritan concepts of the evils of the flesh and a preoccupation with the subject of death?

Who was this man, so passionate in his love for Ann More that he risked everything to make her his wife only to later occupy high moral ground of the Anglican pulpit where - in sanctimonious tones - he decried his own sinful passion and her “voluptuous spirit”?
Was this pious priest the same lover who, thrown into jail for his union with her, wrote despairingly (and characteristically wittily) to her from prison the now famous phrase “John Donne. Ann Donne. Undone.”

The question not only of Love’s secret but also the poet’s identity is at the center of this page turner of a novel; and if that were Novik’s only focus, it would be question enough, indeed, to explore.
But – in something of a conceit itself, alongside Donne’s life story, deepening and complicating the answer to the riddle, is Novik’s largely fanciful story of Donne’s youngest daughter, Pegge and her own quest for love. A quest that would seem to drive her toward madness of the kind found in the pages of gothic fiction.

Novik leans Pegge’s longing and incisive memory narrative against the narrative voices of Donne (who wanders through the past and looks to the future as he waits to die and rise to a purified state), and Ann, whose haunting voice escapes from the grave to harry both John and Pegge to tell her story – the real story of the “undone” lovers. It is a request that Pegge seems to hear and to take on as her challenge.

Though there is ample bawdy here as Novik takes us in rich description to the beds of the book’s lovers, Conceit is no mere Harlequin romance telling in titillating tones the story of the famous and erotically charged lovelife of Ann More and John Donne. A rich display of creative nonfiction, the book rambles leisurely into Novik’s impressions (meticulously researched) of an historical London and its tapestries of plague, medicine (maggots, poultices of dead pigeons, etc.), fashion, politics, and personalities.

Novik, who said that she got the idea for the novel while wondering what Donne’s children would think of the steamy letters and poems that he had written to his wife, notes that Donne “wrote love poems like a priest and holy poems like a lover.” Not exactly the kind of stuff you’d leave as legacy to your offspring.

But legacy it becomes for Pegge, whose intelligent, independent voice relays much of the story, mingling her unflagging desire to find a love commensurate with her parents’ all consuming passion with her own apparent failure to find a mate suitable to her desires. Pegge’s early obsession with Izaak Walton, her father’s biographer, forms an intriguing subnarrative enhancing the book’s primary motifs.

Wanting to be remembered as a holy [and wholly] passionless man, after Ann dies in childbirth (their 12th), Donne denies the reality of the love they had shared…a love that had once compelled him to write of being buried with his love, entwined in an eternal embrace, as well as such heart-searing and ardent verse as “Valediction: Forbidding Mourning.”

Donne has not completely succumbed to the sacrosanct, however: we overhear the dying Donne privately recollect his youth and admit in straightforward interior monologues to Ann that he would “rather be owner of you one hour than all else ever.” It is a desire that the pious Donne would like to destroy, but one that bespeaks the kind of absolute passion that daughter Pegge wants to find for her own life.

As Pegge follows her quest to discover "What is love?" – a question put to her ill and dying father in a most remarkable scene - Pegge, craving the kind of passion for which she knows (by reading Donne’s poems to her mother) that her father and mother shared, ultimately becomes something of her mother’s defender, a role that she sees as necessary largely because of Izaak Walton, whose Life of Donne seems to be an attempt to “sanctify” her father, erasing all his fleshly yearnings.

It is her insistence on seeing to it that both her father’s lust and his longing for spiritual purity are represented in Walton’s book that takes the book to its ending – and neatly (but not too neatly) wraps up Pegge’s search.

Novik, though she draws her major characters completely, does not weaken on the minor roles either: emerging in full-fledged array are Izaak Walton – whose Compleat Angler forms a backdrop for passages on fish and fishing unlike any I have ever read– and the irrepressible Samuel Pepys, from whose Diary Novik draws to portray yet another (moving) look at how a marriage contends with the effects of unbridled passion – this time for someone other than one’s spouse – a theme that, when closely examined, intensifies the book’s central theme of passion vs. a less flesh-dependent love.
Opening the book with a vivid portrait of the Great Fire of London, a scene that is probably drawn from Pepys’ account, Novik frames the narrative here: opening and closing with Pegge’s rescue of her father’s effigy from the inner sanctum of St. Paul’s Cathedral. (Having more than a little fun with her historical perspective, Novik has even seen to have Christopher Wren make a timely cameo appearance.)

As close to being creative memoir with historical grounding as a novel can be, Novik’s narrative in itself forms a kind of conceit as it offers both implied and overt comparisons between Donne’s love in his youth and age and those of his daughter Pegge.
The conceit – an elaborate and ingenious analogy - was the literary device for which Donne is known. Donne’s brilliant use of this literary device runs smoothly through the book as Novik pulls in a radiant array of lines from his work. Novik’s novel is scattered with lines from Donne’s work, sometimes surreptitiously placed, sometimes quoted in full. They only add more richness to a book already rich in descriptive, sensuous prose describing domestic activities, city life in London in the seventeenth century and natural settings.

As with any complex work of literature, it is impossible to fit Conceit into any kind of neat slot. It is fiction, it is biography, it is history.
But mostly it is a story of the conflicts found within us all – the longing for ….the higher and yet the yoked to physical and earthly pleasures.
No pretty little romantic story, Conceit can be a disquieting read on many levels, not the least being that – not to give too much away - Novik hints in several instances of what most would view as an unnatural, unhealthy love.
But it is the language and the questions it asks that ultimately may leave the reader with his [or her] own obsession – to read more of the poetry of Donne.

Read an excerpt!
Purchase the book!
**********

Saturday, November 24, 2007

New Poetry → Sparrow

Sparrow

Calico asleep at her side,
She murmured. Quaked may be the word.
Morning sun aslant, I set down the tray,
And looked at what I love
Most. In this world and any other.

You were restless, I say.
Bad dream. Bad, she repeats. Turns.
Hides, for I was in it. Again.

It is unfair, the tricks the mind plays.
I told her this, my hand in her hair
As the cat, yawning, stretched,
And jumped down.

Her back, in that moment,
Was a wounded sparrow.
So I touched it.
I brought orange juice, I half-whisper.

And what else? What else?

Moving the tray, I get back in bed.
I get next to my own heartbeat.
And eyes that have not yet been open
This day, know, and see
That the air beneath, will be safe.


© Ciprianowords Inc. 2007

Friday, November 23, 2007

Splash du Jour: Friday

I want to stand with you on a mountain.
I want to bathe with you in the sea.
I want to lay like this forever.
Until the sky falls down over me.
-- Truly, Madly, Deeply – Savage Garden

Have a great Friday!
******

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Ahh... The Dichotomy

I just finished reading it!
Good Granny / Bad Granny.
It’s fabulous.
I, [an old guy] love children’s books.

And as such, I am not sure who will love this book more, the kids being read to, or the adults that are reading it to them!
The latter will be snickering, and alternating between nodding and shaking their heads. The kids will just be giggling.

“Good Granny prepares nourishing lunches of salads and whole wheat bread.”
“Bad Granny orders fried chicken by the bucket, with a side order of fries.”

“Good Granny takes her grandchildren to the mall to shop for educational toys.”
“Bad Granny takes them to the mall and teaches them to max out their parents’ credit cards.”

The above examples are two of my favorites in this new book.
Written by Mary McHugh, and wonderfully illustrated by Patricia Storms.
With each turn of the page, a reader, [or listener] is greeted by a new dichotomy of the ages-old conflict between Good and Evil…. no, not so much “evil” just bad.
Good to the left ←→ Bad to the right.
And no, not so much “bad” even, as “flawed”.

Or hmmm… delightfully misguided! As so many grannies tend to be.
Let’s face it, it’s the bad grannies that give us the giggle-moments.

In fact, this is perhaps the only downside to this book.
It is sure to engender a two-fold conundrum.
Firstly, kids will wish that their “good” or even half-bad grannies were a bit more badder.
And secondly, “good” or even half-good grannies will be reading and thinking, “You know. That second scenario does sound like a lot more fun!”

“Good Granny takes her children to the science museum and walks them through the giant model of the beating heart.”
“Bad granny takes her grandchildren to Daytona Beach and drives them around the track at 180 miles per hour.”


And as for me?

The old guy?
Well, my chances of ever being a grandparent [good OR bad] are slim to none.
However…
another book by Mary McHugh might be just the thing for me.



More about Mary.
More about Patricia.


Splash du Jour: Thursday

Poe's theory about the necessity of writing short poems is in accord with the Industrial Revolution. As societies grow, their poems tend to grow shorter. A peasant will listen to interminable epic poems in the village square; the literary man in big cities reads sonnets in his bath.
-- W.H. Auden –

Have a great Thursday!

In light of Auden’s statement, here is my own shortest poem.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

When a poem is finished, you can't move anything around in it -- you can't substitute one word for another, you can't change a punctuation mark or a line division or anything sort of phrasing without diminishing the effect to some degree. So in other words, it's language brought to a kind of state of perfection. Obviously there is no such thing as perfection, but as close to it as possible. I think that's one of the tests. Most prose paragraphs you can move things around without diminishing the effects, but a poem--everything is in its place.
-- Ted Kooser --


Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Nicole: Just Because...

For further scientific evidence of why I am convinced she is the Top Rung Of The Evolutionary Ladder,
click HERE!

********

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

Have a great Tuesday!
*********

Monday, November 19, 2007

Splash du Jour: Monday

Chris Neil celebrates his game-winning goal, Nov.10, 2007.

In Grade 3, Neil’s principal asked him what he was going to be when he grew up. “I’m going to play in the NHL,” said Neil.

“Be realistic,” said the principal.

“I’m going to play in the NHL,” said Neil.


Have a great Monday!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

New Poem → Blackwing










Blackwing


Poison lies in wait, not about
To fill three trumpets with spit
While someone beats a drum. Not

Quite. It knows to tread softly up

The stone stairs.


And fear as a signal fails the wary

At a point where trust meets what
Love should be. Would be.

Easier to run from a killer than from
One who meant for you to end

Yourself.


There is no rhyme in this tale, yet

You look. Dammit, do not look.

It is not here in what happened

Nor in the poem of it.

No rhythm. No meter.


You know you survived.
Let that be enough for now.
Enough, even as you yet pant.

Hiding your face in your hands,
I urge you to part two fingers.

Friend, the stone steps are silent.


Remember. In the ascension,
You knew it to be an angel.


© Ciprianowords Inc. 2007

Saturday, November 17, 2007

It's About TIMER

Hey, last night I couldn't take it anymore.
The timer on my stove is busted. It's been busted for about a year.
Now it’s dead.
You know the thing that you set and then it buzzes when whatever is in the oven is appropriately burned?
Yeah, that thing. I killed it.

For about a year it was just buzzing whenever the hell it wanted to. Out of the blue.
I would then just go and turn it off. Sometimes in the middle of the night I would wake up to the buzzing. It got progressively worse, and I began to really have to fiddle with the thing to make it shut up.
There were times when I’d come home from work and the buzzer was blaring and poor Jack was meowing and I'd be thinking like HOW LONG has he had to listen to that damn thing buzzing? All day? Poor Jack. [No wonder he pukes in my shoes all the time.]
A normal person would have called the Superintendent about it, long ago.
A NORMAL person!
But me, I have just put up with it for a century.
And so, last night I was sitting at my desk and all of a sudden → BZZZZZZZZZZ the thing starts buzzing...
I looked over at the stove and said to myself...... "No more!"

I went over and with my bare hands literally RIPPED the entire front face of the stove off, where the clock part lives.
All the wires were exposed and all. At the time I cared NOT how it was all going to be re-assembled, if ever. In this pre-surgery state, the buzzing was even louder. Agonizing.
Frig the anaesthetic.
I opened the kitchen drawer and got the trusty flathead screwdriver and I stabbed the living hell out of the entire buzzing apparatus thing. I stabbed blindly, over and over.
The buzzing sort of stopped and started and stopped with my repeated jabs, so I felt around back there and actually found the actual buzz dealie. It was quivering away, wanting to buzz every time I let go of it.
So, I shoved the screwdriver in there and twisted. It was brutal, yes. Like, I twisted the life out of the thing, bent it straight into hell. But you have no idea the satisfaction. The silence. My God, it's over. So over.
I looked down at Jack. He was nodding in approval of the murder.
And amazingly, the whole shmeer popped right back into the front of the stove.
Like, you would never know what had just gone on!
Popped right back in there, good as new.

***********

Friday, November 16, 2007

Splash du Jour: Friday

Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown, and partly… the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes. Fear is the basis of the whole thing – fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand-in-hand.
-- Bertrand Russell --

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

THE PILLAR$


← Why is this man smiling?

I’ll tell you why!
He’s smiling because he just found out he can buy that mansion that is twice the size of his current mansion!
He’s smiling because his name is Ken Follett, and his 1989 bestseller The Pillars of The Earth has been selected as the next “Oprah Book©”.
For any writer, even one with the stature and sales record of Mr. Follett, that sort of thing has to be earth-shattering. The hearing of such an announcement must be accompanied with that clichĂ© sound of the cash register opening… CHA-CHING.
The news is fresh, Oprah only announcing this yesterday [the 14th]. And now, as I sit in the Starbucks section of Chapters, I can see the area where the new Pillars display has already been set up. And these are right next to his new novel, which [my God, this guy REALLY fell up the stairs this time…] happens to be a SEQUEL to Pillars.
The new one is called World Without End.
I myself have been waiting for this book to come out since the twelfth century, it seems. I have so many other books on my “To Be Read” list that I have not yet gotten to it, but I will.
Thing is, BOTH of Follett’s books are now bestsellers!
Like, without a doubt, they will be #1, and #2 on all lists everywhere, because obviously, those who will be picking up Pillars on the advice of Oprah will see the other book, the new one, and take it along with them up to the cash register!
Nothing this mind-bogglingly colossal has happened since…. well, since Jed Clampett stuck his shovel too far into the ground!
Next thing you know, Pillars will be a movie.
Like House of Sand and Fog. Remember that book? And then the movie?
Well, perhaps you did not know this, but the author, Andre Dubus III, wrote that book while he was living in his car! Then Oprah latched onto it. [The book, not the car.]
Hmmmm…. I wonder how many cars are parked out front of the Dubus estate, nowadays?
I wish Oprah would say something on-air about Bookpuddle©!

One more thing and I’m done. About Ken Follett’s success, with Pillars.
HE DESERVES IT! Or rather, the BOOK deserves a greater audience.
This book is flat out, one of the best books I have ever read in my life.
I will not go on about how much I love it. If you have a hankering to hear more about what I think of The Pillars, click HERE.
In Oprah’s words, Follett is “a best-selling author that everybody has heard of, but this novel is unlike any of his books he’s known for around the world.”
She’s right. It is totally different than his “thrillers”.
Follet says [on his website], “My publishers were a little nervous about such a very unlikely subject but paradoxically, it is my most popular book.”
Keep smiling, Ken!
Pillars is about to become a whole lot more popular!

***********

Splash du Jour: Thursday

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

If you love large, you've got to hurt large.
If you've got a lot of light, you've probably got an equal amount of darkness.

-- Sarah McLachlan –


Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Splash du Jour: Tuesday









Life has loveliness to sell,

All beautiful and splendid things,

Blue waves whitened on a cliff,

Soaring fire that sways and sings,

And children's faces looking up

Holding wonder like a cup . . . .

from "Barter" by Sara Teasdale


Have a great Tuesday!

********

Monday, November 12, 2007

C-I-P-R-I-A-N-O

Inspired by what Dorothy at Of Books And Bicycles did with her Nov.7th posting, I am going to do a meme-thing involving the letters of my blogname.
Here is the criteria, the rationale, the raison d’etre:
List one fact, word or tidbit that is somehow relevant to your life for each letter of your first or middle name.

C → Canora. A small town in Saskatchewan, Canada…middle of the prairies, heart of the breadbasket of Canada, where I was born. My hometown.
Average age of residents there? → Amazingly, 112.

I → Irving. As in, John. An author I have recently discovered, who has made me wonder why I have not been reading him, before now.

P → Pocket. This will sound as though I am stumped and therefore, am making this up as I go along, but [here goes] → I have always loved the word “pocket” best, among words.
I love saying it. Love how it sounds. POCKET.
Think about it for three seconds. Is there a more perfect word, anywhere?

R → Reading. The pastime without which I [literally] do not want to live.

I → Geez! Another letter “I”. Umm… Illinois. It is my favorite state of America.
In recent years I have become somewhat of a collector of all manner of Illinois paraphernalia, and increasingly so, it seems!

A → This one is easy. My favorite novel of all time? Anna Karenina. Written by some old beardy Cossack named Leo.

N → NOTHING. The thing that I most like to do, on weekends.

O → Ahh, this is a great one. I have a fantasy about a place called Orangedale.
I want to live there one day with my favorite person. Orangedale is my post-working-days paradise. It’s where [among other beloved varmints] the dog named “Found” lives. And two horses, one named Bree, the other, Shasta.
And there is a calico cat that sleeps with us. Above the table in the breakfast area of Orangedale [and breakfast is always a big deal at Orangedale] there hangs a lovely print of the painting shown at the top of this blog posting. Renoir’s, The Canoeist's Luncheon.

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Splash du Jour: Monday

There's really nothing like a woman's purse to tell whether she is prospering or languishing. It's not about the money inside so much as the BRAND of the purse. The smaller the better too. Mine - the one I like best - is a Fossil. Never in a million years would I have bought it for myself. Kids. Kids buy moms stuff.
-- Anonymous Woman –

Have a great Monday!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Smack, Booze, & A Life of the Blues

First off, I am a longtime Eric Clapton fan.
I LOVE HIM.

Hence, from the “interest” level alone I was drawn to the autobiography like iron filings to a magnet.
I’ve waited for this book, for years.
And apparently, I’m not alone in this.
Clapton: The Autobiography has spent all four of its first weeks of release [since Oct.9th] on the Globe & Mail Non-Fiction Bestseller List, here in Canada.
The book has not disappointed me.
It is an engaging, enthralling read.

It starts at the start, with Eric, the illegitimate son of Patricia Clapton and Canadian airman, Edward Fryer, being raised by his grandparents [Patricia’s parents, Rose and Jack] in a little village called Ripley, in England.
Early on, he began to suspect the truth, and withdrew into himself. One year, just before Christmas, Pat visited and Eric blurted out, in front of his grandparents, "Can I call you Mummy now?"
She replied, "I think it's best, after all they've done for you, that you go on calling your grandparents Mum and Dad."
Clapton writes, "in that moment I felt total
rejection."
The disappointment was too unbearable, and he traces his decades-long inability to form lasting relationships with women to this early sense of inadequacy.

His interests in art and creative expression soon led him towards an appreciation for music.
He writes: "It's very difficult to explain the effect the first blues record I heard had on me, except to say that I recognized it immediately. It was as if I were being reintroduced to something that I already knew, maybe from another, earlier, life."

His grandparents supported his passion, and supplied him with his first guitar, a Hoyer that was too big for him, the strings a mile from the fretboard.

Rather than provide a synopsis of his entire life here I will just say that the book goes on to chronicle his movement through a succession of bands, from The Roosters, to The Yardbirds, Cream, Blind Faith, Derek and the Dominos, and a myriad of other projects and collaborations, where it seems his shyness and sense of inadequacy never so much as left him but became increasingly shoved into corners with the aid of narcotics.

The life story of Eric Clapton involves a lot of smack [heroin], cocaine, booze, women, real estate, and money. And always the music.
Even if he performed one or two concerts laying flat out on his back… he played.
Invited by George Harrison to appear at the benefit concert for Bangladesh, Clapton accepted only after being assured that he would be provided with enough heroin to feed his habit.

While some of his friends and lovers could keep their drug use in moderation, Clapton found that in his case, “…addiction doesn’t negotiate.”
Addiction wanted all of him. And got it.


The most moving and memorable parts of the book for me, are the ones in which Clapton so honestly opens up the darkest rooms of his life. I paused, as I read him say: “In the lowest moments of my life, the only reason I didn’t commit suicide was that I knew I wouldn’t be able to drink anymore if I was dead.”
Sad.

This is definitely not a book wherein a man boasts of his accolades. [For instance, there is not one mention anywhere of Mr. Clapton’s 16 separate trips to the Grammy podium!]
It’s an unsparing, searing look at a very famous and wealthy man who could not even drive his Ferrari the 300 yards home from the pub, without smashing it into something along the way!

One thing that rings clear, throughout the history of Eric Clapton’s career and life, is that he was a blues purist.
His early frustrations with the bands he had formed always involved staying true to the purity of the music, to the blues. He despised selling-out. He despised trying to make the hit record, for the sake of sales.
His utmost desire was sincerity. Realness. To be real and true.
And yet, it was his very addictions to narcotics, and later, to alcohol, that kept him from being real and true to himself.
That was then.
Clapton is now 62 years old. And 20 years sober.
In this review I am not saying much about the good parts of his story. The recovery. But it’s all there, in the book’s home stretch, culminating in his marriage to Melia McEnery, who became the one stabilizing figure in his adult life. He and Melia have four daughters.
Admittedly, this book is not going to win the Pulitzer Prize or anything, but I do love how Stephen King put it, in his review of Clapton “…he writes better than most memoirists play guitar.”
Damn straight!
At one point, Clapton says, "When I try to take myself back to that time, to recall the terrible numbness that I lived in, I recoil in fear."
And yet this is exactly what he has done, with this book. Courageously, [I think] taken himself, and us, “back to that time.” To those times.

And shown us that he has more than survived. He has triumphed.


Read an excerpt CLICK
To purchase CLICK
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Friday, November 09, 2007

Cip Wins A Contest

Hey!
I won a writing contest!

Well, I share the prize with several other writers, who wrote darn good stories.
This was the Good Granny / Bad Granny writing thingy, over at BookLust.
When Patricia told me I had won, I almost wanted to make a COLLECT call to my mother, and tell her the good news!
To read my award-winning little dittie, in honor of dear old Mom while she was having a “Bad Granny” moment, simply click HERE.
Thank you Patricia, for selecting me among your roster of fine submissions.
Now…. if I could only win the Lotto 6/49, I’d be set for life!
Cheers!
I wish you all a great weekend!

**********

Splash du Jour: Friday

Have a great Friday!
********

Thursday, November 08, 2007

I Saw The Sign

I could sit at Chapters for 18 hours a day, day after day, and never be bored.
Anyone who knows me, knows that this is true.
Knows that it contains not even the slightest amount of exaggerosity.
I could do it. I could live at Chapters.
However, I should clarify something.
It is not the bookstore itself that I am really addicted to.
It is the Starbucks that is in the bookstore that has me hooked. Really, it’s the combination of two of my favorite things on Earth. I mean, whoever dreamed up this idea was a sadistic genius!
Books and coffee.
In mathematical terms BOOKS + COFFEE = ME LIVING THERE!
I’m here all the time. For instance, I’m here right now, writing this.
When weekends approach, I will often e-mail a friend of mine, a fellow urbanite, and say “Hey, Sean. See you at the Office.© ”
He knows I mean Chapters, the Rideau location, upper level. Table nearest the stairs.

I don’t know how I lived in the pre-Chapters era.
Actually, yes I do.
I do remember. I lived at The Steaming Bean, on Besserrer Street.
The “Bean” as it was lovingly known by all of its eclectic patrons, no longer exists. It was a fabulously hip place! Really really hip. Funky! With those ancient retro-fifties style loud-colored couches in the back room, and old-style lamps. The owner busted up a huge-normous mirror and then pasted the pieces on the wall, and as you walked around in The Bean, you felt all fragmented because all your unreflected parts were missing.
It was hip like that.
And it was there one afternoon, sitting with my friend Julie at the barstool counter facing the street, that I saw my first Chapters sign!
It drove right past us, on a flatbed. Stopped me cold.
This huge red monstrosity of a sign, strapped down…. I gazed upon it, salivating like a Pavlovian dog.
That big red book captivated every fibre of my wildest imaginings...
“What the hell is that? Do you see that?” I asked Julie.
I was hyperventilating. She was much more calm about it all.
“It looks like the sign for a bookstore,” she said.
I was a wreck for the rest of the day, dreaming of that sign’s destination.
Wondering what "Chapters" was?
Turns out it came to rest just a few blocks away, where it was being hauled to the new site at the corner of Sussex and Rideau.
Where it, [and myself], remain to this day.

For a rather Biblical account of the beginnings of this store click HERE.
*************

Splash du Jour: Thursday

Praise and criticism seem to me to operate exactly on the same level. If you get a great review, it's really thrilling for about ten minutes. If you get a bad review, it's really crushing for ten minutes. Either way, you go on.
-- Ann Patchett –

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Splash du Jour: Wednesday










The sun sank, and they both felt its final shudder of warmth.

Turning, he looked into her eyes.
“I feel as though you are the one I have waited for, all my life. And now you are here.”

“I’m not even sure if I believe in such a thing,” she whispered.

“I’m
lying? Darling…”
“No, no. It’s just that phrase ‘the one’. I’m just me. All I know is that I too, have waited. Until now. Until right now.”

-- Cipriano –-

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

A little before you go to sleep,
read something that is exquisite.

-- Erasmus –-

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Splash du Jour: Monday

Everything tells me that I am about to make a wrong decision, but making mistakes is a part of life. What does the world want of me? Does it want me to take no risks, to go back where I came from because I didn’t have the courage to say ‘yes’ to life?
-- Paulo Coelho, in Eleven Minutes


Have a great Monday!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Hamburger Heist

Well, I never thought I'd find myself in this position.
Me - Cold Molasses - a "guest author" on Bookpuddle.
For all the regular readers of this blog, I offer a warning up front...this likely won't be up to Cip's standards, but I'll do my best.
And for all of you who are now thinking "Hey, why does this guy get to guest-write on Bookpuddle?", let me assure you that it is only because I had a such a Cipriano-like moment, that Cip and I felt it appropriate to share it with Bookpuddle-nation©.
So enough with the preamble...on with the story.

As usual, I worked a full day yesterday so I arrived home a little late. On this evening [Friday] I was going out to meet my fellow Ents for a very special Friday night Entmoot - an evening with Irshad Manji at our local Chapters (by the way, given that we were going to see an author speak, this is added justification to have this story on Bookpuddle!).
So I rush into the house, get changed, and rush back out to my car to head downtown. I didn't have a chance to eat while I was at home, so I decide to stop into a McDonald's on the way (note the similarity with Cip's eating habits!).

Now to really understand what happened next, I need you to close your eyes. Oh wait, I guess that won't work since you need to read this. Fine, keep your eyes open...but try to picture a typical McDonald's drive-thru in your mind. Got it? Okay.

So I'm about to enter the drive-thru lane, but there is a car in front of me stopped in the lane. The driver looks like he might be looking for something in his car...I assume he is searching for money or something so he can pay for the grease we are both about to purchase. When I get close to his car, he pulls ahead so I assume he has found whatever he was looking for.

He pulls up to the speaker to place his order. I'm right behind him and I put down my window (okay an admission on my part...I often try to listen in on what other people order - I'm not sure why, but I do...you ever do that?). Anyway, this guys mumbles something that I couldn't hear. But obviously the McDonald's order guy can't hear him either because he has to repeat it much louder.
"I forgot my wallet so I'm going to just drive thru", he says.

Interesting. I guess he didn't find his money after all. Oh well, too bad for him.
He pulls ahead and I move up to the speaker and place my order for a Big Mac combo. I'm told how much I have to pay and that I should move up to the first counter. (Are you picturing the drive-thru in your mind? Remember...there's 2 counters...you pay at the first and pick up your food at the second...this is important for the rest of the story.)

I move ahead to the first counter with money in hand and notice that the guy who had been in front of me has stopped in the drive-thru lane again. Again he looks like he is searching for something in his car. Strange...my spider senses are starting to tingle.
I get to the first counter and pay for my meal. "Move to the next counter", I'm told.

And as I go to do so, the guy in front of me starts to pull ahead again.
Thank goodness because I need to get this food and get to Chapters. Wait...he's stopping again.
In front of the second window. Wait a minute! He's stopping in front of the second window! And he hasn't ordered anything! I heard him...he didn't have his wallet!

And then it hits me. I know what's going on here. He's pulling a fast food heist!
Move over Ocean's 11/12/13...this guy is going for my Big Mac.

Now as a kid I loved The Rockford Files. Remember that show? Anyway, if there's one thing Jim Rockford taught me, it was to get the license plate number of the crook. So I dutifully pull out a pen and piece of paper and write down this guy's license plate number. As I finish the last number, I see him take the McDonald's bag (my McDonald's bag!) from the attendant and take off with my Big Mac.

My mind is now really churning. I pull up to the second window...curious to see if this was all my imagination. But when the guy offers me 2 cheeseburgers, I know I was right about the heist. So I've got to make split-second decision. Do I bother to tell the guy what just happened? I've got the license plate number in my hand and a great story to tell...should I bother?
Well, normally I would have.
But in this case, I really had to get my food and run. And all I could imagine was a long drawn-out discussion with this guy trying to explain what had just happened. And then I'm picturing myself giving this kid in McDonald's the license plate number of the car, and I'm thinking...wait a second...this was a $6 meal...not the Crown Jewels this guy stole. Who's going to do anything with the license plate number? Nobody!!!

So how do I respond to the offer of 2 cheeseburgers? "No I had a Big Mac combo." A look of confusion on the kid's face. And then he turns to the people in the kitchen and says "You gave me the wrong order. I need a Big Mac. Hurry!"

Within 2 minutes, I have my Big Mac combo and am on my way to see Irshad Manji. For the rest of my drive, all I can think about is how many times has this guy pulled off a heist like this that the Hamburglar© himself would be proud of? How badly would one want a Big Mac to do this? And what would he have done if I ordered the Filet-O'-Fish? Ah...questions we will never have the answers to, but fun to think about anyway.

So that's my story. I hope you enjoyed it. My parting advice would be as follows...if you find yourself in a McDonald's drive-thru with a grey Cavalier in front of you with an Ontario license plate number HMB-RGLR...you may want to wait until he completely vacates the Drive-Thru lane before you place your order!

***********
This is a great story Cold Molasses. Definitely up to Bookpuddle "standards". The only problem being that now, after reading it, I not only want a Big-Mac [which is a given], but... I sort of feel like STEALING ONE. This guy's got a good racket going there!
***********

Saturday, November 03, 2007

As Though I Need More Books?

Last night I met with my three friends, fellow heretics all, [The Ents] down at the Chapters store and we attended the Irshad Manji interview.
She is fantastic. Lucid. Witty. Clear-headed. Eloquent. Cute as hell. BRILLIANT.
Irshad Manji is, and was, all of the above.

Afterwards, The Ents© and I went for coffee to a place called Timothy’s and we discussed our usual plethora of topics. At one point in the evening, one of The Ents told us of something that happened to him on the way to the Manji event. It is an incredibly unusual and funny story involving…. hamburgers, and the McDonald’s Drive-Thru. [← These being some of my own favorite topics, as you well know!]
He said he may write of it and then submit it to me as a sort of GUEST piece, to be featured here on Bookpuddle. I encouraged him to do so, but so far… I do not see it in my email inbox! [← This is a hint, for him.]

Prior to all of these shenanigans I went to the Rockcliffe Bookfair, where I snagged a nice little armload of books for very little money.
21 books, for $20.00.
This year I was selective. Remember, just last Sunday I DONATED six huge boxes of books to this very same sale. In fact, as I thumbed through the shelves yesterday, in my buying frenzy, it was sort of spooky to see so many of my own books there!
So I was selective, and left with The Following Armload:

A History of God , by Karen Armstrong [I already have it but this old ancient softcover one looked more readable].
Water Into Wine, by Tom Harpur, real nice hardcover. This is a newer book by him.
Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath [real nice ancient-y Faber edition, at least 300 years old].
Sins of Scripture, by John Shelby Spong [again, I already have this but you can always use a spare Spong!]
Much Ado About Nothing and The Merchant of Venice, both in my favorite format of reading Shakespeare, the Signet paperback editions.
Two by William Golding → The Inheritors, and The Spire.
A Son Of The Circus, by John Irving [2 copies, one for me, and one for my Reading Partner].
A Widow For One Year by John Irving [2 copies, as above].
And then, four books by Margaret Laurence, all in duplicate for the exclusive Surfacing Book Club© to enjoy. [We loved reading her book The Stone Angel.] Yesterday, I nabbed 2 copies each of: The Diviners, A Jest of God, The Fire-Dwellers, and A Bird In The House.
It was quite a good haul.
It was quite a good day. And evening.
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Friday, November 02, 2007

Splash du Jour: Friday

I’m officially getting old so I don’t need drugs anymore. I can get the same effect just by standing up really fast.
-- Jonathan Katz –


Have a great Friday!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

CAMARADERIE!

I’m sitting at Chapters as usual, drinking a Starbucks Grande Bold. Just chilling out, reading this excellent autobiography of Eric Clapton.
I have always loved Clapton, and he has so many great LIVE concert DVD’S, I swear I could watch the guy play guitar forever.
His style fascinates me.
Not only his lyrics, but his vocal phrasings, have always made me feel that this is a man that knows much about life.
He has been around the block a few times.
The fine folks at Random House sent me a review copy of this new book, and I must say, I am eating it up! It is grand.
But then something on the shelf yonder made me put Clapton down and get out of my chair. It’s this thing, shown here, called 501 Must-Read Books.


My first thought was probably much the same as yours would have been.
Hmmmm…. how many have I read?
So I flipped through the thing. It is actually quite neat. A huge book.
I went to the Classics section. Here, I must admit, I could use some work.
According to this book, I am a bit “classics” deficient.
But I was sort of pleasantly surprised as I flipped through the Great Books of the 20th Century chapter.
Hey, I’m doing not too bad.
It was so neat to see, almost every time I turned a page, a familiar face! I’ve been here. I’ve done this.
I’ve probably read about 30% of the ones listed here.
I am choosing “good” books, I guess.

Lately, [the last two books I have read] I have been really enjoying my personal “discovery” of John Irving.
Here, in 501 Must-Read Books, they list his The World According To Garp as a must-read. So, I make a mental note.
Here in this chapter is Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and V.S. Naipaul’s A House For Mr. Biswas, and Mordecai Richler’s The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, and Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast.
Fifth Business, by Robertson Davies.
Books I have loved.

But, at the same time, I think… who, who can CHOOSE what are the BEST books of a century?
How would these be rated? Against what non-subjective criteria?
According to sales? According to critical reviews?
One person’s BEST BOOK may be the next person’s WORST BOOK.

I am not a bestseller type.
Yet it is nice to feel that one is reading with other people, you know?
It is nice to sense some sort of camaraderie.
Don’t you just LOVE IT when you see someone else reading a book you have loved?
A few weeks ago I was on a plane reading Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance.
[It is listed here in 501 Must-Read Books, by the way!]
And a stewardess saw, when I turned the book over to mix cream and sugar into the coffee she had just handed me.
“Oh my. Isn’t it good? I loved that book. I read it twice.”
“Yeah, I love it. It’s good.”

“I know, it so makes you appreciate the comforts that we have here in Canada…. like my God, the struggle, the times that these people lived through blah-blah-blah….”

CAMARADERIE!

She went on, “I’ll come back in a bit and show you what I am reading now.”
“Sure” I said, not at all expecting her to return.
But a little while later, sure enough, she did return, dragging ANOTHER STEWARDESS. [Or, as they are now called “Flight Attendants”]!
And they were both holding their current reads!

Anyhoo, now I’ve got TWO STEWARDESSES, this is what you’ve got to understand here….. two of them.
And each of them hotter than the tar melting in the cracks of Highway 401 last July!
One of them sits in the seat next to me, [the plane was not full], the other, she is perched on the armrest deal.
The first one, she was reading something by Ursula Hegi [I forget the title, but vividly remember the black-benyloned calves] and the other was reading A Thousand Splendid Suns, [written by….. E. Venbetter Calves] and there was CAMARADERIE, I tell you!
We talked for longer than I can even now, believe to be true.

Reading is fun. And people that read are fun.
I am not really sure of the literary value of speculating upon what may be the 501 Must-Read Books, like I said, my own choices have nothing to do, really, with popularity. Or sales, which are, nowadays, too often one and the same thing.
But wow, it is nice, now and then, to have two sizzling flight attendants interested in more than pouring your coffee.
As for my own general disregard for Bestseller Lists, I hear that old curmudgeon, my Splash du Jour guest as recently as, well today, saying Do not suppose, however, that I intend to urge a diet of classics on anybody. I have seen such diets at work. I have known people who have actually read all, or almost all, the guaranteed Hundred Best Books. God save us from reading nothing but the best.
-- Robertson Davies --
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