Thursday, April 30, 2009

My 4th Blogiversary!

Happy Fourth Blogiversary to me!
Wow… four years I have been blogging, as of today.
It seems like yesterday when I posted That First Severely Erudite Blog!
Now, this posting today represents #1,785.
It’s been fun. Part of the joy of blogging is meeting great people, fellow (and sister) bloggers, whether online or in person.
For instance, I am on vacation here in Toronto, and it was so nice to be able to meet up with Patricia and Beth for lunch yesterday!
We had a real wild hoot of a time.
In part of our discussions, we talked about WHY we blog, and I noted that when it comes to the expression of one’s ideas or art, you can’t just walk up to someone in the Mall, tap them on the shoulder and say, “Hey, wanna read this poem I wrote last night?”
BUT [and here is the neat thing] this is basically what we are able to do in the blog-world. Express ourselves in a non-intrusive environment. It’s like a virtual world where you can be assured that fellow human beings are tuning it to you or their own accord.
At their own leisure.
Just like you are doing, right now.
And I know, dear reader…. you are right now wishing me a Happy Fourth!
Am I right?


Splash du Jour: Thursday

Readability I have been told, is not everything. Neither is breathing, but it does come before whatever comes next.
-- John Ciardi, The Craft of Writing --

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

God is not body… is not soul, intelligence, imagination, opinion, thought, word, number, order, size… Try to understand, Baudolino: God is a lamp without a flame, a flame without a fire, a fire without heat, a dark light, a silent rumble, a blind flash, a luminous soot, a ray of his own darkness, a circle that expands concentrating on its own center, a solitary multiplicity… God in his fullness, is also the place, or non-place, where the opposites are confounded.
-- Umberto Eco, Baudolino --

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

View With A Room

“I don’t care what anyone says,
Toronto has a certain aesthetic beauty to it.”
-- Cipriano --

…Especially if viewed from the 32nd floor of the Sheraton Hotel on Queen Street, where I am currently… viewing it! [Photo is from our window].
Holidays are why work exists!©
And I’m on one right now – holiday, that is.
So where did I go? No, not Mexico, not Miami.
Well, sure there’s no ocean. You can’t go whale-watching and stuff like that.
Or spelunking. You can’t visit anything of much historic significance, and admittedly, every six feet or so someone reminds you that you have an obligation to relieve yourself of all the change in your pocket [last night I was approached by one down-and-outer that actually produced a VISA machine]… but really, I declare it, Toronto has a certain beauty. This is why I keep coming back to it.
Canada’s New York.
It’s got character.

Hate the hockey team.
Love the city!


Splash du Jour: Tuesday

If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.
-- Stephen King, On Writing --

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Splash du Jour: Monday

There is divine beauty in learning... To learn means to accept the postulate that life did not begin at my birth. Others have been here before me, and I walk in their footsteps. The books I have read were composed by generations of fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, teachers and disciples. I am the sum total of their experiences, their quests. And so are you.
-- Elie Wiesel --

Have a great Monday!

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Two nights ago, right after work, I began the first segment of my holiday time for 2009. Next week I am not working a bit, and so don’t even TRY to get me to do something because I’m telling you right now, the answer is “No.”
I’m on VACATION, and a more deserved one hath never been earned, no, not even by you, dear reader! So I kicked everything off with three hours in my car on my way to a friend’s place. I figured this road-trip would be a great opportunity to listen to one of these audio books, you know, on CD.
And I did.
I listened to Dawn, the 1961 novel by Elie Wiesel.
I also read this thing in normal book format, in August of 1994. [I
keep meticulous reading records]. Back then I had sort of gone on a Wiesel binge, reading about six or seven of his books in a row.
I wanted to hear Dawn!
Usually I do not like the concept of books on CD. But I must say, I very much enjoyed listening to the book in its entirety during those 3 hours on the road.
It is a sobering book. Very much so.
It’s about this 18-year old Holocaust survivor Jewish guy, Elisha, who conscripts into some sort of resistance movement. Basically what happens is he is selected to be the executioner of this one British hostage. And the book describes the inner turmoil, the struggle of this young man as he comes to terms with what must take place at dawn.
He must become a murderer.
And another man must become dead.

There is so much I could say about the nuances of the story. As is everything written by this man, Elie Wiesel, Dawn is filled with pithy philosophically reflective moments.
I had to press the rewind button several times in the 2nd CD when the narrator was saying:
The fear of either the victim or the executioner is unimportant. What matters is the fact that each of them is playing a role which has been imposed upon him. The two roles are the extremities of the estate of man. The tragic thing is the imposition.
To me, those lines sum up the message and the tenor of this book.
Night is the first book in a trilogy -- Night, Dawn, and Day -- reflecting Wiesel's state of mind during and after the Holocaust.

I’ve read them all [mind you, back in 1994 Day was entitled The Accident].
"Not since Albert Camus has there been such an eloquent spokesman for man." --The New York Times Book Review.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Her Lips: A Saturday Poem

Her Lips

She was the first person who loved me that did not
bother me. Before ever meeting her lips, my own
existed to do just that. To touch hers.
Not so much kiss, per se. But to touch.

But in touching, a dictionary opened,
and an aged Oxonion, smiling, dipped his pen in ink.
Smiling, he revised a former statement.
It had said, “to touch with the lips as a sign of love.”

He stroked this out and looked at a wall.
On that wall a scene of an afternoon picnic unfurled.
Barley waving, aspens whispering, a robin hopping,
and a step from a cliff. On his page, with conviction,
he wrote – “undefinable”.

© Ciprianowords Inc. 2009

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Emperor of Ice Cream

Lately I’ve been thinking of Brian Moore, the Irish-Canadian novelist.
I don’t read enough of him.
Yet I have read so much of him. But not enough.
He is one of my favorite authors.
I’ve posted tons of reviews of his novels, but never this one, until tonight.
The Emperor of Ice Cream. (1978).

No surprise for those familiar with Moore's novels, he comes storming out of the gates with a lighthearted sort of tongue-in-cheek contempt for religion (specifically Roman Catholicism) right on the first page, where young Gavin Burke is having an imaginary dialogue with the icon of the Divine Infant that stands watch over him from its perch on his bedroom dresser.
Gavin no longer believes in God, yet he remains in dread of God's vengeance for the fact of this unbelief. He struggles with what he calls his Black Angel and White Angel which live, one on each shoulder. "The trouble was, the Black Angel seemed more intelligent; more his sort." Comic dialogues with these invisible psychoanalysts abound in the novel.
The scene is Belfast Ireland, early stages of WWII. Seventeen year old Gavin enlists in the war effort to escape the responsibility of continuing his education and getting "a real job."
This is a great spin on one of Moore's oft-recurring themes... a young man struggling to make a go of it, and making wrongheaded decisions as he does so!
Gavin joins the A.R.P. (the First Aid Party, similar to a wartime emergency Red Cross). The boy has a totally negative self-image, and convinces himself that he is just "a second son that will never amount to anything." He'll never be as successful as his older brother Owen, and will never meet his father's expectations of him.
So... he welcomes the War. As did many Ulster adults in that era, who oddly welcomed the advent of Hitler. They revelled in his havoc in Britain, and maintained the belief that the Fuhrer would never strike at their own little backwater towns anyway.
For Gavin, "War was freedom. Freedom from futures" (p.7). If there is a central idea in the book, this is it... it is a key theme in the novel. Believing those six words provided Gavin and many others with an excuse for not facing their personal problems. The ever-present, albeit unlikely, threat of attack provided distraction of all sorts.
The central drama is within Gavin's consciousness and in a bitter conflict between him and his father. Gavin's adolescent fantasies of power and achievement - sometimes sexual, sometimes iconoclastic - always rest on a knife-edge of indecision and powerlessness, of shame and humiliation. But these fantasies, and his father's equally self-serving political/philosophical beliefs are put to the test when the bombs fall.
It seems that Hitler has found Ireland on the map! This changes everything.
Father and son who have been bitter adversaries throughout the novel are reconciled through a shared knowledge of the horror of war. It proves to be more than either of them were ready for, and when they both return to their bombed-out house, they find that the war has changed a lot more than the physical landscape.
Those who know about Moore's own upbringing will see that there is much autobiographical content in this novel.
What a great book.

A word about the title.
It is borrowed from a Wallace Stevens poem. I looked it up in hopes of finding out why Moore chose this phrase as his title. The actual poem is very difficult, and far beyond the scope of this review to even half-examine. But what is certain is that it represents symbolically, the bitter moment of choosing life over death, at a time when life seems particularly lonely, self-serving, lustful, and sordid.
When I first picked up The Emperor of Ice-Cream I seriously thought it would be about a guy that sold ice-cream.

Moore proves once again that he is so much deeper than me.


Splash du Jour: Friday

The lyrics of pop songs are so banal that if you show a spark of intelligence, they call you a poet. And if you say you’re not a poet, then people think you’re putting yourself down. But the people who call you a poet are people who never read poetry. Like poetry was something defined by Bob Dylan. They never read, say, Wallace Stevens. That’s poetry.
-- Paul Simon, in a 1968 interview --

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Splash du Jour: Thursday

Let our gardening hands be gentle ones. Let us not root up one another’s ideas before they have time to bloom.
-- Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way --

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Another Word...

So, today in my reading I learned yet another word. This time I did not wait long but just tried immediately to find out what it meant.
The word is “waratah”.
I had never heard it before, until I read this passage where an elegant award dinner was in full swing, and each table was awash in a “garish display of flowers.”
Then Claire Messud [in her terrific novel, The Emporer’s Children, really, you should read this book] says, “This arrangement – comprised of birds of paradise, waratahs and kangaroo paw (and this, mysteriously, in the brief season of peonies) – was repeated in smaller configurations….”
It was bugging me, so I looked it up online.

Obviously it is some sort of flower, but it’s always good to look things up when you have no clue what they really are.
The waratah ends up being some kind of weird flower from Australia, as shown randomly all over the place here.
There are four kinds of waratah, one of which grows into a tree.
These shrubs and trees have tough, dark green leaves, often toothed edged. The waratah is really hundreds of individual flowers crowded together into a dense head. The bright crimson petals are really modified leaves called bracts. They flower from September to November in rocky and sandy soils from the Blue Mountains of New South Wales to the north in Queensland.
The waratah is the floral emblem of New South Wales.
There you go.
Now you know.
As do I.
This word, however, is going to be far more difficult to somehow work into my short story that takes place on the high seas….. unless there is some stowaway lunatic botanist onboard…. yes, yes.
Gotta go. The muse is calling!


Splash du Jour: Wednesday

Most of what matters in our lives takes place in our absence.
-- Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children (1980) --

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Cippy Learns a Word

Does it ever bother you when you keep seeing a certain word or phrase in your reading material, in novels for instance, and you keep thinking you maybe possibly know what it means but in reality, you don’t really know?
Isn’t it funny how sometimes you immediately look up the word to satisfy your curiosity, but then other times you neglect the research, and the same word crops up again somewhere and you think to yourself, “Wow! I still don’t really know what that means!”
For me, I kept reading the word “avuncular” for about 300 years before I finally said uncle and looked it up, you know?
And most recently? → De rigueur.
I see it everywhere, and I always sort of imagine I know what it means, but really, when it comes down to it, I’m just guessing.
So I finally looked it up!
De rigeur is a French phrase [Duh!] and it basically means, “of rigor” or “of strictness”, as in "necessary according to etiquette, protocol or fashion."
Socially obligatory.
My favorite dictionary, the Merriam-Webster says, “prescribed or required by fashion, etiquette, or custom.”
So there you have it.
Now I know.
Perhaps some of my French-speaking readers can shed even more light on this wonderfully ubiquitous phrase.
In the meantime I now feel confident to use it in some of my own writing.
I’m currently at work on a short story that takes place on the high seas, so I’m having Starbuck, one of my characters say:
“Aye aye Cap’n. Jake and I will help get them torn sails patched as soon as we can find de rigueur!”


Splash du Jour: Tuesday

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Splash du Jour: Monday

Question: Did you always want to be a writer?
Answer: No, first I wanted to be a ballerina, but at about eight years old I realized I was going to be too tall, so I settled for literature.
This way I get to eat more cake.

-- Emma Donoghue

Have a great Monday!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Signs of Dementia

Late last night I stopped for gas at a Shell station.
Inside, I handed the guy my credit card, and as he was processing it, I grabbed the little ticket showing the latest Lottery numbers.
Walking back to my car in the light of the blazing overhead flourescence, I compared these numbers against my own ticket I had tucked away in my wallet.
Be damned if not even one number matched the winners, and just as I was saying "_ _ _ _” – “_ _ _ _"- and “dammitall” I noticed that these numbers were for a previous draw, my ticket is for the NEXT drawing..... and I honestly breathed a sigh of relief as I crumpled up the previous winners and tossed them in the garbage bin as I got to my car.
Tucking my own ticket back into my wallet, I revived myself by thinking.... "I've still got a chance!"
My retirement plan is still securely in place!

For other Lottery-related severely delusional blogs I have written, click HERE and HERE.
And for a Nobel-Prize nominated poem of the same genre click HERE.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Beginning of the World: A Saturday Poem

Beginning of the World

For months I have been such an animal I wish I would see one.
So I could eat it. No understanding of what comes next, the
stuff in stores is rotting. Morning is day, and day, night, no one
is anywhere, and the most useless thing would be a calendar.

I walk. Wondering why I survived, and then sleep, freezing.
Keep thinking that someone has to be somewhere.
Not a moving bird in days, this is why that flicker of white
startled me. Springing to my feet, I crept, crept, half-running –

and then full out, as I rounded that caved-in building. Were you
an Olympic sprinter when such a thing made sense? All I know
is that minutes from now, we are pulling potatoes from this fire.
And you stand, beautiful, coming over to my side of the blaze.

© Ciprianowords Inc. 2009

Friday, April 17, 2009

Work is Slowly Killing Me

I did one of these quick survey things that determine when a person should die.
It asks you a bunch of questions and then estimates your life expectancy.
It’s called Virtual Age or something like this. I’ll provide the link at the end of this blog posting so you can try it for yourself.
When it came to questions about my sleep habits [← as in, how much sleep I get, not…. never mind…] and questions about my diet and alcohol consumption, I noticed I lost some time there… death was encroaching.
The survey calculates as you go, so you can see how each answer affects your basic longevity.

What shocked me though was when, of all the options regarding vocational enjoyment, I had to admit that I “hate my job!”
Two whole years?
Just because I absolutely detest this God-forsaken 40 hours of every week?
Wow – that’s drastic.
My job is slowly killing me! I mean, I already suspected as much, but to see it so blatantly and scientifically displayed there! It’s unnerving.
OK, so in the end it was really not so bad.
I am currently 45 years of age, and have a “virtual” age of 41.
According to this survey I am scheduled to die when I am 78.6 years old.
Here’s the thing I am now wondering if the decimal point 6 is referring to six months, or six-tenths of a year! Because see, there’s twelve months in a year, not ten. So, as you can imagine, this concerns me.
I’m wanting the survey to mean six-tenths because this means I’ll have 7.2 months in that final year, rather than just six, before I finally kick off.
In that extra five weeks I can eat at least 30 or 40 more hamburgers!

Click HERE to take the survey.

Splash du Jour: Friday

There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them.
-- J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (1997) –

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Splash du Jour: Thursday

A man may take to drink because he feels himself a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.
-- George Orwell, 1946 --

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

My New Qur'an

Believe it or not I am back at the Starbucks [actually Cipriano – this is not much of a mystery…] OK, so I’m here a lot.
Today’s blog-moment may seem like a real contradiction of my former posting called Let’s Be Reasonable!
As though I slipped a cog or went full-out schizophrenic overnight – but I’m all excited about my new Qur’an.
I’ve always wanted to have one – no wait, not always, [see, maybe I am schizo!] but I’ve wanted one in the past few years when certain portions of Islamic scripture are alluded to in so many of the theological things I tend to read.
Now I will be able to look up the reference points.

I work with a devout Muslim guy. For a couple of weeks he was working in my building and one afternoon we struck up an interesting religious-type conversation. He asked me if I wanted a Qur’an. I said “Most definitely.”
But the next day he was relocated to our Headquarters [our main building] and I never saw him. Till today.
I went to Headquarters at lunchtime to say Goodbye to a colleague who is leaving the company and today was her last day. [Well, plus there was free pizza there! Oh my Allah... I hope she's not reading this!]
To be honest I had sort of forgotten about the Qur’an thing, but soon my co-worker whom I had not seen in a while walked into the lunchroom and gave me this beautiful Qur’an you see here. It’s true title is The Noble Qur’an.

Originally, I thought he had meant he would bring me some sort of used paperback copy or something. I had no expectation that the book would be so beautiful, and so expertly bound. I mean this is a REAL NICE book.
Incredibly well-crafted, even has one of those bookmark-ribbons as you can see in the photo below.
The paper is just gorgeous. High-quality. On one half of the page is the Arabic script, and to the left, the translation in English. It is loaded with commentary at the bottom of the pages, much like an NIV-Study Bible.
One thing I’ve noticed early on here. Part 1 is way at the back. In other words, right at the start you’re already at what’s known as Surah 114. And there are only 114.


Splash du Jour: Wednesday

Be. Ye. Free.
-- Cipriano --

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Let's Be Reasonable!

I’m sitting here at Chapters [well, Starbucks really, but it's IN the Chapters Bookstore…. all Canadians know what I mean…] and I’m reading Susan Jacoby’s excellent book The Age of American Unreason.
The book examines the last forty or fifty years of American culture [although it goes much further than this… back to the days of the “freethinkers” like Thomas Paine and Emerson and whatnot], and Jacoby traces the way in which “we” have arrived at the current state of rampant anti-rationalism that is evident in many areas of “our” collective life. Our culture.
She speaks about the failure of public education to create an informed citizenry, and she examines the triumph of video over print culture, which has led to this steady diet of “junk thought” that the Western world so loves to chew on.
What interests me most, I guess, is when she speaks about the upsurge of religious fundamentalism, and how this phenomenon has aided and abetted the ingestion of opinion over fact.
I just finished her major chapter on this latter concept. It’s called The New Old-Time Religion, and it makes me think of another book I read a couple of years ago.
Sam Harris’s The End of Faith.

I recall him saying in that book, “I know of no society in human history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable.”
Jacoby begins her book with a similar sentiment, from Thomas Jefferson (in 1816):
“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”

On a personal note, I really love the discussion and study of theological ideas and the history of myth/religion and religious idea in general. From 1987 to 1991 I studied theology on a full-time basis, and my interest has not waned since. If anything, it has deepened, and broadened.
One thing I really dislike, however, is stupidity.
In other words, as regards theology, if a “discussion” is not founded on an attitude of complete disinterestedness, it becomes nothing more than a biased taking-of-sides and/or regurgitation of preferred dogma. An exercise in inconsideration. In fact, it descends very quickly into what I would call “stupidity” and anything BUT valid discussion.
Harris would call it “lethal absurdity.”
The premise of this book [The End of Faith] is that certainty without evidence [which is what faith is] is necessarily divisive and dehumanizing.
Faith can be a very lethal thing.
Several years ago I would have considered that [the above sentence] to be a borderline-blasphemy type of statement. Something that God would strop his razor over, waiting to mete justice upon the speaker. But that is just the thing. That very expectation is something believed upon, in faith. It is purely a “faith” thing to feel assured of knowing exactly what it is that pleases and displeases God.
Harris’s book is a real eye-opener, it really is.
It is a pail of cold water, right in the face of this topic of “faith”!

He shows us that the religious world we currently live in is a veritable ocean foaming over with bad ideas. It is a world in which religious conviction has grown in inverse proportion to its justification. What passes for religious superiority is often nothing more than blind adherence to abysmal ignorance.

One of the things I most enjoyed was the chapter that focussed on discussing the difference between “belief” (believing) and “knowledge” (knowing).
The book is a definite plea to recognize the present-day ascendency of unreason.
But, at the same time, it does not (in my opinion) argue atheism as a dogma.
Nowhere does the book deny the importance of spirituality in our lives. However, it advocates finding approaches to ethics and to spiritual experience that make no appeal to faith. At first, that may sound quite confusing, even contradictory to some readers, but all I can say is… read the book. If the door of your mind is not welded shut, you will understand what is being said in here.
It is a cry to acknowledge the dangers inherent in the practice of unquestionable faith.
But it is not a battle cry against anyone. On the contrary, it is a realization that while we are undeniably bound to one another (in a global sense), it is the very exclusivity of faith-based religion that most greatly threatens to not only dissolve that interdependence, but ultimately, destroy us altogether.
Destroy us how? Read the book.
You will be properly horrified at the answer to that question.
It is from first page to last, a well-honed, clearly elucidated appeal to SENSE!
Extremely timely. Vital.
An antidote to unreason. Junk-thought's death knell!
Required reading for anyone currently alive.

I see it as one of the most important books I have read in a long long time.
And believe me, I read a lot.
As I am doing... even now. [I must go get another coffee... this would be the entirely reasonable thing to do!]

“Faith is the mortar that fills the cracks in the evidence and the gaps in the logic, and thus it is faith that keeps the whole terrible edifice of religious certainly looming dangerously over our world.” [from the Afterword].


Splash du Jour: Tuesday

All the universe is just a dream in God’s mind, and as long as he’s asleep, he believes in it, and things stay real.
-- Orson Scott Card, Seventh Son (1987) --

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Splash du Jour: Monday

I raise no objections to television’s junk. The best things on television are its junk, and no one or nothing is seriously threatened by it. Besides, we do not measure a culture by its output of undisguised trivialities but by what it claims as significant. Therein is our problem, for television is at its most trivial and, therefore, most dangerous when its aspirations are high, when it presents itself as a carrier of important cultural conversations.
-- Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves To Death (1985) --

Have a great Monday!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The TBR Shelf©

Do any of you have a TBR Shelf?
That is, a To Be Read Shelf, where you place the books that you have not had the time to get to, yet?
I have not had one, until tonight.
I haven’t had the room.
So I have books strewn about the coffee table and all over, but not a real designated place for them to await my all-consuming interest and/or whim.
Just tonight, while doing some radical springtime-cleaning, I realized that if I purge this one CD shelf of all the CD’s I no longer listen to, I can have room for my TBR Shelf.
So I did it. The result is what you see above. Some room for the books that I have yet to crack open.
And below is a boxful of displaced CD’s I am going to send to my music-loving sister.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Thirteenth Night: A Saturday Poem

Thirteenth Night

Two weeks in all, to leave now does not seem possible.
These last midnight waves, offspring of that first afternoon.
How they roll within us, anticipation turned to experience,
memory breaking on the beach under a sea of stars.

Tomorrow we shall leave. Tomorrow we take it all away,
because we go together. Nothing will be left behind.
None of these evenings, my love, have been sunsets.
It’s the world that moved and spun as we kicked the sand.

© Ciprianowords Inc. 2009

Thursday, April 09, 2009

What's Eatin' Billy Bob?

I listen to CBC radio at work every morning. I have it blasting in the warehouse… truth is, I like talk-radio better than music radio.
There's a program called “Q” with host Jian Ghomeshi… it’s one of my favorites, and seriously, I listen to it every day. Yesterday’s show was a doozy.
I’ve been waiting for it to get onto the podcast to share with you… and better yet, it’s on Youtube…. so we can get the visual.
OK, Jian [God, I felt bad for him] is saddled with the task of interviewing the ever-strange, addle-brained Billy Bob Thornton and his band, The Boxmasters.
It was probably the most awkward moment in interviewing history!
Oh, I felt bad for Jian. I leaned into the radio at the time… remember now, “Q” is a LIVE show… this stuff went out on the airwaves LIVE, as is.
The whole interview is just wild… it’s like Billy Bob is on Planet [frigging] Zatox!
But he really begins to severely lose it at about 7 minutes into the thing.
Stay with it… stay with his shifty eyes. It’s quite crazy!
My one question to you all, dear readers… is there some kind of pill out there that Billy Bob Thornton hasn’t yet taken, that he perhaps SHOULD be taking?
I tried to embed the clip but it did not fit my Bookpuddle grid.
So you will have to click

Splash du Jour: Thursday

I have heard with admiring submission the experience of the lady who declared that the sense of being well-dressed gives a feeling of inward tranquility which religion is powerless to bestow.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson –

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

In 2002, the National Endowment for the Arts released a survey indicating that fewer than half of adult Americans had read any work of fiction or poetry in the preceding year – not even detective novels, bodice-ripper romances, or the “rapture” novels based on the Book of Revelation. Only 57% had read a non-fiction book. In this increasingly a-literate America, not only the enjoyment of reading but critical thinking itself is at risk.
-- Susan Jacoby, The Age of American Unreason (2008) --

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The Time in Between

The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead.
That’s not just me mumbling morbidly moribund thoughts about mortality.
It’s the title of a book by author David Shields.
I’ve been thinking of the sentence [the title] all day, ever since I saw it on the shelf at a Chapters store last night.
It’s one of these meandering musing-type memoirs, and leafing through the book, it seemed interesting.
But the title really arrests me, I guess.
Think about it.
So much of what motivates us in our life is a result of our awareness of the brevity of this time we are given… this thing we call “our life©”.
So many things would not even exist if we could be assured, beyond any doubt, that we would never die. Religion, for instance.
There would be no such thing as religion, were it not for our inability to accept an end to our life. We invent an explanation. These explanations become religions.
Think of how different our approach to life would be if we entertained the concept that this [our present existence] was just one shot at it, and we would have others, afterward. And I don’t mean as another being [a la reincarnation], I mean another life to live, while retaining our unique individuality and identity. In other words, with full knowledge and memory of our past lives.
But we know it is not this way.
There is no such thing. We’ve got one go at it, and this is it. If you are reading this, it’s because you are living your one shot at it [life] and I am living mine.
It’s not only the Shields book title. I am thinking these thoughts tonight while sitting here in this Starbucks getting way high on caffeine because I just finished reading an excellent novel by Canadian author David Bergen. It’s a book that really makes you think about… “life”.

← The Time In Between.
I won’t go into a long delineation of the novel, but suffice it to say that it is structured in two parts. The first half of the novel focuses on Charles Boatman, a Vietnam veteran coming to terms with the loss of his wife, the reincorporating of his children into his life, and most importantly, the psychological war-wounds he’s carried for decades. He returns to Vietnam in a quest for personal forgiveness and healing.
The second part of the novel focuses on his daughter Ada and son Jon, who come to Vietnam in search of their father. They are worried because Charles has not been heard from in a while. For Ada, the journey is especially cathartic. What she learns about her father’s depth of despair causes her to re-evaluate her own life, and in a moment of clarity, she tells her brother, “I believe we are most alive when we are being thought about by others who love us.”
I loved this book, even though it was a very sobering read, and consistently built around moments describing profound measures of loneliness, displacement, and disconnectedness.
And speaking of book titles, what does this one mean?
The Time In Between.
What is the time in between?
Ada concludes, “ had been real once, and it would be real again. This in between time, the voyage out and back, all of that was a dream.”
I love the way that is put, because it is very poetic.
But it’s also very wrong, and I think that the author David Bergen knows this.
Life is always real.
Any voyage along the way is just as real, unless you’ve somehow figured out a way to travel while sleeping.
And by the way -- if you have -- you should start a religion!


Splash du Jour: Tuesday

Sanity is a valuable possession; I hoard it the way people once hoarded money. I save it, so I will have enough, when the time comes.
-- Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale (1986) --

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, April 06, 2009

Splash du Jour: Monday

Writing is a way of figuring things out.
If you can't ask certain questions in church,
maybe you can ask them in fiction.

-- David Bergen --

Have a great Monday!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Mothers And Sons

I hate to make such a seemingly jaded comment about literature, but I feel that I have learned to distrust the genre of short story.
What I mean is that too often I am disappointed with short story collections. So I’ve given some thought as to what might be the reason for this reverse predilection of mine.
Most often it is because the short stories out there seem too weird. They seem to be a dumping ground where authors can offload all of the eccentricities they’ve accumulated through the years. They can cathartically stow these away in a short story far easier than in a novel.
I’ve read some short stories by authors whom I admire for their novels [I won’t name names] and they just really lose me when it comes to their “stories”.
On the other hand, there are other writers that are so good in this genre [like Alice Munro] that you wish they would write novels about their stories.
Here’s how I put it 105 weeks ago, in a related blog-posting: I think that with a collection of short stories, if the first few are not all that great there is always the hope that they will get better. With each new story my faith is renewed. So if I am let down time and again, hmmm…. I feel that. Because see, I try to enter in to the context of a short story with all of the same intensity that I would a novel.
So while a bad novel is like being struck in the face, a bad pile of short stories is like turning the other cheek. A reader is now fielding repetitive slaps!

Without belaboring the point, I think you get what I mean, even if you disagree with the whole argument itself. This topic is very subjective, and I am only speaking of personal opinion here.
Having said all of this, let me now tell you of a bunch I thoroughly enjoyed.
Mothers And Sons, by Colm Toibin.
This is a collection that definitely overcomes my reverse predilection.
Having read and enjoyed many of his novels, I turned to Toibin’s [2006] book of short stories, and was NOT disappointed.
For a better synopsis than I could ever provide, click HERE.
I agree with how one reviewer put it: Toibin's even, quiet writing seems calculated not to draw attention to itself: it thrives on inconsequence and randomness, is never sentimental, and only incidentally dramatic. When moments of intensity or crisis occur - and there are many here - they are all the more effective, or chilling, for the unchanged tone.

Other short-story books I have loved:
Basically anything by Alice Munro
Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger
A Thirsty Evil by Gore Vidal
Touchy Subjects by Emma Donoghue


Saturday, April 04, 2009

Caw: A Saturday Poem


Fog of the day in mind, I punch three digits
and leave the building. Alarm set.
Clicking yet another device a lock lifts,
and almost to my car, I stop walking.

So assured of its rightness. Free of constraint.
You will never get from me why I stopped.
But overhead, as black as the set sun
it repeated itself. And looking down, I listened.

I knew what it was, as anyone would, but
for the first time, I wanted to know the words.
What sort of declaration was this? Why expend
so much energy while flying, if useless?

For an answer, I looked, but there was only sky.
Now driving, I reach forward to kill the radio.
Oh, to hear that sound again.
We assign three letters to what no book contains.

© Ciprianowords Inc. 2009

Friday, April 03, 2009

Splash du Jour: Friday

The Captain belongs to the most dangerous enemy to truth and freedom, the solid unmoving cattle of the majority. Oh, God, the terrible tyranny of the majority.
-- Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 (1954) --

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Splash du Jour: Thursday

Descended from the apes! My dear, let us hope that it is not true,
but if it is, let us pray that it will not become generally known.

-- The wife of the Bishop of Worcester after Darwin’s theory of evolution was explained to her. –

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

← Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist, by Michael J. Fox.
At the turn from our bedroom into the hallway, there is an old full-length mirror in a wooden frame. I can’t help but catch a glimpse of myself as I pass. Turning fully toward the glass, I consider what I see. This reflected version of myself, wet, shaking, rumpled, pinched, and slightly stooped, would be alarming were it not for the self-satisfied expression pasted across my face. I would ask the obvious question, “What are you smiling about?” but I already know the answer: “It just gets better from here.”
-- From Always Looking Up

Wow, I have been so waiting for this book to come out and just last night saw it for the first time in the store. If I hadn’t just bought about six or seven books in the past week or so I would have bought this one to add to the pile. I will be getting it as soon as my book-budget allows for it!
I loved his first book Lucky Man.

Have a great Wednesday!