I consider myself to be a progressive thinker. The only thing "Stone Age" about me is that I work like a Neanderthal all day, at my job! Aside from that, hey... I'm changing with the times. I'm as hip as the next guy! I know that my readers here at Bookpuddle are the same. We're a savvy bunch. And yet, I feel that Imust speak out about a disturbing trend I am seeing in the world of books. Children's books, to be specific. I'm all for pushing the envelope, but seriously, I think things in this genre are getting a bit racy. Quite frankly, if I were apparent, I mean -- a PARENT, I'd be worried. Have you seen some of the new titles out there, for kids? It's just wrong, I'm sorry! If you want an example of what I'm talking about, have a look at-->THIS. *********
Bernie Madoff's wife is mad at Bernie. She said, "I may not wait that 150 years for you to get out. I may be long gone." To make matters worse, Bernie's new wife, Chuck, is also mad at him. -- David Letterman --
<-- No, this is NOT a blog about George Clooney! I'm halfway through reading John Irving's  novel The Hotel New Hampshire. My enjoyment of it is no surprise to me. Just tonight I have been wondering though, why it is I like the novels of John Irving, as much as I do. Because truly, he is one of my favorite authors. And yet, at times, he does things that I would not tolerate in any other novelist. I refer to his dwelling on, and [in my opinion] over-emphasizing of certain quirky traits in his [already quirky-enough] characters. Already in New Hampshire, Irving has had the protagonist Win Berry say "Jesus God" enough times that I am expecting the Lord Himself to return to Earth way ahead of schedule! It's driving me CRAZY! Yet I love John Irving. I just love how he writes. I enter fully into the nutty... storyness of his [nutty] stories!
This is the sixth of his novels I have read, and I have loved them all. But when I say "love" I mean it in the sense that at times he pisses me off. He gets too [what is the word?] caricaturish! As in, "I know you are trying to create this persona for your character, Mr. Irving, but could you ease up a tad on the Pokey-and-Gumby two-dimensionalness a bit?" Yet I love him. Oh, assuredly, as I have breath and eyes, I intend to read everything this man hath writ. And so, one might say, I love him in the purest sense, faults known! Not according to a false sense of perfection.
I think that part of my infatuation.... no... pure love, is a result of reading the best novel first. A Prayer For Owen Meany. I began there, and after that novel, John Irving can do no wrong.
Now -- listen up, fellow fans. [And if you are not an Irvingite, read Owen Meany, and get in the game...] but, I recently unearthed a delightful factoid. NEW IRVING NOVEL, COMING OUT IN OCTOBER OF 2009.
Seriously, it is called Last Night in Twisted River. Become a disciple. Listen to this pre-release promotional video, which I myself have watched until I can recite it.
Keep reading folks. Turn the damn TV off. Cancel your cable! Tilt it sideways. Turn that satellite dish into a huge ostrich-size birdbath. [It's what an Irving character would do]!
Belgium is a nice place, though. It's the place people go to when they're on their way to another place, a place they're going to spend more time at. It's kind of the Jennifer Aniston of countries. -- Craig Ferguson --
The new Harry Potter movie is a sensation -- Harry Potter fans have started playing quidditch on college campuses across the country, but since their brooms don't fly, they just pretend they do. It's actually based on one of J.K. Rowling's lesser-known works, Harry Potter and the Silent Cry For Help. -- Conan O'Brien --
So I'm walking down the street today [Dalhousie Street, for those who need to know the whereabouts] and I see this sign, ["since 1927"] and I immediately think, "Dad was only one year old." It's a reflex reaction. I've been doing it for years. My father was born in 1926. And for some reason, that date, that YEAR has become fixed in my imagination as if it was the beginning of creation or something. No, that's not quite it -- rather, it is just that I find that I am continually using it as a sort of context....... for something. My dad was only an infant, and "Dunn's" was already selling smoked meat sandwiches to people! Stuff like that. I'll be reading about the breakout of WWII and I'll think, "Wow, Dad was just 12 or 13, then." And I think that part of the phenomenon has to do with the fact that I venerate the memory of my father, who passed away in 1999. I mean, I recall him [vividly] describing so many things about his own early life, which is, of course, prior to my own life. His stories. They are the stuff of legend with me!
And so, whenever I see things, like the Dunn's sign, or any sort of 20th Century timeline or commemorative mark on a building, or for that matter, when I read books.... I will think stuff like, "Wow, this book was already in existence before my father was born." In 1926, writers like Hermann Hesse, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Willa Cather, James Joyce, Sinclair Lewis, Virginia Woolf, Somerset Maugham were all in their heyday! As were T.S. Eliot, A.E. Houseman, and e.e. cummings. And yet, I'm not kidding when I say that I think that my father did not read even ONE book in the course of his lifetime. But I am constantly reading. [I am convinced that I was mistaken for someone else's baby, in the maternity ward...] And I forever catch myself thinking things like, "Hmmm.... so the Narnia Chronicles were published in their entirety by the year 1954. At which time my Father was 28 years old. Did he know of them, at all?"
I know that he did NOT, in fact, know of them. But other people did! Stuff in the literary world was totally happening. I was addicted to reading through all the Enid Blyton books when I myself was a kid. I'd come home from the Library with armloads of them. Well, when these books originally began coming out [in 1938] my Dad was 12 years old. Did he know of these books? I know that he, in fact, did not. I'll read that Rilke died in 1926, and my first thought is, "Hmmm... and my father breathed his first breath a month before this." Stuff like that. Jose Saramago was 4 years old when my father was born, and Yeats was 4 years dead. It's forever happening. I wonder if I'm just incorrigibly weird, or if any of you, out there, also have a year that is fixed in your mind as a sort of "context" year. Aside from the obvious, your own birthdate, that is.
Mornings I would wait for them. I never knew it then, but I did, I waited. They had a way of arriving. Of staying -- He'd read a paper or a book. She'd bury herself in a Harper's or New Yorker. -- Of making me feel young.
Feigning a chore I would lean forward just to hear some of their talk. Refill his coffee, her tea, slowly, to catch more of it. Those words between them like dew on grass, sunlight aslant.
A wayward blueberry on her lip once sat and she smiled, unbeknownst. No napkin but his finger, lifted it. Right then it was the world. When his head bent slightly to the left, so did mine, and I loved her too.
So, today, when the bell tinkled, and I turned with two saucers in my hands toward one man -- nothing more needed to be said.
I love books. Plus, I have psychological problems. Once, many many years ago, [before some of you were born] when I was having even worse psychological problems than I have on a regular basis nowadays, I checked myself in to a convent. I needed some R & R. Reassessment & Reconsideration. Reconfiguring & Realignment. Reflection & Reallyprayinghard.
It was place called _______, nestled away in the mountains of British Columbia. [You will soon know why I leave the name... unnamed.] The nuns there were so calm and.... nunnish! They were so nice to me, and it was so quiet there. The main room, where the Main Nun would have her talks with me, it had a massive plate-glass window looking directly upon a mountain in the distance. Like a painting. We talked a lot. And I prayed a lot. I got some needed realignment done.
They had a little library. At the time, I was a huge fan of the Hitlerian-era German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I had read nearly all of his works, including his Letters & Papers From Prison, but had never really read a biography of the man. And so I started to do so, during my spiritual retreat. When it was over, I was not finished this book, so I took it with me. But I told no one. I think I had some vague idea that I would return the thing one day. But on top of not doing so, I moved away. I still have the book, and took this picture of it minutes ago. My theology has changed a lot in the intervening years. But still, a question hovers over my head this evening. I'm wondering if some of my dear readers will assist me in assessing which of the following scenarios most closely reflects my current state of culpability:
A) You will surely go to hell for having essentially stolen this book, regardless of the fact that you initially felt you would return it one day. B) Everything mentioned in (A) above, with a few more years even beyond eternity added, because it was a Nunnery Library! C) There is no such thing as hell, but even so, you have really canceled out all hope of going to heaven. D) You should return the book via mail, with an explanatory note. [The address is stamped at the front of the book.] E) Everything in (D) with sincere repentance added. F) "F" stands for "Forget about it." G) "G" stands for "God will not forget about it." H) You obviously should check yourself in to some other institution of Realignment! [And don't steal stuff this time!]
I am very sorry, my dear friends. This hurts me worse than it hurts you. But this blogpage is not working. I'm getting all kinds of html messages, saying I am doing forbidden things, when all I am doing is doing as I have always done. Simply trying to post my blogs! So -- please be patient as I try to either a) figure this thing out, OR b) get a different site or something! I SHALL RETURN! All the best to you. -- Cip -- **********
We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must - at that moment - become the center of the universe.
I took the above picture of Parliament Hill as I walked around in Major's Hill Park yesterday afternoon. Thought that the juxtaposition was somehow illustrative of how we should look at.... government. I post it to just once again do a test of what's going on with my Bookpuddle site. For some reason, Blogger is not allowing me to cut and paste any text into my posting window. This is not a very good situation, as any blogger can attest. Anyhoo -- I am chagrined. Perhaps it is a sign for me, as in, saying, DANGER! TIME TO FIND A BETTER BLOG PROVIDER!
Vocationally, I have always struggled with the disparity between what I’m worth, and what I’m paid. And aside from the remunerative issue, I have been consistently horrified by the great gulf that seems unspanably [and inexplicably] fixed between what I love to do, and what I spend most of my time and energy doing. Working! The situation, coupled with the fact that I have loved all of the other books I have read by this author, perhaps biases my review. I am a great fan of Alain De Botton. And I hate my work. Gravitating toward The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work is a no-brainer! Straight up, I loved it. And I think you should read it.
Is there any more universally… [what is the word?....] “relatable” topic than work? Our jobs? What is the predominant feeling that wells up within you when you think about your source of income, your workplace, your vocation, your calling? My choice of those four designations is deliberate, because, as you assess the import of those words, if all four of them adequately describe where you spend the bulk of your weekdays, you are one of the chosen few! You are a rarity. You are probably deriving much “pleasure” from your work environment. I would suggest that most of us aren’t. Many of the people in De Botton’s book, aren’t. Yet, many are. I disagree with other reviewers who criticize the book, saying De Botton focuses on chagrin and resentment. Bollocks! I think he cuts a fairly unbiased / disinterested, swath. He introduces us to the painter Stephen Taylor, a man completely consumed and fulfilled by his work, even though, at the end of two years, he “has earned the equivalent of the annual salary of an unsuccessful plumber.” (p.190) He introduces us to executives in corporations whose salaries would more than quadruple anything any of us can ever speculate on earning -- and yet one is left with a feeling approaching pity, for the emptiness, the woodenness of their lives.
De Botton delineates the process of how tuna gets from the ocean to the supermarket. [To the point of waiting in the frozen tuna aisle, and asking the lady who buys it if he and his photographer can go to her house and watch the kids eat the thing!] How spaceships get into inner and outer space! How the power gets to the switch on your wall. Not only who makes the biscuits you eat, but who decides the exact font to be used on the packaging. All of these processes involve livelihoods!
But The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work is not a newspaper story. It is a wonderful re-telling, poetic and ever-poignant -- pithy, witty, wonderful. Awe-inspiring. And I found that the accompaniment photos were not only apropos, but artistically superb. It’s like reading Sebald. [Kudos to photographer Richard Baker for doing infinitely more than opening a shutter].
I’ve always felt that reviews should emphasize impression, rather than synopsis. For summaries of what this book is about, there are many places one can go. But I read the thing. And my overwhelming feeling is that you should read it, too.
Why? BECAUSE WE ARE ALL IN HERE, SOMEWHERE.
Whether you are someone who has chosen to follow your bliss like the painter Stephen Taylor, or whether you are like the accountant whose only real accomplishment after a lifetime of service is to have reached the comfortable “age of reminiscence”, which grants him the freedom to look back on all the pleasurable memories of his life and realize that these all encompassed moments when he was not working! My own favorite chapter was entitled “Accountancy”, where, at one point De Botton said: “For most of human history, the only instrument needed to induce employees to complete their duties energetically and adroitly was the whip. So long as workers had only to kneel down and retrieve stray ears of corn from the threshing-room floor or heave quarried stones up a slope, they could be struck hard and often, with impunity and benefit. But the rules of employment had to be rewritten with the emergence of tasks whose adequate performance required their protagonists to be to a significant degree content, rather than simply terrified or resigned. Once it became evident that someone who was expected to remove brain tumours, draw up binding legal documents or sell condominiums with convincing energy could not profitably be sullen or resentful, morose or angry, the mental well-being of employees commenced to be a supreme object of managerial concern.” (p.244)
As a professional "heaver of quarried stones", I was surprised to not happen upon a photo of myself among these pages. All jokes aside, my wholehearted endorsement of this book surely has less to do with the fact that I am the current poster-boy for Unfulfilled Employment than it does with the fact that Alain De Botton is in the diametrically opposite position.
This book reaffirms my conviction that he has been, for a long while now, and is still currently, living his own vocational bliss. → BUY IT ←
I’m reading a terrifically fascinating book. ←Breaking The Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, by Daniel C. Dennett.
"... no deeply religious person should object to the scientific study of religion with the presumption that it is an entirely natural phenomenon. If it isn't entirely natural, if there are really miracles involved, the best way -- indeed, the only way -- to show that to doubters would be to demonstrate it scientifically. Refusing to play by these rules only creates the suspicion that one doesn't really believe that religion is supernatural after all." -- Daniel C. Dennett, in Breaking The Spell --
I heard this song while driving home, and just had to look it up when I got here. Not only do I love the lyrics and think that this is terrific poetry, but it’s the phrasings, the style of the way she’s singing, that I truly dig. It was just one of those moments when you are listening to the radio, and when the song is done you wish you could rewind and hear it again. On YouTube, I found this terrific LIVE unplugged version of Missy Higgins, singing Where I Stood. Awesome.
← This was my first stop in the neighborhood trek today! It’s the best Shawarma place in town, really it is. At the corner of Dalhousie and York! [Come on, you all know where that is!] It’s known as Joey’s Corner.
Went in there for a nice lunchtime chicken shawarma. Plus I had some exciting news to deliver to the management. But they had already heard about it. Apparently, “shawarma” has now been added as an official word, into the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. If you don’t believe me, check it out HERE. Just last Thursday it was announced. The word has apparently been in use since 1953, but not officially recognized. Or something. And for those nutritionally impoverished souls out there who currently have not had the pleasure of experiencing shawarma, the official definition is as follows:
A sandwich esp. of sliced lamb or chicken, vegetables, and often tahini wrapped in pita bread.
Personally, even though I am as carnivorous as the next guy, I’m not familiar with the “lamb” format of the shawarma…. I was under the impression that the lamb shawarma was known as “gyros”…. sometimes prefaced with the phrase “Chicago-style” and voraciously consumed by Yours Truly with very little necessary provocation, and the restraint of a rabid mongoose!
No, the shawarma I usually eat is either beef or chicken. But hey, I'll eat a lamb too, if I have to! Mmmmmm…. meat! ← And so now shawarma is a universally-accepted word, and shall fit very nicely between “shaving” and “shawl” in the next edition of the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary! I don't know about you, but I’m excited! Now all we’ve got to do is work on getting “poutine” in there, too! Mmmmm, it too shall look terrific one day, modestly nestled in its yummy little artery-clogging place, between “pout” and “poverty”.
Reading in our family was a private activity and there was nothing particularly commendable about it. It was a pesky sort of infirmity like hay fever, from which we might be expected to succumb; anyone who managed to stay clear of it would have been the one to be congratulated. But once the addiction was established, no one thought of interfering with it. -- Alice Munro --
Wow, I have not been around the ol’ blogworld as much as I would like to be! Just wanted to drop by tonight and tell you about my own Most Personally Anticipated Book of 2009! ←This one. It’s by Bishop John Shelby Spong, entitled Eternal Life: A New Vision. Beyond Religion, Beyond Theism, Beyond Heaven and Hell.
It’s due to be released on September 1st, and I am counting down the days! I have read so many books by Bishop Spong, I cannot recount them all here. Suffice it to say, I think he speaks the clearest, of any of the hmmmm…. post-Christian authors, about Christianity. Specifically, about what it means to approach the Bible from a rational, non-literal perspective. He makes it [the Bible] all make sense, while retaining the value of what it was always intended to engender – spiritual experience. For a long while, in previous volumes, Spong has spoken of how his last book would be about life’s final breath, and what possibly comes afterward. The beauty of this upcoming book, [I will say it in advance], is that Spong will conclude that no one has the final word on the religious specifics of the afterlife. Read this book with me, come September, and see if I am right.
The Swiss have an interesting army. Five hundred years without a war. Pretty impressive. Also pretty lucky for them. Ever see that little Swiss Army knife they have to fight with? Not much of a weapon there. Corkscrews. Bottle openers. “Come on, buddy, let’s go. You get past me, the guy in back of me, he’s got a spoon. Back off! I’ve got the toe clippers right here.” -- Jerry Seinfeld –
I am an excitable person who only understands life lyrically, musically, in whom feelings are much stronger as reason. I am so thirsty for the marvelous that only the marvelous has power over me. Anything I can not transform into something marvelous, I let go. Reality doesn't impress me. I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy, and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape, one way or another. No more walls. -- Anais Nin --
So after work I went to the supermarket. Hey, by the way… I know I have not been blogging much lately. I blame my severe mid-life crisis I am going through right now. An extended bout of PMS. Pre-Moving-Stress. Thing is… I’ve been thinking 24/7 about MOVING, like from where I live, and having second and third thoughts about it, and it is causing me severe amounts of angst! OK, so I’m at the supermarket and I bought a bunch of produce. Yes……. produce. The noun. Not the verb! The girl, the cashier, she’s ringing it through, and she grabs my potatoes [so to say!]… and these three baking potatoes are on the scale thing, and her HAND IS RESTING ON THEM! She’s got her hand on my potatoes! I said nothing. But the bananas were next. Again, she’s got her hand on my damn bananas…. so here’s me [remember now, I’ve been a bit of a broom-whacked wasp-nest lately]…. I say to her, “Umm, I’d rather not pay for the weight of your hand!” I’m pointing. And wow! The look she gave me! Maybe she too is having a hard time coming to terms with decisions involving moving? Her look was quite withering. Admittmedly, I could have had much more tact in this situation. I suppose I could have said something much more politically correct, like for instance, “Hmm… is that scale there calibrated to automatically deduct the weight of your * * * * ing arm?”
Have any of you ever been so preoccupied with certain thoughts, that the present action is forgotten? You have a general feeling of displacement? Happened to me today, first thing in the morning. I walked up the four flights of stairs, to the fourth floor of my warehouse. Pressed the elevator button [I never RIDE in the elevator itself, in case something goes wrong, I will be stuck in there…] so the elevator rises….. my mind focuses on its current preoccupation…. the elevator arrives, [I have opted to RUN up the four floors, and meet my cargo there]……. then, I’m standing there, [paralyzed] I keep pressing the number “4”. NOTHING. No movement. [The reason there is no movement is because it is already there, right in front of me, as the glass doors should readily reveal….] but they don’t. Because my mind is elsewhere. Frustrated, I begin walking down the staircases, ready to radio my supervisor and tell him the elevator is not functioning. Preparing to send a repairman. All the way, I am contemplating how this whole problem is going to compound the already difficult aspects of my work-day! When I get to the first floor, I see that the elevator is NOT there. It’s on the fourth. So I climb back up. And there it is. I was looking right at it, earlier, and did not see it. That’s called the epitome of distraction. Yesterday, a friend commented that they would like to see a "comical" posting. But I have not been in a comical mood, lately. My apologies to one and all. *********
On the exterior many lives are impetuously lived, in constant motion, constant flux, demanding change... while on the inside, important wheels have long since stopped turning. Crucial questions languish, not so much from being already answered as from never having been asked. Another type of person floats along fairly steady, and constant diversion is not really an issue... but on the inside, they are a whirligig. Always asking and re-asking, backpedalling, and here in the unseen realm the action is taking place, like a duck's feet underwater. -- Cipriano, Jan.26, 2002 –