Friday, December 31, 2010

Best Books of 2010

Well here we are at the last night of 2010 -- a time when I can reflect upon the 50 books I read this past year. There have been a few that I really did not enjoy [Mantissa by John Fowles, The Purest of Human Pleasures by Kenneth Radu] but overall -- it's been some terrific reading.
It's difficult to pick out only a few to highlight, but I've given it some thought over a couple of Sapporos by candlelight, and here is my conclusion.
My Top Five Reads of 2010 are as follows:

1. Affinity by Sarah Waters. [1999]
This compelling, eerie book just had everything I like most in fiction. Gothic setting [late 1800's / Victorian England], suspense, psychological labyrinths, intellectually satisfying. I cannot recall an author so completely making me believe in the unbelievable. Sarah Waters had me as bamboozled as her protagonist in
Affinity. My #1 unforgettable read of 2010.

2. Under The Skin by Michel Faber. [2000]
I could not put this book down and walk away without it nagging at me. I was telling everyone at work about every step along the journey through the novel. In
Under The Skin, [soon to be a movie starring Scarlett Johansson] sci-fi meets literature in a head-on collision. A tantalizing, horrifying, somewhat dystopian, "what-if" sort of story. Faber is a genius.

3. The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles. [1969]
Wow, I gobbled this book up. Again, some of my favourite features present here… Victorian England setting / thwarted love -- eroticism. Interesting authorial digressions [I don't mind that] --
exquisite dialogue. An ending that produced in me perhaps my most pensive day of 2010. It made me go for a [deliberate] long walk in the rain.

4. The White Bone by Barbara Gowdy. [1999]
A book not only
about elephants, but narrated by elephants. You could say that this is a look into the psychological depths of disoriented pachyderms struggling to reunite after a brutal attack from the "hindleggers" [humans]. It is a searing, emotionally engaging work of staggering genius. Especially if you like animals, as I do.

5. Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan. [2008]
Prepare for liftoff, all ye who pick up this book. It's set in two worlds, and it seems that neither of them is really ours. What if the perfect world you envision [and create] is not necessarily as beneficial to others as it is to you? Would you want to remain there, at their expense? Not since C.S. Lewis's
Till We Have Faces have I read such a vivid exploration of the ideas of selfish and healthy love.

There have been so many other great novels I have read in 2010 -- I could go on forever about them.
I would speak of
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters, and Beatrice & Virgil by Yann Martel, both of these authors proving to me by way of their most recent novels that I want to buy their next book even before they write it!
Friends, is there any end?
Any end to the wonderful world of reading available to us in 2011?
You know it as well as I do
--> the answer is "No".
We are hapless victims of the most inexhaustible obsession known to mankind!
The reading of good books!
And so it is that I can say this final thing with 100% Sapporo-induced-conviction...


HAPPY NEW YEAR!
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Splash du Jour: Friday

Freud: Anna, although I am your father, as part of your education I must show you my penis so you understand certain fundamental concepts. Now, do you see the difference between the penis and the phallus?

Anna:
Yes, Father. The penis is like the phallus, only much smaller.




Have a great Friday!

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Splash du Jour: Thursday

"And why are writers bad at relationships?"
"Because we can always imagine better ones. With much less effort. And the imaginary ones grow much more satisfying than the real ones."
-- From Daniel Martin, by John Fowles --


Have a great Thursday!
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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

I want to say, in all seriousness, that a great deal of harm is being done in the modern world by belief in the virtuousness of work, and that the road to happiness and prosperity lies in an organized diminution of work. The morality of work is the morality of slaves, and the modern world has no need of slavery.
-- Bertrand Russell, In Praise Of Idleness



Have a great Wednesday!

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Getting to Mordecai

I'm finding that size does matter!
For a long while now I have been itching to get to this new biography of author Mordecai Richler. It's by Charles Foran. It's a big brick of a beauty!
Thing is -- I said to myself, "First I will read more of Mordecai's work!"
I really like what I have read of Richler [The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz and St. Urbain's Horseman] but oh my Yahweh! There's so far to go!
Right now I am past halfway in Solomon Gursky Was Here… and realizing that Richler isn't exactly something you zip through as if you were reading Ken Follett or Stephen King or what-have-you.
It's fairly deep -- convoluted, even. Interesting, but a bit daunting.
I have a long journey ahead of me if I think I am going to read all of his work and THEN read this biography! I can think of at least seven or eight major Mordecai novels, besides the ones I have read.
So, my question to my readers is this
--> Is it OK to read a biography of an author when you have not really read all of his/her stuff yet?
Have you read worthwhile biographies, having known only a small percentage of the featured author's output?
Or… or… should I be patient? Read the novels, no matter how long it takes [even as my eyesight is failing]… and then turn to this lovely bio?

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Say it Ain't So

About a year ago… actually a little more than a year ago I began to realize that my eyesight ain't what it used to be. I even wrote about it.
Things were getting blurry, and have been increasingly being a bit of an issue for me. I'm forever blinking, as though to get something out of my eyes and/or re-focus.
Is this a normal sign of old age?
If so -- what's next?
Digestive biscuits? False teeth?
A walker? All manner of discounts?
Viagra©? Forgetting where my glasses are?
Two days ago I finally picked up my prescription reading glasses, shown in the above photo, atop my current read. And they work. As I read there is a much better clarity and focus… not to mention lack of blinking.
So -- this is workable.
But I find myself not comfortable with getting old in other ways.
What's next?
Loss of remaining hair?
Denial of driving privileges?
Palliative care?
Inability to skip lunch and drink eight beers in a row on a Boxing Day afternoon?

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Saturday, December 25, 2010

My Favorite Time of Year...



A very MERRY CHRSTMAS to you!
All the best to you, dear friends, in 2011!

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Splash du Jour: Thursday

A friend of mine just started his own business.
He manufactures landmines that look like prayer mats.
It's doing well.
He says prophets are going through the roof.


Have a great Thursday!
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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Splash du Jour: Wednesday









One morning when Winnie-the-Pooh was Doing Nothing Very Much, but doing it rather well, he thought he would call on his old friend Christopher Robin and see whether he was doing anything. If not, perhaps they could do nothing together, because there are few things nicer than doing nothing with a friend.

-- From Return to the Hundred Acre Wood by David Benedictus --


Have a great Wednesday!
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Monday, December 20, 2010

Splash du Jour: Monday

"Possibly Not and Possibly Not and Possibly Not," said Eeyore, "and three Possiblys add up to one Probably."
-- from Return to the Hundred Acre Wood, by David Benedictus --


Have a great Monday!
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Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Power of Advertising

Yesterday I took my new 2010 Mazda 3 in for its first servicing.
While my car was up on the hoist I sauntered around the showroom and looked at the pristine orphans in there, waiting to be adopted. Nice cars.
I'm quite happy with my purchase thus far and I feel that Mazda is in the business of making quite a good vehicle. Great design. Great features. And terrific advertising.
Who among us, were we to hear someone say "Zoom! Zoom!" would not instantly think of Mazda?
A Mazda marketing executive once said, "The exhilaration we felt as a child shooting down a hill on our bike, this is what Zoom-Zoom means at its most basic level."
That is the raison d'ĂȘtre of ZoomZoomism.

And it works. Even as I zip around in my own car, often those very two words float through my mind. They seem appropriate, so up front.
Zoom! Zoom! Go fast! Go fast!
But when it comes to high-level advertising -- wow, it is such a subliminal world out there!

From a display rack I picked out a couple of Mazda brochures and noticed something interesting.
Hmmm…. I've taken pictures of them here as you can see for yourself -- Do you notice anything strange about them?

Does it strike you as interesting the amount of valuable advertising space devoted to things that really have absolutely nothing to do with the actual product?
Look at the very first image, above.
Three guys walking on a beach with two dogs. When you unfold this brochure you see [second image] that a full 40% of the available surface area has been given to images of someone playing a bass guitar, and a street scene of people sipping coffee at outdoor restaurant patios.

Hmmmm -- that was for the 2011 Mazda 3.
What about the 2010 Mazda 6?
Well, as you can see in the third image, there is a guy teeing off into the sun. Opening the brochure again reveals several car-unrelated activities…. first, two people on beach chairs as the sun sets over the ocean, and to the lower right, a guy intently working at his laptop computer.
Hmmmm -- so then it hit me.
The most effective advertising must involve a certain level of diversion.
Get the viewer to at least momentarily envision something they would rather be doing.
With this in mind, dear readers, I've developed a new brochure for Bookpuddle©.
You can see it
--> HERE!
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Friday, December 17, 2010

The Charlie Browniest Christmas!

So this very evening after work while I was up at the Starbucks counter getting a refill of my Grande Bold coffee I noticed that they were displaying a CD/DVD set of my favorite Christmas Special of all time!
A Charlie Brown Christmas.
In the time it took for the barista to turn towards me with my java I had the VISA card sitting atop this masterpiece of fine cinema! I just love it so much.
It originally aired in 1965, when I was a mere lad going through my Terrible Twos.
I've watched it umpteen times… but I never tire of its wonderful simplicity and innocence. To me, Charlie Brown always reminds me of a potential world where all grownups are offstage.
Nowadays, as I approach my own dotage years -- my own senior citizenship if you will, my forehead quickly becoming a fivehead -- my spreading tonsure threatening to resemble Charlie Brown's signature three-strand cranium sooner than later… I find myself to be all the more desirous to not only watch this Christmas special once again, but to own it. And now I do.
Charlie Brown -- for him the glass is always half empty.
Who can ever forget Linus's assessment of the matter -- "Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you're the Charlie Browniest."



*********

Splash du Jour: Friday

At night, there was the feeling that we had come home, feeling no longer alone, waking in the night to find the other one there, and not gone away; all other things were unreal. We slept when we were tired and if we woke the other one woke too so one was not alone. Often a man wishes to be alone and a woman wishes to be alone too and if they love each other they are jealous of that in each other, but I can truly say we never felt that. We could feel alone when we were together, alone against the others. We were never lonely and never afraid when we were together.
-- Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms --


Have a great Friday!
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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

My wife asked me, "How many women have you slept with?"
I said, "Only you. With all the others I was awake."
-- Rodney Dangerfield --


Have a great Wednesday!
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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

We all grow up with the weight of history on us. Our ancestors dwell in the attics of our brains as they do in the spiraling chains of knowledge hidden in every cell of our bodies.
-- Shirley Abbott --




Have a great Tuesday!

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Monday, December 13, 2010

A [more than] Suitable Father











Eleven years ago today, my father passed away after a lengthy battle with congestive heart failure. Dec.13th, 1999 -- just before the New Millennium arrived.
And so it is that I cannot help but help think of him tonight, and how, in so many ways, he was the most loving and selflessly generous person I have ever known.
The passing of years do not diminish that fact.

A while back now, I read a
A Suitable Boy written by the Indian author, Vikram Seth. This novel has the distinction of being the longest fictional story ever written in the English language, weighing in at a hefty 1,474 pages.
In it there is a character named Pran, and he is very ill. On page 914 there is the following dialogue between Pran and his doctor (named Imtiaz) and I found it to be very illustrative of what my own Dad would have been going through…

Dr. Imtiaz says:
“There’s an intimate connection between the heart and the lungs; they share the same cavity, and the right side of the heart supplies stale blood to the lungs for it to freshen, to oxygenate, as we say. So when the lungs don’t do their job properly – for instance because of not getting enough air when the air-tubes to the lungs seize up asthmatically – the heart is affected. It tries to supply more blood to the lungs to make up for the bad oxygen exchange, and this creates its own supplying chamber to fill up with blood, to become congested and distended. Do you understand?”
“Yes. You explain things very well,” Pran said sadly.
“Now because of this congestion and distension, the heart loses its efficiency as a pump, and that is what we like to call ‘congestive cardiac failure’. It’s got nothing to do with what laymen understand by the term ‘heart failure’. To them that means a heart attack. Well, as I said, you are not in danger of that.”
“Then why must I stay in bed for three weeks? It seems a terribly long time. What will happen to my work?” [Pran was a teacher].
“Well, you can do a bit of light work in bed,” said Imtiaz. “And later, you can go out for walks. But cricket is out for a while.”
And then, later on down the page, Imtiaz says to Pran:
“If you have congestive heart failure, you will have all the effects of pent-up blood in your system. Your liver will become enlarged, so will your feet, your neck veins will become prominent, you will cough, and you will get very breathless, especially on walking or exertion. And it is possible that your brain might become confused as well.”
And then:
When Imtiaz left the room, Pran tried to face these new facts.

I am still not sure if I was ever a suitable
son, but I have no doubt… mine was much more than a suitable father.
The --> Story.
The --> Poem.
********

Splash du Jour: Monday









If you're writing a book that takes place in New York in the moment, you can't not write about 9/11; you can't not integrate it. My main character's view is the Statue of Liberty and the Trade Center. It doesn't have to take over, but it has to be acknowledged.

-- Richard Price --


Have a great Monday!
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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Visions of Sugar Plums











The average person lives 74.1 years and sleeps 1/3 of that time.
If you break it down, 74.1 years = 649,400 hours. Multiplied by 1/3rd [or .33] that equals 214,302. So, the average person sleeps about 214,302 hours in their lifetime. Wow!
The above snapshot captures one second of my own allotted sleep time.
I don't know who took the picture [I was sleeping] and I'm not even sure how young I was [it's obvious it was prior to my development of breasts] -- but the thing that intrigues me is this….
I was THINKING something.
I would love to know what I was thinking. What I was dreaming.

Last night I dreamed that I was buying a car and I was arguing with the salesman over the issue of power steering. Apparently, the reverse-anachronistic car I was buying did not have this option.
Honestly, this is what I was dreaming. How crazy is that?

I bet the dream I was having when this picture was taken was way better.
More interesting. Far deeper. Involving less day-to-day issues.
It seems to me that I was dreaming of things that grown-ups know not of.

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Thursday, December 09, 2010

Splash du Jour: Thursday

"…I feel that we read to learn new things, sure, absolutely, but more often than not, what we really get out of the good books we read is self-recognition. We read and discover stuff about life that we already knew, except that we didn't know we knew it until we read it it in a particular book. And this self-recognition, this discovering ourselves in the writings of others can be very exciting, can make us feel a little less isolated inside our own thing and a little more connected to the larger world."
-- Ray Mitchell in Richard Price's, Samaritan --


Have a great Thursday!
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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

You know that look women get when they want sex?
Me neither.
-- Steve Martin --


Have a great Wednesday!
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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

I GOT RIPPED OFF!

I'm sitting here tonight thinking...
<-- I recently paid $25,000 for a new car and it never even came with this new Burger-Holder© option?
I'm furious! Can you imagine the time that such an invention could save me, not to mention the convenience factor?
I could drive and eat! Skip supper altogether.
More time for reading!

That's it. I'm taking my Mazda back and asking for a refund.

********

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

Have a great Tuesday!
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Monday, December 06, 2010

Splash du Jour: Monday

Let's imagine a child and an adult in Paradise who both died in the True Faith. The adult, however, has a higher place in Paradise than the child. The Child shall ask Allah: 'Why did you give that man a higher place?' 'He has done many good works,' Allah shall reply. Then the child shall say, 'Why did you let me die so soon that I was prevented from doing good?' Allah will answer: 'I knew that you would grow up to be a sinner, therefore, it was better that you should die a child.' Thereupon a cry shall rise from those condemned to the depths of Hell, 'Why, O Master, did you not let us die before we became sinners?'
-- From Nadeem Aslam, Maps For Lost Lovers --


Have a great Monday!
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Saturday, December 04, 2010

XLVII

From time to time, I write a boring blog.
[Actually, you do it quite frequently, Cipriano!]
Oh, shush!
This one is going to be even more boringer than usual.
Truth is, I haven't been doing much.
And I like it that way!
I ain't complaining.
The biggest news is that today is my birthday.
I am now officially 47 years old.
Or, as the Romans might say XLVII.
My friend is visiting me and we've been having a real terrific time doing nothing for the past couple of days. Took the day off work yesterday. I'm chilling out.
Renewing my Inner Lazybones.
Living in the "Now" a la Eckhart Tolle!
Today, in honor of 47 years of existence I bought myself a gift. A new backpack.
For a while now I've been researching backpacks, my old faithful Targus one giving up the ghost -- it's all tattered, and the zippers were failing to…….. zip, etc. It's bad enough that a lot of my clothes are in the same state of dilapidation!
So today, after a marvelous breakfast at Richtree, we sauntered in to the Apple store and purchased the best laptop backpack in the universe. My friend got one, too.
The brand name is Level 8.
Or as the Romans called it, Level VIII.
[See. I warned you that this blog was going to be extremely boring….]
Seriously though, if you need an impressive laptop backpack, I can confidently guarantee you that you will never find one better than --> THIS.
So, other than ogling this new self-bought birthday gift, I've been sitting around without any pants on, reading an excellent book, drinking Asahi [Japanese] beer and being extremely lazy.
Oh yes, and watching John Mayer's concert DVD, Where The Light Is.
In closing, here is a clip from that concert.
I cannot watch it with being profoundly moved… I mean emotionally moved, at such a display of talent and musical genius.
Listening to this may be the most important IX minutes XLIV seconds of your day!



Friday, December 03, 2010

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Splash du Jour: Thursday









Oh Christ, the exhaustion of not knowing anything. It's so tiring and hard on the nerves. It really takes it out of you, not knowing anything. You're given comedy and miss all the jokes. Every hour, you get weaker. Sometimes, as I sit alone in my flat in London and stare out the window, I think how dismal it is, how hard, how heavy, to watch the rain and not know why it falls.

-- John Self, in Martin Amis's Money --


Have a great Thursday!
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