Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Mac or PC? Which R U?

Tonight, after work, I went to my new hotspot for coffee-drinking.
It's this one fairly obscure Starbucks situated basically in a Best Buy parking lot at the junction of Coventry and Lola. I've frequented it for a few evenings now and I really like it. They play nicer music in there than at most places. Plus, tonight the barista girl gave me a free blueberry muffin to go with my Grande Bold coffee -- so, I'm liking it all the more!
When I say "hotspot" though that's a bit of a misnomer -- there is a bit of a chill that wafts in from the big plate glass window I happened to be sitting against. Doesn't help that a bit of a blizzard was happening on the other side… anyhow, I digress.
What I really wanted to ask of my dear readers was whether you are a Mac or a PC user. I may have asked this question before [I'm not sure] but I'm nothing if not redundant here at Bookpuddle.
At one point as I sat there sipping coffee for hours and reading The Woman in White, I looked around and did a bit of a cyber-tally. There were only six other people in the place. I made it seven. [Wow, Cipriano, you are so good at math!]
Thing is, there were six Apple products in use on the various tables. The only exception was a non-techie guy yonder reading a newspaper!
It made me realize the growing popularity of Mac usage.
More and more people are biting into the forbidden fruit, it seems.
I myself am a die-hard Mac addict and devotee. Recently my laptop was dropped from a table onto the concrete floor of a Starbucks, much to my immediate horror and subsequent cardiac arrest. Most other products [including an actual apple] would have had to be discarded after such a tragedy. But my MacBook Pro shrugged it off and I think it works even better now!
And speaking of popularity itself -- Apple is about to approach the 25 billionth App download -- at their website a frantically ticking counter tells the story.
Just minutes ago I made the little video clip, shown below.
So -- my question to you -- the short and sweet of it is this -- what are you viewing this Bookpuddle blog on, dear friend?
A PC? Or, the thing that is better --> a Mac?


video

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

Find a nice quiet place to spend time with a book.
This is my wish for you, today.

Have a great Wednesday!
******

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

Books are the perfect entertainment: no commercials, no batteries, hours of enjoyment for each dollar spent. What I wonder is why everybody doesn't carry a book around for those inevitable dead spots in life.
-- Stephen King --


Have a great Tuesday!
*****

Monday, February 27, 2012

Those Crazy Victorians!

Those of you familiar with my somewhat free-range reading choices know that I don't shy away from the Victorian-era novels. I'm a fan of Dickens, Hardy, Eliot, the Brontes etc. You know? The writers so well-known they don't need first names?
Currently I am in the midst of a real doorstop of a massive tome.
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. First published in 1860, apparently an age in which razors, electric or otherwise, were yet to be invented.
<-- Look at the rat's nest on the guy!
I loved his other famous novel, The Moonstone, and this one is also a dandy.
Thing about these Victorians that always throws me for a loop is how long it takes them to say stuff.
I mean… the excessive verbiage. Trollope is a fine example.
For instance, here in my current book, the sweet heroine Laura Fairlie has been betrothed to this guy Percival, but in the meantime she has fallen in love with another guy, her art teacher, Walter Hartright. So she figures she should tell Percival of this complication prior to any actual nuptials taking place. White-knuckled, poor Percival grips the table and hears --

"I have heard," she said, "and I believe it, that the fondest and truest of affections is the affection which a woman ought to bear her husband. When our engagement began that affection was mine to give, if I could, and yours to win, if you could. Will you pardon me, and spare me, Sir Percival, if I acknowledge that it is not so any longer?"

Say what?
The wild thing is that Percy totally GETS the message.
If that was me I would have said, "Darling… umm, me no understandee!"
It just so cracks me up how these crazy Victorians say things.

So -- I'm going to start talking like this, I think.
Next time I idle the ol' Mazda up to the Drive-Thru I'm going to say:
Salutations! sincere disembodied voice that hearkens from yon speaker grill. Prithee forgive my voluble pangs of hunger, but I beg of thy comrades, perhaps mingling thine own ministrations in said process, yea, in consort with thy various scullery-bound hair-netted culinary youthservants, thou wouldst together provide me victuals in the manner of two buns betwixt which lie fulsome layers of roasted bovine avec fromage!
Then I'm going to floor it to the pickup window where the kid will probably be checking his headset for interference from outer space!

******

Splash du Jour: Monday

I don't think I could love you so much if you had nothing to complain of and nothing to regret. I don't like people who have never fallen or stumbled. Their virtue is lifeless and of little value. Life hasn't revealed its beauty to them.
-- Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago --


Have a great Monday!
******

Saturday, February 25, 2012

An Update on my "Life"

<-- Firstly, is it wrong for me to think that the image shown constitutes a well-rounded, and even nutritious, meal?
It's hitting all the four main food groups:
1) Cow.
2) Potato and/or derivatives.

3) Grease.

4) Plastic.

Secondly, I want to beg forgiveness from Faithful Readers who may have noticed that I am not nearly as... bloggerific as I have been in the past. I hereby officially want to blame, in descending order of relevance:
1) Overwork.
2) Resultant lethargy due to point #1.

3) Lack of energy due to points #1 and #2.
4) My recent liposuction surgery.


In all seriousness now, what exactly is going on at Bookpuddle©? A site that was once so full of…. book stuff.
Has the guy quit reading altogether?
Has he finally died from burger consumption?
None of the above.
The truth is, 95% of my life is given over lately [energy-wise] to:
1) Work.

2) More work.

3) Eating.

4) Reading very slowly, while yawning due to points #1 and #2, and possibly #3.

I recently worked up some steam and blogged about Middlesex, which was such a terrific book that it actually granted me some energy that was sadly lacking.
I don't have an actual physician's documentation on this, but I feel that just reading the thing actually may have unblocked a clogged artery or two! But aside from this brief spurt of inspiration, I concur with you that Bookpuddle has been in arrears. Tonight, having eschewed a day of suggested overtime at work, and breathing from a bag of oxygen at my side, let me say a word or three about the book I read prior to Middlesex.

Beyond B
lack, by Hilary Mantel. [2005].
I was a bit disappointed.
I love novels that deal with the occult world. And so I was really looking forward to Mantel's take on it, not having read any other of her works. And overall, I think the saving grace of this book may lie in her vivid depiction of the two principal characters, Alison the psychic, and Colette, the avid devotee who becomes her assistant. They do remain unforgettable to me.
It is the blurring of the physical and non-physical world that I had trouble with. In a world of phoney psychics Alison seemed genuine, someone truly given over to being the full-meal deal. [Again, see image at the top of this blog].
Alison seemed to possess the "gift"… if gift it is. Or at least she was more genuine than the others, foisting their haphazard prognostications at the many Psychic Fairs that were a part of the story. The troubling part for me was not being able to really enter in to the reality [or not] of what were Alison's mediums. The enigmatic nature of Morris, her "spirit guide". And not only this, but also his cohorts, who seemed to bridge the gulf between the living and dead in too blurred a fashion. They were invisible to the living, yet were able to affect the living in tangible ways -- taking up space in the real world [creeping their hands up skirts] and in the next instant -- you know, beyond the realm.
I began to wonder… if they had farted, would anyone have smelled it?
Any answer to this was inconsistent.
Along with this, I was also disheartened by Mantel's seeming insistence that the dead retain aspects of their individual identity in the world "beyond black." This is a concept I cannot abide by, even in my fiction.
I am Tolstoyan, at heart. I love art that mirrors reality, yes, but without obliterating it, too much. For me, this book failed in this respect.
I may have had too great of expectations, being over-enamored of Sarah Waters' Affinity, which remains for me the best novel of the occult world, ever written.
But I fear being unfair to Hilary Mantel as I know she is a force to be reckoned with.
I don't want to be haunted by her in the next world.
So I will extend my two stars to three, pending nightmare.
In the meantime, dear friends, I close with yet another four points:
1) Please keep reading Bookpuddle. [Keep the faith!]
2) I may one day win the Lottery, and have the time and energy to be erudite.
3) I am currently accepting all McDonald's coupons in lieu of cash donations.

4) Should I have read Wolf Hall instead?

******

Friday, February 24, 2012

Splash du Jour: Friday

Disassemble the cells of a sponge (by passing them through a sieve, for instance), then dump them into a solution, and they will find their way back together and build themselves into a sponge again. You can do this to them over and over, and they will doggedly reassemble because, like you and me and every other living thing, they have one overwhelming impulse: to continue to be.
-- Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything --


Have a great Friday!
******

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Splash du Jour: Thursday

Your tears come easy, when you're young, and beginning the world. Your tears come easy, when you're old, and leaving it. I burst out crying.
-- Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone --


Have a great Thursday!
******

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

Habits of literary composition are perfectly familiar to me. One of the rarest of all the intellectual accomplishments that a man can possess is the grand faculty of arranging his ideas. Immense privilege! I possess it. Do you?
-- Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White --


Have a great Wednesday!
******

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

It is of interest to me that in my life I have received sixteen death threats. None came from an atheist! None came from a Buddhist! All of them came from those who claimed to possess "the true faith" or to be "born-again Bible-believing Christians." It is amazing that rude and even potentially murderous behaviour can so easily be justified with appeals to God. The scriptures may well point to the reality of a transcendent God. The scriptures, however, do not, cannot and will not ever capture the truth of God. It is into that limitless truth of God that we walk. The one essential prerequisite for being on this journey is that each of us must relinquish the popular religious fiction that we already, in our religious systems, possess that truth.
-- John Shelby Spong, Re-Claiming The Bible For a Non-Religious World --


Have a great Tuesday!
******

Monday, February 20, 2012

Middlesex

So many times I wanted to say a pile of stuff… twenty pages in... a quarter of the way through, then half-way through… then three quarters -- but now I am done the book and I'm going to try and find the adequate words to express how much I've enjoyed reading Middlesex.
Who says Oprah© doesn't know how to choose a good one? Middlesex was one of her "picks" back in 2007.
What an amazing book.
I am reeling from how much I loved it.

I respect my Bookpuddle readers enough to know that a long and drawn out excursus of Middlesex is probably unnecessary -- most of you have already read the book. You know what it's about.
For those three or four other people, Middlesex is the epic, sweeping, multi-generational story of the [Greek] Stephanides family, and their journey from Mount Olympus to Detroit. Well, mostly it's Detroit, and onwards.
The book begins by kicking you square in the gonads with one of the most craziest [and multi-comma-colonized] first sentences I have ever encountered:
I was born twice: first as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.
Wow.
That is the narrator speaking -- the ever-interesting and erudite, Callie Stephanides.
Some people favor books written in first person. Others don't mind the third-person. In this narrator you have both, and an author that is an expert in alternating between the tenses like no one I have ever read before.
Jeffrey Eugenides [praise be His Name] starts by having Callie recount the incestuous history of her grandparents, in Greece. They migrate to America and…. no, wait. Now I am doing what I said was unnecessary. You've all read this book.
Let me fast-forward to my impressions of it.
>> The thing is perfect <<
It's perhaps the best book I have read in the past five years.
Callie is a hermaphrodite. Hey, the first sentence sort of gives that away, so I'm not spoiling anything here for the three or four of you.
But the important thing that this book addresses is that gender identity sometimes is neither biologically determined nor even conditionally or culturally determined.
It can remain a mystery. Callie was born with a body that was not quite… the norm.
Not only this, but the aberration was not immediately recognized. Callie was raised as a female. But this caused all manner of confusion, along the way. "Her" journey shows us that no matter what sort of identity issues we face, the only person that can truly know their own self is the one that lives under their own skin.
No one else is able [or should be able] to decide who you are.
And this is not saying the half of what the book does. Because Callie's own story, focused on in the latter half of the book, is but a periphery to the first half of the book. Ancestry, in other words, plays a major role in our specific, one-lived, life.
Callie only truly finds this out in the very final pages!
It's one of the most well-rounded, and I'm going to say it, flawlessly written books I have ever read.
To give it a five-star rating [out of a possible five] I would feel guilty of limiting myself to just one galaxy of twinkling lights in my own night sky. I want to give it a full Big Dipper, which is seven stars!
This is my first journey into Eugenides. I look forward to reading every single word this guy has ever written, or ever will.

******

Splash du Jour: Monday

There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.
-- Ernest Hemingway --


Have a great Monday!
******

Friday, February 17, 2012

Splash du Jour: Friday


The Rider


A sparrow turns its head.
Quivering, the vigilant forest edge
yields to a gathering unease
the thump of approach.
Hooves stamp the hilltop.
A triumphant tossing of mane, a steamy huff.

The Rider, wheeling the great beast about,
surveys the foggy terrain he has crossed.
Silence reclaims itself.
He thinks.

This man knows nothing of Parliament or Congress,
matches or ballpoint pens. Electricity is gibberish.
Air the exclusive domain of feathers.
Television, centuries hence.

Yet the Rider knows two things
as well as you and I do.
Love and the lack of it.

© Ciprianowords Inc. 2006

Have a great Friday!
******

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Weird Habit Revealed












The saving grace of this blog posting will be its brevity.
I will not belabor or travail over it. I'll cut the umbilical cord really quickly.
It's just a trivial thing I wanted to mention, with the main purpose of perhaps seeing if there is a single person out there that is as weird as I am.
OK -- here's the deal -- when I begin reading a book, especially one written by an author I have never read before, and I am in the midst of reading that book, and I find myself in a bookstore [which I do nearly every single day of my life]……… "Hey, Cipriano, I thought you said you were not going to belabor the point and….."
Shhhh… I'm just about to say it now --> I find that I love to GO to the place on the shelves of the bookstore where the author's stuff can be found. I love to look at their other books, as though these are as yet unsought by anyone. And [go figure, cheapo that I am] usually, my own copy is a used one, to boot.
I don't know why I do this.
But I do.
For instance, I was a virgin to my last two authors -- Hilary Mantel and Jeffrey Eugenides. With each, I went to the shelves of the bookstore and drooled all over the other books I was not reading at the time. I was swooning, anticipating further adventures before I was done with the current one.
Is this what is referred to as being a "bookslut"?

******

Splash du Jour: Thursday

Just when you begin thinking of yourself as memorable, you run into someone who can't even remember having met you.
-- John Irving, The Hotel New Hampshire --


Have a great Thursday!
******

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

Part of the post-apocalyptic, dystopian trend is that it seems to go hand in hand with young adult novels. Maybe that's because it's not simply the adults who are aware of the current crisis. Teens are the ones who are being told, again and again, that their futures are in jeopardy. The teen years can feel dystopian even in the best of times. But I don't think we realize how much pressure and feeling of doom we're passing down to our teens.
-- Julianna Baggott --


Have a great Wednesday!
******

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

I never had one hour's happiness in her society, and yet my mind all round the four-and-twenty hours was harping on the happiness of having her with me unto death.
-- Charles Dickens, Great Expectations --


Have a great Tuesday!
******

Monday, February 13, 2012

Splash du Jour: Monday

Historical fact: People stopped being human in 1913. That was the year Henry Ford put his cars on rollers and made his workers adopt the speed of the assembly line. At first, workers rebelled. They quit in droves, unable to accustom their bodies to the new pace of the age. Since then, however, the adaptation has been passed down: we've all inherited it to some degree, so that we plug right into joysticks and remotes, to repetitive motions of a hundred kinds.
-- Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex --


Have a great Monday!
*****

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Aren't They Adorable?
















I've missed participating in the Saturday Snapshot for a few Saturdays now because… because I just ain't taking any good pictures of nuthin'!
So, here is a snapshot of my best friend's twin daughters.
Aren't they absolutely adorable?
This was taken when they were on an east-coast vacation in Halifax, and of course, I've obtained permission from him to post this shot. I spent Christmas Day 2011 at their place and at one point while a Wii tournament was in progress on the TV, these two were climbing all over me and I remember thinking, "My goodness, combined they are lighter than my cat!"
They. Are. So. Cute.
So, if you leave a comment, you must mention how cute you think they are, from one to ten. And be warned, anything less than 9.6 or thereabouts -- I'll have to delete that comment, as it shall clearly be lacking in good judgment.

Many thanks to Alyce for hosting this excellent meme at At Home With Books.
******

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Splash du Jour: Thursday












From earliest childhood I was charmed by the materials of my craft, by pencils and paper and, later, by the typewriter and the entire apparatus of printing. To condense from one's memories and fantasies and small discoveries dark marks on paper which become handsomely reproducible many times over still seems to me, after nearly 30 years concerned with the making of books, a magical act, and a delightful technical process. To distribute oneself thus, as a kind of confetti shower falling upon the heads and shoulders of mankind out of bookstores and the pages of magazines is surely a great privilege and a defiance of the usual earthbound laws whereby human beings make themselves known to one another.

-- John Updike --


Have a great Thursday!
******

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

We were not having any fun, he had recently begun pointing out. I would take exception (didn't we do this, didn't we do that) but I had also known what he meant. He meant doing things not because we were expected to do them or had always done them or should do them but because we wanted to do them. He meant wanting. He meant living.
-- Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking --



Have a great Wednesday!

*******

Monday, February 06, 2012

Splash du Jour: Monday

video

I'm thinking of incorporating this little routine into my own daily morning workout.
But not today. Not just yet.

Have a great Monday!
******

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Why Is The Sky Blue?

While browsing through the bookstore, as I am wont to do, I happened upon a really interesting book.
It’s called
Why Does A Ball Bounce? 101 Questions You Never Thought of Asking.
It’s written by Adam Hart-Davis and published by Firefly Books (2005).
So I bought it.
It's filled with really neat one page explanations of stuff.
My favorite page, thus far, is this one entitled Why is the sky blue?
It's a question I have wondered for a long time. The following is not my paraphrase [can I go to jail for doing this? Because seriously, jail does not appeal to me one bit] but in fact, it is the actual verbatim words:


This question was first answered by John Tyndall (1820-93), who in 1867 took over the running of London’s Royal Institution from Michael Faraday (1791-1867). A keen mountaineer, Tyndall was one of the first people to climb the Matterhorn. Before he attempted this, he calculated that the energy needed for the climb would be exactly the same as he would get by eating a ham sandwich; so that was all the food he took.
Back at the Royal Institution, he filled a glass tank with filtered, dust-free air, and noticed that he could not see a beam of light passing through it. He could see a beam of sunlight slanting across the room, and he realized it was visible only because the light was scattered by dust particles in the air. In his filtered air there was no dust to scatter the light.
He experimented by filling another tank with water and adding a teaspoonful of small particles (milk powder works well). A beam of light shone through it appeared bluish – the small particles scatter blue light. With a leap of imagination he realized that the sky is blue because small particles in the atmosphere – actually molecules of air – scatter blue light from the sun.
The sun lights up the whole of the sky during the day, and because air molecules scatter blue light in all directions, the whole sky looks blue. The light from the sun looks yellowish because although it is really white, some of the blue has been scattered away, and white minus blue makes yellow.
At sunrise, as in this photograph, [NOTE: the image I have attached above is not the same as that in the book, but it is similar] the sunlight arrives at a low angle and has to travel through much more atmosphere than later in the day. As a result more blue light is scattered, the sky looks deeper blue, and the sun looks yellow, orange or even red. At the same time it lights the clouds pink or orange.

It’s an interesting book.
Go buy it.
You will learn tons of interesting things, like (for instance), did you know that a million sugar cubes, piled vertically, would be 10 kilometres high? Yep, higher than Mount Everest. [No doubt, I’ve probably plopped a few kilometres worth into my coffees, over the years!]
If I were to ask the 102nd question though, it would not have to do with sugar cubes.
My question would be addressed to Mr. Tyndall, and it would be.... “Tell me John, was that ham sandwich enough?”

Note: For a more poetic and Biblically-inspired version of why the sky is blue, written at a time when I was more... Biblically-inspired, click -->
HERE.
******

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Splash du Jour: Thursday

Bad architecture is in the end as much a failure of psychology as of design. It is an example expressed through materials of the same tendencies which in other domains will lead us to marry the wrong people, choose inappropriate jobs and book unsuccessful holidays: the tendency not to understand who we are and what will satisfy us.
-- Alain de Botton, The Architecture of Happiness --



Have a great Thursday!

*****

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Good Endings?

Recently I had a discussion with a friend who was advocating the reading of non-fiction over against fiction. In his opinion, reading novels does not educate the reader in anything near as valuable as what could be gained by reading non-fiction. An investment in fiction does not add to a person's storehouse of intelligence. [I am paraphrasing].
And I did concede him a few points, along these lines -- proceeding to defend my approximate 80% to 20% fiction-to-non-fiction ratios by saying I read novels for entertainment. The chemical rush I get, etc.
But thinking about it afterward -- there is so much more to it than this. For me, it is much more than merely a different way of watching a movie. By reading fiction, I believe we actually do "learn" things in ways that we could not otherwise know [in our limited experience] and sometimes we gain this "knowledge" in ways that would be impossible by learning facts.
Anyhoo -- my friend also said that he does not like to read novels because "not a one of them has ever ended well." To summarize, he feels that all novels have poor endings that only serve to exemplify an author's frustration with the requirement of a last page, at some point.
I sort of disagreed, but when he asked me to provide an example of a novel that satisfactorily ended, I was a bit mute, I must admit.
But then I thought of Anna Karenina, and so I offered that one as my choice of a well-ended novel. I've read it twice, and it's probably my favourite novel ever. It merits a third reading. I'm a bit of a collector, the three copies shown above are mine, and I have a misplaced fourth one around here somewhere.
Both times, I remember finishing Tolstoy's Anna and thinking, "Damn, that is a good novel!"
It ends up zeroing in on the character of Levin, rather than Anna. All though the book, Levin [some say a representation of Tolstoy himself] holds out for real love. His love for a woman named Kitty. This calm pairing is pitted against the tempestuous one of Anna and Count Vronsky all the way along. And in the end Tolstoy focuses his attention on Levin's spiritual regeneration, showing this to be much more a novel of ideas than a book fixated on romance. The very last paragraph is so amazing -- my favourite in all of literature. [Don't read it if you have not read the book, don't peek!]
But the very final line is this:
…my life, my whole life, independently of anything that may happen to me, is every moment of it no longer meaningless as it was before, but has an unquestionable meaning of goodness with which I have the power to invest it.
I love that.
It emphasizes the very thing the suicidal Anna was unable to accomplish in her own life.
Do any of you have any further arguments I can offer my friend, as to the merits of fiction? Any favourite well-ended novels?
Books with a last page that can justify having read the first one?

******

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

I’d hate to be a teetotaler. Imagine getting up in the morning and knowing that’s as good as you’re going to feel all day.
-- Dean Martin --

Have a great Wednesday!
******