Today's "splasher" is a bit of a more lengthy one. Not to mention, more personal in nature. It's about my cat, Kennedy. I have created a cat treats addict. I miss the early days when he just sat around and quietly read books with me. Little cat-glasses on his head. Licking his paw, turning a page. Asking for a coffee refill -- stuff like that. Like an imbecile, I started buying these "Temptations" [and other] cat treats for him, something I NEVER did with my former roommate, Jack. Kennedy needs his fix a couple times a day, now. If I do not put out a few of these treats for him, he will nag me with incessant meowing and annoying leg-rubbings -- he will even jump right on top of my head as I sit at the computer. It can be scary as hell. So, word to the "wiser" out there -- if you have a cat I suggest that you keep him or her on just normal cat food. These "treat" things are a killer. I don't see heroin listed on the ingredients, but it has to be in there somewhere. Kennedy has turned into some kind of Kurt Cobain wannabe! I'm just glad there's no loaded guns laying around -- in case I don't make it back from work on time some night! Here is a vid-clip of him scarfing these things down -- notice the dilated pupils? And he's just snorting around for more, when he's done. I'm a bad dad!
You know in cartoons when someone is running [I think of Fred Flintstone actually…] and they come to a stop and they are skidding, and it sounds like a car with its brakes on, full tilt? That was me tonight after work as I was walking through a Chapters bookstore and on a table I saw that Donna Tartt's new book TheGoldlfinch was sitting there. Good thing I was wearing my anti-lock workbooks! I picked it up [of course]. Like... off the table, I mean. This thing is like War and Peace big! It must weigh a good six pounds! I have been waiting for this book most seriousfully! And now it's here, and not only here, but coming right out of the gates at 40% off! I very nearly bought it -- I can't believe I resisted. But it's good I did, because since then I have heard hints that this may be a soon-upcoming birthday gift for me. So… be still my wallet! Donna Tartt is such a fabulous writer -- I am pretty much salivating at the thought of reading this new book. She is not a prolific writer, but I think that speaks to her very exquisiteness. She's easy on the eyes, too. Easy on the eyes. One day -- all women will have hair like that. It's called… evolution! Her book The Secret History remains one of my favourite novels of all time, and one thing you can be sure of when you are reading Donna Tartt -- you are not just reading a novel, you are reading literature. And now -- I need to get my workbooks serviced. I noticed afterwards, just sort of walking around and browsing -- I was pulling a bit to the left… *****
When I really worry about something, I don't just fool around. I even have to go to the bathroom when I worry about something. Only, I don't go. I'm too worried to go. I don't want to interrupt my worrying to go. -- J.D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye --
Why do I think you should read A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter? Because it is a picture perfect novel about young love, or the lack thereof. You are left to decide which is which, really. Two people meet up in Paris [circa 1960's]… it may be a bit dated, for sure, but the happenings are not. Things are still very much the same. The difference is they did not meet up through Facebook, I guess. Two young people get together, and sex takes precedence. She is eighteen, he is… a bit older. I forget now, how older he is, but not all that much. The sex is tumultuous, and all-consuming -- and this was written at a time  when such things were not really… written about. Or if they were written about, they were done badly. This one is written goodly. [Unlike that very sentence about it]. Here is what makes the novel so unique, though -- in my opinion: It is told in first-person narration from someone who is posing as omniscient. What he is writing about, he could not possibly KNOW. And in such sparing prose. Never have I seen so many four and five-word sentences. It makes Hemingway seem verbose. Salter has given us, through a thoroughly unreliable narrator, a fascinating glimpse of what goes on in the lives of young people infatuated with each other's bodies and souls… whether what actually took place in these pages did or not is not the point. The point is, whether it did or not -- it does. Yesterday, today, and always. I was riveted to this book. You can read it in a sitting, almost. But for parts of it, you may even want to be lying down. Or maybe pacing about. It is ribald and saucy. Picante. A perfect mix of elation, euphoria, irresponsible hedonism, and sadness. Bittersweet sweetness. A sense of the fleeting value of time and experience permeates A Sport and a Pastime. It is worth more than a fleeting look. *****
At the risk of losing the few readers I have that still tune in to Bookpuddle from time to time and wonder….. "Umm, why is this guy pretty much never talking about books anymore"….. umm -- let me now make the situation a few magnitudes worse. Just a few words about… testicles. Or more specifically, that thing that people say when they are berating someone that is not "manning up" or being "tough enough". You've maybe used the phrase yourself now and then, or at least are familiar with it -- people that think someone else is being a "wimp" say [and there's no question mark at the end of it, so it isn't even really a proper question], they say -- "Why don't you grow a pair!" A pair of what? Testicles? The majority of my Bookpuddle readers are women, but let me assure you, as a man with two perfectly good… [those things] -- I can 100% guarantee you that the last thing I would ask for, to make me TOUGHER, or more invulnerable -- would be like, to acquire somehow… more testicles. Two are already way too many. In all seriousness, a five-year old kid could completely debilitize Arnold Schwarzenegger if he or she landed a good kick in the right place. So I am not sure what people mean when they say "grow a pair." They must mean that, in the first place…. you did not have any? That is the only explanation. But even that does not make sense. Because really, you would be some sort of super-hero if you did not have any at all. I can understand what it means to grow a "pear"…. but growing a "pair"? An extra one, like? It would not help matters. Not at all. Like having four or six of these things? I would not ever leave the apartment. I promise -- my next blog-posting will be about books.
The boundary between dream and awake was becoming grotesquely elastic. A psychiatrist once told me that this is indicative of one's ego boundaries breaking down, the next stage into psychosis, where ego and id, dream and reality, form a a tidal wave breaking up all semblance of structure and function of anything in its path. In my father's words in his story, "For Esme", he likens his character's mind to unstable luggage "teetering off the overhead rack" on a train. -- Margaret Salinger, Dream Catcher -- Have a great Wednesday! *****
Her eyes were mostly white, of course, with a dark part in the middle, divided by a small ring of blue. It seemed to her that a person should see out of the white part of the eye, not the dark part. But that was not how things were. It was only though the deep hole of darkness that she could perceive herself in the mirror. -- Dara Horn, The World To Come --
The most important thing in life is loving. And having someone love you, in return. Until I am shown otherwise, I remain convinced that this is why the word "reciprocation" was invented. -- Me -- Have a great Monday! *****
Shortly after his mother died and his first wife left him, Benjamin Ziskind decided that he had been cheated too many times, and that he wouldn't believe anyone anymore. It's true that trust is dangerous. More dangerous than anything else. But eventually someone reminded him that trust is also the only thing that makes life worth living. --- Dara Horn, The World To Come --
This may be the first time I am writing a blog about an author before I have ever read any of their work. And no! It is NOT only because she is ridiculously gorgeous. There is [believe it or not] another reason. She is Ontario-born! Ontario, the Canadian province in which I live, gave birth to this prize-winning author by the name of Eleanor Catton. I have many times ogled her dustjacket image… I mean, her BOOK -- in the store. The Luminaries has the distinction now of being the biggest book [page-wise] to ever win the prestigious Man-Booker Prize. Have any of you hefted this thing in the store yet? It's a beauty. The story takes place in the 1800's, in New Zealand, where the author now lives. This is all I know about it. Oh yeah, and it weighs about a pound for each of the 50,000 she's now won for writing it. Click on the book image below to find out more about the author.
I may be mistaken, but I imagine that a major problem with early civilization is that night occurred. Think about the problem of night-time. From here on in, I am making stuff up, and have done no research. But think about it -- Darkness is a downer. At some point in our earthly history, some Leno-jaw-boned guy surely started a fire with sticks and said "Holy shit" before either of those two words had meaning.
Now the problem was how to keep it going while you were not tending it. Hmmm… The idea of perpetual light must have been a…. near-orgasmic problem to be solved. Trust the Chinese….. the race that has had more orgasms than any other type of people! They took whale fat and constructed a device that would give light while you were severely worrying about darkness. One of them inserted a wick at some point. And candles were invented, thanks to this Chinese entrepeneur. Milllennia later, an American guy [go figure] figured this "candle stuff" was not quite doing all it could do. Thomas Edison devised a light bulb. [Again, I am pretty much guessing here…. who cares what the guy's name was!] Thing is, nowadays we do not at all worry about darkness. Unless it is voluntary. Or there is an electrical blackout. I can go down to my car right now, in an underground garage, and pretty much have a valid complaint if I cannot find my Mazda in the darkness. We have come a long way from mistaking a stalactite in a cave for a stalagmite. What are we even doing in a cave, without a flashlight, in the first place? This is what I am saying. *****
I am an extremely boring person to know, unless you want to talk a lot. [Ask anyone I know! They'll tell you!] What I mean by that is -- umm, I don't DO much. My favorite pastime is reading, drinking coffee [or beer] and thinking. But also talking with people. I do that a lot. And I find that I tend to try to steer people toward talking about what I would call… Ultimate Reality. Ideas about existence itself, Awareness, life after death, religion, God, evolution, etc., -- I love to just try and get a handle on where people are "at" with their own thinking about such topics. I myself have been all over the map on these issues, throughout my life. And as I rapidly approach a half century of a lot of pensive coffee-drinking [and beer] -- I have sort of settled myself into a number of viewpoints about these issues that seem to satisfy me. But as I discuss them with people I always include the proviso that this is what I "currently" believe -- because it does change. Old ideas get displaced by what I consider better ideas. [This right now is the place where I will not at all be offended if you click this blog shut, because I am about to yap for quite a while about what I call "anthropocentrism". If you want to keep reading, it will require patience.]
As I have talked with other people, maybe hundreds of people over the years, I've noticed a distinct correlation between ideas of human evolution and ideas of sentient life on other planets. That is my "premise" statement for what follows.
My observation is that almost invariably, [admittedly, proponents of Intelligent Design throw a few human-made wrenches into it] if a person is OK with the idea of human evolution [a la Darwinism] -- they will almost always also be sympathetic to the idea of the possibility of sentient life on other planets -- I mean, outside of our own solar system. Many people believe in outright Creationism [a la, The Bible, and other such texts]. Vis a vis there is a God who purposed to create human beings -- and did so. What follows in a discussion with people who feel strongly about this, is that He [God] did not ALSO create other beings somewhere in outer space, on other planets. He only created us. I myself, when a far less critical thinker than I am today, also believed in this idea, and strongly so. [I no longer do]. I find that such a propensity can only lead, whether a person is aware of it leading to this or not, that the reason that everything exists is because of our own existence. I could cite many Bible references that tend to allude to, and in effect, encourage, such an interpretation of human existence. In light of what we have scientifically discovered about the Universe, however, I have come to see this as a very narrow "anthropocentric" view to adhere to. Which is to say I can no longer hold to it. To compare the existence of human life on planet Earth with what we now know about how long [time-wise] existence itself has... existed -- it seems to me an ignorant, possibly arrogant and definitely self-centered way of looking at whatever Ultimate Reality is. But back to my premise [above] -- I want to try and narrow this current field of discussion to just a few questions that you can maybe ask yourself over a coffee or a beer, to assess what you yourself believe.
Are you a Creationist? If so -- my premise would statistically predict that you do not believe there is sentient life elsewhere in the Universe. In other words, we, as human beings, apart from God, are the only beings anywhere, aware of our own existence in the Universe. [Do you see how anthropocentric that sounds?] Are you an Atheist? If so -- my premise would statistically predict that you are able to swallow the idea that we are possibly not the only beings anywhere capable of, you know…. creating things like salami, Lamborghinis, and….. Facebook. Are you an "Intelligent Designer"? If so -- you may believe that God sort of "used" evolution to do his "creating" of sentient life? Whichever of these categories you [again] "currently" find yourself falling into -- to my mind, there are only so many options out there, to truly believe in, when you consider the correlation of the ideas of human evolution, and other sentient life somewhere in outer space. They are these:
1) "God" created sentient beings [us] on planet Earth. And in doing so, "he" did not create any sentient life anywhere else. 2) There is no "God", and sentient life has randomly evolved on Earth, but has not done so anywhere else in the Universe. 3) "God" created sentient beings on planet Earth, and it is possible that "he" has also created sentient life on other planets in outer space. [Which, by the way, sort of turns the Bible into a "Book of Bad Jokes"]. 4) There is no "God", and sentient life has randomly evolved on Earth, but it is possible, and even entirely probable, that sentient life has also evolved on other planets in the Universe. 5) There are more than one "God". Ours created us here, and Others, created other sentient beings elsewhere. [This to me is, by far, the nuttiest of all the propositions].
I am being completely sincere when I say that if you can think of yet another [sixth] valid option, other than these five above, I would love to hear of it.
I'm sorry -- but I am very aware that I am a "thinker". A very boring person, like I said at the start. I think a lot. A real lot. But I cannot fathom the idea that if every other person on planet Earth died from something right now, and I was the only one left alive... typing away and opening the last of a soon-to-be-extinct luxury of beer [an entire possibility, right? Unlikely as it is?] -- that if that were to take place -- I would be the only sentient being thinking, about something -- in the entire Universe. To me that is far too anthropocentric of a view to be anywhere near being tenable. And by the way, if it were to happen, wouldn't I, in that moment, become the Being we have always mistakenly called "God"? *****
'What's your name,' Coraline asked the cat. 'Look, I'm Coraline. Okay?' 'Cats don't have names,' it said. 'No?' said Coraline. 'No,' said the cat. 'Now you people have names. That's because you don't know who you are. We know who we are, so we don't need names.” -- Neil Gaiman, Coraline --
Tonight after work I went out onto the balcony with my Harp beer and WOW -- the moon was incredible. The above picture does not at all do justice to how beautiful and serene it was. To the left of it is a very bright planet, and my internet research has narrowed it down to being either Venus or Saturn. Today was a rude awakening back-to-work day, and this calm sight in the night sky was a peaceful thing to come home to. Over my two weeks of vacation, amidst the visiting and partying, I managed to read two books, both of them in the genre of memoir.
First, Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co., by Jeremy Mercer. It's the story of an Ottawa crime reporter who feels the need to get out of Canada for a while, due to a threat encurrred over a story he wrote for his newspaper. [If you are wondering where Ottawa is, by the way, look again at the above picture. It's that stuff under the moon and mystery planet.] He finds himself adrift in Paris, lacking in funds and occupation. No job! And he wanders into Shakespeare and Co., which is a famous bookstore [a la Hemingway's A Moveable Feast?] the owner of which, tends to sympathize with the plight of bohemian vagrants. Mercer finds out that he can LIVE at the bookstore if he wants to. And he does. He ends up becoming a resident there for quite a while. Literally sacking out on various mattresses that are liberally distributed on the many different levels of the bookstore. It is a crazy adventure, well told. I found myself thoroughly immersed in the story and, at times, wishing it was mine. Makes me want to visit this legendary bookstore one day. I doubt I would ever be able to live there [my real life has too many demands] but I would love to walk around in the afterglow of the many thousands of others that have done that very thing. A really great book. Then I read Jonathan Franzen's, The Discomfort Zone: A Personal History. He is one of my favourite authors, and that really helps -- if you are going to read this book. I mean, it is interesting and everything, but there are those times when you wonder WHY you are reading it. There is nothing incredibly grandiose about his adventures, or even his life -- but since my own life is very similar, I did find it interesting. These six journal-essays are fun, for sure. Insightful. And I think every reader would find parallels in their own life…. especially if you are currently approaching the age of 50 or so [as I am]. All the high-school hijinx -- the angst over nuclear family and personal marital issues -- and then the last chapter, where Franzen talks about the development of his obsessive preoccupation with birdwatching -- it's a lot of fun. I've loved his novels, for sure -- I only wish, in retrospect, that I had read The Discomfort Zone prior to reading them, because I would have appreciated the author's themes [which tend to the side of family, and general relationship dysfunction] a lot clearer. I do recommend it, and reading The Discomfort Zone will reveal the author as a man of great intellect -- in the most modest, self-deprecating, and non self-aggrandizing way imaginable. A man fully aware of his own discomforts, unafraid to share them. *****
...End. Forgive me for my lack of Splash du Jourage this morning. I had a late night and now I am rushing about to get on a plane. Seems like the "away" portion of my holidays have come to an end. So sad. But it's been such an amazing time of frolicking with friends and family. Now I'm about to get on a series of planes [the first one is one of these with the propellers, actually] and fly across the entire country -- until midnight. For a traveling companion I will be reading Jonathan Franzen's memoirish book of essays -- The Discomfort Zone, writtien in 2006. And probably dabbling in a few magazines, too. Have any of you ever read this Franzen book? I love his fiction and look forward to reading a bit about his life and ideas. See you on the flipside, friends.
Well, as some of you know, I am now over a week into a two-week holiday. It's been great. But for the past couple of days I have felt physically terrible. It's been difficult to breathe, which isn't all that fun. And I was on a remote Island for a couple of days, so -- I just kept hoping it would all go away. But then this morning back on the mainland I awoke and just felt even worse, and had a major headache. My niece Sarah asked me if I thought a massage would help. I was very skeptical that any amount of massaging would be able to make me feel better -- but I agreed to lay down on the floor and she began to knead the daylights out of my back. And she is just a little pipsqueak. Wow -- she found about three major points around my right shoulder blade that were definitely in need of severe manipulation. It was a mixture of relaxation and painfulness. All I know is that when I got up off the floor my headache was gone, and all the pain in my chest… ALL OF IT… was gone. So I have become quite a believer in massage therapy, as of today! *****