Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

A very Merry Christmas to all of my friends at Bookpuddle.
Here is a real uplifting message -- the very words I would like to say to you all, but no one says it better than Will Ferrell --


Monday, December 08, 2014

Splash du Jour: Monday

"America…is being lost through television. Because in advertising, mendacity and manipulation are raised to the level of internal values for the advertisers. Interruption is seen as a necessary concomitant to marketing. It used to be that a seven- or eight-year old could read consecutively for an hour or two. But they don’t do that much anymore. The habit has been lost. Every seven to ten minutes, a child is interrupted by a commercial on TV. Kids get used to the idea that their interest is there to be broken into. In consequence, they are no longer able to study as well. Their powers of concentration have been reduced by systematic interruption.”
-- Norman Mailer --


Have a great Monday!
*****

Monday, December 01, 2014

Splash du Jour: Monday

video

On my last vacation [to Saskatchewan] we all went to this one park where the birds were so tame we had them eating out of our hands. Here is a clip of my niece, and a chickadee.
Have a great Monday!
*****

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Splash du Jour: Thursday

Took this pic at my favorite Starbucks last night. It's interesting.
Have a great Thursday!
*****

Monday, November 24, 2014

Authors, on God

I have a current theory that is making its way across the circuits of my brain, repeatedly, and it goes something like this:
The more intelligent a person is, or becomes, the less will be the tendency to believe in God.
It is my own learning and mind-expansion that has caused me to become less and less convinced of the existence of God -- at least as portrayed in the Bible. Having spent many years as a fundamentalist Christian, I think I have a fair understanding of what faith is. But I have concluded that it cannot be synonymous with reason.
And I like reading. I have always loved reading. So it interests me to discover, in my half century of life -- that most writers, the authors I have grown to love and admire - they almost unanimously are not people of faith. The discovery feels sort of like joining a new congregation. The Bible speaks of the value of not being ashamed of one's faith. In fact, it advocates laying your head down on the chopping block for it. Nowadays, I am more likely to proclaim that I am not ashamed of REASON, and leave the business of decapitations to, you know -- over-zealous religious groups! If you don't know what I mean, watch the news.
Anyhoo -- the videoclip below contains little snippets from authors you and I know and love. 

None of them believe in God. 
For what it's worth, the remarks I found that most resonated with me were those of Isaac Asimov, Jose Saramago, Ian McEwan, and Diana Athill. And then of course, Christopher Hitchens jumps on in there at the end to seal the lid on the thing. The entire clip is 25 minutes long, and worth watching.
Here is a list of the authors, in order of appearance:

1. Sir Arthur C. Clarke, Science Fiction Writer
2. Nadine Gordimer, Nobel Laureate in Literature
3. Professor Isaac Asimov, Author and Biochemist
4. Arthur Miller, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Playwright
5. Wole Soyinka, Nobel Laureate in Literature
6. Gore Vidal, Award-Winning Novelist and Political Activist
7. Douglas Adams, Best-Selling Science Fiction Writer
8. Professor Germaine Greer, Writer and Feminist
9. Iain Banks, Best-Selling Fiction Writer
10. José Saramago, Nobel Laureate in Literature
11. Sir Terry Pratchett, NYT Best-Selling Novelist
12. Ken Follett, NYT Best-Selling Author
13. Ian McEwan, Man Booker Prize-Winning Novelist
14. Andrew Motion, Poet Laureate (1999-2009)
15. Professor Martin Amis, Award-Winning Novelist
16. Michel Houellebecq, Goncourt Prize-Winning French Novelist
17. Philip Roth, Man Booker Prize-Winning Novelist
18. Margaret Atwood, Booker Prize-Winning Author and Poet
19. Sir Salman Rushdie, Booker Prize-Winning Novelist
20. Norman MacCaig, Renowned Scottish Poet
21. Phillip Pullman, Best-Selling British Author
22. Dr Matt Ridley, Award-Winning Science Writer
23. Harold Pinter, Nobel Laureate in Literature
24. Howard Brenton, Award-Winning English Playwright
25. Tariq Ali, Award-Winning Writer and Filmmaker
26. Theodore Dalrymple, English Writer and Psychiatrist
27. Roddy Doyle, Booker Prize-Winning Novelist
28. Redmond O'Hanlon FRSL, British Writer and Scholar
29. Diana Athill, Award-Winning Author and Literary Editor
30. Christopher Hitchens, Best-Selling Author, Award-Winning Columnist 



 

I would be interested, in the comments section, to hear your opinion on my premise statement, above:
The more intelligent a person is, or becomes, the less will be the tendency to believe in God.
Do you agree that this is true? If not, please elucidate a bit on how intelligence and reason leads us to a belief in God.
And then watch the news again.

*****

Monday, November 17, 2014

Splash du Jour: Monday

Were I called on to define, very briefly, the term Art, I should call it 'the reproduction of what the Senses perceive in Nature through the veil of the soul.' The mere imitation, however accurate, of what is in Nature, entitles no man to the sacred name of 'Artist.'
-- Edgar Allen Poe --


Have a great Monday!
*****

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Splash du Jour: Thursday

Catholicism, I discovered, was a type of Christianity for humans who like gold leaf, Latin and guilt.
-- Matt Haig, The Humans --


Have a great Thursday!
*****

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

I'm passing this on because it worked for me today. A well known doctor on TV said to have inner peace we should always finish things we start and we all could use more calm in our lives.
I looked around my house to find things I'd started & hadn't finished, so I finished off a bottle of Merlot, a bottle of Chardonnay, a bodle of Baileys, a butle of wum, tha mainder of Valiuminun scriptins, an a box a chocletz. Yu haf no idr how fablus I feel rite now. Sned this to all who need inner piss. An telum u luvum.


Have a great Wednesday!
*****

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Children Act

I recently read my tenth Ian McEwan novel -- so I can speak with a bit of authority when I say he is an author that elicits a wide range of opinion, among readers. Often I have heard him called "hit and miss", and I've used the phrase myself. But with The Children Act, honestly, I could hardly put the book down once I started it. I love the way this thing is structured, and the story is a fascinating one. It's written in third person, but feels like a first person narrative because of its tight focus on the central character, a High Court judge named Fiona Maye. Everything is seen through her eyes. She presides over very high profile cases in the Family Court section of England's legal system. For instance, at one point she rules upon the separation of Siamese twins. But most of her cases fall along the lines of marital disputes, parental rights, etc. Divorce wranglings. He-saids, she-saids [or more correctly] he-wants, she-wants. 
Her sixty-year old husband announces that he wants to have one last fling with a college sweetheart [who is like… still in college]. She's one of his students. Fiona is outraged, and her own marriage now tends to resemble some of the predicaments she sees in her courtroom.
She begins this battle of juggling her professional career with her own marital woes just as a new case arrives upon the scene. It involves a boy three months shy of eighteen, suffering from leukemia and in need of a blood transfusion. His parents are Jehovah's Witnesses, and feel that it is a violation of scriptural principles to accept blood into the body of their son, Adam. And Adam agrees.
Fiona, prior to giving her ruling, is suspicious that Adam's impending martyrdom is possibly a result of parental coercion rather than based upon a true understanding of what he is facing. And time is running out. As a result, she makes the unprecedented decision to visit Adam in the hospital.
The rest -- I will not say. You must read the book, if you haven't done so yet.
It is brilliant.
The Children Act is an example of Ian McEwan hitting the mark, as he does in the majority of his other novels, as well. So… don't listen to any naysayers. Trust me. It's 221 pages of time well spent.

*****

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

Have a great Tuesday!
*****

Monday, November 10, 2014

Splash du Jour: Monday

We human beings build houses because we're alive, but we write books because we're mortal. We live in groups because we're sociable, but we read because we know we're alone. Reading offers a kind of companionship that takes no one's place, but that no one can replace either. It offers no definitive explanation of our destiny, but links us extricably to life. Its tiny secret links remind us how paradoxically happy we are to be alive, while illuminating how tragically absurd life is. So our reasons for reading are as strange as our reasons for living. And no one has the right to call that intimacy to account.
-- Daniel Pennac, The Rights of the Reader --



Have a great Monday!
*****

Friday, November 07, 2014

You Know You're A Book Addict When...

… you use your last remaining vacation day of the year to attend a used booksale!
That's what I did today. I had one more work-free day for the year 2014, so i "booked" it off specifically to be able to give my full attention -- early in the morning -- to the Annual Rockcliffe Bookfair. There I was standing outside in the freezing cold with the other shivering lunatics this morning, waiting for the doors to open.
I sort of placed a restriction on myself though -- I brought along this orange shopping bag and committed myself to not exceeding its capacity, unlike other years where I fill an empty refrigerator box and then find I cannot move the thing to the car! This year I brought it down to about 30 books, all strategically crammed into this bag. Great books. Terrific books. And the whole shmeer only cost me $60.00. Now, back at my apartment I have a new dilemma. Nowhere to PUT them all! 

I've run out of shelves. Which is, by the way, the second sign that you're a book addict!
*****

Monday, October 06, 2014

Splash du Jour: Monday

How so many absurd rules of conduct, as well as so many absurd religious beliefs, have originated, we do not know… but it is worthy of remark that a belief constantly inculcated during the early years of life, whilst the brain is impressible, appears to acquire almost the nature of an instinct; and the very essence of an instinct is that it is followed independently of reason.
-- Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man --

Have a great Monday!
*****

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Three Recent Reads...

There.
My suitcase is packed, and now I have a few minutes to write about some recent reads. In the morning I will be flying away for a week in Atlanta, on work-related business. I'm not sure what I am more excited about -- Atlanta itself, which was such a blast last year, or just the fact that I will not be really working for a week!
I'll be taking along The Remains of the Day to read on my flight. Hopefully it's a good book.
The first book in the above picture is The Spinoza Problem, by Irvin D. Yalom. 

I love this author, having read two of his books now. Yalom likes to take real historical figures and basically elaborate a bit on their life stories. In this one, the subjects are 17th Century philosopher Baruch Spinoza, and 20th Century Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg. How in the world can these two figures be juxtaposed? Well -- here's how it goes. Rosenberg, a frothing at the mouth anti-Semite, discovers that all of the great German philosophers he worships, all, in their own right, were influenced by Baruch Spinoza. Then Rosenberg finds out that Spinoza was a Jew. This fact, this "problem" --  completely knocks his ideology for a loop. Each chapter alternates between what is going on in the life of Spinoza and Rosenberg in their different centuries of life -- and when Rosenberg is assigned [via Hitler] the title of Official Looter of Occupied Territories, his main task becomes the confiscation of Spinoza's library. It is an amazing story. I thoroughly loved it.
The second book is The Humans, by Matt Haig. 

Picture this -- an alien civilization finds out that humanity has discovered the answer to a mathematical problem that will launch them [us] into realms we have no business getting into. So they transmorph one of their species to look exactly like the scientist who discovered the equation -- they send him to Earth, and abduct the other guy. Now the alien is Professor Andrew Martin -- running around naked like a lunatic -- slowly learning the ways of the world. His task is to kill anyone else to whom Martin has divulged his discovery , even if that means his wife, and his son. But the alien takes a liking to the ways of the Earthlings, and begins to question his commitment to kill Martin's family. It is a hilarious book, but also serious. And well worth reading. In the end, the alien writes 97 pieces of advice to "his" son. 
Here are just a few of them listed, but they are all as equally profound:
    #33. You are not the most intelligent creature in the universe. You are not even the most intelligent person on your planet. The tonal language of the humpback whale displays more complexity than the entire works of Shakespeare.
    #19. Read poetry. Especially poetry by Emily Dickinson. It might save you. Anne Sexton knows the mind. Walt Whitman knows grass, but Emily Dickinson knows everything.
    #24. New technology, on Earth, just means something you will laugh at in five years. Value the stuff you wont laugh at in five years. Like love. Or a good poem. Or a song. Or the sky.
    #36. One day humans will live on Mars. But nothing there will be more exciting than a single overcast morning on Earth.
    #42. In a thousand years, if humans survive that long, everything you know will have been disproved. And replaced by even greater myths.
    #44. You have the power to stop time. You do it by kissing. Or listening to music. Music, by the way, is how you see things you can't otherwise see. It is the most advanced thing you have.
    #46. A paradox. The things you don't need to live -- books, art, cinema, wine and so on -- are the things you need to live.
    #50. At some point, bad things are going to happen. Have someone to hold onto.
    #52. If you are laughing, check that you don't really want to cry. And vice versa.
    #60. Obey your head. Obey your heart. Obey your gut. In fact, obey everything except commands.
    #65. Don't think you know. Know you think.
    #76. In your mind, change the name of every day to Saturday. And change the name of work to play.
    #77. When you watch the news and see members of your species in turmoil, do not think there is nothing you can do. But know it is not done by watching news.
    #84. You are more than the sum of your particles. And that is quite a sum.
    #86. To like something is to insult it. Love it or hate it. Be passionate. As civilization advances, so does indifference. It is a disease. Immunize yourself with art. And love.
    #90. Know this. Men are not from Mars. Women are not from Venus. Do not fall for categories. Everyone is everything. Every ingredient inside a star is inside you, and every personality that ever existed competes in the theatre of your mind for the main role.
    #91. You are lucky to be alive. Inhale and take in life's wonders. Never take so much as a single petal of a single flower for granted.
    #92. If you have children and love one more than another, work at it. They will know, even if it's by a single atom less. A single atom is all you need to make a very big explosion.

    The third book I read recently is the memoir At Home In The World, by Joyce Maynard. 

Joyce is a bestselling novelist currently residing in the San Francisco area. The main point of interest in this memoir however, involves somewhere else she once resided. J.D. Salinger's home in Cornish, New Hampshire. When Joyce was eighteen years old she wrote an article for The New York Times that caught the attention of the already venerated and reclusive Salinger. A correspondence developed, initiated by him. At 53 years of age, Salinger invited Joyce to come and live with him. The freshman student at Yale packed up her gear and became his mistress, two years senior to his own daughter at the time. At Home in the World is a very engaging story of how this crazy-ass relationship, so suddenly [and so mercilessly] ended on the beaches of Florida, affected Joyce forever. Many people criticize Maynard for writing so forthrightly about this affair, claiming that a man who guarded his privacy so diligently should be afforded the privilege of silence concerning his dealings with such a young and impressionable girl. I disagree. I think that she has every right to be telling it. A devastating, inspiring, and triumphant story.
*****

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Splash du Jour: Thursday

If a man would follow, today, the teachings of the Old Testament, he would be a criminal. If he would follow strictly the teachings of the New, he would be insane.
-- Robert G. Ingersoll --


Have a great Thursday!
*****

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Tortilla Curtain

A couple of weekends ago I was just sort of rambling through my bookshelves, looking for a new read. Do you ever do that? Browse around in your own home -- as if you are at a bookstore? I picked this one T.C. Boyle book out from among them and ZOWIE -- I was hooked. I mean, check out the first line of Chapter 1:
Afterward, he tried to reduce it to abstract terms, an accident in a world of accidents, the collision of opposing forces -- the bumper of his car and the frail scrambling hunched-over form of a dark little man with a wild look in his eye -- but he wasn't very successful.
Doesn't that make you want to know more? Well, for the rest of the whole weekend I could not put the book down -- and hence, finished it in two days.
T.C. Boyle is a terrific writer, and in this, his most popular book [according to his website] he explores the problem of illegal immigration from Mexico to the U.S. via what is known as "the tortilla curtain." Delaney and Kyra Mossbacher lead an upscale success-filled existence on the outskirts of L.A. They enjoy a basically trouble-free life in their hilltop community of Arroyo Blanco. He is writer for a magazine, and she is a five-star realtor. But from that first sentence onward, their lives are about to be changed forever as a result of a run-in with some of the other umm… non-tenanted residents of the area. A man named Candido, along with his 17-year old pregnant "wife" [they aren't officially married] live in the canyon down below the properties. Their life is one of profound hardship, scrabbling for piece-work each day down at the labor exchange. Often subsisting on… well, garbage. The dream of coming to America and becoming even semi-prosperous has [to say the least] not worked out at all -- and it does not help that Delaney smashes into the man with his new Acura! Now the injured Candido has to rely upon the young girl for the few dollars she is able to bring back to their camp each night.
The story is searing. You just want something to work out for Candido and America [that's the girl's name] -- but things just go from worse to…. more horrid, each and every day. Meanwhile, the community [and understandably so] takes greater and greater measures to exclude these fence-jumpers from having any hope of getting ahead. 

Are we suppose to pity them? Well -- you be the judge. I know I did.
More than proposing any right attitude toward the "problem" [and admittedly, it is a severe problem] -- the author just presents a horribly realistic look at [as Barbara Kingsolver put it] "the smug wastefulness of the haves and the vile misery of the have-nots."
I was captivated by this novel from start to finish. And what a crescendo of a finish it is. 

I highly recommend this book -- my favourite of the Boyle books I have read thus far.
*****

Monday, September 22, 2014

Splash du Jour: Monday

Teach a child to play solitaire, and she'll be able to entertain herself when there's no one around. Teach her tennis, and she'll know what to do when she's on a court. But raise her to feel comfortable in nature, and the whole planet is her home.
-- Joyce Maynard --

Have a great Monday!
*****

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

Love is scary because it pulls you in with an intense force, a supermassive black hole which looks like nothing from the outside but from the inside challenges every reasonable thing you know. You lose yourself, like I lost myself, in the warmest of annihilations.
-- Matt Haig, The Humans --


Have a great Tuesday!
*****

Monday, September 15, 2014

Splash du Jour: Monday

Eye contact between two women during negotiation turns out to lead to a more creative outcome, while eye contact between two men actually prevents them from coming to terms. Men are handicapped by the threatening hierarchical implications of looking into someone's eyes. Feel free to use this practical tip to your advantage.
-- D. F. Swaab, We Are Our Brains --


Have a great Monday!
*****

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Splash du Jour: Thursday

“When someone seeks," said Siddhartha, "then it easily happens that his eyes see only the thing that he seeks, and he is able to find nothing, to take in nothing because he always thinks only about the thing he is seeking, because he has one goal, because he is obsessed with his goal. Seeking means: having a goal. But finding means: being free, being open, having no goal.”
-- Hermann Hesse, Siddharta --


Have a great Thursday!
*****

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Lowboy -- Quite The Interview!

There is this new novel called Lowboy, by John Wray and I'm here to say I know absolutely nothing about it. But after watching this very insightful interview with the author… I know even less about it. Admittedly, I possess a sort of pre-elementary, pre-Neanderthal sense of humor. Forgive me, therefore, but I think this clip is so hilarious I have to share it with you.
OK, first of all, I love Zach Galifianakis. And in this clip the actual author of the book [John Wray] interviews Zach as if he is the author. In other words, Wray is introducing himself as Zach. It's so crazy.
I myself have a book in the works, very much in the germinal, gestation stage -- and so, as I go forward, I'm thinking of utilizing a few of the pointers I learned in this interview. Especially the one about the use of pasta.




Splash du Jour: Wednesday

Our imagination permits us to understand what it is like to be someone else. I don't think you could have even the beginnings of a morality unless you had the imaginative capacity to understand what it would be like to be the person whom you're considering beating round the head with a stick. An act of cruelty is ultimately a failure of the imagination.  Fiction is a deeply moral form in that it is the perfect medium for entering the mind of another. I think it is at the level of empathy that moral  questions begin in fiction.
-- Ian McEwan --


Have a great Wednesday!
*****

Monday, September 08, 2014

Splash du Jour: Monday

Behold two horses that appear of the same size and shape: How do you know which is the mother and which the son? Give them hay. The mother will nudge the hay toward her son.
-- The Teachings of Buddha --


Have a great Monday!
*****

Friday, September 05, 2014

It's Possible... But Not Really

Once I missed out on winning a ten million-dollar lottery by a margin of just one number. The next morning I posted a photocopy of my ticket, super-imposed on the winning numbers with the caption underneath:
"This is why I am at work today!"
I work in a very exact profession which involves a minimum of eight daily hours of dealing with precision of numbers, and so I am a bit obsessed with the phenomenon of probability. No mistakes are allowed. I am forever thinking of probabilities, in one way or another. And I like trying to find analogies that will better illustrate the improbability of probabilities. The other day I came up with a new one that [to me, anyway] just accentuates how much "luck" [or whatever] one might need to win a lottery. To win any national lottery, the chances of you winning are well in excess of one in many many millions, sometimes hundreds of millions. But for now, let's focus on what it means to foist your chances on say "one in a million".
One in a million. Let's say you have a one-in-a-million chance of… winning something. 

Or of something specific happening.
Let's say that there is an amateur thief out there waiting for a moment… the one night in which you forget to lock your car. He wants to steal your signed first edition of Salinger's "Catcher In The Rye" that is sitting there on the back seat. [Who wouldn't?] He has no thief-tools to do the job. The only factor involved in his success is that he is walking past your car on that one night of the year that you leave it unlocked. Obviously, if one specific year was chosen for this event to happen, his chances of being rewarded would be one in 365.
But what if his chances were set by the parameters of "one-in-a-million"?
It would mean that this thief had to walk past your unlocked car on that exact day of the year in any given span of 2,740 years!
And yet… I continue to buy lottery tickets. The epitome of wishful thinking!

*****

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Splash du Jour: Thursday

Mirage After Mirage

A sly joy in not owning anything, we drove on.
A sudden thrill in our unknowing, we listened.
Generations of guilt washed away -- sailing
toward mirage after mirage in that rented car.

Your hair a pennant whipped out the window
destination undestined. Thinking ourselves on
the Vermont Trail we landed in New Hampshire
-- not even a shrug of mistake between us.

Checking in, we owned a town unknown to us.
Ate Chinese food uneaten in China. I gave you
your nickname. Mira. Short for mirage. Dreams
shivering on a highway ahead of us, in the sun.

©Ciprianowords, Inc. 2014


Have a great Thursday!
*****

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Albert Speer: His Battle With Truth

Have you ever had a book that sat on your shelf for years and years and you always wanted to read it, but just never seemed to get around to it?
Well -- I had one. And finally got around to it.
Albert Speer: His Battle With Truth, by Gitta Sereny.
In all honesty, it was a fellow blogger that got me to dust this thing off. 

And sadly, I forget who you are, so if you are reading this, please remind me in the comment section. You listed it as one of your favourite reads of all time. And now I would have to add it as one of mine, also. 
So, thank you.
This is a big heavy book. If it were a household cleaner, it would have as a sub-title: Industrial Strength! It took me a while to get through it, but not because of lack of interest. It's the story of Albert Speer, sometimes referred to as "the good Nazi". He began his career as an architect in Germany, landing, while yet an amateur, a few key commissions from Hitler. From the get-go a special relationship developed between them -- and years later, Hitler appointed him as Minister of Armaments. Speer, having no political aspirations at the time, was as shocked as anyone else around him to be thrust into the very highest ranks of Nazism. As it turns out, no one was better suited for the job. Speer's organizational brilliance was boundless. He succeeded beyond even Adolf's wildest dreams.
But little did he know of Adolf's wildest dreams!
As Germany moved eastward into Russia and suffered staggering defeats, it became obvious [to Speer and many others] that Hitler's goals would never be realized. And as we all know now, and some knew then, Hitler's dreams were nightmares, in reality.
This book is about how much Speer was privy to the nightmares. What did he really know about Hitler's goal of eradication of the Jewish race? What did he know of Treblinka and Sobibor -- of Auschwitz -- of so many other places involved in a horror that staggers the imagination?
Toward the end, as Hitler himself came to reluctantly accept the fact that Germany would not prevail, he adopted a policy of "scorched earth", in which he would seek to destroy Germany itself. It is impossible to summarize in a review the scope of this book, but suffice it to say, Speer, along with many others, had to come to a place of deciding whether they were for "Germany" or for "Hitler."
Speer chose Germany, and the German people, over his former idol, the Fuhrer.
He then began to deliberately countermand Hitler's own orders of self-destruction.
But history's greatest question remains. What did Speer know of what was going on when it came to the extermination of the Jews? What did Speer know of the horrors experienced by the millions upon millions of slave workers that were essentially under his command?
In the postwar Nuremberg Trials, Speer was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment, while his direct subordinate Fritz Sauckel was sentenced to death. Did Speer manipulate his way around a death sentence? Or was he, as he for so long claimed to be, truly completely unaware of what manner of atrocities were being committed?
This is what this book explores, and it is truly fascinating. It is based on meticulous research and the author's private interviews with damn near everyone that never shot themselves, hanged themselves, or bit into the cyanide capsule before she could get to them.
She definitely [and definitively] got to Speer. That much is sure.
It is an amazing -- worthwhile book. Dust it off if it's sitting around your place, bowing the shelf down amid less worthy books on either side of it.

*****

Friday, August 29, 2014

Splash du Jour: Friday

We treat desire as a problem to be solved, address what desire is for and focus on that something and how to acquire it rather than on the nature and the sensation of desire, though often it is the distance between us and the object of desire that fills the space in between with the blue of longing. I wonder sometimes whether with a slight adjustment of perspective it could be cherished as a sensation on its own terms, since it is as inherent to the human condition as blue is to distance?  If you can look across the distance without wanting to close it up, if you can own your longing in the same way that you own the beauty of that blue that can never be possessed? For something of this longing will, like the blue of distance, only be relocated, not assuaged, by acquisition and arrival, just as the mountains cease to be blue when you arrive among them and the blue instead tints the next beyond. Somewhere in this is the mystery of why tragedies are more beautiful than comedies and why we take a huge pleasure in the sadness of certain songs and stories. Something is always far away.
-- Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost --


Have a great Friday!
*****

Monday, August 25, 2014

Splash du Jour: Monday

I'm not against religion in the sense that I feel I can't tolerate it, but I think written into the rubric of religion is the certainty of its own truth. And since there are 6,000 religions currently on the face of the Earth, they can't all be right. And only the secular spirit can guarantee those freedoms, and it's the secular spirit that they contest. 
-- Ian McEwan --

Have a great Monday!

*****

Monday, August 18, 2014

Splash du Jour: Monday


I once had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalog: no good in a bed, but fine up against a wall.
-- Eleanor Roosevelt --


Have a great Monday!
*****

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Splash du Jour: Thursday


Liking is probably the best form of ownership, and ownership the worst form of liking.
-- José Saramago, The Tale of the Unknown Island --


Have a great Thursday!
*****

Monday, August 11, 2014

Splash du Jour: Monday

I don’t think it is worth explaining how a character’s nose or chin looks. It is my feeling that readers will prefer to construct, little by little, their own character—the author will do well to entrust the reader with this part of the work.
-- Jose Saramago, The Paris Review: Winter 1998 --


Have a great Monday!
*****

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Thinking of Jose Saramago

As most of you reading this will already know, one of my favourite writers of all time is Jose Saramago. He died in 2010, and was the author of some the best novels I've ever read. Books like Blindness, All The Names, and The Cave [from which I purloined my own blog-alias, Cipriano] just to name a few.
I'm thinking of him tonight because well, he was Portuguese.
And tonight I sat out on my balcony while all around me things from Portugal exploded in the air.
See -- there is an annual event in my city called The Casino Lac-Leamy Sound of Light show. For a three week stretch in August there are fireworks competitions every Wednesday and Saturday night and it's really spectacular. Each night is hosted by a different country, and tonight it was Portugal's turn to blow up! In the past, I used to have to take the screen out of my kitchen window and sort of wedge the top half of myself out there [14 stories up] to watch the fireworks over on the Quebec side, at Lac Leamy. But beginning this year they relocated the event to the Ontario side of the river and now I can see them perfectly from my balcony without even risking my life. It's grand.
So, here is a bit of what went on as the homeland of Saramago lit up my back yard.


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Thursday, August 07, 2014

Splash du Jour: Thursday

"The court was never really interested in my youth," Albert Speer said decades after the Nuremberg trials. "Why should they have been? What does it have to do with what happened?"
This was true enough for the judicial matters before the Nuremberg court. But it can never be true if one wishes to evaluate a human being, his development, motivations, conflicts and emotions. If there is one thing all psychologists now agree on, it is that the denial of love in childhood almost invariably leads to a damaged adult. And in that sense, Speer certainly had more than scars -- he bore the wounds of an emotionally deprived childhood.

-- Gitta Sereny, Albert Speer: His Battle With Truth --


Have a great Thursday!
*****

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Hardcover vs. Softcover: A Bookpuddle Poll

I am just early into the reading of what is already a terribly intriguing and well-written book. Albert Speer: His Battle With Truth, by Gitta Sereny. In 1978, the author began a lengthy series of personal interviews with Albert Speer, the enigmatic Nazi war criminal who escaped a death sentence at the Nuremberg Trials. His penalty for being the overlord of Hitler's entire war economy was twenty years in Spandau Prison. I look forward to providing a full review of this already excellent book somewhere around 2017 when I will finally finish it. The thing is about 20 pounds, the size of an average slab of concrete, and makes Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries look like… The Little Prince. Hence, the topic of tonight's blog. Hardcover vs. Trade Paperback.
Which do you prefer?
The only negative thing I can say about this book by Gitta Sereny is that it's giving me lower lumbar problems. It's so big and heavy and unwieldy. I'm considering devising a pulley system, attached to my neck. I prefer trade paperbacks myself. Not only are they lighter, but the covers bend.
I guess I'm also revealing the dinosauric nature of my reading style at any rate, because a lot of people would probably answer that they prefer their e-readers to either type of book that contain actual paper!
But humour me for a moment. Given that the battery in your Kindle or Kobo dies [or something] and you have to read either a hardcover or a softcover book, which do you prefer?

*****

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

Although we are taught the Copernican astronomy in our textbooks, it has not yet penetrated to our religion or our morals, and has not even succeeded in destroying belief in astrology. People still think that the Divine Plan has special reference to human beings, and that a special Providence not only looks after the good, but also punishes the wicked. I am sometimes shocked by the blasphemies of those who think themselves pious -- for instance, the nuns who never take a bath without wearing a bathrobe all the time. When asked why, since no man can see them, they reply: 'Oh, but you forget the good God.' Apparently they conceive of the Deity as a Peeping Tom, whose omnipotence enables Him to see through bathroom walls, but who is foiled by bathrobes. This view strikes me as curious.
-- Bertrand Russell --


Have a great Tuesday!
*****

Monday, July 28, 2014

Splash du Jour: Monday

If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.
-- John F. Kennedy --


Have a great Monday!
*****

Saturday, July 26, 2014

From One To Ten

How adorable is my cat, from one to ten?
You already know my own opinion on this subject, but I want yours.
[NOTE: No fractions or decimal-points in your answer are allowed, because there is nothing half-gorgeous, about my cat! Only whole integers will be accepted.]

*****

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Some Recent Reading...

Just a few words about the last five books I've read.
The Sea, by John Banville. I can never get enough of this guy's writing. The Sea won the Man Booker Prize [2005] and I finally got around to reading it. It is written in a first-person memoir style -- the story of an aging man who has just lost his wife to cancer. He returns to the seaside resort where he spent his formative years as a child and there reminisces about his first loves, trying to make sense of his present via reviewing the past. It is a deeply moving novel and probably my favourite among the many Banville books I have read.
Room, by Emma Donoghue. Five-year old Jack and his mother are imprisoned in an 11' X 11' shed in the backyard of the psycho-pervert who abducted her.  "Ma" has been in there for seven years and the outside world has given up the search for her. Due to her abductor's… visits, she has given birth to Jack while in her confinement, and the only world he knows is that of "Room". The story is told in his voice, and at first I felt like I was going to really get sick of the baby talk, and everything being seen from his perspective. But amazingly, the thing really takes off and we get to know the backstory in unexpected ways. Ma concocts an escape plan -- but it can only be successful through her son Jack as the principal actor. Wow, when they set it in play, I literally could not put the book down. It's an amazing, relevant, but disturbing story. Riveting, and all-too believable. Not recommended for claustrophobics.
The Sea Is My Brother, by Jack Kerouac. My first Kerouac book happens to also be his first one. This is considered a "lost" novel, written when Kerouac was a mere 21 years of age. It's the story of two adventurous guys who sign up with the Merchant Marines. It's got that whole Kerouacian "let's run away from the world of responsibilities and see how much booze we can drink and how many parties we can attend" feel to it. It was fun to read, but not something I am about to croon about. Maybe I need to read some of the later Kerouac to appreciate him better.
When Nietzsche Wept, by Irvin D. Yalom. Oh, truly a great book, my favourite of the five shown here. In 19th Century Vienna, Josef Breuer, one of the founding fathers of psychoanalysis [a real life person] is approached by a beautiful woman with a strange request. She wants him to counsel a friend of hers who is lost in a state of suicidal depression. The friend is none other than Friedrich Nietzsche. And wow is he depressed! The meeting takes place, and all the while Nietzsche is not aware that it has been all arranged and orchestrated by his friend. The reader is aware that this all takes place at a time when psychoanalysis [or "the talking method"] was not practised. And an interesting thing happens. It turns out that the doctor, [Breuer] has some very debilitating  issues of his own to deal with. And as he begins to divulge these to Nietzsche, the tables are quickly turned. The doctor becomes the patient. And a friendship is born. Now Breuer is fraught with the knowledge of the duplicity behind it all, in its beginnings. Each man receives what they need in the way of wisdom and counsel, by way of the friendship that develops. It's a very worthwhile story, with cameo appearances by none other than Sigmund Freud. It makes me want to read everything Yalom has written, or is writing.
Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver. I think she is one of the best writers out there today. The book "weaves together three stories of human love within a larger tapestry of lives inhabiting the forested mountains and struggling small farms of southern Appalachia." I took that from the dust jacket. Kingsolver, a biologist, always laces her novels with gorgeous descriptions of nature -- natural things, in the wild -- and this book is no exception. Sorry to be so vague about the book itself, but maybe I will just end with this -- "I really liked it."

*****

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

People in general attach too much importance to words. They are under the illusion that talking effects great results. As a matter of fact, words are, as a rule, the shallowest portion of the argument. They but dimly represent the great surging feelings and desires which lie behind. When the distraction of the tongue is removed, the heart listens.
-- Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie --

Have a great Wednesday!
*****

Monday, July 21, 2014

Splash du Jour: Monday

In Room me and Ma had time for everything. I guess the time gets spread very thin like butter over all the world, the roads and houses and playgrounds and stores, so there's only a little smear of time on each place, then everyone has to hurry on the next bit.
-- Emma Donoghue, Room --


Have a great Monday!
*****

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Rant About Texting

I've said it before and I'll say it again [apparently] -- but I am a real techno-dinosaur. It's amazing that I even know how to blog!
I still do not own a cell-phone, hence I do not text. I do not Tweet and/or Twitter. Instagram does not intrigue me and I'm not on Facebook. As I've said before on Bookpuddle, I have real issues with social media in general. I admit that there are certain [positive] capabilities with our current state of over-connection with others, but it seems to be one of those things that do not lend themselves well to "moderation". It's the addictive nature of over-connection that I tend to criticize. It seems to me to be something we should be wary of. [Read Dave Eggers' novel The Circle -- 'nuff said!]
And I'm convinced that there are subtle dangers inherent in the willful self-abnegation of one's privacy.
But enough about me and my issues.
I love Louis C.K.
I think he is the funniest comedian on the planet, really. And recently I discovered these two clips where he echoes my exact feelings about social media in such a hilarious way -- well, I just think you should watch it, too. They are from two visits to the Conan O'Brien show. I always love it when astute comedians like George Carlin or Louis C.K. hit upon things we all know to be true, and make us laugh about it. Trust me, this **** is funny!






Friday, July 11, 2014

Splash du Jour: Friday


What is that feeling when you're driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? - it's the too-huge world vaulting us, and it's good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.
-- Jack Kerouac, On The Road --


Have a great Friday!
*****

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Splash du Jour: Thursday

“What? 'Borderline patients play games'? That's what you said? Ernest, you'll never be a real therapist if you think like that. That's exactly what I meant earlier when I talked about the dangers of diagnosis. There are borderlines and there are borderlines. Labels do violence to people. You can't treat the label; you have to treat the person behind the label."
-- Irvin D. Yalom, Lying On The Couch --

Have a great Thursday!
*****

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

You will search the world over and not find a nonsuperstitious community. As long as there is ignorance, there will be adherence to superstition. Dispelling ignorance is the only solution. That is why I teach.
-- Irvin D. Yalom, The Spinoza Problem --


Have a great Wednesday!
*****

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day, Canada!
It's become a tradition for me to post a clip of the Snowbirds flying past my apartment here in the nation's capital every July 1st. But today, there I was out on the balcony at the right time, pointing my camera right at them, and only afterward finding that the thing was not even on. Duh! 
That's the kind of thing you do not get a second chance with!
Oh well, maybe tonight I will post a clip of the fireworks, again, from the most perfect vantage point IN Canada! With the camera ON this time!

Here is now my addenda to this former blog-posting --
Well, first of all, a storm rolled in around 5 p.m., and I happened to be on my balcony when I got this incredibly timely shot of my own localized private rainbow. Pretty cool, huh? 
Click on the image to enlarge, and see the rainbow from end to end.


Then, even though ominous clouds were present, the fireworks did go off as planned!
Happy Canada Day, Canada, from the balcony of Bookpuddle.

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