Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

I took a speed-reading course where you run your finger down the middle of the page and was able to read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It’s about Russia.
-- Woody Allen, letter to New York Times, Sept.3rd, 1995 –

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

Poetry should surprise by a fine excess, and not by Singularity – it should strike the Reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost as a Remembrance.
-- John Keats (1795-1821) –

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, May 29, 2006

Seeing: Part 1

I just finished reading Saramago’s new novel, Seeing, last night.
I’ve been thinking about that word, off and on, all day.
Many of you have also read the book, and know that there are many tie-ins [especially in the latter half] to the events of his previous (1997) novel entitled Blindness. I hesitate to call this new one a direct sequel, and yet maybe it is, because really, I think a lot of its nuance is lost if you have not read Blindness.
But the words.
Blindness is a noun. And in that book, a rampant contagion of blindness descends upon an unsuspecting populace. It descends like a noun… like a thick white blanket upon the eyes of an entire city. Boom! The people see white. All activity is stifled by the inability to see. What I am getting at is that there is no more obvious and fitting title to Saramago’s 1997 book, then the actual word blindness!
But he has chosen to call this new book Seeing. A verb. Or, if not an actual verb, at least more verbish [verbful?] than say for instance, the other word that may have been used. Sight!
And so it is that all day I have been asking myself…. seeing what?
What is it that these people in Seeing, are seeing?
In other words, this new title is more obscure… and the book is not about a populace whose eyesight gets better, nor does it address any sort of optimetric difficulties or enhancements, nor is it about blind people who now see.
Ah, but then again… it is, in a way, because all of these characters recall their former blindness, experienced four years prior to the time frame of Seeing.
They are people who can see, but once were blind.
All except for one of them, a woman, the doctor’s wife, who mysteriously did not go blind in the former plague.
And she becomes the pivot, upon which this book… pivots.

We care a lot about seeing.
Just this morning, Toronto, Canada’s largest city, was hit with an unexpected strike of the TTC. No one saw it coming. Even many of the TTC workers themselves, as they showed up to be greeted by locked doors. The strike descended like a thick blanket over the city. Anyone who uses public transit to get to work was stranded. I was watching the news as I always do before going to work. There were images of traffic snarls ten miles long, and angry people everywhere. I sipped my coffee and watched as the news chopper hovered over the TTC grounds, showing aerial proof of the fact that every single city bus was sitting there in the yard, unmoving.
I made some breakfast. Ate it. Poured another coffee. Several commercials later, the chopper was shown again, LIVE over the TTC grounds.
I had a shower. Came out. Was getting my stuff together to run out the door and took a last glance at the TV while shutting it off. There was the same chopper, still chopping away above the TTC grounds, LIVE… on the scene.
As I drove to work, I said to myself, “My God! That is how bad we want to see stuff.”
Think of it. A news company [in this case, Global© ] sent a helicopter into the stratosphere to hover over the bus yards, and get an image. Visible proof that the buses are not running. Could they not have got their intended footage, then landed, gone to Tim Horton’s or whatever and called it a day?
Ran the same clip over and over?
They kept on hovering.
Somewhere, some supervisor is shouting into the headsets of the exhausted pilot and crew…. “No. Do not return to earth. Keep hovering. I repeat… do not stop hovering over those totally parked and immobile buses! And keep the cameras rolling.”
Before I was even awake. And all though my breakfast. Then during my shower.
And even as I drove to work…. same helicopter, wasting gas, hovering like a pregnant bee, and droning the same repeated message…. “As you can clearly see folks, half a mile below us, the buses are not running. This is coming to you LIVE from the TTC yards….”
A similar thing happens when some horrendous crime is committed in a neighborhood. They actually GO to the neighborhood. Nothing else will do...
“Here we are LIVE at the scene of the crime. That’s the house there behind me, where earlier this evening ten people were viciously…. blah-blah-blah…
And we want to see this. It is not at all good enough that they just put up one studio house façade that will easily serve for excellent tangible evidence of a year’s worth of horrendous crimes…. no, they must go to the actual house!
We want to see the actual place where this heinous thing happened! What did the neighbors think of it? How really horrific was it? How far away were you when you heard the first of the ten screams?
The reporter on the scene will tell us, or so we hope.
I say all of this to just emphasize that our desire to see stuff… and preferably, see it LIVE, as it happens, is voracious!

This is a key idea in Saramago’s Seeing, because in this book, the municipal government [the city officials] try to repeatedly sway popular opinion by way of media manipulation. When faced with an inexplicable crisis, they try to entreat and endear the people through the indirect method of creating terror and then reporting on it, always according to their own skewed objectives.
The truth is not what is true, the truth is what we tell you is true!
The trump card involves the mass distribution of a photograph, and the trick is attaching it to a web of lies!
The game becomes finding a scapegoat. And they do.
Does the government succeed in their pernicious plot?
I’ll never tell. [Truth is, I don’t even know!]

For now I should just bring this blog in for a landing. The above is not meant to be a book review, by any means. It’s just a bit of preliminary blabbing about a superb book and my morning ablutions.
Today’s overall rambling and incoherence is why I’ve subtitled this thing “Part 1” because see, I want to return to the topic of this book, in subsequent incoherent blogs.
"So for now, this is Cipriano, coming to you LIVE from a table in Starbucks… "

Splash du Jour: Monday

Ernest: What is the difference between literature and journalism?
Gilbert: Oh! journalism is unreadable, and literature is not read.

-- Oscar Wilde (1854-1900). “The Critic as Artist"

Have a great Monday!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Plain, ordinary work?

Right at the top of my list of Things I Want To Do But Keep Successfully Putting Off And Choosing To Do Nothing Instead….. right at the top of this list is, “Writing an appreciative letter to Emma Donoghue.”
She is (far and away) one of my favorite authors, for sure. I have written of her, elsewhere, and hither-and-yon.
In a recent interview, she had some real neat things to say about the writing process.
For instance, when asked, “Do you feel that inspiration comes directly from the Muse down your arm onto the page?”
Donoghue: “Would that it did. No, it’s plain ordinary work, I’m afraid. I was on a panel
once with a writer who claimed that ‘we do our best writing unconsciously, in our sleep’, and I could just imagine how a dynamo like Charles Dickens would have howled with laughter at that one.”
Or this one, “Where do you get your ideas?”
She says: “Impossible to tell. It's like asking someone where they picked up a cold.”
And I loved this. “Do your characters take over and seem to write the book themselves?”
“No, I make them do what I want. (Except that occasionally they refuse!)”

Plain ordinary work.
See… for the longest time I have wanted to write a book.
I am not kidding.
I have always told myself that I am waiting for the BIG PICTURE…. waiting for the book to come to me and say, “Here I am! Write me!”
Waiting for the story.
Is there any more glamorous thought than the one that involves walking into a random bookstore and seeing a book you have written… right there on the shelf?
All manner of mortals picking it up? Looking at it? Taking it over to the cashier?
Perhaps seeing your own musical CD in the rack at a music store is a similar example of wishful thinking, but for me, (The Great Cipriano©) the book on the shelf supercedes this. I want a book. I guess I would like to be an author.
But…. plain ordinary work?
This is what I do, 8 to 5, every day!
I was sort of hoping a book would fall out of a cloud, knock me on the head and write itself!
No… my hunch is that Donoghue is being modest… downplaying, understating what authorship really is.
Writing a book is a monumental task…. if it were “plain ordinary work”, hell, I’d get started right now.
At the same time though, what she is declaring…. is that it is WORK.
Whatever type of adjectives we put in front of the word “work” the thing that is inescapable is that work is going to be involved.
Sweat. Tears. Anguish. A pound of flesh!
And if you have ever read any of her absolutely fabulous books, you will know that Donoghue has put a lot of work, a lot of time and research, and revision and work, work, work, into everything she has given us. There is nothing “plain” and/or “ordinary” about the result.
It is, in a word…. perfection.

What a privilege to be able to recline on a couch and read novels.
What a sobering thought, to realize that none were written in this position!


Splash du Jour: Friday

An Archival Print

God snaps your picture – don’t look away –
this room right now, your face tilted
exactly as it is before you can think
or control it. Go ahead, let it betray
all the secret emergencies and still hold
that partial disguise you call your character.

Even your lip, they say, the way it curves
or doesn’t, or can’t decide, will deliver
bales of evidence. The camera, wide open,
stands ready; the exposure is thirty-five years
or so – after that you have become
whatever the veneer is, all the way through.

Now you want to explain. Your mother
was a certain – how to express it? – influence.
Yes. And your father, whatever he was,
you couldn’t change that. No. And your town
of course had its limits. Go on, keep talking –
Hold it. Don’t move. That’s you forever.

-- William Stafford

I very much love that poem...

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Splash du Jour: Thursday

“The past is beautiful because one never realizes an emotion at the time. It expands later, and thus we don’t have complete emotions about the present, only about the past…. That is why we dwell on the past, I think.”
-- Virginia Woolf

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Playing "Favorites"

My apologies to everyone who has become as addicted to my Splash du Jour feature as I myself am!
This morning I could not put one on there because my “service provider” was deciding to not “provide me service”!
I know, I know… you could not get through the day, right?
Me neither, to tell you the truth.

OK, some of you have been wondering what it was that yesterday’s “Idiot©” exactly SAID, 143 times, on my blogpage.
Well [not to disappoint you or anything] but he/she [and for all I know…. it may have been one of these new-fangled he-she’s]…. kept saying self-aggrandizing things like, “Nice site. I like your color scheme. Here’s my site!” [followed by a LINK].
Or…. “Great work. Keep it up.” [LINK].

I felt like writing back and saying…. Your site looks terrible. And I don’t need Viagra!”
Instead, I just deleted him/her 143 times, and instituted SQUIGGLY MEASURES!

Just so your visit here has not been a total waste tonight, let me write a thesis here on the word “favorite.”
“Preferred before all others”, basically.
Like when I say, “Jose Saramago is my favorite author.”
And he is.
But what does that mean, really.

Like… what about Margaret Atwood, or Leo Tolstoy, or Ian McEwan?
Are they all chopped liver? Wannabes?
Am I saying that Jose Saramago writes BETTER than these people do, and/or did?
No, not really.
[I am thinking of this right now because I am drunk.]
No, in all seriousness, I am thinking about this right now because I am listening to Eva Cassidy sing.
Eva Cassidy (1963-1996) was, in my opinion, one of the greatest voices that have ever let me hear them.
This is Eva, in the picture, above.
If you have never listened to her music, [light jazz, folk, acoustic, renditons] well, trust me, you should. There is a quality to her recorded voice that makes me feel that if I had heard her LIVE, I would have left my body, never to return.
She is perhaps my “favorite” singer ever. Of all time!
But does that mean that when she sings “At Last” [which she does]… she is singing it BETTER than Etta James, or even Celine Dion?

But something moves me when Eva sings it… in a greater measure than when anyone else does.
With authors, we are talking about original work, at all times. Authors don’t DO renditions. But similarly, I think, when we talk about FAVORITES, we are talking about something so subjective… so personally opinionated… what we are saying, I guess… is that this author, this favorite of mine, ENGAGES me.
Holds me.
Probably the only realm that is even more subjectively diverse, is the realm of poetry.
One man’s favorite poet, is another man’s birdcage liner!

Just some thoughts I have tonight, as I sit here, smoking Jack’s cat-hair.

Oh, and by the way, several people have requested updated photos of me.
They express that they are a bit tired of that one of me on a boat, there.
So here is one, just taken yesterday, in fact…. it's among my "favorites".....

I know, I know.
I’ve gotta lay off the carbs, a bit…. I’m workin’ on it!


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

New Measures...

Well, I have tried to stay away from having to do this, but I now have to institute that squiggly-word feature with the comments on my bookpuddle blog.
When I got home from work today I was greeted with 143 emails in my inbox, pointing me to 143 IDIOTIC comments on my blogpage!
So.... please, my valued readers, please keep commenting on my page. I love to read your comments, and interact with you.
But, because of this one idiot, I have to incorporate SQUIGGLY!

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

The storytelling gift is innate: one has it or one doesn't. But style is at least partly a learned thing: one refines it by looking and listening and reading and practice - by work.
-- Donna Tartt

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, May 22, 2006

68 Commas!

Well, today is the day I have decided to crack the covers of the latest Jose Saramago book, Seeing.
It’s like coming home.
No, it’s like coming home and finding that your mother has made a huge turkey supper for you [complete with mounds of mashed potatoes and gallons of gravy] and there is nothing for you to do but commence feasting. Tearing into that succulent bird! [NOTE: My apologies to all vegans who take offense at my choice of analogy there... I can't help it though, I am carnivorous as hell!]
Right from his first sentence, a hefty 57-word run-on, completely out-of-control beauty… I said to myself, “Here we go. The guy would have already failed his writing course right there. But ya gotta love it. Ya gotta love it.”
He is so good. So authoritatively good.
When I grow up I want to be Jose Saramago.
[The above picture is a rare shot of his venerable hand signing a book!]

Often [in reviews and blogs] I have spoken of his inimitable style.
There is really no one like him.
But what do I really mean by that? Well, anyone who has read Saramago does not need me to elaborate.
But for anyone else, I present [below] just a random passage from this current book.
This is from page 23-24.
Now keep in mind…. what you are about to read, is [ahem]… ONE SENTENCE!
And no, there are no typos!

Were this innocent man to be interrogated tomorrow, we tremble at the mere thought of what could happen to him, Do you admit that you said to the person you were with Well, I suppose it was bound to happen some time, Yes, I do, Now, think carefully before answering, what were you talking about when you said that, About my separation from my wife, Separation or divorce, Divorce, And what were or are your feelings about that divorce, Half-angry, half-resigned, More angry or more resigned, More resigned, I guess, Don’t you think, in that case, that the natural thing would have been to utter a sigh, especially since you were talking to a friend, Well, I can’t be sure I didn’t sigh, I really don’t remember, Well, we know that you didn’t, How can you know that, you weren’t there, Who told you we weren’t there, Maybe my friend remembers hearing me sigh, you’d have to ask him, You obviously don’t care much for your friend, What do you mean, Summoning your friend and getting him into all kinds of trouble, Oh, I wouldn’t want that, Good, Can I go now, Certainly not, don’t be in such a hurry, you still haven’t answered the question we asked you, What question, What were you really thinking about when you said those words to your friend, But I’ve already told you, Give us another answer, that one won’t do, It’s the only answer I can give because it’s the true one, That’s what you think, Unless you want me to make one up, Yes, do, we don’t mind at all if you come up with answers which, with time and patience, could be made to fit the proper application of certain techniques, that way, you’ll end up saying what we want to hear, Tell me what the answer is then, and let’s be done with it, Oh, no, that wouldn’t be any fun at all, who do you think we are, sir, we have our scientific dignity to consider, our professional conscience to defend, it’s very important to us that we should be able to demonstrate to our superiors that we deserve the money they pay us and the bread that we eat, Sorry, you’ve lost me, Don’t be in such a hurry.

That wonderful monstrosity contains 68 commas!
I could have chosen even lengthier ones. Some of his sentences are an entire page, or more.
I love it.
No proper quotation marks are provided, as speakers take their turns.
Did you get a bit lost in the mayhem?
I didn’t.
But this is because I have been sort of baptized into the Kingdom!
This is the ninth of his books I am reading.

I am only on page 68, but already I want to heartily endorse it to all and sundry! It is sort of a sequel to 1997’s [English Translation] Blindness, so you should read that one too.
Then you should read everything else Saramago has written, and ever shall write!


Splash du Jour: Monday

“I went to the country with some children to get pussywillows the other day. They asked me how the pussywillows became woolly? I did not know, but made up some quaint lies which pleased them. Psychologists frown on such conduct, I know, but I can’t help it. Sometimes, however, I wish that my only ability did not lie in the direction of concocting untruths of one sort or another. I wish that I were a great woodcarver, or a wonderfully minute jeweller, or a bookbinder – somebody who can make something satisfying with his hands. In an earlier age I suppose I would have been a professional story-teller, sitting in the market place, spinning yarns and asking for alms – rightly despised by all the craftsmen who had tangible wares to sell… But one must not quarrel with one’s fate, and as it has pleased Providence to make me a sort of accredited prevaricator I must be content.”
-- Robertson Davies

Have a great Monday!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Way The Crow Flies

Have you ever finished a book and then immediately felt as though you were supposed to tell the entire rest of the world to read it?
That is how I feel about this book by Ann-Marie MacDonald, The Way The Crow Flies.
I’ve been reading it for a while, it’s not exactly a pamphlet. It’s a bit of a whopper at more than 700 pages. Such a worthwhile read, though.
I have not read her other book, the Oprah-approved© one, called Fall On Your Knees, but if it is half as good as this one, I want to get it and read it.
I hate labels, pigeon-holing books into genres, but I’m going to do it here and call this thing a “literary-thriller.”
It covers a 24-year span (from 1962 – 1986) in the life of Madeleine McCarthy. On page one she is 8 years old. On page 713, she is 32.
Madeleine’s father Jack is in the Canadian Air Force and the family is posted to Centralia, Ontario in ’62. Together with mother Mimi and son Mike, the four soon adjust to their new environment.
However, unforeseen events simultaneously conspire in the life of Jack and his daughter Madeleine… unrelated events that are secrets to each, unknown to the other.
Jack becomes embroiled in international espionage. Madeleine, in physical and mental abuse at the hands of a demented schoolteacher.
The genius of the story is found in the way that the repurcussions of these unrelated events will echo in the lives of the entire community when a third, and equally unforeseen factor, is introduced.
A brutal murder is committed on the outskirts of town.
Because of childhood innocence, misplaced guilt, unspoken secrets, Jack’s loyalty to a lifelong friend and mentor, and a botched investigation… an innocent man is convicted of the heinous crime. Another is never heard from again.
And many lives will never be the same again. Forever changed.

Nothing, NOTHING is as it seems!
I have rarely read such a good book, and I read a lot of books.
The last 80 or so pages had me spellbound. The twist, the twist, the twist… do you like a twisty story? This one’s got it. Don’t peek. Don’t glance at the last pages before you actually get there. Just don’t do it!
Profoundly moving!

The story begins with a very fitting epigram:

We are doomed to choose, and every choice may entail an irreparable loss. -- Isaiah Berlin

The crows will tell you the rest…

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Knightley. Rhymes with...


Well, in the words of the great Martin Luther King Jr., "I have a dream!" [see previous blog].
I will be spending the day at the Museum of Science and Technology, so I am sure that afterwards I will have all manner of newly discovered rare and horrifically significant scientific data to share with ye all!

Friday, May 19, 2006


Hi Friends!
Just sitting here listening to the B-52’s.
Yes, you heard right!
The B-52's!

You may have noticed that this page has been fairly…. umm… unbloggified, as of late.
This is because I have been diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Working too much. Tired to a state just this side of what is known as “comatose.”

Symptoms: Cacophanal snoring when attempting to blog. Passing out and forgetting to breathe. May be accompanied with dreams of being locked away in a small room with Nicole Kidman and Keira Knightley. Usually followed by an air-raid siren and/or bleating alarm clock.

Cure: Quitting my job and becoming professional blogger… or running off with Keira.

Seriously though, my apologies for being so lame, as of late.
I’ve been working late.
Tired. Overworked. Way underpaid. Under-appreciated.
Severely under-worshipped.

Just so your time here is not a complete waste tonight....
The sun is about four hundred times as big across as the moon is, but it is also about four hundred times as far away. This means that the two objects look almost exactly the same size.
Now you know!

Splash du Jour: Friday

F. Scott Fitzgerald warned writers, “Start out with an individual and you have created a type – start out with a type and you have created nothing.”

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Splash du Jour: Thursday

In On Becoming A Novelist, John Gardner says that when we read…
“…we slip into a dream, forgetting the room we’re sitting in, forgetting it’s lunchtime or time to go to work. We recreate, with minor and for the most part unimportant changes, the vivid and continuous dream the writer worked out in his mind (revising and revising until he got it right) and captured in language so that other human beings, whevever they feel like it, may open his book and dream that dream again.”

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

“The older I get, the more I feel almost beautiful...”
-- Sharon Olds, Oprah Magazine, May 2004 –

Granted, I may be an escaped lunatic… but I think Olds looks quite beautiful in the picture shown here.
And along these lines [regarding appearance and aging]… READ THIS!

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

“Some people spend their entire lives reading but never get beyond reading the words on the page, they don't understand that the words are merely stepping stones placed across a fast-flowing river, and the reason they're there is so that we can reach the farther shore, it's the other side that matters.”
-- Jose Saramago

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, May 15, 2006

To All Saramago Fans

Well, I know there are a lot of Saramago fans out there tonight.
He is my favorite living writer!
I pretty much adore his work!
Here is a picture of Jose and his wife, Pilar.
Some of you Puddle-veterans may recall my blog concerning the Audio-Botched Saramago event I went to, last year.

Well, the [edited] English transcript of that evening is now available... here.
[Now I can fill in all those words that surrounded the word "supermarket."]
All the best to you.

"I think we are blind. Blind people who can see, but do not see."
-- Jose Saramago --


Splash du Jour: Monday

The great thing about books is that you don't have to be monogamous. You can have flings and serious affairs and deep and lasting relationships with as many books as you want to. You can love indiscriminately and not be charged with adultery or polygamy (though some might accuse you of bad taste). You can even be an adult who enjoys children's books and not have to worry about them being "jail bait." Nor do you have to explain why polyamory isn't due to an inability to commit.
-- Stefanie Hollmichel

Have a great Monday!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Happy Mother's Night!

Well, Mother’s Day is pretty much over…. it is now late Mother’s NIGHT!
But, at least I did not wait this long to say Happy Mother’s Day to my own mom, shown here.
We are a couple thousand miles apart geographically but I did speak to her on the phone, much much earlier.
I am just zipping in here to wish a Happy Mother’s Night to all of you out there to whom it applies!
All the best to you!
Who was it that said, ahh yes, the legendary Tenneva Jordan… "A mother is a person who, seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie."

Yep, that’s how it goes!
For a legendary vignette regarding my own mom, click here.


Great Deals At Wal-Mart!

Well… let’s see.
What did I accomplish today?
First I slept in. Then I went to Wal-Mart and got something I’ve needed for a while now, a new one of those plastic trays that you put your washed dishes in. Yeah, a sink tray thing. Actually, the Sterilite Handi-Sink Set©.
Then I drank a ton of coffee at Starbucks and read a book.
Then, I did something a little bit more serious.
Went to the afternoon showing of the movie United 93.
I’ve written a bit about it, here.


Friday, May 12, 2006


There was a comment made regarding today’s Splash du Jour [below].
Patricia, proprietress of BookLust, asked if the Margaret Atwood signature came from one of those remote online booksigning non-events.
The answer is, “No, I just found the signature on the internet someplace.”
However, I do have a personalized Oryx and Crake, and the signature is nearly exactly as the one shown on my blog.
Patricia’s question made me wonder what I would consider my most cherished signed book.
The answer?
Blindness, signed by Jose Saramago himself.
This venerable Portuguese writer is my favorite living author.
Here is his signature…
Again, this image is not from my own book [my digital camera is fritzed] but again, the resemblance is uncanny. I guess that when these authors, like Atwood and Saramago, have signed perhaps a few hundred thousand books or so… the signature is going to get fairly consistent, huh?
Hell, my OWN signature is fairly consistent, and that is only from practising… [for when I write the long-awaited sequel to War & Peace.]

Aside from the Saramago, I cherish the specific message Jane Urquhart wrote to me, in her The Stone Carvers. [An excellent book!]
Also, I have a book by Billy Collins, with his signature on the very page wherein lies my favorite of his poems, entitled Osso Buco. A thoughtful gift from a friend.

Just wondering.
Do you have any favored, especially cherished, signed books?

If so…. please send them to me…. no, just kidding.
What are they though?
[Ciprietta was asking... and I like to try and keep her happy!]


Splash du Jour: Friday

“Endings, in general, are always a bit hard because any ending in life is artificial. Life doesn’t end. People’s lives end. But other lives keep going from that and the dance goes on. So whenever you come to a point in the book where you have to say ‘the end,’ it is always like snipping off a piece of ribbon. It is always a bit arbitrary.”
-- Margaret Atwood

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Splash du Jour: Thursday

I don’t believe that there is any involvement with the world I could find that would turn me from the immersions of fiction.
-- Sven Birkerts

[And I say the same! That’s me, by the way, immersing myself in some Saramago!]

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

The novel is significant… not because it presents someone else’s fate to us, perhaps didactically, but because this stranger’s fate by virtue of the flame which consumes it yields us the warmth which we never draw from our own fate. What draws the reader to the novel is the hope of warming his shivering life with the death he reads about.
-- Walter Benjamin

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

In Ann-Marie MacDonald’s The Way The Crow Flies, the central character, the intellectually precocious eight-year old Madeleine McCarthy has just spent the evening in front of the TV with her family….
Afterwards, in bed with a book, the spell of television feels remote compared to the journey into the page. To be in a book. To slip into the crease where two pages meet, to live in the place where your eyes alight upon the words to ignite a world of smoke and peril, colour and serene delight. That is a journey no one can end with the change of a channel. Enduring magic. She opens Peter Pan. [p.107]

I just love that passage.

Have a great Tuesday!


Monday, May 08, 2006

Splash du Jour: Monday

Remember JAWS?
Today, May 8th, is author Peter Benchley’s birthday!
If there's an underlying theme in the books I've written about marine creatures, it's that man has a responsibility to co-exist with his environment, not to try to dominate it. If we can redirect our resources towards the oceans and away from the stars for a couple of years, I think the future holds enormous promise.
-- Peter Benchley

And here I always thought his themes were more like: DON'T LET SHARKS EAT YOU!

Today is also my sister’s birthday!
Happy Birthday Honee!

Have a great Monday!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Light. Sweet. Crude.

At Chapters today, a book caught my eye.
So I sat down with it.
[With the book. Not my eye. Well, technically I sat down with my eye also, of course, but….. aww hell, forget it….]
This book is called, A Thousand Barrels A Second: The Coming Oil Break Point And The Challenges Facing An Energy Dependent World.
To me, that is a very arresting, intriguing title. It stopped me in my tracks.
And so I picked it off the display shelf and read on the dustjacket: “In 2006, world oil consumption will exceed one thousand barrels per second.”
Per second?
That is craziness!

-- Are today’s high oil and gas prices part of a routine business cycle, or are there more profound forces at play?
-- Have we entered a new multi-polar world where energy is the primary source of geopolitical tension?
-- Are hybrid vehicles our only solution against high gasoline prices?
-- Is China’s growing thirst for energy sustainable?
-- What sort of global landscape will emerge from the turmoil?
-- Which government policies work and which do not?
-- Will nuclear power and coal save the day – again?

These are the type of questions that the author, Peter Tertzakian, addresses in the book.
I was fascinated… mesmerized, as I read the first words of Chapter One:

We’re not running out of oil. There is plenty of oil left in the ground to last us many decades, if not longer. We are, however, running short of cheap oil, especially the desirable grade of oil that flows easily and is devoid of sulfur, otherwise known as “light sweet crude.” Our reliance on that cheap oil runs deeper and is more entrenched than most of us are aware, and because its supply is getting tight at a time when global demand is accelerating, a great change is underway that will put pressure on our lifestyles and our world.

And further down the page… get this:

Every time we flick on a light switch, turn up the heat, or start up our car, a vast and complex energy supply chain kicks into gear. To fuel and power our lifestyles, the world in 2005 draws from these supply chains to consume 85 million barrels of oil, 240 cubic billion cubic feet of natural gas, 14 million tons of coal, and 500,000 pounds of uranium every single day.

Every single day!
It is mind-boggling.
Half a million barrels every eight minutes?
And by the way, the word “barrel” translates to 42 U.S. gallons, or 35 imperial gallons…. or for us metric-Canucks, shivering away in our year-round igloos, 159 liters.
[So the Canadian version of this book would be called… uhhh…. One Hundred And Fifty-Nine Thousand Liters A Second.]
No matter which way you pour it… that’s a helluva lotta crude!


Friday, May 05, 2006


I will seldom write a blog about music. [However, I am positively dying to write about the fact that I just purchased primo-tickets to an upcoming Roger Waters concert!]
But I seldom write about such stuff.
And yet, there are few things more important to me than music.
I want to say a few things, though, about this [to me] relatively new trio, called Keane. You could say I am keen on Keane.

I knew nothing about this band until I saw them perform LIVE on Saturday Night Live a while ago. Actually about a year and a half ago now. And what I liked about them was their “LIVENESS”.
I was sort of just blandly watching the show [it is one of my favorite shows, but this particular night it was fairly listless]… but then these guys livened things up.
Often, the musical performers on that show have a certain “cannedness” going on. You’ve got to pay attention, but often it is NOT LIVE! [Unless it’s Ashlee Simpson. Then you don’t even have to pay attention to see it.]
But these three guys were just so natural looking out there, and so LIVE! They did their song “Everybody’s Changing” and a few measures into it, I knew I would have to buy them, and I did, soon afterward.

Keane consists of these three Brits.
Tom Chaplin [vocals, keyboard]; Tim Rice-Oxley [piano, bass]; Richard Hughes [drums].
Notice? No guitars.
This makes for a really unique sound. Really, I do not know who to compare them to. Their sound is…. eclectic. Travis, Coldplay, Starsailor. They’ve been compared to all of these.
They are not heavy.
Their CD, “Hopes and Fears” has the lightness of a souffle.
But the savoury substance of a nice steak. Tasty. Nice music to play when you want to muse and ponder.
They are real.

The band took their name from a woman called Cherry Keane who looked after Tom and Tim when they were young. All of these guys went to the same school together in Kent, England. I like that kind of junk!
What can I say? They are writing great music. There are few artists I would buy, without hesitation. But I will do so when Keane’s new CD comes out on June 12th, 2006.
It will be called Under The Iron Sea.
Buy it.
You can get a taste of their stuff, here.


Splash du Jour: Friday

You ask of my companions. Hills, sir, and the sundown, and a dog as large as myself that my father bought me. They are better than human beings, because they know but do not tell.
-- Emily Dickinson

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Generation Gap!

I am sitting at Starbucks.
That is no surprise, really… I know.
I’m reading The Way The Crow Flies and mellowing out after a long day of hard work.
On the side of the paper cups, Starbucks prints those quotes and vignettes, have you seen these? They are called “The Way I See It.”
I like this one on the side of my vente americano. It’s #52, from singer-songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter.
She says:
Recently I eavesdropped on a conversation between two twenty-something employees at a local Starbucks. I listened as the barista mused about his taste in music. Then the cashier asked him if he had ever heard the song “Strawberry Fields Forever.” After a pause, the barista answered, “No, can’t say I ever heard that one before.” That’s when I knew there really was such a thing as a generation gap.

I can so relate to what she is saying there.
A while ago a group of co-workers and I were on a coffee break. Sitting around a table, yapping.
To illustrate some illustrious point I was making at the time, I said, “Remember when the Space Shuttle exploded?”
One guy quickly said, “Well, it didn’t really explode so much as disintegrated when re-entering the earth’s atmosphere…..”
And I said, “No, no. Not that one. The other one. Before that!”
[Blank stares…..]
I continued, “Going the other way…. on LIFTOFF….. you know, a minute after launching and all, that one, remember that one?”
[Blank stares……]
That’s when I knew there really was such a thing as a generation gap.


Splash du Jour: Thursday

My poems - I don't even like the sound of that, in a way. Not that anyone else wrote them. But we know that only people who are really close to us care about our personal experience.
-- Sharon Olds ← follow link –

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Canadian Content!

Tonight I am realizing something, as I sit here with my freshly brushed-out birthday cat! [He is luxurious!]
See, I have just finished reading a book by Alice Munro, and now I have started one by Ann-Marie MacDonald.
I began to realize that a significant proportion of the books I am tending to gravitate towards, are by Canadian authors.
So, I thought I would have a look at the last 100 books I have read in my elite reading group, which is incidentally called The Surfacing Book Club. [named after Atwood’s book].
In other words, I have read other books in between all of these, [on my own] but these presented here are the ones I have mutually read and discussed in-depth with my reading partner. The titles in BOLD text are written by Canadians!
At the end I will present my percentage findings….

Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood
Shadows on the Hudson by Isaac Bashevis Singer
The Ash Garden by Dennis Bock
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
The Other Side of Silence by Andre Brink
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
Sanctuary by William Faulkner
The Solace of Leaving Early by Haven Kimmel
The Stubborn Season by Lauren B. Davis
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
The Return Of The Native by Thomas Hardy
A Bed By The Window by M.Scott Peck
The Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Cave by Jose Saramago
Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee
Blindness by Jose Saramago
The Blackwater Lightship by Colm Toibin
Some Things That Stay by Sarah Willis
Olympia by Dennis Bock
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Hotel Of The Saints by Ursula Hegi
Dream Stuff by David Malouf
The Doctor’s Wife by Brian Moore
Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue
Elizabeth Costello by J.M. Coetzee
Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro
Salamander by Thomas Wharton
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
In The Name Of Identity by Amin Maalouf
The Underpainter by Jane Urquhart
The Hero’s Walk by Anita Rau Badami
The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis by Leon R. Kass
Atonement by Ian McEwan
Leaning, Leaning Over Water by Frances Itani
Asleep by Banana Yoshimoto
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Changing Heaven by Jane Urquhart
Flight by Victoria Glendinning
The Crucible by Arthur Miller
Runaway: Stories by Alice Munro
The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck
The Rehearsal by Sarah Willis
The Stone Carvers by Jane Urquhart
All The Names by Jose Saramago
Thou Art That by Joseph Campbell
The Woman Who Gave Birth To Rabbits by Emma Donoghue
Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger
Franny And Zooey by J.D. Salinger
The Willows At Christmas by William Horwood
A New Christianity For A New World by John Shelby Spong
The Double by Jose Saramago
King Lear by Shakespeare
The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
The Whirlpool by Jane Urquhart
The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence
Pathways To Bliss: Mythology And Personal Transformation by Joseph Campbell
The Story Of Lucy Gault by William Trevor
Through The Narrow Gate by Karen Armstrong
Poached Egg On Toast: Stories by Frances Itani
The Spiral Staircase by Karen Armstrong
The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl
The Gospel According To Jesus Christ by Jose Saramago
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
Saturday by Ian McEwan
Tender Is The Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Hey Nostradamus! by Douglas Coupland
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo
Young Goodman Brown and Other Short Stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Celestial Navigation by Anne Tyler
First Love, Last Rites by Ian McEwan
Baltasar and Blimunda by Jose Saramago
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
The Meaning of Everything by Simon Winchester
Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey
A Map of Glass by Jane Urquhart
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Bluebeard’s Egg by Margaret Atwood
Wilderness Tips by Margaret Atwood
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
The Trouble With Poetry by Billy Collins
The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
Identity by Milan Kundera
The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis
The Origin of Satan by Elaine Pagels
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
Life Mask by Emma Donoghue
Family Sins & Other Stories by William Trevor
The Tent by Margaret Atwood
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
The Book of Revelation by Rupert Thomson
The Stone Raft by Jose Saramago
The Child In Time by Ian McEwan
The Preservationist by David Maine
The Progress of Love by Alice Munro

So what this list of the past 100 Books says to me is that 30 of our books [30%] have been by Canadian authors. I think that is significant. It was not intentional.
Canadians are writing great books!
This current one I am presently immersing myself in continues to prove the point!
AUTHORS! One of our most precious of natural resources. [That and comedians!]


Splash du Jour: Wednesday

For a novelist to create character, I think, takes a sharp objective eye but also an intuitive intelligence, a receptiveness, a wilingness to make oneself blank in order to percieve things as they actually are. The trick of creating character is to try to see all people, even unsympathetic ones, without projecting one's own personality and values on them.
-- Donna Tartt

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.
-- Elie Wiesel, Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, 1986 –

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Happy Birthday, Jack!

Today is my boy’s birthday!
<-- Here is a picture of him, in all of his kingly splendor.
Jack is six years old today!
I know what you are wondering…. what did I get him for his birthday.
Ummm…. pizza.
It was sort of a last-minute thing.
On the drive home from my time at Starbucks, I thought…. “Hmm, what should I get Jack for his sixth?”
[My stomach growled about then]. I dialed Lorenzo’s. Got a Chef’s Special.
So I’ve been putting slab after slab of pizza right under his nose, and he just keeps giving me this look… yeah, just like the one here in the picture.
The epitome of disdain!
It’s like, “C’mon Dad! Are you SERIOUS? No cat nip? No toys? What do you think I am? A dog? Sheesh!”
It hurts.
It’s that last “sheesh” that hurts!
But I guess he is right. I’m not a very good dad tonight.
So….. I guess I am going to have to eat this pizza myself.
[He’s really got a mean look. He really does….. and he's glot claws! I’ll be sleeping face down tonight!]


Splash du Jour: Monday

Once upon a time in the dead of winter in the Dakota territory, Theodore Roosevelt took off in a makeshift boat down the Little Missouri River in pursuit of a couple of thieves who had stolen his prized rowboat. After several days on the river, he caught up and got the draw on them with his trusty Winchester, at which point they surrendered. Then Roosevelt set off in a borrowed wagon to haul the thieves cross-country to justice. They headed across the snow-covered wastes of the Badlands to the railhead at Dickinson, and Roosevelt walked the whole way, the entire 40 miles. It was an astonishing feat, what might be called a defining moment in Roosevelt's eventful life. But what makes it especially memorable is that during that time, he managed to read all of Anna Karenina. I often think of that when I hear people say that they haven't time to read.

-- David McCullough, in “No Time to Read?” --

Have a great Monday!