Saturday, March 31, 2007

It's Time For A....

For those of you who are interested, please note the hint I have dropped at the end of last night's posting!

Friday, March 30, 2007


Hmmm... is that redundant?
FREE book giveaway?
What would the opposite be?
OBLIGATORY book giveaway?

OK, this is a CONTEST of sorts, wherein the fine folks at Bookpuddle will send you a free book if you can decipher the name of a bestselling contemporary novel, from clues given by a sadistic Blog-Proprieter. [me].
My ONLY hint, is to tell you that it is NOT the bestseller that you see in the image there... it is not that wonderful epic, Things To Make.

I am not going to reveal the answer until Sunday evening!
Unless no one at all responds.
Then.... I will reveal the answer perhaps like never!
And I will conclude that none of you are "into" receiving a free book in the mail, nor are you very much "into" Book-games in general.

Enough preamble. Here goes.
Here are the four clues:

1) H.P. will probably take Monday off.
2) 53 / 1977.

3) In six days J.F.K. will be murdered.

4) Couldawoulda

The first person to correctly guess the name of this book will receive their choice of the following brand new [unused] novels in the mail, sent to them absolutely free!

Oryx and Crake / Margaret Atwood
Lighthousekeeping / Jeanette Winterson
On Love / Alain de Botton
Headhunter / Timothy Findley


It is now the next day and I feel bad because I may have made my four hints a bit too difficult.
So.... I am going to give the following SERIOUS HINT!
The book in question is one of the ones in this list --> [CLICK]


Splash du Jour: Friday

There’s a line between love and fascination
That’s hard to see on an evening such as this,

For they both give the very same sensation

When you’re lost in the magic of a kiss.

-- Ned Washington –

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, March 29, 2007


Sometimes I like to write short stories.
No. Correction. I always like to write short stories.
It’s just that I don’t always do it!
If I had less limits upon my time, and was a little more courageous with what I’ve got, I would be writing more.
That’s my current excuse[s]!
Some of my stories are more like little vignettes. In fact, I prefer to think of them as “scenes”. This takes the pressure off!
From time to time I would like to share some of these scenes with you here on Bookpuddle.

I am a writer, but the kind that spends most of his time tottering on the nest. Occasionally a breeze knocks me off and I flap around, swoop, and somehow get something near to a horizontal approach as I thud and tumble onto the ground.
But I always have to climb back up that tree, foot over wing.
I long for the day when I will fly, breeze or no breeze.

Here is one of my scenes:

• The Lenkos •

There were quite a few rickety and tumble-down houses on Emmett Street but none as ready to collapse as this one. Eight people lived in it, the Lenkos. They didn’t smell good.
Legend had it that it was the house itself that smelled, and mostly of cabbages. Like rot. As you walked down Emmett, and got closer and closer, the smell would be there to meet you. Year round! So, perhaps the place transferred its age-old unwashed dilapidation onto its inhabitants? This was a widely accepted theory, and Lenko lineage had outlived any current townsfolk that could say any different. The address had served many generations of the same family.
The only other theory, its corollary, that the bodily odor of the family had in itself affected such an amount of atmospheric square footage, seemed harder to believe. At any rate, those of us who went to school with the Lenkos knew one thing for certain. The stench was real and distinct, and whether it was on them or in them was irrelevant to anyone involved in the act of breathing, as we schoolkids so often were.

Kenny Lenko, the one closest to my age, ate spiders. It was Jim Clark that saw him doing it at recess one morning. Over by the wooden shed where the janitor Mr. Speers locked up the soccer balls and baseball bases and stuff. There was Kenny, hunched over in the corner. Picked one of those big-bellied jobbies right off of its web and popped it into his mouth, just as Jim’s shadow loomed from behind over the entire scene.
Within minutes the entire playground knew of it. And every kid wanted to see a repeat performance, instant replay if available. Even the other Lenkos!
Kenny was dragged to every corner of the school, every webby dark place, smelling bad the whole way there. It was not a good day to be a spider. Kenny ate all that we could find for him.
And the boys laughed and jeered, and the girls danced around and chanted:

Lenko, Lenko!
You really stenko!
Kenny Lenko!
You really stenko!

His siblings, up till then an equally raucous part of the proceedings, and perhaps even feeling that their family had produced a sort of mythical hero, now sank bank, realizing that joining in meant self-abasement. They huddled together in their little cloud of mutual fumes.
And I sang the song and pointed and danced.

In the winter we would play hockey at a rink behind the high school. An unwritten yet clearly understood rule when forming teams was that no Lenko was allowed, as their distinct odor was not seasonal in nature. It was as bad in January as July. They could watch, but from far away. Every so often we might get one or two of them to clean the fresh fallen snow from the ice, which they willingly did.
One day we played furious hockey until long after the streetlights were on. As night advanced, one by one, even future NHL hopefuls trotted off home. I stayed. This one night, I was left on the rink alone.
I skated on, as one possessed. Providing play-by-play commentary, I raced around the rink, slapping the puck past invisible goaltenders, and then flying around the net with all of the gyrations of the pros! I would collapse on the ice, listening to the thousands of fans cheer.
On one of my circuits around the rink, I was flying at top speed, stick-handling like Guy Lafleur (who was real big back then) when all of a sudden my skate hit a rut in the ice and I went hurtling forward, out of control, right into the boards.
I was impaled.
The hockey stick, which at the point of impact had been straight out in front of me, dug into the foot of the boards. The other end dug into my abdomen, lifting me off the ice, and snapping the stick in two. I lay there writhing and sucking air from all seven continents of the earth, blood on the ice from some sort of bonus wound.
Gasping like a pickerel in the sand.
There was the sound of someone running towards me. Run run run, slide. Run run run, slide.
I was being rolled over onto my back, and then I could feel my legs being bent at the knee, pumped back and forth so that my breathing could get in sync again. And it worked.
I was being hoisted up. The clicking of my skates against the ice.
All the way home, which admittedly was not very far, I was supported by this Rescuer of the Bleeding and Skewered. My skates on the asphalt. My skates on the concrete.
Until I was set down on the steps of my own house. I did not go in but just leaned my head against the cold siding, and said “Thank you” as Kenny the Spider-Eater turned back and smiled, not saying a word. He was already walking away.

And as I leaned there against the house, all I could think of was how the whole way home, from the rink through the little alleyway, then the front of the school and then all the way down Argyle Street to here, to right here... I did not once smell cabbage. Or rot.
And yet everyone knows. I mean, it’s a well-known fact that their odor is not seasonal in nature.

© Ciprianowords Inc. 2007


Splash du Jour: Thursday

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Touchy Subjects

I find it more disappointing to read through a book of bad short stories than to endure a bad novel.
I was thinking about this quite a bit today, and now that I am at my beloved Starbucks, it is still on my mind. I wonder from whence cometh this quirk of mine!
The short answer would be →I think that with a collection of short stories, if the first few are not all that great there is always the hope that they will get better.
With each new story my faith is renewed. So if I am let down time and again, hmmm…. I feel that. Because see, I try to enter in to the context of a short story with all of the same intensity that I would a novel.
So while a bad novel is like being struck in the face, a bad pile of short stories is like turning the other cheek.
A reader is now fielding repetitive slaps!

But as much is this is the case [for me] there is also the corollary to consider.
What happens when I stumble across a great book of short stories?
One that starts with a few ripping-terrific stories, and consistently stays that way!
Answer? I fall in love all over again, with the act of reading!
I turn the last page and wish there were more, and I say to myself [as I get another coffee]… “Every segment of that adventure was time and energy well spent.”
That is exactly how I feel about the latest collection of short stories by Emma Donoghue.

Touchy Subjects, is the title, and they are!
As my reading partner put it, “Nothing seems too odd or too off limits for her to write about - AND rope us into. I guess once you have written about a woman who churns out rabbits, you can handle just about any topic.”
Emma’s former book of short stories, The Woman Who Gave Birth To Rabbits, gets its title from the lead story, which is about a…. [go figure!] woman who feined giving birth to rabbits!
That book was excellent too, but this new one is even better.
Touchy Subjects [published in 2006 by Harcourt and now available in Virago tradepaper] is broken into five sections → Babies, Domesticity, Strangers, Desire, and Death, and the stories found in each of these categories stay very centered around these themes.
These are nineteen deeply rich tales of the joys and struggles [mostly struggles] of love relationships, both heterosexual and homosexual. And familial. And marital. Of friendships platonic and otherwise.
Of people reaching toward self-identity. Sometimes finding it, sometimes not.

I think that Emma Donoghue is "eccentric" in the best sense of the word.
Unconventional, slightly strange, and just off kilter enough to show her readers that they are the same!
That none of our lives are simple, or even normal. Her stories reveal a world full of ambiguities and contradictions, which is exactly the world any truly living person experiences.
She can take the most common of occurences [a woman looking at a clothes rack, a man writing phrases in the sand, someone looking absently and curiously through a woman's cosmetic case, a couple deciding upon the exact shade their house ought to be painted, the love of our pets, a 42-year old woman wanting to bear a child]…. she can take these things and show us that they are all touchy [as in sensitive, delicate] subjects.
I realize I have not really said anything specific about the writer’s style [per se] or her incomparable command of dialogue. I don’t want to.
I want you to READ HER.


Splash du Jour: Wednesday

A teacher who can arouse a feeling for one single good action, for one single good poem, accomplishes more than he who fills our memory with rows and rows of natural objects, classified with name and form.
-- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe –

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

Every normal person, in fact, is only normal on the average. His ego approximates to that of the psychotic in some part or other and to a greater or lesser extent.
-- Sigmund Freud –

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Good, The Bad, & The Smugly

This evening, during a lull in my Starbucks coffee-drinking, I am thinking of moments when I have been the recipient of Good Samaritanism.
A good deed!
By "Samaritanism" I am referring of course to that parable in Luke ch.10 where the guy from Samaria does a good thing to some other guy. When I was a kid in Sunday school I would hear the story of the Good Man of “Some-Area” and I would wonder why, after all these centuries, they still couldn’t figure out where this guy was from!

Anyhoo… I recall something that happened right here, in this very Starbucks a while back.
I was reading W.G. Sebald’s amazing book, Austerlitz.
In fact, I was asking a nearby stranger [a girl, whom I could see was reading something in French] to translate a phrase for me.
On page 264, Sebald had written, "a travers une breche d'incomprehension."
She looked at the phrase in the book and was stumped.
Then, like a Good Samaritanness, she went to the dictionary section of the store, and came back to me with the following translation, based upon the photo of caged zoo deer that Sebald had presented on the same page... "In the context of what is being said here, the author is suggesting that the caged animals in the zoo look at us as though we too are imprisoned or unable to be free, and they find this hard to comprehend."
And she was cute!
She had me at “In the context…”

But this is not even the Good Samaritan part yet!
While this was going on, while I was having this cross-cultural experience with her, someone was smashing into my car in the parking lot.
And taking off!
Of course, there in the warmth of the coccoon-like store, and smitten as I was, I was utterly oblivious to the havoc outside.
But when I went to leave, well… I saw that the rear half of my car was smushed in!
And on my windshield, under the wiper, two pieces of paper fluttering...

One note said:
“I am sorry. I seem to have hit your car. Here is my phone number. -------“
SEEM?” What does "seem" mean?
The other note said:
“I saw this person hit your car and leave. I chased them and made them come back. Here is my phone number. --------“
The Good Samaritan.

So I called the second number first.
Talked with this guy.
He told me that he saw this woman back her big black 4X4 right into my innocent white Oldsmobile.
She lifted it right off the ground, and then she took off.
He had just been leaving the parking lot himself at the time, so he chased her a few blocks, flicking his lights on and off until she finally stopped. Obviously, she realized that her license plate number would have long since been written down!
The gig was up!
She returned to the scene and he made sure she left the information on my windshield.
He then got my license number paged over the PA system inside the store.
But I was so engrossed in my… French-translation class… that I did not at all hear the announcement. [I learned all this when I talked to the guy on the phone.]
Next, I phoned the girl… The Ungood Smasharian!

I explained to her that she had two options.
Either, a) I would require all of her insurance information so that I could get my car fixed at her expense [whereupon her rates would skyrocket and her driving record be tarnished] ORb) she could pay me a fixed amount of cash to compensate for the loss of resale value to my car and, in turn, I would not phone the police and tell them of her methods of umm… ACCIDENT REPORTAGE!
She chose option B, as I knew she would.
[Really, I had plans to get rid of my car soon anyways.]

She then asked, “Would it be OK if you picked up the cash where I work?”
I said, “Sure. No problem. Where do you work?”
She named one of the more famous Strip Clubs in town.

I said, “Umm. OK. I guess I could endure such a predicament.”
She was a waitress there, not one of the [ahem…] “ballerinas”!

So, next night, there I was.
Music pounding, the Maestro at the door, [folded arms the size of ditch culverts] he stops me and says I need to pay a cover charge.
I scream at him over the blaring music…. “I WILL BE QUICK… JUST NEED TO SEE THIS GIRL. WAITRESS!” and I show him her name on my piece of paper.

His eyebrows raise, and he points in the general direction of somewhere.
Before I had time to adjust to the flourescent lighting some girl in a Budweiser bathing suit was asking me if I want to... get to know her better, or something, and again, I displayed the piece of paper and screamed stuff.
She nodded and went to get the girl.
[Did I watch that Beerbottle walk away from me? What do you think?]

From behind the bar The Ungood Smasharian© walks up to me, all cleavage and teeth.
She’s got an envelope in her hand and she opens it and begins to count out on the table more twenty dollar bills than I have ever seen in one place in my lifetime!
Lots of people are watching me now.
People that don’t even have eyebrows are raising them! And every guy in the place is wondering if he should worship me or mug me!
I mean, this is not the usual direction of such transactions in these places… female to male.
[At least this is what I am told!]

We both then signed dual copies of the pre-written contract we had agreed upon, over the phone.
It succinctly stated that with this monetary payoff we were severing all future legal relationship with each other.
It was like a real quick divorce, but where you are already in the Strip Club directly afterward, without having to get in the car and drive there!

There was a certain aura about me now.
I almost wanted to sort of bask in it and stay for a little drinkskie-poo, but no. I turned and left.
And as I walked past the Maestro, I could see a newfound respect in his eyes… yes, by God, there it is. A glint.
For I had just become a legend in those few short minutes.
The only man that ever walked out of that establishment with more twenties in his pocket than he had when he arrived!


Splash du Jour: Monday

"I am impressed when music matters, when genres are broken, when spirits are lifted, when people make a difference, and when people are true to themselves."
-- Nelly Furtado –

If you need a little convincing, if you need to be persuaded of this woman’s innovative musical prowess, watch this VIDEOCLIP!
Have a great Monday!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

My New Hands

Well, yesterday I did something that is so uncharacteristic of me that I still can’t even believe it happened.
← I bought cosmetics.
Must explain.
Must explain.

I spent the whole day at the St. Laurent Mall.
My main quest was to find a real nice pair of jeans after my favorite pair suffered a bit of a malfunction [a rip] in a… umm… too obvious spot.
Why is it so difficult to find a good, and I mean PERFECT pair of jeans?
It seems when I find the exact style I want [low-rise, narrow leg stuff] and the right shade of fade and all… they do not have my blasted size? But then, all of the jeans I would only buy if I were blind, they are ALL in my size!
So, in this dejected state, I drifted into a Bowring store because all the scented candles drew me hitherward. In there I bought a four-set of Hi-Ball glasses.
As I exited the store [I’m getting to the point, I’m getting to the point] I ran DIRECTLY into one of these gals that are out there in the centre of the thoroughfare trying to hawk some sort of make-up or miracle cream.

She had this granular stuff that looked like road-slush in a little plastic spoon and she was waving it at me and saying something.

To humor her, I stopped walking and she moved in for the kill.
“Hello, sir. Would you like to try some of this junk?” she said [or something to that effect].
My first thought, and it was a loud one, was… “Oh my God, woman! Are you ever barking up the wrong tree on this one!”
“No, sorr
y I…..” I began to say.
But she had me at “Hello”… apparently. She had my number!

She very quickly blurted out something about “dry skin”.
And this struck a chord with me. I will tell you why.

Even on the drive to the Mall earlier, I was looking at my hands and shaking my head at myself, because my hands are SO DRIED OUT!
They are positively Saharan! Chafed and dry!
And they've been this way for a long time, because I work a minumum of eight hours a day in direct and constant contact with paper and cardboard. It literally tears my hands to shreds.
As she blabbed about whatever, I set my shopping bag down and looked at my gross hands, and then at her road-slush stuff.
Little did this chick know that she had just nabbed onto the Driest-Handed Guy in the Mall©.

So I began to rub my hands together with this goop in them. Just as though I was washing my hands. The granular aspect of the stuff felt great. Relaxing.

Even as I was doing this though I was still saying to myself, “This is so not going to work…. like how in the world will this make my hands nice and soft? Nope, this is not going to…” but she was already spritzing my hands with a spray bottle of water, rinsing them off into this basin thing and as she did so…. my eyes became saucers!

With every spritz, it felt like I was growing new hands!
Literally incredible, as in, hard to believe.
I was speechless [and for me that’s a big deal, means the wheels are turning…] and then she put this other stuff on my hands to seal the deal!

“This is a moisturizer to apply after your exfoliation. It comes with the purchase of the aromatic salt scrub!”
I knew then that she had sold me on the stuff.
I had new hands!

Now it was time to talk business.
How much were my sweet-smelling aromatic handsies going to set me back now? [$]
$he told me.
Hmm… they are not exactly giving it away… but I bought it.
So….. you yourself may be wondering by now [if you are still reading]… “WHAT IS THIS STUFF?”
Well, there is the picture of it at the top of this blog.
That’s the road-slush.
Then the other stuff is the moisturizer… shown [above] in a nicer bottle than the smaller “FREE” one I was given.
Now here is the kicker.
Wanna know what the main ingredient is?
Salt from the Dead Sea!
Dead Sea salt crystals absorbed into a mixture of carefully selected aromatic oils!
That’s the scrub portion of the process.
Then the moisturizer consists of Dead Sea minerals & plants extracts. Also liposome complex → ginseng extract, aloe extract and vitamin E.

It’s made in Israel by a company called Dead Sea Premier.
See the Canadian version of their website HERE!
[Note: The preceding was tapped out by some seriously supple, fragrant new hands!]


Saturday, March 24, 2007

Your Honest Opinion?

For those of you who read this blog on a regular basis, you will know that I live in coffee shops.
I would say that 90% of my blogs are written [composed] in coffee shops.
My backpack is like a part of my actual body! I go nowhere without my Mac-laptop!
The Hunchblogger of Notre Dame!

Anyhoo... oftentimes I overhear other people's conversations, in these coffee shops.
Especially if I am a bit bored.
Sometimes, if the eavesdropped-upon blabbing is about books I will scribble my blog-address on a Starbucks napkin, or piece of paper, and hand it to the person[s] as I leave, and ask them to check out my site.
Is that self-aggrandizing or what?
Thing is, I have a real desire to expose myself....!
Well.. you know what I mean?

So.... last night I was on the phone with my friend, and I mentioned that I would like to have some more official way of dropping the bookpuddle hint to strangers!
Something like a business card that I can carry around.
That was all I said.

He ran with the idea!
Today, when I got home from work, he had sent me the image that you see above, and told me that he has already made a heap of [color] business cards, and is going to send them to me in the mail.
No more writing on scrap pieces of paper.
I thanked him profusiously.

OK, here is my question though!

Is this a weird thing to do?
Hand people cards, directing them to your blog?
I mean... no matter what you think about it, I am going to DO IT!
But.... would you do such a thing?
I want you to respond, picking one of the following options:

1) I would never do such a thing. Too presumptuous.
2) I can see why you would want to do such a thing, you arrogant beast!
3) I think it's a great idea, albeit a bit over-desperate and slightly retarded.
4) You are inspiring me to do the same thing. What is your friend's phone number?


Friday, March 23, 2007

Splash du Jour: Friday

Art, it seems to me, should simplify finding what conventions of form and what detail one can do without and yet preserve the spirit of the whole - so that all that one has suppressed and cut away is there to the reader's consciousness as much as if it were in type on the page.
-- Willa Cather –

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

On Severance

I am just sitting here at Starbucks reading an excellent, wonderful book.
It’s called Anil’s Ghost and it’s by Michael Ondaatje.
I cannot believe I have not read this guy before. He is so amazingly good.
And so I set the book down for a bit, sipped my coffee, and thought of ways I would most NOT want to be killed. I’m talking about execution-style!
I have [quickly] concluded that there are really NO ways that I would like to be killed, sort of…. but the way that would most bug me would be flat-out decapitation.
I so would not go for that!

Anil’s Ghost takes place in the Sri Lanka of the mid-1980’s to early 1990’s, a period of serious political upheaval and violent uprisings. Please forgive my ignorance in not knowing exactly the situation there today, whether or not such violence as is discussed in this book is still taking place.
Suffice it to say, there are a lot of brutal killings talked about in the pages of Anil’s Ghost, and some of these victims end up with their heads on stakes, as a warning [I guess] to other people that still have their heads nicely attached to their bodies and whatnot.
Other people have been thrown from helicopters into the ocean, probably weighted down with stuff, or having their hands tied behind their back, and you’ve got to admit, there’s nothing good about that either.

But having your HEAD CUT OFF?

For one thing, I cannot think of something more horrible than knowing that sometime hence, soon even, you WILL have your head cut off.
It’s the knowing that would bother me, I think.
I think of people condemned to death during the French Revolution and stuff.
Wasn’t the whole decapitation thing really in vogue about then?
I simply cannot imagine that some people, thousands of them even, have had to sit in dungeons and cells and KNOW that soon they would be parting ways with their noggin!
Burning would be bad.
Getting shot? Not good at all.
Poisoned? Not my cup of tea!
Thrown from a helicopter? I’ll pass.

But, for the record, I am going to say here and now that I am going to be profoundly disappointed if one day something other than my neck separates my brain from the rest of me!
-- Cip

Splash du Jour: Thursday

Part of teaching is helping students learn how to tolerate ambiguity, consider possibilities, and ask questions that are unanswerable.
-- Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot --

Have a great Thursday!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Facing Old Facts Anew

I miss my dad tonight.
I got out of my car and looked up, and something about the low sliver of the moon, and Venus shining so bright to the left, above it, made me think of him a lot.
He died in the early hours of Dec.13th, 1999, after a lengthy battle with congestive heart failure.
Regarding this devastating disease that claimed my father, I happened across an incredibly lucid explanation of it in a rather unlikely place.
In a novel.
Vikram Seth’s, A Suitable Boy.
This novel has the distinction of being the longest fictional story ever written in the English language, weighing in at a hefty 1,474 pages.
On page 914 there is the following dialogue between the character Pran [who is vey ill] and his doctor…

Dr. Imtiaz says:
“There’s an intimate connection between the heart and the lungs; they share the same cavity, and the right side of the heart supplies stale blood to the lungs for it to freshen, to oxygenate, as we say. So when the lungs don’t do their job properly – for instance because of not getting enough air when the air-tubes to the lungs seize up asthmatically – the heart is affected. It tries to supply more blood to the lungs to make up for the bad oxygen exchange, and this creates its own supplying chamber to fill up with blood, to become congested and distended. Do you understand?”
“Yes. You explain things very well,” Pran said sadly.
“Now because of this congestion and distension, the heart loses its efficiency as a pump, and that is what we like to call ‘congestive cardiac failure’. It’s got nothing to do with what laymen understand by the term ‘heart failure’. To them that means a heart attack. Well, as I said, you are not in danger of that.”
“Then why must I stay in bed for three weeks? It seems a terribly long time. What will happen to my work?”
“Well, you can do a bit of light work in bed,” said Imtiaz. “And later, you can go out for walks. But cricket is out for a while.”

And then, later on down the page, Imtiaz says to Pran:
“If you have congestive heart failure, you will have all the effects of pent-up blood in your system. Your liver will become enlarged, so will your feet, your neck veins will become prominent, you will cough, and you will get very breathless, especially on walking or exertion. And it is possible that your brain might become confused as well.”

I recall my dad exhibiting all of these described symptoms.
The passage in A Suitable Boy concludes with:

When Imtiaz left the room, Pran tried to face these new facts.

Sometimes, even now, 7 ½ years later, I still find it difficult to face the facts, as they then applied to my dad.
My Tribute to him.


Splash du Jour: Tuesday

“Integrate what you believe in every single area of your life. Take your heart to work and ask the most and best of everybody else, too.”
-- Meryl Streep –

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Advanced Beggetry 101

Worked until my usual five o’clock quitting time.
Actually it was not a bad day, rather calm. Perhaps a lot of our clients are still away on March break, or not yet back into the swing of things. Hence, our orders were not at their usual horrifically unmanageable pace!
So I was really looking forward to my Starbucks time, as the day dragged on.
Looking forward to reading some more of this excellent Michael Ondaatje book.
Upon arriving here at the Chapters store, I ensconsed myself at the usual Starbucks table by the pillar, and turned on the PowerBook.
As it booted up, I patted my inner jacket pocket and said the word, “Damn!”
→ No money.
My wallet is in my other jacket, the one I was wearing last night.
To clarify things for myself, I said “Damn!” again.
Then I turned and paced a bit, as though some money would somehow appear if I did this.
Dug around in my pockets.
Looked at all the baristas…. over there….. barista-ing…..

Should I do this? Should I go up to that one barista-guy and beg for mercy?
Thing is…. I’ll look like some kind of street-person, vagrant/hobo, or whatnot.
I don’t know. I should just go. Like home, I mean.
But I don’t want to and stuff…

[Already leaning on the dessert display case….]
“Umm. Hey. What’s up? Yeah…. seriously, [it helps to use your hands right about now, gesture vaguegly and adopt a forlorn expression] → like, I can’t believe this but…. [barista-guy is totally staring at me…] you know how I am in here pretty much every day?”

“Yep! You always sit right there, by the pillar,"
he points.

[See…. to establish a sort of camaraderie of sorts is to score big points in your overall hobo-y favor!]
“Right. Exactly. Well, today I forgot my wallet in my other jacket and I know this is sort of a retarded thing to ask of you and it may be against your store policy to sort of….”

“Hey, no problem at all. I understand totally. You forgot your wallet,
[now he too is gesturing all over the place, so I resume my own gesturing. We are both flailing about in a combined Dance of The Forgotten Wallet…]…. so, forget about it.... what’ll you have, it’s on me!”

“No, no, no. I will pay you I swear, when I am in tomorrow!”

“NO! It’s ON THE HOUSE. Trust me. Not a problem.”

So I order a Grande Bold and the guy pours it.
And hands it to me.
Restoring my faith not only in humanity…. but in baristas, and the entire art, of baristage!
In the Spirit of Starbucks!


Splash du Jour: Monday

"Calm and simple delight. Any childhood lover of books remembers that wave of relief and exaltation that would buoy you the moment you realized you could return to a book you'd been living deep inside for days. So that you would climb back in, as into a cardboard-box fort, and close the cover behind you like a door. Such is one common encounter with what American essayist Sven Birkerts calls ‘deep time’ - that clockless, borderless psychic state whose inhabitants have dual citizenship and can live out in the world with others or deep in the collaborative, fantastic world of books. Adults are not barred from that state, but it takes real time and peace to get to the border, and for adults such commodities are scarce. Birkerts argues further that the speed of our lives has accelerated to the point where even for children the experience of ‘deep time’ grows rare."
-- Steven Heighton

Have a great Monday!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Healing [and Sickening] Mind

Wanna read a great book?
No, seriously... that question is not rhetorical.
I highly recommend Paul Martin's [no, not the former Canadian Prime Minister] The Healing Mind: The Vital Links Between Brain and Behavior, Immunity and Disease. [published 1997].

The principle argument or theme is that disease and death seldom have single causes. There is a link between what goes on in the mind, and what goes on in the body.
This particular branch of study is known as "psychoneuroimmunology".
Try saying that with a mouthful of crackers!

Contemporary physicians and scientists frequently dismiss the idea that the mind has any marked effect on physical health. The fact is that most people, doctors and scientists included, find it inherently easier to believe in the reality of apparently simple physical causes of disease (such as cholesterol, salt, smoking, lack of exercise, bacteria or viruses) than to accept that mere thoughts can affect our health. There are extremists on either side of the spectrum; those that claim that the mind/emotions have no influence whatsoever, and the New-Age gurus who believe that adopting certain thinking patterns can prevent cancer!

Dr. Martin's familiarity with well-documented research, authoritative commentary, and overall witty style combine to present a very convincing argument for a middle ground conclusion: that the relationships between mind, body and disease work both ways. The mind affects the body and hence physical health (negatively AND positively). Conversely, physical health affects the mind and hence our thoughts, emotions and behaviour.
Throughout the book, he alludes to examples in literature to illustrate these links between psychological factors and disease. These illustrations help to convey complex scientific ideas in a recognizable form, and I found this feature very innovative and effective... lifting the weight from some very heavy ideas, and making me say, "Of course, I get it now."
There is an extensive discussion of that modern-day source of malady... STRESS. How does "stress" make us more susceptible to breakdown and disease? Interesting sections on the Type A personality (typified by free-floating hostility, aggressiveness, competitiveness, impatience) and how it lends itself to increased risk of heart disease. Also, a section on the Type C personality (typified by suppression of strong emotions, avoidance of conflict, compliance with the wishes of others) and how it lends itself to increased risk of cancer.

A fascinating book!
Incidentally, my copy is old, and bears the original title, which was "The Sickening Mind". 
Read the newer "Healing Mind" and find out for yourself just how appropriate both titles actually are!


Friday, March 16, 2007

Splash du Jour: Friday

Descartes goes into a restaurant and orders a cup of coffee. He sits for a while, drinking his coffee and reading the paper.
A little while later, the waitress comes by and asks him if he would like another cup. He says "I think not," and disappears.

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

regret: a poem-thing

Tonight, the mood is sombre, the candles are aglow.
A poem I once wrote comes to mind, and suddenly I know
That if it does not have its way, if it does not speak its mind
I'll never write another. The Muse will grow unkind...


poor fish
gasping for water
not meant to be out here in the sun
hearing this gibberish (others so happy about your mistake).

poor fish
gills flaring… hoping.
are you thinking of the damn hook?
one eye in the dirt, one in the blue, blue sky.
you flip, you toss, but ah, the wrong way
up the bank and down, down (laughter)
dirtier now for all the effort
a bit further from your cool home
and more dead.

ah fish
i too have gasped like this.

© Ciprianowords Inc. 2007

Splash du Jour: Thursday

“After sleeping through a hundred million centuries we have finally opened our eyes on a sumptuous planet, sparkling with color, bountiful with life. Within decades we must close our eyes again.
Isn’t it a noble, an enlightened way of spending our brief time in the sun, to work at understanding the universe and how we have come to wake up in it?
This is how I answer when I am asked—as I am surprisingly often—why I bother to get up in the mornings.”

-- Richard Dawkins

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


I am sitting here at Starbucks, [as usual] listening to the bustle of people ordering extravagant coffees, while I drink the same old standard…. a Grande Bold.
I am simple.
I am here for the coffee, not the fancy stuff that it takes a team of engineers to create with their mixers and blenders and syrups and potions and pump-squirters!
Just coffee is fine with me.
With some half-and half creamilk, and a swirl of honey. Just a touch.
Just like Winnie-The-Pooh would have it, you know?

I know I’ve mentioned my theories on the phenomenon elsewhere, but seriously, I love how the baristas bark out what they are creating…
“Venti no-foam, no-whip, caramel macchiato, with calorie-reduced water!”
“Grande non-fat lactose-free vanilla-bean latte without vanilla and/or bean!”
“Tall nonfat skim-milk half-syrup sugar-free caffe mocha, hold the whip!”

I’m looking around, wondering if this last thing means that with some orders, they whip people?
But seriously, there are [literally] over 20,000 drink combinations at Starbucks when you factor in the milk options, number of shots, various syrups, and choices of whip or no-whip…. not to mention the half-gentle, almost pleasant flagellation!
If you listen long enough to people ordering their drinks [and I’ve been doing this every day for years] it doesn’t take long to realize that the world is obsessed with avoidance of fat and/or fat-related products.
And I suppose this is a good thing, overall.
Starbucks is willing to help you avoid your own obesity, if you have the willpower to cooperate!

According to their own literature on the subject, the “hold the whip” option, [along with the lack of welts on your back] will save you anywhere from 80 to 130 calories and 8 to 12 grams of fat!
Saying “reduced-fat and skim milk” → 140 calories and 19 grams of fat.
Saying the word “light” while ordering your frappuccino will save up to 140 calories and 2.5 grams of fat.
And remember, they’re telling you ahead of time, → each pump of syrup is loading your saddlebags with an extra 20 calories and 5 grams of sugar.

Having said all of this, I have this sick, sicko-secret desire to one day [just once would be enough] overhear someone order the following, at a Starbucks:
“Venti extra-fat, nine-pump, quadruple-sugar, udder-still-attached hyper-creamy, vanilla-caramel-hazelnut, 100% lard-based, triple whipped caffe mocha…… please!"

I will applaud.
Then, just before they collapse on the floor, I want to get up out of my chair, walk up to that whale and shake its misshapen dorsal fin, and congratulate it on boldly going where no one else dares to go!


Splash du Jour: Wednesday

I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do.
-- Willa Cather –

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A Tribute To Bravery

Just a few words tonight about a very good non-fic book!
An Honorable Defeat: A History Of German Resistance To Hitler, 1933-1945.
Written by Anton Gill.
What an incredibly good book!

For an author, there are two factors which greatly complicate a modern examination of the German resistance to Hitler.
Firstly, after the failure of the assassination attempt on July 20th 1944, the Gestapo and the SS launched operation Thunderstorm, which eliminated thousands of Germans who were under suspicion (however slight) of disloyalty to the regime. Of course, irreplacable information perished along with these individuals.
Secondly, now that well over half a century has passed, natural mortality has thinned even further the ranks of those who survived the War.
Anton Gill has overcome these obstacles by locating and interviewing that handful of living participants, and by interviewing relatives and friends of those who died. This exceptional research, his grasp of European history, and his exceptional ability to tell the story combine to result in this flawless chronicle of an era.
Let's face it, reading war history can be about as exciting as eating a bag of sawdust.
But this book reads like a novel, truly it does. It is never boring. It is a book about heroes, those who risked and (most often) lost their lives in an effort to thwart the plans of someone that history has confirmed as a madman.
Why are they heroes?
Well, among other reasons, because they had the perception to recognize Hitler as such [a madman] AT THE TIME.
It is easy to look back at this era and romantically speculate on "what I would have done," but Gill's book shows us how truly difficult it was to be the one who resisted.
For instance, it is certain that at no time could the conspirators, at whatever level they were working, count on the support of the populace or any form of legal recourse. Their lives were on the line. No turning back.
But we who have never lived in a police state, who can freely criticize our government in letters to the newspaper or on an open postcard to a friend, [or a blogpage, or a Grammy speech]... we who can speak our minds freely on the telephone or on the computer, can have no idea of what it was like to work against a regime whose hold on power depended on fear and informers, on mistrust and deception, on children reporting parents and parents denouncing children. This book is the story of those who resisted, at a time when the penalty for writing "Down With Hitler" on a wall was nothing less than death!
We can't imagine.
But Anton Gill will help you to do so!

Heroes like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, Sophie Scholl, General Hans Oster, Ludwig Beck... you will hope against hope for these and so many others, while at the same time realizing that we can re-read history, but we can't rewrite it.
The story of Claus Graf Schenck von Stauffenberg's failed assassination attempt on Hitler at the Wolfsschanze, this was the most exciting part of the book. Gill's explanation of the events makes the heart pound, and you can follow along with the excellent maps that are provided. The resolve, the fortitude, the determination of Stauffenberg is literally amazing. And Hitler's luck (then, and on several other occasions) is almost unbelievable.
This is an excellent book and should be read by everyone interested in the history of bravery.

Is this book still in print?
I’ve done some research and it seems that the answer is…. → NO!
As is the lamentable case with some of the greatest books that have ever been published. I got mine from the Book-Of-The-Month Club, like 78 years ago.
And no, you cannot borrow it!
But you can find it here, in previously loved format!


Splash du Jour: Tuesday

I'm into cotton underwear.
I don't need cheetah print leather to make me feel sexy.
-- Nelly Furtado

And you know what, Nelly? Neither do I.
Neither do I.
And furthermore, my “allegiance” is shifting…
[Nicole should worry. She really should worry.]

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Splash du Jour: Monday

The two Alice books by Lewis Carroll are the finest literary fantasies ever written. They will last forever, and the Harry Potter books are going to wind up in the rubbish bin. The first six volumes have sold, I am told 350 million copies. I know of no larger indictment of the world's descent into subliteracy.
-- Harold Bloom –

Have a great Monday!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Saying, Doing, Seeing.

Wow, this just happened, minutes ago.
I feel I must tell the world, or at least the three or four people that read my blog!

So I am sitting in a Starbucks right now, but a few minutes ago I was across the street at the Mall, starving. So I went into this one area that has a Tim Horton’s, a Burger King, and an Andalos Shawarma.
I went for the mid section.
Burger King is my downfall, as I have written extensively about, in the past.
In fact, if you recall my infatuation with the legendary Angus Swiss n’Shroom Burger [see here] I must now [sadly] report upon the demise of the aforementioned burger.
It was a rude awakening.
One night I went through the Drive-Thru, happy as an overweight lark.
“Angus Swiss n’Shroom please,” I told the static-y disembodied voice that had greeted me.
“I’m sorry. The Angus Swiss n’Shroom has been discontinued,” the guy said, as though that was something acceptable.
“It’s been WHAT?” I bellowed, realizing the truth as I said it. “Why was I not informed?”
“I’m sorry, but…..” [Static-y hum….]
“OK, I guess I’ll go with the Double-Whopper,” I said.
[And why not? I’ve got a defibrilator in the trunk, next to the booster cables!]
And so, my current poison is The Double-Whopper, which, for those of you who may not know, resembles a pie, made out of a cow!

OK, so minutes ago, there I am, eating one of these cow-pies, over at the Burger King counter, staring out at the passers-by, on Rideau Street.
A girl and a guy sit down next to me, with their tray of stuff from Andalos Shawarma. Andalos makes great Lebanese food. Very nice.
The girl begins to unwind the packaging from her chicken pita.
[Chicken pitas are wrapped in paper, just as you see in the photo, above.]
Well, to my horror, just as I take a sip of Root Beer and look over, she chomps down into the thing and manages to bite off a huge piece of the paper wrapper in the process.
I am now TOTALLY watching!
Oh my God, what should I do? What would Jesus do?
Should I say something?
[She is chewing away, currently oblivious.]
I said nothing.

I mean seriously, this is what boyfriends are for. To tell you that you are eating paper! And hers is sitting right there, he should tell her. It’s his responsibility damn it…
She swallowed the stuff, paper and all.
And now I am faced with a worse dilemna. Do I let the madness continue?
Do I tap her on the shoulder and say, “Ummm, excuse me? Yeah. You are totally eating paper?”
I did nothing.

I must confess, I sort of wanted to see her do it again.
But, with the next bite, she unwrapped it a bit and realized what she had done.
The teeth marks and all, the serrated edges of the wrapper.
Just as she looked at me I quickly turned again to the window, and I could see in the reflection that she was wondering if I had witnessed the paper-eating.
But hell no, I was by now making those annoying suction sounds with the straw, snorkling out the last droplets of Root Beer.
I saw nothing.


Saturday, March 10, 2007

He's Coming Back

Roger Waters is coming back to town!
And I’ll be there. I have already acquired tickets through a friend who receives privileged pre-release date ticket options. His employer emailed him a page about the upcoming Rogers Waters concert in my city, and just as he was about to delete the thing, having no personal interest whatsoever…. he recalled that I had gone to see Waters in Montreal last September.
Do any of you also recall?

I went on and on about it, back then, hyper blog-ventilating of my love for Roger Waters’ music, but I never ever really did do a good review of the show.
This time I will not be so….. silent!
I will tell all!
I will give you a set list!
Tell you of every epiphanic moment.

So, thanks to my good friend, I did not have to sit on the phone for half a year, trying to get tickets during my own work day. No, this was effortless. All I had to do was respond to the email and say, “YES! NAB ME TWO TICKETS! DO IT! DO IT!”

And he did.
My fee? A measly $317.
A small price to pay to see Waters and his insanely talented assemblage of studio musicians.

For those of you who may not know who he is, [which constitutes a form of musical blasphemy I myself cannot imagine committing], Roger Waters is the creative genius behind the legendary group, Pink Floyd.
So it is that I will be at yet another Roger Waters concert in my lifetime.
That is, if I live until Monday, June 4th, 2007.

Check out the following tour schedule. Perhaps he is coming to a stadium near you?
If so……..


Thursday, March 08, 2007

Halftime Homo?

Short answer? → “No!”
Long answer? → “Some people are idiots!”
I like Prince.
Once, I had occasion to be found in the very presence [vicinity] of Prince, or…. The Artist Formerly Known As Whatever He Is Currently Calling Himself.
More on this later, but for now, I just wanted to say a few things regarding this insanely crazy thing I read today in the Metro paper.
Thursday’s copy was making the rounds in the lunchroom, and when it got to me it just happened to be open to Rick McGinnis’s regular writeup, called Idiot Box.
Never was the title more appropriate than today.

It involved actual complaints that were filed with the FCC concerning this year’s Superbowl halftime show.
For those of you advanced-veteran Puddlers who are really paying attention, you will recall that on Superbowl Sunday, [the day the Bears should have won!....] I was in Puerto Vallarta, confined to my hotel room, sicker than a bag of chihuahaus!

At any rate, in between bouts of violent vomiting, I thought the halftime show was one of the best ever.
Even in the [purple?] rain….. Prince rocked. He was fabulously good. That is my opinion of it.
OK, so get a load of what one person [I mean really, one wonders if this was a serious complaint even, so asinine is it]…. but someone filed the following official complaint with the FCC:

“It was obscene to show Prince, a HOMOSEXUAL person through a sheet, as to show his siluette [sic] while his guitar showed a very phalic [sic] symbol coming from his below-midriff section. I am very offended and I would preffer [sic] not to have showed it to my 4 children who love football. One of them has hoped to be a quarterback and now he will turn out gay. I am actually considering to check him for HIV. Thanks CBS for turning my son GAY.”

I nearly fell off my chair reading this.
Is this person even half-serious?
Spelling errors aside, is this person….. conscious?

First of all, and not that this is the real issue here, but to my knowledge, Prince is not a homosexual. If he is, I have not heard of this.
And whether he is or not, I don’t see how that has any bearing upon whether or not he should perform at the Superbowl!
As I mentioned above, I once had an all-access pass [too long of a story to explain] to a Lilith Fair in Toronto, at the Molson Amphitheatre. One of the performers [and my favorite, by far, for the whole two nights I was there], was Sheryl Crow.
Well, unbeknownst to the acres of Lilithian audience out front [and unbeknownst to me also], on the second night, Prince was going to make a surprise appearance to simply perform a screaming guitar solo during Crow’s song, “Every Day Is A Winding Road.”
I was sidestage, sitting on a road case, when all of a sudden this purple-velvet sort of…. antelope-like person was squishing past me, an absolutely beautiful woman in tow.
It was Prince, and his umm….. date.
As they stood next to me for about five minutes or so, I can assure you of one thing. → Neither one of them were being gay! Not for even one of those minutes.
Prince does not let any time go to waste!
I have never, before or since, seen so much sidestage hetero-activity!

A guitar-tech came over, Prince stepped forward, the guitar [not the “phalic” one] was draped over him, he fiddled with it for a few seconds, and as nonchalantly as one might exit the house to take the Dalmatian for a walk, he strutted out from the sidestage area and launched into what remains as one of the most incredible guitar solos I have ever heard, witnessed, or imagined. The guy is a genius!
The audience went NUTS!
It was glorious.

And so, while he was out there, I took off with his woman!

No, just kidding.
Anyways, I say all of this, the complaint to the FCC and all, to merely point out that some people are just so incredibly ignorant, almost to what you could call a sad degree.
Sad in the sense that you are tempted to feel sorry for them.
But you don't, you don't feel sorry for them, because it's more fun to laugh!
I am not sure but I think the complainant is sort of suggesting that a person can become HIV-positive by watching someone play guitar on TV.
When everyone knows you can only get it from toilet seats!


Splash du Jour: Thursday

Sometimes a neighbor whom we have disliked a lifetime for his arrogance and conceit lets fall a single commonplace remark that shows us another side, another man, really; a man uncertain, and puzzled, and in the dark like ourselves.
-- Willa Cather –

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

A Real Sitcom of a Book

Straight Man, by Richard Russo. Published June 1997.
This book came to me at a time when I needed a bit of a laugh, and I admit, it did lift me out of the doldrums. It's quite a funny story overall. Not what I would call great “literature” by any means.
But then, who am I?
Harold Bloom?

Several times while reading Straight Man I felt that it was like watching an alright sitcom.
The main character Hank Devereaux Jr. manages to get himself into some really crazy predicaments (my favorite being the time he was trapped in the ceiling overlooking the meeting where his fate is being decided upon). If these, and many other similar scenes don't make the reader laugh out loud, they will at least cause a smirk or smile. Also the scene with the ducks. [The cover of the book, shown here, is not.... arbitrarily chosen.]
But the book, the STORY, I did not find all that compelling. Not very deep! (Again, like a sitcom).

The gist: As chair of the English department in a university, Hank is hit with budget demands that call for a 20% reduction in staff. While his colleagues are suspicious of where his allegiances lie, Hank juggles his own personal problems, which include a blocked urethra; the possibility of his own marriage falling apart; the surety of his daughter's marital problems, and the problem of living in his father's shadow of greatness.

But this Hank began to annoy me. He is the kind of person that never gives anyone a "straight" answer about anything... he keeps everyone else in his life waiting, and offending other people does not concern him whatsoever.
If he could only appreciate the value of keeping friends onside!
The redeeming grace of this book is the superb Epilogue. I found that I liked (and understood) the Hank of the Epilogue.
Its worth getting to the Epilogue.

Straight Man is more like ice cream than meat and potatoes. A well-written jolt of calories that makes no promises about long-term nutrition.