Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Bookpuddle Meltdown

Some of you faithful types may have noticed that lately...
I have been abducted by aliens.
And it's true.
There I was, stumbling around in a crop circle, and I was sucked up into their vortex.
The first thing that really astounded me, about the interior of the spacecraft.... was that, [I swear to God] there was a Starbucks© .
So, first thing I did was I ordered a Grande Americano.... [then, realizing I was in outer space and all] I said, "What the hell? Make that a Venti!"
So, sitting there with my pail of avant-garde coffee, the aliens came over, hooked something up to my... nether-regions, and said.... "You should maybe tell your blog-friends you won't be around for a bit. And also, tell them you will have a bit of a higher-pitched voice, when you do return!"
So, what else can I tell you?
It was scary as hell.
I already sound a bit like Aaron Neville! Kind of... twittery!
Sort of.... unsure of gender-ish.
[My biceps are still intact, at least!]
And.... my GOD the coffee was out of this world!
See you, soon!
Cip, the Alien

Friday, August 24, 2007

I Wrote A Poem


Having thoroughly rejected society

I assure you, I’ll be fine. But

I’ll need my PowerBook G4.

Fly over me in a plane now and then.

Drop down fresh novels. And

My Harpers.

A microwave would be nice. And

A generator, I guess. Satellite phone.
Batteries. Salt.

Coffee [Turkish-ground], honey, pickles.

Binoculars, a skillet, a pot. And

Matches by the carton.

Deodorant, mayonnaise… My God!

An axe, three blankets and a gun.

A flashlight.

Cayenne pepper and Tylenol. Pizza?

I assure you. I’ll be fine.

Wait, one more thing. You know

Those little sausage deals?
Wrapped in dough?

© Ciprianowords Inc. 2007

For those of you interested in reading more of my original poems, there are some recent postings, on my poetry page Poetrypuddle!


Splash du Jour: Friday

True! – nervous – very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses – not destroyed – not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily – how calmly I can tell you the whole story.
-- Edgar Allan Poe, opening of The Tell-Tale Heart --

Not enough people are reading Poe.
One of the people, is me.
Someone, [my spooky, spooky friend], reminded me of this the other night.

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Mama Bookpuddle

I am heartened by how so many of you have repeatedly mentioned my mother and have asked how she is doing since she took ill last week. On my blog and also by email, so many of you have expressed concern. Thank you.
Mom is back at her apartment and enjoying life.
She is recuperating, not yet able to see her friends as much as she wants to, but she assures me she will be fine. While in hospital, she received five units of transfused blood.

To give you an indication of what a little trouper she is, her exact words to me on the phone last night were, “I feel great after that major oil change!”
Sometimes she is so hilarious.
I look forward to seeing her at Christmas time.
So, thank you all once again for your kind thoughts toward Mama Bookpuddle.
If you would like an example of what a nutbar she can be, READ THIS!


Splash du Jour: Thursday

OK, so most of you know that I am single, right?
As in, not married?
[The cat does not count!]
But let’s just say I decided to get married.
And that I liked it so much, that I just kept on doing it.
I got married again, and again, and again, and…. well, essentially I ended up being the husband of the lovely hypothetical Menage a Cinq that you see here…

The Cipford Wives©

My question is this: When people came over to visit, do you think it would be OK to introduce my harem by referring to them as…
“One Mrs. Cippy. Two Mrs. Cippy. Three Mrs. Cippy…” on down the line?
Please help me. What is the appropriate etiquette in such a scenario?

And while you are pondering such things, have a great Thursday!


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

Letting Go

With one eye she watches... her hands in the water;
Just who is this boy? Is he good for my daughter?

She grabs for the towel, these dishes can wait;

She's got to find out now, before it's too late.

They get up to leave as she enters the room

And she begs them to stay just a moment or two;

She's asking "intentions", he's missing a movie

And a young woman's eyes say "Mom, don't do this to me..."

Am I caring or jealous? Am I holding too tight?

Just two of the questions she'd wonder all night...

And would it be easier if he was still here?

(For her husband had left her in June of last year).

With one eye she steals a last glimpse through the curtain...

Just who is this boy? A mom never is certain;

And as they pull away, there's just two things to know...

She's alone again tonight, and it's hard to let go.

© Ciprianowords Inc. 2007

Have a great Wednesday!


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Killing My Crackers

Hey, total random question here.
I am not even TRYING to be remotely philosophical, or witty. Or brilliant. Or uncanny. Or bookish.
Neither though is this just a sort of “filler” blog posting, due to my not having anything profoundly relevant to say.
None of the above.
I believe this to be profoundly… significant.

Today at work, I was microwaving a bowl of soup.
Afterwards, when things were nice and hot, I applied the crackers.
Gotta have crackers.
By the way, any response that says “I don’t even use crackers in soup” will just be deleted by the folks at Homeland Security.

So, here is the thing.
I put in this exorbitant pile of crackers and then smashed them up, once they were already in the soup.
There were some immediate problems with this technique.
Namely, stuff overflowed the sides of the bowl.

My question is this.
Would it have been more prudent of me to have crushed up the crackers first, AND THEN put them in the soup?

How do you do it?
No, really. Let’s not joke around. People were injured today.
How do you do it?
Do you crush up the crackers first and then put them in your soup?
Or…. or, do you, as I am wont to do [I think this is the way The Ground of All Being and/or Jesus intended it to be]… put them in there and smash them up with a spoon while they are flailing about, gasping for air?
How do you kill your crackers?


Splash du Jour: Tuesday

When I die, I would like to go peacefully, in my sleep, like my grandfather did. Not screaming and yelling like the passenger in his car.
-- Jack Handey –

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Splash du Jour: Monday

Whenever you're called on to make up your mind, and you're hampered by not having any, the best way to solve the dilemma, you'll find, is simply by spinning a penny. No - not so that chance shall decide the affair while you're passively standing there moping; but the moment the penny is up in the air, you suddenly know what you're hoping.
-- Piet Hein, poet and scientist (1905-1996) –

Have a great Monday!

Sunday, August 19, 2007


Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam

Friends, I spent a lot of my afternoon positively immersed in a book.
It is so good, this book, that I almost want to go and jump off my balcony.
Or maybe run out into the street and get hit by a bus as a testament to the fact that I will never be able to write this good, no matter how hard I try!
Oh, the anguish of picking up such a great book. It is painful.
I am referring to Vincent Lam’s [2006] Giller Prize winning book of totally inter-connected short stories, Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures.
I am only at Chapter 4, but I have already written out copious notes on the book.
Its artistry, its themes, its structure. Its perfection.
And perhaps most of all… its pathos. Its realness!
So true to life it hurts.
It is killing me, this thing.

So, I look forward to writing an official review when I am finished.
This book was sent to me by the fine folks at Random House as a review book, several eons ago. Today I finally opened those red covers and fell inside.
Rather than give a synopsis here, I encourage you to go to this wonderfully constructed multi-media page at Random House, and browse the book.
Let me say ahead of time that if you purchase this book and then conclude that it is no good, I will personally strangle myself while running in front of an out-of-control bus!
Endorsements don’t get any more visceral than that.
Do they?


Saturday, August 18, 2007

Peaceful, Easy Feeling: Part 2

Bermuda, from the air!

I’ve been thinking again, about Peaceful Moments.
Also, perhaps because my mother is in the hospital right now, and I am geographically far from her… I am thinking about family.
And peaceful moments.

Once, long ago, I went to Bermuda with my Dad, on one of his business trips.
We stayed at this gorgeous hotel, called The Belmont.
It is an immense pink-stone castle perched high atop an amazingly level crag… an outcropping, the far side of which plummets down to the ocean itself where waves break onto the surf with the sound of poured raw rice.
Breathtaking. The effect created as you enter the foyer of The Belmont for the first time is that you are boarding a huge ship, free-floating toward a horizon of never ending sea. You drop your bags to the side and walk towards that wide-open view at the far end of the foyer.
My God!
You see the terraced plateau of land out back where, were it not for the swimming pool and tennis courts in the way, over-excited tourists might accidentally tumble directly out, into the Atlantic.
It was here, on that first evening, that I leaned on a stone ledge on the terrace, and watched the sun submerge itself ever so slowly into that horizon.

I brought my tennis racket to Bermuda. I thought maybe some of Dad’s colleagues might have been interested in a game or two.
Little did I know how many of them had shopping bags of booze in their room and were in no shape to run around on the court sweating Bacardi during the day.
I would go out to the court with my racket but no one was there.

But once, on my way back up to the room, an Oriental man in the elevator noticed the racket and asked if I wanted to play.
"Hell, yes!"
In a few minutes we were out on the court in a pitched battle.
This guy was in his fifties and he was kicking my mid-twenties butt.
It was the best tennis I’ve ever played with anyone, and at the end of it all I was completely worn out, just this side of serious cardiac problems.
I stopped to catch my breath, and I wondered where Dad was.
When I looked up to the pool terrace I saw him. He had been watching us play.
Tennis with that particular audience, and the whole ocean as a backdrop is something I’ll never forget. There was something immortal, in it.
One of the Peaceful, Easy Feelings© .
I miss you, Dad.

For part 1, in this series → peacefully CLICK IT.


Friday, August 17, 2007

Splash du Jour: Friday

Today’s Splash du Jour is in the form of a Quiz.
Trust me. This is totally neat! Cool, even!
You might be able to figure this out if you read very carefully.

The Missing Dollar.

Three men went to a motel.
The motel manager said a room cost $30, so each man put up $10 and went to their room.
A little while later the manager realized the room was only $25, so he sent the bellhop back to the three guys' room with $5.
On the way to the room the bellhop couldn't figure out how to split the $5 between the 3 men, so he gave each one of them $1 and he kept the other $2.
This meant that the 3 men paid $9 each for the room for a total of $27.
Add the $2 that the bellhop kept = $29.

Where did the other dollar go?

Cool, huh?
Now… → Want the answer because you are so mathematically challenged that you cannot figure it out for yourself?
Yeah…. me too!
Click HERE!

Have a great Friday!


Thursday, August 16, 2007

God's Indifference

Every day when I go to work, I park my car under an overhead rooftop overhang, constructed of sheet metal.
Down the way a bit, there is an area, about three feet square, that for some reason or other is left open. Exposed.
Pigeons find their way in there. Into the opening.
Other than my own balcony, it’s the perfect place to raise a pigeon family.
Out of the way. Quiet. Secure. Rain cannot even get in there.
From the amount of messages they leave on my car as they fly into The Hole, I would estimate that several HUNDRED pigeons are lodged in there.

The other day, I arrived at work to discover more than the usual clamor and racket up there, above my car.
I looked up.
The hole had been sealed over with a mesh of wire, the pigeons trapped.
Lately, temperatures around here have been horrendous. Well over 100 degrees in the shade.
So, I looked up and saw this place, where pigeons were roasting to death in a state of starvation.
I went into my workplace and tried to forget about it.
But I could not do so.
All morning long, it bothered me.

At about noon, I walked outside again and looked up. Pigeons were pacing back and forth. They wanted to get out, and could not do so. I could not take it any more.
I got out the phone book and called the local Humane Society, and reported this abuse.
Soon a van, complete with sirens and all, was at the door of my own workplace [I should explain that we lease our space from a Property Manager, whose actions have nothing to do with my own company]… and the officer assured me that something would be done.
And it was.
The next morning I looked up to see that at some point during the night, the mesh had been removed.
The previously trapped pigeons were allowed to freely pass in and out of the hole in the sheet metal roofing.
I saw it as a bit of a victory, the pigeons were freed from their Living Hell, their slow-roast crematorium.

My point in mentioning all of this though… well, it may seem silly, or even sacrilegious, but I am going to say it anyways. I am actually hoping that some Bright Young Theologians© out there can help me with this ethical conundrum.
For those of you who may not know, I myself was a Christian minister at one point in my life. I have a degree in Theology, and I am quite familiar with the Christian scriptures.
And so I know that we have always been taught that “God” not only personally cares for everyone, but also intervenes on our behalf, even down to the smallest sparrow.
I have been wondering… Would it have been too difficult for this “God” to have warned the pigeons in advance?
Maybe said to them…. “Hey listen, birdies. In a few minutes, some guys equipped with power drills and chicken-wire are going to raise themselves up here on a scissor-lift, and pretty much seal you in here so that you can die an agonizing death from heat and starvation. So…… fly out of the hole RIGHT NOW. Move along! Get the hell out of here!”

Apparently, God said no such thing to these birds.
Maybe he does not speak to birds?
That’s the part that bugged me.
See, because being an ex-minister and all, I know the Bible inside out, frontwards and backwards… and I recalled a familiar verse, which assures us:
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
The verse is found in Matthew 10:29.

That verse in Scripture may be many things, but one thing it is not, is true.
I mean, true in any sort of a real literal sense.
Why do I say that?
Because I myself cared more for those pigeons caught in the rooftop, than God did.
God could have told them to clear out, but he did not do so.

This is the part that may sound offensive to some readers, but yet I ask it… → When are people going to wake up from their slumber and realize that God does not do the things he claims to do in the Bible?

There are piles of people out there who would probably say that God “intended” for me to call the Humane Society, and that is the example of his intervention.
I don’t accept that as being worth consideration!
There are others that would say that God may have told the birds to leave, and they didn’t listen.
I don’t accept that, either! Mostly because it is utterly ridiculous.
There are others who may say that birds are not a concern for God. He’s got bigger fish [or, in this case, birds] to fry!
I don’t accept that. The Scripture would seem to suggest that he is aware of every single one of them. And if it, as it claims itself to be, is HIS Word, then we’ve got to take it along with its own incontrovertable inconsistenicies, intact!

Still others may be ludicrous enough to mention that the Scripture is talking about “sparrows” not “pigeons”.
Do you see how frustrating, not to mention asinine, such a conversation could get?

Let me tell you what I myself have come to believe.
[Some may not like this… please coverest thy children’s ears!]

If he is all-powerful and all-knowing, what else is one to conclude?
The truth is, my friends, I myself cared more about those birds than the God we are talking about, cared about them.
How do I know this?
I know it, because I did what was within my feeble-assed power to rescue them from their torment, and GOD DID NOT.

When I picked up that phone, and punched a few keys on the keypad, I was doing what God could not do.
This may sound harsh, but is it not valid to conclude that supposedly having the power to provide a different outcome, he would [essentially] have chosen to allow those birds to roast until they ate their own young, and then ate their own bodies, and then rotted, gasping for air in that rooftop…. in other words, he would have done ZERO for them.

Think about that, the next time you get yourself out of bed two hours before you really want to, to go to church.
Think about it as you put 10% of your wages in the offering plate.
What kind of a senseless board are we really banging our head against?
And for what?
So that God watches us hooked up to a respirator one day?

My own mother went into the hospital by ambulance this very afternoon.
She has leukemia, and I just got the phone message from my brother that her blood platelet count was at an all-time low. I have just spent the past hour talking with him about Mom’s current condition.
Ought I to pray for her?
I am asking a sincere question here. Really, now.

Look at that Scripture one more time.
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Was it God’s “will” that those poor birds should be sealed up in a foodless furnace?
I no more believe in the first portion of that scripture, than I believe in the second part, which suggests that Someone is tallying up the hairs that I washed down the drain this morning, in the shower.
Let’s start using our bloody noggin, here!


Splash du Jour: Thursday

I really don't know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, - except I think it is because in addition to the fact that the sea changes and the light changes, and ships change, it is because we all came from the sea. And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch - we are going back from whence we came.
-- John F. Kennedy –

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

“We read to know we are not alone” said C.S. Lewis.

And yet...and yet...what activity is more beautifully solitary than reading?
We do it for different reasons, I suppose. I want to know I am not alone...but I also want to know that the me that is me is able to communicate with itself.

-- Anonymous

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, like Shakespeare wrote poetry, like Beethoven composed music; sweep streets so well that all the host of Heaven and Earth will have to pause and say,"Here lived a great sweeper, who swept his job well.”
-- Martin Luther King, Jr., Facing The Challenge Of A New Age

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Road Less Travelled

It's creeping up on 30 years since this book first came out, [1978] but the subtitle still seems as valid as it would have been then... "a NEW psychology of love, traditional values and spiritual growth."
Because Peck speaks so deeply of the needs and longings that cut to the very fundamental elements of human nature, a post-millennial reader can still find Peck's "new" insights relevant and even revolutionary.
So many of the truths found here along
The Road Less Travelled are timelessly true. For instance, how "timely" would be a new worldwide appreciation of Peck's definition of love, which is "the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth."
The pages that follow that definition, along with his explanation of how "falling in love is invariably temporary" are in themselves worth the purchase of the book.

What kind of reader will not like this book?
My answer would be, one who needs to think simplistically, and is in denial of the paradox that makes up nearly every moment of normal adult life. This reader needs a formula, tends to think one-dimensionally... perhaps when he or she reads the opening sentence "Life is difficult" this type of person will think "Really? I had no idea!"

What kind of reader will like this book?
One that knows his or her present day problems may require a little extra help and advice. Something beyond their own haphazard intuition and good intentions. Someone who is willing to be attentive, to learn, to think multidimensionally. Someone that will respond to the opening sentence "Life is difficult" with something like "No kidding! Tell me about it!"
The Road Less Travelled will not disappoint this second type of reader.

I've read it twice, and will read it again. And I've also read its sequels, Further Along The Road Less Travelled [1993] and The Road Less Travelled & Beyond [1997].
For more on how much I love the works of M. Scott Peck, click HERE.


Splash du Jour: Monday

Wernher Von Braun, the German scientist who developed the U.S. space program, used to tell a story about Colonel John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth.
“Seconds before lift-off, with Glenn strapped into that rocket we built for him and man’s best efforts all focused on that moment, you know what he said to himself?
‘Oh, my God! I’m sitting on a pile of low bids!’”

-- Quoted in Alan Weisman, The World Without Us, p.16 –

Have a great Monday!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Books vs. Movies

Hey, how are y'all doing?
Do you have any opinionated opinions on the topic of Books vs. Movies?
I will seldom come around and encourage you to check out the Comments section of any of my blog entries, but this time I can't resist.
There is, what I consider, quite a lively discussion that has sprung forth from what I had originally assumed was quite a benign Splash du Jour quotation.
The Splash is this past Friday's one... two blogs below this one you are reading now.
If you are feeling too lazy to scroll down, simply click HERE, and give me your two cents on this topic!
Wishing you all a great week ahead!
-- Cip

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Packaging Ourselves To Death

I am sitting at The Second Cup [a coffee shop] on Dalhousie Street.
In walks one of these vagrant types. The kind that ask people for spare change all day long.
He goes up to the counter and pours out a few pounds of change and asks the guy to count it and says, “Give me paper money for this.”
The guy counts it, separating it all into the respective trays in the cash register and hands the guy a few bills.
In the meantime, however, the vagrant has asked the female co-worker for a cup of cold water, and so she hands it to him just as he stuffs the wad of bills into his pocket.
He turns to walk away, already guzzling the water. [It’s hot out today].
The distance from the cash register to the exit door is about 15 feet.
Just as he pushed the door open he fired that empty plastic cup into a wastebasket.

I contend, dear reader, that we are packaging ourselves to death.

What I mean by that, is that we, in our Western society, are daily perpetuating numerous consumer habits while maintaining an oblivious attitude toward the never-ending colossal waste of resources these habits represent.
What I mean is that the entire useful life span of the vagrant’s plastic cup… was about 6 or 7 seconds.
Think about it.
Some cup factory produced that cup, [manufactered it] then shipped it here to Second Cup via some Cup-Shipping Outfit, so that it could be handed to some guy who used it for six seconds and then fired it into a non-recyclable garbage bin.
In fact, I am still here at the Second Cup, and I have witnessed not only a second, but a third, fourth, and fifth plastic cup tossed into that bin, by people leaving the place.
Now here’s the thing. Later on, that plastic bag of plastic cups is going to be lifted out of that bin, and tossed into a bigger bin out back, which will then be shipped by a Garbage-Shipping Outfit to some big-normous heap of other bags of plastic cups and assorted crap.
And 100 years from now, long after the vagrant and you and I have ceased to be alive on this planet, that cup, the very one he so nonchalantly tossed into the garbage, that cup will not be much different in composition from what it is right now, after having served its 6-second purpose in life.

If that figure [100 years] sounds like an exaggeration to you, check out this new book by Alan Weisman, called The World Without Us. It’s about humanity’s impact on the planet, and it envisions our Earth, without us.
No human life, in other words.
According to the book, plastic, because it is a polymer [containing polyethylene] “is not biodegradable in any practical time scale.” [p.126].
Eventually it will decompose, yes, but the process for “today’s amount of plastic will take hundreds of thousands of years.” [p.128].
My “100 years” is hence the understatement of its own century!
I’m not saying that we should not give vagrants a cup of cold water.
I’m just saying that we are doing this, and a million other things, very stupidly!

We are garbaging ourselves to death, and it is something we do without the slightest awareness of its long-term effects.
And I am just as bad as the vagrant.
I too, am sitting here with a coffee, given to me in a paper cup which I will fire into that same bin when I leave here.
If I was at all serious about the very habitual consumer-problem I am describing, I would have brought along my own re-usable cup.
I fear it’s time we smartened up.
What are the grandchildren going to be building their cities on?
Gigantic garbage heaps? Our old plastic cups?


Friday, August 10, 2007

Splash du Jour: Friday

The present era grabs everything that was ever written in order to transform it into films, TV programs, or cartoons. What is essential in a novel is precisely what can only be expressed in a novel, and so every adaptation contains nothing but the nonessential. If a person is still crazy enough to write novels nowadays and wants to protect them, he has to write them in such a way that they cannot be adapted, in such a way that they cannot be retold.
-- Milan Kundera, in Immortality

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Splash du Jour: Thursday

You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.
-- Franz Kafka

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Incident at Vichy

Yesterday, I set aside the Kundera novel [Immortality] to just spend some time with a play by Arthur Miller.
Incident at Vichy, first published in 1964, is one of Miller’s lesser known works, but I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I conclude once again, as I did earlier this year after reading Death of a Salesman…. Miller is a genius!
The Crucible is another gem that everyone should read! Really, he is fantastically good.
Incident at Vichy takes place in 1942, in Nazi-occupied France [Vichy].
The setting is very simple. A detention room, where eight men and a young boy are being held. One by one, they are interrogated in an adjoining room and none of them are sure of the reason for their arrest.
In the tense interim, as would be expected, they talk with one another.
Some of these men are Jews, and some are not.
Soon, the consensus is that Jewishness is indeed the “crime” for which they’ve been rounded up, and rumors and speculations are exchanged.
Those who feel that their interrogation may end with a “pass” allowing them to leave, become optimistic. Those who know that they themselves are Jewish, panic. And the tension in the room mounts.
Should they try to escape? Should they behave themselves and hope for release? Surely, surely their worst fears cannot be true?
Soon there are only two men left in the room, awaiting judgment.
And Miller ends this 70-page nerve-rattler with a wonderful twist.
I’ll only say that it is amazing how little paper Miller needs to show us the worst and the best of what it means to be a human being.

My Reading-Partner Friend/Woman is right now, even as I post this blog, attending a production of this play.
This is why we read it together, yesterday. She wanted to renew her acquaintance with the thing, before seeing it performed LIVE! I know that later tonight, she will have many interesting things to say about it. I wish that I could have gone to it with her.
Last night she shared with me some research she had done, on the play.

Apparently, the story itself came from a tale that Miller had heard about a Holocaust survivor, told to Miller by his psychiatrist. It was about a Jew who was rescued from the Nazis by a total stranger.
Miller speaks of directing a production of Incident at Vichy some 20 years after the end of the war and, to his astonishment, having to explain to the young actors what the SS was!
The only other play that had dealt with the topic in the twenty years since the end of the war was The Diary of Anne Frank. Miller said, "There is something wrong when an audience can see a play about the Nazi treatment of a group of Jews hiding in an attic and come away feeling . . . gratification."

From the time that he was very young, Miller was aware of being "different" (Jewish) and felt a sort of warning atmosphere from adults. Whatever it was that gave him this feeling of foreboding, he was aware of it hanging over him. He writes at length of his mother's "mysticism" and her fervor extending even to the point of feeling that the dead communicated with her. And in fact, she may have been right.
While they were vacationing, and she was in a deep sleep, she suddenly sat up and said, "My mother died."
She was right. Her mother had died during that exact hour.

Miller said that his experiences with this sensing of lurking danger was something he had learned, but he had not been taught "how to defend against it. The dilemma would last a long time. The ... effort to locate in the human species a counterforce to the randomness of victimization, underlie the political aspect of my play, Incident at Vichy."

The play, then, attempts to answer the question of how to defend against danger, or evil. A topic that seems to enthrall many people [including myself].
Most critics panned it as being too lecture-riddled. Too didactic. Vichy was banned in the Soviet Union.

All I can say is that I am glad it is available to us today.
Both in book format, and in LIVE performances.
I hope to hear good things about this latter format, tonight.
Neither here nor there, but... the first time this play was performed LIVE was at the Washington Square Theatre in New York City on Dec.3rd, 1964.
The next day was my first birthday!
ONE year old! Ahhh, I remember it well!
Had such a terrific time I _ _ _ _ my pants and was not even slightly apologetic about it! I almost had a similar such "incident" during certain portions of this book!
Listen, I encourage you to spend some time with Incident at Vichy.
You can read it inside an hour or so.
It is truly unforgettable.


Splash du Jour: Wednesday

I saw the errors I had made and assumed full responsibility for everything. You know, instead of being a man who would say, ‘Well, it’s a rotten system we live under,’ and griping about politics, economics and the social condition, I said, ‘Despite all that, I could have acted differently, I could have come out,’ do you see? And I saw that as being the fault of my own nature, character and temperament. I accepted it, and once I did that, a great weight fell off me. I was liberated. I was able to really enjoy myself.
-- Henry Miller --

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

Jefferson Memorial -- Washington, D.C.

I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of currency, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of their property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.
-- Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) –

Not that I’m drunk at 7:30 a.m. or anything but still, that’s pretty sobering, huh?
Yeah. It is.
Chains jangling, I’m off to the caves…

Have a great Tuesday!


Monday, August 06, 2007

Pigeons: Part 14

← Actual photograph.

Well, here we go again.
I just went onto my balcony to water some plants that I have out there, in big-normous clay pots. One of these pots has no plants in it, just dirt.
And two pigeon eggs!
When I opened the door a big flurry of wings greeted me… the startled Mom pigeon. I have a patio table in the corner, and under this, a big clay pot filled with nice soft dirt.
Prime pigeon real-estate! All that is missing is one of those big flashing arrow signboards, saying LAY EGGS HERE!

Last season, when the homely brood finally flew away, I soused the soil in that pot with kerosene, thinking that this would deter prospective parents this year.
I guess it didn’t.
Now, not only will I have pigeons again, but they will be high on fumes.
Drunk pigeons.

Why didn’t you just throw out the dirt altogether Cipriano?

See, I just don’t have it in me to go and do the other option, which is to just mercilessly pick the eggs out of there and throw them away.
Or throw them over the edge, at cars on Bolton Street, which could even be fun!
No, I can’t do it. Even though they are pigeons and pigeons are vermin.
They’re still living creatures.
I guess I am officially against Pigeonbortion!

For former, extremely related stories… click here, and here.


Sunday, August 05, 2007

Peaceful, Easy Feeling

I once worked for a paving company.
We did driveways, tennis courts, parking lots, sidewalks, golfcourse paths.
And cottages, apparently!
No job too small. Some jobs too big. That sort of thing.
It was a privately owned, fledgling sort of outfit. Not necessarily fly-by-night, but definitely fly-by-day! Out west, I had worked for much bigger-scale operations than this one, but I had taken this job because, having made a somewhat unplanned move across the country, I needed money, fast.
I slung asphalt out of necessity.

At one point in the season, [the year was 1994] our contracts began to slow down.
A few of us, needing more steady and reliable pay, were thinking of moving on to more lucrative pastures. And the boss got wind of it.
He was a great guy. His name was Rino. [Pronounced Ree-no].
Rino did not want to see his experienced crew break up. So he presented us with a bit of an option.
Instead of paving more driveways, we would build him a cottage. It sounded like fun. Next thing I knew, I was living at a lake, with a bunch of Italians!

Rino had an existing cottage right on the lake, in the wilderness of Maniwaki, Quebec.
It was beautiful. The lake was. The cottage Not so beautiful.
This is why he needed a new one, to be built right next to the old one.
So we set up shop. And got to work.

It wasn’t too long before we all realized that no one really knew what the hell they were doing. Nor did we even know what we were supposed to be doing.
And Italians always think that know what they are doing! They can be very unjustifiably convinced of this.
The surrounding forest soon echoed with the sounds of screaming architects… no one word making any more sense than the next.
But it was fun. My God, it was a fun time!

And, because we were not doing this for free [Rino was paying us as though we were paving]… when quitting time came, we quit screaming… I mean, working!
And we dived into that lake.
Believe me! When a day was done, I ran to that lake and jumped in, shirt and all.
It was heavenly. For weeks we lived along the shore of that lake, only coming back to the city for supplies.
And by supplies, I mean mostly steaks and beers.

I will never forget one particular evening.
After swimming for quite a while I got myself set up on one of these huge black inner tubes. You know the type.
It perfectly fit me, in the sense that I could rest my chin on one end of it, face down, and my feet would trail out behind me, my toes in the water.
I paddled out quite a ways, and just listened to the sounds that seem to be especially crisp when you are out on the water. I could hear cottagers speaking to each other on the far side of the lake, smoke from a shoreline firepit gently curling upwards. Back on our own side, the Italians arguing over how to barbeque, and similar smoke rising.
The clink of bottles.
A peace so real, that you would think you can hear yourself smile.

I looked down into the water.
There below me, fish after fish passed by, seemingly unaware of the presence of a fat human on top of them.
But there I was. In the middle of their lake.
And they were everywhere. Fish after fish.
Lazily wavering. Oblivious. Doing what they do. Being fish.

I have rarely felt as much at peace, as I did that evening.

Mr. Bookpuddle, are you telling me that you still are all worked up over voyeuristically observing a herd of Quebecois fish thirteen years ago?
Yes, I am.
That is exactly what I am saying.

And I would have never paddled myself back to that pier at all if it weren’t for the fact that an Italian guy was yelling something about my steak being done.
And some other guy was yelling at him that it wasn’t.
I went back regardless of who was right, because I knew one thing for sure.
The beer was cold.


Saturday, August 04, 2007


Sometimes reading what people like to call a “literary” novel can feel too much like a sterile exercise, a technical scavenger hunt for piled up metaphors, architectural sleights of hand, and cleverly convoluted symbols, all rising like great monoliths existing to showcase a virtuoso’s shrewd finesse. [ Like this last sentence of mine is, here].
And when you are done with such a novel, though you may be left with a hefty appreciation for the writer’s command of language, his tricks of technique, and cleverness of structure, little else may remain, making you wish for more matter with less art, more heart.

Michael Ondaatje, however, is a writer who bestows it all.
In Divisadero, he pulls off one of the most elaborately woven and beautiful chunks of prose I have ever read – yet thrilling enough in plot and characterization to make me yearn to hibernate into a greedy, page-flipping monster, immobilized for 273 pages, willingly held under his thrall. My one regret is that I did not do this. I read it in sporadic chunks, pre-occupied with a party-riddled vacation time. But he made me want sobriety and squint-eyed focus! That is genius!
And still…. STILL… [wobbly and all]… I loved what got through to me!

In Divisadero Ondaatje serves up a healthy, caloric portion of The Two Reasons I read:
First, to find myself engrossed in the characters’ lives to the point where I wonder what they’re up to as I am paying my online bills or sponging up Jack’s latest hairball.

And second, to lose myself in the exquisite craft of the work – its syntax, language, narrative structures – its art. There are times when, with an author like Ondaatje, I will read and re-read sentences and paragraphs for the adventure alone.
I would re-read them if they were disconnected, and out of context. How much moreso when they are fitting into a work of art.
As for the first reason, [the characters] Divisadero, which is separated into three parts, offers a generously drawn cast, beginning with sisters Anna and Claire and their adopted brother Coop, in a barn burner of a plot.
All parts are narrated by Anna, though her voice at times quietly slides into others’ frames of mind. The story at first is mostly hers, remembering herself at 16, when her sexual attraction to Coop is – violently - discovered by her father.

It is a discovery that lights a chain of events that maps out the novel’s main plot and ends up affecting not only the lives of this family, but those of a web of characters who converge with them.

Convergence and separation become strong metaphors in the book, which initially follows the fates of Claire, Coop, and Anna over the course of the next several years. Ondaatje outlines themes of alienation and grief in this broken family, now attempting to escape their past, yet bumping into it at every turn.
It is how that past informs the present that seems to most intrigue Ondaatje as he guides the reader through circuitous avenues of luminous language to explore not only the past of his narrator but also that of Lucien Segura, a writer whose history contains echoes and reverberations of Anna’s own life. Like Anna’s, Segura’s past haunts and ultimately shapes both his life and his art.

As a research archivist who searches for hints to Segura’s life while she is living in France in what was once his home, Anna comes to see that no moment of our lives exists by itself, isolated. She realizes that there is nothing without a context, which we ourselves often furnish through our limited and subjective perspectives.
She likens the ever present past to a poetic form: “It’s like a villanelle, this inclination of going back to events in our past, the way the villanelle’s form refuses to move forward in linear development, circling instead at those familiar moments of emotion.”

Such references to art dot the landscape of the book. There are allusions to Nabokov, Dumas, Nietzsche, as well as descriptions of the artistic process itself: “I love the performance of a craft,” Segura says, “whether it is modest or mean-spirited, yet I walk away when discussions of it begin. . . I am interested only in the care taken, and those secret rehearsals behind it.”
Ondaatje’s craft, though certainly guided by the meticulous care Segura describes, yet remains unobtrusive, unaffected, and perhaps even secret until it is carefully examined upon re-reading, whereupon one sees that Lucien’s story sits gingerly atop Anna’s, becoming an enriching layer that subtly mirrors and elaborates Anna’s story as it unravels his own.

For me, it was this echoing of theme and image that came to be a most brilliant part of a book I found to be overflowing with brilliance.
A treacherous water tank in one plotline becomes a towering church belfry in the next; a runaway horse recurs in the two main stories; images of birdsong, cats, travel, water - all develop in recursive, softly entwining themes. And all are conveyed with the lightest of hand.

There is no scarcity of idea here as Ondaatje explores the mysteries of identity, and the interplay of reality and imagination, ambiguities of love, and particularly, it seemed to me, the subjective and deeply personal role that memory plays in shaping a person’s perspective of life.

In an interview, Ondaatje once remarked of his give-and-take structure in revealing character incrementally, “As a writer, one is busy with archaeology. It's what the writer does with any character. On one level you're moving forward, but in the other, you're revealing the past."

In a scene toward the end of the novel, a fox – which has been obliquely alluded to throughout the book – finally appears in full color. The narrator’s father has been walking the property of his farm when a fox begins running lightly up and down behind him.
The narrator says, “my father, looking the other way, ambled down into the valley,” but soon, “sensing something was wrong, paused. He turned then and saw it, and began to walk backwards, cautiously, keeping it in view, the fox moving with its light step as if mocking him, back and forth, back and forth, on a different tangent.”
Depending upon what you fancy in your fiction, that scene – a scrutinized fox weaving a delicate back and forth motion – may be just a fox.
But, the scene may also be a concrete representation of one of the book’s central ideas, namely → Though life may seem to be walked through in a linear pattern, we are in fact being constantly shaped and re-formatted by our experiences - our failures, our passions, and our imperfectly observed memories.

Whichever interpretation you choose, rest assured that it is still going to provide satisfying reading because in Divisadero Ondaatje has given us a beauty of a book committed to exposing even the most mundane of subjects in a way that makes you reel with love for them.

Then… BUY IT!


Friday, August 03, 2007

Splash du Jour: Friday

The serial number of a human specimen is the face, that accidental and unrepeatable combination of features. It reflects neither character nor soul, nor what we call the self. The face is only the serial number of a specimen.
-- Milan Kundera, in Immortality, Ch.3 –

I have just started what promises to be a fascinating book by Milan Kundera, entitled Immortality.
I picked this book up at a used bookstore off of Yonge Street in Toronto, for all of $1.00.
At the start of the novel the protagonist muses upon the lingering image of a woman he saw only briefly, and it seems that the entire novel may be based upon a single gesture she made to a lifeguard at a swimming pool.
She had looked up, smiled and waved at him.
Already he [Kundera, through his fictional character] has discussed many philosophical speculations… and I’m only on page 15!
For instance, the above excerpt is from a more prolonged discussion of the attributes of a possible Creator.
Isn’t the above image, the woman, beautiful?
Symmetrically perfect and all?
It’s quite the “serial number”.
Thing is… she is not at all real. It is a computer-generated image.
Check out This Fascinating Website on the subject!

Have a great Friday!


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

What dreadful hot weather we have!
It keeps me in a continual state of inelegance.
-- Jane Austen –

Well put, Ms. Austen!
Here’s how I would say it, though…“If August is as hot as July was, I’m going to DIE! And then kill myself!
Seriously though, let me tell you a crazy thing I do at work every day. As you know from my previous correspondences, there is no air-conditioning at my place of tortu….. I mean, employment. So, I bring a few extra shirts, and keep them in the refrigerator. No, I am not kidding. In the freezer department!
Every hour or so I whip on a new shirt. The icy goodness lasts only a few minutes, but hey, ask Hitler! Any momentary reprieve from eternal incineration is worth whatever the hell you’ve got to do, to get it!
And I concur!

Have a great Wednesday, y’all!