Monday, May 31, 2010

Splash du Jour: Monday

QUESTION: Is walking part of your creative process?
ANSWER: I walk for exercise, and to see various flocks of birds that have come to depend on me over the years. My mind does wander. Sometimes I’m thinking about the writing and sometimes I’m thinking about a jingle from a commercial and sometimes I’m thinking about what I’m going to eat for supper. Whatever enters my mind. There are lots of dogs in this neighbourhood, and, although I don’t have a dog, I’m a dog lover, so I really enjoy walking down to the park by the zoo. It’s an off-leash dog park. I know the names of most of the dogs—not their owners—and I just like to see them.
-- Interview with author Barbara Gowdy --

Have a great Monday!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Pure Awareness

Right now I am reading a terrific new novel by a favourite writer of mine, Ian McEwan. The book is called Solar. He is writing at the height of his powers -- stay tuned for some excellent thoughts on the book.
A while ago I mentioned that I would revisit a passage that piqued my interest.
It's from Barbara Gowdy's book The Romantic. Let me refresh you -- and keep in mind, this is spoken by one of her characters, in an essay he had written:

Life is oblivion erupting, for a brief moment, into non-oblivion in order so that oblivion may proclaim: 'I am.' The assumption being, of course, that living things are aware enough to make such a proclamation. Let us suppose that they are. Let us suppose that they are, to a degree, self-aware. This makes for the possibility of life recognizing itself, yes, but not as oblivion, only as life. In order for life to recognize itself as a fleeting pulse of oblivion, self-awareness must be refined into pure awareness, which is observation unimpaired by either ego or preconceptions.

This passage does nothing to "explain" the state of existence, no.
No passage can!
But, in my humble opinion, it does serve a very important purpose in any discussion of the essence of existence.
For one thing, it highlights the fact that any understanding [if there can be such a thing] of Existence must preclude our own.
Our own what? Our own --> "existence." I mean, as human beings, as homo sapiens.
The universe is not here because we are. We are, because it is!
Maybe it is inaccurate to use the phrase "preclude" our own [existence]. Preclusion connotes impossibility. Let me rephrase and say, "Any objective [rationally justifiable] understanding of Existence must apply, were we ourselves [as sentient beings] existent or not."
Those last two words ["or not"] are infinitely important.
Because let's face it --> at one point in the distant past, we [human beings] were non-existent. To believe otherwise is, well, sort of crazy. So….. there was a point in space-time [pre-human Existence] when we were simply not here to ask questions of why we are now here.
And now -- we ARE here. Hence, we ask the questions of why.
But before the first [human] mind evolved to a place where the question could be asked, an understanding of what the actual answer to the question "is" was already in existence.
There was an Observer before any human being observed.
This entity [notice, not a "being"… but an "entity"] is what Gowdy's character is calling in his essay --> "pure awareness."
I believe he is very much on to something.
This entity exists whether we exist or not.
In my opinion, the failure of religion [those religions that depend upon an external being… the Grandfather In The Sky scenario]… the failure of religion is to anthropomorphize this entity -- this Prior Existence or Prior Awareness -- and assume that the Entity is "like" us.
The Prior Awareness is not "like" us. Nor are we "like" The Prior Awareness.
But, in our inability to grasp the magnitude of our evolutionary fortune -- which can be defined as a "tapping in" to this Prior Awareness -- our stories, with all the limitations inherent in faltering and errant words, have relegated Existence Itself to the level of a "Being".
Existence is not dependent upon us. Nor has it ever been.
We have arrived… evolved, just in time to ask questions of a Program Already In Progress.
But if every single human being on the face of the Earth died right now, literally suffocated and died, Existence, a.k.a. "Pure Awareness" would not change nor diminish. It would continue to be what it was before any human being ever lived.
A world void of human or animal life would continue to EXIST…… and not only so, but would be "observed."
Not by the God of the Bible.
But by the "real" god.
The one which is, and has always been… "Observation Unimpaired By Either Ego Or Preconceptions."


Friday, May 28, 2010

Splash du Jour: Friday

Disney is partnering with a South Korean company to launch a Korean-language Disney channel. Mickey will still be known as "Mickey," and Minnie will still be known as "Minnie." However, Pluto will now be known as "Delicious."
-- Jimmy Fallon --

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Splash du Jour: Thursday

Type the word "Margaret" into Google and a glorious thing happens.
Literature trumps politics.
Atwood before Thatcher.
And rightfully so.
What has Margaret Thatcher ever done?
But Margaret ATWOOD?
Yes. NOW we are talking about something relevant.
Alias Grace. [Arguably, one of my fave-novels of all time]. The Blind Assassin. Cat's Eye.
Falklands crisis, Falklands SHMISIS!
Has Margaret Thatcher ever written anything one-millionth as good as The Handmaid's Tale?
Google is right.
Atwood is the only "Margaret" that matters!

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I. Love. My. City.

Dear Friends:
I haven't been blogging much lately. I have been preoccupied with some stuff… soon I think I will be back around.
Actually, soon I will be on vacation!
This evening I just wanted to mention how much I love where I live.
Ottawa, Ontario -- CANADA.
It never ceases to amaze me how often Ottawa is mentioned in positive ways, in surveys on Quality of Life, etc. This year for instance, Ottawa was once again ranked as the #1 Canadian city to live in -- for a whole plethora of reasons.
And just today I have read of a current survey wherein Ottawa ranks #14 GLOBALLY.
That means like on the whole PLANET! Among a field of 221 cities!
Wow! I like it.
And I love living here, in my primo-sweet high-rise spot in the very heart of it all.
Four Canadian cities are among the top 25 in the world in terms of quality of living, according to this global survey published today.
And my friend Merisi, proprietress of this excellent --> BLOG, will be happy [but probably not too shocked] to see that the overall top spot on the Mercer Quality of Living Survey goes to her very own Austrian city of Vienna.
Vancouver is the top Canadian city among 221 ranked this year, sharing the No. 4 spot with Auckland, New Zealand.
The other Canadian cities in the top 25 are Ottawa at 14, Toronto at 16 and Montreal at 21. Calgary was ranked No. 28 on the overall quality of living ranking but got the top spot on a new ecology ranking.
Sorry, my dear Yankee readers, but no American city made the top 25 on the Mercer list.
Honolulu had the top ranking in the United States at # 31.
Vive l' Ottawa!


Splash du Jour: Wednesday

Larry King and his wife are now not getting a divorce. Apparently there was a scheduling conflict with his next wedding.
-- David Letterman --

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

Once you are into the life of writing, you are never really rid of your inner voices, and they are certainly not all your own. They will exhaust themselves for a time, but then there will be another siege and you will have to sit down and do something about it.

-- Barry Hannah --

Have a great Tuesday!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Splash du Jour: Friday

Life is oblivion erupting, for a brief moment, into non-oblivion in order so that oblivion may proclaim: 'I am.' The assumption being, of course, that living things are aware enough to make such a proclamation. Let us suppose that they are. Let us suppose that they are, to a degree, self-aware. This makes for the possibility of life recognizing itself, yes, but not as oblivion, only as life. In order for life to recognize itself as a fleeting pulse of oblivion, self-awareness, must be refined into pure awareness, which is observation unimpaired by either ego or preconceptions.
-- from The Romantic, by Barbara Gowdy --

Abel, a character from Gowdy's novel makes the above statement in an essay he has written, called Oblivion. I myself would like to write a bit of an elaborative essay on what I believe is being touched upon here, for I find it to be one of the most profound passages I've encountered in fiction.

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Too Much Macaroni?

Is it even possible to have too much macaroni?
I mean -- it's like saying "Too much hamburger!"
"Too much pizza!" "Too much beer!"
"Too many holidays!"
All of these things are equally incoherent.
I'm mentioning this because I just bought a real industrial-size case of Kraft Dinner macaroni and cheese!
There are 12 boxes of it in there!
Mmmmmm -- it was during my college years -- no, actually way before that, elementary school years that I proved that a diet of 80 to 90% Kraft Dinner can indeed sustain life!
I ate it pretty much every day, after running home from school to watch The Flintstones…. with my bowl of KD balanced on the arm of the couch.
And I still love the stuff. I'm sorry.
And don't blame my mother for not providing me with more healthy noon hour lunches.
She tried.
I threatened her.
I wanted the Kraft Dinner!


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

Tyra Banks is writing a new series of kids books. She is the first supermodel to write a kids book since Kate Moss wrote Green Eggs and Crack.

-- Craig Ferguson --

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

Happy birthday to the birth control pill, which turns 50 years old this week. You know what that means? If you're 51, there's a good chance your parents didn't want you.

-- Jay Leno --

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Splash du Jour: Monday

One should attempt never to let a day pass without the acquisition of a new idea. One should never say, "What is the use?" for it is useful to know everything in the world.
-- La Marquise de la Tour du Pin --

Have a great Monday!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I Don't Believe You / Pink

I appreciate good phrasing in a song.
And Pink is singing this song with perfect phrasing.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Splash du Jour: Friday

Question: What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A canoe, mixed sun and cloud, no deadlines in sight.
-- Margaret Atwood --

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Spider Eviction

Generally speaking, I don't like killing things.
I would be the world's absolute worst hunter.
All the gun-toting guys would be all quiet and sneaky and everything -- and then there would be me, thrashing around ahead of them, telling all the deers or bears or whatever to "RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!"
Ted Nugent and I will never be pals!
I don't mind killing bugs, though. I hate bugs.
But spiders?
I have some sort of phobia about killing spiders.
It seems to me downright unbiblical! I don't like doing it.
Often I will find a spider doing something on one of the walls in here, or on the ceiling or whatever -- and I don't squash it. I get a big glass, and trap it inside there. Then I open up my kitchen window [I'm on the 14th floor] and I toss the bewildered arachnid out into the great beyond.
I just did that a few minutes ago… the spider is probably already happily ensconced in some lower apartment, scouting out the corners that would be most conducive to web-building!
As I retract my arm from the window, I always make sure that he [or she?] isn't still hanging on somehow by their ass-threads. It's amazing how they can do that!
I always thoroughly wash the glass out, yes. Because [think about it] eight spider-feet were tramping around in there.
For even more profound thoughts about bugs, click
--> HERE.

Splash du Jour: Thursday

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

The religious impulse – which includes the sense of awe and mystery we feel when we look at the universe, the urge to find a meaning and a purpose in our lives, our sense of moral kinship with other human beings – is part of being human, and I value it. I'd be a damn fool not to. But organized religion is quite another thing. The trouble is that all too often in human history, churches and priesthoods have set themselves up to rule people's lives in the name of some invisible god (and they're all invisible, because they don't exist) – and done terrible damage. In the name of their god, they have burned, hanged, tortured, maimed, robbed, violated, and enslaved millions of their fellow-creatures, and done so with the happy conviction that they were doing the will of God, and they would go to Heaven for it. That is the religion I hate, and I'm happy to be known as its enemy.
-- Philip Pullman --

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Skellig... [My Books Were All To Me]

In my reading of Atwood this evening, she mentions the legend of The Lady of Shallot. This has led me to a rediscovery of my Loreena McKennitt CD's.
One of her songs is The Lady of Shallot.
But this other song, Skellig, is also one of my favorites...


O light the candle, John

The daylight has almost gone
The birds have sung their last
The bells call all to mass

Sit here by my side
For the night is very long
There's something I must tell
Before I pass along

I joined the brotherhood
My books were all to me
I scribed the words of God
And much of history

Many a year was I
Perched out upon the sea
The waves would wash my tears,
The wind, my memory

I'd hear the ocean breathe
Exhale upon the shore
I knew the tempest's blood
Its wrath I would endure

And so the years went by
Within my rocky cell
With only a mouse or bird
My friend; I loved them well

And so it came to pass
I'd come here to Romani
And many a year it took
Till I arrived here with thee

On dusty roads I walked
And over mountains high
Through rivers running deep
Beneath the endless sky

Beneath these jasmine flowers
Amidst these cypress trees
I give you now my books
And all their mysteries

Now take the hourglass
And turn it on its head
For when the sands are still
'Tis then you'll find me dead

O light the candle, John
The daylight is almost gone
The birds have sung their last
The bells call all to mass

-- Music and Lyrics: Loreena McKennitt.
c.1997 Quinlan Road Music Ltd. --


Splash du Jour: Tuesday

And you read your Emily Dickinson,
And I my Robert Frost,
And we note our place with bookmarkers

That measure what we've lost.
-- Simon and Garfunkel --

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Splash du Jour: Monday

In my experience, writing is not like having dreams. It's not that unconscious. It's much more deliberate. You can add or subtract anything, and you can shape your material into a coherent pattern. When I write a poem or a novel I'm not interested in transcribing my dreams or "expressing myself." If I want to express myself I can go out in the back field and scream. It takes a lot less time.
-- Margaret Atwood --

Have a great Monday!

Sunday, May 09, 2010

All That Follows

Picture yourself sitting down with a cup of tea [in England] in front of your television, tuned to CNN's [maybe BBC's?] latest breaking news. There on the screen you recognize the face of the terrorist.
More precisely, his hair. You know this guy.
So you pull up an archived image from the "on-screen toolbar" [the year is 2024 so the technology is there…] and sure enough -- this "terrorist" is an old acquaintance of yours. You haven't seen him for 18 years, but that hair gives him away.
This is exactly what happens to Jim Crace's protagonist in the new novel All That Follows.
Leonard Lessing is a middle-of-the-road jazz saxophonist taking a bit of a breather from the music circuit due to a terrible shoulder injury. He's had his own brief / half-hearted history of social activism, but apparently his friend Maxie Lermontov has continued to be a radical.
Here he is on the tele, holding an entire family hostage in a nearby house.
Intrigued, Leonard joins the throng of media and curious onlookers at the actual scene, and there he discovers Maxie's teen-age daughter, Lucy -- who has made the courageous move [one Leonard was hesitant of doing] of identifying her father to the authorities.
Leonard befriends her and becomes embroiled in her scheme to force her father to surrender before anyone is harmed.
The pre-story is that back in Austin, Texas [2006], Maxie and Nadia [<-- Lucy's mother] along with Leonard, had staged a botched attempt to heckle the then-president of the United States, George W. Bush. At that time, Lucy was still in the gestational stage of life, and Leonard was madly in love with the pregnant Nadia. Now, 18 years on, and happily married to Francine, Leonard must decide how involved he is going to get in the current troubles of the Lermontov family.
The answer is --> he gets very involved.
And in doing so, Leonard discovers more about himself and his relationship with his wife Francine than he ever would have known had he flicked off his television that day, pretending not to see. Not to know.

This book is Crace's 10th novel.
And it is pretty much a "10".
This was a book that I remained engaged in, from start to finish. I found it well-paced, and would note that Crace maintained a reader-friendly grasp of the time frames being discussed. One is not left roaming between Texas and England [which, by the way, contains a lot of deep water to drown in]… he knows where he is going, he knows where these characters have been and where they are now, and you can trust him with that. He occasionally walks you through emotionally-charged avenues far beyond the skeletal synopsis above… which is to say [in disclaimer-like fashion] that the book is much weightier than my light words about it.
It is the third Crace book I have read and enjoyed. Shall not be my last.
Likewise, I encourage you to read All That Follows [or precedes] this one.
For more info, please check this wonderful review
--> HERE.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Go Ahead! ASK ME!

Ask me if I am excited!
The first thing I did when I heard that Roger Waters was coming to my town was -- I booked a week of holidays from work, to coincide with the event.
One needs time for.... preparation. One needs time for.... recuperation!
I got the days off, no argument.
Then I went for a pedicure! Followed by a professional breast massage!
[This last point is not true at all. It....... wasn't my breasts.]
Then I booked myself in to one of those spas where they put cucumber slices on your closed eyelids!
Let's be serious now.
There is no music that has ever been invented that can rival that of Pink Floyd.
And I don't much care who you think is better.
You are wrong.
You are -- unenlightened!
On October 17th, in The Year of Our Lord Waters -- he shall be performing The Wall in its entirety -- in my city.
And I --
-- shall --
be --

Splash du Jour: Friday


Forgive me, for only tonight I realize it.
The fool I have been.
Now, I want to listen, and so deeply
that with your every breath
words are noise.
Let me listen.
I want you to lean into me, not saying anything,
but trembling, feel me tremble.

Whisper. Tell me what moves you.
I want to know what moves you.
More than ever opening my eyes
again, I want to know.
What moves you.

I said these things to you
as the night itself turned us inside out.

We looked at the river in the moonlight.
And a log went by, floating.
On it, a duck stood.

It was when we fell back on the grass
laughing, I knew. You would never
never be gone, were a cyclone to take you
from me.
Nor I, from you.

And we trembled in the grass together,
until we shivered.
knowing it.

c. Ciprianowords Inc. 2007

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Vehicular Omnipresence

I'm throwing this out there, casting the net far and wide.
After all manner of new car-searching and re-searching -- I am thinking of maybe deciding upon a new Mazda 3.
Now -- if what I see as I drive down any street in my city here is any indication -- fully over 50% of the people reading this blog right now are DRIVING a Mazda 3.
They're like……. Jesus!
Mazda 3's are the closest thing to Vehicular Omnipresence I have ever experienced.
There's got to be some good reasons for this.
Check this out, [the following experiment] next time you are at a red light:
Look to the left, right, and yonder.
How many Mazda 3's do you see?
SIX, right?
Zoom-Zoom, indeed.
I saw a BLIND guy driving one the other day, now that's impressive. I guess what sold him was the Braille-steering wheel option!
I test-drove a used one. I SORT of liked it. But I want a NEW one. They changed certain things in 2010, the car is moulded a bit differently, and it has a terrific rear end.
I love the new tail-lights.
My old car, much as I love it -- ten years on now, it's got to go.
Another Ottawa winter may have me putting my mechanic's kid through all fourteen years of university!
And that's just not a sensible………. option, for me.

0% financing -- why am I wasting time talking about it?

Splash du Jour: Thursday

There is no remedy for death--or birth--except to hug the spaces in between. Live loud. Live wide. Live tall.
-- Jim Crace, in Being Dead --

Have a great Thursday! Live tall!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

My readers are intelligent: I don't write for stupid people. Now mark this carefully, because otherwise I shall be misquoted and vilified again – we are all stupid, and we are all intelligent. The line dividing the stupid from the intelligent goes right down the middle of our heads. Others may find their readership on the stupid side: I don't. I pay my readers the compliment of assuming that they are intellectually adventurous.
-- Philip Pullman --

Have a great Tuesday!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

The Good Man Pullman

Jesus's last name was not Christ.
You would not have found in zero-century Nazareth a mailbox labelled Joseph and Mary Christ.
The word "Christ" is a title [meaning "Messiah"] once attributed to a man by the name of Jesus.
And the story of his life and death and re-life is, arguably, the most influential story ever told. Above all though, it is important to understand that it is a STORY.
As subject to interpretation and well…. subjectivity as is the appellation "Christ" itself! Philip Pullman's latest foray into fundamentalist-infested waters is entitled The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ.
He nabs you by the gasp-valve with the opening sentence -- This is the story of Jesus and his brother Christ, of how they were born, of how they lived and of how one of them died.
That's right folks, Mary gives birth to twins one Christmas morning. Go figure.

The first lad is healthy and robust [this is Jesus] and the other is weak and sickly [Christ].
When the shepherds arrive [<-- we've all seen the Hallmark images] it is this second child that is discovered in the feeding trough, all swaddled up according to prophecy. Trust Pullman to thrust such a whimsical stick into the spokes of a bike that's been riding quite well for two millennia!
But there is a point. There is method in this madness.

As the boys mature, Jesus becomes the well-spoken preacher/teacher you would expect him to be. Crowds gather to hear his oratory. Multitudes are healed and fed, albeit due to "miracles" that have more earthly origins than in the biblical account.
And Christ becomes Jesus's greatest follower. This younger brother shadows Jesus's every movement -- becoming a hidden documentarist. Realizing that what is happening could have potential importance beyond the temporal, he gives himself fully to this role of clandestine amanuensis.
Then he meets a Stranger [angel -- demon? Only Dan Brown knows for sure]… who not only confirms Christ's "passion" [if you will], but enlightens him as to the true nature of his mission.
In what for me is one of the key passages in the book, the Stranger says, "There is time, and there is what is beyond time. History belongs to time, but truth belongs to what is beyond time. In writing of things as they should have been, you are letting truth into history. You are the word of God."
The reader [of Pullman's book] begins to unravel the importance of understanding the difference between what happened
and what has been written about what has or has not happened.
What an immense gulf exists between these two things. By way of analogy [or maybe comparison is a better word]… think of the amount of legend [myth?] that might accrue between an "event" like the parting of the Red Sea, when one realizes that the account one is reading was written five centuries after the event it describes. [Which, by the way, is the case, with the Exodus account.] So subjective. The waters parting.
Yes, amen. How wonderful, even!
As in, great story for the Jews -- yes. NOT so good for Egyptians though! Never mind the less culpable horses!

A similar scenario is possible with the Gospels, which we know were written several decades after the events they describe. And [not to get too theological here] but when one compares the first written Gospel [Mark] with the last one [John] a definite progression is apparent. We see a relatively undeveloped Christology in Mark and arrive at the opening of John, which declares [talk about your gasp-valve first sentences] that Jesus is all of a sudden GOD!
Was existent, equal with the Creator, even before being earthly born!
Mark somehow missed this passing tidbit of trivia.
And prior to any of the Gospels being written, we have the books of Paul. It is no longer even debated by anyone worth their matzoh-balls that the writings of Paul influenced what is found in the Gospels.
And the reverse evidence of story-doctoring can be seen. For instance, Paul never ever mentions the "virgin" aspect of the birth of Jesus, yet the Gospels [written later]… do.
If this were an actual event, would Paul not have written of it, having preceded them? Would he have left such a barn-burner story for the Gospel writers to scoop?
would have been more on the ball!

Back to this Pullman book -- it is a work of genius. Because in a non-offensive way [at least I think it is subtle and respectful] he is able to effectively emphasize that what we have in the Gospels is a subjective RENDERING of events that have very little need to be literalized in order to be significant.
As the back of this book's dust jacket says, THIS IS a STORY.

<-- It is one of the few books I can say has a more important backside than frontside!
I love how the author puts it: ''The story I tell comes out of the tension within the dual nature of Jesus Christ, but what I do with it is my responsibility alone. Parts of it read like a novel, parts like a history, and parts like a fairy tale; I wanted it to be like that because it is, among other things, a story about how stories become stories.''
How stories become stories.
Here is the thing to take away from this book….
No matter what it is you believe about the man Jesus, you need to understand that what was said of him subsequent to his untimely demise was:
a) written by a fallible human being.
b) written commensurate with all of the inaccuracies and embellishments prone to the above-mentioned species of vertebrate.
c) written decades after the very events and/or non-events they describe.
d) edited and redacted by even MORE infallible human beings…. because as time marches on there is only one thing that grows in direct proportion to distance, and that is the increasingly invalid reasons to be infallible.

None of what we read in the "sacred" text of either Old or New Testaments was written while watching videotaped evidence of a previous day's occurrences.
No need to pick only on Christianity.
The same thing applies to all religions based on myth.
That is why the Canongate series has thrown the net far beyond Christianity.
But here in The Good Man Pullman it has caught a big fish, with a bright flashy coin in its mouth.
Then --> GET IT!
Or… vice versa.