Friday, September 30, 2011

Splash du Jour: Friday

INTERVIEWER: How do you take your coffee?
MARGARET ATWOOD: With cream or steamed milk, or sometimes I have an espresso. Of course, it depends what country you’re in. I’m old enough to remember when the waiters in Paris would come to your table and pour the coffee from a great height, and at the same time, they’d pour the hot milk, and the two streams would meet above your cup. It was an art form. You’d order it just to see them do it.

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Margaret Atwood... Coffee?

You cannot be serious!
This morning I got an email notice from Chapters Books [a.k.a. !ndigo], announcing a new blend of coffee inspired by, and endorsed by one of my favourite authors ever -- Margaret Atwood.
Here's the lowdown:
In a partnership with Balzac’s Coffee Roasters, Canadian author and birdlife protector Margaret Atwood has created an artisanal roasted blend of Latin American Fair Trade and organic shade-grown coffee. Rich with flavour and aroma, this mild blend has a smooth and subtle caramel finish that will appeal to all of your senses. $1.00 of the proceeds from each bag will be donated to Pelee Island Bird Observatory, a non-profit organization devoted to the study and conservation of migratory birds.
I'm excited about this and can't wait to drink some.
Along with this coffee news, Her Royal Maggieness also has a new book coming out soon [in about two weeks]. It's a book of essays about the genre of science-fiction writing, called In Other Worlds.
Funny story --> Earlier this week I struck up a conversation with a total stranger just because I saw that he was reading Salman Rushdie [Midnight's Children]. Most of our conversation focused on "foreign" authors that we mutually admire. I focussed heavily on Jose Saramago.
As we parted ways he asked what I was currently reading, which was Linden MacIntyre's Cape Breton based book, The Bishop's Man. My friend immediately said that he loathes "Canadian authors" to which I vehemently countered with my opinion that Canada can boast some of the greatest authors living today!
He said, "Well, PLEASE don't tell me that you like……….. " [there was literally a pause, but I KNEW what he was going to say, so I said it for him…] "Margaret Atwood?"
I could tell by his sudden apoplexy that I had indeed hit the mark!
"Oh, I LOVE her," I said. "I've read practically everything she's ever written and I love all of it."
To which my new friend could not get out of my presence fast enough. It was as though I had just negated everything I had previously said about fine literature in our day!
Ah, well -- I don't care what anyone says, I love Margaret Atwood.
I've met her several times and she is always so friendly, witty, and almost inhumanly intelligent. I look forward to everything she writes, and now I can look forward to drinking her coffee!


Splash du Jour: Thursday

It's a shame that the only thing a man can do for eight hours a day is work. He can't eat for eight hours; he can't drink for eight hours; he can't make love for eight hours. The only thing a man can do for eight hours is work.
-- William Faulkner --

Have a great Thursday!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.

-- Aldous Huxley --

Have a nice Tuesday!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Splash du Jour: Monday

I think of Mullins often. For priests like him and others I could name, the Gospels are rich with insights to be applied to the human condition. They even find logic in the superstition. They can trace a clear path through all the infantile promises of literal salvation and arrive at an objective truth that they carry in their pockets like a smooth, warm stone. What is it about them?
-- Linden MacIntyre, The Bishop's Man --

Have a great Monday!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

I [Heart] Saturdays!

I just love Saturdays, where I can take a good book out onto the balcony, sit there with a minimal amount of clothes on [my hair carefully arranged in a style I like to think of as "Early Neanderthal"] and drink the best beverage on earth. Coffee.
Do not even argue with me, you tea-drinkers!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Splash du Jour: Friday

….maybe individuals who enjoy higher levels of confidence and self-esteem are simply more likely to wind up unbelievers. A majority of today's unbelievers began their lives in some religious tradition then thought their way out of it. Maybe individuals already disposed toward greater confidence, self-reliance and fortitude are better able to follow their worldview odyssey clear to the shores of unbelief.
-- Tom Flynn, editor of Free Inquiry -- [my favourite magazine].

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Splash du Jour: Thursday

"If you were an atheist, Birbal," the Emperor challenged his first minister, "what would you say to the true believers of all the great religions of the world?"
Birbal was a devout Brahmin from Trivikrampur, but he answered unhesitatingly, "I would say to them that in my opinion they were all atheists as well; I merely believe in one god less than each of them."

"How so?" the Emperor asked.
"All true believers have good reasons for disbelieving in every god except their own," said Birbal. "And so it is they who, between them, give me all the reasons for believing in none."
-- Salman Rushdie, The Enchantress of Florence --

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Soaring Above Distinctions

As readers of Bookpuddle well know, I like to muse upon philosophical matters [if that's the right word for my glaze-eyed staring off into the distance] and these musings have a tendency to veer off into the realm of theology.
In a word, I can't help but question, and continually question, a lot of things I formerly believed in. The past decade of my life is one in which reason has trumped a former faith.
Most often, I am jogged into these musings through the events or dialogue I find embedded in fiction -- in novels. And something of that nature has again happened today, in my reading of Anne Bronte's [1848] The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.
In today's reading, Helen is trying to dissuade Gilbert, a love-struck admirer. He declares his undying love for her and asks for her hand but she continually repels him, basing her rejection on what is basically the body of the entire novel -- the failure of her marriage to another man.
Technically, she is not "single."
In her argument with the amorous Gilbert, she tries to appease him with the idea that "there is perfect love in Heaven!"
In other words, if they just wait until they die, they can meet again up there and things will be all fine and [presumably] dandy! The problems of earthly life will no longer be a hinderance.
As Gilbert considers this scenario he replies:
"So perfect , I suppose, that it soars above distinctions , and you will have no closer sympathy with me than with any one of the ten thousand angels and the innumerable multitude of happy spirits round us."

To me, his well-reasoned response is a perfect exposure of some of the silly ideas that are prevalent in a lot of religious thinking about the after-life.
The scene itself leads me to ponder so many philosophical [and/or theological] questions.
For instance, what is it that the tenants of heaven are supposed to DO for eternity?
I recently asked a very committed Christian person this very question and his answer was immediate -- "The Bible is very clear, we shall worship the Lord and say 'Holy - holy - holy' all the time."
I said to him, "Is this what you do 'all the time' right now, in your earthly existence? As much as you love God, don't you do other things than just worship Him day and night?"
"Yes," he replied -- "but I always remain in an attitude of worship as I go about my business."
Fair enough, but think about it -- what he is saying is just another way of excusing the distraction of "business".
I followed up by saying to him that even in church or in prayer -- even at your most worshipful and reverent moments -- for how LONG can you just focus upon this intense praise of Him?
My point was that even a solid hour of such a thing would be wearying almost to the point of human collapse, much less doing this for an eternity. If it was me even at the peak of my religious fervour, somewhere among that sixty minutes I guarantee you I would be distracted by visions of hamburgers or coffee or beautiful women, or any number of other things that are NOT JEHOVAH!
And so, to think of doing this very thing eternally, I instantly realize that there is nothing within me that would DESIRE such a prolonged homage.
When I pressed my saintly friend along these very lines, he followed up by agreeing with me, but explained that in that heavenly state we will be changed [sort of angelic or something, transfigured or whatnot] and that we will then have the desire and power to do this constant act of worshiping, a power that we lack in our earthly condition.
But then this is the point where it comes right back to what Gilbert is saying to Helen in Bronte's novel.
If we are altered like this when we get to heaven, what is the good of saying that it is YOU doing this thing? And how [and why] does this "altering" take place?
Wouldn't such worship be almost meaningless if we were divinely aided in the accomplishing of it?
Wouldn't "love" be degraded [as Gilbert argues] if it were merely dispersed all over the place in equal measure, soaring above distinctions?
Isn't real love, true love -- everything we have ever known of love -- far more the result of profoundly earthly predicaments, rather than heavenly?
[I think I know what Gilbert would say...]


Splash du Jour: Wednesday

Run, rabbit, run.

Dig that hole. Forget the sun.
And when at last your work is done,
don't sit down, it's time to dig another one.
-- Pink Floyd, lyrics to Breathe --
[That verse exemplifies how I feel about going to work this morning….

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

When you drink Vodka over ice, it can give you kidney failure.
When you drink Rum
over ice, it can give you liver failure.
When you drink Whiskey
over ice, it can give you heart problems.
When you drink Gin
over ice, it can give you brain failure.
Apparently, ice is bad for you.

Have a great Tuesday!


Monday, September 19, 2011

Splash du Jour: Monday

I believe it was Shakespeare, or possibly Howard Cosell, who first observed that marriage is very much like a birthday candle, in that "the flames of passion burn brightest when the wick of intimacy is first ignited by the disposable butane lighter of physical attraction, but sooner or later the heat of familiarity causes the wax of boredom to drip all over the vanilla frosting of novelty and the shredded coconut of romance." I could not have phrased it better myself.
-- Dave Barry --

Have a great Monday!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Recent, Beer-Induced Poem

The Next Slow One

It was hellish to wait watching you dance with others,
while lovely.
Agonizing to envision future cowardice on my part.
The time would come.

But a tree grew taller in the interim. Forests were born
and died, turning to coal.
Countries were toured, sunny beaches lain upon
before [miracle] --

the band, slowing as my heart raced in apposite time
obliged my resolve.
The first notes of that song an echo of your smile --
you gave me your hand.

-- © Ciprianowords, Inc. 2011 --

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Reading my favorite author [Jose Saramago] on my favorite ocean. The Pacific one.

Happy Saturday to you all!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Answer - by Sarah

When it comes to books and music those who know me well know that my tastes and preferences are hard to pin down to any one sort of genre. In other words, I read and listen to a diverse and wide range of authors and musicians. I love a lot of divergent topics and sounds. And styles.
Tonight, as I sit here at Starbucks -- a short word about music.
Do you ever wonder what might be your favourite song ever?
if someone asked you, would you be ready with an… answer?
As I said, I have such an expansive appreciation of music -- I love so many different styles, from AC/DC, Tool & Mettallica --> Rascal Flatts & Vince Gill --> Dvorak & Brahms --> Eva Cassidy --> B.B. King & Eric Clapton --> JOHN MAYER & COLLECTIVE SOUL [upper-case intentional] --> David Gilmour / Roger Waters… according to what mood I'm in I probably can be found at any given time listening to one or another of these kinds of artists. In fact, there is only one genre of music I particularly dislike altogether, but I'd rather not name it here because I don't want to alienate a couple of my friends, who happen to dig it.
At any rate, one artist whom I especially love is Sarah McLachlan.
I have even met her, on several occasions, all of which have confirmed her to be not only a great composer / singer / musician, but also a lovely person.
The point of this blog tonight is to say that if someone were to ask me what my absolute favourite song is -- truthfully I would probably have to go with Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd, but after that, it would be this one, called Answer.
I love everything about it, even its silences. I love the lyrics, the cellos [or whatever they are] the way she plays the piano -- and to those type of ultimate questions we ask of ourselves or are asked by others, this song seems to me to beautifully represent the essence of the ultimate... answer.

Splash du Jour: Thursday


There were dots on her shoulder, more than this
I cannot say. In that moment I closed my eyes
and leaned into her

Any scientist will tell you that no one has ever escaped
such a journey. Gravitational forces are too great
and at that speed you are

In that moment, time itself reconsiders, and yet
cannot do anything about its current direction.
Everything you have ever wanted to do, you are

© Ciprianowords, Inc. 2009

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Week At The Airport

Recently I read a terrific little book.
Alain de Botton's A Week at the Airport.
It was my seventh venture into the world of de Botton -- and as always, a wonderful, thoughtful, humorous, and rewarding time.
In this, his most recent book, the Swiss-born, London-living author is commissioned by BAA [they own London's Heathrow Airport] to spend a week as writer-in-residence. Like Tom Hanks in Terminal he is there ALL THE TIME, except in this case, the vagrant brandishes an all-expense-paid voucher for everything, including lavish meals in The Concorde Room and his sleeping quarters in the attached hotel.
Furnished with a desk in the very middle of all the action [see photo below] Alain was given free-access to everything Heathrow! In his inimitably witty and incisive way, he proceeds to illuminate all aspects of airport life, modestly sprinkling his wealth of incidental knowledge as he goes. And as you turn the pages, you are met with the brilliant accompanying photographs of Richard Baker. Oh, what a beautiful book.

I think my favourite part was when the author visits the in-house book store.
After his bracketed note that none of his own titles are on the shelves he goes on to discuss what is, in fact, there. Ironically, TERROR seems to be a predominant genre! You've got to admit, airport bookstores are indeed reaching out to a different clientele than your local antiquarian bookseller. The author strikes up a convo with store manager Manishankar:
"I explained…that I was looking for the sort of books in which a genial voice expresses emotions that the reader has long felt, but never before really understood; those that convey the secret, everyday things that society at large prefers to leave unsaid; those that make one feel somehow less alone and strange."
As I read this, I nearly spewed coffee through my nose!
Because I had to realize that these are exactly the kind of books that de Botton himself writes!
Then this: Manishankar wondered if I might like a magazine instead.
In my opinion, de Botton could be assigned the topic of "Sewer Effluent in the Middle Ages" and produce a book along those lines which would thoroughly engage the reader.
So -- just think of what he does with this airport!

It is definitely a worthwhile read! I highly recommend that you find yourself a copy of this thing, and while you're at it, pick up some other works by this author.
You will not be disappointed.
In an interview, when asked what he does all day, Alain replied “Sit at home, at the top of the house, and think about stuff."
Any reader will be thankful that de Botton does not stay up there, but climbs down from the attic…. and writes.


Splash du Jour: Wednesday

The world of the living contains enough marvels and mysteries as it is -- marvels and mysteries acting upon our emotions and intelligence in ways so inexplicable that it would almost justify the conception of life as an enchanted state. No, I am too firm in my consciousness of the marvellous to be ever fascinated by the mere supernatural, which (take it any way you like) is but a manufactured article, the fabrication of minds insensitive to the intimate delicacies of our relation to the dead and to the living, in their countless multitudes; a desecration of our tenderest memories; an outrage on our dignity. Whatever my native modesty may be it will never condescend so low as to seek help for my imagination within those vain imaginings common to all ages and that in themselves are enough to fill all lovers of mankind with unutterable sadness.
-- Joseph Conrad --

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

Talk about leaving your toddler with the wrong bedtime story!

Have a great Tuesday, y'all!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Splash du Jour: Monday

To be clear: an ideology is a belief system with an inadequate basis in reality; a religion is a belief system with no basis in reality whatever. Religious belief is without reason and without dignity, and its record is near-universally dreadful. It is straightforward -- and never mind, for now, about plagues and famines: if God existed, and if he cared for humankind, he would never have given us religion.
-- Martin Amis, The Second Plane --

Have a great Monday!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

" of the outer air."

For reasons too lengthy to go into here, it would be fair to say that the horrific events of 9/11 were instrumental in changing [altering forever] some of my deepest felt beliefs about existence itself.
It shifted not only my worldview, but also my other-world view!
No, not shifted. --> Displaced.
Exactly ten years ago [to the minute, actually] Flight 11 slammed into the North Tower and the stunned world assumed it to be [merely] a terrible aviation disaster. But seventeen minutes later, the second plane -- ach, it's too sad to talk about.

Whenever I come across a passage in fiction that mentions the World Trade Center… I pause, and remember. This happened a while ago as I was reading Martin Amis's [1984] novel Money, and the protagonist/narrator said:
I turned, taking the sun full in the face. Up here with the high windows, Manhattan was hidden and you saw only the twin shafts of the World Trade Center, two gold lighters against the strong and pressing blue of the outer air. I shook my head. The mote in my eye, that dead spot where no light lives, wiggled its black finger at me.

Those buildings no longer stand -- and thousands are dead, largely due to a certifiably insane belief in prophetic words.
So, far be it from me to add Martin Amis to some list of….. prophets.
But the last line of that excerpt does have a coincidentally prescient nature to it.
It serves, however, along with the photo I posted above -- to remind me, and remind me profoundly -- that I do not believe in prophecy. Or prophets.
I once believed in both, and now I am ashamed of that fact.

Currently I am reading yet another book by Martin Amis. It's called The Second Plane and it's a collection of essays and short stories about the events of Sept.11, 2001. It's such a well-written, deeply sobering book.
Will that day, ten years ago, ever make sense to anyone?
Mainly because what caused it never will, either.
In the Foreword to The Second Plane, Amis writes:
I was once asked: "Are you an Islamophobe?" And the answer is no. What I am is an Islamismophobe, or better say an anti-Islamist, because a phobia is an irrational fear, and it is not irrational to fear something that says it wants to kill you. The more general enemy, of course, is extremism. What has extremism ever done for anyone? Where are its gifts to humanity? Where are its works?


Friday, September 09, 2011

Splash du Jour: Friday

Objectively good places to work rarely end up being so; in their faultlessness, quiet and well-equipped studies have a habit of rendering the fear of failure overwhelming. Original thoughts are like shy animals. We sometimes have to look the other way -- towards a busy street or terminal -- before they run out of their burrows.
-- Alain de Botton, on writing his most recent book AT the airport. --

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Splash du Jour: Thursday

I consider books to be good for our health, and also our spirits, and they help us to become poets or scientists, to understand the stars or else to discover them deep within the aspirations of certain characters, those who sometimes, on certain evenings, escape from the pages and walk among us humans, perhaps the most human of us all.
-- Jose Saramago --

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, September 07, 2011


Theologically speaking, is it incorrect to suspect you have entered "nirvana" simply by picking up a wonderful six-pack of Moosehead beer and an awesome pizza from Angelo's down the street?
Let's see -- nirvana, by definition, is the state of being free from suffering. In Hindu philosophy, it's the union with the Supreme being through moksha. The Buddha described it as the perfect peace of the state of mind that is free from craving, anger, and other afflicting states.
Hmmm... I'm craving another slice, and another beer.
So maybe it's not quite nirvana I'm experiencing?
All I know is that as I eat and drink this stuff, I do feel as though I am communing with some sort of deity, by way of pepperoni and mozzarella.
Hey, we all have our own paths to god!
Just thought I'd drop by and let you all know that I cannot imagine a greater sense of fulfillment, no matter how many incarnations I've had to go through to be right here tonight.
With my pizza and beer.
[Cipriano, isn't Bookpuddle supposed to be about "books" at least once in a while?]
True enough, O Faithful Reader!
But now and again I do like to touch upon the topic of Serendipitous Enlightenment.


Splash du Jour: Wednesday

Here's exactly how I feel this morning.
But noooooooo -- I have to go to work!

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

The world today doesn't make sense, so why should I paint pictures that do?

-- Pablo Picasso --

Have a great Tuesday!

Sunday, September 04, 2011

The Friendly Squirrel

There are few things I love better than a good long weekend. And today was a beauty of a nice Sunday!
I have tomorrow off! Yayyyyy!
My day began with a severely artery clogging late breakfast at Smoke's Poutinerie followed by inordinate amounts of Starbuckian coffee and book reading. Some of you may not even know what "poutine" is, so, a word may be in order.
Poutine... umm -- it has mysterious French-Canadian origins and is a relatively new invention in the genre of Food That Will Most Likely Kill You Tomorrow.
Let's see. Basically, it's a pile of french fries drenched in gravy and cheese curds, and if you are at an up-scale poutinerie [like Smoke's] -- well, they beef it up in like a dozen or so different ways. Adding stuff to it.
A typical "grace" at Smoke's is something like, "Father forgive me, for I know not what I eat!" Then you dig in.
Te absolvo!

For the severely uninitiated, I've provided a visual --> HERE.
So after this escapade in haute cuisine, as I said, followed by gallons of coffee, I was wallowing in a sea of gastronomic guilt. Walking through the open-air Market I figured I'd offset my sins by purchasing some organically grown produce.
I bought a bag of peaches, a large onion, and some broccoli.
On my way home I stopped by my favorite little courtyard, set my bags down and resumed the reading of my book.
A few pages into chapter 57 I heard a scampering, rustling sound behind me.
A squirrel was literally hopping along the back of the bench where I sat. So I turned around, and we had a little chat...

The Friendly Squirrel persisted in nuzzling around me, and honestly, the thing was so dreadfully cute that I thought I would break off a chunk of broccoli stalk to see what he [or she?] would do with it...

It was readily apparent that this squirrel is not a vegan. I could so relate!
We had so much in common in that moment! So, realizing the onion was not an option, I reached into one of the bags and bit off a piece of organically-grown peach. The Friendly Squirrel took it straight from my fingers...

Things were getting progressively cuter by the moment. I gave The Friendly Squirrel some more... and it tied right into that, with a vigor reminiscent of how I had earlier attacked my poutine!

All in all, a wonderful day in my urban life.... filled with all the wonders of city living.
Readily available levels of cholesterol AND wildlife! What more does a guy need?
Little did I know as I set out today that it would end so serendipitously.
I made a new friend!

For further squirrel-related observations, click --> HERE.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Splash du Jour: Friday

We feel quite truly that our wisdom begins where that of the author ends, and we would like to have him give us answers, while all he can do is give us desires. And these desires he can arouse in us only by making us contemplate the supreme beauty which the last effort of his art has permitted him to reach. But by… a law which perhaps signifies that we can receive the truth from nobody, and that we must create it ourselves, that which is the end of their wisdom appears to us as but the beginning of ours.
-- Marcel Proust --

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Splash du Jour: Thursday

A biography of any literary person ought to deal at length with what he read and when, for in some sense, we are what we read.
-- Joseph Epstein --

Have a great Thursday!