Monday, June 30, 2014

Tonight's Blog Brought To You By The Letter...

I haven't taken part in any sort of blog-meme for quite a while, but this new one I heard of really intrigued me. I discovered it at Danielle's excellent blogpage, A Work in Progress, but apparently it originated over at another great blog -- Nonsuch Book. At any rate, I responded to it at Danielle's page and she assigned me the letter "F".
Here is the meme, as originally stated:
"Here's something that should be fun - and do get involved in the comment section! - I'm going to kick off a meme where we say our favourite book, author, song, film, and object beginning with a particular letter. And that letter will be randomly assigned to you by me, via If you'd like to join in, comment in the comment section and I'll tell you your letter! (And then, of course, the chain can keep going on your blog.)"
So, here goes -- the letter F:

Favorite Book: For me this is a bit of a toss-up between Fingersmith, by Sarah Waters, and Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury. But in all seriousness, I'm going to go with Sarah Waters, because I was riveted to her story from page 1 to 548, and the twists and turns in the thing caused me to have to see a chiropractor afterwards.

Favorite Author: Again, a bit of a rivalry going on in my mind, between John Fowles and F. Scott Fitzgerald, but I'm gong to go with Fowles, because his French Lieutenant's Woman just levelled me, and was one of my favourite 5 books, in the year that I read it.
Favorite Song: At first I thought of Fifty-Mission Cap, by The Tragically Hip. Admittedly, a great song. But after "re-thinking my inks" as the late great Chis Farley might say, [and incidentally, he's my favorite "F" comedian] I have to go with Fields of Gold, as performed by Eva Cassidy. Sting is OK, but Eva Cassidy….. well, she's just better. Think about it, she's singing that LIVE, better than anyone could ever sing it in a studio.
Favorite Film: Fabulous Baker Boys. Michelle Pfeiffer ON a grand piano. Need anyone even say anything more about that movie?
Favorite Object: I'm going to have to go straight over to the food category on this one and say Falafel. I love falafel, and even had a falafel pita this very night, for supper. Don't get too close to me in the elvator, but MY GOD I love falafel.

So those are my favourite "F"ing things!
If you would like to be assigned a letter, let me know in the comments section. 

Or if you would just like to comment in general, that's OK, too. 

Splash du Jour: Monday

Have a great Monday!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Remembering Christopher Hitchens

Those of you who have followed my blog for any length of time will know that I was [and still am] a big fan of Christopher Hitchens. When he died in 2011, I felt a profound sense of loss. There was so much left unwritten and unsaid in him -- and I find that I miss that voice of reason that I had come to rely upon, to fashion my own thinking in so many areas. Of course he was a very controversial figure, either loved or hated -- but strangely enough he also elicited both reactions [I think] in those who found it impossible to effectively argue against his pronouncements and pontifications, especially with regard to his ideas about the "poisoning" aspect of religion. What I mean to say is -- you may have not agreed with him dang nab it, but neither could you effectively counter him. His arguments were delivered so matter-of-factly and so eloquently that to dismiss him meant one had to simultaneously realize that a conscious choice was being made to favour one's own subjective wishful thinking. I have yet to see, or even envision a battle or debate with Hitchens that was, or would be, won on an intellectual level. And I am saddened that he has left the arena.
Over the years since his death I have watched as many videos and lectures as I could ever find about Hitchens -- and I have found that rarely are we given a glimpse of who he was, apart from his public persona. Even his own memoir tends to shy away from that level of transparency. But just last night I discovered a clip on YouTube that does just that. It's an interview with his wife and a small circle of his most intimate friends, and it reveals the more generous and yes, sweet side of Hitchens that could only have been described by those who knew him best.
It's 25 minutes in length and well worth watching if you feel, as I most certainly do, that we have lost one of the greatest thinkers of our time in the passing of Christopher Hitchens.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Frog Music

Tonight I finished reading Emma Donoghue's latest novel, Frog Music.
It's the story of Blanche Buenon, a former Parisian equestrian turned burlesque dancer/prostitute now living in San Francisco. Now, as in, 1876.
Blanche came to America with two men, Arthur and Ernest. All three of them were performers in the Cirque d'Hiver in France until Arthur fell from the trapeze, and the trio decided to switch gears and continents, and try for fortune in the wild west.
The story sort of blazes out on page one in media res. Blanche's friend Jenny is killed by a shotgun blast through the bedroom window, just as Blanche bends down to wrestle with her bootlaces. The bullets miss her by inches, and she is wounded by the flying glass.
Thus begins an intricate mystery -- Who pulled the trigger? And who was the intended target? Because of a series of incidents which the author will now flesh out for us -- Blanche is sure she knows the answer to these questions. Jenny has been murdered, and there can only be one reason why this happened.
The twist is, there can be many reasons. And many possible culprits.
For Emma Donoghue [an author I have grown to love and admire] this is her first foray into the genre of murder mystery. And in my opinion, she has succeeded in giving us a really suspense-filled page turner of a thriller, and here's the scoop -- all of it is based on actual events. She has taken liberties in certain areas, but most of what we find in Frog Music actually occurred in the heat-sweltering, smallpox-infested, bigotry-riddled, hate-mongerng, whore-infested city of San Francisco in that very year of 1876. 
Her research of the facts is meticulous, and the writing style is unique. The author abruptly shifts the setting and time frames as frequently as Jose Saramago does not use proper punctuation. But, as is true of both of these great authors, the astute reader is never lost. Hence, I conclude that this is what I would call a literary thriller. And packed with as much raunchy bawdiness as would cause Chaucer to blush scarlet. A great, ripping damn good read.
And in the end, you do find out who pulled the trigger. But even then, motives and peripheral involvement are questionable. Debatable. Blanche herself doubts a lot of her own findings as she makes a new life for her and her infant son in Sacramento. The one sure thing is this -- if they have not shot you yet, you've got to keep on keeping on. You've got to keep living. You've got to make the best of what you have. There is still a lot of life -- to live.

Friday, June 20, 2014

For The Love of Cats

I love cats. Always have done so. Dogs are nice, too -- but cats are more… catlike.
I love cats. And seriously, how could I not love cats, when mine is so gorgeous?
Every morning when I tie up my boots to go off to my Daily Torture… I mean, work -- he scuttles over from his observation point and grabs the end of the laces and tries to eat them. This amounts to Reason #3 that I am always late for work.
And I have to give him his treats, [Temptations] or he will not let me out the door. 

It's only after a few of those crispy nuggets that he tells me where he hid the car keys!
Then I think he singlepawedly fulfills my own fantasy and sleeps all day.
What's not to love about that?
If you are a cat lover, you must take the next three minutes and watch this videoclip, below.
Then, if you don't yet have a cat -- you must go out and get one.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.
-- Jane Austen --

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Splash du Jour: Monday

There were two things about Mama. One is she always expected the best out of me. And the other is that then no matter what I did, whatever I came home with, she acted like it was the moon I had just hung up in the sky and plugged in all the stars. Like I was that good.
-- Barbara Kingsolver, The Bean Trees --

Have a great Monday!

Friday, June 13, 2014

When She Woke

I haven't been around much lately… [no kidding!] -- but I have been reading some real great books. 
One of them was When She Woke, by Hillary Jordan.
It's so great when you pick up on a new author and are not at all disappointed. In this novel set in the not-too-distant future, the world takes new measures in the identification of "criminals". I put that word in quotation marks, because the definition of "criminal" has changed also. In a nutshell -- imagine a society run by the Tea Party on steroids! People convicted of criminal offences undergo skin pigmentation, and red stands for murder. Hannah Payne, our heroine, has aborted her fetus, and is thereby convicted of murder. 

After her trial, she wakes up... red.
If this puts you in mind of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, the coincidence is intended. This is really a modern re-telling of that timeless story. Right down to the alliteration of the nomenclature.
Hannah Payne = Hester Prynne.
And the male reason for Hannah's pregnancy is none other than the leading evangelical preacher of the day, Aidan Dale, mega-popular pastor of a mega-church.
Aidan Dale = Arthur Dimmesdale.
I trust that my readers get all these connections. I know that you do.
In Jordan's book, Hannah is driven out into a vigilante environment where there is no safe haven. 

Can you imagine being on the run for your life, even from certain members of your own family who have rejected you, and all because you did the only thing you could do to save the career [and marriage] of the person you love the most? Aidan Dale is married. Hannah is a fugitive.
The book is a real pager turner, and I have not one negative thing to say about it.
I was riveted.
And the amazing thing is that the most "evil" characters in When She Woke are those who retain whatever skin colour they were born with. This is an important, gorgeously written, fast-paced novel that profoundly illustrates the dangers inherent in a world where religion-based morality has run amok.
I think Nathaniel Hawthorne himself would give it five stars. And who am I to argue with him?


Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Sp;ash du Jour: Wednesday

I must start at the beginning, if I can find it. Beginnings are elusive things. Just when you think you have hold of one, you look back and see another, earlier beginning, and an earlier one before that. Even if you start with "Chapter One: I Am Born, " you still have the problem of antecedents, of cause and effect.
-- Hillary Jordan, Mudbound --

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

One by one, she conjured all the boxes she'd been put into: The good girl box and the good Christian box...the mistress box...the bad daughter and fallen woman boxes...She saw with a painful blaze of clarity that every one of these boxes had been of her own making, either by consent or lack of resistance. She had no right to bitterness; she had put herself in them. And she would get herself out, she vowed. And once she was out, she'd never willingly climb into another box again.
-- Hillary Jordan, When She Woke --

Have a great Tuesday!