Wednesday, December 16, 2009


When I write the words "children's books" I naturally think of ALICE IN WONDERLAND by Lewis Carroll. This book I've read many times through the years mostly because it is such a superbly crafted, wonderfully written, imaginative piece of literature. It actually goes well beyond the Children's category, and shouldn't be dismissed as just that. This book takes on philosophy, linguistics, politics, justice, and so on, and so on. The absurdity in the language and actions of the characters underline the basic limitations of our society and each other. ALICE IN WONDERLAND is an absolute masterpiece. I love it, and always have. ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS also.

There are exceptional works of literature directed towards children, but most of the them have been written a century or so ago. My wife and I have always read to our children, but almost always read the old classic children's books to them---uncensored. What I mean by this is take for instance the Brother's Grimm. Their FAIRY TALES are stark and at times quite frightening, but they hold a confirmed truth in the stories that cannot be undermined. Lately, certain groups have been trying to "water down" these classics in order to present a "nice" version of the Tales so that their kids don't see the really nasty side of life. Kids will learn about that side of life soon enough, you can be sure. I don't believe in this, but then I'm just a purest when it comes to literature.

Other books for children are; THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS by Kenneth Grahame. This is a wonderful Wimsey tale of very English animals in a delightful caper, where Toad is the uncontrollable gamester. It's excellent. And then, of course, you have all the WINNIE THE POOH series by A.A. Milne. That lovable old bear with his many friends. These books are a great delight, and children love these adventures.

I really have to say something about Walt Disney, and his compulsive trashing of the classics in his ridiculous cartoons. I don't think there is anyone or any company who has done so much damage to the world's greatest children's classics then Walt Disney. He(and his company) have altered, toned down, rearranged, rewritten, and damaged beyond repair almost all the old classic literature for children. Children now see Scrooge as a duck, Alice as an air-head, Winnie the pooh as a sap, and so on. It's a shame. Until these kids actually read the books, they will only "know" these great characters as Disney erroneously presented them in the cartoons. Therefore, I think, there are a lot of people who have never really read these books, and don't really know them, even when they think they do because they saw the Disney cartoon. It is a shame.

Anyway, enough of the rant. Other books are anything by Robert Louis Stevenson. THE BLACK ARROW, TREASURE ISLAND, KIDNAPPED, of course. DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE is not a child's book, and Stevenson nearly got beaten up for writing it. People at that time couldn't understand why he would write such an evil novel---we're glad he did.

Today there are many, many books directed to children, and not all squeaky clean either. Any of the wonderful Harry Potter books comes to mind. I read them all. My daughter sent me the first one way back a few years ago, and told me to read it. I did, and I was hooked. The Harry Potter series is quite excellent, quite exciting, and quite rich in anything written in this field. Maybe in a later post I'll talk exclusively about HP.
Stephenie Meyer's TWILIGHT series is also very popular, and directed toward the young. I find this series at times very silly, poorly written, and does not contain any valuable literary worth. But it's fun to read, and enjoyable to follow the characters. Anything to keep people, no matter whet age, to continue to read.
Neil Gaiman's CORALINE is also a very good "modern" child's book. Nightmarish and exciting---although a few things "lifted from ALICE---this book ranks up there with one of the best. But I don't think it will actually have lasting appeal.

My next post will be my "50th". I don't believe it! I usually bail out from anything like this by now. I must celebrate, so my next post theme will remain a mystery

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Ah, Hermann Hesse. How many still remember how important and influencial this old German writer was during the heady days of the 60's? Hermann Hesse is a German writer belonging to the early part of the last century---he died in 1962. He was the most read author of the university scene, and picked up by the hippies and artsy types soon after. A person wasn't really into current literature at the time unless he/she was well versed in the novels of this beloved author. I still have all his books I bought and read so many years ago. I'll list some of them.

SIDDHARTHA was about the young Buddah, his early life and his great revelations. This was a must for the college crowd who were getting weary of Christian dominance.
STEPPENWOLF. Yes, this is where the Canadian rock band got its name. This is a great book, probably one of his best. By the way, In San Francisco they have the "Magic Theatre" play groups which have become quite famous. They got their name from this book where Hesse writes about the "magic Theatre fo Madman Only". Good book.
Others are: BENEATH THE WHEEL---sad novel about a young boy and how the demands of his school destroyed him.
JOURNEY TO THE EAST and THE GLASS BEAD GAME were sought after eagerly; great books.

I remember sometime in the 70's there was a PEANUTS cartoon in the newspaper that mentioned Hesse. I believe Snoopy was trying to read a modern novel and getting nowhere with it, so he sat back in his doghouse and said,"Oh well, back to Hesse". Honestly, looking at the line-up of novels lately, I understand the sentiment.

I just finished reading THIRTEEN MOONS by Charles Frazier, and I don't know what to say about it, really. Frazier is such a good writer, his writing is smooth and sometimes quite exciting. I enjoy reading anything he writes, but this novel really wore me down. I found it was sounding like a memoir written by an old man for his family only, not many people would be interested. It's a story(long) about a man's life, the people involved with him, his fortunes and woes, and an historical background that is quite accurate and descriptive. But I found I really wasn't interested in this character, therefor the book dragged. Charles Frazier wrote the excellent novel COLD MOUNTAIN which was one of the best novels I've ever read. And, like everyone else, I waited for his second book to appear. I read later that when THIRTEEN MOONS was published, there was a rush to buy it. The publisher ran off hundreds of thousands of copies, and then the selling died out completely leaving the publisher with a huge loss. That's not good for a writer. Readers complained and reviewers slashed---so it goes. I imagine I'm not the only reader who got bogged down with this novel.

My wife is reading UNDER THE DOME by Stephen King. She really likes King. I read a few of his novels---very few. I don't think he's a great writer, but his charaters are wonderful, and his plot twists are amazing, and the stories themselves are quite engenious, but I find he doesn't seem to be able the end the stories properly. He builds suspence to such a degree that it becomes almost impossible to have a satisfactory conclusion, and then the story breaks down.

This book is over one thousand pages---it's a huge book. My wife is reading it, everything is quiet, then there a crash as the book falls from her little hands and splatters on the floor. That happens a lot. Already the book is a mess. I suggested that she get the sissors, cut out the pages she thinks she would read that evening, and put the rest of it aside. Even though it is a first edition, its condition from the frequent falls that have occured nightly have rendered it next to useless as far as any value that would be attached to it. I told her this in so many words, trying to help, mind you. She told me that it would be a better idea if I would continue reading my book and leave her to her reading and demolishing her new novel by S. King. That's cool.

Next: Children's books.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

60's & 70's NOVELS

Sorry I'm really late for this post---I was trying to sell a car. Why do people kick the tires? The old Mercury Sable was hanging around the yard for months, and my wife intimated that old things hanging around should be gotten rid of, quickly. I was certainly hoping that she was referring to the car and not me, so I put my selling skills---which I have none---into high gear. I sold it at a ridiculously low price within the week. But I really liked that car and hated to see it go. Sometimes old things should do just that: hang around. This bit of sage wisdom I imparted to my wife as I passed over the meager sum I obtained for my entrepreneurial skills. She wasn't amused.

Anyway, I think what I was trying to say in my last post where I became digressive and meandering was that these years(60's and 70's) were my real awakening to the power and the delightfulness of the novel. I have to clarify that all these books and authors I will mention didn't write or even publish these books in the years mentioned, but these were the years I had discovered them, or they were required reading at that time for their meaningful message or entertainment.

I'll get right to it or else I'll wander again.

It was important to read Kurt Vonnegut because he seemed to capture the aura of the age. And he was so funny, and so dry, and so right. He was my favourite and still is, actually. I covered Vonnegut in an earlier post, so won't rehash it here. Best books by him are: SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE, BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS, DEADEYE DICK. By the way, I have his whole collection of novels, and I have a secret wish regarding him. I would LOVE to have a signed copy of one of his books(first edition, of course). I know you can buy them online, but I don't have the money, and I wonder about authenticity---I don't know how to go about it. I would walk backwards to Halifax if I could get such a prize.

Other required novels one had to read way back then: BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley, also HEAVEN AND HELL and THE DOORS OF PERCEPTION by him. The latter being the book for, let's say, hippies with their acid or mescaline fixation. These books were amazing. I still have them packed away in a box somewhere.
1984, and ANIMAL FARM by George Orwell. I remember I was so enthralled with 1984. It still is a very powerful novel. There was a great movie made from this book, in the 80's I think staring William Hurt. I thought they did a decent job of capturing the mood of this great novel---eat your heart out, Margaret Atwood.
ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac. Also THE DARMA BUMS. There not much more I can add about ON THE ROAD that hasn't already been written. This book blew me away. I tried to emulate the characters and the life style, and even carried it around wherever I went---as did so many others. Excellent book.
THE CASTLE, THE TRIAL, by Franz Kafka. This was strange, disturbing literature, but I loved it. What kind of mind did this author have? Fascinating stuff.
Others were Timothy Leary, Ken Kesey for ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST. And of course, Tom Wolfe's ELECTRIC KOOL-ADE ACID TEST. This book was an absolutely exhilarating trip across America with Kesey and his Merry Pranksters in the old VW bus. It set a new tone to writing and reporting. It was so much fun.
And, of course, Carlos Castaneda. Some books are: THE TEACHINGS OF DON JUAN: A YAQUI WAY OF KNOWLEDGE, A SEPARATE REALITY, JOURNEY TO IXTLAN. These taught me that there just may be an alternate reality visited only by those who have mastered the ancient skill of transmigration. Endlessly fascinating and entertaining. Castaneda was never one to proclaim himself publicly---he would never appear on Oprah. And after his books ended he just vanished into the ether, I suppose. Strange occurrences, indeed. I wonder if anyone is reading him now. I have all his books---packed away somewhere.
Norman Mailer AMERICAN DREAM(covered in an earlier post), John Updike RABBIT RUN(Covered in an earlier post), John Irving's THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP. God, I loved this book. It was absolutely excellent! A great novel. The movie version just didn't make it, I thought. Robin Williams was good, and the movie wasn't that bad, but it just didn't capture the "feel" of the novel. Movies are seldom as good as the novels.

Anyway, I'll pick this up later, I have to get snow tires on the new car---I miss my old clunker. It's gone from the yard, so sad.

(note to BR: long gone? broke free? no return?)

A PS: I have hundreds of books that I want to sell: excellent condition, first editions. I have no idea how to do that. Any suggestions?

Next: Hermann Hesse

Sunday, November 15, 2009

NOVELS OF THE 60's & 70's

You know, when I thought about covering this topic, I initially considered that the whole enterprise would be quite simple to execute and easy to chart. It isn't. It was a different time, and I was a different person---kind of. There was a sense of great excitement, urgency, impressiveness, and a sense of awe at nearly everything new. Quite amazing.

All of that seemed to have abated or at least became qualified over the years as I aged. One notices a great amount of redundancy, cheapness, self-aggrandizing, and puffed up egos in most things man-made. I find very little today that's manufactured, conceived, written, spoken, yelled, performed or negated by mankind that's the least bit awe-inspiring. However, that being said, I must make an exception with technology---some of it, anyway. Remember, I was brought up during my impressionable years with only a crackling radio and a telephone you had to scream into. Things have changed, and I am amazed to see it all. But with all these instant communication devices, we can only think of telling each other off, or breaking up with your sweetheart by texting her. That's amazing. Bringing people together by this technology has caused a whole new array of problems. But I won't get into that.

Also, there are very few(if any) people out there right now who inspire me or give me a sense of admiration. People like Einstein, Darwin, Shakespeare, Martha Steward were always my ideals. I'm just kidding about Martha Steward. But you wonder about a person who built a whole successful career(and lots of money) around compulsive trivia. And after a messy divorce, being jailed for a period of time, and hated by so many people, she just keeps on going. That's admirable, indeed.

I asked my wife who she admires today. This was an interesting conversation, so I'll transcribe it here. It went this way:

Bernie: Who do you really admire today?
Wife: This is a trick question, right?
B: No. Who do you see today as an admirable person? An inspiration? A great person?
W: You mean, alive in the world today?
B: Yes. It's not too difficult a question. Who is your hero.
W: Heroine, maybe.
B: Oh, of course. Woman or man.
W: Clarify further.
B: Well...someone maybe close by...I mean, not remote or far fetched...someone you admire.
W: Well, there's that Canadian female astronaut...what's her name?
B: Dr. Roberta Bondar. She doesn't count.
W: Why is that now?
B: She's an astronaut.
W: Oh. And that's not counting because......
B: Too remote.
W: Oooo K. Let's see now... someone close by, not too remote, admirable, great. Hmmmmm.
B: Too difficult?
W: No. I think I have it.
B: Oh good. Who?
W: You, Darling. Why didn't it come to me earlier? Strange.
B: Really!? Is that a fact? I'm honored. I had no idea....
W: Yep, It's definitely you.
B: Thank you for that! But what specifically would make you pick me as the most admirable?
W: Let's not push it, shall we? Let's leave it at that. You're the cat's meow, my Darling.
B: Well! Thanks! I didn't realize.... Where are you going?
W: Out in the garden to get some fresh air...clear my head. You know, sinuses.

So there you have it. This subject is exceedingly subjective.

I want to talk about the many authors I read and relished and revered during the 60's and 70's---and still do today, I suppose. Authors like: Vonnegut, Huxley, Camus, Kesey, Kafka, Updike, Hermann Hesse.....and so on. These will be my next post.

Monday, November 9, 2009


The Giller prize is Canada's literary award for those novels deemed worthy enough to be singled out as great. It's not as prodigious nor as auspicious as the Booker in England or the Pulitzer in the US, but it will garner much revenue for the winner as well as others on the short list. I'm not too keen on these awards, and the Giller has such a reputation of blatantly missing the most important books published in any given year that it has become a wonder in itself. This year's picks, it seems, has fallen into that old pattern.

The five novels on the short list are as follows:
(Mind you, I have not read any of these---I doubt I will)
THE DISAPPEARED by Kim Echlin. This is a romance story, and a travel guide on Cambodia 35 years ago. An odd mix, for sure, and one I'll pass on. Notice the word "romance" and not "love"---there's a difference.
THE FALL by Colin McAdam. This is a story of a private school where a loner is being picked on and falls in line with a popular kid and falls in love with his girlfriend whose name is Fall. Does this sound familiar? I wouldn't fall for this; I use to fall for novels like this, but I won't fall for this now. I might fall for something else, but I'll not fall for this.
THE GOLDEN MEAN by Annabel Lyon. This is a book about Aristotle---the Greek philosopher, not the Ari we all knew way back in the 60's. I'm not sure what the MEAN means, but I think this novel is a kind of a domestic, non-intellectual effort. I wonder what my philosophy professor would think. I'll pass.
THE WINTER VAULT by Anne Michaels. From what I can gather, this is not a story per se, but a meditation on progress and the cost of thereof. What progress? I missed that.
THE BISHOP'S MAN by Linden MacIntyre. Ominous title. I'm glad it's not the Bishop's Boy considering all that's happened lately in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. Early reviews say that this novel is quite readable, and well written for the most part. There are references to it rambling, but most Cape Breton novels do that---I don't know what that is. I think this is quite mild in execution, and wonder why. It's as if Atlantic writers don't want to offend.

Just a note: I really think that since Alistair MacLeod (NO GREAT MISCHIEF) is one of the judges on the Giller panel, he championed MacIntyre's book. That's OK, I guess. We Maritimers pull together.
By the way, A. MacLeod's NO GREAT MISCHIEF was just named the number 1 Atlantic novel in over 100 listed. I reread it because I wondered if I had missed something when reading it years ago. No. I didn't miss anything. Overall, it's a good novel. MacLeod managed to bind a family's history together over a few generations, cementing their ties with Cape Breton and their Scottish clan. But this novel does ramble, and ramble it does.

Next: 60's novels

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


I do not like the pigeon. I do not like the cat, either, but this winsome feline can be cute, at times---the conniving, manipulating ingrate. Not so with the pigeon. He is neither lovable nor attractive, interesting nor useful. Pigeons suck!

Rock Doves (Columba Livia), also known as pigeons, are really poor excuses for a bird. Pigeons are by all descriptions birds, but they don't like---or want--- to fly. They will fly only a few feet in order to escape an angry boot heading their way. They will immediately go back to the same spot from where they vacated, with no fear of being chased. They do not fear humans. Their flight is awkward and obviously forced, and always short. Evolution will in time take their wings away---you don't use 'em, you lose 'em. Their call is a strained "coo" from way back in their throat. It is neither pleasing nor melodic. It is as if they really don't wish to say anything. Evolution in time will silence them, I'm sure. They defecate the most disgusting, vile splatter---white in colour--- which is near impossible to scrape off easily. They also seem to consciously place this "drop" in the most noticeable of areas: on faces of our national hero's statues; on ornate bird feeders; on the prettiest American rose petal. Like the hateful, amateurish graffiti, they defile everything decent in this world.

They also are willing carriers of the avian flu, and are well pleased to pass it on. Pigeon are a scourge.

With that being said, I have a confession to make. I killed a pigeon! I did. Actually, I didn't mean to off the bird, it just happened. Here is the story.

A summer's day(this summer), on the patio; a bit of wine; good book; pretty, colourful, songbirds at the feeder and bird bath. A bit of heavenly peace in a Dominion backyard. My wife was busy digging away in her rose garden, when three pigeons flew into the yard and settled on the tree branch above the feeder. She immediately noticed them cautiously waiting for a change to shoo away the songbirds and take all of the seeds. She knew that trouble was afoot, for she also knew that my ire was rising and would not stand for such behaviour from these dirty beasts. She came over to me, gathering pots and such things ready to tackle the front flower beds. My wife looked at me knowing full well that I was not going to allow these damn pigeons sway in my yard. She suggested that maybe a good idea was for me to get my son's BB gun, shoot a BB near the detestable creatures on the branch, scaring them away while not alarming the pretty little birds already at the feeder. I thought it was a capital idea. She trotted off to the front flower beds, I went inside to retrieve my son's gun.

I use to be a good shot with a BB gun when I was a kid. Glass milk bottles were my favourite targets, although anything that moved was also in my sights. It actually felt kind of good to sight up a BB gun again. Just as a note: I don't hunt, nor do I like the idea of hunting, and I don't own any kind of gun except my son's air rifle, which he wrangled out of me many years ago.

I pumped enough air in the BB gun to propel that small pellet right out of Dominion. I aimed, and then remembered my son telling me that the sights were a tad off. I readjusted my aim, and concentrated on the branch near the pigeons. I pulled the trigger. I expected to hear a loud crack where the BB would hit the branch next to the birds, thus scaring them away. But what I saw horrified me. The pigeon on the left fell straight down on the ground, jerking a couple of times, and remaining limp. His buddy on the branch was looking at him with a curious, mystifying demeanour. All the colourful birds flew away, terrified. I said to myself,"Oh no!" I dropped the gun which caused the other pigeons to gingerly fly away, too, as if they finally came to grasp this new reality. I thought I saw them look at me as if to say that I crossed a line. Maybe I did.

I got a little upset, and went to find my wife who was working on the flower beds in the front of the house. She was unaware, of course, that there was a dramatic scene already played out in our backyard; that a violent death of a pigeon had taken place; that her husband was now a killer of pigeons. Oh murder most fowl!

I blurted out in a rather overly excited tone that the gun's sights were off, my son told me that, I didn't mean went on and on. I interspersed all this with, "Holy shit!". She stood up and looked at me straight in the eyes. The conversation went this way:

Wife: Calm down. Tell me what happened.
I explained the whole thing in a very hurried and frazzled fashion.
Wife: You weren't suppose to KILL the pigeons, just scare them.
Bernie: I know that! Geee. And only one is down.
W: Is it dead?
B: I don't know! The neighbours can't see this. They'll think I'm killing pigeons in the yard for sport. I'll be reported. They'll put it in the paper. Bernie the pigeon killer. Oh no. I'm a volunteer for the Bird Society, for god's sake....
W: God, will you relax?! Take me to the crime scene.
We walk around to the side of the house. There on the ground---very dead---lay the pigeon. We look down on it with curious eyes.
W: It's not moving.
B: No. (I kick it gently with my foot) Quite dead.
W: Nice shot.
B: Yeah, eh?
W: You seem to have broken it's neck. Right there, see?
B: Ahh, don't tell me that! Geez. What are we going to do? Should we rope off the area? You know, like CSI or something?
W: Where are you getting the WE? You did this, not I.
B: YOU told me to get the gun! It's all your fault.
W: Is it now? I've got work to do. (She heads back to the front flower bed)
B: Hang on! Hang on! Come on, you've got to help me. (I bend down to touch the deceased bird)
W: Don't touch it! Go in the house and get a pair of rubber gloves.
B: Right! (I retrieve the gloves, put them on, and snap them like the doctors do on the telly. I Turn to her and smile.) Should I do a rectal first? (laugh)
W: Maybe on yourself. Careful picking it up.
I pick up the defunct bird. It's head is all droopy, flopping about. I examine the gash in its neck.
B: What are we going to do with it?
W: Put it in the green bin.
B: You're kidding. I didn't see pigeon on the list of things that are allowed to go in the green bin. Is it biodegradable? Is it anyway toxic? Is it...
W: Put it in the bin!
B: Right.
I'm just about ready to drop this much dead pigeon into the bin with the potato peels, egg shells, soiled paper towels, and old leaves.
B: Do you want to say something first? I mean, you know, before...
W: Yeah. Get rid of that BB gun.
B: Yes, sure.

She goes back to her work on her roses. I return to the patio, sip some wine, sip some more, and look over at the now empty bird feeder and bird bath. I wonder what the remaining pigeons are saying to each other. I'm thinking that when a single pigeon flies in the yard and lands on that same branch. I look at him and don't know what to do. I'm thinking that maybe my wife needs some help with all those flowers and such. I go around to the front of the house to help her. It's safer there.

I don't have a book on pigeons, and would probably advise against it. I still don't like them.

Next: 60's and 70's great novels

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


A man said to the universe:
"Sir I exist".
"However," replied the universe,
"The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation." by Stephen Crane

Without sounding too much like John Lennon, I want to imagine many things about this world and consequently about life. Human life. You may agree or disagree---but that's the fun in it, isn't it? A list of books will be posted at the end. Here we go:

---that there really isn't any Supreme Being, or God, who made us and who is watching over us.
---that our belief in a god is only an illusion---a delusion---made up by us.
---that neither our little planet nor we humans are the center of the universe.
---that there is plenty of lifeforms in the universe besides those on Earth
---that we are the product of an evolutionary process that is still active today.
---that there is really no designed progression in evolution leading to humans---we are not the apex of evolution drive.
---that we just are.
---that everything in this universe is connected in some manner or another, including us.
---that morality is not connected to any religion---they don't have the market on morality.
---that evolution is not "survival of the fittest", per se---it's having the necessary equipment to live and thrive in this world.
---that our minds are truly amazing, and can be utilized for great things.
---that humans should put their trust in themselves, and not in any outside influence.
---that there is not a division between body and mind---that comes from the Greek philosophers.
---that god is in ourselves, we are gods. Didn't Christ say? The kingdom of heaven is within you.
---that there is no division between men and women. They are equal in all respects---something most religions don't adhere to.
---that we're here for a good time, not a long time---that's a song, isn't it?
---that the most important thing humans can do on this earth is to be good to one another.

I got to stop, I'm getting preachy. ugh. So, after hearing all that, don't you feel free? Don't you feel unburdened by outward constraints? Don't you feel like taking control of your life and not listen to all that crap out there? Some people find it difficult. But the thing is: what it all comes down to is predominately how you get through the day. There has to be a reason why you want to get out of bed in the morning. As long as it's not detrimental to other people, and you're not pushing it on other people, then whatever you believe, go for it. Basically, it's all the same.
But I would put emphases on yourself---there's no true answers out there. You have the power! David Suzuki says that, I think.

Books on these topics are: THE GOD DELUSION by Richard Dawkins, god is not great, by Christopher Hitchens, STUMBLING ON HAPPINESS by Daniel Gilbert, THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH by Richard Dawkins, THE LIVING COSMOS by Chris Impey, LIFE'S SOLUTION by Morris Conway, abd so on.

Next: Novels from 1960/70

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

LOST SYMBOL (God books cont.)

I just finished reading Dan Brown's THE LOST SYMBOL. It was actually a fun read, full of suspense, surprises, and lots of interesting information regarding the capitol buildings in Washington, DC---along with a bit of silliness, medeocre writing style, poorly defined characters, and outrageous claims. But like I said---fun.

My wife is very anxious to read it next, so I have a bit of fun myself. I---right out of the blue---start telling her about certain scenes or events that occured in the novel. She says, "NO!", and puts her hands over her ears. I then speak louder which makes her utter sounds like "da da da da da da da" in order to keep from hearing my spoilers. She says I'm mean, but I'm just trying to clearify specific---possibly difficult---passages in the novel which may cause her pause in reading them. That's all. I don't tell her this explanation for my annoying behaviour, mind you, because I would imagine THE LOST SYMBOL would be hard to swallow when it is shoved down my throat. I'm exaggerating, of course, my wife is not violent, but provocation successfully combats complaciency, does it not?

Anyways. There are a few things I want to say about the esoteric and highly interesting information Dan Brown brings up in his novel---he always does this. First the Masons: In my opinion, the masons have no more "important secrets" hidden away than my dear mother did in her recipe drawer while she was alive. This is all hogwash. The masons are a boy's club where men get dressed up in odd attire, do strange ritual procedures, and call themselves "brother". (Bro for short---just kidding). I've known a few masons. One fellow told me that when he travelled to California one summer, he was treated like a celebrity because the hotel clerk saw his mason's ring. The clerk was a fellow brother. There are perks; they do help each other out. (Note: You can buy a mason's ring at any pawn shop and do the same thing, but you have to know the hand signal.).

Egypt: It's truly amazing how much ancient Egypt has influenced the western world. Quite a few capital cities have some sort of Epyptian symbol or knock-off near their center. Also---and of note--- Chritianity borrowed heavely from the ancient Egyptian religion. Such things as the virgin birth, a son of god, resurrection, and so on. But the Egyptian connection with the secret mysteries doesn't really make these mysteries true. I find it difficult to believe that the wisdoms of ancient times---hidden from us for so many years--- could be so enlightening.

Your better off reading Charles Darwin, or anything on Quantum physics. This brings me back to my previous post. Regarding THE SECRET and it's message: In my opinion, I do think you can actually get what you want, but you have to work very hard with your whole concentration on the goal, and your attention to the details. But don't we all know this? I also think (in my life, anyway) that you will get what you want, but never when you most want it. Sometimes, the harder you try, the farther away it gets. When you give up trying, you get it. It all so Zenish; it's all so weird.

Books on Quantum physics I would definitely recommend are: THE DANCING WU LI MASTERS by Gary Zukav. This is an excellent book. He writes in such a way you don't have to have a science degree to understand the subject---as much a "understanding" means. This stuff twists your brain. Another book is QUANTUM INIGMA by Rosenblum and Kuttner. It's a book about Quantum physics and consciousness. This book gets into the realm of Laws of Attraction thing. It's excellent too.

Next: Dawkins and other folks

Monday, October 5, 2009


-----This post is going to stretch over a couple of entries divided into parts, if you will; mostly because it covers quite a few books, ideas, and explanations. We're getting right deep, eh.-----

There's a woman we know who believes that what she thinks actually affects her life; her immediate life; her future life; and even her prosperity. In other words, if she thinks and concentrates on good things, good things will happen to her. Conversely, bad thoughts, bad things happen. Therefore, every day was a battle for her because she struggled to keep the positive thoughts foremost in her mind, while desperately shunning the negative ones. This was particularly difficult on dismal, rainy days when her usual sparkling personality was dredging the depths---she falls hard and deep. This taxing of her emotions caused her mind to tangle into a knotted mess which issued in anxiety and later a troubling depression. This depression, mild as it was, caused more anxiety simply for the fact that she realized she could not bring into her life any form of good unless she actually felt positive. She was a mess. After talking to a close friend of hers, she consented to go to a psychiatrist for an evaluation. The shrink put her on a mild tranquilizer, and told her to join a quilting club and stop thinking so much. She did so, and feels much better now. And you should see her quilts! She's making money from them, and is quite happy.

THE SECRET, by Rhonda Byrne (oh dear). As you can guess, the SECRET is actually not a secret at all. It's quite old, going back about a hundred years or so, and probably longer than that. It's the old LAW OF ATTRACTION principle that's been popping its head up every so often, assuring people that their minds or state of awareness can indeed change their situation. It goes this way: Thoughts have an energy which attracts whatever it is the person is thinking. If you control this energy, you can get anything you want.

This pseudo-scientific Law of Attraction, which is no more than "positive thinking", has spawned many get-rich books. (it's odd that people who support this theory will turn it into a means to make money, as if that's the only thing worth striving for) Books such as: THINK AND GROW RICH by napoleon Hill, PROSPERITY THROUGH FORCE by Bruce MacLelland--"you are what you think, not what you think you are". Others are: THE SCIENCE OF GETTING RICH by Wallace D. Wattles, THE POWER OF POSITIVE THINKING by Beal, LOVE, MEDICINE AND MIRACLES by B.S. Siegel--here you can think yourself well. The list goes on and on, so this is no groundbreaking thought or theory presented to us by Ms. R. Byrne. Rhonda Byrne knew exactly what she was doing, which was making a boodle of money for herself, and she had a champion to her cause by the great one, Oprah, who apparently devoted two shows to this dubious seer and her concocted book.

Some Sociologists say that because of the decline of religion and a belief system in a higher power, people are testing out these strange new theories. They say that most people today are much better educated and far to astute to believe in unfounded myths about a supreme being in heaven, so look for other ways to express their spirituality. All the new "systems of thoughts and beliefs" that are coming down the pipes today are loosely based in Quantum Physics. Quantum Physics is that spooky branch of science where the laws of psychics seem to have turned upside down: everything is connected, things appear and disappear, one particle knows what another particle is doing, everything runs on probability. The most unusual of these strange occurrences is the one where the scientists ALWAYS sees the particular particle he/she WANTS to see. In other words, the particle materializes because the scientist wants to see it; when he doesn't want to see it, it's not there. Cool. In other words again, the scientist is actually bringing the particle into being, because he wants to see it. The new " religions" think that everyone can do the same---you want a million dollars, think about it. I don't think it's that easy. Scientists cringe.

I'm closing off for today; I'll continue on a few days from now. It's raining to beat the band out, and the north wind is blowing---that wind always unnerves me. My good wife is home, and we intend to take to bed and read for the whole day. I'm thinking I would like a pizza delivered right now, and if I think hard enough, maybe, just maybe one will appear......

Monday, September 28, 2009


I must say I'm getting a bit disillusioned with blogging, and I knew this would happen. At first it was a lark mostly because I like to write and comment on books, which is my passion. I had no expectations for-- or even desires for--- any certain "blog fame". I was just having fun. A friend suggested that I put on a Stat Counter to see how many would be actually reading it. I did so. At first, I was really surprised that anyone at all was reading them; then I was surprised that there were so many reading them; then I got all hung up on the numbers rather than the actual writing of the book reviews. At that time, I would see the numbers get smaller and smaller which began to bother me---what did I say? Now I don't know where I am in regards to this blog. My wife looked at me in frustration and said,"You told me that you really enjoyed writing these book reviews. What does it matter if only a few are reading them? The enjoyment is in the writing. You must either give it all up, or continue, but take off that stupid Stat Counter and concentrate on your writing". How come she's so smart? So I have to mull it all over, and come to a decision.

By the way, I'm now reading THE LOST SYMBOL by Dan Brown. The novel is not that well written, silly at times, but I'm really enjoying it, I have to admit. Dan Brown is a smart man. There's so much suspense, surprises, and amazing information on certain things that it actually makes reading this book an adventure. My wife is anxiously waiting for me to finish reading it so she can. Oh! Margaret Atwood has a new novel out, part of her "speculative fiction" phase, AND (wait for it) my wife does NOT want to buy it. She keeps saying,"later". Aha! Now that's telling.

I may do the God Books next, God knows.

Monday, September 14, 2009


My wife doesn't kill insects. She doesn't expound, preach, or explain the reasons why she doesn't, she just doesn't. If an insect comes too close to her, she will just say "shoo", and with her fingers urge the pest to take another route. If a spider happens to seek shelter in our house, she will gently pick it up with a Kleenex, open the door and throw it out---with a "shoo", of course. If an insect needs to be killed(for whatever reason), she calls me in. I'm the exterminator---stomp, stomp. A squashed bug. The only time I've seen her kill an insect---and did so with great fury---was when an unfortunate wasp got in the car one day, and got dangerously close to our daughter in her car seat. My wife pulverized that bug with such spitfire power that it actually startled me. That wasp was so thoroughly squashed that it actually became part of the upholstery from then on. A vivid reminder to the insect world, stay away from this woman's babes.

But today's topic is bees, and I have a story to tell. It goes like this: One Saturday afternoon, my wife and I were busy in our garden/backyard. My wife was pruning and caring for the many plants she adores; I was nailing something---I like nailing things. Over my shoulder came a flying blob---it first looked like a black and yellow blob. I watched it in wonder trying to identify what exactly it was. It landed in the grass. I walked over to take a closer look. It was the biggest MFing bee I've ever seen! And on it's abdomen was this small, kind of miniature bee. I recognized right away what was going on: This was the Queen Bee and the Drone fertilizing her! WoW! My whole Grade 5 Science studies came rushing back to me. I've never seen this before---I doubt if many have.

I called over to my wife who sometimes gets annoyed when disturbed from her plant care duties. The conversation went this way:

Bernie: Hey! (Wife's name), come here. Quick!
Wife: I don't do "Quick".
B: Come here, you got to see this!
She ambles over with a garden spade in her hands.
W: What is it?
B: Look! There in the grass. Look!
W: (She looks closely). A bee? What's that? The size of it! What is it?
B: It's the Queen Bee and the Drone! How about that?
W: What's the drone doing?
B: He's..well..he's.. actually, he's fertiliz...
W: her.
B: (Wife's name!) Have some respect! Yes. He's fertilizing the Queen...for the continuation of the health of the hive. Cool, eh?
W: Leave them alone, dear.
B: You see, the drone is male, that's his job. All the workers in the hive are female. They do everything: they clean and keep the hive healthy and alive, they gather nectar, tend to the eggs...all kinds of things. The drone just does this. That's his only job.
W: Typical. Not much different from human males.
B: Hey!
W: How do you know so much about all this?
B: I went to Grade 5. It was part of the Grade 5 Science studies. Remember? Or did you go to Grade 5?
W: I skipped it and went right into High School.
B: Funny.
W: YOU remember Grade 5 Science? And I have to remind you several times over a month that our anniversary is coming up?
B: Hey, stay focused. The subject is bees. (I go closer to this auspices event now being performed on our lawn, I call out in a louder voice) Hey buddy, drone dude, get a room! (chuckle, chuckle)
W: Why did they have to pick our yard.
B: I know, eh? Property value will go down, for sure.
(She begins to walk away, to the flower patch)
B: You going? Aren't you going to watch?
W: They need their privacy. When they're done, tell them to leave a tip.

I took my work well away from this amazing spectacle peeking back every now and then to see how everything was progressing. An hour went by, and even more time passed. Then I saw the Queen begin to stir, and the Drone to fall off her. I called my wife who actually came over in a sort of hurry---that's qualitative, of course. Aha! She's interested.

Wife: What's going on?
Bernie: He's finished. It was well over an hour! How about that?
W: I take it back, he's not like the human male.
B: Hey! Getting a little lippy, eh? I'll get the whip, Wench.(that's from Shakespeare, I think)
W: You'll sleep in the barn!
(You know, when she says that, I think she means it)

The Queen Bee rights herself, seems to be slogging around trying to get her bearings---rough day. The Drone is all messed up. He falls on his back, walks unsteadily towards her. She pushes him away with her foot? arm? paw? whatever.

B: Did you see that?! She pushed him away.
W: Yes. Twice. He's only a Drone.

The Queen Bee takes flight, does a circle around the area, flies up and over the house. She's going back to the hive, I guess.
The Drone is still falling all over the place in a dizzy dance. Then he takes flight, does a circle, comes right over to inches from my face, seems to stop for a bit(I kid you not!), and heads over the house. I call out, "Good job, Drone. Well done there, buddy" My wife says, "Oh dear god, comradeship among the males. Really".
I say, "drone's my man".
Then my wife tells me something I did not know about these bees, and it was this: She says, " Do you know where the hive is? I do. It's under our front step!" Well, this put a different perspective on this whole afternoon event. My wife also said, "Just think of all those eggs that Queen Bee will shoot out because of this tryst in our yard. Just think of all the....." "Yeah, yeah, I get it", I say.

Well, if the bees will keep to themselves, as they usually do, I'll not bother them. I can't kill them, and neither will my wife. We'll co-habitat---it's the GREEN thing to do.

If you want to read about bees---and you really should because it's just a fantastic story--- you should get BEES: NATURE'S LITTLE WONDERS, by Candace Savage. This is an excellent little book on these familiar and wondrously odd creatures. I would say that it may just change your life---no kidding. At least you won't feel obligated to stomp on bugs just because they are there.

Next: God books. This time for sure.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


In psychiatry's never ending quest for recognizing, classifying, naming, and documenting every possible human deviation from the norm, they've come upon a conundrum of which they have no means of gathering information. It goes this way: (I love this) The noble---if not chaotic---field of psychiatry has lately found that there is a massive amount of people who "suffer" from apathy. These people don't give a shit about...well, practically everything. This "find" is setting the whole psychological world in a buzz. The good scientists would like to study this "condition" with great intensity, but(this is the part I like) they can't get these people to take part in research studies because they just don't care enough to be part of it. You got to love it. These people are too apathetic to be a part of a study on apathy.

This leads me into the book I just painfully finished. It's OUTLIERS, by Malcolm Gladwell. It concerns success and what factors led some people to reach this success. It cleverly uncovers other circumstances behind a successful person than is usually thought of in the accepted description of success. These could be, family, birth date, country, and so on. A lot of the book is fill---stories and biographies of supposedly successful people, and not successful people. He takes one theme or idea he is trying to clarify and hits you with it several times on each page. I think that this book could easily have been an essay. Blame the publisher.

Now this is where I will hook up to my first paragraph---clever, eh? I have a problem with the word "success". Does success mean wealth? Power? Proficiency? And does anyone really care? I don't think success can be measured on a yardstick. If you strive to succeed by other people's standards, you will probably sacrifice yorself in the process.

The author tells us about Oppenheimer's success in leading the delegation of mad scientists in building the BOMB. This man is responsible for the destruction of hundreds of thousands of souls---now that's success(sarcasm). The author also tells us of a Chris Langan(never heard of him) who is suppose to be a genius, and who has accomplished nothing because of bad breaks along the way. Therefore, this man is unsuccessful in every one's eyes. I don't get it. I have a couple of friends whose IQ's are well above the norm, and they would rather sail on calm lakes all day then rise to prominence in any field. They are extremely smart, and extremely apathetic, and extremely happy with their lives. So it goes. I wonder how many of these people are out there?

Malcolm Gladwell hit it big with a book called BLINK. This book rode the bestseller list for months and months. It's a book about thinking without thinking. On this topic, I only know that when I do something rashly without thinking, I get in a heap of trouble. I've learned a long time ago to think through things very carefully before acting. The first impulse is not always the right one to do.
About OUTLIERS, I would say that Mr. Gladwell's publisher was on him like aphids on a rose after the huge success with BLINK. The publisher wanted a book quick, quick, quick. OUTLIERS is the result, a book not properly thought through; a book finished in the blink of an eye.

I could go on but I really don't care. I hope Mr. Gladwell enjoys his success. Whatever.

Next: Well, God is waiting in the wings, as they say. He's none too pleased to be bumped these past weeks. God books are next.

Monday, August 31, 2009


I have synesthesia, and it's not debilitating, catching, or even a disease. Those who have synesthesia, or know of this phenomena, will know what I'm writing about; those who don't probably won't understand this post. Synesthesia is a neurologically based phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory pathway---colour--- causes an automatic experience in another---numbers, letters. I'll explain mine.

My days of the week---and months of the year---are all coloured. Monday is brown, Saturday is blue, Friday is red, etc. I also see the week as(this is where it gets strange) an oval stretching out in front of me, in a counterclockwise direction, horizontally. And all the days are coloured. The year is also an oval stretching out in front of me, in counterclockwise direction, but vertically. All months are coloured. When I think of August right now, I'm at the bottom of this oval moving up in a anti-clockwise direction. I'm also moving into another colour---September(white).
Roses smell warm, petunias cold, marigolds smell like shit( just kidding on that one; but they do smell bad). There's plenty more, but that will give you an idea about my synesthesia.

The funny thing about my synesthesia is that I didn't know I had it until my late fifties! I always thought it was just a quirk and mostly ignored it. I also thought that everybody had it in some form or another. I was wrong. I found out about it one day while listening to a radio interview with Jamie Ward who studies synesthesia and wrote a book about it. I was shocked, really. All of a sudden everything made sense. There's a hereditary connection with this, so I asked my family members if they think they have it, and found my daughter also is a synesthete. Hers is about ten times stronger than mine. Amazing! No other member of my family has it.

I'll tell you a story about my synthesia. It goes this way: When I was a young tyke in pre-school, our teacher, in her determined effort to teach us the alphabet, got us to colour the letters. We each had certain letters to colour---inside the lines, of course. I had an A, an R, and a C. R is red, no problem, I coloured it so. C is yellow, no problem, I coloured it so. A is green. Problem! I didn't have a green crayon! Oh no! By the way, scientists who are studying synesthesia say through all kinds of tests they have determined that there are vast differences in coloured letters except the letter A which they say that almost all synesthetes will colour RED. But mine is definitely green.

Anyway, back to my story. I put up my hand and asked the teacher if she had a green crayon? She, all smiles and patience, said that it didn't matter what colour to use. I thought,"Yes, it did!!" I said, " But A is green, and I don't have a green crayon!" I remember the silence that ensued, and the odd look on my teacher's face. And there was a certain panic rising from me over this that did not go unseen by her. She asked the class if anyone had a free green crayon to lend me(to shut me up). I noticed that my fellow students, who did have a green crayon, quickly grab it as if in use, or hide it in their desks. Cruel imps. The teacher sighed, came over to my desk, picked up a blue crayon and said, "This is a nice colour for the letter A, you should colour it blue". BLUE!! Horrors upon horrors; the letter A cannot be BLUE! I said rather weakly, "OK." She waited there by my desk watching me nervously, and quite badly, colouring my letter A with a blue crayon. My mind was sending off signals: WRONG! WRONG! WRONG! I finished colouring it, but couldn't look at it. It was a bad experience.

I soon realized that I should try to contain or at least ignore this quirk of mine--- it could be embarrassing. So, Elementary teachers of the world, if one of your pupils says that a certain number or letter SHOULD be a certain colour, goddammit, get them that coloured crayon. You might save them years of therapy.

Synesthesia is not researched as much as other psychological phenomena, but there are a few books out there to peruse if you are intested. MUSICOPHILIA by Oliver Sacks is one. Dr. Sacks is an amazing neurologists with many books out on various subjects. In MUSICOPHILIA, he just devotes a chapter to synesthesia, but it is quite interesting. Jamie Ward resides in London(I think), and is now probably the leading figure in scientific research in synesthesia. He has a web site where people can take a test to determine if they truly are a synesthete---it's not possible to fake it, actually. He wrote a great book on the subject which I would recommend to anyone interested in this. It's called THE FROG WHO CROAKED BLUE. It's an excellent book with the latest findings in this field. There's also groups on line who have synesthesia---they're banding together. First it's the GREEN A, then it's the WORLD! Just kidding.

Next: God books.

Monday, August 24, 2009


We had a hurricane! Well, not quite a hurricane---didn't measure up. I'm afraid Bill the Hurricane was overblown; a bit of a blowhard, actually. A linesman on our street this morning told me that Cape Bretoners are referring to this particular hurricane as Counterfeit Bill. Cute. So now the radio is interviewing people about what it's like to NOT have a hurricane, which, when you think about it, they could do any time. Right? Oh, we did have rain and lots of wind, but it's like the man being interviewed on radio said, "I seen worst". And it's true, but it's all too bad. I guess maybe the 'worst' thing is waiting for a great blow and not getting it.

I forgot one of my favourite sea quotes last post. It goes this way:

no matter what you lose(like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea.
by e.e.cummings Poem: maggie and milly and molly and may

I want to talk about the non-fiction book I just finished reading last week. THE FLOATING BROTHEL, by Sian Rees. This is a sea book, actually; I enjoyed it very much. Sian Rees is a good writer and must have done extensive research for this book. This is evident in the characters and dates presented.

It takes place in 1789 when a ship loaded with women convicts were heading for the new settlement at Sydney Cove (Australia). There were over two hundred women on board ranging in age from 13 to 60. They were all criminals under the eye of British Justice, and for their crime were "Transported to Parts Beyond the Seas". Most of their so-called crimes centered around thievery, most likely cloth, dresses, coins, watches, and so on. Many of them were really falsely accused. Of course, many of them were prostitutes. It took them about a year to finally get to Sydney Cove which was nothing more than a few shacks and a harbour.

They were given access to the whole ship during the day, they were never shackled or put in the hold during the trip. All the sailors took one of the women for their own, and fed and looked after them throughout the voyage---some of the officers, too. The women stole anything they could find; got into the storage rooms and helped themselves to the food and the rum barrel they found. The captain didn't know what to do for any form of punishment. It turned out to be quite a sea voyage.

At ports of call some of the prostitutes came upon an idea. They, with the help of their agent(government official looking after them), would set up a brothel on board ship for the locals in the area. The women would ply their trade and the agent would look after the money, which he divided equally among the women, some for himself, and a kickback to the captain who was expected to look the other way. It was all good. The women bought food, dresses, and put some money away for their new digs in Australia. A successful enterprise, for sure.

I was thinking that this would make an excellent Disney movie. Don't you think? It's kind of a feel-good movie that naturally brings a smile on your face. I would definitely have Shirley MacLean in it. And maybe Emma Thompson. Lynsey Lohan? Maybe Madonna---she looks like a convict. It would be great fun to make this movie. Yep, it would make a great Disney movie.

There's a long list of excellent sea books I could go over in detail, but I'll just mention a couple and get to the others at a later post.

SAILING ALONE AROUND THE WORLD by Joshua Slocum. He's one of our boys, and this is an excellent book. His voyage on the SPRAY has got to be the best sea adventure ever written.
Any of the books about the ESSEX which was sunk by a sperm whale ramming it. Owen Chase is the author. This is where Melville got his inspiration for Moby Dick.
MUTINY ON THE GLOBE by Thomas Heffernan tells the story of one of the most horrifying events in Nantucket's whaling history.
MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY by Nordhoff and Hall. There are many books out about the Bounty mutiny, but theirs is the best. Also MAN AGAINST THE SEA by them. This book tells of the fantastic voyage Bligh and his loyal officers took in an open boat after the mutiny. They actually made it home, excellent story---and true!

Anyway, I must go look for my bird feeder. It was hidden from Bill the Hurricane by my wife who thought it had the potential of becoming a lethal projectile. I think she buried it, but I'm not sure. She says that in the hurried preparation for the expected atmospheric onslaught, she has now forgotten where she put it. The finches are worried, I know. Maybe it's in the green bin---she puts many things in the green bin that don't belong there. She's not environmentally friendly.

Next: God books

Monday, August 17, 2009


I love the sea. I've lived near the North Atlantic Ocean for all my life, and can't imagine being anywhere, for a long period of time, without checking to see what temperament the sea is exhibiting today. For it changes all the time. I can see the point from my front window, and it's become a ritual to scan the waters to ascertain its mood and view its colour. The colours are amazing. It's a misnomer to say that the ocean is only blue, it has a wide range of colours and hues. There's dark blue, light blue, baby blue, aqua, green, gray, gray/black, black, at times redish, clear, almost white, and different shades of blue in different areas. The list goes on. Its state also covers a wide range, from calm, choppy, ripply, wavy, entirely still, white caps, angry with waves quite high spewing spray into the air, to dead still. Also foggy, misty, hazy. I guess what I'm trying to say is that the sea is always changing, never the same.

But I have the greatest respect for the sea, it's a powerful force that demands caution. Being in the sea, or at times near it, is like playing tag on the shoulders of a potentially ferocious giant. The sea doesn't take kindly to fools. I often wonder what was going on in the minds of some tourists who see huge waves crashing over the rocks on shore, and run to the end of those rocks to...what exactly? Feel the ocean spray? The ocean quickly claims them, of course.

There's a story that seems incredible enough to be true. I have no idea if it is---maybe just a ocean myth. It goes: There were two buddies---quite drunk---walking along a Cape Breton beach on a blustery, angry-sea day. As they walked, talked and laughed, they were getting closer and closer to the waters' edge. A huge wave presented itself and knocked them down. The buddy who was walking on the outside of the surf got back on his feet, pulled the seaweed from his face, righted himself, looked around for his friend, but soon realized he was alone. He called to his buddy, but to no avail. His friend's sudden disappearance had a sobering affect on him right then. He sat down on the sand trying to clear his head---difficult task, indeed, and after some time scanning the ocean for, he hoped, the bobbing head of his mate, he decided to seek out the local police to access the situation. On the long, arduous trek to the police station, he was having serious doubts as to whether his friend was actually with him at all on his walk. He became completely confused about he whole matter, and said so to the police.

The cops naturally thought he was lying(They always think that), and arrived at the conclusion that he had murdered his friend and buried him in the sand. They conducted a thorough search for this now missing man. After many cups of coffee and several intensive interrogations, all they could get from this drunken survivor were many trips to the bathroom and a raving about a HUGE wave that took his buddy. Tears were flowing as easily as urine in the police station that day. A college professor who was a marine biologist was consulted as to the possibility of such a wave dong such a thing. This learned man introduced the word "rogue wave" to the locals. Actually, rogue waves are still debated as to whether they really exist, but for the police who had no idea what to do with this man who can't usually stay on his feet for any period of time let alone kill someone, closed the case marked as a rogue wave victim. Police officers were instructed to scan the shores daily in case the victim washed up. He never did.

My favourite sea quotes:

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea, and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
by John Masefield

I fear thee, ancient Mariner!
I fear they skinny hand!
And thou art long, and lank, and brown,
As is the ribbed sea-sand.
by Coleridge

Haul on the bowline"
We sang that melody
Like all tough sailors do
When they are far away at sea.
Bob Dylan's 115th Dream

So, it's cheer up, me lads
Let your hearts never fail
For the bonny ship the Diamond
Goes a fishin' for the whale.
Sea shanty

By the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea.
You and I, you and I,
Oh how happy we'll be.
Song( sorry. I don't know who wrote it)

For some reason, I have to have a sea book(fiction or non) to read during the summer. It's become a ritual now. I picked up a non-fiction sea book at a friend's book sale last month. It's called THE FLOATING BROTHEL by Sian Rees. I really enjoyed it. It's not what you think it is...well, it is, actually; but it's not...I mean, you know..."brothel"'re thinking that...well, it's more than times.... I'll explain in a later post.

Next: The greatest sea books---novels and non-fiction.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


Sorry. After all this, I still didn't get around to reviewing THE ANGEL'S GAME proper. But first I have to issue a caution. My wife, in all her cautious concern, frequently reminds me that at times I can become overly dramatic about certain things. Considering the fact that I once directed plays many years ago, this insight may have a truthful ring.

With this said, I want to revisit my emotionally-charged sunny afternoon when I had just finished reading THE ANGEL'S GAME while gladly guzzling two bottles of sauvignon blanc listening at high volume to The Talking Heads. This resulted in what I described as a certain summer madness---Am I now becoming "overly dramatic" I wonder? I say this because after much thought I came to realize that this behaviour was more than likely the result of the book, and not the wine.

When I like a book, or at least am intrigued with it, I get fully into it. I absorb the atmosphere, and get lost in the scenery and characters. I think I certainly got lost in THE ANGEL'S GAME, and it carried over and hung with me for quite a time afterwards. This is good literature. It's odd in that it seems to have a straight forward plot and story line which appeals to any reader, I suppose. But---like all of reality---it has strange and unexplained occurrences which makes you think that all is not what it seems. This can be quite disturbing. It was especially disturbing that hot afternoon.
It's mostly a love story with a detective element thrown in. It is quite violent in it's descriptions of the fights that ensue, but overall there is this underlying ghostly, evil presence throughout the story. There is also this hint of unreality which becomes unsettling as you read on. This is a good novel.

By the way, the author has the best definition for religion I have ever read. It's on page 145.

I believe now that I should have read Carlos Ruiz Zafon's novel THE SHADOW OF THE WIND first. I plan to do so now. Carlos Ruiz Zafon is from Spain and an international acclaimed--and much loved---author. The English novel is a translation, of course, so you occasionally get some odd and strangely worded phrases. But otherwise the writing just flows.

Oh! I have to tell you this. My wife started to read THE ANGEL'S GAME last week. She came to me with the book open and a quizzical look in her eyes. The conversation went this way:

Wife: Did you read this?
Bernie: Yes. I finished it awhile ago.
W: I know! But did you read this passage?(points it out in book)
B: Oh yes.
W: Well. What exactly does it mean?
B: Exactly.
W: What?
B: That's the question. Right?
W: What question?
B: Right! Now you're getting it.
W: (She looks at me in silence for quite a few seconds)Uh huh. ( she walks away)

We recently picked up a few really good books from a friend's book sale. I half expected my wife to give THE ANGEL'S GAME up and start to read one of the new novels, but she said that she's really into this book right now, and can't give it up. Uh huh.

THE STRAIN by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan. I'm reading this novel now, but I don't think I'll continue. It's a straight forward plot-heavy story of vampires arriving in New York---by plane. It reads like a low budget TV movie brought to you by McDonald's and Crest toothpaste. The characters are stock in all the definitions of this word, and their problems are all so familiar. In a word, boring. There's no need to go any further, but if you just want a mindless summer read---nothing wrong with that---then this is the book for you.
Interesting to note: This novel actually made my wife a bit angry. I guess the ending of this novel is pretty well left open to ensure a series along the lines of the other vampire books out now. This is wilful contrivance, is it not? She was not too pleased.

Next: Back to the Sea

Sunday, August 2, 2009


Our fair town has its annual summer fling around this time of year. There's a week of festivities including, for adults: dances, beer tents, beer fests, afternoon tea(followed by beer), meat darts, horseshoe throwing, card playing, pub crawl, and many other activities. It's all good fun. The pub crawl presents an unique challenge because of the fact that there is only one tavern in town. Therefore, participants crawl from the tavern to places like the legion, various clubs, and certain man-caves(garages). The latter being places of such comfort and convenience many choose to stay and forgo the need or the desire to continue this delightful endeavor. Many are waylaid by these beer beacons resulting in fewer numbers arriving at the concluding venue than have started.

For the kids there are many activities presented to delight and thrill, including: clowns, balloons, lots of junk food, parades, jammy jogs, face painting, and so on. With regard to face painting: I once saw a beautiful, nude, young woman get her whole body painted by a rather strange painter at an Artist's exhibition in Montreal many, many years ago. It was quite edifying if not just fascinating. But this is different. This is kids getting their face painted in various shapes and colours, making them look even more scary than they already are.

Last week the town cordoned off a part of the main street as a sort of fair, and set up many booths consisting of games, information kiosks, food venues, and flea market paraphernalia. I decided to go.

Walking among the many display booths, I chanced on quite a large one filled with books of various shapes and colours--- and conditions, also. I never get overly excited about this sight because I know two things: 1. These are second hand books(ugh), and 2.There's usually a slim chance there's anything good here---for me anyway. But, you never know. There could be a signed, first edition of a Charles Dickens!---you never know.

I passed the two tables filled with paperbacks(pocketbooks) quickly---a mere glance (I don't buy or read pocketbooks). I stopped at the table containing hard covered books, some not in bad shape. I noticed that there were many Nora Roberts' books. What's with Nora Roberts? I picked up one of her books to check what book was under it, only to find another Nora Roberts. The proprietor of this dubious book stall quickly came over and said,"You like Nora Roberts!" I realized then that I had two Nora Roberts' books in both hands. I stammered, " ah,, not really, no...ah, I was just...ah..." Oh, the embarrassment! He laughed, and told me that yes, they were for the ladies. But he said I do have some James Patterson over here, and led me over to the side table. He showed me three James Patterson books, giving me one to hold, and said that since they were listed at three dollars each, I could get them all for only six dollars. "That's a deal!", he said, and I was wondering when did flea market vendors became so pushy? It must be the poor economy. But I have to tell you, panic began to rise slowly in my spine, and I eyed the table for any possible bail-out. And I saw an old friend---Farley Mowat. The name of the book was THE REGIMENT. I've read many Mowat books and liked them, but I have never read this. This was his account of his regiment in Italy during WW11. Despite the fact that this book was not a first edition(Third, reissue), and that it was a Trade Paperback that looked like it went through the war with him, I bought it at two dollars. A deal considering the possibility of walking to the car with three Patterson's. He took the book and said he would get a bag for it.

As I waited, A little girl whose face was painted to resemble a cat---artistic talent questionable---sidled up next to me, grabbed the Nora Roberts book, and look up at me with defiance. I nodded, and gave a nervous smile. This cat-girl proceeded to flip through the book for whatever reason with sticky fingers. A little boy whose face was made up to resemble a rat, quickly came up behind her, and gave the cat-girl a big cuff on the back of her head, hollering out something unintelligible. The cat-girl screamed, wheeled around, and belted the rat-boy with Nora Roberts---the book, I mean. By this time, my bookseller had returned, and gave out a shout wherein these violent kids ran off, but not before the cat-girl threw down the book she was using as a weapon onto the table, where it landed on its pages. The book sat there splayed open with the covers reaching for the sky, and the spine just ready to break. I couldn't get my eyes off of it. The bookseller gave me my Mowat all wrapped up tight in a Sobey's plastic bag, thus sealing this shoddy transaction. He hurried off to another eager costumer who I think was taking the Patterson deal. Lucky man.

I stood there for a few seconds looking at the Nora Roberts' book begging for help. I started to wonder just how messed up I would seem if I straightened this book. I'm not a compulsive person by nature, but there's something about the condition of books that my mind cannot overtly dismiss. I picked it up, smoothed the pages, realigned it, closed it, and placed it in its proper position.

I thought then that is was time to go home. I had enough fun for the day, and besides, things were getting rough here. I caught up to a neighbour of mine, and we shared a few laughs on the way to the car. He asked me if I bought a book, and I told him no, that it was a set of steak knives.

I'll continue this on another day, for the sun is shining, and the wine is cooling, and the day is getting on....

Monday, July 27, 2009


oh you don't know the effects of the hot mid-summer sun on a late July day where I was sitting out on a lounge reading THE ANGEL'S GAME by Zafon while the brightness of that afternoon rendered me thirsty and realizing I had two bottles of Astica sauvignon blanc iced in the fridge and where I found my prized silver wine goblet and poured from the cold bottle of life sustaining refreshments preceded to finish this mysterious and oddly enjoyable novel with great comfort not keeping an eye on how much wine was being consumed but occasionally turning up the iPod connected to the boombox and fixating on one particular favourite song that being THE TALKING HEADS Life During Wartime which I was playing for I was told at regular higher volume intensities and repeated playing for many many times for which I do apologize to my neighbours but also must confess that this song was followed by Premature by Toots and the Maytals with Bonnie Raitt in likewise fashion while I gyrated in exaggerated dance steps only to be mildly confronted by my wife who suggested I ease up for fear of becoming a spectacle to all the neighbourhood to whom I must say that I am sorry if I scared your pets or caused you stress and then my wife who is the voice of reason after all suggested I start the BBQ of which I attacked with a vengeance only to find the knobs misbehaving in a deplorable fashion jumping up at me in order to foul my very efforts to light the damn thing to which I released a stream of profanities which elicited an intervention from my smiling wife who tamed the little buggers with a delicate dexterity not uncommon from her and this resulted in a satisfying meal of steaks and salad chased by some chardonnay wherein I became extremely sleepy and crashed in the chair to fall into a deep sleep troubled by a disturbing dream of angry seas near dark foreboding ragged shores and sharp-toothed fish and serpents and someone far off saying Bernie Bernie only to find out that it was my wife waking me saying to me that I was snoring to beat the band and I realized that I love this woman but came out of this deep sleep with a profound sadness for which I was not prepared and a depth of emotion which was intense and building for I realized too that I missed my son who is heading for NY City to start a new life and also realized I missed my daughter and her warm smile and started to feel a loneliness that at times is all too familiar and my keen wife I think read this in my eyes and swept into motion getting me to clean up the yard and cover the BBQ for it was time to go inside where she brewed my organic coffee and poured it into my favourite blue cup and we sat in front of the TV the great nullifyer where we entered into small talk involving facts and rumors where after awhile we broke out in giggles and huge laughs and I found the clouds in my mind lifting and the sweet birds chirping and we finished off the leftover dip and the day ended.

But Natalie? Natalie? Are you there? Tell me. What's in this Argentina wine? Has it ever been analysed? Or was it just a midsummer day's dream? Or just mid-summer madness?

I've just only read what my wife wrote here and I'm not sure if I said I would think about blogging or will resume it in October or whatever. But I do have a change coming, and that will be around the end of the summer. I'm giving away books...sorta. More about that later.

THE ANGEL'S GAME was a good summer read albeit disturbing and graphic at times. I'll discuss it at a later date.

Here's to summer.

Monday, July 6, 2009

LIFE OF Pi, Bye, Bye

Hi. This is Bernie's wife, he's involved in a few things this summer which takes him away from his blogging duty. He promised me he would finish the BBQ pit and patio extension before the end of the summer---he's been at it since May. He's also involved in some environmental things....he's busy. He also wonders whether the task of blogging is worth the outcome; to what point does one blog?(he said that). He also said that in late September he will consider whether to proceed or not.

He gave me a few notes on the LIFE OF Pi that he wants me to relate. Here the are. First, Yann Martel is a very good writer who has the capacity to grab his readers attention and sustain their interest in the novel. (I can't read Bernie's writing) I can't make out some of this, so I'll shorten it. Much of the first of the novel is rambling, useless information that has nothing to do with the themes presented. The story of the boy and the tiger in the boat was excellent although it rarely gets goes beyond the drive to survive---which is a pity. The Island scene near the end of the novel became ridiculous and halted any potential in this novel from being truly great. The hospital scene at the end was a bore and the whole novel became questionable.

Bernie says here that he believes that this novel truly had the potential of being absolutely great, but failed on many levels. Bernie believes that a really good ending would have been for the boy to offer himself up to the tiger as food in order to reestablish nature's dominant position. He also says to get rid of the rest(not sure what that means). He says that the symbolic meanings to such an act would keep college professors busy for years---I think he means the tiger eating the boy.

He also wants me to list the two books he bought and will read over the summer. They are: THE ANGEL'S GAME by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, and THE STRAIN by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan---this is a vampire book, suppose to be very good.


Monday, June 29, 2009


Gardening in Cape Breton is like chasing a prized butterfly in a wind storm---it ain't easy. You have frost until the middle of June; rains so heavy they can dent the top of your car; winds that cause your trees to grow sideways. We live close to the North Atlantic ocean and receive the salt spray from a nor'easter---does wonders for the plants.

I bought two slender, beautiful, evergreen trees last year around this time that are quite dead right now. Their demise is a mystery. I bought them at half price, tried to see if i could return them since there was a guarantee attached, and was told the discount voided the warranty. It's the way the world turns.

My wife is distraught. The deceased trees are nestled within a vital region of our much laboured, quite pretty garden. These fir trees are now tinted with a rather handsome brownish colour, but this is not the hue they ought to be. So this presents a problem. Our overstretched garden budget prevents us from replacing these trees, so I suggested to my wife that maybe it would be a good idea to spray paint them---green, of course. My unusual resolution to this conundrum didn't faze her a bit since she knows me well, but she stated that if I decided to do such a thing she would make sure she was out of town for a few days until the deed was done. She fears embarrassment and keeps her distance at such times. I haven't decided on the colour green as of yet.

But this does remind me of a non-fiction book I once read called THE GOLDEN SPRUCE by John Vaillant. It is a true story of a century old giant golden spruce, which is a rarity, growing on one of the islands off the west coast of British Columbia. The natives there always considered this tree to be sacred, and it was always left untouched by the logging companies, that is until an unbalanced, hate-filled logger cut it down one weekend and left it to rot. Fascinating story, well told, a good book.

But our trees are not golden, and I really don't think I could pass them off as a new brownish variety of fir tree---very rare. No.

I'm without a book to read(oh, the horrors), so went rooting around my wife's library looking for something other than Atwood. I found LATE NIGHT ON AIR by Elizabeth Hay. It's a novel about a radio station in Yellowknife---way up north. I checked the book and found it is a first edition Trade paperback and signed! How about that? It also won the Giller Prize, and other prizes, I think. I vaguely remember hearing about it a few years ago and wondered if my wife liked it. She said that she didn't like it at all, and actually didn't finish reading it, which is highly unusual for her. I was intrigued. She also said that she picked it up at Chapters in Halifax, and that it was already signed by the author. I decided to read it.

I could understand why my wife did not finish this novel. Did you ever meet a person who loves to talk, and actually never shuts up? Did you ever meet someone who goes on and on mixing the past with the present with great ease, but never getting to the point? That's this novel. I found I cared very little for any of the characters---my wife's sentiment too. There's absolutely no curse words in this novel! None! My wife didn't think that that was a viable criticism. I do---not real. I was anxious to read about the canoe trip near the end of the novel thinking that this was going to pull everything together in a clever, exciting manner, but it read like a travelogue where the "disaster" was actually more of a mishap. I think this book is a disaster. Also I didn't get the feel of being in the North; there was no atmosphere to that end.

Some noticeable points: Quite a contrived ending; unbelievable, really.
One character said when on the canoe trip that this trip is going to change her life. Unbelievable, you never know what experiences will change your life until many years later.
Notice this: " After she left her desk, he went over and picked up the pen and held it to his nose, pathetic man that he was, trying to smell her hair". The phrase "pathetic man that he was" is written by the author E. Hay, not the narrator. In other words, the narrator tells the story and should be without any bias towards any character, so this phrase was obviously the author's. This is a faux pas seldom done by good writers.

The Giller jury said that this novel was "dazzling, flawlessly-crafted, masterfully told". So there you are, what do I know. My wife was right---she usually is.

Next: Taking a slice off of Pi

Monday, June 22, 2009


I---and my wife---have started watching the game show The Wheel Of Fortune. In other words, I have officially become an old fart. All I need now is to eat supper on one of those cheap metal trays that prop up in all their insipidness in front of you. Here's my skit on watching the Wheel.

Martha: Ralph!
Martha: Ralph!
Ralph: (in the other room) What!
Martha: Ralph! Ralph!
Ralph: What! What! (mumbles---unintelligible)
M: The Wheel is on!
R: What! What deal?
M: The Wheel! The Wheel! Vanna, you know.
R: Oh! I'll be right there.
R: (comes into room) Did it just start?
M: Yes! Someone just won a trip to Rooba-Dooba!
R: Where the hell is that?
M: Don't know, but I want to go. Looks like a nice place.
R: You want to go. It could be in Newfoundland, for Christ's sake.
M: I doubt that , Ralph. They wouldn't send winners to Newfoundland.
R: Who won it? Which one?
M: The little ugly one there, on the left.
R: I wouldn't mind going to Rooba-Dooba with her. She ain't ugly.
M: Shhh, they're starting the next game. A phrase...hmmmm.

Actually the Wheel of Fortune is from medieval philosophy and refers to the changing fortunes of us all. The wheel turns at all times---slowly as well as quickly--- issuing in great luck on one end and bad on the other. At the top of your good fortune there is nowhere to go but down. Likewise, at the bottom of you bad luck there is nowhere to go but up(hopefully). It's the way of things. The depth and severity of your fall from good fortune is directly proportional to your arrogance when you reach the pinnacle of success. Don't you love it? Shakespeare mentions the Wheel many times in his plays.

But this Wheel of Fortune is an American game show. It is interesting, although I find it hard to understand the need for Vanna. She actually slows the game down because she has to shuffle along the board to "touch" the lighted panels. I was thinking the game would be much more exciting and faster if Vanna was on a bungee cord and would swing around the board kicking the lighted panels. I would like to see that. This is silly, I know, but she is quite obviously redundant and should have a more entertaining role.

I get a lot of the answers on this board before my wife. You see, I do many crossword puzzles every week, and the game is along the lines of this worthwhile past time. When I get the answer, my wife says, "Very good!! Very good!!!" She also looks at me in wonderment. I find this a bit disconcerting. It's as if it truly shocks her that I can get anything right.

I don't watch much TV---my wife neither. I really don't have anything against TV, but I think there are probably better things to do with your time. There are a couple of things I can say against TV though, from what I see. One is this: TV lies to you, constantly. Books on the other hand tell the truth, mainly. The other is this: TV simplifies even the most complex subjects, and draws a conclusion from this simplicity which it wants you to adhere to. People with no more than a high school education feel they know everything about Astrophysics because they saw an hour special on this topic on the Discovery Channel narrated by Kermit the Frog. Books on subjects like Astrophysics written for the layman explain the many aspects of this field in understanding terms, but the reader will realize his/her limitations. And commercials are extremely annoying. Extremely.

Books offer a pleasant, relaxing, intellectual, calming, sometimes exciting, break from this too-busy world. TV takes over your mind; books engage it.

Anyway, I'll buy an "e", Pat(Is it Pat?) Watch Vanna go---how old is she anyway?

Next: Trees and Hay

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Tuesday, June 16, is BLOOMSDAY celebrated in Dublin, Ireland, and throughout the world. It relives the events of Leopold Bloom---the protagonist in James Joyce's masterpiece novel ULYSSES. The novel's story line takes place in one day on June 16, 1904, in Dublin.

This was the only novel that rendered me completely awe-struck. I was first wholly introduced to ULYSSES in the 60's, and have carried a flaming torch for it since then. I own three copies of this book---one is an older hardcover copy, and my wonderful son when on a trip through Ireland stopped by at the Joyce museum and bookstore, and sent me all kinds of books, pamphlets, pictures, AND a T-shirt. Good boy.

I remember way back when a friend of mine had a copy of ULYSSES before I did. He showed me the end of the novel, being Molly's stream of consciousness soliloquy, and its complete lack of any punctuation. I took the book from him and read it in amazement---all day! I was ducking him all day long between classes, and during lunch, but he cornered me at the end of day and I had to hand it over. Yes, I did, Yes, Yes, Yes.

ULYSSES is probably the most important, as well as the best novel ever written; yet not many people have actually read it---or actually read through it. It's a difficult book to follow and understand. I get hopelessly lost in some areas of the novel where I'm not that sure to what he's referring. However, there are great guides now outlining in detail the chapters. And the writing is beyond wondrous, they say Joyce uses several styles of writing in this novel.
I love the opening chapter in Martello Tower with Buck Mulligan. There's a really funny banter going on between the characters.
The scene where Stephen Dedalus teaches the boys in school, a very sad and boring day in school(I could identify).
Stephen's walk along the beach thinking about his now dead mother and other matters.
Blooms appears buying some kidney. his breath having a tinge of urine on it.
This is excellent stuff. But then you get to the NIGHTTOWN scene where things change to a hallucinatory stage, and the writing gets creative and exciting.
I love the question and answer scene near the end of the novel where the narration is pulled back to examine both Bloom and Stephen in their drunken antics. The end is Molly(Penelope)in her stream of consciousness. Yes.

I love this book. It's sheer genius.

Joyce's DUBLINERS is a collection of 15 stories centering around the characters of Dublin. They are excellent stories which makes for quite an enjoyable reading experience. One story THE DEAD was made into a great movie by John Huston. I remember when it first came out, the producers of this movie wanted John to change the title because they thought the American people would think it was a zombie movie. John Huston refused, good man.

Joyce wrote FINNEGAN'S WAKE after ULYSSES. FINNEGAN'S WAKE is unreadable, it really is. No matter how much you study the themes, check the guides, read the scholarly reviews, you can't follow this novel---I can't anyway. Joyce was into avant-gard techniques that drastically limit readership. But it's still considered a major novel in English literature.

So, on Tuesday, lift a pint to Bloom and his day; lift a pint to Joyce too.

Next: TV vrs Books

Monday, June 8, 2009


My wife and I went to see the movie ANGELS & DEMONS at the Empire Theater last week. A curious thing happens when we go to the movies, I have noticed. My wife stays with me when in the ticket line, but upon reaching the ticket booth she moseys on into the lobby to await my arrival with the tickets in hand. I purchase the Senior's rate, of course---it's cheaper. I'm alright with that. It's one of the perks of being of an older age. I was talking to an old buddy of mine recently who told me his wife who is close to 60 years old does not like to be referred to as "Senior". AHA! A light went on in my otherwise befuddled mind. I believe I now understand my wife's hasty departure when the ticket booth looms near. The pimply-faced youth managing the transaction of money and tickets gives a sly glance at you in order to confirm your request for the senior's rate. With me this glance takes a nano second. I would imagine, with my wife's disposition, a look by a witless youth to confirm age could be extremely dangerous for him/her. They could very well end up with those tickets stuffed away in an embarrassing part of their anatomy. So for me, that's one mystery solved.

My wife enjoyed the movie ANGELS & DEMONS, very much. I didn't all that much. I just find that director Ron Howard is so blah; I don't think he has an artistic flair at all. His movies are so straight and narrow, and so boring. But it was cool to see parts of the Vatican destroyed.

ANGELS & DEMONS is written by Dan Brown, as is THE DA VINCI CODE which was a major bestselling novel published in 2003. Both novels center around the so-called secrets and subterfuges brewing beneath the otherwise wholesome facade of the Catholic Church. One has to tread lightly with such a subject in the fear of evoking God's wrath, so to speak. But Dan Brown holds back nothing and therefore received scathing criticisms from not only the Church, but scholars and historians too. Dan Brown is smart; he's a multi-millionaire now.

Dan Brown got the material for his novels from a book published in 1982 called THE HOLY BLOOD AND THE HOLY GRAIL by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, & Henry Lincoln. This book claimed that Jesus survived the crucifixion, married Mary Magdalene, moved to France, started the Merovingian dynasty, and ended his days as a security guard at the Louvre( I made that last part up ). Like all conspiracy theories, these wild assertions are all ungrounded, based on speculations and jaded interpretations. Take for instance the Priory of Sion which is a secret society who purportedly holds all the information on this great secret. This was later revealed to be one of the greatest hoaxes of the 20th century. The Knights Templar were wiped out not because they possessed information and artifacts(Grail) that threatened the Church, but because in effect they were the first multi-national company who grew so much power and riches that they threatened the Church and certain countries with their influence. They had to go. And actually when it comes down to it, does anyone really care?

Both books by Brown are mysteries for all that. They contain the classic plot outline of sleuth, companion---female love interest, bodies piling up, time running out, twists and turns, dynamic ending. But with the Brown books you have this element concerning a secret well hidden from the public, which is like peeking at something you shouldn't, making the novels unique and exciting even though the "secret" information is distorted and groundless.

The novels are fun, but shouldn't be taken seriously.

Next: Two favorite authors

Monday, June 1, 2009


We'll put Da Vinci on the shelf for now because there is breaking news. I read it in the Globe and Mail, and I believe everything I read in the G&M. By the way, the G&M should be required reading for every Canadian, especially Saturday's. I love the Saturday Globe and Mail! On Saturday morning I set out early in order to purchase my copy---one has to go early for it seems there are limited copies on this part of the Island. I usually pick it up at the local corner store, and the female clerk always remarks on the high cost of this newspaper. It's always the same scene, every Saturday. I pass her the paper, she says, "Wow, expensive paper!" I usually say nothing. It's as if this bit of unimportant information is new to her every week. I believe you call that short term memory loss. She's a pleasant woman, but reminds me of the goldfish who they say suffers from this condition. The goldfish swims around a small tank endlessly in a circle discovering things for the first time that it has just seen two seconds ago. It goes like this: Goldfish swims, says,"Neat place, Oh look, a treasure chest!" Goldfish swims around, says, "Neat place, oh look, a treasure chest!" Goldfish swims around, says,"Neat place, Oh look..... you get the idea.

Anyway, I'm off the track. I was talking about....ahh(I'll check my notes)...oh yes, Archie Comics. (just kidding...really!)

The G&M has wonderful journalists, columnists, writers; one being Lynn Crosbie who wrote an excellent item on the Archie Comics. And here comes the "breaking news": Archie Andrews, the 84 year old teenager, is proposing marriage to Veronica, his girlfriend. WOW, this is big! Apparently, according the Lynn Crosbie, this will happen in August in a six-part-story called "Archie Marries Veronica". When was the last time I bought a comic book? I'm going to get this one, though.

I was never much of a comic book reader when I was young. I liked, in stead, Classics Illustrated where the greatest books written were turned into colourful panels where major characters had these dialogue balloons over their heads. You should have seen the monologue balloon over Hamlet's head in the "To be or not to be" segment.
I did have Superman and the like, but always preferred Plasticman. Plasticman was a rather tall, lanky, dorky-looking superhero, but what appealed to me is that he could change at any time. He could change into anything and everything at a glance, and had wit enough to change when it was advantageous. Cool! At a young age, that was quite desirable.

Off track a bit here, sorry.

Lynn Crosbie goes on to describe and explain the two girls in Archie's comic book life: Veronica and Betty. Betty: blond, fun-loving, cute, loyal, and who loves Archie. Veronica: Dark-haired, spoiled, rich, self-centered---a dominate bitch, there's that word again. You see, Archie loves Veronica---the beguiled boy could be a fool. Archie would be much better off with Betty---she's nice.

But this is classic, isn't it? Men are invariably attracted to the Veronicas of this world. This theme regarding the appeal of the "dangerous" woman to the hapless sap has been played out in literature as far back as the Bible. Lynn Crosbie mentions heroines in F. Scott Fitzgerald, Becky Sharpe in Thackeray's VANITY FAIR. I have others: Lucy Tantamount in Aldous Huxley's POINT COUNTER POINT, Hester Prynne in THE SCARLET LETTER. How about Catherine Earnshaw in Emily Bronte's WUTHERING HEIGHTS? Cathy is my all time favourite woman of literature---full of life, full of the devil. That's the best book to come out of 19th century literature, in my opinion. Lady Macbeth? "Screw your courage to the sticking place..."---be a man, Macbeth! I was so disappointed when Lady Macbeth fell apart, walking naked around the castle trying to rub the blood off her hands. She should have screwed herself to the sticking place. That didn't sound right, sorry.

So, Archie marrying Veronica could be interesting. Maybe she'll make a man out of him, maybe she'll destroy him, maybe she'll change his nerdy hairstyle, maybe she'll even turn Archie into a vibrant, dynamic, interesting comic book character---that's a stretch.

So I'll be buying the August edition of the comic book Archie, for sure. My female clerk will probably say," Comic books cost a lot!" Uh huh.

Next: Da Vinci