Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Seven Bowls of Tea - Lu Tong

The first bowl moistens my lips and throat.

The second bowl banishes my loneliness and melancholy.

The third explores the dry rivulets of my soul,

Searching for legends of five thousand scrolls.

With the fourth the pain of past injustice vanishes through my pores.

The fifth bowl purifies my flesh and bones.

The sixth bowl makes me one with the immortal, feathered spirits.

The seventh conveys such pleasure I am overcome,

Feeling only a pure wind rushing beneath my wings.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Astral Weeks - Van Morrison

I recently purchased the CD Astral Weeks by Van Morrison and so far, I want to claim it for my current life's soundtrack. The first song was enough for me to even say it; here are the lyrics:

Astral Weeks – Van Morrison

If I ventured in the slipstream
Between the viaducts of your dream
Where mobile steel rims crack
And the ditch in the back roads stop

Could you find me?
Would you kiss-a my eyes?
To lay me down in silence easy
To be born again, to be born again

From the far side of the ocean
If I put the wheels in motion
And I stand with my arms behind me
And I'm pushin' on the door

Could you find me?
Would you kiss-a my eyes?
To lay me down in silence easy
To be born again, to be born again

There you go standin' with the look of avarice
Talkin' to Huddie Ledbetter
Showin' pictures on the wall
Whisperin' in the hall
And pointin' a finger at me

There you go, there you go
Standin' in the sun darlin'
With your arms behind you
And your eyes before
There you go

Takin' care of your boy
Seein' that he's got clean clothes
Puttin' on his little red shoes
I see you know he's got clean clothes

A puttin' on his little red shoes
A pointin' a finger at me
Standing in your sad arrest
Trying to do my very best

Lookin' straight at you
Comin' through, darlin'
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah

If I ventured in the slipstream
Between the viaducts of your dreams
Where mobile steel rims crack
And the ditch in the back roads stop

Could you find me?
Would you kiss-a my eyes?
To lay me down in silence easy
To be born again, to be born again
To be born again, to be born again

In another world, darlin'
In another world
In another time
Got a home on high

Ain't nothing but a stranger in this world
I'm nothing but a stranger in this world
I got a home on high in another land
So far away, so far away

Way up in the heaven, way up in the heaven
Way up in the heaven, way up in heaven, oh
In another time, in another place
In another time, in another place

Way up in the heaven
In another time, in another place
In another time, in another place
In another face

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Bear of Brideshead Revisited

I was introduced to the world of Evelyn Waugh through watching the 2008 movie Brideshead Revisited; I was completely swept away by the time period, the prep ivy league men of Oxford and British society as seen through the eyes of a young man in the 1920s. I loved the movie so much that I had to read the book (of which was much better!) and felt satisfied....until I learned of the 1981 mini series of the book starring such greats as Jeremy Irons, Sir Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud and many others. A couple of days ago, I found the entire series at a local bookstore and had to purchase it. So far, it reigns supreme over the movie, bearing a close second to the book (of course). So, it was with great mirth that I located an article regarding the fate of Lord Sebastian Flyte's teddy bear, Aloysius. Enjoy the link and happy reading!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

New York Times: A Booklover's San Francisco

My publisher, Allan Gilbreath (author of the Galen Vampire novels - Kerlak Publishing), just sent this link to me from the New York Times, which of course made me drool for more books - as if I did not have enough in my library. Click on the title to be sent to the article and Happy Reading!

Tea Taste - Celestial Seasonings Sugar Plum Spice Herbal Tea

Ah yes, there is nothing finer than enjoying a cup of hot tea on a cold December night. It really is quite a pleasure. However, it only adds to the experience when one is drinking a particular blend of tea. Tonight, I am having a lovely (and now cold!) cup of Celestial Seasonings’ Sugar Plum Spice Herbal Tea. To be quite honest, I wasn’t too sure as to the taste when I first purchased it but now, after three cups since purchase, I am glad I made the choice. The plum flavour does stand out, along with the cinnamon, hibiscus and cardamom in every cup; I just prepared my second cup for the night since I will be probably be up for some time working on my latest manuscript. Bringing the cup to my nose gives me a chance to savour the flavours and enjoy the quite fragrant aroma before sipping it delicately. Yes, I enjoy my tea just that much. In any case, this is a nice blended holiday tea that will go well with shortbread or by itself; the flavour makes it quite a nice dessert tea. It’s also good to drink at night since it is herbal and no caffeine; you can drink as many cups as you want with no worry of staying up half the night jittery. So, no matter what your religious (if any) background, do yourself a favour and get a box of this tea to enjoy with a good book or with good friends during these cold nights and perhaps the Sugar Plum Faery will stop by for a chat as well.

Happy Cups!

Book Review - Arthas: Rise of the Lich King by Christie Golden

Being a player of World of Warcraft for well over a year now, I feel as though Azeroth has become my second home. During my playing time, I have been a Night Elf priest, a Troll shaman, a Tauren warrior and finally, a female Draenei paladin, a male Blood Elf rogue, a female Blood Elf Death Knight and a male Worgen rogue and a female Goblin mage, thanks to the latest expansion named Cataclysm. Whew! Talk about having multiple personalities. In any case, I felt I owed it to myself to read some of the books associated with the game; after all, as a bibliophile, I have to partake in the book of whatever media/hobby I am currently enjoying. So, when I picked up a used copy of Christie Golden’s Arthas: Rise of the Lich King, I knew I was in for a treat. Arthas Menethil, the crowned prince of Lordaeron, was once a beloved member of royalty and a friend to all. However, thanks to circumstances very much beyond his control and his own refusal to accept his faults and move on, the prince resorts to being driven by vengeance and soon becomes a feared and hated creature beyond all level of comprehension. Because of his own shortsightedness, he becomes the Lich King, a ruler of ice, coldness and the undead known as the Scourge.
Golden shows her ability to tell a good tale as she spins the history of Arthas from his youth to becoming the most evil foe ever to set foot in Azeroth (until Deathwing comes along in Cataclysm). I began reading the book yesterday and, being a lover of all things WoW, I could not put the book down until I finished it only a couple of hours ago tonight. After closing the book, I felt as though I understood Arthas a little more and why he made those choices that ultimately led to his downfall. While reading reviews of this book on Amazon,com, I read one reviewer who claimed to compare Arthas the Anakin Skywalker. In my own opinion, I found that, while they did share similarities, they were quite different. Both were destined to be a force greater than what was known in their respective worlds. Both were loved by all. Both gave into their own faults and feelings of guilt. However, while Anakin made his choices in order to save everyone, Arthas made his choices to seek revenge on the one who had done his people harm. Also, Arthas willingly went to evil while Anakin truly thought he was on the side of the true good for all. When Anakin was dying in his son’s arms, he asked for redemption and forgiveness for all of the things he did. Arthas killed off the last piece of humanity he had left inside of him; he wanted nothing to stand in his way of becoming more and more powerful against his foes in Azeroth. There is no redemption in him, only a coldness that can never be warmed again. Now that I have finished reading my first sample of Golden’s work, I can’t wait to dig into her newest Warcraft novel, The Shattering, a novel that explains the events leading up to Cataclysm and the return of Deathwing. FOR THE HORDE!

75 Signs That You Might Be a Bibliophile

A funny list for all those who love the written word as much as I. Enjoy and yes, I have actually done #61!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Twas the Night Before CATACLYSM - As Told By A WoW Fan

Twas the night before CATACLYSM
And all through the house
Not a creature was stirring
Not even a Plaguelands louse!

Alliance and Horde stockings
Hung by the fire with care
In hopes that St. Blizzard
Would soon be there.

When all of a sudden
There rose such a clatter
I dropped my dwarven ale
To see what was the matter!

It was dark outside in Stormwind
For everyone had gone to bed
Or out celebrating a latest raid
With severed Orc heads.

I then heard loud noises
From the sky coloured in night
I raced out of my warm home
To see what caused the fright!

Golden griffons flew over my head
While their masters rode with pride
Soon, there appeared a large black shape
That glowed red from the inside!

A large black dragon with glowing eyes
Flew around everything
My heart leaped to my throat:
The dreaded Deathwing!

For years, stories ran through the lands
Tales great and small
Of how this overstuffed lizard
Wanted to conquer all.

However, the Alliance and Horde
Wanted none of his ways
We wanted to continue our senseless battles
Ah yes, such glory days!

So, as I looked into the night
Watching him fly so lazily
I wondered if I had time to pack
And move to Shattrath City!

Merry Cataclysm, EVERYONE!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Book Review - Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse

Herman Hesse’s novel Steppenwolf is more than just a simple story within a story of a man and his travels read by a young man who discovers his manuscript. It tells of a man coming to grips with his humanity and that of the Beast Within while also understanding that the two sides have many layers. The Man is a purveyor of knowledge, arts and culture. He is the one that lives under the sun, a creature of the day. However, the Steppenwolf, or Wolf of the Steppes, is a savage of the night who takes said knowledge from the man and pushes the envelope in pursuing the extremes. The wolf understands the true ways of the world and is made stronger by it. He is not afraid to live while the man is not afraid to die. Therein lies the paradox of the Steppenwolf, or Harry Haller as he is so named in the novel. He seeks for a release of his pain so gained from his increasing knowledge of the world and realizes that he cannot do it. He cannot kill himself for the wolf will not allow him to commit such an act of cowardice. It is when he is at his most desperate to die that he meets a young woman named Hermine. She represents everything that he is with an extra component – she does not fear what she has gained in life. Rather than dwell upon the pessimistic, she revels in the good Life has to offer her. From this initial meeting the two become closer than friends and lovers as Hermine shows Harry a better way to handle his knowledge of Life; she teaches him how to dance the fox trot, carry on a passionate affair with a woman and seek pleasure in its many forms. However, the Steppenwolf learns his greatest lesson after a masquerade ball when his new musician friend Pablo invites him to spend some time in his Magic Theater – For Madmen Only. The Magic Theater shows him his life in various ways, reveals hidden fears and secrets and situations that cause him to take action, resulting in the unveiling of the greatest lesson learned for the Steppenwolf. The unexpected ending was quite a surprise for me; I had to read it three times just to make sure I fully understood what had happened to him. Cruel clarity was the end but the price was high.
At times, I felt as though this novel within a novel had actually occurred; the pain felt by the Steppenwolf felt too real to be simply imagined. The questions he poses regarding Life I have had from time to time; when one begins to see the world for what it truly is, that knowledge comes at a heavy price. When one discovers such knowledge, do they wish to return to their world of before? Or, do they realize that once they make their choice, they can never go back? Once again, I found myself asking those questions and applying them to my own life; I had recently undergone several major changes in my life and I felt, and still feel, quite vulnerable and relieved at the same time. One of the changes was my interest and study of Taoism, the Watercourse Way. With Taoism, I learned to accept the moment for what it was and to not look back at the past nor dread the unknown future. I was to simply live and enjoy the present. However, with my new knowledge I used to wonder if perhaps it would be better to simply forget and meld back within the folds of the masses rather than stand out as an individual and live this new life. As a friend once told me, dying is easy. It’s living that is hard. I couldn’t have agreed with him more, for in my and the Steppenwolf’s life, dying from one life to be reborn into a new one is one of the hardest things to do. However, as he and I both learned, once you take that step, it does get easier, especially if the chains of the past are no longer wrapped around the body, ready to drag it down. With my own life changes, I too became a Steppenwolf and embraced my many sides while acknowledging that the process would be hard and full of dismay and fear. The new life would also be filled with joy, clarity and understanding. For that, like Harry in the end, I was willing to pay the price and was glad to do so.

Movie Review - The Talented Mr. Ripley

Money. Power. Blue blood. Murder. Deception. Manipulation. These are a few words that come to mind whenever I watch the film The Talented Mr. Ripley, based on the book of the same name by Patricia Highsmith. Usually, I will read a book first and then watch the movie to compare and contrast all the while thinking that the book will most assuredly be better than the movie. However, this movie is rare: it is just as good as the book (recently read the book after having loved the movie for years) due to excellent direction and a stellar cast of actors that give it their all during such a performance. Matt Damon plays the title role, Thomas Ripley: a young nobody whom, through luck and sheer chance, is swept up in a world he’d only dreamt of – the world of the wealthy elite. He is asked by shipping entrepreneur Richard Greenleaf to travel to Italy and get his playboy son and jazz lover, Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law), to return home and assume the role of a shipping executive. However, once Ripley arrives in Italy, thanks to funds generously given by Mr. Greenleaf, he finds that Dickie represents everything he’d ever wanted in life: power, money, elitism and escape from his own dreary existence. He soon befriends Dickie and his girlfriend Marge Sherwood (Gwyneth Paltrow) and begins to live the good life. Of course, Ripley has no intentions of returning to Italy with Dickie in tow; Ripley has no intentions of leaving Dickie’s side until Dickie’s friend, Freddie Miles (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) begins to question Ripley’s motives and just why there appears to be quite an “unnatural” attraction held by Ripley towards Dickie. Even Dickie begins to tire of Ripley and his naiveté when an Italian woman Dickie has an affair with is found drowned in a body of water nearby. She was pregnant with Dickie’s child and when Dickie refused to assist her, she killed herself. Ripley, owing more than his life to Dickie, offers to take the blame if the matter ever came up, leading Dickie to realize just whom he is dealing with.
Several days later while on a boat, Dickie confronts Ripley and lets him know just how annoying he truly is; Ripley retaliates, claiming that Dickie is nothing more than a spoiled brat who doesn’t know what he wants in life and soon the two fight, leading to Ripley attacking and finally killing Dickie with an oar. Now the fun begins as Ripley takes over Dickie’s life, assuming his name and everything that comes with it. Soon, the web of intrigue grows, leading to another murder – the death of Freddie when Ripley fears that Freddie has figured out what happened with Dickie. Marge, on the other hand, grows from slightly concerned to paranoid as she unintentionally feeds from Ripley’s lies as to the location of Dickie. She soon realizes that Ripley is not as innocent as he has claimed to be all this time but unfortunately, she is powerless to stop him. To make matters even more complicated, Ripley must assume Dickie’s identity whenever he is around Meredith Logue (Cate Blanchett), another member of the wealthy elite; he introduces himself as Dickie to her when he first meets her after shortly arriving in Italy. Finally, we must not forget the character of Peter Smith-Kingsley (Jack Davenport), a music composer and friend of Marge Sherwood who expresses subtly a romantic interest in Ripley. Lies are told, secrets are being created right before our very eyes, bodies are piling up and in the very sorrowful but necessary end, we understand that Ripley can and will get away with it all. Set against the backdrop of 1950s Italy combined with a killer jazz soundtrack, The Talented Mr. Ripley is a classic that will live for the years to come.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

My Dinner with Verlaine, the Absinthe Faery

My Dinner with Verlaine, The Absinthe Fairy
9pm, 4 December 2010
While watching The Triplets of Belleville

I have always been a lover of the history and mystery behind absinthe. So many writers, artists and other creatives have enjoyed the liquor with a special wish and hope that the Green Faery would visit them. So it was with my own curiosity that I purchased a small bottle of Grand Absente, Absinthe Originale. Vincent Van Gogh, one of my favourite artists, enjoyed this particular blend.

While watching the movie The Triplets of Belleville, I prepared my first glass of absinthe to enjoy while the French movie played on. What I did not expect, however, was that I would receive a visitor. In the solitude of my own home, I was honoured to have the Green Fairy herself visit me. At first, I was taken aback by her sudden appearance but I swallowed my shock and instead did something no one had ever done: I interviewed her. So, following this introduction is my interview with the Green Fairy.

My Dinner with Verlaine, the Absinthe Faery.

Wow! After starting the movie, I prepared my fist glass of absinthe (see photos) and took a sip. The intense flavour almost threw me back somewhat; it burned my lips and went down my throat with quite a kick. The star anise flavour lingered around in my mouth for some time and I smiled while the taste finally dissolved into my stomach. A couple of sips later and I felt like I had been drinking it all of my life.

When I prepared my glass for a second time, I heard a small cough to my right. Glancing over with the glass raised to my lips, I saw a woman dressed in a long green and simple cut dress that accentuated her sea foam greenish skin and spinach green hair that flowed down her back in a simple braid. Her dark coloured eyes stared at me while a simple smile played on her mouth as I strangely shrugged my shoulders and took another sip.

She asked me if I knew who she was and I nodded. You’re the Green Fairy, I said in a nonchalant tone that was in direct contrast to my fluttering stomach. Here she was, a legend and myth, in my apartment with me! I finished off my glass and placed it on the coffee table then asked her if she wanted anything to drink. She cocked her head to the side in a quizzical manner, as if no one had ever asked her that question.

Well, rather than go on with the narrative, I will instead give you the dialogue. Enjoy!

Me: So…you’re the Green Faery, huh? Wow, I never thought….

Verlaine: Never thought what? That I was real? Oh my dear, I am very much real. I am real because of the world and their belief in me. That and I refuse to go away.

Me: Huh. So, seeing as how you’re in my apartment, would you like something to drink?

V: Actually, I would love a glass of water.

Me: (goes to kitchen, gets glass then give it to her)

V: (drinks it down in one gulp then places glass on table) You know, I’ve never had anyone ever offer me something to drink. Ah yes, another reason why I’m glad I came to you.

Me: Well….thanks. So, do you have a name or do I just call you Green Faery?

V: (laughs) Actually, please call me Verlaine. That will suit me for tonight.

Me: All right, Verlaine it is, then…..hey, I’ve got a really cool idea: do you mind if I write down this conversation? I don’t people would believe me if I just told them I talked with the Green Fairy.

V: (laughs) Sure, why not? Huh, I’ve never been interviewed either.

Me: Well, it looks as thought this will be a night for a lot of firsts. Cool. Actually, do you mind if I prepare another glass?

V: Be my guest; I’m already here.

Me: (prepares third glass to calm me down) Okay, so I gotta ask; what was it like being around Van Gogh? He’s one of my favourite artist! In fact-

V: You’re drinking the version of absinthe he drank. (sigh). Yes, he was quite a man. Very disturbed. Do you know he actually asked me if giving a piece of his ear to a woman as a gift was a good idea?

Me: Really? Well, we all know he did it but what did you tell him?

V: I told him to close his eyes when he did it. (silence as I stared at her in shock) What? Did you expect me to be sympathetic to him? He was a loony, for goodness sake! He was going to do it anyway; seeing me gave him just enough courage to do it and not chicken out.

Me: Huh. Uh, okay, wow, what does one say to that?

V: How about asking me another question? (grinning while showing very pointed teeth)

Me: (preparing another glass to help numb myself) Uh, so, well, tell me about some other creatives you’ve known and talked to.

V: Well, my dear, I didn’t exactly talk to them, just merely showed up, they announced their great “plan” and I gave them enough courage to actually go through with it…..even commit suicide.

Me: (shudder) Wow.

V: Wow exactly.

Me: My tongue feels slightly numb.

V: (laughing) You’ll get used to it. Trust me.

Me: (coughing) Okay, so tell me about Toulouse-Lautrec?

V: Oh, him? But why? He was short. Painted very pretty pictures. He was creative; in short, ha!, he was disturbed. Enough said. Actually, I think that sums up most of the people I have visited in my time.

Me: Actually, speaking of time, just how long have you been around?

V: Dunno; how long have people wanted to believe in the supernatural? How long have people wanted to believe in faeries? Which, by the way, my dear, do you realize you’re-

Me: Yes, well, we’re talking about you right now (coughing) So, you’ve been around that long huh?

V: As long as I can remember, I have been around for quite some time. I have been called by many names and have had many faces. This one is my most current. I like it, actually. Stole it from Paul Verlaine, one of my favourites. (playing with dress). What do you think of the dress? Stole it from a dryad one night when she was out with some satyr for a tryst.

Me: (fingering the dress – felt like very delicate leaves) Very nice, Verlaine. Dryad, huh?

V: Not too bright dryad. When no one calls upon me or I don’t feel like visiting humans, I spend time in my own world. The world of faeries, elves, dumb dryads, you name it. When people dream, they visit my world but they always forget it the next day. However, creatives remember what they have seen and experienced and use them to create stories, novels, poems, paintings, you name it. I like returning home whenever I’ve spent too much time around humans; it helps me clear my head.

Me: Well, that’s cool.

V: (looking at me in silence for several minutes) You know, I’m glad I came to you tonight. You’re the first person ever to talk to me and ask me about my life. You’re not trying to get me to help you with something; you just want to talk.

Me: (nodding head) Uh huh but my tongue is really numb right now.

V: (laughing)

Me: So, what do you do to relax, aside from going home to your supernatural world?

V: Well, don’t laugh, but I love tinkering around in my garden at home, reading books from both my world and yours, love Charles deLint by the way, mainly because he’s visited my world many times both knowing and not knowing, and I’m an excellent cook. Love trying out new recipes whenever I can or whenever someone gives me one to try out. D’you know I tried making quiche for the first time last week? Wow, loaded with calories but oh so good.

Me: I actually wanted to try to make that myself this weekend (grin).

V: I love a good plate of pasta with sauce created with ingredients from my own garden. Sometimes, I have to worry about sneaky pixies stealing my tomatoes. Don’t know why they love damn tomatoes but whatever. Damn pixies. Hey, do you mind if I get myself another glass of water?

Me: (tongue and mouth now slightly numb, waving hand towards her to go ahead)

V: (gets another glass of water then sits down in living room again; takes long sip) Ah, nothing is finer than a glass of water. So, are you feeling the effects yet? (looking at my slightly red and relaxed face) Huh, it looks like you are. Well, do you have several more minutes to talk?

Me: (nodding) Well, I do have one last question: are you with anyone?

V: (arched eyebrow) With anyone? Oh, you mean dating? Well….(blushing somewhat) I AM kinda of seeing someone right now. I will say this: he’s in the place humans don’t want to go to when they’ve been bad.

Me: (shocked look) Wait, you’re dating a demon?! A freakin’ demon?!

V: Well, he loves to give me fire flowers and he’s quite the (cough) stallion in bed so-

Me: (blushing) Okay, okay, I get it! Well, as long as you guys are happy, then…I guess.

V: (Looking at me carefully) My dear, I think you’ve had enough. You’re starting to turn into a colour close to my own. So, I shall bid you adieu until next time…and by the way, I’ll tell you my real name. That way, if you would ever like some company, just say my name and I’ll be here (whispers my name – sorry can’t tell you what she said!)

Me: Thanks so much for talking with me.

V: Thanks for wanting to talk to me. (slowly disappearing) By the way, loved your books and can’t wait for the next three to come! I already know the titles – he told me…… (disappears)

So, there you have it. My first conversation with Verlaine. Mind you, it was quite exciting, fascinating, scary and all around wonderful. It made such an impact on me that I wanted to share it with everyone.

When or if you drink absinthe for the first or next time, tell Verlaine hello for me and that her secret name is still safe.

Bon soir, mes amis.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I am one of 10,000....who Killed Amanda Palmer

After weeks of waiting, I finally received my copy of the book Who Killed Amanda Palmer. The book consists of photos of Palmer in various stages of death, murder, fatal accidents, and other moments that cut her life way too short. Add in stories written by Neil Gaiman and you've got a book that, frankly, is sheer genius. If you enjoy things that lay way, way outside of the box, then you need to purchase a copy of the book and her same titled CD as well. Kudos to A. Palmer and N. Gaiman for creating a work that will be remembered for quite some time. I know I will.

Are You A Nerd Or A Geek....according to CNN

Nerd. Geek. Two words that, years ago, meant days of endless torture and wedgies, especially if you claimed to be either. Now, those days are gone as the nerds and geeks of the world are "popular".

CNN wrote a delightfully funny and informative article regarding the history of the words and what they mean today. Check out the article and ask yourself the question: are you a nerd or a geek? I claim to be both and proud of it too!

Happy Reading!