Some Favorite Quotes from Dickens’ David Copperfield

•July 15, 2015 • Leave a Comment

A great book.  Truly.  What draws out Dickens as a great writer are the following nice passages which felt more like autobiography than fiction.  And in this way seems like the observations of a writer at the top of his game, eliding his own views into the mouth of his favourite of all his characters, David Copperfield.

Chapter XLII

“I have been very fortunate in worldly matters; many men have worked much harder, and not succeeded half so well; but I never could have done what I have done, without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination to concentrate myself on one object at a time, no matter how quickly its successor should come upon its heels, which I then formed.  Heaven knows I write this in no spirit of self-laudation.  The man who reviews his own life, as I do mine, in going on here, from page to page, had need to have been a good man indeed, if he would be spared the sharp consciousness of many talents neglected, many opportunities wasted, many erratic and perverted feelings constantly at war within his breast, and defeating him.  I do not hold one natural gift, I dare say, that I have not abused.  My meaning simply is, that whatever I have tried to do in life, I have tried with all my heart to do well; that whatever I have devoted myself to, I have devoted myself to completely; that in great aims and small, I have always been thoroughly in earnest.  I have never believed it possible that any natural or improved ability can claim immunity from the companionship of the steady, plain, hard-working qualities, and hope to gain its end.  There is no such thing as such fulfilment on this earth.  Some happy talent, and some fortunate opportunity, may form the two sides of the ladder on which some men mount, but the rounds of that ladder must be made of stuff to  stand wear and tear; and there is no substitute for thorough-going, ardent, and sincere earnestness.  Never to put one hand to anything on which I could throw my whole self; and never to affect depreciation of my work, whatever it was; I find now, to have been my golden rules.”

Chapter LII

“Again, Mr. Micawber had a relish in this formal piling up of words, which, however ludicrously displayed in his case, was, I must say, not at all peculiar to him.  I have observed it, in the course of my life, in numbers of men.  It seems to me to be a general rule.  In the taking of legal oaths, for instance, deponents seem to enjoy themselves mightily when they come to several good words in succession, for the expression of one idea; as, that they utterly detest, abominate, and abjure, or so forth; and the old anathemas were made relishing on the same principle.  We talk about the tyranny of words, but we like to tyrannise over them too; we are fond of having a large superfluous establishment of words to wait upon us on great occasions, if they be but fine and numerous enough, so the meaning or necessity of our words is a secondary consideration, if there be but a great parade of them.  And as individuals get into trouble by making too great a show of liveries, or as slaves when they are too numerous rise against their masters, so I think I could mention a nation that has got into many great difficulties, and will get into many greater, from maintaining too large a retinue of word.”

Chapter LXIII

“‘It’s a mort of water,’ said Mr. Peggoty, ‘fur to come across, and on’y stay a matter of fower weeks.  But water (‘specially when ’tis salt) comes nat’ral to me; and friends is dear, and I am here.–Which is verse,’ said Mr. Peggotty, surprised to find it out, ‘though I hadn’t such intentions.'”

Wise Words

•May 30, 2014 • Leave a Comment
Ian Binnie (photo credit Andrew Balfour).

Ian Binnie (photo credit Andrew Balfour).

In the words of former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Ian Binnie, “Ordinary tort doctrine would call for the losses to be allocated to the ultimate cost of the products and borne by the consumers who benefit from them, not disproportionately by the farmers and peasants of the Third World.”

The Bag Lady – London’s Kitschy Restaurant Par Excellence

•November 10, 2013 • Leave a Comment

London, Ontario, mind you.  And nothing wrong with that.  It’s good to have character restaurants in the middle of residential neighbourhoods.  With excellent food at reasonable prices, so the day goes on well.  Check out their website here.

The Bag Daddy Big Stack -- a variation on the eggs benedict.  Sourdough bread, ham, bacon, scrambled eggs, melted mozarella, spinach leaves, and a tangy fresh hollandaise.  Nice.

The Bag Daddy Big Stack — a variation on the eggs benedict. Sourdough bread, ham, bacon, scrambled eggs, melted mozarella, spinach leaves, and a tangy fresh hollandaise. Nice.

The breakfast burrito.  Need I say more?  Stuffed tortillas are by definition delicious.

The breakfast burrito. Need I say more? Stuffed tortillas are by definition delicious.

A daily special - a frittata  of distinct quality.

A daily special – a frittata of distinct quality.

Fall Feathers

•October 18, 2013 • Leave a Comment

A quiet time of the year for the landscape.  Some colours of the fall feathers that decorate the path home.






Blue Lake California

•August 23, 2013 • Leave a Comment


Blue Lake, California, is a small town in the state’s northwest corner.  Rolling in from a steep descent through the Trinity Alps, the town first appeared as a misty valley enclave, wet with the passing rain that had persisted through the middle of the day.  Wood slatted houses along quiet streets gave the impression of a town dependent on lumber, though the giant redwood trees of ancient past were now long gone along with the collapse of the local logging economy.

Changing times make for changed circumstances, and the current town’s thousand some inhabitants are bolstered by what developments have come their way.  There’s the Mad River Brewery, a successful microbrewery a stone’s throw from the waterway, which when it floods rises tremendously and grows equally wild.  Then there’s the theater school in the town’s center, the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theater, which has fifty odd students enrolled in it full-time with a handful of teachers to mold them and a spattering of administrative staff to keep all in check.  Finally, there’s the greater business, farming.

Nestled not far from the coast in the foothills of the Rockies, farming in this community is a serious business.  These are organic farmers, and they are as much homesteaders as entrepreneurs, fiercely protective of their property rights.  A Danish student went for a ramble along the river one day and was turned away by an unseen shooter.  She fled back to town and reported that she had been shot at, the bullet going near enough to her that she could hear its passage through the brush.  The town’s one police officer was involved; they talked and she was assured that this was well within the rights of the landowner and that in the future, she should take special heed not to trespass.

The outdoor stage of Dell'Arte.

The outdoor stage of Dell’Arte.

Where the California economy runs well is where the law runs unclear.  It is more or less understood that smoking pot in California is something that happens with the consent of the authorities; less certain to the wider world is how in the state it is completely illegal to grow the plant.  Dichotomies like this one resolve themselves in the underground economy, which always has a way of sorting out the conundrums of government inadequacies.  When legitimate businesses fare poorly, there’s nothing quite like turning to the garden and letting mother nature balance the financial statement.  And mother nature is generous and the farmer is grateful.

Pot, like alcohol, can be the balm and muse for the creative soul, and a school of creative types in a county famed for its beauty and annual yield of grass is good business.  Albeit, the kind of money one hopes to make when growing a crop isn’t sustained by fifty-odd students, no matter how industriously they fume.  The larger population, and market of worth, lies in Southern California.

Two states in one, the north lighter in population, lower in temperature, and both lighter in complexion and lower in immigrants than the south.  NoCal and SoCal, the two faces of the same coin, and very much at odds with one another politically.  It’s too easy to make generalizations like the ones just made, but given that every single Californian I’ve ever met marks this distinction, either in the state or out of it, at least makes it clear how entrenched the view is.

Sun, sunshades, and hard work in the final rehearsal before opening night.

Sun, sunshades, and hard work in the final rehearsal before opening night.

Beyond regional geopolitics and subterranean economies, Blue Lake’s a tranquil and enjoyable town.  Spawned from Commedia Dell’Arte, the medieval masque form of theater performance, the Dell’Arte school is run as a kind of boot camp, with a regimen of daily morning training sessions on top of the normal acrobatic, dance, music, and performance training that is taught.  Intense and intimate, the program is also selective and only accepts a few masters students each year.   The minority are accepted at first application; the remainder apply during the course of the one year Professional Training Program and,  of these, only some are given the nod.

The pedagogical ethos is via negativa, a system that discourages positive reinforcement in critiques.  Each week of the school year builds up to a Friday laboratory, where small groups of students present their weekly assignment to the entire program.  Nothing encouraging is ever said of the work; the bad is destroyed mercilessly; the good is panned as being not good enough.  The system promotes fast collaborative effort and the growth of a thick skin.  Both of which, ultimately, develops a strong work ethic and resilience in the physical actor.


Bright lights mean showtime!

Most of the students have an established background in physical theater and other performance styles.  The school views itself as a place to hone and elevate what already exists.  Students who have undergone the process have a very strong sense of self-reliance at the end of a year—provided they are not first broken by it.  Plan, perform, prosper from admonition.  This is the cycle, week by week, and then there are larger projects that fit into this as well, such that by the end there is a festival of shows, a few of which may become go on to tour.

The school brings in new people to this small town, which otherwise has a native-run casino to churn tourists, and it’s a happy place.  The Mad River Brewery is filled with inhabitants from the area, along with the occasional Hells Angels riders and students who hob knob together, one part of the scene that makes Blue Lake an attractive place that’s hard to leave behind.


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