The Lucky Lad

adventures in dysthymia

Sunday, August 28, 2016

My Standing Ovation

Okay, after months of looking at this guitar (and similar ones), I finally pulled the trigger today when a slightly scuffed demo unit came up for sale at Sweetwater. It's a super-shallow Ovation acoustic-electric, not one of the cheapest models but not overly expensive either.

It has a solid wood top and built-in pickup, definitely a step or two up from my twenty-five year old Ovation Celebrity knock-around guitar. This is a stage guitar, simply, something that I can take anywhere and use comfortably standing up, durable, not likely to feed back, and sounding reasonably good. So it will be my standing Ovation. :)

There are a number of things I like about Ovations, aside from their durability and inclination to stay in tune. One is the string-through bridge --- no messing about with bridge pins when I need to change strings under less-than-ideal conditions. Another is the shallow bowl on this particular model, making it more comfortable. Nearly as good as a solid-body in that respect, but not as heavy!

On the other hand, I am not quite so fond of their necks, which are a tad narrow to be ideal for finger-picking (which I do a lot, though not well!). I can live with that and, I suppose, can always sit down and use one of my other guitars when I wish to use the fingers.

Now, I reckon I'll have another reason to get out a play more, eh?

Friday, August 26, 2016

Weep, a poem

Weep

If I cry, then I shall cry
as a hero, as Achilles
mourned Patroclus at the brooding
Trojan walls. Weep honestly,

openly, and then be done.
Who forbids my grief? No god —
they are made of human tears,
tears we set upon their journey

to the heavens. Only men,
only fools, deny their tears,
hoard them in their grasping hearts,
fear to set them free. Tomorrow

comes; the sun shall rise anew
for each man who wept today.

Stephen Brooke ©2016

In somewhat strict form, metrically speaking. Like a sonnet in its number of lines but no other respect!

Like

I have a rule to never use the word ‘like’ in my poetry. It is a rule I do break, but rarely. Almost always, it is better to go for the metaphor rather than the simile. Do not be ‘like an eagle.’ BE an eagle.

Unless one is Steve Miller, of course.

If nothing else, it makes ones voice more forceful, more active. It also involves a stepping away from prose; poetry is, ultimately, about metaphor. We become when we read or hear the poetic. Poetry eschews the everyday for the magical.

Or good poetry does. There is some pretty awful long-winded plodding stuff out there. Even bad, naive ‘personal’ poems one might read anywhere on line are better than some of the crap coming out of MFA programs.

But those bad poems can be improved. Poetry is both talent and learned skill. There is no need for theory, per se, just some guidelines such as the one with which I started this essay. I always carefully avoid reading literary theory myself.

Most importantly, one must read critically. Recognize what one likes or dislikes about another’s work. Not just, “I like it,” but why. Stop and think about it. That is the only way to learn to turn a critical eye to ones own writing.

Otherwise, one will never be a poet; one will only be like a poet. :)

Stephen Brooke ©2016

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Erosion, a poem

Erosion

Each lover we thought we needed,
without whom we could not live,
fades. Day by day, year after year,
the memories erode, crumble into
the river of time and are washed
away. What sea holds them all?

Stephen Brooke ©2016

A very quickly written bit, sort of a throwaway --- actually, the sort of statement that might show up in prose form in a novel sometime.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

True Conservatives

The REAL source of our problems! :)

The painting, by the way, is by Tintoretto.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Word Press No Go

I made one more (one last?) attempt today to install WordPress blogs at my Aabaco (the hosting company formerly known as Yahoo!) site and had as many problems as ever. Yahoo has a long history of being an abysmal match for WordPress, but I wondered if changes there had, well, changed things there.

Why would I want WP anyway? To get a responsive site or, more properly, to get several responsive sites. If it had worked, I could have had one WP installation for each of my domains, all as part of the Insolent Lad site and each as a subdomain (e.g. arachispress.insolentlad.com). But it just ain't gonna work or at least not well enough.

Aabaco has made noise about responsive solutions in the future but I'm not going to worry about that. And I do not use their SiteBuilder anymore --- it was excellent for creating static sites, when it worked, but just had bug after bug, mainly related to its use of outdated versions of Java. So I went to Serif's WebPlus a while back and created a parallel mobile site to make up for not having responsive pages.

That works well enough, if I would get busy and finish it. But I recognize that it is a temporary (which could mean years) and slightly complicated solution. I definitely don't want to move everything somewhere else and start over! And I am happy with WebPlus, but I understand it will no longer be developed.

So, now I know. No WordPress for me and that is just as well. I'll get back to working on the Insolent Lad when I feel ambitious and feel like I'm going the right direction. At least for now.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Stars, a poem

Stars

I put pin-pricks in the black
construction paper sky,
and created stars.
Did God find it quite so easy?

Stephen Brooke ©2016

I looked at this one for a good while before deciding there was no need to add more.

The Scars I Carry, a poem

The Scars I Carry

Too easily wounded, I carry the scars
of many a battle I have lost,
or won, perhaps — it matters not
when one, at last, counts up the cost
of battles that should not be joined,
the borders that should not be crossed.

Aye, many a battle left its mark
and every contest took its toll,
for though they heal, these wounds of mine,
each leaves its mark, on skin, on soul;
not readily seen, the scars I carry
attest I’ll not again be whole.

Stephen Brooke ©2016

A little piece in form (of a sort)

Gender, Race, Characters

Is it a mistake for a man to attempt to write in the first person as a woman — or vice-versa? Or, for that matter, would even a third person narrative told more-or-less from the viewpoint of the other gender ever be completely successful? Will it always seem a little 'off?'

Taking it a bit further, can a straight person pull off writing as a gay character? Can White be Black, or Black be White? Irish be French? And so on!

We all are human. We all share a basic makeup, emotions, concerns, thoughts. We all love and hate, feel anger and jealousy, desire and dejection. Perhaps that is enough. Perhaps it is possible to understand anyone, no matter how alien they might first seem.

We must try to understand them. We must empathize, be able to put ourselves in their place. This is how good characters are created, of any gender, any ethnicity.

Eventually, I do intend to attempt a book from a female viewpoint — and in the first person. There is a young, secondary character in my Malvern novels who will tell her own story one of these days. And, just to make it more difficult, she will also be (more-or-less) Polynesian. I have some ideas for novels centered around — but not told by — women, as well.

Now there are major female characters in the Donzalo novels and the story is sometimes told from their point of view. These are written in a 'limited third-person' voice that varies from scene to scene. I think I pulled them off well enough but I did not delve as deeply into the characters as I might using a first person POV. The Lady Fachalana is one of those characters who needs to be explored further.

First, I will probably tackle the first of my sequels to the Malvern Trilogy. This will be a tale told by a man but he will, as the character mentioned above, be Polynesian. If I pull that off to my satisfaction, then perhaps I can tackle the female narrator in the novel that follows it.

I think perhaps the thing is not to make these characters ‘different’ but to emphasize what they share with all humans. Culture, and even gender (the two are intertwined, of course), comes after that. Both men and women fear, love, cry, laugh, and for the same reasons. That is what must be remembered.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

The Wave, Spent --- a poem

The Wave, Spent

The wave, spent, whispers memories
of its journey, of ice-edged winds
that gave it birth in distant, arctic
seas, the winds that nourished, strengthened,

sent it forth to test its power
upon these shores. It speaks of schools
of slender silver-sided fish,
darting, dazzling, and great whales

in cold green depths below. The gulls
have played along its crest, harsh cries
rising, fading, filled with tales
forever lost to the horizon.

Sky and waters, tumult, tempest;
ships that labored against a vast
and timeless ocean — all these has
it seen, and then warm tropic currents,

stars that blazed in constellations
unsuspected on northern coasts.
To strive here, crash against the painted
coral reefs is destiny,

to gather strength, rush from the deep,
and broken, reach an end, at last.
The sand has heard it all before;
it lets the foam slip back, and away

Stephen Brooke ©2016

August on Peanut Road

August is here, the worst of the summer heat is, in theory, past. At least going by statistics. It is time to think about putting stuff into the ground, planting things that would not have held up through the last couple months.

Indeed, I lost older stuff in the heat this year. The dryness didn’t help, either, though I’ve seen that worse. Some of my Rose of Sharon hibiscus bushes succumbed, so maybe late summer/early autumn is the time to replace those. Perhaps some snowball bushes (viburnum) too, and more PG Hydrangeas. Those last I can start myself, if I wish, but they are very inexpensive to buy also. Maybe because they are so easy to start! They do seem to hold up well in the sun.

Wouldn’t hurt to start more firethorn too. Maybe the best thing I could use for hedging here, certainly better than the invasive privet that grows everywhere (though as long as it is here, I do use it). I did move some more of the also somewhat invasive Madagascar Periwinkles out onto the bank on the north side of my property. They come up here and there volunteer in my yard year after year but can’t survive the cold of winter here. I have tried all sorts of groundcovers out there since moving in but none have taken well. Maybe the periwinkles will, at least as a temporary solution. That’s another place firethorn might be good eventually. Or maybe I could even get some more hazelnuts going out there. Their spreading root systems could really help.

The pears are ripening. Lots of them this year, and only from the one tree. When all the others I put in mature, I am going to have way more fruit than I want! Although there will be years when they don’t have as much; last year, I got a pretty small yield. Same with the peaches, but it’s been two years in a row for them now. I will be processing pears, probably as pear sauce, and putting it away.

Once could say that autumn actually starts this week, with the pseudo-pagan holiday of Sammas. That is the day that marks the halfway point between the summer solstice and the fall equinox. In my Donzalo books, I refer to it as the Feast of Abundance and it is celebrated a bit like July Four is here. That would be on August 5, by the calendar I created for them. But I probably won’t celebrate much. :)

Oh, I forgot to add --- I kind of fell into my septic tank yesterday and hurt my back a bit, as well as skinning up my leg. Not all of me fell in, you understand. The metal hatch on the tank had rusted through and as I was mowing, one leg went through and down I went. I'll have to put a concrete paver over it, or something. I think I'll be okay, but I remember how I hurt my back last summer and spent a month or so laying flat. Let's hope there is no repeat!

Fifty-Thousand

Ah, I see I finally slipped past 50,000 views here today. It took me long enough!

Not that I expect much interest nor particularly try to attract viewers. I am not even certain what sort of folks would want to visit The Lucky Lad. But I thank those who do.

Progressive

In the older sense of the terms, I am much more a ‘progressive’ than a ‘liberal.’ Yes, I know the two are used interchangeably these days and have always been linked, but there are differences. The best way to illustrate these is with an example: Theodore Roosevelt was a progressive; Franklin Roosevelt was a liberal.

The progressive movement tended to favor regulation to level the field, anti-trust laws and so on, whereas the liberal preferred to be more proactive, with direct government intervention through various programs. There is certainly a place for these but I generally prefer the regulatory approach.

Progressivism arose from the labor unions, from agricultural associations such as the Grange movement. It is about ordinary people joining together to take control of their own future and, therefor, has ideas in common with my own distributist views. And I am more a distributist than anything else, though not inclined to be dogmatic about much of anything.

This is why I more-or-less support the Greens. Their ten core values come much closer to my viewpoint than what the other three largest parties espouse. I will also support the Green Party presidential candidate this year, even though I feel Jill Stein and her followers are pulling the movement left and away from its roots. I understand the urge to attract disaffected liberals but it should not be at the cost of changing our core mission. Voting Green for me is more about building the party than anything else; however, if the Greens in the USA morph into a social democrat party, they will lose me.

I rather like Hillary Clinton and have nothing against her as a person. I think she is reasonably competent (which is saying more than most politicians). I simply do not favor the establishment’s internationalist, watered-down corporatism. We need more power at the bottom, not the top.

As far as the other two candidates go — it would be idiocy to vote for Trump. There are better ways to express ones anger. If I were a mainstream conservative I would probably be voting for Johnson, who sounds much more like an establishment Republican than a libertarian. But I am not a mainstream conservative. I might have some things in common with so-called crunchy-cons (who should look at the Greens as an alternative, by the way). If I am conservative at all, it is the conservatism of several centuries ago, before we let merchants and money take control of politics.

Of course, wealth of one sort or another has always controlled the political scene. It was land ownership, once, rather than capital. Maybe Chesterton’s ‘three acres and a cow’ is a good idea now, too — individual stewardship of the land. I would not allow corporations to even own real property, myself.

Is this all swimming against the stream? Maybe. But I can use the exercise.

— — —

This will probably be my one and only post about this year’s elections and I will now go back to tucking my ideas into my novels! :)