adventures in dysthymia

Sunday, December 14, 2008

ANIMALS

Your words are the wild beasts
you have tamed to your hand,
a petting zoo of courteous
crocodiles and cobras.

But my words are domesticated,
horses and dogs and roosters,
on guard, at work, carrying
themselves where best they serve.

Suppose, someday, a stranger,
an untutored tiger,
wanders into their midst?
Will it sleep before

my fireplace, purring
away its savage song?
Might it come to you,
ears begging to be scratched?

Or, wisely, it may turn
and disappear into
its jungle home; some words
remain wild animals.

Stephen Brooke ©2008

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Poetry

A word or two (oops, I'm already over two, aren't I?) about the sort of poetry I'd like to see at Peripheral Vision Magazine. I essentially have two criteria:

1) Avoid that heavy irony, aren't-I-clever thing that is so common and so passe. And so Post-Modern.

2) Avoid being too conceptual. A poem (or any other work of art) should attempt to actually say something.

Naturally, any submission should also be good!

(cross posted from the PVM blog)

The Thanksgiving holiday and trip to Tennessee went well enough. I doubt I'll be going back up there very soon, however; perhaps when warmer weather returns I'll be thinking about another visit. Maybe even take time to get to Nashville. It's been a while since I spent time there.

This coming weekend is, once again, the annual Christmas Concert at Tuskegee University. Free to the public, Sunday evening, Dec 7, in the 'Chapel' (which is actually a rather large concert hall). For the first time in several years, I am not doing the recording so I'll be able to sit back and relax. And, I'll be able take my mother -- I'm sure she'll enjoy it and it's not that long a journey from here.

I haven't baked fruitcakes for quite some time. It used to be a regular thing before the Christmas holiday. Of course, they were real fruitcakes, not those hideous gooey things they sell at the grocers. I'm attempting it this year. Today, in fact. Pulled out my copy of 'The United States Regional Cookbook' (published in 1939) for the 'Golden Fruitcake' recipe. One of my favorite cookbooks and one of my favorite fruitcakes. Maybe next year I'll attempt one the traditional dark Southern cakes -- the sort that's good right out of the oven but even better when allowed to mellow a while after soaking to taste with Bourbon.

Naturally, I have not put up my tree yet. Steve is a traditionalist (and a bit of a contrarian) and will wait. It's still Advent and I intend to treat this time as such.

PEBBLES

I have no words beyond these hollow prayers,
these markers in my book of life-goes-on.
Take them, anyway; none better come.
These are the words I have. All else is gone.

Each familiar platitude is worn
like pebbles in a stream. The water flows
onward, downward, to the distant sea,
but writes upon the stone all that it knows.

I should have more words. They too have run
off to the ocean, hidden there among
drowned cities built of alabaster poems
when language was still new upon man's tongue.

Let them go. They left me as I slowed,
forgot the names I gave them in my youth.
What remains will do, must do; they are
my polished pebbles tumbling toward the truth.

Stephen Brooke ©2008

Yes, good ol' pentameter.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

CHOICE

I choose to think there's meaning to life
But fear I am mistaken;
I want to hope peace follows strife
And though we dream, we'll waken.
I try believing all we're told,
That now leads to forever;
Faith's the only glue to hold
That house of cards together.

When the storm eternal rages
Any roof must do;
When we huddle in our cages
Every word rings true.
When the sole alternative
Is to embrace despair,
What choice is there but to live
Life as if we care?

Stephen Brooke ©2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I'LL BE taking off for Tennessee first thing in the morning, to spend Thanksgiving at the James' place up there. Back by Friday night, most likely. We'll see how well my mom holds up to a little travel -- this may well be the last time I can attempt anything like this, as she becomes increasingly frail and continues to slip away mentally.

As soon as I return, I MUST get busy recording. At least some demo stuff, maybe another entry for the Willfest competition (if at first you don't succeed, try again...and again...and again...). Still haven't quite decided how to do the ceiling in the music room -- I'm thinking cloth-wrapped rigid fiberglass insulation, creating a very large 'bass trap' above it. Though I do like the look of the open rafters, it will be quieter, easier to heat and cool, and probably have better acoustics if I do this -- pretty echoey right now. Otherwise, I would need to extend a couple of the walls upward and still install some panels for control of the acoustics.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

HOT-DOG ZEN

The Zen Buddhist orders from the hot-dog vendor:

"Make me one with everything."

The vendor hands the Zen Buddhist the hot dog and the Zen Buddhist hands him a twenty dollar bill.

After a minute, the Zen Buddhist says, "What -- no change?"

And the vendor says, "Change must come from within..."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

WHEN I WAS A KING

Down in southern Ohio,
Back in the Hocking Hills,
Where the pulp wood grew
To feed the paper mills,
And the creeks ran milky white
From the overflow,
There I was a boy
Many years ago.

I was just a youngster
Wandering the woods;
The tree-lined hills and hollows
Were the best of neighborhoods.
I'd climb the sandstone cliffs
To look out over my realm,
For I was a king in his kingdom,
A captain at his helm.

A box of photographs,
One flint arrowhead,
Are all that remains
Of the life I led.
These are now my treasures,
The memories they bring,
But once I had much more,
When I was a king.

I swam the ice-cold creeks,
Explored forgotten caves;
Found buried arrowheads,
Lived through some close shaves.
The ways were steep and slippery,
It was far too easy to fall,
But I'd climb up to my throne
For I was king of it all.

Stephen Brooke ©2008

Intended as a song, not a poem -- the third stanza would be the chorus. Although I did live in such a place for a while as a child, the story here is largely extrapolation rather than autobiographical.

I cannibalized some of this from a different song that had sat stalled in my notes for a while, about 'the hermit in the hollow.' I finally realized that there was no real story there so I jettisoned the hermit and changed the focus.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

IGNORE

If I ignore the world
might it go away?
Could I sleep through the dawn
and so deny the day?
Here shall I lie, curled,
in my own cocoon,
until all else is gone
and I hear my own tune.

If I ignore tomorrow
might it never come?
Each time I add my days
I reach a different sum,
and so find I must borrow
another piece of time --
a loan no one repays,
another petty crime.

If I ignore the lies
might that make them true?
All evidence now mocks
everything I knew.
Any knot unties
yet it still may bind;
every door unlocks
but who knows what we'll find?

Stephen Brooke ©2008

feel free to 'ignore' this mediocrity of a poem

Friday, November 14, 2008

Who seeks a hero's death
More insistently
Than he would be lord
Of his own destiny?

Stephen Brooke ©2008

I suppose one could call this an epigram. Or something sort of like one.

I've been pretty much ignoring all my friends this past week. Just so much keeping me busy around here. And when I'm not busy, I have to take time to worry some!

Thursday, November 13, 2008



The Ultimate Color Test



When you are at peace, you are:
Thoughtful and sensitive

When you are moved to act, you are:
Confident and optimistic

When you are inspired, you are:
Creative and productive

When your life is perfectly balanced, you are:
Connected to nature and the world

Your life's purpose is:
To change the world




You Are Checkers



You are very logical and rational. You are able to understand what is and isn't a factor.

You're able to compartmentalize and focus on the essentials.

You appreciate simplicity. You can see the layers of complexity and beauty in anything.

You are also playful and good natured. You don't take life too seriously!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

NO ONE ELSE

Made my blunder, all went wrong;
Now I wonder where I belong.
No one to blame but me.
Lost my bet, out of luck;
I can't get my life unstuck.
No one else I could be.

Got to find a brand new look;
Try to bind a new page in my book.
Someone to help me see.
Cast your part, find your equal;
Make a start on my sequel.
Someone to set me free.

Let our song fade too soon;
Played along till I lost the tune.
No one to blame but me.
Knew the words but not the why;
Saw the birds but not the sky.
No one else I could be.

Stephen Brooke ©2008

Yet another song that had sat around, partially written, for a while. I had thought it was going to be a metal-ish rock song all along but once I got to finishing it found that it a fairly straight-forward minor blues. Not that it couldn't be performed either way...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

THREE WORDS

refrain:
Three words suffice in any tongue,
Amor, comida, dinero,
Known by the old, known to the young:
Love, food, and money.
Three simple words will get it done,
Amour, aliment, monnaie,
In every land beneath the sun:
Love, food, and money.

verse 1:
Love is food for the hungry soul,
Food will keep the body whole;
Every journey has its goal
And every road must have its toll.

repeat refrain

verse 2:
Each of us needs a love of our own,
For man does not live on bread alone;
But bread is better than a stone,
Sometimes we must ask for a little loan.

repeat refrain

verse 3:
Money can not buy love, but still,
We have our appetites to fill;
How much is enough we won't know until
At the end of our feast comes the bill.

repeat refrain

Stephen Brooke ©2008

The 'three words' is an idea I've had in the back of my mind for years. Finally found its way to the front, though I consider this lyric to still be somewhat rough. I'm not sure if it's a waltz or something samba-esque at this point; should work either way.

A few minutes later: It's definitely a waltz!

And even later: my first thought on this was to plug in a couple different languages on each repeat of the refrain, rather than just the Spanish and French. Obviously, I'd have to be confident that my usage was proper and correct before I would do that. Maybe I'll attempt it eventually. In the mean time, if I perform the song (it is finished and ready to go public) I may use only the Spanish -- from the start, I had a sort of mariachi sound in my mind anyway.

Monday, November 10, 2008

THE MEAN MARY CHRISTMAS VIDEO:

Thursday, November 06, 2008

I'LL KEEP IT TO MYSELF

(verse 1)

I know that I bore you
When I say I adore you,
And since I would do
Anything for you,
I'll keep it to myself.

(verse 2)

I've tried to know you
Tried even though you
Ignored all I do
And since I can't show you
I'll keep it to myself and...

(chorus 1)

I'll be your friend, anytime;
Someone to depend on, anytime.
Call and I'll be there;
I'll have time to spare,
And I'll be your friend, anytime.

(chorus 2)

I'll be there for you, anywhere;
Help you see it through, anywhere.
Stand by your side.
Face the rising tide,
And I'll be there for you, anywhere.

(bridge)

Oh, I'll keep it to myself,
I'll keep it on the shelf;
My love shall never cease
But I'll keep my peace.

(chorus 3)

I'll be your amigo, any day;
Forget my ego, any day.
Simply hold your hand;
I'll make no demand,
And I'll be your amigo, every day.

Stephen Brooke ©2008

For all those confused by my usage of 'verse' and 'chorus' here: this song lyric is in the format often used by the classic songwriters of the 20s and 30s, with an introductory verse or two -- what we would probably call an 'intro' now -- followed by 'choruses' that would now, most likely, be referred to as verses. Got that? ;)

Anyway, I have a fondness for the songs of that time. Cole Porter, Johnny Burke, etc, etc! Although the lyrics are often witty yet somewhat meaningless, that's still better than most contemporary 'pop' music which doesn't even manage the wit part.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

SO, it seems I now live in a 'blue' state, albeit a rather red (or redneck) part of it. It occurs to me that yesterday's election was the triumph of Star Trek: the Next Generation over the original ST, with Obama being the considered Capt Picard and McCain the impetuous James T Kirk. I'd have been OK with either at the helm of my starship (but Kirk needed a Spock as second in command).

I'm a lot less OK with my state voting to ban 'gay marriage.' I suppose that is a civil rights question, in part, but I see it more as a business matter. I know that marriage is more than a civil contract but that's the only part of marriage that the government should be regulating, the contract of partnership between two (or more?) individuals. Any consenting and competent adults should be able to enter into a legal contract. The rest of it is up to religions or whatever to recognize or reject, as they see fit.

Well, today I need to get back to my many projects and, in particular, to finish getting the 'salon' (as I like to refer to my music room/recording space) into order. Time to record some stuff more or less professionally; maybe a song or two for this year's Best New Florida Song competition, despite the lack of success in the past. Even though these contests always say that the song is the important thing, I do think that more polished production helps. A lot, maybe.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

THE LATEST -- and somewhat slight -- edition of Peripheral Vision Magazine is now online and available. Enjoy the Fall 2008 issue...and all you thinkers and creators, start thinking and creating with an eye toward Spring 2009.

I've reached a fork in the road.
Might it puncture one
of my tires?

Stephen Brooke ©2008

another go at the quinzaine form

I'm putting the final touches on the new issue of PV Magazine. Depending on how how many distractions come along, it should be online tonight or tomorrow.

Now lets start thinking about next Spring's edition!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

BELLES

My Tupelo Honey, my Mississippi Miss,
Cute and funny, likes to kiss.
I'd love to see her today;
Why must I be so far away?
My Tallahassee Lassie, my Florida Flirt,
Sweet and sassy, pretty and pert.
I'm feeling lonely, can't be denied;
If I could only be at her side.


Gonna ring me one of those Belles,
Maybe sit with her for a spell,
In the shade of the magnolia tree;
I need someone to talk southern to me!
Goin' to a place where I haven't a care,
Where night-blooming jasmine fills the air;
Just one choice for this Southern man,
Gotta find me a girl from Dixieland!

My Myrtle Beach Baby, my Carolina Cutie,
Ain't no maybe, she's a beauty.
Loves to dance on a summer night,
Make romance by moonlight.
My Atlanta Lady, my Georgia Peach,
I'm so ready but she's out of reach;
Need to take a trip down Peachtree Street,
Taste those lips heavenly sweet.

Stephen Brooke ©2008

Well...full of cliches, obviously, and maybe even sort of sexist. But hardly serious. Okay, not serious at all. I've been messing with this lyric for a while, months I guess, adding a bit now and then. Reckon it's about as done as it needs to be.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Although I most certainly possess no great degree of techie-ness I have fooled around with a soldering iron on occasion, wiring guitars and such. Actually, built a handful of electric guitars at one point -- enough to convince me I hadn't the patience for the woodworking aspect of instrument making. Wiring together capacitors and potentiometers and watchamadoodles can be fun, however. Sometimes the results actually work!

Anyway, I decide to finally tackle a diy modification of my Oktava MK319 mikes this past week. These Russian-made microphones were, at one point, one of the best deals around -- I got my pair for only a hundred dollars total, brand-new, from Musicians Friend. I lucked into getting two decent mikes; there was a lot of trouble with quality control back six years ago when I got them. MF finally stopped carrying them altogether. Now they cost more but are still a good deal and a lot more dependable.

There are those who will mod Oktavas for a reasonable fee and it does take them from being a pretty good microphone to one that borders on being great (a la multi-thousand dollar Neumanns and such). Ideally, this includes rewiring and adding new transformers; I may someday go for such (on a new mike or two) but on my existing units I went with the simple diy 'mechanical' mods. First, took off the head basket and removed one layer of wire mesh. This is the easiest thing to do for this mike and does 'open up' the sound (at the cost of increased sibilance). I'd already done this a while back.

Then, removed the plastic 'resonator disks' on either side of the diaphragm. It's not hard to do, just remove the little screws, but one must be careful not to slip and poke a hole in the diaphragm! Also, on one side there is a ground wire going through the disk so the plastic has to be clipped to slip it out. The result is a more natural and neutral sound but at the cost of possible undesirable resonances, so other damping must be added. Some glue in a bit of foam but this can come loose and/or deteriorate over time so I preferred to add a dab of silicone or acrylic on the 'floor' of the head basket. Whether I've used enough or will need to add more, time will tell. Easy enough to do later on.

Now, I'm eager to not only use the mikes in the studio (when I'm finished with the ceiling -- it's coming along) but also for live recordings of choirs, pianos, etc. That's what I originally bought them for (more on that below). They were my first good microphones back then and still among the best I have on hand.

* * *

I think I need to stop turning on Ellen DeGeneres' show in the afternoons. I found myself dancing like her this morning...

* * *

I rarely mention my on-again-off-again girlfriend (for want of a better word) here, save for the occasional oblique reference in a poem or something. She was the reason I bought those above-mentioned microphones a few years back, when she asked me to record one of her piano recitals (she teaches music at the university level). Lately, we haven't been maintaining contact very well, both being somewhat self-absorbed and having a lot on our agendas, not to mention not living particularly close to each other.

She rang me up on Sunday evening and asked if I could come and record her concert this coming Sunday. This is all too typical of her, but that's okay -- I know what to expect! Unfortunately, I had another commitment this weekend and had to turn her down. I really don't know if I'm going to do much live recording for a while anyway, with my obligations here. It's too bad, I haven't missed one of her recitals before; I may or may not be able to get up there (Tuskegee) for their Christmas Concert in early December. At this point, I don't know if I'll be requested to record it but, if I am, I just might have to turn it down this year.

a btw, later in the day: decided -- sort of -- on a color scheme for the studio/music room and ordered some burgundy insulated curtains for it today. These will fill the large arched passageway between the room and the rest of the house and, I hope, be a partial barrier to noise as well. My original plan was bright and airy, maybe a light green, but it looks like I'll be going more earth-toned instead. The walls are somewhat of a pale mud color now so I can live without painting for a while; will have to remove the remaining dark blue curtains as soon as practical i.e when I can afford more burgundy ones.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

IT WAS ABOUT TIME I got back to work on remodeling my family room into recording studio space. As my duty as a caregiver is putting travel and performing and so on at a minimum right now, this will be a primary focus for the next few weeks -- maybe for all winter. Right now, I'm tearing down the last of the old ceiling in there. It was an extremely shoddy job originally; however, the beams above it don't look bad and I intend to leave them open. Should help the acoustics.

Oh, there's some suspect workmanship up there, too, but nothing that can't be remedied sometime down the line. Mostly cosmetic, anyway. This room -- and the carport which will someday be my tracking room -- were added onto the original farmhouse (built in 1940) at some point. My goal right now is to get it working as a combination control room/live room, as well as to use it for general musical entertainment, as the piano is in there.

* * *

I didn't watch much of the debate last night, since the Phillies and Dodgers were playing. Presidents come and go but ball teams last! I did happen to catch Sen Obama use the word 'prioritize' but I'll probably vote for him anyway. Even smart people use dumb words occasionally.

And Obama is certainly smart, not that brains is a particularly important commodity in a leader. If intelligence were all it took, Herbert Hoover would have been our greatest president.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Since I brag on my Mean niece from time to time, I thought it only fair that I give Mary's brother, Frank, a little attention here. This is a pic of him when he was in LA, working as an extra on Deep Space 9. Yep, I have a real live Star Trek actor in the family!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

LAST CALL for Peripheral Vision Magazine

A mention for anyone out there intending to submit material for the fall issue of PVM: there are about two weeks left before I have to finalize things. So get that good stuff you have to us soon and then start thinking about the spring issue!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

MINE

What did the dwarfs do once Snow White
left them for good? Did they whistle
and return to their mine, hoping
to delve cheer from grudging rocks,
seek its ore with pick and shovel?

Being busy might not replace
being happy nor still their loss
but it's better that nothing and we
can't all be princes, you know,
nor even particularly charming.

Stephen Brooke ©2008

LUGGAGE

We travel with great trains of luggage,
we humans, wherever we check in:
suitcases full of monkeys, bags
with lizards and fish and worms all mixed up

inside. Sometimes the latches fail
and they spill out, crawling away
into corners, swinging from
the curtains, and the concierge

must chase them down, put them back,
lest they upset the other guests.
Slipping out, they might leave all
their luggage by the unmade bed.

Stephen Brooke ©2008

Okay, not exactly full of originality nor insight. The phrase 'suitcase full of monkeys' just popped into my head and I wrote something around it. That's the way a lot of my stuff comes into being.

Monday, September 29, 2008

I READ THIS, unattributed, on a message board and thought I'd post it here --

The Story of Adam & Eve's Pets


Adam and Eve said , 'Lord, when we were in the garden, you walked with us every day. Now we do not see you anymore.

'We are lonesome here, and it is difficult for us to remember how much you love us.'

And God said, 'I will create a companion for you that will be with you and who will be a reflection of my love for you, so that you will love me even when you cannot see me.

'Regardless of how selfish or childish or unlovable you may be, this new companion will accept you as you are and will love you as I do, in spite of yourselves.'

And God created a new animal to be a companion for Adam and Eve.

And it was a good animal.

And God was pleased.

And the new animal was pleased to be with Adam and Eve and he wagged his tail .

And Adam said, 'Lord, I have already named all the animals in the Kingdom and I cannot think of a name for this new animal.'

And God said, 'I have created this new animal to be a reflection of my love for you, his name will be a reflection of my own name, and you will call him DOG.'

* * *

And Dog lived with Adam and Eve and was a companion to them and loved them.

And they were comforted.

And God was pleased.

And Dog was content and wagged his tail.

* * *

After a while, it came to pass that an angel came to the Lord and said, 'Lord, Adam and Eve have become filled with pride.

'They strut and preen like peacocks and they believe they are worthy of adoration. Dog has indeed taught them that they are loved, but perhaps too well.'

And God said, 'I will create for them a companion who will be with them and who will see them as they are.

'The companion will remind them of their limitations, so they will know that they are not always worthy of adoration.'

And God created CAT to be a companion to Adam and Eve.

* * *

And Cat would not obey them. And when Adam and Eve gazed into Cat's eyes, they were reminded that they were not the supreme beings.

And Adam and Eve learned humility.

And they were greatly improved.

* * *

And God was pleased.

And Dog was happy.

* * *

And Cat didn't give a shit one way or another.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

RUBE

Rube Allyn wrote his stories
of the Water Wagon,
his home-made Best Bet houseboat,
when I was two years old

but the book was still
there on the shelf when I
reached reading age and dreaming
age, complete with schematics

and the smell of adventure
pressed between the pages.
There were lists of lumber
and fittings and maps to places

with names like Withlacoochee,
Okeechobee, even
Helen Blazes. I've been
to all of them since

and the names still whisper
their romance, remind
me of how I longed
for sky and open water.

My dad bought every one
of Rube's books, the reptile
and fish encyclopedias,
the yarns and histories

that were the Florida
of then and before then.
Paradise has faded;
faded like those pages.

Stephen Brooke ©2008

Rube Allyn Jr was a prolific writer and publisher of books about Florida and, especially, its outdoor life back in the 4os through the 60s (his life was cut short in '68 by an auto accident). The publishing company Rube started, Great Outdoors, is still cranking out books about Florida today, with his granddaughter running things. His father, Rube Sr, was a pretty colorful guy too -- someone should write a 'Florida song' about him, assuming that hasn't already been done.

Friday, September 26, 2008

BRANCH

As the branch upon the tree
so love may wither, unattended,
and broken by the tempest wind
or by its own weight, it falls.

What use then is such a stick,
but to return into the soil
or serve a bonfire, come the chill
of the darker longer nights?

Yet at times a branch left lying
takes root, and growing, reaches sunward,
to freely proffer sweeter fruit
than it ever might before.

Stephen Brooke ©2008

Saturday, September 20, 2008

I RECORDED another 'bedroom demo' yesterday, of the song Watermelon. I posted the lyrics here back in February. An mp3 of the song is up on the music page at my site. A simple one-take-guitar-and-voice thing. Wrong mike for my voice, I think. Speaking of watermelon...


Me and my brothers and sisters eating watermelon on a hot Florida day in the Fifties. That's me on the left side of the photo, trying to get a watermelon seed out of my mouth. I was like four years old.

Friday, September 19, 2008

BONES

You have become bleached islands,
hidden in a mist of green and brown.

Last spring, I would look away;
you were a stench at road side.

Will your bones still say 'deer'
next summer, amid the high grasses?

Stephen Brooke ©2008

Sort of in a sijo form, though it's not 'really' one. I noticed the bones as I was mowing the field this morning, the bones of a road-kill deer from earlier this year. Some dogs (or maybe coyotes) must have carried them up out of the ditch and left them.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

THE PIRATES' BOOTY SONG

Every pirate loves booty;
It is our sworn duty
To visit new lands
And lay our hands
On booty!
Ah, booty!
We gives it to some cutie
Who bats her eyes,
We isn't too wise,
But every pirate loves booty!

I'm a covetous brute,
I shoot and I scoot,
And all of your loot
I keep, keep, keep!
I piles it all up,
Every coin and each cup,
Every last scrap of Krupp,
In a heap, heap, heap!

When anyone's nigh,
I needs to spy,
Use me one good eye
To peep, peep, peep!
I pulls me knife,
The love of me life,
She's like me wife,
and creep, creep, creep!

Oh, every pirate loves booty,
Be it clean or sooty;
We wants it all,
We hears the call
Of booty!
Ah, booty!
It is a thing of beauty!
So bring more grog
For an old sea-dog,
Yes, every pirate loves booty!

Though a man of leisure,
It is me great pleasure
To bury me treasure
Deep, deep, deep!
What I likes best
Is a well-filled chest;
Lay me head to rest
And sleep, sleep, sleep!

All pirates know
What winds do blow,
And as we sow
We reap, reap, reap!
If comes a day
We're asked to pay,
That last bill may
be steep, steep, steep!

But every pirate loves booty;
It is our sworn duty
To visit new lands
And lay our hands
On booty!
Ah, booty!
We gives it to some cutie
Who bats her eyes,
We isn't too wise,
Still every pirate loves booty!

Stephen Brooke ©2008

Essentially a frivolous piece (despite a few 'serious' lines toward the end) and, yes, there a few dopey sexual allusions. Not as many as originally intended! In performance -- assuming it actually ever was performed -- it could be cut up any number of ways to allow instrumental breaks. Also assuming I work up some music, as this was written purely as a poem/lyric.

MORE SNAKES...

A 'book trailer' the James gang shot. That's my sister and niece doing the 'acting' and supposedly portraying the same character. My nephew Frank only manages to appear as a pair of shoes.


Since I'm posting James videos here, I'll add this one of Mean Mary at the age of six on the Country Boy Eddie Show in Birmingham. That's the show where Tammy Wynette got her start. MM was a regular when she was a little girl and the family moved up to that area soon after this appearance.

Monday, September 15, 2008

ARTSY and obscure is all very well but I went somewhat the opposite direction on this ditty:


YOU CAN TELL I'M A HIPPIE (By the Hummus in my Beard)

Vegetarian, Unitarian,
Liberal through and through;
A soul-barin', sandal-wearin'
Peace-nik, tried and true.
Car forsakin', bike-ride takin',
Get there by and by;
I'm a bread-bakin', pottery-makin',
Folk-singin' sort of guy.

Got a long-haired girl, rocks my world,
Lovin' her more and more;
We're counter-cultural, goin' natural,
Hippies to the core!
That long hair may be turnin' gray,
But life's cool, all in all;
She is my day, lights my way,
Picks me up when I fall.

You can tell I'm a hippie by the hummus in my beard;
Never too worried about how I appeared,
As long as I'm not too closely sheared!
No, I haven't feared to be a little weird,
Picked my very own star and steered;
You can tell I'm a hippie by the hummus in my beard!

Tofu eatin' and solstice greetin',
Tryin' to grow and grow;
Time is fleetin' and there's no beatin'
Karma, doncha know?
So, flash a peace sign and we'll be fine,
Takin' it day by day;
Come by sometime, we'll drink cheap wine,
And just let come what may!

Stephen Brooke ©2008

I have to admit that certain friends and acquaintances came to mind as I was writing this!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

TAKE THREE

I don't normally go beyond posting first drafts but here is the revised and probably close to finished version of Spend (still not sure about that title).

SPEND

I've made promises
I could not be keeping;
I've sown strangers' fields,
I would not be reaping.
Seen the need for truth,
When lies best lie sleeping;
Lingered over long
When the dawn came creeping.

By the light of day,
Lovers fade to friends;
Though we say goodbye,
Leaving never ends.
I've spent words unwisely,
As a sailor spends;
Borrowed and forgotten
What tomorrow lends.

Today strives to become
More than yesterday;
Like those that came before,
It still fades away,
Forgetting now, (like the day before)
Forgetting then. (and the day before)
Forgetting me,
Forgetting me.

Once I was a player,
Crossed the empty stage;
Entered left on cue,
Read lines from your page.
Every scene demanded
Nihilistic rage;
I broke all the sets,
Thinking them a cage.

Stephen Brooke ©2008

Pretty much changed the whole concept, but I reckon this one makes more sense. Or at least is slightly more accessible. Did a revision of the meter in the verses, going in on a stress at the beginning of each line, which makes it more forceful (I hope). The stuff there toward the end of the chorus section (in parentheses) is backup vocal. The music, btw, is more or less written, though when it comes to working up an arrangement (if I ever do!), it may call for a riff or two.

Friday, September 12, 2008

SPEND, EXTENDED: so here's the poem 'Spend' revised and expanded into the song 'Spend.' A name which may be discarded when I get to working out the considerable roughness that still exists. The third stanza there acts in a chorus capacity.

SPEND

I've made no promises
I could not be keeping;
I've sown no strangers' fields,
For I'd not be reaping.
I've seen no need for truth,
When lies best lie sleeping;
Who of us would not leave
When the dawn comes creeping?

I've learned, by light of day,
Lovers fade to friends;
And though we say goodbye,
Leaving never ends.
I've spent my words unwisely,
As a sailor spends;
I've borrowed and forgotten
What tomorrow lends.

Today strives to become
More than yesterday;
Like those that came before,
It still fades away,
Forgetting now,
(Like the day before)
Forgetting then.
(And the day before,)

I've never been a player,
Never crossed the stage;
I've never entered left,
Read lines from your page.
Not every scene demands
Nihilistic rage,
But I broke all the sets,
Thinking them a cage.

Stephen Brooke ©2008

Btw, this is not something I would every be likely to work up and perform as 'sensitive singer-songwriter' -- this is more in the rock band vein. Maybe 'Berzircon' will record again some day...or even become a real band and perform!

RANGE

Every singer has his range;
every voice breaks on some note.

Please don't ask me to go higher.

Stephen Brooke ©2008

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I SHOULD have known that last bit of poetry I posted was an incomplete song. I've been adding to it, i.e. written a chorus thingy (another verse to come or maybe it doesn't need it?), and fooled around with music. Totally noncommercial sort of stuff, of course.

* * *

I've been working, when I've a few spare minutes, on the web site -- mainly getting some of my artwork on line. More to come. It's old work, mostly. I'm scanning some of my paintings to put out better prints, possibly to be sold through Red Bubble.

* * *

My friend Sherrie (the Painter Lady over there to the right in my links) put this quiz on her blog so I had to take it too. The results were hardly surprising.


Your Taste in Music:



Punk: Highest Influence

Alternative Rock: High Influence

Nineties: High Influence

Classic Rock: Medium Influence

Eighties: Medium Influence

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

SPEND

I've made no promises
I could not be keeping;
I've sown no strangers' fields,
For I'd not be reaping.
I've seen no need for truth,
When lies best lie sleeping;
Who of us would not leave
When the dawn comes creeping?

I've learned, by light of day,
Lovers fade to friends;
And though we say goodbye,
Leaving never ends.
I've spent my words unwisely,
As a sailor spends;
I've borrowed and forgotten
What tomorrow lends.

Stephen Brooke ©2008

RED

Red, I remember,
red against the evening;
I watched the eclipsed moon
rise, standing at my grandparents'
picture window.

It was my first eclipse,
the one that made the impression.
I've carried it with me since,
along with my first migraine.
The two have somehow

combined in my memory,
the years creating a single experience
of the angry eye and the pain
in my six year old head.
Oh, I don't hate the moon

or anything like that
but I can't say I'm particularly
fond of red.

Stephen Brooke ©2008

Monday, September 08, 2008

IT SEEMS I've had a family of rats move in. Despite all the reverence for life stuff, I'm practical enough to know I need to get some traps and/or poison out. The poison is more effective, of course, but kind of a nasty way to die (assuming a trap kills cleanly, which it doesn't always) and sometimes leaves smelly rat corpses in the walls.

Maybe I just need Sarah Palin to do a fly-by with her rifle.

Speaking of Palins, if this Palin were running I'd vote Republican. Though I'm sure there must be some cross-dressing lumberjacks in the ranks of both parties.

Oh well, whoever gets elected is sure to be better than what we have now. Although I think I'll be voting Obama -- I reckon it's the Democrats' turn to mess things up for eight years -- I also think that both candidates are a bit more moderate than their opponents make them out to be and that McCain does have a streak of pragmatism (and, of course, stubborness) to help balance out the 'true believers' (yeah, I read Hoffer many years ago) in his party.

I don't think I could vote for Sarah Palin, though, and definitely don't like the idea of her being next in line should anything happen to the President. Not that I mind the gun-toting libertarian side of her -- there's some of that in my background. It's the religious right part. Btw, I hate that term, 'religious right,' (because it gives religion a bad name) though I guess it's better than being atheistic right (a la Mr Hitchens).

The beauty queen part is okay too; after all I've been dating a former beauty queen myself the last few years, off and on. Mostly off recently, thanks to my duties keeping me close to home. (Steve sighs and thinks of said beauty queen)

And I distrust the mental processes of believers in 'creationism.' ('Creationism,' btw, is not religion but bad science. Belief is fine but not when it contradicts all the evidence.) That's one thing that definitely threw Ron Paul out of contention for me a few months ago (aside from his basic impracticallity in approaching the modern world).

But then, I'm not exactly enamoured of Biden as VP either.

So, it's grumpy ol' McCain and his odd-couple running mate or Obama and his...grumpy ol' running mate. Darn, I knew this whole break-away-from-England-and-have-our-own-country thing was a mistake!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

OKAY, just disregard yesterday's post -- my business in Perry was postponed and it's too far to drive to White Springs from here unless I can combine it with something else. Guess I shaved for nothing! I wonder if it's too late to find something interesting going on nearby tonight.

* * *

I decided to give Cafe Press another crack at selling my CD of old material. I simply couldn't see putting money into having it manufactured; if it were new and improved recordings, that would be a quite different matter. Anyway, it's at the store there, $9.49 for 16 songs. Save some shipping costs and buy a teeshirt or mug while you're at it!

Friday, September 05, 2008

On the road tomorrow -- have to be in Perry in the afternoon so I figgered long as I was over that way I'd go on up to White Springs in the evening for the First Saturday Coffeehouse. Get a chance to try out some new songs in front of an audience. Not that the songs need a try out; I know they're okay. It's my performance that gets the try out. I hope to have no 'duh....what's the next line?' moments!

And since I'll be in front of an audience for the first time in a couple months...I took a look at myself and decided the gray beard was not the image I want to project (and image is important to Steve) so I shaved it all off. Gosh, there was one handsome feller under them whiskers! ;)

THE RENEWAL on my peripheralvisionmag domain name came up yesterday...I almost canceled it, as the cost has gone up quite a bit. I do intend to continue with the magazine, but I'm not sure it's worth having a dot-com for it. Oh well, I paid up -- or when will my credit card bill arrives -- so I'll be keeping it for another year and see how things go. Still hoping to get the Fall Issue out towards the end of October, despite having a lot else on my plate right now (and feeling rather full!).

The fact that I have unlimited space/bandwidth on the site that hosts all my domains ameliorates the cost somewhat. I'd hate to have to pay for a website for each of them. Wow, I got to use a really big word there. I don't think it's ever appeared in my blog before...and I'm not even sure if I used it properly!

I decided to go 'simple' on the fonts for my sites. Just the very most common everybody-has-them choices. It's limiting but it's best to be safe -- I try to check my pages here on my Mac running SeaMonkey as a good indicator of problems other visitors might have.

In other news: OH NO, I've become addicted to Ugly Betty!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

FONTS, again...

So, Steve is working toward revamping his website(s), especially the Que Linda Music pages I mentioned a few posts back, and the whole font question comes up. You know, will folks actually see the font I specified for this page or will something be substituted?

As a general rule, there are a few core fonts that everybody has and are pretty safe to use. Unless, of course, they happen to be one of those individuals who have set their browser to use only their fonts of choice. A friend of mine had everything display as Comics...bad enough when you come across it on a web page, much less making it your default! Anyway, the main question for me is whether to use those fonts that most folks have installed but are not quite universal -- things like Lucida Grande, Tahoma, Impact, Bookman Antiqua.

There is a Flash program from CoffeeCup software that will let one display the font of choice, regardless of what the viewer has installed. However, I'm leery of adding more code (and Flash, particularly) to any page, knowing how that affects those of us stuck with slow dial-up connections. The alternative is rendering odd fonts -- even those that are just slightly odd -- as graphics. I suppose adding a low-rez GIF or JPEG to a page is the least of several alternative evils and one knows that the visitor to ones site sees what was intended. More or less.

I reckon I'd best make my choices and get onto it. At least I don't have to go to Flaming Text to create my headline text anymore, being able to produce much the same thing with the programs I have on my own computer.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

AT THE 1966 HUGO Awards, there was a tie between the two best Science Fiction novels of the year, Dune by Frank Herbert and ...And Call Me Conrad (aka This Immortal) by Roger Zelazny. Now Dune has gone on to achieve broad popularity, known to the non-SF audience via movies adaptations if nothing else, while Zelazny's book would be unfamiliar to most.


But it's the better novel, in my judgment. Oh, I was dazzled by Herbert's novel(s), like everyone else (well, almost everyone), but now I find them somewhat plodding and a bit pointless. Even at the time they first appeared I was bothered by the way he changed the whole ancestral memory thing after the first couple books -- the genetic explanation never made much sense. Nevertheless, there is a lot of rich detail in Dune. It's a flashy novel, one that makes a big impression on first read.

Zelazny, on the other hand, has a depth to his work. He was one of the 'New Wave' writers of the 60s -- the Science Fiction equivalent of Post Modernism -- along with such authors as Samuel 'Chip' Delany (whom I had the honor of meeting twenty-odd years ago), Ursula K LeGuin, Michael Moorcock. Zelazny is a stylist -- his prose is highly poetic and that alone would be enough to attract me to his writing. Sometimes it resembles a cross between the imagery of Raymond Chandler and the simple (but meaningful) poeticism of Tolkien.

There's more than just the writing itself, however good it may be. Roger Zelazny's fiction tends to tackle some big meaning-of-existence type questions. Often well hidden in the stories! Even his most popular and seemingly 'lightest' work, the Amber series, explores free will and how it shapes our world. Indeed, creates it. Man becoming God (or godlike) is common theme in his books -- that's a concept that has always struck a chord in me. Striving is good! :)

Friday, August 29, 2008

SOME WINE QUOTES:

Wine is bottled poetry. ~Robert Louis Stevenson

Wine is sunlight, held together by water. ~Galileo

No poems can please for long or live that are written by water-drinkers. ~Horace

and for those with a taste for the amber stuff:

Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. ~Benjamin Franklin

SECURITY LIGHT

Due south, across the cotton field,
beyond the cutout trees, one light burns,
harsh guardian of the neighbors' barn.

Transmuted by distance, it becomes
as another star at the window,
my companion through the night.

Stephen Brooke ©2008

I resisted temptation to make this longer, with all sorts of imagery about fog on the fields, etc, etc. Best to just get the point across, no?

WITHOUT

A sailor without a tattoo
An actor who missed his cue
So am I today
So am I without you

A garden that never grew
A wind that never blew
Empty of all meaning
So am I without you

A tiger caged at a zoo
A lawyer with no one to sue
Counting all I've lost
These things I am too

A ship without a crew
A church without a pew
A man without purpose
So am I without you

Stephen Brooke ©2008

Not exactly a serious piece of verse (despite the oh-so-serious message!) but more a bit of play with words. This probably could have been developed in a song direction, had I been inspired to do so...but I doubt it would have been a particularly good one.

ARTISTS and Vagrants South has been the official name of my little 'project studio' here for the past year or so, in partnership with my niece and nephew who were operating A&V Central in Tennessee. Well, they've pretty much closed up shop to concentrate on other things and Mary failed to renew the domain name a couple weeks back, so I'm dropping the name and going back to my own Que Linda Music.

It will take a while for the website, etc to reflect the change. I reckon I should have gone with this from the start -- it's best to go ones own way, more often than not.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

FADING

Yesterday was a song
of heat and rain
but each morning

the sun calls my name
a little later, a little
less insistently,

and seasons spin
about the North Star,
God's bull-roarers humming.

Tomorrow's tune will
carry a cold cadence,
a discord of winds,

but now I hear Summer
fading in the morning,
gently fading away.

Stephen Brooke ©2008

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

THE TAIL end of Tropical Storm Fay is moving out of here this morning. At last! Now all we need to worry about is Hurricane Gustav....

Fortunately -- for me, not for Texans -- the most likely track for that storm is toward the West, not North. Should make some waves down at Panama. And the school kids are out of the water now (though some will play hooky, of course) so there's room for old guys. I may actually find my way down to the beach this time.

Fay didn't cause much damage here. I was on edge last night because of tornadoes in the area but nothing came near. We actually got far more rain yesterday and Sunday, when the storm tracked back to the Northeast, than when it first passed us, headed West. Still, nothing like what they saw in peninsular Florida.

The winds did bring a large branch down on the pecan tree. Pecans are rather vulnerable to wind damage, anyway. I'll break out the chain saw when things get a little drier. Like tomorrow, maybe.

Wind was also responsible for more ceiling tiles coming down in the 'salon' (my music room / recording control room). I've written before about how ineptly they were installed by some former owner of this house. Some had come down before and I intended to take them all down eventually but now I'm busy removing them all. I'll leave open beams in that room -- I think it will look pretty good and should help the sound there too. I'll do the same in the carport when I eventually convert it into my tracking room. That will be a while! At this point, getting the salon fixed up for tracking is my main concern. More soundproofing, in particular.

In other Peanut Road news, I dug up my fire pit last week. My mom had fits every time I burnt in it, thinking I was going to catch the house on fire. It was not really that close but I'm moving it anyway, out further into the open field south of the house. Fay interrupted but I'll get back to it, in time. It's probably a better spot anyway.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Playing nylon string guitar pretty much exclusively the last couple months had consequences when I picked up the banjo today. Ouch! Sore fingertips! I didn't realize that I was losing calluses by not playing steel strings. Guess I'll have to remember to practice on other instruments occasionally.

* * *

Two deadlines coming in mid-October that I need to give my attention. One would be the next issue of Peripheral Vision Magazine. Writers and artists out there, send stuff! I need to get busy and write some essays and such myself.

The other would be sending in yet another performer application for the Florida Folk Festival. One of these years, I might just get accepted. Or not. Anyway, I need to get together decent recordings of three songs I can send along. Florida songs, I think -- I've certainly written enough of 'em by now.

One voice I heard quite a bit of as a wee (and not yet very insolent nor even lucky) lad was Phil Harris. My folks had several of his old 78s; even my father -- whose idea of great music was the marching band at half-time -- liked Phil. Here's an early and rather silly movie appearance with him singing in the shower.



I'm sure hearing Harris in my formative years had consequences for my own singing much later! That and the other music I can remember from when I was five or six or so -- the Weavers, the Everly Brothers, Tex Ritter (my grandfather's favorite), Eddie Arnold and, especially, Burl Ives.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

PART OF ME

verse 1:
Part of me doesn't know any better
Than to still be in love with you;
I've tried to explain to myself that it's over
But my heart won't believe it's true.
Sometimes it whispers in the night,
Softly calls your name,
And wonders when you're coming back,
Why things can't be the same.

chorus:
There remains a part of me,
There remains the heart of me,
That believes in destiny;
It's just a part of me.
There remains a part of me
That holds onto your memory;
It is and it will always be
Just a part of me.

verse 2:
Part of me thinks I'll wake tomorrow
And find you at my side;
Sometimes I've told myself the truth,
While other times I've lied.
But the lies, those same old lies,
Are all that my heart hears,
So it won't feel the same old hurts,
Cry the same old tears.

repeat chorus and/or instrumental

bridge:
And part of me has let you go
While part of me still waits and so...

repeat chorus

Stephen Brooke ©2008

A song, more or less of the Country persuasion, and still very much a WIP. Written, as are many of mine, from a phrase that took my fancy -- in this case, 'a part of me.' Serves as a hook here, obviously...I practically beat the listener over the head with the repeats!

addendum, Sunday evening: Though I thought this was a Country song, when I started working on the music I found myself jettisoning the relatively simple country-oriented melody in my head for something in a more sophisticated folk-pop idiom. Anyway, it's more or less finished, unless I choose to change some of the lyrics.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

There once was a flatulent flautist
Whose one talent made him the proudest;
To double his winds
He'd toot at both ends --
Of all flautists he was the loudest!

Stephen Brooke©2008

yeah, a dumb limerick

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

WHILE GOIN' A-SHOPPIN'

(to the tune of On Top of Old Smoky)

While goin' a-shoppin'
Down at the Wal-mart,
I lost all my money
By fillin' my cart.

I went through the checkout
And there went my cash,
For oatmeal and veggies
And bags for my trash.

Oh, shoppin's a pleasure
But payin's a grief,
And a Wal-mart cashier
Is worse than a thief.

A thief, he will rob you
Of all that you own,
But payin' at Wal-mart
Requires a loan.

Well, I'm deeper in debt now,
Life sure can be hard,
But I'll just keep a-shoppin'
With my credit card.

Stephen Brooke ©2008

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

LETTING GO of the past is not always easy. Perhaps never easy, at least for me.

Seven years ago this month I was going through a breakup with the one I considered 'the love of my life.' Hey, we all make mistakes. Incidentally, this was the woman who introduced me to the folk music scene here in Florida by dragging me to my first Florida Folk Festival. For that, at least, I will continue to be grateful!

Although I received little or no acknowledgement in the years since, I continued to send her birthday and Christmas cards, occasional bits of news (only the really big stuff). But I let her birthday last month go by without a card and I've no intention of resuming. It truly is time to let go.

That doesn't mean forgetting. I'll remember the good -- and the occasional bad -- forever. I'll remember her dogs (mostly now gone), the subjects of my (award-winning) poem, Dogs and Poetry. I'll remember that she rarely got my jokes. Now there was a definite clue we weren't right for each other...

Though it has nothing directly to do with her, being written way back in 1988 (when I was still primarily Country music oriented with my writing), here's an old song that reflects some similar feelings:

I CARRY YOUR PICTURE

I carry your picture around,
It’s right here in my wallet;
A little piece of yesterday,
Reminder of another time.
Maybe it’s just foolishness,
I’m sure that’s what you’d call it;
But I can’t help remembering
That you were once mine.

I still carry your memory,
You’ll always be a part of me;
I can’t forget and I won’t let go,
You were my one true love and so,
I’ll never throw your picture away,
It’s all that’s left of yesterday.

I’ll think about you now and then,
And how it used to be;
When we were together,
I thought we’d never part.
I was so in love with you,
And you said you loved me;
But you went and left me anyway,
You went and broke my heart.

Stephen Brooke ©1988

Monday, August 04, 2008

I FINALLY pulled the plug on satellite television service here at Peanut Road. It was definitely not worth the cost. I didn't really watch that much and neither did my mom, for whom I ordered it in the first place. How much I can pick up through the air, I'm not sure -- I'll probably be investing in a tall outdoor antenna in a while but for now it will be rabbit ears.

It is true that I'm a bit far from most of the broadcast stations in the general area. Dothan would be the closest source and I can pick up signals from Panama City reasonably well. Tallahassee is just too far away. It may prove difficult to pull in a PBS station as all are at least 60 miles away; if I could get one of them to come in satisfactorily, I'd tend to keep it tuned in most of the time.

Oh, I'll miss some stuff. Sci-fi channel, of course, but I waited until the season finale of Dr Who before quitting. No new episodes till 2010! Some of the documentary stuff. And then there is pro wrestling. I admit to having been a fan (off and on) since I was a kid and to having been peripherally involved with the industry at one point, due to working out at (and working at) a gym where several minor league performers lifted. I almost ended up 'stooging' for one of them but that fell through. Probably just as well -- I don't think I had it in me to be a Jimmy Hart clone.

So, now maybe I'll get more reading in, do more writing, play more music? Well...we'll see!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

ALL the kool kids are taking this quiz so I will too...




You Are a Mango Flavored Popsicle



You are a very playful person. For you, summer is all about having a good time.

You have a nearly undying energy. You're up for anything at anytime, as long as fun is involved.



You keep active as much as possible. You don't feel comfortable if you have to sit still.

You're a true kid at heart. You enjoy a popsicle as much as a trip to the amusement park.

What Flavor Popsicle Are You?

mmmmm-MMMMMM! I love mangoes!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

THIS MORNING I turned on the faucet and nothing came out. Oh-oh...checked the breaker panel...breaker for the pump is working. So, out to the well to see if something is wrong there, while visions of spending hundreds for repair, replacement, even new drilling, go through my head.

The first thing I notice is a few ants going up and down the post supporting the electric junction box. I figured I knew right then what the problems was so I took out the screw that holds the cover on it and looked inside...yep, packed with fire ants, their little bodies shorting out the electric circuit. Spray and clean and now all is well again.

This is not uncommon in the Southeast. Fire ants seem to be attracted to electrical fields and infest transformers and so on, causing the occasional power failure. I'm glad it was nothing more serious!

* * *

I finally received my new mixer yesterday -- I've mentioned this in the Peanut Road blog. UPS lost the original shipment. It went into their Montgomery warehouse and never came out...unless it got carried out by some less-than-honest worker there.

Anyway, Carvin was good about sending me out another S16 right away when UPS finally decided it was irretrievably lost. It looks nice. I don't know how it sounds yet but we'll see (OK, hear) soon. It seemed a very good solution to getting 8 decent high-gain microphone preamps at a decent price. The built-in USB and s/pdif digital outs are a nice touch too. Not quite ideal for taking out and using as a live performance mixer because of the way the controls on the main/monitoring section are set up but it's probably going to remain front-and-center on the studio desk.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

It's another ninety-plus degree day in July so, naturally, I'm thinking about Christmas. Actually, I have been thinking about Christmas songs; I wrote a lyric/poem a year and a half ago called On a Night, and eventually got around to working up the music for it. It's posted at my website, not as a recording but as a midi file and also as a lead sheet in PDF form, for those who want to follow along! :D

They are on this music page with some of my other wip stuff. I most commonly write songs using my guitar and my voice and they can, admittedly, not sound very adventurous, music-wise, that way. They do suit my singing, though! This one was written at the keyboard. No, not the piano -- the computer keyboard. Which means, essentially, I wrote the music directly as notation, sans musical instrument (other than the playback from the sound card). I should do more of that...even if I can't sing the results.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

JEAN JAMES, SNAKE HUNTER

A video of my crazy sister (OK, we're all kind of eccentric) showing how to catch snakes. She used to do this for a living. Catch snakes, that is, not appear in videos.

I finally am posting a very few snapshots from the Florida Folk Festival, way back in May. It was not a good day for taking pictures and I only took a cheezy throw-away camera with me anyway...



At the top, a long shot of the Amphitheater on a damp Friday morning. The Enablers are on stage.


Below that, these guys were building a little log cabin/shed with hand tools, doing the whole thing the way it would have been accomplished a hundred plus years ago. Axe and adze!



I couldn't get any decent shots under the tents on a dark rainy day (and I wouldn't shoot off a flash when someone was performing) so none of that is worth posting.

AT PEANUT ROAD the pears and peaches are once again ripening. Not so many this year, especially on the little seedling peach tree. I'm sure fruit development on both trees was stunted by the trauma of last year's drought conditions but, also, the peach tree had damage to some of its branches and needed to be cut back some. So, only a few of them this year but probably more pears than I want to deal with. I'm not ambitious enough to peel, core, etc and pack them away in the freezer. Shoot, I'm not even running the freezer this year -- saving on electricity.

Here's a snap of the pear tree, out by the back fence.

And, below it, a picture of Capt. Billy Bones, cat-in-residence at Peanut Road. Bones is an unhappy feline at the moment because we now -- at least temporarily -- have a puppy here, named 'Poopy' until I come up with something better. It is descriptive enough, however. The Captain must have had a bad experience with dogs sometime in the past, for he took one look at the harmless four-pound pup and took off running like a pack of pit-bulls were after him.

I don't know if I'm keeping Poopy. He was abandoned in a nearby field with a sibling and I brought him in and fed him up. The other pup was in bad shape and I felt it necessary to have it put down -- not something I wanted to do but not the first time I've had to do what was right by a sick or injured animal. I may end up taking the puppy to a shelter in a day or two.

Y'know, I'm pretty forgiving but it's hard to feel that way toward someone who would abandon animals this way. People just don't take responsibility, don't do what needs to be done. So it's left up to others. Oh well, I guess that's always been the way of this world.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

THE HIGH PLACES

I shall climb your mountains,
stand upon the high
holy places. Will you
see me then? Will you
hear my voice ascend
the crystal stairs of heaven?

Stars and planets write
prophetic runes above:
Let me know the paths
beyond their constant paths,
learn your silent ways
through the beautiful void,

an empty universe.
Ah, this dark energy
carries every prayer
away; random angels
sleep behind my sky.
Is this enlightenment?

Are these my excuses,
my reasons to exist?
Time has no song but this,
sung on the high places.
I have learned and lost it
too many times already.

Stephen Brooke ©2008

Steve goes all serious and obscure. Well, obscure, anyway.

This one took a while to write, assuming that I am actually done writing. Stuck to trimeter here, albeit a tad (and only a tad) loose. I think I've watched too many episodes of
Universe; thus the dark energy reference slipping in! I had no intention of referencing those ideas when I started writing but they showed me where the second half of the poem should go when I was at a bit of an impasse.

OK, I guess I'm now officially old. I was on the road yesterday and stopped at Burger King for a shake -- my usual travel fare, not being into burgers and such -- and the young fellow at the counter gave me a senior discount without my even asking. I suspect it's the fact that I've grown a beard since last I was in the BK and it's quite gray.

I don't think I'm going to shave it off anytime soon, if ever. It's great not having to spend the time and, after all, I am 58 so I should just take the discount and be happy.

Friday, July 18, 2008

CONCEPTS vs WORDS

I occasionally hang at online forums where songwriting is a topic of discussion, most notably the Just Plain Folks board. It would seem there are as many approaches to writing a song as there are individuals writing them! Still, patterns do emerge.

One aspect that particularly caught my interest -- and this is true in all sorts of writing and especially poetry -- is the balance between concepts and words. Some writers claim to start with a concept and refuse to budge from it, even if interesting words and phrases point them toward some other direction. Stick to it, they say, even if the language with which you end up is somewhat ordinary.

Now I am pretty much on the other side of that idea. Probably 90 per cent of the time, I start with a phrase that interests me and that will in turn lead to other words which, in their turn, tell me what the song (or poem) is about. Naturally, it is necessary to go back and rewrite -- sometimes extensively -- with this approach or it may never make any sense!

Yes, my stuff does make sense...at least to me. ;)

I see writing as a journey of discovery. If one writes only about what knows, that preconceived concept, one will never really get anywhere. Perhaps that is just as well if the whole plan is to produce a commercial product. But I like words and I think there are plenty of other folks out there who do, as well, and always have been. Why else would the word play of the great 'golden age' song writers such as Cole Porter have been so popular?

This probably has a bearing on why I am a fairly slow writer. I've never been out to tell a story (for the most part) and every word can be a path to different, unexplored ideas.

And we're not even considering the music side here, and the effect of rhythms, rhymes, repeated words and phrases -- the whole sound aspect. Some other time!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

THIS LOVE

This love I have for you
Is higher than an ant hill,
Deeper than a mud puddle,
And will last until

At least sometime tomorrow.
Not that I'm promising
I will still be here
then or anything.

This passion that I feel
Fills me, I can't deny,
With all the thrill of watching
Grass grow and paint dry,

But not at the same time.
That would be too much
Excitement, after all.
At least your lips' sweet touch

Never caused that problem,
For our love is as strong
As melted ice in tea
When it sat too long.

Stephen Brooke ©2008

I could have gone on and on here but I think this is more than enough to get across the rather thin joke.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I JUST LEARNED that one of my all-time favorite singers, the fab Shelby Lynne, will be performing in Tampa in a couple days. Alas, I haven't the time (nor money for that matter) available at the moment to go that far. So instead, here's a vid of Shelby performing the Dusty Springfield hit You Don't Have To Say You Love Me.

Monday, July 14, 2008

I have, on occasion, been accused of being indecisive; hence this essentially tongue-in-cheek defense:

DECISIONS

I was thinking about some body art --
A big red rose and your name in a heart.
Now you're seeing someone new;
Darn good thing I didn't get that tattoo.

I was pricing out a diamond ring,
Our future seemed a certain thing.
But you tell me go and please don't linger;
I'll have to find some other finger.

Every decision I didn't make
Kept me from one more mistake;
Before we do, we should think things through,
Slow it down, put on the brake.
All those decisions can lead to regrets,
Like placing too many losing bets.
Get it wrong and remorse is long:
Broken hearts and unpaid debts.

I was thinking about making you my spouse,
Putting a down payment on a house.
Now you're living with another guy;
It's a good thing I couldn't afford to buy!

Stephen Brooke ©2008

It's just a silly song, of course. Or not even a song yet, in that I haven't even thought about music (if I bother at all). I do admit, I reckon we'd all be better off if our 'leaders' were a little less inclined to make decisions and just let us all muddle along on our own.

Friday, July 11, 2008

SWEET ONIONS are one of the great joys of summer. Loves them Vidalias! Yes, fresh, ripe, 'home-grown tomatoes' are great too, and watermelon and sweet corn....well, summer eatin' is good all around! But I do especially love onion sandwiches, though I may not get much love after consuming a couple. Just a nice thick slab of Vidalia on the bread of your choice -- that would probably be French bread in my case, possibly self-baked. Butter, if you must, but I feel that any fat of that sort masks the sweet onion taste. Salt is okay but I usually skip it. A slice of tomato...now that's a nice addition! :)

CAN YOU KAZOO?

Not being the most skillful of musicians on the more traditional instruments, I have an affinity for the kazoo. I have a bucket of 'em here, purchased from Kazoobie, in a rainbow of colors. Reckon I have one to match each of my aloha shirts.

Lately, I've been playing around with making my own, using PVC pipe. Yeah, I know that cardboard tubes are the more traditional homemade kazoo, but I like the durability and ease of the plastic and I can put sections of it together and break them back down quickly. Aluminum foil for the resonator, though wax paper is fine too. There IS a difference in sound but the foil is more durable, easier to form and I slightly prefer its tone. But, as I was saying, it's easy to change things quickly with the PVC. I have me a big 'bass' kazoo I've been playing with but, really, how high and low one can go is more a function of ones own voice than the size of the kazoo and resonator. However, a bigger kazoo seems to have a better tone down low, as well as more volume.

* * *

Played up at Landmark Park in Dothan last night. Much bigger crowd that I had anticipated, over 500 in attendance. Quite a bit different than performing for a half-dozen at some coffeehouse open mike. I guess I did okay though my allergies were getting to me and I pretty much croaked my way through my last song. The semi-new guitar sounded decent too, so I've no reservations about using it as my main instrument from here out.

When I'm not playing kazoo, that is...

Friday, July 04, 2008

THE FOURTH is a holiday, I know, but I'm not inclined to get out and do stuff today. Shoot, I'm not inclined to do that any day! So I'm working on my own little projects at home, baked some banana bread (not bad if I do say so myself), and added two new blogs here at Blogger.

Yep, two of 'em. They'll be linked up in time; for now they can be reached through my profile but they aren't at all interesting right now so don't bother! One of them is the replacement for my spam-infested guest book at P V Magazine. I reckon I can post news there and folks can comment if they really want to. The other is Lad Designs, an adjunct to my online store. News about what I have for sale and so on. I may or may not attach these to subdomain addresses at my site later on. Depends on how ambitious I feel.

Hmm, I hear another slice of banana bread calling so I'll sign off for now.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

MUSIC

A mention of the CD I intended to offer, The Wind on the Prairie, The Wind on the Sea, on a print-on-demand basis through our Cafe Press shop. This has not worked out well; CP is fine for printing tee-shirts and such but they can't seem to get their act together when it comes to CDs. We will -- soon, we hope -- be offering it directly from our site, along with more music!

BTW, I'll be doing a couple or three songs in Dothan at the Landmark Park on the Tenth (next Thursday). Show starts at 7:30 though I don't know when I'll go on. And admission is free.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

I've had it with trying to fight spam at the Peripheral Vision Magazine guest book and have therefore deleted it. My thanks to everyone who stopped by and left comments. I may put in a Yahoo guest book (or some other alternative) in its place -- something that will let me moderate posts beforehand. Of course, that would be just as much work as deleting spam posts, wouldn't it?

Really, though, what is the point of spamming a guest book? It seems an exercise in attracting ill will toward oneself.

I can't play the hand I'm dealt.
Should I fold and leave
the table?

Stephen Brooke ©2008

every now and again, a passing thought gets poeticized into the quinzaine form.

Monday, June 23, 2008

SCARS

This scar is from the time
my dirt bike fell on me
on a sand road back behind
the new high school. Yeah, Lely --
I did sub teaching there

later, when I was older
but not much wiser.
That bike threw me more
than once; I'm just too clumsy,
I guess, to go that fast.

Give me water. It's more
forgiving than sand and rocks,
though I've been bounced off the bottom
a few times too, felt the sting
of salt water wounds.

The only visible reminder
would be this lop-sided toe
I broke. Nothing like the scar
on my leg, the one from the bike,
nor my much-broken nose.

That's another story
but I'm always happy
to talk about my time
in the ring and only
exaggerate a little.

I was no golden boy,
nor even Golden Gloves,
just a skinny kid
with long arms and no punch
who lost every fight.

Oh, and there's that seam
down the back of my skull.
If I ever develop
a bald spot it will show
but just take my word

on it for now, okay?
Not the small scar, that's where
my little brother whacked me
when I was six and he
was a terrible brat.

I reckon he never grew
out of that, but I
digress. The long scar there,
that's the one I got
when a cable broke

in the gym and the pulldown
bar slammed into the back
of my noggin. I should
have sued, I suppose, but, hey,
the owner was a friend.

Oh, that one? I didn't
know it showed. Every
wound that heals must leave
a scar, a little mark,
a bit of stiffness to remind

us to be more careful.
Maybe next time, I
should not go quite so fast,
ride the smaller wave,
stay out of the ring,

not risk a broken heart.
But then, what would the point
of living be? I shall show
my every scar, wear them
on my skin, my face,

my soul, let them be
the handwriting of time,
the tale of who I am
and who I will be,
come my next scar.

Stephen Brooke ©2008

How did those ads go? No fear? Just do it? Maybe not the best of advice for the accident-prone among us! :)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Just a mention that I put up a couple more simple 'work tape' recordings of my song at the Insolent Lad site. The songs would be August and Coffee, Kisses and Goodbyes. Simple voice-and-guitar one-take stuff. The voice mike being, for those who might care, a CAD M177 and the guitar mike -- on my nylon string Alvarez -- a CAD GXL1200, into a Fostex VF80 recorder, dumped to Power Tracks in my computer, a little compression, a pinch of secret ingredients...I'll have to do some 'real' recording soon. In the mean time, I'll be putting up more of these whenever I feel ambitious.

TODAY is International Surf Day! Grab your boards, dudes and dudettes. Oh, the surf is a dud today, dude...typical for summer in the Gulf. Well, to make up for it, here's a pic of the beach where I grew up. Looks like the south side of Naples Pier, a break I rode many a time -- small (OK, tiny!) waves but one takes what one can get in SW Florida. I knew some of the guys in this photo but can't recall any names now.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

ONCE

Once, I fell in love
and, falling, broke my heart;
each time I think it mended,
it once more comes apart.
Need it be bound and bandaged
till it no longer feels;
allowed to sleep a season,
lest it never heals?

Once, I was in love
and. loving, spoke my heart;
left it undefended,
a target for each dart.
Such wounds I'll bear gladly;
they speak not of defeat,
for hearts can not be hidden
without their loss complete.

Once, I fell in love
and, falling, broke my heart.
In time, it may be mended;
then, perhaps, I'll start
to fear not once more falling,
to trust again my wings,
and, guarding not my heart,
to hope for all love brings

Stephen Brooke ©2008

Steve goes somewhat traditional -- I labored over this one quite a bit and I'm sure it could take further revision and polishing. Lots of revision and polishing...

In my typical creative approach, I started from words rather than ideas here. I hardly ever have a 'plan' as to what I intend to say but let the words grow into a concept. This is as true with songs as with poems and, I suppose, prose as well.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

I WATCHED The Outlaw Josie Wales last night (it was shown on History Channel) and was reminded what a good movie that is. Not a 'great' movie perhaps, but pretty darn good. If I were a reviewer I'd give it a thumbs up and a bunch of stars. But I'm too lazy to do a review so I'll just say I like it.

It also made me realize that I say 'I reckon so' almost as frequently as Josie. However, I do not spit tobacco after doing so.

I hope bad things come in threes and no more than threes because I got a third wasp sting a couple days ago, right on my left thumb as with the second one. Fortunately, on the pad where the skin is thicker so it wasn't as bad. I'm back to where I can do stuff again, like play guitar properly (I couldn't brace the left hand well enough to do certain chords). Can I finally get to doing some recording?

I reckon so.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Now You CD It, Now You Don't

I want to mention, for all of you out there who were eager to purchase the 'Wind' CD (there must be someone!), that Cafe Press has some 'problem' with it and it is not available at the moment. I tried to order a few for my own sales -- and to check out the product -- and heard from a CP rep that they had canceled the order and needed to sort things out. Might have to send a new disc, redo the project, etc...well, maybe, but I'm thinking (having heard from other folks who had troubles) that it might be best to let Cafe Press stick to tee-shirts and mugs and have the CD done elsewhere.

Or do it myself; either way, I'm reinstating my Pay Pal account and preparing to do direct sales from the website. It was awfully attractive to let CP do everything but, shoot, if they can't do it properly, it's up to me. Also, the discs are actually a lot cheaper to produce elsewhere so I can offer a lower price.

REVENGE OF THE WASPS

Them darn paper wasps got me again, this time on the left hand. Looks like I'll be typing one-handed for a while and we might as well forget about the guitar for a day or two. It's the stinging season -- the wasps are putting up their papier-mache nests everywhere, the jelly fish are showing up in the Gulf, not to mention mosquitoes, sand gnats, yellow flies, horse flies, fleas, ticks and chiggers!

HEAT WAVES GOODBYE

It looks like the heat wave is gone and we're back to 'normal' summer temperatures in the lower 90s. I can live with that -- even without AC -- but not when it get up to 97, 98 or above. Some afternoon rains are showing up too. That's always welcome, except it makes the grass grow faster! It also encourages the Wisteria That Ate Peanut Road (soon at a drive-in near you!) to spread. Time to hack and saw and clip again.

ALVAREZ GUITARS

Alvarez makes -- or, I should say, imports -- some quite nice guitars, well-crafted instruments from Japan. They also, as many others do, have some low-end Chinese guitars. Nonetheless, these can be nice instruments as well. Leading up to the fact that I took the plunge on an Alvarez RC20SC, an electric-classical such as I mentioned lusting after a while back. I saw it on a 'scratch and dent' sale with $150 off the normal price and couldn't resist!

I will admit, I can not find any blemish on the instrument, so I don't know why the price was knocked down so far...but I'm more than happy that it was. It's quite pretty, sounds OK, plays OK. It does have a solid cedar top so it should improve a little sound-wise with time. The back/sides are plywood (mahogany), of course, but I've never seen anything wrong with that. Does it dampen the sound? I suppose, but not as much as having the guitar pressed against your body while you play. The neck, I found (no where could I discover this info online) is not full classical width, 1 3/4 inches rather than 2 inches, but that's not a problem; it's still fine for finger-picking. I strongly suspect that this will become my #1 performing guitar.

Now, I just need to get out and perform...

Friday, June 06, 2008

OBSESSION can be a great songwriting subject. This one definitely isn't from personal experience -- I've never been obsessive about anything worse than playing Tetris.

I KNOW WHO YOU ARE

Last night you slept with my ex-girlfriend;
I shouldn’t care, ‘cause we’d reached our end.
But it twists something inside of me,
The pain that never lets me be.
That’s why I know who you are;
That’s why I know who you are.

I’ve watched you laughing at her side;
I can’t help myself, I’ve tried.
And even though it made no sense,
I knew you laughed at my expense.
That’s why I know who you are;
That’s why I know who you are.

There’s a gun in a box, under my bed,
And one of us may turn up dead;
Not sure which I hate the most,
You or her or my own pale ghost.
For hatred cries out in my heart,
Urging me to play this part;
Lord, help me if I go too far –
I know who I am and I know who you are.

You held her hand at a restaurant;
I knew it was an open taunt.
And if I must deal with my shame,
I won’t be the one to blame.
That’s why I know who you are;
That’s why I know who you are.

I feel this poison steady seeping;
I fear to wake what’s best left sleeping.
Self-control is bound to give
When I have no reason to live.
That’s why I know who you are;
That’s why I know who you are.

Stephen Brooke ©2003

I have put up a music page ( at http://insolentlad.com/music1.html ) at my site. Only some midis right now; I'll have demo mp3s and such there eventually.