adventures in dysthymia

Monday, December 21, 2009

FAST AWAY the old year passes and I haven't much to say about it. Some things happened and more things didn't happen. Things are like that.

I'm not accomplishing a whole lot at the moment, other than taking care of business (so to speak). Perhaps that's enough. Creativity is at a definite ebb but I try to fit the occasional moment in, even if it's no more than strumming sambas on the classical guitar. My musical mind is in that sort of place at this time. Maybe looking for a bit of escapism in the music?

Speaking of music, my talented niece, 'Mean Mary' James just got her acceptance for performing at the Florida Folk Festival this coming May. She'll be a solo act again, as last year. Mary will be moving up to a Saturday evening slot this year -- must've impressed somebody.

Who knows whether I'll have a chance to attend. Hated missing for the first time in many years in 2009. Not to mention passing again on Willfest and even missing the Tuskegee Christmas concert this year. I recognize however that none of these things are truly important; I am acting according to my own priorities and have no regrets.

So I'll wish any and all readers and friends a Merry Christmas and offer my wishes for a good new year. It's not by accident that we celebrate the birth of Jesus at the turning of the year and the rebirth of our hopes. Today is the solstice, after all; there will be a little less darkness from this day on. :)

Friday, December 11, 2009


FOR THE FIRST time, I decided to set out my grandparents' Hummel nativity set. It's a complete, mint condition, early 50s set so it's worth a bit, I reckon, though I don't know quite how much (and am a bit afraid to find out!).

My mom's cognitive abilities continue to decline -- I suspect this will be the last Christmas I have her here with me and wanted to set these out for her sake. Perhaps pointless, as I remember them well from when I was a small child but she does not recall them at all. None the less, I want to make the holiday as nice as possible. Every ornament I own is on the tree!

Eventually this Hummel set will probably pass on to some other family member. I doubt that I will ever display it again myself.

I haven't been getting much accomplished lately, other than maintaining things around here. Not much writing. Hard to get myself going in the studio (either studio, art or recording) too. I don't know if I'll get a song or two ready for the Willfest competition this year -- had a couple picked out but time is slipping away. Oh well, I'd probably be about as successful as in past years anyway.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

THANKSGIVING

Shall I give thanks for all
the things I never wanted,
for which I never asked?

I'd just as soon return them,
have naught, be not. Yet here
they are, these empty gifts,

unopened boxes, clutter
to fill the corners of life.
No matter; leave them there.

Leave them and give thanks.

Stephen Brooke ©2009

Saturday, November 14, 2009

FONTS and MUSIC

I've long kept my eye open for a good font to use in printing out lyric-and-chord sheets for my use. Up until quite recently my choice was Humanist 521 -- looks good, doesn't take up to much space, easy enough to read. The problem was lining things up -- tabs and so on. This is exacerbated if I send a page to someone else who used a different font to view it or if I ever chose to put stuff on line.

The answer, I realized, was to use a fixed space font. Unfortunately, most of them looked bad or didn't read well. Oh, Courier is okay; after all, I typed up a lot of sheets with it long ago!

Then I came across Vera Sans Mono (aka Bitstream Vera Sans Mono). It's sort of like a fixed-width Verdana. Looks pretty good on a monitor, prints out nicely enough, not a space hog so I can (usually) get a line of lyrics across the page, complete with breaks at the bars. And, if I send it to someone as a file (I've taking to saving them all as RTFs) it can display pretty much the same in the equivalent size of Courier.

VSM can be found as a free download here and there. Google it if you're interested. Btw, if you're into programming, it's supposed to be great for writing code.

In other music-related matters, I continue to attempt to get into the studio and actually record something. It's not easy to find the time as I have to keep an eye on Mom pretty much constantly. Thank God I have Rachel, Martha, Bonnie and Ellen to help keep her occupied most afternoons! I just may have to try recording in the middle of the night when she's asleep. When I will sleep then I'm not exactly sure...

I'd been thinking of getting some mastering and/or CD burning software to use here. My old Nero is barely adequate and buggy on the newer Vista machine in the studio. The thought was something Sony, either the full Sound Forge 10 (which probably would have been overkill for my needs) or just CD Architect. Either way, I could write professional Red Book standard CDs. Then I discovered that the newer version of Adobe Audition has full mastering and burning capabilities. That would be Version 3; I have had and occasionally used Version 1 (which is essentially the old Cool Edit Pro by another name.) V1 does not have these capabilities so it had not come to mind but I find I can upgrade for about the same cost as buying CD Architect and get a lot more functionality so that's the way I've gone.

Audition might become my primary DAW from here out or I may use it mostly for mastering. I am rather fond of my old standby from PG Music, Power Tracks, largely because of its midi capabilities.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

NESTS

Different degrees of madness
divide us: you from me,
him from her from them.
Each has his own losses.

Each heart's an empty bird's nest,
broken, trampled where
it fell. How will we seek
the life that might have filled it?

Only in the lies
and the truth that lies
between the lies; only
in stories of our madness

are the discarded shells
of dreams once hatched and flown.
Do they nest again,
somewhere, those birds of loss?

Only the degrees
that divide us know
their song. Listen for it;
listen in the forests.

Listen in the dawn
and remember. You've heard it
before, heard its echo
in your empty places.

Listen and know they've flown
beyond your reach. Different
degrees of madness divide us.
Each has his own losses.

Stephen Brooke ©2009

I must admit that the 'nest' metaphor here came from the short stories of Maeve Brennan that I've been reading lately -- a book of her rather melancholy tales set in Dublin (The Springs of Affection). And I suspect that the entire feel of the poem owes to the same source.

The poem may not be much but the stories are good. Brennan was an excellent and concise stylist, something that I tend to appreciate. I do detest (well, maybe that's too strong a word) the long-winded authors popular today. The stories are gems of insight into the inner worlds of the characters, who manage to be both sympathetic and off-putting at once. Much like real people in the real world.

I'm not writing a whole lot lately, nor doing much of anything other than attending to my chores and duties here. My apologies to friends that I am neglecting -- I'll probably continue to do so.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

WISE MEN THREE

Wise men three, in the East,
saw a star ascend,
knowing as the light increased
it called them to attend
the birth of one who had no crown
but was the king of men:
a lord to free all who were bound,
the old reign at an end.

Wise men three, from lands far,
from lands beyond the sea,
followed then their shining star,
a star of prophecy.
For by ancient lore they knew
this radiance to be
the emblem of one born to true
royal destiny.

Wise men three traveled thence
in caravan to bring
gifts of myrrh and frankincense
and gold to crown a king.
And on a night when triumphed good,
when death lost its sting,
they with humble shepherds stood
to hear the angels sing.

Wise men three, Magi proud,
to a stable came;
there before the child they bowed
and praised his holy name.
We, travelers from afar as well
have seen that very flame
in our skies its story tell,
the Christ child's birth proclaim.

Stephen Brooke ©2009

An early Christmas poem -- though I've actually been working on it since before last Christmas. Even so, I consider it rough and a candidate for rewriting, revising, polishing.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

SECRET IDENTITY

I spent too many years
as Clark Kent. Now I
won't take off my cape,
can't stop flying. It's up,
up and away all the time.

Someday, I'll fall from the sky.
Someday, when I'm no longer
faster than a speeding
bullet. But isn't that
the best way to go out?

To fall, fall, fall as fire,
a comet, an omen. To be,
when I've forgotten my own
secret identity.

Stephen Brooke ©2009

Lately, not much time to create nor keep up with my online friends. So will things continue for a while. Tomorrow is my mother's 91st birthday. Dad made it to a month short of 92 so I reckon I have good genes for longevity. I suspect this will be the last birthday Mom is with us -- not physically but mentally. Her mental decline continues and it seems unlikely I'll be able to care for her on my own much longer.

With the way the online world is changing, I've realized that there is not much purpose in having a bunch of different blogs anymore. It's simpler just to leave links and updates for this, my primary blog, here and there and not bother with Multiply (which I left -- too insular) or Yahoo or such. Of course, the special interest blogs, such as my Lad Designs, will remain.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

FIELDS

The air grew heavy with summer
and tomorrow slept in the fields,
dozing among the corn stalks
where cicadas sang

their tuneless lullaby.
There was, that season, a river
we could not cross, flooded
with our illusions. In stages

imperceptible,
it rose as we played
along its bowered banks,
at reckless dreams of love,

sun-lit games born in
the fervor and fever of spring.

There was too much heat,
that summer, too many storms;
we were intoxicated
on secrets and the scent

of fresh-mown fields. We were
carried on the flood
of the river grown wide,
our banks undercut,

our sanctums swept away.
I have slept in those fields,
dreamed with tomorrow
of comings and of goings,

of the wind that turns
in its season. Of summer.

Stephen Brooke ©2009

Something new, at last, and relatively serious. Been hard to concentrate on much lately.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

TWO SCARS

I am not conscious of the scars,
most of the time. I do not see
them readily, am not reminded;
both are toward the back of the skull,
one a little higher than
the other, hidden by my hair.

I still have my hair, thank God.

The one is from a gun. No, not
a bullet, a gun. The higher-up,
older mark that would be,
and came not from true malice
but a small automatic thrown
in anger as I walked away.

It didn't go off, thank God again.

I know that's not very exciting.
There is no tale of a fight
nor holdup, just some mild amusement
in visualizing a pissed (and drunken)
woman chucking her pearl-handed
purse gun at my back. I suppose

she could have shot me. Thank God once more.

I did bleed some. As I did
when I got whacked with a steel bar.
That would be the second scar
and, yes, that was malice, not anger,
intended to lay me out. It didn't.
The bar only glanced across the back
of my skull and laid open the scalp.

For which I also am thankful to God.

Anyway, those marks remain,
reminders of who I was and still
am, perhaps. Not a fighter,
not a tough guy, just someone
who's been some places and done some things
and just might again, some day.

And for that, I thank God.

Stephen Brooke ©2009

Though laid out in lines of rough tetrameter, this could just as readily have been formatted as a prose poem. Or prose, period. Very first draft-y, of course, as is most anything I post here, and more of an idea than a finished piece.

Monday, September 14, 2009

MONEY TREE

If money grew on a tree,
a maple or a beech,
I'll bet that it would be
too high for me to reach.

I'd stand beneath and look
up at the breeze-blown loot
and wonder what it took
to get some to take root.

Maybe I'd just sit
and wait for some to fall;
but when I think about it,
life wouldn't change at all.

For each day that I went
to gather what it's giving
is time I would have spent
just working for a living.

Stephen Brooke ©2009

Lately, life's kind of been keeping me from having much time online, between my duties as a care-giver and lots of work to do around the property here. With the cooler rainy weather the last few days I've been engaged in a flurry of planting/transplanting. That may continue off-and-on into the colder weather -- some things really should be dormant when moved.

This morning (during a break in the weather!) I was up on the roof installing an antenna. I gave up on satellite a couple years ago. It's simply not worth the cost. Although I have a tripod and will eventually use it to place the antenna up on the roof ridge, right now it's attached to the old satellite dish mount. I'm running it only into my mom's room for the time being; it improved her reception from four channels to fourteen and we can finally pick up the PBS programming from Tallahassee, so I'm pleased.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

With the start of the lovebug season here, I thought of this song I wrote several years ago and has been a performance staple for me since. Apparently I've never posted the lyric in my blogs (not here, anyway) so here we go:

The Swarm

He started in Ohio, in a brand new Cadillac;
Silver-haired wife beside him, her poodle in the back.
Drove real slow to look at the sights, headed where it was warm,
Until they reached the Florida line, that's where they met the swarm...

Then it was love bugs on the windshield, love bugs on the grill,
Love bugs smashed all over that Caddy, all over that de Ville;
As he drove down I-Seventy-five, he got madder and madder,
Listening to those love bugs going splatter, splatter, splatter!

It didn't matter where he went, the swarm would be there,
'Cause exhaust is an aphrodisiac, wafting through the air;
They're over every highway that runs through the state,
Bound and determined to find themselves a mate...

So it's love bugs on the windshield, love bugs on the grill,
If you head down that Interstate, how many will you kill?
They'll be stuck to your wipers, their little wings a-tatter,
You can't stop those love bugs going splatter, splatter, splatter!

Stephen Brooke ©1991

That pretty much sums up lovebugs -- they congregate and copulate over the highways a couple times a year and end up plastered on automobiles in very large numbers.

Friday, August 28, 2009

THREE SHORT POEMS in form:

I did a deed, indeed I did,
I did a deed, as I was bid;
I did the deed with all due speed
And once I did it, ran and hid!

* * *

I laugh out loud, allowed to laugh,
I laugh out loud, though it's a gaffe;
I laugh aloud for I am proud
That when I laugh it's not by half!

* * *

I lent a loan, alone I lent;
I lent a loan and it was spent.
I lent the loan and now I moan
For what I lent was my last cent.

Stephen Brooke ©2009

Little pieces, essentially as an exercise. Don't ask the name of the form, I was kind of making it up. It's good to have restrictions at times, whether they be rhyme, rhythmic considerations, or a stricter form. It forces us to come up with words we might not have used otherwise which, in turns, leads our thoughts in new directions and toward new discoveries.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

DOGGEREL and doings at Peanut Road:

I just finished reading a slender book by Calvin Trillin, 'Deadline Poet: My Life As a Doggerelist.' Trillin is long time columnist and political commentator with a humorous bent. Back in the late Eighties he began adding light verse to his regular columns, one piece per week of self-described doggerel on a (usually) political topic. This book covers the early years.

I'm not one to write reviews, normally, so I won't this time either, other than to say I enjoyed the read. Wit will always win me over. Calvin Trillin has written several other books, including novels -- I may need to look into those -- and continues to work as a columnist.

However, I will paste a sample of the verse here, a non-political (except peripherally) piece about not being chosen as Poet Laureate.

ON NOT MAKING THE CUT

They've named another poet laureate.
It's not me yet.

I do want to applaud him from the bench--
To be a mensch.

And yet I've been ignored so many times.
And my stuff rhymes!

Hey! Maybe that's my problem-- rhyme's a curse.
I'll try blank verse:

Listen, selectors, I'll make a great
poet laureate, and I'm not the kind
of guy who would get uppity if you asked
him to knock out eight or ten lines for
the First Lady's birthday or anything like
that. Think about it. Thanks.


* * *
Once again, I have wasp stings. Or, more accurately, hornets this time. They were apparently attracted to the sweet smell emanating from a bottle of laundry softener and I was paying no attention as I went out in the carport to do some loads of wash. Got me on the ankle. Dang, that hurt! In the process of fleeing them, I bashed the knee on the other leg into a crate and cut it open. That's only an annoyance, however bad it looks (and it looked pretty bad while bleeding profusely). The foot and ankle swelled up considerably and I've been hobbling and complaining for a couple days. It's getting better, as it always will.

But it's something that I can count on every summer since moving here, usually more than once. I could take antihistamines and relieve it some (not a lot) but I hate the way they knock me out. I only take a pill when my allergies are really acting up.

* * *
I went to Lulu, where I have a store (Insolent Lad Media), to look into offering art prints there -- something I'd intended to do for some time -- and found that they had discontinued that line of merchandise earlier this year. I'll probably do other projects there eventually, another book or something, but I guess Cafe Press will continue to be the only outlet for my posters and prints for the time being.

I've been working on getting new higher resolution scans of my paintings for this purpose. I know from past experience that it is best to offer these only on paper products. Tee shirts and such do not work well with anything other than blocks of solid color. New product should be up soon, available via my Emporium.

* * *
I had a pretty young lady visit me from the Water Management bureau yesterday, to check the water levels in my well. I wish the government would send such visitors more frequently -- a good use of my tax dollars, I'd say!

Friday, August 21, 2009

BAD DREAMS (OF YOU)

I've been having bad dreams
and you were in every one --
sometimes you had a knife,
sometime you carried a gun.
When I tried to hide
there was no place to run;
I've been dreaming about you
and it wasn't fun.

I dreamed I was in a tower,
tall and grim and gray,
with monkeys all around,
a little too eager to play.
There I was, your prisoner --
what could I do, you say?
I threw a bucket of water
and you melted away!

I saw you on a night mare,
one of riders four;
your buddies called you Pestilence --
I guess they knew the score.
I watched you rowing away
from a desert shore,
happy to be marooned
and see you never more!

I keep having these dreams
and don't know what to do;
why don't you go and haunt
someone else brand new?
I've had enough of this,
I thought that we were through;
Oh, I've been having bad dreams
and they're full of you!

Stephen Brooke ©2009

More light verse -- I seem to be full of it lately. Well, okay, I'm usually full of it, aren't I? I reckon this could be developed into a song, if I felt ambitious. Btw, no one in particular in mind here, no ex-gf or anyone like that!

KETTLE

The kettle calls, insistently,
incessantly, saying 'Do
you want that cup of tea or don't
you?" It's not a cheerful kettle.

It whistles no happy tune, no bird-like
song to brighten my morning. Only
that one shrill note until I pour
out its eager, boisterous contents.

But I, far too prone to wander
and wool-gather, need a loud
reminder that the water is
a-boil and that time, even breakfast

time, waits for no man. Not even
for distracted poets, seeking
words to finish one last line.
The kettle calls...

Stephen Brooke ©2009

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

OPEN BOOK

My life is an open book
but most of the pages are blank;
you're bound to be dreadfully bored
if you bother to take a look.

Although a bit worn with age,
the covers are nicely done;
yet nothing at all's inside --
it's page after empty page.

But since you're leafing through it,
scribble something for me.
If you could leave a nice note
or witty saying, do it.

Please keep it interesting,
so the next who reads
may be entertained --
that's all I'm suggesting.

And if it's good, they might
not put me down so soon;
in fact, I just might curl
up with myself some night.

Stephen Brooke ©2009

Essentially light verse, but with, of course, deep hidden messages! :p

Monday, August 17, 2009

WE SAIL, TONIGHT

The wind blows nor' nor' east, tonight,
Not fit for man nor beast, tonight.
The thin clouds fly 'cross a darkened sky,
The moon waned to its least, tonight.

Our ship is outward bound, tonight,
To sea without a sound, tonight.
The tide runs high, the hawsers sigh
And dark lies close around, tonight.

A sure wind fills the sail, tonight,
A cold wind tells a tale, tonight.
It whispers why men strive and die;
Each song we raise must fail, tonight.

To distant ports we are away, tonight,
Beyond horizons far and gray, tonight.
The sea birds cry, the dawn we spy,
As we sail into day, from night

Stephen Brooke ©2009

I've been messing with this poem a while -- typically, a few lines sat in my notes for months, until they finally 'spoke' to me. Could well be a song, with or without a refrain.

Friday, August 14, 2009

PRETTY KITTY

There was an itty-bitty pretty kitty
Who lived in an apartment in the city;
She looked out of her window every day
And told herself 'I ought to run away!'

For right across the street there was a park
She thought the perfect place to have a lark;
'If I go there I'm sure that I shall find
Trees to climb and rocks to hide behind!

'And there in wait I patiently would lie
Until a butterfly should flutter by.
Then I'd leap out and catch it in my paws!
Why? Oh, I'm a cat, so just because.'

It seems she truly had become quite bored
By all her kitten toys and she ignored
Enticement by stuffed mice and balls of yarn.
The pretty kitty didn't give a darn!

So, through an open door the kitty slipped
And down the flight of stairs she gaily skipped;
Well, cats may not exactly skip, it's true,
Still, she bounced off to see all that was new.

She planted both her itty-bitty feet
When she reached the busy, bustling street;
There she sat and watched the cars whiz by
And wondered whether she should even try.

'Oh no," she thought, 'I could end up quite flat
And that is no condition for a cat!'
But right across the road lay all that grass --
The kitty waited for the cars to pass

And made a wild dash for the other side.
It's fortunate the street was not too wide!
Though her little heart beat double-time
The sights spread out before her seemed sublime.

But as she set out to explore the park,
Suddenly a dog began to bark;
Then another and soon there were three
Joining in canine cacophony.

It was too much; she turned around and ran
Through the traffic, right in front of a van!
As fast as four legs can, she climbed the stairs,
Dashed through the door and hid behind the chairs.

'This is where I belong, right here at home!'
The kitty thought, and vowed to never roam.
'Why, here I'll find no terrible mishaps
Just hands to smooth my fur and pleasant naps.'

The itty-bitty pretty kitty purred
But later on that night she rose and stirred --
Gazed through the window, out into the dark
And planned her next excursion to the park.

Stephen Brooke ©2009

A bit of sustained silliness. Maybe I'll do something serious later.

Monday, August 10, 2009

IN PRINT

I just got word that some of my poetry (and possibly a short story as well) has been accepted for an upcoming issue (or issues) of Scarlet, a literary magazine. I haven't been sending out stuff for a while, after getting involved in attempting to edit and publish my own mag and taking on a lot of personal responsibilities. It's nice to get some work out out there again. Naturally, it doesn't pay except in copies, but that's how small literary publications mostly work.

I do wonder if it's smart to even attempt a printed magazine these days. Online seems to be not just the way of the future but most definitely the way of the present, but I think people still think of paper as being somehow more legitimate.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

two haiku-like pieces

hot dog
with everything~
I bark

angry wasp~
hand becomes
balloon animal

SB 09

IMPRACTICAL

I am enough of an impractical dreamer
to mistrust impractical dreamers.
Let them write their books and paint their paintings.
Let them sing love songs

but don't believe the words.
They'll sing them to another next week.
Don't ask them to lead
nor hire them to follow.

They'll take their own way,
not suffering those they see as fools.
Listen to them, yes; learn to see
the things that they have seen

but mistrust the impractical dreamers.
Mistrust me.

Stephen Brooke ©2009

Friday, August 07, 2009

I've taken to watching more television this summer, mostly because I'm sitting with my mom in the evening, trying to find programming that she can follow and keeps her interest. In the process, I became a bit hooked on So You Think You Can Dance.

Anyway, watched the finale last night and may or may not turn on the next season -- I'm not that enamored of the show. I was thinking, though, that I've been a fan of what is essentially a dance show since I was a kid. And that would be pro wrestling.

I always knew that it was, as they say, 'fake,' even back then. To be honest, that made (and makes) it more interesting to me. It's a performance and I've watched it as such. Being peripherally involved with the industry back in the 80s (mostly just hanging with some bush league rasslers) made me all the more aware of the work, the nuts-and-bolts, of putting on a good show in the ring.

It IS a form of dance. Partially choreographed, partially improvised, it tells a story through movement. Not that I don't appreciate the other side of the performance, the 'acting.' Some of the wrestlers shine at one aspect, some at the other. Hulk Hogan did great on the talking part, not so talented in the ring (though he had 'presence'). There are guys with great moves who come across as stiffs in front of a microphone, such as Shelton Benjamin (though he's not totally inept or he wouldn't be where he is). And there is the occasional 'star' who shines in both areas, like, oh, Chris Jericho.

But back to the dance -- I watch a pro wrestling match for the moves and love to see something new and innovative. I want to see action that reflects the personality of the performers and speaks of a real interaction between them. This is no different than a dance duet. And, of course, there's nothing worse than sloppy wrestling! I've seen some real duds, even on the top televised programs. Maybe they need a panel of judges to keep them on their toes.

Yeah, that's it...So You Think You Can Wrestle...I think I have a winner! Remember, network executives, you heard it here first.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

PEANUT ROAD is a domain name I've owned a couple years. I'd never had any plans to obtain the domain but when Microsoft Live was giving away free domain names with free sites, I decided to claim it. In that it was free, I've never done a great deal with it, and built a simple four-page site that exists primarily to direct traffic to my other domains.

Now, ML is going to start charging for the domains. The sites -- such as they are -- remain free. At Fifteen Dollars a year, I don't know if it is worth it to me to renew. I could just let it lapse...it's a good name, I know, but I don't have that much need of it.

Or if I do keep the domain name (which belongs to me, not Microsoft), I could switch it to a cheaper registrar, as I did with my Yahoo domains when they raised the price to $35 a year. Go Daddy would cost me about half as much. And then, I suppose, direct it toward pages on my main site (or somewhere). Worth it? If I ever got anything going here on Peanut Road, maybe so. Right now, probably not. I do know that the Live sites essentially suck, so without the free domain I have little incentive to stay there.

* * *

I've been playing around at FaceBook and Multiply for a week or so now, and I still have my doubts about a web presence that many people can't see. That's why I've always preferred Blogger and MySpace. Steve has nothing to hide! On the other hand, maybe Steve should have something to hide...

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

KEEPING IT PRIVET

When I moved here, I was told -- by someone who should have known better -- that the bush in my yard was a ti-ti. Now the ti-ti is an attractive small native tree of the area and does have a similar appearance, but grows mostly in marshy areas, not on higher ground (I'm on a bit of a ridge, which is why the well is over 300 ft deep!). Actually, the bush is a Japanese Privet (Ligustrum, if you must).

Privet has gone wild and become an invasive species all over the Florida Panhandle. It grows vigorously along all the roadsides around here. There are a lot of invasive plants in Florida -- down in the south where I grew up, we had Brazilian Pepper, Australian Pines, Melaleuca (which we called 'Cajeputs' when I was a kid) and now there is exotic fauna, as well, parrots and pythons and walking catfish (oh my!).

Not that it's all bad. I reckon the privet is here to stay and it does grow easily, so I'm not above planting more of it around my place. It certainly seems to do better than the stuff I've bought for this purpose, Siberian Elms and other trees. I really want a bit of a screen out front (Peanut Road is pretty busy, lots of log trucks, farm equipment etc going up and down it). There are some other plants that might do well and spread themselves -- I finally got some Butterfly Bush (Buddleia) growing this year and I know it can be invasive in more temperate climates. I do suspect that it's a little too hot here for that to happen.

There are also the Nandinas. They're good in the shady areas and will spread on their own. Very low maintenance and perhaps a good choice for some erosion control on my slopes. I've a planter box full of them, ready to set out in the Fall. In the mean time, I'll keep the privet and probably plant more of it in my 'problem areas.' Btw, the little fruits are mildly toxic, so don't eat 'em! (you still alive, Abby?)

Monday, August 03, 2009

CAYO HUESO

vs 1
Cayo Hueso, the Spaniards named it,
The isle as dry as a bone;
Sometimes dozing peacefully,
Sometimes by hurricanes blown.
They left it as they found it then,
'Neath a lonely sky,
Where the tropic sun still burns
And the frigate birds fly.

vs 2
But the British came, in time,
Then the United States,
And Yankee seamen built their port
Upon the Florida Straits.
It's where the Atlantic meets the Gulf,
And southward, Cuba lies;
The world lay right across the horizon,
Just beyond their eyes.

ref
We're sailing down to old Key West,
Down the mangrove coast;
Sailing down to harbor there
'Long side a smuggler's ghost.
I'll show you round my old Key West,
She is a gracious host;
So pour the rum and sailors all,
Let us raise a toast
To Cayo Hueso, (to Cayo Hueso!)
To old Key West.

vs 3
The pendent on an island necklace,
Gem of the Florida keys:
Gold and jade and amethyst,
Set in the turquoise seas.
Audubon had tarried there
And Papa Hemingway;
When I get back to old Key West
I'll be there to stay.

Stephen Brooke ©2009

A few fragmentary lines of this piece had sat in my notes for three years or so -- I'd had an idea of writing an 'historical' Florida song but wasn't exactly inspired. Considering the end result, perhaps I'm still not. It is pretty clumsy but I needed to get it out of my system (and my notes). Who knows whether it will have any further development? I know it's the sort of thing that I might be inclined to cannibalize for ideas later on.

Wed Evening: I thought I'd be putting this away for a while, maybe come back and see what I could do with it later, but I sat down this afternoon and in a few minutes managed to fix what I thought were the roughest spots (though it still needs work) and write out a little nautical-esque tune for it. So I'm half-way happy with it now!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

THE OLD SAMURAI

Every enemy
is dead, save time.

What need have I now
of this sword,

other than to fall
upon it?

Stephen Brooke ©2009

Thursday, July 30, 2009

I've not been doing the 'social network' thing much, as I suspected I wouldn't be able to devote sufficient time to it. Yes, I've kept up blogging here -- at least some -- and I do maintain a presence at MySpace, but that's about it (unless one counts Ning, where I belong to Bonnie Hunt's group but don't really interact).

But it's worthwhile to connect with people -- especially those online friends I've been neglecting -- so yesterday I reinstated my Facebook account (may get a band page going too) and started a new Multiply (Facebook for old folks, ha ha) as well. I might even do Linked In, if I can figure out just exactly what my profession is these days...

Incredibly muggy here today on Peanut Road. I've been out digging holes and now I feel like I'm ready to be dropped into one of them. Time to get some iced green tea; more later.

Monday, July 27, 2009

OUTSIDE

There's no need to think outside
the box, if the box we're in
is large enough. Just be sure
it has room to hold your dreams.

We need boxes, you know, or all
those dreams would float away, be lost.

Poetry is a box. We fill it
with words and mail them to ourselves.
I've so many now I think
I need a box to hold my boxes.

God must have the largest box
of all. No thinking outside that one.

Stephen Brooke ©2009

A quickie poem-thing (yes, Sandburg-esque -- I seem to be doing that a lot lately). Haven't been on much, haven't written nor blogged much. Too much going on in the so-called real world (though I sometime wonder what's real and what ain't). I apologize to friends I've been ignoring.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A GLASS

A glass of wine may make me jolly
But two can turn me melancholy,
And taking three is simple folly
For I'll fall asleep, by golly!

I'll have one for my stomach's sake,
Though several seems a mistake;
Too many glasses surely make
Anybody's tummy ache!

Good food is certainly a sign
To pour another glass of wine,
So bring a bottle when we dine:
Fill up yours and fill up mine!

A glass of wine just might enhance
The mood that leads us to romance;
But sometimes we'll make an advance
When we shouldn't take the chance!

Stephen Brooke ©2009


IN FIVE ACTS

There was a Dane
in great pain;
going insane,
in fact.
An act,
it could have been.
He blamed his kin
of shameful sin;
an uncle accused
and not amused.
He could have used
more tact.
A pact,
the young prince made
with Father's shade,
debts to be paid.

But meanwhile he
could not see
a reason to be
or not.
He thought
too much, it seems,
of dark and dreams,
while Uncle's schemes
were put in play.
What can one say?
That was his way:
he sought,
he fought.
With too much rage,
too young an age,
he left the stage.

Stephen Brooke ©2009

a double dose of doggerel!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

THE PEAR tree is starting to drop semi-ripe fruit (with these hard pears, it's hard to say just when they're ripe) out back, most of it already nibbled (rabbits, squirrels, blue jays, even deer) before I get to it. There was almost no fruit within reach of the ground this year -- I blame that on the torrential rains back in the spring when the lower part of the tree was coming out in bloom. Lots of fruit up high; maybe I'll try to knock some down with a rake or the like.

Anyway, I'm gathering the pears up this year, edible or otherwise, so I can plant them and try to get some seedling trees. Like the peaches, they seem to hold up well to the heat here.

* * *
I've tried for years to get into playing my six-string banjo, but it has too many issues. Aside from the fact that the low strings pretty much always sound pretty 'plunky' on a six-string, there are the drawbacks arising from the cost-cutting measures Aria used to get it on the market. The primary problem being that they simply attached a dobro neck to a banjo pot. The scale is short-ish at 24 inches (though that's longer than a tenor) which doesn't help the sound of the low strings. Worse is the narrow string spacing -- I only have one-and-three-quarter inches at the bridge and that's mighty close together for finger-picking. Even if I only do two-finger.

So I'm seriously considering either selling it or losing a string (or two). Probably not worth much and it would be easy enough to redo the nut and bridge. If I were ambitious, I could even put on mandolin tuners and try it with eight strings. Anyway, I'm not any sort of traditional (i.e. neither 'old time' nor bluegrass) banjoist but much more inclined toward the Irish four-string sort of sound and tend to either strum in a ukulele fashion or finger-pick like a guitar. (Steve hates picks. Guitars, like women, should be caressed with the finger tips, not poked at with sharp objects)

* * *
I suppose the recording studio is more-or-less open now, but not to the public. There's just no way I could handle being a 24/7 caregiver and doing that sort of business at the same time. Shoot, considering my age and current ambitions (to get back into performing when it is once more practical), I may never go fully commercial here. Just record myself and the occasional friend, maybe. The music room (or salon, as I like to call it) is essentially finished, now that the acoustic ceiling is up and everything is in place. I will, in time, add more acoustic treatment but it's quite usable as is and a decent sized space at 22' by 14'.

And there are other suitably large rooms in the house here at Peanut Road to spread out some, if need be. Who knows when (or if) I'll ever get that carport converted to a tracking room, though. At 26' by 22', with high ceilings, it would be nice but I guess I don't really need it at this point.

Is it just me or does Sonia Sotomayor



look an awful lot like Severus Snape?


one thing for sure, she should avoid wearing black

Thursday, July 09, 2009

True art is magic.

Not the mystical stuff of fairy tales and fantasy; no, art is the skilled stagecraft of the illusionist, the sleight of hand and lateral thinking that directs our minds to see that which is not, strictly speaking, there. Art leads us to believe in real magic, the magic that lies within us.

It requires the illusions of words, of paint, of misdirection, to allow us to suspend our disbelief. Art opens us up to possibilities we would not otherwise see, that do exist yet remain so hard to recognize.

The creation of art, true art, good art, requires all the craft of the stage magician. It does not spring forth without thought or plan from the artist. The idea that it is all talent is simply part of the illusion, a mystical pass of the hands, a flip of a flamboyant but concealing cape.

Does it hurt to know how the trick was performed? Not really; if anything, it opens the mind to new ways of dealing with problems. At the same time, it is certainly not necessary to have any inkling of the mechanics for one to be profoundly affected by either art or magic. The feeling of wonder, of suspecting there are things we do not know -- but should -- is the important part.

I will now produce a poem from my hat. Chances are, you'll never see how it was done, as your eyes will be on my beautiful assistant.

Stephen Brooke ©2009

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

PATCHES

We are safety pins and duct tape,
Patches upon patches;
Torn and tattered rags, discarded --
No part of us matches.

We are rows of darkened windows,
Broken locks and latches;
Doors that hang from rusted hinges,
Nests where nothing hatches.

We are tunes lost on the wind,
Songs heard but in snatches;
Broken notes where every voice
Falters, fades, catches.

Stephen Brooke ©2009

Okay, so I'm gloomy today. What, I'm gloomy lots of days? Oh well.

At least we're getting some rain and not-so-bad temperatures after those three dry weeks of triple-digit heat. My trees should all survive. But to balance that, I had to spend too-much-money getting the truck fixed up this morning. Heck, it has almost 200,000 miles on it so I suppose I shouldn't complain that much. The logistics of taking care of things like this while needing to stay with my mom 24 hours a day is always problematic. Not much to do about that but take things as they come.

Friday, July 03, 2009

RUMBLE

I hear their hallelujahs
I hear their marching feet
I see that gang of Mormons
Cruising down the street
Here come the Witnesses
The two are bound to meet
Some are packing bibles
Packing holy heat!

It's the rumble of the righteous
A turf war of the true
Missionary mayhem
Trouble on the brew
Those fired-up Saints are gonna
Take on Jehovah's crew
Close your doors and lock 'em
Don't come out till they're through!

There's two or three outside
knocking at my door
I pretend that I'm not home
But they're mighty hard to ignore
Wish they'd just go away
As I've wished it often before
No sooner do they leave
Than here come a half-dozen more!

It's a brouhaha of believers
A clash of oratory
Death-match of the devout
Each claiming this territory
They're passing out the Watch Tower
Or Joseph Smith's odd story
Can't say I'll read either one
This side of purgatory!

Stephen Brooke ©2009

I joked a few months back about the idea of Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses fighting over their turf a la street gangs, but forgot the concept until a JW dropped by here the other morning. I was doing lawn work so I couldn't hide! At any rate, that jogged me to start writing a poem (or is it a song?). Admittedly a bit rough at this point. Should it be longer? I hate to belabor any idea, especially one that doesn't really have a lot of depth to begin with -- one simply starts rehashing the same joke, verse after verse. I've sat through too many 'humorous' songs like that! Anyway, I've tried to keep it short, simple and reasonably silly.

And, of course, no offense meant to the Witnesses and Saints out there. Not that many (any?) read this blog.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

WITH YOU

With you, I have sought
the elusive illusions
of life and love and learning,
of laughter and of thought.

With you, I have wondered
at a glory of stars
and an ache of hearts
from heaven's promise sundered.

Oh, we have been clever
yet unable to see
happiness lasts a moment,
forgetting is forever.

With you, I have fashioned
dreams from failing hope,
made our rumpled bed,
fevered and impassioned.

And with you, I've grown cold
standing in the moment,
waiting for tomorrow's
story to be told.

Oh, we have been so clever
yet unable to see
happiness lasts a moment,
forgetting is forever.

Stephen Brooke ©2009

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

UPDATED equipment list for Que Linda Music at the Peanut Road Studios:
(taking inventory -- some of this stuff, of course, is junk and I certainly have enough to do the job -- at this point, getting the room together is my concern)

Channels:

Mixers:
Carvin S16 – 16 channel
Behringer MX602A – 6 channel (used mostly for monitoring)

Preamps:
Presonus MP20 – 2 channel
M-Audio DMP3 – 2 channel

Computer Interfaces:

M-Audio ProFire – 34 channel
Presonus Fire Pod – 10 channel
M-Audio Quattro – 4 channel

Stand-alone Recorders:

Alesis ML9600 MasterLink
Fostex VF160
Fostex VF80

Monitoring:

JBL LSR25P reference monitors (2)
JBL ‘Platinum Series’ speakers (2)
Realistic 8" hi-fi speakers (2)

Harmon-Kardon TA600 stereo receiver

Audio-Technica ATH-M40fs headphones

(won't count the old Crate PA sitting here...oh wait, I just did...)

Microphones:

large condenser:
Oktava MC319 (2)
CAD M177 (2)
CAD GXL3000

small condenser:
Audio-Technica AT4049 (2)
sE Electronics SE2 (2)
CAD GXL1200 (3)
Sony ECM-330

dynamic:
Heil Heritage (2)
Heil Classic Pro
CAD TSM411 (3)
CAD KBM412
Audio-Technica MB2000L (3)
Shure SM48
Electar SR-5800
Realistic Highball (rebranded Shure588)
BSR “Echo Microphone”

Software:

Recording, Editing, Composition:
Adobe Audition
PG RealBand
PG Power Tracks Pro Audio
PG Band in a Box
Reaper (trying it out)
Finale Print Music
Audacity
Waveosaur
Nero Wave Editor

Effects and Virtual Instruments:
A variety of VST and DX effects and instruments are
available -- the list changes.

Miscellany and Utilities:
Voxengo R8 Brain

Hardware:

Art SGX LT instrument preamp/effects processor
Boss NS50 gate
Behringer Autocom compressor
various and sundry guitar pedals from Arion, Rockman,
Ibanez etc.

Instruments:

Keyboards:
Grand 'Nancy Hart' upright piano
Yamaha DGX-230
Kawai X120
Yamaha SHS10
Kimball Sensation organ
Casio CT640

Sound Modules:
Roland SC7
Roland DR5

Strings:
Aria six-string banjo
Nechville 'Banjovie'
Gibson LG2 acoustic guitar
Alvarez RC20SC classical electric guitar
Ovation Celebrity acoustic guitar
Kramer D418 acoustic guitar
Hondo H308 classical guitar
Epiphone Riviera electric guitar
Valley Arts/Samick BCP4 electric guitar (tele-style)
Carvin DC120 12-string electric guitar
Valley Arts 4-string bass (pre-Samick, pre-Gibson)
Maestro A-style mandolin

Percussion:
Various hand drums and percussion are on
hand. We do not at this time have a studio
drum kit.

Amps:
Dean Markley DCM40 stereo guitar amp (your basic imitation of a Roland JC120)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Another repost from Peanut Road, the last of them from 2007, with a few new remarks:

Cheap Junk part II: M-Audio

I pulled my old M-Audio Quattro interface out a couple days ago and hooked it up to the computer. It works well, despite being 'only' USB 1 and therefore not the fastest way to get audio in and out of the PC. The Quattro does have pretty decent AD conversion (the same as in M-Audio's Delta series, I believe) and I'm only using it as a two channel input, although it can theoretically handle up to four in and four out. Also, I'm working with the MME drivers and ignoring any ASIO at this point -- my Power Tracks software does not really work that well with ASIO.

So I'm not exactly tasking the unit. Eventually I'll see just how much it can handle. I've actually used this interface in the past mostly for its midi capabilities and never really took the time to explore it as an audio device. And then I got myself (supposedly) better equipment and it ended up on the shelf. But I think I'll try using it more, if only for the simplicity of its plug-and-play aspect. Firewire can be such a pain to get working properly at times.

Yes, it is sort of obsolete. But then, so is a lot of the other stuff around this studio!

M-Audio (as with Behringer, mentioned in the last 'Cheap Junk' post) has a reputation for not having the best quality control, though their equipment is well enough designed. The company, these days, is part of Avid, which also owns Digidesign, creator of Pro Tools. I've had okay results with the M-stuff I've owned or used. At Artists and Vagrants Central, the 'sister studio' in Tennessee (this was when I was still trying to use A&V South as my studio name), they use a pair of their Luna mikes regularly. They're not at all bad and I prefer their sound to the 'typical' Chinese microphone -- not so shrill.

And I use my own DMP3 preamplifier a lot. It's a great little unit and definitely the best deal at its price (which puts it in the 'low end' category). I would not hesitate to rack up a bunch of these preamps and use them for just about anything, including a symphony orchestra. No, they would not be the 'best' by any means, but they would be more than adequate for the job, clean and accurate, with plenty of gain.

Right now, I should be getting off line, turning that Quattro on, and recording a song or two (of course, I didn't...not getting much of that done these days).

Friday, June 19, 2009

MOM THE DOM

Billy came home from the funeral,
burying his mother;
all the family had gathered there,
consoling one another.
I'll take care of her things, he promised,
not knowing what he'd discover;
later wished he'd left it to
his sister or his brother!

He looked in his mother's closet,
wondered why she had
all those shiny high-heeled boots,
why she went leather-clad.
Always thought she was a saint,
turned out she was bad;
made him think quite differently
about his dear old Dad!

Mom the Dom
had whips and chains!
Mom the Dom
dealt in pain!
She was mistress
of her slaves;
Mom the Dom
made them behave!

There was a box of riding crops,
some manacles, a mask;
Poor Billy gulped and took another
swallow from his flask.
It seemed that she was used to getting
whatever she would ask,
and woe be to the man who might
not be up to the task!

Turned out that there was a lot
he had never known --
Mom had ruled with an iron fist,
a queen upon her throne.
She had a list of abject subs,
speed-dialed on her phone;
Mom the Dom got what she wanted
and she was bad to the bone!

Mom the Dom
was hard to please!
Mom the Dom
had them on their knees!
Who was this woman
he thought he knew?
Mom the Dom...
could it be true?

Stephen Brooke ©2009

A very, very silly idea for a song...I guess 'Mom the Dom' isn't quite as good a phrase as 'I saw your Mommy and your Mommy is dead!' (by Suicidal Tendencies for those who weren't into Punk in the 70s) but everyone should write a song about mothers, right? ;)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

CHANGES at Cafe Press: We have completely revised our stores at Cafe Press, opting to move away from the all-in-one premium shop we’ve operated for the past couple years and go with multiple shops linked to our own Emporium. We feel this will better serve both our needs and those of our customers — the money we save is reflected in lower prices on the products.

Related: I was prepared to abandon my quelindamusic.com domain -- as I had peripheralvisionmag earlier -- as an economy move, mostly due to the fact that Yahoo had jumped their domain registration up to $35 a year. However, I find that I can get five years for the same price at GoDaddy, so I decided to keep it after all. Shoot, I even added an extra year and renewed for six...and here all those women said I couldn't commit...

I reckon I'll do the same for stephenbrooke.com and deadmanbay.com before they come up for renewal next year. Even if I don't really need all of them.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

CHICKEN LITTLE

When the sky began to fall,
some fell on their knees,
seeking forgiveness from their gods,
from their neighbors, from themselves.

Some cried out in despair,
covering their heads and running
to hide in caves or cellars,
while others welcomed the end of days

and the paradise promised them
in the days of their fathers' fathers' fathers
and their father's fathers before them.
Or so they had been told.

This was Chicken Little's fault,
said one, and the liberal media;
those are but acorns, albeit
large and blue and white,

and the sky will not, can not,
truly fall on we who trust
in God and country. Perhaps,
though, on the rest of you.

And then there were those
who looked about for long sticks
to prop it up, but it was crumbling
too quickly and one piece would fall

while they pushed another back
into place, and the stars and moon
rolled down through the holes
like marbles in a pin-ball machine.

It is no use, no use at all,
they agreed. We need longer
sticks, more sticks, and then
the sky would not, could not

truly fall on we who trust
in science and technology.
When the sky began to fall,
the philosophers, the theologians,

all turned poet and sang to it;
they took up brush, daubing pigment
in mad hope of catching its essence,
keeping the broken sky whole.

Who will look upon their paintings
and say That was Earth, wasn't it?
Who will read and remember
what we have written of this day

when the sky began to fall?

Stephen Brooke ©2009

Of course, a metaphor -- our skies are always falling and we do our best to preserve them before they are around our ankles.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A few moments available to goof off, so another old post moved over from the Peanut Road Blog, originally posted in Dec 07:

I've Got It Home, Now What?

Once I bring home a recording from a choir concert, recital, something of that sort (when I wrote this, I was just back from recording the Christmas concert in Tuskegee), is when the real work begins. The recording work itself, at its simplest, is pretty darn simple. Point some microphones (most usually only two) at the source of the sound and push record. Oh, sure, you have to make sure the levels are good (less important in the digital age -- you can set them way lower than we used to with tape) and the sound is decently balanced. A lot of times, the physical limitations of the gig -- there may not be many choices about how and where to set up -- prevent the need for making many decisions.

Anyway, back in the studio (so-called), I divide the process of taking what I have from raw recording to CD-ready in four steps. First, I listen through the whole thing for problems, start and stop points, and so on, taking plenty of notes. With a long concert, that can be pretty time-consuming!

The second step is to transfer from the mobile recording unit to the computer, breaking it up into separate tracks as I go. With the stereo recordings I do with the Master Link or the VF80, I run it in through a USB interface, remaining digital all the way. No sound degradation...I hope. Actually, an artifact or two will pop up somewhere regardless of conservative settings. A loud pop, usually! Sometimes, I can edit these out but it's better just to go back and transfer the problem track a second time. Naturally, I listen through each of these tracks carefully after the transfer to make sure it all went well.

Third, a round of editing. Bringing the volume up, trimming the length or removing sections not needed, applying fades in-and-out, panning, maybe (if necessary) some limiting or EQ. Almost never compression for this sort of music. When I've got it where I want it -- which is NOT to its final loudness -- I convert from my editing program (I mostly use PG Music's Power Tracks for this task) to a wave file.

The final step is essentially what is usually called 'mastering.' Though I can do this in Adobe Audition, I tend to keep it very simple with Nero. In many ways, the editing and mastering blur into each other when working with this kind of material. The main thing here is setting the final volume for each track. This might or might not involve more limiting (assuming there was any earlier). I check them over for any problems that might have been missed earlier, make sure I'm happy with the EQ (I rarely do much there), and burn them to a CD for the client.

And if all goes well, that's it! That is, if the check is really in the mail...

Friday, June 12, 2009

So, today is the day when we finally are forced to watch digital television. I'm okay, in terms of my television sets/digital tuners, but not so good antenna-wise. I am definitely going to lose some channels out here in the boonies, stations I could pick up -- albeit often rather snowy -- via analog signal.

The closest major signal source would be the Dothan stations (25 to 30 miles), although I often pick up Panama (about twice as far away) just as well. In fact, I get Panama better on the south side of the house and Dothan on the north. The thick walls in this place are good sound blockers and apparently do the same for tv signals.

As far as Tallahassee goes, I might as well forget it most of the time. I suppose I will invest in a decent antenna eventually, maybe a big one on a tower (I'm also thinking radio here). In the mean time, viewing will be a bit restricted. I don't know if I'll pick up any Fox signal at all and two of my favorite shows, House and Bones are on that network.

Actually, I only have maybe four programs I watch regularly these days (since dropping satellite a while back and not having Food Channel anymore!). Besides the two I mentioned, there would be Fringe and Lost. I reckon it wouldn't really bother me if I couldn't get any television at all; I'd just as soon read or get online or work in the studio (if I have enough energy left by evening). When I was a kid, we were lucky to pick up one or two very snowy channels and I survived that. Black and white, to boot!

But right now, television helps give my mother something to fill her time. Unfortunately, she has trouble distinguishing it from reality at times. I try to make sure she doesn't leave her set on overnight because she's bound to have all sorts of worries about things she heard and saw in her bedroom during the night.

Mom is doing well enough, considering. She continues to decline mentally and doesn't seem to understand who I am much of the time -- she keeps telling me about things Steve did. When I say 'I'm Steve' she says, 'Oh, the other Steve.' I hope to meet that guy someday...

PS I should have added my favorite sitcom (and the only one I watch) to that list: Big Bang Theory.

Monday, June 08, 2009

CINDERELLA

She forgot tomorrow
till it was yesterday
and at the stroke of midnight
her dreams all danced away.

Her pumpkin coach had vanished;
the team, in disarray,
squeaked and fled for cover;
one slipper went astray.

Perhaps a prince, enamored,
found it where it lay
and searched the kingdom over,
her glass shoe on a tray.

Or wondering for a moment
why she didn't stay,
left it for the sweepers
like a discarded bouquet,

the aftermath of balls,
forgotten yesterday.

Stephen Brooke ©2009

Thursday, June 04, 2009

MORNING SONG

The cardinal is first; then mockingbirds join
and sometimes a distant titmouse. It is gray,
yet, outside and the fog sleeps on the fields.
Soon every bird will join to sing the sun
into the summer sky and me from my bed.

Some close windows to keep out the night
but they also keep out the new day;
I would fall asleep to the chuck-will-widow's
lullaby and waken to the cardinal's whistle,
the wren's rustling at my window.

There is a stillness of the air in this hour,
no breeze upon the fields nor business
of insects. Dawn will burn away
the fogs that cling to summer's edge;
winds will rise to finish morning's song.

Stephen Brooke ©2009

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

ON HOLD

Life, that is. I was unable to get away (to the Fla Folk Fest nor anywhere else) over the weekend. It looks like things are going to remain this way for a while -- being a caregiver for my mom has become a 24/7 job and finding someone to relieve me for a day or two would be rather difficult. I did consider taking her with me on Sunday but it was a longish trip, rainy, the park at White Springs is large and takes a bit of getting around and there are even concerns about the flu right now. I'm not even sure I would feel right leaving her alone for the minute or three it would take to visit the rest room.

So, I missed seeing the Mean niece and everyone else. I hear it went well enough despite the rains. Being stuck at home, I used the time to put up the ceiling grid in the music room. Tiles next, when I have the time and money to get some.

Btw, Mary's older sister, April, just qualified for the Boston Marathon. Different skill set but talented in her own way.

Monday, May 18, 2009

FOR YEARS, the song 'Swagger Lee' (aka Stack O'Lee, Stag O'Lee, Stagger Lee, etc, etc!) has been a part of my repertoire. Y'all know the story, SL kills Billy Lyons over a gambling disagreement...at least in most versions. Anyway, there was yet another discussion of the song and its origins over at Mudcat last week and I decided to try my hand at writing up a set of lyrics that more or less told the actual story. With, of course, a paid-up poetic license. So here's the result; almost certainly subject to revision.

STACKER LEE

On Morgan Street, Saint Louis,
The roughest part of town,
Billy Lyons met Stacker Lee
And Stacker shot him down.
A bad one was he,
That Stacker Lee!

Though he knew he wasn't welcome,
Billy walked into Curtiss's saloon,
He was looking for trouble,
And trouble showed up soon.
A bad one was he,
That Stacker Lee!

Billy was drinking at the bar,
As bold as he could be,
When he saw that pimp Lee Sheldon,
Everyone knew as Stacker Lee.
A bad one was he,
That Stacker Lee!

Billy Lyons was a Republican,
Stacker Lee was a Democrat;
The two of them started to squabble
And Stacker knocked off Billy's hat.
A bad one was he,
That Stacker Lee!

You busted up my derby,
I want six bits from you;
I'm gonna get satisfaction
If it's the last thing I ever do.
A bad one was he,
That Stacker Lee!

Yes he wanted satisfaction,
That's what Billy Lyons said;
Then he went and grabbed Stacker's Stetson,
Snatched it right from his head.
A bad one was he,
That Stacker Lee!

Now give me back my Stetson,
And we'll say it's all in fun;
But if you don't I'll kill you,
Stacker growled and pulled his gun.
A bad one was he,
That Stacker Lee!

One hand held that Stetson,
And one hand held his knife;
If you want your goddamn hat
You'll have to take my life.
A bad one was he,
That Stacker Lee!

Stacker Lee shot Billy,
Shot him with his forty-four;
Picked up his Stetson hat
And walked right out the door.
A bad one was he,
That Stacker Lee!

Stacker Lee killed Billy Lyons
On account of a five dollar hat;
The twelve men of the jury
Said you can't get away with that.
A bad one was he,
That Stacker Lee!

They locked up Stacker Lee Sheldon,
And he should have learned his lesson --
You can't go ending your quarrels
With a Smith and Wesson.
A bad one was he,
That Stacker Lee!

Soon as he was a free man
Stacker got in trouble again,
And ended his life behind bars,
A prisoner in the state pen.
A bad one was he,
That Stacker Lee!

Stephen Brooke ©2009

Thursday, May 14, 2009

another Peanut Road post moved over here (with a few new comments):

ANOTHER MICROPHONE
(originally post November 15, 2007...so it's not so new now)

Yes, indeed, I've ordered yet another shiny new microphone for the studio. Hey, I did wait for a good deal! More importantly, it filled a hole in my 'mike cabinet.' I've been thinking about getting this one -- or something along the same lines -- for quite some time.

Okay, the microphone -- it is an SE Electronics SE2a small diaphragm condenser (one of those 'pencil' shaped mikes) with three interchangeable capsules: omnidirectional, cardioid, hypercardioid. The thing is, I've already had one of these microphones for a couple years and always knew I should have a pair. They fill a niche between the cheapo Cad GXL1200s (which aren't bad for essentially generic Chinese mikes) and my quite nice Audio-Technica AT4049a pair (my go-to pair for choirs). The ATs are omnis -- I could get cardioid or hyper capsules for them (and might someday) but they would be costly.

I'm hoping this pair of SEs will be the middle-range workhorses for me. They sound fine, not high-end, but more than adequate, and with the range of capsules available they should prove versatile. I'm hoping to use the pair for my next big concert recording (Tuskegee, Dec 2, Christmas Concert in the University Chapel). (And I did use them in hypercardioid form, as I was forced to set up way up in the balcony...the results were acceptable but not much more.) The ATs just pick up too much of the audience noise with their omni pattern, as I discovered last year! (always a very loud crowd there)

I know this mike is useful for miking acoustic guitars and such. It should be a decent drum 'overhead' as well. Anyway, this addition pretty much fills out my small condenser needs for the foreseeable future. The next purchase should be something completely different.

Monday, May 11, 2009

PVM, RIP

Something had to give. Between being a 24/7 caregiver for my mother and several more pressing projects, there was no longer the time (nor funds) for continuing to publish Peripheral Vision Magazine. It is therefore on — at the least — long term hiatus.

But probably gone forever. I’ve given up the domain name; if I should find the time and desire to attempt a magazine again someday, it may well differ in title and purpose. I thank all who read or submitted work; I’ll keep the first two issues available on my site for download.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

BERRIES

Today's work can be
tomorrow's work
but blackberries ripen
only once.

I know roads,
dappled dirt roads
through the pines;
bring a pail

and we will find
the sweetest berries,
the blackest berries,
in thorny shadow.

One for the bucket,
one for the mouth;
the taste is worth
a scratch or two.

Come with me;
it is May
and blackberries ripen
only once.

Stephen Brooke ©2009

gotta watch out for them chiggers, though...

Saturday, May 09, 2009

another repost from Peanut Road, with a few added comments:

16/44.1
(originally posted Oct 29, 2007)

For those who don't know, 16/44.1 is the 'standard' for recorded sound, as it comes on CDs. The 16 being the bit depth, the 44.1 being the sample rate -- and although I'm somewhat knowledgeable, I'm not exactly qualified to explain all the ramifications and nuances of this subject. However, in rather simplistic terms, it could be said that the bit depth impacts the dynamic range (i.e. from quiet to loud) and the sample rate effects the frequency range (i.e. how high can you go?). Oh, the subject is far more complicated than that, of course, but for recording, that is probably (well, perhaps...) all one really needs to know. If one even needs to know that -- good recordings have a lot more to do with ones ears than ones equipment.

Now, 44.1 is more than high enough to reproduce anything human ears can hear (i.e. up to around 22 kHz), yet many engineers feel the need to go to higher sampling rates. Many of the reasons given are quite unscientific and won't hold up at all; the main one is that it simply 'sounds better.' And maybe it does or maybe it's in their imaginations. The fact is, one digital converter that puts out, say, 96, may simply be better designed than another that outputs 44.1; it's just not a valid comparison. Even the same converter may be better at one setting than another.

The one valid argument (at least for me) is that cutting off at 44.1 (or even 48, which is the video standard) doesn't leave enough room for a clean roll-off at the top. There may be distortion in the higher frequencies. I'm sure I stated that poorly and quite unscientifically! But I do understand there are filters involved that can impact the audible sound. I also understand that with most decent present-day converters, this is not much of a problem. There is no reason not to use a higher rate, of course, other than the fact that it takes up extra storage space. Quite a bit more storage space!

And then there is the 16 bit thing...okay, 16 is quite acceptable, but the majority now probably uses 24 (18 and 20 fell by the roadside sometime back, though they would seem good compromises). As far as I can see, the only real advantage of using the higher setting is that it can result in a lower noise floor, i.e. quieter backgrounds. Good in theory but in practice, mostly unnoticeable. However, there is a nice side effect of using 24, and that is that one can record at lower levels and have less chance of overloading something, creating distortion -- digital distortion is truly nasty and irreparable, unlike the smooth distortion we came to know and love on analog tape.

So, what does Steve use? Well, my two Fostex recorders only record at 16/44.1, so I use that quite a bit. They do it well and I have no problems at all with the results. And, after all, that's what's going to go on to a CD in the end...or it may even end up as a low quality mp3. The Alesis Masterlink, though, will go higher. I have used it at 16/44.1 but I also have no objections to field recording at 24/48, just for a little safety margin.

I'd be unlikely to go higher in the studio, using the computer. It's faster and easier to avoid 88.2, 96, or even (God forbid) 192. Plus, my system now is somewhat set up around ADAT connections which are 24/48 at their highest. And I'm happy with it!

(Btw, if your converter does both 48 and 44.1, there is a good chance that it is working at 48 and dithering it down to the 44.1 standard for output -- I consider this a modestly strong argument for keeping it at 48 until final mixdown.)

Friday, May 08, 2009

I am moving some of the posts at my Peanut Road blog here, in anticipation of shutting it down. The recording and so on is as much a part of my life as the stuff I usually put here, so why not have it all together? The original idea was just to use PR for PR anyway, i.e to make announcements, and I can do that here and/or at the website. So here's the first of 'em (with a few updated comments added).

CHEAP JUNK part 1
originally posted Aug 31, 2007 at Peanut Road

Hobbyist musicians and recordists (and a fair number of pros, as well) love to vilify Behringer equipment, even as they buy it. If any brand is more deserving of the 'cheap junk' label, I don't know what it might be! (well, maybe Nady, huh?)

Actually, most of the stuff from Behringer sounds pretty decent; this is largely due to the fact that most of the stuff from Behringer is cheap knockoff versions of other, better brands. The main rap against the company is the shoddy components and workmanship -- it just isn't very dependable. (this may have improved some since they moved into their own new factory in China two years ago and are not outsourcing as much)

Now I must admit that I've had no problem with any Behry equipment I've bought. And I have bought a couple items; the prices are just irresistible at times. I have one of their Autocom compressors here that I've owned for almost ten years (over ten now) and it still works fine. Sounds reasonably nice too. It was my main 'studio' compression unit until I went digital and started using plug-ins, i.e. software. To be honest, I don't think any of them have quite the character of a 'real' analog compressor, even a cheap Behringer, but then I'm mostly doing music that doesn't need character added -- acoustic and classical.

Anyway, this Autocom has held up just fine and is still part of my 'live' rack even if I don't record through it these days (nor perform live, much...alas). I also have owned one of the company's little portable mixers for four years or so and it's still in service as well, mostly for routing speakers and headphones and such though I occasionally might take it out for live use, providing a few extra inputs to my PA system (an ancient Crate). I'll also admit that I have recorded through its preamps now and then. They sound okay, clean, reasonably accurate if a tad 'thin.' Could use more gain but what do you expect from Cheap Junk, anyway?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

CATS at Peanut Road

Pi and Bones guard my chair.


Pi R. Round aka Kitty Pi...or should the name be Rorschach?

LIFE IN FLORIDA


Monday, May 04, 2009

I've decided to cut back my number of blogs (my time and presence on line has been reduced some lately anyway), so I'm transferring a few posts from my Metanoist blog here and deleting it. Just some quotes that had caught my fancy. I may cut the Peanut Road blog as well...will see.

It is impossible to experience Deja Vu for the first time ~Les Barker

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. ~ Scott Adams

By far the greatest thing is to be a master of metaphor. It is the one thing that cannot be learned from others. It is a sign of genius, for a good metaphor implies an intuitive perception of similarity among dissimilars. ~Aristotle

There's no such thing as a realistic actor since it's all make believe. ~Bruce Campbell

"You take art as a means not as an end. This is a strict theology, but it's unusual to find an agnostic believing it." ~from Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Saturday, April 25, 2009

FOR ANY who might be interested, here is 'Mean' Mary's performance schedule at the Florida Folk Festival:

Fri May 22 -- 1:00 PM -- Song and Story Tent
Sat May 23 -- 5:30 PM -- Under the Oaks
Sun May 24 -- 7:30 PM -- Old Marble Stage

Looks like she'll be able to sleep late -- always nice if you've been up all night playing in the campground!

Friday, April 24, 2009

SHALLOW

I too can be a shallow poet,
To say that I am sad and show it
And how each love has left a scar;
Oh, I'll make certain that you know it!

I'll tell of mountains spied afar,
the night I wished upon a star;
It's all part of the shallow poet.
For such cliches are what we are

And our use of them never ends,
Our very thought on them depends!
So let me post another verse
For all my shallow poet friends

(Whose work is, by and large, much worse).
A shallow poet's rarely terse,
Still each and every poem ends...
But then so does the universe.

Yes, I can be a shallow poet
If I don't think deep thoughts and blow it!

Stephen Brooke ©2009

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

WHAT WITH it being Earth Day and all that, I thought I'd post a pic of my 'washing machine' --

Who needs one of those big boxes that uses too much water and electricity? This requires nothing but 'lad power' and a tub of water to operate. A lot cheaper to buy too.

I've been using it about a year now and it does just fine. I think I actually get my laundry cleaner with it! Naturally, I use a 'solar' clothes dryer as well. Forget electric dryers; they're a waste of space and energy.

I gave myself some birthday presents yesterday. A big heavy-duty set of pruning shears -- spent the day lopping off branches and sprucing up the place. Also more block-out curtains to help quiet the house/studio a little more. Every bit of attenuation helps.

So, I should get onto recording, right? Well, after I pick up all the branches lying on the ground, perhaps I shall...my intention was to do a simple 'folk' album but the more time I spend on it, the more I feel like making it more polished and produced. After all, I'm not much of a player and that will show if I keep it simple! One way or another, I will have at least one song finished and posted online soon -- my song about the Florida Folk Festival. Want to have it out there before the festival occurs at the end of May.

And then, fifteen more...chose 'em all some time back, though there may end up being a change or two. Okay, back to work. More later!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

I HAD HOPED to get over to Marianna this weekend for the art festival but obligations here at home prevented that. So it goes. What free time was available on Fri and Sat went into the yard and garden.

The heavy and persistent rains we've experienced over the past few weeks pretty much ruined my attempts at flowerbeds, washing away seedlings. I've set out and salvaged what I could now -- at least I should get some veggies. And the rains certainly should have helped all the trees I got in the ground last month and gave them a good start before the dry season takes hold.

Which it will. Before we know it, the love bugs will be out on all the roads. I can hardly wait...

The birthday is coming up on Tuesday. I'll be older than last year but not as old as next. Yesterday was my sister Jeanne's birthday. Won't say how old she is but we could have sung a famous Beatle's song for her.

I guess it's okay to put on some age. At least I still have all my hair. Which is getting pretty long again. Hey, if you got it, flaunt it, right? I have the fixings for my birthday dinner ready. Of course, I have to do the fixing myself. My old favorite, eggplant lasagna. Used to be Stroganoff on the big day but now I'm vegetarian. Mostly.

If the eggplant in the garden do well, I may be eating this a lot later this year!

The wild privet bushes are blooming. Very fragrant. The bees love them. Looks like lots of fruit this year. The wild black cherries are really covered with little greenies. Something for the birds -- they're far too small for humans to fool with them. They -- and the privet -- grow wild everywhere around here. Not a bad looking tree at all. Between the two, one could do a pretty nice, maintenance-free (and free) landscaping job.

No peaches this year, however. My little (well, it was like 8 ft high) seedling tree died. I think it was just too close to the big live oak. Oaks do sort of poison the ground below them (as do some other trees, such as Eucalyptus). The new peach trees are not large enough to bear this year and probably not next. I'll get some pears, though. Always get more pears than I know what to do with. I do intend to set out another pear tree or two next year. Another low maintenance and nice looking addition.

If I could afford it, I'd have some of the oaks removed. They're too big for me to tackle so I guess I'll have to live with them for a while. Ha, they may well outlast me.

The magazine is somewhat on hold. I do hope to get out a 'summer edition.' With any luck, while it's still summer. So I'm still open to any submissions -- reviews, stories, poetry, art, essays, etc. I'll admit, I've been letting it take a back seat to the music lately, and to my duties as a caregiver. I need to transfer the 'peripheralvisionmag.com' domain too. Yahoo jacked up their prices to a ridiculous level. Maybe I'll switch it over to GoDaddy. No sense in letting the domain(s) go and I'll still host them at Yahoo, via my Insolent Lad site. At least for now.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

WOUNDED

Our love was a wounded animal,
Seeking a place to die.

There were no darkened forest depths,
No den where it might hide;

Only the cruel sun of passion
In a sky of despair.

Stephen Brooke ©2009

In a sijo-like form, though certainly not a sijo in any traditional sense.

Monday, April 13, 2009

GOING TO THE SPRINGS

Going to the springs,
gonna float down the river;
Clear and cold,
it'll make you shiver.
Kids are diving
from rope swings;
The air is sweet
and the water sings.

We're going to the springs.
oh, we're going to the springs!
It's about the very best
place I know!
We're going to the springs,
yes, we're going to the springs!
Hope springs eternal
while the springs still flow!

Relax in the shade
of a big gum tree;
There is always plenty
of wildlife to see.
At Manatee Springs
the sea cows float by,
But at Weekiwatchee
a mermaid caught my eye!

Blue Springs, White Springs
any color will do;
And if you want them all
there's Rainbow Springs, too!
Wherever they rise,
south or north,
The world drinks
and life springs forth.

Stephen Brooke ©2009

Maybe three years ago, I started writing a song about the springs of Florida, intending it for a competition (at the Springs Fest). It never got very far.

But what lyrics and ideas I had finally came together -- after a fashion -- and this is the somewhat mediocre result. I've been stuck indoors with another heavy storm front passing through today so I'm getting some writing done, for better or worse.

I KNOW

I think what you think
But I say it out loud;
I say what you say
But in front of a crowd.

I want what you want
But I do what it takes;
I do what you do
But don't hide my mistakes.

I feel what you feel
But I know what it means;
I know what you know
But it's not what it seems.

I know who I am --
I am who you are;
From here to there
Is not very far.
A broken mirror
Multiplies
Its images
And all its lies.

I need what you need
But I see my bonds;
I see what you see
But I look beyond.

Stephen Brooke ©2009

A little nod to my art-punk roots. I may or may not bother to finish working up music right now -- giving it a rest might lead to less generic results.

LOSS

It takes a long time when we lose someone. And we don't really want to lose them completely, after all. We do want to hold those memories and there is a different pain in knowing they will fade.

I still sometimes think of my first 'girlfriend,' who passed away when we were both eight. The face is no longer there but, fifty years later, I remember Martha's voice, I remember eating lunch with her on the back steps of the auditorium, I remember getting on the bus one morning and hearing that she was gone.

She will never fade away entirely, I know. Other people have and that's to be expected. Old friends, even old lovers...lost only to time but gone, just as surely.

Yes, life goes on. In a sense, every loss is also a gain, for we take away the memories and lessons that make us who we are, that make up life. The more life we have in us, the more alive we become, the more alive we are and will remain.

I'm certainly more alive now than when I was young. I feared the world then. I feared loss and, therefore, also feared gain. Now I know that the only thing I can truly lose is myself.

Stephen Brooke ©2009