adventures in dysthymia

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

CITING a few famous names did wonders for the amount of traffic I get here. I should drop some more often! :)

I notice the same thing at the Peanut Road blog -- most of the drop-ins are folks who googled some piece of equipment or another that I mentioned. I'm afraid they probably don't get the info for which they were searching.

Back to stormy weather today and my dial-up is typically slowed to a snail's pace so I won't be on much nor very long when I am. Maybe more to talk about later...

Sunday, March 29, 2009

HAVING LISTED the 25 writers who had influenced us most, there was some mention of song lyricists so I decided to try listing my 25 biggest influences there. If anything, it was even harder!

I'm sure that poets and fiction writers have helped shape my song writing and that lyricists have influenced my other writing (and life, for that matter). Again, there is a need to differentiate between those I simply like a lot (Jackson Browne or Janis Ian, e.g.) and those I feel have truly influenced me in a meaningful way. And also not to confuse any admiration for them as musicians with song writing influence.

These are not particularly in order but I guess the biggies are toward the top:

Donovan -- was hugely influential early on. A song like Colours is so simple yet so good, so moving (which is why it's a staple of my own repertoire). Donovan isn't, I suppose, particularly 'deep' nor difficult and his wit tends to be heavy handed (I mean, really, The Intergalactic Laxative?) but when he is earnest and honest, it's great stuff.

Hank Williams -- at it's best, Hank's writing was poetry; most of the rest is just plain good song writing. You could always feel Hank's hurt in the sad songs...and sometimes the upbeat ones as well.

Ray Davies -- pretty much invented headbanger-style hard rock in the mid-sixties and then turned around to create thoughtful and quirky pop songs. The renaissance man of song writers.

Sammy Cahn -- if only for All the Way, which I consider just about the perfect 'love song.' Simple, direct, meaningful.

Bob Dylan -- Dylan, of course, is not simple, even when it appears so. I was not a particularly big Dylan fan when young but have come more and more to appreciate his work and his sometimes rather opaque metaphors. Perhaps I'm more influenced by the Symbolist poets who influenced him than I am by Dylan himself.

Gordon Lightfoot -- one could teach a song writing class using just Gordon's lyrics.

Bruce Springsteen -- I'll admit that Bruce was not an early influence; I didn't particularly get Born to Run when it came out. Once I got into his stuff, though, it certainly impacted my own lyrics (I think The River is the song that finally hooked me).

Stephen Sondheim -- my older sister loved West Side Story and played the LP over and over (and over!) so I got an early lesson in Sondheim appreciation. Very emotional lyrics -- I'll admit it, some of those songs can make me mist up. I'm not nearly so fond of his more recent work but SS was definitely influential in showing me the power of a song, early on.

Dorothy Fields -- from the golden age of Astaire and Rogers movies right on into the 60s, she crafted witty and astute lyrics.

Mick Jagger/Keith Richards -- Not so much now but I suspect that the writing team of the Rolling Stones was the strongest influence on my earliest attempts at Rock, as well as the Blues.

John Mellencamp -- when I started writing songs seriously (I don't consider the stuff from my teens and twenties to be serious efforts, by and large), Mellencamp was a definite influence. A bit country, a bit punk rock -- right where I was wanting to go around then. His lyrics felt 'real' to me.

Johnny Burke -- lyricist on dozens of standards (Pennies from Heaven, Moonlight Becomes You, etc), I didn't actually know the name Burke until fairly recently but, of course, the songs were there. My former musical partner, Karen, and I named our duo for one of his songs, Shadows on the Swanee.

Roger Miller -- anyone willing to rhyme purple with maple syruple is right up there among my song writing heroes.

Hal David -- for some reason, Bacharach gets all the attention but I don't think much of his post-David work. Very well crafted pop lyrics.

Cole Porter -- So witty, so versatile, and sometimes meaningful in spite of himself. And he wrote good music, too.

John Denver -- I would have been hesitant to admit it at one time, but I've written my share of imitation Denver songs. He had a mastery of imagery that one doesn't usually get in song lyrics.

Patti Smith --As with Dylan, she drew early inspiration from Symbolist poetry, but took it in a more consciously 'arty' direction. A bit self-indulgent at times but there is plenty of good writing in her work. Certainly a big influence in my writing at a certain point and still there to some degree.

Lyle Lovett -- was sort of my song writing hero when I was into the whole alt country thing. I never particularly tried to write like him but I appreciated his approach and attitude.

Johnny Cash -- the early stuff, the middle stuff, the late stuff...it's all good. Johnny knew the right words to say exactly what he meant.

Sam Cooke -- when I started thinking of names, I realized what a big influence Cooke was. Early on, too -- I remember loving those songs as a very small Lad.

Neil Young -- okay, I said it. Even though his mangled usage and simplistic thinking occasionally bothers me, there are some wonderful songs. An early and lasting influence.

Big Bill Broonzy -- Broonzy could make poetry of the blues, and has probably been my biggest influence in that genre.

Peggy Lee -- how could I have seen Lady and the Tramp as a kid and NOT have been influenced? I'll tell you, Disney songs have gone way down hill since then.

Norman "Hurricane" Smith -- a respected recording engineer who worked with both the Beatles and Pink Floyd, Smith also wrote and recorded in the 70s. His Oh Babe, What Would You Say? opened my ears to a different sort of music.

Joey Errigo -- the only song writer I actually know personally that I think has influenced my own efforts. Not just because her writing is good but because of her willingness to occasionally display a somewhat warped sense of humor in her songs (and elsewhere).

Monday morning, March 30: Naturally, other names have come to me since posting this list. I suspect that Kris Kristofferson should bump some other writer here. Once we get past a handful of big influences, there are a very large number of those that have touched us in their way, leaving their mark. Buffy StMarie, perhaps. Miscellaneous Beatles, though I consider none of them major influences. Steve Goodman. Oh well, I could go on naming writers all day!

Friday, March 27, 2009

WOLF

The moon's a mirror; each dog sees
himself as wolf framed in its breadth,
full-waxed into the nameless night.
Which of us might look up and howl

at our own image, true yet distant?
Which of us might believe the day
no longer, trusting only dim
reflections of our soul's desire?

Give me the sun, too bright to look
upon, too much to understand,
a mirror only unto God.
The wolf may sleep in shadowed den,

in dream alone to know the moon
and sing his image from the sky.

Stephen Brooke ©2009

Reasonably strict tetrameter but blank, as is much of my stuff. I'm big on rhythm but consider rhyme not particularly important to English-language poetry. Typically, the moon is a relatively benign metaphor for romance and mystery so I thought I'd try to step sideways a bit from that. Some of the imagery here relates to The Moon card in the tarot major arcana.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

So, Bob the Sometime Poet tagged me to name 25 writers who most influenced my own efforts. The hardest part was to decide which ones were actually influential and which ones I simply liked a lot. Here we go (not in any particular order):

J R R Tolkien
Jorge Luis Borges
Edgar Rice Burroughs (my childhood introduction to sci-fi, fantasy and adventure in strange lands)
Carl Sandburg
Anne Sexton
William Shakespeare
Arthur Rimbaud (and pretty much all the Symbolists, for that matter)
Lord Dunsany
Wang Wei (and Tang Dynasty poetry in general)
Thomas Hardy (the poetry, more than the novels)
Kenneth Graham (The Wind in the Willows remains as satisfying a read today as it was when I was eight)
Roger Zelazny
Omar Khayyam (I like Rumi but Khayyam goes back way further with me)
Evelyn Waugh
Robert Frost
E R Eddison
A E Houseman
Poul Anderson
H G Wells (as much or more for the nonfiction as the novels)
Mary Roberts Rinehart (solid well-plotted novels that left their mark on me as a youngster)
Robert Herrick (and most of the Cavalier Poets, for that matter)
T S Eliot
H W Longfellow (for the musicality of his work if nothing else)
Annie Finch
John Masefield

I've no doubt that no sooner shall I post this than I'll come up with a name or two that should have been on the list. Especially nonfiction writers and thinkers. I can't think of anyone to tag off-hand...so I won't, right now.

Monday morn, March 23: Okay, I'll tag Donna, the Acoustic Eagle (if she has the time -- must get that novel edited, after all!).

Monday, March 16, 2009

WANT A DEAL? Just wanted to mention that my mom's property in Steinhatchee is still on the market and it IS a buyers' market. We've just lowered the asking price (which, of course, is only asking and there is lots of room to deal) to $54,900. More info is HERE on my site.

The trailers are about shot but it is a nice piece of land and Steinhatchee is a fine little coastal town. Here's a chance to be prepared for scallop season!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I HEREBY officially give up on selling print-on-demand CDs through Cafe Press. They just keep messing up the graphics. For all I know, the audio may be just as likely to come out wrong. So I deleted my very-low-selling Wind on the Prairie, Wind on the Sea album. Permanently. I'll try home brew for a while, as it's not really worth having run off professionally by Disc Makers or Oasis or whomever. The new one -- if ever completed -- is another matter.

Tee-shirt and such remain but without the CD (or any future ones) there is a lot less reason to keep (and pay for) a 'premium' store at Cafe Press. I'll be going back to the free stores for individual designs very soon, all linked up to my web site.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I'M MOVING things around again here -- will get it all right someday, I reckon -- and realized that I have about twice as many cook books as I do books of poetry. I guess that says something about priorities, eh?

* * *

The weather is incredibly nice right now here at Peanut Road. Everything is growing and blooming, the bees are buzzing, and the skies are not cloudy all day (haven't I heard that phrase somewhere?). So, of course, my allergies are kicking in and I got my first sting of the season. We seem to be slipping right into dry season mode. I'll have to water all the stuff I've planted frequently for the next couple months.

I put in a row of elms out by the road to see if I can grow some screening. Most around here opt for some sort of evergreen for that purpose but I wanted to try something different. No telling whether they'll take in this climate. I've also put in some peaches, some pecans, some figs and a row of mulberries. I'm hopeful at least some of these will do okay.

Same with the blueberries. I think they should grow quite well here. They were one of the few things I could get to thrive back in what passed for soil in Steinhatchee. I've also put in hostas, butterfly bush, nandinas, hydrangeas, and I've decided to take another try at hazelnuts. They did not do well two years ago but I've put in a couple of another variety (in a shadier spot) and will see if they can hold up to the heat here. I do love hazelnuts and would love to get some growing.

* * *

Still not getting much done, recording-wise. The studio/music room does not sound good at all without the ceiling. A very unflattering echo/reverb in there so I must get either a drop ceiling or some sound treatment up soon. However, I'm able to use one of the bedrooms as a booth of sorts so I could get something done if I can get myself going on it. In the mean time, I continue with 'pre-production' on the songs I want to record for my own project, working out instrumentation and so on. I'm not one to do this on the fly in the studio -- I like everything thoroughly prepared.

Except, of course, for my guitar solos. And my singing, to some degree. I like to improvise on the lead stuff, whether instrument or voice.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

LAST WEEK, my sister Carole's daughter, Angie, and granddaughter, Tasha, were visiting from Illinois, so we all went out to lunch. at the Ruby Tuesday over in Marianna. Four generations of women, plus Steve -- included, of course, for his witty repartee. I'll post a few pictures here:


Tasha and her great-grandmother.


All four generations


Tasha and her granduncle Steve

Monday, March 09, 2009

ONE THING I learned from owning and running a service-oriented company for several years (janitorial -- for me, a much less stressful job than teaching and paid better too) is that giving one hundred percent, striving for perfection, is a mistake. It is inefficient. Diminishing returns are a fact of life in any endeavor; I found that I could do, oh, 95% of the 'perfect' job in 50% of the time (to use somewhat random but reasonably accurate figures).

Of course, the arts are a whole nuther matter though even there getting a reasonably good result in relatively short time certainly beats missing a deadline or making folks wait. I'm talking commercial work here, naturally. One can waste time endlessly on ones own self-indulgent pastimes!

A corollary to this would be my solid belief that this country (or any country, for that matter) was made 'great' not by hard work but, rather, by lazy people trying to find the easiest way to get things done. I've always been good at finding the most efficient way to get things accomplished quickly, working out work flows and routines. I found myself working out the best way to move my hoses around for watering yesterday (I've only one hose bib to work from) which started me thinking about this.

So, what does one do with ones saved time? I could just sit and relax but, well, I hate to sit and relax. So I guess I do my work more efficiently so I can...do more work? Sheesh...

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

ONWARD

I.

You are another regret
in a life of regrets,
another wound that healed

but left its mark,
its scar to remind me
where I once hurt.

II.

Life may be defined
by those we love,
those we used to love,

those we will love.
All the rest is empty,
the meaningless dream.

III.

I have never plucked the rose,
not for fear of thorn
but that I would love too much;

when her sweetness faded
from the fickle air,
would I still be?

IV.

Time is our sole road
through the eternal desert;
nothing lives nor dies

beyond its pavements;
nothing loves nor hurts
unless it travel onward.

Stephen Brooke ©2009

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

What is the biggest problem for an atheist?
No one to talk to during orgasm!

Ah, religion...when I did the online dating thing I said I was 'religious but not spiritual' on my profile. Seriously though, folks, it's the same thing, y'know? People, I guess, think 'organized religion' when they hear 'religious.' But I'd say any belief in something beyond ourselves is religion.

We don't have to believe in any traditional concept of god(s). We don't have to believe in an afterlife. We simply have to believe that there is meaning to existence. If I didn't believe (or try to believe) that, I wouldn't find much reason to live at all. That is why I am not atheist nor even agnostic. That's why I consider myself religious.

Monday, March 02, 2009



You Are STOP



When you're confronted with a problem, you drop everything else you're doing at the time.

You need to take a moment and collect yourself before you proceed.


Once you've taken a quick break, you're ready to tackle almost anything that's come your way.

But if you're not given time to figure things out, then the likely result is chaos.

That was quite a weekend, weather-wise! No snow here in the Panhandle but flurries were reported in Dothan, just twenty miles north across the Alabama line. Not quite as bad as another March cold front, the 'storm of the century' back in '93, but there were similarities.

Btw, my song about that March 12, 1993, named, aptly enough, 'The Storm of the Century,' is almost certainly going to be on the upcoming album. Assuming I ever get it finished. I've been practicing it for live performance, as well.

But back to the weekend. Lots and lots of wind. I feared for my roof (which definitely needs replaced). Plenty of rain, too, but no bad leakage. Nothing like hearing water dripping against the ceiling! At least it helped water in the trees I planted. I did have to bring in all my potted stuff to protect it the next couple nights. Then back to Spring -- permanently, I hope.

Things, otherwise, are typically slow on Peanut Road. My niece Angie and her daughter Tasha are down from Illinois to visit my sister. Considering the weather, they might as well have stayed home. It should be nice enough by the time they have to leave.

I do have to make a decision on the magazine soon. I'm finding myself with little spare time (thanks to my care-giver duties and other need-to-dos) and I'm also getting very few usable submissions. I may have to give up or at least skip the Spring issue. I'd hate to do that. Link