adventures in dysthymia

Sunday, January 31, 2010

I think it is wrong to make everything equidistant from the listener with too many mikes. The pasting-on effects end up like bad Photoshop work on graphics and photos -- too unbelievable. ~Tony Faulkner

Faulkner is a respected engineer of classical recordings and was referring here to orchestral music (incidentally, I'm not sure how verbatim the quote is -- I think it was someone's take on a recorded interview) but it applies to much of what we hear these days. The typical song on the radio is the aural equivalent of a photoshopped picture.

It's certainly a good thing that modern recording technology lets us 'fix' some things but, for the most part, I believe it is carried too far. Give me a little reality, please, and hold the autotune!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

WARNING: Steve should probably stick to poetry and gardening but sometimes I...don't. :)

When Obama's State of the Union address and Apple's iPad launch were scheduled for the same day, one of the writers over at Slate asked whether technology had become more important than politics. Well, I've some news for you: technology has always been more important than politics.

History is driven largely (entirely?) by economics. Which is a meaningless statement, in and of itself -- a bit like saying that illness is caused by disease. Though, at various times in various cultures, witchcraft and other causes were mistakenly blamed for illness.

Similarly have 'great men' and such been named as the movers of history. Great men (and, of course, women) may rise to the occasion but they are not the force behind it. They may shape history but it would all end up much the same if someone else were at the helm.

For it is the human race that makes history, not individuals. And what the human race is interested in is living. Yes, surviving is part but not all of that -- one might say that all the rest of living, i.e. the pursuit of happiness, is a support for survival. At any rate, we are driven by the need to feed, clothe, house and protect ourselves and our families.

That is, in essence, a matter of economics. Individual choices may be influenced by any number of factors but the choices of groups always come back to this one basic need. There have been many theories put forth to explain the mechanisms by which groups attempt to fill this need but they often seem wanting and/or simplistic. People do tend to like simplistic, which helps explain why Marx's class struggle theory caught on.

Not that it's particularly relevant to this discussion, anyway. People survive. People get better at surviving and survive longer and have more offspring. Getting better means better technology. Technology and economics are always deeply interconnected, forever symbiotic.

So technology is more important than politics, far more important. Always has been, always will be. Politicians, political parties and systems, whole countries, come and go. None of them are as important as the invention of the many tools that help us survive and prosper and even, sometimes, kill each other. They shape our lives, they shape our societies.

Universal health care/insurance may be an admirable political goal but is it anywhere near as important as the medical discoveries of Jenner, Salk, Pasteur? The birth of modern democracy in America was an event of major import but could it have happened without the thousands of technological advances that raised the wealth of the middle class in Western society?

The iPad is hardly an important technological advance so, perhaps, it was less important that day than the president's speech. It is part, however, of a very major and continued technological revolution that has touched everyone's life, no matter how isolated they may be. And this revolution -- as others before it -- will ultimately lead to political change as well. It will shape history.

Stephen Brooke ©2010

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

IN MY continued and somewhat fitful program to organize my old songs, I came across this one I wrote about twenty years ago. Not really a very strong effort but it has its moments -- enough to consider doing something with it anyway.

THE FORGOTTEN FARM

In a hidden forest valley,
Where a reckless river ran,
Lay an untilled fertile farm
Belonging to a rich old man.

He would retire from the city,
Soon, he said, to work his farm;
And though it rarely will come true,
Such a dream can do no harm.

Remembering only what he wanted,
Not the toil nor being poor,
He'd plow the earth as his father taught
A restless boy, long years before.

He never wound up his affairs,
And never noticed how time creeps.
One day it took him by surprise --
Now he neither plants nor reaps.
Perhaps it's best for dreams are happier,
So much happier, when one sleeps.

Still the river runs unheeding,
Still the pines grow on the hills;
All men's dreams are soon forgotten
But men dream on and ever will.

Stephen Brooke ©1991, 2010

Although the date on my copy said I wrote it in '91, I think that is when I worked it up with a tune. The actual lyric, I'm pretty sure, is older and originally written as a poem.

On a completely different subject, I used to 'follow' other blogs, do the RSS thing and so on, but I've found that it is actually a lot simpler just to put all the pages that interest me in groups of tabs and open them up every day or two to see what's going on. So if I'm no longer on your list of followers or friends or such, that's the reason -- chances are I'm still visiting from time to time. :)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

PICKLE

I thought it would be a piece of cake,
as easy as pie, make no mistake,
but life is hard and fate is fickle --
now I'm in a pickle!
How did I end up where I am,
to get myself in such a jam?
Tried to change but I'm short a nickel
and now I'm in a pickle!

Oh, I'm in a pickle,
yes, I'm in a pickle;
I reached a fork in my rocky road
when my piece of the pie came a la mode,
I guess I reaped no more than I sowed --
yes, I'm in a pickle!

When he plants, each man supposes
everything will come up roses,
but those roses sure can prickle;
now I'm in a pickle!
I poured some chicken soup for my soul;
you came along and punched a hole.
Now it's slowed down to a trickle
and I'm in a pickle!

Oh, I'm in a pickle, etc

I sipped champagne till you burst my bubbles;
now I have a glass half-full of troubles.
It's all gone flat when it used to tickle;
now I'm in a pickle!
If life were just a bowl of cherries,
the apple of his eye is who a man marries;
but it's true, life can be fickle,
and I'm in a pickle!

Oh, I'm in a pickle, etc.

Stephen Brooke ©2010

Another somewhat silly song, albeit a bit more ambitious and crafted than the last I posted. There was a generic sort of tune going through my head as I wrote this but I may attempt to work up something with a tad greater originality. The idea, of course, was to play around with an array of cliched phrases. Btw, this is first-drafty and subject to change.

addendum: if some of this seems familiar, it's because I posted a poem last year using some of the same phrases and ideas.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

ANOTHER PERSON

You made me what I am today:
lonely and depressed;
The reason I turned out this way,
sad and over stressed.
You told me that you couldn't stay,
your needs were not addressed,
And ever since you went away
it must be confessed...

I'm another person
and not a worse'un,
I'm another person
yes I am!
I'm another person,
even stopped cursin' --
If you ever come back
you'll see I am!

Yes, my dear, I've really changed,
now my faults are few;
Or at least they're rearranged
and not so easy to view.
Don't look at me like I'm deranged,
I mean it, yes I do;
No reason for us to be estranged --
just pretend I'm someone new!

I'm another person,
I've been rehearsin'
To be a better person,
yes I have!
So won't you drop
that grudge you're nursin'
And if you come back,
you'll see I have!

Stephen Brooke ©2010

It's good to be creative again after a bit of a dry spell. Even if its just a silly song that might pass for one of Garrison Keillor's throwaways. I've played with a tune for it; maybe I'll finish it off after a while.

THE SUMMER before I went into the first grade was when I first heard music on the radio or records that I can still recall. Before that, it's a blank though I remember a great deal of my life otherwise, right back to when I was two years old. No recorded music.

However, I do remember my sisters singing earlier than that. Grandfather's Clock. Rock a Bye Baby. When exactly those memories start, I'm not sure; only that they are part of the house where I lived from ages two to six.

We moved from that home in the summer of my sixth year. In the new house, where we remained less than a year, I can remember hearing Burl Ives. Indeed, I learned to crank up the record player and play the 45 of 'Little White Duck' over and over. From there on, lots of music is in my head. I learned to sing along with Art Carney on 'The Song of the Sewer.' Now there's an early influence for you.

And Kirk Douglas singing (sort of) 'Whale of a Tale' from Disney's '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.' Everly Brothers and Patsy Cline discs that belonged to my older siblings. More Burl Ives, such as 'Goober Peas.' Phil Harris!

So I certainly wasn't an early bloomer, music-wise, no toddler-with-an-instrument or anything like that. But then, there were no players in the family. Oh, Mom is a pretty decent pianist but went without one from her teens until her forties.

That was an important year for me, there on Diana Avenue. Yes, I started school, which I hated immediately and never changed my mind. I do not do well under other people's regimentation. Perhaps because I'm so thoroughly regimented on my own. I do like to do things my own way.

The year also held the earliest migraine I can recall. I've no doubt there were earlier ones, I just wasn't self-aware enough to understand and remember them. The same with my life-long insomnia. Life-long till I found an effective antidepressant. Effective against migraines, anyway.

I also recall, that summer, really getting into playing with my toy soldiers in the long sandy swale out front. Caves and ditches and walls and little men strung out over yards of terrain. I guess I was more interested in setting up the scenarios than actually putting my guys into action. Apparently, I spent hours out there talking to myself. Oh, I still do that, don't I?

What, I wonder, would I hear if I could eavesdrop on my six-year-old self? Would it be interesting or just nonsense? Knowing me, possibly both.

* * *

a short and somewhat silly poem:

MINORITY

Each of us is
a minority
of one.

Where is that
affirmative action
when we need it?

Stephen Brooke ©2010

* * *

It's the time of year to be looking at seed and nursery stock catalogs, making lists and getting ready to send orders! I should have my first in the mail in a week or two, probably to Vernon Barnes up in McMinnville TN. I've been ordering from them for years, as did my father before me. One of the few companies out there that still does business purely through a print catalog.

I'm thinking I'll go heavy on the hedges and ground cover this spring. Honeysuckles, more PG hydrangeas. Definitely some more blueberries -- I've four now and another four should give me just about the right size patch here. Well, I'd like more but there's only so much room. I may attempt some more mulberries too, continuing the row I set out last spring. Though I have figured out that it works better to get the trees in early fall and give them a couple months of slightly cooler and wetter weather rather than trying to start them in the (usually) dry spring here. Maybe I should just keep them in pots through the summer.

I dug up all the bulbs just before the cold spell and will replant them in a sunnier spot soon. They had been, mostly, in the somewhat shady bed in front of the porch. They'll go under my mom's window now. Lilies and Asian lilies and amaryllis. There are already cannas and day lilies there. I also used the cool weather (cool, ha, it was downright frigid) to transplant my roses, some still in pots since they came from Steinhatchee. More roses are something else I'm going to get but perhaps not till fall. That would be Robin Hoods or something similar for hedging.

Friday, January 22, 2010

I DID not mention in the previous post my mishaps arising from the extra-cold (for Florida) recent weather. I just haven't been in that sort of cold since I was a kid and did not take proper precautions to protect myself while I was outside in the early morning, in the cold, in the wind, pumping and hauling water. The result? Mild frostbite on my right hand.

It's healing. Hurts as the dead skin cracks and flakes, naturally, but the fingers themselves are feeling a lot better and I can finger pick (more or less) the guitar again.

Speaking of guitar, I picked up some mono fishing line to experiment with stringing up the various instruments for less money. In particular, the ukulele-sized banjo. I won't call it a banjolele because it has five strings like a real banjo. I've never been fond of its feel with metal banjo strings so I'm going to try the nylon. Might try it on the classical guitars too, especially the old cheap Hondo. I've been wondering how a 'Nashville tuning' would sound on a classical. Might be a useful sort of noise...

IT'S BEEN a quiet week at Peanut Road. Quiet a lot longer than a week, actually; just my daily routine of taking care of things as best I can. My mother continues to get along. She had a bit of an urinary infection last week but is past that now and about as good as can be expected. In the five years I cared for my father, I dealt with a lot of those infections. I do need to make sure she drinks enough and get some cranberry juice into her regularly.

Mom is not walking as well now. Definitely not up to shopping trips anymore so I have to get out to the grocery or wherever as the opportunity rises. Often in the middle of the night when she's asleep. Thank goodness for all-night Wal-marts (though whenever possible, I prefer to shop at the local Piggly-Wiggly or Winn-Dixie). It is true that her decreased mobility means I have to worry less about Mom wandering off if I'm not there to keep an eye on her. She never got further than the neighbors in her previous attempts to 'go home' or catch a street car.

On a completely different note, I've been downloading open-source software to play with. Open Office -- not an easy task getting that one with a slow and unreliable dial-up connection but I did manage it eventually. I'm not sure whether it's all that useful to me and probably no real advantage over using ordinary MS Works that comes on most PCs. The graphics program is, at best, a mediocre copy of Corel's Draw. I love Draw and have moved my copy from computer to computer over the past 9 years. I could see using the OO program if necessary, however. I'm more interested in the database and word processing. We'll see if they are a solution to maintaining a mailing list and such. Not that I need that business stuff right at the moment. Eventually!

Also downloaded and installed GIMP, which is a pretty decent Photo Shop-like graphics program. I'll probably take to using it since my copy of PhotoShop Elements won't work on anything newer than XP.

Once again moving things about in this place, starting with the music studio. Got rid of the old Kimball organ, which was not working very well anyway. Those old instruments are simply not worth fixing and no one really wants them when electronic keyboards are so inexpensive. There were a few mouse nests inside it. Stored pecans as well and a whole lot of mousy mess. I'm keeping the speakers and the spring reverb tank. Pulled what seems like a couple miles worth of wire out of it too. The rest is junk.

Having lived with the ceiling in there for while now, I've concluded that the system (plastic rails that attach directly to the beams) is not really acceptable. But I've learned what will work and can redo it one of these days. Not to mention the rest of the house.

It is looking good in there now, anyway. When I get things hooked back up and on shelves and so on, I'll try to take some pictures. And, of course, record some more.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

DOLPHINS

There were dolphins
and glow-in-the-dark
stars on the walls.
That and pink paint --
the room was bare,
empty of furniture,
empty of the girl
who had lived there,
who had watched the stars
slowly dim
as she fell into sleep.
Did she dream
of those dolphins,
leaping, playing
along a far-away shore?
Ah, did she dream
that she was with them,
one of them, and not
a very small girl
whose parents were losing
their home and each other?
How could I know?
All I have seen
is a pink room with dolphins
and glow-in-the-dark stars.

Stephen Brooke ©2010

There is such a room. It is in the house where I live. Now, it is my mother's bedroom but when we first arrived here it was empty of all but those little girl touches, the pink walls, the stars on the ceiling, the dolphin wallpaper border. I've wondered at times about the folks who lived here before we bought the place; all I know is the bank foreclosed on them. And their name, as mail still occasionally shows up in our box.

ACT OF CONTRITION

Weary to the bone,
Sisyphus rolling his stone,
Unable to atone
For my sins.
Heart within my breast
Holds darkness unconfessed;
I can find no rest,
My world spins.

My act of contrition
Goes unsaid;
Pride remains,
All else is fled.
Place its crown
Upon my head;
It's all that's left,
It's all that's left.

All that I forgot
Haunts me in this place,
A land where I can not
Hide my face.
Each deed I have done
Renounced a state of grace,
Brought me here to run
My endless race.

My act of contrition
Still unsaid,
Heavy crown
Still on my head.
Make me king
Of the dead,
It's all that's left,
It's all that's left.

Stephen Brooke ©2010

You can call it a poem, should you wish; after all, a song lyric is a form of poetry. Much of the time, with my stuff, it may be hard to say where lyrics end and 'book poetry' begins but it would seem more obvious here. Have no idea whether I'll ever do anything with it.

Friday, January 08, 2010

I wrote a bossa tune a few years ago and was never quite satisfied with the original lyric. So I wrote this -- it's nothing special but more suited to the song. Apparently, I no longer have a midi of the tune online nor do I keep much music on this computer so I can't link to it right now. You'll just have to trust me when I tell you how marvelous it is! ;)

addendum, 1/11: here is a simple midi file of the tune

EACH NIGHT

Each night she whispers
each of her secrets
To the silent
stars above;
She makes one wish
upon one star,
On the brightest
star, for love.

And the stars are
like shining bells,
Ringing, ringing
in the night.

Each night she listens
no one answers
From the silent
star-filled sky.
Some night, she knows,
if she believes,
Love will come
and she will fly.

And she will be
suddenly beautiful,
Singing, singing
in the night.

Each night she dreams
her prayers are answered
As all prayers
surely are.
And the night is now
suddenly beautiful
When she shines as
the brightest star.

Oh, the stars have
become shining bells,
Ringing, ringing
in the night.

Stephen Brooke ©2010

WINTER'S PRISON

In the fields, the ibis feed,
like snow where snow never falls,
in the pastures where the shaggy
horses wait in timeless being.

Winter's prison has its walls,
grayer than the cold horizon,
closed as broken hearts are closed
to the hope of any Spring.

Such days are too short for hope;
I grow weary with the naming
of my losses. It is dusk
and their faces are the wind.

This, my cell, is bounded by
shadow bars the bare-branch trees
cast across the frosted windows,
fading, fading into night.

Dawn comes cold, yet there will be
sun, a memory of dream.
I, too, wait, forgetting time,
knowing only winter's prison.

Stephen Brooke ©2010

At last, a poem. First of the new year but not very new, style and attitude-wise, eh? Oh well, this weather makes me even gloomier than normal. Laid out in that Hiawatha/Kalevala trochaic tetrameter, which may not be the best for the mood here but I wanted that 'trudging forward' feel.

I'm experiencing the worst/longest spell of really cold weather since moving to Peanut Road (This is my fourth winter here) and I'm hoping it will not be repeated! The references in the first stanza are stuff I've observed driving up the road (have to get groceries at the Pig up in Graceville now and again) -- there are several pastures with horses north of here (one pretty fancy equestrian place) and, yes, the horses are looking a bit like wooly mammoths right now. There have been large flocks of white ibis in the fields. When I was a kid, the local crackers (in southern Florida) called them 'curlew' and claimed they were good eating. Never tried one and don't intend to!