adventures in dysthymia

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

THERE WAS a time in my life when I labeled myself an agnostic. Never an atheist; indeed, even when I was calling myself agnostic I was really more in the deist camp. I certainly wanted to believe there was meaning to my existence.

Agnostics are really sort of half-empty glass sort of people, being somewhat focused on what we don't know rather than what we do. I guess atheists say the glass is completely empty! But I came to realize that we do know things. The glass actually is half-full.

Or at least there's a little something in the bottom to slake our thirst. The universe, God, 'everything' is far from being completely knowable but we do have glimpses of what is. We can understand in part. That makes it no less true.

The problems arise when we claim to know it all, when we become dogmatic.

What we seek, after all -- or what I seek, I should perhaps say -- is meaning, purpose. Belief in an afterlife, in heavenly rewards, is all well and good but I maintain that it does not matter. Choosing to do what is right, to act as though life has purpose, is the thing. It is the true reward.

And what is the meaning of existence, o wise one?

Existence does not have meaning: it is meaning. It is purpose where there was none. I believe in being. That is why I am no agnostic.

So, I'm back to the Catholic Church these days. For quite some time, actually, as I always appreciated the mysticism implicit in Catholic doctrine and liturgy and recognize that we are, moreover, social creatures and naturally organize things -- religion included. I certainly don't buy every dogma; I reckon I'm pretty much the heretic but they don't burn us anymore so that's okay. Religion is ultimately metaphor and the Romans have a pretty good handle on that concept.

Stephen Brooke ©2010

ELECTRICAL problems continue to plague me here at Peanut Road. I've pretty much concluded, however, that the root of my troubles is a bad breaker going to the pump. For one thing, I've used it far too frequently to turn the pump on and off and quite possibly have worn it out. I've lost power to the pump three times in the last couple weeks; the first two times, simply flipping the breaker off and on brought it back but this time it took longer to restore.

Anyway, it was definitely interacting with the four circuits that have been intermittent. Arcing would seem likely -- I'm hoping they don't need replaced as well but, if so, I'm capable of changing out breakers. I'll get a new one in for the pump as soon as I can and see how things go. The four troublesome circuits are turned off until I do the replacement.

Of course, I'll check out what I can when I pull the old one, look for signs of burns or arcing under it, clean out any debris, etc. Replacing any or all breakers is one thing -- replacing the entire box I would have to leave to an expert elctrician, I think.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

FOGGY DEW, part two

As mentioned a couple post back, I was looking at various versions of The Foggy Foggy Dew. And boy are there a lot of them! Having the internet available for research is both curse and blessing.

I found myself drawn to a certain story line (one of several and some of them quite contradictory) in which the couple in the song end up more-or-less happily married, though with a bit of a wink at the end. Did she, well, trap the young fellow and end his days of following the 'roving trade?' And did he willing collude with her? This variant I provisionally (though probably pretty much what I'll stick with) put together is slightly more graphic than the Burl Ives version but either one is really meant for an adult audience.

THE FOGGY FOGGY DEW

When I was a bachelor, young and alone,
I followed the roving trade
And the only thing I ever did that was wrong
was to court a servant maid.
I courted her all the summer long
And part of the winter too
Till the one cold night when I held her in my arms
To keep her from the foggy, foggy dew.

One night she came to my bedside
When I was fast asleep
She lay her head upon my breast
And did begin to weep
She wept, she moaned, she tore her hair
She cried what shall I do?
This night I must surely come to bed with you
For fear of the foggy foggy dew

All of the first part of that night
Was filled with lovers' play
And through the latter part of the night
She slept in my arms till day
When the daylight did appear
She cried I am undone
Oh, foolish girl, the foggy foggy dew
has gone with the morning sun

I loved that girl with all my heart,
I loved her as my life;
I took that girl and married her,
She became my lawful wife;
I never ask her of that night,
Nor ever intend to so do,
But every time she winks or she smiles
It reminds me of the foggy foggy dew.

arrangement by Stephen Brooke ©2010

Monday, June 28, 2010

ALBUM REVIEW: Mean Mary - Walk a Little Ways With Me

"I’ll rush into the new day like a penny candy store," Mean Mary sings in 'Shepherd's Hill,' one of ten original tracks on her brand-new CD release 'Walk a Little Ways With Me.' This album is one tasty candy store -- I recommend rushing in at the first opportunity.

'Mean Mary' James, a Florida native now based in Nashville, has been performing since she was five. A multi-instrumentalist, singer and song-writer, 'Walk' is the work of a mature talent. On this outing, she tends toward the country side of the Americana spectrum while staying true to her roots in traditional music, with plenty of hot picking on banjo, guitar and fiddle. Well, fiddling on fiddle, not picking.

One of the highlights for me -- not that it was easy to choose just one -- is the instrumental 'Joy,' a Dueling-Banjos-meets-Beethoven romp on the banjo. Mary's more-than-able accompanist/partner here on guitar is her brother, Frank James. Mean Mary's playing is bluegrass-inflected yet maintains an 'old time' charm. And is, to say the least, virtuosic.

On the other nine songs, all self-penned or co-written by Mary, her vocal abilities are on display as well. This young lady has a strong, confident voice, as sweet, rich and full-bodied as sorghum syrup. It's a voice equally suited to the bluesy 'Rose Tattoo' or the pure countrified exuberance of 'Big Red Barn,' where she sings 'Love's never gonna knock on these barn doors.' Keep it up, Mary, and a lot of folks are going to come knocking.

Mean Mary deftly shifts gears to sing the plaintive almost-a-spiritual 'Choctawhatchee Waltz.' Her voice is every bit as much at home on ballads as it is on the up-tempo songs.

Ultimately, though, it the playing of Mean Mary James that truly dazzles on 'Walk a Little Ways With Me.' There is a competent group of musicians backing her up on the album, plus the presence of her highly talented brother, but Mary is the one doing the lead work on banjo and fiddle, and most of the guitar. Her playing can be fast -- very fast -- yet musical. No technical playing here just for the flashiness of it; Mary's choices always make sense, musically.

If there are weaknesses with the album they are with the songs themselves. By and large, they are good, solid pieces of work but I admit that some are not memorable. That does not keep them from being an enjoyable listening experience.

The title song also features the guest vocals of Bob Arnold, making for an intriguing duet.

Mean Mary is asking you to "just walk a little ways . . .with me." I suggest you take a little trip down that road with her by visiting the Mean Mary James website at http://meanmary.com . 'Walk a Little Ways With Me' is available both there and at CD Baby.

addendum, Dec 1, 2010: I've listened many times now to this CD and I'm still pretty impressed. There are little things I didn't pick up on at first, such as Mary's mandolin work. Very tasty.

One thing that has bothered me a bit, though, is the over-hot mastering job. Too rock and roll, too little dynamics. It becomes, well, tiring after a while. I suppose, in that I listen mostly to folk and classical for my own pleasure, this doesn't sound right to me. Not what I'm used to.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

FOGGED UP

I stopped by the Mudcat discussion board this morning -- as I do early most mornings -- and noticed some talk about 'The Foggy Foggy Dew.' FFD has been in my repertoire for some time; it's a good song to know, a crowd-pleaser, jaunty melody, story line simple and short yet somewhat intriguing. Not surprisingly, I do the Burl Ives version (which is much the same as the Carl Sandburg version). This was the song that got Ives arrested for indecency when he sang it in a town in Utah.

His version is not particularly authentic. But as Burl Ives said in his autobiography (Wayfaring Stranger) : "I would change the words when I knew I had better ones. I would change the tune when I knew it would help the song." I would tend to agree. Leave authenticity to archivists and sing what sounds good.

That is, unless one loses the meaning! There is evidence -- not conclusive but fairly compelling -- that the teller of the story was originally 'saving' his love not from the foggy dew but from the 'bugaboo,' i.e. things that go bump in the night. It makes more sense really. Just how many girls are afraid of the dew? (Though it's a good excuse -- could use it on me.)

But that foggy, foggy dew is ingrained in our folkie ears and brains now so I don't think I'll be changing it in the version I perform. However, there are some very usable verses available that I think I might try working back into the song. And perhaps lose that slightly silly last verse about being a bachelor again and living with his son. Incidentally, I like the fact that in some variants he works at a 'rover's trade,' not the 'weaver's.' Makes the protagonist seem a little less pedestrian!

MY MELON-JOLLY BABY

I have my watermelon uke in my possession now. It sounds good -- better than I had expected or hoped from what I thought might be no more than a novelty. It does have a pretty sweet sound and is definitely usable. Tuned to the soprano ukulele standard, gCEA (high g in the fourth string position), but if I switch to lighter strings (nylon fishing line) I might go up a tone. I basically use the same tuning on my not-quite-a-banjolele (the Banjovie), which has a tenor scale neck and five strings except I go with a low G on the fourth string and I add a high C in the fifth string position. That's using a 'classical' banjo nylon string set. But I'm getting off the subject.

The subject being the Melon. I figured if nothing else it would be a prop if I perform my song 'Watermelon.' And more so if I ever did a video. I do intend to have that song recorded for the long-delayed album so video is a possibility. Don't hold your breath, though.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

SO THINGS are so-so here. So it goes. Too damn hot (hey, that should be in a song) and some rain but not quite enough. Reckon I'd better get out early tomorrow with the hose and soak everything.

And the grass continues to grow quicker than I'll ever be able to mow it down. Not a big deal, I've more pressing concerns in my life. But as far as the lawn goes, I realized I'd just as soon have the honeysuckle invade it as have the grass so I'm not worrying any over that.

Finally took the cover off my breaker box to see if I could find the problem with my wiring. I knew the problem almost certainly had to be in the box itself simply because of the way four different circuits would cut out simultaneously. I also had suspicions all along that it was in some way related to the circuit that my pump (for the well) is on, suspicions that were proven today.

However, I could not actually find anything that looked 'wrong' in there, outside of an awful lot of gypsum dust from the dry wall. Rodents are to blame for that -- I hates them meeces to pieces! I checked all the connections and wires, cleaned out the dust, checked everything out at the pump too, just to be sure and, well, when I turned the power back on it all worked fine. Six hours later, still no problems. We'll see if it really is that simple or if I'm just being lulled into a false sense of security.

Peanut Road -- the site -- is in the process of transferring to the new registrars. I should have a page back in operation toward the end of the week and take it from there. Considered forwarding to domain to a blog or something but it's probably best just to have a home page on my main (Insolent Lad) site. I can always connect that to blogs or whatever. Maybe even a Facebook page.

In fact, I think I'm going to delete the Word Press blog I have at the Insolent Lad / Stephen Brooke site now. It's not a big deal installing stuff like that, PHP pages, bulletin boards, stores and so on, but I don't really think it's worth it to have them on-site when there are free alternatives available. Why waste space on my own site, not to mention having to deal with maintenance problems?

Only one domain left to transfer later this year and that would be deadmanbay.com. Do I really want to keep that one? It may well be the least useful of the bunch. Unless I moved back to Steinhatchee! Deadman Bay is where the Steinhatchee flows into the Gulf. I won't say the Steinhatchee RIVER, even though that's what it's labeled on the maps, because that would be redundant. Hatchee, of course, means river in the Creek/Seminole language. But, hey, I'll probably find a use for it. Especially once it's paid for and I'll feel like I shouldn't waste the money!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

JUST A note here to inform anyone who might stop by my Peanut Road site (peanutroad.com) that it will be offline for a while. I'm in the process of transferring it from MSN to my GoDaddy account and will eventually have it forward to pages at my main site. Not that people who come here are looking for Peanut Road nor are people who go to Peanut Road liable to come here looking for it. Unless they Google the name and it shows up.

I stopped by Elderly Instruments earlier to buy a decent new saddle for my cheapo Hondo classical guitar -- the plastic one that came with it had snapped in two -- and some banjo strings and couldn't resist this when I saw it...Yep, a watermelon ukulele, soprano-size. The perfect picnic instrument!

I guess I can play Tiptoe Through the Melons now.

Friday, June 18, 2010

EVENTUALLY I'll be ready and able to travel again. Get out and perform or just get out and enjoy the beach, concerts, parks, whatever. I got to thinking about how far away from the rest of the world I am here on Peanut Road. When I lived in Steinhatchee I though little of getting in the truck and driving down to the Tampa area or over to Jacksonville on occasion. Or Tallahassee, Gainesville or White Springs which were somewhat closer.

So I made up a list of places and distances for this location. In case I lose it, I'll post it here. That way I'll always know where it is and won't need to look them up again!

Graceville FL 3
Chipley FL 12
Marianna FL 20
Bonifay FL 21
Dothan AL 22

Blountstown FL 45
DeFuniak Springs FL 50
Panama City FL 65
Bainbridge GA 65
Crestview FL 75
Tallahassee FL 85

Ft Walton Beach FL 100
Thomasville GA 105
Montgomery AL 125
Pensacola FL 125
Tuskegee AL 125

Valdosta GA 145
Perry FL 150
White Springs / Lake City FL 190

Birmingham AL 220
Gainesville FL 230
Jacksonville FL 250

Atlanta GA 290
New Orleans LA 310
Brooksville FL 320
Orlando FL 340
Tampa FL 360

Knoxville TN 405
Corinth MS 445 (only a few miles south of my sister's home)
Nashville TN 450

Ft Myers FL 490
Memphis TN 505
Charlotte NC 530

Little Rock AR 625
Miami FL 640
Cincinnati OH 645

St Louis MO 770
Springfield MO 800
Chicago IL 840
Tulsa OK 905
Kansas City MO 975

New York City 1160

How far is too far for an open mike or other unpaid gig? Anything within 25 miles or so would be 'local' and okay. Further out starts to get iffy. 100 miles? One would need to sell a lot of CDs and/or get lots of newsletter sign-ups to make that worthwhile. Or really, really enjoy it!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

SOME BEER

Look at those pretty girls over there --
I see them and know that I should care.
Maybe I will, some other time;
Right now I wouldn't give a dime
For flirting and dancing and having fun,
My party's over before it's begun.
But don't you worry, I'll be all right;
I'm just here to drink some beer tonight.

Life felt different yesterday,
Before my girl went away.
I know the two of us are through;
All those things we used to do
Don't hold much interest now for me,
So won't you all just let me be.
I'm trying to forget with all my might
And I'm just here to drink some beer tonight

Don’t worry ‘bout me, I’m gonna be fine,
Just lovesick over that gal of mine --
She's gone away
But that's okay.
Couples all around me dancing,
I have no interest in romancing --
I'll sit right here
And drink some beer.

I know full well that she is gone
And I should be moving on;
All things must come to an end,
There's no hurt that will not mend.
Not much to do but sit and smile,
Let life pass me by a while.
Nothing I do will set things right,
So I'm just here to drink some beer tonight

Stephen Brooke ©2010

Yep, pretty much a full-blown Country song. Three verses, last line of each serving more-or-less as chorus, plus bridge. Bits of this lyric have been sitting in my notes for quite some time but the song came together over the last couple days. Not completely together, perhaps, there's always room for rewrites!

The saddle broke on the cheapo classical guitar sitting here beside my 'writing' computer so I haven't worked on the music any to speak of...should go in the other room and get another guitar, shouldn't I?

later: I went and got another instrument...music is getting sketched in okay.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

HOW I FEEL (ABOUT HOW I FEEL)

I'm sick and tired of being tired and sick;
When I'm like this I'm not worth a lick.
Sure isn't the sort of life I'd pick;
I need a change, I need it quick!

And I've had enough of being had,
Of being cheated and treated bad.
I've gone from unhappy to downright sad,
From slightly bonkers to raving mad!

Something's got to give if I keep on giving,
This is no way for me to be living --
Nothing but troubles and strife!
It's time for me to make a change,
Time for me to rearrange
The furniture of my life!

That's how I feel about how I feel;
I'm going bananas 'cause it has appeal.
If I can't stand to pray, I'd better kneel
And get a line on what is real!

Stephen Brooke ©2010

Another silly lyric. The problem with a song like this is that it really doesn't say anything much or go anywhere. It's just an excuse to play with some words.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Faith is a tree. Love is the fruit upon that tree. Hope is the seed within that fruit. None of these can exist without the others.

There is no faith without love, no love without purpose. Virtue is a package deal.

Aristotle knew this, as did the apostle James.

To believe that 'faith alone' (which, I say, can not exist) is enough is to fall into an Albigensian view that action does not matter, that a true believer is free to do whatever she or he wishes. It is to dismiss morality.

The moral man acts upon his faith: the tree is known by its fruit.

Yet without purpose, without the hope of meaning, the fruit is no more than an empty taste, a pleasant, fleeting moment on the way to despair. For the fruit must have its seed and from the seed of hope grows the tree of faith.

Stephen Brooke ©2010

24 EXPOSURES

It's all digital now. Film
has become quaint, antiquated,

and so, it seems, have I.

There are eight exposures still
in my camera, eight of twenty-four,

waiting. No instant gratification
is in a roll of 35 mm,

no sending it to all your Facebook
friends via cell phone

or whatever. Don't ask me,

I don't own one. No, I just have
an old camera and patience.

Stephen Brooke ©2010

Steve as fogey.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

HONOR

Honor is but hubris, dressed up,
sinful pride in a uniform,
emptiness posed as purpose,
selfishness as virtue.

I have pretended before the mirror,
admired this illusion,
my illusion, entranced by ego,
enamored of an image.

It is in humility, the putting
aside of warrior ways,
of shame and of honor,
that we see the real.

The distorted reflection of desire
enslaves us to our will;
it holds no right, no wrong,
knows neither love nor light.

I shall have no honor, no vain
pride in this false idol,
this misshapen lump I fashioned;
I have seen it is not real.

Stephen Brooke ©2010

Very much first drafty and perhaps not all that coherent. Thoughts on how pride and 'honor' cloud our perception of right and wrong.

Friday, June 04, 2010

WEBSITES

I continue to move my domains before they expire from overpriced Yahoo to GoDaddy. The latest was stephenbrooke.com -- figured I'd want that one for a long time so I bought nine years of ownership. The only name left at Yahoo, not counting insolentlad (bundled with Yahoo hosting, with which I'm reasonably satisfied) is deadmanbay.com. I suppose I'll move it also before autumn; no sense in letting it go, even though I no longer live near Deadman Bay.

Probably the one I least needed was quelindamusic but I renewed it for six years, last year, so that's that. And it's not like they cost much.

There is also the peanutroad domain. I got that one through Microsoft, when they were giving away free domains with minimal-but-adequate websites a couple years ago. Now, they're going to start charging for the domains, still with websites attached, at a pretty reasonable price. I'd probably do well, though, to go ahead and transfer it too and redirect to pages at my Insolent Lad site. Again, there's no reason to let it go, even if it's not getting much use right now.

Just like the real Peanut Road. But things will inevitably change here.

On the subject of domains and websites, my sister Jean James and her young'ns, Mary and Frank, have a new site for their writing efforts, James Writers. Mary and Jean have sold their first co-written novel and needed a spiffy new spot on the internet to promote it.

I think maybe I need to do some serious spiffing up of my own sites!

"Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader -not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon." ~ E. L. Doctorow

IT'S ONCE AGAIN time for wasp stings and ant bites. Summer has come to Peanut Road!

And with summer, a lot of growth. It's been a good year, so far, for the trees and other plantings here. There's a lot of heat yet to come so we'll have to hold off on saying how successful I've been on some of them but rain is getting fairly regular which is all to the good.

It looks like I've finally gotten some hazelnuts to take hold here. Once established thoroughly, i.e. making it through this year, they should be fairly maintenance free. And a lot of the stuff I have going now I should be able to propagate via cuttings from here out rather than buying a lot of nursery stock. Not that I won't buy some more plants along the way, if need be. The elderberries are doing great. I wish I'd thought of putting them in a couple years back!

Some other plantings, not so well. I put in a row of Siberian Elms along the front last year, as they promised to be fast-growing and drought-resistant, but they simply are not holding up to the climate here. The Russian mulberries are only doing so-so as well but I have hopes for them to take hold.

Unfortunately, both the wisteria and the honeysuckle are doing TOO well and popping up all over the place. The honeysuckle would appear to be the Hall's (Japanese) variety and has gone wild in the abandoned pasture behind my place. Now it's invading the yard big-time. The grass grows just a little to vigorously too -- I can't keep up with it nor keep it out of the beds. In time, as I get more trees and beds going, I'll have less and less grass to deal with. I need more mulch too, I reckon.

* * *

I think I need an electrician. Preferably one who works for free! Some -- only some -- of the circuits in the house are a bit intermittent. Same four circuits, all at the same time. I can't seem to find any particular reason for it; doesn't seem related to moisture in the air, wind, or anything like that but it does happen mostly in the morning. Eventually perhaps I can afford to have someone look at it (or find the time to look into the wiring myself) but finances do not permit that at the moment. Nor getting the big oaks taken down nor the plumbing improved nor the roof fixed nor new siding nor...well, just about everything!

WHO'S TO blame for the Gulf oil spill? You and I are. Every time we gas up the car, every time we use plastic, we are telling BP and the other oil producers 'more please.' And cheaper, if possible.

Who's to blame for Mid-eastern based terrorism? Well, you and I again are aiding and abetting when we use oil and the products made from it. Oil is what makes the Mid-east most valuable at this time. It's what makes it wealthy and provides the funds for terrorist operations. If we stopped using their oil today, tomorrow they would return to an impoverished agrarian society. We wouldn't care about them and they wouldn't care about us.

Of course, we can't stop using oil. Not right away, anyway, but we need to work more quickly and more earnestly to reduce and eventually end our dependence on this source of energy. This is not just a 'do-gooder' environmentalist concern. It is also a matter of national security for the US (and many other countries around the world).

Not that there's anything wrong with doing good or being an environmentalist!