adventures in dysthymia

Monday, July 26, 2010

morning arrived
in an envelope of fog~
no return address

A haiku-like piece. I'm not turning out much serious poetry right now, being somewhat focused on the songs. I'll get back to it, I'm sure. The song organizing project has led me into some of the poetry files too -- the two do overlap occasionally. I'll organize the thousands of poems someday!

I suppose the font thing that I wanted just right on the songs doesn't matter much on the poetry, but I am -- as with the songwriting -- saving or re-saving everything as rich text files rather than use some proprietary word processing program or another. An RTF will always be readable. While I'm getting the poems transfered I'll also choose a standard font for them, with Palatino Linotype being the front runner right now. I was a bit surprised to find out that it is installed on more computers than Times NR. Almost every computer, in fact.

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It will, in as little as a couple weeks, be starting to cool down a tad. So it's time to start thinking about planting stuff in the late summer/early autumn season. I have a load of seedling peaches that came up this summer and they seem to hold up better than most trees I've purchased. Might as well get them into the ground. The Siberian Elms that had survived a year-and-a-half pretty much gave up in this last heat spell. They just aren't going to make it in the Florida panhandle.

The Robin Hood Roses aren't doing that great either. Certainly not as much growth as hoped. Surprisingly, the Rugosas -- which are not supposed to be as well suited to heat and drought -- have done better. I'll probably put in more of both this fall. Maybe more firethorn as well. It seems to hold up quite well.

As does the privet that grows wild everywhere. I have a number of volunteer plants I can move in the next month or so. If it's going to keep coming up, I'll make use of it. Nandinas, too. They'll do well about anywhere.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

UP TO song number 100 this afternoon, as I continue to get them into order: formatted, filed and, if need be, rewritten. This song was one that needed some rewriting. Originally from 1988, it does have its share of cliched thoughts but I left most of the first two verses and the chorus much as they were -- just changed a word or two, here and there.

The final verse, though, needed more and is pretty thoroughly rewritten. Whatever one might say about the song now, it can certainly be said that it is better than it was! This piece lives in Bossa land but could no doubt 'swing' across the border into jazz territory.

NOTHING IS SAID

They say that lovers talk
late into the night
And share a thousand plans
by the stars' soft light:
Of all the things that could be
and all the things that might
In a world that is theirs
and a future that is bright.

We used to be such lovers,
we used to share such dreams;
We would spend the hours
painting future scenes.
But those nights are long over,
we wasted them it seems,
On empty words and wishes
and on useless schemes.

The night is for sharing dreams and desires
the passions that burn within us like fires,
But we share nothing but a silent bed;
could it be our passions are dead?
Why is it nothing is said,
why is it nothing is said?

Now we say nothing
when we are near;
We seem to listen,
yet never hear,
Our feelings safe behind
a familiar veneer.
Why don't we talk;
what do we fear?

Stephen Brooke ©1988

So, a hundred down. Lots more to go! Then I should probably sit down and do quick recordings of each for archiving, as I'm unlikely to work out the tunes in notation anytime soon. Maybe oughta-should have backup copies online too.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

MORE SONGS from the archives: as I continue to get them organized, I'll occasionally post something here that hasn't been posted before. This one's from way back in '91:

SO DOWN BLUES

Feel so down, what could the trouble be?
All my friends been avoiding me
'Cause I'm such bad company.

Maybe it's me, maybe it's the season,
Somedays there just ain't no pleasin';
Feelin' down for no good reason.

Went to my mama, asked her what to do,
She said 'Boy, there's no hope for you;
Do believe you was born blue.'

Time for a change, time to get away,
Can't hang around here another day;
Kill me sure if I gotta stay.

Too much hurtin' here inside,
Stay down no matter what I tried;
Get in my car and start to ride.

Gonna leave, no more hangin' round,
Get myself out of this town;
Come back when I'm not so down.

Stephen Brooke ©1991

A 12 bar blues, though without the typical repeated lines, and based around a descending chord sequence (possibly played with a slide). It's an ok song, I s'pose, as a song. Also as a case study in depression!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Here's your chance to vote for Mean Mary to get a showcase! I think you need to register for the site but there's no other obligation. Vote frequently!

http://www.thealternateroot.com/nashville-showcase-promotion

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Darn, it's hot here! I'm counting on it not getting this bad again till next summer (if then). Statistics are on my side anyway -- July 10 through 20 have the highest average temps of the year. It's been way too hot to work much outside, except early in the morning or in the evening and those, of course, are the times I need most to be taking care of my mom indoors.

The lawn (okay, it's a field really) is very shaggy. I've given up on trying to keep it under control with my little reel mower and ordered a powerful high-wheel mower-trimmer. Yes, gas-powered. It should be here in a week or two. I'm hoping it will be cooled down to mere mid-90s temperatures by then so I can get out and use it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

YOU MIGHT know that I tend to avoid topicality in my songs and poems. Not entirely, of course -- sometimes a subject comes up that just can't be ignored. Especially if it can be turned to humor. But I do prefer to try for timelessness, universality and all that. Lately, I've even moved away from the word play I enjoy so much because I realize it may not mean anything to anyone in a few years. Much less to someone who speaks a different language.

That's certainly something I've learned from trying to read Symbolist poets in the French.

I've also eschewed politics and protest but, again, not completely. I really am more interested in the soul of mankind, the core of existence, than in who did what to whom in today's news. Having said that, here is a sort of 'protest song' I wrote about eight years ago. Note, though, that it does not name names nor place places.

Not Today

Do I stand tall? Am I proud?
Not today. Not today.
Will I cheer another war?
Not today, not tomorrow.
My weapons I have cast aside
Some yesterday, some long ago;
I will not pick them up again,
Not today, not today.

Who is the foe? Whom must we kill?
None today, none today.
Who will go? And who will die?
None today, none tomorrow.
Hide the truth while you can,
It will be seen someday soon;
I will not believe the lies,
Not today, not today.

I will stand tall, I will be proud,
Comes a day, comes a day.
When we all can live in peace,
If not today, then tomorrow.
Let my brother take my hand,
Let my sister stand by me;
I will not call them enemies,
Not today, not today.

Stephen Brooke ©2002

Just another song from the archives, as I continue to get them into order. Performable? Recordable? Maybe...

REMEMBER the Wobble Board, the home-made instrument created by Australian musician/painter Rolf Harris? It was used on his big early-60s hit, Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport. That song -- and the Wobble Board -- was everywhere in 1963. In the US, that is -- it was big earlier in other parts of the world.

Maybe I'll try making myself one. Plenty of scrap hardboard around this place.

Anyway, what brought it to mind was that I came across my lead sheet for the song this morning. I learned the piece a while back but, by an odd bit of timing, did so in the days just before the untimely death of Steve Irwin. Though intending to trot out the song in public performance that weekend, I decided it might not be appropriate and put it away. Quite forgotten now how to play it. Perhaps it's time to refresh my memory.

The reason I came across it is that I've been organizing my songs. Mostly getting my own stuff in order is the idea right now but there is a lot of other music in my files, both copyrighted and public domain. I'll keep working on getting all my songs finished and formatted and listed in a database.

That would be an Open Office database. It seemed the best way to go as OO will probably be around for a while. And, of course, it's free. Having learned the basics of it, I'll probably use it for other purposes, such as mailing lists.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

OF FONTS and Peanuts: I've been once again (or still, perhaps) messing about with fonts. I decided I had far too many installed, at close to 700, although I was not noticing any problems to speak of. So I did a thorough uninstalling job and will try to keep myself at less that 200 henceforth. A good third of those are foreign characters and other special fonts that I probably do not need.

Of course, I kept most of my uninstalled font collection and have been trying to organize them somewhat. A collection does become unwieldy well before it approaches the thousand font mark. I'm noting some redundancy, the same font under more than one file name -- I'll get those sorted out in time, I suppose.

Assuming I don't keep finding new and interesting typography online and adding it!

One thing to which I've been giving my attention is monospace (fixed width) fonts, in particular as they apply to getting my songs all typed and printed out, both as lyrics and as text-plus-chords lead sheets. A fixed width type is very useful for getting the bars lined up without having to use tabs, therefore making the pages easy to share between people and computers and still look right. I decided a while back to use Vera Mons for this, as it was about the nicest looking and easiest reading mono I'd found, but most people don't have it installed. The widths may look alright in another font but the heights will be off (i.e. page breaks).

But Courier is installed on like 98 percent of all computers so it's the obvious choice. It looks...okay. And it is quite readable. Also slightly shorter characters so I can fit more on a page!

Therefore it is decreed that all song writing shall be in Courier from this time forward.

Naturally, after I made that decision I found a lovely fixed-width serif font online, called Elite (designed by Bob Ostrander, if you feel like Googling for it). Would that it were widely installed -- I'd use it in an instant!

On the second subject I mentioned, Peanuts: the Peanut Road site is up and all but there is very little there yet. In time, in time. I've also started a Peanut Road blog for announcements and news. Yes, I had a blog by that name before, where I mostly talked about recording. With any luck, I'll be talking about actual goings-on here at the house on Peanut Road eventually.

Friday, July 09, 2010

There have been reports the last couple days of tar balls -- lots of tar balls -- coming ashore in the Cocoa area. That's on the Florida Atlantic coast, for those who never watched a space launch. Or 'I Dream of Jeanne,' for that matter.

Do they come from the BP Gulf oil spill?

I started taking surf trips to Cocoa back in '68 and, even then, there was always plenty of tar on the beach. We carried cans of gasoline in our cars so we could clean our feet after leaving the beach. Motels did the same, leaving gas cans by their outside showers. They wouldn't do that now, too many liability considerations!

So it's nothing new and it might or might not be coming from the Gulf. But if the oil does get into the Atlantic, I think it's a sure bet it will end up on Cocoa beaches. The Gulf Stream does bring the refuse of shipping from all over and often drops it there before turning further out into the ocean at Cape Canaveral. I'm sure that tar I used to see came from many ships and many places, including the channel right there at the Canaveral Jetties, with navy, coast guard and cruise ships coming and going.

The Cape is a bit of a divider. Water remains somewhat warmer in the winter to the south of it, thanks to the Gulf Stream's proximity. It also moderates the big winter swells that come with cold fronts, taming the waves as they wrap around and come into the beaches. It may be completely out of control and unsurfable down at Sebastian Inlet but very ridable up at the Jetties.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

AROUND THIS TIME, nine years ago, I was coming to the end of a major relationship in my life. Perhaps the major relationship (so far!). It was not at all a happy time for Steve.

But it was certainly a watershed in my life, for a variety of reasons I do not wish to explore nor enumerate right now. It also led to an outpouring of songs and poems, mostly sad, mostly bad. I do think the experience of writing them made me a 'real' poet (oh, there's part of that watershed thing). Nothing like practice (practically immersing myself, actually) to improve one's craft.

Anyway, I reckon I'm over it by now! Well, mostly. We're even friends on Face Book these days. Not that I would ever have been in a relationship with anyone I didn't like well enough to be and remain a friend.

One of the really bad songs I wrote shortly -- like a week or two, I think -- after the breakup was 'Sunshine and Shadow.' I pulled it out a few days ago and decided to attempt a rewrite. I'll be honest, rewriting a not-so-good song is a lot harder than creating a new one! I do think I've improved it from Truly Awful to Merely Mediocre.

SUNSHINE AND SHADOW

For a few days in my life,
all too brief a span,
One ray of sunshine fell upon
an empty, lonely man.
Heaven's light broke through my clouds,
as you took my hand,
showed me the way to happiness,
a stranger in that land

And there were summer nights I lay
beside you in the dark;
I would just listen to you breathe,
the beating of your heart.
I asked for little more from you,
but I hoped from the start
That our love might be forever,
that we would never part.

But you were sunshine, I was shadow,
now you shine no more;
And the sky is dark and empty
where we once would soar.
Only shadow has remained,
as it was before;
Sunshine, my Sunshine,
why do you shine no more?

We shared so many lovers' dreams,
all that we might do;
I wasn't one to hide my thoughts,
I'm sure you always knew
That if you asked me I would try
to give the world to you
And if you chose to go away
my heart would break in two.

I never sat and held you close,
as the sun rose from the sea;
There didn't seem to be enough
time for you and me.
What choice had I but to accept
that what must be will be?
I could not hold you anymore;
I set my Sunshine free.

For your were sunshine, I was shadow,
now you shine no more;
And the sky is dark and empty
where we once would soar.
Only shadow has remained,
as it was before;
Sunshine, my Sunshine,
why do you shine no more?

Stephen Brooke ©2001/2010

Would I ever perform -- much less record -- this song? It's doubtful, partly because over the past nine years I've recycled some of the phrases and ideas here in other pieces, and partly because I simply have better stuff.

Also, there's always the chance it would start me crying if I played it in public...it's just so darn sad!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

MY SIN

I am the wall built brick by brick around you;
I am the army raised up to surround you.
I am this net of spells cast to confound you,
illusions that will dazzle and astound you.

I leave you with no option but surrender;
I hold you fast, oppressor and defender,
become your lover, terrible and tender,
beneath such nameless skies my dreams engender.

I am the priest who hears your each confession;
I am the penance paid for each transgression.
I am your darkest secret and obsession,
the whispered lie, unspoken indiscretion.

I sell myself to buy you as my slave,
condemning all that I would hope to save.
Fall on the altar laid within your nave;
I take away more than you ever gave.

I am where you shall be and you have been,
I am where you shall end and must begin.
I am the game you can not play to win,
For only I absolve you of my sin.

Stephen Brooke ©2010

It would be tedious to go into the personal mythologies and metaphors behind this bit of poetry, so I won't. Suffice it to say that the 'I' and 'you' here could be as much internal as external. Good old pentameter used on this one. I suspect that with the addition of a bridge -- could be a quite simple and short one -- this could be an artsy metalish rock song. No intentions of doing that at the moment.


Btw, tried out Blogger's 'new' editor and it took forever to load for me, like so much other new and improved stuff on the internet (mail programs, in particular), so I'm back to the old familiar one!