adventures in dysthymia

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I TRULY love this 'Indian Summer' weather we're experiencing right now her on Peanut Road. Just mild enough to let all the plants come back after the long, hot, DRY summer. The cannas have sent up loads of new stalks and are blooming again. Petunias are blossoming heavily.

It is still dry, however, and I have to water some every day. Some rain may finally fall this week.

And then, alas, it will turn cooler. I do not look forward to winter. I do not like cold weather one bit -- the 95 degree summer days are fine with me (I don't even use air conditioning), assuming it rains some, but I'm just not a winter person.

Oh well, at least I'm still in Florida (even if only about five miles from the Alabama border).

* * *

I've got around 400 of my poems formatted and filed now. Loads more to go. One little problem I'm running into is the overlap between the song lyrics and the poetry. Some of these songs are very much poems as well and could stand on their own as such -- that's just the way I write.

And some of the poems I've gone over could very much be songs, if I were of a mind to develop them as such. Which are they? 'Tis a puzzlement!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I HAVE not been particularly creative recently, a couple of mediocre songs over the past month or so, a couple of mediocre poems. Having finished my get-the-songs-organized project, I've coasted for a while, worked some in the yard, spent a good bit of my time on my mom's care, of course.

So now I've started the big job of organizing the poetry as I did the songs. There is, it should be noted, a small overlap between the two but generally the songs and poems are two separate groups. A certain amount of rewriting is going on -- not a lot, which was a bit of a surprise to me. When I got into my older poetry a few years ago I found myself making many changes. As I did, for that matter, with the songs (again, the older ones especially).

It does seem that most of the stuff I've written in the past half-decade calls for little or no change; it's largely a matter of copying and formatting and filing. Maybe I'll start submitting pieces again. I have not done much of that lately. One magazine is holding some of my work and supposedly will publish eventually.

Some day, it is possible that I will publish another magazine (online, naturally) myself, but almost certainly not as long as I remain a caregiver here. I will not attempt anything like that until I can give it my full attention. Priorities!

* * *

I've been working some on the fall garden and planning for the next year. Put in a couple weeping willows out in front of the carport. When I moved here, that was a mud-hole from decades of driving and parking. I've filled it some with chunks of concrete and yard waste over that past four years but it's still low so it seemed a great place to plant a willow on either side. I may or may not ever park there or even let the drive run through. Shoot, I may just dig out a pond eventually, if I feel particularly ambitious. There's plenty of room along the one side for me to drive up to the carport myself and park.

Also been continuing to expand my beds. Shortly, I'll be putting in the bulbs for next spring -- it's still pretty warm and I wouldn't want them to sprout prematurely so I'll hold off till we get some real coolness. I'll transplant more trees when it gets cooler too. Looks like we may finally get some decent rain in about a week -- I've been out with the hose watering every day, trying to keep it all alive.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

REVIEW: Gold Tone BUB

There are banjos and there are ukuleles. And then there are banjoleles, a combination of the two, originally created a century ago to give the ukulele more volume when performing. One of the most famous practitioners of the banjolele would be English humorist/musician George Formby, a very popular performer in the mid-20th century.

Those instruments were, for the most part, based on short soprano-scale ukulele necks with banjo bodies. They, as with ukuleles, have had a recent resurgence of popularity. I have a soprano uke myself, as well as a little Nechville banjo, their 'Banjovie' (no longer manufactured) which has a scale about the same as a tenor ukulele. I have switched it to nylon strings, making it, in essence, a 5 string banjolele. A definite improvement in its sound over metal strings, by the way.

For a while, I had my eye on Gold Tone's banjo-ukes, especially when they came out recently with a full set of instruments with the various ukulele scales -- soprano, concert, tenor, baritone. A couple months ago I pulled the trigger on the BUB, the baritone ukulele banjo.

Buying an instrument is always a bit of a gamble, particularly by mail order. Not this time -- I love this BUB (which I have named 'Bubbles'). It is surprisingly well made and set up, comes with a nice case, and plays well. A note -- the BUB comes with a 'plate' resonator attached to the back. It sounds way better (and is only slightly quieter) without it. Mine is permanently removed.

At a baritone ukulele scale of 19 inches it is only a tad shorter than an Irish Tenor 4-string banjo, so I've come to think of it as a true banjo, rather than a banjolele. One little surprise was that it comes with a high fourth string (the D), which I'm not used to seeing on baritone ukes (which are commonly tuned like the four highest strings on a guitar). However, I've come to like the sound of the higher string; it does give it something of a 5-string banjo vibe. The strings are, of course, nylon.

The sound is pretty good. It's not a complex sound, naturally, not like a guitar or even a decent banjo. Finger-picked, it can sound rather kalimba-like. I consider that a good thing. I could also see using it for latin sounds, not unlike the small guitar-related instruments of traditional Mexican music. It does cut through rather nicely -- shoot, I could even see using it as replacement for a mandolin.

Strummed, it can provide a useful rhythmic accompaniment, whether by itself or with a lower-pitched instrument for support. It does the traditional banjo bumpity thing pretty well, if one isn't too concerned about having traditional banjo volume (not that it's quiet, just not capable of anything like full-sized steel-string banjo loudness). It probably sounds more like a 19th Century banjo than most of the new banjos on the market. Camptown Races, anyone? I like the fact that I can hear myself sing! The BUB also is fine for anything one might do with an ukulele, though I don't suppose it would quite cut it for traditional Hawaiian music.

Naturally, it somewhat excels for that music hall sound that Formby and others created, though perhaps not quite as well suited as a higher pitched instrument.

Anyway, it is fun to play. And easy. One thing is for certain -- it is going to show up on recordings here eventually. It will also be very likely to travel with me when I once again can travel. A definite festival choice!

SB 2010

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Cooling

Open the windows. These days are cooling
like the loaf of bread, fresh-baked,
resting, waiting, on my counter.

It's cool enough to bake the brown,
fragrant loaves of whole wheat bread,
yeasty, moist beneath the crust,

and scones, full of butter and raisins
and lemon zest. Autumn follows
summer's oven; the year is cooling,

cooling, and soon we will feast.

Stephen Brooke ©2010

A slender idea becomes a slender poem. It was so hot all summer I did almost no baking -- time to make up for that!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

THE RETURN of The Bouncer -- the lyric I posted a few days ago has been tightened up a bit and a bridge was added. This is probably pretty much the finished form. Tune is in progress -- I'll have to change my thinking on it a little with the addition of the bridge!

THE BOUNCER

verse 1
You can cozy up to the soundman,
Make the bartender your friend,
There's one and only one
You can count on in the end.
It's not the manager,
The waitress who thinks you're cute;
At the first sign of trouble,
They're all gonna scoot!

chorus 1
The bouncer! The bouncer!
The bouncer is the guy!
He's the one who's there
When beer bottles fly!
Compliment his muscles,
Give him a free tee-shirt,
(Extra-extra-large)
And never treat him like dirt!

verse 2
When the crowd gets ugly
As crowds sometimes do
He's the one to watch your back
And your frontside too.
There are occasions when
You just can't avoid a fight,
And in some places I've been,
Half a dozen each night.

chorus 2
The bouncer! The bouncer!
The bouncer is the man!
Don't take him for granted,
Be his biggest fan!
Show him some respect,
Don't chat up his girl,
And be careful of your aim
If you have to hurl!

bridge (possibly following an instro break)
The night may start out right
But who knows how it ends;
Before you pick a fight
You'd better pick your friends!

repeat chorus 1

Stephen Brooke ©2010

Sunday, October 10, 2010

I think I may have posted about half of this lyric five or six years ago (here or somewhere, maybe a Yahoo poetry group). Found it in my notes this morning and finished it off...sorta...

THE BOUNCER

You can cozy up to the soundman,
Make the bartender your friend,
There's one and only one
You can count on in the end.
It's not the manager,
The waitress who thinks you're cute;
At the first sign of trouble,
They're all gonna scoot!

The bouncer! The bouncer!
The bouncer is the guy!
He's the one who's there
When beer bottles fly!
Compliment his muscles,
Give him a free tee-shirt,
(Extra-extra-large)
And never treat him like dirt!

When the crowd gets ugly
As crowds sometimes do
He's the one to watch your back
And your frontside too.
There are occasions when
You just can't avoid a fight,
And in some places I've been,
Half a dozen each night.

The bouncer! The bouncer!
The bouncer is the man!
Don't take him for granted,
Be his biggest fan!
Treat him with respect,
Don't chat up his girl,
And be careful of your aim
If you have to hurl!

Stephen Brooke ©2010

Monday, October 04, 2010

We're only a week away (Oct 11) from my mother's 92nd birthday. Quite honestly, I did not expect to be celebrating it with her -- her health, physical and mental, was not promising a year ago. But she has done pretty well, all things considered. Became more active over the past half-year, less water retention/swelling, which means I've had to step up my 'child-proofing' efforts. At times it's like having a two year old around the house.

Her cognitive abilities, of course, continue to decline and she lives increasingly in the past. As long as I can keep her comfortable and properly nourished here, I will continue to be her care-giver. It looks like we'll have another Christmas together, after all.

* * *

Well, the last of the domains I had registered with Yahoo, deadmanbay.com, will be up for renewal in a month. If I decide to keep it, I will be moving to a different registrar, probably GoDaddy. Way cheaper.

Do I want (or need) Deadman Bay? It is, theoretically, the name of my 'record label' but that alone is not a great argument in favor of keeping it. Owning the name made more sense when I lived by the physical Deadman Bay, down in Steinhatchee. Interestingly, the name drives quite a few searches to my website but I doubt that the visitors actually have any interest in what is there!

* * *

If I want to send a performers application to the Florida Folk Festival, I need to do so within the next ten days. I'm doubting that I'll be able to put together an adequate entry, with live recordings, in time, nor do I know if I would be able to perform if I were (which is unlikely) accepted. Who knows where I'll be, care-giver-wise, next spring.

I still, however, will try to get a couple good recordings to the Best New Florida Song contest at the Will McLean Festival. I have until the end of the year to accomplish that.