adventures in dysthymia

Sunday, July 31, 2011

SO, I downloaded Scribus (and the Postscript program that it needs to function) and theoretically have a decent Desktop Publishing program that I could use for a larger book, should I so desire. It seems okay though it will take some time to learn it. I may just download Serif's free version of their DTP program, Page Plus 'Starter Edition,' and see how it compares.

Though Serif's free downloads are rather huge and may simply be impractical with my connection. Which is a LOT better now -- I actually got on once (and once only) at 37 yesterday (usually operating at 26.4 or 28.8). And it's being quite stable, which is more important.

While I'm at it, I may also download their Draw Plus graphics program, starter version again. So far, I have not found anything that will quite replace my old Corel Draw 8 'Classic,' though I've tried Open Office Draw, Creative Docs, and Inkscape. They're all perfectly good programs, I'm sure, they just lack some of the features I want or they make them harder to use -- especially with their often sketchy documentation.

Ease of use and quick work-flow is very important to me, more important than a lot of added and generally unused features. When this old XP machine dies and/or I decide to migrate to Windows 7, I'll need a replacement.

addendum: Well, forget Serif. I simply can not pause and restart downloads from them and that's the ONLY way I would be able to handle ones that large.

* * *

I need to avoid treating Mom like the dog -- I find myself patting her and saying 'good girl.' It's becoming increasingly difficult to get her to do anything on her own anymore. I can see the day coming soon when I'll just have to pick her up and put her down when I need for her to move, get out of bed, get on the toilet, etc. Fortunately, she'll still eat -- eventually -- if I put food in front of her. There may be a time when I have to start feeding her.

Right now, I'm afraid she may outlast me. A week or so back I had a bad fall and whacked my head hard on the drafting table. What if I were incapacitated by something like that? I worry a lot about that.

* * *

Fall is coming. Really. Yeah, I know it doesn't feel like it but here we are at the end of July. In a couple weeks I reckon I can get back into gardening mode. Maybe plant some second-season veggies, plant or transplant trees and bushes and so on. Sent a nursery order a couple days ago. Lots of hibiscus this time. A new experiment!

With any luck, next spring and early summer won't be as dry as this one. It could happen, of course. Shoot, it could even be worse and I'll end up growing yuccas and cacti. But I'm betting on a little more rain and planning accordingly.

Also, once a little cooler weather arrives, I want to get back onto my walkway projects. Get out and buy a load of pavers. But it's WAY too hot to work on something like that right now -- that's a winter job. I can also get back to work on my music/studio room. Having taken down the ceiling I installed two years ago, I need to weather proof around the tops of the walls or it will be very cold in their. Even if I just staple up a plastic barrier for now.

One nice thing about having it open overhead again -- besides looking better -- is that it gives me access to a bunch of added storage space over the carport. That's where I most need to weather proof too so shoving a bunch of storage boxes up there may help! Not to mention getting them off the floor in the carport where they've been in the way for years now.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

RIGHT NOW I'm waiting for a printed copy of my new book, A Mouse Is In The House, to arrive here so I can check it over. If all is well, I'll put out the word that it is available. If there's a problem, I'll stamp me feet and pout and maybe even lie on the floor and have a tantrum.

I'm hoping mostly that I like the finished size. I suspect it would have been as well to go an inch smaller all around (7.5x7.5 instead of 8.5x8.5). Cheaper, too. But unless it really looks wrong, I won't change anything. This will also give me some idea of what size to go for the next children-oriented book, which will probably be the beginner chapter book, The Contrary Fairy.

That's all at my Lulu printer and store. There's news about my Cafe Press store -- or stores -- too. Those are where I sell the tees, some poster prints, etc. The deal there has changed so I no longer have to maintain 15 different free 'basic' stores. I can now put everything into one big store (the kind they formerly referred to as 'premium' stores) without paying upfront. Instead they will take a percentage of sales, up to a certain level. If I had lots of sales, it would be better to just pay for the store by the year and save money but right now sales are pretty much nil!

So there is a new store at CP called 'Insolent Lad Media' with nothing in it at the moment. I'll migrate the merchandise from my other shops as time allows. Maybe having everything together will help sales. Couldn't hurt anyway.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Adages

Life's a hoss y'know is gonna throw you.
The trick is all in knowin' how to land.

Courtin' gals is a lot like herdin' cattle.
Always be sure to stop and check the brand.

Your dog is your best friend goes without sayin'
unless you need someone to share a beer.

Ask for advice and you may get a lot of bull
when all you really need is a little steer.

Gettin' it wrong is nothin' much, most times.
It's just a part of learnin' to do things right.

A whole lotta men may choose to lie in  bed
but the truth's pretty easy to see come mornin' light.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

I suppose this might be considered 'cowboy poetry.' It is likely I'll add more to the piece eventually, if I think of anything appropriate (and can get it into poetic form). Maybe it could even turn into a song?

THE PRICE OF FAME

In the course of sixty-one years, I haven't really met that many famous people. Shoot, I haven't even been that close to many at concerts and stuff. I've crossed paths with a few modestly well known musicians, like Bo Diddley and Bob Lind, and a plethora of lesser knowns.

But by far the most famous individual I've ever actually met would have to be Vincent Price. That was in the early Eighties when he was doing a lecture tour on art. Price was certainly a well-rounded gentleman, a Renaissance man, and if I remember correctly he was actually (like yours truly) an art history major.

It's probably a good thing he went into acting instead of being a professor somewhere. Not that there's anything wrong with that!

So, I met him at a college while he was, in essence, teaching. I guess one can take the professor out of the university but one can't take the university out of the professor. Thinking back, I realize this was about a year after his voice appeared on Michael Jackson's Thriller.

Of course, I only met him briefly, as one does at such affairs. But heck, it was Vincent by golly Price! He had a rather full beard at the time but it looked good on him. In fact, it suited his face rather well -- he should have had more acting roles with one.

There was more to Price than acting roles, though. He was a man of wit and taste, of wide interests and a promoter of progressive social causes. One could do worse in naming a role model in just about any area of life. Except, of course, for his smoking which ultimately killed him. That's a real-life horror story for you.

I can't think of anyone else much of note that I may have met. If I did, I reckon they weren't important enough to remember!

The internet is finally 'back,' as of yesterday (though it had been improving some for a day or so). It's not very fast but it has stabilized and I can stay on at 24.0 to 28.8 (it actually varies down to way slower speeds during use) for hours, if need be. And at those sorts of speeds, it does need be.

After a few attempts to use the uploader at my printer's site, I gave up and sent the book via FTP. No hitches there, downloaded the proof and it's ready to go. I need to upload my covers now, which are just as large an upload as the PDF of the book, thanks to the color graphics -- the book itself is all black and white. Once that's done, it's mostly a matter of setting the price, writing up a blurb and putting it in the store. I'll get a printed copy to make sure it looks okay, of course.

I may do a Mouse Is In The House store at Cafe Press with tee-shirts, mugs, etc. I'm not sure if the graphic (a variant on the front cover art) will look that great on merchandise nor whether anyone would want it for that matter. That's more large uploads, too, which remain an iffy proposition, but it's on the list of projects anyway.

* * *

I've done my best to convince Tucky that she is a frisbee dog but she's not buying it. Too bad, she certainly has the right sort of pedigree -- athletic and smart, as Border Collies are inclined to be.

She does think the frisbee is a good chew toy, so it doesn't fly very well anymore. Tucky's getting to be a big girl, probably pretty much at adult weight now. It's a good thing I have a large place for her to run and practice herding the cat. Ha, maybe I should get some sheep.

I probably should install a doggy door too (not that the cat couldn't use it) so she can come and go in colder weather. Right now, I just leave the door hanging open during the day -- she prefers it outdoors most of the time.

Unless it starts thundering. She's not one of those dogs that's particularly fearful of thunder, she just doesn't like the rain and wind and smart enough to know that comes with it.

Monday, July 25, 2011

JUST A QUICK news update while I'm on line. If I can stay on line more than five minutes or so. My connection has been horrendous the last three days and I've barely been on at all.

Anyway, I finished my A Mouse Is In The House book and have a print-ready PDF ready to upload to the publisher. When I have a decent connection -- who knows when that will be? Then upload the covers, also finished, and get back a 'proof' PDF from Lulu and I should be good to go unless, of course, a problem shows up somewhere.

I also did a new revised edition of my poetry chapbook, Pieces of the Moon. The six-year-old version I had available needed the info updated. No change to the content. I'll upload that one too, when I can.

In the mean time, I've begun work on a new chapbook, titled, most likely, Nightwinds. That will be a collection of my mostly older more fantasy and Romantic oriented stuff. I've finished a couple small illustrations; decided to jettison the computer graphics I'd worked up some time back in favor of 'real' art. :)

When I get into this mode, the artist and designer thing, I don't do much writing. Nor music either, for that matter. Back to that part of my life later, I reckon. More news and announcement when I can. Maybe I'll even be able to update the website eventually!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Thoughts on Symbols and Images

As a poet, I am essentially a symbolist. Not a Symbolist, which is a 19th Century Romantic movement arising in France, but with some of the same ideals and goals. I am about words as much or more than I am about images.

The meanings, hidden or obvious, in words, the metaphors and symbols of our language -- these are my primary interest. I could not be an Imagist (in neither the loose sense nor that of the Modern movement), laying out pictures for the mind to do with as it will. That is not me and never will be.

Though I've tried. It seems to be the big goal of Modernist and Post-modernist and Whatever-modernist poetry (and art in general).

Perhaps I should say perceived goal. There is always more than one current flowing through any era, sometimes in opposing directions. It does bother me at times, though, to see so many editors and critics asking for the 'concrete' image at the expense of the word and all its inate power.

The image should serve the art, not be the art. Post-modernism -- or whatever we've had the last few years -- has taken the power of the image to extremes. It's become an art without any meaning other than what the viewer or reader might give to it.

This is not a new thing in the Modern age (in which we are still operating). It goes back at least to the Dada movement. It is part and parcel of conceptualism, the idea that the idea behind the art is what counts.

I do not buy into the conceptualist philosophy. The art itself counts -- the concept is only a part of it.

The image is important but a poem -- all writing -- is also made up of words. Every word is weighted with meaning, contains a world of metaphors within it. These are important as well and too often forgotten by the modern poet. The image, ideally, should connect with these meanings.

The best Imagists managed to pull that off. I'm not that much of a William Carlos Williams fan but I recognize that he could work from the concrete everyday image and create art. But my tastes will always tend more to a Jorge Luis Borges with his tigers and mirrors and all the other symbols he brought to life, made as real as the pom-poms on the slippers of Williams' wife.

I have said that I have an affinity for the Remodernist movement, for the Stuckist artists, as they constitute an attempt to move away from the dead-end conceptualism that has dominated academic art. I welcome the attempt to put more of both the human and the spiritual into the arts. The metaphor is a part of that. It is what connects the human and the spiritual. Our language, our vocabulary (which is not only words), is our identity.

So I might call myself a 'symbolist' (or maybe a neo-symbolist?) or I might call myself a 'remodernist' or I might make up some nifty name of my own. And the name would be a metaphor like any other and help define me and my work, wouldn't it?

I'm also seeking here to define what sort of slant the Arachis Review might have, if and when I start up a new magazine. That's down the road somewhere. Probably parked at a rest area, taking a nap.

But I do want eventually to put out a magazine that will reflect what I'm saying here. I'm dreadfully bored by much of what I'm reading, the wordy mundane poetry and stories that pass for cutting-edge these days. Sometimes, I think the best poems of the last fifty years have come to us in the form of songs, where it is necessary to say what one says in a limited length, where it is important to hit the audience with a few meaningful, metaphor-packed images. I'll take Leonard Cohen over Billy Collins any day.

Ha, perhaps that's the origin for these tastes of mine -- too much listening to Dylan.

Alas, even the song is suffering these days from the demand for more concrete and less symbolic imagery. It's obvious in contemporary country music, where the songs are becoming laden with details to make them more 'real.'

It's the old 'can't see the forest for the trees' thing. There are far too many trees in much of contemporary writing. My intention is to cut down a few and leave room for some ideas.

* * *

I'm continuing to get 'A Mouse Is In The House' ready for publication. I've laid out the book, added some of the scanned pictures. There is still some work to do on the illustrations, finishing touches, scanning and so on. I've done the front cover, need to get the rear worked up.

Then convert the whole thing from Open Office to a PDF and hope it comes out right! I've done this a few times before, in Word Perfect, but this is the first time I've tried to work with OO. If it looks good, then I need to upload the whole thing -- not so easy with my bad connection, I'm afraid.

It will be a fairly large file with the ten illustrations, although the book itself is quite short. Fortunately, the color cover will be sent as a sent as a separate file.

I am eschewing an ISBN number for this little book, as I did with the poetry chapbook (Pieces of the Moon). It seems pointless for what will be, most likely, a very small seller. I'll buy a few copies at cost for myself to distribute but I do not expect to place it in physical stores, just sell online from Lulu and my own site.

Now, if I had a novel it might be different. I could get an ISBN via Lulu if I pay for their 'distribution package' or I could buy one myself, directly. They do cost in the USA -- in some countries they are free of charge. The price for just one is a tad steep, especially compared to purchasing numbers in bulk, so it would be smart to buy a block of them. Assuming I would use them all, in time. I suppose the cost could be shared with someone else, though they would all have to be under the same publisher name.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

In the past week, the official drought situation here on Peanut Road has been downgraded from 'exceptional' to 'extreme' and now to 'severe.' Severe is not good but it's a heck of a lot better than exceptional. Some stuff is growing well now, like my grass and those Madagascar Periwinkles that like to come up everywhere. Other stuff didn't make it, some succumbing in the last few weeks, actually after we started getting some rain. Time to replace things soon and hope next summer's weather is more benign.

Maybe it's the bad internet situation keeping me offline much of the day or maybe it's just my mood but I've been getting a lot of work done on the 'Mouse' book. Finished some more illustrations -- I simply needed to do ink versions of things I'd already worked up in pencil -- and laid out the book provisionally in Open Office. Also designed the cover. Or a cover idea, perhaps.

I'm going with an 8.5 by 8.5 inch format, black and white drawings except for a bit of color added to the cover drawing. It's no great piece of publishing art but I'm seeing this as ramping up for further publishing adventures!

It's great to get going on some art work again. I've not had much enthusiasm for that for some time. My makeshift light table (an old glass patio table with a lamp on the floor) is helping though I think I'll need a real one one of these days.

My internet does continue to be abysmally slow and erratic. I was unable, today, to get online before late afternoon -- kept getting speeds like 7.2. They'd better get high-speed (affordable, of course) here soon. It's my biggest regret about leaving Steinhatchee.

I should add that the book I've been preparing, 'A Mouse Is In The House,' is also a song. Along with the rest of the work I've also been putting together a recording of it. Theoretically, I could put out something on a disk, perhaps an EP of children's songs. I certainly have enough of my own and/or public domain to throw together something.

However, I think for now I will just record the one song and make it available as a free download to help promote the book (or maybe scare small children away). This is lower priority than actually getting the book into print!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

MORE ON FONTS and PUBLISHING

I've been playing about with fonts again, downloading new ones, trying out typefaces in different settings (oh, that's a a bit of a pun, isn't it?). My interest is primarily in print use, as one is definitely limited when it comes to web-safe fonts.

Though I know this has been changing. There are new standards that allow one to link to non-standard fonts and use them on a web page. It's still a very non-standard standard, however, and won't work in many browsers.

It's also possible to embed flash-powered fonts in a page. I could do that but it seems overkill. And I do hate slow-loading flash pages, having to use a not-very-fast dial-up connection. So I stick with the handful of fonts that are deemed safe for the web.

And they are quite nice enough fonts, even if limiting. There's nothing one can't get across with three serif typefaces -- Times NR, Georgia, Palatino -- and three sans -- Arial, Verdana, Trebuchet. Add in a half-dozen or so other less versatile fonts that most folks have installed and your pages should be fine.

At any rate, this is not a concern for print use. Nor even for ebooks, apparently -- at least I know one can embed fonts in a PDF. Haven't worked with any other format yet but I suppose I'll have to eventually. There is, of course, the question of readability on a screen as opposed to paper.

One must distinguish here between readability and legibility. The fonts designed for use on a computer screen are intended to be highly legible. This does not necessarily make them easily readable in large blocks of text -- like a page in a book (or even on a screen). I would not enjoy trying to read a book in Verdana!

This is one reason I particularly like Palatino Linotype (or Monotype's almost identical copy, Book Antigua). If I were limited to a single serif font for everything, it would probably be my choice -- better on screen than the bland (but quite serviceable) Times, better and more 'serious' on paper than Georgia (which is a nice stylish font and certainly will work for print).

But there are so many other good serif typefaces available. A new favorite is Perpetua, one of Eric Gill's designs (his Gill Sans is a very usable sans-serif, excellent for titling, signs, etc). Perpetua, an early-Twentieth Century design, has a weight to it at smaller sizes that many fonts lack.

Up until now, my designing for print and ebook has been mostly in word processing programs, specifically Word Perfect in recent years. That's the issues of Peripheral Vision, my chapbook, some newsletters, a few other projects. It works fine for smaller projects and I'm sure I could do the same in Open Office, my current WP program of choice. I've used Draw to lay out small print projects too and many graphics programs will do a fine job.

I wouldn't want to do a larger book in such an application, however. That calls for a true typesetting program. My friend Karen, who is a professional typesetter, uses Adobe's Page Maker program. She did a book project on the side (a collection of quotes by a professor at FSU) while we were together, so I got to see some of how that program works.

There's no way I would lay out the money for one of the pricey commercial offerings, especially as word processors have so many similar features these days. There is, however, a well-regarded free open-source offering called Scribus that I intend to download and try out. If and when my internet connection is reliable enough for large downloads.

Just for practice (more or less), I've been laying out Lord Dunsany's 'Gods of Pegana' in Open Office (I'd downloaded a free text version). Why this book? One, because it's in the public domain so I could theoretically publish it. Two, because it's rather short. And, three, because it would be well suited to some original illustrations. Whether I'll do more than play with it, I don't know. I've set it in Perpetua, by the way, 13 point, and it looks pretty decent. If nothing else, I can generate a good-looking PDF for my own ebook-reading pleasure.

There are companies out there that do just this -- republish out-of-copyright material. Dover was a pioneer in that but now, with online publishing, pretty much anyone could dive in. The thing is to have something extra to offer, such as fresh illustrations. It's certainly one way to jump-start a small press.

And print-on-demand can mean an even smaller initial investment. Unlike CD reproduction, where there is a quality difference (albeit pretty slight these days) between those mass-produced by pressing and those 'burnt' one at a time, with printing the process is identical whether printed on demand or in bulk for a major publisher. There is, of course, an economy of scale by having mass printings, if one assumes there will be enough sales, few returns and losses, etc.

So I'll probably go with Lulu again for printing when I have something ready. I know there are more options available there since I last used them, including hard covers and color illustrations. That latter would be important if I attempt a children's picture book.

Though I think the whole bright-colors-for-little-kids is overdone. Let the rug-rats enjoy some classy black and white drawings! Like the one here from 'A Mouse Is In The House.' There's a project I need to finish -- I have five pen and ink illustrations, need to do four more. Maybe I'll color them or maybe not. I even worked up a story board for it some time back but life kind of got in the way of the project.

I've run rather long here. I'd best abandon this meander and go get to work on something.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

B B AND ME

When it comes to lead guitar, I readily admit to being one of a legion of mediocre B B King imitators.

Everyone who plays guitar has his or her heroes, a Clapton, a Vai, a whomever. That's inevitable. As a youngster, there was Clapton -- yes, I had the 'Beano' album -- as well as Hendrix and, earlier, Dick Dale. However, I was not yet a player so I was not able to learn from nor emulate anyone at that point. That doesn't mean I didn't soak up some of their respective musical idioms. Them and just about everyone else I heard.

And then there was Carlos Santana. There was a style that spoke to me. And I mean spoke -- there is very much a vocal quality to Santana's playing. I dig the Latin thing, too. It's sort of mariachi surf music.

Now, when it comes to the shred guys, the Vais and Satrianis and such...well, I pretty much subscribe to the stock punk rocker assessment: guitar masturbation. It's a style that has never appealed to me.

At any rate, when I did start playing in my mid-twenties, it was B B King that became my guitar god. Oh, Santana, too, of course. Both have very vocal playing styles. I wanted (and still want) my guitar to sing, to be an extension of my own voice.

Let's face it, I'm basically a singer who plays a little. I'll never be a great guitarist nor even a particularly good one. My first goal is, of course, to serve the song but but I also want to have it sound like me. I want to put some of myself into it.

B B is pretty easy to imitate. Imitate well is another matter, though! There are a plethora of bad-to-mediocre imitations out there. At least one never has to play particularly fast.

There are certainly other guitarists that I've liked, tried to learn some of their technique -- too many to name. But I will name one: the late Albert Collins. The 'Ice Man.'

For a time, I tuned like Collins, to an open minor chord. He tuned high-ish and then capoed up further to something like Gm but I liked Dm. It's a neat tuning for rock and blues, with the dropped D at the bottom end giving a 1-5-1 power chord set-up on the lower three strings and the three high strings just like standard tuning, but down a tone, so the familiar patterns are there.

I haven't tuned that way in years, however, as it is less versatile for other stuff. I mostly do other stuff these days.

Moreover, my right-hand playing is in the style of the Ice Man. Strumming up and down with the thumb for chords, playing lead with the thumb and index finger. Which is also how I play plectrum banjo and uke, incidentally -- the two-finger style.

Or my version of two-finger, perhaps I should say. Most banjoists would probably not recognize it.

Of course, when I'm finger-picking chords (on guitar), I generally use four fingers -- that is, everything but my pinky, which is anchored on the guitar top. Can't quite manage to float the hand and use all five digits like a classical guitarist!

Anyway, B B King. He'd have to be number one for me, my starting point. The first guitarist I consciously attempted to emulate, way back in the 70s. My playing will always be informed by that beginning.

Monday, July 18, 2011

MORE FINITE THOUGHTS ON THE INFINITE

God is Infinite Being filling Infinite Emptiness.

Does God (or Being or Existence) ever fully fill the Void?  Both yes and no must be the answer, if each is infinite. A paradox this is, a puzzle beyond solution. It must be so to our incomplete comprehension, our wanting words, but only through such limited metaphors as these we strive to employ can we grasp glimmers of understanding.

Within each of us is that infinite nothingness and the infinite God. This same paradox, this tension, is carried by every human. It is our nature, our soul.

* * *

We can know our hearts only through the symbols we weave, our stories of who we are. They fill us with ourselves. They create us as we create them.

Some maintain that we create Being by being, through moral and truthful lives we increase Existence. This is so only if we recognize that it does not decrease the Void. Both Being and Nothingness remain infinite; we cannot change this. We are a part of the process of the Infinite Being filling the Infinite Emptiness.

Each of us exists in infinite permutations throughout the Infinite. Every atom, every sub-atomic particle, every thing that is, has endless variation. Every second of time includes an infinity of diverging paths.

In God, they all exist. What can be, is.

* * *

Infinite Being, if it is to be called God, must be conscious. It must be aware of itself or it is without meaning.

But then, were it not aware it would not truly be the Infinite -- it would not be all-encompassing. It would be something less than the totality of all Being. Infinite awareness must be; it must 'fill' all existence. We are part of that awareness.

SB 2011

Probably the last of these metaphysical meanderings for a while -- this bit has sat in my files, waiting for me to think more deep thoughts, but I had nothing to add so I'm posting it now.


An admission: these pieces are not just me jotting down philosophical ideas but also a bit of back-story to my fantasy novel. Specifically, there is a wide-spread religion called Kamatianism (or maybe Kamatism) with a somewhat dualistic slant (a la Zoroastrianism) so I decided to try my hand at working out some of the  theology that might lie behind its tenets.

Well, three good days of rain! At last, the precipitation we've been needing -- not that we're out of the drought. However, this little corner of Jackson County had its official drought condition lowered one notch. For what that's worth. I did lose a few plants in the last few weeks, actually after we started to get some rain. Not enough rain, apparently, and too much heat. It's time now to think about planting and transplanting things. In about a month, maybe. I'm looking through nursery catalogs. Making a list and checking it twice.

And of course I need to start mowing now. Some just about every day to cover this largish plot and still have time for my other chores.

My dog Tucky keeps proving that she's smarter than me. Especially in figuring out how to get into the house when I don't want her. She's learned to push the screens out of the windows -- the two reachable ones on the porch -- and slip in, as well as the gate in my doorway. She's also figured out how to get up on a chair and get at the cat's food. Being a moderately large dog (my past experience is with little schnauzers and beagles) she has more muscle and reach than I'm used to! I've nailed up lattice over the windows so that should keep her out of them.

She got spoiled maybe these last three days as I let her stay inside during the heavy rain. Normally, she spends the day outside and sometimes sleeps out in the carport too. Maybe I just need to install a doggy door, especially for use when the weather turns cold. That will happen, you know. It did last year anyway...

Friday, July 15, 2011

PICK ME UP, PUT ME DOWN

Pick me up, please, Mommy,
My nap time is all done.
Put me down now, Mommy,
Let's go out in the sun.

Pick me up, please, Mommy,
the sidewalk is too hard.
Put me down now, Mommy,
It's softer in the yard.

Pick me up, please, Mommy,
Let's go walk Daddy home.
Put me down now, Mommy,
I can walk alone.

Pick me up, please, Mommy,
Up high so I can see.
Put me down now, Mommy,
So Daddy walks with me.

Pick me up, please, Daddy,
Will you give me a ride?
Put me down now, Daddy,
I want to go inside.

Pick me up, please, Daddy,
And let me open the door.
Put me down now, Daddy,
My toys are on the floor.

Pick me up, please, Daddy,
I can't reach my seat.
Put me down, now, Daddy,
I've had enough to eat.

Pick me up please, Mommy,
And give me a hug.
Put me down, now, Mommy,
In my bed, warm and snug.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

Another little poem-story intended for small children. It should, of course, be a picture book but who knows if I'd ever have time to do illustrations.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Prayer-Book

Hold up your hands that they
might be my true prayer-book.
I will read there my matins,
my lauds, my vespers, words

of praise and supplication.
Before I sleep, as I
begin each day, I'll pray,
and you, you shall be heaven.

To you, I raise my eyes.
In you, I seek the day,
in every page, in all
the hours of my office.

And when this book of you
I finish, each prayer spoken,
believed, there waits the church
my heart has longed to enter.

I will, and worship, find
within your hallows all
in daily prayers I've asked,
read from my true prayer-book.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

One needn't be in love to write love poems. It does help, however, to remember how it was.

The internet took another nosedive this past Sunday and I've barely been online. It's terribly frustrating to log on at such slow speeds. And when I do manage better (I'll accept anything over 24.0), I often get knocked off line again in a few minutes.

So I've been devoting time, when I have time, to writing. . Reading through the advance copy of Sparrow Alone on the Rooftop got me thinking about my own stories and novels. Well, if one and a third novels qualifies as 'novels.' I did write a Young Adult novel of some 53,000 words more than a decade ago that I titled 'The Middle of Nowhere.' I consider it unpublishable and essentially an exercise. And I don't really even like the story that much. I've cannibalized bits of it for other stuff by now, too.

The other 'third of a novel' is my fantasy story 'The Song of the Sword.' Or whatever title I actually end up with. It was to be written in three parts, three novellas that could stand on their own. I finished the first one some time back, around 21,000 words. It's been revised and edited to death and is very much a complete work.

The hard part has been to get going on the next novella. I finished off the first chapter (somewhat first draft-ish) a couple days ago and have made a start on the second. More importantly, I sat down and wrote out 'arguments' as to how the plot will go. I'm not one for a formal outline, but a list of questions and points and plot elements works well for me.

As I read through the first section -- and made a very few minor edits -- I also wrote down every name and word and description and such that is important so I have those cataloged for the continuing work. Getting all that down will help.

So I know pretty well now how the novel is going to go, how it is going to turn out. I also know that all I wanted to include will probably not fit in the intended three sections! This may have to expand into two books. And, beyond that, I did already have the plot for a sequel in mind.

I've been looking over my other stuff as well. I do have things I intended for children that are ready but simply need to be illustrated. I just don't know if I'll ever get myself together enough to do that. Or whether I actually have the proper set of artistic skills to do illustrations of the sort I desire. I'm probably way too much of a perfectionist to be satisfied with my own attempts.

There are short stories in various degrees of completion as well. Finished completely, in need of rewrite, partially written.

Incidentally, I looked at at a story recently by a friend called 'Asanas' about a yoga instructor. It's pretty short and a little sparse, practically a synopsis, but I liked the idea and am urging her to expand it into something perhaps novel length --- and suggested I might publish it if it turns out okay. We shall see about that. I know a bit about being a yoga instructor, by the way.

Hence, this little essay:

YOGA

I was seriously into hatha yoga at one relatively early point in my life. Enough so that I was a yoga instructor for a while.

Hatha yoga is the 'physical' school of yoga, the various postures we've all seen. It's pretty much what most people think of when we say 'yoga.'

When I became a serious weight-trainer, the yoga went by the wayside. I recognized that the lifting exercises, if properly chosen, served the same purpose as yoga postures. Moreover, it was actually easier to fall into a state of concentration, of meditation. I can see why tai-chi (though I've never practiced it) could have similar results.

As can, of course, the dancing of Sufi dervishes, drum circles, chanting, etc!

However, a deeper problem with yoga developed for me as I delved into the philosophical side of it. It was the renouncing of self and world as illusion. This was as I was coming more and more to see illusion as an illusion. I do believe that what we may call illusions are actually partial glimpses of reality. I do not dismiss them.

I am real. Why? Because I am part of a greater reality, an infinite reality, all of Being.

So I embrace the real. I embrace the self and I strive. Yes, strive to become more, to recognize the spark of God that lies within me and nurture it.

SB 2011

Sunday, July 10, 2011

ON SUFFERING, EVIL and OMNIPOTENCE

Suffering, without God, would be intolerable. God, without suffering, would be meaningless.

We can not, as Buddhist philosophy might posit, escape suffering through losing our attachments to things, to this world. We must embrace our suffering. It is real.

It is life.

Only by truly living, accepting our existence, do we fulfill ourselves. Otherwise, we spin on, trying to deny our own essence, balanced between being and non-being.

We never find the God who is around us, in us. We lose love.

Suffering is not something to be sought. It is not good. Like evil, it is a necessary part of the interaction between being and non-being.

* * *

Evil is ultimately empty and (though be it a cliche) banal. It has no beauty, no nobility; it takes these things from the Good, dresses itself in them, distorts them. It does not create.

* * *

How can and does an all-powerful God permit evil? I would have to emphasize that evil does not exist as an actual thing, a part of Being. It is Nothingness.

Or more precisely, Evil is the action of Nothingness, of Non-Being, on Existence. It is the movement away from Being. It is the destruction of what is created, the turning away from Being. Good and Evil must exist in the interaction of Being and Nothingness.

Nothingness is within Being and Being is within it and both are infinite. Both might be considered all-powerful, in this sense. Each defines the other -- where one is, the other is. It is the Void in which God's omnipotence, his Being, exists. He would have no meaning without it.

* * *

All this could seem like Dualism. Were Nothingness an actual thing, a god-like presence, that would be true. But Nothingness is, well, nothing. There is only One that exists, albeit infinitely.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

Most of this I'd jotted down a while back but hadn't quite followed through on it to my satisfaction. A few things I've thought or read in the last couple days led me to come back and finish. For now.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Perfectly Well

verse 1:

I've made my share of mistakes,
had more than my share of heart aches.
Told myself those are the breaks,
told myself those are the stakes.

verse 2:

So I'd give love another chance,
hope for happy happenstance,
knowing I might find romance
as near as the next slow dance.

chorus 1:

As so many times before
I'd fall in love once more,
but it would never last,
I'd fall out just as fast.
Then there was suddenly you
and what could I do?
You smiled at me and I fell;
you know it perfectly well.

chorus 2:

Love can be a magic show,
illusion, this I know.
Tricks meant to enthrall,
I thought I'd learned them all.
This sleight-of-hand is new,
one puzzle I can't see through.
Now I'm under your spell;
you know it perfectly well

bridge:

You know where my heart is, it's always with you;
You know what it's feeling, you know that it's true.
Wherever I go, whatever I do,
You know I'm forever in love with you.

chorus 3:

Somehow, this time's not the same
as those before when love came;
forever and a day
or two, I'm planning to stay.
Some things I can't explain
yet here I am and remain.
That's all there is to tell; 
you know it perfectly well.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

Another song lyric in the 'classic' style of the Twenties through Forties, when 'verse' and 'chorus' didn't mean quite what they do today. Whatever they mean today. Space of course in there for the big band to play for a while!

I've been reading the ARC of the novel by my niece and sister, 'Sparrow Alone on the Housetop,' and sending along any notes I make. Very little necessary, so far. It seems pretty well written.  And surprisingly few typos. The book should be out by autumn, from a small press called 4RV Publishing. Expect a review from me down the line. Not too critical a one, obviously, as I have a slight conflict of interest.

Remains hot here on Peanut Road. We had some rain and continue to have dry days as well. Very heavy storms a couple days ago -- the rainfall may have helped a good bit there. I'll have to go out and mow now that the grass is growing again.

Tucky's little boyfriend from next door got himself into the road and killed. He won't be bringing his toys over to play anymore. She misses having him to chase around, I can tell, even if she is a naturally more sedate dog.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Judgment Day

Every day
is Judgment Day,
each day the past
is swept away.
Stand and fight,
kneel and pray,
but there's no hope
for those who stay.

We dwell in houses
built of dreams;
our world is not
what it seems.
Shouted prayers,
whispered screams,
as one god damns
and one redeems.

Sing your silent verse.
  (we hear you)
Speak your silent curse.
  (we fear you)
The black bliss of the night
  (so near you)
leaves no room for light.
  (we hear you)

Temptation offers sleep.
  (we name you)
Redemption's cost is steep.
  (we blame you)
Life's the flame that burns
  (became you)
through each soul that yearns.
  (we name you)

Play these games
of wrong and right,
in the gardens
of the night.
Pluck out one eye
to find sight,
and dare to look on
things that might.

Painless poison
fills my veins;
death fulfills
what life ordains.
Baptisms
of sacred rains
wash away
the losses and gains.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

Indulging my old tendency toward mystical mayhem in a rock setting. Who knows whether I'll ever do anything with my songs of this sort. The 'response' lines in the chorus section (the ones in parentheses) are just a thought -- I might prefer to play a riff there or something.



Had quite a rain last night, serious thunderstorms. That's a good thing, even if it kept me awake. Pretty decent rain the day before too, so that helps the drought situation a little. Only a little.


So today is Independence Day and Stephen Foster's birthday. I'm not much on nationalistic holidays but Foster was an extraordinary songwriter, so I'll celebrate that at least. Speaking of songs, a little thought on the subject:

On Lyrics and Music:

Music is the car in which my words ride. They are the passengers I am trying to get from here to there. Sometimes the car may be a Ferrari; more often it's a well-used Yugo. It doesn't matter, as long as it can make the trip.

I wouldn't write songs unless I had something I wanted to say. Not that I don't consider music important. I've written some instrumental work along the way -- it's not always just a conveyance.

But it is when I have words. That's its job.

SB 2011

Saturday, July 02, 2011

In the Boat

We're all in the same boat
But we're gettin' nowhere
I'm paddlin' real hard this way
You're rowin' towards over there
Sometimes we're headin' north
Othertimes south by west
Seems we never agree
Which direction is best

You fix your eyes on the distance
When I point to the nearest beach
There's an isle far out that way
You insist we need to reach
I'll tell you that shore isn't safe
There's cannibals or worse waitin' for us
You say the natives are friendly
Or at least they'll ignore us

The waves are too high
The water's too cold
Throw out the young
Throw out the old
Save the ship
Or abandon it
Some of us bale
Some just sit

The last captain steered us in circles
We needed a course correction
But the new one's doin' the same
Except the opposite direction
We must go where this boat takes us
when the compass fails
At least we still have plenty
of hot air to fill the sails

Stephen Brooke ©2011

A fairly simple song lyric. More political than I'm usually inclined to be. Or maybe anti-political. Or maybe just my normal grumpiness.

Retreat

I made my retreat from love,
vowed to never turn;
swore to heaven, high above,
all I left, I'd burn,
and plow salt into the ground
where love had once grown.

One green sprig its way has found,
one small seed was sown;
From the poisoned earth it sprang,
where no thing should thrive,
where no bee droned, no bird sang,
hope remained alive.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

I thought I might have a longer poem here but this pretty much says it. If I added more I'd most likely start repeating myself.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Fruta

Little Maria has picked all the raisins
out of her oatmeal and  laid each one, each
small unknown object, beside the pink bowl.

It is her favorite bowl. She has never
seen raisins before this morning and thinks
they might be bugs. She does not eat bugs,

being a sensible and smart muchacha,
as four-year-olds go. With my limited Spanish,
I can not convince her that they are just fruta,

that they are buena. Maria can be
stubborn and little dark wrinkled frutas
have not been a part of her life nor her breakfast.

Ah well, the twins, Raul and Diego, have filled
their chubby cheeks with her rejects. They like
raisins. I think they may even like bugs.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

A memory that passed through my mind this morning, from the time I spent working with the children of migrant workers. A mighty long time ago! I decided to get it down in some form and so this poem.