adventures in dysthymia

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

On Your Feet


The well-known quote by Emiliano Zapata. Although he was an armed revolutionary, the statement applies just as well to nonviolent resistance.

Although Zapata has long been a darling of the Left, it should be noted that he was not a socialist, did not favor collective or state ownership of the land. Rather, his goal was to have the large estates broken up and given to the peasants. That is a distributist concept, of course, and still drives a good bit of Latin American politics.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Face Book and Festivals

As I mentioned a few posts back, I have become somewhat disenchanted about FaceBook and any practical application it might have for promotion. I certainly have no plans to leave it or anything like that but I will probably interact less there than in the past.

Now if I someday manage to get back into music, that might change. I might also use MySpace again, assuming I ever have a decent internet connection -- MS seems, to some degree, to have rebranded itself as a place for musicians and other artists.

This blog -- and my others here at Blogger and at Word Press -- remain the centers of my 'social networking.' They are the best way to get meaningful content up on the internet, content that can be found by search engines.

I do think that FaceBook and similar networking sites will eventually become unnecessary. We will all be networking directly via the apps on our computers or smart phones or whatever we might be using in a few years. In the meantime, I think I need to rethink the use of 'niche' sites such as GoodReads.

These are, I feel, a better place to promote oneself, to be part of a community that is there for, essentially, one reason. Reading and books, in the case of GoodReads. Again, if/when I get back into music I may rejoin such sites as No Depression. I left there because it had become irrelevant to anything I was doing at the time.

And some are just plain useless such as Just Plain Folks. I sure wasted enough time there before I saw the light. There is no point in promoting yourself to people who are there for the same reason as you!

Speaking of getting back in to music, the Will McLean Festival is coming up in a week and an half. I've missed it since my ill-fated attempt to take my mother five years (I think) back. That was one of the first indications that she was slipping into dementia.

Anyway, I will once again skip Wilfest, not only because of my need to care for Mom but also because it is nearly 200 miles further from where I used to live when I attended annually. Just too far for a day trip now.

The Florida Folk Festival, coming up at the end of May, is closer. Still kind of far, though, around 190 miles compared to the 65 I drove from Steinhatchee. Not out of the question for one day but it's very unlikely I will make it. My Mean Niece will, however, be there performing once again. I suspect she'll have some copies of her novel with her if anyone's interested.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Early Morning Rain

Monday morning on Peanut Road and it's still raining. It drizzled all day yesterday -- a cold miserable day, to be sure, but we can use the precipitation. I'll be setting out my garden soon and putting in more trees and bushes as well. No attempt on vegetables this year  but I am going to  have herbs and flowers. Including, I hope, a bed of oregano, which is a perennial, to go along with the rosemary bushes I got started last year.

Now if I can only keep the dogs from assisting me in digging. It turns into doggy daycare around here when their people leave for work -- they know Steve and Tucky will be here.


I continue to create new designs for the Insolent Lad Emporium. Three new ones over the weekend, including the above. They're nothing special, perhaps, but it's better to have plenty of merchandise than too little, unless you are selling a specialized design that only a few would seek anyway -- something created for a club or such. I'm after a wider buying public so the more searchable stuff I have up the better I can attract them.

I'm not forgetting my writing, however. Even worked on one of my short-stories-in-progress yesterday but what I really need to get onto is illustrating one or another of the finished manuscripts. It looks like I might miss my quarterly publishing projection but I will make up for it later -- I do tend to do this stuff in fits.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Order, a poem

ORDER

I put these words in place
so they might speak their lines
but, alas, discover
they have their own minds.
Allusion proves elusive
and my meanings stray --
One may order language
but it does not obey.

Stephen Brooke ©2012

I do suppose this could be made into a longer poem but I'm doubting there's really anything else to say without becoming somewhat redundant.

Burn, a poem

Burn

Arsonist, I
burn myself down

tonight. Come
stand by the fire,

and toast s'mores
in my memory.

Stephen Brooke ©2012

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Within and Without

Spirituality comes from the heart. Religion comes from the head.

Neither, of itself, is enough. Together, they offer balance.

Religion gives direction. Being 'only' spiritual can lead one too far inward, lead to navel-gazing inactivity.

Religion without spirituality becomes empty intellectual exercise. The spiritual brings meaning.

God is both within and without: personal and transcendent. We need to know Him in both forms.

We need to know Him with our hearts and with our heads.

Stephen Brooke ©2012

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Serious Poet


More fooling about with graphics. I should be writing or working on illustrations but I keep coming up with stuff like this that I want to work up. Some of which -- not this one -- are worth adding to the Emporium, so I guess it's not wasted time!

By the way, that pretty much is my working style. I do agonize over 'simple' word choices -- my writing will never be breezy, even though I sometimes labor to make it seem so.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Artist's Voice


Be it on canvas, the written page, in a song -- no easy answers, just more difficult questions.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Triviality

Most folks -- Catholics included -- misunderstand the Church's teaching on contraception. They seem to think it is somehow tied into the whole respect-for-life anti-abortion stance. Peripherally, perhaps, but that is really a separate issue. The Church considers neither an unfertilized egg nor a sperm to be human life and does not extend any such protection to it.

The teaching, rather, has been that contraception trivializes the act of sexual congress. We certainly see enough of that in our world today, don't we? Readily available means of contraception have no doubt contributed -- technology shapes culture, as ever.

But let's face it, it's a technology that's here to stay. People have sex and they will protect themselves, both against pregnancy and disease. It can also be argued that contraception is the number one preventative measure against the need for an abortion.

The Catholic mandate against contraception is not an article of faith, just a rule. It could change; indeed, there have been a few indications of it doing just that since Benedict became Pope (such as suggesting that condoms are acceptable for preventing the spread of disease).

However, the Church will always consider the act of sex to be spiritual as well as physical, a part of the sacrament of marriage. It will continue to teach against its trivialization, the idea that it is meaningless and without responsibility. On that we can depend.

Now, if only a culture that made 'Two and a Half Men' one of the most popular shows on television over the past decade would listen.

Embracing, part 2

And here is a complete reworking of the curmudgeon concept that might well turn up on merchandise:


addendum, later in the day: this might look better with the white letters outlined in black. It does, on-screen, but might not print that great on a tee. Assuming I use this graphic at all.

Embracing the Graphic

I love working with vector graphics. It's like sculpting in two dimensions -- you add a little here, take away a little there, until you have just what you want. Or something you're willing to live with.

In that respect, it's more like writing than other forms of graphic art. The process is not unlike what I might do with a poem or a piece of music. That's rather different from painting a picture where experimentation is a more cumbersome (and frustrating) process. You kind of need to know where you are going when you pick up a paint brush.

The first graphic here, the 'Curmudgeon' is something with which I've been doing that sort of experimenting, trying out different looks. I put up an earlier version at FaceBook yesterday but this one is probably the finished product. However, it is, I think, too fussy to work on a tee shirt or such and is unlikely to make it to my store.


But it got me thinking of other 'embracing' ideas and, so, the 'Viking.' This should work fine as a design and I'll be uploading the high-definition version to Cafe Press in a while.

All of this work is done primarily in Corel Draw. I occasionally have to do a little 'photo shop' type of work for which Draw is not suited; then I'll usually take the graphic over to Gimp.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Ancien Regime


If God wanted us to live under democratic governments, wouldn't He be called 'President,' not 'King' and 'Lord?'

Okay, I suppose that's a bit facetious. Or more than a bit. But the conservative part of me tends to be of the ancien regime, not the capitalist right.

Those true-believer capitalists are part of the long line of regicides, the desecrators of cathedrals, the tearers-down of tradition. The people who brought us the French Revolution. They descend from the smug Puritans who believed themselves predestined to prosper and the rest of us to be damned -- a world view that dovetailed nicely into Social Darwinism.

No, I'm not saying that monarchy and aristocracy is the way to go, though it would certainly solve the problem of campaign finance abuses!

In a democracy we end up electing salesmen. That's what a politician is. The only true qualification for office is electability. As proven by Ronald Reagan.

For actors are salesmen too. All creative people are, selling ideas, selling dreams. That doesn't make us fit to run a government, even if we do have a high opinion of ourselves.

Nor are business people particularly suited for running countries. Business people are great for running businesses but it's not the same thing. A country does not need to turn a profit.

But it does need to be tended, to be nurtured. I'd rather have things run by farmers. They understand the process. They also understand that much in this world is beyond our control.

I do not take politics too seriously because I recognize that the true driver of history is economics, in the form of environmental forces and technology. The politicians essentially do little more than respond to these factors.

Would the Great Depression have been as devastating and long-lasting without the Dust Bowl drought to undermine the economy? It might well have been but a short-lived recession like many before it.

We used to believe the Roman Empire fell to invading 'barbarians' due to the decay of its social institutions. Now it's been shown that there were devastating plagues in the later Empire, due more to its success and over-population than to any innate weakness. Political changes reflected environmental changes.

If history has shown anything, it is that all systems work and all systems ultimately fail. Look at what is quite possibly the longest lasting continuous social institution on Earth: the Roman Catholic Church. In essence, it is an elected monarchy. And the Church has certainly had its ups and downs, its failures and triumphs, but it has survived.

Will the United States keep going for a couple millennia?

Ha, I wouldn't necessarily bet on the human race continuing that long.

Be that as it may, individuals are still part of the 'works' of political change. Yes, as a group, we respond to economic forces but each of us still acts as an independent person with free will and the ability to shape change. Even if our individual actions seem futile, we have the duty to our own  selves to do what is right.

There are those who seem to have changed the world. Yet I recognize that if one of them had not lived, someone else would have done something similar and history would have continued much the same. If Hitler had not lived, there would still have most likely been a more-or-less Fascist regime in Germany. Would the Holocaust have occurred? Anyone's guess, but the hatred of Jews was certainly there.

None the less, these individuals were the ones who created the changes. It's very much a chicken-egg question, isn't it? History will follow its course regardless of individual decisions but it can't change unless there ARE individual decisions!

Well, I'd better stop while I'm still making sense of a sort...at least to myself.

Stephen Brooke ©2012

Friday, February 17, 2012

Unhappy, a poem, sort of

UNHAPPY

I was unhappy until I recognized
I would never be happy.

Once I accepted that truth,
it removed the burden you had handed me,

all you who said I could choose happiness,
all you who asked why not be happy?

And so I was unhappy that I could not be happy,
could not live up to the world's expectations.

They should not have been my expectations.
I am not happy. I am not unhappy.

That's good enough for me.

Stephen Brooke ©2012

Books and Beds

I noted the results of a poll at GoodReads concerning how readers there find new books. It seems that most GoodReads members get book recommendations from their friends, either on GoodReads or off. Very few members rely on Twitter or FaceBook to hear about new books. Word of mouth and recommendations also seem to keep books going that have had an otherwise temporary boost from some sort of exposure or promotion in the media.

I had already concluded that FaceBook is not a particularly good place to promote oneself. Blogs and YouTube are more effective -- they can draw viewers to your content in a way that social networking sites don't.

What is FB good for then? Well, to provide news to those who have already discovered your work, whether that work be books, music, art or whatever. Don't expect to draw in a lot of new fans via your page, however.

If I had fast and reliable enough a connection to upload videos, I'd probably have some sort of book trailers up at YouTube. But that's unworkable at this point.

* * *

But what is workable right now is my garden! I've been out digging a little most days, getting the beds ready. Seeds are being started in flats, flowers, herbs. I have more bushes and trees on order that should be in by the end of the month.

I'm hoping it doesn't freeze again, naturally. We just had a couple nights of fairly hard freeze but it seems to have done no damage. At this date, we might or might not see more cold; there's no freezing weather in the current ten day forecast so I'm hopeful!

But I do remember March 12, 1993 -- the 'Storm of the Century' that brought lethal floods and even a bit of snow to the Big Bend area where I then lived and heavy ice storms to this Panhandle region. So one should never depend on winter being over in February.

Somewhere, a poem

SOMEWHERE

Everywhere is on the road
to somewhere else, another town,
another love. I've tried to tarry
but someone always says 'Move on.

This is not the place for you.'
Someone says 'Tomorrow waits
further along, around the bend.'
I can smell the pines, growing

close and dark beside the road.
Let me lay my head here just
a little while, breathing in
the songs they have remembered, left

by the wind before it, too
traveled on to somewhere else.

Stephen Brooke ©2012

So, I seem to be back in poet mode, at least to some degree. I'll need to get busy on other projects and probably not continue to write that much. Rough tetrameter here, accentual rather than strictly metrical.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Canyons

CANYONS

The night can be too dark,
the lights, far too bright
to bear either long.

Seek the twilit street;
such dreaming shadows wait
in the heart of the city,

where fitful sleep may sigh
behind the open windows.
Might we find our truth

under some dim street-light,
in the flicker of neon
left burning through the dark?

These ways stand emptied of day,
of all their meaning, canyons   
of refuge, of forgetting,

when nights may grow too dark
and lights become too bright.

Stephen Brooke ©2012

A bit of a poem, three accents to the line. I had the first stanza in my notes 'forever' but finally figured out the rest of it.

Change

I do tend to come off as a Liberal when I take some sort of position or viewpoint. I'm not, necessarily. As with Chesterton, I believe in liberalism but have trouble with Liberals.

It should go without saying that I have trouble with Conservatives, too!

Having mentioned Chesterton, I'll admit to reading him a bit lately (and Beloc as well). He could be the worst sort of prig but he also had some great ideas. And wonderful quotes.

Then, there is the Distributist thing. Anyone of my generation who attended parochial school would have imbibed a bit of Distributist economic theory along with their other lessons. It doesn't seem to have stuck with most of them but then I suppose I tended to think of that sort of thing more than the average kid.

I like to describe myself as a 'practical Distributist.' I think limiting public power would be great ONLY is it is accompanied by an equal reduction of private power. I'm more a fan of Theodore Roosevelt's breaking up of monopolies and supporting the labor movement than of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal programs -- while recognizing they filled (and fill) a need.

Social Security is a necessity. So, I think, is universal health insurance. I favor many of the programs from the national government but might prefer them to be administered more locally.

But I would choose regulation over programs. Every grant, every federal program, means someone 'owes' the government. Their independence has been compromised. Thus I do not favor, for example, government funding of public radio. If the government wants a radio network let them start one rather than trying to control public radio via funding.

Speaking of health insurance, had we gone with a single-payer approach, that is Medicare-for-all, we wouldn't have this current wrangle between the Catholic bishops and the administration over contraceptive coverage. The Liberals and Conservatives have each staked their claims here without much regard to the actual grounds of disagreement but it is ultimately a fairly narrow question of the limits of religious freedom versus government authority. It might have been better had it gone to the courts so we would have a more-or-less definitive answer.

I, personally, don't think the hospitals and charities under Catholic auspices should be able to claim religious exemption. The schools, yes, as they are more closely integrated with the Church. But it does not matter, really -- we just need the boundary defined so we can move on. It doesn't look like that is going to happen.

At any rate, what it boils down to is a turf war with the Catholic Church, rightly or wrongly, seeing its independence being threatened. I believe strongly in independent religion. It is no surprise that totalitarian regimes go after organized religion. It has always been the strongest counter-balance to government tyranny.

Remember the end of the Communist regime in Poland? Conservatives like to credit President Reagan with ending the Cold War but he was pretty much a passenger in a car driven by Solidarity and the Church (with an indirect boost from Afghan freedom fighters). It's up to the people and their organizations to make real change in the world.

Change is still possible, you know.

Stephen Brooke ©2012

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Strings, a poem

STRINGS

All the guitar strings
do not have to be changed
in Spring, but like the green
sprouts in the garden
they are a sign of new life,
the rebirth of a love
almost forgotten.
Will summer bring music
this year? I have promised
it to myself
in shining bronze.

Stephen Brooke ©2012

A Valentine Wish...


Bon appetite, Kitty.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Tribe of Trolls






This is sort of the graphics equivalent of the doggerel poetry I throw out here occasionally. Quick and not very serious. None the less, it might end up on a tee in my shop. I was actually fooling around with troll concepts for illustrating my book The Contrary Fairy when I took a side step and created this.

Secession, a poem

Secession

Should I secede from the Kingdom of Us,
might you send armies to win me back?
I could not stand against your attack;
you know I am not valorous.

Leave me to rule my phantom nation,
receiving embassies who bring
the homage suited to a king,    
before I must resume my station.

This, my illusion, I must keep
for some short while, my night's last dream
where free and bold and strong I seem --
yet I'll awaken from my sleep.

In solitary council may
I vote, in time, this schism's end;
allow our fractured union mend,
let you, as ever, have your way.

Stephen Brooke ©2012


I would have to describe this as rather first draft-ish, essentially an idea (despite being all rhyme-y and everything) but probably not really a finished idea. Oh, I suppose it can stand on its one but I'm not satisfied right now. And I'm the only audience I actually need to please!

Gardeners


Who was our last President who gardened? I know Eisenhower did. Not a bad amateur painter either.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Wine and Chocolate

my annual Valentine's Day poem...

Wine and Chocolate

If I ply you with wine
will you be my Valentine?
Or does it take chocolate too?
I could buy a box for you.

But don't go asking for jewelry;
I can't afford the tomfoolery
of baubles and trinkets and such
and know I haven't the touch

for romance of any sort
or the paying of court.
Heck, it's even hard
to choose a Valentine card!

I'd say 'humbug' but remember
I did that back in December;
so I'll just forget the day;
tomorrow it all goes away.

Stephen Brooke ©2012

Spiritual






And all joking aside, by organized I do not mean belonging to an 'organized religion.' I mean having an organized set of beliefs. That is religion.

Beethoven


Gee, Ludwig looks a lot like Johnny Cash in this pic, doesn't he? Created in Corel Draw and Gimp.

Nothing

NOTHING

I would destroy your world and laugh
for it means nothing.
I would slaughter your children and smile
for it means nothing.

Should I die on tomorrow's cross,
it means nothing;
whether I laugh or am in pain,
it means nothing.

Love and hate fade to nothing;
time and fate fade to nothing.
Every light fades to nothing;
every life fades to nothing.

I hold you in my heart's embrace
but it means nothing.
I hold a gun to my head
but it means nothing.

instrumental noise here...

It means nothing;
I feel nothing.
It means nothing;
I feel nothing.

Promise made is promise broken,
for it means nothing.
Punishment or crimes forgiven,
it all means nothing.

Love and hate fade to nothing;
time and fate fade to nothing.
Every light fades to nothing;
every life fades to nothing.

It means nothing;
I feel nothing.
It means nothing;
I feel nothing.

Stephen Brooke ©2012

There is a part of me that knows of nihilistic despair. It's only a part of me. So I wrote this rough lyric even though I'd be unlikely to ever perform such a song. It means nothing, after all! :)

Hammer






More play-practice with graphics programs (primarily Corel Draw).

Monday, February 06, 2012

Baseball


Baseball is a play, a drama, with acts that begin and end, and characters who come and go on its stage. Give me a story if you want to keep my attention.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Fairy Cover?

A mockup of a possible idea for the cover of my upcoming children's chapter book, 'The Contrary Fairy.' Nothing is set in paper!


A Room Without Books


Okay, I've been on a bit of a Chesterton kick lately. But he just has so many great quotes!

Friday, February 03, 2012

Keys and Parrots

KEYS AND PARROTS

It's fresh and wholesome for some,
meals of peas and carrots,
while I'd choose bottles of rum,
a life of Keys and parrots!

They boast of how early they're waking,
how much they can bench and curl,
but I've more interest in making
some winsome wench my girl!

Oh, and then there's meditation,
the level of calm they might reach;
I've come to the same destination
beneath a palm on the beach.

On all these things we must part;
it's simple why this would be:
always the Key to my heart
is bounded by the salt sea.

So, be healthy and work and run
but keep your peas and carrots,
while I grow old in the sun;
I choose Keys and parrots.

Stephen Brooke ©2012

Very much a throwaway written around the 'keys and parrots' phrase -- which might reappear some other day in some other form.

When the inspiration isn't there for deep, meaningful poetry, write light verse. It keeps the brain working and, who knows, it might stimulate something more serious.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Faun and Games

So, I finished getting all the new designs up at the Emporium -- though I should still do a little non-essential housekeeping there -- and naturally had new ideas come along as I worked. For instance, the little faun silhouette I created a couple months back returns with some changes and text.

It's good to have a lot of designs available, even if some are really just throw-aways. It brings people in; if they don't buy one thing they might just buy another. It's the internet business plan and works for any sort of merchandise. Books, music, whatever -- it's going to be there online 'forever' (assuming you leave it up) so there is not hurry to have a big seller, a 'best seller.' Just keep selling, day after day, and think long-term.

And keep plugging that product, of course.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

It Feels Like...Florida!

It looks like we are going to have an extremely nice weekend coming up, weather-wise -- warm, sunny, and spring-like. Perfect to visit Florida and hit the beach!

But I'm already in Florida and can't get to the beach so I'll putter around here. My fencing is supposed to come in tomorrow and I'll be putting that up. That's not much of a job; just forming a small fence to go around each tree and some of the other plantings. The rest will continue to have protective milk crates over them.

Today is forecast to be rainy so I'll transplant some more trees. It's also time to fill a few flats with potting soil and start some seeds. Flowers only; I don't have time to do a vegetable garden.

I'd be making my own potting soil from my compost were it not so unbalanced at this time. I had almost no 'green' matter (grass clippings and such) to add to it last year as so little grew! So it's heavy on the manure and such. As soon as I can start mowing I'll work some of that into what I have.

There are plenty of fallen leaves, of course, but those get raked up around the blueberries, elderberries and hazelnuts. I'll have more leaves, too, as I ringed a couple big oaks and they should be dying. That will let in more light to my new trees.

The camelias bloomed beautifully and are now past their prime. With this warm weather it won't be long before other blossoms appear. The pears often bloom in February anyway so I'll expect that to happen soon. Red buds, azaleas -- they'll be coming.

Meanwhile, I'm continuing to add new material at The Insolent Lad Emporium and also getting the store linked up to my own site. When I've finished this -- and it does take time with my connection -- I'll turn my efforts back to the publishing end of things. I really need to get the Arachis Press site set up; right now it's essentially just one page with links to the store at Lulu and to my AP blog (where most of the important info is anyway).