Thursday, May 31, 2012

Speed, Read, Need

I did finally get satellite internet installed here and canceled the NetZero dial-up I’ve used for years. It’s nice to have speed and reliability (well, reliable so far...we’ll see what happen in inclement weather). Getting things accomplished that I simply couldn’t before, especially long-needed program updates.

I can check my ‘necessary’ accounts way quicker, so I can now waste time elsewhere on line! That is, as long as I don’t go overboard and exceed my data limits. It is nice to actually be able to watch a video now, all at once. I’m getting the sites and stores and stuff into shape at this point. Well, that’s a never-ending process, actually.

The dish couldn’t be installed until my monster oak tree came down. Big expense there but it needed to be done. I’ll post some pictures eventually but right now they are in my 35mm camera so we’ll have to wait as in days of old.

* * *

I pulled an old copy of ‘Cross Creek’ – which I had never before read – off the shelf and started in. After all, every Floridian should know that book, right? So far, an interesting read but a difficult read.

The printed lines of text are too long, too closely leaded, to effortlessly move from the end of one to the start of the next. A lesson in book design, there. Probably the publisher was trying to save on paper costs but that shouldn’t come at the expense of readability.

However, the copy I’m reading was printed in 1942 so I’m assuming war-time economies had something to do with it!

* * *

The Florida Folk Festival was this past weekend and, as expected, I could not manage to attend. My niece, Mean Mary James, was there performing, along with her brother Frank. Good to see him back out playing again.

The tropical storm (earlier than normal... everything is a couple weeks early this year, it seems) did bring rain by Sunday and sent folks home early. We didn’t get any real precipitation from it over here in the Panhandle, just a couple small storm cells from an outer band on Monday evening. Rain is still needed!

But then, it usually is at this time of year. I see afternoon storms are starting to form down at the coast which is a good sign. In the mean time, I spend an hour or so watering every afternoon, half the place one day, half the next.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Florida Folk Fest 2012

The Florida Folk Festival is once more being held this weekend, the 60th edition. And, once again, my duties as a caregiver means I will not be able to make it over to White Springs. It looks like a very hot weekend, though it usually gets pretty warm in Florida by Memorial Day. The forecast for here on Peanut Road says 99 degrees on Saturday!

There will be plenty of entertaining acts at the festival this year including, naturally, my talented niece 'Mean Mary' James. Mary's schedule:

Friday 1:30 at the Heritage Stage. Plenty of room to dance if you've a mind to

Saturday 12:30 at the Song and Story Stage. Not exactly the coolest spot for the middle of a hot day! Mary is preceded by that other banjo-playing Mary, Mary Z Cox, and followed by Jubal's Kin -- someone was thinking when they made up that program.

Sunday 5:00 at the Old Marble Stage. Which sounds like a bad time until one sees the acts surrounding her slot. Plunking oneself down at the Old Marble wouldn't be a bad way at all to end the festival.

Enjoy, all you fortunates who are going to be there!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

W-W-C-P-D, a song lyric


When writing a song,
It’s so easy to go wrong
Trying to say something new.
Getting every rhyme
To work in perfect time,
And still to say something true!
Oh, I do endeavor
To keep it all quite clever,
Through and thoroughly through.
It’s a bewildering task
And therefor I ask:
What Would Cole Porter Do?

chorus 1:
W – W – C – P – D?
That’s what the question ought to be!
I’ll accept, without apology,
Any suggestion, so feel free!
Shall I make a list of exotic places,
exotic names, exotic faces?
Put all my words through their paces,
Let ’em play games, let ‘em run races?

chorus 2:
W – W – C – P – D?
If Porter could do it, why not me?
Do I lack some necessity
To do it, too, in a major key?
I know there are songs deep in my soul
Could it be that hard to write ‘em like Cole?
Maybe there’s a school where I could enroll,
Brush up on the bard, pay my toll.

I’ve written a few,
Both happy and blue,
But what would Cole Porter do?
I need his view,
Slightly askew,
What would Cole Porter do?
Give me a clue,
Give me a cue!
What would Cole Porter do?
What would Cole do?
I wish I knew;
What would Cole Porter do?

(the band does its thing here)

chorus 3:
W – W – C – P – D?
He knew how, you will agree,
and did it all quite stylishly;
I ask you now, is it just me?
If I keep working night and day,
Be absurd, take time to pray,
And turn that work into play
I’ll find the right word, find the right way!

repeat bridge and outro over last line

Stephen Brooke ©2012

This is, of course, essentially an exercise (and a little bit of tribute to my very favoritest songwriter). They just happened to show ‘De-Lovely’ on television a couple days ago which got me to messing around. Pretty good movie, by the way or at least a whole lot better than your average biopic.

It is in the ‘classic’ style of songwriting from the Twenties through the Forties, introductory ‘verse’ followed by choruses and bridge. Tune? Oh, there’s one in my head. I may take time to write it down but it’s kind of pointless, no? It’s not like this would ever be played anywhere. So, as I said, an exercise and, very admittedly, not particularly good nor clever. So don’t be surprised if a few of the better phrases end up in something else eventually.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Talking, a poem


Some days, I just wander
around the house talking to myself.

Rainy days, more than others.

If I say her name
now and again, the dog will listen.

Where’s my treat? she wonders

as I ramble further,
ramble from room to room, looking

for whatever I lost there.

If I remembered what it was
I might find it.

Shouldn’t I know it when I see it?

The roof is leaking again,
I tell myself and the dog.

Stephen Brooke ©2012

I had to avoid the temptation to make more of this poem, to add images that would really serve no purpose. Even though it hurts to leave out a nifty bit of wordplay (I could have gone on and on about the dog), one must have the discipline to edit oneself. I suppose it’s no secret that I dislike self-indulgent wordiness in any sort of writing.

This almost became a song rather than a word piece. Maybe I’ll yet cannibalize a few lines and write something with a tune.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The More Things Change...

Going through a book of Western and cowboy songs, I came on this piece. It could as easily have been written today as 120 years ago.


Lyric by Mrs J T Kellie to the music of ‘The Gal I Left Behind Me,’ a tune popular both with soldiers of the Civil War and cowboys in the post-war period (and one I’ve been known to sing on occasion).

(vs 1)
I was a party man one time,
The party would not mind me;
That’s all for which I have to thank
The party left behind me.

(chorus – repeat after each vs)
An older, sadder, poorer man
Sure ev’ry year did find me;
That’s all for which I have to thank
The party left behind me.

(vs 2)
I asked that from the railroad’s clutch
A way out they could find me;
One party answered me, ‘Not much,’
The other would not mind me.

(vs 3)
I was to moneyed man a slave –
They said it was a fable;
One party would not try to save,
The other was not able.

(vs 4)
A true and independent man
You ever more shall find me;
I work and vote and ne’er regret
The party left behind me.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Banyan, a poem



Me and a guy and another guy
were hanging down at the pier
or in the parking lot, to be exact,
where that big banyan latticed
its trailing roots across the shade.

By mid-morning the heat and the sun
and the wind turning onshore
would send us to its shelter,
and later the rain would come
and it served as our leaky umbrella,

while we watched the tourists
run to their cars and the girls,
the older girls who paid no attention
to three sunburned surf-rats,
turned their faces to the shower.

We gave them the eye, though,
those girls in their summer tans,
or the corner of the eye,
and maybe they appreciated
the admiration or maybe not.

The older guys would have said
things, did say things when they
hung there in the evening,
but we only thought them
and felt cooler for doing so.


The sidewalk had been shoved up,
broken into concrete triangles
and trapezoids and other shapes
that could be described mathematically
by someone else, gray where they

had not been stained by the rain
percolating through the leaves
and sand had crept across,
to be removed now-and-again
by someone from the city crew.

Ten-thousand thong-sandals
would know that abstract-expressionist
collage, a season’s work for tree
and wind and rain to create
from bits and pieces left by man

and a season’s work to make anew.
I had counted the seasons beneath
the banyan, knowing they would add
up to something, someday, a sum
of summers, all in a column.

A column of rising cloud, over
the Gulf, promised thunderstorms.
That, too, was summer and the sum
of all a day was to me, then,
when the lightning painted the sky.


In the night, I have seen the banyan
and none beneath it but the lone
drinker, taking solace in darkness
and muscatel. In the night,
as I detoured on the way home

from my job, I would remember
my addition and wonder whether
I totaled it up all wrong.
The answer was always too high
for it to matter, anyway.

They tore down the old hotel
to expand the parking lot
and put in meters and a guard
and no one hangs out there now
or sits in screened porches

watching what used to be
over gin and tonic and citronella.
The girls are still there, though,
and their bikinis smaller than when
I was a kid, skating

the bumpy sidewalk to the banyan.
That’s illegal now, too,
but the surf still blows out by late
morning and it still rains
almost every summer afternoon.

Stephen Brooke ©2012

This is VERY MUCH early draft and may change quite a lot. Longer poems are more likely to do that, anyway, as there is more to them, more ideas that can be finessed, changed, rewritten, whereas a short piece is often one thought, complete in itself.

That opening line was suggested by my high-school English teacher, Mr Kearney, and I’ve been holding onto it for forty-some years now. He’d heard someone use it and always said that he wanted to put it into a story. For all I know, maybe he did but I’m stealing it anyway.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


I start from the proposition that all things are metaphor. We understand them through the labels we apply to their existence.

This does not mean that they have no separate reality. There is a difference between being and understanding that being. We understand these things that are only in part, through the structures we create.

The foremost method of constructing these is language, but there are non-linguistic metaphors as well. A painting is a visual metaphor. A page of sheet music is a visual metaphor for something we might hear – something that is ‘real’ but we can not directly understand except through words, through notes on a page, even through a memory of the physical act of playing it – a kinetic metaphor, one might say.

For that matter, it could be through the scientist’s graph of sound waves. All of these are the piece of music, in part, metaphors for its existence, yet they are not its totality. We can never fully grasp nor voice that. We can, however, edge ever closer to it, triangulate on its being, that reality we feel in the wordless center of ourselves.

Note that what we feel, that which goes before the metaphor (and which becomes metaphor by the act of acknowledging and naming it), is no more the thing, the totality, than is the metaphor. It is the question, not the answer. There is no magic, unconscious path to understanding. We understand by defining, by building our structures, by metaphor.

Every image in a poem or story is, then, metaphor. Every metaphor is an image, as well, a snap shot of reality from one moment and one angle. What goes on before and after, from a different vantage point? That can only be suggested.

As I see it, that is the primary purpose of poetry (and the arts in general), to suggest those other views, those other parts and aspects of reality that we know also exist. Again, we do this through metaphor, grasping after the totality which must forever remain beyond our reach. By creating symbols and images we take the mind in new directions, help it see that reality from the elusive different vantage. We increase our understanding. We find our enlightenment.

Our feet may remain firmly planted in the mud of our everyday lives but, through a poem, we may glimpse being from a place among the stars, from the depths of hell or the heights of heaven. Or from one step to the left – come over here and take a look.


Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Name, a poem


The poem began as magic.
In conclave of fire, beating
spear-butt time, they chanted
the name of their quarry.

To name it is to have
a power over it.
This has always been
the goal, to name

the unnameable, make
it ours. To work the magic
of the hunt in fire-filled
night, before we go forth

to bloody our spears.

Stephen Brooke ©2012

This is the first poem I’ve written out on paper instead of a computer screen in ages. Seems to still work okay.

Stuff Up in Space

Having reread ‘A Princess of Mars’ a little while ago, I got the urge to revisit all the Burrough’s Barsoom books. Alas, although I had them all at one point – from my teens, actually – they were among the volumes I lost in the ‘Storm of the Century’ flood in ‘93.

So, seeing the entire oeuvre being remaindered in the Edward R Hamilton catalog, I ordered it: three thick paperbacks put out by Disney to accompany the ‘John Carter’ movie.

It is unlikely I shall write reviews of them. They are, as I remember, all entertaining (though some more than others, naturally) but a review of one pretty much covers the entire series.

* * *

In other news about spending money, I have someone coming, at last, to take down the giant oak. It had to be done, even if it goes over a couple thousand to remove it. If nothing else, it should improve my television reception!

I’ll try to take some pics during the felling.

It will also give me a new large area to plant stuff. Pear trees, probably, maybe figs. It could be a good spot for a veggie garden too.

The other trees, I can ring and/or take down myself. That’s among my many projects for this year.

* * *

And yet more: I’ve finally given up on trying to deal with my execrable dial-up connection and ordered satellite internet. Pricey compared to DSL but I can’t wait forever for AT&T to make that available. It’s considerably faster than DSL as well, which is pretty much what finally decided me.

Yes, the upload is not nearly as fast as the download (but still pretty good), yes, there is a data limit (which I am highly unlikely to exceed), yes, it can be iffy in stormy weather. It’s still better than what I’m putting up with now. I am trying to do business (of a sort) online, after all, so I can justify it as a necessary expense.

So, goodbye to NetZero. And, perhaps, goodbye to a land line altogether in a while. I can’t do the internet phone thing very well over satellite but I could get by with less cost by just getting the cheapest prepaid cell available. I call almost no one, anyway.

If I ever begin to travel again, someday, the cell phone would be useful. Not necessary – after all, I’ve gotten by my whole life without one – but useful. We’ll see about that.

Monday, May 07, 2012


I received my ‘proof’ copy of ‘The Contrary Fairy’ by today’s mail and it looks quite decent. I’m satisfied with the book and the printing, so it remains on sale at our ‘spotlight’ store at Lulu (

I’ll eventually order more copies so I can sell directly (I have my other titles on hand in various quantities, if anyone is interested). Until I can travel, that’s not really important and I am concentrating on the poetry books, anyway – those are the ones I would be likely to unload at readings or such.

When I shopped ‘Fairy’ around to traditional publishers a while back, the typical response was ‘we like it but it’s not suited to today’s market.’ In other words, people weren’t buying their children stories about fairies.

I do think that was as much a bit of institutional bias against this sort of book as anything else. Realism was big a few years ago. That fashion may have changed by now but that doesn’t matter, as I’ve chosen to go indie.

It’s also true that publishers prefer a ‘package’ on illustrated children’s books, with the artist already on board and samples of the finished work available. This is much like the music industry these days, where no one is willing to ‘develop’ artists anymore but want radio-ready product before they will sign an act.

Of course, traditional publishers have to sell thousands of copies of a title to make it worth their while. They must do so in a fairly short time, as well, so books don’t pile up in storage. An indie publisher working with the POD concept need only sell a copy now and then. A title may sell ‘forever’ on line.

That’s no reason not to buy it right now, however!