Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Halloween has never been a favorite holiday of mine. In fact, I pretty much ignore it. It is a holiday about...nothing.

The next day really is a holiday, of course. Or a holy day, more properly — All Saint’s Day. Nothing much to celebrate there, in the worldly sense, but a day to remember all the good folks that have gone before us.

But Halloween? Dressing up like someone — or something — else? It seems kind of pointless to me. But then, so do most things people do for ‘fun.’

I guess fun has never been much fun for me. My recreations all tend to be about doing something. Preferably well. To lose myself in them as surely as in a drug.

So I won’t be donning any costumes. I didn’t buy any candy. I don’t carve pumpkins unless I intend to cook them.

And that’s something for the next big holiday, Thanksgiving. Pumpkin pie!

Storms, Cities, Change

What did the storms Sandy and Katrina tell us? Aside from strengthening the argument that the climate is changing, they also pointed out the problems that arise from having densely populated areas.

We no longer need large cities. New Orleans and New York City both have one primary reason for existing: they are ports. All the rest that goes on in those two cities could be done anywhere.

There is no need for New York to be a financial center. We do not need to have people in Manhattan skyscrapers. They could do the same work from computers in Iowa or Montana. If we continue to pack humans into cities, we will have more Katrina and Sandy disasters. We will have another World Trade Center catastrophe.

Of course, if global warming goes as many predict, both the aforementioned cities will be underwater in the not-too-distant future. Then their populations really will decrease.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Coffee, a poem


Breakfast. Again, you did not
make enough coffee for both
of us. Too used to being
alone, I suppose, to pouring

out a cup or two for yourself
as you do your morning doings.
Each of those little acts
adds up to a performance

of life-goes-on, of work
now and we’ll see each other
later on, maybe tomorrow night?
Whatever. It’s all the same

to me, the guy going nowhere.
Right now, that road leads
through you and probably
past you to another

empty space, another roadside
stop where I will try to rest
and maybe find some change
for the coffee machine.

Stephen Brooke ©2012

Resistance is Futile

Resistance is Futile.

Yes, the Borg’s favorite greeting. We all know it from Star Trek. But is that where it began?

Forty-some years earlier, Edgar Rice Burroughs used the phrase (more than once — he must have liked it) in his novel ‘Llana of Gathol.’ Did he coin it?

I don’t know. Quite possibly other authors used it earlier but one thing is likely: the writers of Star Trek knew the work of ERB and borrowed it from him.

I’m drawing near the end of my read-through of the entire Burroughs Barsoom series, ‘Llana’ being the last complete novel of the set. The later books are entertaining enough but the best stuff is in the earlier novels, especially the first one, ‘A Princess of Mars.’ They do become formulaic and lack some of the wonder of the planet that is John Carter’s Mars.

Actually, ‘Llana of Gathol’ manages to recapture a bit of the magic, and avoids becoming another sci-fi adventure potboiler. And, as with most of the series, there is certain amount of slightly tongue-in-cheek social commentary.

I first read through these books as a teen. I suppose I had gone through most of them twice by the time I graduated high school, having started in on Burroughs at age twelve. They were my gateway to science fiction and fantasy in general. Alas, my paperback collection fell victim to the ‘Storm of the Century’ in ‘93 (along with my much more valuable comics collection).

But I did have to replenish the books eventually. Resistance was, indeed, futile. Maybe I should start in on the Tarzan novels next...or Pellucidar...or the ‘land that time forgot’...well, I’ll go for something when I see a deal like my current Barsoom set pop up again.

* * *

Speaking of the Storm of the Century, it looks like we have a 21st Century version going on. Some of the sites I normally visit of a morning are down. The scenario of Sandy is not a great deal different from that of 1993, extra-cold front hitting extra-warm tropical hair. Fortunately – for me, that is – it isn’t in the Gulf this time.

Is climate change responsible? No doubt. Expect more folks. When you rile up Mother Nature, resistance is futile.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Reading and Writing

I finished off my reading of ‘Vanity Fair,’ — mentioned a couple posts back — and am still quite impressed with the novel. Right up there in the Top Ten, as far as I’m concerned. My review is at my Good Reads page:

What else is in Steve’s Top Ten List? That would take some thought... ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ for certain. I adore Tolkien’s prose style (and the story is pretty good too). Maybe Hemingway’s ‘The Sun Also Rises.’ Some would consider ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ to be his best but I find it plodding. Others? I must think upon it.

On the subject of Hemingway, here are two passages of his on writing:

"A few things I have found to be true. If you leave out important things or events that you know about, the story is strengthened. If you leave or skip something because you do not know it, the story will be worthless. The test of any story is how very good the stuff that you, not your editors, omit." (this is about the Iceberg Principle or theory of omission)

"No good book has ever been written that has in it symbols arrived at beforehand and stuck in....I tried to make a real old man, a real boy, a real sea, a real fish and real sharks. But if I made them good and true enough they would mean many things. The hardest thing is to make something really true and sometimes truer than true." (on ‘The Old Man and the Sea’)

Excellent advice, I would say. And, interestingly, Thackeray knew to do something of that sort in his novel. As breezy as it sometimes appears, there is much that goes unsaid, much that is only suggested, much that remains hidden, and a great deal that is ‘truer than true.’ I like that.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Nothing Matters, a poem


Nothing matters, I tell myself
as many times a day as needed
like taking aspirin each four hours
for the chronic pain of life.

Nothing matters, I say, and it
is or isn’t true and that
doesn’t matter either, does it?
A mantra of indifference weaves

the hours together, pages of
my daily office, read in duty
and allowed to pass. Tomorrow will be
and I murmur, nothing matters.

Stephen Brooke ©2012

I think of my poems as being spoken by characters in a novel. They are not 'me' in any direct sense but explorations of different points of view. I may or may not agree with them and I'm not telling which is which. That's how art works.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Vanity Fair

I’ve been cruising through Thackeray’s long novel, ‘Vanity Fair,’ a chapter or two at a time. It’s not a book one needs to read straight through but can be approached much like episodes of a television series. I suppose it could almost be seen as a soap opera of sorts.

If so, it is an extraordinarily good one. As I approach the last few chapters, I’m inclined to say that this is THE novel — forget its rough contemporaries such as ‘Moby Dick’ or ‘War and Peace.’

Okay, that’s facetious. None the less, I do prefer it. I think, despite its wittiness and satire, it is a truer study of humanity than either of the others. It also seems, after a hiatus in its popularity, to be in tune with Modern (or Post-Modern or Whatever) sensibilities. VF did go out of fashion for a while, when critics, and those who thought themselves such, demanded more ‘realism’ in their reading.

Would that I had read this novel thirty or forty years ago! Or would I have not appreciated it then? At this point, I can only say that it is now one of my Very Favorite Books.

Comings and Goings

If anyone out there caught ‘Mean Mary’ James’s appearance on the WMNF ‘Morning Show’ this morning (Oct 19 – you can listen to a recording of the show on their website), she mentioned that there will be two new albums coming out, one of her Mean Mary folk/old time style of music and one more folk-rockish, under the name ‘Mary James Band.’

Which I consider a good thing. Though I like Mary’s newer, more Americana, more banjo-oriented recordings – and recognize they are a good move in terms of marketing herself – I really preferred the alternative folk-rock sound on the earlier albums, such as ‘The Beauty and Mystery of Life (still available at her site).’

And I’m glad she’s not limiting herself. It’s great to be recognized as a banjo virtuoso but there is only so much audience for it.

* * *

A few of my readers may have noticed that I left Face Book again – not that anyone much followed me or my pages there. It will be permanent this time — I’ve made enough trials with and without FB to decide that.

I’ve undergone a general housecleaning. My Word Press blog, ‘Ranger Reviews,’ is gone. So is my Twitter account. All the pages I had at My Space have also been swept away. They served no purpose.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Plastic Shiv

A mention here that I started a new blog last week, dedicated to surfing and my intentions to reunite with my inner surfer. It is named 'The Plastic Shiv' and is found at:

More than any other identity I might have -- poet, painter, musician, etc -- surfer is perhaps closest to the core of who I really am. Nowhere else do I feel as direct a connection to life.

To Boldly Go (to the polls)

This is the year of the Star Trek election.

Obama is portrayed by his opponents as cold, secretive, tyrannical: a Romulan.

Romney, on the other hand (that would be the left one), is seen as a Ferengi, motivated only by profit, and disdainful of any who can't compete in his game.

Which would you prefer as your Alien Overlord?

Maybe we should have elected that Klingon who ran last time...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Cripple Creek

The Mean Niece last weekend, playing Cripple Creek on her brand new banjo. Mary is touring Florida for the next couple weeks.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Hole, a poem


Some days this hole goes so deep
I wish someone would come
along and fill it up.

Throw that dirt in, let me
wake on the other side
of forever. Dawn may

remember my name when time
is an empty glass
or maybe night will have

no end but its own.
It tells no one. It only
lets us sleep.

Stephen Brooke ©2012

Just a little thought, quickly jotted down.