Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Calendar, a poem


The calendar is two months off,
unflipped pages reminding me

of how little time matters as day
follows nameless day. The sun

rose this morning and it will
rise tomorrow and August can call

itself June. I like the picture
for this month. I’ll look at it

a while longer and maybe let
September be June, too. Why not?

Stephen Brooke ©2013

a bit of musing pretending to be a poem

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Dem Bones

In keeping with my vegetarian ‘lifestyle’ I’ve tried to also avoid using anything made from dead animals. Obviously, things like leather — this includes the less obvious items like guitar straps, baskets, etc. that might incorporate small bits. Rather than disrespect those animals that have already given their lives, any objects I have with leather I will continue to use until they wear out.

Incidentally, in going vegetarian one must also look out for stealth animal food products such as gelatin, which may show up in various processed foods. Gelatin, of course, being made of bones and bits from animal carcasses.

Speaking of bones, I realized that some of my paints contain them. These are mostly black colors. Bone black, carbon black, ivory black are all much the same thing: burnt bones. I prefer mars black, made from iron, anyway.

And then there are brushes. I’ve long preferred stiff bristle brushes for my style of painting. When I use up the ones I have on hand, they will be replaced with synthetics. Even if I’ve yet to find a synthetic brush that’s quite as good as natural bristle.

* * *

I laid down my basic instrumental tracks for my album of children’s songs a while back and do intend to add vocals and (probably) other instruments eventually. Now I find myself rethinking them. I chose to go with a folk/old time/bluegrass sort of sound on these songs but think I might actually prefer an ‘island’ vibe on them — calypso/ska/reggae-ish.

I’ll admit to a fondness for that style of music and do play it about as much as any other. Especially calypso, which had its peak popularity in my formative years. Would it be a better choice for the kiddies? I must think upon it...

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Line or Two, a poem

A Line or Two

You should write this poem. It’s all
about you, anyway. You read,

trying to find you in the scattered
pieces of me. You read, not really

caring who I am. Come on,
take over for a line or two.

No one will know the difference.

Stephen Brooke ©2013

Monday, July 22, 2013

New Music

A brief mention that I put up a couple new pieces of music on my SoundClick page ( I'm using that site, for the time being, for demos and archiving and such. Anything more-or-less commercial will show up elsewhere.

First, one of my sort of Classical compositions, 'Three Shards,' which I wrote back in the mid-90s. This is a new rendering of the piece from midi, with fairly decent piano samples. But still, being put together by a guy who doesn't really play piano, there isn't much expression to it. That's at:

Incidentally, being a non-player, I wrote this out on paper (with occasional reference to a keyboard) when I composed it. It's just a little exercise on some pentatonic themes.

The other music is a simple demo of the song 'Ancestors,' to be found and listened to at: By the time I finished up, I realized this bit of music hall pastiche was a little too quickly tempoed. I had trouble keeping up on the vocal (being once again short-breathed from allergies didn't help) but part of the point of creating demo versions is to work out things such as that. Even at this speed it runs over four minutes -- I normally dislike long songs but what can one do? :)

Saturday, July 20, 2013


I spent much of yesterday sorting out electronic stuff for the so-called recording studio. Some of the equipment hadn’t been out of the box in the seven years since I moved here, what with so many things having been put on hold. Any recording I’ve done in that period has been through simple USB interfaces or into stand-alone recorders. Or simply plugging into the Sound Blaster card in my twelve year old XP-based machine, which now sits in ‘Studio B’ — a corner of my art studio room.

But it was the firewire equipment that I was attempting to get up and running now. FW is certainly ‘better’ in many ways than USB (even USB2). As is, at least on paper, Thunderbolt compared to USB 3. It is, however, more prone to incompatibility and other issues.

At any rate, I tried to get my Presonus Fire Pod (later renamed the FP10 when Apple bullied them out of using the word ‘pod’) working first. It’s a nice-enough interface with 8 decent built-in preamps that I used a few times back in Steinhatchee. Unfortunately, its firewire connection was dead when I powered it up. Almost certainly (it’s a common problem and not worth fixing on an old unit), the internal FW chip is defunct — I tried it out on both of my firewire-equipped recording computers. Otherwise, it works.

It would work a whole lot better, though, if it were able to communicate with the computer and update its drivers/firmware. For one thing, the preamps would be able to operate in stand-alone mode, with individual outputs. Even if it were never hooked up to a computer again, that would be fairly useful. As it is, all eight inputs are mixed to a single mono signal. Not entirely useless — I prefer to run PA in mono, usually, so I could certainly use it as an expansion unit there. Also, two of the pres DO have direct outs so at least they can be used for something.

So, disappointed there. Then I hooked up my M-Audio Profire Lightbridge (what a clunky name), updated its firmware to work with a newer PC, and had no problems at all. Which is great, in that it is much more ‘professional’ and powerful a piece of equipment anyway. Lots and lots of connectivity — probably way more than I’ll ever need!

M-Audio, at the time I purchased the unit, was a part of Avid (the Pro Tools company) but has since been sold to the folks who make Alesis and Akai and some other stuff. Fortunately, the new owners are keeping the drivers updated and available, for now. As an aside, it does seem that the big problem with compatibility on older equipment is not so much the operating systems — XP, Vista, W7, W8 — as it is the architecture — 32 bit versus 64. With everyone moving to 64 bit now, some of my older USB units are definitely on their last tour of duty.

I am slowly, as usual, getting things going on all fronts. Lots of plans, again, as usual. It is rather hot right now to close myself off and attempt anything very professional in the way of recording but I hope to work on some demo-quality things. I do have a sort of built in recording booth here in my Peanut Road house in the form of a five foot by nine foot central hallway with high ceilings. Unfortunately, it’s a bit distant from both the computers so I can’t perform and engineer at the same time! I may set up a stand-alone recorder in there, however.

All those plans will get my attention. I do still hope to start up another online literary magazine, as well as expanding the publishing thing. I will write more. I’m actually painting some for the first time in years but I also need to work on illustrations. And maybe I’ll even find time to get out-and-about some day.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Following Through

Another rainy weekend kept me from getting out and doing anything. Oh, sure, I could have anyway but I didn't feel like it. I don't feel like much of anything in this continually wet weather.

But I will, eventually. Whether it be Tallahassee or Dothan or Panama, I'll get somewhere, some time! I'm even likely to play some music. I do engage in a bit of desultory practice from time to time.

So what did I do this weekend? I wrote songs. A lot of songs. I tend to do that sort of thing in fits and flurries anyway. Essentially, I got out my folder of incomplete songs and finished off something like a dozen of them. There are others I could still work on, but I'm getting distracted now...

That brings me up to 230 finished songs now (as always, not including instrumentals and parodies). All the more reason to get out of the house and do something with them. The question is whether I should be billing myself as a folkie when I'm liable to bust out with metal-like stuff or show tunes. :)

Sunday, July 14, 2013


Yukie was the name of a French-Canadian carpenter who used to work for my dad. Yukie being short for Euclid. Crotchety old fellow but he'd show up for work, which is a lot more than can be said for many another.

But that has nothing to do with this post. I thought of him and his name only because I just ordered a new ukulele. I've been hankering for something inexpensive, concert or tenor-sized, that I could carry around without fuss nor worry. This is what I bought:

It's a Cordoba 25CB, all-bamboo concert ukulele. Nothing special but the deal was very, very good ($99 at Musician's Friend, where I usually prefer not to shop, in that they are owned by Bain, but this was too sweet a deal to pass by).

I think I'm going to name her 'Boo.' Not Yukie...but that's a name that should end up in a story some day, isn't it?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Chipped Cup, a vignette

The Chipped Cup

Robbie kept his marbles in a chipped cup. There were aggies and cat's eyes but what he loved most were the deep, clear blues and greens. Robbie never chanced losing those in schoolyard rings.

He would look at them in the evenings, before bedtime, holding them up to the light, imagining them as realms of distant space, the little bubbles, planets swimming through the light of unknown stars. Then, they would return to their cup, with its chipped edge, one darkened seam tracking through the pink and yellow roses.

Some nameless Japanese craftsman had painted them, back before the war, and there had been a complete set. All lost or broken now, as was the world from which they came. Robbie' grandfather had fought in that war and it was always The War in their house, despite those since.

Robbie's father had missed those other wars, too young for Korea, finishing his stint in the air force before Vietnam heated up. Only the Cold War for him, long boring flights over the Atlantic where submarines played hide and seek in waters deeper and clearer than any glass marble.

He had kept his pocket change in the cup for a while, before his wife decided it was too shabby to be sitting out. So it became Robbie's.

Someday, he would outgrow marbles and then perhaps Robbie would put his own pocket change into the cracked cup. Or paperclips or guitar picks or anything else one might think of. Then again, old china cups have a way of meeting with the floor eventually, especially when in the care of ten-year-olds.

But, for now, Robbie kept his marbles in the chipped cup.

Stephen Brooke ©2013

I refer to this as a 'vignette' rather than a short story, in that there is no plot. Thought that doesn't seem to bother many short story writers! ;) As with most of what I post here, it is early-draft work and certainly subject to change. Perhaps substantial change.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Inertia, a poem


I had a television that only worked
when I turned it on its side so I spent
a year watching it while lying on my side
until it finally stopped working at all.

Maybe I’m cheap or maybe I just let
inertia have its way. Not that inertia
has a way; it just sits there, right?
Sometimes I’ve just sat there, too, waiting

for life to chew me up and spit out
the bones. But that gets boring, after
a while, as boring as lying on my side
in bed, watching a sideways television.

Stephen Brooke ©2013

One of my relatively rare forays into free verse---most of my stuff has at least an accentual rhythm to it. Could I have carried this idea further? I know that many poets would, but I trimmed it down to three verses rather than bore you...and myself.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Jesse James

Jesse James was a lad that killed many a man,
He robbed the Danville Train;
He stole from the rich, and he gave to the poor,
He'd a hand and a heart and a brain. 

The story of Jesse James offers an insight into why so many poor (and not so poor) Southerners, who seemed to have no investment in slavery or in the continuation of the plantation system, supported the secessionist cause in the Civil War. One need only look at the targets of James’s own personal continued war.

Many a Southerner identified the bankers and the railroads that were squeezing the small farmer with ‘the North.’ They felt, and often with good cause, that these forces were grinding them down, becoming ever more powerful and wealthy at the expense of the common man.

Jesse James was a man, a friend to the poor,
He'd never see a man suffer pain,
And with his brother Frank, he robbed the Chicago bank,
And stopped the Glendale train.

The largely agrarian South was certainly being hit hard by these economic and political changes. Many believed that their whole way of life was threatened and that included, unfortunately, slavery and other home-grown injustices — they didn’t have to look to the North for those.

The Civil War was fought over a tangled host of reasons, that is certain. These do include the early stirrings of the populist agrarian movements that would blossom later in the century. It is not surprising, then, that post-war Southerners eventually made common cause with Northern progressives. There would have been no New Deal without Southern Democrats coming on board.

The people held their breath, when they heard of Jesse's death...

Though history has laid poor Jesse in his grave, and he lost his war, it is a struggle that still goes on. Today, Wall Street runs right across the nation and it is no longer a matter of North and South, or West and East. These are just some thoughts brought on by the folk song, Jesse James, which is very much in the us-versus-them populist spirit of its time. We may all need a bit of that spirit, Jesse’s spirit, in us, one of these days.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Flow, a poem


The slowly flowing ichor of these hours
fills me, chokes my veins, and all ambition
sleeps, lulled by subdued and subtle rhythms
of heat, insistent wordless songs of night.

Rain whispers at the glass, reminding me
of each promise life once made. Tomorrow,
they may lie forgotten, to be tripped
upon and cursed, debris of some time past,

and day will slowly flow from the horizon.

Stephen Brooke ©2013

Maybe early draft, maybe finished --- I'll know eventually but it needs to sit and age a bit.