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* (Asterisk)

by Derek Brink

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I thought that I saw Kurt Vonnegut singing in the church. He was singing about life being beautiful and how none of it ever hurt. He said this about that and that about this and the whole thing came with an asterisk. You’d have to be a robot to be a Humanist. So it goes and so it is.
The War 03:03
Springtime was somewhere in there. The smell of death in the air. The birds all sang with despair as the teapot expired... as the last shot was fired... When it was all over we were nothing but older. Someday we'll finally grow closer if the accident wills... if our coffins aren't filled... No will to fight the good fight. Every moment the end is in sight. What are the poor people doing tonight? Is revenge all we know? So it is. So it goes. Isn't that how the war began-- turning man into “superman?” Sacrificed to the master plan. Isn't that how we died? Wasn't God on our side?
You’ve got to laugh. You’ve got to laugh. Laughter is no worse than tears. Look what a mess we’ve made. Can’t think at all these days. If this is how exhaustion pays it’s a wonder we get things done. All the best jokes are true. And the truth is the joke’s on you. There’s nothing you can do, so you might as well have fun. (You’re not the only one.) Chorus We’re all so far apart. But look at how close we are. It shouldn’t be this hard to just be civilized. With a little less suffering we could live like Gods and kings. If history proves anything then we just might be surprised. (But until such time…) Chorus When I am with you, there’s no doubt that we’re perfect. No need for anyone else. Each time I miss you, I know it’s not worth it to try it myself. I cannot see you, but I can feel you. I begin where you end. Wherever you’ve gone to, part of me goes too and I always have been. If more people had this, maybe we could cure sadness. What would be left to weep for? Can you imagine the gladness? To be rid of the madness? To be lonesome no more? Chorus
We’re colder to each other than we’ve ever been. The machines are winning and we’ll let them win. If we ever switch them off, we’ll switch them on again. And we’ll find a way to be happy or not in the end. Plug me in and turn me on. I’m getting something, but I think the wiring’s wrong. Next thing you know the signal’s gone, gone, gone. It might have been broken all along. (Maybe it’s a malfunction.) Isolation is easy. It’s revolution that’s hard. Stand up and be counted whoever you are. It doesn’t really matter what you’re fighting for. It’s up to you to choose the master you adore. Chorus An automaton myself I can’t prevent my fall from grace. Guilty of crimes against myself, much less the human race. To crack the code, I’d have to know what I said in the first place. In the universal chess match even my castle isn’t safe. What a disgrace! Chorus
Men…we’ve got to face it. We’ve been given our due shot. But we made war and then we made war some more and we messed everything up. We did our best We pounded our chests. We enslaved each other, and we enslaved our brides. We’re slaves to our own egos and we’ve got nowhere left to hide. We can deny it, we can try to fight it, we can act like our rights are on the line. But it’s over, it’s done, it’s finished. It’s no secret. We’ve had our time. A monkey into a monkey house. All we do is rape and feed. And we act like we’re doing a favor for anyone we make bleed. But now, it’s the woman’s turn to lead. I’m never going to be a woman. So I know I’ll never really understand. But when I look at the news and I hear a friend say it happened to her too… There’ve been a lot of times I wished I wasn’t a man. Now I’m not throwing stones. I look in the mirror and know I’ve got fingers pointing back at me. But I’m tired of the privilege. I’m ready to give it up. No one should’ve given it to me. Men… We’re terrible and we know it. Some of us even celebrate it. And we’re wrong. But change starts with you and it starts with #MeToo. So I’m asking you to sing along. Now it’s the woman’s turn to lead.
This is the way that the world will end. Humans on display in front of school kids. Somewhere back in time, it’s all starting again. You might feel it coming, but you can’t change what you did. This is the way that the world will end. Is this all that has become of us? Dresden to ashes. New York to dust. Hero or the villain: Become what you must. And God will come to join you. God will come destroy you. This is the way that the world will end. Lunatics disguised as Christians while the Prophet Jeremiah weeps his eyes out again. Smoke ‘em while you’ve got ‘em and share some with a friend. This is the way that the world will end. Is this all that we’ve evolved for? If we can’t live forever, why fight it anymore? Step into the blue light and set sail for different shores. And all your ghosts will follow you. Or the loneliness will swallow you. This is the way that the world will end…
Doesn’t matter if it’s raining. Doesn’t matter if it’s raining. Doesn’t matter if it’s raining. We can make it rain. Don’t let your brother get you down. You both do what you’re able. Don’t let your father scare you now. There’s no damn cat or cradle. Chorus Don’t let your heroes get you down. Their lies are only human. Don’t let your mother hurt you now. It’s cold. Best to keep moving. Chorus Busy, busy, busy—-very busy… Destroying the whole world. Busy, busy… Don’t let me slow you down. Building pressure-- building, building building all the time. So much pressure, pressure, we could almost drown. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining.
The insanity of generosity is never far from my mind. With an excess of bread why not build a table instead of a fence to hide it behind? I suffer from love and God knows above, that’s a terrible way to die. But when I look in the face of the whole human race, it’s so wounded that I could cry. Through all of the anger, all the despair, all of the killing and greed… In the arms of the destitute, you’ll find me there, embracing every misdeed. With a drink and a prayer to be free. Imagine the world’s greatest author, but a man of no fortune or fame. He writes down a word for the love of the word. Unwritten, it causes him pain. Every book knows it’s a book and some of them know their own names. If you’re ever in doubt, swim upstream like a Trout, if only for love of the game. Through all of the laughter, all of the fun, all of the science-fiction… With a light in the tunnel and a hand on the gun, let this be my benediction. Through all of the damage done, all of the guilt, every mistake that was mine… For all of the accolades, my epaulets, there’s one thing I leave behind. It burdens me deeply, I want you to know. For as long as the sun, it may shine… There’s one truth that’s left, babies, one I can find… God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.
I feel like an actor only acting to react. Powerless to change it but knowing what comes next. To begin at the beginning is too far to walk things back. I was sick so long, now there’s work to do forever I expect. What’s done is done until you do it all again. Lay your burdens down. You may as well be original if you’re going to sin. I feel like a writer with a deadline overhead. Out of ink, or so I think. Or maybe the printer’s dead. A copy of a copy of another treatment read. I’ve been gone so long that it all feels wrong and I want to go to bed. So take your time and be careful of what you pretend to be. What’s gone is gone. Just having the will doesn’t make the will free. We are here to celebrate all that’s been left up to fate. Thank God it’s not too late. It would be a shame to go it alone. We’re here to help each other out. To turn a whisper to a shout. Who knows what life is all about. We’re all just thumbing our way home. You can’t change the past. When it becomes the present, you’ve just got to forgive. So speak these words: “If this isn’t nice, then I don’t know what is.”
I don’t know how I got here, but I know where to go. And I think I know everything that I need to know. If you’re looking for answers, I have none and I’ll tell you so. I’ve just been going along with the flow. I know how this must look. I know how I must sound. I swear that I’m not crazy. I’ve just been around. I’ve seen a lot of worry and unhappiness abound. I wish everybody could have the complacency I’ve found. Greetings from far away. You’re lucky to be here today. You don’t have long to stay. Everything ends, come what may. All around you is chaos. Look around at what you’ve lost. Only you can carry your cross. Only you know the cost. No need to act so deliriously. I meant nothing mysteriously. If it all goes wrong, don’t go blaming me. When the real problem is you took me to seriously. Chorus Where has this freedom been all of my life? It feels like this moment should be paradise. But I just want to be young again. Why should that make me cry? Shouldn’t I just be happy to be alive?
Beloved, I forgive you. You know not what you’ve done. I know that you mean well and this is all in fun. You’ll show me nothing new under the sun. So I hope you’ll forgive me too, if it seems I’ve already won. For all you’ve learned and all you gave. For all your hope beyond the grave. For every pious word you say I can’t take any more. What are you so afraid of? It’s all a labor of love-- forgiving everything… forgetting everything… and doing good. One thought I would give you that would serve you well. The Beatitudes are Jesus. The Ten Commandments are Hell. As long as there’s a lower class or a prisoner in a cell, there we see our brothers and there we see ourselves. For all that’s standing in our way. For every price we’ve yet to pay. For every word betrayed, just lay down your-- lay down your arms. And follow someone beautiful. Imagine something wonderful. And only fight for peace. Only fight for peace…
I like my dog and he likes me. We talk a while and it's plain to see that he's human. I like my songs. They speak for me. They show me God. They're all I need for my amusement. One thing you can always believe is that we all just got here. Since the Garden of Adam and Eve we all just got here. And we're not here long enough to sort it all out. Don't let 'em say any different: We're just here to fart about. I like jazz and cigarettes. I'm sad sometimes when I forget to forget the unimportant things. I like things that give me hope, that show up as a trope, make fun of the joke and leave on angel's wings. In the amber of the moment there is no “why.” All that really matters is that you're alive. And life will try to kill you. So get ready for the fight. The little things aren't the little things. And everything is just nothing with a little twist. Do something. Make something. Be anything. Just show the world that you exist. Chorus


This album took ten years. Maybe longer. For 9.999 of those years, the title was going to be "Songs for Kurt," until someone who didn't believe in the project told me that not only was the project itself a bad idea, the title would make people think I was referring to Kurt Cobain. They were undebatably at least half right. So I titled it with simple punctuation. If you want to say the album title out loud, I guess it’s just called “Asterisk.” But Vonnegut purists will know that a better title would be “a picture of an asshole.” That’s what the asterisk represents in Vonnegut lore.

When I was a teenager, I got a copy of “Cat’s Cradle” as a gift because I’d heard it was good. I read it and fell in love. It wasn’t until a decade or so later that I finally read “Slaughterhouse-Five.” Most people probably do that in the opposite order. So what?

In my early to mid 20s I made it a point to read all of Vonnegut’s work. I completed that, and as a songwriter some lyrics came out of it. I started stashing them away, thinking I’d do an album of lessons learned from reading Vonnegut at the end of whatever year that was. I started working on it and soon decided it was too big a task. I wasn’t ready for it as a writer or player. Some of those early songs found their ways into other things. Some didn’t. Some of those are here now. One of the songs here is an excerpt of a song I released on the “Sorry, I Didn’t Mean to Shout” release in 2017. (You should go download that too, if you haven’t.) I started reading Vonnegut again last year. I’m a better, quicker, smarter songwriter now (it happens) and lyrics came much easier. So did melodies. And here we are.

This album is about forgiveness in the midst of despair. It’s the most human thing you can do and the best thing Vonnegut taught me. The album still works if you don’t know Vonnegut’s stuff. But you should read it anyway.


released November 11, 2018


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Derek Brink St Louis, Missouri

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