Dispatch from the Home Front

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Hello everyone. I hope you're all doing well and staying safe in these perilous times.

I haven't posted in a long time, for a variety of reasons. Work has been very busy (I'm grateful to have a job, needless to say), and we're nearing a big deadline. I've also been working on two large personal writing projects as time permits, one of which I'll share here when I finally finish (hopefully in the next 4-6 weeks, if work eases up at long last). And finally, I'm dealing with a health issue that has impacted my energy level to an extent I haven't dealt with in quite some time. (I'll be OK; it's taken a toll that will require some time and rest to heal.)

The other reason it's been a while is a side effect of the horror show that is the United States the past four years. I had nearly finished a lengthy post about the ongoing destruction of my country by the traitor in the White House and his fellow travelers in the US Senate and the House (which fortunately is controlled by the party that actually loves America), but I decided to remove nearly all of it. (I suppose my views are pretty clear from the previous sentence, aren't they?)

I rarely write about politics here, although I have very strong views and support a number of causes with both my time and money. But what I'm witnessing here on a daily turns my stomach. To think that 30-35% of the population is perfectly OK with what is is going on makes me ashamed to share a country with them.

Suffice it to say that I am doing everything in my power, inconsequential though it may be, to help ensure that they are completely, totally, utterly annihilated at every single level of government, from the White House to dog catcher, in the election this November. And then I want to watch them suffer the consequences of their betrayal of everything this country, flawed though it may be, is supposed to stand for. And make no mistake: the good people of this country are going to make sure they face their day of reckoning, one way or another. Count on it.

OK, time to move on to more upbeat matters, for my own sake. (Rage is not a healthy place to reside for very long, and I spend far too much time there already.)  Follow along below the fold for the fun stuff.

Musings: Lost Together

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Hello all - hope this finds you and yours safe and well. In these difficult, challenging days, staying connected and maintaining perspective are more important than ever.

I'm working from home these days, as are many of us. And while it's challenging - I'm prone to depression, and I've been going through a difficult stretch for quite a while, for a number of reasons - I'm doing my best to counteract the feelings of loneliness and uncertainty by keeping in mind those who are making huge sacrifices for all of us.

People like my sister:

The photo is from a front page story in Saturday's Boston Globe. She's a nurse practitioner, and she and her colleagues at the clinic where she works are providing drive-through testing for the coronavirus. Here's another photo of her in action - she's at the car window.

People like my sister and her colleagues, the staff at the supermarket where I went shopping Thursday evening, the pharmacist at the drugstore where I picked up my estrogen patches on Friday evening, and many, many others are genuine heroes. It's encouraging to see people (not all of them, unfortunately, but quite a few) recognize them as such. I made it a point to thank the staff at the pharmacy and the supermarket to let them know their efforts are not going unnoticed. Even though times are challenging, thinking of them helps me to maintain perspective.

In the weeks and months to come there will be a great deal of speculation about how the world will change because of the pandemic. As horrific as it has been, and will continue to be, we can hope that it will inspire a more compassionate, equitable society once we get to the other side (and we will get to the other side). 

On a personal note, I've been feeling stuck in a rut, both professional and personally, for far too long. I had already begun taking tentative steps to break out of it when the pandemic hit with full force. While I don't know how long it will take for things to return to some semblance of normalcy, I know that where I have been is no longer enough for me. I feel I have more to offer the world than what I've been doing. 

I don't quite know how to get where I want to be, but I'm reminded of when I started my transition. I didn't know how to do that either - and yet here I am, living as myself at long last. If I can do that, I can do anything I put my mind to.

The first part of that will be appearing at this site in the weeks to come. I have something I've needed to write for a long, long time, and I've been putting it off and putting it off because I know how painful it will be. But I've realized that not writing it is holding me back from fully living. So, I've started work on it. It will be difficult, and will take time, but I have faith that finishing it will provide clarity and a sense of purpose. I can't prove it; I just know that it will lead me to be doing what I was put here to do. So, please bear with me. I hope others will find the result worthwhile as well.

In the meantime, please be safe, take care of your loved ones, and remember that we are all lost together.

 That's the title track from Blue Rodeo's 1992 album. They close every concert with this, and you can see why in this great live version from Halifax, Nova Scotia from a few years ago:

In case you're wondering, the handsome young gent singing the second verse solo is Devin Cuddy, the son of Jim Cuddy, one of the two songwriters in the band (along with Greg Keelor, who wrote and sings this song). That is one proud papa looking on as he sings. 😊

And on that happy note we will wrap this up. See you soon, everyone...

Cassi-DJ: Featuring My Nephew C!

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Hello all - hope you're having a good winter so far and are doing well.

I meant to write about this last week, but I was under the weather nearly the entire time with a low-grade bug of some sort. I'm still dealing with an iffy stomach off and on, but I feel well enough otherwise.

In any event, better late than never to mention that I was on my friend Mike's radio program yesterday morning with a special guest: none other than my nephew C, as in the Conversations with C series. :c)

I've written about C's serious health issues the past two years, but I'm very happy to report he's doing much, much better. He's slowly regaining the weight he lost, as well as his energy level. (He was meeting friends to play basketball after the show, in fact, albeit with frequent rest breaks.)

Mike and Cs have been friends since C's childhood. When I lived in Seattle, I would come back to Boston for the holidays a few days before Christmas. It became a tradition for the three of us to get together my first day back and head into Boston to look at the Christmas lights, followed by dinner at C's favorite restaurant, a three minute walk from Mike's apartment, then an evening watching movies and listening to music.

Years later C told us how much those visits meant to him. "I was only six years old when we started hanging out tougher, but neither of you ever treated me like a kid," he said. ("That's because you were already smarter than Cass and I combined, even at that age," Mike joked. :D)

Accordingly, it was a natural for Mike to tell C he had an open invitation to join us on his show, and, after several cancellations over the past year-plus because of C's health, we finally made it happen yesterday.

As it turns out, C is a natural on the radio. Being on air and hearing your own voice through studio quality headphones can be disconcerting for first-timers, but C handled it with his usual aplomb. In fact, he even took part in an interview Mike conducted with Tyler Morris, a Tufts graduate student who is also a superb blues guitarist and songwriter (watch out for that name, folks - he's releasing his next album in March).

In response to a question from Mike, Tyler mentioned that he sings for the first time on the album, which prompted C to ask several questions about what that was like, comparing it to his experiences as a nursing student working with patients for the first time. He and Tyler had an interesting discussion about the process of gaining confidence and learning to trust yourself; all Mike and I had to do was sit back and listen, smiling. (Mike jokingly asked C if he wanted to take over the rest of the show so he and I could go for coffee.)

When I sit in Mike graciously allows me to program a five song set, which I passed over to C this time around. He spent several hours Friday evening working out his set list, apologizing to Mike at one point for the number of text messages he was sending as he refined it. Mike, being a pro, told him an apology wasn't necessary, and that it was the mark of a professional to spend that much time on it.

Not surprisingly, C's set list was quite good. While he listens to a wide variety of music, he decided to focus on dance-oriented artists at Mike's suggestion. "That isn't my area of expertise, and it's always great to expose listeners - and myself - to things they wouldn't normally hear on my show," he said. While I only knew one of the songs C played (Frank Ocean's "Lost," from his Channel Orange album), I was impressed with how well the set flowed.

Things went so well that we'll be back with Mike next month on the 21st, when Tyler will be performing with his band live in the studio. We're also making plans to attend one of Tyler's record release shows. I'm already looking forward to both!

That will do it for now. Hope to have my next post up sooner - have a great week in the meantime, everyone!


Thought I would feature several albums I've been enjoying recently.

First up, one from The Drive By Truckers new album The Unraveling. This is the eerie "Rosemary with a Bible and a Gun." I usually post live tracks, but the studio version is so striking I went with that instead:

Next up is one from a terrific Canadian songwriter, William Prince. Here's "The Spark," from his excellent second album Reliever, which came out just over a week ago. This was recorded live in his hometown of Winnipeg for the CBC:

He's just beginning to get the recognition he deserves (Neil Young is a big fan), so be sure to check him out. You won't regret it.

Last but by no means least, here's "St. Peter's Bay," the lovely lead-off track from Canadian songwriter Sarah Harmer's long-awaited Are You Gone, her first album in ten years:

This was recorded at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Vaughan, Ontario. I'll be seeing her in April up in Canada with my friends A and B, so I'll have more Sarah in a future post. Stay tuned!

(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Boots

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Hello, all. Hope your holiday season has been a pleasant one. 

As I mentioned in my last post, this isn't my favorite time of year, as is the case for many of us. Last year was particularly difficult; I was dealing with a nastier-than-usual bout of depression, for reasons that still escape me. Fortunately, this year, while still not great, has at least been tolerable. That said, I'm glad it's nearly over for another year.

We had crazy weather here the past two days. We received well over two inches of precipitation, all told. I say "precipitation" because it ran the gamut, changing literally from minute to minute at some points. We had snow, sleet, ice, freezing rain, and (mostly/fortunately) plain old rain. Oh, and gale force winds (of course).

At one point last evening we were simultaneously experiencing sleet, hail, and - wait for it - thunder and lightning. That was a first, even for New England. We received over an inch of sleet in less than an hour; luckily it switched back over to a drenching rain, which washed nearly all of it away.

In spite of the less-than-hospitable conditions, my feet stayed dry and toasty as I made my way around - the result of a fortuitous, spur-of-the moment purchase I made while visiting my friends A and B up in Canada back in early November, as noted in a previous post:

They're almost cute enough to make winter worthwhile. Almost. :c) That being said, they also enable me to share one of Elvis Costello's most beloved songs, so there's that as well:

I'll end with two songs I play every New Year's Eve and pass along their sentiments to all of you good folk. First up - Big Country, recorded live at Barrowlands in Glasgow on December 31, 1983:

I'm not expecting to grow flowers in the desert
But I can live and breathe and see the sun in wintertime
In a big country, dreams stay with you
Like a lover's voice across a mountainside
Stay alive

And another hopeful song from the same show - "Wonderland":

And finally, Pearl Jam's ragged-but-right version of "Better Things," from The Kinks:

Really glad I found this tonight - one of of my favorite bands covering another of my favorite bands!

So, here's wishing all of you the bluest skies and the very best of choruses in 2020. And I hope tomorrow we all find better things. Happy New Year, everyone!

Deep Six

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Yesterday - Friday the 13th - was an interesting day.

Not because it was Friday the 13th, but because of a conversation I had that took me by surprise - in more ways than one.

Curious? Follow along below the fold for more. :c)

Bear With Me

Sunday, November 17, 2019

So, I was visiting my friends A and B north of the border recently and made a new acquaintance:

He's the strong, silent type, as you can see. ;c)

And yes, that *is* snow on the ground, believe it or not. They received about a foot while I was up there, which was unusual even by Canadian standards. It was also bitterly cold during my entire visit, far more than usual for early-mid November. Fortunately I purchased the nifty red snow boots in the photo while I was up there, and wow, did they come in handy! (They're also really cute, which is a lovely bonus!)

In spite of the less-than-hospitable weather, I can't wait to visit the Great White North again - see you next spring (if not sooner)!


A few ursine-related tracks for your listening pleasure. First up, Grizzly Bear's "Yet Again," from their excellent 2012 album Shields:

Second we have one from a band *called* The Bears, featuring the amazing guitar work of Adrian Belew, who is best known as a long-standing member of King Crimson and for his work with Talking Heads (Remain In Light), David Bowie (Lodger), and Frank Zappa, to name just a few. This is "Fear Is Never Boring," from their self-titled 1987 debut.

This next one has absolutely nothing to do with bears, but it's such a cute song I wanted to include it anyway. The song is "Oh Daddy," from his 1989 album Mr. Music Head. The charming video features Adrian with his absolutely adorable daughter Audie (who introduces the song in this clip). Enjoy this one! :c)

The final song is "If She Knew What She Wants," written by Jules Shear of Jules & The Polar Bears and covered magnificently by The Bangles on their 1986 album Different Light. Check out these live harmonies!

Incidentally, he also wrote "All Through The Night," which Cyndi Lauper included on her debut album She's So Unusual.

Ciao 'til next time! :c)

Cassi-DJ: Today's Playlist (11.02.19)

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Happy Saturday, all. Hope you're having a good weekend so far. Yours truly is enjoying the first day of a two-week vacation. I am pretty burnt right now (see the above photo, taken this morning), so this is a VERY welcome break. It's been a challenging year. I'm looking forward to some serious down time.

I started it off my sitting in with my friend Mike again on WMFO-FM's Mike on the Mic show this morning. We had a lot of fun, as we always do, and Mike was kind enough to let me program a set of my own. Here's what went down on the airwaves this morning. :c)

Leading off is the first track from The Dave Rawlings Machine's 2010 debut album A Friend of a Friend, "Ruby." Backing him up are his partner, Gillian Welch, as well as two members of Old Crow Medicine Show, Ketch Secor and Willie Watson (who has since left the band for a solo career and permanent membership in the Machine. Here's a lovely version recorded at KEXP-FM in Seattle; the wonderful baritone vocals are courtesy of Ketch. :c)

Next is a great song from Noel Gallagher & His High-Flying Birds 2011 self-titled debut album, "If I Had a Gun." Mike is also a longtime fan of Noel dating back to his days in Oasis; as Mike noted during the set, you recognize a Noel Gallagher song as soon as it starts. This is my favorite song from his three solo albums; one listen and I think you'll understand why:

Third song up is  Radiohead's "Daydreaming," a somber, hauntingly beautiful meditation that is believed to have written about the end of front man Thom Yorke's 23 year relationship with his long-term partner Rachel Owen. The song's video is directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood, Magnolia); it is stunning, as you will see:

Filmmaker Rishi Kaneria made a fascinating short film about the video that examines the amount of though and effort that went into its creation; it is well worth watching if you are a fan of Radiohead or  Anderson.

Next is a tune from a band I adore that never received anywhere near the acclaim it deserved: Grant Lee Buffalo. This song, "Superslomotion," is a deep track (and a personal favoriteO) from what turned out to be their fourth and final album, Jubilee. Safe to say that they went out on a high note:

We had to cut my set short due to time constraints, but we nonetheless went out on a high note with another artist who is a favorite of both Mike and your humble blogstress: the pride of Ottawa Ontario, Miss Kathleen Edwards. "Change the Sheets" is from what looked for a number of years to be her final album, 2012's excellent Voyageur. This is a great live version on Late Night with David Letterman from 2012, shortly after the album was released:

Exhausted after years of unrelenting touring, she fulfilled a longstanding dream and opened a coffee shop, Quitters, in Ottawa. (I visited it last year and can vouch for both its coffee and delicious corn muffins. :D) Happily, she returned to the recording studio this summer to work on what will be her fifth album, hopefully out in 2020. Can't wait to hear it!

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