(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!

The name is Catsidy. Miss Catsidy.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Happy Halloween everyone (or everyone who celebrates it, anyway). :c) Here’s my “it’s 5:45AM and my other ideas are wwwaaayyyy too much work pre-caffeine” costume:

Hope you don’t get any rocks while trick-or-treating!

Cassi-DJ: Today's Playlist (10.05.19)

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Hey folks. Hope everyone is having a good day. I've been fighting a lingering cold, but I managed to once again join my friend Mike on his radio show on WMFO-FM here in Greater Boston. (See this post from a few weeks ago for more on WMFO-FM.)

My nephew C was supposed to join us and make his radio debut, but he's also suffering from a cold - one much worse than mine. He also just started nursing school, and, as his mother reminds him, he's still only a few months into his recovery from the serious health issues he was dealing with for over a year and a half. He is, wisely, being extra cautious and making sure he gets sufficient rest, even when it means passing up on something he was very much looking forward to. Fortunately, there's always next time, C. :c)

In spite of my rougher-than-usual voice, I had a terrific time per usual. Mike always does a terrific job, and makes it easy for me to sound relatively coherent (not a given, believe me!). I've already booked my next visit; mark your calendars for Saturday, November 2nd, folks. :c) In the meantime, here are the songs from my set today. Enjoy!


First up is a great live version of "Landed," from Ben Folds's 2005 album Songs For Silverman. This version is from a reunion tour he did a few years later with his pre-solo career band Ben Folds Five (which, naturally, is a trio lol). Check out his phenomenal piano chops on this one:

Track number two is interesting. It's a song called "Swimmer," by Amanda Shires. She began her career as an award-winning fiddle player (she joined the legendary Asleep At The Wheel while still a teenager) before launching a solo career as a singer-songwriter.

She's actually recorded two versions of this gorgeous song, which she wrote about falling in love with her future husband, Jason Isbell (a favorite of this blog). The first is a lovely, country-flavored acoustic version from her 2011 Carrying Lightning album. (That's her doing the whistling, incidentally.)

Then, in 2018, she recorded a terrific rock-oriented album called To The Sunset, which included a radically reworked version of "Swimmer" featuring electric guitars, more pronounced drums and percussion, and what sounds like a heavily treated fiddle playing the whistling part from the earlier version. Give it a listen:

After listening to both versions back to back today, the difference in her vocals between the two versions is quite striking as well. The original version - which I believe she recorded after she and Isbell were a couple but before they married - is more wistful. Her singing in the 2018 version, by which time they had been married for several years and had a daughter, by contrast, is more assured (but equally affecting). Anyway, I digress. :c)

Third on my playlist is the definition of a "deep track," in this case from someone regular readers can probably guess is one of my favorite artists, Bruce Cockburn. "January In The Halifax Airport Lounge" is on his 1975 album Joy Will Find A Way, which for many years was available only in his native Canada. (It was finally released in the US in the early Nineties, when he signed with Columbia Records and they reissued his entire catalogue here.)

The song was indeed inspired by an afternoon he spent waiting for a flight in Halifax, Nova Scotia; however, a closer listen reveals that it's true subject is the loneliness a touring musician faces, constantly on the road away from loved ones (in his case his wife and young daughter). I particularly love the keyboards on this one, which makes me feel  (in a good way) as if I'm right there in that mid-70s airport lounge.

Continuing the Canadian theme, another favorite of mine - Blue Rodeo. When I sat in with Mike last month, we played "Hasn't Hit Me Yet," a song written and sung by Greg Keelor. This week we featured "New Morning Sun," from their 2013 album In Our Nature, written by Keelor's songwriting partner and band co-leader Jim Cuddy. He explains what inspired the song in the intro to the excellent live version recorded in Keelor's farmhouse, where they recorded the album.

The second-to-last song was Wilco's "At Least That's What You Said," from their 2004 album A Ghost Is Born. A wrenching, deeply personal song, Jeff Tweedy wrote this while struggling with an addiction to the painkillers he was taking in an attempt to control his chronic, debilitating panic attacks.

The song, particularly his savage, Neil Young-esque guitar playing in the song's second half, attempts to evoke what those panic attacks feel like. As someone with altogether too much firsthand experience with them, I can attest that he captures their primal terror with unnerving, bone-chilling accuracy. As Mike said after watching this video later, "He isn't just playing this; he's living it." Just so.

Bringing the set to a close (and necessarily lowering the intensity level) is that rarest of beasts: an obscure Beatles song. (Well, relatively speaking, anyway).

"Long Long Long," which closes what was Side 3 on the vinyl version of the White Album, is a beautiful, eerie song written by George Harrison. (Really, it's a song that only George Harrison could have written.) While the lyrics could be interpreted to be about a lover, the "you" he references is, in fact, God. The languid, hushed atmosphere of the song is punctuated only by Ringo's patented, perfectly placed drum fills in the breaks.

(As we listened to the track in the studio today, Mike commented on how heartening it is to see people finally recognizing what a great drummer Ringo was. I have a book that details every single recording session the Beatles ever held. The book's author, who listened to literally every second the band spent in a recording studio, said that in eight years of recording, playing literally hundreds and hundreds of takes of songs he was learning for the first time, Ringo made a total of two - yes, two - mistakes. That is the definition of "rock-solid.")

Incidentally, one of my favorite pieces of Beatles trivia involves this song. The strange rattling sound that starts at 2:32 is caused by an empty wine bottle that happened to be on top of a Leslie speaker in the studio. As Paul held a sustained note on the Hammond organ he was playing, the bottle began to vibrate. The entire band spontaneously incorporated it into the song: McCartney held the note on the organ, Ringo played an extended drum roll, and Harrison sang a wordless, ghostly howl before bringing the song to a close with a dissonant, thrashing chord on his Gibson guitar - one of the most moving, affecting song endings from a band that was endlessly inventive in finding new ways to do just that. 

OK, that will do it for this post. Hope you all enjoyed the tunes. See you next time... :c)

Cassi-DJ: The Sequel (Pt. 2)

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Happy Saturday, everyone. Hope you're having a lovely weekend.

As promised earlier this week, here are the remaining songs I played while sitting in on my friend Sue's radio show on WMFO-FM here in Boston. Enjoy. :c)

This is a great song from Amy LaVere's new album, Painting Blue, titled "No Battle Hymn." Can't get enough of this song and album. Incidentally, that's her husband, Will Sexton, on guitar.

Another new one, "Something to Believe In," from Madison Cunningham's debut album, Who Are You Now. This song is a grower, as is the album. She is also a remarkable guitarist - and did I mention she's 21 years old? Yikes...

Next is "Pontchatrain," from Vienna Teng's 2006 album Dreaming Through the Noise, a somber, haunting song she wrote in the wake of the devastation wrought on New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina. 

The studio version of "Pontchatrain" is equally powerful, and features a striking string arrangement that deepens the song's hushed melancholy.

And finally, to end the post on a lighter note, here's "Airplane," from the Indigo Girls' 1992 album Rites of Passage. Emily Saliers (on the left in the photo below) is afraid of flying - hence the title - but this is utterly charming. Listen to this one for the amazing - and I do mean amazing - backing vocals provided by The Roches. They must be heard to be believed. :c)

Well, that will do it for this one. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Musings: It Takes Two

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Hi all - this is a brief mid-week post commemorating the anniversary of the most important day of my life.

Two years ago today I had my GCS (Gender Confirmation Surgery), performed by Dr. Brassard at GRS Montreal. It's hard to believe, even as I type these words. It simultaneously feels as if it just happened yesterday... and a million years ago.

I was chatting online with my Montreal roommate (hello Miss A!!!) today - she confessed she had no idea it was today! I was aware it was approaching, but not until last week. As I told A today, I think that's a healthy thing for both of us. 

The fact that it could sneak up on us in that way doesn't mean its importance is diminished in any way; rather, it shows how effective - and necessary - it was. We no longer have to dream about living the life we should be leading; now we are leading them. All of the hard work and sacrifice was totally worth it.

I can't tell anyone else what the right choice is for them; our journey is our own, and only we know what's right for us. But this was both the hardest thing I've ever done and the best thing I've ever done.

My life isn't perfect; I still have issues I have to deal with, and there are things I want to change, and to do, and to achieve.

And I know I will. Because I was able to go from this:

To this:

I know that if I can do that, then I can do anything - and do it as myself. At long last.

And that makes all the difference.

Here's wishing you all the best on your journey, wherever it may lead you.


A few road/journey songs for your listening pleasure. :c)

You can never go wrong with The Beatles, of course, so we'll start with them. Here's the lovely, stripped down version of "The Long and Winding Road." I very much prefer this to the somewhat overwrought studio version (and I say that will all due respect for the genius of Phil Spector).

Next up is Jackson Browne's gorgeous "The Road," from his 1978 masterpiece Running on Empty. What a great album this is:

Speaking of Journey, here's my favorite song of theirs - "Still They Ride," from 1981's Escape album. Steve Perry's vocals are so moving; I still get goosebumps every time I listen to this:

And finally, a much-beloved (by me) song from one of the first albums I bought - "Take The Long Way Home," from Supertramp's Breakfast in America (1979):

Cassi-DJ: The Sequel (Pt. 1)

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Hello all. Hope everyone is having a nice weekend.

So, apparently my appearance on WMFO-FM at Tufts University last week wasn't enough to dissuade them from having me on the air again, because I was back at it yesterday - this time on the Something About the Women program, which airs every Saturday from 11:00 AM-1:00 PM.

As the program title indicates, SATW plays music exclusively from female artists (although, like everything else on WMFO, it's free-form; DJs can play whatever they want). SATW has been on the air continuously since 1973, making it one of the longest-running (if not the longest-running) women's radio show in the United States.

My friend Sue has been a DJ on SATW for a number of years, and very kindly invited me to sit in during her shift yesterday. It had been several years since I had been on SATW, but it was every bit as enjoyable as I remembered. We had a lot of fun chatting about our respective set lists; Sue is extremely knowledgable about jazz, among other genres, and I drove home after the show with a list of artists to either discover or re-acquaint myself with. (I foresee my Ella Fitzgerald and Cassandra Wilson albums getting a workout this week.) :c)

I'll be off the WMFO airwaves the next few weekends, but will be on my friend Mike's program again the first weekend in October, and hopefully on SATW as well. I'm looking forward to it already!

I played a number of songs on the show, so I broke them out into two posts. Here's the first batch - enjoy!

Cassi-DJ - The Songs (9.07.19)

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Hello folks! Just got home from sitting in with my friend Mike on his radio show, as mentioned in yesterday's post. For anyone who missed it and would like to hear it, I have an MP3 copy of the show; drop me a line and I can share it. (It's two hours, with all of the songs included.)

If anyone is interested, here are the songs I played during my set:

Dire Straits: "Wild West End," from their 1978 self-titled debut album. This is a lovely live version from the same year:

Blue Rodeo: "Hasn't Hit Me Yet," from 1993's Five Days in July; this is a live version from their appearance on Late Night with Conan O'Brien:

The Tragically Hip: "Bobcaygeon," which will likely prove to be their most enduring song, from 1998's Phantom Power:

Sarah Harmer: "Greeting Card Aisle," from her 2004 album All Of Our Names:

Bruce Cockburn: "Night Train," from his 1997 album The Charity of Night (play this one loud, especially the guitar solo at the end!):

And finally Jonatha Brooke: "Ten Cent Wings," from her 1997 album of the same name:

Hope you like the songs and/or the show. I'll be sitting in again with Mike the first weekend in October, so mark your calendars now! :c)

Cassi-DJ (a/k/a Listen To The Radio)

Friday, September 6, 2019

Hey folks, just a heads-up: I'll be sitting in with my friend Mike on his weekly radio show ("Mike on the Mike" - great name, eh?) tomorrow morning. So, if you ever thought to yourself "Gee, I wonder what a sleep- and caffeine-deprived Cassidy sounds like?", well, here's your chance to find out! :c)

Mike's show airs on WMFO-FM (91.5 in Boston MA) tomorrow morning, Saturday, Sept. 7th, from 9:00 to 11:00 AM (EDT). Since pretty much anyone reading this lives outside their broadcast area, you can stream it live from one of the following:



If anyone would like to hear it afterwards, this article provides a succinct overview on how to do so (just substitute "Mike on the Mike"on Saturday from 9:00-11:00 AM for the author's show, of course):


I'll also have an MP3 copy afterwards as well for those who want to listen to Mike and I trade terrible puns back and forth for two hours. :c)

A few interesting facts about WMFO:

WMFO-FM is licensed to Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. It's staffed and run by both Tufts students and community residents (such as my friends Mike and Vince, who has his own terrific show on Saturday afternoons from 2:00-4:00 PM).

It's freeform, which means there are no commercials and that they can, and do, play anything - within Federal Communications Commission (FCC) guidelines (no profanity, etc.).

WMFO's predecessor, WTUR, was a close-circuit station that started in 1967. One of its founders was the late J.J. Jackson, one of the original MTV VJs. (I never knew this!)

The station at one point had what was considered one of the most extensive collections of rock vinyl in the Greater Boston area, second only to WBCN-FM, rightly considered one of the very best FM and most influential radio stations in the United States.

Most of the collection was destroyed in a major fire in April 1977; much of it was replaced by donations from listeners and other radio stations (including WBCN). Of course now its music library is mostly digital, but they still have a huge vinyl library, as you can see in this photo from their website:

Pretty cool, huh? :c)

Anyway, hope you get a chance to give the show a listen. As CBS News's Charles Osgood would say, I'll see you on the radio!


A great radio-related song from Nanci Griffith's 1988 album Storms - "Listen To The Radio":

And here's a smoking hot live version of "Wavelength" from Van Morrison's 1978 album of the same name. The amazing guitar work is courtesy of Bobby Tench (he plays on the studio version as well):

Such a great song!

Vignettes: Can't You See? a/k/a The Glory of... Me(?)

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Had to share this. :c)

So, I went into my local Starbucks on Tuesday evening.

M, the barista behind the register, spotted me as I walked in and said "Look! It's Cass, our COTW!"

Now, I work in high-tech, which is acronym-happy, but this was a new one, even for me.

"COTW?" I asked.

I must have looked even more befuddled than I normally do, because she laughed, pointed to a sign next to the cash register, and said, "I thought you writer types read everything?!?"

Well, I had noticed the sign - but had not looked at it recently.

So I put on my specs and took a closer look.

This is what I saw:

Isn't that sweet?!?

I had no idea they had done this! (Although I joked that they needed to update the sign by adding "and near-sighted" to the end of it. :D)

Anyway, it made my week, needless to say. :c) Thanks again, kids!


While I ponder whether my six-month-old eyeglass prescription needs updating, given that I somehow missed this sign staring me in the face, I thought I'd post a few vision-themed tunes. First up, a great song from The Marshall Tucker Band - "Can't You See," from 1973:

That's the late, great Toy Caldwell, who wrote "Can't You See," tearing it up on vocals and lead guitar.

Another great classic rock tune: 1967's "I Can See For Miles," from The Who:

Every time I listen to this (especially on headphones) I marvel at how incredible it sounds, particularly given the relatively primitive recording techniques available in late 1966/early 1967, when they recorded this.

Finally, an early tune from one of my favorite bands. Here's Wilco performing "Outtasite (Outta Mind") from their classic 1996 album Being There:

And as a bonus, here's it's twin - "Outta Mind (Outtasite)" - also from Being There:

That one never fails to make me smile. :c) I would say Mr. Tweedy and co. were clearly indulging a serious jones for Pet Sounds/Smile-era Beach Boys during the sessions for Being There. :c)

Ciao for now - and Happy Friday everyone...

Cass's Glasses Redux (a/k/a The Vision Thing, Plus Songs for a Summer Weekend)

Friday, July 26, 2019

Happy Friday everyone. Just a brief post to share a few things while I work on several longer posts (honest!). 

First, I thought I'd share a pic of me wearing my new glasses. Well, relatively new; I got them in late March (yes, I need to post way more often): 

This is my day-to-day business look, for better or worse ;c) - other than when I remember to a) bring my contacts and b) actually put them in (spoiler alert: not very often - ditziness still reigns, alas). Anyway, I like the new spectacles quite a bit. 

This is also how I usually wear my hair (also for better or worse). :c) For some reason most of my pictures show me with it down; in reality, though, I typically wear it up, simply because I don't want to get up at the crack of dawn and spend an hour-plus trying to tame it. (First world problems, I know... :c))

I also thought I'd share a few songs from two albums I've really been enjoying this year. Both of these albums have one thing in common: Jason Isbell, who both produced both records and played on them with his band, the 400 Unit (which features his wife Amanda Shires, moonlighting from her solo career).

First up is Strand of Oaks, who released several terrific albums the past 5-6 years that I somehow missed out on completely. Fortunately I'm making up for lost time, starting with with this year's Eraserland album. Here's a clip of his performance of "Ruby" on Stephen Colbert's show. In addition to Mr. Isbell (lead guitar) and Miss Shires (fiddle), his band features several members of My Morning Jacket, and, on drums, Will Johnson, of Centro-Matic/South San Gabriel. Great stuff:

The second album is one of my two favorite albums of 2019 so far (along with Bruce Springsteen's remarkable Western Stars), Josh Ritter's Fever Breaks. I rarely comment on politics online, but "All Some Kind of Dream" captures how I feel about America the past three years under the Orange Sh*tgibbon - albeit with far more eloquence (and much, much less profanity) than I am capable of. I think in years to come - assuming we still have a functioning democracy, that is - this will be remembered as one of the songs that sum up the horror/sh*t show. Be sure to listen to the lyrics on this one:

I'll end with another song from Fever Breaks, "Old Black Magic." I usually post live performances of songs in my posts, but Jason Isbell uncorks a tremendous, blistering, minute-plus guitar solo at the end of the studio version that is so smoking-hot I just had to share it. Play this one LOUD:

That will do it for now. Look for several longer posts in the near future (again, honest!). Have a good weekend, everyone...

Some Songs for Independence Day

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Thought I would share some songs for this Independence Day.

Here's the band X performing their classic "4th of July" at Farm Aid on July 4th, 1986. That's Dave Alvin, the song's author (and a brilliant songwriter and guitarist) on lead guitar.

This is Mr. Alvin performing a tremendous live version with his own band. I just saw this today, but I think it might be my favorite version ever:

The late, great (and sorely missed) Elliott Smith, performing a stripped down version of "Independence Day," from his 1998 album XO, with the help of Jon Brian and Brad Mehldau:

And the gorgeous studio version:

A song about Independence Day, written by an Irishman - "Almost Independence Day," from Van Morrison's 1972 classic St. Dominic's Preview:

I read that this song was improvised live in the studio; this is the first (and only) take. Remarkable.

And finally, the perfect song to end this post - Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, performing Steve Van Zandt's "I Am a Patriot":

Says it all in these fraught days.

Picture This

Monday, July 1, 2019

Hello all - hope everyone's summer is off to a good start. I've been working on a writing project the past 4-6 weeks that's taking up most of my free time, but I wanted to pop in and let folks know I'm still around.

I also thought I would post something fun. The company I work for has an annual barbecue to kick off summer. This year, like more than a few others, we had a torrential downpour the day of the picnic. My colleague S and I raced outside, grabbed some food (which was excellent), and then raced back inside, dodging the nearly horizontal rain the entire way.

Needless to say all of the outdoor events were cancelled because of the conditions. Fortunately one activity was able to move inside: the caricaturists. A colleague mentioned where they were, so I trekked downstairs and waited my turn.

I had a fun chat about music with the artist as he worked; it turned out we had similar taste, which made the time fly as he worked. (He joked that his wife was going to throttle him when he came home with five new albums we discussed.) 

In any case, here's the end result (which I really like, incidentally):

And for anyone who's curious, here are the other two. First, from 2018:

And from 2015:

I never cease to be amazed at how talented these folks are. Can't wait to see what the next one looks like. :c)

Hope to have more posts in the (relatively) near future. Watch this space... 


In keeping with the post's theme, a few picture-related songs for you.

First, a standout track from The Kinks, from their 1968 masterpiece The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society - "Picture Book":

Next, a great song from the Nineties, Filter's "Take a Picture":

And last but definitely not least, one of my very favorite songs from one of my very favorite bands - "Camera," from R.E.M.'s 1984 classic Reckoning:

Such a beautiful, haunting song, which Michael Stipe wrote as a tribute to his friend Carol Levy, a photographer who was killed in a car crash.

I saw R.E.M. perform this as their first encore on the Reckoning tour that year. The crowd was in a frenzy when they came back on stage; much to the astonishment of myself and my friends, they chose to play this, one of their quietest and most somber songs. And they pulled it off; by the end of the song you could hear a pin drop in the sold-out 2300 seat theatre.

I distinctly remember talking with my friends on the way home, and how impressed we were, to a person, that they knew exactly what song to play at that moment, and how they were destined for great things. And the rest, as they say, is history...

Still Here...

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Hello all. It's been a long time. There's been a lot going on, so let me get right to it. 

Most important is my nephew C's health. He was back in the hospital yet again, I'm afraid. He has been seriously ill for over a year and a half, and the latest complications put him back in the hospital for nearly three weeks. I won't go into specifics, but he has had a very, very difficult time. His new team of doctors are excellent; the problem has been getting him healthy for a long enough period so that his system can fully recover. He's only 25, and it's absolutely heartbreaking to see him suffer like this. I would switch places in a heartbeat if I could.

The good news - and there is good news, fortunately - is that his doctors know what has been causing this. He is feeling better the past few days, and got out of the hospital yesterday. Without going into specifics, he will need home care for several months, which they believe will, finally, get him past all of this once and for all. My nephew has been a trouper through all of this; he is my hero, in no uncertain terms. I know he will get past this. Please keep him, and my sister, in your thoughts.


On to other matters. Work has been insanely, exhaustingly busy for months now, with no letup in sight. It has been absolutely grueling. I could say more, but for now I will leave it at that. Perhaps there will be more to say at some point relatively soon.

The last time I wrote I was recovering from three broken ribs, which I'd injured just before Christmas while out walking. Hard as it may seem to believe (although not for anyone who knows me), I managed to break the same three ribs *again* in early February when I slipped on black ice in my driveway. It could have been much worse; I also whacked my head on the railing, but managed to escape with only a nasty headache for a few days.

Speaking of hard to believe, I put myself on the disable list yet again just a few weeks ago, this time while visiting my dear friends A & B in Canada. We stopped for gas, and I was trying to get out of A's full-size SUV to pay. My feet got tangled in my pocketbook, and I fell - hard - onto the ground. Again, it could have been much more serious, but I escaped with a deep bruise to my right knee and some scrapes on my hands. 

Even for a klutz like me this is quite the run of incidents. The worst part has been my inability to do pretty much any exercise for months on end. Even before Christmas I'd been extremely busy with both work and a personal project that was enormously time-consuming. Exercise is my great stress reducer, so having to go without for month after month while under a great deal of stress has been very difficult. My ribs are healed, and my knee is on the mend. If I can manage to stay injury-free, I hope to start running and exercising again in another week or so. It is badly, badly needed, for both my physical and emotional well-being.

I've been in a rut for a long time - really, since my surgery in September 2017. There are a number of reasons why, mostly beyond my control. That being said, I know I need to do something - anything - to move forward. I have a birthday very soon, and it's reminded me that I have been in limbo for far too long. Again, hopefully I can elaborate in a future post, but for now suffice it so say that I am more than ready to move to the next phase of my journey - long overdue, in fact. Fingers crossed that I'm able to do so in short order.


I'll end with some music. I had the great pleasure of finally attending a concert by one of the last performers on my must-see list: Gordon Lightfoot. I saw him in Parry Sound, Ontario (Bobby Orr's hometown, for the hockey buffs), at a lovely, intimate theatre. He's 80 years old now, and also had major abdominal surgery about 15 years ago that permanently damaged his voice. But he still has those amazing songs, as well as a superb band that more than did justice to them. It was wonderful to see him. Amazingly, he has a new album coming out later this year - his first since 2004 - and the buzz is that it's excellent. I cannot wait to hear it.

Meanwhile, here are just a few gems from his remarkable songbook. First up is my very favorite song from Mr. Lightfoot - "Early Morning Rain", from a 1972 BBC performance.

Next is the aptly-named "Beautiful," from his 1979 Soundstage performance for PBS:

Arguably his best-known song - "If You Could Read My Mind," from a 1974 performance on The Midnight Special. Such a great, great song:

Next up: his other best-known song - "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," from 1976. Such a haunting, somber song:

And finally, a fitting song for spring - "Summer Side of Life," from one of his best albums, 1971's Don Quixote. This is from the same 1972 BBC broadcast.

I've always loved his vocals on this track; so expressive, and so much emotion. I never get tired of hearing this - or any of his songs, for that matter. There's a reason Bob Dylan consistently cites Lightfoot as one of his favorite songwriters.

Hope you all have a good week. Hope to write more frequently in the weeks to come...

Post-Holiday Update: Taking a Ribbing

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Hello all. I'm trying to post a bit more regularly, mostly to write about something other than software (my day job). Work is crazy right now, so this will be relatively short, and basically just an update.

My nephew, I'm happy to report, is out of the hospital and feeling a bit better every day. He has a long way to go - he's lost a great deal of weight, and needs to focus on regaining his strength - but hopefully he's past the worst of it. Fingers crossed.

I was finally able to give him his Christmas present - an authentic Mookie Betts Red Sox jersey - which he absolutely loved. It was great to see him smiling, as you can imagine. I also gave Mr. C, my sister's dog, his Christmas present as well - a blanket. As you can see, he immediately put it to good use:

He also takes his responsibility to my nephew C as well. Here he is testing the turkey sub that my nephew was eating to verify it was sufficiently nutritious:

To the untrained eye it looks suspiciously like begging, but I am assured that's not the case. ;c)

Joking aside, it's touching to see how protective he is of my nephew. He follows him *everywhere* - when C is tired and wants to go upstairs to rest, he goes right up with him. And he stays right next to him wherever he sits as well. The only exception is 5:30 PM - otherwise known as dinner time. Even C doesn't come between Mr C and his kibble. :D

As for me, my ribs are slowly healing, but it still hurts to... well, move. Sleeping is difficult, as I sleep on my left side, but I've done this before (to the sam three ribs, amazingly enough), so I know the drill. Needless to say I'm not running, and won't be for at least another 3-4 weeks, I suspect. Oh well.

My friends Alice and her husband were in town last week. Work was super-busy, so I didn't get to spend as much time as I'd hoped. However, we did manage to get to watch Boston's NHL (hockey) team play their arch rival, the Montreal Canadiens, on Monday. Alas, evil prevailed and Montreal won in overtime, 3-2, but it was still an exciting game. Hockey is fun to watch on TV, but it's so much better in person. And it was a pleasure to get to attend the game with my Canadian compadres. :c)

That will do it for now on the update front. Hoping to write a bit more about other topics soon, but I'll  need my work schedule to quiet down first. Hope it's soon.


The band Guster formed at Tufts University just outside Boston in the early Nineties. They've put out a number of fine albums, the most recent of which, Look Alive, came out yesterday. They have a unique sound; if you like Crowded House, Fountains of Wayne, Real Estate, or similar bands, I guarantee you'll enjoy Guster. :c)

While only one of the band members still lives in the Boston area, they obviously have a strong attachment to the area, so it's no surprise that they played a mini-set for WGBH-TV's Front Row concert series, at their studio, on album release day. You can check it out here. They sound as good as ever.

I also thought I'd share some older favorites as well. First up is "What You Wish For," the opening track from their 1999 album Lost and Gone Forever (probably my favorite Guster album):

Here they are performing "Barrel of a Gun," also from Lost and Gone Forever, on Conan O'Brien's show (another Boston boy, coincidentally), just before Christmas 1999:

And here are two songs they performed with Daryl Hall, of Hall & Oates fame, on his terrific Web series Live from Daryl's House, which is literally what it is: artists performing with Daryl and his superb band in a recording studio/performance space at his home in Connecticut. It's a terrific series, and well worth checking out. See what I mean below, starting with this performance of "Do You Love Me," from their 2010 album Easy Wonderful:

And last but not least, this is "Satellite," from 2006's Ganging Up On The Sun:

Pretty great, aren't they? Lots more where those came from; have fun checking them out, and definitely see them if they come to your town - they're a lot of fun live. :c)


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