"Once in a lifetime, hope and history rhyme."

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

This is how the Irish national news broadcast ended on Saturday, November 7th, after Joe Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 Presidential election. It is a must-watch.

The words come from the great Irish poet Seamus Heaney's The Cure at Troy: A Version of Sophocles' Philoctetes, a verse adaptation of Sophocles' play Philoctetes, first published in 1991.

Human being suffer.
They torture one another
They get hurt, and get hard.
No poem, or play, or song
Can fully write the wrong
Inflicted and endured.

History says, don't hope
On this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.

So hope for a great sea-change
On the far side of revenge.
Believe that a further shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracle
And cures and healing wells.

Call miracle self-healing:
The utter, self-revealing
Double-take of feeling.
If there's fire on the mountain
Or lightning and storm
And a god speaks from the sky

That means someone is hearing
The outcry and the birth-cry
Of new life at its term.
It means once in a lifetime,
justice can rise up
and hope and history rhyme.


I could think of no more appropriate song to accompany this post than "Drowning Man," one of U2's most beautiful songs, from their 1983 album War. The song, whose lyrics were adapted by Bono from the Bible (Isaiah 40 v28-31), was written about bassist Adam Clayton, who was struggling with serious substance abuse problems while the album was being recorded. Its message of brotherhood, perseverance, and hope, however, are timeless, and universal.

Take my hand
You know I'll be there
If you can
I'll cross the sky for your love
For I have promised
Oh, to be with you tonight
And for the time that will come

Take my hand
You know I'll be there
If you can
I'll cross the sky for your love
And I understand
These winds and tides
This change of times
Won't drag you away

Hold on, and hold on tightly
Hold on, and don't let go of my love
The storms will pass (the storm will pass)
It won't be long now (it won't be long now)
His love will last
His love will last, forever

Take my hand
You know I'll be there
If you can
I'll cross the sky for your love
Give you what I hold dear

Hold on, hold on tightly
Hold on, hold on tightly
Rise up, rise up
With wings like eagles
You run, you run
You run and not grow weary

Hold on, hold on tightly
Hold on, hold on tightly
To this love last forever
To this love last forever
Take my hand
Take my hand

I Still Believe

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

I wanted to share some songs of defiance, inspiration - and, most of all, hope - as one of the most important days in the history of the United States dawns. 

Let's start with Patti Smith, from her 1988 album Dream of Life:

Another from 1988 - Tracy Chapman's "Talkin' About A Revolution":

Next, one of my all-time favorite songs, and one I've posted several times here, by The Kinks:

Another from one of my all-time favorite albums, Big Country's The Crossing (1983). This version will get the blood flowing, guaranteed!

Of course, I have to include one from my very favorite all-time album, Darkness on the Edge of Town - "The Promised Land."

I'll end with a song from a criminally underrated band that I cannot believe I have never featured in a post before. The Call are probably best known for their song "The Walls Came Down," but they put out a number of excellent albums and had a well-deserved reputation as an incendiary live band. I had the good fortune to see them a number of times, and can attest to their power.

Lead singer/songwriter Michael Been (who passed away much too soon in 2010 at the age of 60) in particular was a riveting live performer.  Check out his bass playing on this version of "I Still Believe," from their 1986 album Reconciled (which also features the remarkable "Everywhere I Go"):


I'm out on my own
I'm walking the streets
Look at the faces that I meet
I feel like I'm lost
And I want to go home
What do I feel?
What do I know?

But I still believe
I still believe
Through the shame
Through the grief
Through the heartache
Through the tears
Through the waiting
And through the years

For people like us
In places like this
Who need all the hope
That we can get
I still believe

I still believe too. And later today we can take the first steps on the journey to take back our country. See you there. 

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!


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