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.

I thought I'd share a few photos pics of happy moments, and then a few songs from some of the artists I've been listening to the past six-plus months.

First up is a photo of the birthday presents I received several months ago from my sister, nephew, and Mr. C (her dog):

Say hello to Benny Bear (so named by my sister; I know better than to contradict her :c)) and his new pal, Cindy Cow. I've been working from home since March, and Benny and Cindy keep me company all day. They're good listeners, which is helpful for me as a writer who likes to test out prospective wording to an audience. They also attend the daily Doc team online meeting (but only after they had signed their NDAs, of course). Joking aside, it really does help to have them next to me; quarantining definitely takes a toll, and they're a reminder that there's a world outside my four walls.


Speaking of Mr. C, he and my sister took a few well-deserved days off last month. (As mentioned in my previous post, she's a nurse practitioner, and has been running drive-up testing centers for the coronavirus in some of the hardest-hit communities in the Greater Boston area, working 60-70+ hours every week since the beginning of March.) They decided to go to the beach (socially distanced at all times, of course). And while my sister likes the beach, and had a good time, someone else loves the beach, and had a great time:

(He's trying to reach a piece of driftwood, in case you're wondering what he sees on top of the buoy. Fortunately a thoughtful passer-by retrieved it for him.)

(As you have no doubt surmised, the photo at the top of this post comes courtesy of Mr. C as well. :D)

My sister has a longer vacation coming up the week after next, with a return trip to the beach in the works; presumably Mr. C will be returning all of the sand he brought home with him during his last visit. :c)


To wrap up, a few songs from some of the great artists I've been listening to since my last post.

One unforeseen consequence of working from home is that I've had the radio on (well, streaming, anyway) all day to keep me company. My favorite station (which I think I've written about before) is WMVY-FM. Based on Martha's Vineyard, it's locally owned and listener-supported, which means there are no commercials, which in turn means it's not a slave to the quarterly ratings race that commercially-driven stations must run.

(That said, there are several stations I like a great deal, including The River (WXRV-FM) and any number of terrific college stations in the Boston area, including WMFO-FM, where I occasionally sit in with my friends Mike and Sue. Hopefully I'll be able to do so again someday post-pandemic.)

Because it isn't commercially-driven and beholden to ratings, WMVY's playlist is much more eclectic, with a willingness to play music that commercially-driven stations typically don't feature. Here are a few of the artists I've really enjoyed the past few months, some of whom I've written about before, and some I haven't.

I'll start with Emma Swift, an Australian singer-songwriter who has just released Blonde on the Tracks, a brilliant album of Bob Dylan covers. It's receiving ecstatic reviews, and deservedly so; she is an interpreter of uncommon grace.

To pick just one example, consider her version of "Going, Going, Gone," off Dylan's 1974 album  Planet Waves (recorded with The Band backing him up). To call her version revelatory scarcely does it justice. She's taken what was previously a deep album track on one of his lesser-known (but still excellent) albums and made me listen to it anew. That is an amazing gift.

I haven't had any luck finding a clip of it online yet, so I'll share another gem from the album. Dylan himself released Rough and Rowdy Ways, a stunning new album of his own a few months ago. One of  the key songs on the album is "I Contain Multitudes." To demonstrate how two artists can take the same song and make it their own, consider each version. First is Mr. Zimmerman:

(As an aside, just a quick shout-out to Dylan's backing band, who are as good as it gets.)

And here is Emma's version:

Remarkable. Do yourself a favor and check out both albums. You won't regret it.

Next up are tunes from two artists for whom songwriting runs in the family. This is "Brand New," a spare, haunting (and haunted) song from his terrific new album Heartbreaker Please. The video features a live vocal. Just listen to how he holds one note for 15 seconds, starting at 2:10; that one note conveys perfectly something that can't be expressed in words.

And finally we have a track from Lilly Hiatt, the daughter of the great John Hiatt (like Richard Thompson, one of my all-time favorite songwriters). Her latest album, Walking Proof, is her fourth, and continues to build on her already impressive catalog. This is the lead single from the album, "Brightest Star" (and yes, the gent in the video is getting a tattoo in real time - ouch...):

Damn. I could listen to her sing all day.


That will do it for now. I'm going to try to write more frequently; it helps me get out of my own head, if nothing else. Take care, everyone, and stay safe.


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