Saturday, January 24, 2009

Photo of the day: ... and a Hard Place

Sometimes textures just really appeal to me. I can't explain it. The rough. The smooth. The bumpy. Or, as in the case, the rocky wall of that most photogenic of all places on the planet, Safeway.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Cat of the Week: Clipper
Clipper should have been my CoTW ages ago. He's a total sweetie. Pure black, very loving and affectionate. Today he flopped down on the floor next to me and purred non-stop for 20 minutes. He's such a love bug (you can see him in action here).

Clipper is 7 years old and really needs a good home. He'd make a wonderful companion for someone in need of a little extra love in their lives. You can find out more at the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA website.

Oh, and just in case you ever wonder about karma, it works. I had to run down to KZSU today to do a favor for Husband. I was in a hurry because I didn't want to be late for cat duty. Since there's never anywhere to park during the day, I pulled into a red zone, crossed my fingers, and dashed inside. Six minutes later (I timed it), I came out to find a cop writing me up. I walked up to him and calmly waited for the ticket. I didn't say anything. And he just closed the book and and told me to move on. I thanked him, apologized for breaking the law, and took off. So I did a good deed today and was repaid by the universe. Thank you, Mr. Traffic Guy, for letting me go.
Photo of the day: Tiny Commuters

Thursday, January 22, 2009

To sleep...
I've been an insomniac all my life. Even as a child I couldn't fall asleep or sleep through the night. As I got older, it just got worse. It typically takes me two hours to fall asleep, then I wake up a few hours later. I average 4-6 hours on a good night. I'm used to it by now. I watch old movies. Read. When I lived alone I would clean the house or do laundry. I will TiVo pretty much anything that seems interesting because I know at 3 am my viewing choices are limited. (Curse all infomercials and thank god for TiVo.) Some things I'll only make it 5 minutes before I know it's dull. Other things I'll watch straight through while I wait for the cat to wake up or the sun to rise (usually the cat wakes up first).

The problem is that the older I get the harder it is to be awake all night. It's not as easy as it used to be to get by on only a few hours sleep a night, especially after a few nights in a row of being awake. It's harder to drag my tired butt out of bed in the morning...even harder because I don't have a job to get to so I lack that motivation. Given the choice, I'd sleep 'til noon if I could. But that just makes it more difficult to fall asleep that night.

But there are compensations. I like the quiet. The peace. I like curling up under a warm blanket and watching an old movie or some fascinating documentary where I learn something new. I like turning the pages of a good book, a sleeping kitty curled up on my tummy, with I Love Lucy getting into trouble quietly, in the background.

On cold nights, I'l make a cup of herbal tea or some cocoa and, for some reason, feel decadent. In the summertime I'll open the window and listen to the neighborhood cats do the tango in our backyard. I'll pad barefoot around the house, reading the BBC news at 2 am, responding to e-mail at dawn.

Tonight Husband will go to bed like a normal person. I'll set up my nest of pillows and blankets in the living room and select a DVD to watch. Or perhaps I'll read. Eventually I'll fall asleep, two hours later I'll be awake. I can pretty much guarantee that sometime between 2 and 4 I'll be awake, watching Lord Peter Wimsey solve a baffling case or lost in the pages of one of the three books I am currently reading. (Don't ask.) And it'll be quiet, and I'll be slightly jealous of everyone with a normal sleep pattern. But mostly I'll just be content with my coziness, my cat, my sleeping sweetie, and the fact that I will, at some points, finally get some sleep.
Photo of the day: Listening to The Shadow

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows....

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Frankly, my dear...
One of my favorite films of all time, Philadelphia Story, was on last night. Last week I ranted about how American speech has turned into crap. I’d have to say that holds true for movies as well.

Think of all the classic lines from the classic movies. “We’ll always have Paris.” “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” “The stuff that dreams are made of.” “Rosebud.” “You know how to whistle, don’t you? You just put your lips together and blow.” “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

Now think of any line from any movie of the past five years. Go on, I’ll wait.

Can’t do it, can you? OK, if you can you’ve either got a better memory than I, or you see a lot more movies. The last film I can recall that has a memorable line goes back over 10 years to Apollo 13 and Tom Hanks saying “Houston, we have a problem.”

I saw two recent movies in the past two weeks. The Golden Compass and The Namesake. I enjoyed both and couldn’t tell you anything that was said in either one. I’m a bit clearer on the latter film because I also just read the book, but in neither case was there one line of dialogue that lasted longer than the popcorn took to digest.

Why is that? Why is the history of Hollywood dotted with amazing lines and yet nothing in the past decade has lived up to that tradition? Has the dumbing down of American conversation moved into its movies, or have movies contributed to the demise of the English language? Or is it both? If movies reflect the times in which they are created I suppose it’s little wonder that contemporary filmmaking includes insipid dialogue. Perhaps it’s all part of my rant on how words have lost their magic, their sense of play and wonder. Whatever the cause, I miss movies where you walk out thinking “I wish I’d said that.”
Photo of the day: Green Pepper Swirl

Makes me want ice cream.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Confessions of a World Music DJ
"So how did you get into world music?" the trainee asked me tonight.

When I first came to KZSU, I was planning on being a blues DJ. But there were two superb blues DJs on at the time and I was, quite frankly intimidated. So I fell into my second choice, world music.

I had two world music epiphanies that led me to that genre. The first came in Paris. I was visiting friends on my way to Africa and one of them put a CD on the stereo while we were getting ready to go out to dinner. It was Samedi Soir Sur La Terre by Francis Cabrel, and it was love at first sound. Everything about it just struck me, including the fact that I'd never be able to hear anything like this on American radio. I bought the CD at de Gaulle airport on my way to Malawi and it remains one of my favorite CDs still.

A few months later I was down in LA and heard an interview on the local PBS station with a singer/songwriter from Cameroon named Henri Dikongue. They played a few tracks from his release C'est La Vie and, again, I had to have it. I was able to find it a few weeks later.

Those two CDs were the beginning of my world music collection. And of my love affair. But when I started at the radio station, nearly 10 years ago, I knew next to nothing about the genre. I had heard of a few non-American artists; superstars like Caetano Veloso, Miriam Makeba, Ladysmith Black Mambazo. But not much else. Certainly not enough to do a 3-hour show once a week. My learning curve on this one was so steep that I lived in terror for the first year because every show required hours of preparation. I'd spend entire weekend days in the library, pulling CDs and listening. Finding new artists, following new threads. I discovered how wonderful compilation albums were for introducing me to people I liked. I found those areas of world music that I didn't particularly like (such as gamelan and reggae) and areas that I liked but would probably never play (Indian classical). And I learned that I'd chosen a genre of music where I would be forever doomed to mispronounce every artist on my playlist.

Now I'm the world music director; a job I for which I still feel unqualified. But I do it because I love it, because I love being on the air and doing a great show. (Which I do. Sorry, I can't have false modesty about this. It's not me, it's the music.) And every week I listen to new CDs by artists I've never heard of, and releases by old favorites. I still get a childlike thrill when I open the mail and see "oh wonderful, X has a new CD out!" or I hear some unknown and think "wow, this is amazing." There's nothing like discovering a new musician that speaks to you and it's worth all the occasional crap I have to listen to to find that one gem.

So here I am, 10 years later and a bit wiser (musically) and still loving the music I fell into. I'm so glad I was scared away from doing a blues show (though I love it on those occasions when I do one) because it forced me into a journey that excites me to this day. OK, so I know something about a really obscure (to most of the US. And most of my friends, come to think of it) area of music, but I'm actually proud of myself for the work I've put into the acquisition of that knowledge. And on nights like tonight, when I feel a sense of satisfaction after doing a good show, I think of that night in Paris when I heard music unlike any I'd heard before. And I have to smile. Because sometimes fate is just way too much fun.
Photos of the day: History

All I can say is "joy!"

Monday, January 19, 2009

Photo of the day: King

A few years ago, wandering through an antique store in San Juan Bautista, Husband and I found this work honoring Dr. King. We bought it for Husband's beloved grandmother and sent it to her in Philadelphia. After she died, Husband's mother was cleaning out the house and put it aside for us. It came back to us this Christmas and now hangs in our music office.

It serves as a daily reminder to honor the legacy of Dr. King and all who fought in the Civil Rights battle. It's a great piece of inspiration to make a difference, to fight for what you believe in, and to remember that sometimes you have to make sacrifices to achieve something great.

Happy MLK day to all my friends. I am proud to know so many amazing people who do the right thing, and fight the good fight. Who give money and time. Who are active in changing the world. Who have an active social conscience and a good and generous heart.

And thank you to everyone, everywhere who has dedicated their life to human rights.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A day on, not a day off
So what are you doing tomorrow? Many people have the day off in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Well our incoming president (yay!) and the King Center are asking America to make it a day of work, not a day of rest. They are urging people to spend the day volunteering in their community. I think it's a great idea.

You can find projects near you by visiting the USA Service website, or you can just start your own. I was going to do an extra shift at the shelter, but they're closed tomorrow. So Husband and I are going to grab some gloves and trash bags and find a stretch of beach, park, hiking trail, whatever....that needs a pick-up. Other options? Donate blood. Take the money you would have spent on a movie and popcorn and donate it to your favorite cause. Have a "I care for the environment" day....don't use your car, minimize your energy and water consumption. Or plant your own "victory garden" in your backyard to help green the planet, give you some yummy food in the coming months, and save you some money too.

There are so many ways of getting involved in the world. I urge you to find one that speaks to your heart and do it. An ongoing commitment would be wonderful, but just tomorrow is a good start.

Remember "if you're not part of the solution, you are part of the problem."
Photo of the day: Still Life with Jam

At our favorite breakfast place. How diminished life would be without those individual jam tubs.