Wordless Wednesday: Windmill (Golden Gate Park)

Murphy Windmill, Golden Gate Park

The Murphy Windmill in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.

You can find out more about the windmill and its history at outsidelands.org

CatSynth Pic: Nemo and Novation Bass Station

Meet Nemo!  He is showing off an original Novation Bass Station keyboard synthesizer.  Photo submitted by Arthur Schmitt via our Facebook page.

Many readers will be familiar with the popular Bass Station 2.  The original Bass Station was released in the early 90s, first in this keyboard form and later in a more popular rack form.  (It was the 90s, so we still all had collections of 1U-3U rackmount instruments and signal processors).  From Vintage Synth Explorer:

Before the famous Novation Bass Station Rack module came the small and portable Bass Station keyboard! This synthesizer uses digitally synchronized analog oscillators (DCO’s) to reproduce the sounds of a monophonic dual-osc analog synthesizer with simple and intuitive controls via 17 knobs, 10 switches and 2 Moog-style pitch/mod wheels. Think EDP Wasp and ARP Odyssey.

Fun with Highways: #TX07

Primary election season is in full swing.  In a couple weeks, we will be having one here in California (as well as an election for mayor here in SF).  But tomorrow, there is a runoff in Texas’ 7th Congressional District (TX07) in which we at CatSynth are taking a keen interest.  As illustrated in the map, TX07 cuts an odd shape through the western neighborhoods of Houston and the adjacent towns in Harris County.  It is a diverse area and intersects with all three of Houston’s loop highways, which is no small feat.  It includes several wealthy enclaves, but also middle-class neighborhoods, and areas that have been hit by serious flooding during Hurricane Harvey and preceding events.

US 59The southeast “bulge” part of the district includes sections of Houston that lie within the I-610 loop, or “Inner Loop”.  I-610 separates the downtown sections of Houston from outer neighborhoods and surrounding communities, including towns like Southside Place.  It is bisected west-to-east by the new I-69 (US 59).  The area where these two highways intersect would not look out of place in Los Angeles.


[By Socrate76 [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], from Wikimedia Commons]

Heading north and west, we come to the middle section of the district, which is largely a horizontal rectangle bounded by the mighty I-10 to the north, and which extends almost to Katy in the west.  Beltway 8, also known as the Sam Houston Parkway/Tollway, bisects this segment of the district.  Just to the west of the beltway are the Briarforest neighborhood and the ominously named Energy Corridor.  Not surprisingly, several major energy corporations have operations in this area, as do several other businesses.  The Buffalo Bayou – we at CatSynth are still not entirely sure what separates a bayou from a river – cuts through the district.  It was subject to major flooding during Hurricane Harvey.  In addition to the bayou itself cresting at record levels above flood stage. releases from the Barker Reservoir caused severe flooding in adjacent low-lying neighborhoods.  We have sources that have informed us that the floodwaters in the Energy Corridor area were most unpleasant.

The final section of the district cuts an inverted “L” between State Highway 6 and State Highway 99, the outermost loop around Houston, bounded on top by US 290.  In all, the district has an odd shape indeed, but not so odd when one considers the tradition of gerrymandering, an art which has been taken to new heights by Texas’ Republican-controlled state government.  Its shape has long preserved it as a safe Republican district – it has elected Republicans to Congress consistently since George H.W. Bush in 1966.  But the city and surrounding area have been changing, and it is seen as vulnerable to flip to 2018.

Several Democratic candidates have vied to take on incumbent Republican John Culbertson, including Laura Moser, a progressive candidate who also just happens to be the sister-in-law of CatSynth author and founder Amanda Chaudhary.  As such, we are watching her candidacy with great interest and excitement.  Leading up to the main primary in March, things got a bit nasty, with the DCCC (Demoncratic Congressional Campaign Committee) throwing its weight behind another candidate, more mainstream and connected to the Democratic establishment.  This was an unusual move for a suburban primary election, and some of the opposition was rather mean-spirited.  But that is a long-standing part of elections, and it only served to galvanize support for Moser, who placed second in the crowded field and made to the runoff which happens tomorrow, May 22.  Not having learned their lesson the first time, the DCCC has continued to attack her, including some rather nasty opposition-research-style drops (in some ways, they reminded me of some recent attacks on Jane Kim on our local mayor’s race in SF).  But in this case, it was against family, and therefore personal in addition to being against my political views.  So we at CatSynth are pulling strongly for Laura Moser in Texas’ 7th Congressional District tomorrow, and hope she wins both the runoff and the general election in November.  You can find out more about her history and positions on her website, and if you have any friends in TX07, please encourage them to get out and vote!

CatSynth Pic: Gracie, Moog, PPG Wave, and More

Gracie returns!  This time we see her testing out one of her Moog synthesizers (a Sub37 or Subsequent 37).  We also see a Korg vocoder below, and an Oberheim in the back.  In the background, we see a PPG Wave, a rare DK Synergy below it, and a few other synths that we leave as exercises to the reader.  Gracie always has such an impressive collection 😸

From Alsún Ní Chasaide via Facebook.

Weekend Cat Blogging with Sam Sam: The Blanket (and Volca FM)

Those who follow our Instagram are regularly treated to photos and videos of Sam Sam and her adventures around CatSynth HQ.  For those who don’t, we can assure you that she is doing well and is being spoiled rotten.

Sam Sam getting pet

Sam Sam has made this blanket one of her favorite spots for napping and relaxing.  It is quite warm and soft.  In this video, we see her kneading it and purring up a storm.

Biscuits 😺 #catsofinstagram

A post shared by CatSynth / Amanda C (@catsynth) on


It’s good to be the cat!

Here we see her posing with our Korg Volca FM sytnhesizer.

This photo was taken while preparing for our recent video on the Volca FM, which you can check out on YouTube.  One of the nice things about these small battery-powered synths like the Korg Volcas and the Roland Boutiques is that we play them on the bed.  And if I’m there playing a synth, reading, or napping, Sam Sam is likely to follow.

We hope you have a fun weekend, however you define it.  And if you are Instagram, please do follow us 😻.

 

A Day in Wine Country (2018)

I found myself back again in Napa Valley wine country a couple of weeks ago.  Specifically I was in St. Helena to meet Elsie the Library Cat.  I am not a morning individual, but Elsie apparently is, so at the early hour of 7AM, I headed up from San Francisco, crossing two bridges before exiting the I-80 onto Highway 29.

I have written about traveling through the Napa Valley on Highway 29 before, specifically in a post from 2007.  Once again Highway 29, multiplexed with Highway 12, was a parking lot south of the city of Napa, so I was once again able to snap a photo at almost the same exact location.  It was quite theraputic to do so, chasing away some of the demons of 2007, which themselves chased out the demons of 2000.  The road has been upgraded into a better expressway, and Highway 221 (just a short connector to downtown) is now signed.

Highways 29, 12, and 221 in Napa

The traffic thinned out north of Napa as the road narrowed north of Yountville.  Here the landscape is dotted with modest vinyards and over-the-top mansions and tasting rooms.  Finally, I arrived in St. Helena, my favorite town in the region.  I pulled into the library parking lot around 9AM, just in time for my visit with Elsie.

Elsie is a very sweet cat, and quite playful at times despite her advancing age.  With her black coat, she reminded me a bit of Luna, though Elsie has mismatched-colored eyes compared to Luna’s emerald green.   She and the staff of the St. Helena Public Library were great hosts and extremely welcoming of me and my video project.  If you haven’t already seen our CatSynth TV feature on Elsie, you can watch it here.

It was still relatively early when I finished at the library, so I headed to the main street in town for brunch – a protein-heavy heuvos rancheros and some additional coffee seemed like a good idea after the morning video shoot and before heading out for wine tasting.

My main winery destination was Flora Springs, also in St. Helena.  In 2014, I had come here for both wine tasting and a photo shoot – you can see one of the photos in this old Wordless Wednesday post.  I had selected it because of the modernist architecture and interior design, but I enjoyed the spicy bold reds as well.  Plus they have a patio that is lovely on a warm afternoon.

Patio at Flora Springs Tasting Room

The same qualities that attracted me to this winery four years ago were in play again – the modern style and bold red wines.  I particularly liked the Trilogy red blend and the Holy Smoke single-vinyard cabernet from Oakville.   This visit was also featured on CatSynth TV.

Having enjoyed a full glass of both the Trilogy and Holy Smoke along with tastings of the standards, I decided I shouldn’t do anymore tasting for a while.  But I still wanted to some more exploring.  So instead of heading straight back south, I turned east onto Highway 128 in Rutherford towards Lake Berryessa, with the goal of finally completing the route.  (Yes, I am weird that way.)

The narrow but well maintained highway took us out of the valley and into the hills to the east, winding our way through several canyons.  The central towns of the Napa Valley were largely spared from last fall’s devasting fires, but here along Highway 128 one could still see some of the scars from the Atlas Fire.  The green wooded hillsides were periodically streaked with bands of ashen gray and bare trees.  But even within those bands, one could see bits of green.  Some of these were trees that were spared during the fire, which jumps from one tree to another, as well as new growth replacing the burns.  It’s amazing to see how quickly nature bounces back, especially compared to human development.  It will take a bit longer to replace the homes, wineries and other businesses, and the mental and emotional scars may never heal.

Eventually, the highway aligns to the southern shore of Lake Berryessa, an artificial lake created by damming the Putah Creek.  It’s quite large and major center for water recreation.  I was just there for the visual aspect – I was particularly curious to see the “Glory Hole.”

The Glory Hole, which as also featured in a recent Wordless Wednesday post, is an internal spillway for the reservoir. When the lake gets too full, the water drains out through it like a bathtub.  This happened in 2017, and must have been amazing to see.

We followed the highway down from hills into the Sacramento Valley, where it ends in the town of Winters.  I had stopped here on the way to Portland a few weeks earlier, so had already shot some video.  But that one is still a work in progress…

 

See more of California’s Napa Valley Wine Country and many other fascinating places in our Highway☆ app, available on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. 

Highway☆ on Apple App Store    Highway☆ for Android

CatSynth Pic: Cats, KingKorg, and White Wine

Cats, KingKorg and White Wine

Two fluffy cats posing with a Korg KorgKorg synthesizer and a box of white wine (crisp and refreshing).

By Sayer Seely in the Facebook group Synthesizer Freaks

Just arrived… and cat approved… KingKorg!
Came up for sale locally at a great price. Just got the Novation Peak on Friday and now this. The wine in the box matches the color of the KingKorg! 

I can’t resist including a link to one of my performances of my composition White Wine 😸

CatSynth Pic: Otto, Moog, and Keyboard

Some new pictures from our friend The Synth Witch, this time featuring Otto sitting atop a Moog Sub 37.

He certainly is a handsome fellow, and clearly knows it.

 

If you have a cat-and-music-gear picture you would like us to share, you can submit it via our Facebook page, tag #catsynth on Instagram, or tweet us @catsynth.

CatSynth Pic: Mr. Maximillion, JoMoX Alpha Base, Novation Peak

Mr. Maximillion with JoMoX Alpha Base and Novation Peak

Mr. Maximillion returns, this time with his JoMoX Alpha Base and a Novation Peak synthesizers.  Submitted by our friend Charles Whiley via Facebook.

Mr. Maximillion has quite the synth collection, and we always look forward to seeing more of it.

Voltage and Verse: Ruth Weiss/Doug Lynner/Hal Davis, Pitta of the Mind, Ramon Sender at Adobe Books

It’s been a busy season for Pitta of the Mind!  We had three shows in the span of two months, beginning with our blue set at Pro Arts and culminating with ¡Voltage and Verse! at Adobe Books in San Francisco.  You can get a taste for the show in our CatSynth TV video.

It was an honor to once again share a bill with ruth weiss.  A Holocaust survivor and founding member of the San Francisco beat poet scene in the 1950s, she is still going strong, performing and supporting local institutions and artists.

Maw Shein Win, ruth weiss, Amanda Chaudhary

We were glad to see that she is continuing her collaboration with our friend and synthesizer virtuoso Doug Lynner.  Together with log percussionist Hal Davis, they performed a set of poetry and music that simultaneously evoked earlier eras and the latest electronic experiments.  Davis’ log drum provided an expressive metronome, undulating between a trot and a gallop.  Lynner’s synthesizer lines filled in the spaces, sometimes with rhythmic appeggios and at other moments with long eerie drones.  The synthesizer timbres and phrases complemented the words in multiple ways, sometimes underpinning the narrative in the manner of a good film score, at other times emphasizing the rhythm of the words and making them into a musical whole.

ruth weiss and Doug Lynner

Our Pitta of the Mind set was part of a month-long celebration for the release of Maw Shein Win’s new book of poetry Invisible Gifts.  The book is divided into four sections based on different colors.  This works perfectly for our use of color themes in our performances.  For this night, we chose silver and performed selections from the silver section of the book.  There were some familiar poems that we have performed before, and some that were new to me.  There were a variety of styles and subjects in the words that inspired different musical backings, from jazzy electric piano (my favorite) to abstract synthesizer explorations.  I was able to reuse some of the modular patches I had developed for my recent show in Portland and make them work with the rhythm of the texts.

Pitta of the Mind

Maw and I have performed together so many times now that it has become almost second nature to realize a new set; our three shows this season went off (nearly) flawlessly, and have been among the best we have done in our nearly seven years of collaboration!  We have developed a toolset and pallete of instruments (including the Nord Stage and Prophet 12) and sounds that we can quickly turn to with each new text, which makes the process of learning new pieces both simple and fun.  I certainly hope we can keep up the momentum in the remainder of the year, even as I turn my own attention to other musical projects.

In between our set and weiss/Lynner/Davis, we were treated to a presentation by Ramon Sender.  Sender was a co-founder (along Morton Subotnick and Pauline Oliveros) of the San Francisco Tape Music Center in the early 1960s, but on this evening he regaled us with stories of his time at the Morning Star and Wheeler ranches in Sonoma County in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  Morningstar, founded by Lou Gottlieb, was a radical experiment in communal living, populated by an interesting cast of characters along with folks who “commuted” between San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district and the ranch west of Sebastopol.  It only existed in its communal form for a short period of time before being shut down by Sonoma County. Sender and others then moved to the nearby property of artist Bill Wheeler, who followed Gottlieb’s lead and opened his ranch as a commune open to all.  I found myself fascinated by Sender’s stories, and would love to learn more about the history of the area and these communal experiments.

It was a fun night of music and words that lived up to its billing, and I certainly hope to have a chance to perform with everyone again.  And thanks to Benjamin Tinker and Adobe Books for hosting the event!  Please support your local bookstores and performance spaces.

[Photos not marked “catsynth.com” in this article courtesy of Maw Shein Win.]