CatSynth Pic: Shadow and Brodie

Meet Shadow and Brodie, two new synth-cat friends.  Here we see them singing along to a tune played on an M-Audio Axiom keyboard controlling an off-screen synth or software instrument.

Submitted by Anne Corwin via our Facebook page.

CatSynth Video: Cat listening to Modular

From brycepyne on Instagram.  What critters indeed?  I like the mixture of long tones and decorative details.

Weekend Cat Blogging with Sam Sam: The New Neighbor

It looks like we have a new neighbor at CatSynth!

We have been noticing a new feline presence around CatSynth HQ, through sounds and bits of motion.  But this is the first time we saw him/her on the patio ledge.  It’s a little tuxedo cat, like Sam Sam.

Closeup of neighbor cat

This cat presumably lives in one of the apartments just beyond our patio.  We often see him sitting on the ledge behind this glass-brick window.

As one might imagine, Sam Sam is rather curious about this new cat outside her windows.

Sam Sam and the new neighbor

She is a bit anxious and agitated by the cat’s presence, and often jumps up on this sideboard and even the window ledge above!  Her is always fully fluffed during these encounters.  I suspect she is feeling both intrigued and territorial at the same time.  (We have already started clearing off the most fragile items and tchotchkes from the glass table).

We hope you have a great weekend.  And we’d love to hear about adventures your cats have with their feline neighbors 😺

CatSynth Pic: Yoli and Moog Sub Phatty

Beautiful white cat Yoli is making a monophonic drone on a Moog Sub Phatty synthesizer.  From yolanda.yolanda.yolanda on Instagram.

The Sub Phatty is perhaps the most under-appreciated member of Moog’s Phatty line of synthesizers, which includes the popular Sub37.  We have one at CatSynth, and it has served us well both in the studio and in live performance. You can view my recent video on the hidden features of the instrument below.

It has been a frequent setting for CatSynth pics over the years featuring many different cats, including CatSynth Video: Moog Sub Phatty Purrs.

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 😸

Cat Cartoonists on #NationalCartoonistsDay

 

The fifth of May marks a great many things. It is the birthday of Karl Marx – indeed, today marks his bicentennial! It is also a day when many Americans inexplicably get drunk and culturally insensitive in celebration of the Mexican defeat of the French Empire in the town of Puebla. And finally, it is National Cartoonists Day.  And in honor of this occasion, we celebrate many noted cat cartoonists.

We begin with B Kilban.  An artist originally from Connecticut, he got his start as a cartoonist here in San Francisco, drawing for Playboy.  It was at Playboy where his distinctive cat cartoons were discovered by editor Michelle Urry.  This led to his most well-known book, Cat.  You have probably seen his cats both in formal cartoons and adorning many products.  Kilban passed away in 1990, but his legacy lives on through his books and syndication of his images.  You can find out more at his official website www.eatmousies.com.

 

 

Of course, an article on cat cartoonists must include Jim Davis, the creator of Garfield.  Davis grew up on a farm in Indiana with his parents, brother, and 25 cats.  While the main human character in Davis’ cartoons, Jon Arbuckle is also a cartoonist who grew up on a farm, the spoiled and overweight Garfield seems nothing like a farm cat.  Indeed, his disdain for the concept of catching mice is a frequent topic of the strips.  Many an orange male cat has been named “Garfield” in the character’s honor.

 

 

One of the best-known works of Japanese manga artist Makoto Kobayashi also features an orange cat. What’s Michael? chronicles the adventures of a shorthair tabby named Michael and his many feline friends.  It was originally released in serial form in Japan’s Weekly Morning manga magazine, but it now available in the U.S. as well via Dark Horse Comics.  The stories are a mix of the mundane and surreal, with Michael sometimes appearing differently than the orange shorthair title cat, and sometimes even dying in certain episodes.

 

New Yorker cartoonist George Booth is best known his complex doodle-like cartoons featuring befuddled humans and their pets.  They are a mainstay of the magazine and synonymous with the “New Yorker style” of cartooning.  While the animal most frequently featured in his work is a fat dog with big ears, there are often cats as well.

 

 

And then there is Fritz the Cat, created by the legendary R. Crumb.  Fritz originally appeared in Crumb’s homemade comic book “Cat Life”.  Originally based on the family cat, Fritz became anthropomorphic in later iterations, evolving into the hedonistic con-artist character that was a mainstay of underground comix in the 1960s.  Fritz’s adventures in a New York-like mega-city populated entirely by anthropomorphic animals often devolved into chaos with unusual sexual escapades.   In the 1970s, Fritz the Cat was made into an animated feature film by Ralph Bakshi.

 

 

 

 

Fat Freddy's CatAnother underground comix artist Gilbert Shelton created a well-known feline character.  Known simply as “Fat Freddy’s Cat”, he initially appeared in Shelton’s Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers strip about a trio of stoner characters in the 1960s before getting his own strip.  A standalone series, The Adventures of Fat Freddy’s Cat was published in the 1970s and expanded in a 1980s release.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joann Sfar is a French comics artist.  Influenced by the European comics artists of the 20th century including the great Moebius (Jean Giraud), he has a distinctive style that is at once more realistic and fanciful.  One of his most well-known series is The Rabbi’s Cat, first released as a comic book in 2005 and later adapted into a film in 2011, which he directed.  The main feline character is a cat who has the ability to speak and lives with a rabbi and his daughter in the Jewish community of 1920s Algeria.  Sfar’s Jewish heritage runs through many of his works, but no more directly than in The Rabbi’s Cat.  In addition to the books, we at CatSynth recommend seeing the film (which is gorgeous) in the original French.

 

 

 

 

Another classic of feline cartoons is Krazy Kat, by George Herriman.  It had a long run as a comic strip in American newspapers from 1913 to 1944 when Herriman died.  The strip was based around the ostensibly simple cat-and-mouse trip, with the cat named Krazy being taunted and tormented by a mouse Ignatz who is often shown throwing bricks at Krazy’s head.  Krazy speaks in a very stylized mixture of English and other languages and is of indeterminate gender – though inexplicably smitten with Ignatz.

And finally, we would be remiss if we did not include our very own J.B., author the Mensa Cats series that appears right here on CatSynth.

You can see many more episodes of the Mensa Cats on these pages via this link.  We also encourage interested reads to find out more about all the artists discussed in this article and to read their comics.

Star Wars Day: Tookas in Forces of Destiny

Last year on May the Fourth, we shared a bit about felines in the Star Wars universe.  In particular, the many species of tooka, a small animal with cat-like appearance and behavior that was featured in both the Rebels and Clone Wars animated series.  Tookas also make an appearance in the new Forces of Destiny animated shorts.  In one episode, Jyn Erso saves and befriends a tooka that has adopted by a girl as a pet.

We at CatSynth love these short videos in the Forces of Destiny series.  Most of the attention has gone to their featuring of the women in the franchise, but they also cleverly weave together characters from different stories over the timeline.  We will have more to say about this series in a future article.  But for now, May the Fourth Be With You! (Oy vey!)

House of Dreams Cat Shelter, Portland (with CatSynth pics)

Our Volt Divers Cat-tastic edition show in Portland this past month raised funds for House of Dreams, a no-kill cat shelter that specializes in older cats and those with medical conditions that may make them more challenging to adopt out.   I had the chance to visit the shelter and made this video from the experience.

House of Dreams is, quite literally, a house at a non-disclosed location in Northeast Portland.  Most of the space is dedicated to the cats, who have can move about freely in their respective rooms.  We saw cats doing what cats do: play, interact, eat, and nap.  And they certainly get a lot of love and attention from the all-volunteer staff.

The is a separate section of the house for cats who have tested positive for feline leukemia (FeLV).  FeLV-positive cats to have special medical needs, and should be with other FeLV-positive cats, but they can still lead happy and full lives.  Indeed, a couple of the most playful cats I met while I was there were in the FeLV section.

This is Snowball, probably the biggest ham among the cats.

These “CatSynth pics” of the cats at House of Dreams were taken by our friend and Volt-Divers host Jeph Nor, a synthesizer virtuoso in his own right and human companion of Runkl.

This is Sassy, who definitely had an attitude to match her name.  (She appears at the end of our video giving us a “look” 😸).   Below is sweet Spice.

Flicka was one of my “tour guides” who followed me around.

Flicka from House of Dreams cat shelter

All the cats seemed pampered and well-loved by the staff.  They had lots of personal attention (if they wanted it).   Plus, the entire space was immaculate and full of furniture and toys to both stimulate and comfort the cats.  As a small shelter focusing on cats with special needs, they have fewer overall adoptions – each one is a celebration, though often a farewell to a friend that the volunteers have grown to love.  But they do have a good track record of adopting out, and often keep in touch with their “alumni” and human caregivers.

We at CatSynth were happy to visit and support them, both through our video and through the Volt Divers show.  If you want to find out more about House of Dreams, including information on donations, please visit their website.

 

Weekend Cat Blogging with Sam Sam: E-MU

Sam Sam has her usual spots, but sometimes she sits down in unexpected places.  For example, yesterday she entered “kitty loaf” mode in front of an overflow shelf just outside the studio that continued several old E-MU modules.

Sam Sam with E-MU Carnival, Orbit and Classic Keys

The E-MU Orbit, Carnival and Classic Keys are all variants of the first generation Proteus.  The Orbit, in particular, was iconic in its time, but all rather obsolete now.  I do still use my Proteus 2000 module (a Vintage Pro with Mo’Phatt and Beat Garden expansion ROMS) quite often – you never know when you might need a few lines of Mellotron flute or strings or a classic highly-filter-swept drum loop.  There are other ways to get these musical elements, but the P2K remains quick and accessible.  The Morpheus also still has a place of honor in the studio.

Proteus 2000 (Vintage Pro) and Morpheus

Both of these later-generation E-MU instruments had more to offer, especially the z-plane filters that the Morpheus took to the extreme.  These days, I do find myself experimenting with the Morpheus Eurorack module from Rossum Electro-Music more than the old E-MU box, which is just the z-plane filter with CV-controlled parameters.  Even after using it extensively in recent shows, I still have a lot to learn and practice with it.

When we’re not up in the studio, Sam Sam enjoys spending time on the living room rug and perfecting her patented “scratch-and-roll” move.

Sam Sam scratch-n-roll

I have too many photos of her in this pose now, it’s just hard to resist.  Of course, what she wants is not a photo, but pets and then brushing.  I am more than happy to oblige.