Weekend Cat Blogging: Cat Town

We recently joined our friend Serena Toxicat for a visit to Cat Town in Oakland. Our visit was featured in a recent episode of CatSynth TV.

Cat Town is an organization that helps foster and adopt out cats in the East Bay, with a particular emphasis on cats with special needs or those who otherwise have a hard time in a traditional shelter setting. From their official website

Cat Town Adoption Center and RAWR Cafe are dedicated to helping cats in Oakland and the surrounding areas find both foster and forever homes. They are particularly focused on cats with special needs or who otherwise don’t do as well in a standard shelter setting.

https://www.cattownoakland.org

The way it works is that you come to the cafe, order coffee and other treats, and then move into the cat area during a reserved appointment time. One initially comes into the bright and spacious open play area, adorned with murals and unique cat furniture depicting Oakland landmarks and local color.

Serena Toxicat with one of the denizens of Cat Town

But the cats are the real stars.


Many of the cats have the “clipped ear” suggesting they were fixed as part of TNR programs for outdoor cats.


The cats are well cared for, and are doing well in this environment where they receive a lot of individualized attention. In addition to the play area, there are quiet spaces for rest and alone time, as well as a newer second adoption space with rooms for the cats. This space, too, is adorned with interesting feline-and-local-themed murals.

Cat Town works closely with local animal services, as well as Adam Myatt — aka the Cat Man of West Oakland who co-founded the space. We have encountered and supported work documenting the street cats of his neighborhood over the years.

If you are in Oakland or the surrounding areas, we do recommend a visit to Cat Town. Bookings and purchases at the cafe support the cats, and you might end up with a new companion. For more information please visit cattownoakland.org.

Farewell to 2018

Click to enlarge

The end-of-year colage has become a long-standing tradition here at CatSynth, and one that I particularly enjoy. It was a complex year, and the images reflect that. Our cats Sam Sam and “Big Merp” (who has pretty much become an indoor-outdoor cat at his new home in Oakland), some great shows including outstanding performances with CDP and Vacuum Tree Head, a wonderful and restorative visit back to New York. It was also dark and fiery at times, as when the Camp Fire leveled the town of Paradise and bathed our sky in smoke and ash – beautiful and tragic all at once.

Another New Year tradition at CatSynth is to share some stats from the past year. First, the basics:

  • 309 posts
  • 169 Cat-and-music posts
  • 78 episodes of CatSynth TV

Our top posts for the year, using the somewhat shaky measurements of Google Analytics:

  1. Wordless Wednesday: Windmill (Golden Gate Park)
  2. Aretha Franklin: Rock Steady
  3. Secret Chiefs 3 and Cleric play Zorn’s Masada
  4. Women’s March 2018 in San Francisco
  5. CatSynth Pic: White Cat and Modular, Vertical View

It was heartening to see such a diverse set of posts top the list. However, this belies the fact that blog readership is way down, and eclipsed by Facebook and YouTube / CatSynth TV. Most of our referrals to the blog come from these two sources; but most activity stays on Facebook and YouTube. On the plus side, CatSynth TV viewership has grown significantly. Here are the top videos for the year.

  1. NAMM 2018: Mellotron! [Episode 34]
  2. Arturia MiniBrute 2 Part 1
  3. Arturia MiniBrute 2 Sequencer [Episode 61]
  4. NAMM 2018: Rossum Electro Music Assimil8or [Episode 31]
  5. Volca FM: Deconstructed Electric Piano [Episode 53]

Clearly, the NAMM reviews and synth demos dominate the channel, though I am proud of the diversity of art, music, and culture topics shared there as well. Overall, we at CatSynth do see the writing on the wall, and the efforts in 2019 will probably accelerate the shift from blog to video in terms of time, energy and investment.

On a more personal and introspective note, 2018 was a year we accomplished a lot. At the same time, it ends feeling like I both did too much and didn’t do enough. There are still so many things going on, even as we tried to consolidate and focus. One of the challenges going into 2019 will be looking at how to stay organized and even more focused, without giving up on all that we do. Also, like birthdays, a new year is a reminder that time is passing, and we are getting a bit older. Taking care of myself will also be a priority.

Thank you all as always for sharing this past year with us, and wish wish everyone a Happy New Year!

CatSynth TV Episode 99!

It’s the 99th Episode of CatSynth TV, and we have a special treat for all our readers and videos. It combines many of our interests: synthesizers, cats, experimental music and film, and highways.

Video shot along Highway 99 in California from Manteca through Stockton and heading towards Sacramento. Additional video and photography at CatSynth HQ in San Francisco.

Guest appearances by Sam Sam and Big Merp.

Original experimental synthesizer music by Amanda Chaudhary, based on melodies from “99 is not 100” by Moe! Staiano.

Synthesizers used:

  • Minimoog
  • Arturia MiniBrute 2S
  • Big Fish Audio John Cage Prepared Piano Sample Library (Kontakt)
  • Nord Stage EX
  • Mutable Instruments Plaits
  • Metasonix R-54 and R-53 2hp Cat module
  • 4ms Spectral Multiband Resonator
  • Make Noise Echophon

Weekend Cat Blogging with Marlon (aka Big Merp)

This weekend we check in on our feline pal in Oakland, Marlon.  We have dubbed him “Big Merp” for his large size and vocalizations that sound like “merp“.

This the face of a cat who has lived life hard, and just wants to chill out in his older years.  Fortunately, he is getting that opportunity as he has been spending more and more time indoors.  This included getting to stay indoors during the worst of the smoke from the wildfires to our north last month.

As we have mentioned before, it is clear he was a pet cat at one point in his life.  He enjoys the comforts of indoors, attention from humans, and food. Lots of food.  His friend Hissy is not so sure about the indoor life and is still wary of humans, but she does come around for food and to hang out with Big Merp.

The two of them clearly share a connection, even though they don’t always have the same outlook on life.  We hope Hissy does learn to trust people a bit more in the future.

We close with a reminder to readers to be kind to the cats – and other animals – that share our neighborhoods and spaces with us.  

Weekend Cat Blogging: Brooklyn Cat Cafe

We at CatSynth took a break from our busy schedule of art, friends, and family in New York to visit the Brooklyn Cat Cafe.  

The concept of the “cat cafe” originated in Japan, but has spread around the world, including at least three in New York.  Like Cat Town in Oakland, it is an all-volunteer effort focused on finding foster and forever homes for the cats in their care.  It is located in a small storefront on Atlantic Avenue in the shadow of the bridges and downtown Brooklyn, but a peek inside reveals a space covered in cats.

Many were napping, like the line above, but they are also quite playful and affectionate.  They are, of course, cats.

This sweet black kitty greeted me with a nose kisses.

Hilda was perhaps the most playful on this evening, looking visitors in the eyes as she played with various toys.  She especially liked this wires dangling from the main table.

Burton was a big fellow and quite a character.  A very friendly cat, he minded me a big of our friend Marlon, aka “the big merp” in Oakland, but with Sam Sam’s markings.

One of the hardest parts of traveling is leaving behind my cats.  So having cat cafes is in the cities I visit is most welcome.  The change to play with cats, cuddle them, and pet them can brighten the stormiest night.

The cats are clearly loved and well cared for, and there are rules for visitors that help ensure a safe and respectful space for them.  Most of these fall under the rubric of “don’t be a jerk”, but there are also reminders of the fact that each cat has a different level of comfort with human behavior.  If a cat is wary of being pet, respect their boundaries.  If a cat needs a break from human interaction and wants to hide (and I can certainly sympathize with that), let them.  And the result is a place filled with love among human and feline alike, and many cats have found their forever homes through visits to the cafe.

The Brooklyn Cat Cafe is run by the Brooklyn Bridge Animal Welfare Coalition, which is dedicated to finding homes for cats and other animals in their community.  They opened the cafe in 2016.

By our one-year anniversary in May of 2017, the cafe had welcomed over 35,000 visitors — an average of over 95 visitors cuddling with our cats per day — and placed over 250 cats in permanent adoptive homes.

To find out more about the cafe, including visiting, adopting cats, and how to donate or volunteer, please visit their website.

CatSynth Pic: Gracie and Vintage Synths (Oberheim, PPG, DK Synergy)

Gracie returns with an impressive collection of vintage synths, including multiple Oberheim modules, a PPG Wave, and a Synergy.  

From Alsún Ní Chasaide (Alison Cassidy) on Facebook.

How does she even get up there??

You can see Gracie’s many appearances on CatSynth via this link.

Military Cats on Veterans Day

On this Veterans Day, we salute some of the cats who have served in their countries armed forces. 

First up is Able Seacat Simon,

Simon has the distinction of being the only cat awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal after being wounded during a battle on the Yangtze River.  From his Wikipedia page:

The badly wounded cat crawled on deck, and was rushed to the medical bay, where the ship’s surviving medical staff cleaned his burns, and removed four pieces of shrapnel, but he was not expected to last the night. He managed to survive, however, and after a period of recovery, returned to his former duties in spite of the indifference he faced from the new captain Lieutenant Commander John Kerans. While anchored in the river, the ship had become overrun with rats, and Simon took on the task of removing them with vigour, as well as raising the morale of the sailors.

When Simon died in 1949 he was buried with full military honors and lies in PDSA Animal Cemetery in Ilford.

Cats in the military have most often been ship cats, who have perform the practical function of ridding the ships of rodents and other potential pests, as well as boosting the crew’s morale.  You can find many examples in this post from the Naval History Blog

“War Veteran – ‘Pooli’, who rates three service ribbons and four battle stars, shows she can still get into her old uniform as she prepares to celebrate her 15th birthday. The cat served aboard an attack transport during World War II.” Los Angeles, 1959.

Cats have also served on land.  Pfc Hammer served with an Army unit in Iraq in 2004.  

The cat, dubbed Pfc. Hammer, experienced the war right alongside the soldiers. He jumped at the sound of nearby gunfire and unexpected explosions when they did. He would always take the soldiers’ minds off of the war at just the right time.


During a mortar attack on the unit Hammer ran to the bunker with everyone else. The nearest soldier picked up the cat and tucked the feline inside his body armor for safe keeping until the attack was over.

http://petslady.com/articles/hammer_time_cat_iraq_62910

In the true spirit of “no soldier left behind”, the unit made sure that Hammer was able to come back to the U.S. with them.  With the help of  Alley Cat Allies and Military Mascots, he was relocated stateside and no lives with fellow veteran Staff Sgt. Rick Bousfield and his family.

If you have stories of cats who have served in war, we would love to hear from you in the comments below.

CatSynth Video: Chat écoutant la musique – Chris Marker

A CatSynth video from the great Chris Marker

Marker’s cat naps peacefully atop a Yamaha DX7 synthesizer. From his collection Bestiaire aka Petit Bestiaire (1990), consisting of three ‘video haikus’:

We at CatSynth love Chris Marker’s film Sans Soleil.  It made an indelible mark on my thoughts about film and even inspired me to go find and visit the shrine dedicate to cats outside Tokyo that he featured.  You can read about that adventure here.

CatSynth Pic: Luna and Mellotron Micro for Halloween

Not our Luna, but another sweet black cat who shared the name 😻and all dressed up as a sushi roll for Halloween!  From Yoselin Alcala‎ via our Facebook page.

A Cats on Synthesizers Halloween submission! Our little Luna in her sushi costume with a Mellotron ✨🎃 

“Sushi Luna” is posing with a Mellotron Micro synthesizer.  We at CatSynth are quite interested in this smallest edition in the venerable Mellotron series.  It is also the subject of our most popular CatSynth TV episode.



Weekend Cat Blogging with Sam Sam, and Remembering Luna on #BlackCatDay

Sam Sam continues to delight every day with her adorable antics.

And she certainly gets lots of love and attention in response.

It’s interesting to see how different her unique facial markings look from different angles.

Of course, being the constant center of attention can be quite exhausting, so there is always time for naps.

Sam Sam often sticks a paw on her tail while sleeping, a trait we have remarked on before.  I don’t know whether it serves a purpose or is just a quirky habit, but it is very sweet.


Today is #BlackCatDay, and an opportunity to celebrate and recognize black cats as we close in on Halloween when stereotypes and threats sometimes reach a crescendo.  It breaks our hearts to think of any cat being hurt or abused, but black cats can face an especially different time.

For years, the celebration of black cats on and around Halloween was a ritual, with Luna often hosting the special Halloween Black-Cat Edition of Weekend Cat Blogging (back when that was a shared thing).  Now it is more a time to remember and reflect on Luna, who left us on October 31 two years ago.  We will have a proper remembrance on that day, but for now, we just want to bask in the beauty of our beloved black kitty.