Wordless Wednesday: Industrial (Samoa, California)

Detail of power plant in Samoa, California, across Humboldt Bay from Eureka.

If you have not done so yet, please check out our video on Eureka and Samoa.

Farewell to 2019: Tipping Point

Our year-end collage is a long-standing tradition at CatSynth. And we had a lot of fun making this year’s edition, so many wonderful images to choose from. One of my best solo performances to date took place at the Compton’s Cafeteria series at the Center for New Music. Big Merp came to live with has at CatSynth HQ. And our adventures took us from the halls of NAMM to the bottom of Death Valley to the subways of New York.

As we mentioned at the end of last year, most of the energy has moved to CatSynth TV and our social media platforms (especially our Facebook page). The blog is mostly our core cat-and-synth pics these days, although I do enjoy sharing long-form articles now and then. And In 2020, I do plan to revive the “primary highways” series from eight years ago.

On the video side, things have been going very well. Here are the top videos for 2019:

  1. Rick and Morty Pocket Operator, Part 2
  2. Introduction to the KOMA Field Kit [Episode 106]
  3. Ginger Baker, In Memoriam
  4. EXCLUSIVE! Arturia Pigments 1.2 First Look
  5. Folsom Street Fair 2019
  6. NAMM 2019: Rossum Electro-Music Trident [Episode 116]
  7. Rick and Morty Pocket Operator Unboxing [Episode 166]
  8. Mutable Instruments Plaits [Episode 102]
  9. Strymon Magneto Loop & Sample Modes [Episode 125]
  10. NAMM 2019: Interview with Dave Smith of Sequential

By early autumn, I was also thinking about this year as a “tipping point.” The transition from the blog to the video channel is the most obvious, but it also applies also on the personal side. The arrival of Big Merp was one of the big stories, and it’s been a tough integration getting both cats to coexist, but things have been trending well in the past few months, with Sam Sam regaining her confidence and HQ becoming a more harmonious place again. Musically, I have moved in a direction that is perhaps closer to my roots in jazz, fusion, funk while maintaining the experimental electronic aspects. I have also moved to a point where studio work is how I spend most of my musical time, between the videos and other projects. Finally, I am getting older, as we all are, and that adds both perspective and a need to focus on health and wellbeing. In 2020, I may “do fewer things” than in the past, but I hope the things I choose to do make an impact both personally and beyond.

There is a lot to look forward to in the coming days: NAMM 2020 is around the corner, I have a full queue of demos to share, and I am laying the foundations for some major musical projects. And of course, we will continue to post cats and synths.

Wordless Wednesday: Samoa Beach

Structures on Samoa Beach near Eureka, California. I’m pretty confident these produce some of the sounds that I heard as I was filming the material for my latest CatSynth TV video, which you can see and hear below.

Wordless Wednesday: Music of the Spheres (Samoa Beach, CA)

Approaching sunset on Samoa Beach near Eureka, California.

Wordless Wednesday: Dolosse at Humboldt bay

Dolosse (plural of dolos, the “jacks” used on seawalls) along the inlet to Humboldt Bay at near Eureka, California.

Not-so-fun with Highways: Eureka…and Ukiah

There was a brief period of respite at the beginning of August between the end of the Outsound New Music Summit and the start of a new job.  Time was tight, so there wasn’t time for an extended odyssey in the deserts of southeastern California.  But the north coast, specifically Humbolt County and the area around Eureka, were well within range for a two-day trip.  I have never been that far north on the coast.  I got an Airbnb in Eureka.  I researched a mixture of industrial and natural spaces for photography and exploration.  I even got a new lens for the big camera.  And early on Saturday morning (or at least early by CatSynth standards), I was ready to go.

Eureka is a direct shot up US 101 from San Francisco, about a four-hour trip in good conditions.  It’s a major freeway up to the border between Sonoma and Mendocino counties, and then a mixture of an expressway and a two-lane road through the redwoods, with spots of freeway near major towns.

I never made it to Eureka.

The beginning of the trip was enjoyable and largely uneventful – and the Russian River gorge section after crossing into Mendocino County is spectacular.   North of Ukiah, I felt like I was actually transitioning into exploration, as this was somewhat novel territory (technically, I had been as far north as Legget in 2013, but that was in the evening and rushed).  Once CA 20 joins with 101 north of Ukiah, the combined route begins a long, steep grade into the hills.  It is here where things started to go a bit wrong.  The temperature gauge on the car, usually quite steady, suddenly shot up beyond the red “H”.  This is definitely not good.  I shut off the air conditioning and things calmed down a bit as we got into the new Willits bypass, a Super-2 limited access highway.  North of the bypass, 101 becomes a steep windy road through the woods; the temperature gauge shot up again.  This was definitely not good.  I limped back to Willits to give the car a break and figure out next steps.

I’ve been through Willits a few times, but never really stopped there.  The little downtown has some cute old brick buildings.  But I had no time to play – I needed to find a repair shop.  Nothing showed up in Yelp as open.  I probably should have called AAA at this time, but I did find an open shop in Ukiah, so I limped back.  I drove conservatively, with the windows open, the vent fully open, and one eye on the temperature gauge.

I was relieved when I finally pulled into Tony Lopez Automotive.  It was out a strange little industrial side-street south of downtown.  Tony was clearly not pleased to have someone wander in with car trouble just as he was getting ready to close, but he was also chivalrous and ready to help out a damsel in distress.  We got the car cooled down; and after a bit of diagnosis, he identified a small but pernicious radiator leak.  The diagnosis took some time, and while I was sitting I noticed a rather interesting pile of old car parts.  I snapped an iPhone photo, which became a Wordless Wednesday featured a couple of weeks ago.

I regret not grabbing my better camera out of the car to get a higher-quality image, but it was not my priority at the time.  And I do like the abstract quality the pixelation provides.  Tony did notice the fancier equipment still in the car, though, and it sparked a conversation about my writing and photography and about this site.  I wonder if he has checked it out.

Once things were ready, I left town – I would have loved to stay, but I was eager and anxious to get home.  I also left Tony Lopez a glowing Yelp review.  If you on 101 in the vicinity of Ukiah and need auto help, please patronize his shop and tell him that Amanda from San Francisco sent you.

The trip back to San Francisco was sad but uneventful, and in this case uneventful was good.  I didn’t record the trip back on Highway☆, but here is the exact same trek that I did record on a short but happier trip in July.

The engine temperature stayed within an acceptable range, and it was fine over the next few days in San Francisco, but the radiator definitely needed to repaired ASAP.  This experience also cured me of any sort of “fun with highways” wanderlust for a while and I have remained close to home since then (except for μHausen).  But the bug is starting to come back, and I might have to start exploring again.  I might even make it to Eureka one of these days…

See more of Northern California 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