Weekend Cat Blogging with Big Merp and Sam Sam

We have exciting news. Big Merp (aka “Marlon”) has come to live with us at CatSynth HQ!

Big Merp on the sofa

That is a soulful face a cat who has seen a lot in his short life (our vet thinks he actually isn’t that old, but life on the streets can certainly age one quicky). Due to circumstances beyond the scope of this site, our buddy in Oakland found himself needing a new place to live – otherwise, he would be back out on the streets. We’ve come to know him and love him over the past year, so it seemed like the obvious solution to welcome him into our home. Things were rather tentative at first, a new place and concept in a new city.

Big Merp arrives at HQ

But it didn’t take long for him to get comfortable, and now he practically owns the place.

Big Merp on the balcony

Sam Sam, on the other hand, is not too pleased with this intruder into her idyllic life. She has been a bit nervous and skittish, often looking for places to hid and decompress.

Sam Sam hides in the studio

She has mostly stayed on the upstairs level while Big Merp mostly stays downstairs for the time being. Their encounters to date haven’t been all that friendly, but Sam Sam is slowly gaining confidence. She prefers to stay upstairs, and I’m doing my best to shower her with affection and remind her that this is still her home and she is my special little girl.

Sam Sam is a wonderful and pretty cat

Merp is a very friendly cat, but Sam Sam has had some bad experiences in her past and it’s understandable she’s taking a little longer to adjust. I certainly hope that in the long run, they get along.

Sam Sam comfortable but wary

CatSynth Pic: Big Merp and Roland JD-Xi

We all know and love Big Merp, but he never had a “CatSynth pic”. Until now. Here we see him sitting in front of a Roland JD-Xi synthesizer.

The JD-XI is a cool little instrument, a hybrid analog-digital synth with a built-in vocoder. I haven’t had a chance to try the vocoder yet, but I’m curious how it compares to our VP-03 (also from Roland).

Weekend Cat Blogging with Big Merp

This weekend, we check in with Big Merp.

He’s definitely enjoying indoor-outdoor life as a pet cat. Most, though, just wants to chill out. And, he loves his food.

With the dreary weather of late, we certainly can’t blame him for spending time indoors, and we are glad that he has a place where he is safe and loved. But he does like to go outside when there is a break in the weather, patrol the neighborhood, and find his friend Hissy.

We hope you are all having a good weekend, and staying warm and dry.

Weekend Cat Blogging with Big Merp

It’s been a little while since we last checked in with Big Merp. He had been splitting his time indoors and outdoors in the Temescal neighborhood of Oakland, but as the cold and rain started pounding the region this winter, he has gladly made the transition to being a mostly indoor cat.

He is definitely loving the posh and comfy life in his new home.

He does like to go outside now and then, to patrol the neighborhood, and to check in on his lady friend Hissy. But most of the time he is content to stay inside. Sometimes, we open the door for him to go outside, and he just stands there, thinks and goes “nah” and heads back in. As someone who hates the cold, I think this is a wise choice.

Yesterday, we got him a catnip toy from our visit to Cat Town cafe and adoption center, and he has taken to it with aplomb.

We hope you are all enjoying a happy and fulfilling Sunday, whatever you are up to.

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 with Sam Sam: Sheltering from #CaliforniaFires

California is on fire.  To our south, the area northwest of Los Angeles that I remember fondly from past visits in on fire, including Malibu and Thousand Oaks.  To our north, the devastating Camp Fire has laid waste to much of the town of Paradise, is threatening Chico, and is among the smokiest I have ever experienced.  If anything the air quality in San Francisco is even worse than it was during last year’s wine-country fires, which were much closer.

We’re mostly hiding indoors during this time, at least as much as we can.  Even just opening the patio door for a minute left my eyes watering and nose as if I was just breathing straight out of a charcoal grill.   Yesterday, Sam Sam seemed quite distressed as the particulates seeped into HQ (mostly from the main hallway).  Today is slightly better, and she is more like her normal goofy self, including showing off her scratch’n’roll.

But she still is finding places to hide – if I can smell the smoke, I can only imagine it’s much more intense for her.  Yesterday, before I left for work, she jumped up on my chest and snuggled in, wanting me to stay and be close.  I had to go, but came home as soon as I could after my in-office responsibilities were done.

We do also worry about our pal Marlon in Oakland, who spends much of his time outside.

The light from the smoky skies is stunningly beautiful.  It’s amazing how such beauty can arise from something as awful as this.

But in all, we need to put our challenges in perspective.  I can’t imagine the horror and pain people in the fire zones are going through, losing their homes, fearing for their loved ones, and of course their companion animals.  The messages I see from people searching for their missing cats, or the heartbreak of not being able to rush home to rescue them, is painful and our hearts go out to them.  Other animals, too, of course, as we hear about horses, dogs, and birds.  

Both north and south zones have evacuation shelters for those who have small or large animals.  In the north, Butte County has set up a line for those who either find and are searching for lost pets in coordination with North Valley Animal Disaster Group.

NVADG is active both in trying to locate and rescue lost pets, as well as running multiple shelters for those with animals.  From their website:

NVADG is providing emergency animal sheltering and where and when allowed will evacuate and/or care for animals in evacuation areas.  
Animal shelters will be established at:


Small Animal Shelter: 2279 Del Oro Avenue, Oroville.  Off Nelson near the County Center and Highway 70.

Small Animal Shelter 150 Airpark Dr, Chico at the Chico Airport
Large Animals should be taken to the Rolling Hills Casino Equestrian Center off Highway 5 in Corning

If you want to donate to NVADG, please consider a cash donation. It gives us the flexibility we need and we will definitely need it!  Donate on our website or send a check to NVADG, PO Box 441, Chico, CA  95927. 

We certainly hope all the fires around our home state are brought under control soon, and the air returns to normal as well.  Then the hard work of rebuilding begins…

Weekend Cat Blogging with Marlon…and Sophia

Today we visit with our feline friends in the Temescal neighborhood of Oakland.  First up is Marlon, formerly known as “Fluffy.”

Despite living outdoors, he is healthy and well-fed, and clearly has a past that includes life as a pet cat.  He loves people and didn’t need much convincing to spend time indoors.  Indeed, he is living it up with his indoor time, getting food and scritches and soft blankets to relax on.

He is a big fellow but has a tiny voice that sounds more like “merp” than “meow”.  I don’t yet have any video of his vocals, but you can see him thoroughly enjoying himself in this Instagram video with the music of John Schott playing in the background.

You can hear more of John Schott and his Actual Trio in this CatSynth TV video.  In the meantime, let’s check in with Sophia, formerly known as “Hissy.”

As one can see in this photo, she is a beautiful cat, with Siamese-like markings and a graceful bearing.  We think she might have once been a pet as well, but she is still extremely skittish around people.  I mostly just get a glimpse of her from a distance and she runs off at any attempts to get closer.  But she usually remains hidden nearby when Marlon is around.  The two of them seem to have a special bond, despite their divergent attitudes towards humans.

We hope all our human and feline friends have a lovely weekend.