Sunday, December 11, 2011

Why my daughter still believes in Santa Claus

Me and my gal Christmas 2001

Yes Sophia, there is a Santa Claus, and you know him.
Due to an incredibly fortunate set of situations, my daughter is going to believe in Santa Claus for her entire life. For one, there really was a Saint Nick, and I've been to his hometown (Patara, Turkey...look it up). Second, as is common knowledge, Santa moved to points further north some time ago and now resides somewhere in Alaska. For many years, so did we. But most importantly, my daughter was lucky enough to be surrounded by people who had a serious commitment to their town and the people in it. One of those wonderful people was Santa.
Santa lived out of town a ways with his wife, and for most of the year tended to the fish hatchery. I don't want to say exactly where, because, well, he might get inundated with Santa stalkers, and Mrs. Claus would definitely not appreciate that. But this Santa was the full package. Lots of white hair, a full, bushy beard, and his wife fed him well. He also had a wonderful, jolly attitude. He was perfectly happy to put on that red suit every December and head into town for hours of conversation with young children with long wish lists and stories about how they'd been good all year. Santa knew better. He's no dummy. But Santa was a great listener, always optimistic, and always game.
For example, I give you Christmas of 2001. Sophia had just turned 4. We were getting ready to leave in a few days to head south to spend the holidays with my family in Oregon. The Saturday before we left, Sophia and I went to a holiday bazaar in the community gymnasium, where she picked out a lovely handmade candle with peppermint candies imbedded in the side as a gift for her Aunt Dana, who was going to be with us over the holidays. This was the first gift Sophia had ever picked out for anyone, so it was a big deal for her.
The next day, we went to the grocery store. We were in the produce section when Sophia, still small enough to sit in the seat and poke her legs through those teeny holes, grabbed my arm. "Mama! Look! It's.....SANTA!" Sure enough, there he was, out of uniform, picking out carrots with the missus. "We need to tell him we won't be here this year for Christmas," she said, sounding ever so concerned. She didn't want him showing up at the house, squeezing down the teeny weeny chimney of our wood stove, only to find out that we weren't home.
What's a mom to do? I pushed my cart over towards the couple, and said, "Why hello there, Santa." I kind of laugh now that I even thought that for a second I needed to remind him of his position in the community. Santa was experienced. He'd had this gig for years. He greeted Sophia by name, and told her he was just picking up some carrots for his reindeer.
Sophia told Santa not to come to our house this year because we wouldn't be there.
"Oh, so you're visiting your grandparents in Oregon then?"
Ok, I have to admit, even I was a little surprised that Santa knew my family was in Oregon. But we did live on an island. With just a few thousand people. It's hard to live somewhere like that without getting to know every single inhabitant as well as some of the intimate details of their lives whether you want to know it or not. Plus, Santa pays attention. And he knows everything.
I was trying to move on, to push that cart over towards the dairy section because I didn't want to overstay my welcome with Santa, but before I could get away, Sophia said, "Santa? Could you do something for me? Could you take the peppermint candle to my Aunt Dana?"
Santa barely faltered.
"Well I'll see what I can do."
"And all I want this year is a nose like Rudolph."
Santa laughed and said he'd work on that too, and I got the hell out of there.
Imagine my surprise the next day when there was a knock at the front door. It was Santa, in blue jeans & red suspenders. He asked for Sophia, who was playing with a friend in her bedroom, and their jaws dropped when I called them to the front door because Santa was here to see her, to pick up that peppermint candle.
What a thrilling moment it was for Sophia when all her Christmas wishes came true. She woke up on December 25th in Oregon to find that very peppermint candle on the  mantle at my mom & dad's, with a note to Aunt Dana explaining that while it was a little unorthodox for Santa to deliver other people's gifts, he considered Sophia a personal hometown friend, and was happy to oblige. He also left Sophia a red, blinking Rudolph nose on an elastic string so she could wear it on her face.
A few years later, when Sophia was in grade school, some kids started spreading that nasty rumor that there's no such thing as Santa Claus. That he's just some dude in a fat suit with a fake beard letting kids sit on his lap for a part-time job. I told her she needed to defend his honor. I reminded her that not only had she lived near him in Alaska, she'd shopped beside him at the grocery store, and he was a personal friend who'd done her a favor outside of his regular job description. Santa was real, and so was the beard.
We also talked about how even if the original Santa wasn't alive today, that everything Santa stands for - the concept of Santa - is alive and well throughout the world. Santa is the spirit of giving and spreading joy, the spirit of connecting community, and even the idea that if you're good, you are inviting good things to happen in your life. Santa is generosity. Santa is a smile. Santa is a plate of cookies or a hug or any random act of kindness. Santa is actually all year long, if we want. And don't we?

Speaking of cookies, and finally getting around to music...sometimes I get annoyed by the endless loop of holiday music in the grocery store, but I do love listening to Christmas tunes when I'm cooking or cleaning the house preparing for the holiday celebration, or having a meal with good friends & family.
Putting together the perfect mix of holiday music is not so easy though. First of all, there's so many of them! There's the familiar, the unfamiliar, the good, the bad and the downright ugly (If you've heard Richard Cheese's version of 'Holiday in Cambodia' then you know what I'm talking about).
So in the hopes of making your holidays brighter (and in the spirit of Santa), today I'm sharing with you my favorite holiday mix. Make that mixES. I'm including three separate holiday mixes, one for every mood. Nothing too obnoxious (except for the Jingle Dogs. I couldn't help myself), nothing silly (except for the Jingle Dogs. Seriously, who doesn't love just a little bit of Jingle Dogs), and nothing from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Oh wait. I take that back. There is an appearance from the charming Mormon Tabernacle Handbell Choir. And it ain't bad!
Just 3 totally different playlists for whatever holiday mood you find yourself in today. Or if you really go crazy for this stuff, play all 3 at the same time. It can be done!
Please enjoy my little Christmas gift to the world, and please consider the idea of keeping the concept of Santa alive in your heart all year long.

Smells Like Christmas Spirit
Smells Like Christmas Spirit by Valerie Ing-Miller on Grooveshark

Have a Jazzy Little Christmas

Jazzy Little Christmas by Valerie Ing-Miller on Grooveshark

A Classical Christmas
Classical Christmas by Valerie Ing-Miller on Grooveshark

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Aaron Neville Tells It Like It Is

It's official! A News Cafe readers are the luckiest readers in these here parts. This week, once again, A News Cafe, Jefferson Public Radio and yours truly, the Mistress of the Mix, are teaming up to give away a pair of front row tickets to another spectacular performer at the Cascade Theatre. So read on, give the Nevillecentric playlist a listen, and comment below to enter to win.

I've had the rare opportunity to meet, even if only for a few brief moments, some of the most amazing and talented performers in the world since JPR restored the Cascade Theatre. Sometimes I'm lucky enough for that meeting to be a 15 minute conversation about buying funeral plots, as was the case with Chris Isaak, sharing an entire meal together (the Manhattan Transfer), or sharing the stage for an entire song (when Pink Martini invited me up for their encore). But mostly my moments are nothing more than a quick handshake (if that) just before I run out on stage to get you excited about upcoming shows (you do know Peter Frampton is coming next Spring, right? And Foreigner? And Kenny Rogers?)  and thank our sponsors.
That was pretty much the case the last time Aaron Neville brought his amazing voice to Redding a couple of years ago. He came up the stairs, said hello to me, and then I turned around and ran out for my 2 minutes alone with ya'all.
I'm really looking forward to Aaron Neville's next appearance on the Cascade Theatre stage on December 21st. Not just because of the distinctive quality of Neville's voice, but because I'd really like the opportunity to thank him for being so willing to go on the road during the holidays. I  have to really respect someone who's willing to venture out to entertain the demanding masses (that would be us) just a few days before Christmas.
Being on the road ain't easy. You've probably seen those big buses that hug the alley behind the theatre during a show. That's not just a means of getting around for most of the performers who grace the stage of the Cascade. That's home. Sometimes for months at a time. Living on a bus is just part of the necessary evil of being a star performer on tour.
I've lived on a small island before. It was just me and a few thousand other people who tended to get pretty grumpy in the winter when the weather was bad and there was nothing to do but sit inside, and we just saw the same faces day after day. Even though my island was 30 miles long and a few miles wide, it felt so small in the winter, that being stuck there was a slow suffocation.
Now take that small island claustrophia and put it on a 40 foot bus with one bathroom, and send it out on the road in the middle of December, from Oklahoma through Texas, to Arizona, and then up I-5, for 4 shows in one week. That's Aaron Neville's life right now. Taking the same path as Santa Claus, pretty much, just a few days before Christmas. Maybe he's breaking trail for the big guy in red.
It must take a very strong backbone, a lot of patience and a real love of what you do if you're going to do it like this, and you're doing it at this time of the year. Well, I'd like to thank him for gracing us in that way, and maybe I'll get the opportunity to do that when he takes to the stage on the 21st.
Check out today's playlist on Grooveshark if you want a taste of what Aaron Neville will be singing during that show.
Hopefully you, sweet reader, will be able to grace the Cascade Theatre with your presence as well. One lucky reader will get a pair of front & center seats to enjoy the show just by commenting below. I'll draw the winner in the traditional scientific tossing all the entries into an old green fruitcake tin I keep next to my desk and drawing a name a few days before the show.
A final note: I'd like to toss out a holiday gift idea for those who want to keep it local: A Cascade Theatre gift certificate or membership.(Click here to purchase a gift certificate, or here to become a member.)  The theatre is offering memberships early for the next season (which doesn't start until late Spring or early Summer 2012). If you join now, you'll have early ticket purchasing privileges for the entire 2012-13 JPR season (which hasn't even been released yet) plus any new JPR shows added for the rest of this season. You'll also have the ability to exchange seats within a show or exchange tickets from one JPR show to another if something comes up months after you've purchased tickets that keeps you from attending. It's a great feel-good thing to do, because you'll be supporting a local non-profit dedicated to making your life more rewarding by bringing high quality entertainment and culture to our town.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

An Early Holiday Gift To You From The Mistress Of The Mix & Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

Dear readers, did I mention last week how thankful I am for you? Although writing Mistress of the Mix is immensely satisfying to me personally, I really appreciate all the support and generally nice things ya'all have to say about the column and my musical choices for the accompanying playlists. Music is my passion, and to know that you're sharing that with me and enjoying it really means a lot. So it gives me great pleasure to share something else with you today...another pair of tickets to one of my all time favorite swingin' bands, in today's Mistress of the Mix special edition.

I've seen a lot of bands once. A very select few, twice. But three times? I can only think of one band:
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.  Their style is unique. Scotty's voice is spectacular.They're music is amazing. Even more impressive is that the whole group has stuck together all these years. Seven guys who've been making music for more than 20 years, and every time I've seen them, they've completely convinced me that after all this time they still really enjoy what they do, who they're doing it with, and who they're doing it for. (And they're really nice guys. My daughter had a hilarious encounter with Scotty during their first performance at the Cascade when she was still in elementary school that she still talks about today.)
But don't just take my word for it.

Experience it for yourself on Tuesday, December 6th, when Big Bad Voodoo Daddy returns to the Cascade Theatre with what I believe will be the swingingest dance party of the holiday season from Jefferson Public Radio. I have it on good authority that they'll mix it up a little, serving up a generous helping of their raucously fun Christmas and wintery weather tunes along with a huge heaping portion of the hits we all know and love. Comfort food of sorts, from the kings of swing. If you're not familiar with or haven't yet become a fan of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, I'm here to help.

Please enjoy this playlist, a mix of BBVD tunes on Grooveshark, served up just the way I hope they'll do in a few weeks. This playlist is a well balanced meal of seasonal songs and their past hits. Enjoy.
Oh....and before I forget, one lucky fan of Mistress Of The Mix will get a chance to experience Big Bad Voodoo Daddy up close and personal. As my early holiday gift to you, I hold in my hand a coveted pair of front row tickets to the show. All you have to do to enter to win this pair of tickets is to leave a comment below, and I'll draw a winner December 4th. Hope to see you there!

Monday, November 14, 2011


I feel so sorry for Thanksgiving. It's a great unique, so North American, so full of mashed potatoes and gravy. It's such a warm & fuzzy holiday that bridges the gap between the Christian idea of giving a shout out to God for putting food on our plates and the Pagan practice of recognizing the sun and the earth and the rain for working together to provide a bountiful harvest. It's about the original dwellers of this land accepting the newcomers, and working through our differences to try and live together. I like that. But poor, poor Thanksgiving, it's been the middle child for a long time, and it's just getting worse. Thanksgiving is stuck between Halloween and Christmas, who's competition for the holiday spotlight has gotten so intense, that Thanksgiving just gets lost in the middle.
And I think that's just wrong.
Don't misunderstand me. I love Halloween and Christmas, but I dislike the fact that Christmas has become so commercialized, every retailer depending on their entire year going into the black by selling massive quantities of stuff to us consumers to give away to each other. In order to do this, retailers have pushed up the "Shopping Season" (just calling it what it is) to butt up against Halloween instead of politely waiting until Thanksgiving is over.
Well, today I am giving Thanksgiving it's due. In fact, I'm challenging you, reader, to do your best to celebrate Thanksgiving, to even celebrate Thanksgiving all the way to Christmas, in a way that won't cost you a dime.
Discover the things you're grateful for in your life and express it. Not just here (although I welcome your comments). Express it to those who deserve to know it in a thank you note extolling their virtues & singing their praises. Then wrap these little notes up with a ribbon and give them as as personalized holiday gifts that I guarantee will mean so much more to the recipient than a tin of peppermint bark or a hat & scarf set. These simple, yet significant acts of grace could be the most meaningful gift you ever give.

OK, get to writing those thank you notes!

And while you're at it, please enjoy these songs of gratitude on Grooveshark.

Thankful by Valerie Ing-Miller on Grooveshark

  1. Louis Armstrong - Thankful
  2. Dido - Thank You
  3. Kelly Clarkson - Thankful
  4. Jonny Lang - Thankful
  5. Delbert McClinton - I Wanna Thank You
  6. Mavis Staples - I Wanna Thank You
  7. India.Arie - Thankful
  8. Natalie Merchant - Kind & Generous
  9. Bob Marley - Give Thanks & Praise
  10. Shaggy - Thank You Lord
  11. Michael Franti - Thank You
  12. Edwin Starr & Blinky - I'm So Thankful
  13. Bonnie Raitt - I Thank You
  14. Ruthie Foster - Thanks For The Joy
  15. Spanky Wilson & The Quantic Soul Orchestra - I'm Thankful
  16. Sly & The Family Stone - Thankful N' Thoughtful
  17. Natalie Cole - Be Thankful
  18. Elton John - All That I'm Allowed (I'm Thankful)
  19. Bing Crosby - Thanks
  20. Ashanti - Thank You

Let's put the FUNK in Dysfunctional

Relationships can, at times, be pure torture. Hopefully, instead of identifying with today's playlist, it will actually make you feel a little bit better about your own life life, no matter what your situation. It wouldn't matter if you were happily married, desperately seeking, or just sank the final nail into the coffin of your last relationship, because today's playlist is dedicated to those really really messed up relationships that haven't yet taken their final breath - but really, really  need to. Yes, today we're putting the funk in dysfunctional!

What qualifies as 'Dysfunctional'
One of my good girlfriends always gets a kick out of a song I turned her onto some years ago about a woman who embraces her affection for sociopaths.  Every time she hears the song at my house she says, "Val, you gotta put together a playlist of all the pathetic, dysfunctional relationship songs in your arsenal." I just happen to have a few. Well, as it turns out, more than a few. Turns out I've got songs about desperate women, womanizing men, obsessive stalkers, cheaters and beaters and revenge seekers.  In fact, some of these songs aren't even about romantic relationships gone bad. Eminem's "Stan" is about an obsessed fan, and William Shatner's most brilliant effort ever (even better than Captain Kirk) is his portrayal of an estranged father alongside Aimee Mann and Ben Folds.
There's just not a lot of happy in these songs (although the witty Lily Allen seems pretty thrilled to get back at her cheating guy in "Smile" and Avril Lavigne is blissfully ignorant of the impact her actions have on others in "What The Hell." But if you're looking for happiness, today's playlist is not the place to find it. But if you're looking for revenge, or if you're a tortured soul looking for a little empathy, perk up your ears.

Don't shoot the messenger 
Some of these songs will piss you off, as they should! Oh, I hope they do. Many of them make me downright angry. Sometimes I even forget they're just songs. Every time I hear the pathetically desperate and sweet voice of Sara Watkins (from her Nickel Creek days) calling out to Anthony, I wanna shake her! Likewise, every time Sara's former bandmate Chris Thile's song "Alex" comes over my stereo, I want to reach through the speakers and knock one of his teeth out.  This is a man I've had the pleasure of meeting twice (and he's really nice), but still, I find it difficult to separate reality from songwriting. The lyrics are so callous and heartless, that I forget it's not an actual guy singing about luring women away from their boyfriends just for fun. Or is it? Regardless, every time I hear these songs I end up simultaneously furious and in awe of the songwriting skills that make me feel that way.

F-Bomb Warning!
There's some pretty strong language in this playlist. I've dropped a few F Bombs here and there in the past, but there's some very passionate language in almost half the songs on this one. And by passion, I'm talking about the kind of hateful rage that can only be fueled by intense love gone sour. I remember once somebody explained to me that hate is not the opposite of love, but that love and hate are equal on the scale of passion. (The opposite of both love and hate is apathy.)  When passionate love turns sour, it can turn into passionate hate, and passion is what fuels amazing songwriting.
* = F Bombs and other nasty name calling

Enjoy (okay, Experience) this playlist on Grooveshark

  1. Anya Marina - Sociopath - The song that inspired this playlist
  2. Ben Folds with Regina Spektor - You Don't Know Me*
  3. Nickel Creek - Anthony 
  4. Kate Nash - Foundation*
  5. Garbage - #1 Crush - Someone likes someone just a little too much.
  6. Macy Gray - Relating To A Psychopath
  7. Ludo - Love Me Dead Thanks to my friend Tim, who kept asking me about this song that he'd heard once upon a time on my iPod where a guy sings about how wonderful and awful his girlfriend is at the same time. Great addition to this playlist!
  8. Lily Allen - Smile* Revenge, sweet revenge!
  9. Eminem with Dido - Stan* I haven't found a lot that I like about Eminem, but this song about a deranged fan is actually pretty brilliant.
  10. Eminem with Rihanna - Love The Way You Lie* OK, this song is pretty scary. If this relationship sounds close to home to anyone reading this column, get out NOW. 
  11. Magnetic Fields - Yeah! Oh Yeah
  12. Rob Favre - Dysfunction
  13. Florence Rawlings - A Fool In Love I like Tina Turner's version better, because her lyrics weren't fiction to her.  Alas, Grooveshark does not have access to Tina.
  14. William Shatner with Ben Folds & Aimee Mann - That's Me Trying That's me not trying very hard, that is, to make up for years of neglectful parenting. Thanks to fashion designer Wil Curtis for finding this gem for me.
  15. Avril Lavigne - What The Hell
  16. The Police - Every Breath You Take Sting, if it weren't you, I'd be filing a restraining order so fast it'd make your head spin.
  17. Punch Brothers - Alex Come on ladies, this song makes your blood boil, doesn't it?
  18. The Rescues - You're Not Listening
  19. Doris Day - Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps If I ever have my own cabaret show, I will be singing this pathetic song about a woman who just can't leave, even though deep down, she knows he doesn't love her.
  20. Maroon 5 - Nothing Lasts Forever Adam Levine & his gang of musicians have broken a Mistress of the Mix record - 4 songs on one playlist! He's so good at writing about dysfunctional relationships that you'd think he was writing from experience, wouldn't ya?
  21. Maroon 5 - This Love True Story: Turns out Levine spent years in a really dysfunctional relationship with a woman named Jane. So affected was he, that he wrote a tons of songs about her, and his band named their debut album exactly what it was: "Songs About Jane." Poor Jane.
  22. Maroon 5 - Misery
  23. Maroon 5 - Harder To Breathe*
  24. Janis Joplin - Piece Of My Heart
  25. David Lowery (of Cracker) - All Those Girls Meant Nothing To Me And I'm sure expressing that sentiment makes everything all better. 
  26. Staind - Dysfunction
  27. Ween - Baby Bitch* I'm convinced a song this full of venom can't be made up. I know there's a ton of Weenies around who will let me know if this song is based on a real life experience.
  28. Puddle of Mud - She Hates Me* She doesn't just hate you, dude. She effing hates you. But way to turn that sentiment into a really catchy riff!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Rickie Lee Jones

Today's column features an opportunity to win a pair of front row tickets to the upcoming Rickie Lee Jones concert at the Cascade Theatre!

When I was in high school, I did a lot of babysitting. It was more than just a way to make money, it's also one of the main ways I was introduced to music that otherwise I never would've been exposed to. I was one of those babysitters who would go through the kitchen cupboards looking for chocolate, and then I'd go through the LP collection looking for something interesting. That's how I found the B52s, and that's also how I discovered Rickie Lee Jones.
One night I was watching the young child of a woman who was, coincidentally, a future JPR colleague known to most of you as The Nurse, who co-hosts the Retro Lounge on Saturday nights at 9pm (on your radio in Shasta County at 89.7 or streaming live at When she left the house, the record player was already on, and I was immediately enraptured by the dreamy, kind of lazy voice of Rickie Lee Jones, a chanteuse unknown to me until that moment. She was jazzy, quirky, and I loved what I heard. Loved it enough to listen to that album over and over again for about 4 hours until The Nurse returned home.
That album was Rickie Lee Jones' self-titled debut, featuring Chuck E's In Love and Danny's All Star Joint. That album also featured a host of other musical heavy hitters that I'd never heard of at the time, like Dr. John, Randy Newman, Michael McDonald, Tom Scott & Steve Gadd. But mainly it served as my introduction to the amazing songwriting skills of RLJ. I've been a fan ever since, and although the first songs I ever heard continue to be favorites, I can name about ten songs that she's done throughout her career that rank as brilliant in my book.
Sometimes I get lucky when JPR decides to book a performer that I just adore. And this year I've been very, very lucky. First there was Chris Isaak, then k.d. Lang. I didn't think it could get any better than that, and then the next thing you know, we got the B52s! And now, glory be and whattaya know, Rickie Lee Jones will be gracing the Cascade Theatre stage this Saturday night, November 5th at 7:30pm. I've got it on good authority that the show will feature most of her greatest hits from the past 3 decades.
And readers, sometimes you get lucky as well. I've got a special pair of front row tickets to share with one lucky reader of Mistress Of The Mix today. All you have to do is leave a comment on this column, and you'll be entered to win. We'll announce the winner on Friday.
Of course, you may want to make sure you've got the opportunity to experience the great talent of RLJ by purchasing a pair of tickets to the show. You can do that online 24-7 at the Cascade Theatre website or call the Cascade Box Office at (530) 243-8877.
In the meantime, please enjoy this Grooveshark playlist of all my favorite RLJ hits, starting with the very first one I heard.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Hang In There, Baby!


Ever have one of those months when life is just one swift kick in the seat of your pants after another?

I have to admit that right now, life is pretty good. For me. Except for one thing. I've been saddened lately by the overwhelming number of my friends that are experiencing problems. Huge problems. Medical. Heartbreak. Custody issues. Job loss. Disappointment. Grief. Financial setbacks. Bad juju is buzzing around like a mosquito hunting for a warm body right now, and I wish I could swat it into oblivion. Of course I can't.

I can only be there, for my friends, with a sympathetic (sometimes more empathetic) ear. I can listen, I can bitch, I can suggest potential solutions, but there's really nothing I can do to ease the worries and frustrations for any of my friends. I can't make their troubles go away. And for many of them, what's done is already done. The thing that rocked their world has already happened, and now all that's left is the emotional pain. Finding a way to make that emotional pain and suffering go away and move forward is all they can do. And that can be a mighty difficult thing to accomplish.

It reminds me of a time back in the late 80's when I was going through a rough patch. I had just broken up with my college boyfriend of several years after realizing that all the love in the world I  had to offer wasn't as strong as the lure of something else that had come between us - drug addiction. And as long as I stayed with him, I was enabling him to continue, at my own emotional expense. So I finally walked out the door - on Christmas, no less - and he continued along his downward spiral. Now he's a substance abuse counselor.

I was pretty depressed for a while after that, because I hate giving up on love. It seemed like not only had I lost this relationship, but other bad things were lining up to take a shot at me. Parking tickets. Car breaking down. Money problems. School problems. Roommate problems. I related to a co-worker that I felt like PigPen, with this big dark cloud following me around, raining crap on everything I touched. It seemed like every conversation I had, every situation I found myself in, was tinged with negativity. At some point I realized that other people were simply reacting to the permanent scowl I had on my face, but didn't know how to turn things around. I felt like giving up.

Then one evening, music changed my entire attitude. I was hosting the late night jazz show at JPR at the time, and I came across this song that said everything I needed to hear. When I heard it, I realized that I did need to give up. I needed to give up the worries, the attitude, the fear and the negative thoughts that had been clouding my head. I needed to box up those worries and ship 'em off somewhere else. I played the song on the radio, and smiled for the first time in months. Had my first belly laugh since December. When that song was over, I was ready to move on. And I give all the credit to Mose Allison.

Years later, I found my job on the chopping block when Newt Gingrich launched a successful effort to snatch most of the federal funding away from public broadcasting. The staffing for the station I was at - the only source of daily local or regional news in the pre-internet era - was going to be cut from 13 to 3. Things got ugly as co-workers began strategizing was to keep the few jobs that would be left at the end of the month.  One day as I was going through the new releases I found a song that helped me realize I had the power within me to live through it - to hang tough - and find another career. I started the day feeling overwhelmed and crushed in spirit, and after playing that song I felt lifted and ready to hang tough. I asked to be pink slipped that very day, telling my boss that while radio was my passion, I was going to move on, start my own coffee house and have a baby. And that's just what I did.

To sum up: Music has a way of speaking directly to us from time to time. Forgive me as I unabashedly quote from almost every song on today's playlist as I speak directly to you.

Friends, when life is getting you down, don't worry about a thing because sometimes you can't control your life (no matter how hard you try), and sometimes things just don't turn out alright. Whattaya gonna do about it? You're gonna suck it up. You're gonna hang on. You're gonna stand up. You're not gonna back down. You're gonna look on the bright side and you're not gonna give up. You're gonna survive, and you're gonna hang tough. You're gonna be OK. You're gonna put on a happy face, dust yourself off, keep your head up, walk on the sunny side of the street, get back in the saddle & cowboy up.
I know you can do it. I have faith in you.

Stream the playlist on Grooveshark:

  1. Mose Allison - I Don't Worry About A Thing 
  2. Crescent City Gold - Hang Tough This is the musical Dream Team of New Orleans. Dr. John, Allan Toussaint, all the great musicians together, hanging tough.
  3. Lenny Kravitz - Stand Unfortunately, Grooveshark doesn't carry this tune. Bummer. Fortunately, YouTube does! Please enjoy this song by watching the video. It's one of the most meaningful of the bunch.
  4. Destiny's Child - Survivor
  5. Morcheeba - Good Girl Down
  6. Randy Newman - Can't Keep A Good Man Down
  7. Andy Grammer - Keep Your Head Up
  8. Stevie Wonder - Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing
  9. Monty Python - Always Look On The Bright Side
  10. Frank Sinatra - On The Sunny Side Of The Street
  11. Ingrid Michaelson - Be OK
  12. Pink Martini - Hang On Little Tomato That little tomato is you!
  13. Ben Folds - Golden Slumbers Maybe what you really need is a nap.
  14. Coldplay - Everything's Not Lost
  15. Michael Franti & Spearhead - Hey World (Don't Give Up)
  16. Kate Bush - Don't Give Up
  17. Tom Petty - I Won't Back Down
  18. Shakira - Waka Waka 
  19. Chris LeDoux - Cowboy Up
  20. Gene Autry - Back In The Saddle Again
  21. Andrews Sisters & Bing Crosby - Ac-cen-tu-ate The Positive
  22. Anita O'Day - Pick Yourself Up
  23. Stevie Wonder - Put On A Happy Face
  24. Michael Franti & Spearhead - Have A Little Faith

Monday, October 3, 2011

Put Your Lips Together and Blow

Whistling is not as easy as Lauren Bacall makes it out to be in Casablanca.

"You just put your lips together and blow," she says.  Psssssh.

Anyone who knows me, really knows me, knows that I can't whistle worth a crap.
Well, I should clarify that. I can whistle. I can't carry a tune, and I can't do one of those awesome attention getting whistles with my pinkies hanging from the corners of my mouth, but it's good enough to get the dog to come running. What my whistle is really good for is getting a belly laugh out of other people who see me doing it, because I look completely ridiculous. Seriously, watching me try to whistle has resulted in people laughing so hard that they end up bent over, holding their gut. My lower lip puckers in and I look like I have no bottom teeth and a really big overbite, and mostly just air comes out. Today my kid came home from school and told me that one of her friends confessed to being an inept whistler, and she outed me to her friend to make the kid feel better. This inability to whistle like Bogey does after Bacall leaves the room after their kiss in Casablanca is becoming legendary in my circle.

This whistle disability is becoming especially aggravating to me now that two - yes, two - of Billboard's top 10 pop songs at the very moment I type this column happen to incorporate a heavy dose of whistling. In fact, that's how the following playlist found its genesis.

I was in Holiday Market last week, and my friend Anna in the juice bar(one of my favorite baristas, along with Kathleen of Downtown Java & Cafe) was talking about this song that was just driving her crazy because she'd heard it on the car radio while driving her son to school, and couldn't get it out of her head. She wanted to know what it was.

She couldn't remember any of the lyrics, thought a woman sang it, and the only line she could remember had something to do with the girls or the boys (she wasn't sure which) coming out to play, and she thought maybe they used an autotune at the beginning. But what stuck in her mind was this crazy beat that she said was unlike anything else she'd heard, and that I'd know it if I heard it because it would get stuck in my head.  My immediate response was, "You mean like Maroon 5? When they first hit the charts they had a beat that was totally unlike anything else at the time." She agreed, and we thought maybe it might even be Maroon 5, which makes sense, because they're #2 on the charts right now (sharing the credit with Christina Aguilera) for "Moves Like Jagger." This song makes me happy. It makes me dance. We even had a 5 minute dance party in the kitchen tonight with this song playing louder than my stereo really should be played, although I kept my best Jagger moves to myself, although truth be told, I can hurky jerk around the kitchen like a chicken with my lips stuck out in a big Mick Jagger pout. I just choose not to subject my child to a 45 year old woman doing that at this tender point in her teenage development.

I digress.

Back to Anna.

I found that Maroon 5 song for her on her Android, and she tried to listen to it over the din of the supermarket and the espresso machine screaming out foam in the background, and at first she thought maaaaybe, and then she shook her head and said nope. Wasn't it. But it was close.

I thought about it and thought about it over the weekend, this song I'd never heard totally taking over my headspace. Then I went back to the market this morning, and Anna said she'd heard the song again over the weekend, and that's when she mentioned the whistling. Which is, of course, why the Maroon 5 song, with whistling all the way through it, reminded her of the song she couldn't get out of her head. Before I tell you what the song was, let me brag on just how amazing it was that we ever figured it out. Because it wasn't a woman, it was a bunch of guys. The only line she remembered? It's not in the song at all. Nothing about boys or girls coming out to play, unless you mean playing with guns. The line is "All the other kids with the pumped up kicks you better run better run, outrun my gun." And the autotune? Figment of her imagination. (Well, to be honest, she was trying to describe the beginning of the song, and said it had this weird echo-ey sound, and I suggested the idea of the autotune.) But the whistling? That's a sound that you can't mistake for anything else. A whistle is a whistle. And finally I figured out that it was Foster The People's "Pumped Up Kicks," which is also in the top 10 right now. And it also contains a whole lotta that thing I can't do. That whistling thing. And now I can't get either of these songs out of my head.

Lucky you, you won't be able to get these songs out of your head either after I'm done with you today. After this morning I sat down and pored through my iTunes and realized that I have a treasure trove of songs that incorporate whistling. And they are fantastic, my friends. I've got the song that Harry, my cockatiel 20 years ago could never quite whistle (wasn't entirely his fault...he had a bad teacher). I've got a song that features Shasta County's own movie star Clint Eastwood whistling (and he's not so good either...sorry, Clint). I've got PB&J's whistle (and by that I mean Peter, Bjorn & John, of course). This may be the only playlist ever to match up 2 Disney tunes, the Meat Puppets, Rammstein, Clint Eastwood in body (on Big Noise) and spirit (The Good The Bad & The Ugly) and Sammy Davis Jr, and well, I feel accomplished. Even if I still can't whistle.

Stream the playlist on Grooveshark
Folks, I apologize, but sometimes making the iTunes playlist is just such a pain in the whistler. I figure if you really want to own these songs, you'll go to iTunes and find 'em, because that's the kind of smartypants you are. Please forgive my laziness, and enjoy today's playlist.

  1. Maroon 5 with Christina Aguilera - Moves Like Jagger My favorite song of the moment.
  2. Foster The People - Pumped Up Kicks The inspiration for this playlist and a really great song, but some semi-terrifying lyrics.
  3. Peter Bjorn & John - Young Folks They're peppy, they're fun, they killed at SXSW and they're great on white bread. PB&J!
  4. One Republic - Good Life 
  5. J. Geils Band - Centerfold This song brings back memories of 9th grade all over again, and contrary to most 9th grade memories, these are some great memories!
  6. The Bangles - Walk Like An Egyptian
  7. Professor Longhair - Mardi Gras in New Orleans
  8. Dr. John - Big Chief Basically the same song, slightly different twist
  9. Supertramp - Goodbye Stranger
  10. Kyle Eastwood - Big Noise from Winetka - Kyle is Clint's son, and he's an accomplished jazz musician. Dad helped on this song with the whistling. 
  11. The English Beat - Can't Get Used To Losing You - This tune can be easily substituted with Andy Williams' version. They both have whistling.
  12. Lovin' Spoonful - Daydream
  13. Otis Redding - Sittin' On The Dock Of The Bay
  14. De La Soul - Eye Know 
  15. Pixies - La La Love You
  16. Cat Power - After It All
  17. Monty Python - Always Look On The Bright Side   You do know that Jefferson Public Radio is bringing Spamalot to the Cascade Theatre in November, right? How lucky are we?! I've loved this Eric Idle ditty since "The Meaning of Life" came out on VHS. He's so....Russell Brand! There's no language warning on this one, but there should be, with an S-Bomb at the end.
  18. Van Helsing BoomBox - Man Man
  19. Paul Simon - Me & Julio Down By The Schoolyard
  20. David Bowie - Golden Years  Not a whole lot of whistling in this song, but enough to qualify.
  21. Andy Griffith - The Andy Griffith Show Theme   Besides, this song makes up for what Bowie lacks with an overabundance of whistling. In case you were on the edge of your seat wondering which song my cockatiel couldn't whistle worth a darn, this would be it.
  22. Happy Mondays - Step On
  23. Mary Poppins Soundtrack - A Spoonful Of Sugar  This is the first movie I can ever remember seeing in a movie theater, if you don't count the double feature my parents took me to in 1971. The Last Picture Show and Easy Rider. I was 4. 
  24. The Beatles - Two Of Us
  25. Sammy Davis Jr - Mr. Bojangles
  26. Beck - Sissyneck
  27. Andrew Bird - Oh No  There's whistling in almost every Andrew Bird song ever released.
  28. Loose Fur - The Ruling Class
  29. Billy Joel - The Stranger
  30. Bobby McFerrin - Don't Worry Be Happy I know a lot of people were disappointed when McFerrin refused to sing this song when he performed at the Cascade Theatre the first year it was re-opened, but I completely understand his excuse. He estimated that by the time this song hit the top 40, he'd already performed it 10,000 times and by golly, he was sick of it. I get it. I almost didn't include it in this playlist because I've heard it way too many times myself. But I didn't want to deprive you of some great whistling.
  31. Elliott Smith - Jealous Guy  John Lennon did it first, but he's already had a moment in the spotlight during song #20. Meanwhile, this is Elliott Smith's debut on any of my playlists. Welcome, Elliot. RIP.
  32. The Smiths - How Soon Is Now
  33. The Fratellis - Whistle For The Choir
  34. Richard Cheese - Creep  I love Richard Cheese, he's like my dirty little secret in a smoking jacket. This song was my introduction to him, and in true homage to Radiohead, he drops an F-Bomb in this one. Hey, I'll take that special!
  35. Noah & The Whale - Five Years Time
  36. Taj Mahal - Ain't Gwine Whistle Dixie No Mo
  37. XTC - Generals & Majors
  38. Meat Puppets - The Whistling Song
  39. Snow White Soundtrack - Whistle While You Work
  40. Kill Bill Soundtrack - Twisted Nerve
  41. Ennio Morricone - The Good, The Bad & The Ugly Theme
  42. Rammstein - Engel 

Friday, September 23, 2011

If it's Friday, it must be the Equinox

When I first sat down to write about the Fall Equinox a few weeks ago, it was 85 degrees in Redding, and I was actually considering the idea of wearing a long sleeved shirt to work. Now, as the deadline to get this to the editor looms over my head like a thundercloud, the thermometer has climbed back up to 100. It almost seems pointless now. But then again, I guess that's what this whole column was about in the first place...the fact that around here, the autumnal equinox is just a date on the calendar. Redding still thinks it's summer until sometime in late October. But the kids are back in school and the days really are getting shorter even if they're not getting any cooler. And after ten years in Shasta County, I've finally started to fool myself into believing train myself to understand that it's Fall because the calendar tells me so, not because the thermometer tells me. Heck, I've even begun to think about making creamy squash soups for dinner instead of gazpacho and greek salads.

I do love Fall, when it finally gets here, whenever that's gonna be. In fact, I love the changing of the seasons because it always brings change and new routines. It means you put away your river sandals and you dig around in the back of the closet for your rainboots. You scratch your head and think to yourself, now where did I put my coat? I haven't seen it since April. Around here, Fall means changing out the summer sheets for flannel. It means one glorious month when you get a nice break on the utility bill because you're no longer using the air conditioner or swamp cooler, and you're not quite ready for the heater. It's that Fall Equinox sweet spot, that one moment when you get to take a little breather from summer before the onslaught of winter mayhem.

The Equinox (both Autumn and Spring) usually brings a sweet spot to the radio world as well. It's that brief moment of the year when the radio signal is perfect.  It's not so hot that the fans burn out at our mountaintop transmitters and fry electronic equipment, and the winds of winter storms that knock out electricity haven't come yet.

Lucky us, there are some great songs dedicating to the changing of the seasons. And while there's plenty of tunes for Summer, Spring and Winter, there really seems to be a generous bounty of songs specifically for the months of September and October. A plentiful harvest of music for these particular months. A virtual cornucopia of compositions, if you will! (I crack myself up.)

This is probably my most mellow playlist to date (you know, cause it's time for a change...) with a little classic rock and jazz. But we'll start off this Autumn playlist with a bang, with my favorite change-of the season tune ever, from the still-spectacular Earth, Wind & Fire! And speaking of fire, if you're getting a little chilly, feel free to warm your hands by the toasty cracklin' fire (in Widescreen HD no less!) as you enjoy the Equinox playlist.

Stream this playlist on Grooveshark (or click on the imbedded playlist included above)
Download all or part of the mix on iTunes

  1. EWF - September
  2. The Zombies - The Time of the Season
  3. Terry Jacks - Seasons In The Sun
  4. Hall & Oates - Change of Season
  5. Daughtry - September
  6. Green Day - Wake Me When September Ends
  7. Foo Fighters - Summer's End
  8. REM - Nightswimming
  9. Yo La Tengo - Autumn Sweater
  10. Sting - Fields of Gold
  11. Neil Young - Harvest Moon
  12. James Taylor - Country Road
  13. Steve Miller Band - Seasons
  14. MinusBlue - Pale September
  15. Edgar Winter - Autumn
  16. Paolo Nutini - Autumn
  17. Bill Evans Trio - Autumn Leaves
  18. Sarah Vaughan - Autumn in New York
  19. Ahmad Jamal - Maybe September
  20. Chet Baker - September Song
  21. Stevie Wonder - Seasons
  22. Sergio Mendes & Brasil 66 - So Danco Samba from Equinox

Friday, August 12, 2011

Labor Day

There's nothing more my lover wants in life than for me to have his baby. He has a son, I have a daughter. They've developed into wonderful teenagers, but he yearns for us to have one that's half him, half me. A baby we can raise together. I have to admit that there are moments when I get carried away with the romantic notion of giving him the greatest gift possible, but I just can't bring myself to do it. The reality of it keeps slapping me in the face.

  • I look at my age - almost 45. Unlike guys, who can produce tens of thousands of new sperm every day, we women are born with all the eggs we're ever going to have. So by the time we're 40, they're starting to deteriorate a little, increasing the chances of having a child with severe disabilities. 
  • Then factor in my physical condition - I've had back problems my whole life and have been overweight from the age of 22. It's who I am, it doesn't stop me from riding a bike or shaking my plentiful booty on the dance floor. But carrying around another 30 pounds? Ugh.
  • And let's not forget about my life - I'm already a single mom raising a high schooler and an emotionally needy dog. I've got a demanding career that often requires weird hours. Can you imagine my water breaking while I'm on stage at the Cascade introducing Lily Tomlin or Bruce Cockburn? Yeah, okay, let's not imagine that. 

During the past year two close friends have had babies. They are both in their 40's. It was a first for Stephanie, and when her sweet cherub Avalia was born, my boyfriend's reaction was, "If Stephanie can have a beautiful, perfect, healthy baby girl, so can you!" Caroline was 42 when she made a conscious decision to have another child, this time without a partner and without giving up her incredibly demanding career as a corporate jet pilot. I thought my hours were wacky? Caroline flies to Africa one week, Alaska the next. When she gave birth to Carly Q, my boyfriend said, "See, she didn't give up her career to have a baby...come on, please?"
But when it comes down to it, the thought of dedicating so much of my life to raising another little human being is just so...sigh....exhausting. I loved being pregnant (after the first few months), and I loved giving birth. And I loved watching my sweet daughter grow into an amazing human being. But I really dedicated my entire life to the effort, and my job's not done yet. It's been a lot of work.
So honey, please forgive me.  Make those chicken bock-bock-bock sounds at me all you want, but I just don't think I can do it.
However, another one of my good friends is up to the task. Cheryl is exactly my age, and getting ready to go into labor any day now to bring her first baby girl into the world (after a pair of boys, who are now teenagers). This is the kind of bravery I wish I could muster up!
I've been following her pregnancy from the beginning, because of course, my boyfriend has been looking from her belly to me, her belly, to me, with that sad little puppydog look on his face that says, "See what we're missing out on? Please please please please PLEASE?"
When Cheryl told me she was due in September, I immediately started planning this column, for her Labor Day. And I'm culling many of the songs from a radio show I did back in 1997, when I was pregnant, as a tribute to pregnancy, childbirth, and all the hard labor I knew was ahead of me once I became the mother of my baby girl. But that labor has turned into a labor of love, from the very beginning. I don't know if I want to do it all over again, but I celebrate the mommies (and the daddies) who are happily welcoming new life into their families around the time most of us are starting to plan our retirement.

Stream this playlist on Grooveshark  (or just click on the imbedded playlist included above)
or Download all or part of the mix on iTunes

  1. Bobby McFerrin - Baby
  2. Stevie Wonder - Isn't She Lovely
  3. Yael Naim - New Soul
  4. Talking Heads - Stay Up Late
  5. Eric Church - Two Pink Lines
  6. Alison Krauss - Baby Mine
  7. Everything But The Girl - Apron Strings
  8. Kate Bush - This Woman's Work
  9. Paul Anka - You're Having My Baby
  10. Jim Gaffigan - Having My Baby
  11. Desi Arnaz - We're Having A Baby
  12. Creed - With Arms Wide Open
  13. Kenny Chesney - There Goes My Life
  14. Bobby McFerrin & Yo-Yo Ma - Hush Little Baby
  15. Kenny Loggins - Danny's Song
  16. Colbie Caillat - Capri
  17. XTC - Then She Appeared
  18. Elton John - Blessed
  19. Sister Hazel - Green
  20. Elton John (or Celine Dion) - Beautiful Boy
  21. John Mayer - Daughters
  22. Maurice Chevalier - Thank Heaven For Little Girls

Friday, August 5, 2011

My Favorite Song Of Every Other Week

Current Favorite-Song-of-the-Week being performed by Chris Isaak at the Cascade Theatre

A few weeks ago I picked my teenage daughter up from summer camp, and on the long drive home, I asked her if she wanted to hear all the new favorite songs I'd discovered while she was gone. It was one of the greatest road trips ever because we listened to songs and sang and talked the whole way home. Every day I'm thankful that she and I have a love of music in common and can connect through that. I'm sure all of us can appreciate how rare that is, because even if we're not all parents, we've all been kids. Who doesn't remember a moment, no matter which side of the generation gap you were on, when a parent yells at their kid to TURN THAT CRAP OFF!!!
That just doesn't really happen in our house. Music is like another family member. Music is in the eye of the beholder, and that is something that is truly respected in my house. Music of all genres, all beats per minute, from every decade since the first Gregorian Chant was invented - it's all welcome in our house. From the twangiest country whimper to the gutteral growl of Heavy Metal to the delicate strains of Schubert's Arpeggione Sonata, all 3341 songs on my iPod are fair game.
But you know how those 3341 songs got there? Almost every one of them was at one time my favorite song of the week. Okay, I'm exaggerating, but not very much. OK, I'm exaggerating a lot, but not a lot a lot. Just a little a lot. It does seem though that I have a new favorite song almost every week.
And they're not always new songs, but they're usually new to me. Sometimes I find a gem that's been out there waiting to be discovered for years before it finally comes across my ears. And sometimes I remember a song from my childhood that's been lurking in the recesses of my brain, and then I suddenly have a flashback from when I was 10, driving across the New Mexico desert at night with my dad in our 1970 Volkswagon bus, listening to Dreamweaver on the radio and looking at the stars in the sky, and whattaya new favorite song of the week is something that hit the top of the charts in 1976.
I play it non-stop for about 2 weeks til I get sick of it, but usually before that happens I've got another new favorite song anyway.

This column is dedicated to my most recent favorite songs. There's so many of them (3341, right?) that I had to come up with ground rules. So here they are: Every song on this playlist was added to my iPod within the past year. It might be old, might be new, and it's possible that I already owned the song on cd at some point in my past, but it hadn't made it onto my iPod. That's kind of the exception that makes the rule, and there's only one song that fits that category. So there you have it....21 songs, each of them my 'Favorite Song of the Week' during the past year. With 21 of them, I suppose it's my Favorite Song of Every Other Week.  But who's counting?
This is probably the best opportunity for you to psychoanalyze what's going on inside my musical brain. You'll see clearly that I've got a thing for Jack White (to be honest, I've also got a thing for Jack Black). I like me a little reggae, and every once in a while the music my daughter and her friends are listening to actually becomes my new favorite song of every other week.

Stream the playlist on Grooveshark
Download the entire mix or purchase individual songs on iTunes

  1. Chris Isaak - Big Wide Wonderful World Truly the most incredible concert experience of the year so far. I'm still swooning over this singer's amazing voice. Maybe it was the 30 pound disco ball mirrored suit he was wearing, and then again maybe this is just an incredible song to end an incredible evening.
  2. Battles - Ice Cream Every time I see JPR's Music Director Craig Shank (who's moving back to Indiana - major sad face) I ask him what his favorite song of the week is. This was his not all that long ago, and it quickly became mine! The singer is from Chile, and wow, does he have a thick accent. I'm not even sure he's really singing in English. 
  3. Alcyon Massive - Ain't It Fresh (The Oregon Song) Not only do the mention the State of Jefferson in this tune, they're from the State of Jefferson. This song is always going to have a special place in my heart. And if you're an Oregon Country Fair lovin'-Sierra Nevada World Music Festival goin' guy or gal, you'll love these guys too, even if you're not a fan of the state's favorite crop. I am very disappointed that this song wasn't available on Grooveshark for the streaming playlist, but please check it out on YouTube
  4. Trevor Hall - Om Shakti Om He's not even 25 yet, but has opened for one of my all time favs, Michael Franti, Ben Harper, Ziggy Marley, and your kids will probably recognize his voice from the soundtrack to Shrek 3.
  5. The Rescues - Can't Stand The Rain I was driving to an eye doctor appointment, listening to Open Air on JPR. This song came on. I sat in the parking lot until it was over. I didn't care if I was late. In the radio bidness, that's called A Driveway Moment. And that's how new favorite songs of the week are born.
  6. The Raconteurs - Steady As She Goes There's just something about Jack White. Every incarnation of him has resulted in a favorite song of the week. I think this song was several years old when I discovered it. 
  7. The White Stripes - Hello Operator Please refer to the previous favorite song for explanation.
  8. Band of Skulls - I Know What I Am If you liked The Pretenders back in the day, you should dig this band.
  9. Gregg Street & Nappy Dread - Good Day I discovered this tune while writing It's A Beautiful Day - the most recent installment of Mistress of the Mix - and so far, I'm still charmed by it. 
  10. Family Force 5 - Wobble I have to give credit to my daughter's friend Amanda (aka Bob the Poptart) for bringing this song into my home during a recent sleepover. It's ridiculous, and hilarious, and I luuurv it!
  11. Butthole Surfers - Dracula From Houston Props to the best durned chick jet pilot on the west coast for bringing the soundtrack to Scrubs into my house, plopping it onto the counter, and saying, "You got this yet? You'll want it."
  12. Rock Mafia - Big Big Bang It was a Sunday morning. VH1 must've been on, but I wasn't really awake.  A few hours later I was singing to a song I guess I'd thought I'd written while I was asleep. But my boyfriend recognized it, and that was when I realized that I hadn't been dreaming. 
  13. Andy Grammer - Keep Your Head Up Another hit from a recent playlist, this one was from Let's Give Cancer The Finger back in June.
  14. Sergio Mendes - Waters of March Another playlist inspiration, this was on the first Mistress of the Mix column, Take 'Em To The Bridge
  15. Gabriel Mann - Artichoke This is truly the most adorable ballad of the year. Especially if you like eggs for breakfast. Unfortunately, this song also isn't available yet through Grooveshark. Instead, I put on a runner up Gabriel Mann song, Free At Last.  There is a live version on YouTube, but it's a tad more raucous. Still amazing, just not quite as sweet. By the way, if Mann's loving voice sounds familiar, he's the heartbroken guy singing song #5 (Can't Stand The Rain) with The Rescues as well.
  16. k.d. lang - I Confess Truly the most incredible concert experience of the year so far. I'm still swooning over this singer's amazing voice. Wait, didn't I already say that?
  17. Cyndi Lauper - Mother Earth I dressed like her in high school, now I wish I could sing like her.
  18. Plan B - She Said This is an obscure British song I heard a snippet of once on some television program, and just had to know who it was. 
  19. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros - Home There's a really funny story to go along with how I came to know this band involving a pair of goofy glasses I bought for my boyfriend at the Dollar Tree for Valentine's Day that went viral.
  20. Asteroid Galaxy Tour - Golden Spot Recognize this little ditty? A little embarrassed to say that you know this catchy tune from a Heineken commercial? Me too. But there you have it.
  21. Wagon Christ - Harmoney This was a random cd that I picked up off of the "Not quite right for airplay" giveaway shelf at JPR. This British band is weird, weird, weird, so we kinda get along.
  22. Yolanda Be Cool & DCup - We No Speak Americano Sometimes you hear a song and you think, "It's got a good beat, but you can't really dance to it." Then you go to the 501 and realize you were wrong. Not only can you dance to it, someone can even dance to it on the top of a pool table!
  23. Crazy Frog - Crazy Frog In The House Hip Hop Remix I'm almost embarrassed to admit how much I loved this song for about a week this last Spring, but I finally overcame my shame and admitted it right here, in public, in print. Please don't think less of me. Just find me a new favorite song.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Kick Him To The Curb!

kick him to the curb
1. To quit seeing him, especially if it's a relationship or commitment involved.

2. To waive/fire him, especially in business matters.
If you catch a man cheating on you, kick him to the curb right then. 

Today, we're gonna kick that bad boyfriend to the curb.

Friends, we need to gather together to help a girl in need. A girl who needs a little support with a difficult boyfriend removal. And I'm counting on you to help me help her extract this guy like a bad tooth.

Maybe you've been there... involved in a relationship that's not making you happy, isn't fulfilling, and you're just avoiding the drama of breaking up. Maybe the thought of putting yourself back out on the market is so depressing that instead you're allowing yourself to continue in an unfulfilling relationship with a partner who's selfish, flaky or catting around. Whatever your situation, if you've been there, then you've probably had one of those moments where you're driving home from work and a song comes on the car stereo that lets you know the radio gods are paying attention. There's a songwriter out there who completely understands your situation, and has already come up with the perfect song just for you. And suddenly every single song you hear relates somehow to your unhealthy situation. (It's the same way when you're falling in love too, but we'll save that for a future column.)

I know there's plenty of we-broke-up-and-I'm-feeling-oh-so-sorry-for-myself songs, but let's not go there right now. Because I don't want my friend to feel sorry for herself. She's better off without him. I really want her to be thankful that she had the breasticles to know she was finally really totally completely absolutely no doubt about it done with this guy. I want her to breathe a sigh of relief that she finally ended it. I want her to feel empowered that she had the strength to let it go and I want her to look forward to a new future. That future may not have another man in it for awhile, and want her to be okay with that. Then again, that future might plop a good man right into her life next week. If it does, I want her to have moved on past this relationship so that she's ready to accept someone new without holding all of the transgressions of the former guy against a new one. Sometimes broken trust with one mate can ruin trust with potential future mates, and while it's understandable, it's an obstacle. I hope she's able to overcome it. In fact, for all of you who have experienced a wounded heart from a relationship that soured, I hope you find the strength to leave it in the dust as you move on as quickly as possible. But if you  need a little reminder that you're better off with him (or her), I offer you this playlist.

Normally when a friend complains about their horrible relationship and how they really need to end it, I try to keep mum. I'm smart enough to know that chances are they're just venting, and things are going to calm down. If I open my mouth and agree vehemently, when things get better between the fighting love birds, suddenly things are awkward between us and I risk being the one who gets kicked to the curb.  But in this case, my friend asked for help. Asked for some strength during weak lonely moments. Asked me to keep reminding her why she kicked him to the curb in the first place. In this case, I'm willing to risk my friend feeling awkward if she eventually decides to take him back. I love her enough that I'm going to support her in the best way I know how: with an empowering playlist dedicated to shedding an unhealthy relationship.

If you've got a song that fits the theme, feel free to add it.

Stream the playlist on Grooveshark
Purchase the entire mix or individual songs on iTunes

  1. Paul Simon - 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover
  2. Destiny's Child - Survivor
  3. Gloria Gaynor - I Will Survive
  4. Katy Perry - Hot N Cold
  5. Lily Allen - Smile
  6. They Might Be Giants - Take Out The Trash
  7. Nancy Sinatra - These Boots Are Made For Walking
  8. Ray Charles - Hit The Road Jack
  9. Beyonce - Single Ladies
  10. Jo Dee Messina - Bye Bye
  11. The Dixie Chicks - Goodbye Earl
  12. Jo Jo - Leave Get Out
  13. Kelly Clarkson - Since U Been Gone
  14. Garbage - Special
  15. Ben Folds Five - Song For The Dumped
  16. Eva Simons - Silly Boy
  17. Katharine McPhee - Over It
  18. Brandy - Almost Doesn't Count
  19. Christina Perri - Jar Of Hearts
  20. Taylor Swift - You're Not Sorry
  21. Tom Petty - Don't Come Around Here No More

Monday, July 11, 2011

It's A Beautiful Day

It's a beautiful day. Of course it's grey and raining where I am as I write this from a week long vacation along the Southern Oregon coast, and I have no idea what the weather is like back home in Northern California right now, but if there is one thing I learned living in a rainforest in Alaska for 13 years, the weather itself does not determine a beautiful day. It can help, for sure, but it is certainly not the sole indicator. Because I'm going to have a beautiful day, even if I don't get to go crabbing this afternoon, or 4-wheeling on the dunes. Whatever the weather, wherever you are, I hope you have a beautiful day too. Here's one from the Best Of files!

How do you know when a beautiful day is presenting itself to you? When a good day is offering itself up to you like an unexpected gift?

Is it waking up to a good morning kiss from your lover, with the smell of brewing coffee wafting from the kitchen? Is it when the weather is so nice that you sleep with the windows open, and the morning greets you with birdsongs and sunshine streaming through the drapes? Or is it the sound of two little feet padding into the room, and crawling into bed with you for a cuddle. Is that when you know it's gonna be a beautiful day?

For me, it's all of those things.
Its my dog giving me morning loves, and then jumping off the bed to follow me to the kitchen.
Its opening the sliding glass door in my dining room and gazing at the first bulbs I've ever planted, which have now bloomed into beautiful pink dahlias, still wet from an early morning watering; the smell of basil and homegrown tomatoes growing in the planter in the backyard.
Its a fresh grapefruit from my friend Leona's tree and strawberries purchased from the guy on the corner with a pickup truck and a sign propped up against it.
Its playing softball with my friends out at Big League Dreams and catching the ball I didn't think I'd get.
Its riding my bike across the Sundial Bridge and wading into the water at Whiskeytown.
Its a beautiful day when I'm on the road and the weather is so perfect that I drive recklessly for just a wee few moments, left arm out the window, right arm sticking up through the sunroof, surfing on Highway 44 over the river… look ma, no hands!
Yes, sometimes I do that. But only when it's a beautiful day. And only for a few moments.

Sometimes even when it wasn't a beautiful day, it can turn into one when my friend Judy calls at dusk and asks if I'm free for dinner, then we quickly figure out what bounty we've each got to offer for the table, and we catch up over a bottle of Retsina, a Greek Salad and some watermelon on the back porch. And suddenly, it's a beautiful evening. A good, good night.

I'm going on my 14th year in Redding, and I never get tired of these beautiful days. I consider myself the luckiest girl on the planet to have this city, my friends and family, this beautiful weather, and the only thing that really makes it even better, or can turn a so-so day into a perfect day, is having the right music to go along with it.

So let's have a good day. Let's have a spectacular, beautiful, perfect day. I hope this Spotify playlist puts a smile on your face and makes it even better; makes it perfect, with a homegrown cherry tomato on top.

U2 - It's A Beautiful Day
Luce - Good Day
Nappy Roots - Good Day
John Legend - Sun Comes Up
The Beatles and/or Nina Simone - Here Comes The Sun
Norah Jones - Sunrise
Michael Franti & Spearhead - Sound of Sunshine
Maroon 5 - Sunday Mornings
Sting - Brand New Day
Maysa - Sunshine
Jesus Jackson - Running on Sunshine
Mosquitos - Sunshine Barato
Smashmouth - Walking On The Sun
The Beatles - Good Day Sunshine
Sheryl Crow - Soak Up The Sun
The Stranglers - Always The Sun
The The - This Is The Day
Akon featuring Wyclef Jean - Sunny Day
Coldplay - Daylight
The Eels - Mr. E's Beautiful Blues
Lou Reed - Perfect Day
Black Eyed Peas - I Got A Feeling (Tonight's Gonna Be A Good Night)