Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The End Of The World

You'll never read this, because by now the world has ended. 
Or you're reading this because the world didn't end today, and now I feel like a fool wasting all this time on an End Of The World playlist only to find out that the world didn't end after all. 
Or the Mayans forgot to mention exactly what time the world is ending today, and we've only got a few minutes left before an asteroid hits & vaporizes us all or the earth's magnetic poles suddenly shift and we all fall off the planet.

So hurry up, and get to reading, because this is definitely the most important thing you should be doing know, reading my little dissertation on the potential End Of The World and listening to music about the sky falling and Armageddon instead of kissing your babies and letting your friends know how important they are to you and how rich your life is for having them in it or booking a flight to that little town in France where everyone in the immediate vicinity will be saved by aliens hiding in the mountain.

Seriously, in some ways, for a lot of people, this past week has seemed like the End Of The World really was coming. For some very innocent souls, it was the End Of The World and for their loved ones it was the End Of The World as they knew it. 

For me it started last Tuesday. I turned my phone off as I was on my way to a business meeting, then bumped into some friends who treated me to a martini. Friends who had their own, tragic End Of The World event many years ago. You can read about it here, and I hope you do.  Then two hours later, when I got back into my car and turned the phone back on, message after message after message began popping up from my sweetheart, who had been frantically trying to reach me to let me know that he'd gotten in touch with all of my family members and friends in the Portland area to make sure everyone was okay, that nobody I knew had been at the mall. (However one of my friend's coworkers was at the Clackamas Mall. She saw a man with a gun, took a step back, and the woman standing next to her was shot.) And then it continued less than 72 hours later when the lives of so many innocent souls were taken in one violent, selfish act of rage.

I can understand how times like this can really make you feel as if the sky is falling. But I am trying not to look at it like that. I'm looking at what's transpired over the past week as a tipping point, and I know I'm not alone in this. Even the NRA realizes it. That enough is enough, and This. Is. Enough. By the time you read this, they will be holding a press conference to say that they're ready to sit down and have a serious discussion about changing gun laws. And it's about time.

But they're not the only ones who need to have a talk. The solution to events like last week's shootings is going to be a lot more than passing gun laws. I'm hoping that the result of these horrific incidents will be that we, as a nation of caring mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, start talking about what else we can do to protect people. Not just from a hail of bullets. But also from the kind of isolation that people with personality disorders and mental illness or general awkwardness sometimes suffer from. The kind of isolation that can result in the kind of resentment and anger that ends with very bad things happening. Maybe we can start discussing whether it's more important to not raise taxes or to have better security in some very important places. We can start talking about raising our children differently. We can talk about finding better ways to help people get the help they need, or channel their anger differently. There IS something positive that can come out of a situation that seems like - and for some actually was - the End Of The World.

You and I, we're a couple of smart cookies, right? We're on the same wavelength, aren't we? We both know that the world isn't ending today. That the end of the Mayan calendar happening on today's date wasn't signalling the actual End Of The World but was acknowledging the end of a cycle. Which means tomorrow the cycle begins again. I think the Mayans were telling us that Saturday, December 22, 2012 is actually the beginning of something new. It's an opportunity for a fresh start. A new day. Day One.

It's a few days early for a New Year's Resolution. Instead, I suggest making a New You Solution. Make today the day to choose something in your life to change. Just one thing for your fresh start. Maybe this is the day that people will make a conscious effort to choose love over hate. To surrender to something instead of struggling against it. To choose acceptance and understanding over rigid, unwavering nincompoopery. To choose to be brave instead of fearful. To say yes instead of no. Maybe today is the day you decide to let go of the notion that God doesn't want certain people to get married because they both have the same private parts. Or maybe today is the day you decide that the right to bear arms to protect yourself doesn't need to include semi-automatic assault weapons. Or maybe today is the day you open yourself up to respectful discussions about these these types of issues with people you disagree with so that meaningful solutions and better understandings are possible instead of righteous indignation. Let's start looking for solutions together to create a better world. 

Because the world isn't ending. A new cycle is beginning. 

I hope it is one of better tolerance, understanding, acceptance and togetherness.

But just in case I'm wrong, please enjoy this one last playlist dedicated to the sky falling, the world ending, and general mayhem. A huge thanks to my good friend Beth Doolittle for inspiring today's playlist. Not only did she say something along the lines of, "Hey Val, you aren't going to let the End Of The World pass you by without making a playlist for it, are ya? Let's do this!" And then, following last week's tragedies, she said, "I'm not interested in stealing your handgun, or your hunting rifle out of your locked gun safe... But I swear to God I'm gonna work for an assault-rifle ban in this country until the day I die." Bless that woman. If I know one thing about her, it's that when she feels passionately about getting something done, nobody will dedicate themselves as tirelessly as she will to make it happen. You go, girl! This Grooveshark playlist is for you.

  1. It's The End Of The World As We Know It - R.E.M.
  2. From The End Of The World - E.L.O.
  3. Sky Is Falling - Lifehouse
  4. The End Of The World - Skeeter Davis
  5. Calamity Song - The Black Keys
  6. Until The End Of The World - Julee Cruise
  7. The End Of The World - The Cure
  8. It's Not The End Of The World - Super Furry Animals
  9. Armageddon - Eddie Izzard
  10. It's Not The End Of The World - Lost Prophets
  11. Until The End Of The World - U2
  12. I Don't Wanna Miss A  Thing (Theme from Armageddon) - Aerosmith
  13. World's End - Pendragon
  14. Earth Died Screaming - Tom Waits
  15. Last Night Of The World - Bruce Cockburn
  16. This Is The Day - The The
  17. Last Day On Earth (from Armageddon) - Harry Gregoson-Williams
  18. This Is The End - The Doors
  19. This Is The Beginning Of The End - Frank Sinatra
  20. Imagine - John Lennon

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Operation Banana Point: The Christmas Eve Rescue of Flight 64

Have I got a story for you!
First off, it's been a hell of a week, eh? After everything my sump pump has been through, I should probably buy the poor, tired little guy a beer. And my tree - the tallest tree in the neighborhood, a huge evergreen, is still standing. Not all of it, mind you, but most of it. Considering that just 6 blocks away, a 70 foot tree came crashing down into the roof of a house, I'm considering myself lucky that I only had to clean up an armload of 4-foot long branches off my sidewalk.
The weather over the past few weeks is taking me right back to my 13 years in Petersburg Alaska, where it rained 184 inches the first year I was there. That's 3 1/2 inches a week. That's half an inch a day. 
Every. Single. Day.
That got pretty dull after awhile, but the alternative - I found out after a few winters on the island - was 6 feet of snow. I remember the winter of 1998, trying desperately to shovel the driveway with baby Sophia along for the ride in a backpack, only to realize when I got to the end that another 6 inches had fallen behind me as I shoveled that I had to start all over again. 
And then there were the hurricanes.
We never called them that, but that's what they were. Huge storms with winds of over 75 mph that pummeled the region every year. We just called it weather. Weather happened so often. It never halted our day to day lives, although many times the daily jet service was cancelled (once we didn't receive a jet for nine days). We ran out of milk and lettuce, but otherwise? We just weathered the weather. We never shut down school because of snow or wind or rain. We just started a little earlier than usual or put chains on the tires, and drove a little more carefully. Neighbors who had plows on the front of their trucks were gracious enough to help out those who didn't. Everybody had rain boots and foul weather gear. And people knew better than to go out on the water in that weather, but every year we'd lose friends who went out fishing because that's how they made their living, and never returned.
But this story isn't about loss and sadness. This story is a testament to how a community can come together in amazing ways and accomplish incredible things. And it's a great holiday story.
It was Christmas Eve 1992, and I was feeling a little sorry for myself because I was missing out on all the fun and excitement.
Christmas truly is the most wonderful time of the year in Petersburg, Alaska, despite the weather. It's mainly because of the julebukking. Julebukking is a centuries old tradition in Norway that's a cross between Halloween and a progressive dinner party, and used to involve the head of a goat on a stick. I'm not making this up! Check out the wiki page on Julebukking if you don't believe me! It started out as a pagan tradition, was gobbled up by Christianity as a lot of pagan traditions were, and in the Norwegian settled island village of Petersburg, it eventually morphed into a community wide open house every Christmas Eve, mainly hosted by businesses. Starting at about 11am, you could start making your way around the island, going from business to business, filling up on food, drink, and holiday cheer. There was always a huge line for pastrami sandwiches at Rexall Drug, and spiked egg nog up in the office of the Trading Union grocery store, and there was always a nice spread at Bank of Alaska and pickled herring at Lee's Clothing.
It was a great time to catch up with young adults who'd left the nest for college or jobs down south, but always made sure to return home to the island for the holidays by Christmas Eve so that they could join their family for julebukking. Also, the one day of the year that Alaska Airlines grounds their fleet is Christmas. So if you're not there on Christmas Eve, you're not getting there.
Back to 1992. I was working at KFSK-FM (which wasn't just the best radio on the FM dial, it was the only radio on the FM dial). It was early afternoon, and starting to get dark. The weather was awful, and had been all day. The morning jet had overheaded Petersburg on its way north. At around 2pm, the entire staff of the radio station decided to walk two blocks through the snow downtown to julebukk. But someone had to stay. And that someone, on the air that afternoon, was me.
So I was feeling kind of sorry for myself, all alone, trying to spread cheery holiday music on the radio, while everyone else was downtown feasting on meat platters and lefse and chunks of gjetost (caramelized goat cheese) on apple slices, and downing hot toddys.
As soon as school let out across the street, Melinda Foote, then a high school junior (now she's the mother of high schoolers herself), came over to the station to host the country show at 3pm. So I wasn't completely alone. Good thing, because in the next hour and a half, Melinda and I ended up coordinating the whole town in Operation Banana Point: The Christmas Eve Rescue of Flight 64.
It all started when we got the phone call from Mike Gates.
Mike and his wife were stranded, and didn't know what to do.
They'd started out from Ketchikan that morning, headed to Petersburg on the "milk run." That's what we called the daily schedule of Alaska Airlines flights that bring fresh milk, produce and people to Southeast Alaska. The back half of the jet is reserved for passengers; the front half for cargo. It starts in Seattle and lands in every small town on the way to Juneau: Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg and Sitka. Then it turns around and does it all in reverse. That way, if the weather's bad, you've got two chances to get wherever you're trying to go.
Unfortunately, two chances weren't enough that day.  Petersburg was so socked in with fog & drizzle that the jet missed Petersburg heading both north and south. Instead, Flight 64 landed in Wrangell on the next island south of ours. Mike and about 20 other Petersburg-bound passengers were informed that they'd be spending Christmas Eve right there. So close, yet so far away. 30 miles as the crow flies. That's 15 minutes in jet time...3 hours by boat.

That did not sit well with Mike. He did not intend to spend Christmas in a hotel in Wrangell. So he found a dime and a payphone, and called the radio station in Petersburg. He said he was stuck in the airport with a whole mess of people desperate to get back home for the holidays. Was there any chance, he said, that we could put a message out on the airwaves and ask if anyone was willing to take their boat down to Wrangell and pick them up?
Excitement! We broke into our regularly scheduled programming with the urgent newsflash. Moments later the phone started ringing. Julie & Scott Hursey heard the plea, wanted to help, but their yacht was in drydock. It was quickly brought to our attention by another caller that it would take much longer than 6 hours to get a boat there and back because the tides were all wrong. There were hundreds of large fishing and cruising boats in Petersburg, but none of them could make the trip at low tide on Christmas Eve in the dark through the famous Wrangell Narrows, a very thin channel lit up by more than 60 buoys that's difficult to pass even at high tide in broad daylight.
But within 10 minutes, we had a plan. Well, half a plan. A generous fisherman from Wrangell had offered to make the trip from his harbor, across Sumner Strait to Banana Point at the southern tip of our island. It was about a half hour trip between those two points, and no dock, just a boat ramp. But that didn't matter. They could get to the island. All we had to do was arrange a party to pick them up and drive them 30 miles back to town.
So Melinda and I went back on the air again, and shared the developing story with listeners. Immediately an off-duty policeman (followed by three or four more people) rang me up and told us the road to the southern end of the island was only plowed for 18 miles, and there was no way anyone could get through the next 11 miles of deep snow.


I opened up the mic again, and explained the situation to the town, and told them what we needed. Once we did, the phones began ringing off the hook, and Melinda started fielding the calls as we helped put together the people and the supplies needed for the Christmas Eve Rescue of Flight 64! Really, this could make a great movie on the Hallmark Channel.
Within minutes  a rescue party was organized. First there were the 4-wheel drive trucks. Then there were trailers. And then there were enough gassed up snowmobiles for each and every passenger on the boat headed from Wrangell to Mitkof Island, and snowmobile suits and boots and extra gas cans for an 11 mile trip in the snow.
They took off in a caravan, headed out into the storm, and that was the last we heard from them until they got back to town hours later.

Meanwhile, back in Wrangell, there wasn't enough room on the boat for everyone. The stranded passengers had a powwow about who would go in the first trip across, understanding that there was no guarantee that the weather would allow for a second trip. So they discussed who really needed to get home, and who was willing to stay. Sam Stockton, for example, was a young parapalegic living in Seattle who was trying to get back home to his mom, dad, grandmother and sister. He was traveling alone, only coming home briefly for the holiday. So Sam was on the first boat. I've always wondered if he had to leave his wheelchair behind, or if someone managed to strap it on to one of the snowmobiles that greeted him at Banana Point. I'll never get to ask him. Sam's life ended a few years later, but due to the incredible holiday spirit and generosity of the people of Petersburg and Wrangell, who came together in some really bad weather, he got to spend that Christmas with his family. And so did about 10 other travelers.
Mike Gates, by the way, did not.
Like I said earlier, the weather was really bad. The ride from Wrangell to Petersburg was harrowing, and the captain was thankful just to make it back across Sumner Strait after dropping off that first load of passengers. There was no way they could make another go at it, at least not that day. Instead, Mike and the handful of Petersburgeronians had each other for company that Christmas Eve, and while they missed out on julebukking, they had a wonderful time, and shared a wonderful Christmas dinner together in the dining hall at the lodge in Wrangell. And they probably never attempted to travel in Alaska on Christmas Eve ever again.
Next year, I'll share another amazing yet true Alaskan winter weather rescue story.
Right now, I'll share with you this week's playlist: a testament to all the crazy weather we've experienced together in the past few weeks. And in the meantime, I'm preparing for the end of the world, exactly two weeks from today.
Remember friends, if you can't stream the playlist by clicking on the play button below, try going directly to the Winter Weather playlist link on Grooveshark.

  1. Singing In The Rain - Gene Kelly Directly from the movie! I love this line: "This California dew is just a little heavier than usual tonight." 
  2. What If This Storm Ends - Snow Patrol This is my new favorite song this week, and I couldn't be happier that this one fits perfectly into this week's theme! During the Thanksgiving holiday we saw Life of Pi (See. This. Film.) and this song was used in a trailer for an upcoming animated film. I loved it immediately!
  3. Why Does It Always Rain On Me - Travis
  4. Ill Wind - Ella Fitzgerald
  5. Stormy Weather - Etta James
  6. Rainy Day - John Lee Hooker
  7. Storm - Lifehouse
  8. Ballet For A Rainy Day/1000 Umbrellas - XTC All of the songs on Skylarking (one of the best albums of all time) are connected and crossfade into each other, so this one's the perfect twofer!
  9. Rainy Day - Coldplay
  10. Good Rain - Trevor Hall
  11. Riders On The Storm - The Doors
  12. The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie - Red Hot Chili Peppers
  13. Set Fire To The Rain - Adele
  14. The Rain Song - Led Zeppelin
  15. A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall - Bob Dylan
  16. Red Rain - Peter Gabriel
  17. Raincoat - Crash Kings
  18. Rainy Day - Plain White T's
  19. Raincoat Song - The Decemberists I think it's a requirement for any band from Portland, Oregon to have a song in their arsenal about rain.
  20. Can't Stand The Rain - The Rescues This song made my list of favorite songs last year for great use of harmony, a toy piano and the sound of a coat being zipped up.
  21. Windy - Cal Tjader
  22. Rain - Bob James Back in the 80's I hosted a late night jazz show on JPR, and this song was one of my favorites to play on a dark and stormy night.
  23. A Mighty Wind - Soundtrack To The Film A Mighty Wind
  24. Thunder Remix - Nuttin but Stringz
  25. Ridin' The Storm Out - REO Speedwagon The boyfriend begged me to share this one....I couldn't deny him. It was either this or Tesla!
  26. Virtual Thunderstorm

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Black Friday and Mincemeat Saturday

My dad had the most ridiculous request for Thanksgiving this year. First of all, my mom declared that since she wanted to spend as much time as possible with the family, that we were going to order our Thanksgiving meal from a local market (which translates to "I don't really like to cook and I don't completely trust my oven"). This caused a slight rebellion, because one of the things my sweetheart and I really enjoy doing together is cooking. Last year (when my mother was in Portland at my sister's, nursing her back to health after a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery), Eddie and I decided to try our hand at roasting a turkey, and it was the. Best. Ever. So we were really looking forward to recreating that amazing meal again, but to keep the holiday peace, we agreed to allow mom to let someone else make the food, under one condition: we make the pies.

We'd already gotten a kickstart on family togetherness this week as the kids were out of school: family dinners at the dinner table all week long, family game night & family movie night. But everyone's favorite moment hands down was the 2012 Ing-Tompkins Apple Pie Bake-Off in preparation for our starring role as dessert chefs for the Thanksgiving meal. I won, by the way, with my Granny Smith-Golden Delicious Pie, probably because I snuck some triple sec into the pie filling. But Eddie, even though his Golden Delicious came in 2nd, still gets credit for making my crust, his mother's recipe.

Backing up, to the moment that we laid out our pie-making condition. My dad piped up, with a condition of his own. He said it was fine with him if we made the pies, but he didn't want a simple apple pie. Nope. My dad, always the difficult one, always the one with the weird taste buds, announced that if we were making pies, he wanted mincemeat. Frickin' mincemeat! I don't even know what that is!
I know the original, centuries old recipe for mincemeat involves venison. And I told him right away that this simply wasn't gonna happen. So he said he was fine with the more modern version of mincemeat, which isn't really meat. It's more do I put this? It's like chutney in a piecrust.

All week long Eddie has been trying to talk me out of it. "We'll make an apple pie, and he'll damn well like it," he said. But my dad is always griping about how nobody cares about taking care of his needs, so I decided Eddie could make an apple pie, and I'd make a mincemeat pie. The chutney version. So I found the Most Amazing Highest Rated Mincemeat Pie Recipe on the internet (which includes apples, raisins, figs, dried cherries, crystallized ginger, oranges, lemon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves and thankfully, 1/2 cup of brandy - which leaves at least 1 1/2 cups left over for me). And I was up to the task. Until I saw, on Wednesday, that the mixture has to be prepared 3 days in advance. What the heck? I can't imagine what for! To ferment? That would be like my dad, to want a fermented pie for Thanksgiving.

So my dad will get his mincemeat pie, he just won't get it until Saturday.

In the meantime, here we are. Bellies full, dishes washed, fridge full of leftovers, what else is left to do but go camp out in the Best Buy parking lot in the rain to be first in line for a $179 flatscreen TV on Black Friday? Yeah, not gonna do that. I've never been a fan of Black Friday. I'm just not one of those folks who can brave the crowded parking lots and shoulder to shoulder shopping carts of a packed department store to snag a great deal on a present. It just sucks the holiday spirit right out of me. Besides, I'm not the type to get up at the crack of dawn in order to get to the stores early enough to even have a chance at getting one of those elusive deals. And I know I'm preaching to the choir when I tell this particular audience that more than ever, the most important way we can help our local economy to improve is to buy locally, from local enterpreneurs, instead of searching out the best deal on cheaply made products from overseas.

By the way, friends, please feel free to list some ideas for locally produced holiday gifts in the comments section below. I know you'll do me proud.

I know there'll be plenty of crowds out there supporting the greater economy  today (some stores, like Wal-Mart, K-Mart and Target even rolled the Black Friday clock back to Thursday night, the horror!), but as for me, I'll be hanging with the family, playing games, eating leftovers, watching a movie or two, and listening to music. Because we do a lot of that together as a family too. Just one more reason I love them all, and am thankful for Eddie, Jesse, Sophia and my mincemeat pie loving parents.

I suppose I could've done a playlist dedicated to pies, but today's mix is all about Black Friday. I thought it might be a difficult task at first, and was surprised to find that there's even a couple of songs titled Black Friday, like Steely Dan's. Even though I'm not a huge Megadeth fan, I had to include their song, simply for the name. Actually, I think it might be an appropriate tune to have in your earbuds during a Wal-Mart iPhone stampede. And I really can't think of any other playlist you will ever see me put together (except for perhaps the Worst Songs of All Time) that Rebecca Black's "Friday" fits perfectly into. You can thank me later for putting it at the end.

Black Friday by Valerie Ing-Miller on Grooveshark
  1. Back To Black - Amy Winehouse
  2. Tighten Up - The Black Keys
  3. Black Friday - Steely Dan
  4. Many Shades of Black - The Raconteurs
  5. Friday - The Cure
  6. Black Coffee In Bed - Squeeze
  7. Clap Your Hands - Black Eyed Peas
  8. Hard To Handle - Black Crowes
  9. Back In Black - AC/DC
  10. Iron Man - Black Sabbath
  11. Friday - Sly & Robbie
  12. Black or White - Michael Jackson
  13. Friday - J.J. Cale
  14. Black Betty - Ram Jam
  15. Black Betty - Tom Jones
  16. Black Slacks - Robert Gordon
  17. Paint It Black - The Rolling Stones
  18. My Style - Black Eyed Peas with Justin Timberlake
  19. Let's Get It On - Jack Black
  20. Black Coffee - k.d. Lang
  21. Blackbird - Bobby McFerrin
  22. Blackbird - Dave Matthews Band
  23. Bye Bye Blackbird - Etta Jones
  24. That Old Black Magic - Ella Fitzgerald
  25. Black Magic - Santana
  26. Black Hole Sun - Soundgarden
  27. Black Hole - She & Him (aka Zooey Deschanel!)
  28. Friday - Joe Jackson
  29. Fu Manchu - Frank Black
  30. Black Friday - Megadeth
  31. Friday - Rebeca Black

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Dance Craze

Remember back when you were in middle school, and the gym teacher would announce that instead of playing dodgeball or running the mile, that the class was going to spend the next two weeks learning how to square dance? And everybody would groan? I never did. I have always loved to dance, and I didn't care if I hold the hand of the ickiest boy in school and promenade in a circle. I wanted to dance!
When I was about ten years old, in the living room of our house in Maryville, Missouri, my little sister Dana and I made up our first dance, to the Pink Panther Theme. Imagine two little blonde girl "detectives" walking backwards around the room, hunched over while pretending to hold big magnifying glasses, slowly circling, seemingly unaware of the other, until eventually we'd bump into each other at the end of the song. It was brilliant, right? I'm sure with just a short refresher, the two of us could resurrect the 35 year old choreography from memory, and now that I've put it out there on the world wide web, I doubt my daughter will allow the next all-family holiday gathering to go by without making sure it happens!
I'm pretty sure we made up a dance to Disco Duck not long after that, and I will never forget the amazing, expressive and passionate moves we came up with to Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" a few years later. That was right around the time Mrs. Giannini taught us how to do The Hustle (along with a multitude of variations) in gym class, and another friend and I came up with a disco dance routine we intended to perform in front of the whole school that involved the brand new and extremely popular stick-your-finger-in-the-air-then-put-it-in-your-pocket bit along with our own brand new move, the twirl-a-pocket-watch-on-a-chain-while-walking-sideways shuffle. We were amazing when rehearsing in my friend Kelly's basement, but I'm pretty sure we lost our nerve and never actually performed the dance in public.Or perhaps I've just blocked the embarrassing moment from my otherwise indelible childhood memory.
Somewhere along the road to adulthood, I lost the interest in learning all the latest dance moves. I never did the Lambada or the Macarena, I never learned the dance to Thriller. But when Psy's Gangnam Style hit the airwaves (or rather the Youtube stream), it stirred something within me. Seriously. My daughter walked into the kitchen and yelled over the music, "Mom! What are you DOING?!" as I rode a pretend horse across the room. But you know that by the end of the song, she was doing it too. Gotta love dance crazes. And I'm hoping today's playlist will bring back all the great dance crazes of the past, from The Twist to the Time Warp to the Tootsie Roll!  And if you want to learn the dance craze of today, just click on the video above.
  1. Psy - Gangnam Style It's Korean, it's fantastic, it's a resurgence of The Pony!
  2. Los Del Rio - Macarena
  3. The Commitments - Land of 1000 Dances
  4. Rocky Horror Soundtrack - The Time Warp My personal favorite. I've taught it to many a kid!
  5. The B52s - Rock Lobster OK, so this one isn't exactly a specific dance...except for one requirement...when Fred says "Down," you get down on the floor, on your back, and flail!
  6. Family Force 5 - Wobble It's all the rage with those pesky teenagers
  7. Cupid - Cupid Shuffle
  8. Big & Rich - Fake ID There are so many great country line dances, but this one's pretty sweet.
  9. Michael Jackson - Thriller
  10. Village People - YMCA
  11. Van McCoy - The Hustle
  12. Bo Diddley - Hand Jive
  13. Chubby Checker - Let's Do The Twist
  14. The Diamonds - The Stroll
  15. Nat Kendricks & His Swans - Do The Mashed Potato
  16. Dee Dee Sharp - Mashed Potato Time
  17. Grandmaster Flash - Electric Slide A wedding favorite
  18. 69 Boyz - Tootsie Roll Thanks to the gals in my book club who clued me in to this craze!
  19. The Upgrade - Teach Me To Dougie I'm still not sure I understand this one.
  20. Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames - Do The Dog
  21. Kaoma - Lambada
  22. The Rolling Stones - Harlem Shuffle
  23. Sweet Charity Soundtrack - Rich Man's Frug I want this dance craze to come back in the worst way!
  24. Django Reinhardt & Stephane Grapelli - The Charleston If you'd like to see this one performed live on stage this weekend and next, check out the U-Prep Fall Musical "Thoroughly Modern Millie" at the David Marr Auditorium.

By the way friends....Grooveshark is doing a little upgrading this week. I'm not very happy about it, because they're apparently in the middle of designing a new & improved widget for sharing streaming playlists. But it's not finished. Which means that you can't just click on the arrow and play today's Dance Craze playlist. But you can click on this link, which still takes directly to the playlist on Grooveshark, and you can play it from there (by clicking on 'Play All.') And because I feel kind of bad about this week's wonky widget weirdness, here's a few more smattering of dance craze videos below to make up for it!
 Line Dancing in Footloose
The Time Warp from Rocky Horror
Let Me See You Wobble!

Hey, Macarena! AAAAAY!
The Rich Man's Frug from Sweet Charity

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Dream Come True

Fifteen years ago, early in the morning of October 20th, I had the most vivid dream of my life. In my dream I was in a hospital delivery room, giving birth. I was pushing and pushing, and then finally, she was born. A beautiful baby girl with thick black hair and blue eyes. She was put into my arms, and that's when I woke up, solid in the knowledge that I was going to have a girl.

In real life, I was very very pregnant, due any day. The baby's room was painted in yellow & white stripes because I'd decided against ultrasounds that would help me determine what flavor baby to prepare for. But when I woke up that morning, I knew a baby girl was on the way. And I knew she'd have those blue eyes and dark hair.

If you're a mother, you know what I mean. Over those nine months, you gain a connection to the life growing inside of you, and you just know. Funny thing though... up until that moment I really had no idea. I hadn't even decided on a middle name if the baby turned out to be a girl (if it was a boy, Noah Michael, after my grandfather). But I knew that dream was a little heads up for what was in store.

That evening, while stepping out of the car at about a quarter after six, my water broke. Six hours later, just past midnight, after a whirlwind labor, Sophia Louisa was born. She had the eyes and hair just like the baby girl in my dream. The hair was so striking, because it wasn't fine baby hair that so many babies are born with, which tends to fall out after awhile. It was lush, thick and long, already over her ears and down to her neck in the back. It was black on the ends, but the roots were more of a chestnut color. It never fell out, but from that day on, it grew out lighter and then lighter, until her hair became a golden blonde.                                           

Before she was born, her dad and I used to pass the time wondering what would result from the combining of our DNA: would our baby be born with his long, thin feet and arms and my short, stubby legs? His roman nose and unibrow and my elfin ears? As it turned out, she got the best of both of us. His long legs, arms and feet, his blue eyes. My hair, nose and facial shape, and my curves.

Fifteen years later, there are a lot of other qualities my daughter has developed that are similar to mine, but the most obvious is her love of music. As you can imagine, music has always filled our lives wherever we go. In the house, in the car, there's always a soundtrack. Some of her favorite songs came through exposure from us (The Beatles and anything C&W from her dad, Rufus Wainwright, OKGO and Maroon 5 from me), but she's definitely developed her own awesome, individual style.

For her birthday this weekend, all she's asked for is to get the screen repaired on her iPod Touch (her device of choice to do her two favorite things: listening to music & photography), but so far I haven't been able to find anyone in the area who will fix it for less than the darn thing cost in the first place. So while I try to find a way to make that happen, I asked if she'd like to create this week's playlist and share her favorite music with the world.

A few days ago she was whittling her list of songs down to a reasonable 38 (down from about 80), and I have to admit, I was delightfully surprised by many of her choices. I asked her to explain why she chose some of the songs that you'll hear when you click the play arrow below. So she not only chose the music for today's playlist, she also provided the commentary below.

Sophia, happy birthday. You have turned into exactly the person I dreamed of. Not just the exterior features that literally came to me in a dream, but the human qualities that you have developed during your fifteen years on this planet. You have endeavored to be the best friend you can possibly be to so many people. You're a good listener when they have problems, and you always look for solutions. You're accepting, generous, kindhearted and honest. You are a compassionate soul with a goofball spirit, in no hurry to grow up yet wise beyond your years. I don't know how I got so lucky.

  1. Beatles - Here Comes The Sun I love love love the Beatles, from the first time I heard them.
  2. fun. - At Least I'm Not As Sad This is my song of the week!
  3. Coldplay - Talk Seems like Coldplay always have a song that relates perfectly to something going on in my life right now.
  4. Foster The People - I Would Do Anything For You
  5. Group Love - Tongue Tied
  6. OkGo - Here It Goes Again
  7. Imagine Dragons - It's Time This is a song I heard first on Glee, one of my top 3 favorite tv shows (along with Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother).
  8. The Animals - House Of The Rising Sun I fell in love with this song when I heard Pip do it on The Voice last season. Wish I had that version instead!
  9. One Direction - I Wish
  10. Weezer - Islands In The Sun This was from the movie Aquamarine that I saw back in elementary school, and I've always liked it.
  11. Michael Jackson - Black Or White
  12. Maroon 5 - Stutter
  13. Goo Goo Dolls - Iris
  14. Avett Bros - Paranoia in B flat major Every time I hear this song, it makes me skip around.
  15. Mumford & Sons - Little Lion Man
  16. Nine Inch Nails - In This Twilight Not the regular version, gotta be the piano remix.
  17. Gregoire - Trois Plus Moi I'm taking French in school this year at U-Prep
  18. Journey - Don't Stop Believing The first really great song I ever learned to play on the piano.
  19. Skillet - Yours To Hold
  20. Journey - Faithfully
  21. The Police - Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
  22. Maroon 5 - Payphone
  23. Rascal Flatts - Summer Nights
  24. Norah Jones - Chasing Pirates I saw her in concert last summer while visiting my aunt. She's amazing, even if I did fall asleep.
  25. Taylor Swift - Mine 
  26. Train - Soul Sister
  27. Kristin Chenowith - Popular I'm always involved with the school musicals, and this is one of my favorite songs from a broadway musical. In fact, I sang this for my audition last year.
  28. Foster The People - Don't Stop
  29. Michael Jackson - Thriller
  30. Gorillaz - 19-2000 I love the Gorillaz. They're weird like me. 
  31. Rupert Homes - Escape (The Pina Colada Song) I used to take ballroom dancing lessons, and for some reason we used to sing this song all the time during class.
  32. Hot Chocolate - You Sexy Thing 
  33. Smash Mouth - Walking On The Sun
  34. Commodores - Brick House 
  35. The Drifters - Under The Boardwalk This song always seems to get stuck in my head.
  36. Rufus Wainwright - Cigarettes & Chocolate Milk This was my first favorite song, ever since I was really little, probably because he was singing about jelly beans and chocolate milk. Not so much the cigarettes.
  37. Rick Astley - Never Gonna Give You Up You've just been Rick Roll'd!
  38. Julian Smith - Stuck Inside Your Head This is just in case you get one of these songs stuck inside your head. I love everything Julian Smith does.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Columbus Day

We call it Columbus Day, but other countries have different names for it. Some call it Day of the Americas, others call it Day of Discovery, Dia de la Raza, Dia de la Hispanidad. Whatever it's called, it originated as a day to commemorate the day that Christopher Columbus discovered the New World. Not necessarily the good ol' U.S.A., because that's not what Columbus discovered. It was actually what we now call The Bahamas. Then the Antilles and later Venezuela. He never actually made it to the continent of North America, although he did make it to Hispaniola, which we now call Haiti and the Dominican Republic, where he was governor for a while.
Celebrating this holiday pisses off a good sized chunk of the population of this country and residents of a few other countries as well.
In fact, a number of nations and states have decided to opt out of commemorating this day at all, but like Christianity did to Pagans so many eons ago, the day is still marked, but with a new name and a different meaning.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Ring The Alarm

I don't want to scare you, but I'm alarmed. Alarmed enough to share a few real life true crime horror stories with you. Don't worry, there's still a musical connection to today's Mistress of the Mix. In fact, this playlist is a progressive story all on its own (that unfortunately seems to end too many times with "Catch & Release").

A few weeks ago I went to a friend's afternoon wedding. It was lovely. Two best friends who met over their mutual addiction affection for World of Warcraft, who now get to spend the rest of their lives together. If you'd seen the look on the groom's face when he finally got to hold his bride's hand after she walked up the aisle. The most adorable, infectious, ear to ear smile, like he'd just won the lottery. I wonder what kind of look he had on his face when he carried his wife across the threshold that evening, only to realize that while they were exchanging vows, someone had smashed through their front door and burglarized their home? Stolen were the bride's clarinet, a library book (WTF?) several wedding gifts and the X-Box that ignited their love.

Another couple who attended that same wedding returned to their house to discover they had also been robbed. You may have heard about this burglary, because the victims had invested in a video surveillance system which caught two women in the act. The video shows them entering the yard, getting into an altercation with the dog, putting on rubber gloves, pulling off window screens, and climbing into the home, somehow not noticing the cameras trained directly on their faces. The victims posted the video on Facebook, got it on the tv news, and the next day at least one of the thieves was apprehended while trying to pawn some of the stolen jewelry. Meanwhile, the bride told me that she wasn't the only person in the area who had her home broken into while saying her vows on the very same day. Brides are being targeted. Maybe through newspaper notices, maybe through bridal registries, maybe through Facebook.  We don't know. What we do know is that people are getting so desperate that nothing's off limits. You're getting married? We know where you'll be for a few hours! A loved one has passed and you attend the funeral to say your last goodbyes? Thanks for leaving the house, don't come back too soon! You're a tax paying, contributing member of society who goes to work every day and leaves your house completely unattended? SUCKA!

So what are ya gonna do? Not go to work? Not attend functions? Not let anyone know that you're getting married? Not have a life?

I'll tell you what I did after I discovered someone casing my house earlier this year - a woman who's had her photo on Shasta Mugshots 14 times in the past year and a half for crimes like burglary, posession of burglary tools and lurking - I got the neighborhood together, and we started talking. We've got cameras. We're picking up each other's newspapers. We're communicating and looking out for one another.

A couple of days ago I sat down with a couple of Redding cops, and asked them what's the best thing we all can do to minimize our chances of being victimized, and it wasn't hard at all for them to come up with a quick answer. They said the best deterrent, hands down, is an audible alarm system. If an intruder breaks a window or enters the home while an alarm system is hooked up, the police say the criminal will most likely spend less than a minute in the home looking for drugs, jewelry and cash or checks before taking off, instead of taking their time. Let me tell you what happens when they take their time.

Simpson University's Cathy Giacomelli went shopping one Sunday afternoon, while the rest of the family was out doing family stuff. While they were out, a guy who'd already been arrested and released twice in the 48 hours prior entered their backyard, swam in their pool, fought with their dog, then went into the house where he snacked on some fruit, drank a beer, took a shower, dressed in Mr. Giacomelli's clothing, grabbed his fishing license, and the keys to his company car, and took off. With the car. He took a few high speed laps around the neighborhood before the police apprehended him. He was sentenced to six years in prison, but was released after 3 months and returned to Redding.

None of this was a surprise to Dan Londen, sales manager for Precision Alarm. He agreed with everything the cops said, and added one item to the shopping list most thieves seem to have these days - weapons. He says besides having a working alarm system, keeping your valuables in a safe that's bolted to the floor is the best way to keep your guns and valuables, well, safe. (Full disclosure: I've been a client of Precision Alarm for more than 10 years, and I like 'em).

I called Dan because I wanted to know what kind of investment you might be looking at to follow the advice of our city's best experts in crime and punishment. He told me that there's a few different ways to approach having an alarm. "Starter systems can be had for the low hundreds," if you want to buy your own, says Londen. Monitoring the system will cost less than a dollar a day, about $25/month. You can also lease a system through an alarm company, which basically spreads the cost of the system across the monthly monitoring fee, starting at about $40/month.

The good news is that if you invest in some type of alarm system, you can save on your monthly home insurance premium. I called my friend and Farmer's Insurance agent Sal Azevedo to ask him how much it would save. He said between 5-10%, more if the alarm is directly monitored by not only an alarm company, but the fire department as well. Sal also had a few more great tips for homeowners to protect themselves against burglary. "Most burglars aren't smart enough to drive to Chico, but they're not selling your tv at the flea market, they'll take it down to the pawn shop. So keep an inventory. Take digital pictures of your valuables, and store them online or on a cd. And write down serial numbers." Sal says if you do this, there's a good chance you'll get your stuff back. "And get to know your neighbors. Make sure you all have each other's cell phone numbers so you can watch out for each other and get in touch."

Which reminds me of another story. Some very good friends of mine in Seattle went to work one day, and came back home to find that their house had been completely emptied out. I'm not exaggerating. Somebody backed a moving van into their driveway, and removed everything from their home. TVs, stereos, furniture, clothing. Everything. The neighbors saw the whole thing go down, and just assumed the family was moving. Nobody called the police.

Well, today I'm ringing the alarm. I just hate to see my friends violated, and I hate the thought that there are people out there making it their mission to try to destroy what's supposed to be the happiest day of a couple's life together, although getting your home broken into is a violation that would ruin anybody's day. And I hope it never happens to you. This playlist is for you Kandis & Steven, Abby & Robby, Mike & Delynda and the Giacomelli's.

  1. Ring The Alarm - Beyonce
  2. Crime & Punishment - Jon Levine
  3. Criminal - Britney Spears
  4. She's A Burglar - Freddie King
  5. Carjack - Gary Myrick
  6. Bank Robber - Clash
  7. Misdemeanor - Whitney Houston
  8. Thief's Theme - Nas
  9. Bad Boys - Inner Circle
  10. Cops - Slightly Stoopid
  11. To Catch A Thief - Lovage
  12. Watching The Detectives - Elvis Costello
  13. Get Myself Arrested - Gomez
  14. Police Truck - Dead Kennedys
  15. Jail - Beyonce
  16. Jail House Rock - Elvis Presley
  17. Jail House Blues - Ella Fitzgerald
  18. Jail - Richard Pryor
  19. Jail - Fat Boys
  20. Catch & Release - Silversun Pickups
  21. Out of Jail - Waylon Jennings
  22. I Fought The Law - The Clash
  23. Innocent, Not Guilty - Garlnd Jeffreys
  24. I've Changed My Plea to Guilty - Morrissey
  25. The Jury - Morphine
  26. The Verdict - Joe Jackson
  27. Guilty - UB40
  28. Prison - Eek-A-Mouse
  29. Life In Prison - Merle Haggard
  30. Folsom Prison Blues - Johnny Cash
  31. Prison Bound - Social Distortion
  32. Penitentiary - Citizen Cope
  33. Penitentiary - Bessie Tucker
  34. Riot In Cell Block #9 - Blues Brothers
  35. Death Row - David Allen Coe
  36. Oh Warden - David Allen Coe
  37. The Slammer - Wailing Souls
  38. Behind Bars - The Jayhawks
  39. Chain Gang - Sam Cooke
  40. Chain Gang - The Pretenders
  41. Probation - Buju Banton
  42. On Parole - Motorhead
  43. I've Changed - Chuck Berry

Friday, September 7, 2012

Chow Bella!

So there we were, in a hotel room in Firenze, Italy, with no idea where we were headed next. We ended up having an extraordinary dining experience, one that I can still smell and taste 16 years later. 
Welcome to my story of the most amazing meal of my life. And the most expensive.

One of the perks of living in Alaska for over a decade was taking a holiday. When you're in Alaska, and you have the chance to get go as far away and for as long as you can possibly go. That's just the way it's done. So most of my annual vacations during my decade-plus-a-few-years in Alaska involved transcontinental flights to Amsterdam, followed by 6 to 8 weeks of trekking across Europe.
At first, these trips were elaborately planned well in advance. Glenn, my husband at the time, would work for weeks, planning elaborate itineraries based on Rick Steves' "Europe Through The Back Door" philosophy, usually falling asleep with a highlighter in his hand and a map across his face. And then later on down the road, when we were old hats at this European jaunt thing, we finally started playing it by ear, and letting things just happen. And that's when we really had fun. 
The first time we really threw caution to the wind was 1996 in Firenze, Italia ( that's Florence, Italy to you landlubbers). We had planned the trip as far as the Hotel Bretagna, an old world pensione right on the Arno River. But after that? No plan. We had literally no idea where we were going from there. We didn't know how long we would be there, or where we were headed next. We'd seen all the important sights (David, the Duomo, the Ponte Vecchio, and a beggar with a baby taped to her chest trying to pilfer out of an unwitting Dutch tourist's fanny pack). So we decided to tape our Eurail map to the wall, close our eyes, and throw a Sharpie at it to determine where we we were headed next.
And that's how we ended up getting on a train the next day for a 7 hour trip to Brindisi, immediately boarding the ferry for the 20 hour trip to Patras, Greece, running across the street to the bus station where the next bus was just leaving for Athens, then directly onto the last subway train of the night to the port of Piraeus, where we decided we would get on the next ferry boat, no matter where it was headed. And that's how we eventually ended up in Turkey.
But let's back up for a moment to the place, the moment, the experience that is for me the quintessential European experience. My favorite meal ever.
We had just thrown the Sharpie. It had made a little black mark somewhere in the Mediterranean Sea. Now that we had a plan for the next day, we needed to eat. We had no plan for that either. Then my attention turned to a little book on the desk, signed by previous guests. There was a nicely written paragraph dedicated to a glorious review of a nearby trattoria, obscurely hidden away in a nearby alley at Via Parioncino 26.

So we headed down the road away from the Ponte Vecchio, turned right into a pedestrian alley, walked another block or so, and there it was.  Coco Lezzone.
It didn't look like anything special. It was so unassuming. So un-chic. White tiles and ugly yellow walls, long communal tables, an ancient woman hovering over an even more ancient wood stove, and a waiter who didn't understand much English. What was the worst that could happen, besides food poisoning?
Patrons dining at Coco Lezzone
So we went in. And ended up sitting at a table in the front, bundled with a gaggle of New Yorkers. At first I was annoyed, but they turned out to be very cool shoe buyers for Neiman Marcus. One of them promised to get me a pair of leopard spotted galoshes that were just coming out in their Fall collection (which I never got). On the wall above me was a photo of Roberto Benini, posing with the guy who had just walked up to us and said, "You want water con gas, or no gas?" There was another photo with  Luciano Pavarotti and the same guy, who then asked us, "You wantta da red wine, or you wantta da white wine?" (For the record, con gas, and red. Definitely red.)
I think we were on the prix fixe meal plan. We never even saw a menu. The waiter, Gianluca, just kept asking us if we wanted dis or dat. "You wanta da fagioli, or you wanta da farfalle con tartufo?" Well, we didn't even know what we were getting, so we took one of each. We were just going with it.
And from there, I don't even remember what the main course was. Because those two plates....the beans and the pasta, will live with me forever. They remain the most delicious individual plates of food I have ever been served in my entire life.
The beans were enormous, white and cooked to perfection. So tender. Served in a puddle of olive oil with the perfect amount of salt and garlic. They were amazing. I was so happy I'd ordered them. We asked Gianluca how they made the beans, and he said the secret was in the soaking. 
And then I tasted the pasta. A small plate of farfalle, little bow ties in a sauce of olive oil, garlic, white truffles and some parmesan shavings. 
OMG. As in Oh. My. Garlic. It was amazing. Better than the beans. I'd never had a truffle before, only heard about them in A Year In Provence. The ugliest mushroom on the planet. But it is the most incredible and pungent foodstuff, harvested from the forests of Europe with the assistance of specially trained pigs. Aromatic. Heady. Umami. Earthy and musky. It's like saffron. You only need a little bit to change the entire flavor of your dish. And it's expensive. How expensive, you ask? Well, at the time I had no idea. Like I said, we never saw a menu, and when the bill arrived it wasn't outrageous, in fact the prix fixe meals seemed pretty decently priced. Eventually I did find out how expensive, because this story isn't over.

Five years later, we went back to Firenze. This time we had 3 year old Sophia, my sister Dana and husband Brett were traveling with us, and we were visiting Dick & Bridget, friends from Alaska who were living in Italy with their kids for the year. We told them about the amazing restaurant and the incredible beans and pasta, and the affordable price tag as we'd remembered it.
We decided to go as a group and revisit our meal.
When we arrived, we had the same waiter, Gianluca. His mother was still behind the bar. This time I noticed a few more photos on the wall. Prince Charles had visited. Anthony Hopkins had been there. Ralph Fiennes, too. I started to worry a little bit, that maybe word had gotten out since we'd been there last. But everything seemed the same as it had been 5 years before. Same stove. Same paint job. 
We were seated in the back, all 9 of us.  We started with the same routine. Acqua con gas, vino rosso, but that's when we went off script. Like Clint Eastwood talking to an empty chair. We stopped him as he was probably offering some other amazingly delicious course of food, and told Gianluca we all wanted to try the fagioli bianco and pasta con tartufo. We ordered a few plates of the beans and six plates of pasta con tartufo.
The meal was exactly as we had remembered it. Until the bill arrived, and all hell broke loose at the table of Americanos.
We were 6 adults and 3 kids, and Gianluca had just handed us a tab for A MILLION LIRA! More than $600 US dollars. We had assured everyone that one of the reasons we loved this restaurant was because it was so reasonably priced. And everything was. Except for the several hundred dollars we'd just been charged for some side dishes of pasta. Not main courses. Side dishes. And they didn't take credit cards.
WTF? Everyone was shocked, trying to politely hide their outrage, but they were all looking at us. We'd just cost everyone a crapload of lira.
We didn't know. We'd never seen a menu. We were only going off of our experience from the last time. We didn't know the little side dishes of pasta would cost somewhere around $40 each (in 2000 prices) if it wasn't part of that evening's prix fixe meal. We only knew it had been really, really delicious!

After a bit of head slapping and grumbling, and silently deciding nobody would ever take our word for anything ever again, everybody still had to admit that it was one of the best meals they'd ever had. We managed to scrape up the money between us to pay the tab.

But my story's not over yet. I've got a redeeming follow up.

Our friends Dick & Bridget, when they returned to the states the following year, told us a funny story. At their Italian language class the week after our visit, they told all their fellow classmates how an American couple had lured them to this restaurant with really good food, promising that the cost was reasonable, only to come in several hundred dollars over what we were all expecting, and it was all because of those damn truffles.
Another student in the class told them they'd gotten off easy. And then he told his own story.
He'd gone to Paris some years before, and ordered pasta with truffles at a fancy restaurant. The waiter delivered the pasta, and then pulled out a grater and a hideous looking bulbous growth. That would be the truffle. He began shaving paper thin slices off the mushroom over the pasta. The patron sat by, smiling at the waiter, waiting for him to finish, salivating at the thought of trying this amazing European delicacy. The waiter continued. And continued. And continued.
Well, you probably already know where this is headed.
The White Truffle. Priced at $1000 USD per pound in 2000.
When a truffle is served in this manner, you are paying by the gram. The truffle is weighed before it is shaved, and then it weighed after it is shaved, and the customer is charged accordingly. The customer had no idea that he was supposed to tell the waiter when to stop. So the waiter just kept going, and going, and going (probably until his conscience got the better of him), and the gentleman ended up with over $200 worth of truffle shavings on his plate. Hope they took credit cards.

Like I said, we got off easy.

Funny thing. I just went on Facebook to do a little fact checking with my friend Dick. I haven't spoken to him in years. He's not much of a Facebooker. The one post on his wall? A recipe for white beans.  He reminded me that we paid much more than I originally recalled for each plate of pasta (I was thinking somewhere closer to $25. He said it was more like $40). He was writing to me from Tuscany, where he's on a ten day hiking tour. He said the dinner we had at Coco Lezzone that night is still one of the most memorable meals of his life too. 

Now that my story is done, I want to tell you about today's playlist, and why I wrote about extraordinary food in Italy. Our mutual good friend and food goddess Doni is headed off soon to Italy to a Slow Foods convention. It's quite an honor. She's the Slow Food Central California delegate for the Terra Madre conference next month in Turin, Italy, where it's all about food. Doni, if you get anywhere near Firenze, you had better get your hindquarters over to Coco Lezzone and try those beans, and then make them for me when you get back, because they require some very slow, slow, slow cooking. I've never been able to master that recipe. Maybe it has to do with that Italian climate.

By the way, you've got an opportunity to support Doni and the Slow Food movement at a party in the very near future, which will help fund that trip to the conference. A News Cafe and Slow Food Shasta-Cascade are hosting A Harvest Sampler in Redding October 7th at The Atrium (you're all invited, get your tickets at the link above). Doni asked if I might provide some music for the occasion. So here it is. La migliore musica italiana per la bella donna. I call it Ciao, Bella. Or Chow Bella. Either way....I think you're gonna love it.
Ciao Bella! by Valerie Ing-Miller on Grooveshark

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

When The Going Gets Tough, Hang In There!

Barbara. Paulie. Adrienne. 2Rs. Karen & Katie. Today's column is all about you. Yep, you, dear readers (and listeners) of this column who not only indulge in my playlists and the musings that go along with them, but have found yourselves motivated enough to give some feedback in the comments section. I love your comments, and I love it when you suggest songs I didn't think of!

About a year ago I shared a playlist called Hang In There Baby, and discussed the healing powers of music when life's got you down. I told a story about one of the most dark and sour moments in my own life, and how one song finally helped me pick myself up by the bootstraps, put a smile on my face, and let all the negative crap drain away to make room for some positive energy.

It was one of my most viewed columns ever. The feedback in the comments section was tremendous, especially the song suggestions from readers that I had failed to include in the playlist. The feedback means a lot to me. Lets me know you're picking up what I'm laying down. Sometimes it's hard in my line of work to know if the music I'm playing on the radio is getting through to anyone. I'm sitting alone in a room spinning discs and talking into a microphone, and if anyone anywhere in the world is listening, I don't know it until someone stops me on the street, calls me on the phone or emails to communicate back. Every once in a while I even get a letter from an 85 year old guy in Bandon, Oregon who uses an actual typewriter! In the media world, we're flying blind, having no idea if there's anyone out there paying attention until something makes you so happy or so angry that you're moved to take action.

Cut to a few weeks ago, when someone suggested that I consider jumping on board and creating a playlist for September's Suicide Prevention Month (A News Cafe has a whole series dedicated to the topic, starting with this). I realized that I'd pretty much done just that last October with Hang In There, Baby. All the songs I would put on a playlist to try to do my part in preventing someone from thinking about taking their own life are exactly the songs I already put onto a playlist. Except, of course, for all the songs that I left off that playlist. The songs that were suggested by readers.

Today, I'm adding those songs onto last year's playlist, and I invite you to continue offering suggestions in the comments section below if you can think of more tunes that you think should be included. I'll be happy to add them on as we go forward...ah, the magic of Grooveshark! (That is if I can find them. Grooveshark is an amazing resource, but doesn't have much in the way of The Beatles or Lenny Kravitz, which I find tragic.)

Please share with us songs that inspire you to move forward, songs that help you suck it up and get yourself back on track. Songs that help you hang on, stand up, hang tough and cowboy up. Songs that help you find faith in yourself. And whenever life is getting you down, stream this playlist, and keep hanging in there. And if you think you can't do it by yourself, there are people out there ready to help, like Help, Inc. (which is looking for volunteers, by the way).

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
  25. Gloria Gaynor - I Will Survive
  26. Helen Reddy - I Am Woman
  27. Playing For Change - One World
  28. Randy Newman - You've Got A Friend In Me My apologies... reader Paul suggested a song by Randy Newman that includes the iconic Mark Twain quote, "Sing like nobody's listening." Alas, I couldn't find it. This was the best I could do. If anyone knows the song he speaketh of, let me know!
  29. Brett Dennen - Nothing Lasts Forever Brett Dennen, however, included the line in this sweet song.
  30. Celine Dion - A New Day Has Come
  31. Israel Kamakawiwo'ole - Somewhere Over The Rainbow
  32. Sarah McLachlan - Arms Of An Angel
  33. Sheryl Crow - Here Comes The Sun
  34. Megan Slankard - Sails This one wasn't on Grooveshark, but you can listen to it on Megan's website. You can also hear her live in person from time to time when this talented Bay Area musician performs in Redding, usually at Vintage.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Blue Moon

There was no way I was going to let the next Blue Moon slip by without dedicating a playlist to it. I mean, after all, these things only happen once in a blue moon, right? And from what I understand the next one isn't coming around again until 2015, and that's just way too long to wait. I'm not planning on going on and on ad nauseum about blue moons. I figure Doni's got some physics genius far more scientifically minded than me already lined up to discuss blue moons and the different definitions of what makes a blue moon (because there's actually more than one kind, from my brief, 3 minute internet based research project). But I am going to promise you one of the absolutely best soundtracks of all time to stream through your speakers as you sit in your backyard and gaze in wonder at this month's upcoming blue moon. Why do I think there's a pretty great chance you'll be watching the moon on August 31st? I mean other than the fact that it's pretty hard to miss a giant, round orb in the sky? Because this time you might find yourself looking at an actual bonafide blue (as in the color blue) moon. While a blue moon only comes along once in a blue moon (I'm gonna keep using that all day!!!), a blue moon that actually appears to be blue in color is really, really, super-duper rarer than a blue moon rare. What makes that happen? A lot of dust particles or smoke. Some major forest fires in Sweden and Canada in the early 50's caused it. The 1883 eruption of Krakatoa caused bluish blue moons for several years. And on August 31st, I'm wondering if the incredible number of wildfires we've been experiencing in the region will create just the right conditions to turn the moon blue. Or maybe a brilliant red like we've never experienced. Whatever color it turns out to be, I predict that it's going to be incredible. A moonrise you won't wanna miss. If you can see it at all, of course. Enjoy this week's playlist. I think it's worthy of a howl or two!
Blue Moon by Valerie Ing-Miller on Grooveshark
  1. Blue Moon - Chris Isaak
  2. Moon Song - Bob Schneider
  3. Paper Moon - Ella Fitzgerald
  4. Moonlight Serenadek - Glenn Miller
  5. Harvest Moon - Neil Young
  6. Moonlight Kiss - Bap Kennedy
  7. Blue Moon - The Mavericks
  8. Does That Blue Moon Ever Shine On You - Toby Keith
  9. Paper Moon -  Shout Out Louds
  10. Blue Moon - Sha Na Na
  11. Blue Moon - The Kills
  12. Moonlight In Vermont - Willie Nelson
  13. Moonlight In Vermont - Tommy Dorsey
  14. Old Devil Moon - Lena Horne
  15. Blue Moon - The Ventures
  16. Havana Moon - De-Phazz
  17. Moon Over Bourbon Street - Sting
  18. Shoot The Moon -  Norah Jones
  19. Moondance - Van Morrison
  20. Kiko & The Lavender Moon - Los Lobos
  21. Dutch Moon - The Stranglers
  22. Man On The Moon - R.E.M.
  23. Bad Moon Rising - Creedence Clearwater Revival
  24. Moonshine - Jack Johnson
  25. Moon Rocks - Talking Heads
  26. Moon Safari - Air
  27. Meet You At The Moon - Imelda May
  28. Good Night Moon - Shivaree