Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Miraculous Rescue of Whiskey Ted

It was just another normal night in Alaska. Yes, just as I promised last year, it's another true tale of winter survival against incredible odds, from back in the day. It's the story of The Miraculous Rescue of Whiskey Ted.

It was my first winter in Petersburg, Alaska. And by that, I mean it was probably October, and the first snowfall of the year came in fast and hard that day, in a blizzard that brought with it a foot of snow in no time at all. I was lucky to make it home from work, 3 1/2 miles out the road to the little house I shared with my future first husband Glenn, 3 cats and a cockatiel named Hairy. We were just sitting down to dinner when the scanner went off (I was a reporter, so I had it on at all times). The call went out for the Petersburg Volunteer Fire Department to mobilize and get personnel and an ambulance out to 4 Mile to try to find a guy who was floating out to sea.

To help the picture I'm about to paint come alive in your head, it might be helpful to know a few things about the lay of the land. Petersburg was on Mitkof Island in Southeast Alaska, on the Inside Passage. Mitkof is about 30 miles long, and just a few miles wide. Back in 1989, when this story took place, there was just one road along the western edge of the island to get from the north end to the south, and instead of regular street addresses, we used mile markers. So we lived 3 1/2 miles 'out the road.'

Mitkof Island was separated from Kupreanof Island by a stretch of water so skinny that you could kayak across from one island to the other, crossing "The Narrows" in about 15 minutes during slack tide. But when the tide comes in and goes out, it doesn't play around. The ocean becomes like a fast moving river. You do not want to get caught in that tide on a cold winter night in the middle of a blizzard when huge swells flip your little boat over, and you don't even have a lifejacket on. But that's exactly what happened to Whiskey Ted.

Out at 5 Mile, Bob Larson's house was on the water side. Across the road on the uphill side, his parents. His dad stepped out onto the front porch for a smoke after dinner. Although he didn't hear too well, he thought he heard a faint cry for help down towards the water. Worried that it might be one of his grandkids, he called the house below to ask Bob if any of his young boys were outside in the snow. But no, everyone was cozy inside the house.

Bob stepped out and saw the craziest thing floating down the Narrows: a man in an Australian Outback type oilskin coat and Xtra Tuffs clinging to the top of his overturned skiff, rapidly passing his house on the swift tide, yelling his head off. Bob called 911, and the community jumped to its feet to help a man who was headed towards certain death on a stormy night.
Whiskey Ted, back in the day.   Credit: Petersburg Pilot

I remember hearing the call to mobilize the search & rescue team, which was planning to head out to 4 Mile, where the Beachcomber Inn & Restaurant had a dock. It sounded like they were planning to try to get a boat out into the water to try for an interception. We dropped our forks and ran for our boots and gloves. Glenn grabbed both of our snow shovels. I grabbed my mic and tape deck.

We ran down to the bottom of our driveway, just in time to see a convoy of emergency vehicles slush by. It was blowing sideways, and the snow was deep on the road. When we caught up with the team, they had realized that to get down the hill to the dock on the long, unplowed driveway, they'd have to shovel it. If only they'd brought snow shovels. So we handed ours over, and they went to work, breaking both of them within minutes. I followed one of the firefighters, Jim Stolpe, as he walked in the snow, yelling out towards the water in the pitch black night, trying hard to listen in the wind for a response. The first ambulance started down the hill, and became stuck immediately. Someone said they were pretty sure the little upside down boat had just passed by, so they decided to turn the second ambulance around and head closer to town to the next place with a boat ramp to try for a 2nd interception. I honestly didn't think it was possible.

The 2nd ambulance started to turn around in the middle of the highway, and it became hopelessly stuck as well. Somebody got on their radio to call for the last rescue vehicle, still in town at the firehall, to head out the road to the next interception point.

And that's when the lights went out. The entire island went dark. Just as the door to the ambulance bay was on the way up, but not quite enough for the vehicle to get out. There was no way any more emergency vehicles would be heading out for the next half hour to help Whiskey Ted, who was still floating down the Narrows, towards the open ocean a few miles away in the middle of an Alaskan snowstorm.

Meanwhile, down at the Harbormaster's shack in the middle of the city's main harbor, just before the Wrangell Narrows opens up into Frederick Sound, Hofter Gjerde was listening to events unfolding on the scanner. Hofter had lived on the island his whole life, and grew up on boats, but still didn't know how to drive a car by the time he was 40 (I know, because I was there when he did a few years later, but that's a whole 'nuther story). Hofter knew that if any more time was wasted trying to find a way down to a boat ramp, Whiskey Ted was really gonna be a goner (not that we knew it was Whiskey Ted at the time. We just knew it was some guy screaming his head off, sprawled on top of a little skiff). So Hofter got into the harbor master's boat, and sped off into the Narrows, hoping to come across our hapless victim before the boat flipped over again.

Miraculously, Hofter found him. He pulled Whiskey Ted aboard his boat, and took him back to town. I don't know how Whiskey Ted got to the hospital, since I know Hofter didn't drive him the 3 blocks. But Whiskey Ted pulled through. In fact, he lived until last year, when cancer took him at the age of 64.

So when the wind is blowing and you can feel the chill to your bone, when inches upon inches of snow are coming down and you start mourning for your oranges and jasmine, when you lament that you might have to walk to work the next day or entertain your kids because the schools are shut down, remember Whiskey Ted. And how much worse it could be. The plants in our garden might not survive, but we will.

Have a warm and safe holiday, don't EVER get in a boat without a lifejacket, and enjoy the Whiskey Ted Xtra Tuff Xmas Cocktail Hour Playlist.

Click on the Xtra Tuff Xmas Cocktail Hour Playlist below to play, or go directly to the playlist at Grooveshark.
Xtra Tuff Xmas Cocktail Hour by Valerie Ing-Miller on Grooveshark

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Locked Out

Not that I'm bragging (mainly because I don't want anyone to try to prove me wrong), but potential burglars would have a hard time breaking into my house.
Now I've known this for a long time, but my husband, who just moved in a few weeks ago, is just finding this out now. Twice in the past week, my guy has locked himself out of the house. In both instances, he walked out of the kitchen door and onto the back porch, forgetting that when the door knob turns on the inside, it's actually locked from the outside. Fools him every time.

Fortunately, he's had two important things on him both times...his clothes and his phone.

If you're familiar with my husband, you know it's not that farfetched that he'd end up naked in the backyard with no way to reach me at work. Of course he tried to find another way into the house before calling me, but short of throwing a deck chair through the kitchen door, he quickly realized that it just wasn't gonna happen. He was hopelessly locked out, and needed someone to let him back in.

The first time I was able to drive home and let him back in the house, but the second time he had to walk all the way from home to my office so I could give him the key. All this reminded me of the one and only time I ever locked my self out of the house and learned for myself just how difficult it would be to get back in.

It was a cool December evening right about this time of year. Sophia was invited to an afterschool  Christmas cookie baking party at a friend's house. We were already buckled into our seatbelts with the motor running when I remembered that I'd left a gift inside on the counter. I took my house key off the ring so that Sophia could stay in the warm car while I ran back in the house. I was back in a flash, and we headed off to the party. We returned home a few hours later (when it was pitch black and really cold), and after looking through every pocket, my purse and under the seats in the car, I realized that my key was gone. It was not on my person. It was not in my car.

I drove back to the party, and soon all the moms there were looking through their purses, wondering if one of them might've somehow accidentally swiped my house key. I started to get a little panicky. I'm a little surprised I didn't take a bite out of each Christmas cookie we'd made to see if maybe, possibly, perchance my key was dropped into the batter. Eventually, the man of the house, Adam, followed me back, positive that he could get me back into my house in a few short minutes.

A few minutes turned into a few hours. We tried credit cards. We tried removing the hinges from a door that opened outward. We tried prying open the garage door. We tried peeling back the rubber insulation piping from around the front door. We went into the backyard (which required maneuvering a combination lock in the dark because all my flashlights were inside the house), and worked on all the doors and windows. Then we worked on shimmying the sliding glass door out of its track. Nothing worked. The place was locked tight. 

Adam hated to give up. We'd been so sure that he could save the day. But finally, he admitted defeat, and I called the locksmith. He showed up around 9pm, and after trying for 45 minutes to get in through all the same doors that Adam had been working on, announced that I had the hardest house to break into that he'd ever come across. The locks were expensive. The doors were solid. Most of them had high quality deadbolts in addition to doorknob locks. All my windows and glass doors had locks plus wooden rods for an added protective measure. Finally, the locksmith resorted to a method that might (he warned me) destroy my front door.

It worked. He got in, and I started running around the house looking for my key, which I thought for sure had to be somewhere inside. But it wasn't. We were all freezing, so I made a quick pot of coffee as the locksmith removed my lockset, telling me that he was going to go down to his van and make me a new set of keys. I grabbed a flashlight (because this was before I added security lights that come on when anyone gets within 50 feet of my house) and headed down the front steps to bring him a mug of coffee. As I walked across the driveway, the beam of light picked up a silver flash. Right there, in between my car and the front steps. Right where Adam, the locksmith and I had all tromped by no less than 6 times apiece during the ordeal. Right where I had dropped it running back out of the house when I ran in for the gift. My key.

Today's playlist is dedicated to my husband, my friend Adam, and everybody else who has been locked out, locked up or somehow found themselves without the key on the outside looking in (or the inside looking out, I suppose). And here's hoping you don't find yourself out in the cold without a way back in, or someone to call.

Check out today's Locked Out Playlist directly at Grooveshark, or hit the play button on the embedded streaming playlist below.
Locked Out by Valerie Ing-Miller on Grooveshark
  1. Let My Love Open The Door - Pete Townshend
  2. Lookin' Out My Back Door - Creedence Clearwater Revival
  3. Locked Out - Freelance Whales
  4. Open The Door - Otis Redding
  5. Locked Up - Ingrid Michaelson
  6. She Holds A Key - Gavin DeGraw
  7. Picking The Same Lock - Alias & Tarsier
  8. Locked Out Boogie - Leroy Foster
  9. Lock 'Em Up - Charles Mingus
  10. I'm Gonna Lock My Heart - Billie Holliday
  11. Lock, Stock & Teardrop - k.d. Lang
  12. Somebody Done Changed The Lock - B.B. King
  13. Knockin' On Heaven's Door - Bob Dylan
  14. Skeleton Key - Margot & The Nuclear So & So's
  15. Lock You Up - The Love Dogs
  16. Key To Your Door - Magic Slim & The Teardrops
  17. Key Signator - David Grisman Quintet
  18. Key To The Highway - Steve Miller Band
  19. Secret Door - Arctic Monkeys
  20. Back At Your Door - Maroon 5
  21. Stitched Up - John Mayer & Herbie Hancock
  22. Out The Door - The All-American Rejects
  23. Pop That Lock - Adam Lambert
  24. Under Lock & Key - MxPx
  25. Get Out The Door - Velvet Revolver
  26. Knock Knock - MacMiller

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thanksgiving Feast

My mother has done it again.
Here we are, a week before Thanksgiving, and my mother called me today to discuss her plans.
If you've been a longtime reader of The Mistress of The Mix, you may recall that two years ago I finally had a chance to cook a Thanksgiving feast.
It was a big deal.
My husband and I relished in the opportunity to cook a turkey, make my world famous mashed potatoes and gravy, the whole thing. And it was wonderful. I was so thankful that year!
The only reason this happened was because my mother was out of town. (To her credit, she was acting as nursemaid to my little sister, who was recuperating from a double mastectomy.)
And then there was last year, when Eddie and I wanted to cook the Thanksgiving dinner again, now that mom was back in town to enjoy it. But no, she insisted on having the local supermarket deli cook the entire meal for us. The turkey, the potatoes, the gravy, everything. Our only consolation was that we insisted on cooking the pies.
Apple, peach and mincemeat. We hit a home run, ask anyone who was there.
Cut to this morning, when my mom called to tell me that this year, she's decided to break away from the norm.
For about a half a second, I was thrilled.
I've been getting emails for weeks from all the foodie websites I hang out on, with titles like The Best Thanksgiving Side Dishes Of All Time! and Yummies Mashed Potatoes Ever!
I was up for this. I was ready to impress!
I imagined myself cooking all my favorite Thanksgiving dishes! Fresh green beans sautéed in butter and fresh garlic, Mama Stamberg's cranberry relish, a turkey covered in thin slices of lemon, corn on the cob, fresh baked bread smothered in salted butter, mashed garlic potatoes, and of course my lump free amazing gravy. Oh, the gravy! It was gonna be awesome!
Then she dropped a bomb on me.
By breaking away from the norm, my mom meant that she had decided to try switching things up by getting the entire meal pre-cooked from Trader Joe's.
So let me just say right now, right here, in front of everyone, I hereby stake a claim on next year's Thanksgiving. I've got dibs. Because I've got recipes.
And in the meantime, I've cooked up a musical Thanksgiving feast for you, complete with the turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, extra green beans, corn on the cob, stuffing, lots and lots of fresh baked bread and butter, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, wild rice, and I even managed to find some Cranberries! Of course it wouldn't be a thanksgiving feast without pumpkin pie with whipped cream and a couple of glasses of red wine. But it all begins by saying grace, and ends with a Thanksgiving prayer. I hope you enjoy!
Thanksgiving Dinner by Valerie Ing-Miller on Grooveshark

Enjoy this playlist by clicking on the play arrow, above. Or go directly to Grooveshark.
  1. Say Grace - Babette Hayward
  2. Turkey In The Straw - Buck Owens & Roy Clark
  3. Bread & Butter - Hugo
  4. Red Wine, Mistakes & Mythology - Jack Johnson
  5. Turkey Dubstep - The Dubstep Turkeys
  6. Gravy - Dee Dee Sharp
  7. Mashed Potatoes - Rufus Thomas
  8. Bread & Butter - Newbeats
  9. Where's My Gravy - Steve Lucky & The Rhumba Bums
  10. Soul Dressing - Booker T. & The MGs
  11. Green Beans - Nils Landgren Funk Unit
  12. Green Beans - Chad Van Gaalen
  13. My Sweet Potato - Booker T. & The MGs
  14. Sweet Potato - Sia
  15. Bread & Wine - Josh Garrels
  16. Butternut Squash - Biotron Shelf
  17. Butternut - Tommy Guerrero
  18. Corn on the Cob - Jean-Jacques Perrey
  19. Linger - The Cranberries
  20. Pumpin Pie - California Honey Drops
  21. Whipped Cream - Herb Alpert & Tijuana Brass
  22. Celebrate Wild Rice - Sacred Spirit
  23. A Prayer of Thanksgiving - Richard Clayderman
  24. Thanksgiving - George Winston

Thursday, November 7, 2013


I'm backstage. Sitting on what might be the oldest wooden rolling chair on the planet, typing away on my mac. As all the action goes on behind me, I've carved out a teeny little office space upon on a 60 year old yellow linoleum kitchen table in between a gray rotary dial telephone with "Lewiston 338" written in the center of the dial, and a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Actually, it's a tin can with a piece of printed paper wrapped around it to make it look like a can of beer. It wouldn't fool anybody up close. But this is high school, and a can of beer, even an empty can of beer, probably isn't allowed. Even as a prop.  This isn't a flashback, by the way. As I type this, I'm actually backstage in the David Marr auditorium at U-Prep High School, being a stage mom, helping out during rehearsals for the fall musical, a production of the award winning "Bye Bye Birdie." It's about a 50's Elvis-like singing idol who goes on the Ed Sullivan show to plant one last kiss on a teenage fan before heading off to the army, and my daughter plays Ursula Merkle, vice president of the heartthrob's fan club.
Dress Rehearsal: Ursula Merkle and the residents of Sweet Apple, Ohio
going bonkers for Conrad Birdie as seen from stage right.

Jeff Knott, the Technical Director for the production, said to me, "There are two shows. The one that the audience sees, and the one that happens backstage." Truer words were never spoken. You wouldn't believe the stuff that goes on backstage during a high school musical, especially during tech week. Those last few days before opening night, when the curtains open whether these 50 young actors, dancers and crew members are ready or not. I don't know if there's any super secret backstage code that I'm breaking by exposing the mayhem that transpires in the 8 feet of space on each side of the curtain during a high school musical, but I don't think I'm talking out of class too much when I say that the 15 or 20 young people that you don't see during the play are working just as hard as those you do see. Well, there's a good chance that you might see some of them, scurrying about in the dark in between scenes, as they lug huge wooden platforms, ancient furniture and a piano on and off stage in a total blackout. Right now they're just trying to find a way to do it in 60 seconds instead of 90 between the first and second scene. It's not so easy. It's total silent chaos. I've been watching Ariella, one of the lead techies back stage, pace back and forth in the dark, muttering into her headset as she puts everything she's learned in geometry and physics classes to work trying to figure out where and how to store all the set pieces when they're not on stage. I say, "How you doing?" She responds, "I'm fine. Just thinking is all."
I've just been kicked off of my perch so that the linoleum table could be hoisted onto the stage for a kitchen scene, but a few feet away there are a couple of red, overstuffed wingback chairs that don't look they're going anywhere soon. I sit in one, and return to writing about the show behind the show.
Ali, Ariella & Derek in a lighthearted moment.
Before they started calling her Grandma.

Ariella's difficult task has just been compounded by a  gaggle of teenage girls decked out in a lot of P's: pedal pushers, pink poodle skirts, and pony tails that stand in between the curtains, watching the action onstage, waiting for their cue to run out and faint at the sight of 50's teenage sensation Conrad Birdie, the namesake of the play. She doesn't have enough space to do what she's gotta get done, she wants the other techies, especially Ali, to quit calling her Grandma even if they're just poking fun, and she's maybe freaking out just a little bit inside her head. There's definitely some drama going on back here, stage right.
As I write this, I've had to move my computer to the top of an upright piano and I have nowhere to sit, because one of the kids just told me I needed to move my butt off of the overstuffed chair which is headed out onstage for a bar scene. That's okay, I'd rather stand at this point, because I just backed into a metal fly brake - that metal rod that holds the backdrops in place - trying to squeeze through the 10 inch space between the pulley system and the wooden sets jammed backstage. I've got a knot the size of a lime growing on my left butt cheek that'll probably be the size of an orange by the time I get home tonight. When I complain, another teenage member of the stage crew says, "Wanna see my shins? They're purple."
Ali operating the pulleys. See those red levers?
Those demon devices are the reason I'd rather stand than sit right now.

Every time the lights go black, the backstage crew runs out, grabbing wooden platforms and steps, rearranging and dragging pieces offstage. I'm a little lost here, trying to figure out how I can help get things done faster, more efficiently, so that the audience spends less time fidgeting in their seats between scenes. But I can't go home. I feel an obligation to pitch in and do what I can, even if I'm just wandering around in the dark, bumping into things with my mom sized ass. Oh, the things a stage mom will do, right? I could tell you that I'm doing this as a selfless act to make sure my daughter's high school play goes off without a hitch. But that's not really true. I'm doing this because I missed out on doing some of the things I really should have done in high school, and participating during my own high schooler's high school musical is a way for me to live out all those things I never did 30 years ago. Men my age buy motorcycles and convertibles, or shave their heads to pretend it was a choice to lose all their hair. Me? My midlife crisis is playing out backstage at my kid's high school musical. Back in high school I was in the Drama Club, but I never had the guts to actually get up on stage. Or even work behind the scenes. I don't even know why. Well, yeah I do. I  lacked stage confidence. And I know exactly what you're thinking right now....YOU? The gal who gets out there on stage at the Cascade Theatre and introduces all the shows?
Yeah, me.
There was a time, way back when I didn't have what it took to get up on stage. I was afraid of making a fool out of myself. In real life I seemed completely self assured. Outgoing, spunky and full of gumption. But I was actually terrified of getting up on stage or in front of a microphone or camera.
Obviously I got over that. But it took a long time. And it wasn't easy. So I really gotta hand it to any kid who's willing to get up on stage and put it all out there for everyone to see. And I gotta hand it to all those kids who toil away backstage, making it look easy for the ones in the spotlight. Because this is the stuff I wanted to be doing in high school, but was too afraid to try. So I really relish in the opportunity to hang with these great kids for just a few days, helping them pull off two hours of entertainment for their parents, their friends, maybe even you.
Today's streaming playlist is all about the show, I hope you like it. And by the show, I don't just mean this show...I mean The Show. The spotlight. The curtain. The applause!
And don't forget to check out Bye Bye the David Marr Auditorium for six shows this weekend and the next at U-Prep. All the info you need to know about it is right here. These kids (those on stage and backstage) are really kicking out the jams. And in the meantime, let's get on with the show!
On Stage by Valerie Ing-Miller on Grooveshark
You can click on the arrow above to stream the playlist, or check it directly from Grooveshark.

  1. The Show Must Go On - Three Dog Night
  2. I'm An Actor - Phoenix
  3. The Audience Is Listening - Cut Chemist
  4. The Show - Lenka
  5. Center Stage - Capital Cities
  6. Applause - Lady Gaga
  7. Backstage Girl - DJ Shadow
  8. Jump on Stage - Girl Talk
  9. It's Not The Spotlight - Rod Stewart
  10. Take A Bow - Rihanna
  11. Spotlight - Jennifer Hudson
  12. Song For An Actress - Hoodie Allen
  13. Cracked Actor - David Bowie
  14. The Show Goes On - Lupe Fiasco
  15. You Are The Music In Me - High School Musical
  16. Baby Center Stage - Iron & Wine
  17. The Show Goes On - Bruce Hornsby
  18. I Was Meant For The Stage - The Decemberists
  19. Behind The Scenes - Moodorama
  20. Spotlight - Mutemath
  21. Stage Fright - The Band
  22. When The Curtain Goes Up - Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns
  23. Places Everyone - Shawn J. Period
  24. The Telephone Hour - Bye Bye Birdie Soundtrack

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Mea Culpa

Thursday night.
Just realized that by this time, I should be thinking about submitting my column.
And I haven't even started thinking about writing it yet.

That's because it's Fund Drive week at JPR, and I'm exhausted. I've been on the air all day, every day all week long, giving out a toll free number and a website to try to help my co-workers raise $190,000.00. It's one of those weeks where I don't even eat unless someone takes pity on me and brings me lunch (which is why I'm sending out a public thank you to Kathleen Saxer at Downtown Java & Caffe for feeding me every day this week). 

Twice a year, my life is consumed by an 8 day on-air fundraiser. It's an exercise in which we (the staff and volunteers at Jefferson Public Radio) remind listeners that public radio wouldn't exist without the generosity of our listeners. That 80% of our operating budget comes directly from listener contributions. I won't bore you with the rest of the blah blah blah. Either you listen to public radio, or you don't. Either the programming interests you, or it doesn't. If it does, maybe you'll spend a few quality moments rolling your eyeballs back into your brain this week, and do the math. Maybe you'll set aside a dime, or 25 cents or $1 a day and make a promise to volunteer that as a donation to the station.

 It's a crazy concept, isn't it? JPR pays it forward, in the hopes that if you partake in the listening experience to JPR, that when we remind you how much you listen, how much you've come to depend on public radio, and that it wouldn't exist without the generosity of our listeners, that you'll be compelled to come up with an appropriately affordable donation during our bi-annual fundraiser.

Somehow, it works. We've been doing it for 44 years now, providing a huge geographic area with public radio on that premise. Someone today told me it was 60-thousand square miles. I don't know. That sounds like a lot, but I do know it takes 8 hours to drive from the southern tip of our listening area to the northern tip, and that's without a potty break.

 When this week rolls around twice a year (once in October, once in April), I get a little exhausted. So tonight when I realized that I'd hit my deadline without even giving a thought to putting a streaming playlist together for you this week, it came to me that I've already got one. I've got 3 actually, that I'd like to encourage you to check out. The 3 streaming services of Jefferson Public Radio.

There's the Rhythm & News Service, the Classics & News Service, where I reign as what some of our listeners refer to as "Warrior Princess of Classical Music," and then there's the News & Information Service. I have no idea what's going to be on when and if you click through to listen live to JPR, because you'll be listening to actual live radio. But perhaps you'll like what you hear, and perhaps you'll download the iPhone app, or start tuning JPR in on your radio more frequently. And then perhaps, next time we remind you that radio like this doesn't happen without the support of its listeners, maybe you'll decide to be a part of making it happen. And if you do, click here, or dial 1-888-552-6191, and tell 'em the Warrior Princess of Classical Music sent you.

Friday, September 27, 2013

If You Like It Then You'd Better Put A Ringtone On It

I don't quite know how to start today's column, because no matter what I say or how I say it, you're gonna either think I'm crazy, that I need to get on some ADD medication, or that I've got supernatural powers. Either way, as of October 9th, I'm either going to have to get a new ring tone.
OK, you're already scratching your head, right? I should probably explain. And you should definitely read all the way to the end, because I'm giving away tickets to a show I've been waiting years for.

The Backstory
You all probably know this, but many years ago the organization I work for, Jefferson Public Radio, purchased the Cascade Theatre and led the crusade to restore the glorious performance hall I like to call The Crown Jewel of Downtown Redding. It's now in its 10th year of operations. In those years, the Cascade stage has hosted hundreds upon hundreds of live music entertainment. Big stars, like Bill Cosby, The Fray, and Bonnie Raitt. We've had some good times there, haven't we?

My Incredible Supernatural Powers
The other part of the backstory is that my husband Eddie swears I have supernatural powers. Every time we have an argument that's totally his fault but he's too stubborn to admit it, it rains and he misses a day of work. Or he gets a flat tire. Or a sore throat. The man is convinced that when I've been wronged, I have the ability to wiggle my nose and work some kind of magical payback. I've always thought of it as karma, but I don't mind that he thinks I've been casting spells. Keeps him in line (not really).

What Does A Ring Tone Have To Do With Anything?
About 5 years ago, I got a new cell phone. One that allowed different ring tones for different callers, and not just the generic ones that came on the phone. I could purchase and download a snippet of a song off the internet and use it as a tone as well.  My favorite song at the time was Ingrid Michaelson's "The Way I Am." I  bought that and used that for my new boyfriend's special ringtone. Whenever Eddie called, that was the song I'd hear. The following year, I was telling Ingrid that story in person when she came to perform at the Cascade Theatre.
Funny thing though. A few days before the show, I upgraded to a new phone, and was horrified to discover that my special Ingrid Michaelson ring tone was no longer available. I had to find a new one to serve as Eddie's special ring tone. I made a joke about it at the time, that I had to choose wisely, because whichever artist became the boyfriend's ringtone, would end up playing at the Cascade.
So I went big.
I chose a song from the musician who has ranked in my personal Top 10 list for many years, but had never played at the Cascade. The musician that we had tried and tried and tried to book, but had always slipped through our fingers. I chose the one artist I thought we'd never be able to land...just to see if maybe I had some supernatural powers after all.
I chose Michael Franti.

So guess who's playing at the Cascade Theatre October 9th.
Michael Franti.

It took years for this spell, if that's what we're gonna call it, to work. That's just how hard it was to lure Michael Franti to Redding. So just take my word for it. Even if you've never heard of him, or have no idea what he's all about, just go. Go to this show. Plan to dance. Plan to not be able to see unless you are standing up and shaking your booty. It is a booty shaking show. It is such a high energy, fun, booty shaking time that the Cascade Theatre even put up a disclaimer on the website. In red.  With three stars in front and behind it. If you're not already holding tickets to see this show, I hope by the time I'm done with you that when I show up for work in the morning, that I find you camping on the sidewalk in front of the Cascade Theatre Box Office (although you can just buy tickets right here.) After all, I put some long, hard thought into making this happen when I chose my ring tone.

By the way....feel free to help me figure out what my next ring tone should be. Don't be afraid to go big, but be realistic. Justin Timberlake just isn't going to play a venue the size of the Cascade Theatre right now. That kind of magic will take about 15 years to work. Or more.

The Top Ten Reasons You Should Go To This Show
I saw Michael Franti and his group Spearhead perform last week on David Letterman, and it inspired me to put together my own Top 10 list of reasons to go see Franti when he comes to town next week, along with my Top 10 (okay, Top 20) Favorite Franti Songs.

10. He's From Around Here  Michael Franti was raised in Davis, California, where his dad was a professor at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. He went to Davis High, went on to the University of San Francisco.
 9.  He's super tall. He's a tall drink of pure spring water. Topping out at 6 foot 6, he's taller than Jack Johnson, Bob Marley, Sting and even Michael Jordan.
 8.  He's barefoot. The story goes that back in 2000 he decided to go barefoot for 3 days. Which turned into 13 years. Occasionally he'll wear flip flops when he comes across one of those No Shirt No Shoes No Service situations.
 7.  He's kid friendly. I'm not saying that he doesn't sing about heavy things once in awhile, things that we wish our kids didn't have to be exposed to in their lifetime. Things like war and genocide and drugs and political abuse. He does. But he also takes time to include kids in a lot of his shows, has done special family shows at Britt. He's even written a couple of children's books. And that's cool.
 6.  He's a serious activist. The list of the issues he is trying to further include peace, hunger, environmentalism and justice. He is truly someone with a big, strong heart, a man who works hard to make a positive change in the world through his music.
 5.  He's a filmmaker. He's been writing about the human cost of war for years, but about a decade ago, he decided to put his money where his words are, and visited war torn countries around the world, and made a documentary, "I Know I'm Not Alone."
 4.  He's a poet. While in college, Franti met a priest who inspired him to write poetry. Pretty soon he turned that into music, and that music in turn was inspired by the reggae & punk he was hearing on the college radio station. And you know me. I'm a sucker for a college radio station. I've practically lived in one for 30 years. He lived above the one at KUSF.
 3.  He's agreed to appear live on JPR the day of the show. I can't believe that not only did we land him for the show, He'll also be on the Rhythm & News Service of JPR at 1pm that same day! More info, and stream JPR live right here.
 2.  His music is fun, danceable, sexy, soulful, funky and meaningful (see today's playlist. I can't even begin to explain how wildly different his music can be from one moment to the next. You just have to listen to it yourself.

And finally.....the #1 reason you should go see Franti on October 9th at the Cascade Theatre...

 1.  We're giving away a pair of tickets to the show! Here's the part you were waiting for! Because now you realize you really need to be at this show, dontcha? If you want to win a pair, let us know in the comments below, and we'll draw a winner in a week and announce it here. Don't don't have to publicly announce your email address. Just leave a comment. We'll hunt you down like the NSA.

Click on the arrow below to listen to my Double Top 10 Favorite Franti Songs Of All Time So Far Playlist, or get it directly from the source at Grooveshark.
Double Top Ten Franti by Valerie Ing-Miller on Grooveshark

  1. Say Hey (I Love You) - This one was my ringtone for several years, in hopes that I could eventually work my magic powers on finalizing the Franti connection. Not that I'm really taking all the credit in getting him booked. Maria Kelly, take a bow. 
  2. The Sound of Sunshine - Perhaps his most commercial success and well known song
  3. Shake It - Honestly, the positive body image message in this song has made it my favorite Franti ever.
  4. Hello Bonjour
  5. Hey World (Remote Control Version) - His ability to do the same song about six different ways, each one entirely unique and wonderful in its own way has always amazed me.
  6. Hey World (Don't Give Up Version) - Totally different song. 
  7. Love Me Unique - And now you get to hear Franti's sexy side.
  8. Oh My God - One of his most meaningful tunes. How can he sing about all the horrible problems in the world and sound sexy while doing it?
  9. Love Invincible - This man has the funk in him! 
  10. Keepin' It Natural
  11. A Little Bit of Riddim 
  12. I'm Alive - He's touring to support his new album, "All People." This gem is the first single.
  13. Life Is Better With You - Another tune from the new album.
  14. Stay Human
  15. Yes I will
  16. Firefly
  17. Love'll Set Me Free - Another of my all time Franti Favorties.
  18. I Got Love For You
  19. The Future
  20. 11:59 - Another song from the new album that I'm pretty sure you'll hear if you show up at the Cascade on the 10th.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Girl On Fire

I am terrified of fire. A lot more terrified than I let on most of the time. But I don't think my fear of fire is unwarranted, nor do I think it's unhealthy. I have what I am going to call a pretty healthy respect for fire, and it comes from experience. One particular experience, mainly. I don't talk about it much, which is pretty odd for me. But I'm going to tell you about it right now.

It was 1985, I was 18 years old. I was out for a walk with my boyfriend on a crisp Saturday night in November. It was about midnight, because we'd started to watch Saturday Night Live before I suddenly got very antsy and told my boyfriend that we needed to get out of the apartment and do something. Anything. So we decided to go for a walk in the railroad district of Ashland near my apartment on 4th & B (today it's the Illahe Gallery, but back then it was low rent for a college girl).
As we turned onto A Street, we could see a glow several blocks away. As we got closer, we realized that it wasn't a hobo's fire near the railroad tracks. It was a building. On fire.

I mean ON FIRE!!!!!! It was on FREAKING FIRE!!!!!!! I mean it was totally engulfed in flames on one end!

We started running towards the flames, sure that there would be fire engines and police showing up within moments, that people would be running around, freaking out, like we were, because a building was on freaking fire! OK, let's be honest. It was on FUCKING FIRE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

But no. When we got there, it was just a building with flames shooting out of it in the middle of the night, and not a soul to be seen. Nobody running around, no lights on in the row of houses across the  street, no distant fire siren. The only sound was crackling flames and the two of us, out of breath after running for 3 blocks. It was as if the only living things were me, Larry and the fire.

Except we both knew that there were people inside this building.

This was the building that housed the railroad workers I often served when I worked at my shitty part time job just across the street, waitressing the breakfast shift at the appropriately named Railroad Cafe.
When we ran around to the end of the building that was engulfed in flames, we realized that there were actually two buildings on fire. The dormitory, and the old historic railroad depot about 100 feet to the south. Then it struck me as odd that the metal frame and rubber tires of a lonely bicycle was completely in flames, but not the wooden post the bike was chained to. It was right about then that I realized this couldn't be an accidental fire.

So there we stood, Larry and I, wild eyed, knowing people were in the building, trying to figure out what we should do, how we should react. Larry's bravado took over. He kicked in the nearest door and the first thing I remember seeing inside was a tv set exploding. And then I pleaded, "Don't go in! If there's anyone in there, they're already dead!"
He yelled back, "Go call 911!"
And then he went in. He ducked into the door he'd just kicked in, and disappeared into a dark, smoky room. I thought that would be the last time I'd see him alive.

I stood there, for just a moment, as my boyfriend disappeared into a burning building, and the world pretty much just stopped. I'll never forget that moment. It's the moment that I became terrified of fire, and then found out how I react in that kind of situation. It wasn't good.

When he went in, I stood there for just a moment. I felt the heat on my cheeks, and on my arms through my wool winter coat. I could feel my hair starting to curl up and singe. I felt like I was going to burst into flames too. I felt like the whole building was going to go up in seconds, taking my boyfriend, me and that bike with it.

It was then that I freaked out. I turned and ran, hysterically wailing the whole way, across the street and started to bang on the door of the nearest house, screaming, "FIRE! FIRE! Open the door! Call 911! HELP!" But nobody answered. Nobody ever answered. I remember screaming, "What is wrong with you people?!" before I turned and ran towards my apartment, a block away, still wailing and hyperventilating, and screaming hysterically.

As I rounded the corner, I saw a light on in the kitchen of the Railroad Cafe, where Marc, a former high school classmate who was now the night janitor and dishwasher, was oblivious to the flames across the street. I ran up to the door, pounding on it. He let me in and I grabbed the phone on the wall, calling 911. I was babbling so incoherently to dispatch that she had to ask me to stop, take a breath, and start over. I thought I was being so calm, I couldn't understand how the dispatcher couldn't understand what I was saying. In my mind I was speaking so clearly, so concise. I don't ever want to hear that phone call played back for me. I know I panicked. I know I was hysterical. I just don't want it played out in front of me again. I slammed the phone down and ran back to the building, visions of my boyfriend burning alive running through my head.

I don't really remember what happened next. Only that when I got back, my boyfriend was singed, but he had not burned up.  He was alive, and he was okay. And he hadn't come across anyone in his reckless venture into what turned out to be the rec room for the dormitory. Our next job was to make sure everyone else got out alive as well. It was then that he and I started to run down the east and west breezeways of the building, pounding on all the doors, rousting railroad workers from their slumber, screaming at these men that the building was on fire, get out NOW!

Sometime during all this, a fire engine finally arrived. I remember standing across the street, crying, as they started to fight the flames.

In the end, they all got out alive. Nobody perished, nobody got burned. But the building was a total loss, and was later demolished. Coincidentally, when a new, two story building was built on the same spot years  later, the man who is now my ex-husband rented an apartment on the top floor. Meanwhile, the second fire in the historic depot turned out to be in the trash can, and the building was saved.

The next morning, detectives wanted to talk to us. I thought they just wanted to pick our brains about how we discovered the fire and saved about ten guys from a burning building. Turns out they wanted to talk to us separately. Down at the station. In fact they hooked us up to lie detectors. They asked if the thought of fires excited me. Hell yes, I said, but not the way they meant.

When I stood just a few feet away from a building that was burning in front of me, behind me and up above me, I never felt smaller. Never felt more insignificant. Never felt more perishable than that moment. And yeah, that made my heart race. Gave me all kinds of anxiety. Freaked me out and made me start wailing hysterically as I ran down the street positive that my boyfriend was a goner after he ran into a burning room with an exploding tv set. Excited? Um, yeah.

I was bewildered that they seemed to think maybe I had something to do with that fire. I did have that weird, eery anxiety at just about the moment the fire most likely started. I chalked that up to women's intuition, or you could call it a 6th sense that we all have but haven't developed to its full potential. I don't think the detectives saw it the same way.
But eventually, they asked a question that made everything fall into place. I don't even remember the question really. Maybe they asked if anything seemed odd or out of place that night when I was running around hysterically. But I remember the answer. I told them how something I saw that night did seem out of place. Besides the burning bicycle and the second fire in the old depot. It was the moment that I knocked frantically on one of the dormitory doors, and it opened up to a darkened room. In front of me stood a railroad worker with his pants and boots on. High, leather lace-up boots that take several minutes to put on. And they were tied. As if he always slept like that. Ready to go. Yeah, I thought that was weird. I heard later on through the grapevine that they pinned the fire on one of the workers, who was apparently disgruntled with the railroad over something. Might have been that guy.

I've been so lucky over the decades since that night, not to lose any dwelling I have lived in to fire.    But it doesn't stop me from pondering every day what I would save if fire was eminent, if I knew a fire was bearing down on my home. But again, I've been lucky never to be forced to put my fire evacuation plan into effect.

This week, thousands of residents right here in Shasta County weren't so lucky. An evacuation plan was forced into action suddenly in the middle of a Monday afternoon. Some tried valiantly to save their homes, refusing to evacuate. Some managed, some didn't. At today's count, almost 70 homes went up in 10 square miles of flames, and at least one person perished while trying to protect his  property. I can't even begin to imagine the horror that the residents of Happy Valley and Igo went through, and I hope I never again experience anything like the hysterical terror I went through on that November evening.

But you know what? I've got a go-bag. Ready. At all times. My house is insured. My stuff is just stuff. If it comes down to it, I'm grabbing my bag, my daughter and my dog, maybe my laptop, and I'm outta there. Not sticking around to watch my tv set explode.
Because I've got a terrifying fear of  healthy respect for fire.

My story is nothing compared to the stories you're going to be hearing in the next couple of weeks from people who were just going about their business on Monday afternoon, and were suddenly faced with a wall of flames that took out more than 12 square miles of neighborhoods. Flames that took almost 70 homes in a span of about 8 hours. In my story, I was just scared and ran for help. You are going to hear  and read stories about people who not only ran for their lives, afterwards they waited for 3 days to find out whether their pets, their neighbors, their belongings and their homes were gone forever. My story is simply a testament to the healthy respect one gains for fire after an experience with one. And I'm sure that's something I do share with every one of the people that made it out alive from the Clover Fire.

Today's accompanying playlist is from the Best Of files...from just around this time last year, when I was driving to Redding from Ashland, and couldn't get past Mt. Shasta due to a wildfire that closed down the freeway. Readers called my attention to several songs that I should've included but somehow didn't, so reviving this list from the ashes is just that much better this time around with some new additions. Feel free to add more suggestions in the comments section below.

On Fire by Valerie Ing-Miller on Grooveshark

Click the play arrow above to stream the playlist, or find it directly at Grooveshark.

  1. Fire - Etta James
  2. Fire - Ohio  Players
  3. Fire - Pointer Sisters
  4. Fire - Jimi Hendrix
  5. Fire - Arthur Brown
  6. Sex On Fire - Kings of Leon
  7. I'm On Fire - Bruce Springsteen
  8. Forest Fire - Josh Wilson
  9. Serpentine Fire - Earth Wind & Fire
  10. We Didn't Start The Fire - Billy Joel
  11. Burning Down The House - Talking Heads
  12. Skies On Fire - AC/DC
  13. Fire - Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
  14. Bob Marley - Burn One Down
  15. Forest Fire - The Dream Academy
  16. Water & Fire - Deep Forest
  17. Forest of Fire - Jon Anderson
  18. The First Fire - If These Trees Could Talk
  19. Fire Bomb - Rihanna
  20. This Fire - Franz Ferdinand
  21. World On Fire - Sarah McLachlan
  22. Man On Fire - Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
  23. Burn It Down - Los Lobos
  24. Ring of Fire - Johnny Cash
  25. Setting The Woods On Fire - Hank Williams
  26. Light My Fire - The Doors
  27. Great Balls of Fire - Jerry Lee Lewis
  28. Paper In Fire - John Mellencamp
  29. Fight Fire With Fire - Metallica
  30. Firebird Suite - Igor Stravinsky

Thursday, September 5, 2013


When the smartypants   Illuminati   really cool hipster braintrust of Shasta County gets together this weekend for Tedx Redding, there will be a soundtrack. There's gotta be a soundtrack.

How's about this for before and/after? A bunch of semi-energetic ambient space music with a dubstep twist.
Tedx by Valerie Ing-Miller on Grooveshark
And just for fun, I put this little Mapping The Connections playlist together. It wasn't easy to find halfway decent songs about maps and connections if you cut out Elastica and Country & Western.
Mapping Connections by Valerie Ing-Miller on Grooveshark

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

If it quacks like Marvin Gaye

I'm a little disappointed in myself right now. About two months ago I heard a song for the first time at a friend's party that gave me a great idea for a column. It required a little research, which I conquered brilliantly, if I do say so myself. It also required a carefully constructed playlist, which I meticulously put together. And then, I totally forgot about it. Now I look like I'm just jumping onto the bandwagon along with everyone else, because the exact thought that went through my head that gave me the idea for the playlist in the first place, and the song behind it, has become the center of controversy. The subject of a lawsuit. Two lawsuits, in fact. It's also the subject of a heckuva lot of other music columns around the world. Columnists who beat me to the punch, dammit. But just so you know, just so it's clear, I'm no Johnny Come Lately.  What was that thought, you ask? Well the second thought that went through my head when I heard "Blurred Lines" when my friend Destiny busted it out at Tim & Monica's anniversary party was "Oh, Marvin Gaye is rolling over in his grave right now!" The first thought, of course, was, "I think I've just been introduced to my new favorite song!"

So I'm not the only person that thought Marvin Gaye would be rolling over in his grave when they heard "Blurred Lines" for the first time. Marvin Gaye's family thought the same thing, and they've been making headlines for the last month, accusing Robin Thicke for borrowing a little too heavily from the soul master's popular anthem, "Got To Give It Up." This is news that's been as widely spread as Miley Cyrus' ... oh, never mind.  But did you know that Marvin Gaye's family isn't the only group that's thinking perhaps they deserve a piece of the action from the hit of the summer ?

Here's the thing. Robin Thicke (and co-songwriters Pharrell Williams & Clifford Harris, Jr, better known as T.I.) freely admit that Marvin Gaye's hit song from 1971 was a huge inspiration for "Blurred Lines." But they didn't actually sample the song, just so you know. I actually imported both songs into my high tech radio goddess audio editing software and listened to them together in the most scientific of environments and am pretty sure that no sampling was actually done. It's the same vibe, for sure, which is exactly what Thicke was going for. And while you might think it was the family of Gaye, who died in 1984, that would've been first in line to hire a lawyer, it was actually Thicke and Co. They pretty much figured that they'd get sued for copyright infringement after Gaye's family started saying that Thicke had plagiarized, and filed a suit to protect the genesis of the song.

I know what you're thinking. "Blurred Lines" sounds so much like "Got To Give It Up" that, while they aren't identical twins, maybe not even fraternal twins, they are most definitely siblings, or kissing cousins at the least, right? Thicke doesn't deny it. He comes right and pays a huge homage to Marvin Gaye for helping him come up with the idea of writing a song that would, as he says, 'invoke an era.' But he says the intent was never to blatantly steal from Gaye. After the family began accusing Thicke & his co-writers of doing exactly that, they acted first and filed a lawsuit to protect the integrity of the song and even offered Gaye's family a six-figure settlement to settle the potential issue. The family, by the way, turned it down. They don't care if Robin Thicke was just trying to get something "with that same groove," as he claimed a few months ago in a GQ interview. They're saying if it looks like Marvin Gaye and quacks like Marvin Gaye, it is Marvin Gaye, so hand over the bucks.

But guess who else is claiming that Thicke and his buddies are copyducks? Hard to believe (well, I find it hard to believe), but the folks who own the rights to some of Funkadelic's tunes have jumped on the bandwagon and are claiming that "Blurred Lines" is so much like Funkadelic's "Sexy Ways" that they'd like to get in on the royalties too. If they really feel that way, maybe Funkadelic should be suing Marvin Gaye's estate as well, since their song came out in 1974, and "Got To Give It Up" didn't come out until several years later. I don't hear it, myself. But hey, you're gonna get a chance to judge for yourself in a moment.
Anyway, all this got me to thinking about all the other songs that sound just a little too close for comfort like other songs. And voila, you've got today's playlist. Some of these songs have resulted in lawsuits. Some, shockingly, haven't. Others have resulted in a tipping of the hat from the original artist, which I think is an amazingly gracious way to handle the sincerest form of flattery. Especially since I'm betting that the millions of people who have downloaded "Blurred Lines" have now also downloaded "Got To Give It Up" (and perhaps to a much much lesser extent "Sexy Ways") to see how similar these tunes really are. I think you'll be surprised at how un-original some of the well known songs on today's playlist really are, and where the inspiration came from. If you've got any additions to the playlist, please, list them in the comments below!

You can check out the Grooveshark playlist here, or click on the arrow below and stream it.

  Sounds like.. by Valerie Ing-Miller on Grooveshark
  1. Marvin Gaye - Got To Give It Up
  2. Robin Thicke - Blurred Lines
  3. Funkadelic - Sexy Ways
  4. Coldplay - Viva La Vida
  5. Joe Satriani - If I Could Fly We'll never know how much money Joe Satriani got when the plagiarism lawsuit he filed against Coldplay was settled out of court.  But his song came out 4 years before Coldplay came out with Viva La Vida.
  6. The Hollies - The Air That I Breathe
  7. Radiohead - Creep Radiohead got sued for plagiarism as well, and as a result, Albert Hammond & Mike Hazelwood of The Hollies are listed as co-songwriters of this anthem. Here's the proof.
  8. Andrew Oldham Orchestra - The Last Time
  9. The Verve - Bittersweet Symphony Every time you hear this song, the Rolling Stones get a little bit richer. Mick & Keith wrote it. Andrew Oldham covered it. The Verve asked for permission to use part of it in Bittersweet Symphony, but they used a little too much, apparently. Because they got sued. And they lost.  Jagger & Richards are now listed as co-writers, but the Rolling Stones receive 100% of any royalties. Yeah. Someone had a great lawyer.
  10. Killing Joke - Eighties
  11. Nirvana - Come As You Are The similarity is obvious. Killing Joke was understandably pissed when Nirvana denied that "Eighties" was the inspiration for the #1 grunge riff of all time.  They did file a lawsuit, but it was dropped. There's a few different versions of the story, but the one I'd like to believe is the one where Killing Joke decided to forget the whole thing when Kurt Cobain committed suicide. 
  12. ABBA - Waterloo
  13. The Foundations - Build Me Up Buttercup As far as I know, nobody ever sued ABBA for borrowing this amazing groove from The Foundations. 
  14. David Guetta ft. Kelly Rowland - When Love Takes Over    After what they did to Satriani, Coldplay really doesn't have any room to critize Guetta for doing (even less of) the same thing. Well played, Guetta. Well played.
  15. Coldplay - Clocks
  16. Rhianna - SOS (Rescue Me)
  17. Soft Cell - Tainted Love Rhianna straight out sampled Tainted Love. And probably paid for the opportunity. But did you know that she probably ended up paying Ed Cobb, who originally wrote the song in 1964? He certainly received a songwriting credit. I wonder if Soft Cell paid Diana Ross & The Supremes for straight out borrowing "Where Did Our Love Go?"
  18. Oasis - Cigarettes & Alcohol
  19. T. Rex - Bang A Gong Oasis was accused of stealing the riff from "Bang A Gong," but I don't think it ever went to court.  
  20. Goldfrapp - Ooh La La
  21. Norman Greenbaum - Spirit In The Sky Goldfrapp samples this riff, they admit it, prolly paid for it. It's pretty awesome, although to be honest, it's so much more subdued than many of the other bands that went to court over this kind of thing. 
  22. Wire - 3 Girl Rhumba
  23. Elastica - Connection I remember hearing this song for the first time and being bugged for weeks because I knew it sounded just like another song from my past, but I couldn't figure it out for the longest time. It was weeks before it dawned upon me, and I could finally sleep at night.  Turns out Elastica borrowed from 2 of my favorite post-punk groups for Connection:  Wire and The Stranglers. Not just the riff. Even the lyrics! From what I understand, all the royalties go to The Stranglers.
  24. The Stranglers - No More Heroes
  25. Luiz Bonfa - Seville This song was obscure enough that most people (in the U.S. at least) had no idea Gotye had borrowed the music from Brazilian guitarist & composer Luiz Bonfa, who died at the age of 78, 10 years before Gotye sampled his tune.
  26. Gotye - Somebody That I Used To Know 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Time Flies

I have completely run out of time again. How does this happen? It seems like only yesterday I filed my last column, right up against deadline (which is so typical for me, just ask Doni. No, ask Joe Domke. He's 9 hours ahead of me on Prague time, and ends up getting my column when he wakes up Friday mornings, about 5 minutes after I've finally fallen asleep). And now, all of a sudden, here I am again, right up against deadline.

How does time pass so quickly that I find myself completely blindsided again and again every two weeks? You know, maybe there's something to this whole theory of relativity thing after all. And then again, maybe I don't know what I'm talking about. I'm big enough to admit that. But hear me out.

Back when I was in college, I took a science class. It was labeled something like "Astronomy 101", so it sounded very cool. Like we'd be looking through telescopes and learning about planets. Turns out, it was actually Physics 101 disguised with an enticing name. Because Physics is kind of daunting and intimidating, even if it was a beginners class. Remember, I'm the gal who flunked Algebra numerous times before the teacher finally pretended I'd earned a passing grade.

I honestly don't remember anything from that class. Well, I remember two things. The first was some advice from my professor, when I tried to drop out after it became really obvious to me that I was not getting anything he was laying down. He said, "I won't let you drop out, not yet. I think you're doing better than you realize. What I think you should do is date that young man sitting over there. He's the one that keeps ruining the curve." It was good advice. We dated for a few weeks, I distracted him enough to bring his grade down at least a notch, I'm pretty sure.

And then there was this one other thing that sunk in from the class. One itsy bitsy teeny tiny little theory, that I may or may not have gotten completely screwed up. It was that thing Einstein came up with. That whole relativity thing. I just remember sitting there one day and suddenly it dawned on me that time really is relative.

Suddenly, as I sat there starting at the clock waiting for class to get over, I remembered what it was like when I was 5, waiting for that horrible hour. That FOR-EVVVVVVVVV-ER hour on Saturday nights. My parents had a black and white tv with 2 channels, and on Saturday nights one channel had Hee-Haw, the other had Lawrence Welk. I wanted to watch something, anything on our brand new first ever TV so badly, but even then at that early age, I had scruples. I had limits. I couldn't bear to watch either of these awful shows that even then seemed to be an insult to my 5 year old  brain. But it was absolute h-e-double hockeysticks waiting until they were over so that I could watch Emergency! with that hunk Randolph Mantooth. It was an hour of pure torture that lasted an eternity. A whole hour.

Actual photo of Albert Einstein
But in college, an hour went by relatively quickly. And now, I could blink and 3 hours have passed. Well, even worse. I just blinked and two weeks went by! How does that happen?
Well, I tell you, time is relative. Just like Einstein said. He did say that, right? I don't have enough time to actually look it up right now, but I'm pretty sure he did. So here's my thoughts on Einstein's theory of relativity:

I realized that for a 2 week old infant, that 2 weeks is its whole life. 1/1 of its existence. Forever. When I was a 21 year old college student, 2 weeks was 1/546 of my life so far. A much smaller amount of time, relatively. But now that I'm 46? 2 weeks is 1/1196th of my life. Such a teensy, tiny, little bit of time. No  wonder. When a 2 week old infant, a 21 year old college student, and a 46 year old procrastinator watch the same lousy 30 second TV commercial, it plays exactly as long in real time for each of us, but how long that commercial seems to be is relative to how long each of us has been sucking air on this planet. Does that make sense? Or am I as crazy as my family keeps telling me? Or should I give up my day job and start teaching high school physics right away?

Not an actual photo of Albert Einstein.
But aren't you impressed by the likeness?
So. All that to say that I have just plum run out of time. I hope I spelled everything correctly, because I don't even have time to go back and proof read what I just wrote. But still, I had time to wax on about Einstein, had time to find that hilarious photo of my daughter dressed up as Einstein for a school project back in 7th grade, and somehow I found the time to put together the biggest playlist ever. I guess time still flies when you're having fun! Today's playlist is filled with 40 of the best songs ever written about time. It's a hefty one, hope you've got the time to listen to it!

Click here to listen to today's streaming playlist directly from the source at Grooveshark, or click on the play arrow in the box below.
  TIme Flies by Valerie Ing-Miller on Grooveshark

  1. Time - Pink Floyd
  2. All This Time - One Republic
  3. You Waste Time Like A Grandfather Clock - The Myriad
  4. Time Is On My Side - The Rolling Stones
  5. Time of the Season - The Zombies
  6. Wasting Time - Jack JOhnson
  7. Time & Truth - Cas Haley
  8. Time Tough - Toots & The Maytals
  9. Time of Your Song (Matisyahu
  10. Time's A Wasting - Erykah Badu
  11. Funny How Time Slips Away - Willie Nelson
  12. Time After Time - Cyndi Lauper
  13. The Longest Time - Billy Joel
  14. Closing Time - Semi Sonic
  15. Time of Your Life - Green Day
  16. Time Stands Still - The All-American Rejects
  17. Time Is Running Out - Muse
  18. Time Flies - Porcupine Tree
  19. One More Time - Daft Punk
  20. If I Could Turn Back Time - Cher
  21. Time Has Told Me - Nick Drake
  22. Five Years Time - Noah & The Whale
  23. Time & Space - Groove Armada
  24. This Is The Last Time - Keane
  25. Time Has Come Today - The Chambers Brothers
  26. Times Like These - Foo Fighters
  27. No Time - The Monkees
  28. Time Won't Let Me - The Outsiders
  29. Not Enough Time - INXS
  30. Time Is Tight - Booker T. & The MG's
  31. No Time - Guess Who
  32. Time - Tesla
  33. Time To Move On - Tom Petty
  34. Run Out Of Time - Genesis
  35. Somewhere A Clock Is Ticking - Snow Patrol
  36. Time In A Bottle - Jim Croce
  37. No Time To Think - Bob Dylan
  38. Time Is Ticking Out - The Cranberries
  39. Too Much Time On My Hands - Styx
  40. Time Warp - Rocky Horror Picture Show Soundtrack

Friday, August 2, 2013

Foreign Tongue

I was a bit of a hellion in high school. Shocking, right?! I was an outspoken, brash, mouthy, rebellious teen. I know, I haven't changed a whole heckuva lot in the past 30 years. And my rebel streak got me into a bit of trouble when it came to my grades. If I was truly interested in a subject, I got straight A's. If I couldn't care less, or if I didn't get along with the teacher, I lost any motivation in the subject, and would pull a D. It took me three attempts to pass Algebra, but my Journalism and English teachers loved me.

And then along came Señora Brewold.

Back in junior high I choose Spanish as my foreign language, and while I wasn't a great student, I managed to continue with the subject through high school. My motivation? If my sister and I kept at it, our parents would take us to Mexico (because my mother did NOT speak Spanish and needed a translator). So we did...and they did...and by the time we returned, I wasn't just speaking in Spanish, I was dreaming in Spanish.

My Spanish teacher in high school was a woman that someone long before me had nicknamed La Bruja Del Mar. The Sea Witch. Señora Brewold. I don't know why or how she got that nickname. But there was definitely something a little scary and tough about Señora Brewold. She wore sensible shoes and A-line skirts, and sometimes yelled & slammed things down on the counter to get your attention. Well, my attention. I just wasn't motivated. I'd rather sit and chat with my friends in English instead of learning Spanish. I just didn't care that much. Until the day that Señora Brewold made me stay after class, and told me that I had better get my shit together or she was going to eject me permanently from the classroom (which meant no trip to Mexico).

I was insolent, rebellious, mouthy. I had better things to do after school, like hang out with my boyfriend. I was not happy. I said some bad words. And she gave them right back. And more. I wasn't expecting that. She knew every word that I did, plus a slew of Spanish curse words that I didn't, and she wasn't afraid of using them on me.

Suddenly, I was impressed! She had my attention. I think I cocked my head to the side and realized that maybe I wanted to be in this classroom after all. By the end of our half hour shouting session, she had shown me that however badass I thought I was at 16, she'd been badass for at least 3 or 4 times that long. And that's how I found instant respect for La Bruja Del Mar. I stayed in her class. And I passed that class. I was totally motivated, and ended up with a B instead of a D. Years later, she was the one teacher from high school that came to my wedding.

This 4th of July I went home, and bumped into Señora Brewold at the parade. We talked animatedly for a half hour and laughed all over again about our blow out, and how she conjugated the word chingar for me. I 'll save you the trouble of looking it up. It's the F word. In Spanish. I love that woman.

By the time I graduated from high school, I was hungry to learn more foreign language. So I switched to French for a few years. The day after I received my bachelor's degree, I flew to the Greek Isles and spent the summer learning Greek. I'm told I speak Greek like a country bumpkin from the south. I've got a heavy, southern Cretan drawl. Which makes sense, because that's where I learned it...from a beautiful, young Greek boyfriend from a small village on the southern tip of Crete who didn't speak much English.

For over a decade, I went to Europe every other year, spending 6 to 8 weeks traveling through the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Hungary, France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Turkey. In every one of those countries I tried to learn as much of the language that I could, and tried my hardest to mimic their accents.

 Fast forward to today. When people ask me what I do, I tell them I pronounce foreign words all day long. Words like Mstislav Rostropovich, Esa Pekka Salonen, Johann Nepomuk Hummel and Lang Lang (it's not pronounced how it looks) and my favorite Greek composer, Eleni Karaindrou. I say phrases like "Les Baricades Misterieuses," and "El Sombrero de Tres Picos," and I'm expected to translate as well! I speak phrases and words in Russian and Finnish and Japanese, although I don't know these languages at all, but I give it a good college try. Well, more accurately, I give it a good high school try, right? Because that's what I do. But I don't know if I could have done it without La Bruja Del Mar. Gracias, Señora Brewold. Muchas gracias por su dedicación y su sentido del humor. Usted era un gran maestro.

In honor of la Señora, I'm sharing some of my favorite foreign music with you today. Don't worry, it's not classical. None of it, in fact. Some of it's actually American bands singing in foreign languages, like Pink Martini (Sidenote: who didn't fall in love with Storm Large when she sang in Farsi, Italian, Spanish and Italian at their performance at the Cascade Theatre last month?) Now you know why they're my favorite band in the world. Because they're making it their mission to conquer every language in the world, one country at a time!

Foreign Tongue by Valerie Ing-Miller on Grooveshark

  1. Cro - Easy This is my favorite band of the week right now, thanks to my daughter. They're from Germany, and the lead singer wears a panda mask when he performs, supposedly so that he can maintain some anonymity when he's not on stage. 
  2. Mexican Institute of Sound - A Girl Like You I never how cool music could be south of the border, until I heard this song. 
  3. Manu Chau - Me Gustas Tu
  4. Pork Tornado - Guabi Guabi A South African song that Arlo Guthrie also performs. I hope he'll do it, and explain what the heck these lyrics mean, when he performs at the Cascade later this season.
  5. Pink Martini - Sympathique - The song that introduced me to my favorite band in the world.
  6. Brazil 66 - Mas Que Nada
  7. Paolo Conte - Via Con Me This singer is from Italy, sings in Italian (and English on occasion) but is so big in France. Like super huge.
  8. Pink Martini - Donde Estas Yolanda
  9. Lhasa de Sela - El Payande This amazing singer was raised south of the border, but she was actually born in New York. RIP Lhasa. She was taken by cancer way too young.
  10. Paolo Conte - Sparring Partner
  11. Madeleine Peyroux - La Vie En Rose
  12. La Negresses Vertes - Voila L'Ete
  13. Alkistis Protopsaiti - Pame Xavai With a name this complicated, you know it's got to be Greek!
  14. Cesaria Evoria - Carneval de Sao Vicente
  15. Cafe Quijano - La Lola Now here's a band that's from Spain, but they're huge in Italy! There's got to be a band from France that's huge in Spain, just to complete this trifecta. But I haven't found them yet.
  16. Backyard Dog - Baddest Ruffest OK, this one is my dirty secret. It's actually in English. But it's British-English, actually Manchester. And who can understand a Manchester accent? I seriously thought, until today, that these lyrics were foreign. Because I can't make heads or tails of what they're singing, can you?
  17. B21 - Darshan
  18. PSY - Gangnam Style I love me some K-Pop!
  19. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan - Piya Re Piya Re
  20. Trio Mocoto - Voltei Amor
  21. De-Phazz - Dummes Spiel This band, let by wunderkind producer Pit Baumgartner, doesn't normally sing in Pit's native German tongue. This is the only one I've found so far.
  22. Udit Narayan & Abhijeet - Chori Chori Gori Se
  23. Plastic Bertrand - Ca Plane Pour Moi This French song translates to "This is the life for me." I know this because I actually translated the lyrics back in 1986, with the help of my tres hip college French instructor. Thanks to you too, Roger!

Friday, June 21, 2013


You've probably got a favorite number, right? Mine used to be 7, but I think I'm switching to 21.

I've always thought numbers had a lot of significance. For example, I was born on 12-12 in the year 66 (which is 12, if you add 'em up). For a long time I even thought I was born at 12, but I wasn't. I was born at 21 minutes past the hour of 10 (and weirdly, my daughter was born in the 12 o'clock hour on 10-21). It's become quite clear to me that in my family, the number 21 is one that keeps popping up over and over again in all the significant moments of our lives.

What I'm about to say isn't going to sound like a coincidence, but it was, for a long time. It was something that nobody even realized for about 50 years. And then about 7 or 8 years ago, it started to dawn upon us that the number 21 seemed to be included in a lot of important events for at least the past 4 generations of my family.

My grandparents were married on April 21.
My parents got married on August 21.
My first marriage? September 21.
We figured it out, when my little sister got married, and chose to say her vows on the summer solstice. June 21.
I gave birth to my daughter on October 21 (totally naturally...about 21 minutes after midnight). Many years later, when the hormones kicked in and she started dating, that first date was January 21st.
Back in the 9th grade, the day I went on my first date with Eddie? November 21.
Five years ago, my dad called and left me a message asking if I was planning on ever returning the phone call of the guy who referred to himself as my junior high school sweetheart, because he'd called again, 27 years after our first date. It was June 21st.
And now I'm marrying that man.
Today, of course.
Because it's the 21st.

So I'm a little busy at the moment, but not too busy to wax on about numbers and share some music with you on this amazing and wonderful day! Here's 21 songs, all about numbers. Click on the playlist below to stream this Grooveshark Playlist!

  • 1 Is The Loneliest Number - 3 Dog Night
  • 2 Weeks - Grizzly Bear
  • 3 Little Words - Bob Marley
  • 4 Kicks - Kings of Leon
  • 5 Bottles of Mambo - Yma Sumac
  • 6 Cold Feet - Hugh Laurie
  • 7 Days in Sunny June - Jamiroquai
  • 8 Days On The Road - Aretha Franklin
  • Love Potion #9 - The Clovers
  • 10 Years Gone - Led Zeppelin
  • 11 Days - David Byrne
  • 12 Minutes To Go - Skatalites
  • 13 - Elliot Smith
  • 14 Rivers, 14 Floods - Beck
  • 15 - Taylor Swift
  • 16 Saltines - Jack White
  • Sexy & 17 - Stray Cats
  • 18 Wheels & A Dozen Roses - Kathy Mattea
  • 19-2000 - Gorillaz
  • 20 Flight Rock - Eddie Cochran
  • 21 Things I Want In A Lover - Alanis Morrissette
21 by Valerie Ing-Miller on Grooveshark