Tuesday, April 22, 2014


I can't even count on all my fingers and toes how many times the following has happened: I'm out somewhere. I could be pretty much anywhere, doing pretty much anything when it happens. Checking out size 8 1/2 shoes at Ross Dress For Less, driving to the airport to catch a flight to (or from) Hawaii, deciding which flavor ice cream to take home from Safeway, or sitting in the back row at the dollar movie theatre. A song comes through the speakers that speaks to me. No, it sings to me.

It's as if I just tasted the best thing ever. Like pesto. Truffle oil. It's as if I just found the perfect bra, the right haircut for my face, the most comfortable shoes, or just had the best kiss ever.

I know you know what I'm talking about. It's that feeling you get when you finally get matched up with the perfect thing for you. I get that same feeling from time to time with music. The problem is, you never know when it's going to happen. You're out in public, you hear the strains of a song that is so awesome that you absolutely have to know what it is and who's making it happen right flipping now.

Remember back in the old days when you had to wait for a month or two to find out who did it? Remember when you'd call up a radio station and sing the song to the DJ, hoping you remembered it right, so that they'd tell you who sang it? I still get these calls, at least once a week, and I'm always willing to lend my detective skills to help them find their musical holy grail, since I know all too well the pain associated with hearing, but not knowing who sings the Best. New. Song. Ever.

And then along came Shazam.

Well, first came one of my best girlfriends, Judy Tofflemire. Then came the iPhone (and she had one long before my husband finally talked me into upgrading). And then came a night when she and I were out somewhere across town in a crowded drinking establishment, when a song came over the speakers, and when I exclaimed, "Oh I like this, I wonder who does it?" she responded with, "Hold on, I'll Shazam it!" She pawed through her purse for about 30 seconds (if you know Judy, you're already chuckling at the image of her, elbow deep into a gigantic purse), pulled out her phone, pressed something on her screen, and then held it out, at arms length, high above her head. I can't remember what the song was, only that a treasure chest had just opened up right in front of me.


The first app I downloaded after I got my own iPhone last year? Give you one guess.

Today I'm paying homage to the greatest app ever invented, in my not-very-humble opinion, with a playlist of songs that were introduced to me (or finally revealed to me) via Shazam. Because it keeps track. So I can tell you exactly when I Shazammed (or is it Shazamed) a song, and for the most part can even tell you if I was on my way up to the top of Haleakala on Maui, sitting at my desk at work, or watching Breaking Bad on Netflix. Or watching a documentary on chimpanzees at 8am on Easter morning, which is what I was up to when I last Shazammed (I decided...it's Shazammed) a Best. New. Song. Ever.

Today's playlist is also in honor of my friend Judy, on the occasion of my anniversary moving to Redding a dozen years ago. Judy was my first friend, who welcomed me to the neighborhood with bagels, fresh picked flowers, and a dinner invitation. Thanks for being my own personal welcome wagon to Shasta County, my little petunia!

Click on the play arrow below to stream, or go directly to the Shazam! playlist at Grooveshark.

Shazam! by Valerie Ing-Miller on Grooveshark
  1. Pharrell Williams - Come Get It Bae Newest. Best. New. Song. Ever.
  2. Ingrid Michaelson - Girls Chase Boys 
  3. Zee Avi - Concrete Wall 
  4. Hot Chip - Let Me Be Him Happy to say I heard this for the 1st time last week on JPR at 89.7 fm!
  5. Caro Emerald - That Man Ana Tijoux - 1977 
  6. Bebel Gilberto & Nat King Cole - Brazilian Love Song This song has the distinction of being the first song I can ever recall shazamming. On Judy's iPhone, of course.
  7. Bajofondo - Pa'bailar 
  8. John Mayer - Call Me The Breeze This Shazam was a result of a debate over whether this song was John Mayer singing by himself  or with the original songwriter, J.J. Cale. 
  9. White Rabbits - Percussion Gun 
  10. E.L.O. - Long Black Road 
  11. Black Keys - Lonely Boy 
  12. Divine Fits - Would That Not Be Nice 
  13. Locksley - The Whip 
  14. TJR - Funky Vodka 
  15. will.I.am - Scream & Shout Shazammed on the way to the Oakland airport, Hawaii bound.
  16. Black Keys - Unknown Brother 
  17. Major Lazer - Original Don 
  18. Angel Olsen - High & Wild
  19. Peddlers - On A Clear Day 
  20. Feed Me - Trapdoor 
  21. Alice Russell - Breakdown 
  22. Wang Chung - Space Junk I Shazammed this song twice, because I refused to believe the first time that it was actually Wang Chung. I thought for sure Shazam makes mistakes! Nope.
  23. Butch Walker & the Black Widows - Synthesizers 
  24. Enrique Iglesias - Turn The Night Up Another mistake on my part. I thought this had to be Justin Timberlake. Yeah, no.
  25. Parachute - Can't Help 
  26. Stone Temple Pilots - Big Bang Baby 
  27. Citizen Cope - Sun's Gonna Rise 
  28. Tame Impala - Elephant

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Put On A Happy Face

Photo totally stolen from Sue Lang's Facebook page!
Sometimes all it takes is a smile. Perhaps you've seen mine, bigger than life (literally), on the side of the Cascade Theatre. Seriously, my mouth is about four feet wide and my smile is all teeth and gums. I'm right next to Sue Lang in the big hat, under Dan Kupsky and the entire cast of the Wizard of Oz, a few over from Carol Skill, and above a whole row of happy kids. I bet you've seen it, about 40 feet up in the air, driving by on Placer on your way to work or the grocery store over the past week and thought, What is that all about?

Well, I can't tell you all about it right now. It's fund drive week at JPR, so I've been kind of busy. Plus, in my spare time this week I finally traced my ancestry back to the first recorded interracial marriage in America, between Pocahontas and her British lover. Yeah, what we've all known has finally been verified: I'm part princess, part tamed savage. Not my words, by the way. That's what the Brits said about Pocahontas when she visited England with her husband. And I've only got about an hour before a whole bunch of girlfriends show up at my house expecting liquor and black truffled cheese, so unfortunately I don't have the luxury of having any more time left to tell you all about the Inside Out Redding Project at this time. What I really wanted to talk about in the short time I have left is the concept of smiling.

Putting on a happy face.

Accentuating the positive.

There's been so much talk around town since my last column, which highlighted the Gallup Poll & accompanying study on how much Reddingites hate their lives. Since that time I've done a lot of thinking about what we individually can really do to start improving life in this city, and I think I've honestly figured it out.

 The good news is that it doesn't involve passing any laws, doesn't involve giving any more money to law enforcement to crack down on the meth labs or illegal pot grows, and doesn't involve the homeless or the panhandlers. Almost every single one of us can take some action that I believe will drastically improve not only our own lives, but the lives of others in our direct vicinity, and I have to think Katrina Keyes (the photographer who came up with the idea to plaster all those faces on the buildings downtown) for the inspiration. All we really need to do is to put on a happy face.

 You see, a couple of days ago I bumped into newspaper reporter David Benda while he was out walking near my office at the Cascade Theatre, checking out the brand new artwork on the building. He asked my opinion. I said Katrina couldn't have had better timing putting up her art installation because of the Gallup Poll, because I thought her art could really help things. He said, "Really? You think an art project could instigate positive change?"

Yeah, I really do.

 It's not just the art itself. It's the smiles. The smiles on the faces of 172 people plastered all over the walls downtown, reminding you every time you drive or walk by that there are happy people in this city. People who are just waiting to smile at you.

 I wasn't really all that surprised when Benda's piece ran in the paper, followed by a slew of negative comments. The negative nabobs said the art project wasn't going to do anything to improve downtown. That it should instead be photos of drug addicts and homeless people if it wanted to be more accurate. That there was no way the photographs would stimulate foot traffic (although every single day this week I have seen people lining up in the parking lot outside, gawking at the photos). Here's proof positive of that.
Gawkers from Burney, who said they drove down specifically to visit downtown to look at the art
So I'm going to tell you the same thing I said in the comments section myself. We need to start being more positive, all of us, as we go about our daily lives. We need to walk out the door with a smile on our faces, and keep it there every time we come into contact with people. No matter if they're homeless, wearing a tie, walking down the street with a bottle of liquor with the security device from Safeway still attached to the top, or behind the counter at the DMV (and the next time you see my husband, congratulate him, he's a full fledged licensed Californian now).

 Just smile.

 Have you ever made a friend while wearing a frown? Ever landed a date with a negative attitude? Had a successful job interview while talking smack about your last job? I didn't think so. The key to happiness and attracting happiness is having a positive attitude, and having a smile on your face is the easiest way to spread happiness and encourage it from others. It's contagious.

 So smile, dammit, smile. And see what happens.

 You could also give a listen to today's Happy playlist, which is all about happiness, smiles and positive attitudes.  Go on, give it a whirl. I bet it'll make you smile!
Happy by Valerie Ing-Miller on Grooveshark

  1. Happy - Pharel Williams
  2. Don't Worry, Be Happy - Bobby McFerrin
  3. Smile - Uncle Kracker
  4. Happy Pills - Norah Jones
  5. Accentuate The Positive - Ella Fitzgerald
  6. Smile - Lea Michele (Glee)
  7. Happy Ending - Mika
  8. So Happy Together - The Monkees
  9. God Put A Smile Upon Your Face - Mark Ronson
  10. God Put A Smile Upon Your Face - Coldplay
  11. Happy Up Here - Royksopp
  12. Sara Smile - Hall & Oates
  13. Merry Happy - Kate Nash
  14. Smile - Lily Allen
  15. If It Makes You Happy - Sheryl Crow
  16. Just To See You Smile - Tim McGraw
  17. Happy - The Rolling Stones
  18. Smile - U2
  19. Put On A Happy Face - Stevie Wonder
  20. Whatever Makes You Happy - The Miracles
  21. Happy Feet - Paolo Conte
  22. Positive Vibration - Bob Marley
  23. Happy Hands & Happy Feet - Dada Life
  24. Smile A Little Smile For Me - The Flying Machine
  25. Smile For Me - War