Thursday, December 31, 2015

Well Hello There, 2016!

Hey 2016, nice to meetcha.

I know, you're new around here, and people are going to have a hard time remembering your name for a few weeks, but by February we'll have it down. And by this time next year, we'll be referring to your successor by your name for a month or so anyway, so it all washes out in the end.

I'm sorry if we don't all get up to shake your hand and clap you on the back, but most of us stayed up pretty late last night and may have overindulged just a bit. Not me, of course. I decided to stay home with my husband and the dogs last night, because I've finally reached that age where a night of partying followed by a morning of regretting it doesn't sound worth it. Instead, we decided to clean out the freezer, barbecue whatever wasn't too freezer burnt, and catch the early showing of Star Wars so that we didn't have to wait in a line that snakes along for two city blocks like I did back in 1977. Again, some things just aren't worth it anymore.

I just want to let you know that you've got some big shoes to fill this year. There's a lot of stuff you've got to help get done, and you've only got a year to do it. That's all the time you get. Sorry. At least you've got an extra day at the end of February, which is more than 2015 had.

So here's your mission, 2016, should you choose to accept it. Well, a couple of missions:

#1: Politics. This country is going to get a new leader. It's not until next November, so we've got a lot of time to figure out it's gonna be. But until then, most of your reign is going to be filled with commercials and billboards, and speeches full of empty promises trying to sway voters. I just hope that by the end of your time here, we'll end up with someone that we can get behind (and I don't mean to push off a cliff). My hope is that we can, together, elect someone to lead this country for the next 4 or 8 years who can pull us together so that we can get stuff done.That's been an issue plaguing this country for a while now that the years haven't been able to change so far. We elect a president who spends the next 8 years trying to undo whatever the person before did, and whichever party didn't get elected spends the next 8 years trying to stop the other party from getting done whatever they promised they'd get done. It's downright embarrassing.

#2: Daesh. Since that election isn't until November, pretty please 2016, do you think you could spend a little of your time putting your nose to the grindstone to figure out a way to neutralize radical islamic extremists? I know this is asking a lot, because hating hate with hate is oxymoronic, but omygosh is there a way to get rid of a group of people committing genocide without committing genocide? I'm just going to leave that on your plate, because I'm overwhelmed and exhausted just thinking about it, but you're still fresh. You might have a whole new perspective on this issue I haven't thought of yet. And since you're new, not stuck in old habits yet, could you please do me a solid and not call them by the name that those other members of the media keep using? As I understand it, Daesh is the term we should be using, not the name of one of my favorite kick-ass Saturday morning cartoon superheroes from my youth. If you need to bone up on why this is so important, check out this great piece that explains it from the Boston Globe.

#3: The Walking Dead. No, not my favorite TV show, I'm talking about the growing population of humanoids shuffling around this town that seem to have no permanent home, no means of employment, and a penchant for pajama pants, face tattoos and either baby strollers with no baby, or bicycles made for little boys. My complaint isn't with their appearance or lack of a place to call their own. My complaint is that 2015 didn't do much to help deter this segment of the population from a life that seems to be solely focused on taking things that don't belong to them to either fund a drug habit and/or to continue to exist below the radar. And they're getting more and more thuggish by the day. Just calling it like I sees it. There is a herd (as they're called in my aforementioned favorite TV show) that seems to be only motivated to find ways NOT to contribute anything positive to the world. Even worse, there's a growing number of Walking Dead who roam the streets at night looking for something, anything to take at the expense of the people who rightfully own it. Waking up to find your car window smashed in for a tin of altoids and some spare change? Going to work to find a huge pile of trash (or maybe a smaller pile of poop) in front of your door? Come on. Let's work on handling this.

I feel like 2015 really failed us. So did 2014, for that matter. But please. 2016. Don't let this get worse. Let's work on finding a solution. And since I'm asking a lot, let me help you out a little bit with a word that - if used correctly - could do so much to help thin the herd, so to speak. Accountability. You've heard of aversion therapy? Behavior modification? I'm talking about simple psychology. Good moms and dads will also recognize this as basic parenting.

In super simple terms, this is like when you snap a rubber band on your wrist every time you want to eat a piece of fudge or smoke a cigarette. Here's how it applies to this situation: If someone commits an unacceptable behavior, then there needs to be a consequence. Accountability. Otherwise, there's nothing to deter the behavior. Currently, this segment of the population is learning that the rubber band is broken. Occasionally there's a minor slap on the wrist, but most of the time a person could get away with causing a pretty decent amount of damage or mayhem without much concern of receiving an equal amount of punishment. 2016, you're going to have to get together with law enforcement on this one, and you might have to work in conjunction with 2017 before things really turn around.

2016, I'm here to help you make friends. I want your name to be remembered fondly. I guarantee that if you can accomplish those 3 simple tasks I outlined above, this could be a pretty awesome year for you. In the meanwhile, here's some music worthy of your time. This is your year 2016, make it a good one!

For those of you who don't know how this works, click on the play arrow in the upper left corner of the Spotify playlist box below, and enjoy!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Stocking Stuffer

My mantra this week is this: Peace. Love. Joy. Harmony. It's more than my mantra, it's my wish for you this holiday season. And myself too. Let's all of us, everyone, have a holiday full of peace, love, joy and harmony, shall we? As I spend the holidays with my family, all together under one roof celebrating Christmas our way - which, in case you were wondering, consists of food, champagne, everyone giving my father their undivided attention (which is the only Christmas present he really wants and never seems to really get), Scrabble, gifts, family debates, more food, more champagne, Cribbage, movies, Boggle, another glass of champagne, a little bit more food and a long nap - I hope you find peace, love, joy and harmony celebrating in whatever way you celebrate or relax with your loved ones.

To help you enjoy your holiday a little bit more, here's a specially crafted playlist with the most palatable Chistmassy, Wintery Holiday music I could find. Think of it as a sweet little stocking stuffer from the Mistress of the Mix. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Pure Joy

'Tis the season of Joy, readers. And by that, I mean for this last season, my staff at the Redding studios of Jefferson Public Radio has doubled to a grand total of two (if you include me). Because of that, I've had a burst of Joy in my life. JoyAnna Hatcher, that is. 

Every once in awhile I find myself blessed with an intern hungry to learn, willing to listen to all my crazy stories, and young enough to mop the floor and take out the trash without complaining. This Fall, JoyAnna has accompanied me backstage to a show (Jim Belushi asked me if she was my daughter), learned that its just as difficult to get anyone to speak on the record about Redding's exploding crime rate as it is to land an interview about the potential closure of the Schreder Planetarium. She even traveled to Ashland to see how a public radio fund drive is accomplished, and even got thrown in front of a microphone for a couple of minutes. 

Sadly, just as I'm finally introducing you all to JoyAnna, it's also time to say goodbye, because as you read this, she's already back on the road, heading back to film school, her time in Redding already over. But during her last week at JPR, I gave JoyAnna one last assignment, which was to walk in my footsteps one more time, as today's guest columnist. Not only did she come through masterfully (and just like me, at the very last minute), she put together a playlist of music that is nothing short of amazing and wonderful, a playlist that completely nails my affection for a particular kind of music that I can't even find words to describe. Electro Groove Lounge Chill? Maybe one of you can come up with a phrase to describe it. Maybe I should just call it Pure Joy.

So loyal readers, meet JoyAnna. JoyAnna, meet your readers!

JoyAnna Hatcher
For the past 4 months, I’ve been the 21st Century equivalent of a squire to Valerie. That is, I’ve been her beloved intern.  I like to think of myself more like her sidekick, though, following her around and slowly learning the ins and outs of Public Radio. Whenever we meet people, Val usually gets one of two questions: “Is that Sophia, your daughter?” or “Who is that person?” While I’m always very flattered that I might be mistaken for someone so witty and beautiful, those questions always queue me to go into an explanation of who I am and where I came from.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m an L.A. native on hiatus from being a film student at USC. Some of the people Val and I encountered probably could have guessed this because of my slight L.A. accent or the fact that winter here in Redding has got me bundled up like an Eskimo.  My brief description where I’m from is simple and easy to digest, “I’m a student from L.A. staying with my Aunt and Uncle.” But, the real story of how I got here goes way back.

It all started in 1979 at the U.S. Center for World Missions in Pasadena, California. At the time, my mom, an artist from Redding, was working at the Center and my dad had just gotten a job in the mailroom. This is where they became friends. . . and remained friends for the next eight years.
Its kind of funny how when my mom tells this story she always says that she “never in a million years” thought she would end up with my dad. I’m inclined to believe that what she says is true since during my parents’ 8 year platonic friendship, my mom got on a plane to Japan where she was an ESL teacher, missionary, and girlfriend to not-my-dad-loser-Greg for 4 years. I don’t actually know anything about Greg. In fact, he was probably a nice and decent person but for obvious reasons, he and my mom were not meant to be.

All the while, my dad really liked my mom but he thought they were going in different directions. He wanted to go to the Middle East. Even though he was on the sidelines, he still went a little above and beyond for her. He sent her 5 bucks a month to help her out in Japan. To me, that sounds like nothing, but apparently it was a good amount considering how much they made.

Fast forward to Memorial Day weekend 1988. My mom was teaching ESL at Shasta College, her alma mater, to mostly Mien, Hmong, and Cambodian refugees. That was the turning point for my parents’ relationship and 27 years, 2 kids, and half a dozen pets later they are still together. The fact that my future dad was so caring stood out to her. Guess what, world? Sometimes nice guys do win! And yes, it was definitely a win because my mom is one of the most caring, talented, and vivacious people I know.

In many aspects of my life, I am my mother’s daughter. Time and again, I find myself walking in her footsteps. When I started college in Pasadena, I rented a room in the same dorms my mom lived in so many years before at the U.S. Center for World Mission. I got to stand in the same places and look at the same buildings that were a part of her everyday experience. A few years later I had an amazing opportunity to go to Barcelona, Spain to get certified to teach English as a Second Language. I gained a whole new appreciation for what she did in Japan and at Shasta College.  In my time here in Redding, I’ve taken classes in the same rooms my mom learned in and taught in. I’ve soaked in Mt. Shasta’s glory in the same way she did.

You may be wondering why I’ve chosen to follow in my mother’s footsteps in so many ways. Well, in some ways I find myself to be a sentimental person. There’s something about having added meaning and history to the new adventures I go on.  Something I’m just realizing now is that I jump at opportunities to follow in my mother’s footsteps in times when I feel unsure about who I am and who I want to be. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed with my own doubts and insecurities and the only thing I know for certain is that when I grow up I want to be the kind of person my mom is. When I came to Redding, I was unsure if I wanted to continue on the same career path I was on. Being here I’ve learned a lot of things about news journalism and public radio, but more importantly I’ve learned that in the end it doesn’t really that much what I do as long as I love what I’m doing and the people I’m doing it with.

Readers, please enjoy today's playlist, put together by the Intern of the Mistress of the Mix. I loved it, my daughter loved it, and I think you'll love it too! Click on the play arrow at the top of the box below to enjoy it. My former intern and future award winning documentary film director calls this playlist "Daisies." But I call it Pure Joy.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Sticky Notes, My Stepson & Bob The Poptart

My desk. Today.

My desk is a freaking mess. It's covered with cds I haven't opened,entertainment and trade magazines I haven't read, scripts and underwriting contracts I need to file, checks I need to deposit, coffee mugs I need to wash, and underneath it all is a desktop calendar with notes scribbled all over it with numbers for phone calls I have hopefully returned. The month isn't even for December or November, I'm still stuck back in August. At least its the right year.

Clearly I need to do a little Spring cleaning.

 Or hire a maid.

Or just get off my ass and spend today organizing my desk and filing about 4 years worth of paper.

So as I start to clear off the mess, going through every scrap of paper and every scratch of handwriting to see what can be thrown away and what needs to be saved (or dealt with immediately), I start making a pile of sticky notes.
The evidence. Note that my desk calendar is now up to date.

These are very important sticky notes. You see, every time I come across a song that strikes a chord or I suddenly recall a song that I thought I'd forgotten forever, but it was really just lurking there in the dark, shadowy corners of my memory banks, I have a tendency to write it down on a piece of paper. You know, as something to get to later. Like cleaning off my desk. Because there's always later.

I've got the name Chet Faker written down. Not a typo. Not Chet Baker, Chet Faker. Real name Nicholas James Murphy, but I didn't know that the first time I heard the cool sounds of this Aussie musician doing his own version of "No Diggity" as I was sitting around the fire pit at 7 Devils Brewing Company while visiting my sister-in-law earlier this year in Coos Bay, Oregon. I liked it enough to write it down on a sticky note and carried it all the way back home with me.

There's another note with "Disclosure - You & Me - Flume" written on it. I can't recall the circumstances behind finding this musical gem, but I'm going to trust myself that I liked it. Otherwise, why write it down and give it the distinction of keeping it on my desk along with an empty jar of ibuprofen, a hair tie and a bottle of clear nail polish?

And then there's the extensive list of cool songs my 19-year old stepson Jesse turned me on to while he was driving us back home from a road trip a few months ago. I had an eye infection, so he was driving. In my car, that means driver picks the tunes and shotgun shuts her piehole. He plugged his iPod in, turned up the music, and let me just say this. It's not always easy being a stepmom. But Jesse has made my job pretty darned easy. There was that one time that we won't mention here, but other than that, we're a pretty solid team of Best Stepmom Ever and Best Stepson In The World. I didn't think it was possible to get a whole lot prouder of him after he was promoted to night manager after about a month on the job at Tops Market, but then he played his music for me. Yuma, Flux Pavilion, Carmen Forbes and . And I liked it. I mean I really liked it. Enough to take notes.

I've also got a note that I wrote to myself months and months and I'm just gonna say even more months ago when Bob the Poptart was over at the house, cooking up something wonderful in the kitchen like she always does and impressing me with her music choices, which she also does consistently. I don't know how Amanda Hetzel got the nickname Bob the Poptart, but my daughter's good friend since the 6th grade (who is now a co-worker of Jesse's at the supermarket) has always been called that in my household. If she were to call me right now, that's the name that would pop up on my iPhone.

Anyway, Bob the Poptart is quite possibly the most musically obsessed person I know besides myself. She goes to tons of concerts, has hobnobbed with all the cool indie bands, and is always playing me something brand new that nobody else has heard of yet. Seriously, sound like someone you know? And my husband wonders why she calls me Mom. So Bob played a couple of tunes that just blew me away. One of them was so great that I couldn't believe it wasn't at the top of the charts. I wrote it down on a sticky note. Stressed Out by 21 Pilots. Months and months and maybe even more months later, that song is now moving faster up the charts than any other song around. And I've had it sitting right here all along on a sticky note.

Since I'm getting off my butt and undertaking the long overdue task of cleaning off my desk today, I'm also gathering all my sticky notes and putting together this long overdue Spotify playlist of cool tunes that have been stuck in my craw, and literally stuck to my desk. I think you're gonna like it. All 90 minutes of it. Because that's about how long it's going to take me to clean off my desk.