CatSynth: The App! 2.0 for iOS is released!

We at CatSynth are excited to announce the release of the 2.0 version of our iOS app knows as CatSynth: The App!. It has a redesigned modernist interface for browsing and reading articles. And the biggest change is that you can now record and share performances with the built-in Mystery Synths!

screen322x572 (1) screen322x572

If you already have the app (thanks!), we strongly recommend that you update to the new version. If not, we encourage you to give it a try. And for our friends on Android, we hope to have a 2.x version in the not-too-distant future.

Fun with Stats: Countries that still have Monarchies

On this Independence Day here in the U.S., a country which has been a continuous republic for over 200 years, we thought it would fun to look at the countries that still have monarchies in 2015.  Most are constitutional monarchies with a limited or ceremonial role, but it still begs the question of why bother with such an expensive and anachronistic institution?

Brunei Absolute monarchy
Oman Absolute monarchy
Qatar Absolute monarchy
Saudi Arabia Absolute monarchy
Swaziland Absolute monarchy
Vatican City Absolute monarchy
Andorra Constitutional monarchy
Antigua and Barbuda Constitutional monarchy
Australia Constitutional monarchy
The Bahamas Constitutional monarchy
Bahrain Constitutional monarchy
Barbados Constitutional monarchy
Belgium Constitutional monarchy
Belize Constitutional monarchy
Bhutan Constitutional monarchy
Cambodia Constitutional monarchy
Canada Constitutional monarchy
Denmark Constitutional monarchy
Grenada Constitutional monarchy
Jamaica Constitutional monarchy
Japan Constitutional monarchy
Jordan Constitutional monarchy
Kuwait Constitutional monarchy
Lesotho Constitutional monarchy
Liechtenstein Constitutional monarchy
Luxembourg Constitutional monarchy
Malaysia Constitutional monarchy
Monaco Constitutional monarchy
Morocco Constitutional monarchy
Netherlands Constitutional monarchy
New Zealand Constitutional monarchy
Norway Constitutional monarchy
Papua New Guinea Constitutional monarchy
Saint Kitts and Nevis Constitutional monarchy
Saint Lucia Constitutional monarchy
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Constitutional monarchy
Solomon Islands Constitutional monarchy
Spain Constitutional monarchy
Sweden Constitutional monarchy
Tonga Constitutional monarchy
Tuvalu Constitutional monarchy
United Arab Emirates Constitutional monarchy
United Kingdom Constitutional monarchy

Beyond actual countries, monarchies and hereditary rulers continue to be a fixture in the fantasy-novel genre, many of which are directly influences by Tolkein’s rather conservative Middle Earth.  Most perplexing of all, however, is the obsession of some Americans with British royalty, the dynasty of the country we declared independence from 239 years ago today.

A Great Day! #LoveWins

The map is a bit misleading, because it also should include Alaska, Hawaii, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the territories. But this is a great day no matter how one looks at it. Today’s Supreme Court decision ends this particular battle and its sometimes baffling legal opposition once and for all.

The hashtag #LoveWins does feel like a bit of a cop-out in terms of the profundity of this moment. Some of the fears of the opposition are what make it momentous – we stared down traditional mores and prejudices and powerful social and religious institutions and won! But at the same time the decision and result just affirms them. Anyone who has been to a same sex wedding (at least in the U.S.) knows that it differs not at all from the variety of customs in opposite-sex weddings.

The already famous lines from today’s ruling:

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family…In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

As this coincides with Pride weekend, there are going to be crowds at this famous corner of Castro and Market Streets with The Flag flies. I choose to contemplate it quietly with a photo from last week.

This was never a self-serving fight – all my relationships with marriage potential have been opposite-sex relationships – but it has nonetheless been a deeply personal one since it entered my consciousness almost 25 years ago. Now the perhaps even tougher work of getting job and health non-discrimination begins. This includes the needs of transgender folks (something which seems to at times splinter the LGBTQ movement into separate letters), and going up against the new and nasty wall of so-called “religious freedom” in getting employment protection. And there is a whole hemisphere of the planet where sexual minorities have no protections and face mortal danger.

There will also be time to enjoy the shadenfreude of the opposition on today’s ruling. But for today, we can be a little sentimental and simply say that #LoveWins.

Ornette Coleman, 1930-2015

Ornette Coleman

By Geert Vandepoele (Ornette Coleman) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

We lost another of our musical heroes today. Orientate Coleman was deeply influential in the development and blossoming of jazz in the era-after bebop, where the music went in different, surprising and (for some) controversial directions. From the seemingly mathematic transformations of bop idioms in songs like Zig Zag to the driving funk of Jump Street from Of Human Feelings (a personal favorite of mine), his music and professional example were inspiring.

In addition to his composition and playing, he was an accomplished band leader, bringing together disparate performers to play complex music that remained rhythmically tight. There was the Ornette Coleman Quartet that cemented his reputation as an experimenter, and later his band Prime Time, which took on electronic elements and fusion idioms while retaining oblique rhythms and counterpoints.

I also find myself identifying the descriptions of him as soft-spoken and taking a deeply intellectual (perhaps bafflingly so) approach to describing music. Many jazz greats are sons and daughters of the South, and Ornate Coleman was no exception – but it is interesting to see him and others transcend that heritage to something of a different time and place, or perhaps no particular place at all. We should follow his example and keep jazz an alive, evolving, and often challenging music.

Ornette Coleman at 85: Sleep Talk

This evening we at CatSynth would like to pay tribute to one of our musical heroes who is still alive and well and still swinging, Ornette Coleman. Known for his avant-garde jazz and free improvisation explorations, I am particularly taken with his funk/disco inflused 1979 album Of Human Feelings. As a tribute for his 85th birthday, here is that album.

RIP Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015)

mrspockgattino-2816-1

Not surprisingly, we at CatSynth have been huge Star Trek fans, approaching the level of household religion. So we were very saddened to read about the passing of Leonard Nimoy today. His character Spock was a great hero, very distinctive, iconic and someone with whom I could empathize. But I also interested in Nimoy’s work as an accomplished art photographer, especially his 2002 book Shekhina; and his dramatic readings on Selected Shorts and elsewhere – he certainly had quite the voice. After the reading the announcement in the New York Times, I was also fascinated to learn more about his Orthodox Jewish upbringing and rediscovery of his heritage. I hope to read more about this.

First visit to Cat Town Cafe

The Cat Town Cafe in Oakland, California is the first cat cafe to open in the United States. This past weekend, I had the opportunity to visit for the first time.

20150103-IMG_3309-2

20150103-IMG_3311-2

The cafe is essentially divided into two sections. The first resembles a standard small cafe but covered with cat photos. Here is where one checks in to visit the cats as well as order drinks and small snacks, all made by local Oakland-based businesses. After ordering, visitors can cross an airlock to the cat room. This is a spacious area designed at least as much with the cats in mind as the humans. They are plenty of places to play, hide, eat, and sleep. The interior wall is covered with a mural featuring Oakland cityscapes and a few celebrity cats like Grumpy Cat and Li’l Bub. The cat furniture pieces are one-of-a-kind based on landmark Oakland buildings, including city hall, the twin Federal Building, and the Oakland Tribune Building.

20150103-IMG_3310-2

The largest concentration of cats during my appointment was in the Tribune building. For the first half hour they were all napping, but one could gently reach through the openings to pet and stroke the cats. One little girl particularly seemed to enjoy the attention, and eventually she got up to stretch and explore.

20150103-IMG_3327-2

Turns out her name is Athena, and she was quite playful after her nap. A few of us took turns playing with her as she wandered the space. She particularly enjoyed feather toys.

20150103-IMG_3333-2

Like most cats at the cafe, she comes from local shelters via Cat Town, an Oakland-based organization that recused and fosters cats in the community. The cafe has been extremely successful in adopting out cats. As of my visit, 77 had been adopted since the they opened in October. And it is always crowded with humans, especially on weekends. Indeed, they have sold appointments for every weekend since opening!

I’m sure I will be back to see the cats and find out more about the workings of the cafe. We at CatSynth also hope their success will help others get off the ground. There is at least one now open in New York, and there is currently one planned for this year in San Francisco.

2014: Transition and Turbulence

CatSynth 2014 in Review
[Click to enlarge.]

Once again, it’s time for our traditional end-of-the-year image at CatSynth. 2014 was a year like no other for us: transition, turbulence, complexity, controversy, beauty. Luna turned 10, and is enjoying the life of a mature but very spoiled house cat. And for me, the year began with a profound change that is still reverberating. Some things stayed remarkably constant, as one can see from themes in the words and images here. But others changed in ways I was not prepared for. Changes in my music, my personality and identity, my friendships and relationships, and my professional life. But in the end I learned the importance of speaking one’s truth. It comes with tremendous risks, but with potential great rewards. So what this means is that even more big changes are likely in store for 2015, especially in music, work, and the pages of this website.

The blog did suffer a bit amidst all the tumult of this past year, but we are reinvigorating it for 2015. There is the new look and feel – one of our truths – and more posts and channels coming. Thank you for being part of this year with us, and looking forward to the next!