Farewell to a Friend: Sophia, Diva Kitty

Sophia, Diva Kitty

It’s always deeply sad when we have to say goodbye to one of our friends. Sophia, the Diva Kitty and her mom Michelle (DKM) were among that group that welcomed us into the world of cat blogging back in 2006, and whom we got to know even better after moving to San Francisco in 2008. We received the sad news a few days ago that Sophia passed away.

So Luna and I bid a tearful farewell to our feline friend and send our thoughts and condolences to her family.

Boulez and Bowie

In the span of just one week at the start of this new year, we lost two musical heroes (whose names, coincidentally, both begin with “B”). Pierre Boulez and David Bowie may seem worlds apart musically and stylistically, but they both had strong influences on where my own music and performance has gone especially in the last few years.

By Joost Evers / Anefo (Nationaal Archief) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Joost Evers / Anefo (Nationaal Archief) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

I am most familiar with Boulez not as a composer but as the founding director and god father of IRCAM in Paris; and as a renowned conductor. One fun memory of the latter involves one of his recordings conducting Luciano Berio’s Sinfonia. It was a favorite of mine, and when I got the chance to present it to Berio for an autograph, he declared his dislike of the recording, but signed my CD atop Boulez’ face. As a figure who loomed large in the world of avant-garde music, and then electronic music, he certainly evoked strong opinions from others. There is no doubting the influence of his leadership at IRCAM in both my electronic-music composition and research, even as I disagree with aspects of the institution’s culture, such as strict control and division of music and technology research. But it’s worth stepping back and looking at Boulez as a composer. His masterpiece Répons combines electronics with an acoustic chamber ensemble in ways that make the electronics disappear at times. It also has a very visual quality to it, evoking a complex film scene or theatre piece.

By k_tjaaa (Flickr: David Bowie Mural) [<a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0">CC BY 2.0</a>], <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ADavid_Bowie_Mural.jpg">via Wikimedia Commons</a>

By k_tjaaa (Flickr: David Bowie Mural) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The theatrical is one of many ways David Bowie’s influence comes into the picture, along with the use of gender experimentation and constant stylistic reinvention. His gender-fluid and sometimes overtly feminine presentations on stage were “transgressive” for the time, but have certainly impacted many of us and made space for our own expression in music and in person. It set an example for me to be able to first come out on stage and then eventually in person. In addition to gender, Bowie’s onstage persona gave freedom to be decadent and glamorous, something which many styles of music seem to lack. Now when I perform Boulez-influenced music, it is definitely with Bowie-influenced staging and theatrics. And of course the costuming.

But David Bowie was himself a talented musician and writer. In the same ferment of the 1970s in which he developed his personae, he also pushed the use of synthesizers and electronics in music that was still referred to as “Rock”. His song Subterraneans is a prime example of both technology (ARP synthesizers, backwards bass guitar) and theatrics in his music, as illustrated in this tribute video.

The album that includes this song, Low, was preceded by Station to Station, one of my favorites for its funk influence, including the song Stay. The funk and soul sound of this album, along with his more unambiguously masculine persona in the album art (at least to my sensibilities), exemplify his ability to change and reinvent quickly from one project to the next. It’s the album I have returned to primarily after the announcement of his death on Sunday night. But I do want to close with one if his most hauntingly beautiful songs: Drowned Girl is one again something different altogether.

Farewell to 2015: Annus Asper

Farewell to 2015
[Click to enlarge.]

2015 was a rough year. There is no other way to put it. We looked over the precipice at some of the worst possibilities becoming reality. But we came through. Luna stared down an extremely dire diagnosis and is once again thriving. For that I am truly grateful. I rebounded strongly from my own health issues as well. And there were many other beautiful moments this year, a few of which are included in our graphic.

This was a year of many endings as well, most notably in the personal and musical domains. But new doors are opening for 2016 as a result, and there are some new projects and opportunities for which I am excited. 2015 left a lot of questions unanswered, some of which are also depicted in the graphic and some of which are beyond the scope of this site.

So we are excited for 2016, but also extremely anxious and apprehensive. There are more big challenges coming up; and if I have learned anything, it is that I have no idea how things will ultimately turn out. It’s just a matter of doing things one at a time incrementally – but also continuing even more than ever to speak my truths and accept the risks and consequences that come with doing so.

Meanwhile, we at CatSynth will continue to do what we do here, bring music, art, culture and cats to the world. Thank you for all your support in 2015, and especially all your support for Luna and me. We are truly humbled and look forward to sharing this new year whatever it brings.

Hannukah and Farewell to a Friend

We at CatSynth are preparing to celebrate the penultimate night of Hannukah. Our musician-themed menorah is all ready for tonight.

Menorah for 7th night of Hannukah

Luna sits nearby and supervises with her usual indifference.

Luna

She’s continuing to be happy and healthy after her treatments, for which I am truly grateful. Her recent birthday is still mixed into our celebrations. A dear friend of ours sent her this cute birthday card.

Birthday card for Luna

We are looking forward to the last few weeks of this tumultuous year being a bit quieter, with time together and more time for musical projects. At the top of the list is the solo album – apropos of Hannukah, the opening track (composed during last year’s holidays) is called Kislev, named for the current Hebrew month.


Moosey

It is with tears and a heavy heart that we say goodbye to our dear friend Moosey from Animal Shelter Volunteer Life. We have gotten to know him and his humans Kevin and Tracey quite well over the years. And they have all been great supporters of CatSynth, including a lot of love and moral support during Luna’s ordeal. Moosey, too, has been battling health challenges, and this week they caught up with him. He was a shelter cat from PAWS and sweet and gentle soul. We send our deepest condolences to Kevin and Tracey and to the surviving members of his feline family Zoe and Gracie. Please visit their blog to offer your thoughts and sympathies.

GeorgieAnd now we have just learned of the passing of another feeling friend: the beautiful white cat Georgie from Cats of Wildcat Woods. They, too, have been good friends and supporters of this site. We extend them our deepest thoughts and sympathies as well. It is a sad few days indeed for our community.

An Update on Luna – Final Treatment

Yesterday Luna completed her fourth and final chemotherapy treatment. As with the previous treatments, it went quite well. The oncology department at San Francisco Veterinary Specialists posted this sign in the reception room celebrating her achievement.

Congratulations Luna on completing treatment

We now go into a phase of periodic monitoring every 2-3 months with X-rays and physical exams to check for any resurgence in the cancer. But for now things look good. She has been home and resting comfortably.

Luna resting regally.

We at CatSynth are made from strong stuff. Luna has made it through her treatments better than originally expected; and at the same time it seems I have recovered far better than expected with the problem in my eye that happened at the same time. We are looking forward to more happy and healthy time together as a result. At the end of this month, we will be celebrating Luna’s birthday, a possibility that was very much in question after her diagnosis back in July. And now we can start to be hopeful about celebrations beyond.

Thank you all for your continued thoughts, vibes and purrs for Luna through this time and beyond!

❤️ Amanda and Luna

An Update on Luna

Luna relaxing on the floor

Luna went for her third chemotherapy treatment this past Thursday, and it went well. In addition to the treatment itself, a new chest X-ray and physical exam by the oncologist showed no visible-sized cancer, which is a very good sign. Microscopic cancer cells remain a concern, but that is what the chemotherapy is for. We have one more treatment in a few weeks, then go into monitoring. Hopefully things continue to go in the right direction.

Meanwhile, our life at CatSynth HQ is slowly edging back to normal, at least with our health. As you can see from the photo above, Luna’s fur has mostly grown back from the surgery. And it’s now safe for her to go out and play on the patio in our beautiful fall weather in San Francisco.

Luna on the patio

As I need to remind myself, there isn’t a state of being “cured”, this is something Luna will be dealing with for the rest of her life. But now we can hopefully look forward to a longer and happier life. Thank you again for all the thoughts and purrs, and please keep them coming.

An Update on Luna

Luna had her first chemotherapy treatment yesterday. It went well and she is now back home.

Luna chilling out after chemo

She has been eating well, and is affectionate and at her normal activity level, all of which are good signs amidst an otherwise difficult situation. Also a good sign was that the chest X-rays before the treatment were clean showing no visible cancer in the lungs – spreading to the lungs is the main danger for her type of cancer – but that does not preclude microscopic cells or clusters like those found in her lymph node after the surgery. So the chemo is the prudent and necessary step.

The technicians also went out of their way to mention both to me and in the official report what a sweet cat Luna is, she is very affectionate and quite mild-mannered. It’s a reminder of what a special companion she is and why we have undertaken this care to continue to give her a good life. And we have been spending quite a bit of time together lately, as I take care of my health and pull back from some activities.

And Update on Luna…and me

Luna continues to improve after her surgery. She has had her stitches removed and she was clear to be cone-free. Her energy level, appetite, and affection have all returned to normal. And we have been enjoying quite a bit of time together.

Luna and Amanda at CatSynth HQ

This is all good news, though her overall prognosis remains challenging. We will be going forward with her first chemo treatment in a couple of weeks, the first of up to four, depending on its effectiveness and how she handles it. The most important step was the surgery, but this will hopefully reduce the cancer a bit more and give her a longer and better quality of life. It still remains difficult to reconcile the dire diagnosis with the lively and affectionate cat that I still see every day. We will just have to take things as they come.

In the midst of Luna’s health crisis, I suddenly find myself facing one as well. Two Wednesdays ago, I suddenly started having distorted vision in my left eye and localized headaches in the vicinity of the same eye. I quickly went for an eye exam, and it deemed serious enough to warrant a visit to a retina specialist as soon as possible. That visit happened, and while I will spare the details in this article, it was pretty serious. (Those who are really interested can Google “central vein occlusion” and “retinal hemorrhaging”.) It’s not as dire as Luna’s diagnosis, but it remains physically problematic and has been quite disruptive – I have already canceled a few music gigs – and it reverberates though other aspects of my health. I’ll probably have a better sense of things in the next few days. Meanwhile, I have a few upcoming shows in the next two weeks that I plan to still play, but beyond that I am keeping things pretty low-key for September and October, focused on solitary creative projects (e.g., resuming work on the solo album), and on healing. Indeed, Luna and I are now healing each other together.

World Cat Day, and Update on Luna

world-cat-day

August 8th is World Cat Day. As described on the Cat Blogosphere, it’s an “annual event to simply recognize the beauty,
majesty, humor and fun of cats”. And we at CatSynth love all cats! But this year is tinged with mixed feelings on this day as we continue to worry about the cat we love most.

Luna resting

Luna continues to recover from her surgery and rest comfortably. She is eating well and communicative, but a bit lethargic and depressed. That is not uncommon after major surgery, for cats or humans. But the cone is particular source of misery. So we’re giving her a bit more cone-free time under supervision.

Luna walking around cone-free.

When liberated from the cone, she perks right up and even displayers her “happy tail.”

We haven’t heard any lab results yet, so that is leaving us still quite anxious about what comes next.