Weekend Cat Blogging 301: A Sad Day

March 11 was a sad day.

It is with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to our friend Mickey.

As mentioned earlier this week, he fell very ill and passed away on Friday. He (through his mom) first visited us in late 2007, and they have been regulars on our site ever since, as likely to comment on experimental music shows and photography as Luna’s feline antics. And in turn, we enjoyed getting to know them better through their site. Our thoughts go out to Mom Nancy and the rest of the family today.

We have been closely following the tragic events in Japan after the earthquake and tsunami. Images such as these are heartbreaking, and our thoughts are with the people of Japan right now. While every year brings multiple huge disasters, when it happens somewhere you have visited or affects people you know, it hits harder.

Our friends at Cats of Wildcat Woods have compiled a list of relief organizations. The Red Cross is always a good place to start, and now you can donate via text messages.

There is no information currently on Tashirojima, or “Cat Island”, which is off the eastern coast of Japan in Miyagi Prefecture, near epicenter of the earthquake and tsunami, but the fear is that the island was lost.

Weekend Cat Blogging #301 is hosted by Pam at Sidewalk Shoes.

The Carnival of the Cats will be up this Sunday at Two Little Cavaliers.

And the Friday Ark is at the modulator.

RIP Milton Babbit

Milton Babbit, a noted and influential composer, teacher and thinker, passed away this Saturday at the age of 94. He is someone who I had met personally and with whom I had a rather influential encounter.

He is known for his highly complex and highly rational music – music that could truly be called “experimental” in light of his vision of academic music programs as laboratories for. He was not only involved in the early expansion of serialism beyond pitch into rhythm and dynamics, but also involved in the early development of electronic music. He was one of the first directors of the “Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center” and involved with the development of the RCA Mark II synthesizer. Many of his compositions from the 1960s were either fully electronic, such as his 1961 aptly named Composition for Synthesizer and his piece Philomel which featured electronic sounds and the processed voice of Bethany Beardslee. Philomel was probably his most well-known work, and you can hear a clip in this video:

Many remembrances describe his music as difficult or unapproachable, indeed the New York Times obituary opens with a description of his music as “impenetrably abstruse”. But I actually find several of the pieces beautiful, I could see listening to them and enjoying them for particular moods rather than as objects of study. Although he is most closely associated with the integral serialism that informed his composition, I see in pieces like Philomel similarities to works by Karlheinz Stockhausn and Luciano Berio based on very different compositional ideas.

I had my own encounter with Babbit about 16 years ago, when I was applying for the graduate composition program at Julliard. I had gotten a callback for live interviews with professors, and I found myself in his office with him looking over my scores. He was very friendly and humorous, and had kind words for my music (far more so than any other reviewer that day). Most significantly, he advised me about the relatively conservative “star-struck” environment Julliard – which has its place for turning out the next generation of professional concert musicians who aspire to cross the street to Lincoln Center – but that I would probably be happier continuing my work at a university such as Yale where I was completing my undergraduate work or Princeton where he taught. There was nothing condescending or discouraging about his advice – it was more a sense of “you are one of us” and I remember it fondly to this day. It was also important in the process that eventually brought me to UC Berkeley and to my current life in California.

My positive personal experience with him was in contrast to the portrayal he received in some of my early classes, where his statements about music most notably his essay “The Composer As Specialist / Who Cares if You Listen?” (an editorial retitling that he never liked) were often put into a dichotomy with others – I recall a couple of smackdowns with Babbit’s essay on one side and a counter-essay by Susan McClary on the other. As someone who was struggling to figure out where I fit in the world of academic music, moving between very rational and very theatrical, I sometimes took the bait on one side or the other. In the end, the argument was a non-argument. In fact, one of the fun things I have learned about Milton Babbit from the obituary writings was his fondness and knowledge of popular and theater music (particularly pre-World War II) and his brief experience with Broadway musicals. Something to keep in mind as we continue to make new music.

RIP, Benoit Mandelbrot

Today we return to mathematics, and sadly note the passing of Benoît Mandelbrot. His work was very influential not only within mathematics and science, but also art and music.

Benoit Mandelbrot. (Photograph by Rama via Wikimedia Commons.)

He is credited with coining the term “fractal” (literally, “fractional dimension”) and is often dubbed the “father of fractal geometry” – and he is of course memorialized by the Mandelbrot set (which is technically not a fractal). I had written an article that touched on the Mandlebrot set and fractals for this site back back in 2008.

This quote from his official site at Yale sums up the wide-ranging applications of his work to science and the humanities:

Seeks a measure of order in physical, mathematical or social phenomena that are characterized by abundant data but extreme sample variability. The surprising esthetic value of many of his discoveries and their unexpected usefulness in teaching have made him an eloquent spokesman for the “unity of knowing and feeling.”

I did have the opportunity to take a course at Yale for which he was a regular lecturer (the course was taught by his former colleague at IBM Research, Richard Voss). The course was aimed at an introductory audience, and I think many of the students did not appreciate the opportunity it presented – but that left me with more time to directly ask him deeper questions in both lectures and seminars. At the end of the term, he signed my personal copy of The Fractal Geometry of Nature, which still has a place of honor on my bookshelf.

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In reading some of the online articles this morning, I also was reminded that he and his family were part the great exodus of Jewish intellectuals from Poland and other parts of Eastern Europe in the years before World War II. It’s a story that comes up time and time again among thinkers, writers and teachers who have influenced me of the years.

Weekend Cat Blogging and Photo Hunt: Natural

The theme for our combined Weekend Cat Blogging and Photo Hunt this weekend is natural. This complements a theme from a year ago, artificial. At that time, we explored the interplay of Luna’s natural beauty with her artificial surroundings. Especially in light of my recent experience with New Topographics, it seems like an appropriate subject to revisit. We often explore the interplay between Luna’s naturally curving biological body and the straight lines that dominate the art and architecture of her surrounding environment.

The patio is really our landscape. It is an artificially constructed one, but it is a space claimed by natural elements, such as the plants, Luna, the bugs she likes to hunt, the grass she tries to eat out of the flower pot…

Another bit of nature this morning, this time one that is not so welcome.

These snails were a menace in our garden when I lived in Santa Cruz where they seemed to arrive in swarms. This is the first one I have seen in our patio in San Francisco in over two years. Removing it from a cactus is not a simple task. On the plus side, it was opportunity to practice with macro shot, which is not something I usually do.

A sad note. Our friend Nirmanakaya’s Viandra (aka “Sniffie”) passed away last week. “Sniffie and Florida Furkids” have often visited and shared their thoughts with us on topics far beyond feline, and in turn we got to know a little about them. Sniffie will be missed, and our thoughts go out to her family.

Weekend Cat Blogging #277 will be hosted by Othello (with some assist from Astrid) at Paulchens FoodBlog?!

Photo Hunt #232 is hosted by tnchick.

The Carnival of the Cats will be hosted this Sunday by Nikita and Elvira at Meowsings of an Opinionated Pussycat.

And the Friday Ark is at the modulator.

Weekend Cat Blogging #272: Sadness

It was a sad week for many of our cat friends and their families. This past Wednesday saw no fewer that four announcements on the Cat Blogosphere of regular contributors who had passed away. Anyone who has studied probability and statistics knows that such clustering is normal behavior for random events, but one still notices it and can be affected by it.

And then late in the day we received some sad news from our friend Vivi Pedgraglio that DJ Kikovas had passed away.

This was very sad news, and our thoughts are with Vivi this weekend. We often featured DJ Kikovas on CatSynth. And the symmetry of our exchanges was fun, the white boy cat playing electronic music in the studio in Argentina and the black girl cat in the U.S. who is surrounded by electronic music. He will be missed.

Among the cats whose passing was announced on Wednesday was Luxor, an elegant white cat whose site we followed. Our thoughts are with his family as well.

It is a dreary overcast morning, after a week that in addition to the sad news has been quite tiring. So we rest.

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I looked at those photo of Luna resting on the bed linens – this has been her favored resting place again over the last few weeks – and thought about how often I have seen her curled up there over the years. Here is a photo of her in the same position in 2007, at our former home in Santa Cruz.

So many things stay the same, but the same time life is always moving forward. That is both a happy and sad thing.

Weekend Cat Blogging #272 is hosted by Samantha and Clementine at Life from a Cat’s Perspective.

The Carnival of the Cats will be hosted by Nikita and Elvira (who is hosting for the first time this week) at Meowsings of an Opinionated Pussycat.  They also have a tribute to the cats who past away this week.

And the Friday Ark is at the modulator.

R.I.P. Tali

Some sad news from this weekend, via matrixsynth. Tali, the feline companion of carbon111 passed away over the weekend:

We featured Tali’s CatSynth pics many times over the past couple of years, and she will be missed. I send carbon111 my deepest sympathies.

You can read kind words for Tali (aka “Circle Cat”) at Harmony Central and matrixsynth.

I did not know before reading carbon111’s post that Tali was named for Taliesin.

CatSynth video: In memory of Modesty the Cat

From monotonmusic on YouTube, via matrixsynth:

May 27, 2010 — “A little studio session just to get my mind of everything.
Nothing fancy, just some sweet Mono/Poly chords…

Our cat got really worse these last days.
But she had a good life in the countryside among our other cats.
16 years old!
RIP 2010.05.27

We send our thoughts to monotonemusic. It does sound like Modesty had a good life, 16 years in the countryside.

Weekend Cat Blogging and Photo Hunt: Foreign

This week’s Photo Hunt theme is foreign. Cats often intersect with my foreign travels, and with the objects that I bring home. Consider the Suzhou painting silk cat and Maneki Neko from Japan in the photo below:

We have seen these items before, in discussions of cats of China and the cats of Tokyo, respectively.

Here, we see Luna near some of our art pieces:

Most of these, including the large watercolor on the left and small metal sculpture, are local. However, the mostly yellow geometric print is foreign. It is by a Cuban artist. I visited Cuba twice in 2001 and purchased this print in the town of Matanzas. The topic of visiting Cuba as an American (and the entire U.S. policy towards Cuba) could fill up an entire article.

Sometimes one may assume something is foreign when it is in fact not. Consider this photo of Luna from December:

The title may be in French and evoke a bygone era in Paris, but it is actually the work of an American artist, Ken Bailey.

We close with some more maneki neko figures:

All of the cat figurines in this photo are from Japan. There is one more cat, however, on the matchbox. This is not foreign, and created by a local artist.

A sad note this weekend. Gattina and family, who regularly host “Cats on Tuesday”, said farewell to their cat Lisa this week. Lisa was a little over eighteen years old, which is a good long life for a cat.  We send them our thoughts.

Weekend Cat Blogging #248 is hosted by Meowza at his blog iMeowza.

Photo Hunt 203: Foreign is hosted by tnchick.

The Carnival of the Cats will be hosted this Sunday by Nikita Cat at meowings of an opinionated pussycat. We also wish Nikita a happy birthday this weekend!

And of course the Friday Ark is at the modulator.

Weekend Cat Blogging #194

We at CatSynth welcome everyone to Weekend Cat Blogging #194! We’re excited to be hosting again, and have been busy getting prepared.

To participate, please leave you link in the comments, and we will include you in the big roundup on Sunday.

We are dedicating this edition to Socks Clinton, the former “First Cat”, who passed away this week at the venerable age of 20.

(February 20, 2009) Word tonight that Socks Clinton, the one-time Arkansas stray adopted by the Clintons who rose to international prominence and literary fame as sole feline inhabitant of the White House, died today.

Butch, Jules, and Vincent use their Weekend Cat Blogging to pay their respect to Socks.


Meowza shows some leg this fine Caturday. Meanwhile, Cece feigns innocence at iInfidel.

LB and Breadchick Mary have been lazy this weekend. But not really, as time away from work for ourselves is important. LB enjoys relaxing by the sofa and subwoofer. And we at CatSynth really like the header for the The Sour Dough.

Most of us are eagerly anticipating the transition from winter to spring, and for Smudge of sidewalk shoes, that means patiently waiting for the catnip.

Maruschka poses elegantly (and sleepily) at Rosa’s Yummy Yums, with an accompanying quote on being a cat.

Babeth presents Happy Hour, a tale of cats’ sleeping habits, at House of Chaos.

We go from sleeping habits to playing habits at Gattina’s, where Rosie has adopted a toy turtle as her new doll.

Samantha and Tigger are basking in the sunshine at Life from a Cat’s Perspective. Together with Granddaughterbean, they are a quite a trio, enjoying the warmth. We could use a bit of warmth here in the midst of our cold rainstorms – but we do need the rain in California.

Kashim, Othello and Salome are feeling a bit neglected this weekend, as their mama has been out celebrating her birthday as well as other human social activities. Clearly, those are lower priority than spending time with kitty cats. On a happy note, Kashim’s paws have nicely after his unfortunate accident a couple of weeks ago.

Tillie is being lazy in the sun over at Mickey’s Musings. Meanwhile, Mickey and Georgia are being lazy somewhere else, and their mom is “laziest of all”, as she hardly helped the cats blog all weekend. However, she did help them participate in WCB, and we’re glad to have our friends from Nova Scotia join us!

That concludes this Weekend Cat Blogging for now. Thanks to everyone who participated, and we will continue to post entries through Monday as we receive them.

This weekend, you can also visit the Carnival of the Cats at When Cats Attack, and the Bad Kitty Cats Festival of Chaos with Samantha and Tigger at Life from a Cat’s Perspective. And of course the Friday Ark is at the modulator.

Weekend Cat Blogging: In memoriam

It has been a sad week for many of our friends in the Cat Blogosphere. We have decided to go on with hosting Weekend Cat Blogging and dedicate it to those who have gone and to their families.

We start by joining Tesla in lighting a candle in memoriam:

Violets in memory of Violet Noelle “Sprout”.

Our thoughts are with her family at Monty Q. Many are posting tributes this weekend in her honor around the theme of the color “violet.”

We also give our thoughts to the families of Felix, Frieda:

And Max, Neelix and Zeppy.

The Cat Realm remembers those who left us this week.

The Criz Cats Sanctuary offers a serenity prayer for Violet.

It’s “a cat’s life” with Breadchick and LB, with photos of LB’s morning routine. They also have a tribute to Violet.

The Kashim, Othello, Salome and Astrid have turned their site violet as a tribute. The also have posts for Felix and Maxime.

Samantha and Tigger are remembering as well. We hope they stay safe with a tropical storm possibly heading towards Florida.

Mind of Mog presents a pic of Meowza and a tribute to Violet.

We invite anyone who has a tribute this weekend to share it here. You can do so by leaving a comment or contacting us.