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Interview With Larry Gray

Cat Tales
2011

Many cats and kittens call the Friends of Cats shelter home. It is where some were born, where some were taken and where some will spend the rest of their lives. As such, it is important for them to feel comfortable and safe in their habitat, and the only way to achieve this is to make sure every aspect of the shelter is in working condition.

As us humans know, having repairs done at home can be quite costly. Whether it be a plumbing problem or a leak in the roof, money is required to ensure a decent fix. This can be stressful for a shelter that relies on donations, and that’s where Larry Gray comes into play.

Gray is what Friends of Cats calls their jack-of-all-trades. Not only does he hang out with the cats that reside at the shelter, but he also fixes things so as to better the cats’ safety and well being – for free.

“I’m predisposed to doing charity things,” Gray said. “It was really something when I was asked if I could help out at Friends of Cats… They give me a little direction and then I’m just on my own to do what I do.”

And he certainly does a lot. Currently, Gray is replacing the ceiling inside the unit in which pregnant cats have their kittens. The dry-wall ceiling had collapsed, so Gray decided to replace the entire thing. In the past, Gray has replaced windows and window sills that were damaged by termites, as well as a door that had a tendency to spring open if it wasn’t latched correctly – an inconvenience that could have resulted in cats escaping. His favorite project, however, was installing cabinets in the clinic area of the shelter.

Gray came across some exceptional cabinets at the home of a woman he does home maintenance for. She gave them to him, and he used them to create wall-to-wall custom-built cabinets for Friends of Cats. Gray cut the cabinets down to size so they could fit along the length of one wall, and added glass doors to them as well.

“They look really nice with the glass doors,” Gray said. “It’s nice that they can put the medical supplies behind glass doors instead of on mismatched open shelves.”

One of Gray’s future maintenance plans involves putting stained-glass windows in the Cozy Cottage.

“Something that really struck me is the Cozy Cottage,” Gray said. “It’s for the cats of people who passed away or can no longer care for their cats. They prearrange to have their cats taken care of for the rest of their lives… I always make a point of going into that unit.”

It is apparent that Gray is an animal lover at heart. He has been visiting the furry residents of Friends of Cats for over 10 years, and volunteering his fix-it skills for the last three months, usually on weekends. Aside from doing work at the shelter, he spends about four months out of the year house-sitting and pet-sitting for the people he does home maintenance for.

Gray also has three cats of his own, named Cinnamongray, Maya and The “Waah-Waah” Kitty, so-named because of the “rwow-rwow” noise she makes on a regular basis. “They are my children, but with cat-like features,” Gray said. “My whole world revolves around them,” a statement with which I’m sure we can all relate.

If Gray’s story gives you the charity itch, there are a variety of ways in which you can help Friends of Cats, as well as Gray himself. Besides donating materials like vinyl siding or sheeting, decorative rocks and woodchips are always in demand for the shelter’s landscaping. If your schedule doesn’t allow for physical volunteer work, monetary donations are always appreciated.

According to Gray, “People could help out the most by signing up for a membership or making a donation and signing up for Cat Tales. Get in touch with April [Volunteer Coordinator] or Janet [Shelter Manager] to help out with volunteering. Even just making regular trips over to get acquainted with the cats and give them contact with people helps.”

Gray serves as an inspiration to all of us here at the shelter, and we are excited to see his future finished projects.

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Interview with Janet Bianchini

Cat Tales
Summer 2011

Friends of Cats is always welcoming new personalities to our family. Usually these personalities come to us in the form of cats, but recently we added a new human – Janet Bianchini.

Sharing our passion for animal rescue, Bianchini, took over as Shelter Manager on April 11 of this year. Having grown up with a variety of pets, Bianchini understands and appreciates our mission here at Friends of Cats, and we are happy to have her expertise at the shelter.

“My passion for animal rescue definitely comes from my parents,” Bianchini said. “We always had cats as pets, and they were always strays that we found or our neighbors found and gave to us.”

It was this passion for the well being of others that led Bianchini to receive her masters in social work, and subsequently work in the field for 10 years.  Though her work was mostly with developmentally delayed adults, Bianchini never lost her passion for animal rescue.

“When [my husband and I] moved to San Diego, our real estate agent put us in touch with Chihuahua Rescue of San Diego,” Bianchini said. “We started fostering one dog at a time, but now it is pretty common for us to have six dogs at a time in our house. It has been such a rewarding thing in my life to give these dogs that have been literally and figuratively thrown away a new chance at life.”

About six months ago, Bianchini realized that she wanted to dedicate more of her time to working with animals. “I was aware of Friends of Cats,” she said, “but I had never been out to the shelter. I was excited to get the opportunity to come on board as the shelter manager… It is such an honor to be the voice for these helpless animals and to hopefully make as big a difference in their lives as they are making in ours.”

Bianchini’s workday at Friends of Cats consists of coordinating daily shelter activities. Though it is common for new management to make big changes when they take over leadership, Bianchini doesn’t plan on making any major changes until she fully sees how everything works. Some things she does plan on adding, however, are ways to market the shelter.

“Getting our shelter out there will raise awareness for the need for help to continue to help all of the cats and kittens at the shelter,” she said.

In getting the word out there, Bianchini will be able to accumulate funds to make necessary repairs to the shelter. “The Box Car has suffered roof damage and water damage. I am working to apply for grants to complete other repairs around the shelter, too.”

Outside of Bianchini’s shelter cats, she has two cats of her own that she rescued as kittens, 13-year-old Sammy and 9-year-old Penny, as well as two Chihuahuas, Luigi and Daisy. She is also still involved with Chihuahua Rescue of San Diego. We are excited to move forward with her and make life for the cats at our shelter even better. 

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Christmas Music That’s Not About Christmas: A Seasonal Playlist For The Masses

HelloGiggles
November 17, 2011

Being unemployed gives me lots of free time to do magical things, like taking my time when determining whether or not seasonal Coffee-Mate is worth the extra few dollars and reading through some of the articles I wrote for the newspaper I used to be editor of. I recently came across one of my favorites, titled “Christmas Music That’s Not About Christmas.” I wrote it when I worked at Gap and was surrounded by Christmas music for five hours straight, three days a week.

I grew to despise the constant holiday music, but felt conflicted because of how much I truly love the season. I crave the cold weather and rainy days that allow me to wear my rain boots; I enjoy the chill I get when I start my car in the morning and have to wait for the heater to warm up; and I love being able to wear super-soft socks to bed without kicking them off in the middle of the night. Simply put, I love the coziness that ensues as a result of the cold weather. It reminds me of the simpler days, when I was a seven-year-old girl who, along with her younger sister, created a winter wonderland for her dollhouse people. Our bedroom was filled with the sounds of Martina McBride’s Christmas album, and our carpet was covered in fake snow and a mirror that had been transformed into an ice-skating rink.

It was a magical time for all involved (especially the teenage dollhouse person who was able to kiss her boyfriend under the mistletoe). Memories like these used to invoke a deep love of Christmas songs, but working in retail completely ruined it for me. So I came up with a playlist of some of my favorite songs that have a cold-weather, holiday-esque vibe to them so I could continue to have a musical connection to the season without being reminded of the destroyed sweater display I had to refold earlier in the day. The playlist is categorized by band, below.

Fleet Foxes: Suitable for cabin trips and long drives through snowy mountains.

"White Winter Hymnal"

This song is about children in scarves walking through the snow. It has the same kind of structure that many of the more traditional Christmas songs have, but with a much more intellectual and symbolic story to tell. It’s fun to sing along to, and it makes road trips seem much shorter and more adventurous.

"Oliver James"
This song is a simple addition to a “sit by the fire and read a Steinbeck novel” playlist, as it is leisurely and has lyrics about Oliver James, who is lost in the rain (typical weather for the holiday season).

"English House"
This song is absolutely beautiful. The melodies are pleasant, relaxing and perfectly suited to waking up in the arms of your significant other as you look forward to a delicious mug of pumpkin spice coffee (note: seasonal Coffee-Mate is definitely worth the extra few bucks).

"Blue Ridge Mountains"
This song is perfect for the holiday season, as it begins with a message to the lyricist’s brother about how he missed his connecting flight to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Tennessee. Such a situation is common during travels from state to state, and many listeners can sympathize. They can then sing along to the beautiful remainder of the song as they wait sadly and anxiously for their family member to arrive safely at the airport.

Beware of "Icicle Tusk"
This tune has a wintery title but is in no way comforting or Christmassy. It’s about murdering the father of a coal miner’s daughter. Don’t put this on any holiday playlist.

The National: Suitable for intellectual holiday gatherings at which you discuss the true meaning of Christmas, the psychology behind telling children that Santa exists and the religious overtones of the holiday season.

"Green Gloves"
Though the lyrics of this song are a bit invasive, the speed of it is perfect for the idling conversations one has as the night grows late and the spiked apple cider settles into a satisfied stomach. The deepness of the lead singer’s voice greatly influences the quality of conversation because it makes people feel wiser.

"Gospel"
With the lyrics, “Hang your holiday rainbow lights in the garden,” "Gospel" is one of the only songs on this list that actually mentions the holidays. It’s mellow and uses the piano as its primary form of instrumentation. Most intellectuals can play the piano, so this is a perfect way to show your friends that you appreciate the instrument as well.

Belle & Sebastian: Suitable for catching up with high school friends when back in your hometown for Christmas break.

"The Fox In The Snow"
This is yet another great morning song. When waking up to the first snow of the season, one is often overwhelmed by how pure everything appears to be. To take such feelings even further, analyze the lyrics of this song while you wait for the heater to warm up your cinnamon-scented living room.

"Winter Wooskie"
The lyrics of this song are also about snowy weather, as well as the things one ponders when they see a pretty girl. It’s sweet and lightly romantic, which is perfect because no one wants anything heavy on his or her shoulders when they’re wearing pounds of cold weather clothing.

Beach House: Oh, the irony. Beach House’s older albums are suitable for rainy, cloudy, darkly cold days that inspire nostalgic thoughts about the wonders of childhood.

"Childhood"
For some, Christmas was most important back when Santa still existed, and the lyrics of this song are reminiscent of toys and the “heartbreak of our loss,” which, for the purposes of this article, can be interpreted as referring to the loss of the mystery that is Santa Claus.

"All the Years"
This song is a perfect sing-along-song for the hot showers that are taken only as a means of warming your ice-cold body if you can’t afford to turn on your heater. It also contains dreamy lyrics about icicles in heaven, which is where Jesus is, so it can tie in to the true meaning of Christmas as well, if you so wish.

"I Do Not Care For The Winter Sun"
Daylight savings is exciting for most of us who enjoy darker night because we can light our fires sooner and feel cozier longer. Beach House can relate, and the simplicity of the song reflects the simplicity of nature, snowflakes and shorter days.

Beirut: Suitable for those who would rather be in Europe over the holidays. Interestingly enough, the lead singer of the band was influenced by Eastern European music, which is geographically where a decent amount of Christmas folklore originated.

"Forks and Knives (La Fete)"
For those that live in a snowy place, play this song while venturing out in a coat and boots to go Christmas shopping, followed by a cold-weather lunch with a friend. The song could very well inspire you to go into a Hallmark store and admire the many Christmas figurines and stuffed animals. But, whatever you do, don’t read the lyrics. They will certainly take away the wintery effect of the music.

"La Banlieu"
This song continues the ideas conveyed in "Forks and Knives," but in a lyric-less way that leaves the song completely open to interpretation. It is best suited for a very formal Christmas party at which your parents are in attendance and the Christmas tree is color-coordinated with red and gold ornaments.

Memoryhouse: Suitable for evenings that consist of writing about meaningful relationships that really make you think about who you are as a young, independent woman with a soft spot for cold weather.

"Bonfire"
This song is about getting cold with someone you can’t stop thinking about, and it has a bit of a nostalgic undertone to it. Perfect for a season that emphasizes family, friends and weather.

If you still think that it is absolutely necessary to listen to Christmas classics, however, Sufjan Stevens’ Christmas song collection is quite entertaining, as is a friend of mine’s favorite, A Christmas Together, by John Denver & The Muppets. One of the most beautiful Christmas albums of our time, however, is Martina McBride’s White Christmas. Odd, but true, and easy to play on repeat while you open the mounds of gifts under the tree on Christmas morning. And let us not forget the beauty of Hanson and Christina Aguilera’s respective Christmas albums. Those were by far my favorite to sing along to in the backseat of my mom’s Saturn on the way to Grandma’s house.

Having written all of this, I must admit that I splurged on the absolutely adorable A Very She & Him Christmas LP, and it has undoubtedly renewed my love for traditional Christmas music. The simplicity of the album, as well as the choice of songs and the timelessness of Zooey Deschanel’s voice, remind us of what the holiday season is really about: the comfort of feeling loved by, and enjoying the company of, family and friends, whether or not gifts are exchanged.

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How Beyonce Changed My Life

HelloGiggles
November 3, 2011

I’ve recently become more stressed than usual about my finances. This is most likely because I’m going to have to start paying back some of my student loans next month, and also because I had an expensive post-Halloween-celebration-hangover-breakfast that included a $10 Bloody Mary (woops). I think it’s safe to say that my college education and a night out with my friends were both money well spent, yet, I still feel guilty, and have unsubscribed from banking alerts that tell me when my balance is dangerously low, solely because they make me cry. This may or may not be a good thing.

So what did I do to fix this? I watched the 20-minute Beyonce documentary, Year of 4. Though I didn’t make money while watching this gem of a short film, I was reassured that because I am a strong-willed, hard-working young woman who knows what her passion is, I can and will succeed in whatever I plan to do with the rest of my life. I never thought a documentary about a world-famous pop star would inspire the likes of me, a former indie-music snob who refused to listen to Top 40 radio (my outlook has recently changed, and I love Beyonce, Britney and Rihanna equally), but Beyonce truly has a way with words. Here are some quotes from the film that really made me fall in love with the extremely talented musician, as well as my current lifestyle and future plans.

1. “I don’t need people to think for me.”
Everyone has something to say to those of us that are unemployed. Though the things they say are often words of encouragement, or the common, “You’re not the only college grad in this position,” others are full of advice. Trust me guys, I know that I can search Craigslist and LinkedIn for jobs, and that new ones come up every day, and that I should just apply to everything because it doesn’t hurt, and that I should check in on resumes I’ve sent out and that I shouldn’t give up. I, like Beyonce, don’t need people to think for me. When they try to do so, it simply makes me feel like I have to prove myself to them or defend my actions and let them know that I’m already doing what they tell me to do. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate their interest, but what I’d appreciate more is an actual job. So, advice-givers, how about an entry-level position at the company you currently work for? That’s what I thought. I’ll find the right job when it’s the right time, and I’m already doing my best to make this time the right time. It’s tough out there for us writers and editors fresh out college, but we’ll find a way to make it work. We always do. Please note, however, that there are certain types of advice-givers that are exempt from this, and they are named Mom and Dad. Their advice is different than that of New York Times columnists and 20-somethings who work for their parents. It’s much more relevant because they know you better than anyone else, especially when it comes to how hard you’ve worked to get where you are today.

2. “You can’t be too comfortable and too confident [in your line of work].”
One day I will not be unemployed, and I’m sure that on that day I will feel a lot more comfortable with my financial situation, and a lot more confident in my work abilities. But hearing Beyonce, who is essentially a walking empire, say that you can’t be too comfortable and too confident was eye opening for me. Just because someone will one day want to hire me doesn’t mean I’m the most skilled in the field or guaranteed to have that job forever. If I were to become too comfortable or confident, I would most certainly lose sight of what was important, and what is important is to continue growing as a person and employee. We can always do better when it comes to our jobs, and its unsafe to think otherwise.

3. “You should be doing it just because you love it.”
I decided a long time ago that I didn’t need a job that would enable me to make millions. I realized that what’s important to me is happiness, love, relaxation, comfort and being satisfied with my life outside of the workplace. While money can certainly help with some of those aspects, it’s not necessary. This is why I’m happy with my life right now. Though I barely make enough to get by, I’m doing things that I love to do on a regular basis. For example, I don’t get paid to write for this website, nor do I get paid to write for Cat Tales, a non-profit newsletter for a non-profit, no-kill cat shelter in Escondido, California. But being able to write for these two outlets is so unbelievably satisfying that I put my heart and soul into the words I type, and talk about them incessantly to my friends and family. These two writing gigs are what make me feel like I’m doing something with my life, and it gives me hope that I will always be happy as long as I’m writing.

Watching Year of 4 while drinking coffee and taking notes on my server notepad was a really important moment for me. It revealed to me in the clearest of ways that writing is what I want to do, and a writer is what I am. But most of all, it showed me that even if I don’t get paid to do what I am most passionate about, every article, column and story that I write is still an accomplishment that I should be proud of.

The documentary also reassured me that it’s okay to be taking time off between working hard in college and working hard in an office. I used to feel guilty about not yet having a career job, but I now see that I earned this break and should be using this time to learn more about who I am outside of school and work. Trust me, I’m learning a lot.

Thank you, Mindy Kaling, for recommending this documentary on your blog. It forever changed my outlook on what it means to be successful, and what it takes to get there.

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The Simple Pleasures of the Unemployed

HelloGiggles
October 25, 2011

Once upon a time, I lived my life believing that after I graduated from college I would immediately begin a career in publishing or editing. Then, the Editor in Chief job I had lined up fell through at the last minute. Rather than starting my job hunt over immediately, I spent the day of my last final on my couch with my cats, drinking beer, crying and watching Ryan Gosling movies on Netflix. Some may call this a panic attack, but I call it what it feels like when reality sucker-punches you in the face.

But, whatever, right? Now I have all of the free time in the world to do whatever I want, whenever I want. But my options are very limited, seeing as how I barely make enough money as a part-time waitress to cover my rent and car payment. I am well-known by dollar menus everywhere, and I’m also known to haggle at thrift stores (embarrassing, but true). Though I am extremely close to reaching my credit card limit thanks to gas and groceries, I am somehow still holding my life together, and I believe it is because I have fully embraced the simple pleasures of being unemployed (as a full-time employee). Here they are, in no particular order:

1. Taking long showers at 2 a.m.: Back when I was a student with morning classes, there was nothing worse than having to wake up extra early to take a shower. I am notorious for taking showers that are no shorter than 20 minutes, whether or not I shave my legs. Now that I’m unemployed and classless, I can take showers whenever I want and for however long I want, and I choose to do so at 2 a.m., right before I’m ready to snuggle up with my pillows, cats and boyfriend and go to sleep. Recently, however, my roommate told me that if I want to take showers at 2 a.m., I should take them outside in the sprinklers. We’ll see how the next few weeks unfold.

2. Eating breakfast at 2 p.m.: I’ve never been able to eat breakfast before noon, so indulging in coffee, an English muffin and an avocado as soon as I wake up at 2 in the afternoon is absolutely wonderful. I suppose being unemployed and full is better than being employed and hungry, right? Sure, why not.

3. Watching entire seasons of shows in one sitting: Some might say that Netflix is turning my brain into mush, but I’m learning more than I ever thought I would about meth labs and high school football. Thanks to the immeasurable free time I’ve been given by the selfish gods of full-time employment, I am able to watch whatever’s on Netflix for hours and hours and hours. I started my summer binge with Friday Night Lights, and spent many an episode with Matt Saracen and Tim Riggins. The three of us had seven seasons worth of fun in about a month. It was incredible. And then I got into drugs, a la Breaking Bad, a show that has simultaneously made me vomit in my mouth and yell at my T.V. screen. Poor Jesse. He’s so loveable (and hot), yet so, so stupid. Now, on to Parenthood!

4. Being able to go dancing on weeknights: I have recently turned into a dance-a-holic. I dance in my car when I drive (unsafe), I dance in bars full of creepy guys (unsafe) and I dance when I’m eating delicious food (just plain embarrassing). I simply can’t help it – I love to express my joy through movement. Since hangovers can’t negatively influence my mornings anymore, I can go out dancing any night I want, free of consequence…kind of. Maybe I should take up Zumba.

5. Being able to spend hours on Pinterest: Pinterest.com is a website that my mom introduced me to. Users are able to create virtual pinboards (like bulletin boards) and “pin” things that they find online and are compelled to share with friends and strangers alike. Popular pins include DIY crafts, wedding dresses, hairstyles and adorable animals. My pinboards consist of things I’d like to have but can’t afford, like that Alexander McQueen clutch with the skull or the Jeffery Campbell platforms that all the models wear. In my opinion, it’s more satisfying than pretending to online shop because I look at pinning as a way to plan what I’ll buy when I get that real job I went to college for. My business attire is going to be INSANELY, well, insane.

6. I can still dream big, huge even: Since I’m not tied down by a career here in San Diego, I can daydream about spending the rest of my life writing novels in the mountains or becoming a local florist in a small town, or a columnist for a big-city newspaper, like Owen Wilson in Marley & Me, puppy included. I’ve recently started sketching jewelry designs even. My future is even more wide open than I thought it was when I started college. Who knew that not getting a job could be so inspirational?

7. Having the ability to communicate with friends via long Facebook letters: Phone tag sucks. It always has, it always will. But so does trying to find an adequate amount of time to respond to friends across the country, and in other countries at that. Thanks to Facebook and getting to go to “work” at 5:30 p.m., I am able to lounge in my bed (no office chairs or hovering bosses for me!) while writing long, detailed messages to the people I miss dearly. It’s ridiculously heartwarming and cozy.

8. Having clean clothes all of the time: Back when I was in school, my closet would be full of clothes, none of which were clean. I’d go through all of them (and that’s saying a lot) before I ever once had time to even think about doing laundry. Laundry became such a stressful, daunting task that it would actually make me angry, and because of this, newly clean clothes would never end up on hangers or in drawers. It was messy. But now, I do laundry once a week in small doses. Finally, I feel accomplished.

9. Having the option to go to the movie theater for 10 p.m. showings of new releases, particularly Ryan Gosling films: Because I don’t have to wake up at 6 a.m. to get ready for work at a downtown office, I get to catch a late-night movie with my younger sister whenever I want. Our most recent movie venture was the midnight showing of Paranormal Activity 3. It’s a good thing I’m unemployed because I wasn’t able to fall asleep until it was light outside.

10. Getting to spend as much time in thrift stores as I feel like: In my opinion, it’s pointless to go to thrift stores if you don’t have time to browse every rack and every shelf full of knick-knacks. The stress of missing out on a one-of-a-kind item that I could have purchased for $2 can easily ruin my day. Now that I have a full 12 hours to spend in such charitable shops, thrifting has become a relaxing release for both my bored mind and my wallet. You should see how much leopard-print clothing I have in my closet now. And my weird mug collection has completely taken over the second shelf of my kitchen cupboard. Seriously, my life is fabulous.

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Summer Guide

CityBeat
Contribution to the Summer Guide Feature (written in the style of "choose your own adventure")
May 2011

Firehouse – P.B.
You wake up to the sun forcing its way through the cracks in your blinds. It is finally summer, and you are finally ready to wake up before noon and bare your legs on a pleasant walk to Firehouse – it’s breakfast time. As you arrive, panting slightly, you notice the valet (duly noted for those less-than-hydrated hangover mornings). You choose to be seated on the second level and begin eagerly examining the menu. There’s something about pancakes that makes you feel like you’re on vacation, so you don’t hesitate to order Firehouse’s Hippy pancakes, which are literally covered in blueberries, bananas and toasted granola. You also intuitively order the black currant-infused iced tea – lounging on the rooftop patio while indulging in delicious food and staring at the glittering ocean will undoubtedly get a little heated. You take note of the impressive fire pit and cushioned patio furniture surrounding it. Maybe you’ll come back tonight – if it’s a Thursday you can take advantage of the $3 wells, drafts and bottled beers. After you’ve finished your meal and tipped generously, you:

1. Go Downtown
2. Go to North Park (to buy a swimsuit at Fables by Barrie)
3. Stay in P.B.

SD Coffee, Tea and Spice; Bub's Dive – staying in P.B.
After getting a wind chill while lying on the beach to let your food settle, you make your way to San Diego Coffee, Tea and Spice. You order the best chai latte San Diego has to offer and sip on it while you people watch. You come to the realization that old people have the coolest clothes, so you decide to make your way to the thrift stores on Garnet. After finding a few super-cool tees at Goodwill and some pants you can turn into cut-off shorts at the Cerebral Palsy Thrift Shop, you realize you’re starving. Bub’s Dive is the first place that comes to mind, so you swiftly make your way to the bar whose floor is covered in peanut shells. You feed many dollar bills to the digital jukebox behind the bouncer so as to prevent any annoying music from ruining your face-stuffing lunch hour. Gorillaz, White Stripes, The Black Keys, The Rolling Stones and “Move Bitch” by Ludacris make your cheese-covered Lunch Lady Tater Tots and saucy Russian Roulette Wings even more satisfying. You eventually find the one crazy-spicy wing, and, while soothing your tongue with a big glass of ice water, you notice CityBeat columnist Enrique Limón walk in. After raving to him about the adventurous wings you just ate, he tells you he needs a ride to a “spicy” place, but he can’t decide between Hillcrest or South Bay, so you:

1. Take Enrique to Hillcrest
2. Take Enrique to South Bay
3. Tell him to take a hike and instead stay in P.B. and go to Surf Indian

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Demo Reviews

CityBeat
February 2011

DOT
Handle Without Care
It’s hard to describe DOT, as they don’t fit one genre, a fact made evident by the switch from bluesy alternative rock to a Cake-like spoken rap-esque screamo…thing. I understand that DOT is actually trying to be experimental and be really loud and wild, but the band’s music needs a bit more definition in order for it to really flow. Such incongruence could be the result of the band’s hiatus and subsequent new lineup, but in order for their musical talent to be put to good use, they need to find their niche. Or maybe I just don’t get it. MS/dotdotdot

Foreign Film
EP
Foreign Film is the definition of sunny San Diego pop rock, as evidenced by comments on their iTunes page (“This album is great to ride your bike to!”). The three-man band’s first EP, released on Mannequin Vanity Records, is a fast-paced yet easy-going mix of what I describe as “bounce in the passenger seat-y” music for young folk. The songs sound like what would come about if Weezer, The Strokes, The Walkmen and Rooney formed a supergroup, Dead Weather style. listn.to/foreignfilm

Gaze Shoe
Sleeping Above 3rd Ave.
Sleeping Above 3rd Ave., a collection of droning electronica, is the product of Kyle Baudour, a multi-instrumentalist whose work is released by Hop Skip Jump records. The mystical, almost eerie, music is set to a constant background of drone and reverb. With this genre of sound comes the risk of completely letting oneself go, meditatively speaking. Baudour makes the taking of said risk an inevitable result of paying full attention to the art contained on this EP, which, from my experience, is a good thing. Gaze Shoe is a hit for people that like dramatic films with emotional instrumental soundtracks. gazeshoe.bandcamp.com

The Sixties
Songs of Our Love (& Hate)
If you’re a fan of boy/girl harmonies, you’ll appreciate The Sixties whole-heartedly. Their calm and honest lyrics are relatable and tell an interesting story of what sounds like a pretty destructive relationship. With songs titled “Drunk on a Wire” and “The Drugs Don’t Work,” and lyrics like, “Sure your love was great/ But you fucked it up,” The Sixties have joined a beloved realm of music that is embraced by both contemplative hipsters and drunk 20-something-year-olds alike. I recommend this band for fans of Tilly and The Wall and Best Coast. 3944.bandcamp.com/album/self-titled

Phen Swan
Hidden Vibrations
If you love Dntel and Panda Bear, you will certainly appreciate Phen Swan. A pleasant mix of both comparisons, Phen Swan samples interesting, everyday occurrences, like a crowd cheering at his cousin Andrew’s swim meet, and incorporates them into melodic loops electro-acoustically. Take one look at Swan’s tumblr (phenswan.tumblr.com) and you’ll understand how his brain creates such an intriguing array of sample combos, and you’ll enjoy listening to the album that much more. Each copy of Hidden Vibrations is personalized with an extra track and a unique drawing insert so that each listener can have their own personal experience. phenswan.bandcamp.com

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“Up In The Air” is Worthy of the Oscar Buzz It’s Generating

The Vista
Film Director Interview
December 10, 2009

Director Jason Reitman once said, “If you’re going to make a movie about a guy who fires people for a living and wants to live alone, he better be a darn charming actor.” Such reasoning is precisely why Reitman chose George Clooney to star in his latest film, Up in the Air, based loosely on the novel written by Walter Kirn.

Reitman, who directed both Juno and Thank You for Smoking, has produced, written and directed yet another unique film that is beyond genre; a film that is both serious and funny. Its main character, Ryan Bingham, is a provocative anti-hero, a character-type common in Reitman films. Ryan is a corporate downsizer who can pack his life into one wheel-away suitcase. He has no real home and no wife or kids to tie him down.

He travels from city to city via airplane to fire employees of companies that would rather not do the firing themselves. However, when efficiency expert Natalie Keener presents a budget-cutting idea that involves firing people over remote video conferencing, Ryan’s lifestyle of living on the road becomes threatened.

The plot of the film revolves around the idea that all of the things meant to bring us together, such as machine-mediated conversations, have driven us apart, which begs the question, how do we get back to lasting conversations that American communities had in the past? Thus, “the script grew into being about how imperative connections are in our daily lives,” Reitman said.

While the film’s underlying theme is somewhat thought provoking, it is greatly affected by the more tangible idea of job loss, an issue presently affecting most Americans. The news presents countless statistics to the public so often that the issue of unemployment has been dehumanized and has become nothing more than the background noise of family dinners and late-night web browsing.

Up in the Air puts real faces to the statistics we hear, literally. Rather than cast professional actors to play the roles of the employees being fired, Reitman and Co. visited Detroit and St. Louis, two cities hit the hardest by the economy’s downfall, to interview real people that had lost their jobs.

“We put an ad out in the paper saying we were making a documentary about job loss,” Reitman said. “For about 10 minutes we’d interview each person and ask them, ‘How did you lose your job? What is it like to be searching for work in this economy? How is it affecting your daily search for purpose?’ And, once they felt comfortable on camera, we’d say, ‘Now we’d like to fire you on camera. And we’d like you to say whatever you said the day you lost your job or, if you prefer, what you wish you had said.’ This would begin another 10-minute kind of improv scene where they would say all kinds of astonishing things that I’d never have thought to write… Detroit was particularly tough. In Detroit all the people kept saying, ‘I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.’”

Reitman discovered that it’s the feeling of a lack of purpose that hits people the hardest rather than the loss of income, and he does an impressive job of reflecting this concept in his film. After all, there is no need to state the obvious. Had he focused on the money aspect of job loss, the film would be nowhere near as effective as it is. It is the concept of purpose that once again re-focuses our attention on how the economy is affecting those around us.

Reitman talked about how if a 20-year-old loses their job it’s not that big of a deal. They can pick themselves right back up and find another position elsewhere. But if a 50-year-old just a few years away from retirement loses their job, they have been ripped away from the foundation of their lifestyle and basically have no idea where or how to start fresh. They did everything right; worked hard in college to get a degree, worked their way up from the bottom to get the position they had and provide for the family they started. Then, all of a sudden, they lose it all when a man hired to fire them does the dirty deed; a deed that the company they worked for was too meek to do themself.

If it weren’t for the film’s outstanding cast, the message it projects may not have reached as far as it already has. Starring in the film alongside George Clooney are the compelling Vera Farmiga, who plays Alex, and the unique Anna Kendrick, who plays Natalie. Both Alex and Natalie’s characters were non-existent in the original novel, but are pertinent to the development of Ryan Bingham’s character in the film. After meeting the eccentric and intelligent Alex in an elite airport lounge, Ryan begins to question his previous belief that relationships are a burden and begins to play the possible future-husband role in her life, while having Natalie accompany him on the road prompts him to play a father role in her life.

Aside from a deeply moving story, intelligent concepts and George Clooney, Up in the Air also has a beautiful soundtrack, including songs by Elliott Smith, Crosby, Stills & Nash and Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. Accompanying these famed names is the unknown musician Kevin Renick, a man who handed Reitman a cassette tape containing a song titled “Up in the Air,” a song he wrote about job loss after he was fired. The song occurs at the end of the credits and was almost considered for an Oscar nomination, but was disregarded once it was realized that the song did not fit within certain guidelines.

A film about job loss may seem like an odd film to release during the holiday season. But when you remember that Reitman, the same guy that directed the heart-warming “Juno” and the corporate satire “Thank You for Smoking,” also directed this film starring the ever-charming George Clooney, you’ll feel motivated to see one of the most talked about films of the season, not to mention a film that is getting Oscar nods left and right. Up in the Air will be in theaters on Dec. 23.

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TOBACCO: Put This in Your Pipe and Smoke It

The Vista
Musician Interview
March 18, 2010

Tom Fec, aka TOBACCO, is your new favorite musician, and I’ll tell you why. He can never have a bad singing voice, he’s comparable to greats such as Daft Punk and Ratatat and his music is a little psychedelic, a little hip hop/dubstep/whathaveyou and a lot badass; some might say it’s like nothing you’ve ever heard before (unless you’ve listened to his first solo album, F*cked Up Friends, or his side project, Black Moth Super Rainbow).

Fec comes across as a pretty stand up, creative guy. He claims that he tries to make simple, catchy songs that are pop-esque, but when you listen to his albums, they are nowhere near the type of pop music you’ve grown accustomed to. Simple and catchy yes, but Britney status? Never.

“It’s just what I want to hear at the time,” Fec said when explaining what his music means to him. “It gets harder and harder to impress myself with the stuff that I do.”

And that is understandable. When the only live instruments are synths and drums, and the rest of the sounds are voice distortion and samples, some musicians would probably get stuck in a rut. But not Fec. Fec’s newest album, Maniac Meat, to be released on Anticon Records May 25, is quite impressive. Featuring the vocals of Beck on two of the tracks and providing listeners with some pretty intriguing lyrics and moods, the album is what I would consider a workout pumper-upper, a pre-party makeup putter-onner, a driving to school on a Tuesday ready-for-business attitude adjuster or just a simple passing the time thought-provoker/thought-allower. Notice I didn’t say a crazy soundtrack for your trip, a descriptor commonly used for his side project, Black Moth Super Rainbow’s music. This is very different.

Speaking of that side project, which consists of more than one member, Fec has said in the past that he prefers working alone as opposed to collaborating with others. So why does he collaborate? “Sometimes I get in a funk and it’s good to hear what someone else can add. I feel like I started of on this weird mission to prove something to myself, and I think overall I really prefer working alone. But every once in a while you just wanna hear what someone else can do, and that can send you on a new path.” As far as the new album and working with Beck goes, “I was imagining his voice on it and that changed the way I was writing it, and then it turned out that months later I was able to actually do that and I think it was for the better.”

And what an amazing result that had. Beck’s signature voice can be heard on “Fresh Hex” and “Grape Aerosmith,” two of the many standout tracks on Maniac Meat. Others include the opener, “Constellation Dirtbike Head,” which boasts the lyric “Don’t eat the berries around you” (which I really like for some reason), “Mexican Icecream,” which brings to mind a dirtier Daft Punk and the summer season with lyrics like “You are my favorite day/ I’ll bring the sun to you” repeated over and over, “Sweatmother,” which has a ‘90s hip hop feel until Fec’s distorted vocals kick in and the overall tone becomes much darker, and “Overheater,” which is just pleasantly cool.

That’s not to say the other tracks are mediocre. They are just a little more violent, so to speak. For example, “Unholy Demon Rhythms,” which is a song one might hear when traveling between the different circles of hell in Dante’s Inferno, and also “Heavy Makeup,” the longest track on the album, whose lyrics consist mainly of “You got sick from a lolli lolli lollipop/ You feel free when you’re killing me.” This track brought to mind the film Hostel. Enough said.

I’d recommend this album if you’re a fan of Ratatat but think it can be a little weak, and if you’re a fan of Daft Punk but want something that makes you nod your head rather than dance your ass off. TOBACCO never gets boring and sounds new with every listen. Want to experience this mind-blowing music live? Get yourself to the Casbah on Wednesday May 24 (that’s next week) to see TOBACCO, The Hood Internet and Nice Nice. According to Fec, “It’s more like a DJ set, but it’s a little more than that. We’re developing this one character to kind of play along with the set. It’s mostly visual projection behind us, but I’m gonna have this other person…I don’t wanna say for sure what he’s gonna do but it’s gonna be fun.”

Aren’t you glad your only class Thursday is at 2:30 in the afternoon? I am.

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There's a First Time for Everything

The Vista
Column
February 17, 2011

Last April, my roommates and I decided to defiantly ignore our budgets and put a deposit down on a two-bed, two-bath, two-story apartment one block away from the beach. Though I was hesitant about signing a lease that required us to split the $1,795 rent only three ways, my roommates are boys, and their active, beach-going ways were hard for them to deny.

So we moved down to an area with more parking, and into a place with a backyard that had an outdoor shower. The three of us had big plans to surf, lay out, go running and cook in our own kitchen on a regular basis. But big plans are hard to commit to, and we did all four of those things extremely rarely (as in maybe two or three times each in one year).

I’ve since considered myself to be quite lazy, or overly busy with too many responsibilities that are separate from my home life and well being. I tell myself that I never have the time to cook because I never have the time to grocery shop, or that I never have the time to go to the beach because I have class until four and I’ll get home around 4:30 p.m., at which point I would only be able to sit in the sand for about 10 minutes, since it starts to get dark and cool down around 5 p.m. or so.

My favorite excuse is the one I make when I should exercise. I justify my lack of activity by explaining to myself that I’m so worn out from thinking and from doing too much work, which makes it okay for me to sit in my bed and play Words With Friends until I get sleepy and put on a Netflix movie to relax my brain before I settle in for six hours of effed up dreams.

But I’m beginning to learn that these excuses are stupid. The other day it was absolutely gorgeous outside. My class got out half an hour early, I had a delicious sandwich at La Paloma and realized that it was hot enough outside to go to the beach. The day got even better when my boyfriend called me to say he got off work early, so we decided to go to the beach when I got home.

As soon as I walked into my house I had that urge to just put on my pajamas and take a nap with the fan on, but my boyfriend and I somehow resisted. I put on my bikini, he waxed his surfboard and we started our five-minute trek to the beach.

Between the time I left campus and the time I got to my house, the temperature had dropped about 15 degrees and I was covered in goose bumps. My boyfriend sighed that the waves were “gonna be shitty” as we neared the boardwalk, and he was right. But we stuck to our guns and walked down the wooden stairway to the sand.

The wind picked up as soon as we chose our spot, and it was nearly impossible to lay our towels down, but we managed, and we talked about things important to us for about 45 minutes until the wind and the cold became too much and we needed to go home and be warm. We were so happy and refreshed that we let our indoor cats roam through our tiny backyard, until they started to eat grass and spiders, at which point we lured them back in with catnip.

I haven’t had another free moment since that day, but I understand that I can if I decide to, especially if I put my bikini on before I convince myself otherwise (kind of like ripping off a Band-Aid). I look forward to the next day that I can lay down and let the wind pass over me in waves while I contemplate my future as a college graduate that has two cats, no money and, as of press time, no job.