Kristi Wachter's List of Cool People

This is a list of PIAPIL (People I Admire, People I Like). (Some people have a problem with the word "hero", so I'll refrain from using it here.) These are people I'm fond of, for one reason or another. Some of them are people I've never met. All of them have done something I think is extremely cool.

They are listed in no particular order.


Writing

Jon Carroll
Jon Carroll is my all-time favorite newspaper columnist. He's funny, wise, endlessly fascinating, and just generally cool. His daily (weekdays, at least) column is easily the best thing about the San Francisco Chronicle.
Ursula K. LeGuin
Along with Tom Robbins, my favorite fiction writer. Her work is often categorized as science fiction, but I tend to think of her as a fiction anthropologist - she invents peoples, and then studies them. Her work is full of strength and right. I am especially fond of two of her books I've read quite recently, Tehanu and Four Ways to Forgiveness.
Tom Robbins
I think the world of Tom Robbins - of his writing, primarily, but also of his persona. I like his worldview, his gentle insistence on joy, his celebration of sex, his completely goofy, thoroughly American magical realism, and just about everything else about him. I'm not sure which of his books I like best, but Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and Jitterbug Perfume are right up there. (More info can be found in the Tom Robbins newsgroup, alt.fan.tom-robbins.)
Kay Ryan
My favorite poet. She writes surprising, often funny, splendidly sonorous poetry (you can read " This Life," " Emptiness," "Among English Verbs," and " Gravity" on the web) . Elephant Rocks is the only one of her books that's fairly easy to find; there are a few earlier works as well. There are very few poets whose work I really, deeply like; Kay is one of them.
Zilpha Keatley Snyder
My very favorite children's author. I was constantly reading her books as I was growing up. The Changeling remains one of my favorite books.
Barbara Walker
Barbara Walker has written a number of books about paganism and Goddess-centered religions. I enjoyed her novel, Amazon, but I particularly love her reference works, all of which are well-researched and documented. She is one of the most thoughtful and reasoned writers on feminist and pagan issues that it has ever been my pleasure to read. I return again and again to her encyclopedias, particularly when I'm planning a pagan holiday ritual.

Music

Todd Rundgren
I've been a fan of Todd's ever since a boyfriend turned me on to his music in the early 80's. I like his stuff with Utopia and his solo work, but I think Second Wind is one of my very favorite albums ever. It's incredibly inspiring without getting preachy or sappy. It's beautifully done, beautifully written, beautifully performed. I'm also impressed by Todd's willingness to take risks and try new ideas - not to mention his enthusiastic habit of diving headfirst into new technologies.
Ani DiFranco
Ani's indie label, Righteous Babe, has the coolest name in the business. She's been making incredible music for something like 10 or 15 years. She's put out several albums of her own work on Righteous Babe, and has managed to achieve the kind of success that has the majors fervently courting her - and that lets her turn them down, well aware that they can't offer her anything she can't do herself. Her music obviously resonates with a lot of people, myself included; until I heard her album Dilate, I didn't think anyone could write my life better than I could. Wow.
Dave Morey
Dave has been a DJ on KFOG since the station went on the air. He does a wonderful show, "Ten at Ten," every weekday at 10 am (it's rebroadcast at 10 pm). It's much more than just an oldies show: he incorporates carefully selected sound bites, from newscasts to commercials to TV themes, to really bring a particular year alive. I've learned a tremendous amount of history from "Ten at Ten," and I'm constantly delighted and inspired by Dave's dedication to that rare thing, well-crafted radio.
all the musicians on my label
I am genuinely, repeatedly, floored by the artists on my little indie label. They are smart, thoughtful, funny, professional, hard-working, and dedicated to their art. I carry their tapes around with me in my car; I listen to their CDs while I'm working. I keep hearing things I didn't hear before, little nuances that remind me what extraordinary musicians they are and how careful they are with the little miracles they work.

Some of them are also entirely too good-looking.


Independent Filmmakers

Michael Moore
Most of us know Michael through his ground-breaking-award-winning documentary Roger and Me, in which he doggedly pursued the chairman of General Motors to find out why the company was laying off thousands of workers (and devastating Mike's hometown of Flint, Michigan in the process) at a time when GM was making record profits. He later did a shockingly funny series called Alternative Nation, in which he did many pointedly outrageous things to show up hypocrisy and stupidity, both political and commercial, in as many of its forms as he could manage before the show got cancelled. (I believe Comedy Central will be showing all of the Alternative Nation shows later in 1996 or 1997.) Most recently (as of this writing), he's published a book called Downsize This. When I read it, I laughed out loud and thought a lot, sometimes simultaneously. I like Mike.
all the rest of them
Running an independent record label, I know how hard it is to find money to produce art - and to distribute art. Indie filmmakers do lots of the same things I do, only against tougher odds, on projects that require far bigger commitments of time and cash. When I saw Troublesome Creek at the San Francisco Film Festival in 1996, I was reminded of a Don Henley song called "A Month of Sundays." The film is about the farm crisis in America and one particular family's unique and moving strategy for hanging on to their family farm; the Henley song also deals with the farm crisis and the changing times. One line in the song goes "Now it all comes down to numbers/Now I'm glad that I have quit/Folks these days just don't do nothin'/Simply for the love of it." Indie filmmakers do, indeed, do something for the love of it, and their commitment and daring are an unflickering source of inspiration to me.

 


Activists

Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi has been a tireless activist for democracy and human rights in Myanmar (Burma). When she won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, she was still being detained by that country's repressive government. She believes in reconciliation and non-violence and practices these principles in her struggle for human rights.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
His insistence on loving your enemies and striving for justice without succumbing to hatred are a tremendous inspiration for me. Reading his Letter from the Birmingham jail and his sermon on loving your enemies provoked me to write a letter about his ideas to a Scientologist who was regularly picketing my home.
Scientology critics
People who speak out against Scientology's history of unethical and illegal behavior have usually found themselves subjected to all kinds of harassment, from spurious lawsuits to being framed for criminal acts to having their children followed. In the face of this harassment, it takes tremendous courage to stand up and speak the truth. I have been honored to meet people like Keith Henson, Grady Ward, Stacy Brooks, Bob Minton, Jeff Jacobsen, Bruce Pettycrew, Ted Mayett, and others who continue to speak out.
Julia Butterfly Hill
Julia has been sitting in a big, beautiful, ancient redwood tree since December 10, 1997,  in an effort to save the tree and to reduce logging of old-growth forests. She expresses respect and love in her letters to executives at Pacific Lumber Company. You can too.
 
 

Ice Cream Activism

Ben & Jerry's
Making really good ice cream is probably reason enough for me to really admire these guys, but I'm most impressed by their interest in making the world a better place, and doing it through capitalism. I was a big fan of their Peace Pops (still am, but I don't see them around much anymore). Their support of 1 Percent for Peace get me involved in that organization, and I'm hugely impressed by their efforts for their current project, the Children's Defense Fund. As if that weren't enough, Jerry is also a terrific hugger.

There are many, many more people I admire, particularly people in my everyday life. More names will appear here later. 

 


And, of course, there are lots of great people involved in important work at a variety of terrific non-profits. Here are some of my favorites: 

 


Do something good today.