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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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," "
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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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 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
- all the musicians on my
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.
- 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
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.
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
- Martin Luther
- 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
- Julia Butterfly
- 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 &
- 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.