Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I Clearly Needed A New Obsession

I can be a bit obsessive.

Like the time I had to drink nothing but Crystal Pepsi for a few weeks (and, in tandem, came the magical journeys into Bennington, VT, with Barbie to find it). Then I had to smoke Camel Wides. Then I had to play Addams Family pinball obsessively. Then it was Pin Bot. Then I had to buy everything 4AD Records ever released (well, almost). Then I sat on my knees on the dusty carpet in Amoeba Records and bought tons of movies that I honestly think were never seen by more than 2 other people. Then I went to the beach nearly every weekend this summer. OK, so I have some problems.

I often think of my particular musical obsessions, especially since I no longer work at a magazine and therefore have a hard time justifying spending my time surfing online looking for obscure bands who have upcoming album releases.

But I have so few musical heroes, really. That surfing was me always looking for an album that would give me a chill. I've found a few here and there: The Glee Club, The Places, Corrina Repp--all artists I am sure you have heard about, right? Almost all of them seem to be women who have failed to conform to some kind of model of what the music business wanted them to be. I am sure I could draw the typical correlation between me being a big homo and how my living "outside societal conventions" makes me feel like the long lost brother to these women. Or whatever.

But the older I get, the more I realize that in general I have a hard time being a good, predictable consumer--and therefore am very much ill at ease with marketing and advertising. Don't get me wrong: I will happily buy an iPod or a pair of New Balance shoes, but I can barely handle watching car commercials, let alone "Extra" or "Entertainment Tonight" or pro sports. There's just no pretending anymore. We're supposed to entertained by Paris Hilton and Evanesence and Carrie Underwood and want to buy people diamonds because we're in love and houses and fat cars and fatter clothes and cute dresses at trendy boutiques--i.e., those Daily Candy.com will write about next month--and slim ties because now they're back.

Music, for me, is particularly prickly. It always seems like a total accident when a smash hit--like Rihanna's "Umbrella"--is something I, too, like. But mostly I just know way too much about the music labels in this town and what it means to be popular. And it doesn't seem to be getting much better. Granted, I am 34 and it's not 1985 anymore. I am much more jaded. But I am also much more aware that there is a ton of music out there that I need to find. Music that will move me. Music that still has the ability to give me a chill.

I was sharply reminded of that tonight, reading something written by Kristin Hersh, who is something of a mini hero to me (mostly because I am amazed by her guitar playing and can't figure out how a mother of four has made something like 20 records in 22 years). Her voice is a "love her or hate her" proposition, I know--something often said about some other women with particularly strong voices, such as Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney... go figure, since Kurt Cobain and Black Francis got away with it.

Anyway, the point of this is that Kristin Hersh can essentially not make any money in the record business model. A woman who should be considered a trailblazer (no one would hate Corin Tucker's voice if they hadn't hated Kristin's first) basically is nearly broke after working for 20 years. Her last CD from early '07 just didn't even blip on the radar and she nearly lost all of her money on tour.

So what does she do? Well, she begins recording music, offering it online (as she's done for years), and sets up a model to basically act as an organic farmer of music-- homegrown, sent directly to the consumer, even going so far as to say you can be named an executive producer of her new CD if you front the money (like many in the business anyway). And yet none of it seems gross. In fact, it seems like all the bones of the music-making process are now laid bare. She even has her Pro Tools stems up online to let people totally remix and re-record the song.

If she was a shitty musician, it would feel embarrassing somehow. But it's simply not. And as much as I like collecting physical albums (yes, vinyl) and CDs, this feels like it's the way it has to be. If you love your music and someone says "Here, you can have this" for a small fee and there's not Warner Bros., no Interscope, no Universal shoving it down your throat, what do you do?

You obsess over it, of course...which is what I've been doing with this:
Krisitn Hersh: Slippershell

And for the record:

The Glee Club

The Places

Corrina Repp

Monday, November 12, 2007

Aloha! Days 7 and 8

So, this picture is actually from the day before this begins, but I forgot it on the last post, so you'll just have to deal with it. Besides, the last day of the trip is really just about me sitting in the airport on Maui wanting to cry and not really about the trip. I realize, however, in looking at this image of Ryan and I, that I have never in my life spent so much time with my shirt off.

The days after our Road to Hana adventure, I was fairly adamant about not really doing much of anything. We did some driving to nearby places like the Up Country to do some shopping in a cute little town...which is where we were warned about speeding:

Ryan kept making Star Wars noises to imitate the PT Cruiser being blasted with laser beams that would keep us in check, should we stray over 50 mph.

Iao Valley was beautiful as well, though slightly overrun with people. Still, you can tell just from this picture that Ryan snapped of the clouds, that there's a reason why it's revered as a holy place:

We started one day with wandering on the lava fields south of Wailea to see where the road ends, as you cannot drive around all of Maui without 4-wheel drive. While tromping around on the lava we did catch sight of some curious signs:

At first I had no idea if this referenced just the lava itself....

I soon learned, however, that the Hawaiians did indeed build on these fields of sharp, sun-baked rock. Amid the strewn about black lava that made this look like a moonscape on a tropical island were remnants of shelters or some other kind of utilitarian structures that had not quite made it to protected status. Hence... the sign, obviosuly.

But I was fairly entrenched in not doing too much more than lazing about on the beach. To that end, Ryan was very accommodating--which was awfully sweet of him, considering he kind of knew the whole area well already. By far the best beach(es), in my mind were Big Beach and Little Beach. They have other names, but it doesn't matter much. After all, Big Beach looks like this:

Can you blame me for just wanting to park my ass on the sand and stay there? Little Beach was actually better for body surfing; Big Beach had insanely large waves breaking right on shore--the kind that kill you. A rock separates the two beaches, so you climb up and over it to to dscend from BB to LB. Little Beach is also the nude beach, which, of course, was not overflowing with beautiful bodies. I mean, it was hardly shocking to see Europeans and hippies and body surfing. What was fascinating to me is that there were strata of people who maybe would have never interacted other than on this strip of sand in this cove on this island in this tiny part of the world.

And there were plenty of locals--even plenty of kids on boogie boards and families surfing. I didn't strip down at first, as I just wasn't sure I wanted to. But after 10-15 minutes, you realize NO ONE cares and then I tossed my trunks on to the towel and we headed into the warm water. There's something really wonderful about being naked in warm sea water. I can't really pin it down, but it was just perfect... and I wasn't afraid of jellyfish this time around.

Our last evening, I asked Ryan to show me a pretty locals beach that was near all the resorts--one that was kind of tucked in between all the Wailea compounds (after all, in Hawaii, no one owns the beach; the resorts have to allow public access). We curved our way into a tiny parking lot and went down some stairs and emerged on to a nice beach, dotted with rocky patches. Near us, groups of resort goers were lounging and waiting for the sun to set. A table was set on the beach where someone would be having dinner....and we just surfed the small waves that came gliding into shore, watching the sun sink lower and lower. After playing around in the tidepools a bit we began walking back to the car, reluctant to leave since it would mean we were officially done--that we'd have to head back to L.A. too soon.

Of course, first we had to snap pictures of each other with the beautiful sky behind us.... Ryan liking the spontaneous "Hey, look here" picture, while I went for the more traditional "act like a deer in headlights" request:

But then we just sat there and watched the sky turn oranger, redder, more and more beautiful. I didn't want to make a move to have to go drive, to eat, to have to pack up shells, sea glass, and rocks. I wanted--as I always do when I am somewhere beautiful--to just stare as long as possible in the hopes that the images would just burn into my brain, stored somewhere, perfectly recollected when I needed them to be.

Nothing works quite that easily, I know. But what helped in watching this last sunset on Maui was knowing that I was lucky enought to get to do something I'd always wanted to do--and share it with someone I wanted by my side the entire time.