The Ecology of Mean Creek

I’ve seen Mean Creek before, but we haven’t met. Skype is not a form of human contact, which was how I was unofficially introduced to them during the process of creating a publicity piece. Essentially, their manager was letting me play grown up and threw me a bone. So one evening I sat up late, hid all the embarrassing objects in my immediate vicinity, and asked them trite little questions via webcam.

I was fairly sure they hated me, or they at least hated this. They feigned patience while swigging beers and oozing the urge to be creating songs, not wasting their time talking to some random girl.  It was unnatural to say the least. I had put them in a situation where they were far removed from themselves, and it was palpable. Essentially, this was entirely awkward for everyone. That’s why I was honestly surprised when they extended the offer to allow me to attend a show in Boston.

Since I function almost entirely on curiosity, I wanted to find out how these creatures behave in their natural environment.  So on December 9th, I found myself sweet talking a Boston cabby to get me to a show that had already started. At least 20 minutes late, I bolted up a flight of stairs at the back of the House of Blues, and ran straight out to Mean Creek’s fully functioning set.

Even with my misplaced timing, everything worked out perfectly because, well, they perform perfectly. First of all, they sounded great. Seriously, this isn’t someone’s basement show, this is the House of Blues, of course they’re going to sound amazing. That’s not completely what I mean, though. I’ve listened to plenty of Mean Creek, at home, on my exhausted computer. I’ve heard their songs before, and even enjoyed them. But seeing the songs in this setting was an entirely new experience.

I’ve become adjusted to watching bands feel compelled to climb over each other on stage. There’s generally a lot of grabbing, shoving, and invasions of personal space. On the other hand, the bands I’ve seen who don’t take this tactic can come off as disconnected, like the show is somehow interrupting better plans. However, that’s not Mean Creek.

The members of Mean Creek have been friends for years. I’m aware of this. Which is why I was so struck by the idea and the visualization that they are not entangled with each other. That seems almost impossible at this point in their music. Each member was playing their own show that night. It just so happened that they naturally all arrived at the same show.

Aurore seemed to be on a personal journey (that included almost wandering off stage completely). But I fell in love while watching her push on to her toes to sing into the mic, like those 3 extra inches were just what she needed to give to make it complete. Listening to her scream is exactly what I imagine it sounds like if you shot Crysta from “Fern Gully.” (I mean that in the best way possible. It’s a hot scream.)

On the other hand, Erik toed his own line, and declared a space that existed solely for himself and his instrument. If Mikey looked up from the drums, I didn’t see it, but he didn’t seem particularly lonely there. They both possessed a solitary focus that was not to be disturbed. This left Chris as the only direct connection to the outside world. A boundary he crossed as infrequently as possible, before stepping back into his vocals.

There was a comfort in their movement on stage that I was relieved to see. They naturally exist alongside their creations. Separate individuals who are perfectly united when they all make music. As though, if you removed any member from the stage, the others wouldn’t notice. You could be down to just one member left and you’d still be watching a damn good Mean Creek show.

I don’t care what the crowd was doing, and I don’t think the band noticed much either. They were there to create music, and that was the only focus, which in itself, is the heart of any show worth watching.  There’s an ease that arrives with good music being played by those that created it from an innate space, as opposed to penning show-stoppers to sell to crowds. It’s an invitation to be welcomed into a natural environment otherwise reserved for Mean Creek alone.

***

Now let’s play a game called Find Mean Creek.

http://meancreek.bandcamp.com

http://meancreek.tumblr.com

I get down with social media.

Oh hey there, blog. How have you been? Me? I’ve been good. Ate an entire Tofurkey on Thanksgiving. I’m not proud of that.

So, blog, I’ve come to a decision. I’ve decided to start sleeping around with Social Media. I really think it’s going to add value to my life. The Internet digs easy chicks.

I have a bright red Moleskin notebook. I carry it with me everywhere in my oddly oversized purse. Over the past few months, it has turned into my metaphorical little black note book of social programs I’d like to get into bed with. Like the plot of an awful rom-com, I’ve decided to tease up my hair, and start flirting with all of them.

First on the list, Google+. Let’s be real, this is like the cocky frat boy of social networking. He looks damn fine. His parents are loaded, and he has a great pedigree. Everyone keeps talking about how great he is, and I want to know what the fuss is all about. So I’m going for it.

Starting a Google+ account was easy, of course. Bat your eyelashes and you’re in. One of the first thing he’ll inform you of is that you’re going to need at least 10 friends to be awesome. Okay, well, I made it to 8 right off the bat, so I’m just slightly sub-awesome. I quickly upped my ranking by grabbing random publicity gurus and shoving them into my circles. I filled in a bit of my info (I can’t get too personal with you just yet, Google+) and was officially messing around.

First thought, where the hell is everyone? I expected a flood of my contacts to greet me, smiling as I entered this fabled house party. This looks a lot like another program. Can’t think of it’s name, something about a novel and a face? In a fit of laziness, I only uploaded one photo. The few contacts I do have in my “Friends” circle seemed to have suffered the same fate. In an effort to enhance this experience, I started digging around to find companies/music/random stuff I like. Does anyone else have a tough time finding brands on Google+? Generally, the ones I did find were pulled up from a post of someone else who tagged them. Are they just not at the party yet?

I’ve read in a few places that the big sellers of Google+ are the Circles and the Hangouts. Circles are nice. It’s easy to understand, and I like the theory that I could potential post drunken rants and only the people who love me on a personal level could access them. I hear Facebook has the ability to do that as well, but honestly, Facebook and I have been sleeping together for so long that we never vary it up. Okay, the Circles are nifty. I also feel confident circling up with more and more speakers and PR peeps, as I can label them as professionals, and avoid feeling like a stalker attempting to, “friend,” them. On the other hand, Hangouts freak me out.

Hangouts consist of turning on my webcam and setting up a chat with friends in my Circles. Yeah. No. I use Social Media in my house, alone, in sweatpants. Webcams are brutal. There is no gentle lighting. I’m not going to put my face on. I could see a professional use for it, but chances are if my friends and I don’t Skype chat already, we’re not going to start hanging out on Google+. Sorry. I’ll sleep with you, but I’m not getting on camera.

I’m left a little wanting after my first tryst with Google+. It feels like my friends on there all gave it a shot, and then wandered off. It’s not really a”social” experience for me at the moment. It does seem to have a vibe going with the professional community. Well, the ones I could find seem to love posting there. But I’m a champ. I can fall off a bike once, and I’ll climb right back on, so Google+ and I are not done yet.

If you’re curious about what Google+ is like in the sack, this handy guide comes in useful.

Also, I just saw this commercial today. Instead of getting all fuzzy inside, it made me laugh. First of all, no one makes it from, “Creeper,” to, “Keeper.” Once a creep, always a creep. It just seemed like a pitch for Google+ as fabulous tool for stalking. Which is something I’m already adept at.

Now, this isn’t the end of my Social Media loving this week. While I was busy putting on my best airs with Google+, another program snuck up and took my breath away. It’s like being at the party, and realizing that the cute drummer with tons of tattoos and smoldering eyes is staring at you from the corner. Ooooh, tingles. And that cute drummer’s name is Foodspotting.Com. 

Foodspotting takes a love of mine (eating) to a whole new level. Fed by the users, the program is a location based collection of the best food in your area. Snap a picture of a delicious nom-nom. Post it. Include the restaurant and what you’re eating. Now food porn addicts like me can drool over it, comment on it, “Want it,” or, “Nom it” (if you’ve had it before). I also fully endorse anything that uses the word nom. I can’t get off the site.  Anything that lets me track dark chocolate, sushi, and beer knows the way to my heart. I’ve been scoping out food in Montreal, and compiling a want list of dishes to try on my visit there later this month.

Foodspotting.Com is good. Please, everyone join so I can stare at your food.

Results of this week’s conquests? Sleeping with Google+ was like most first times. Things are awkward. You don’t know how much eye contact to make. You avoid them for a few days after.

Foodspotting.Com knew just what I wanted. That was the passionate coat room make out of social experiences, and I’m so going to call him like 8 times a day.

Potentially, this was all a lesson in the success of niche social programs, but I’m too relaxed to care.

Day Thirty: Oh thank god.

Well, that was a learning experience.

I’m thrilled it’s day 30. That means I accomplished…something. I’m not sure what yet. I’m shocked I made it all the way through. On day 3, I was baffled as to how I was going to have 27 more ideas for blog entries. Somehow, each day a random idea would get me going.

I’ll be the first to admit that there are a lot of duds in here. Some days where I felt like  was going to have to slam my hand in a door to jar my brain into working. Days I bargained with myself that I had to create ANYTHING, it didn’t need to be good, I just couldn’t bail on myself. On the other hand, there were days I couldn’t even eat until I had written, because I had something that needed to be said. There were even days I found myself mildly amusing. And there were the few times I dropped the social media and Public Relations angles and just wrote as my surprisingly personal self. (Sorry for getting all emo on you guys there.)

This little project was a catalyst for me. It reminded me just how much I love to be opinionated. It helped me to remember how I can waste hours reading and writing without ever feeling a minute pass. It pushed me out of my life lull and caused some pretty huge changes. I got the hell out of my own way and decided life was too short for editing.

Thank god for that. I’m officially terrified of the future. I’m pretty sure I just jumped out of a perfectly good airplane, and didn’t bother to bring a parachute. But it’s the adrenaline that’s going to make me survive. I know myself well enough to know that I will rest if there is safety in sight. Resting is no longer good enough, so I’ve created a big helping of danger.

Another lesson learned is that I would much rather put out a well-researched opinion, rather than a short sighted rant. That takes a bit of time. So, this little blog is going to take a short hiatus. I need a second to gather my thoughts, maybe solve the meaning of life, and feed the dog. Then I’ll be ready to brain-dump with the best of them.

Day Twenty-Nine: Press play

My life is a playlist.

I think everyone’s life is a playlist. I just tend to be more vocal about it. There are moments, at least three times a day, where I have an immediate, and necessary need to play certain songs. I become hell bent on finding the needed song, and every other project around me comes to a halt. It’s a big part of the reason I become uncomfortable in office jobs. I’m unable to vary whatever play list is piped through the walls.

I am one of those girls. The ones that have the ability to morph any song to apply to their life. Or find themselves in any lyric. I’ve traced my history in music.

The Killers helped me through a break up. Rupa and the April Fishes took me home from the hospital after watching a loved one die. My Chemical Romance announced my arrival in Boston and my first stumbling step as an adult. And Blink-182, well, they held me together during high school nights.

Sometimes I get a little embarrassed when others look through my iPod or playlists. My musical tastes run the gammut. I have no discernible limits. I can’t make you understand that Britney Spears is essential to writing term papers, or that I can’t do the dishes without Gorillaz. The Decemberists can either ruin or make my day, depending on which one I need them to do.

I don’t know what good music is. I know what my music is. I know how to start a dance party in a shop in SOHO. I can manipulate the jukebox in a dive bar to make a hipster smile. Most importantly, I know how self-sooth my own ragged edges. Some girls can’t face the day without that extra hour to finish their hair and make up. I can’t drive to work unless I’ve brought the right notes into my head that I can hum all day.

I don’t need anyone else to like this playlist. I just need to keep living moments that require musical accompaniment.

Day Twenty-Eight: Works of art

I don’t believe that there is a possible complete separation between life and writing. I personally can’t sit down to a task such as this and not bleed a little on the page. Usually, I try to go back and clean it the best I can, but the faint stain is always present.

I’ve often discussed the hypersensitivity of the lives we lead online. I’ve compared social media to high school, with the same aches and growing pains. However, I do prefer the tactile world to the digital one. I prefer a raw experience over a distilled version any day. Good or bad.

I came across a phrase today that struck me. It came from a source discussing best business practices in social media forums. But it connects so stunningly to the raw world that I had to carry with me.

We are curators.

Simple enough. In a digital sense, we collect and display the media, links, photos, music, and videos we want to share. We have our galleries and we invite others in. We are the curators of our lives as well. Every one of us.

I think of the haphazard gallery that I’ve compiled. The little broken oddities that I still choose to put a spotlight on. The corners that I’ve left curiously empty, and the places where it seems I started an installation, but wandered off before completion. It’s easy to get lost in here, and there are days where I make a wrong turn and wind up somewhere I did not plan to be.

We are all curators. There is another gallery not far from mine. We both laid the foundations with the same stones. We built the walls with the same plans. But while I was putting in windows, he was installing locks. When I asked for others to view my works, he shut off all the lights. I’m fairly sure he plans on burning his gallery down.

I find a strange peace in the idea of curators. Collectors and gallerinas. We can’t decide who puts what art on what wall. We can mourn the darkness of what would be a spectacular opening.

There are a lot of stains on this entry. But that’s the glory of the digital social life. It requires you to have a real life as well.

Day Twenty-Seven: Mornings are hard.

This morning, as with every morning, I was laying on my yoga mat at 5:30 AM. Not by choice. A frustrating back injury has me doing an hour of physical therapy every day. To distract myself from the brain numbing exhaustion I feel at that hour, I turn on the local news. Three days this week, the main story has been about a water main breaking. Riveting stuff.

Maybe I was just feeling a little more sullen than usual, but one story got me all up in arms. As I’ve mentioned before, we had a rager of a storm here in CT. Many, and I mean MANY, were without power for a ridiculous period of time. The story I saw was a nice little number about how Comcast was providing their customers with refunds for the time they spent without cable this month.

But this video segment REEKED of an inside job. It included grateful customers all so happy with their refunds! Why, it even showed customers calling up the company (on speaker phone), to learn about the exciting, exciting refund. They gave post-refund interviews in front of a calming blue backdrop. One woman happily explained that her refund would take place in intervals disbursed over the course of the next year of service! Refunds for everyone!

Wait, what? Not a single one of these people felt genuine to me. Very clearly, Comcast had the idea of allowing refunds for their power-outtage effected customers. That’s great. They decided to share the news. That’s great too, but couldn’t they find a tactic that didn’t involve basically vomiting happiness on the viewers? Comcast has a significant social media presence. I’m confident that by sharing the information online, in their already established circles of customers, the customers would have done this job for them. A happy customer breeds more customers. I know that if a company handed me back money without sending me into a panic attack, I’d tell everyone who listens.

I get aggravated (especially at 5:30 AM) when these big companies just don’t get it. Social media success, and in extension, Public Relations success, is in-depth, but decidedly simple. Just be real. You’re doing a good thing. Don’t slap me upside the face with it, because now I’m wary of you. Check out this lovely blog entry about BuyFansToday. Yes, it’s a company that will sell you Facebook and Twitter fans.

Wow, congrats on your 25,000 fake followers who don’t actually buy your product. They also can’t tell anyone about your product BECAUSE THEY’RE NOT REAL. That’s like me saying I have 25 best friends…who are cardboard cutouts. Now, would you still think I was a popular girl? If I invited you over to meet my 25 friends and introduced you to my flimsy family, would you not think that I’m plain crazy-pants?  It’s a similar idea to the bogus puff piece on the early news. If your customers aren’t talking about the great things you’ve done, you can’t fake it, or force it to happen. Even in a highly digital world, organic is totally the way to go.

Rant over. Coffee soothes the beast.

Day Twenty-Six: The laziest post ever created.

Pressed for time and brain power, I’ve decided to write a bit about Public Relations. Mostly because I firmly believe I don’t have to back up my opinion with facts or other articles. I can pull a shoot-from-the-hip rant out of the air, and that’s totally Public Relations.

Public Relations isn’t so much about why we feel a certain way about something, just that we do. Why do you use one detergent over another? You think it works the best. Why? You’re not sure. Maybe it was something your mom told you. You use Mac products because they’re cooler. Why? Well, um, a bunch of reasons! You just can’t seem to name any at the moment. That’s Public Relations. A brand has snuck into your brain and latched on, and you can’t seem to ever remember NOT thinking a certain way about it.

For example, a girl who totally judges a boy based on the deodorant he uses. That’s me. It just occurred to me this morning that I will completely judge a boy if he uses Axe products. He will essentially become the equivalent of a “Jersey Shore” cast member. A highly amusing oddity, but not someone I would ever take seriously. Those stupid commercials with girls fighting over mannequins, the extreme sport stars as spokespeople. The whole thing turns me off as a female. (Also, the scents are disgustingly over powering to begin with.) It’s like wearing a shirt that says, “I think I’m super hot, and you’re going to bang me.” Really? We need to work on your communication skills.

Now, on the other hand, we have Old Spice. I couldn’t tell you what the Old Spice deodorant varieties smell like, but I approve! Why? Because they are fun loving and awesome, I tell ya! Just spend some time with Old Spice’s YouTube channel. They’re irrational and self-depricating. They have a tounge-in-cheek way of getting us to share a genuine laugh. Also, they displayed some kick-ass social media skills with personalized video responses to tweets. Nerd girls everywhere just got a little turned on. It’s what I imagine Joel McHale sprays on himself while telling a witty joke. Shirtless.

These arguments are paper thin and flimsy. But that’s the joy of Public Relations. Obviously, there are many components to the broad subject I’m hitting on, and a carefully plotted strategy. But the end result is an unspoken bond with a consumer.  I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I have strong opinions on these brands. Positive or negative, they have elicited a vibrant reaction from me, which is the basis for forming a customer relationship. I’m tuned into the message they’re sending, and I’m sending one back in return.

Day Twenty-Five: Seriously, there was a cow stampede.

Background.

I’m attempting to prep myself for a quasi-writing assignment in Boston. The task is to create a band bio to be included in their press kit. The plan is to meet the band to ask them personally for the information I’ll need. As I tend to hate traditional things, I keep mulling over what I could do to create a truly reflective piece of writing, and what a background really needs to include.

If you pulled out my resume and read it over, you’d still have no idea what my background includes. You’d get some dates and facts, a skeletal timeline of a few things I’ve done. I’ve added only the professional sounding highlights to that thing. (I have mixed feelings on the value of resumes.) Here’s what my background SHOULD include:

Nanny- Two Boys, Too Many Years (with lots of love):

During this time, I learned how to avoid being urinated on, how to properly execute a time out, and just how important it is to avoid pregnancy at all costs. You want to help young girls avoid unwanted pregnancy? Have them babysit.

Merch Girl:

Honed my ability to organize tee-shirts by size and color. Gained a sixth sense on the location of the cash box. Additionally, learned that when a guy is giving you a creepy look, he’s about to say something creepy. Interrupt him.

Lab Assistant at an Animal Testing Facility:

Animal testing sucks. Guinea hens are mean. Learned when it’s time to stand up for what you feel is wrong.

Worked at a Mall:

The store doesn’t matter. The position doesn’t matter. A mall is a mall. Customer service is in the eye of the beholder. Mall Rats is not far from the truth. I can no longer stand the smell of Subway.

Vermonter: 

Vehicles without four wheel drive are just nonsense. If you don’t hit the road early, you’re going to get suck behind the trash carriage, and those horses are damn slow. Learned to execute crisis management from hunters dragging illegal does through your backyard, a cow stampede, and having your horse shot in the butt for being brown during hunting season.

PS- If you like the band Phish, chances are you’re not from Vermont.

Yes, I’ve had internships. I’ve worked professional jobs successfully, and I paid close attention in school. You can learn that from my resume. What you can’t learn is that I am well versed in the art of rolling up my sleeves, taking the punches with a sense of humor, and knowing myself enough to walk away when it’s time. That’s all due to my background.

Day Twenty-Four: Pin what?

A little love and hate on a warm autumn night.

What I hate:

Attempting to learn new technology. I swear, I was born a year shy of being one of those youngsters who just intuitively understands every piece of technology available. My latest challenge has been the service Pinterest. The program was shared with me by the kick-ass team over at Julia Balfour. If they like it, it’s got to be pretty fantastic.

However, I have a bit of a learning curve. My grasp on the subject is that it’s an online, “pin board,” for you to put all the snazzy things that catch your eye on the Internet. You can organize your boards by subject matter, and share them with others. It reminds me of when we had to build a scrapbook of our likes in grade school and share them in front of the class. (“And this is a pony, because….I like ponies.”)

I love the concept. I’m a natural magazine ripper; stealing pages that have pictures, words, or even just colors that I like. Pinterest seems much more economical. Alas, my first few attempts have been blunders. My pins have proved unsucessful and cumbersome. I’ve approached the new challenge with what, I like to call, the caveman technique.

Essentially, I poke it with a stick, while grunting in its general direction. I’m on edge, just in case it makes any sudden movements. If it fails to do what I desire of it, I bellow in frustration and hit it with a rock. This is where Pinterest and I rest at the moment. To make matters worse, I received the following e-mail:

Pinterest welcomes me...and terrifies me.

Pin carefully? I’m helping set the tone for the whole community? NO NUDITY?!? Adding pressure is not helpful. I will master Pinterest. I will. But first I’m going to watch it while hiding behind a large rock for awhile.

Things I love:

Being right!!!

Okay, I can’t claim credit for predicting a trend that was already a trend when I jumped on board. However, I can still revel in its success. In case you’re wondering, Spotify and I are still going strong. A few more of my friends have joined, which I have attributed solely to my recommendations. This article about Facebook users sharing their music like crazy is the cherry on my sundae.

I totally called it! Those who think the music updates through their feed are annoying can bite me! That article has given me several new music services to explore as well. Maybe I’ll even end up cheating on Spotify. Regardless, I do love it when people agree with me.

Day Twenty-Three: Punk for hire.

Sometimes, I run across an article that makes me so happy I want to dance. Generally, I can also associate this with the amount of caffeine I’ve consumed, which also drastically increases the odds of spontaneous celebration. I’m on cup three at the moment.

Dave Fleet’s entry on punks makes me joyous.

I’ve worried many times about titles and what they mean. I’ve been assigned superfluous titles in the past that could easily be boiled down to, “receptionist,” or, “phone bitch.” Titles are scary. They install boundaries, and give people grounds to point a finger at you in blame. Earning a, “good,” title seems almost impossible. I whole-heartedly agree with Mr.Fleet that a title has to be earned, and you’ve got to be 100% ready for it.

I once met with a career counselor who told me that as you move from position to position, the goal is to change the ratio of good to bad. For example, expect that your first job is going to be 80% stuff you hate, and 20% stuff you like. Plan for seven hours a day of drudgery, and 1 hour of maybe doing something that you care about. With each career move, you attempt to shift the ratio. 60% bad to 40% good. 50% to 50%, and so on. I took this idea to heart, and I have never balked at work I didn’t feel compelled to do. It’s all a step in the process.

This grunt work is the back bone of prepping yourself for a title. It gives you the ability to identify a mistake before it becomes a crisis, and it’s essential to learning how to play every position on your team. I hate being asked what I want to be when I grow up, because I honestly don’t know what the title will be. Happy and driven? Does that count? Creating words to share with others? Professional ass-kicker? The title isn’t as important to me as the experience I have while wielding it.

I happily identified with Mr. Fleet’s thoughts. Call me a punk, please. When I think of a punk, I think of youth, naivety, and a self-indulgent rebellious streak. An ability to fail massively and be undeterred. Scrappy. A scrambler. That’s exactly where I want to be. Running on the ability to come up with something new because, damn it, I don’t know any better to begin with. Once I’ve mastered that, call me whatever you want.

Right now, the ratio of bad to good is still not in my favor. I’m working on that. I have no doubts that it will still be a long time before I take control of the odds. The big difference is I plan on changing the elements from hate and like, to learning and LOVE. 80% stuff I’m learning from, to 20% stuff I adore.

I’m very happy to identify myself as a punk. I want it on a business card.

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