Saturday, November 13, 2010

Introductions and such

Well, let's get this out of the way, for starters, I'm a nerd.

Now, you might say, "There are plenty of nerds out there, why would I read the blog of this particular, albeit self-aware, nerd?" Well, if you'll bear with me, you might get a laugh and a different perspective of things from the view of one walking conundrum. I say conundrum based on the fact that often times, once I reveal certain tastes of mine to acquaintances, sometimes even family and friends, the common response is, "wait, what?"

Let me elaborate. I love learning, nearly regardless of the topic. I love to understand the "why" of it all and what makes something work. I was always rapt during science class (especially Biology), foreign language classes, English (provided that we weren't just doing bloody vocabulary or grammar lessons), and history. My father was a history prof at my high school, and he was one of the few that seemed to manage to reach nearly every student. He could be teaching a group ranging from the straight A's to the those that eked by each semester, it didn't matter. He was in love with the subject and taught it as though it were a grand epic of Homeric proportions. My mother was a science prof at a high school in the North Cities (Twin Cities area, that is), and managed the same feat. I once had a science teacher in junior high that approached me and said, wholeheartedly, after learning who my mother was, that she was the inspiration behind the teaching career. I believe my love of knowledge and understanding came directly from those two amazing people, as well as my curiosity.

While being a nerd, and fascinated with all things historical, anthropological, linguistic and cultural, one of my favorite things in the world consists of jumping on my Yamaha VStar 950 motorcycle (my baby, I don't have a name for her yet) and just riding off into parts unknown. I love the adrenaline rush, the feel of pure freedom and the connection with the road. I don't just take the bike out of the shop every few months and claim that I ride, but in the three years (or two and half if you count out my downtime from the accident) that I have ridden, I have logged approximately 23,000 miles in nineteen states. I will ride until I am too old, have children, or am too weak to do so, whichever comes first, I suppose.

I also love sports, my favorite to watch, oddly enough, being tennis. I never played, except for just fun, but my husband, and fellow conundrum, knows well enough never to bother me during the Opens. I comandeer all remotes and demand complete silence of the peanut gallery. I think even our devil kitty, Kokopelli, knows better than to mess with me at those times. The World Series this year was much the same.

But I also enjoy playing sports as well, whether or not I'm particularly good at them. Softball is great, volleyball might trump it during the summertime, however. Once my husband manages to get the boat up and running, we'll be spending the summer kneeboarding and skiing on the lake. Sports were always a part of my youth, and in Minnesota, it was just something many kids did year round, in the land where football and cheerleading weren't the only choices a kid had (sorry, Texans ;)). Living out at the lake is also a huge part of Minnesotan culture during the summertime, and something I truly enjoyed and miss.

So, I'll be writing this based on the belief that someone might share or appreciate my downright weird and sometimes contradictory opinions of my guilty pleasures (movies, music, and books), life in general, sports, and anything else that comes to mind. For the most part, I won't include rants about religion or politics, as I feel the media does enough of that for everyone.

And awaaaaaaay we go....

For my first music review, I'll be covering Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's "Facing Future".
A beautiful compilation of some of Israel's (aka Iz, Brudda Iz, depending on the work) best material, in my humble opinion. It opens with the haunting "Hawai'i '78 Introduction", which features parts of an interview in which he speaks of his father's passing. However, the echoing, distant drum and lonely vocal expands the sense of sorrow and mourning, of not just his personal loss, but of the loss of the Hawaiian people and their native culture. The complete track is at the end of the album in its full glory.

Israel also lends his ukelele and smooth tenor to happier, "hapa haole" (part white) songs and traditional favorites. "Ka Huila Wai" and "'Ama'ama" jump in with up-tempo vocals, Hawaiian lyrics and lively strumming, making the listener long for those white sands and the smiling faces of the locals. If it weren't enough that the traditional tunes make any traveler, potential or not, dream of the Aloha State, "White Sandy Beaches of Hawai'i" will send anyone away with visions of Lahaina and Waikiki. "Take Me Home Country Road" has a unique "Jawaiian" (Hawaiian-reggae) spin to it that nearly renders it a new song. It's also fun to hear Israel change the place names. "Kuhio Bay" and "Ka Pua U'i" are relaxed and groovy, gently bringing even the most clueless haole into the rhythmic cadence of the traditional lyrics and sweet notes of the uke. "Maui Hawaiian Sup'pa Man" incorporates the Hawaiian mythos into a deceptive slide that sounds sooooooo typical 90's beat, and was my only real dislike of any tracks on the album, but it bears listening to, if only to see the purpose of it in demonstrating Israel's love for his people's traditions.

The crowning piece for me, besides the introduction, is his version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World". The rendition is gentle, powerful, soothing, yet so stirring as the highs and lows of the notes echo, communicating the sense of a hope not yet realized. Israel says more with his smooth delivery and heartfelt pauses than the vocal gymnastics that you'd find from other artists. Actually, when one thinks of it, the notes that he manages to reach are quite amazing, but he does it so effortlessly that the listerner could assume that they were perfectly attainable.

Israel has since passed from this world, his death was in 1997, but he has left the world the gift of his music forever. Beautiful, at times fun and goofy, but something not to be missed by the true music lover, in my opinion. It also lives and breathes the rich traditions of an endangered way of life in the islands it so celebrates. Hawaiians, as many indigenous populations, are becoming absorbed into the mainstream and their lore lost to the sands of time. With this, Israel managed to preserve some of that traditional culture, which had only begun to be appreciated by the world. This album went platinum back in 2005, and deservedly so. With so many artists polluting the boards with the same pop drivel that has been seen time and again, an entry on the list that truly has something to say and something to preserve is a blessing.

Israel, may you have found your peace and hope.

Well, that's all for tonight. If you've read and have questions, comments, bad jokes, feel free to leave them here. Like what I've shared? Fabulous.... Don't like it? Eh, I'm sure we'll both get over it. ;)


  1. Ooh, excellent introduction! I think I am most looking forward to your music reviews, since I know we have such different tastes in music a lot of the time. :o)

  2. Well, there will be plenty, my music collection is turning downright beastly. :D