You don't want to be Todd Martens

Writes some stuff for the LAT. Seeks board game partners. Cubs fan. Beer geek. Adores Chicago. In favor of dilly-dallying. Some personal stories may be exaggerated. I exaggerate. This isn't work.

toddmartens AT gmail dot com.

@toddmartens

In the spirit of giving …

There are 273 songs in my iTunes playlist labeled “2011.” That’s a running tally of my favorite songs of the year. I’ve narrowed that down to 18 — maybe 19, depending on some last-minute changes — for the year-end mix-CD. 

I considered putting the playlist on Spotify or SoundCloud, but I’m a stickler for tradition and the songs that made the final cut are also chosen because they loosely fit a theme that I believe sums up the year in music/culture. Also, it’s more fun to receive a free mix-CD in the mail. 

So……the offer I make every year to family, friends, Los Angeles Times readers and anyone who randomly stumbled upon this is as follows: If you would like a year-end mix-CD, just drop me an email with your address. That’s it. I’ll send it, probably in early January. 

I will warn you that the presentation is crude. CD-R, Sharpie, no art, no photo, no liner notes — just music. 

Common. Chi-City and all.

Common. Chi-City and all.

Band of the year.

As someone who (stubbornly) believes in tradition, I have not missed a December trip to Disneyland (or World) since 1987, even if I must do so alone, as I am doing today and have done for the last couple years.

Disneyland solo generally inspires lots of questions, but as I have lived in a girlfriend-less world for quite some time, I am pretty accustomed to such activities. These days, instead of being self-conscious I generally just overhear conversations I am glad to not be a part of. 

Anyway, I just spent about $100 on toys and am sitting on the Main Street sidewalk opening them. Pretty stoked about this lil’ retired Horizons (Epcot) guy.

As someone who (stubbornly) believes in tradition, I have not missed a December trip to Disneyland (or World) since 1987, even if I must do so alone, as I am doing today and have done for the last couple years.

Disneyland solo generally inspires lots of questions, but as I have lived in a girlfriend-less world for quite some time, I am pretty accustomed to such activities. These days, instead of being self-conscious I generally just overhear conversations I am glad to not be a part of.

Anyway, I just spent about $100 on toys and am sitting on the Main Street sidewalk opening them. Pretty stoked about this lil’ retired Horizons (Epcot) guy.

Lydia Loveless’ “More Like Them.”

This is one of my favorite songs of 2011.

Not nearly as wounded as her “Crazy” (see earlier post), but the boot-on-the-floor stubbornness and arms-crossed insecurity work up something far more fierce here. The listener is always off-guard, as the way she handles each verse is a surprise, yet nothing is over-sung, forced or strained — just direct, raw, untouched.

It’s relentless, too, bullheadedly determined to never lose its message championing solitude. And the lyrics? Loveless stays one step ahead of everyone. “Honey, I don’t want you now, but it’s not about him,” she sings, a pretty sneaky and devilish way to tell someone to just shut the hell up.

It’s the best country song of the year. Might be the best punk rock song, too. 

Don’t make the same mistake I made and put off listening to Lydia Loveless’ ‘Indestructible Machine.’ 

Was only about six months of my life that I worked on it, but thanks, man. 

Was only about six months of my life that I worked on it, but thanks, man. 

Three chords and the nudes

Back in April, I met three friends of mine who work at a local independent label for dinner. I was late, and when I arrived there was already a somewhat heated discussion taking place. “I cannot believe we bought ads on that site,” said the person essentially in charge of that label’s touring department. 

The natural follow-up was to ask what site and why. “You don’t even want to know — it’s disgusting,” was the response. Of course I wanted to know, and I definitely wanted to know now. The indie label touring person sighed, and said, “It’s called Is Anyone Up?” 

That was the first I had heard of Is Anyone Up?. Of the group of four, another was also ignorant of the site. We asked, more or less in unison, “What makes it so offensive to you?”

The response: “OK, pretty much every single one of our bands has emailed a nude photo to someone, and that photo will probably end up on Is Anyone Up? And now we’re buying ads on the site.” 

It was at that point I let my label friends talk among themselves. I made a note in my cell phone that read, “Three chords and the nudes.” That was essentially when I began, more or less, working on this story. I wish the headline was still “Three chords and the nudes,” but journalism is not a solo-endeavor, and there are bigger battles.

Nearly six months after I began reporting on a story about Is Anyone Up?, the piece is running this Sunday. Part of that, I believe, is due to modern entertainment journalism, and our insistence on being beholden to “events” (album releases, live shows, etc). Part of that is also my fault. I turned in my first draft in August, much of it written at Spuyten Duvyl in Brooklyn. It was 12,000 words. The piece on Sunday is closer to 1,600 words, which in itself is pushing the max of what we can run in the Los Angeles Times. 

Of the 10,000+ words cut are numerous interviews — I spoke to about 50 people for this story (many refused to be quoted). Yet it wasn’t the massive cuts that stung, such as the 4,000 words deleted about Internet law. Instead, there are plenty of tiny details axed I was partial to. The site, for instance, is run by a 25 year-old named Hunter Moore, and he lives 90 minutes from his mailing address. It’s safe to say that’s not because he likes to take road trips. It’s little details like that one that I miss.

Nevertheless, I believe what interested me about Is Anyone Up? in the first place still comes through. I was struck by its scene-specific focus, how it dialed-down into a rock ‘n’ roll subculture. I was curious, sure, as to why dudes in bands would think it remotely OK and/or safe to send a nude picture to someone, but I was more interested in how the music industry itself was slowly legitimizing such a potentially offensive site. 

Since April, there has been plenty written about Is Anyone Up?. Hunter was even on Anderson Cooper’s daytime talk show. Yet so much of the recent press, no matter how well written or how well reported, has gone the ‘did you know normal people are naked online’ angle, which I kinda feel is pretty common and not all that exciting. It’s sort of like saying so-and-so is ‘big in Japan.’ Of course, they are. The internet is full of nudes. 

Before I started working on this story, Emily Zemler wrote a fine piece on the site for Alternative Press, and she touched on some similar subjects. It was her in-depth story, in fact, that persuaded me there was still more to explore on the topic, and ways to tackle the story that would be of interest to a daily newspaper.

So…the story: Rockers, fully exposed on Is Anyone Up?


Low

—Blue Christmas

Tree is up — my collection of ‘Star Trek,’ Batman and Disney ornaments are on full display — a pint of Eagle Rock’s Jubilee, straight from the growler, is at the ready, and this song, the greatest version of this song, is on repeat till the early morning. 

I love Christmas songs, especially when they’re brutally depressing.

This non-Christmas Christmas song from Nick Cave is the best of the lot, and not just because he calls the lady’s boyfriend a “gibbering goon” (although that helps).