Understanding the Response : A Guide to Macklemore’s GRAMMY Wins for Non-Rap Fans

This might seem weird to some people.

It might seem weird that the internet is expressing discomfort–nay, outrage–at Macklemore cleaning up ALL the rap categories at the Grammy’s last night.  For those of you who missed it, the independent Seattle rapper won Best Rap Album, Best Rap Song, and Rap/Sung Performance (he also got Best New Artist). It was a huge night for him, and a controversial night for hip hop.

But why?

After all, the National Post said that this year’s Grammys “marks a high note for hip-hop.” Rap artists made an appearance in some major categories, including Album of the Year and Best New Artist.  And Macklemore himself defended his controversial nomination by saying “I think that hip hop can be at times resistant to change…[but] hip hop has always been about expansion, about pushing the genre, about challenging the listener.”

So what’s the real story? Are Macklemore’s wins really that big of a deal? Are people just upset because the guy is white, or because his lyrics are “clean,” or because he’s too mainstream, or because (*gasp*) he isn’t Kendrick Lamar?

Short answer: Kind of, yeah.
Long answer: Kind of, yeah. BUT-BUT-BUT, there is a really solid historical reason why. This article does a great job of explaining it, but I know for non-rap fans it might be a little dense.

So I’m going to try to lay it out as best I can.

First, a quick early history of rap in ‘murica.

Rap and hip hop music  have existed for a pretty long time…long before getting their popular due, and WAY long before being recognized by the Grammys.  It’s a pretty typical story, actually:

  • West African musical traditions are full of rap (that is, people talking rhythmically over a beat).
  • West Africans came to ‘murica via the slave trade. They brought their musical influences with them.
  • Rap became a part of American folk music– African American folk music, in particular.
  • In the 20th century, the genre was embraced by low-income urban communities which had largely African American populations (and were thus influenced by their traditions).

This is important. It’s important because, for some reason, people seem to think that hip hop magically appeared out of nowhere in the 80s.  Not so much. For example, you can still buy this Folkways recording from 1959 of preteen boys busting rhymes on the streets of NYC:

streets


Yeah, 1959.  This was a cultural phenomenon before
 we started calling it one, and WAY before the Grammys started paying attention.

The difference is that, unlike other traditionally African American genres (blues, jazz, banjo folk music, early rock ‘n roll), it took a long while for rap to be considered “sellable,” or even “musical.” It was not packaged or patron-ed in the same way these other styles were. So while jazz musicians were given legitimacy by powerful white Harlem Renaissance patrons, while banjos became a quintessential American instrument, while the blues built its fan base…rap pretty much stayed on the streets.

And honestly? It was probably better off staying on the streets.  Historically, once those traditionally African American genres and musical influences were packaged and sold, they also tended to get pretty whitewashed. Why? Because the early 20th century. Because racism and capitalism are not a good mix.

Now, from a contemporary standpoint, there is nothing wrong with white people buying into, participating in, or being influenced by African American folk traditions. But there is something wrong with how it has been approached historically.

We’re still paying for it. We’re still talking about it. And we should be.

Essentially, there are two major ways the packaging and selling of traditionally African American music was first approached (spoiler: they both sucked).

1) The “dance monkey, dance” approach. In the early 20th century, music became increasingly seen as a product with mainstream selling power.  When this happened, a lot of traditionally African American entertainment was marketed to white people as roots-y, even primitive.  Patrons would create a “product” out of black artists and their oh-so-exotic background, but not actually invite them to participate in their own musical culture.

(Example: In the 1920s Harlem Renaissance era, white-only bars were decorated to have an “African” theme, and black people were invited to play music but could not come for any other reason. Traveling minstrel shows would entertain audiences with music and comedy designed to caricature black people–first with blackface performers, and later with actual black entertainers. And by black entertainers, I mean music legends like Ma Rainey and father of the blues W.C. Handy. The only way these musicians could be legitimized at all was by being good enough to impress the people who had come to laugh at them. And even when they were given a shot, they often became someone else’s product…and were rarely invited to the after party.)

2) The “we’ll take it from here” approach. Just watch from 8:15 on this below video, and you’ll get the idea on this one.


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What does all this mean?  It means that when rap finally was packaged and sold, this history was incredibly relevant. Artists were constantly weary of the influence and ownership of record labels and mainstream consumers. While rap was a great way to express what was happening in urban communities, to push mainstream boundaries (and hey, maybe to even bridge a few gaps a la Run DMC and Aerosmith) many people were and are tentative about the “dance monkey, dance,” and the “we’ll take it from here”-type histories.

1015599-grammy-award-617-409
And the Grammy goes to…

Now let’s talk about the Grammys, shall we? 

To make matters more sensitive, rap does not have a very positive history with the Grammy awards.  Like the American music industry in general, the Grammys weren’t very good at embracing rap…until it started making a crazy amount of money, that is. And even then, not much was done to understand the socioeconomic/historical/cultural context of rap music.  The hip hop community is rightfully wary about how the Grammys treat their genre.

However, they are equally aware that Grammys are incredibly influential in the music scene, and even more influential in how the music scene appears to mainstream audiences. So it’s a tough spot, and one that needs considered critically.

Not because hip hop can’t be embraced by different individuals and cultures as a means of expression. Not because Macklemore isn’t musically awesome (I could probably recite every word of The Heist, let’s be honest).  But because having Macklemore as the popular sound and face of the rap genre–which is exactly where the Grammys have placed him with all these awards–is questionable to people who care about the past and the future of rap music.  And because we as a society have severely screwed up with approaching similar musical movements before, so red flags get raised pretty easily.

But why don’t we let the artists speak for themselves?

Now that we’ve gone over that background, I’m going to hand the mic over to some of rap music’s biggest players. It’s probably best to explain the last couple decades of Grammy-rap relations through their eyes.

Tupac Shakur:

After several years of serious commercial success, the Grammys finally start adding rap performance categories in 1989. But they were untelevised, barely mentioned, and their choice of winners was controversially soft and even confusing (Parents Just Don’t Understand? Really?).  In these 1991 lyrics, TuPac is in no way subtle in addressing how the Grammys were “cashing in” on rap without respecting it at all:

“The Grammy’s and American music shows
They pimp us like hoes; take our dough but they hate us though”

(…remember that “dance monkey, dance” history I talked about? Yeah. That’s this.)

Naughty by Nature:

In 1996, the Grammys FINALLY (finally, finally) established a Best Rap Album award.  Naughty by Nature won…and, as you can tell by this interview with the trio, they didn’t even know how to even comprehend it.  When asked why they didn’t just say “Thank you, but no thank you,” to the so-called honour, DJ Kay Gee joked “They didn’t air our part anyway, so we didn’t have a chance to.”

FYI, they still don’t air these rap categories on the televised award show.

Ol’ Dirty Bastard (of the Wu-Tang Clan):

The year is 1998. Wu-Tang Clan gets snubbed on the Best Rap Album award. And OH-MY, this happens:


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I think it’s relevant to note that this video has over 4,600 likes (only 100 dislikes) on YouTube.  This snub was just plain poorly timed–this is only the third ever Best Rap Album award, and rap artists still weren’t getting proper stage time in general.

Jay Z: 

Jay Z has boycotted the Grammys on several occassions. His tipping point was when DMX was denied a nomination in 1999, but he also boycotted in 2002, saying:

“Too many major rap artists continue to be overlooked. Rappers deserve more attention from the Grammy committee and from the whole world. If it’s got a gun, everybody knows about it; but if we go on a world tour, no one knows.”

Eminem:

Oh my millenials, who could forget these lyrics from The Real Slim Shady?

You think I give a damn about a Grammy?
Half of you critics can’t even stomach me, let alone stand me
“But Slim, what if you win, wouldn’t it be weird?”
Why? So you guys could just lie to get me here?
So you can, sit me here next to Britney Spears?

Ironically, Eminem did win the Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance with the single so…there is that.  Interstingly, this article actually cites white privilege as the reason for Em’s Grammy success (relative to other artists).

50 Cent: 

Fast forward to 2004. Like Ol’ Dirty Bastard before him, 50 Cent takes a stand for what he considers a snub…this time in the “Best New Artist” category.

Okay, so his “stand” was a lot more subtle (actually, it was more of a cameo). But his statement afterwards was interesting:  “I think that the board is a lot older and they’re conservative, so some of the content in the music is offensive on some level.  There’s a lot of people that don’t accept that hip-hop culture is now pop culture.

Kanye West:

I know, I know. But you can’t talk hip hop versus the Grammys without talking Kanye.  Specifically, you can’t talk hip hop versus the Grammys without citing the New York Times interview where he said this :

I don’t know if this is statistically right, but I’m assuming I have the most Grammys of anyone my age, but I haven’t won one against a white person…I don’t care about the Grammys; I just would like for the statistics to be more accurate. I don’t want them to rewrite history right in front of us. At least, not on my clock. I really appreciate the moments that I was able to win rap album of the year or whatever. But after a while, it’s like: “Wait a second; this isn’t fair. This is a setup.”

Nas: 

The 2013 Grammys roll around, and Nas–with 18 nominations in his career and 4 that year–sits down with Dave Grohl to talk Grammys.  Nas (who has never been outspokenly critical nor supportive of the award shows) had this to say about how they STILL, still underrate the Hip Hop genre in 2013:


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Oh, and Macklemore himself:

Perhaps the person who is most aware (and most vocal) of how these things seem to go down these days is Macklemore. Yes, really. Let’s start with his 2005 song “White Privilege,” shall we?

I give everything I have when I write a rhyme
But that doesn’t change the fact that this culture’s not mine


.
More recently, he addressed race relations and public perception of rap music in his song “A Wake,” saying:

These interviews are obnoxious
Saying that it’s poetry is so well spoken, stop it
I grew up during Reaganomics
When Ice T was out there on his killing cops shit
Or Rodney King was getting beat on
And they let off every single officer
And Los Angeles went and lost it

Oh, and he also instagramed this message he sent Kendrick Lamar after last night’s Grammys:

macklemore insta

The “speech” he was referring to was his acceptance of Best New Artist.

Why? Because he wasn’t even able to accept the controversial Best Rap Album award.

Why?  Because Best Rap Album is still not a part of the main Grammy award show. Despite the fact that half the nominees are popular enough to be performing. Despite the fact that for years now rap has been the ONLY genre which has seen an increase in record sales. Ay-yi-yi.

So, what does this all mean?

Musically, I think Macklemore deserves an award–if not the rap honours, then at least that Best New Artist he was handed. And I congratulate him on his wins, genuinely. I don’t think he is bad for hip hop–his ability to break out as an independent artist is actually a huge step away from the “dance monkey, dance” history, and he has spoken out several times against exclusivity and race issues.  I don’t think that just hating on Macklemore’s Grammy wins is an overly informed response.

BUT, I don’t think that just pushing criticisms aside as silly or ridiculous is informed, either.  And it’s certainly not informed to talk about Macklemore like he’s some sober messiah who has swooped in to save the hip hop culture from its sexist, homophobic, gang-banging, drug-pushing ways.

That’s not fair. It’s offensive to the diverse and culturally rich history of rap music.  I don’t know Macklemore, but it’s probably offensive to him, too. And the more people talk about him that way, the more rap fans are going to despise it when he gets these wins.

(Which is too bad. Because while being critical is good…I think we should really be more critical of the fact that Macklemore wasn’t even able to accept his awards because all those rap Grammys still aren’t on the main show.)

Either way, I hope this helped clear up some of the confusion people might have over all these very intense responses. If you have any thoughts on this, or if I missed something super important to this conversation, let me know in the comments!

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Drumroll, please…

Okay, so here’s the big news (a few hours too late, but it’s here nonetheless)…

speaknodotcom

BAM! 

That’s right guys, the Taboo Tab has its very own roof now at tabootab.com. It will hang out on Shaunanagins too, of course…this blog isn’t going anywhere, I will certainly be using it to share those brainwaves you know and (hopefully) love.  I just wanted the Taboo Tab to have more space to expand and maximize its awesomeness.

And it looks pretty freakin’ decent, if I do say so myself. Clean, readable, visual…definitely worth taking a look and diving into.

(I am so excited, you guys. SO excited. This is going to be awesome.)

Want to keep up/get involved with the Taboo Tab project?

Follow the Taboo Tab page on Facebook: The Taboo Tab has its own Facebook fan page now! You can like it! (…I mean, if you want to, or whatever.)

Submit your storyWe are currently seeking  articles on the subject of Mental Health (submission deadline: February 15). We would also to hear about your experiences in the areas of Death & Grieving, Sexuality, and Body Image. If you have any experiences related to those categories, give me a shout here.

Give it a read: Even if you don’t want to submit your own articles, the Taboo Tab has some phenomenal stories that are well worth exploring. Check it out, drop a couple comments, and let me know what you think!

#iamsoexcitedimightfallover

Big News For the Taboo Tab: Official Announcement Tomorrow Morning!

I have big, big news for the Taboo Tab.

shaunanagins123
For those of you that are new to the blog, the Taboo Tab section on shaunanagins.com is dedicated to showcasing individual stories on subjects deemed “taboo” in polite conversation. With the help of storytellers willing to share their experiences, we have been able to help people relate to each other better, build awareness, and create compassion. It’s place for listening, for reminding one another that we aren’t alone…and that, whatever our stories are, we aren’t broken.

And it’s been so, so successful.

And it’s growing. I can’t wait to tell you how.

So: Tomorrow morning! Stay tuned for details! 

(I’m excited.)

On Fear.

“I am scared of things changing. And I’m scared of them staying the same.”

Recently, these words tumbled out of my mouth, confession-style. There it was: I was scared. It was unconstructive, and it was awkward, and I didn’t know what to do with it. But I knew I was scared.

My friend offered a mini-pep talk, but she didn’t sound totally sure.  I grabbed a kleenex as I teared up.  She teared up, too–because fear is contagious, because empathy is the real deal, because it’s freaking January and the lack of sun is cramping our style/emotions, guys.

I was scared. It was good to talk about it, good to recognize it.  But the fear itself?

I knew, and I know, that fear is not a good thing.

It’s not good that many of my biggest stressors are fear-based. Just fear-based. Not things that are actually happening.  Not things that exist outside my head. 

It’s not good that these fears often do the opposite of protecting me–instead, they just kind of make me inaccessible.

It’s not good (in fact, it’s straight-up dangerous) for fear to be anyone’s main motivational force. And, of course, it’s never fun to be facing the world scared kitten style.

Not the best role model for coping skills.
Probably not the best role model.

But despite all this, the fear was there. It was real. It is real.

And so I began searching for where that fear fit…and where it really, really did not fit.

What is fear, why is it here, and what should we do with it?

I guess it’s easy enough to define fear, at least in simple terms.  Fear is really just an evolutionary instinct which helps us to recognize situations that present physical, emotional, or mental danger. My momentary burst of “I AM SO SCARED OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING INSIDE IT AND WHAT AM I EVEN DOING” was a (twisted kind of) fear response.  Simply, my brain and body recognized that something could go wrong, and made me aware of that–whether I liked it or not.

Fear responses can be pretty great for survival. We can use them to identify and respond to threats–potential predators, unhealthy consumption, I probably shouldn’t put a fork in this toaster. Fear is a great tool.

Again: It’s a great tool.

But the thing about tools is that you are supposed to control them. They aren’t supposed to control you.

The problem with fear is that it can grow, it can get overzealous, and it can control you.  Our fear impulses don’t only warn us against being electrocuted or poisoned or thrown in jail.  They warn us about other “dangers,” too.

Here are a few popular ones…

Loving always, always leaves us in danger of losing.  Scary.
Trying consistently leaves us in danger of failing.  Also, scary.
Living has a 100% probability of ending in death. Yiiiiikes.

Essentially, if fear is doing its basic, natural job, it’s going to be fighting all this loving/trying/living stuff.  After all, what is more fatal than life itself?  

Fear is the natural enemy of living. And loving. And caring. And trying.  Giving fear too much power will naturally lead to you avoiding those things.

(Actually, giving fear too much power will naturally lead to you avoiding pretty much everything.)

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The problem is that you can’t avoid many of these things. You can’t. Locked up hearts still break. Not giving something a shot can still leave you feeling like a failure. And not living your life isn’t going to make you any less likely to die.

Whether we fear it or embrace it, we’re all going to lose, and fail, and change, and die.

Which of course begs the question…

What is fear’s place in our lives? And how do we keep it there?

I’m sure it’s obvious by now that I’m not the biggest fan of fear.

In fact, I tend to think of “fear” as being the opposite of “love”…or at least, the closest thing to an opposite of “love” that the English language has.

But that’s the English language.  And it’s not perfect.  Those opposites are certainly not perfect.  Love and Fear are pretty vague terms which don’t always reflect on each other– you and I both know that.

But they both are often involved.  And when they are, love should dominate.

Here’s how:

Fear, from an evolutionary perspective, exists for a reason. So sure, sure, it’s allowed to be a juror on your internal decision making panel.  Instinctive self-protection, caution, whatever you want to call it…your fear can make a quick statement.  Of course it can.

But then your courage gets to make a statement. Same with your reason, empathy, experience, goals, and values.

And Love? It gets to be the final judge. Love should always be the final judge.

You have a lot of internal jurors at work inside of you, a lot of tools at your disposal. Fear can be one of those tools, it can be.

You just have to control your fear before it controls you.

Sidenote: this video was what got me thinking about this and it is awesome and will blow your mind.  So you should all watch it. kcool.

Flashback Post: Hey Christmas, Did you lose weight? You look different this year.

Originally published December 22, 2012.

Part of the reason I started this blog was to chat about the twenty-something lifestyle–or at least, figure out what exactly that means.  So many magazines/blogs are written for capital-T Teenagers, or maybe just overgrown Teenagers, who care about boys and boys and hair and boys. So many more magazines/blogs are written for capital-A Adults, with 2.5 kids, a golden retriever and a dishwasher.

I am neither of these things. I am a twenty-something woman–whatever that means.  I like boys and hair just fine, and family is great, but I’m not really in a position to zoom into any of those niched-out worlds. In my world, I read cracked.com, watch College Humour, and try to understand your favourite webcomics (usually, I even get the obscure jokes…or pretend to).  I try to care about the news.  I scroll down to the comments after paragraph #1 bores me.  I read almost anything put into a list, especially if it makes me laugh.  I enjoy the odd Capital-A Adult blog, if it’s candid enough.

But what of this directly relates to me? Not much.

Fact is, I can’t seem to buy into any “chicklet” journalism.  I also can’t fully skip into the world of those who seem to have their shit fully together, all tied up with a neat little mortgage and morning routine.  I’m not there yet. At all.

And so I’m here, writing about what “getting there” means.  I find myself constantly straddling  the “I totally know what I’m doing,” and “Dude, I know NOTHING.”  Maybe that’s just how life goes, but I’m feeling new at it.  I am new at it.

And, like many people who are “getting there,” I’m definitely new at doing Christmas like this.

I’m new at doing Christmas like a lowercase-a adult who’s very much in between traditions. Last year, I hosted our immediate family Christmas at my apartment–which was good, but weird. This year, I came down to my parents’ place for Christmas.  My parents live in the suburbs of a medium-sized city. The transit system is awful. The backyard is big.  I lived here for eight years, or so they tell me.

This is weird, too. Maybe it shouldn’t be, but it is.

The family is different. We’re older. There used to be people here who aren’t here anymore.  Some have passed away, or otherwise walked away, but some just grew up.  Capital-T Teenage Shauna isn’t here anymore. Neither is the overzealous-about-family-crafts Mom.  All four kids used to live at this house, but now only half of us do.  The puppy is has clearly become a fully-grown dog in my absence.

Obligatory cute dog picture.
Obligatory cute dog picture.

It’s not that there isn’t enough love in the room.  It’s just that it looks and feels different, even though the room is the same.   Any expectations that I hold onto about good ol’ family Christmas are at risk.  I have to get my head around that.

I know that different is okay.

Today, I started feeling kind of odd as I hung new decorations, coordinated with the new furniture, with my newly adult-ish family. I didn’t expect it to feel quite so “new.”  I lived here for eight years, right?  I know these people. It’s December.  We got this.

…right?

It wasn’t wrong. The new stuff looks good.  It’s alright that we waited so long to decorate, that we were only half there, and that we didn’t go all out.  And it’s not a bad thing that we decided to grow up a bit–it has definitely done wonders for our conversation and cocktails. It’s okay that people and traditions change, or even that they sometimes leave altogether.

But it’s also okay if different doesn’t feel perfect right away.

People and traditions stay around so long as they’re good and healthy and make sense. And they leave when they’re done. This is the natural order of things.  It’s change. It makes room for other things to come in, it makes you appreciate that which is stays around, it gives you a basis with which to develop your own traditions.

But the process of un-learning and re-learning what to expect (or how to stop expecting) can be unsettling.  I felt that today.  After hanging those new decorations for a few minutes, I decided to take a breather.  The whole scene wasn’t really working for some reason.  Commence attitude adjustment in my old bedroom (now dad’s office). I looked out the window, read a couple Psalms, considered a nap.

Suddenly my phone went off. It was a friend of mine from Ottawa:

Move safely and be lovely ❤

What? That was perfectly timed, and completely unexpected.

I responded: Haha what a random message! But thank you.

She texted back: I was just thinking of you. Moving off to washington. I look forward to creeping photo albums.

This friend is not a person I knew back when I lived here.  I am not even a person I knew back when I lived here.

Would I trade my new life for some old decorations? Not a chance.  That doesn’t mean I have to be completely comfortable with this updated version of Christmas.  Not right away, at least. I just have to accept that it is the product of a lot of moving forward, and that moving forward is good.  This friend, and all my Ottawa friends, are great. My upcoming opportunity in Washington is fantastic.

I went downstairs.  I sat on a new chair, in front of a new computer, and pulled up a YouTube video I had just discovered.  My brothers, now old enough to face profanity, laughed through it with me. I suggested that after decorating (whatever that means this year) all six of us gather in the living room and watch the Christmas episodes of Community.  Unanimous agreement.  And so, armed with gluten free snacks for our growing number of celiac family members, we sat in front of the television.  Netflix streamed to us the meaning of Christmas according to NBC:

Maybe this Christmas is different. Maybe it’s going to be a little different each year.  I’m not going to like all the changes that happen in life. I might even sob in the face of some of them. But tonight proved that–with a little flexibility, a little creativity, and a lot of love–I can laugh in the face of some of them, too.

Move safely. Be lovely. Let different be.

The Not-Really-One-or-the-Other Vert

When it comes to the introvert/extrovert battle royale, my response is always the same. A shrug. A little bit of interest, because people are cool (and how they work is even cooler). And, when the conversation inevitably gets personal, my auto-response: “Introvert or extrovert? I dun’no. I’m just a ‘Vert’.”

(This counts as “clever” because my last name is actually Vert. For anyone else living on the edge of the intro-extro battle…sorry. I have no advice.)

I did try to figure out whether I was an introvert or an extrovert. I could relate to both. My parents argued that I was an introvert, albeit a chatty one. When I mentioned this to my friend Michelle, she shook her head. “Shauna, I’m sorry, but you’re an extrovert.”

Like I was getting a diagnosis. Like it was going to change our lives—each of us, carrying a red letter E or I, doomed to an existence of either solitude or social committees. Books or birthday parties. And we sure as hell aren’t going to understand each other while we do it. You’re born into a category, and you stay there.

The success of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking has pushed the often hostile hyper-categorization of introverts and extroverts into the mainstream. Nearly every time I visit Facebook, there is a viral post offering to decipher the intro-extro code for me. Sometimes they’re funny, but ultimately I’m left sitting here like “Gee, I like my alone time but I also like people. I can be motivated by either. I can crawl into a corner and cry from being overwhelmed by either.”

Source: http://happyplace.someecards.com/25864/signs-that-you-are-neither-an-introvert-nor-an-extrovert
Source: http://happyplace.someecards.com/25864/signs-that-you-are-neither-an-introvert-nor-an-extrovert

So I’m just a Vert (or an “amnivert,” according to modern psychology). Other personality extremes apply to me, but not that one. Which wouldn’t bother me, really, if that one weren’t so sexy these days.

These two extremes were originally a simple measure of whether one’s energy came from outside or from inside.  Carl Jung came up with the whole thing, so it’s an old enough concept. As it exists today, introversion and extroversion are most popularly illustrated through the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (drool away, Human Resources). The MBTI is a personality test which gives you a four-letter “Type” based on four different factors. The first of those factors? I or E. Introverted or Extroverted.

The MBTI actually places individuals on a 200-unit continuum. Based on the continuum, most people are little-e extrovert, or a little-i introvert….either way, they have these (and other) traits to varying degrees. It looks something like this:

Extravert [100% – – – 0% – – – 100%] Introvert

Alas, even if your results peg you as 51% extroverted, statistics that come from Myers-Briggs will count you as an E. No “it depends on my mood.” No “I guess sometimes?” Wiggle room need not apply.

When Jung originally came up with Introversion and Extroversion, he didn’t mean for it to be a one-size-fits-all typecast. He meant for the two to act as extremes. The population would be on a bell curve, with most people hanging out somewhere in the middle. According to the original theory, “people who are “introverts,” who introvert significantly more than they extrovert, make up only about 2% of the population (and likewise for extroversion).” Most people, of course, are going to be more one than the other.

But not everyone. And not in the same way, either. Then there’s the really-freaking-cool neuroscience behind the whole thing, which is kind of important…and very underdeveloped at this point.

The intro/extro label covers a lot of territory, and while it’s helpful for many people, the reality is that (omg.) different people are different. And if we’re talking about the trials and tribulations of certain personality “types” in society, we should also note three things:

  1. Personality traits almost always exist on a continuum.
  2. Personality science is not very well developed at this point.
  3. Certain types of people are more favoured for success in this world. I’m not saying that’s always right. I’m just saying that if you’re talking about discrimination based on personality type, you need to broaden your argument.

Introversion, in it’s purest form, is an extreme. In it’s typical form, it’s a trait (with a whole lotta variations) that society doesn’t always value.  But if we open our eyes a little, we see that society also isn’t so hot with overactive imaginations, scattered people, those who are not language inclined, non-linear thinkers. We do a great disservice to many little boys in “sit all day and read fiction”-style classrooms. We suck for tactile learners, for a multitude of alternate abilities, for people who question authority. I personally had a helluva time in Grade 5 because I was “too slow” and “not understanding details”—so there go your big picture thinkers and your perfectionists. And, it must be said, we really suck for tapping into the knowledge, talents and needs of our senior and our immigrant populations, regardless of what vert-ing they do.

A personality dichotomy (like introversion and extroversion) can describe some people perfectly–but not everyone, not by a long shot. Not being a full-out introvert doesn’t mean that I am immediately an extrovert. I like understanding people better, and if these categories help with that, then great. I don’t like having to identify as one or the other at every turn.

Right now, I feel like I do.

(But maybe that’s just the hard-knock life of an ‘Vert. I should make a buzzfeed list.)

How I Learned the Ukelele in a Laundromat (and other East Coast stories)

An update on the “vagabond chic” look: My original “disheveled at the airport” collection is so last week. Make way for the super-sexy “laundromat after a rainstorm,” fashion fans…

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I try, really.
Features of the collection include a messy ponytail, rolled up jeans, and tired, wet feet. I’m also pretty sure there’s sand in my backpack–a souvenir from two beachy days in Prince Edward Island.

I modeled the collection in Moncton. The small, humid laundromat was stop #2 on a quest for clean clothes, and I greeted it by getting barefoot and playing the ukelele with a friend I met two days ago. Stop #1 had been a shop on the corner with a large sign reading “LAUNDROMAT.” That place, they told us, was actually not a laundromat. It was a cool-kid cafe/bar called “Laundromat.”

I’m not hip enough to understand these things.

Pictured here: Not actually a laundromat
Pictured here: Not actually a laundromat

When we finally found a place with quarter-devouring washing machines and dryers, we made ourselves nice and comfortable. Waiting for our clothes to wash, we braved the stormy (and very empty) streets to seek out cheap pizza, shitty wifi, and a compact, Disney-themed umbrella from the drug store.

Finally, it was time to say goodbye to my new friend and jump on a train to Quebec. I actually jumped, you guys. It was a thirteen hour train ride and, oh-my, was I ever excited for it.

The train is the real heart of my trip. All these big adventures and bigger revelations are just spaces in between.

I made small talk with the cute guy in front of me at the station (“Oh, you’re from Ottawa? Me too!”) and, as he briefly disappeared from sight, I jumped on board with a wicked smile on my face. I bought a ham sandwich and little container of white wine on the train, and “je m’excuse, je m’excuse” passed by the friendly French man beside me. The man smelled like smoke and had a giant skull and crossbones inked onto his leg, but his voice was gentle and his smile was genuine and –yes! He kept speaking French to me even after hearing my troubled accent.

And so begins my life for the next month:

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The train reached Quebec at 6 am, and I dragged myself through the tourist-covered streets until hostel check-in time and–oh! Here I am! Sitting at a hostel bar in la belle province, reflecting on the last two days.

(That’s a lie. I’m actually sitting here feeling way-too conscious of my feet, way-too happy about this beer, and way-too guilty that I fell asleep during a bus tour today. For the sake of the segue, though, let’s just say I’m reflecting on the last two days.)

To be reflected upon.
To be reflected upon.

In the days since my last post, I finished up in Halifax and headed to Prince Edward Island. I arrived in Charlottetown at noon(ish) Wednesday, and left at 8:15 Friday morning.

Translation? I had 44 hours in PEI. Ready, set, go.

I don’t know what I was thinking when I scheduled my trip. I’m pretty sure I was bitter–I always hated labeling the damn province in grade school geography. Or maybe I looked at the province on a map and said “Psh, that’s small. I could walk across that in 44 hours.”

Either way, I didn’t give myself enough time on the Island. Not even close.

Thanks to the people I encountered, however, it was (limited) time well spent. I suppose that’s part of this whole traveling thing, right? “What was your name, again? Right. That. Let’s do something cool.” My people-luck went as follows: I crashed on the air mattress of a wonderful girl I knew in high school (thanks, Alex and Danny!). I adventured with another girl I met on couchsurfing, Amy, who was being toted around town by a local named Bob.

(Amy was crashing in Bob’s spare bedroom. Everyone, it turns out, crashes in Bob’s spare bedroom. If you’re ever in Charlottetown, you should too. More on that later.)

On Thursday morning, I walked past an old Protestant cemetery. An artist, Carl Philis (potter by trade), spotted my interest right away. Carl had a paint can in his hand, and was working on the cemetery’s restoration. “If you come by some time later when you’re free, I can give you a tour around.”

I knew there would be no later. “Well…I’m free now, I guess. Can you give me a tour now?”

And he freaking did. His boss stood by smiling as he spent at least an hour showing me the history of PEI, stone by stone. I wasn’t used to such unscheduled hospitality.

“In Ontario, everyone’s just in a hurry to be late,” he explained. “It’s not like that here.”

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He was right. When I arrived an hour later than expected to visit my Islander aunt, she was only happy I was there at all.

Bob was most flexible of all. From beginning to end, his main priority was for Amy and I to have a good PEI experience. I told him I was an Anne of Green Gables fan as a kid, and he happily drove us to Cavendish for the day. He showed us the tourist-y “Avonlea Village” and the trails around Green Gables in the after-hours, saving us from paying for the tourist traps. Bob was a Green Gables tour guide in a past life, and is an expert host in this life.

People-wise, I hit the jackpot in PEI. When my aunt told me she had sending me prayers for “travel mercies,” I practically fell all over her.

“It’s working! It’s working! Keep it up!”

Poking my presence into Bob's "map of guests"
Poking my presence into Bob’s “map of guests”
Yeah. This guy hosts hardcore.
Hardcore hosting.

To recap, a few pieces of advice if you ever visit Charlottetown:

  1. Stay with someone awesome and central.
  2. Look up Bob. Seriously. I will put you in touch personally, just drop me a line.
  3. Eat potatoes. And seafood. And donair. Dude, just eat.
  4. Go to the beach. This will be easy, since it seems that a good chunk of PEI is straight beach.
  5. Clap your hands and stomp your feet at a Ceilidh. If you don’t know what that is…look up what a Ceilidh is first. Then go to one.
  6. Talk to any and everyone. Chances are, they will talk to you right back (and then some).

And with that…

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Hammer Quebecer time.

Music, Monkeys, and the Art of “Where do I Start?!”

Last Friday, I went to a Nordic Cool 2013 concert at the Kennedy Center. The guy who sits next to me at work suggested it–or, rather, he smirked as he pointed to a picture of the evening’s band on his computer.

There was a monkey in the picture, you guys.  A monkey.

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If I were a marketing director, I would probably put a monkey in EVERY picture.

No one was quite sure what to expect. I’m not used to that.  My fellow interns are uber-cultured musicians and ethnomusicology students (dammit, spell check, ethnomusicology is a word) who seem to know every nuance of every genre.

…though really, all I can confirm is that they know a whole lot more than me.  Which means I’m always learning.

Much like my own field (history), with music there is always-always-always more to discover. And the more you listen, the more you realize how much you have yet to listen to.

Like this band from Denmark with a monkey, for example.

And so we went. We took the metro. We filed into the packed Grand Foyer. We stood at the back, since all the seats were taken–clearly, word had gotten around that the Danish monkey-band was coming to town.  Inside our programs was this short description of what we were about to see:

ye

Oh, “of course.”

AFRObeat? C’est quoi ca? Can someone point me in the direction of their favourite soul/jazz inspired acid-power-beat song, please? And “almost-punk” just sounds like how I feel when I jaywalk or accidentally sleep through church. [Insert rebel yell here.]

In true millennial fashion, I googled the band before going. Specifically, I watched this mezmerizingly weird music video of a song entitled “Blue Balls.” The album is called “Absinthe.” And the music is rad.

(At least, it’s rad enough for me to try to bring back the term “rad.”)

Yeah. That. Don’t do drugs?

The show was fantastic. It isn’t that I didn’t expect it to be fantastic….just that I didn’t know what to expect at all. The music (whatever it was, exactly) was an awesome, awesome discovery.

I make lots of awesome discoveries these days.

Finnish tango. Hardcore conjunto. Underground folk revival. Central Asian pipa. Autoharp country.  Banjo masters. Those French Canadian songs that people assume I know (and I never do).

Took this shot at a Los Texmaniacs show last month.
Took this picture at a Los Texmaniacs show last month. Hardcore conjunto at its finest!

It’s almost overwhelming. Reading through the “Events in Washington DC,” trying to figure out what I can make it to…or what I should make it to…or what I can connect to, even just a little bit.  Finding that balance between learning new things and maintaining/expanding on what I’ve already got. Searching through the Folkways catalogue, working out what to listen to next.

You would think that the daunting excitement of “where do I start?!” would be second nature to me by now. History student stuff. Curator problems.  And yes, I have spent long days awkwardly navigating books, journals, and microfilm.  Having all this new music at my fingertips is no different, really. But for the first time, culture is my every day–my work, my play, my social life, my background, my foreground.

And I still don’t feel a sense of “competence.” Not in even a sliver of it.

How can I, when I have bands like Ibrahim Electric to keep me on my toes?

Oh, I don’t always do “new things.”  I still can’t seem to stay away from Ottawa. I even showed up to a Canada-US Relations event last week…and ended up being live-broadcasted on CPAC, asking a question about the Keystone Pipeline. Yeah.

“New things” can find you, though. They can creep up. It’s called “opportunity,” and it’s always hanging around–especially in a place like DC, especially if you make the first move. One “new thing” can breed familiarity with another. And another. And another.

Case in point: A friend and I showed up to the Kennedy Center to check out Finnish tango music (because, why not?) and some dude gave us his extra tickets to this:

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We didn’t ask questions

Though to answer yours: It was one of the best plays I’ve ever seen. Seriously. “Bird in Magic Rain with Tears.” Who would’a thought?

Here’s to the art of “where to I start?!”

– – –

I Have Chosen My Word for 2013 (and it’s going to make for one interesting year)
I Have Chosen My Word for 2013 (and it’s going to make for one interesting year)
Welcome to America: Yes, I have gotten horribly lost. Already. Twice.
Welcome to America: Yes, I have gotten horribly lost. Already. Twice.
Non-boring, non-fiction. It happens.
Non-boring, non-fiction. It happens.

Linking Up (Pt. 1)

Greetings, beautiful readers!

I have so much that I could write about today.  I could write the next “4 Things I Can’t Live Without,” which is essentially ready to go.  I could write about the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, where I have been offered a volunteer opportunity (how humbling and incredible is that?).

It is also of note that the inauguration is tomorrow, and DC is going crazy.  When I first heard the Smithsonian’s “Super Sonic Inaugural Weekend” playlist, I immediately confronted my colleague who put the it together: “What the what? This has me feeling patriotic.  As in, ‘Merica-style patriotic.”

“Yeah?”

“…but I’m not even American.”

This playlist is amazing, though for me it continues to be slightly confusing and awkward.  While I’m here confessing to ‘Mericanisms, someone tell my dear friend Elisa she was right: I have started saying “y’all” on a regular basis.  IN MY DEFENSE, sometimes I hum “O Canada” to myself at work.  The guy who sits next to me, who’s from Minnesota, has been known to join in.  ‘Sup, diplomacy?

I could write about that, too.

But it’s not time for that.  It will be time for that, of course–as I start spending more time in this city, at the Holocaust Memorial Museum, or with the Smithsonian, stories will come. I’m pretty sure they’ll be incredible stories, too. But they will not be the only stories.

The life of a blogger is full of discovery and reading and ideas.  And I don’t just mean mine.  I think it’s important that we share each others’ work, laughter, and brainwaves.  It is my pleasure to link you up to some of the many great pieces I’ve discovered in the past few weeks. Feel free to share any of your own discoveries/work–I want shaunanagins.com to be a community, and as a reader, you are always a part of that.  So grab a cup of tea, turn the music on nice and low, and give this a read:

Next On Oprah: Gary Bettman by Scott Feschuk

A Love Letter to Digital History by Megan Heesaker

In Which I Offer a Christian Response to ‘Idle No More’ by Sarah Bessey

The New Underclass: Why a generation of well-educated, ambitious, smart young Canadians has no future by Chris Sorensen and Charlie Gillis

The Silent Period by Bryoneyh (via Postage Stamp Required)

Self-Aware Leftovers: The forgotten victims of divorce by Ned Hickson

“January 18th, 1969: Nixon inaugural ball held at this museum. A naughty chicken attended.” via National Museum of American History

On Suicide via Gukira

Brave Moms Raise Brave Kids by Jen Hatmaker

A Hypothetical Response by Judi Zienchuk (a reader response to Jealousy has a stage name. It’s called Inspiration.)

My own most-read post:

Dear America: Sorry About the first impression. You’re actually kinda cute.

If you want quick ‘n easy updates on my posts, brainwaves, and links, be sure to “like” me on Facebook .  Or subscribe with your email address in the sidebar.  Or follow me on Twitter.

(Or just occasionally remember that this blog exists and skim through the last two pages. Whatever works.)

Travelling Abroad Advice for Canadians: Crazy (But Accurate) Edition

Today, I spent some time on the phone with an expert on Canadian safety and protocol while traveling abroad. He was…quirky. The phone call was informative, for sure, but it was also hilarious.  Here are some highlights:

“Make sure you give copies of all your papers to someone who loves you. I define ‘someone who loves you’ as ‘someone who put up with you for your teenage years and still talks to you.'”

“You have to Register with DFAIT if you’re a Canadian going anywhere abroad for more than 2 weeks. Otherwise, you’re just being stupid.”

“If you find yourself in North Korea, you go to the Swedish Embassy. If you find yourself elsewhere and there’s no Canadian Embassy around, go to the Australian Embassy. Don’t try the American Embassy…if you think they’re going to help you, you’re dead wrong.”

“You have to be careful.  Washington DC is kinda like Vanier.”

“And now comes the part where I talk to you about Love. Ready? Okay. When you are in love, your brain chemistry changes.  I get it. You’re 20.  If you call me and you’re in trouble but you say ‘Oh, but I’m in love!’ I will not judge you. You have no control over that. It’s just your brain.”

“Canada is the only country in the world where we elect people, they pass laws, then people don’t follow the laws, and no one cares. Other countries aren’t like that. You should probably follow laws outside of Canada.”

“You’re a student of history, so I love you already. Everyone should be a student of history.”

“I might seem like a nice guy right now, but I can be an asshole when I negotiate. I will bust in on a gang and get you out of there.”

“I believe in the Trudeau years when everyone could do whatever they wanted and just had to be accountable to the consequences. Like, you can be involved with drugs while you’re living abroad if you want, but if you do I won’t care about you. ”

Word.

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