Thursday, March 8, 2018

Thoughts on Ferguson (from 2014)

Seeing two sides
Is a complicated thing
It takes a lack of pride,
And a heart for understanding
Life isn't very simple
And I loathe the broad assumptions that we make

An instance of the "they"
And what I think you think was said
Categorical dismissal
Of the value of your head
And all the thoughts you have inside it
"how can you people think that way."

Thank God, there is beauty
And silliness, and laughter
I'd crumble into nothing
Without its humble candor.
A bit of self-reflection brings
The truth to light, when we allow it sway.

Seeing more than one side
Is a complicated thing
It takes a lack of pride
And a heart for understanding.
Life isn't very simple
But we all deserve a chance to have a say.

It irks, and it irks, and it irks me, these sweeping statements that we make.
"get out of my country"
"it's a problem of respect in the black community"
"america is evil"
Like we aren't individuals with value.
Like my ideas don't matter, and only yours do.
Like we shouldn't live in harmony.
Like we shouldn't make the effort.
even. make. the effort.
Do we realize this is what our words are saying?
I don't think so. At least, I hope we don't.
Hope is hardly enough.
But hope is all I have in me, at the moment.

Practically Healthy: some history, and a rant (from 2015)

You guys, I have something to admit:
There is a health nut lurking inside of me. A hippy. A granola-Shannon. You wouldn't know it from the massive quantities of pizza and beer I consume, but I assure you - she exists. I blame my parents, mostly. All that whole-wheat bread, chicken-focused, salad-heavy, made-at-home food just does something to a person. My dad's obsessions with olive oil and peanut butter (separately, not combined, thank goodness) are legendary. Also factoring heavily into our lives were garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, coconut milk, and unsurprisingly frequent trips to "East Asia Market" (where everything smelled bad, but tasted good).

My parents wouldn't keep apple or orange juice in the house because it was "too sugary." We drank freshly-made carrot (and sometimes spinach-carrot) juice instead. The first time we had processed/deli meat in the fridge was after my brother graduated from high school. We never had soda available for our poor, thirsty palates - water and tea dominated my childhood (the horror!). Popcorn was the snack of choice (doused heavily with olive oil, duh) and chips and candy were something my parents almost never, ever bought, though they did make it into our pantry occasionally - blame for those appearances typically fell to the most recent youth group event that had been held at our house. The most unhealthy part of our diet was probably ice cream, which really, no one can reasonably live without.

Breakfast typically consisted of Cheerios, oatmeal, millet, or quinoa - there are fabled rumors that we had "Saturday cereal," or totally-sugary-and-bad-for-you cereal when we were little, which we could ONLY eat on the weekends, but I'm pretty sure I remember that happening approximately once when I was like 3 years old. Or maybe 4. It's one of those foggy, instagramy-looking memories in my head, which suggests to me that it probably happened before I could form proper sentences. (Not that I can do that consistently now. But.. y'know.)

It's probably safe to say that I've carried a lot of that natural-mumbo-jumbo over into my views about beauty and healthcare. And there is SO MUCH to natural and DIY beauty that I just adore. I'm a big fan of oil cleansing, and oils in general as beauty aids. I exclusively make my own salt spray (for those sexy, beachy curls, yeah baby). I used a homemade deodorant that I think changed my life. I've used beer as a hair tonic. Heck, I've put eggs, apple cider vinegar, honey, baking soda, and cornstarch in my hair. My husband's reaction these days is, "of course Shannon wants to use it as a beauty treatment; it's something you would normally eat." There is a lot to be gained from "going natural," by "doing it yourself," by knowing what goes into your products....
deep breath.

1. THERE IS NOTHING INHERENTLY WRONG WITH "CHEMICALS," aka "things that are made with science."
It really, really, really irks me that every single "healthy" beauty blogger and natural beauty aficionado spews a hateful rhetoric towards "chemicals." They promote the "natural" over and above what they consider the "unnatural." And best of all, they always say in what I can only imagine is a sing-songy voice, you're keeping all those icky chemicals and toxins out of your body! This is invariably their closing statement, which I can only assume they think will REALLY and FINALLY convince me of a products efficacy.
First of all, "toxins and chemicals" are treated as synonymous terms, when in fact, they are not. A trusty Venn diagram can help here:

All toxins are made up of chemicals.
That is not the same thing as saying that all chemicals are toxins.

Thanks Venn.

Secondly, EVERYTHING EVER is made up of chemicals!!! Your natural shea butter. Your favorite extra virgin olive oil. Your 100% organic chapstick. Everything. Everything is made up of chemicals.
Now. I think the argument that most nature-clingers would make is that synthetic chemicals are the really bad ones. However, I think this is a pretty weak argument as well.
There are synthetic (and non-synthetic) chemicals in lots of products that can keep them from going bad - your shampoo and conditioner, for example. Sure, it's a little weird that these things stay stable for a couple years - I'm totally willing to admit that. But it would be way more gross if they started growing some sort of mold or harboring nasty bacteria. I am not so much of a naturopath that I want to keep my preservative-free shampoo and conditioner in the fridge, thanks very much.
There are, of course, concerns about certain components, like parabens or alumnium, that have been linked to cancer or alzheimers. In my opinion, the studies touted by the "natural" community are so very often inconclusive and generally disregarded by the scientific community that it's hard for me to put much store in them. However, some of them are inconclusive, and I can totally understand someone wanting to hold off on using product XYZ until more research has been done. While I'm not going to stop using my shampoo, I'm totally cool with you wanting to switch your shampoo until you can find out more about whatever issue is concerning you. What I am not at ALL cool with is the frenzy these inconclusive (and sometimes downright bad) studies can whip up. Base your decisions on GOOD science, not bad science, please.

Finally, the fact that a product is "natural" doesn't automatically mean it's "better." Natural means just that - natural. For a look at how synthetic chemicals can do amazing things, go take a look at Living Proof's Website. They have amazing products that do amazing things, all with the help of science.

The fact that it's been around for thousands of years doesn't inherently make it more worthwhile than something that's been around for, say, two years. (I will admit that it's very likely to be awesome if we've used it for that long, but it simply does not get an automatic "in" in my book just because it's old.)
I call this the "nostalgia complex." They say: our grandparents ate so much better back in the olden days! They had real food, ate seasonally, etc. etc. My response: they also died from whooping cough, the measles, polio, and "consumption." There's a whole host of things that were bad for us back then, and there is a whole host of things that are bad for us now. We're slowly getting better at finding out what's bad and what's good. I'm not saying that centuries of tradition are worthless. I'm saying that's not all there is. We've kept moving forward. Use the fact that we live in the twenty-first century. It seems like such a waste to praise the past at the expense of the present.

So, so often, natural products are touted as curing everything. And I mean EVERYTHING. From pimples to cancer to headaches to toe warts to fatigue to the way that weird guy looked at you this morning. Seriously? I'm supposed to believe all of this?
Please, for me, go and Google "oil pulling" (if you don't know what it is). The list of things this method is purported to improve is, I think, supposed to convince the reader that oil pulling will basically solve every problem ever. Get whiter teeth! Better breath! Fairer skin! Be successful! Make friends! Influence people! All reasonable goals, when you use OIL PULLING for a better life!
This, I think, is a good example for how a LOT of "natural" products are marketed. Coconut oil, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, eggs, cayenne pepper, ginger, baking soda... the list goes on. Do these products have myriad uses? Yes. Can they do good things for your body? Yes. But they are not, not, NOT universal cure-alls. Can we please stop talking about and treating them as such?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Friendships, networking, invitations, and being yourself

We hear and talk about networking so much, but it honestly is not a hard concept to grasp.
It's about making friends.
Not necessarily the life-long, we-can-spend-years-apart-and-then-get-together-and-everything-is-the-same kind of friends.
But the I-met-you-at-a-party-and-you're-pretty-cool-to-hang-out-with friends. That's where friendships start. And that's where networking starts, too. Music promoters, bookers, A&R, other bands: you're making new friends.
That's all it is.

On friendships:
Sometimes you make friends with people you don't really like, but they throw really cool parties, so you make sure to stay on speaking terms. If your issue with them is a minor annoyance, you can keep it to yourself for the sake of the parties. If you really can't stand them, you end up not being friends, despite the cool parties.
Sometimes you make friends with people you really love to hang out with, but they kind of smell a little bit, or end up getting in fights with everyone you introduce them to. Even though you really like them, you end up not spending a lot of time with them because they make everything around them a little unpleasant.
Sometimes you meet people who are really boring.
Sometimes you meet someone who you have an instant, heartfelt connection with. Sometimes you meet someone and that connection grows slowly, but you're both super into it. Those are the really cool ones: where you get as much from the relationship as you put in.
It's the same with meeting people in music.

On invitations/getting press:
Do you want your friends to come to your house party?
You need to invite them.
They probably enjoy your company and love hanging out with you, but they can't come to your party unless you invite them. They simply will not know about it otherwise.
Do you want someone from a cool music blog to come to your show? Do you want someone to review your album? Do you want to know what people think about your music?
You need to invite them.
They probably love music, and maybe they'll love the kind you make, but you need to let them know you're playing a darn show if you want them to come out.

On developing a friendship/playing shows:
By the same token, you need to be very proactive in building relationships, especially in their fledgling stage. 
Did you like that one girl you talked to at the party? Message her the night after the party and ask her how the rest of her night went. Say you want to hang out again. Find another time to meet up or another party to invite her to. Get brunch together. Whatever. It doesn't matter what you do, as long as you show that you are interested in keeping the relationship going. If you liked this person, the onus is on you, not them, to find out more and to keep building. If she doesn't enjoy spending time with you, trust me: she'll find a way out of it. If that happens, or if things get weird, move on along to the other friend you enjoyed hanging out with.
Did you have a great time playing a certain venue? Get in touch with the booker the next day and tell them so. If you want to play there again, ask for another date. Again, the onus is on you to stay in touch. You need to build the relationship. You need to be in charge of letting them know you want this to be a steady thing. If they don't like you or want you to keep playing, they'll let you know (or it will be come obvious after several attempts that it's not going to work). 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Where one serves, another takes their advantage.
Where one sacrifices, another greedily stuffs their face.
It is the nature of grace, I suppose
That one must give and the other accept
But I would reject the way that we shove and push
To get to our own sense of perfection.
If something is ripe for the taking,
Can't you take a look around
Can't you see what's tightly wound
around the verses of human life
drawing light from the roots of the tree you would strip?
Simply waiting for the sweet, soft drop
Of what you would take for yourself
Waiting for it to plop on the ground
We need it to nourish ourselves
As it rots on our collective conscience.
It's sullied nutrition
Feeding the whole
Instead of the one.
Giving us better ground to stand upon.

So maybe you'd call me a socialist
But you haven't seen the same people I've seen
No one should own so much money
As these.
Their sweet, beating hearts
Giving so much to the arts
Giving so much to the medicine
That would cure their aches and ailments.
Nothing's ever truly selfless
Phoebe nailed that, early on.
I don't suppose we could try it anyways, though...
Put down your money.
Put down your guns.
And give someone a goddamn hug.

Look into the eyes of another person and FEEL what they are feeling.

The problem... the problem is that we are all.
So very capable of these unimaginable evils. It lies
within each of us. It whispers
of how it will treat us.
Maybe it's self destructive. Maybe we get off on that.
We're all going to hell in a handbasket, so get in the fucking basket, man.
I'll take you down with me, man.
Glory be.

How do you even help when someone hurts like that?
How do you even help?
Can you?
I don't think I have it in me.
My parents would say that the answer is Jesus.
That this evil, black, monstrous mold is sin.
That we need Him to wash it clean.
And I mean, cool, kudos to Jesus, thanks to God, but it doesn't fix things to know that. It doesn't fix things to tell people about it.
I guess it helps some things, sometimes. But it doesn't get to the root of the problem, which is really the sick and twisted worldviews of the people who wreak the havoc of their depraved minds, out here in reality.
I suppose it's related to the smaller, pettier emotions we feel; the ones that Jesus helps normal people to seal into their past life. Thank you Jesus, I am clean, and we stand for love.
But it doesn't get to the root of the problem.
It doesn't fix things.
It fixes me. Or you. The individual. And I suppose... if it fixed all the individuals, we'd be good.
But once you're clean and bright and shiny with the forgiveness and grace of God, what do you do?

You go into all the world, I guess, proclaiming the good news.
But not everyone will like the good news,
And sonny, that's why there are martyrs.
Good Christian men rejoice
As they cut off your heads.

So, you see, it doesn't fix things.
Because not everyone submits to be fixed.
Sometimes we resist the things we need the most.

Just... why isn't it armor or something? Bright shiny grace-armor that we can just hit the bad guys over the head with. Smack them with the Bible and get some love into 'em.
I mean, c'mon, Jesus.
I suppose that's the problem with free will. There will always be people who make bad choices.

Thursday, December 4, 2014


We are so quick
To hold up our heroes
When they only and always fail us
No one is perfect
It's quite the consensus
We've all agreed to ignore
That life is more holy than war.

Everyone's human
But we celebrate
Their honesty, passion, and sympathy
Ignoring their guts when they quickly
have to make snap decisions.
We should all be disgusted
By what is so twisted-
It resides in my heart, and yours.
We try to distract ourselves
By telling lies to ourselves
Ignoring what's under the floorboards.

A life lost is not a life gained
Our humanity is what, up for grabs?
Just because, and because, we proclaim our excuse
And defend what should never be had.

Anger embalms us
A society
In misery
moaning beneath our mummified mouths
Preserved for forever
No changes in weather
Will move the sad veins that run deep in our skin
Our shame and our sorrow
Will last through tomorrow
And we'll turn our backs
As ever, and always, before.

Friday, October 24, 2014

And so the wind blows me about as it will
And so it wends its whistling step across
The dross of New York City.

It blusters, blissfully, through the trees
The leaves bristling at the intrusion
But welcoming a kind of reunion
It's fall, you see, and we're delighted to behold
The slow drop, the sweet stop
Of the heartbeat of the sun

And so the wind whirls through the locks
Caresses the tresses of the girls and of the treetops
And so it pulls my thoughts to pleasanter things
And so... the wind blows me about as it will

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

I am a...

"CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): For over 2,000 years, Chinese astronomers have understood the science of eclipses. And yet as late as the 1800s, sailors in the Chinese navy shot cannonballs in the direction of lunar eclipses, hoping to chase away the dragons they imagined were devouring the moon. I have a theory that there's a similar discrepancy in your psyche, Capricorn. A fearful part of you has an irrational fantasy that a wiser part of you knows is a delusion. So how can we arrange for the wiser part to gain ascendancy? There's an urgent need for you to stop wasting time and energy by indulging in that mistaken perspective." (from the Missoula Indendent's Blog)

There are stories that I tell myself. That I'm bad at this. That I'm worse at that. That my talents are narrow and my skills are set in their ways. But as soon as a statement comes out of my mouth, "oh, I'm so bad at..."  - it feels wrong. It feels like I'm betraying the truth that I know, the one that is different than the stories I whisper to myself. The wiser part of me is taken aback, appalled that I would say such negative, such incorrect things. Because the wiser part of my knows just what I am capable of when I put my mind to it. It knows that I am capable of anything, and my excuses are just excuses, used to hide from the tasks that are difficult or unpleasant.
You see, I am a runner. By which I mean, it's important how you see yourself, how you talk about yourself (to yourself, and to others), and how your actions follow from that perception. And I've been reminded time and time again that my frame of mind needs shifting, until it focuses and settles on the task at hand (namely, music). The truths I tell myself, about myself, are the ideals I aspire to. 
You see, I am someone who exercises. I am someone who does not eat candy. I am a musician. And the things I do with my life and my time are reflections of what a person who is a musician, doesn't eat candy, and exercises, would do with their life.
You see, I am living up to myself, as I visualize myself. And it does no good to simply try. As Yoda so famously said: do. Or do not.

p.s. I had maybe read my horoscope 5 times in my life before I moved to Montana. The last few months we lived in Missoula, I got hooked on the Indy's weekly versions. I've been checking them online every Wednesday, ever since we moved. I don't hold too tightly to these things, but I like the way Rob Brezny suggests you take a look at life and think about things through a different lens.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Just a little green

I've really been appreciating the benefit of being outdoors lately. Often, during my precious lunch hour, I'll scurry as quickly as I can down to the East River to get a glimpse of the shifting water, the free-wheeling boats in pursuit of the sea, and the trees all leafed-out along the promenade. But recently, I've been drawn to the bits of grass that are not-quite-as-far as the water. (This is New York; it is nothing, if not about convenience.)
The grass I like best is a tiny little strip; not necessarily manufactured for human lounging, but just big enough to accommodate a cross-legged girl who wants to kick her shoes off. It's littered with leaves and weeds and tiny ants, but that's sort of the way I like it. There's something about setting your feet on the ground and letting them get all green and grass-imprinted that does an office-computer-weary heart a world of good.