Wednesday, February 22, 2006


I have just received fellowships from NYU and from UPenn. USA, here I come.

Monday, February 20, 2006


This is one of the most exciting projects I have ever heard of. It is called Free a Book, or Book Crossing, and involves placing labled books in public places where they may be found and read by others. Books can then be tracked via their website. It just seems so engaged...

Friday, February 17, 2006


One of my biggest fears is that speaking about my depression in a professional context will have a negative impact on my career. I was thinking about that today, when I remembered something a very dear friend told me. She wasn't speaking specifically about this situation, but her words are meaningful none the less. She said that wanting to do something about it says a lot of positive things about the type of person I am. I struggle a little to believe that, but onceagain, my desire to understand myself, and possibly to help someone else, makes me believe that it is worth it all.
I have been on medication for endometriosis on and off for twelve years. One of the side effects is depression. I always thought I wasn't prone to it, untill it hit me full force last year. I didn't understand what was happening to me, at first. I was going through a great phase psychologically when a converstion with a friend sparked one of the blackest phases I have ever experienced in my life. It came and go, but reached its worst point around the time I finished my degree. The result is that I am now on anti-depresants (something I swore I would never do), and seeing a shrink every second week. I feel better all the time, with increasingly rare excpetions, but my shame over my illness increases. Only when I read about the likes of, for example, Ruth Benedict, who also suffered from depression her whole life, do I begin to understand how normal, and non-shameful it all is.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


There was a swarm of butterflies around Johannesburg today. There were so many, they were tangling in my hair as I walked. Hundreds of little white creatures, like rose petals, floating every which way. What a beautiful way to celebrate valentines day.

Sunday, February 12, 2006


following my own post on applause in concerts, I was interested to encounter a whole discussion on the theme that proved illuminating, though not quite oppinion altering. The discussion begins here, then moves here, with a response here and a follow-up. thanks to dmcmanus for pointing this out.

Friday, February 10, 2006

A different response to the cell phone at concerts scourge.

On Wednesday night, a cell-phone rang in John Comaroff's lecture. Twice. The reaction was predictable. I get the frustration on both sides. A friend of mine has a cell phone that rings regularly in seminars in our department, because we can't figure out how to switch it off. but she holds it in her hand in such a way that the sound is stifled. If I didn't know what the stiff-shouldered posture and panicked expression she occasionally adopts meant, I wouldn't even notice. I love my gadgets, as I have so often stated. And yet the frustrations of electronic etiquette are great. Perhaps the way to deal with it is that suggested by the article linked to above.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

I attended a talk by John Comaroff today. He was so dynamic and exciting, and his topic was so similar to the issues I have been thinking about and reading about recently, that it really energized me. But it also precipitated something of a crisis that has been brewing for a long time. Am I really an ethnomusicologist, or am I more of an anthropologist? I considered many careers when I was in school, and after much personal indecision, and discomfort, I finally decided that the arts were the way to go. Not as a performer, though. I love textual analysis, critical theory and social research. I love working with people, and seeking to understand what is important to them, and how to make a difference to them. I identify so strongly with Margaret Mead's suggestion that to contribute to the store of human knowledge is the highest aim. I just wonder whether ethnomusicology is the right base. Anthropology is so established, and ethnomusicology feels at risk. The department in which I studied for four years is lucky if it gets one ethnomusicology honours major per year. They have reduced the course to a single semester this year. It is an incredible course. Last year was traumatic in some ways, but being in that course, in that class, was one of the things that held me together. I came to understand so much about myself from everything that happened last year. I was life-changing in the most fundamental of ways. This year has been a disconnect. I feel detached from my peers, my discipline, and my passion. I have studied everything I can in my discipline at my university. If I don't get to the states later this year, what will I do about my further education?
I guess the point is not that I have lost faith in what I do. I still believe that there is potential in what I do. I really do believe in the power of music, and the possibility of academia to change things. It just feels a little solitary right now.

Monday, February 06, 2006

How to be a South African - Mail and Guardian Online

I read Mail and Guardian on and off, and generally find it pretty informative. Recently, however, I have been finding it pretty irritating. I blogged before on their "White Africans" article, and expressed my sadness at having my identity restricted under an umbrella of white guilt. The article linked to at the top of today's post, however, has a similar slant, though it generally disturbs me less. I just don't really know how to address this issue myself. I guess as long as we continue thinking about and writing about it, we are getting somewhere.

On the other hand, however, the center spread article in this week's paper, to which I unfortunately cannot link, as it requires a subscription, is called, disturbingly, "Where are all the clever Chicks?" The title tells you all you need to know about the quality of the writing. I have always hated nick-names. Not necessarily for others, when they choose them, but absolutely for myself, and absolutely when they generalize about a specific group of people. Calling women "chicks" is just such a tasteless statement. And that really is the mildest of them. When I am classified as a woman because of my "tits" I want to scream.
That this is a fundamentally tasteless article is one thing, however. More relevant, perhaps is that it expresses a terribly cliched suggestion that makes one of the most superb female intellectuals I know object to feminism as a movement. I get the second wave stuff that seeks to understand what makes women unique, rather than "just as good as...", not least because it is the uniqueness that makes me like femininity, of womanness, of whatever, as much as I do (and I really do), but I also agree with the aforementioned intellectual's objection to a movement that seeks eternally to make us a special case, a something that needs to be sensitized, and italicized, and apostrophized, and not simply recognized.

Perhaps it is the same basic premise that makes this article fundamentally distasteful that also makes the concern with white South Africans troubling. I once wrote to someone that I believe that the greatest subversive value of homosexuality is connected with the fact that it is difficult to symptomatize to the same extent as race, of gender, or age are. You have to know something about a person to know that they are gay. That lends a certain degree of dignity to the interaction that undercuts prejudice. You don't have to know anything about a person to know that they are female, of white. But you do to know that they are South African. Does that make us inherently subversive?

Sunday, February 05, 2006


I adore technology. I love that my computer and cell phone, internet connection and what not makes my life easier. I love that with a bit of playing around, I can things even easier, by programing something new, or putting together a new database, or something similar. I love that usually, the sort of things that go wrong with this type of technology are usually related to the rules that govern programing, and that, if I stick with it long enough, I can usually fix it. So of course, what went wrong this time was purely mechanical. My laptop screen casing cracked, right in the corner by the hinge. This is the third of this type of laptop that I have had this problem with. Makes one think.... Problem is, they are also the cheapest laptop in this performance class, and I can't afford more. the salary of a grad-student tutor does not extend to computers.
There is one computer repair place about an hour from my house. You stand in a two hour cue before reaching the front desk. They cannot give me an extimate of cost or time untill next week. The rediculous thing is, that if they sold me the relevant part, I could fix it in under an hour. It is not a big job. But of course, they will not do that. In stead, I am without a computer for who knows how long, and going into rapid and severe withdrawal.