August 5th, 2012

Dead Dog Cat

second essay for World Music


I recall the period of the release of Graceland. At the time world opinion was building against the apartheid policies of the South African government, at least among the populace of the West. Due to its rich deposits of strategic minerals, some of which (such as chromium) were only available in usable quantities from the Soviet Union, the governments of the First World were unwilling to pay more than lip service to their expressed disapproval. In this context, suddenly an American musical celebrity arrives in South Africa. It would be easy to understand the response of the African National Congress and the young man in the street that Simon had broken the cultural embargo, but it can be argued that this was one more action that brought attention to the plight of black South Africans. The popularity of the album, whether or not it actually accurately depicted the music of the land, focused more attention on these artists and the people they represented. Each such action chiselled away a bit more of the wall that hid the actions of the apartheid supporters in trying to maintain their hold on government. By the early 90s, this wall was nearly down, and as an example of this, the imprisoned Nelson Mandela was released after twenty-seven years in confinement. A few years later and the government changed, leading to majority rule, and the ending of apartheid.

I refuse to suggest that Graceland was solely responsible for the ending of apartheid. Many things contributed, from the Olympic ban from the 1970s, to the cultural embargo in the 1980s, to Graceland's release, to the world's acceptance of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, to the Regents of the University of California being pressured to divest the University's endowments of South African shares, to the ongoing actions of the African National Congress in revolt against the government's policies; each was necessary in their own ways to increase the pressure to intolerable levels. Finally, de Klerk acknowledged the legitimacy of the ANC, and the floodgates burst.

Should Simon have gone? At the time, his career appeared to be in decline; he needed an infusion of energy and some means of stirring his creative juices to result in a form that would excite his audience. In addition, in his early years, he and his partner, Art Garfunkle, produced music that often reflected the politics of the period. In this context, going to South Africa flew in the face of the majority of his peers, while initially appearing to support the downtrodden African musicians. I don't think that Simon could have made any other choice, once he listened to the cassette of South African music. It's never clear what the final effect of a given action might be, because so many factors modify the end result. With the pressures of the world's attention, the apartheid supporters fell, and South Africa was born anew.
Dead Dog Cat

(no subject)

Unfortunately, forestcats laptop, six years of age, expired a couple days ago. When I got home from work, last night, we went out and prowled several stores to see what was out there. She's got a good idea what she wants now.

OTOH, she gifted me with more aloha shirts, newly completed off her sewing machine. I wore one last night as we shopped, and I looked spiffy! I'll be wearing another today to work.

I posted another essay for the World Music class. In both classes, I'm getting mediocre grades. Considering that I usually only give an hour or a bit more to writing them, perhaps that's not surprising. Then again, I'm writing what I feel like writing about the topic, and sometimes that isn't really what I've been asked for by the professor. Since I'm not taking these classes for credit, but for my own interest, I don't think I'm going to worry about grades, really. In the comments by the graders, I noted that they did say that I'd brought up some good points, and I'm satisfied with that.

Once home, and once I'd gotten the new essay off to Coursera, we ran some more streaming material, and finished season four of Eureka. Silly show; moderately amusing. Season five isn't available for streaming, but is on disc, so I'll shift around our Netflix list to finish it up. Is there a sixth season?

Now, I've got to get more reading done on Dracula for the F&SF class, and I need to finish my essay on Alice in Wonderland, probably later today. I'm seeing some complaining on the discussion forums about the reading load. Oh, well, that's a literature class for you!