Song-in-action Blog

Are you an Academic Hoarder?

Posted by Katina on October 5, 2010 at 12:59 am

Followers of my Twitter account (@krsprof) know that I watch A&E’s Hoarders and TLC’s  Hoarding: Buried Alive all the time. After every episode, I look at my bookshelves, desk, and file cabinets and start sorting my belongings into the three stacks: keep, donate, throw away. I think one of the things that fascinates me about the show is even though these people are way, way over the edge, it is easy to see how you could become overwhelmed by stuff – especially if you are an academic. This past week, Inside Education and the Chronicle of Higher Education both had posts on hoarding/collecting/archiving in academica. In Academic Hoarding, Meg Palladino talks about how she is accumulating books, office supplies, and university gear.

“I have a lot of pens and magic markers in various colors. I have a lot of paperclips; I especially prize the square or pointy paper clips that come from other countries, and I have a black and yellow striped paper clip that I like. I have a giant box full of outdated business cards that I can never possibly use before there is another change to my title, the name of my department, the name of the college or the logo of the University. I also have a lot of books. I have multiple copies of some books, in case students or faculty need to borrow them. Finally, I have a stash of university-branded swag – backpacks, mugs, magnets and key chains. Those are tools of my trade.”

I am very sympathetic to Meg’s plight.  I didn’t realize how much stuff I had in my office until I left my job as an assistant professor to work for the federal government.  At the time, I taught about the politics of popular music and popular culture. I was probably the only political science prof on campus whose office was covered with hip hop dolls, playing cards, games, posters, etc. When I left to move to MD, I packed everything hip-hop into boxes because I no longer had any place to display them. I also had to find a home for my collection of ten years of articles on Baltimore schools (from my dissertation) and my archive of tabloid coverage of American presidents, all of my books, journals, magazines, music, papers, files, etc.  Did I mention that I also had a home office full of even more things that had to be packed up?

When I arrived in MD, I had to make some hard choices about what to keep and what had to go. It almost broke my heart to whittle down two office’s worth of materials into two file cabinets and a couple of bookshelves. It was very, very hard at first. The first step was storage, then letting the storage go, and then being even more hard core about the sort.  Even though I gave tons of stuff away, Hoarders has inspired me to get back to the basics.  To do so, I merged their sorting method from one I saw on Wife Swap (the wife was professional organizer). For each item, she said to decide:

  • Do I need it? (If yes, keep it, if not donate or throw away)
  • Do I love it? (If yes, keep it, if not donate or throw away)
  • Does it make me money (If yes, keep it, if not donate or throw away)

As my priorities have shifted, I have been giving and throwing more and more things away. I gave most of my academic books to Books for International Goodwill and recycled my magazines/tabloids for my vision boards. I sold the collectibles on Ebay and at a yard sale and sold my fiction books on Amazon. I must say that it is great to have much less stuff in my apartment. Especially when what is left are things that I really love and/or hold an important place in my world.

Right now I have two sets of things that need to go, but I am holding on to them so that I can find them a proper home. What to do with archives is a serious question. When historian Roy Rosenzweig died, his wife had to figure out what to do with an entire basement’s worth of materials he had collected over the years.  She was blessed to find an organization that would take possession of his primary and secondary resources. I feel lucky to only have two relatively small archives to give away. One is a collection of National Enquirer and Globe coverage of American presidents from Ronald Reagan to G.W. Bush. The other is ten years worth of microfilms of the Baltimore Afro-American. Even though I haven’t worked on either of these projects in years, it doesn’t feel right to throw the material away. If you are interested in either of these items let me know. They would make great resources for a graduate student (hint, hint) instead of clutter in my apartment.

Are you an academic with too much stuff? How do you deal with it?

Filed under: Donate,Hip Hop

The More Things Change – My two new blogs

Posted by Katina on September 10, 2010 at 11:42 pm

If you have been to http:/home/katinara/public_html/ in the last day or so, you might have noticed something a little different. My blog “Song-in-Action” has been retired and replaced by my new blog “From the Desk of KRSProf.”


A few weeks ago, I was looking at my Song-in-Action posts and realized two things – the first is that I wasn’t blogging very regularly and when I did blog, the posts were about lupus. That begged the question, why were there so many blogs about lupus on my blog about music and social activism? The answer seemed really clear; I have had a change of focus. So I rolled with it and made two major adjustments:

  1. I finally created a freestanding lupus blog so that I would stop hijacking the blog on my http:/home/katinara/public_html/ with lupus posts! The new blog is called Butterfly Lessons (http:/home/katinara/public_html/ and officially launches on Sept. 13, 2010 in honor of Invisible Illness Week (http:/home/katinara/public_html/ The Butterfly Lessons blog is all about living a fabulous life with lupus. I hope everyone in the lupus community enjoys it and is inspired to live their life to the fullest. You can also follow my Butterfly Lessons tweets (as @Butterflylesson).                                                              
  2. I  refocused the main blog on http:/home/katinara/public_html/ into a more eclectic blog that reflects my tendency to be interested in all sorts of things. Look out for From the Desk of KRSPRof  to have posts on music, pop culture, politics, fashion, and anything else that strikes my fancy. 

Hope you enjoy the changes,



Filed under: Lupus,Writing

Lalah & Law Firms raise money & awareness for local DMV causes

Posted by Katina on June 26, 2010 at 2:45 pm

One of my favorite things is to use this blog to call attention to causes supported by musicians. Two great causes – the Lupus Foundation of America, DMV chapter and Gifts for the Homeless were supported by examples of Song-in-Action last Thursday.

Lalah for Lupus

In Prince George’s county, I was excited to be invited to listen to the sounds of Lala Hathaway at a Lupus concert/fundraiser sponsored by the Ashleigh Group. Before Lala’s set, Edie Aultmon and another lupus survivor gave testimonies about how their lives have been changed by the auto-immune disorder that affects more than 1.5 million people in the United States. Watch Edie below in Chasing Butterflies.

Kassandra Kearse, Development Manager for the Lupus Foundation – DMV was in the house as well. If you would like to host a concert for lupus, contact Kassandra.

Lawyers Band Together

Across the border, DMV’s law firms put down their subpoenas and picked up their instruments at the Black Cat for the 7th Annual Banding Together Battle of the Law Firm Bands to raise funds for Gifts for the Homeless.  GFTH is a local non-profit supported by the DC metro legal community that provides clothing donations to the area’s homeless.

This year Sutherland Comfort (representing Sutherland Asbill & Brennan) was the winning band, a title brought home by raising the most funds for GFTH – $29,000.

Who is Sutherland Comfort?

  • Financial Services Associate Naseem Nixon (lead singer)
  • Litigation Associate Wilson G. Barmeyer (bass guitar)
  • Tax Associate Daniel M. Buchner (guitar)
  • Financial Services Partner W. Thomas Conner (guitar)
  • Océ staff member Chris Lewis (drums).
  • Recruiting Assistant Rachael K. Saltzman (back-up vocals)
  • Paralegal Amanda Hubert (back-up vocals)

Overall Banding Together raised more than $130,000 for the organization, according to the Washington Post. Donate to Gifts for the Homeless online.

Love Lots,


P.S.  If you know of any DMV musicians raising funds or awareness for local causes email me so that I can feature them in the Song-in-Action blog.

Filed under: Donate,Fundraiser,Lupus

Lady Gaga raises Lupus Awareness on Larry King

Posted by Katina on June 5, 2010 at 3:28 am

This week one of my twitter-friends sent me a link to music-related Lupus story. I was intrigued. Lady Gaga might have Lupus? Say it isn’t so. As anyone with Lupus can tell you, having Lupus sucks. I was very sad to hear that the singer might be battling with the disease. So I clicked the link to Lady Gaga’s interview on Larry King to listen for myself.

Larry gets right to it. Do you have Lupus? Sort-of, maybe, maybe not, no?

According to Lady Gaga, she was tested for lupus, doesn’t show any signs, is “boderline positive, ” but does not have lupus. What does that mean? Lady Gaga doesn’t appear to have Lupus right now, but may or may not develop it later.

The Lupus Foundation of America has used Lady Gaga’s story to education the public about the nature of the disease (read here) and the diagnosis process.

From the LFA blog:

“There are many challenges in confirming whether a person has lupus.  Lupus symptoms can be unclear, can come and go, and can change over time.  It may take months or even years for doctors to piece together evolving symptoms to accurately diagnose lupus.  And the symptoms may be related to another condition entirely. . . The anti-nuclear antibody (ANA) test is used as a screening test for lupus. We know that 95 percent of people with lupus have a positive ANA.  Therefore, if a person has symptoms of systemic lupus but their ANA test is negative, that’s generally regarded as pretty good evidence against lupus being the explanation for the symptoms they are having.

On the other hand, if the ANA test comes back positive, that IS NOT proof of lupus.  The positive ANA is only an indicator; it is not diagnostic. A positive ANA can be found in a number of illnesses and conditions.  In fact, many people may have positive lupus tests-particularly the anti-nuclear antibody test-and yet they do NOT have the disease. . . .”

For me, Lady Gaga’s “Lupus story” is both a cautionary tale about celebrity and a moment of opportunity to see a musician raise public awareness for a disease.

When I was watching the video, my first thought was why is Larry intruding into Lady Gaga’s personal business like that?  Was she ready to bare her health status and her family’s history to the entire world? You only have to Google “Lady Gaga Lupus” to see how this story spread around the Internet. But I don’t know if Lady Gaga was offended since she seemed genuinely concerned that her fans were concerned about her health.

So on the one hand, her celebrity status has effectively given everyone liberty to speculate about her very private health issues.  On the other hand, she seems ok with it and this provides a platform for her name-recognition to provide a spot-light on the issue of lupus.

The whole situation reminds me of when Christina Applegate was diagnosed with breast cancer. She went on to be a breast cancer advocate, sharing deeply personal information to the public in order to raise awareness of the disease (like talking about having a double mastectomy).

It also reminds me of two celebrities that do have lupus and have used their status to raise awareness of the disease. What’s really interesting to me is that they are both male. This stands out, because while Lupus is a disease that can plague both genders and people of all ages, most people who have the disease are women of childbearing age .

The singer Seal is a very visible face of discoid (cutaneous) lupus which is a disease of the skin.

The extensive scarring on Seal’s face shown in the picture above is from the discoid/cutaneous version of the disease.

“Cutaneous refers to the skin, and this form of lupus is limited to the skin. Although there are many types of rashes and lesions (sores) caused by cutaneous lupus, the most common rash is raised, scaly and red, but not itchy. It is commonly known as a discoid rash, because the areas of rash are shaped like disks, or circles . . . Approximately 10 percent of people who have cutaneous lupus will develop systemic lupus. However, it is likely that these people already had systemic lupus, with the skin rash as their main symptom.” Lupus Foundation of America

Rapper Trick Daddy has also recently come forward to talk about his lupus diagnosis. He has systemic lupus (the version Lady Gaga was tested for) which is a potentially more serious version of the disease because it can affect the body’s major organ systems.  The disease is chronic (meaning it is a long-term illness) and an autoimmune disorder that can damage any part of the body (skin, joints, and/or organs inside the body).

The Miami rapper discussed his Lupus diagnosis on a radio show (discussed here on Hip Hop Crunch)

“I went to the doctor, like, 12 years ago. She took all kinds of tests, because I was trying to get rid of what we call dry skin; she did biopsies and blood tests and swab tests. She told me I have lupus.”


Filed under: Lupus

Trop-A-Rocka! Bret Michaels Wins Celebrity Apprentice

Posted by Katina on May 24, 2010 at 3:17 am

Congrats! Bret Michaels rocks out and brings home the title of Celebrity Apprentice.

His cause: the American Diabetes Association. He is a true champion and a great example of Song-in-Action. In his own words: “I’m here to win” and he did, while raising awareness and funds for Diabetes, a disease that affects 23.6 million people in the United States (7.8% of the population).

Filed under: Donate,Fundraiser