The Indicator Volume XXXIV, Issue 1
October 5, 2012
Letter to the Editors
he Amherst College community is still shell-shocked from the news of Carleen Basler’s plagiarism and resignation. In the past two weeks, waves of emotions have washed over the campus: sorrow, betrayal, sympathy, but above all, a pervasive and destabilizing ambivalence. It seems the College community does not know how to react. Do we express condolences as if for the death of a loved one? Do we condemn Basler for violating our trust? Students whisper to each other over library cubicles and Valentine tables. Some professors have spoken with their classes; most have not. The rest of us are left to rely on The Amherst Student (“Basler Resigns After Admitting to Plagiarism” and “A Culture of Insecurity”) for updates on the debacle. The College administration and faculty is conspicuously silent. The whispers remain. On Monday, The Student printed a sympathetic exposé of the incident, focusing on the aftermath of the plagiarism and its consequences for the community. The article reprints a passage from Basler’s official statement in which she claims to have “unintentionally” failed to cite passages in some of her published work. The Student notes that “some of the faculty believes that it [the plagiarism] was caused by her struggles and insecurities with writing.” In the accompanying editorial, The Student expresses concern for the “lack of adequate support networks for the high pressures of academia.” Her plagiarism would seem to be prompted by academic adversity. Professor Sanchez-Eppler captures the prevailing narrative well: “There’s a lot that we can learn about how to support vulnerabilities and deficits […] that’s the kind of soul-searching that we as an institution need to do.” There are many redeeming features of this narrative—it is always beneficial to reflect on our own academic environment, and the focus on moving forward rather than assigning blame is admirable—but it nevertheless mischaracterizes several key features of Basler’s plagiarism. These mischaracterizations would not be so important if there were other narratives to fill in the gaps: a letter from the Faculty, perhaps, or an email from President Martin. Yet because the College has not addressed the issue with the students, we are left only with The Student (and whispers). This dominant narrative aims to repair the damage; but before the community moves onto the healing process, it is imperative that we look at the situation in toto so that we know what we are trying to heal. The Student’s narrative, for all its merits, skips this crucial step. For one, all available evidence suggests that Basler’s plagiarism was intentional, not accidental, as she claimed in her statement. Dean Call notes that Basler “readily acknowledged” unattributed quotations, implying that she knew about them all along. Portions of her published work are copied verbatim from other authors. American Studies and Sociology majors—the only students to be briefed on the issue—have relayed (unsubstantiated) rumors that sections of her work are copied from Wikipedia. The plagiarism dates back to her dissertation at Yale. In short, her plagiarism is not unintentional or simply improper—it is a prolific, premeditated subordination of the academic process. The distinction between intentional and unintentional plagiarism is very, very, important. Accidental plagiarism is fairly frequent. This past summer, Fareed Zakaria admitted to plagiarizing Jill Lepore’s essay from The New Yorker. Time and CNN suspended him for a month, he apologized, and by
the end of August he was reinstated. His academic rehabilitation was quick because Time believed him when he said he misread his notes. In his case, the journalistic community determined there was no mens rea—he did not intend to steal. This misplaced-notes scenario is increasingly likely as junior professors publish feverishly to raise their tenure prospects, even while Google makes plagiarism more easily detectable. Indeed, the onset of the digital age raises serious questions for academic integrity, and it is important to address them. However, it is equally important to acknowledge when those questions are not at stake, that is to say, when the plagiarism does not hinge on a misplaced note. In Basler’s case, there are no mitigating factors—she stole, and she knew it. This places her in a radically different, irreconcilable domain of academic dishonesty. It is the difference between stealing a computer and picking up the wrong one as you leave Frost. There will come a time when an Amherst professor commits unintentional plagiarism, and when that happens, this distinction will be of paramount importance. We must begin by recognizing the difference here. Second, The Student hypothesizes (subheading “Creating a More Helpful Academic Environments” [sic]) that Amherst’s academic environment may not be supportive enough, which in turn may have influenced Basler’s decision to plagiarize. While it may be true that Amherst’s environment is not sufficiently supportive, it is important to note that Basler began to plagiarize at Yale, not Amherst. Doubtless, The Student’s stance means to take constructive action after an overwhelmingly destructive event. Nevertheless, it moves too fast. We (the non-American Studies/Sociology majors) don’t even know exactly what happened, not to mention why it happened. The College needs to reckon, together, about Basler’s plagiarism and why it might have transpired. While this may raise concerns about Basler’s privacy, the fact is that she was a professor of the College, and she represents the College. Her resignation is not and cannot be a purely private issue. The community must grapple with what occurred—communally, constructively, and with particular concern for Basler and her family, but also openly and honestly. Only by grappling with the situation together can we prevent its recurrence. Plagiarism is not just any offense. It stands in fundamental opposition to everything that Amherst College stands for: intellectual exploration, personal responsibility, open inquiry, and ethical and moral development. We may sympathize with Basler, we may attempt to understand why she did it, but ultimately, the administration must recognize—publically—her actions for what they are: a total violation of Amherst’s trust. Plagiarism is antithetical to everything Amherst purports to believe in; if we do not acknowledge it in all of its forms, no matter how understandable, we risk implicitly dismissing it as an excusable misdemeanor. The administration needs to talk about this. An article in The Amherst Student is not enough. Matt deButts ‘14
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The Indicator October 5, 2012
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Table of Contents
Letter to the Editors
Senior Editor: (safari)
Associate Editors: (anorak)
Dan Adler Todd Faulkenberry Chris Friend Nica Siegel Daniel Webber
Contributing Editors: (bomber)
Robert Gaffey Satina Xu Jisoo Lee
Art Editor: (trench) Features Editor: (leather) Cover Art: (windbreaker)
Adrian Street (Excerpt) Mark Roberts 14 The Swings Diana Babineau 15
Annalise Nurme Yamira Serret
Contributing Artists: (letterman)
Monica Cesinger Samara Fantie Joy Huang Annalise Nurme Aida Orozco Yamira Serret
Coming Soon: An Actual Website. Prepare yourself. The Indicator is a journal of social and political thought at Amherst College. Originally founded in 1848, it was resurrected in the spring of 1996 after a 145-year hiatus. The Indicator’s primary mission is to provide a medium for discussion of local, national and international issues within the college community. The journal appears four times during the fall and spring semesters. The opinions and ideas expressed in The Indicator are those of the individual writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Indicator or of Amherst College. The editorials are a product of the opinions of the current Editors-in-Chief of The Indicator. The Indicator does not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or age.
COMMENTARY Amherst and Art in Conversation Dan Adler 4 Shirting the Issue Dana Bolger 6 Keeping it Fresh Lock Whitney 7 Parties and Bullshit Robert Gaffey 8 Filibustering Females Laura Gerrard 9 Sorry I’m Not Summa Todd Faulkenberry 10 Baring the Grin Jisoo Lee 11 The Great TAPsby Chris Friend 12
Every Love Story is a Ghost Story Daniel Pastan 16 No Easy Day Nik Nevin 17 From The Indicator’s Cartographical Files 18 The Report Card 19 Blood of Our Enemies 20
This is a picture of an accentuated drawing of an Amherst College Religious Advisor’s head resting on a lily pad.
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The Indicator October 5, 2012
Amherst and Art in Conversation Dan Adler
Sitting down with new novelist Lindsay Stern ‘13.
ast year, Lindsay Stern and a friend had a conversation with a parrot in a pet store. The bird was talkative and friendly, so Lindsay’s friend asked, naturally: “What is being?” Her interlocutor took a step back, and sneezed. In the months after this exchange, Lindsay finished her first published book, Town of Shadows. She recounted the incident to a crowd of Amherst students and humanities professors at a recent reading for the novella at Amherst Books. Given the setting, the story could have depressed. Lindsay was pointing to the futility at the heart of the classes that her audience would be teaching and attending the next day. Reductionism isn’t flattering, but it’s hard to say what the humanities are about if they’re not about saying something about being. But that task, so abstract and so confounding, flows into more basic questions. I, for one, cannot think of a conversation topic at Amherst more common than, “How should Amherst students lead their Amherst lives?” Or, phrased for a parrot, “What is being an Amherst student?” At least, that’s the only way I can account for the visibility of those debates. Literally visible—do I sit in The Sports Room or The Assorted Room?—and, well, literally visible—just when, exactly, is it cool to care? We speak often of Amherst’s racial and socioeconomic diversity, but it seems to me that our diversity of lifestyle choices is most noticeable and most scrutinized. The reason I was excited to sit down with Lindsay was not as much to talk about her new book as it was to talk about being and being a writer at Amherst. I wanted to hear someone whose aim it is to communicate some truth about the big question weigh in on the corollary questions. I guess, in retrospect, I was waiting for Lindsay to give some hint that she was about to emerge as Amherst’s very own Marina Keegan, the late Yale English major who graduated last year only after sparking a national debate about the merits of turning an elite college education into a career in financial services (see the brilliant
The Indicator October 5, 2012
firstname.lastname@example.org “Even Artichokes Have Doubts”). Who better to stoke a college’s culture wars than our writers? Then again, sometimes the real insight is in the sneeze. — DA: Given the homage regularly paid to Frost, Dickinson, and David Foster Wallace, Amherst seems to pride itself on its literary culture and history. And I think that’s probably how the outside world tends to think about the school. As both a writer and an Amherst student, do you take any stock in that?
in a more traditional sense? LS: I took a writing poetry class in my freshman year with Professors Sofield and Wilbur, who are both formalists. But I came into Amherst with my head completely in contemporary art and contemporary writing. I wasn’t interested at all in the classics or in rhyme or in meter or anything like that. And now I’m completely the opposite, thanks in part to them and to Adam Sitze and his class “Plato and the Poets.” So I’m much more interested in the Ancient Greeks and more traditional writing, ironically. That class and the traditional inclinations of the English department helped to bridle that impulse to just free associate. And I think I’m better for that. DA: So you view that impulse as something that needs be resisted? LS: I discovered Gertrude Stein and some other writers who seemed to free associate in their method and so then I kind of fell in love with that, and the surrealists, and Dada. And I believe that there’s this fascinating logic to that, too. But I think it’s dangerous in the hands of somebody as inexperienced as me. Better, I think, to work within a framework before working beyond it. DA: This is all surprising to me, because I imagine we went to similar high schools [note: Lindsay attended the Brearley School, an all-girls private school in Manhattan] where the emphasis was decidedly towards the classics. So where does the experimental tendency come from?
LS: Yeah, that was pretty much the reason I wanted to come here. Both because of its history and because of its structure. It’s such a small place, with the faculty-student ratio being what it is. My mentor in high school always talked about Amherst as a richly literary place, and I always knew that I wanted to write, so that had a lot to do with my decision. DA: Town of Shadows has been described as experimental and postmodern, though. When Amherst is thought of as a literary place, isn’t it
LS: I was a pretty bizzare kid. I always loved Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake and those kinds of strange stories. And my writing for [high] school was always radically different than the writing I did at home. But I guess those are aligning more now that I’m working on my thesis [note: Lindsay plans to submit her second novel as an English thesis]. It’s along the lines of the novella but a bit more traditional. So what may have begun as a counter-phobic reaction to my high school’s emphasis on tradition has started
to intersect with traditional inclinations. DA: You’re writing a philosophy thesis, too. Your fiction is pretty philosophical, though, so would you be mad if I accused you of gilding the lily? LS: I feel like literature teaches you how to exist as a human being in a way that analytic philosophy doesn’t. DA: Which is weird, because philosophy is supposed to be explanatory. But yeah, sometimes literature seems to me like a reaction to philosophical impasses. LS: Yeah, I’ve felt that way, too. Sometimes I feel as if philosophy gives you the tools but then that’s really all it gives you. It refuses to acknowledge the impasses that inspired those tools in the first place. So if you want more than that, you’ll be unsatisfied.
LS: I guess so, to some extent. I mean, there’s a similar worry in academia, and I think it can be resolved. There’s this climate of guilt in deciding to teach or do something intellectual, as if to do so you’re sacrificing a career in public service. But if you take the view that all that’s meaningful is helping the impoverished, and then you radicalize it, then you have no intellectual culture at all for people to look toward and be inspired by. DA: And then, if you really are committed to the value of that culture, there’s almost no point in being fed in the first place.
I feel like literature teaches you how to exist as a human being in a way that analytic philosophy doesn’t.
LS: Exactly. It’s a tough balance to find. And I wonder if that kind of guilt is behind this aversion to [intellectual life].
DA: Is that what motivates your writing?
DA: So you feel as guilty as the other side?
LS: That’s sort of the final cause of how I’m thinking about it, but if I had that in mind when I was actually writing, it would stultify the whole process. That would be the paradox [of literature]. If you sit down with those kind of heavy aspirations, you’ll get so daunted by them, and you won’t produce the kind of stuff that will get you there.
LS: Well, there’s something kind of disturbing about that culture of guilt. I don’t think it’s justified, really. I could never imagine going into finance, but it’s not like I’m thinking people who do so are immoral.
DA: There are all these traditional romantic, literary conceptions of Amherst, but I think it’s also thought of as a very career-driven place. For every ten Amherst students, eight or nine must be going into finance, consulting, law, or medicine, no? Is the less goal-oriented path more stressful? LS: I don’t see it as stressful because I’ve never had to navigate that choice; I’ve always known that I wanted to do something in writing or teaching, so I’ve never been tempted by something else. DA: But is the trend annoying for you? LS: Well, I know that a lot of people complain about that culture here. I can see why, but I haven’t really felt that way personally. I know a lot of people who are applying for these jobs, but I don’t think they’re materialistic or anything like that for choosing to do that. But it’s unfortunate when Amherst becomes for some people only a means to an end, since that’s exactly the opposite of what a place like this stands for. DA: If you’re saying that’s not normally the case, that makes you a lot more optimistic than other people.
terms of their career choices, but I think who a person is is so much more than what that person chooses to do. If we were to isolate a set of cases rather than a set of human beings, it might be easier to say if a person is making the right decision. But most people, I think, do have a set of values that they try to remain faithful to in their personal relationships and in what they choose to do with their money. Obviously, people are greedy, and maybe this is just wishful thinking, but that’s why I hesitate to flatten people out. DA: Let me revise my assessment. At the very least, you’re just not a very nega-
tive person. LS: Yes. The one thing I was really teased about in elementary school was being an optimist. DA: The studies say optimists are happier and healthier. LS: And probably deluded.
DA: On another aspect of Amherst culture… the literary vision of Amherst probably assumes much less of an emphasis on social life and partying than we actually have. I think we always think of the artist as being alone, but feeling a sense of community has got to be important, too.
DA: I think you’re OK. But I still don’t know, maybe this is coming from going to the kind of high school we went to, where prep school fiction might hit closer to home, but whenever I think of the writers I really like, I think of them being pissed at the world. I mean, weren’t you obligated to love Salinger at some point, if not now?
LS: I’ve been lucky in the past couple of years, because I don’t feel a dichotomy between the kinds of things I’m thinking about for my work and the kinds of the things I’m talking about with my friends. Those two spheres are mutually enriching. Of course, that’s not seamlessly true—going out probably doesn’t help.
LS: Yes, the cliché of the tortured genius. I’ve heard it actually dates back to Socrates, because his mother was a midwife, and he always used to talk about ideas as a kind of cognitive giving birth—a painful act. That apparently got recycled into our cliché, but I’m not convinced there’s much to it.
DA: So, I mean, I’ve been trying to get you to call out some aspect of the way our college culture works. And I’m not doing a very good job, because you seem to live and let live.
DA: Yeah, I read this in someone’s yearbook quotes: “It’s easy to be miserable. Being happy is tougher—and cooler.” That’s from Thom Yorke, so we’re moving away from literature. But maybe it’s not so admirable to wallow in your own cynicism.
LS: That’s funny, because that’s a contradiction in my personality. That’s how I behave, but that’s not the view I have when I’m in a class or I’m thinking through an argument. I’m not a relativist. I don’t feel the urge to moralize about my friends’ career choices, but I probably would if we got more abstract about it. DA: Well, I don’t think you’re a moral relativist. But maybe you’re a lifestyle relativist? LS: Maybe. We’ve been talking about people in
LS: To me, cynicism seems kind of cowardly. Take the view that thinking’s worthless, that it will never get you anywhere. The problem is that view commits the crime it tries to circumvent, which is to make absolute claims. Or the classic, “there is no truth.” Well, sorry, that’s a truth claim.
Dan Adler ‘14 is an Associate Editor for The Indicator. The Indicator October 5, 2012
Shirting the Issue email@example.com
Why this picture warrants 1,000 words.
o you wonder what sexism and misogyny look like in 2012? Imagine a drawing of a woman. She’s clad only in a bra and a thong. She’s got bruises on her side. There’s an apple jammed in her mouth. And she’s stretched out, tied up, suspended from a spit, and roasting over a fire. You don’t have to imagine. Last April, a fraternity at Amherst designed this image, stuck it on a t-shirt, and sold the shirt to students in honor of the frat’s annual pig-roast party. By the way, there is a pig depicted on the shirt. It’s in the corner, smoking a cigar, and watching the woman roast. The words “Roasting Fat Ones Since 1847” appear above the image. The administration opted not to punish the individual students responsible for the shirt but rather to hold an unadvertised, effectively closed-door discussion with a handful of students and frat members. According to a friend of mine who was present, the boys-will-be-boys type comments made prior to the meeting (“We were just a bunch of drunk guys sitting around on a Friday night designing the shirt”) were replaced by apology (“We didn’t mean to offend anyone”) and then some confusion and discussion over the real impact of the offensive “joke.” And that was that. The incident was never publicly discussed or even acknowledged in a school-wide email. Some people on campus still don’t know about it. If you Google “Amherst fraternity t-shirt,” an image of the shirt won’t pop up. Amherst’s silence concerning the shirt shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. We’re all part of a larger culture, one that excuses (and often promotes) the objectification of female bodies, the glamorization of violence against women, and the normalization of rape. Our media and pop culture saturate us with misogynistic images, songs, and advertisements. Our politicians decide which victims of violence against women should be taken seriously and which “types” of rape are legitimate. Our society blames the victims of sexual assault rather than the perpetrators,
leaving them free to rape again. If this t-shirt is any indication, Amherst is absolutely a product of this larger culture. The woman on the shirt is depicted as an animal—or rather, as inferior to an animal, since she has not only replaced the pig on the spit but is being roasted by it. She is objectified as a literal piece of meat, whose thoughts, feelings, and humanity are rendered nonexistent and her consent therefore irrelevant. While I am not suggesting that this image would ever directly cause the infliction of violence on any individual woman,
Hundreds of us saw or heard about it and did nothing. We didn’t speak up. We didn’t write about it. We didn’t demand justice or discussion.
The Indicator October 5, 2012
This is what sexism and misogyny look like at a so-called progressive, elite, liberal arts institution in 2012. It’s too easy to blame the fraternity members and the administration. Obviously, I think the students who designed, approved, and sold the shirt were grossly out of line, and I believe the Amherst administrators who decided not to punish them were tolerating their blatant misogyny. But many more of us are to blame. Everyone who knew about that shirt— regardless of if they bought it, wore it, praised it, or privately condemned it—is at fault. Hundreds of us saw or heard about it and did nothing. We didn’t speak up. We didn’t write about it. We didn’t demand justice or discussion. If we were outraged—and I’m sure many of us were— we didn’t voice it. Had the t-shirt depicted a pig roasting an African American (or a Jew or a Native American), I believe the students responsible would have faced punishment. At the very least, there would have been public outrage. Articles would have flooded The Student and The Indicator. It might even have made national news. How have we become so desensitized to violence against women? When I saw the shirt last April, I was horrified—and I did nothing. I was foolish. I did nothing because I thought someone else would. I did nothing because I didn’t want to be called an “oversensitive” or “angry” woman. And ultimately I did nothing because I became convinced that I really was just oversensitive and angry. After all, no one else was saying anything.
dehumanization is always the first step toward justifying such violence. The administration’s inadequate response to the t-shirt incident was not an anomaly. According to a Title IX committee meeting I attended last spring, Amherst has expelled only one student for rape in its entire history—and only after a criminal court sentenced him to time in jail. Meanwhile, our disciplinary committee has found other students guilty of sexual misconduct but ultimately permitted them to continue their Amherst educations. Faced with the non-choice of staying on campus with his/her rapist or leaving, many sexual assault survivors I know take time off, transfer, Dana Bolger ‘13 is a Contributing Writer for The or drop out altogether. If the fundamental in- Indicator.
How have we become so desensitized to violence against women?
justice of this doesn’t already make you cringe, consider this: Research has shown that rapists rape again and again; repeat offenders perpetrate nine out of ten campus rapes, and thus continue to pose a threat to students.
Keeping it Fresh firstname.lastname@example.org
How Val is more local than you thought.
unslinger. That is the role I anticipated when I accepted the position of Sustainability Intern for Dining Services this summer. I wanted to champion ecologically responsible food, support local farmers, and take personal responsibility for bringing good meals to Val. I was ready to kick down the door and oust the industrial food system before the fall semester began. As it turned out, Dining Services didn’t need a cowboy. A cursory analysis of our purchasing record for fruit and vegetables tells the tale. Valentine sources local food whenever it is possible to do so. Over half of the produce is local during the growing season. Our kitchen has already established strong and lasting connections with a plurality of local farmers and food vendors. It turned out what Dining Services could really use is a storyteller. How to Be Cool Everyone knows that being cool is all about doing cool things before they’re cool. Let me explain. In the ’50s and ’60s, many American families were rebelling against the enslavement of the kitchen. New, heavily packaged, highly processed food items inundated grocery store shelves and cut down the time required to cook dinner. In the ’70s and ’80s, a select group of Amherst residents resisted this industrial food movement by forming several food cooperatives that featured natural grains, granolas, and fresh produce. Keep in mind that this was decades before the first Whole Foods was built. At the time, natural foods were so marginalized that the food cooperatives were listed in the YellowPages under “Health Food Products.” These cooperatives were a political statement (“Down with industry!”) but they were also a place to buy simpler ingredients and fresher produce. Squash Is Born (and Then Grows Up) It was in this environment that two Amherst College alumni, Michael Naughton and Deacon Bonnar, along with a few friends, began trucking produce into Amherst from farms in Western Massachusetts; what wasn’t available locally was picked up in Boston. In the beginning, their fleet consisted of one unrefrigerated truck, so each day they would fill it with produce and empty their wares onto the shelves of
the food cooperatives. As demand increased for a smaller, more knowledgeable, locally oriented food distributor, the group incorporated and took on the name Squash. Today, Squash Trucking is owned by Eric Stocker and Marge Levenson and serves as the essential link between Val and local farms. Based ten minutes east on Route 9 from the dining hall, Squash taps into a vast network of local farm inventories to pick up and deliver exactly the produce that our weekly menus call for. During the growing season (roughly May to October), Squash enables Valentine to source a vast amount of local produce that appears in the salad bar, Lighter Side, and our entrees. Many items are available through most of the winter (e.g. potatoes, onions), while some items are available year-round (e.g. cabbage). Squash, our partner of over 20 years, has been doing the cool thing by putting an emphasis on local foods for far longer than it has been trendy to do so. In addition, they provide Valentine with a product that is of a fresher and higher quality than students tend to believe. Cut Out the Middle Man Maybe I still had a chance to be a hero. If so much produce is available within the Pioneer Valley, then why couldn’t Valentine do direct business with farmers? As it turns out, in some cases, we do! For example, our triple-berry jam comes direct from Plainville Farm in Hadley. But why not direct market spinach, cucumbers, and beets? How “cool” would it be if local farmers were making deliveries at our loading dock? To be truthful, it wouldn’t be that cool. Consider the two following scenarios. Scenario I: Any Given Day. Imagine that on Tuesday morning, Valentine is expecting a direct delivery of arugula from Farm X, a delivery of carrots from Farm Y, and a delivery of eggplant from Farm Z. Farmers X, Y, and Z would have to expend time and labor driving to Amherst College; perhaps, Farmer X arrives first and Farmer Y has to idle near the loading dock waiting for Farmer X to complete his delivery. In the meantime, Farmer Z has a pipe break in his irrigation system and is unable to make his delivery that day. Scenario II: A Special Day. It is late May and parents and alumni are flocking to Amherst in
droves for end of the year festivities. There will be a reception for parents of graduating seniors and Valentine wishes to serve local asparagus. The event calls for 100 pounds of mature, fresh asparagus. Jeremy Roush, Valentine’s head chef, briskly exits the kitchen and locks himself in his office where he proceeds to make dozens of phone calls to local farmers trying to track down 100 pounds of produce from several farms. When he emerges, his cooking staff has left for the night; they could have used his help in the kitchen. Squash specializes in finding, organizing, and distributing produce. They have built an infrastructure for tracking down 100 pounds of asparagus on short notice. Once they pick it up (along with the rest of Valentine’s order), Squash will make one large, efficient delivery to the dining hall. Squash allows farmers to stay on the farm and cooks to stay in the kitchen, where each group does their best work. Squashing the Psyche The “psyche” is the mind-frame that immediately devalues a student’s perception of a meal at Valentine. The psyche tucks the cooking staff downstairs out of sight, conjures an industrial giant that dumps gray produce at our door, and wrinkles our noses when we take the first bite of dinner. As I familiarize myself with our dining services operation, I’ve been slowly but surely shedding the psyche. I know when the produce is local; I even know which ingredients are organic (more than you’d think!). I know that the cooks and the serving staff take real pride in their work. I also know that our dining services are on a mission to improve their service every day and will not decelerate until each meal is excellent, healthy, and delicious. So I’m hanging up my guns. Valentine, self-admittedly, doesn’t have it all figured out yet. However, our dining services staff has a tremendous track record in sustainability, a strong involvement in local agriculture, and an open ear to student feedback. I expect that I’ll feel more pride in my dining hall this year. Anyway, there’s some food for thought.
Lock Whitney ‘13 is a Contributing Writer for The Indicator. The Indicator October 5, 2012
Parties and Bullshit email@example.com
Why didn’t Gary Johnson make the guest list?
his past week, I received a pleasant surprise. I walked into the mailroom, opened my box, and pulled out my mail-in ballot for the November general election. I read through the voting instructions written in turgid, legalistic language until I finally got to the ballot page. My eyes naturally gravitated toward the list of presidential candidates, where I found the well-known names of the Republican and Democratic candidates, Governor Romney and President Obama. But below these two men’s names is a host of others, most of whom run on single issues or aren’t even on the ballot in enough states to gain a majority in the Electoral College. I would like to draw attention to one little-known candidate who not only has a mathematical chance of winning the election but also has a complete and thoughtful platform. This candidate is Governor Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, the largest third party in American politics. Yes, you read that right: Governor Gary Johnson—and a two term one at that, giving him more executive experience than both Romney and Obama combined. The former Republican governor of New Mexico combines this executive experience with some popular yet underrepresented views: He supports marriage equality as a federal, constitutional right and favors ending foreign wars by bringing the troops home immediately. To this latter end, he is also serious about balancing the budget and reducing the deficit, including defense-spending cuts of 43% to return to 2003 levels. Johnson also has ballot access in 48 states and the District of Columbia. So why haven’t you (or the majority of the electorate, according to a recent poll) heard of him? The simple answer is that the two major parties and their supporters in the media try to prevent third party candidates’ electoral success in order to protect their own power. To truly appreciate the exclusionary nature of the process, consider Gary Johnson’s 2012
The Indicator October 5, 2012
presidential campaign. Johnson was one of the first contenders to declare his candidacy (as a Republican) in the spring of 2011 and was invited to the first of many Republican primary debates. However, CNN and Fox News excluded him from the next three debates, despite the fact that he was polling stronger than either Rick Santorum or Jon Huntsman, both of whom were invited. As a result, name recognition and donations to his campaign decreased. It was not a lack of political wherewithal that did in his candidacy as a Republican, but rather the media’s refusal to give him time in the spotlight to showcase himself and his fiscally conservative, socially liberal ideas. Major media outlets, accustomed to easily classifying and portraying typical Republicans and Democrats, fail to adequately represent candidates who, like Johnson, do not easily fit into a strict conservative-liberal dichotomy. Regardless of political views, Johnson’s track record demands to be seriously considered. He was elected and reelected as a Republican governor in a state that votes 2:1 Democratic. Furthermore, his credentials should make the fiscal conservatives of the GOP water at the mouth: he vetoed more spending bills in his time as governor than all other 49 state governors combined during that period. Yet no one treated him seriously as a candidate because the media didn’t. Having been effectively shut out of the Republican race, he decided to withdraw before the primaries and seek the Libertarian Party nomination for the presidency, which he won at the Party convention in Las Vegas in May. The next challenge for his campaign (and any third party campaign) was ballot access. Johnson had an extremely strong network of supporters that worked tirelessly to ensure ballot access in all fifty states, which he ostensibly achieved. However, state Republican parties, fearing a spoiler effect, have filed suits in three states that could exclude Governor
Johnson from the ballot on technical election laws. Currently, he is on the ballot in 48 states and DC, with access pending in Michigan and Oklahoma. As one can imagine, the biggest hurdle for any third party candidate is name recognition, and the ultimate path to getting it is through a podium at the presidential debates, which are managed by the Commission on Presidential Debates. The Commission is run by the Republican and Democratic Parties, who, in a firstpast-the-post voting system, can only be hurt by the spoiler effect of third party candidates. It is unsurprising, then, that the Commission’s rules are unfavorable to third parties. The three requirements to participate in the debates, as articulated by the Commission, are to meet the constitutional requirements for the presidency, to be on the ballot in enough states to be able to gain the 270 electoral votes needed to win, and to poll above 15% in Commission-endorsed national polls. These rules seem reasonable enough until one considers that the 15 percent requirement was increased from 5 percent when Ross Perot earned a podium in 1992. What’s more, polling agencies by and large excluded Johnson’s name from the polls and lumped him into the category “other” in the months running up to the debates. Without inclusion in the polls, it was simply impossible for Johnson, or any other third-party candidate, to earn a podium at the debate. This problem is clearly not due to quality of any candidate; rather, the problem is systemic to our electoral process. This is how the combination of political and media powers continues to silence potentially successful third party candidates such as Gary Johnson. The two major political parties directly control access to the debate stage, and sometimes even attempt to influence third-party ballot access. Moreover, they can rely on the media to not report on third party candidates and to not include them in polls. And that is why you, and nearly the entire electorate, haven’t heard of a perfectly qualified two-term governor who is running for president.
Without inclusion in the polls, it was simply impossible for Johnson, or any other thirdparty candidate, to earn a podium at the debate.
Robert Gaffey ‘15 is a Contributing Editor for The Indicator.
Filibustering Females firstname.lastname@example.org
Why we need more women in Congress.
n the year 2012, what is so special about the number 17? This year, it represents the percentage of women in both chambers of the US Congress (or, to be exact, 17.2 percent in the House of Representatives). The underrepresentation of women in today’s government has had unfortunate consequences for everyone—in particular, for the 51 percent of the United States’ population that is female. Despite the fact that women have made great gains in society in the past few decades, the male-dominated US government demonstrates that there are still substantial inequalities that pervade our society. Considering the gender distribution of Congress, it is no wonder that issues such as access to birth control and equal pay for equal work are still being debated—there simply are not enough women to provide first hand accounts of how these issues affect their lives. Additionally, when women, especially young girls, look at a picture of Congress, a body that is supposed to represent the country, it’s hard to see anyone like them. The composition of Congress is just one example of the dearth of women in leadership roles among professionals, but maybe if we saw more women serving in the often visible roles of elected officials, more women would be inspired to take on leadership roles in all areas of society and further prove that women are capable of accomplishing just as much as their male counterparts. Historically, the lack of women in Congress has gone in and out of the national conscious, often resurfacing after jarring events that remind us of how few women actually serve in public office. The 1991 Anita Hill testimonies, for example, awakened the national conscience. Hill, testifying in front of an allmale Judiciary Committee, alleged that Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her in the workplace. Many people, particularly women, saw the Committee’s questions as offensive and insensitive and protested the Judiciary Committee’s complete lack of female members.
As it turned out, this lack was because there were only two women in the entire Senate at the time. The following year, a record number of women were elected to Congress, showing that the country’s response to disproportionate representation was to put more women in office. A similar situation occured earlier this year when Sandra Fluke was denied the opportunity to testify in front of yet another all-male panel on contraception. It’s hard to imagine that issues of birth control, which so clearly demand a woman’s perspective for the sake of complete and well-rounded debate, would have been argued for so long if there were more women serving in Congress.
In 2009, during the first round of budget debates, Senator Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, leaned over to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat from New York, and said “You know Kirsten, if you and I were negotiating the budget, it would’ve been done last week.” In other words, according to Collins, if there were more women involved, a solution would have been reached much faster. Considering that men are statistically better at strategic thinking while women are better at compromising, women could bring a new skill set to this debate. This suggests that we should not have more women in Congress just because it is what seems fair, but also because women bring something different to the table. Women think differently than men and it is important to have both perspectives, especially when Congress seems to be in constant deadlock. To close this representational gender gap, we as a country need to ask why more women
aren’t running for office. To start, we should encourage women to run and we cannot underestimate this step. In general, women need to be asked to run more times than men do before they take the idea seriously. Senator Gillibrand recently started Off the Sidelines, an organization that encourages women to support female candidates and to run for office themselves. This strategy of having the current generation encourage the next needs to be built upon and continued for many years to come. Who better to tell women that they can do it than those who have literally been there and done it? We need current and former female elected officials to mentor women who are thinking of running for office and explain how it is possible to live in both DC and a home district while raising a family, as well as how to handle working in a male-dominated environment. Often, women cite the conflict between having a family and having a career as a major reason for not running for office. Therefore, we need to provide women with both the practical skills and the motivation required to win elections. We need programs all across the country reminding women that they can fundraise, that they can give lively and engaging speeches, and that they can run for office. In order for women to run for office we need to assuage their fears about the process and tell them that they need to go for it. Hopefully, if we are able to do this effectively, it will soon no longer be seen as history making when a woman runs for office. When a woman runs today she is often described as, “the first woman to win from this district” or “only the second woman to run from this state.” Those are great achievements, but that is not the goal. The goal is for candidates to be seen as noble for their desire to help make their country better and not for gender to be a notable trait. Not only would greater female representation likely bring a new air of compromise and bi-partisanship to Congress, but it would also be a symbol to young girls and women across professions that women are capable of being, and belong, everywhere.
Laura Gerrard ‘15 is a Contributing Writer for The Indicator. The Indicator October 5, 2012
Sorry I’m Not Summa email@example.com
Why one senior decided not to write a thesis.
hen a professor first suggested to me that I should not write a thesis, I felt insulted. I had floated through my first three years here at Amherst simply assuming it would end in a diploma, a cane, and an 80-120-page document. During my junior year, I took a seminar with said professor to begin preparation for my project. By the end of the class, I had a thesis proposal, a thesis advisor, and a stack of books to take home during the summer. Yet, in almost every conversation with this advisor, he would make sure to end with, “You know, you always have the option to not write a thesis…” Persistent remarks like this raised questions in my mind: Does he think I’m not smart enough? Are thesi really as terrible as this professor makes them out to be? Is “thesi” even the correct plural form of “thesis”? A summer of soul-searching and thesis investigations lead to the answers: no, yes, and (somehow, someway) no. Ultimately, I decided to forego my thesis. Two reasons stood out above all the others. Firstly, I realized that I value a freer, less stressful senior year. The aforementioned professor had always emphasized the despair, frustration, and fatigue that inherently come with theses. These statements did not daunt me, however, until I started research this past summer. I began to realize that a thesis might whittle my friend group down until it was just me and Robert Frost. I simply was not willing to make this level of sacrifice. Some people that know me may assume that I’m advocating replacing thesis writing with partying. That is not what I am trying to say. Instead, I am advocating for evaluat-
to meet have defined my Amherst experience. GQ half-jokingly referred to Amherst as a place where there exists an “intense desire to be surrounded by 1,700 people almost exactly like you.” I find some truth in that statement: I love being surrounded by dynamic, fascinating, driven human beings like myself. To put those interactions at risk during my final year represented too high of an opportunity cost. A thesis does not constitute an a priori benefit. It would be tough to deduce this, however, from the way Amherst College reveres theses. As my professor once said, “Amherst College has a thesis fetish.” In no Amherst department can you be a candidate for honors without writing a thesis; in fact, many departments use the phrases “thesis” and “honors project” interchangeably. This not-so-subtly implies that deciding to forgo a thesis means you inherently lack honor status. Furthermore, it forces students with varying levels of interest in their thesis topic to consider doing one for the possibility of honors. I strongly disagree with this policy. On the contrary, there exists a number of ways in which you can have an honorable senior year sans thesis. Let my situation illustrate this point. At the beginning of my Amherst career, I took a handful of Black Studies classes. I came to love the department to the point where I was on the verge of declaring my major. Sophomore year, however, the world of finance sucked me in, and I took multiple economics classes until I realized the world of finance was not for me. Unfortunately, I thought this foray, my semester abroad, and my impending thesis would prevent me from revisiting Black Studies as a second major. Upon turning down the thesis option, however, I realized the window of opportunity had reopened. Though I will have to take many Black Studies classes over the next two semesters, I do now plan to double major.
I feel as academically engaged right now as I can imagine feeling. What more could I ask of an Amherst education? ing your own relationship to Amherst before blindly diving into an intense commitment. In my opinion, Amherst has always been, on the surface, a relatively unimpressive place. Many of our facilities reek of mediocrity, and our academics, while impressive, are rivaled by many institutions around the country. Instead, the people I have met and the people I continue 10
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Many people give me strange looks when I mention this eleventh hour add-on, but the Black Studies Department simply interests me. I have found myself much more engaged in my classes this semester than I was in my thesis this summer. In short, I feel as academically engaged right now as I can imagine feeling. What more could I ask of an Amherst education? Even someone who does not have interest in double majoring could benefit from not writing a thesis. Many of my friends who are writing theses have told me that they were advised to plan their courses accordingly, i.e. take easier classes. This, of course, makes sense: It seems unrealistic to take three typical courses while also handling such a large project. At the same time, selective scheduling affects the quality of your classes. Taking courses based on ease instead of personal interest leads to a mechanical relationship: One takes the class and does the work to get the grade instead of the intellectual satisfaction that should be the goal of any class. An intense interest in a thesis topic justifies such a sacrifice, but that does not legitimize the “thesis fetish” that exists in this school. The coercion towards a thesis, however slight, diminishes alternative senior year paths. At a school that champions not only its open curriculum, but also diversity of all types, this seems like a contradictory policy. Whenever I think of my thesis decision, I return to conversations with the same professor who has peppered this article. His personal experience ultimately convinced me. He did not write a thesis. He argues that the undergraduate experience should focus on gaining a diverse wealth of knowledge, while graduate school should focus on deepening knowledge of a specific subject. Forgoing a thesis allows me to take Portuguese at Smith. It allows me to fully enjoy my last year here with lifelong friends. It allows me to write for The Indicator. There are many fetishes; find the one that fits your fancy.
Todd Faulkenberry ‘13 is an Associate Editor for The Indicator.
Baring the Grin firstname.lastname@example.org
A look at the modern trend of smiling in photos.
hen a camera is pointed at us, our automatic reaction is to smile. But why? Unsmiling, rigidly postured pictures from the very early days of photography are attributed to lengthy exposure times that required the subject to continually sit still. However, even when exposure times had been reduced to fractions of a second by the 20th century, allowing for more natural poses and expressions, serious faces remained the norm. Perusing old photographs of parents and grandparents, they appear noticeably more somber than the modern snapshots that are often characterized by Wallace and Gromit grins. We consider smiling faces to be more attractive, but this was not always the case. Before modern dentistry was introduced, smiling may in fact have made one less attractive. It appears that it was also socially less acceptable to smile publicly. Author of A Brief History of the Smile Angus Trumble writes, “Most teeth and open mouths in art belonged to dirty old men, misers, drunks, whores, gypsies,…the possessed, the damned, and—all together now—tax collectors, many of whom had gaps and holes where healthy teeth once were.” Trumble argues that smiling broadly in public became common in the 20th century with improvements in dentistry and the advent of photography and moving images. Before the turn of the 20th century, photography was a costly pursuit. Photography sessions were informed by the tradition of sitting for a commissioned painted portrait; being photographed was an event in itself, a dignified and serious occasion that called for corresponding gravity in facial expression. New habits were not immediately formed to match the use of a new technology. The emergence of the convention of smiling in photos is partly a tale of American consumerism. Photography became available to the masses with the advent of Kodak’s $1
Brownie camera in 1900. In her paper “Why We Say Cheese,” Christina Kotchemidova argues that Kodak, which had a virtual monopoly on the industry in the first half of the 1900s, played a leading role in shaping the cultural habits of photography in 20th century America. In order to sell its new product, Kodak constructed photography as a desirable experience, associating it with pleasure, simplicity, and festivity with slogans such as “You press the button, we do the rest,” and “Vacation days are Kodak days.” Kodak’s manuals for photographers and heavy advertising in prominent national magazines featured a barrage of smiles on happy consumers of the new technology. These advertisements also conveniently provided a model for how photographed subjects should look. Thus Kodak created a mass market for photography, established themselves as experts in the field, and defined the standards of a good snapshot. The promotion of smiling through Kodak’s advertisements is largely specific to the United States. Cultural habits of photography developed differently in other countries, as they followed varied trajectories in the introduction and popularization of photography. The Leica was not mass marketed in Germany through heavy advertising upon introduction, but promoted through the work of dedicated photographers, according to Kotchemidova. Amateurs learned from photos they viewed at exhibitions and in books, so photography did not come to be associated with leisure but rather with science, exploration, and art. In still other countries, camera use is not widespread, and photographers may find that people shy away from the camera. A smile has varied meanings across countries, across times, and in different contexts. Here, it is generally a gesture of friendliness. People in photos of a friend from Georgia (the country) are conspicuously stony-faced. He explains that it is considered socially unac-
ceptable for men to smile, as it is considered non-masculine and submissive. In countries such as Russia, smiling at strangers is uncustomary, and smiling for the camera is not unlike smiling at a stranger. However, the culture of smiling is also changing—while smiling too frequently was frowned upon as frivolous in the past in Korea, it is now necessary for socializing, particularly in the service sector.
B y c o n s c i o u s l y s m i l i n g, w e reconstruct reality as a happy one, and this idealized reality is the one that’s remembered as memory fades and photographed images survive. We smile in photos to convey happiness. The absence of smiles in old photographs and their ubiquity today can’t mean that modern societies are happier—we can feel happy without smiling and smile without feeling happy. By consciously smiling, we reconstruct reality as a happy one, and this idealized reality is the one that’s remembered as memory fades and photographed images survive. Photography is a way of assuaging our fears of death and impermanence. While the Victorians took photos as keepsakes to remember people—post-mortem photography developed not as a morbid hobby, but to remember the recently deceased, particularly children—we now capture a moment, a time, and in the process misrepresent reality as a happy one. Post-mortem photography would now be regarded as macabre, perhaps reflecting greater discomfort with death in the modern age and stressing the need to appear happy and vivacious. The implications of misremembering and misinterpreting old photos are huge when we consider that photos from the past are used to write historical narratives. Some would consider the photographed smile a mere contortion of the face, as suggested by philosopher Roger Scruton for whom the voluntary smile—as opposed to the genuine, involuntary smile—is “not a smile at all, but a kind of grimace.” Attempts to capture “spontaneity,” especially common in the digital age, are perhaps more lifeless in their construction than a Victorian post-mortem photo.
Jisoo Lee ‘13 is a Contributing Editor for The Indicator. The Indicator October 5, 2012
The Great TAPsby Chris Friend
A rogue reporter’s account of a Friday night. Friday, September 28th 2012 1735hrs Tonight is the night of the Gatsby TAP, the first and so far only TAP that I can remember being on a Friday. A Friday TAP is in and of itself an odd feeling – preparing for this evening has already made me feel as though the weekend is half gone and yet I have gotten absolutely nowhere re: the large amount of Dostoyevsky reading I have yet to complete. Val is serving an unfortunate meal this evening – jambalaya and Jamaican jerk chicken. Calzones and beer it is. 1920hrs The Suite (located in Crossett dormitory for those who wish to know – it goes by a number of names, but it shall merely be referred to as The Suite for the rest of this article) has begun preparing a number of 1920s outfits in the spirit of the TAP. Your writer has put together what could be considered to be a decently temporal outfit, at least one in which I will not stick out. However, I have a bowtie (a real bowtie, mind you, not like the one his suitemate Mr. Klipspringer is wearing in a complete lack of tastefulness for the event) that I have no clue how to tie. 1953hrs After multiple attempts, how-to videos, diagrams, this bowtie just refuses to tie. Consider giving up and/or wearing the bowtie around neck untied. The group of suitemates gathers to leave for an actual Speakeasy which may or may not have whipped cream vodka. We text the man known to us as Jay Gatsby – he had promised to attend this TAP with us – who we receive no response from. I figured at least he would know how to tie a bowtie. 2002hrs It does have whipped cream vodka. One of the girls, LX, knows how to tie a bowtie. I am immensely pleased. No sign of Gatsby – he appears to have
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email@example.com abandoned us. After a good bit of chatting & talking & drinking, a number of us leave for the pre-TAP festivities in Keefe. 2030hrs Klipspringer and I lag behind, entering the building slightly later than anyone else. As we enter the atrium, our friends JK and JH look at us from above, staring down from
most people set for events that are either a) held in Keefe or b) TAP events. There’s more variety, more room to move around – not just a bunch of sweaty people in a dark social basement dancing to who-knows-what. Not to say sweaty people dancing in a social basement is something inherently bad, it’s just nice to have a school sponsored party that isn’t that. I can hear myself think and chat with others and
Dismayed with the lack of energy, I demand (respectfully, of course) some combination of whisky, beer pong, and cider donuts. above, inviting us for a game of truly terrible croquet. This occupies us for nearly 10 minutes before we require sustenance, making our way to the drinks bar. Your writer & suitemates have decided that the drinks we receive are decidedly weak, and use some of our bootlegged materials to increase their strength. The result is incredibly positive, especially combined w/ chocolate fondue & strawberries & pound cake. 2100hrs The big band is a nice addition – kind of adds to the atmosphere of the TAP. This is certainly a decent event given the low bar
even step outside onto the balcony and look over onto the mountain range to get a breath of fresh air. Keefe actually seems like a nice place to have a TAP – you lose the elements of darkness & the widely available alcohol nearby, but that’s why we have such things as social dorms for people who desperately desire those things. We invite Gatsby to join us again – receive no response. 2215hrs It appears some of my suitemates do desperately desire those things such as alcohol & dancing & darkness as we return to the social dorms. Some group appears to be
having a pre-game (my second pre-game, I suppose) in our suite, but even this is wholly enjoyable – light drinking, video games, beer pong (gasp!) and fantastic music including the likes of Earth Wind & Fire, Stevie Wonder, and what appears to be every song from Michael Jackson’s Thriller (at one point, we play Thriller followed by Beat It followed by Billie Jean followed by Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’). 2335hrs Suitemate Mr. Klipspringer requests I join him for wingman duties in a second floor room in Crossett. Still thinking I look incredibly dapper, I join him. 2336hrs Wingman duties accomplished, I head back to my suite where the party is slowly dampening out. The scent of incense pervades the air to such an overwhelming sensation that I find it likely that I may be put into an altered state merely by breathing the air. Saturday, September 29th, 2012 0016hrs We gather the rest of the stragglers in the suite to re-enter the TAP, which has now moved away from the previous 1920s/big band/casino game atmosphere into more of a bright lights/dancing to odd remixes of mediocre pop songs atmosphere. The biggest strength of the initial pre-TAP was the chill party atmosphere it allowed – the actual TAP is a modest disappointment in comparison. I suppose it is something that the TAP has to do – have dancing party music – though the most interesting part is that I recognize very few of the people at this TAP in comparison to other TAPs, which seems like a good thing. Perhaps I’m just getting older & don’t recognize as many people, or perhaps a TAP at Keefe is inviting to the type of student who enjoys dancing and does not enjoy the socials. If it is the second case, there is a strong case to make for TAPs in Keefe. 0100hrs To the socials again! and to a party with a small number of people and friends who appear to belong to some singing group. We walk in hesitantly at first, but are welcomed in with open arms – we’re not freshman males on the hunt for alcohol. I mention how, as freshman, it seems perfectly acceptable to steal alcohol from social suites – not just a beer or shots, but entire handles. It’s an odd thing that we all find socially acceptable and don’t seem to realize how absolutely shitty that is until we’re older – or at least, in the case of
Mr. Klipspringer, upperclassmen. Overheard at this party: Amherst guy: “why do you choose to go to Amherst over UMass?” Mount Holyoke girl: “both Amherst and UMass guys are handsy, but if you slap the Amherst guy, he knows to stop.” 0115hrs On the way to the Triangle – I’ve heard promises of cider donuts. We pass by a group of friends talking in whispers about something
chimes and light conversation feels incredibly lonely, especially without background music. 0152hrs The girls begin to leave – Klipspringer is gone, and one dejected male (a/k/a Tom Buchanan) asks “wait, your number is *774?” as his female companion walks away. Tom sits lonely on the couch, as Owl-eyes and I move off the pong table. Tom begins complaining as one of the girls (not his girl, mind you) returns
Keefe actually seems like a nice place to have a TAP – you lose the elements of darkness & the widely available alcohol nearby, but that’s why we have such things as social dorms for people who desperately desire those things. serious. Two of their friends were busted for underage drinking/open container laws, and need bail money. The idea that we have Amherst town cops busting kids for drinking who aren’t causing trouble seems absolutely ridiculous to me, especially when there are likely kids drinking and causing problems in other parts on town late on a Saturday night. Common sense has never been a strong point of people in power. 0134hrs We arrive at the Triangle, after illegally jaywalking across 116. After peering into Seelye to see a number of people I’m not sure I know dancing on tables, Owl-eyes and I see a number of our friends with a number of females we don’t know headed into Mayo. We follow into one of the suites. 0138hrs I’ve got my second wind – I’m ready to continue partying. As I burst into the suite I find nothing but lifelessness and tapping messages on LCD screens to people who are literally five feet away from each other. The female to male ratio is far out of balance at about 2 to 1, leaving a number of females sitting alone on couches, waiting out of the rain until the arrival of the next bus while the other females sit with males arms on their shoulders. Mr. Klipspringer has returned – he has his arm around the same female I left him with nearly two hours prior. Dismayed with the lack of energy, I demand (respectfully, of course) some combination of whisky, beer pong, and cider donuts. In due course I am provided all three – at first, sipping whisky followed by a quick game of pong with Owleyes. The tapping on screens and pings and
and whispers in his ear. Tom leaves, allowing me and Owl-eyes to sip scotch and just talk. 0201hrs Our time is limited. Tom and Klipspringer return one after another, both apparently not convincing their ladies to go home with them. Klipspringer hides his disappointment – if he has any – well. Tom does not, and begins a tirade about the evening. We listen, mostly in silence, to the rant – as I sneak behind the home-made bar in the suite to bring out the cider donuts. They are truly delicious. Tom continues – although I slowly begin to lack empathy for his tale. I’d like to tell him that everyone gets rejected, that it’s better this happens now versus being strung along for a few weeks, but I refrain. It’s late and people are drunk – best to just let them rant a little bit. 0215hrs Klipspringer requests to leave – he has to be up early for one thing or another. We exit the suite, I finish my second cider donut, and we give our goodbyes. The rain has intensified to a steady drizzle from the mist of before as we make our decent back to our suite. Cold and rain don’t invite spectacular conversation, or any conversation for that matter. We walk past Keefe, through Pond, and I overhear someone say “you know, I realized with Emma that I was hooking up with her and I didn’t feel anything for her. I haven’t felt anything for anyone in a long time, and it scares me.” And so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
Chris Friend ‘14 is an Associate Editor for The Indicator. The Indicator October 5, 2012
Adrian Street (Excerpt)
Mark Roberts firstname.lastname@example.org
here was Adrian Street, everything but typical. The light from the inner department store bent around him, like a stream bending around a particularly ancient and resilient boulder. He was not a bulky man, but the way that he carried himself and the clothing that he wore served to make him look like a wall of iron. With his eyes he surveyed the room and his fellow managers; cat’s eyes, clever and restless, Mary had once told Vicky. To Vicky, they were Lucifer’s eyes, filled with red lightning and a silent, burning determination. Adrian Street was the thin, tall, five hundred pound gorilla in the management group. His level of professionalism, his mysterious Cheshire smile, and his sometimes foreign ambition seemed anathema to the department store. He fit in like a tiger in a candy store, a round peg in a pirate’s eye. “You’ll excuse me for being late,” he said, taking a seat on the countertop next to Vicky. “Unusual for you to be late, Street,” Terry said. He stopped bouncing back and forth and settled in against the back wall. It was as if Adrian’s appearance had been a sharp tap on the face of Terry’s broken emotional wristwatch. “I ran into some construction on my way here. From my apartment to the newsstand on the corner, traffic is unbelievably congested,” Adrian said.
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“Newsstand’s pretty close to here…I always forget that you come from the opposite direction of the rest of us,” Terry muttered. “So can we get to work now? The rest of the staff’ll be here in like fifteen minutes,” Vicky said. “Yeap, that’ll be all for this morning. We’ll
have some sympathy,” she said, leaping from the countertop and landing with a resounding slam. It seemed for a moment that her twig-like legs might snap in half, and Adrian half-gasped when they didn’t. Vicky looked back at him as she was walking towards the doorway, but she didn’t catch the surprise on his face.
While the angel Adrian Street ascended into a heaven of polyester and cubic zirconium, Vicky continued onward through a hell of guady ties and spaghetti straps. have another meetin’ this Friday to talk about orderin’ the new stuff. I’ll draw up a list of what we got and what we don’t and we can go from there. Good luck today,” Terry clapped his hands and bounced from the room. Mary followed him. “Uuggh, God,” Vicky put her face into her hands. Adrian gave her a pat on the back. “I missed something, didn’t I?” “Just Terry being an idiot. I really wonder how he became General Manager. Almost every day I wonder that to myself, you know? Do you know what it’s like to be confronted by that every day?” Vicky said. “I can imagine. Did you know that I work here? And Mr. Danforth is my boss as well. Did you know that? Strange coincidence,” Adrian said. Vicky re-inflated at once. She flashed Adrian a smile and punched him on the shoulder. “Asshole. I’m just trying to vent to you,
“You say something?” she asked. “You worry me when you do things like that,” Adrian said. “Like what?” “Like leap off of countertops or throw clothes hangers or peel out of the parking lot.” “You’ve got a list of things I do that you worry about? Hm. Come on, let’s go.” Voorhees Department Store contained not a Hellish nine, as Vicky sometimes liked to claim, but a mundane two circles. The first circle of Voorhees was where Terry Danforth lay sealed not in a layer of ice, as Vicky sometimes liked to claim, but within a layer of paperwork. His office was near the clothing department. A short walk away from Vicky’s register was the electronics department, and a short walk away from this was the produce department. Long ago, when Voorhees Department Store had been Voorhees General Grocer, the produce department had been one of the most colorful and lively sections of the store. These days it was the most colorful and lively section of the store. The produce department was efficient and regular, and it brought a certain amount of excitement to the store, like a serial killer brings excitement to a city block with his regular murders. Also like a serial killer, however, it tarnished the image of Voorhees as a department store and turned it into a dangerous, fearful thing of loathing: something resembling a Super WalMart. Luckily for the produce department, its benefits far outweighed its crimes in Terry’s eyes. No amount of evidence ever seemed sufficient to condemn it to death. The second circle of Voorhees was reserved for jewelry and furniture, which came under Adrian’s control. As Vicky and Adrian neared the escalator to the second floor, Vicky walked
POETRY The Swings Summer
Now rejecting gravity, children launch their Restless bodies up to the sky, demanding Flight. They leave the world in a rush behind them, Owing it nothing.
Dusk and clouds have come. In impending darkness, Seats are swaying, echoing flights of younger Springtime birds. A woman approaches, holding Only a memory.
Rising eyes and feet, for an instant, touch the Blue – a momentary escape! – but restless Mothers call them back to the sand and blacktop, Real and waiting.
Frost and asphalt under her shoes, she dreams of Wings and bare feet, how they would rise and fall like Church bells swinging forward and back in time – the Ring of a kingdom
Gripping chains in each of their fists, they land, and Shoes are fastened. Someday, they won’t return. For Now, they dream of boundless, unending soaring, Never descending.
Far off somewhere. Hoping a breeze might come and Lift her, too, she waits, but the air is still; the Moonless sky, unreachable, looms above her, Promising nothing.
Diana Babineau email@example.com
ahead and neatly inserted herself in front of it. “Adrian, hang on a sec,” she said. Adrian stood back from her and the escalator, hands in his pockets. “What? I don’t want to keep the rest of my department waiting.” “They can wait a second. What’s the real reason you were late today?” “Traffic. I wasn’t lying.” “Oh, I call bullshit on that one,” Vicky sung. “Terry forgets sometimes, but we all know that you don’t drive, you walk. Come on, who is she?”
“She?” A look that was not quite confusion, but dignified curiosity passed over Adrian’s face. “There is no she. Vicky, you do this to me almost every day…” “Come on, Adrian. We’ve been working together for how long?” “Two years, seven months, twenty two days.” “Jesus Christ, Adrian, that was rhetorical,” Vicky quirked an eyebrow at her coworker. He shrugged. “I keep a schedule. Now, can I pass or haven’t you made your point yet?” he said. He attempted to push past Vicky, but stopped short of ramming through her. “Adrian, you can tell me these kinds of things. We’re friends! I’m just curious about you…” “I don’t like to mix personal and professional, Vicky. I’ve told you before. Now let me through, please. If Jeff is left alone up there for too long, he starts to unwind the receipt dispenser and uncap the markers and…and other sorts of chaos I don’t like to
imagine.” “Fine,” Vicky stepped to one side and extended an arm towards the escalator, welcoming Adrian like a guest. Adrian bowed stiffly to her and began his ascent. “You’ll have to tell me one day, I won’t give up until I wheedle something out of you!” Vicky shouted at his back. He didn’t so much as turn, but did raise a hand to block all further comments. While the angel Adrian Street ascended into a heaven of polyester and cubic zirconium, Vicky continued onward through a hell of gaudy ties and spaghetti straps. Damn that Adrian, then she caught sight of the mahogany tie tables, near the register, Damn these ties. They laughed at her as she scuffed across the dingy beige carpet. One of them, a yellow one with bright pink spots, was positively guffawing. Vicky hated all of them.
Mark Roberts ‘13 and Diana Babineau ‘ 1 4 a r e C o n t r i b u t i n g Wr i t e r s f o r The Indicator. The Indicator October 5, 2012
Every Love Story Is A Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace Viking Press 2012 A REVIEW BY Daniel Pastan firstname.lastname@example.org
hat goes on inside is just too fast and huge and all interconnected for words to do more than barely sketch the outlines of at most one tiny little part of it at any given instant. -David Foster Wallace D.T. Max constructed his recently released biography, Every Love Story Is A Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace, chronologically. Every Love Story Is A Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace begins with Wallace’s 1962 birth and ends with his 2008 suicide. Every Love Story Is A Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace was published by Viking, and including acknowledgements, clocks in at 309 pages, not to mention an additional 11 pages that display 169 endnotes. Max also includes a 16-page bibliography, and the final 11 pages feature a comprehensive index. Every Love Story Is A Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace, a red hardback with a black spine and a gold title, measures about 9.1 x 5.9 x 1.4 inches and weighs approximately 1.3 pounds. The events of Wallace’s life are recounted by Max over the course of eight chapters, each of which is committed to a distinct period therein. These are the most fundamental facts of the biography, and I feel numb having written them. Shall we plot another course? Every Love Story Is A Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace begins with an epigraphic acknowledgement of its own limitations—indeed, the very same one that begins this review. Admittedly, my attempt to sketch the outline of
sarily implies. Heck, my generation’s vernacular continuously bears witness to this assertion. We, I mean, mean things, and, like, the things that we say are like other things, I guess, like, do you know what I mean? I smell underlying anxiety re: being misunderstood. And yet we do communicate, and we communicate about our inability to communicate. To return to such a moment of communication—a moment where DFW’s language is crystalline with regard to its own fogginess—Max’s (and my) chosen epigraph powerfully reminds and humbles its reader: The mind is very complicated; words are very simple; communication is impossible. And but so what now? If one human can never truly understand another’s infinite complexity, how might I go about “reviewing” this biography? How am I to understand Max’s understanding of a man whom neither of us will ever meet? Aren’t all instances of biography, according to this model, just varying degrees of failure? Aren’t all reviews of biographies just varying degrees of failing to understand a particular degree of failure? In a few words: yes, I think they are. But fear not! If DFW’s collected works attempt to communicate any singular thing, I believe it is this: There must be a way out. As he Himself once said in a 1997 interview with Charlie Rose, “If it’s authentic and true, you will feel it in your nerve endings.” And but so let it be known, the standard for reviewing this biography has emerged phoenix-like from improbable linguistic ashes: Do I feel it in my nerve endings? I intend to be as straightforward about my overwhelmingly biased position as possible: I love DFW with a shout-it-from-the-rooftops ferocity. As I’m writing this very sentence, I simultaneously have four tabs open, three on Google Chrome and one on Safari, all of which are variously dedicated to assessing the feasibility, pricing, and acquisitive logistics of a lifetime supply of wallet-sized Infinite Jest author’s portraits. I spent a month this past summer working in the DFW archives in Austin, TX, reading through his early drafts and
I found myself sitting in Amherst Coffee as it closed, weeping silently and alone as I finished the last pages of ELSIAGS. Max’s sketch of an outline of a life and mind as prolific and frenetic as DFW’s is either a helplessly reductive (see, for example, the previous paragraph) or an endlessly recursive and philosophically complicated undertaking (see, for example, this sentence’s syntax). Anyone who has ever felt compelled to say “let me explain myself” or that “what I’m trying to say is” can understand the difficulty that biography neces-
The Indicator October 5, 2012
letter correspondences and being asked firmly (more than twice) to please stop my amorous giggling. Most recently, I found myself sitting in Amherst Coffee as it closed, weeping silently and alone as I finished the last pages of ELSIAGS. Imagine the limits of fandom. Now, having imagined its limits, imagine a situation-specific analog of me, Morpheus-like, telling you that “there is no spoon,” or something. The point is this: I’m really interested in David Foster Wallace, and I think that Max’s biographical treatment of David Foster Wallace was exceptionally well done and powerful, and that’s all you need to know. I’m not going to spend time convincing you that this book is worth reading. In fact, I’m not even going to write about the book, or about what’s inside the book. I’m not going to describe Max’s narrative voice or praise his descriptive prowess. I think your time would be better spent reading, re-reading, or re-re-reading Infinite Jest, a book that I contend to be the most meaningful and relevant piece of writing I’ve ever encountered. As David once said, “fiction’s about what it is to be a fucking human.” This is what I really want to say: We live paradoxically in a hyperconnected and deeply estranged world. I have trouble giving attention to or getting the attention of anyone these days—my professors, my closest friends, my family members, whomever. We’re all profoundly distracted, and we’re shockingly defensive about our own distractedness. Our individual and collective capacities to attend to our own attention have vaporized—decayed at best. I worry hourly that we’re beyond hope, forever post-Obamian, quasi-dystopian. Do you know what I mean? I feel like I’m not accurately conveying what I feel like I feel. To read ELSIAGS is to read one very smart man’s perceptions of another very smart man, an Amherst alumnus, who was intensely consumed by and committed to these realities, and who eventually killed himself. And it tingles my nerve endings like ECT.
Daniel Pastan ‘13 is a Contributing Writer for The Indicator.
No Easy Day Dutton Penguin 2012 A REVIEW BY Nik Nevin email@example.com
ark Owen’s No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden is the first, and most likely will be the only, eye witness narrative of the Sea, Air, and Land (SEAL) Team 6 operation that killed the world’s most wanted man. The book has been mired in controversy ever since the publishing house Dutton announced its upcoming release. Owen did not submit the book to the Department of Defense (DOD) for the customary security view and many DOD officials worry that it contains classified information. Owen predicted this uproar and writes, “I’ve taken great pains to protect the tactics, techniques, and procedures used by the teams.... If you are looking for secrets, this is not your book.” This, however, is not entirely true: Owen does detail the evolution of some of the SEALs’ tactics. For example, he describes the adaptation from inserting directly onto a target (“loud and fast”) to inserting miles away and patrolling in quietly (“soft and slow.”) Owen is no longer a part of the SEALs, but the obviously compelling nature of the story he has to tell, and the richly deserved recognition it may bring him, might not be enough to outweigh the risk inherent in revealing restricted information to the general public. O w e n ’s book is different from those written by other SEALs—it doesn’t begin with his experiences in childhood that led him to become a SEAL, nor does it proceed to explain the excruciating training known as BUD/S, or finally to detail some missions that evoke a larger theme about life. Instead, Owen knows his story is unique for two reasons—his membership in SEAL Team 6 or the US Naval Special Warfare Development Group, aka DEVGRU, and the fact that he was one of the men who put a
bullet in Bin Laden. DEVGRU is comprised of the most talented and seasoned SEALs who are tasked with the most difficult operations. SEAL Team 6 was put together after Operation Eagle Claw—the US attempts to rescue the hostages in Iran that ended tragically when a helicopter collided with a C-130 plane. After this, officials realized the need for a team that specialized in counter terror, hostage rescue and the like. There have been very few books written by members of this team and No Easy Day offers previously unknown details of their training. After recounting other missions, No Easy Day walks the reader through a detailed account of the Bin Laden raid. Owen explains how, when three captured terrorists downplayed the role of a man named Ahmed al-Kuwaiti in interrogations, the CIA knew that he must be important. After intercepting a call to his family, the CIA then traced al-Kuwaiti’s truck to Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The SEALs were able to practice their primary assault as well as contingencies in North Carolina, on a mock up of the compound. Before getting the green light they performed a raid of the mock up in front of “a group of VIPs, headlined by Admiral Mike Mullen, Admiral Eric Olson, and Vice Admiral Bill McRaven.” These same men would later critique the release of No Easy Day. As has been widely reported, one of the helicopters used for the mission crashed inside the compound, but fortunately there were no casualties. Although the mission began horribly, Owen relates that the rest of it went according to plan. He was one of the three men who made it to the third floor of the house where Bin Laden lived. Although he wasn’t the first to shoot him, he fired some rounds into him while he was still
twitching on his bedroom floor. Owen reports that, surprisingly, Bin Laden was unarmed. He had two empty guns in his room that he didn’t even use—“He hadn’t even prepared a defense. He had no intention of fighting. He asked his followers…to wear suicide vests or fly planes into buildings, but didn’t even pick up his weapon.” After bringing his body back to their base in Afghanistan, they then transferred it to a warship in the Indian Ocean where sailors eased his corpse into the sea. Mark Owen contends to have written the book primarily because the way “the mission to kill Bin Laden has been reported is wrong.…I felt like someone had to tell the true story.” I can’t help but think, however, that after thirteen straight combat deployments he may have wanted some credit. Owen has presented the public with new facts but his book is but the latest example of a sad trend that will hopefully be abated. A retired SEAL Admiral, Eric Olson, put it best: “Hollywood, politics and money were not present at any of our successes, but they will be present at our decay.” The SEAL community also ought to be especially embarrassed because members of their Army equivalent—Delta Force—have published very little about their experiences overseas. As much as I looked forward to watching Act of Valor (a movie with real SEALs as actors) and reading this book, it comes with the realization that a terrorist in Yemen can also read it for clues about American tactics. Almost any American citizen will enjoy No Easy Day, mostly because it fits in well with the narrative we tell ourselves about our history. Just as we won WWII after Pearl Harbor, so too do we think we will win the war against Islamic extremism after 9/11. Nevertheless, as more information—classified or not—is published about successful missions like these, more international threats will start to take heed. Just as the SEALs have adjusted to the enemy’s tactics, so too might the enemy adjust theirs in response to books like No Easy Day.
Nevertheless, as more information—classified or not—is published about successful missions like these, more international threats will start to take heed.
Nik Nevin ‘14 is a Contributing Writer and Resident Patriot for The Indicator. The Indicator October 5, 2012
From The Indicator’s Cartographical files: Let me start with a caveat. I am not a professional cartographer. Don’t get me wrong. I dabble in cartography. I cartographize from time to time, no doubt. Today, I will map out the most uncharted location on Amherst Campus: the districts of Valentine Dining Hall. Local tribes are territorial and negotiations between natives often result in bloodshed, tears, hangovers and very literal spilled milk. To avoid conflict, please refer to my guide so as to properly find your place in this complicated societal hierarchy. The Front Room: Groups who want to be seen eating together, creative arts majors, friendly alternative people, people who want to be seen eating alone, psychedelic drug users, transfers, XY, a capella
The Middle Room: International students, confused freshman
The Back Room: Varsity athletes, attractive social girls, freshmen yet to be sorted, TD, people who think they’re one of these other groups
The Piano Room: Normal boring people, nonentities, mixed tribes of friends, lazy people who don’t want to search for a seat, floaters, racists
The Mezzanine: Hispanics, DKE, unfriendly alternative people, club sports, groups who don’t want to be seen eating together, people who don’t want to be seen eating alone, awkward Val dates, people doing work, language tables
Do you eat food in a place? Write, draw, or edit for The Indicator.
firstname.lastname@example.org “Helping you MUNCH...since 1848” 18
The Indicator October 5, 2012
The Report Card Comments
EEE scare strikes campus
Hooligan vandalizes Keefe Health Center
I heard Tripoli is actually really nice this time of year.
ACPD training mostly consists of chasing anti-semites anyway.
Justin Bieber pukes on stage
Police crack down on common room drinking
Word on the street is that he didnâ€™t like Pizza Palooza.
Yom Kippur occurs as scheduled
Oh sure. Hiding in your closet and chugging Rubinoff is way safer anyway.
Gatsby TAP wows fancy students
Much like Mr. Gatsby, it was superficial, overhyped, and died prematurely.
Samuel L Jackson releases proObama video
SAY MITT AGAIN. I DAR E YOU. I DOUBLE DARE YOU .
Val gets an iPad
Gun scare hits campus
iPads have rounded corners, Val loves cutting corners.
Turn off your lights, lock your door, keep masturbating.
Iâ€™m sure that the eig ht to twelve Pig Farming majors at Hampshire wil l be just fine.
Yeah, I fasted. Faster Bacon Shortage draws nearer than anyone else. Fasted so fast, it only took 20 minutes.
Submit a caption to email@example.com There will be a prize. The Indicator October 5, 2012