THE SYCAMORE WELLS COLLEGE’S STUDENT MAGAZINE / SPRING 2014
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CONT features 9 50 SAFE AND SOUND Long lost art.
SWAPPING SENSES Using sight for sound.
11 54 THE SILENT SOLDIER
Unnamed and unheard.
THE SOUND OF YOUR VOICE Developing voice recognition software.
19 59 A CAPPELLA
From college hopefuls to sold out concerts.
BREAKING THE SILENCE Illuminating the Illuminati.
23 63 LISTEN CAREFULLY
Does auditory sensory stimulation rule your life?
The bell tower.
27 72 HEARING THINGS
Did you hear that?
"CAN YOU SAY 'COFFEE' FOR ME? Dialectal differences in "English."
40 74 THE SOUND AND THE POETRY
Reading out loud.
22 COVER DESIGN BY JILLIAN FIELDS
SEEN (NOT HEARD) Seeing is hearing?
TENTS constants 6 EDITORS' NOTES A few opening remarks
33 SEX COLUMN
Talkimg about sex.
46 THE SOUND OF BLACK HISTORY
A cultural journey.
84 ACADEMIC PAPER CONTEST
Molly Baillargeon’s “Poland Springs: Water Bottler or Burglar?”
94 DEAR MINERVA
Advice from Wells’s resident goddess
100 VISUAL ARTS CONTEST Ahslynn Loomis' “Chewbacca”
CREATIVE WRITING CONTEST Lindey Bush's "The Sound of Heart-Break"
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THE SYCAMORE is Wells Collegeâ€™s student magazine. This is our twelfth biannual issue. In keeping with our mission, we print on sustainably harvested paper and use nontoxic ink.
staff JULIE HUANG REBEKKAH McKALSEN JILLIAN FIELDS JESSICA LYONS MINERVA VALERIE PROVENZA PAIGE FRALICK MICHAEL LYNCH ATIYA JORDAN MICHELLE LEE ABENA POKU MISSY BREWER FAHAD RAHMAT KATIE LAMANA AMBER BEK KAREN KRAMARSYCK PAMELA BADIAN-PESSOT KEEGAN EVANS GABRIELLE UHRIG MIA WILSON CATHERINE BURROUGHS
Editor in Chief Chief Copy Editor Creative Writing Director Staff Designer Chief Design Editor History Editor Sex Columnist Advice Columnist Staff Writer Staff Writer Staff Designer Staff Writer Staff Writer Staff Writer Staff Writer Staff Designer Staff Writer Staff Writer Staff Writer Staff Writer Staff Writer Staff Designer Staff Designer Staff Photographer Staff Photographer Staff Designer Staff Designer Staff Photographer Advisor
Wells College 170 Main Street Mailbox Number 296 Aurora, NY 13026
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Editor's NOTE I
n my first semester as Editor in Chief, I never thought the staff would choose sound as a theme. From a variety of engaging topics, sound surprisingly emerged the victor from our vote back in the beginning of the semester. Honestly, I worried at first. The theme seemed too narrow. How could we fill 100 pages with interesting content on a subject we take for granted every single day? Many of our writers and photographers, though they were enthusiastic about such a challenging theme, were stumped. Through trials and revelations, our staff still rose to task and gave us rich and diverse material for this issue. Of course, we touch on the spoken word and poetry (pg. 40) and A capella performances (pg. 19), but we also investigate the natural inspiration for modern sonar systems (pg. 50), regional differences in language (pg. 72), and the silence of the secret organization: the Illuminati (pg. 59). A magazine is entirely a group effort. Without our incredible, talented, cooperative staff this magazine would not exist. I’m so impressed with everyone’s ability and drive to make this publication happen. As a first semester Editor in Chief, I can’t say I didn’t panic a few times or fear that I would be letting our previous Chief Editors down, but, as always, the staff really put forth the time and talent, and I will never again doubt that this publication will make it to the presses. We continued our contests for the Sound Issue. Our faithful contributors capture the essence of sound in abstract and elegant ways. Molly, our scientific paper contest winner, writes about the white collar crimes of Poland Springs destroying the soundness of the water supply in Maine. Lindsey’s short story echoes the pain of heartbreak. Ashlyn’s photo contest entry is a playful representation of visual associations with sound. This semester, I’m so very excited to welcome Karen Kramarsyck ‘15 and Amber Bek ‘17 to our writing staff ! Again, without a strong staff, we don’t have a publication. With each new staff member, I’m more confident that our relatively young publication will live a long life here at Wells. Last but not least, I'd like to thank my editorial board. Rebkkah and Jillian, you are wonderful women and I can't thank you enough for guiding me along this semester. Your warmth and patience towards me have truly made this a valuable learning experience. I wish you both the best in your lives after Wells, and I will miss all the silly and sleepless moments we've had in the office. On a slightly different note, I'd like to welcome Gabby Uhrig '16 as the new Chief Design Editor and Michelle Lee '16 as the new Chief Copy Editor. I know that their skills and ambition will help lead us into a bright and promising furture.
Copy Editor's NOTE
have to confess, I was a little nervous when our staff first voted to make sound our theme this semester, but our staff has pulled through, delving into truly fascinating topics of conversation. I am so proud of how our contributors have adapted their work to such an intriguing theme. Our photographers have done wonderful work uniting the visual and the auditory: Keegan’s Civil War photo spread (pg 9) transports viewers into the surreal sounds of battle whereas Mia explores the visual aspects of the bell tower Wellsians can hear every night (pg 63). Gabby’s photos (pg 74) forcefully suggest sounds, such as the sound of breaking glass. Our staff writers have also stepped up with some intriguing content redefining the place of sound in everyday life, such as Missy’s article (pg 50) about how bats utilize echolocation in place of sight or Katie’s exploration of A cappella as a reaction against mainstream music culture. Abena’s discussion (pg 9) of Jewish art stolen during the Holocaust touches on how media coverage and the court systems can be a voice exposing uncorrected wrongs, and Michelle’s article (pg 27) covers the difference between our inner voices and the world of auditory hallucinations. It has been my pleasure to work with each of these contributors to create the best content possible for this issue. I have shared the joys (and late nights) of copyediting with Michelle as Assistant Copy Editor. I am happy to announce that I am passing my torch as Chief Copy Editor down to her more than capable hands. The future of The Sycamore is looking bright, and I’m proud to say I’ve spent four years working with such a wonderful publication and staff. I also want to take some time to thank my fellow editorial board—Julie Huang, Editor-in-Chief and Jillian Fields, Chief Design Editor. Working with Julie this semester has been a truly wonderful experience, and I’m so grateful for her organization and passion in pulling together this issue of The Sycamore. I also want to thank Jillian for being there for me in every possible way, as both an editor and a friend. We have been on staff together since our first semester at Wells, and words can’t even begin to describe how much having her support has meant to me. It has been a truly one-of-a-kind experience, ladies, and I’m so grateful to have been able to share it with both of you.
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Design Editor's NOTE
ound has many different connotations. It can mean sturdy, or dependable. It can be used to name to a body of water. Most commonly, it refers to the small waves that come together to bring the world to us on a different level, using another of our five basic senses. For our purposes, all of these are valid. One of the beauties of our themes is that I am consistently surprised by the applications and interpretations that arise from our incredibly talented and versatile staff. Whether a veteran to the process or a newcomer, each staff member finds it within himself or herself to rise to the occasion and create an impressive piece, all of which combine to make our magazine what it is. And as I look at the end of my career on the Sycamore, I felt it was only right to reflect on the work that each of my fellow seniors has accomplished. Most of the seniors currently on staff did not join our ranks in the beginning of their Wells career. Resident satirist Mike Lynch began penning his recognizable and pithy articles two years ago. In his time on staff, Mike has taken his readers through the cult of Kanye West (Fall 2012), all the way to look at the notorious Illuminati (page ?). Mike’s articles have brought a welcomed spot of humor to The Sycamore, and have allowed me to experiment in avenues of design I had never before considered. For that, I thank him. Pamela Badian-Pessot took her first leap into the world of design last semester and has proved herself both eager to learn and talented. I truly do not believe that this issue would be at the caliber it is without her help. Fahad Rahmat also joined out ranks last semester and has brought with him two articles in which his passion for the subject at hand is almost palpable and his enthusiasm is contagious. The first article of Jes Lyons, our resident sex editor, debuted in the Taboo issue (Spring 2012). Her articles have consistently pushed the envelope and provided our readership with a frank and honest voice talking about subjects that most avoid.
Each of these seniors have taken time out of their busy schedules and frenzied rushes to complete theses to contribute to our publication, and on behalf of the editorial board I would like to extend our sincerest gratitude. Of the other seniors currently on staff, the two remaining have been with The Sycamore from the start. The three of us have completed our Sycamore journey together, beginning as first years not quite sure of how to go about being a part of college publication and exited as well-seasoned veterans. Valerie Provenza began her time on staff as a staff photographer and has continued to be an invaluable member of the publication, offering support wherever needed. Rebekkah McKalsen also began as a staff photographer and is exiting as my fellow editor. Over the years her dedication to the publication has been proven again and again, and her support in all aspects of my life has been greatly appreciated. My Sycamore experience would not have been the same without her. Though I am sad to see my time as Chief Design Editor end, I look back on my past four years as a member of this publication with immense fondness. But as sad as I may be to leave, I am confident that I have left the publication in good hands. I am pleased to announce that my successor as Chief Design Editor will be Gabrielle Urhig. Gabrielle, currently a sophomore, has been on the staff since her first year and has illustrated great talent and dedication. I am excited to for the future to see what she, along with her two co-editors will accomplish. With the turnover of the editorial board, an era is ending for The Sycamore, but I think the next one is something worth waiting for.
Safe and Sound Long Lost Art By Abena Poku
uring World War II the greatest art theft in history occurred. The Nazis looted over 650,000 works of art in Europe, many of which were never recovered. But in 2012 German authorities found a trove of 1,280 paintings, drawings, and prints worth more than a billion dollars in the Munich apartment of recluse, Cornelius Gurlitt. Mr. Gurlitt, is the son of Nazi-era art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt, who acquired the paintings in the 1930s and 1940s after being tasked by the Nazis with selling stolen works of art that Hitler's regime deemed “degenerate.” The senior Gurlitt helped Hitler’s vicious regime collect and cash in on artworks, including some taken from Jews who used them as bribes to flee Europe or who were shipped off to concentration and extermination camps. How exactly did authorities discover these paintings that had been missing for over 60 years? Well, at about 9 P.M.
on September 22, 2010, a train from Zurich to Munich passed the Lindau border, and Bavarian customs officers came aboard for a routine check of passengers. They found Gurlitt to be carrying a large amount of cash, inciting suspicions that he was involved in money laundering. He told officials that he sold paintings occasionally to raise money, and is now being investigated for possible tax fraud. In the spring of 2011, a court granted investigators permission to search his apartment in Munich. According to Focus magazine, what they found was extreme squalor, but nestled between dirty plates and cans of food with sellby dates from the last century were over 1,000 paintings, drawings, and etchings by famous artists including Pablo Picasso, Emil Nolde, Carl Spitzweg, and Henri Matisse. Later about 60 more masterpieces by artists such as Pablo Picasso and Claude Monet were discovered in a second THE SYCAMORE / SPRING 2014 9
home belonging to Gurlitt in Salzburg, Austria, about a two hour drive from his apartment in Munich. The discovery was not announced publicly until November 2012, after a German news magazine broke the story. At the time, a Munich customs inspector said it was unlikely that Gurlitt had more priceless artworks squirreled away somewhere else. Officials did not provide an explanation for the discovery of a second trove. After inheriting them from his father in 1956, Gurlitt apparently preserved the works in good condition for more than half a century, storing the pieces in a way that would preserve their colors. The legitimate status of much of Gurlitt's art is ambiguous. Of the original Munich trove, about 380 items have been identified as looted by the Nazis. Gurlitt has demanded his art back and lawyers working on reclaiming property for heirs to Jewish collectors say he may get to keep at least some of it. Gurlitt’s lawyer said his client is willing to negotiate restitution and compensation for some of the pieces. •
Works Referenced http://www.latimes.com/world/worldnow/la-fg-wn-germa ny-austria-new-art-trove-20140211,0,5270449.story#ixzz2x85cfxox http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/11/us-germany-artaustria-idUSBREA1A15620140211
a photo series by
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From College Hopefuls to Sold Out Concerts By Katie Lamanna
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t isn’t a secret that A cappella has grown in popularity in the last few years. Everywhere we look we see books, movies, TV shows, and performances. We hear unaltered voices on the radio and in soundtracks to movies. A cappella groups are selling out concerts at some of the largest venues in the country. But why is A cappella making its way into pop culture with such a vengeance? And how did it transform from a primarily religious form of entertainment, to college campus hopefuls to a multimillion dollar industry? A cappella, in the traditional Italian, refers to music performed “in the style of the church.” In the more traditional Catholic Church, instruments were not viewed as acceptable during mass. In order to incorporate music, the church developed A cappella music. A cappella has come a long way from small church choirs, gaining popularity in slave culture. In modern times, many people credit the barbershop quartet craze to the popularization of A cappella. From there, A cappella worked its way into the college scene. Collegiate A cappella groups are typically student run, with all aspects of the A cappella group being run independently, aside from receiving school funding. A major draw that A cappella brings to college students deals directly with funding; A cappella is relatively inexpensive. Because no instruments have to be purchased, the finances that go into starting and maintaining A cappella groups are ideal for college students and their tight budgets. Since its start in the 15th century, A cappella has gone from being in primarily religious settings to being sung by slaves while working in the fields, from barbershop quartets to broke college classrooms. Now, in the 21st century, A cappella has gone from a collegiate fad to a multimillion dollar phenomenon. So why are people so obsessed? It might have started in 2006 when Straight, No Chaser released their 1998 version of “The 12 Days of Christmas” on YouTube; snc sent the glee-club world into a tizzy with attempts to recreate the epic medley as flawlessly as the all-male A Cappella group had done. snc has been a name in A cappella since its founding in 1996; however, their smash hit mash-up wouldn’t have been world-renown had it not been for the accessibility of the internet and media. So is that how A cappella received its claim to fame- through the media? In 2009, nbc released the hit television singing competition for A cappella groups, The Sing-Off. Though the show had a cult following from the beginning, it wasn’t until the Pentatonix won the third season in 2011 that the show started to
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gain a lot of publicity. Many notable groups have been competitors on The Sing-Off, from the Yale Whiffenpoofs to Jerry Lawson and the Talk of the Town; however, no one has gained more fame than Pentatonix. Pentatonix is made up of five vocalists who originated in Texas. They gained the majority of their popularity through The SingOff. They have been, without argument, the most successful group to come out of the show. Pentatonix have become more than an internet phenomenon, selling out concerts at venues such as New York City’s Best Buy Theater and San Francisco’s Warfield Theater. Pentatonix also had their first ever European Tour, which sold out in its entirety. The group has released three albums thus far. In a world full of auto-tuned artists, Pentatonix has the lofty, yet very attainable, goal of becoming the first mainstream A cappella group. Probably the most concrete reasoning for A cappella’s phenomenal transformation in modern times is the movie Pitch Perfect. The movie, based on the book by the same title by Mickey Rapkin, chronicles competitive collegiate A cappella groups on their journey to nationals. Featuring hit songs and stellar mashups, the 2012 film earned $113 million worldwide. This is the second highest grossing musical comedy film in history, behind only School of Rock. The transition from fad to phenomenon for A cappella has been more than just the media supporting non-instrumental music. It has been a musical revolution. A cappella sparks people’s creativity, forces them to use their personal resources, and allows groups to be self-sufficient. However, with great fame comes great pressure
and expectations. Anyone can learn how to play an instrument like trumpet, but not everyone can contort their voice to make specific, sometimes peculiar, sounds. Although many people try, not everyone has the skill set to participate in A cappella. Forcing your voice to make the sounds of a guitar, drum set, or piano is harder than it sounds. Likewise, not every A cappella group will sound like the Bellas or Pentatonix. Making A cappella music is time-consuming and difficult. Most groups aren’t able to hold unrehearsed riff offs at the wee hours of the night. Even with this said, A cappella is a great way to express yourself, get to know wonderful people who share a common passion, and, ultimately, have fun. A cappella is turning into more than a college kid’s outlet for expression. It’s making multi-million dollar movies, sold out concerts, and YouTube sensations. Although making A cappella music takes a bit more time than the movies may suggest, it’s an art form that is stronger than ever and there are no indications of it disappearing any time soon. •
Listen Carefully: The Use of Auditory Sensory Stimulation in the Modern World
By Amber Bek
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rowing up we all had the friends that would shrug before slipping a deck of Pokemon cards right off the store’s shelf and into the front pocket of their overalls or slide a plastic ring on, give you a smile, and walk clear out of the mall. Statistically, “sticky fingers” has been a pressing dilemma in this country for decades. If you personally have never stolen and have a clean conscience to accompany your crystal clear criminal record, you could thank your mom and dad for their parenting skills and give yourself a pat on the back for your excellent moral compass. Or, you could consider that you might owe at least a smidgen of credit to the under-track voiceover that hundreds of retailers add to their daily in-store playlists. You have very likely spent an afternoon of shopping listening to a monotone voice repeat the phrases, “I am a good person. I will not steal,” over and over again in a volume just under the cusp of audibility. This is a retail ploy (proven quite successful) aimed towards tapping into
the subconscious and deterring criminal activity. Sneaky, huh? The atmosphere set by noxious cologne, dim lights, and blaring music that left your Mom sitting on a bench 100 feet from Hollister while you back-to-school shopped for sixth grade was creatively executed to be exactly the thing that would draw you in. Three years later, while searching for the hippest of $2 sweaters as a new and improved individual who thrift shops, you probably disregarded a pile of self-help tapes sitting in the corner gathering dust and glimmering under fluorescent lights. Someone, somewhere, probably spent a better portion of the 80’s convinced that a growing collection of those same audio tracks were going to be just the thing that would finally change their life. What is it about blaring a Top 40 hip-hop song that takes a summer car ride from good to great? (It could be the all too common under-track of moaning women that is frequently used in pop-songs to appeal to people’s sexual subconsciouses). This is all based on the same
"""Someone, somewhere, probably spent a better portion of the 80’s convinced that a growing collection of those same audio tracks were going to be just the thing that would finally change their life."""
science. Subliminal messages are no secret in the modern world. As liberal arts babies, we’ve all sat in Macmillan being taught to question Disney, scoff at all TV advertisements, and identify ‘isms’ in popular media across the board. It’s safe to consider yourself slightly more aware than average, but, still, when it comes to subliminal messaging through sound, people walk around every day oblivious as words are spoken to them in volumes just below what they can process consciously. Hundreds of thousands of American dollars are invested each year into the production of technologically developed sounds that appeal to the psyche and into mp3s that repeat mantras or soothing tones. We are literally all susceptible victims of the sneaky and ever-present manipulative beauty of auditory sensory stimulation. In other words, you and I were both born into a world where subliminal messaging through sound is a norm. Let’s reset the scene of your thirteen year-old self ’s shopping mall experience. It’s probably not shocking that the blaring music that sends grandmothers everywhere running from the mall whilst ripping out their hearing aids was carefully selected to appeal to young, impressionable ears. Science has shown that the pubescent tendency to judge one another based on perceived normalcy peaks around the age of 13 (Adler-Tapia). The songs chosen in stores that market towards a demographic of adolescents are based on the same psychological desire, to fit in (appear
“normal”). Professionals search for music that lyrically appeals to the average middle schooler’s goals to appear cooler, older, and to achieve their deep-rooted desire: “normalcy.” In the same effort of appealing to the subconscious on the basis of demographics, stores that market towards older generations are playing “oldies” to evoke feelings of sentiment and joy, thus increasing spending habits. Musical speed and its impact on buying habits has also been meticulously studied—the bigger retail stores strictly play faster songs—as higher tempo has been proven to correlate with faster and higher spending as well as increased employee efficiency (Scott). If you search, you will find countless YouTube videos of people who are sure they have found satanic messages by simply slowing down Beatles songs and playing them backwards. There are famous political adverts and speeches that have been accused of flashing a word like “Rats!” and/or repeating it at a low volume. Many public responses to the use of auditory sensory stimulations are based on speculation, but one of the most famous ways of openly using sound to try to reach the subconscious is through the mass marketing, personal, and commercial use of self-help audio recordings and sound therapy. The mediums range from old school audio cassettes to CDs, mp3 downloads, and recordings only made available for use in professional psychotherapy. Techniques vary too. Voices repeating simple phrases over and THE SYCAMORE / SPRING 2014 25
over again at normal volumes were made popular in the ‘90s, while more modern methods are aimed towards the subliminal mind- with phrases being played inaudibly or backwards (more similar to its uses in marketing and modern media). Wordless recordings are also used, with sounds ranging from city street noises to animal calls and cries to endlessly varying electronically produced tones and volumes- all designed intentionally to evoke (or deter) certain emotions or actions. Thumb sucking, procrastination, insomnia, self-hatred- you can find recordings created to aid literally every ailment using only sound. Unlike the use of sound in marketing and retail, these recordings have shown no conclusive data in proving themselves effective (Stone). You could shop in noise canceling headphones to block out subliminal messaging and mute the commercials as soon as they come on, or, you could consider embracing the art of subliminal sound by taking things into your own hands. Apps like garage band make it easier than ever to make use of auditory sensory stimulation through your own creative endeavors. Trying to quit smoking? Kick it old-school like Chandler from f.r.i.e.n.d.s. and cut out the middle man by making yourself a recording saying, “I am a strong independent woman and I do not need cigarettes.” and putting it on a loop. Want to up the manipulation factor? Record secret messages under pop-songs and burn them onto a mixed CD for a special friend. Self-help tapes from the ‘80s, if nothing else, definitely hold the power to set a skeptic into a fit of giggles. Awareness is key. Even though we cannot control who whispers into our subconsciouses, we can still identify and understand the auditory sensory stimulation surrounding us in our daily lives. • 26
Works Cited Stone W. Contributions Of Self Psychology To Group Psychotherapy : Selected Papers [e-book]. London: Karnac; 2009. Available from: eBook Academic Collection (ebscohost), Ipswich, MA. Accessed 9 March, 2014. Scott D. The Ashgate Research Companion To Popular Musicology [e-book]. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate; 2009. Available from: eBook Academic Collection (ebsco host), Ipswich, MA. Accessed 9 March, 2014. Adler-Tapia, R. (2012). Child Psychotherapy : Integrating Develop mental Theory Into Clinical Practice. New York: Springer Publishing Company.
Hearing Things: Auditory Hallucinations By Michelle Lee
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istorically, hearing things that weren’t there was thought to be the work of the Divine—some greater power bestowing all sorts of wisdom or purpose onto one of us mere mortals. Poly- and monotheistic religions share a common thread of this with Greek gods speaking to mortals, God speaking to Joan of Arc. In different cultures, other supernatural creatures, angels and demons alike, were blamed for unnatural voices and visions. Later on in the eighteenth century, hallucinations in any form were seen as having physiological causes rather than supernatural ones. By definition, auditory hallucinations are “false perceptions of sound,” and are “internal words or noises that have no real origin in the outside world and are perceived to be separate from the person’s mental processes” (Waters). Now that last bit of the definition is an important distinction to make because most of us think in words (unless you think in images, then do your thing). We (oftentimes speaking in the second person) complain to, congratulate, and encourage ourselves in our heads. Too many times has the thought, “You had so much time to do this before; why didn’t you?” crossed my mind, but that doesn’t mean I suffer from auditory hallucination. I am fully cognizant of the fact that I am speaking to myself. This voice we interact with isn’t that of God’s or someone else. Lev Vugotsky, a Russian psychologist, called it our “inner speech” and thought it a requirement before any voluntary activity (Waters). Auditory hallucinations have all sorts of wacky causes, in-
cluding (but definitely not limited to) schizophrenia, affective disorders (such as depression), postpartum psychosis, psychoactive substances, Post-traumatic stress disorder (ptsd), Borderline personality disorder (bpd), Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ear diseases, and an assortment of organic brain disorders. Because of the wide range of diseases that auditory hallucinations can be a symptom of, its usefulness in terms of diagnostics is actually pretty limited. In addition to the array of diseases and disorders that cause auditory hallucinations, there are a multitude of manifestations. They can vary from verbal—male or female voices with different accents—to nonverbal—music, tapping, and animal noises, to name just a few. People who suffer from verbal auditory hallucinations can hear people who are familiar or imaginary characters, and what is heard can be full sentences or single words. Because auditory hallucinations are not part of our normal mental processes, the content is uncontrollable and range from negative comments or commands to perform a dangerous deed to positive voices and messages. One of the most common forms of nonverbal auditory hallucinations is tinnitus, defined as “an almost nonstop hissing or ringing sound” (Sacks). The Mayo Clinic notes that about one in five people are affected and tinnitus is not a condition, but rather a symptom of age-related hearing loss or an ear injury (“Tinnitus”). Other types of nonverbal auditory hallucinations are everyday noises with no external cause, usually due to stress or sleep deprivation. If you’ve been up all night typing an essay and
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hear the click-clack of the keyboard while making another cup of coffee, it might be time to call it quits and just go to bed. Other types of nonverbal auditory hallucinations include musical hallucinations. While those who hear voices get them in their younger years and grow up with them, musical hallucinations are less common in children and, like verbal auditory hallucinations, have a wide range of manifestation. Oliver Sacks, author of Hallucinations, describes a man who said he had “‘an intracranial jukebox’” and “found that he could switch at will from one ‘record’ to another, provided there was some similarity of style or rhythm, though he could not turn on or turn off the ‘jukebox’ as a whole.” They can be soft or loud, simple or complex. Some hear them continuously while others every now and then. Through the advancement of medical detection systems, pet and fmri scans show that the areas of the brain associated with actual musical perception are also activated during musical hallucinations. Sacks goes on to state that during his auditory hallucinations, he is “fully aware that they are not real” and that there’s a difference between simply recalling a song and hallucinating one. Don’t worry too much about that very catchy but fairly annoying Katy Perry song playing on repeat in your head. You’re probably just recalling it. Auditory hallucinations aren’t inherently negative. People placed in situations of great danger report hearing a voice that guided them. Sacks describes his experience of such auditory hallucinations as “sharp and commanding,” contrasting his inner speech which “rambled out a disconnected series of images, and memories and hopes.” By following the voice in his head, Sacks got out alive from the Andes with a broken leg. (The voice telling you to finish your paper is probably your inner thoughts, not an auditory hallucination. Mostly because not finishing a paper is not life-threatening.) Auditory hallucinations don’t always necessitate medical treatment. Although it has longstanding connections with schizophrenia, it’s also connected with a large number of other disorders and illnesses that are not a part of mental illness. Therefore, treatment varies on a case-by-case basis. Usually, there’s a combination of medication and psychological interventions. Coping, anxiety-reduction, and cognitive-behavioral therapy often have the best results in lowering auditory hallucinations. •
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Works Cited Sacks, Oliver. "Exclusive First Read: 'Hallucinations,' By Oliver Sacks." npr books. N.p., 24 Oct 2012. Web. 6 Apr 2014. <http://www.npr.org/2012/10/24/163271304/exclu sive-first-read-hallucinations-by-oliver-sacks>. "Tinnitus." Mayo Clinic. N.p., 05 Feb 2013. Web. 6 Apr 2014. <http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tinni tus/basics/definition/con-20021487>. Waters, Flavie. "Auditory Hallucinations in Psychiatric Illness." Psychiatric Times. (2010): n. page. Web. 6 Apr. 2014. <http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/schizophrenia/ auditory-hallucinations-psychiatric-illness>.
Let’s Talk About
Breaking the Silence About Sexuality with resident Sex Columnist, Jes Lyons
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f we lived in a perfect world, anyone could talk about their sexuality without someone’s sensibilities being offended. But we don’t. Sex and sexuality are topics banned from conversation when nothing could be more natural to our human condition. When I say “I’m a sex columnist” I am still met with wide eyed dismay and confusion. First, I know exactly what’s going on in their minds—Oh, she’s one of those girls. Well, of course I am, and I have to be. Currently, in our Western society, sex is still taboo while simultaneously being shoved into our eye sockets with constant sexed up imagery in advertising and other forms of consumer media. It’s paradoxical and ironic that while this is happening, children (and even adults) lack the knowledge to enhance their sexual health and well-being. While we do use sex in our everyday language, it’s not in the way we should. Why do we call people “cunts” and “dicks” when we’re trying to say they’re a bad person? We have negative connotations with those words drilled into us at a very young age due to the mass production of fear-based sex education. Repeat after me: there is nothing wrong with vaginas or penises. Cunt and Dick are not acceptable insults. Sex negativity can only harm us as a society. I am of the opinion that sex should be introduced into education young. And no, I don’t mean versing adolescents on the most pleasurable positions (more on that later.) I mean that the majority of sex education in the United States is abstinence-only, fear-based “education”. In fact, this repressive style has proved to be extremely futile. Those who have been educated thus are less likely to use contraception than others who have been more thoroughly educated, and therefore more unwanted pregnancies are had by those who have not received a proper sex education. It’s this type of introduction into sexuality that causes not just unplanned pregnancy, but sti and std spreading, and, in the worst cases, abuse. If the youth are not educated on what a condom is, they won’t buy them. In a similar vein, if they are only educated on hetero-normative sex, a person with a different sexual identity might feel isolated and scared. Shockingly, legislation has been passed in 35 states including the District of Columbia that allows parents to opt out of having their children educated (even minimally) in the first place. So, we’ve got a big problem here. Students are not being properly educated on how to have sex safely, and they aren’t being taught about sexuality and gender. And this author has to ask, why the hell not?
How Do We Educate Ourselves? So if we’re not properly teaching the youth of America about sex in schools, the next source one could turn to is the internet. When you type “talking about sex” into Google you get a whole lot of hetero-normative stuff. One thing one might come across, is the planned parenthood website, which lists a fair amount of resources for parents or mentors can use while talking about sex with their children or students. While this source proved open-minded and was a good jumping off point for more education, there were websites such as simplemarriage.net and focusonthefamily.com (the second of which only mentioned talking about sex with one’s son.) Something strange occurred while looking into these results—all three were prefaced with “this might be uncomfortable”. It shouldn’t be. We need to talk about sex. All kinds of sex. Good sex, bad sex, multiple partners sex, non “traditional” sex. Sexuality, pansexuals, asexuals, transsexuals, and so forth. If you talk about something, you make it normative, a la “literally”. For crying out loud—we live in a world where girls still believe the hymen myth, where boys have no idea the benefits of a foreskin, where different sexual orientations are still not acceptable or accessible, and where because of all this, people aren’t enjoying their sex lives to their fullest potential! So let’s talk about it. A disclaimer: keep an open mind. Sex and sexuality are different for everyone and you need to know know your limits and the limits of who you’re speaking to. If it makes you uncomfortable, say so. Also, reflect. No one learns anything by simply nodding their head.
We need to talk about sex. All kinds of sex. Good sex, bad sex, multiple partners sex, non ‘traditional’ sex.
If you talk about something, you make it normative, a la ‘literally’. THE SYCAMORE / SPRING 2014 35
How to Talk About Sex
With your Parents/Mentors:
This can get a little tricky depending on the context. Are you educating them or vice versa? If you’re explaining something to them, it’s important to get your point of view across without being demeaning, as it would be if they were educating you. Remember that even if the person you’re speaking with is older than you, they have their own valid opinions and experiences. In the same way, your experiences are just as valid. If you’re looking to them for education, be specific. Most parents brush over things to shorten the conversation. What do you want to learn from them? Know that and move forward. In any parent/child conversation there is a boundary, but know that if they truly care for you, they will answer your questions with honesty. 36
With Your Partner: The first thing any person should know before talking to their partner about sex is what each person wants out of the sexual relationship. Open communication and sense of self are absolutely key to a healthy sex life. Exploration of the other’s mind is important before exploring the body. (Here’s where we’re getting to knowing positions that are most pleasurable—Told you I’d get there!) Know what you want, and ask what your partner wants. Always be willing to ask “is this okay, does this feel good?” and ask for consent at all times. Know that if you do not tell your partner what you want, chances are, they will not know how to give it to you. Humans are not typically psychic. Equally important, talking about stis and getting tested should be discussed before entering any type of sexual contact. This might be difficult if you barely know the person, so if it’s a one-nightstand situation, speak up, and make sure there’s a condom. If not, walk away. You need to be open about your sexual health and its importance to you.
With Your Friends and Peers: Talking to your friends about sex and sexuality are how most people learn and develop their opinions and ideologies about sex and sexuality. Amongst one's peers may be when one is the most comfortable, and nothing should be off limits. Do you have a friend with a sexual identity that differs from your own? Ask them about it. Listen, and explain your experiences as well. Having people to talk to from all kinds of experiences can open your mind to new things. Those friends with more or less sexual partners, those friends with differing backgrounds of sexual education, people who experiment with their sex lives—their knowledge is yours for the hearing. This collaborative and open discourse allows all forms of experience to be discussed and internalized. THE SYCAMORE / SPRING 2014 37
_ The More You Talk, The More You Know:
When we open up the discourse to bring sex into our daily lives and conversations, we simultaneously make the topic less afeared and more normative. Sex and sexuality can be very personal things, but they don’t have to be, and offering a community to speak openly about these topics can really help people and end sex negativity. Talking about sex and sexuality isn’t going to turn us all into sexcrazed demons walking around naked (though, honestly, does that sound so bad?). But the more you talk, the more you know. And the more you know, the less likely you are to cause undue harm to someone. If no one ever says the word “asexual” how is someone supposed to know what that entails? Or any sexuality for that matter? Or any sexual act, or anything pertaining to sex. We have to break the silence, people have to come forward and explain themselves when asked. If we don’t, no one will understand. Be loud, be free, be proud of who you are, what you stand for, and never apologize for how you experience your sex life. There’s hope for us yet. While sex education in the United States has a lot of work to do to improve upon itself, there are resources out there. The Planned Parenthood website is ripe with resources for not only contraception (as people love to define them with) but also education on anatomy, health, and gender. On social-media platforms such as YouTube where web shows such as Laci Green’s Sex+ and Sexplanations with Dr. Doe explain sexuality, gender, and sex as an act in thorough and well researched ways, the youth of America can get the knowledge they deserve. As always, be safe, be respectful, and talk about sex, baby. Let’s talk about you and me, let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things in between. Let’s talk about sex. •
2.http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/state-policies-on-sex-education-in-schools.aspx 3.http://mail.ejhs.org/volume3/sexpositive.htm 4.http://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/sexuality/talking_about_sex.aspx 5.http://www.plannedparenthood.org/parents/ talking-kids-about-sex-sexuality-37962.htm
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Poetry By Fahad Rahmat
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ome writing is meant to be read, some writing is meant to be read aloud. Poetry is writing meant to be read aloud. Pardon the affective nature of what you’re about to read, but it is what verse does to me. I do not mean to preach or instruct, but to suggest. There is nothing quite like hearing Dylan Thomas read “Fern Hill” the way it sounded in its crafter’s mind. One cannot help but wonder whether Byron’s voice cocked an eyebrow when he forced rhymes in the middle of Don Juan. Like when he asked, “ Oh! Ye lords of ladies intellectual, / Inform us truly, have they not hen-peck’d you all?” Did Emily Dickinson’s voice tremble and vibrate the silence when she broke off in the middle of her sentence—her thought incomplete—unending— the line itself, “The Soul selects her own Society—/ Then shuts the Door—” It is no secret that poetry is meant to be read aloud. I just want to reinforce the fact. Too often I have found myself steeped in silence, appreciating the stillness of a quiet room while fooling myself into thinking that an aura emanates off a page from a poem; that aura is meant to fill the room—that profundity in words comes through still sincerity rather than from a boisterous reading aloud, in which life is instilled into the verse. There is equal music in a poem read quietly to oneself as there is in a stringless guitar.
More than anything, poetry should be a communal activity— almost a return to poetry’s feudal roots, but it is what it is. The exclamation points and dashes, the effect of a sentence building upon another—the likes of which appear in Shakespeare’s sonnets, in which, statement after statement build intrigue around the beloved—all act to affect the reader and listener alike. There has always been a sense of platitude about the interplay between poetry and emotion; that poems makes us feel, just as those who write them felt. For most of us, save the most experienced, that evocation of emotion sounds from the eardrum rather than from the vocal strings. English teachers, students, and authors always go on about “mood” and “tone”—aspects of poetry evoked through the words themselves. When read quietly, those words lie flaccid on the sheet of paper; unable to illuminate the world they are meant to. To read aloud is to breathe life into a set of verse, which creates the mood, and tone of the poem, which in turn affect the reading—there is no drawing apart of the dancer from the dance. There might be science behind this—it would be a more compelling argument if there were a psychological study I could cite to back up what I’m saying—the affective is after all a term from psychology—but I would much rather conduct said experiment myself. Find a friend and sit them down with you. Read the
following to yourself, quietly, so as to really drink in the reverence someone like Jonathan Swift should command:
Thus finishing his grand survey, Disgusted Strephon stole away Repeating in his amorous fits, Oh! Celia, Celia, Celia, shits! Read the lines again, aloud this time, to your friend; there is perhaps not a profound difference in meaning, but certainly a shared joke between the two of you now. The lines are from Jonathan Swift’s “The Lady’s Dressing Room.” Swift, like most of his contemporaries, wrote in metered couplets, giving him a very measured feel and making him an incredibly quick read. There is something so satisfying in hearing a resolved couplet—hearing being the operative word. Poetry aloud is not important only for rigid poetical structures. There is something inherent about reading a free verse poem aloud, sharing it with others. Free verse poetry often conforms to the rhythm of spoken word, creating a deep bond between speaking aloud and free verse built into the skeleton of the poem itself. In my brief interactions with poetry, I am always amazed by what a poet can do with words—how they hide meaning away,
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U and allow readers to discover the woven tapestry for themselves using the tools they have. Readers will have different voices that hit words differently. In Percy Shelley’s Ozymandias, Shelley describes a desert, where “two vast and trunkless legs of stone” sit as reminders of the great fallen antiquarian king, Ozymandias. Shelley explores the half sand-sunken, sneering face of the statue, and strikes the line, “Nothing beside remains.” Read it out loud, but through each reading, stress a separate word—“Nothing” your first time around, “beside” the second time, and “remains” the third time. Explore the differences these stresses create. Do not let this discussion on the sound of verse get lost between the onionskin pages of the Norton Anthology. Every tune you have heard today is poetry set to music—the way poetry was meant to be read. The Arctic Monkeys came out with AM last year—probably my favorite album of the last five years. I could not put my finger on what made the albums so magnetic to me, what kept me coming back. The answer came on Track 12, “I Wanna be Yours”:
I wanna be your setting lotion Hold your hair in deep devotion At least as deep as the Pacific Ocean I wanna be yours At this point, it would be a waste of ink for me to tell you to read aloud, but go ahead, read it aloud. There is no feeling the sear of “S” sound in the penultimate line of the presented triplet without a reading aloud. The words become inert, they become bland when kept quiet. Imagine the tragedy of Illmatic, dropped as a chapbook, read quietly in the back of a class, instead of the tracks being rapped. Things would be different if we only ever read lines from “Memory Lane (Sittin’ in da Park): Sentence begins indented, with formality My duration's infinite, money-wise or physiology Poetry, that's a part of me, retardedly bop
“I can only suggest that if you want to enjoy poetry, read it; if you want to feel poetry, read it aloud.”
I drop the ancient manifested hip-hop, straight off the block I reminisce on park jams, my man was shot for his sheep coat Reading poetry aloud also helps break down the barrier of understanding what the hell a poet is going on about. Sometimes a word does not become real until it is spoken aloud. Thus, we have all agreed that the spoken word of poetry far outweighs the read poem, just as the watched play comes alive while the read play lies stagnant. At this point, however, the looming shadow of Jacques Derrida reminds me that while the phonocentrist (that the spoken word is greater than that of the written one) argument I have hand-woven sounds nice on paper, there remains merit in quiet contemplation. We understand a poem and enjoy it for its affective qualities, the ‘emotion’ of a poem when read aloud, but more often than not, the joy of analysis springs from a silent focus. In the hopes of stilling Derrida from turning further in his grave, I put forth that the affective quality of a poem and the cerebral, analyzed quality
of a poem intermingle. There are certainly those who understand a poem through hearing it clearly through once—people for whom a poetical ear is a God-given gift—people for whom a single silent reading more than suffices to sift though ore-laden rifts of verse. There are others, like me, for whom a single reading is never enough. I do not mean to disparage what the written poem does. There is tremendous joy in pulling apart the form and rhetoric of a poem to uncover underlying meaning in verse, but the affect, the emotion, I feel comes from being read aloud. I do not truly know if a brief dialogue between the affective and analytical qualities of a poem can be corralled into a discussion based only on the volume at which a poem is read, however, I fully realize and gladly concede that each reading has its merit. I can only suggest that if you want to enjoy poetry, read it; if you want to feel poetry, read it aloud. •
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A Musical Journey Through Black History By Atiya Jordan
igerian drummer Babatunde Olatunji once stated, “Rhythm is the soul of life. The whole universe revolves in rhythm. Every thing and every human action revolves in rhythm.” Ever wonder how the music we hear today came about? Or what cultural aspect contributes to the development of a particular sound? Rhythm explains it all. It is the flow of everything that lives. Now, let’s talk about Black history for instance. Rhythm explains why Black history will always be more than just a record of the commemoration of the past. It can also be expressed through distinct rhythm. The development of these distinct rhythms have created many famous styles of music and its pioneers that were relevant in black history culture. But first, let’s explore through the culture of Africa where every musical element derived from and rhythm goes well beyond musi-cal expression. As the second largest continent in the world, Africa’s population constitutes over one thousand languages spoken throughout. One of the most distinct languages is rhythm. Rhythm and melody play a major traditional role in Africa that have been orally passed on through generations to generations. For thousands of years, African music has been a part of every day life. Only those who truly have experienced first account would know how signif-
icant rhythm was to defining not only sound but culture. It has been very controversial about the actual history of African music. Despite the controversies, today’s music is sole evidence of how well rhythm flourished. The many art forms that have flourished in Africa are essentially products of rhythm. Among these art forms are music, dance, communication, storytelling, spirituality. Religion, for instance played a major role in rhythm especially in African American culture. Some of the wellknown chants and songs are Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, Wade in the Water, and We Shall Overcome. Besides that, these art forms wouldn't have been developed without the cultural aspects that developed rhythm and defined the sounds that we know of today. African culture believes strongly in community, which survives solely on the development of communication. From an early age, children learned how vital music was to their communities. As parents sang stories and legends, children would imitate their parents clapping and singing. Storytelling provided rhythm which made it easier for stories to flow and learn. While workers worked the fields, singing chants helped to provide rhythm to their labor. Some people even used musical instruments such as the struck heel and beater, arm rattle, thumb piano, kettle drum, and much more. As stories were told, chants were sung, and movements were created. Rhythm is intrinsic to movement and there cannot be one without the other. Movement was con-sidered to be an expression
of emotion, which served as a means of communication. Now, dance has always been a ceremonious way of communicating with one another in African communities. African dance is an embodiment of flowing rhythm which encapsulated life and spirituality. Spirituality and rhythm were tied together most significantly to communicate with their ances-tors. For instance, one of the most important, yet oldest musical instruments is the drum. This drum was used as a part of speech, essentially designed for communication. The language that is created as a result of drumming is through a variation of tones. Most importantly, being that oral traditions have been passed on through African history, most of these narratives were solely expressed through drumbeats. The effect of the drum itself paved the way for later art forms. Similar to the effect of drums and other musical instruments, rhythm has indeed evolved. Dating back to slavery, workers were allowed to keep their work full of rhythm by singing and doing certain movements. Next, stepping was no more than just a means of communication. Being that miners weren't allowed to talk during work, they communicated with each other by slapping their boots creating different sounds to convey emotions. Eventually, this art form became a form of entertainment which was call “gumboot”. Spanning over 60 years of time, rhythms that derived from stepping became very popular in African American sororities and fraternities. There would be no music without the development of rhythm and sound. It is easy to say that rhythm and sound are two of the many important elements to define Black history. The celebration of these dance styles, drumming techniques, and the reasons behind the stepping are indeed the background of music itself. These elements are those that define music. THE SYCAMORE / SPRING 2014 47
Originated in New Orleans, where various kinds of music blended together, jazz was born. Jazz was considered to be a tradition that many African Americans appreciated and treasured. Artists such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillepsie, and many others paved the way to define the history of Blacks. Blues, born in the South, is he actual base of jazz. This music recognized the struggles of African Americans, including love, loss, pain, and injustice. This was considered the only mode of expression for them, without a doubt. Blues has evolved from many of the different types of sounds, such as negro spirituals, work songs, and stepping. Today, it is apparent that the blues is evolving especially into the music that we hear today. In a more modern sense, there also other African American music that empowers African American culture. As of empowering African Americans, many sing Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing, in addition to the American anthem, in order to recall many of the past struggles they have faced. Then, the African American Cultural Movement began and fueled the later forms of music such as new jack swing, and most popularly rap. 48
Believe it or not, some of today’s rap and hip hop music actually resemble the realities of the African American culture. Similar to jazz music, hip hop is considered to express justice, empowerment, and unity. Hip hop is empowering those to voice their reality especially in times of injustice such as racial segregation and etc. African American culture has been very distinct from American culture and will always be, most importantly because African Americans practice their own traditions. Some of these traditions were performed rather than simply spoken. Rap music from the 1980’s mostly was considered to be an extension of the oral traditions passed on and their history. Sounds and musical forms of African American culture we hear today is a rebirth of some of the oldest genres of music. They have undoubtedly expressed the African American ex-perience which has actually been widely accepted all over America. •
Works Cited "History of Jazz | Black History in America | Scholastic.com." History of Jazz | Black History in America | Scholastic.com. Scholastic, n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2014. <http://teacher. scholastic.com/activities/bhistory/history_of_jazz.htm>. "What Is Stepping?" StepAfrika What Is Stepping Comments. Step Af-rica!, n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2014. <http://www.stepafri ka.org/company/what-is-stepping/>.
Woodard, Daryl. "The History of Stepping -All the Way Back." History of Stepping. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2014. <http:// www.creating-christian-stepteams.com/histo ry-of-stepping.html>. Sexton, Timothy. "An Ethnomusicological Analysis of Traditional Afri-can Drum Rhythms." African Drumming and Comunica tion. N.p., 6 Jan. 2007. Web. 10 Apr. 2014. <http://www. ramstrum.com/music125/AfricanDrummingCommunication. html>. Husby, Melissa. Musical Instruments of Africa. Comp. Jewell Handy. Brooklyn Kids. Brooklyn Children's Museum, 2006. Web. 7 Apr. 2014. <http://www.brooklynkids.org/ attachments/Instruments_Africa_HiRes.pdf>.
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Using Sound for Sight in the World of Bats By Missy Brewer
ou are in a dark space. There are indistinct figures around you. You know that what is around you should be well lit, yet you can’t make out much of anything. Eyes useless, you turn to your hearing. With one sense muddled, it is as if your brain can pass on the useless efforts of sight to the still highly capable one of hearing. Water is dripping. A small stone falls and bounces down larger rocks. Footsteps? No, the lighter movements of a small animal. Then wings flapping. Birds? No, the only flying animal that could survive in a space this dark is a bat. To humans, the sole reliance on sound for navigation seems futile. It could never work, right? Well, you batter open your mind to new possibilities, because sound can easily function in place of sight. Bats are one of a select number of species that live primarily using their sense of sound through echolocation. Humans, the ever-learning and adapting creatures that we are, have developed devices to simulate bat echolocation. But before we get into more technological aspects of sonar and human achievements, let’s look at the basic bat facts. Because they’re pretty rad.
• • • • • •
Bats make up a fourth of all mammal species on earth with over 1,000 different species. Some species live individually, others in large colonies; some bats migrate and others will instead hibernate. Different types of bats include fruit-eating bats, nectar-eating bats, carnivorous bats (their prey consists of small mammals, birds, lizards and frogs), fish-eating bats, and the South American blood-sucking bats. Populations vary between species, with some in millions and others dangerously low. 70% of bats eat insects, making them a natural pest control. They are the only mammals capable of true flight. A bat’s wing anatomically resemble a human hand. Bats live almost everywhere in world except in polar regions and in extreme deserts. They instead prefer to live in caves, crevices and trees. A bat will normally have one “pup” that—at birth—weighs up to 25% of the mother’s weight.
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"Human ears already have a complex inner structure, but the ears of a bat are made to interpret sound as sight."
Bat offspring are cared for in maternity colonies, in which mothers congregate to take care of the pups. The fathers, however, never care for the pups. • Bats are the slowest reproducing mammals on earth in proportion to their size. (“Basic Facts About Bats) So, bats are pretty unique. What really makes them extraordinary, though, is their use of echolocation. Bats emit sounds that will bounce back to them. Through this process, bats are able to create a precise and measured map in their mind’s eye, including information on what surrounds them, how far away different objects are, how fast an object might be travelling, and even the textures of surrounding objects. All this happens in a split second and is as natural a process as seeing and registering visual images is to humans and most other mammals (“Basic Facts About Bats”). This process of echolocation is very intricate and, though other animals also use a version of it, it is catered to bats. The sound waves are produced by the bats’ tiny vocal cords, producing very short wavelengths. Everything that is small about this process results in echolocation being able to detect small objects, such as mosquitoes, beetles and moths, all of which bats eat. Bats can change the invisible “beam” that the sound waves create. For example, by opening their mouths bats increase the call frequency and narrow the beam, and broaden the beam by closing their mouths (Conner). We are familiar with the separation of AM and FM radio, but not many people know why the two provide such different forms of radio. AM stands for “Amplitude Modulation” and differs from FM (“Frequency Modulation”) in that while AM radio’s amplitude is varied, FM radio’s frequency is varied (“Radio Transmission”). Similar terms are used to categorize bats. Exactly as in radio, there are FM bats (“Frequency-Modulating) that use high-low sweeping frequencies. These bats hunt in a more complex environment. The other type is CF bats (Constant Frequency), which use a longer, more constant signal, enabling them to use “Doppler shifts” to measure the relative velocity of their prey. For example, a CF bat can detect the increase in frequency of the echo that bounces off of a moth as the bat moves towards it (Conner). Human ears already have a complex inner structure, but the ears of a bat are made to interpret sound as sight. When bats receive the echoes of their sound waves, the eardrum vibrates and the cochlea converts the vibrations into meaning that the nervous system understands. This conversion is achieved through the middle ear bones—the ossicular chain. It interprets the incoming signal’s impedance, which is basically a measure of how much resistance a signal meets when it reaches the bat. The outer ear functions similar to that of a human’s by funneling the sound into the ear canal. The whole system is actually quite similar to how a human interprets sound. Bats just take it to the next level by using the sound frequencies as sight. One aspect, however, that I’m fairly certain doesn’t pertain to humans is that if a bat has small ears, it receives the highest frequency wave, and larger ears receive lower frequency waves. Gleaning bats have the largest ears and use passive listening rather than a higher form of echolocation, but as far as I know old men with very large ears don’t necessarily have hearing problems (Conner). Despite how cool it sounds, echolocation isn’t perfect. The sound waves bouncing back to bats are often interrupted by wind, rain and other natural elements. A whale’s adaptation of echolocation can span vast expanses of the ocean in contrast to sound’s stunted movement through the air. Humans have also created a spin-off of the bat’s natural echolocation system. Radar and sonar systems
were heavily developed and used during times of war in the 20th century. The sonar system functions pretty much exactly like a bat’s echolocation system—sound waves are sent out in an area, and then the distance and forms of objects are interpreted by the echoes. Recently, scientists have also developed ways to use echolocation to help humans who are blind. Without the ability to rely on sight, many blind people have heightened hearing, and are able to utilize a basic form of echolocation. In 2013, the University of Southampton conducted a study that demonstrated that both blind and sighted people show potential in using echoes to find the locations of objects (University of Southampton). Studies that take a deeper look at the brain during this process show that the response to the echo is registered in the part of the brain usually involved in processing visual images. Unlike bats and other animals, humans cannot send out sound waves on command, so instead the studies have encouraged participants to make clicking sounds with their mouths (Adams). The development of a personal human echolocation technique is still in the works, but it seems that in the near future the visually impaired will be able to substitute sound for sight. Sometimes, as creatures gifted with multiple ways to interpret the world, we discount sound as a secondary sense. To a bat, interpreting echoes is the equivalent of interpreting various visual images, and sound is its means of survival. By observing bats and their echolocation techniques, humans can adapt and use similar techniques to get around sight complications. If we continue this process of learning and adapting, humans will be able to reach beyond our simpler ways of living, and achieve techniques that involve everything we have. •
Works Cited Adams, Stephen. “Blind ‘can Develop Bat-like Sonar’” Telegraph.co.uk. Telegraph Media Group, 26 May 2011. Web. 4 Mar. 2014. “Basic Facts About Bats.” Defenders.org. Defenders of Wildlife. Web. 4 Mar. 2014. Conner, William E. “An Acoustic Arms Race.” American Scientist 101.3 (2013): 202-10. ebscohost. Web. 4 Mar. 2014. “Radio Transmission.” pbs.org. Public Broadcasting Service. Web. 4 Mar. 2014. University of Southampton. “Echolocation: Blind People Have the Potential to Use Their ‘Inner Bat’ to Locate Objects, Study Finds.” ScienceDaily.com. ScienceDaily, 20 May 2013. Web. 4 Mar. 2014. THE SYCAMORE / SPRING 2014 53
The Sound of Your Voice: The Development of Voice Recognition Software By Rebekkah McKalsen
ave you ever talked to Siri or taken advantage of Google’s new Voice Search feature? These are some of the most popular applications of voice recognition technology, but they are far from being the only uses. Windows Vista, Mac os x, and other operating systems “include integrated speech-recognition…as an accessibility feature” ( Johnson); users who need hands-free devices can greatly benefit from the feature, but using the keyboard and mouse is still easier and more efficient for typical users. Voice recognition is not, however, a 21st century innovation: we have been talking to automated phone systems which operate on recognition of very basic commands for decades. But how does it work? There are several ways to “train” speech recognition technology to understand human speech. The most common is to expose it to speech—Akbar Ghobakhlou and Nikola Kasabov at the Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand used the following methods to train their voice recognition computer: “The speech data was recorded in a quiet room environment to obtain clean speech signals. For the sake of this case study, speech data [was] collected from 6 native New Zealand English speakers. Each word was uttered 6 times with distinct pauses in between. Each of these words was then carefully manually segmented and labeled.” Training the software on multiple voices saying each word multiple times is important because there is so much variability between speakers and between utterances. If the software had only been trained on one voice and someone attempting to use the software had a cold, it is likely the software wouldn’t
recognize it. The quality of each person’s voice also differs in terms of pitch, speed, and accent—not to mention differences in slang, enunciation, and dialect across different users. The software also needs a built-in lexical dictionary; as Ghobakhlou and Kasabov noted above, the initial voice training was done by manually matching sounds to an entry in the application’s data—in its dictionary. Dictionaries are customized to anticipate what users will most likely be asking for; thus, Siri will hardly ever misunderstand the query, “Will I need an umbrella this afternoon?” but an application of the kind being researched at Auckland (which focuses on turning items like fans on and off in the home) would. Engineers can also input written texts such as newspaper articles and websites into the application’s dictionary to diversify and broaden its vocabulary. The technique could potentially make the process of creating a well-rounded dictionary less tedious. Siri regularly accesses such websites as Rotten Tomatoes, Yelp, and Fandango to answer queries which can be useful in picking up new vocabulary. However, picking up vocabulary in this way results in more incorrect pronunciations, as the application has not been trained in how the word should sound. Instead, the application picks out the morphemes (meaningful units of language that cannot be further divided) and maps each one to a stored pronunciation—often ending in awkward-sounding results. Although errors in recognizing words still occur due to the large amount of variance in speakers of any given language, most applications are easily correctable by the user. For example, if Siri cannot decide what was said, the application might present two or three options that are the closest and allow the user to choose. Other programs might allow users to type their query instead, or ask for the user to repeat the question. These correction methods help software to adjust to an individual’s speech patterns, improving recognition over time. Siri also draws on something called connectionist modeling in psychology; that is, it relies on statistical information to examine and segment speech sounds into words to understand what is being said. This is accomplished both locally and by communicating with a cloud server with a large speech and vocabulary database to draw from. According to one article quoted by Andrew Nusca, “The server compares your speech against a statistical model to
estimate, based on the sounds you spoke and the order in which you spoke them, what letters might constitute it. (At the same time, the local recognizer compares your speech to an abridged version of that statistical model.)” Thus, the program relies on what it has learned. Humans also rely on statistical learning to recognize sound patterns in speech. For example, it is very uncommon to hear the phonemes /t/ and /l/ side by side in the same word. Although there are isolated instances where both sounds (not just the letters, but the sounds) occur simultaneously in a word, it is much more statistically likely that they are side by side because they are occurring in different words, such as “what” and “locker.” Thus, human beings learn to segment speech according to the statistical properties of their native language. Although this is relatively simple to apply in principle to software, voice recognition technologies must do so consciously every single time, whereas people go through the process practically effortlessly. The technological advances made since the beginning of the 21st century have undoubtedly resulted in more voice recognition options and opportunities, particularly for users with physical disabilities. However complicated the statistics and methodologies behind mechanical voice recognition, they are still simple and inefficient compared to how human beings process speech. In fact, much of how we understand spoken language is still a mystery; although statistical learning is likely a part of human speech recognition, many other factors complicate the process. Psycholinguists (psychologists who study humans’ interactions with language) have been searching for an invariant speech cue, which is a cue that would be at once necessary and also adequate to understanding a given speech sound or word. Before delving into a conversation about these potential cues, it is important to establish a few basic facts about spoken language. According to Psychology Professor Deborah Gagnon, vowels are formed by “vibrations of the vocal cords and changes in the shape of the vocal tract.” When the shape of the vocal tract changes, peaks in pressure are created, which are observable when the frequency of sound is measured. These peaks in pressure are called formants. Psycholinguists are investigating whether formants influence the perception of specific speech sounds enough to act as an invariant cue; however, they keep running into one problem. THE SYCAMORE / SPRING 2014 55
Context. The consonants which precede and follow vowels bring about formant transitions which differ with each sound, thus creating too much variability for formants to function as a cue for recognition of various vowel sounds (at least, under the present research). David Lane thinks of invariance another way, as referring to “a particular phoneme having one and only one waveform representation; that is, the phoneme /i/ (the ‘ee’ sound in ‘me’) should have the identical amplitude and frequency as the same phoneme in ‘money’.” Even though the two phonemes sound similar, they are represented differently on a spectrogram (which measures the frequency of speech) and thus provide evidence against the existence of invariance among language. One of the reasons context is so important in speech is because of the vocal tract’s ability to anticipate the sounds it will need to make; it begins to change shape before the first sound is entirely finished, resulting in assimilation and co-articulation. Assimilation occurs when one phoneme takes on the qualities of the next; for example, when the /i/ sound in “pin” takes on the nasal qualities of the /n/. Co-articulation refers to both assimilation effects and changes that occur to a phoneme because of the phoneme occurring before it. Co-articulation may sound counter-intuitive, but it allows speech to be produced at a much faster rate than if we had to articulate each phoneme independently. According to Trevor Harvey, author of The Psychology of Language, co-articulation benefits the listener as well: “[Co-articulation] also has the advantage that we do not gather information about only one phoneme at any one time; they provide us with some information about the surrounding sounds” (259). However, this property inherently means that “phonemes vary slightly depending on the context” (259), making it more difficult to identify invariant properties in language. However, so far, no invariant cues to recognizing phonemes in language have been found. Instead, psycholinguists have established the importance of context in understanding speech. For example, the most significant way that consonants differ from one another is in something called the voice onset time, which denotes the “time between the start of the consonant and the start of vibration in the vocal tract” (Voice Onset Time). For /b/ and /p/, it is the only difference between the two: to make the /b/ sound, vibrations (also called “voicing”) start as soon as the phoneme begins, but with /p/, there is a delay of 65 milliseconds. When whispering, the vocal chords are intentionally kept from 56
"In fact the human race is so good at identifying missing information through context that we often are completely unconscious of filling in the missing information " ,
vibrating. Without contextual cues, then, there is no way to tell the difference between a whispered “bat” and a whispered “pat.” In fact, the human race is so good at identifying missing information through context that we often are completely unconscious of filling in the missing information. When this occurs at the level of phonemes, it is called the phoneme restoration effect. In several studies, including one by Obusek and Warren in 1973, participants listened to a sentence in which one phoneme (such as the /s/ in “legislature”) was cut out and replaced by a cough. According to Trevor Harvey, “Participants could not detect that a sound was missing from the sample… even if they know it is missing. Morever, participants cannot correctly locate the cough in the speech” (263). The effect persists even when several phonemes from the same word are cut out and replaced with a cough, suggesting that top-down information as well as the semantic context of the sentence override perception in some cases. However, the same cough would be crippling to voice recognition technology. I tried to cut out a phoneme with a space of silence on Google Voice Search (“Si_i”) to simulate the study. But I accidentally voiced the /r/ sound, and while the page loaded, I thought to myself that I’d have to repeat the experiment because it was going to understand what I meant (“Siri”) because I hadn’t had any difficulties understanding it. However, the site heard “search” instead. Phoneme restoration (and understanding stilted speech) is a much more complex task to both understand and duplicate than our cognitive abilities would have us believe. Lip movements also contribute to how speech is perceived. In a YouTube video called “McGurk Effect (with explanation),” viewers are shown a man who appears to be repeating “da.” However, it is an illusion; the man is actually saying “ba,” but his lips are forming the word “ga.” The reason that the majority of (uninformed) viewers then hear “da” is because along the scale of voicing, “ba” has the shortest voicing time and “ga” has the longest; “da” is right in the middle. Thus, more than simply our auditory system is involved in our perception of sound. Unfortunately, this is very difficult to incorporate in audio-based software. However, Siri already utilizes context in some ways in order to process the commands it receives. It is impossible for Siri to understand each word a user speaks because building a lexical dictionary large enough to hold the entirety of even one language is much too time-consuming for companies trying to keep up with their competitors. Take into account how often slang is created or THE SYCAMORE / SPRING 2014 57
changes meaning, and the task becomes impossible. Thankfully, software engineers designed the program with this limitation in mind. Siri works by picking out key words it understands, then putting them together in order to produce something meaningful. In the example, “Will umbrellas be multitudinous today?”, Siri might understand “umbrellas” and “today,” recognize that “umbrellas” are weather-related, and then pull up the weather app to display today’s forecast. Thus, much of the ingenuity of Siri’s design can be assigned to how well it covers up what it doesn’t know or understand. If invariant cues are identified, voice recognition and speech-producing software would improve greatly; to some extent, technology and psychological studies of language depend on one another. This is because the impetus of voice recognition advances has important implications for understanding our own cognitive processes related to language processing and understanding. In seeking to improve technology, engineers can look to our own model for understanding, thus driving research efforts into figuring out how we do so effortlessly what it is so difficult to train a machine to do. •
Gagnon, Deborah. “Spoken Language Understanding.” Ghobakhlou, Akbar and Nikola Kasabov. “A Methodology for Adap tive Speech Recognition Systems and a Development Environment.” Auckland, New Zealand. n.d. Auckland Uni versity of Technology. Web. Accessed 9 April 2014. Harvey, Trevor A. “Understanding Speech.” The Psychology of Lan guage: From Data to Theory. Psychology Press: 2008. New York, NY. 3rd ed. Print. 259, 263. Johnson, Bernadette. “How Siri Works.” How Stuff Works. Discov ery Company. n.d. Web. Accessed 9 April 2014. < http:// electronics.howstuffworks.com/gadgets/high-tech-gadgets/ siri2.htm >. Kain, Erik. “Apple’s Siri and the Future of Artificial Intelligence.” Forbes. 15 October 2011. Web. Accessed March 2014. < http://www.forbes.com/fdc/welcome_mjx.shtml >. Lane, David. “Speech Perception.” OpenStax cnx. 18 June 2008. Web. Accessed 9 April 2014. <http://cnx.org/content/ m11175/2.9/>. Medina, John. “McGurk Effect (with explanation).” YouTube: 6 March 2008. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jts fidRq2tw>. Nusca, Andrew. “How Apple’s Siri Really Works.” zdnet: 3 Novem ber 2011. Web. Accessed 9 April 2014. < http://www.zdnet. com/blog/btl/how-apples-siri-really-works/62461 >.
BREAKING THE SILENCE: Illuminating the Illuminati Courtesy of Mike LYnch: Expert on Everything & Forwarded to the masses by Julie Huang: Editor
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ne of the most well known secret organizations of all time, the Illuminati has managed to stay in the shadows since the group was legally disbanded in 1789, and whether or not the organization truly fell to pieces has been a topic of debate ever since. With conspiracy theorists blaming them for things from the French Revolution to the 9/11 Terrorist Attack, there must be some semblance of their existence, and I believe I may have found it. While searching through the Wells College Archive in the Long Library I stumbled upon an aged leather tome, one that strangely enough was not coated in dust as the others, and while leafing through the pages it was here that the light began to shine. “Das Licht: Die Protokolle der Beleuchtete Freimaurer“ was written in gold across the cover, which I learned is German for "The Light: Protocols of the Illuminated Freemasons." With this I knew I had found what I was looking for; the truth behind many of the world‘s most tragic events.
The first entry, written by Adam Weishaupt, contained incoherent ramblings of rationalistic philosophy laced with anti-religious propaganda, clearly mapping out the beginning stages of thought of the Illuminati‘s founding father. With my curiosity piqued, I skimmed through the rest of the entries, each signed and dated by a specific ruling family with the latest occuring February 19th 2014, just days before the recent Russian invasion of Crimea. The author of this latest entry, identified only as "Rockefeller," describes what appears to be an attempt to resurrect the Soviet Union. By starting riots in Kiev, he plans to weaken the Ukrainian government to the point where a Russian take-over would stand oppositionless. From there dissent is supposed to spread to the rest of the Soviet Satellites, breaking down defences and creating the perfect environment for a single authoritarian government to take command. That entry ends there, but I have taken the time to translate and detail as many of them as I can going back from there.
October 12th, 2013 again Rockefeller had taken up his pen—this time to describe a potential assassination of Saudia Arabia‘s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz in the event that he agreed to accept the Secruity Council seat in the United Nations. His ramblings argue that the Illuminati want the seat to go to Jordan as they have been funneling money into Jordan‘s economy and foresee them being the rising power in Western Asia and the Middle East. March 8th 2013 Rockefeller has jotted down various numbers and amounts though I can‘t find a specific meaning for them. However written in all caps at the bottom of the page is francis. September 1st 2011 Rockefeller once again graces us with his words, though finally something a bit different. India and Bangledesh are forced to resolve border disputes in hopes of allying the nations in a united Southern Asia, though it appears plans for unity are several decades away. May 20th 2011 This time the entry is written by
Habsburg, which explains the new tone. He seems to be apologizing specifically to the order for the actions of Ratko Mladić, a former Serbian general. It seems he believed he could keep the man under control, and regrettably, has had to step in to correct his mistake. The entry’s final words have been smudged over in blood, leading me to believe that Habsburg’s error cost him his life. March 16th 2008 a strange entry, as it is written in both German and what appears to be a form of Chinese by Jintao. It is also oddly specific as it explains the Tibetan Riots that occurred just a couple days before. Illuminati agents were sent to specifically start a violent protest in hopes of preventing Tibet from ever regaining independence, their motives being to keep China as the reigning power of Asia in hopes of eventually annexing Mongolia, North Korea and South Korea as well. It appears that the main focus of the Illuminati is to consolidate power as best as possible, making it easier to keep everything under THE SYCAMORE / SPRING 2014 61
control. The next handful of entries written by a Cavendish are short, one line at most, and lack a specific day or year. December. Schengen. November. Wahab Akbar. May. Ijegun. April. orange is ripe. April, the bronze soldier. December, eta. I can’t be entirely sure what is meant by several of these, but they appear to be occurring all over the globe now, showing the endless influence that the Illuminati have. At this moment in my research I was forced to take a break for the night, returning the book to its rightful place in the archives. However, when I arrived the next day to continue, it appeared that the tome had gone missing. Few knew of the work I was doing in the archives, and I had told no one about the book,
meaning one thing. They’ve been watching me. I fear that my time is short as they are ruthless about keeping themselves in the shadow. It was once said, “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist,” and the Illuminati have done just that. To feign disbandment over two centuries ago but still exist under the eye of the people is no small feat. I fear that this article may never reach the masses, and so I send it unto you, dear editor, that in the event of my untimely demise someone may know the truth. Someone may shed some light. Your humble writer, Michael S. Lynch •
Inside: The Bell Tower By MiA Wilson
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“Can you say ‘coffee’ for me?” Dialectal Differences in “English” By Karen Kramarsyck
uring my semester abroad in England, I was stopped by a man fundraising for a national charity. I explained to him that, while I would have liked to help, I could not donate any money because I did not have a UK bank account. He smiled and confessed that he thought as much after hearing my “North American” accent. He then asked, “Can you say ‘coffee’ for me?” I complied, and he immediately knew that I was from the United States rather than Canada. As a native English speaker studying in England, one of the last things you may expect is to encounter a language barrier. After all, we all speak English, right? You have heard so many stories from your friends about their experiences studying abroad in Italy, or Costa Rica, or wherever, and being handicapped due to the fact that they did not speak the language. Preparatory classes for your time abroad even focus on teaching techniques for students to cope with being in a foreign country that primarily speaks a different language than their own. What you were not prepared for was the sudden realization that you can be deemed the stupid American because of the way you speak even without needing an English to whatever foreign language dictionary. Whether you are called inappropriate because you used the word “pants” in public, or you gave an odd reaction to the British kid sitting next to you on the bus that said, “I could really go for a fag right now,” you are the one that looks like a fool because you are in their house now. There is no need to have a shouting match with a local about the correct pronunciation of your name, just as long as you both understand that you are saying the same thing. In sociolinguistics, an accent is a manner of pronunciation peculiar to a particular individual, location, or nation. Accents typically differ in quality of the voice, pronunciation and distinction of 72
vowels and consonants, stress, and prosody. Varying accents are not the only things that can cause problems—or embarrassment—in conversations. The term dialect, among linguists, refers to a variety of a language that is a characteristic of a particular group of the language’s speakers, most often applied to regional speech patterns. According to this definition, any variety of a language constitutes “a dialect”, including any standard varieties. A dialect is distinguished by its vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation, the last being the subset accent. Other speech varieties include standard languages, jargons—characterized by differences in lexicon or vocabulary— and slang, among many. In the 2006 study on language learners’ perceptions of accent, conducted by Julie Scales, Ann Wennerstrom, Dara Richard, and Su Hui Wu, the perceptions of a group of thirty-seven English language learners and ten American undergraduate students were analyzed. Each subject listened to a one-minute passage read by four speakers with different accents of English: General American, British English, Chinese English, and Mexican English. Participants then attempted to identify the different accents and stated their preferences and opinions about each. Additionally, eleven participants were individually interviewed about the different accents. Although more than half (62%) of the learners stated that their goal was to sound like a native English speaker, only 29% were able to correctly identify the American accent. No strong correlations were found between the ability to identify accents and the amount of time spent in the United States nor time studying English. However, an almost perfect correlation was found between the accent voted easiest to understand and the one that participants preferred. Unlike learners, a growing number of scholars have stressed the importance of global intelligibility, rather than a particular native
accent. Given that much of the world’s communication takes place among speakers of nonstandard varieties of English, both native and nonnative, there is a rising number of advocates for an international version of English, a so-called lingua franca core, as a more realistic model for pronunciation teaching. This proposed international English accent would simultaneously allow for easier learning of the language, and improve our ability to communicate with and understand one another. Many historical linguists view any speech form as a dialect of the older medium of communication from which it developed. This point of view sees the modern Romance languages as dialects of Latin, modern Greek as a dialect of Ancient Greek, Tok Pisin as a dialect of English, and North Germanic as dialects of Old Norse. It sees genetic relationships as paramount: the dialects of a language—which itself may be a dialect of an even older tongue— may or may not be mutually intelligible. Moreover, a parent language may spawn several dialects which themselves subdivide any number of times, with some branches of the tree changing more rapidly than others. This can give rise to the situation in which two dialects with a somewhat distant genetic relationship are mutually more readily comprehensible than more closely related dialects. An example of this pattern can be found among the modern Romance tongues, with Italian and Spanish having a high degree of mutual comprehensibility, which neither language shares with French, despite some claiming that both languages are genetically closer to French than to each other. The state of Illinois declared “American” to be the state’s official language in 1923, although linguists and politicians throughout much of the rest of the country considered “American” simply to be an adjective referring to the United States of America. American English is a set of dialects of the English language, used mostly in
the United States. There is no one “American accent” or “American dialect” since our extensive country has several in its various regions. Given the fact that accent and dialect vary so drastically across our own country, an American running into problems with communication in England, while not readily considered, is not at all that surprising. There are those that may pick up an accent quickly after hearing it, but many struggle with understanding them almost as much as they would with another language. It can be pretty off-putting when the British children you are working with stare at you in confusion because they cannot understand what you are trying to say, offering that the reason is the fact that “you have an accent”. While my refusal to say “trousers” may warrant a few giggles from locals who think I am referring to underwear, I own my American speech patterns. •
Works Cited Scales, Julie, Ann Wennerstrom, Dara Richard, and Su Hui Wu. "Language Learners' Perceptions of Accent." TESOL Quarterly 40.4 (2006): 715. Print.
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Seen (Not Heard) By Gabri e lle Uhri g
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Water Bottler or Burglar? By: Molly Baillargeon
oland Spring is a brand of bottled water that claims to be “100% natural spring water” that is “filtered naturally beneath the earth” (Poland Spring Born Better 2010). Recent controversies in Maine have brought about the issue of land and resource ownership. The Nestlé Corporation, which manufactures Poland Spring bottled water, has been accused of many crimes relating to the water they bottle and sell. The most prominent in Maine at this time is that Poland Spring is essentially stealing water from those who reside near those large aquifers that Nestlé draws from. Is Nestlé actually committing a crime, and if so, what is it? The idea of the bottled water industry has been around for decades or even centuries, but has only gained popularity in the last 30 or so years. At first, bottled water didn’t seem as though it was a necessity, but the market has manufactured demand for it. This demand was manufactured by scaring the public out of using tap water, making bottled water seem healthy and attractive, and misleading the public about some general facts (The Story of Bottled Water 2010). Out of this manufactured demand came hundreds of companies and thousands of brands of bottled water. The Nestlé Corporation, maker of Poland Spring, owns 75 bottled water brands in the United States alone. Poland Spring was one of the first bottled water brands to become established, branching out of a small family operation in Maine. The Ricker family bottled and sold water from an unknown source in Maine starting in 1845. Their small operation quickly grew, and several more companies followed suit (Miller 2006). Poland Spring and the rest of the bottled water industry has grown immensely in the THE SYCAMORE / SPRING 2014 85
past couple decades, but seems to be coming to a stand still. This is possibly due to the newfound environmental conscientiousness of consumers (The Story of Bottled Water 2010). The Poland Spring Company is tremendously popular in Maine, where the water is sourced, and throughout the country. Although bottled water has seen a stagnation in sales in the past few years, the water companies still have profits in the billions of dollars (The Story of Bottled Water 2010). However, Poland Spring has come under fire from the public as of late. Res Gehriger, in his documentary Bottled Life: The Truth About Nestlé’s Business with Water, explains the major problems within the Poland Springs Company in Maine. Gehriger poses the major question “to whom does the water on our planet belong?” The question does not have a clear-cut answer, so Gehriger investigates the Poland Spring Company in Maine (Bottled Life 2012). Fryeburg, Maine is the main drill site for Poland Spring. One million liters of spring water are pumped from the wells in Fryeburg every day. This water costs Poland Spring only $10 per tanker truck, but once filtered and bottled, that tanker truck will be worth $50,000. The majority of the people of Fryeburg do not want Poland Spring in the area, as they believe that the company is taking the water natural to their environment away from them. The Fryeburg aquifer is under considerable stress given the number of wells Poland Spring has in the area, and the wells from residents. Water levels in the area are suffering, and the aquifer must suffer irreparable damage (Poland Spring Secret Ingredient 2007). There
is strong opposition across the state, and some actions have been taken to try to keep Poland Spring from drilling wells in the area. However, as Nestlé is the largest food and beverage corporation in the world, it has access to all the legal funds it needs to combat the lawsuits brought about by citizens and town governments in opposition (Bottled Life 2012). Most of the citizens of Fryeburg, Maine are unhappy with Poland Spring’s presence in the community. They feel as though Poland Spring is basically bottling their tap water and selling it back to them. The citizens’ water is being affected, as some wells are running dry. Poland Spring, “to keep up with growing demand, is pumping more water out of these wells than the natural flow of a spring can produce (Brooks 2003). This means that some residents in Maine may be forced to buy the water that is bottled from their lands. They also feel as if the water in Fryeburg belongs to the citizens, not a large corporation. Howard Dearborn, who staunchly opposes Poland Spring, is baffled by the fact that the company seemingly bottles their tap water, yet campaigns against tap water. “They use it up there to wash their hands in it and flush their toilets with the same water that Nestlé is selling as spring water… think about that,” Howard says. However, some Fryeburg residents are in favor of Nestlé’s involvement. Several people refer to Poland Spring as a “good neighbor” and bring up that their existence creates jobs and boosts the economy (Bottled Life 2012). Poland Spring is doing some good in the community, but it is undeniable that they are commodifying Maine’s natural water sources. The big issue in the matter is to whom the water belongs to, and each side sees differently. Criminology is the scientific study of crime and the propensity for criminal behavior. There are many things that can be considered crime that we don’t believe are, and vice versa. One of the many types of crime is white-collar crime, and that refers to crime that is nonviolent and financially motivated. White-collar crimes are often committed by business and government professionals. Sociologist Edwin Sutherland studied white-collar crime, and has posed the question of whether the actions committed by corporations are criminal, or simply immoral. Sutherland also explores “why the law has different implementation for white-collar crimes than for others” (Sutherland 1945).
Edwin Sutherland speaks about how white-collar crimes are still in fact crimes, although they are viewed differently than obvious crimes such as burglary or murder. White-collar crimes are essentially the same as civil crime, as they are just “an adaptation of the common law to modern social organization” (Sutherland 1945). However, they are viewed differently in part because of “the status of the business man, the trend away from punishment, the relatively unorganized resentment of the public against whitecollar criminals,” and the concealment of criminality to eliminate the stigma of crime (Sutherland 1945). Although white-collar crimes are based on civil crimes, and are essentially the same as civil crimes, they are viewed differently by the public. In this case, is Nestlé committing a corporate white-collar crime? Poland Spring has been accused of profiting on the natural resources owned by Maine. They are essentially thieving the water of Maine, filtering it, and selling it back. It could be said that Poland Spring is committing theft, which is a crime, but the fact that Nestlé is a corporation changes things up a bit. However, “an unlawful act is not defined as criminal by the fact that it is punished, but by the fact that it is punishable” (Sutherland 1945). Theft is punishable; therefore Poland Spring’s acts should be considered crime. Although their crime may be seen differently than a burglar stealing possessions from someone’s home, it is indeed an offense, morally and legally. The Poland Spring bottled water company, based in Maine, has been pumping water out of aquifers in the state much to the chagrin of those that live there. The citizens of Maine feel as though Poland Spring is stealing their water. This is a form of white-collar crime, which is in fact a criminal offense—not just immoral behavior. However, the people of Maine will not be able to overcome the Nestlé Corporation for several reasons. Corporations have power and are looked up to. White-collar criminals are usually punished differently than civil criminals, if they are. Some white-collar crimes are not obvious to those outside the trade, which can lead to the corporation committing the crime for some time until the public learns of it. Nestlé also has greater access to corporate resources. There are several reasons why the Poland Spring Company is taking the water from those it belongs to and getting away with it. •
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Works Cited Bottled Life: The Truth About Nestlé’s Business with Water. Dir. Urs Schnell and Res Gehriger. DokLab, 2012. dvd. Brooks, Anthony. Poland Spring Settles Class-Action Lawsuit. npr, 2003. Web. Coultas, Carol. “Poland Spring Eyeing Debate.” Sun Journal.com. N.p., 10 July 2007. Web. 18 Dec. 2013. Lohan, Tara. “Are Greedy Water Bottlers Stealing Your City’s Drinking Water?” Alternet. N.p., 21 Mar. 2010. Web. 17 Dec. 2013. Miller, Mark. Bottled Water: Why Is It So Big? Diss. Teas State University, 2006. Poland Spring Born Better. Poland Spring. YouTube, 4 Mar. 2010. Web. 16 Dec. 2013. Poland Spring Secret Ingredient Maine E Fryeburg. Dir. Al Davis. YouTube, 9 July 2007. Web. 17 Dec. 2013. The Story of Bottled Water. The Story of Stuff Project. YouTube, 17 Mar. 2010. Web. 16 Dec. 2013. Sutherland, Edwin H. “Is “White Collar Crime” Crime?” American Sociological Review 10.2 (1945): 132-39. Print. Tapped. Dir. Stephanie Soechtig and Jason Lindsey. Atlas Films, 2009. dvd.
The Sound of Heart-Break By Lindsey Bush
I hate funeral homes. They remind me of a library in the creepiest, most disturbing way possible. I always feel this intense pressure to be utterly quiet, to make myself noiseless. This, realistically, is impossible to do when in dressy clothes and heels. If feasible, I hate heels even more than funeral homes. I’ve been to a fair amount of funerals and funeral homes in my life. With a father who had many older siblings who all had terrible health habits, I’ve stood in the line of bereaved family members more times than I care to remember. Add to that fact that my mom is a big believer in attending calling hours; I’ve been to too many funeral homes. I get it. I do. It’s not fun and it’s not comfortable for anyone. But the point of calling hours is to help the family, to share their grief and to show your support. So I go, and I hug and I keep myself from running from the room. But that day in July was different. That was too close to home. Everyone was there for Matt’s calling hours. That was my brother, in the casket and I had to walk up to look at him. I went early, with Pat, Matt’s mother, holding her hand as Corey drove her and Pam, Matt’s sister. We didn’t talk much on the ride, just sat and looked out the windows. I didn’t go inside with them, to see Matt. It wasn’t my place. They consider me family, yes, but that’s different. That’s their son, their boy. I stayed out in the foyer with Pat’s siblings and Bruce’s mother and the funeral directors.
The sounds that came from that room-I can’t put words to them. They weren’t screaming, not exactly. But they cut right through my skin, through all the muscles and bones, to my center. I wouldn’t call them moans or wails or even cries. I couldn’t distinguish who it was either and that may have been the worst part. It was all of them, people I loved more than anything, in that room, crying out in terrible, wordless agony. Their grief, their anger, their pain, all of it just in those noises. I had to leave the foyer; I had to walk outside and get some air. What I had just heard was heartbreak, real, agonizing, endless heartbreak. It was so hot out and I was sweating in my black dress. The funeral director joined me after a moment, wordlessly offering me a cigarette. I shook my head and we stood in silence out there, until Aunt Mary, Pat’s sister, poked her head out and said I should come in.
For the calling hours, I went with my family. I walked into that crowded room and I froze. It was full of people, but there were only the slightest noises, people whispering to each other. I felt like I was surrounded by moths, and I was struck with the urge to yell, just to see what would happen. I didn’t, of course. But I wanted to. The air conditioning was up too high and I was wearing a black summer dress, so I should have been cold. But I could feel sweat break out all over my skin. I hadn’t seen the casket yet; THE SYCAMORE / SPRING 2014 89
hadn’t seen Matt in nearly three years. I wanted to wait, catch my breath maybe, but then there we were. The soft noise all around me receded and I stared, like a child at her first funeral. It was Matt and it wasn’t Matt, dressed in a beautiful suit, his eyes closed. His skin looked wrong and so did his face; I was so used to seeing emotion on it. He was passionate; it showed in all of his expressions. There should have been a grin, or a smirk, or anger, something, anything. But his face was blank. I knelt down when my mother did but I did not bow my head. I stared at him instead, wondering how we had ended up here, with him in a casket and me kneeling, praying for him. I thought of us as children, dreaming of all the things we would do in our lives. I couldn’t decide if I was angry at him or angry at the world.
P People spoke in quiet whispers, me among them. They blew their noses quietly, let silent tears run down their faces. This was not a place for displays of grief. This was quiet comfort and goodbyes said only in minds. There was a commotion at the door. Two “friends” of Matt’saka the guy who sold him the last batch of heroin and then left him dying on the floor of Stewarts along with another loser-were trying to walk in the door. Corey, Pam’s new husband, had seen pictures. He knew who they were. The funeral directors, Pat’s brother, Bruce’s brother and Vicki’s husband converged on them and swiftly, nearly silently escorted them out of the door. I don’t know if most people even knew it happened until after. But I heard the anger, the tension by the door. I heard Corey’s hissed “Get out now” and the idiot’s “I’m here for my friend”. I wanted to go outside and hit him, to yell at him, to unleash some of my hurt and fury on his hapless face. But I figured the guys needed the escape far more than I did. And my place was inside, uncomfortable and itchy and heavy as it was. I don’t know what was said out there, but none of the druggies showed up that day or at the funeral. It was quite clear that they weren’t welcome. The funeral was not quiet. We were all in tears less than five minutes in. Mine were steady, a constant river flooding down
my face. I couldn’t remember the last time I cried so much. It’s quite possible I never had. There was a constant rustle of tissues being drawn from pockets and packages, being handed among family members and among strangers. There are few boundaries at funerals. I thought about the past few days, as we waited our turn to bid our final farewells to Matt. Pat had sent a text to my mother, explaining the situation. That may seem cold, but it made perfect sense to me. How could you trust your voice to express the situation? Text was simpler, easier and would get the point across. Later, we could talk about it. I couldn’t help wondering how they reacted when they found Matt at the hospital, dead. I vividly remembered the horrible noises that came from the first viewing of his body in the casket. Would they have been even worse? Or were they worse because now the truth and reality had sunk in, that he was gone and dead? Would shock have dulled the initial reaction? I didn’t cry, when I first heard. My mom had come into Eric’s room, where we both were and she’d said it, in this horrible broken voice, and I had just stood there. What could I say? It had come out of nowhere, like a blow to the head and it left me stunned and reeling. I still had to go to work, remembering my mother’s voice as I filed folders and thinking of the ambulance sirens screaming into Stewarts to pick Matt up as he was already slipping away on the cold floor, surrounded by strangers. The dam broke later that day. I went for a run in the twilight, with the peepers out, making a comforting background as I ran farther than was smart, faster than I should have, pushing past the pain and tired. I was running from the truth. Out in the backwoods, I scared a deer and it darted in front of me in panic, causing me to skip to the side. My foot slipped on the gravel and I stumbled down a little hill, landing on my knees. I stayed there for a second, unable to breathe. When I wearily pulled myself to my feet, I saw blood; I’d skinned my knee on my tumble. For some reason, that released it all. Out there, in the middle of the woods, on a one lane road, I cried full body-shaking sobs like a toddler. And, like a toddler, I tried to pretend it was because of the skinned knee. I sobbed and gasped for air and choked on my grief. I never knew I could cry like that. At the graveside service, we all cried again. We stood in a line, me and Mom, Eric and Dad beside us. I was dully surprised to see both my Dad and brother crying. Eric didn’t sob, like I did, but his tears flowed without letup. For once, he let me wrap an arm around him and he lowered his head to my shoulder. I
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"They’re getting through and that’s all I can ask for."
thought my Dad wasn’t crying, when he pulled me and Mom closer to him, so we could lean against him. But then I felt his body shake and looked up, to see his face was wet. It’s funny, how quickly crying becomes easy. It flows simply; you don’t even need to think about it. It becomes part of the rhythm of breathing. After a while, you don’t even notice you’re crying. Outside, under the open sky and the unforgiving July sun, we all cried, mourning in silence or with sobs. I never had my heart broken until that day. Later that night, when I was supposed to be asleep, I heard my mother crying again. Low, choking sobs that burned in my own throat. My dad’s voice was a comforting rumble, too low to make anything out. But I heard her say, through her tears “We’re so lucky, to have our kids.” The sound of heartbreaking guilt: to have your children when someone else doesn’t anymore.
Whenever I go home, I spend several hours with Pat and Bruce. I tell them silly stories to make them laugh. I go with Pat to the grocery store, so that if someone tries to talk to her, I can distract them. I sit with Mr. Bruce as he cooks, or chops wood, just so he has company. I bring them baked goods and ask them to make me dinner so they’ll eat. They’re not so broken anymore. They’re doing better, but this is not something they will get over. They’re getting through and that’s all I can ask for. Pat still cries a lot, when I’m with her. She apologizes and every time I tell her she doesn’t have to hide her emotions from me. I am with her when she’s sad and when she’s happy. I will not turn away from her pain. And so she lets herself just be, with me, a gift that I try so hard to be worthy of.
They have a lifetime of heartbreak ahead of them, still. When I’m home, I go to visit Matt’s grave. It’s a pretty cemetery, hidden behind a development in a huge open field. There’s not usually anyone there when I go in the middle of the day. Sometimes I stay only a few minutes. Sometimes I stay for an hour. Sometimes I talk to him. I’m not sure why. I want him to know things, like Pam’s pregnant, and I’m graduating and Eric got accepted at Cornell. There’s never anything terribly pressing, but I just like to think that he knows.
Other times I yell at him, like a child, throwing a temper tantrum. I demand how he dared to break all of us. Didn’t he know how much we loved him? What the hell was he thinking, taking heroin again? Who was he, to break all of our hearts, in a single moment? And then I’ll sit, beside the black marble headstone. From the cemetery, I can hear the traffic on the highway. I can hear the birds in the trees around the field. I can hear the wind as it rustles through the branches and I lift my face to it, to the sky. Angry words. Silence. The empty space in a life that continues on. These too, are the sounds of heartbreak. •
Lindsey Bush is a senior English Major with a concentration in Creative Writing.
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WELLS’S RESIDENT GODDESS ANSWERS YOUR BURNING QUESTIONS.
94 94 DEAR MINERVA
How is there so much work for a minor here? Education is ridiculous!
What is the secret to getting the best grub at tea-time?
Major Pains for Minor Things
Dear Seeking Certification,
The education minor at Wells is lots of hard work because it sets you up to become certified to teach in New York State. The beauty of the New York State certification program is that, once certified, you can teach in almost any state in the United States. The program is intensive, but you can get a teaching job right out of college. The downside is that the minor requires more credit hours to complete than most majors at Wells. The good news is that the education professors are currently pushing for an education major at Wells. Hang in there!
Dear Tea-Time Enthusiast,
Oh this secret really isn’t as much of a trick of the trade as everyone thinks. The secret is to just get there early! Unfortunately the people who get there early always get the good cookies, so make sure you’re one of them! If you are in a sem ask your professor to start break a little earlier. When it comes to tea time, being on time really means you have to get there early and then you will have your pick of the best treats on the tea-time spread! DEAR MINERVA,
How did you handle the end of your senior year? I wish I could stay at Wells forever like you.
What do you love most about Wells?
Panicked Second Semester Senior
Dear Lost Without Wells,
Dear Curious Wellsian,
I know staying at Wells forever would be a dream! However, I stay because my place is here and the students of Wells need me. The rest of the world needs you! The world is your oyster now, so go out there and show everyone what Wells alumni can really do!
There are so many things that I love about Wells! I will just name my absolute favorite. Of course the traditions are a favorite of mine during each and every event! Even though these are traditions I have been watching for a very long time each and every year the students make the traditions their own and that makes for a truly unique experience every time! Wells traditions are part of what make us a really different school and community and it makes me so proud to see each not batch of students carrying on these traditions with growing levels of enthusiasm every time!
In the meantime, enjoy your last semester and make it your best one yet. Don’t worry, you can always come back to visit! Wells will always be a place you can call home. DEAR MINERVA,
What is the meaning of life, the universe, and everything? Sincerely, Universally Mystified Dear Intergalactic Investigator, The answer is 42. THE SYCAMORE / SPRING 2014 95
Please explain “inception” to me. Sincerely, Inceptively Curious Dear Conceptually Confused, “Inception” is the process or undertaking of a beginning or stage of existence of anything.
I have an ex-boyfriend on campus that I always seem to run into. How do you deal with ex-boyfriends on campus?
How is there so much work for a minor here? Education is ridiculous!
Sincerely, Ex Games Dear Extra Sensitive, Having an ex on campus can always be a difficult thing to deal with. After a relationship ends people have a tendency to get very focused on when their relationship was good and that could make you sad when you see them. Just remember, they are your ex for a reason and you may not have been right for each other but you will be the right person for somebody else. So just have fun, and don’t let memories of what used to be ruin your time. Focus on the now and the future and that special someone will find you!
Sincerely, Major Pains for Minor Things Dear Seeking Certification, The education minor at Wells is lots of hard work because it sets you up to become certified to teach in New York State. The beauty of the New York State certification program is that, once certified, you can teach in almost any state in the United States. The program is intensive, but you can get a teaching job right out of college. The downside is that the minor requires more credit hours to complete than most majors at Wells. The good news is that the education professors are currently pushing for an education major at Wells. Hang in there!
THE SYCAMORE / SPRING 2014 97
What are good ways to sleep better? Sincerely,
Why is it that no matter what my friends and I do to be open, other people do not seem to be as willing as we are to expand their social boundaries?
Sleepless in Main
Dear Incipient Insomniac,
Your lifestyle greatly impacts your sleep cycle. When you put good into your body, you get good out. Eating more nutrient dense foods and drinking lots of water throughout the day will boost your energy levels and regulate your sleeping habits. Also, try to go to sleep at around the same time every night. The routine will help you feel more tired around the times you should be tired. And skip the late night coffee! When you feel tired, drink water!
Dear Desiring Diversity,
98 98 DEAR MINERVA
Wells may be a small school, but when it comes down to it sisterhood is at the heart of acceptance at Wells. While you canâ€™t force other people to suddenly become your friend, make connections with different people by sharing your interests, hobbies, and love of Wells. Who knows what could blossom! Branch out!
Do you think withdrawing from a class is giving up or avoiding academic troubles?
My friends always want to hang out and do things but after a long day I just want to relax. How do I tell them without hurting their feelings?
Sincerely, In Withdrawal Dear Wishful Withdrawer, There is nothing to be ashamed of when withdrawing from a class. There are a number of reasons why students choose to withdraw. This ranges from having academic troubles, or the class simply isn’t living up to their expectations. Either way, it is your choice to withdraw and your reasoning behind it is valid. It should not be looked at as giving up, but simply making a choice to ensure you have the most successful academic career possible.
Sincerely, Exhausted Dear Social but Sleepy, It’s all about managing your time. You don’t want to totally ignore your friends, but everyone needs their alone time after a long day. Just divide up time between you time and doing things with your friends and they won’t be mad. Their feelings would only get hurt if you are ignoring them all the time, but if you designate a day or two as being days that you will spend time with them and designate days as your rest days they will be more understanding if you needing to be alone and relax. Remember, they are students too and they will understand having long, stressful days. Maybe they will want to relax with you. Instead of going out and doing something have a movie night with some snacks in someone’s room and then you can have the best of both worlds without hurting anyone’s feelings.
THE SYCAMORE / SPRING 2014 99
VISUAL ARTS CONTEST WINNER
“CHEWBACCA” BY ASHLYN LOOMIS '14 VISUAL ARTS MAJOR, C. CERAMICS
The Sound Issue