October 2, 2003
Test Spin: North Mississippi Allstars
| October 2, 2003
B.B. King, Elvis Presley, Jimmy Buffet, and even Lance Bass are all stars from Mississippi. However, only brothers Luther and Cory Dickinson, Duwayne Burnside, and Chris Chew can call themselves the North Mississippi Allstars.
With a name like that, you’ve got to be good, right? Not necessarily.
Actually, you could be mediocre, hide behind your album cover’s cryptic aesthetic, and bet on your state’s musical reputation to move your record.
Polaris, the Allstars’ third release, could easily be another band’s demo. Predictable, blues-inspired guitars and pianos paired against the more “eccletic” accompaniment of bassoons and oboes were probably the quartet’s attempt to sonically reinterpret the blues. Too bad that’s already been done better.
The album doesn’t really go anywhere until “One to Grow On,” the Allstars’ collaboration with the notorious Noel Gallagher, who also counts himself as a fan. Gallagher’s hollering mends the eerie gap between the vocal pacing and the orchestration heard in their previous tracks. Then, things start to pick up.
“Bad Bad Pain” harkens back to the days of the sultry jukejoints with its heavy guitars, thumping bass, and gritty vocals. Later, the dry harmonies and strings of “Polaris” as well as the rockabilly meets hip-hop sound of “Be So Glad” suggest the experimental direction in which the Allstars are heading.
It might take three more albums, but one day the North Mississippi Allstars may be among the Magnolia state’s future stars.
Archived article by Justin Finch
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October 3, 2003
Newspapers on opposite sides of the political spectrum have suffered from the phenomenon of dumping, in which stacks of papers are thrown in the garbage. At various points, both the conservative Cornell Review and liberal Turn Left newspapers have been discarded in bulk, much to the concern of their staffs. Joseph Sabia grad, a Sun columnist who previously wrote for the Review, said that the paper has been dumped multiple times in the past. “There’s no doubt that the Review is a specific target,” he said. Although he did not deny that Turn Left has been dumped, he said, “It happens with far greater frequency to a conservative publication like the Review.” One of the founders of Turn Left, Tsee Yuan Lee ’02, said that the paper was dumped occasionally when he was on the staff. He recalled placing stacks of papers on racks one day and then returning the next to find them gone. “We didn’t think we were that popular, so someone was dumping it,” he said. Confirming that possibility, Ilya Ryzhov ’04 found a stack of Turn Lefts last year in a garbage can in a laundry room of one of the class halls on West Campus. Neither newspaper has found out who has been discarding the issues. Sabia said that the Review staff considered installing cameras above the distribution bins but found it impractical. Although the offenders remain unknown, staff on both papers offered various explanations of their motives. “They probably feel either really threatened by the paper or they really hate the ideology so much that they would [dump it],” Lee said. “We know there’s some people who can’t stand other people being liberal.” However, others from Turn Left disagreed. “I don’t think it was particularly against Turn Left,” said Andrew Garib ’06, editor-in-chief of the publication. “I don’t think Turn Left is controversial enough or strong enough of opinion [to be dumped].” As for the Review, editor-in-chief Joseph Pylman ’04 noted that the newspaper gets dumped most often on North Campus, particularly Robert Purcell Community Center. He speculated that freshmen want to show political activism on campus in some way and carry out that motivation by dumping papers. Sabia also observed that the Review tends to be dumped when the paper tackles “big issues,” such as their post-Sept. 11 issue. Garib offered an alternative explanation for the disappearance of some of the papers. He had previously thought that it was the administration and staff quickly removing political papers from public places, treating them as extra clutter. He thinks that perhaps the University does not see political newspapers as doing a public service but merely propaganda, and values them less than other publications. Staff at both Turn Left and the Cornell Review think that the University administration should take action in some way, possibly by issuing an official statement against the incidents. Also, Lee believes that the administration should impose a fine if the police or administration catches someone dumping a stack of papers. However, Pylman said that the administration has dismissed most of the Review’s complaints in the past. “The response that they’ve given us in the past is, ‘Well, you had it coming,'” he said. Some faculty also believe that the University should take a stand on the issue. “I think it violates the spirit of the University,” said Prof. Richard Baer, natural resources. “It’s a case where the administration should take a sharp stand and discipline students when they do that.” However, Kent Hubbell ’67, the Robert W. and Elizabeth C. Staley Dean of Students, said that the administration does not condone dumping. “We certainly believe this shouldn’t happen, and when we observe it happening, we try to prevent it,” he said. Sabia also thinks that the Student Assembly should pass the Cambridge Declaration, a statement that condemns dumping newspapers, among other issues. Despite their political differences, both sides condemned the dumpings. “The whole tactic of dumping newspapers … is cowardly, it’s avoiding the issue,” Pylman said. Lee agreed and also pointed out that dumping student publications wastes Cornell students’ money, since both papers are funded through the Student Assembly Finance Committee. “If you have to resort to destroying other people’s property, you are threatened by the other group,” he said. “It’s a sign of weakness on anybody’s part.” Faculty and University administration also denounced the dumpings. “I think it’s regrettable when any media is vandalized,” Hubbell said. “It interferes with free dissemination of these newspapers.” Students not associated with either of the organizations also felt that the dumpings are inappropriate. “I don’t think that’s really a good response,” said Daniel Sternberg ’06. “You look kind of fascist, so to speak.” Similarly, Kalina Black ’07 said, “There’s a difference between free speech and freedom to destroy.” Archived article by Shannon Brescher
October 3, 2003
The Cornell University Open Doors, Open Hearts, Open Minds statement declares: “Free expression is essential to this mission, and provocative ideas lawfully expressed are an expected result.” Although most students and faculty agree that free speech at Cornell is not in imminent danger, some conservatives on campus argue that the campus’s political climate stifles open discussion. Expressing the opinion that many students seem to hold, Ben Gruberman ’05, managing editor of Turn Left, said, “Overall, I’d given Cornell a fairly good grade in terms of their positions on speech.” “I think it’s always been quite strong and healthy,” said Henrik N. Dullea ’61, senior consultant to President Jeffrey S. Lehman ’77. However, Joseph Sabia grad, a columnist for the Sun who previously wrote for the Cornell Review, holds a different viewpoint of free speech on campus. “I think overall, the state of the world at Cornell in terms of free speech is poor,” he said. Sabia thinks that many people have a “free speech for me, but not for thee” attitude. The official University policy on free speech, stated in the Campus Code of Conduct, says, “Freedom to teach and to learn, to express oneself and be heard, and freedom to assemble and lawfully protest peacefully are essential to academic freedom and the continuing function of the university as an educational institution.” It continues to explain that students and faculty may freely express themselves through protests, demonstrations, signs and by inviting speakers to campus. “My experience has been that we protect it quite vigorously,” said Kent Hubbell ’67, the Robert W. and Elizabeth C. Staley Dean of Students. However, Prof. Richard Baer, natural resources, argues that although speech is never explicitly limited on campus, the administration implicitly limits dialogue on key political and ethical issues. “The reality of Cornell University is that in some respects it is a very parochial institution,” he said. “Students are exposed to a very narrow range of ideas.” In particular, he believes that the administration does not hire faculty with dissenting, often conservative, views. “There’s widespread and pervasive censorship by omission,” he said. “People with truly different points of view don’t get hired, they don’t get tenured.” He pointed out that although faculty in some departments have disparate ideas, in the government department, the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, the College of Human Ecology and other departments that address political and ethical issues, diverse viewpoints are rare. He thinks that the administration makes an effort not to hire faculty with strong religious beliefs. “In the field of Christian normative ethics, there is almost total censorship,” he said. This lack of diversity of ideas discussed in classes affects students’ individual freedom of speech, he said. “If students mainly hear one point of view on various issues … it becomes more difficult for them to express opposing views,” he said. “Speech will always be constrained if students are not exposed to different ideas.” Similarly, other conservatives on campus have said they have felt stifled by a “politically correct” climate. Joseph Pylman ’04, editor-in-chief of the Cornell Review, has said he has seen students feel the need to “self-censor.” “They’re afraid to speak their minds,” he said. “If your views aren’t mainstream, you’ll be ridiculed.” This opinion may not be limited just to conservatives on campus. A self-proclaimed liberal, Daniel Sternberg ’06, said, “A lot of anything said that doesn’t mirror the real liberal views on campus … people start to censor. It can be hypocritical, and I think it drives the more conservative people away because they’re feeling threatened.” However, some people on campus feel that conservatives may be greatly exaggerating the issue. “I think it’s a dishonest trick [for] the American Right to present itself as an oppressed minority,” said Prof. Anna Marie Smith, government. “The idea that American conservatives are oppressed is patently false.” Referring to the Review, she commented, “The idea that they don’t have the freedom [to print] low-life garbage journalism is ridiculous.” Conservatives who believe political and ethical dialogue is lacking on campus have proposed a variety of solutions to the problem. Baer believes that the administration should make a concerted effort to hire faculty with diverse ideas and cut back on many of the diversity programs in the University. “Much of the talk about diversity by the University is exceedingly hypocritical,” he said. “Pushing diversity just in terms of skin color and so on, this has tended to lower diversity in terms of the political spectrum.” Sabia believes that the administration should adopt the Academic Bill of Rights promoted by Students for Academic Freedom. The document states that a university should not hire or fire faculty based on political views, that professors should discuss a variety of viewpoints in their classes and that students should have full intellectual freedom. Although freedom of speech on campus has not been seriously challenged lately, it has been an issue during various points in Cornell’s history. Most recently, protesters burned the Cornell Review on two different occasions in 1997. At a rally against an administrative announcement on program housing and the Review’s printing of an article on Ebonics, protesters burned copies of the newspaper in a barrel. Sabia, who was at the event, said protesters also tossed the barrel at Ying Ma ’97, the Review’s editor-in-chief at the time. “It was a horrific, scary time,” he said. “I hope it never happens again.” Later that year, Shaka Davis ’98 burned copies of the Review in front of Trillium Dining to protest a cartoon on abortion which the Review ran. Accounts of the number of copies burned varies; the Sun reported that Davis burned 500 copies, while Dullea claims that Davis burned only 50. The incident attracted national press, with columnist Nat Hentoff condemning the administration’s lack of action against Davis in the Washington Post and Village Voice. Archived article by Shannon Brescher