September 8, 2005
Death Cab for Cutie: Plans
| September 8, 2005
Back in high school, a special someone made me a mix CD with a couple of Death Cab For Cutie songs thrown in. Without giving the band a chance, I wrote them off as yet another indie band. Soon after, I made the conversion and became a huge Death Cab fan.
In case you haven’t heard of Death Cab For Cutie, think The Postal Service. Ben Gibbard, lead singer of Death Cab, worked on a side project known as The Postal Service that gathered widespread success, somewhat due to the Garden State soundtrack. In addition, Death Cab is constantly hyped up on FOX’s popular series The O.C. The band’s fifth full-length, Plans, is their first release on a major record label. Prior to signing with Atlantic Records, Death Cab garnered underground success with Seattle-based indie label, Barsuk records. With Barsuk, the band released four other full lengths and a couple of EP’s as well.
Death Cab For Cutie is purely an indie band. They occasionally get plastered with an alternative label, but their sound is indie. Since the band’s inception in the late ’90s, they have maintained a vibe and sound that is truly their own. Gibbard’s vocals can only be described as one-of-a-kind. His unique style is nothing fancy, but it’s extremely difficult to find a singer that constantly sings with a pitch that is high, yet that isn’t annoying and hard to listen to. On every song, Gibbard’s vocals are nothing short of perfection. I was always impressed with the level of talent this band delivered and this album exemplifies that notion to the utmost degree. As a whole, Plans is a solid album that carries a definitive Death Cab sound from start to finish. Of course, there are songs that standout more than others.
The opening track, “Marching Bands of Manhattan,” begins with an organ that transitions to Gibbard’s vocals and eventually closes with an appealing chorus. “Summer Skin” and “Brothers On A Hotel Bed” are incredible. Both songs are dramatic piano-driven ballads that sound like anthems of some sort. The components of “Summer Skin,” especially the bass and drums, flow confidently with the flawlessness of Gibbard singing about summer love. “Brothers On a Hotel Bed” is quite possibly the best track on the album. I don’t even know how to begin to describe this song. I’ll put it this way, if one song could be described as perfect and flawless – this song is it. While I’m on the note of Death Cab praising, “I Will Follow You Into The Dark” is right up there with “Brothers On a Hotel Bed.” The song is an acoustic piece, in which Gibbard sings about love and death, two themes that resonate throughout the album. The first listen through the album, I was certain this song was it; I knew it had to be the best. Gibbard sings, “If there’s no one beside you when your soul embarks / Then I’ll follow you into the dark.” The acoustic song does not have a traditional “Death Cab indie” sound, but it works damn well, to say the least. With the switch to a major label, I was worried that the band’s style and sound would change for the worse. Fortunately, Death Cab did one hell of a job creating a solid album that is very much their own.
Archived article by Adrian Prieto
Sun Staff Writer
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September 9, 2005
Think a language-learning robot sounds like science fiction? The day may not be as far off as it seems, in light of new software, developed by Prof. Shimon Edelman, psychology, with colleagues from Tel Aviv University in Israel. The soon-to-be-patented program – “Automatic Distillation of Structure,” or “ADIOS,” for short – can derive a language’s rules of grammar, and then produce sentences of its own, simply from blocks of text in that language. “When scanning new input, the program looks for recurring patterns or interchangeable sequences,” explained Edelman, currently on sabbatical. “For example, if the following three sentences appeared in a [text] – ‘I saw a film today, oh boy,’ ‘He saw a film today at the reception,’ ‘She saw a film today and liked it,’ – the program would identify the sequence, ‘saw a film today,’ and determine whether it’s a statistically significant pattern. If so, the sequence is added to the software’s lexicon and can be used to create new sentences.” The Israeli-born Edelman and his Tel Aviv University partners, Professors David Horn and Eytan Ruppin, and doctoral student Zach Solan, heralded the success of ADIOS in a paper, “Unsupervised Learning of Natural Languages,” published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS, Vol. 102, No. 33). Because the program’s algorithm relies on overlapping sequences in different sentences, Edelman says it has been shown to work best on languages with rigid syntax, like English and German. He claims the software can be refined to address shortcomings on more problematic languages, like his native Hebrew. ADIOS is not limited to human language, however. The program has also detected patterns in sequences of non-linguistic data, such as musical scores and DNA strands. Edelman believes this breakthrough will have a number of practical applications, most immediately for speech-recognition software. He says that ADIOS will improve upon existing units, like Amtrak’s virtual travel agent “Julie,” by giving them the grammatical knowledge to “guess what’s coming next in a sentence” and “learn how to overcome various obstacles to understanding, such as foreign accents.” Edelman also thinks his findings may force linguists “to revise some of their preconceptions regarding language acquisition by children, language competence in adults, and second-language instruction.” “We’ve modeled a couple of experiments from developmental psycholinguistics. People in those fields would be well-advised to look at our results,” he said. “Apart from testing our algorithm extensively on standard benchmarks used in computational linguistics, we have demonstrated its ability to learn from realistic children-directed language (the CHILDES corpus). In addition, we have modeled several psycholinguistic experiments in artificial language acquisition. Our results suggest that the currently prevalent theories concerning linguistic development, language competence and processing, and second-language instruction will have to be revised. The development of ADIOS was financed in part by the U.S.-Israel Binational Science Foundation, established in 1972 by the two countries’ governments. Technological cooperation between American and Israeli companies and researchers has become increasingly common in recent years. Products of that collaboration include the cell phone, Intel’s Pentium IV and Centrino processors, Windows XP and AOL Instant Messenger. Cornell itself recently partnered with the State of Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to establish the Bridging the Rift Center, a scientific research facility, to be built on the Israeli-Jordanian border. Some campus leaders believe the development of ADIOS illustrates the value of Cornell’s continued participation in American-Israeli technological enterprise: “This scientific breakthrough shows us once again the benefits of investment and cooperation with Israel,” said Student Assembly President Tim Lim. “More joint endeavors, such as ADIOS and the Bridging the Rift Center, should be encouraged, and I hope Cornell University will be at the forefront of this American-Israeli technological cooperation.” Archived article by Ben Birnbaum Sun Staff Writer
September 9, 2005
The Collegetown Neighborhood Council met yesterday to discuss the safety and rights of off-campus residents at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Collegetown. Among those attending this month’s meeting were Gary J. Stewart, assistant director for community relations; LeNorman Strong, assistant vice president for student and academic affairs; Sharron Thrasher, director of student affairs and diversity; as well as several members of the City of Ithaca Common Council and representatives from the Ithaca Police Department. Strong started the meeting with an update on the newly-formed Off-Campus Housing Task Force. The Task Force was formed in November 2004 in response to students’ concerns after several highly publicized criminal incidents took place in the Collegetown area, including the Collegetown Creeper, and the discovery that an Ithaca landlord was secretly videotaping residents in a Collegetown apartment. The goal of the Task Force is to educate students who seek off-campus housing about their rights and responsibilities as Collegetown residents in the Ithaca community. Strong, Thrasher, Stewart and Mary Tomlan M.A.’71 (D-3rd Ward) are also members of the task force. Strong provided an update on a report that was drafted by the task force to address these concerns. Undertaken last year, the report was an effort “[by the] community to take a look-see at what some challenges, problems and opportunities are,” Strong explained. A draft of recommendations made by the task force last spring in response to the concerns of students living off-campus was submitted to Vice President for Student and Academic Affairs, Susan H. Murphy. “[Murphy] then charged me to think about an implementation process,” Strong said, and noted that Dean of Students Kent L. Hubbell is also working with him “- in an effort to implement the recommendations.” The task force is working hard to prioritize the recommendations and determine which of them deserves funding by November 1, when the University starts its budget process. “Murphy has been most keen in terms of ‘what can we do right now,'” Strong said. Some of the efforts that have already been implemented by the task force include a major website redesign and improved website navigation to help students find off-campus housing. The website, which also allows landlords to advertise their property, only lists properties that have current Certificates of Compliance, and has received “a couple of good reports by students,” according to Strong. The task force also approved a draft of a Property Inspection Form which will essentially be a “Dummies’ Guide to inspect Off-Campus Facilities,” said Strong. He noted that after the “Creeper” incident, “some students were cloudy as to what they should be looking for [in an apartment].” The form would alert students to look for, among other safety features, window screens, window locks, operable exterior doors and outside lighting. Locks are required to provided by landlords. The form was drafted with the help of several students who lived off-campus, and has been sent for review to Buildings Commissioner Phyllis Radke. The task force is also looking at a list of potential sites for an Off-Campus Housing Resource Office, to aid students who are interested in off-campus housing. “So much of what we’re doing is virtual,” Strong noted, but said that he realized that a “convenient walk in location [for students] is useful.” Ideally, the resource office would be located close to, or in Collegetown, but in the case that it would have to be situated on North Campus, a satellite office would be located in Collegetown during “high traffic” periods when students are looking for housing. “Access won’t be an issue,” Strong reiterated. Strong also mentioned that a task force request for Public Service Work Study Student-peer mentoring positions was approved last week. Peer advisors would undergo extensive training to provide one-to-one mentoring to students to help them deal with off-campus housing issues. The program implementation will be “predicated on funding,” Strong said. Other issues relating to student safety off-campus were addressed, in particular, the recent string of burglaries and robberies in the Stewart Avenue area. Sergeant John Norman of the Ithaca Police Department noted that one problem that the department has encountered when trying to apprehend individuals is that the students “who are ‘jumped’ are delaying in reporting the robberies, so we can’t go on the scene, can’t look for suspects in an easy fashion.” He explained that the lapse in time of reporting these crimes might be due to the fact that the victim was intoxicated at the time of attack. Norman acknowledged that being intoxicated may make students ideal targets for robberies, but also reiterated that victims should not delay reporting attacks because they have been drinking. He emphasized that “if an eighteen year old presents [us] with a crime, even though he is intoxicated, [the student] will not be charged with a crime.” Office Christine Barksdale of the IPD also spoke about burglaries in the Collegetown area, especially during periods when students are on break. The incidence of burglaries “are really bad in December,” Barksdale noted, “when students are not there, houses get burglarized. Students don’t lock houses up.” Barksdale said that students should be responsible and make sure that all doors and windows are locked when they leave for Winter break, and should alert the police department when they leave for extended periods of time. Barksdale noted that officers do house checks when patrolling the neighborhood, and that residents should come down to the police department, where there are forms available to keep on record, to alert police that they will be out of town. Tomlan also said that she “urged people to live where there are other long term residents. We’d be happy to keep an eye on safety and security of the house.” Most importantly, Strong commented that his task force “spent considerable time on how [to] infuse the very dynamic processes of adult independence with personal responsibility.” Strong noted that while the task force, the police department and other university officials were committed to helping students navigate through the process of off-campus housing, and to ensure their safety, “real safety starts with their own personal responsibility.” Archived article by Samira Chandwani Sun Staff Writer