Digital Get Down

Not so long ago, the computer world was considered to be ruled and run by geeks. It was a common speculation that anyone who was into online dating had to be a pathetic soul who couldn’t find a date in the real world. Even the phrase “dating profile” would conjure images of pocket protectors and suspenders.

A lot has changed since then and computers have managed to be neatly intertwined in everyday life —- from the way we shop and find driving directions to how we manage our bank accounts. Now, the easy access and the sheer multitude of people going online makes the internet one of the hottest pick up joints on Earth. People interact without leaving the comfort of their rooms. They exchange thoughts, feelings and create whole new social networks. With a few mouse clicks and some stretching of the truth here and there, people become the best version of themselves online. But when putting your best self forward, it’s hard to tell if someone is looking for love or just a good time.

While Match.com and eHarmony advertise exclusively for love, the local allMSU.com online daters are looking for anything from the sincere “looking for a relationship” to the blunt “looking for the third in an orgy.” On March 10, a student was even so bold as to post that he was organizing a sex club and needed one more girl for the group. In the allMSU classified, people place ads to get rid of their virginity and offer money for blowjobs, where the standard price of $350 goes up with one’s “hotness level.”

 

“It’s a good way to find people. Some of them are creepy, but others I talked to online, and I’m like ‘wow, this is okay conversation,'” junior psychology major Yekaterina Afonina said. Afonina’s experience online was one orchestrated by her friend.

Although skeptical at first, when push came to shove, Afonina grudgingly allowed her friend to make her an allMSU profile. It was one of those, “if it will make you shut up” moments between friends, Afonina said. That was how she found herself herded in front of the computer screen, poised to type something alluring about herself.

The problem was, at first, she didn’t know what to write because she could write anything. The petite brunette could become a tall blond in a few keystrokes. But she didn’t know if she wanted to become just another online personality that doesn’t exist in real life. “[Online dating] does have a stigma. Since you can be anonymous on the internet, it brings up the question if you are ever going to know these people,” Afonina said. But she said she doesn’t think that prevents people from having success finding love. Afonina said that just because someone has a chance to lie doesn’t mean a person will take it. After all, she didn’t.

Online DatingBut that doesn’t mean Afonina was drawn to the every profile she read, even if it was authentic. “I did have a couple that were like ‘Hey, let’s get together.’ And I was like ‘Uh, no thank you please,'” Afonina said.

And sometimes social networkers are looking for any kind of relationship, even if it’s not loving. Afonina’s friends who use allMSU have found people to hang out with casually, even though their first intention was a relationship. “You can do it and have fun with it. It depends on how hard you want to try for it,” Afonina said.

Not everyone who has tried online dating with allMSU has come out with this carefree point of view. Physiology senior Omar Khalidi has had his profile up for a while and, contrary to Afonina, has found the whole situation uncomfortable despite his efforts to make it fun. His advice is not to do it or, at least not to take it seriously. That’s because people online are always different than in person and even if someone meets a person, their physical appearance is often disappointing, Khalidi said. “You can’t be into someone for who they are when you don’t know what they look like,” he said.

Even if Khalidi made arrangements to meet up with a real bombshell, her looks may not make up for the fact that she couldn’t hold a conversation. “A lot of people just talk differently online. They’re interesting. You meet them in person, and it’s just uncomfortable,” Khalidi said. He said his experience made the meaning of a one-sided conversation clear to him because the girls he went out with refused to talk. He found out that people who are only comfortable conversing through a keyboard are no fun to hang out with in real life.

So why do people continue to log on and update their profiles? Khalid still has his profile up today, despite his recommendation for everyone to stay away from online dating.

“All these people have goals. They are there for a reason,” Catalina Toma said. Toma, who works for the department of communication at Cornell University in New York, researched online dating to understand how people use technology to achieve personal goals, like finding potential relationships. What Toma found was not surprising — people lie. “Online is ripe with deception because people can say anything they want. Technology really allows you to lie a lot so you can present yourself in the most positive light,” Toma said.

Online DatingHowever, most profilers don’t lie excessively. Often the lies are so little that they wouldn’t even be noticed in a face-to-face meeting. Women claim their are a few pounds lighter while men say they’re a few inches taller. Toma said her research showed that no one is extremely deceptive in their online dating conquests. “People lied, but they didn’t lie by much. We found that there was the most deception in the photograph,” Toma said. Perhaps, this is because physical appearance causes more anxiety than personality issues for most people.

Despite the issues with online dating, some people can find love. Sarah Sears, a communication freshman, met her boyfriend on allMSU. The first time she met him, it was a disaster. She said he was a complete jerk at first. “He put on an act like he was all that and more,” Sears said. She was determined never to see him again after his charade, but he kept messaging her. The next thing Sears knew, she was going out with him again and, the second time, found that he wasn’t at all how he first seemed. They dated casually, then decided to make it official, and Sears still keeps her allMSU profile up, but searches for friends instead.

Besides allMSU there are plenty of other options to find love on the Internet for people who aren’t MSU students. Online dating services are popping up everyday. A popular site for the relatively younger generation is Plentyoffish.com, which offers a “chemistry test” to match up with others. They also offer a block function, that will force an unwanted admirer to leave their virtual crush alone.

Other nationwide services include craigslist, Match.com and eHarmony. Craigslist is notorious for its personal ads. It offers everything from “strictly platonic” to “casual encounters,” and the person logging on must certify that they’re 18 or over and will report any illegal activity. Interesting finds include an “exotic real handyman” whose rates are the same for fixing things clothed or naked to a “lonely chef with no one to cook for.”

Match.com and eHarmony will guarantee to shield your eyes from anything so forward, but there are fees involved. It’s generally free to look, but contacting anyone will cost you. Match.com costs $16.00 per month and eHarmony.com costs $50.00 per month. It’s more expensive because they do the matching for you — the eHarmony staff and software helps manage searches, pointing an individual toward people they think might be a good match. Match.com, on th
e other hand, offers a “Make Love Happen Guarantee,” where if a user doesn’t find someone special in the amount of time paid, the company will give the users months for free.

But keep in mind when using any dating site, that not everyone has the same luck as Sears, or gives people second chances like her. Some taglines indicate that someone is looking for a good time rather than love. Titles like “chill guy looking for four girls to please me” and “just for kicks” are giveaways. Others are harder to spot, but meeting a person face to face several times will help flesh out exact intentions.

Online dating is becoming more popular with the average joe because it is more accessible than it was ten years ago. It’s no longer just a nerd’s land — anyone who wants to can date online. But the key word is anyone, even the naked handymen and the 6 foot 5 body builder with deep blue eyes and a raspy voice to die for. If a person doesn’t act true to their profile, chances are they are not serious about having any type of relationship, in real life or in the virtual world.

Posted in Sex & HealthComments (0)

Digital Get Down

Not so long ago, the computer world was considered to be ruled and run by geeks. It was a common speculation that anyone who was into online dating had to be a pathetic soul who couldn’t find a date in the real world. Even the phrase “dating profile” would conjure images of pocket protectors and suspenders.
A lot has changed since then and computers have managed to be neatly intertwined in everyday life —- from the way we shop and find driving directions to how we manage our bank accounts. Now, the easy access and the sheer multitude of people going online makes the internet one of the hottest pick up joints on Earth. People interact without leaving the comfort of their rooms. They exchange thoughts, feelings and create whole new social networks. With a few mouse clicks and some stretching of the truth here and there, people become the best version of themselves online. But when putting your best self forward, it’s hard to tell if someone is looking for love or just a good time.
While Match.com and eHarmony advertise exclusively for love, the local allMSU.com online daters are looking for anything from the sincere “looking for a relationship” to the blunt “looking for the third in an orgy.” On March 10, a student was even so bold as to post that he was organizing a sex club and needed one more girl for the group. In the allMSU classified, people place ads to get rid of their virginity and offer money for blowjobs, where the standard price of $350 goes up with one’s “hotness level.”
[Afonina]”It’s a good way to find people. Some of them are creepy, but others I talked to online, and I’m like ‘wow, this is okay conversation,'” junior psychology major Yekaterina Afonina said. Afonina’s experience online was one orchestrated by her friend.
Although skeptical at first, when push came to shove, Afonina grudgingly allowed her friend to make her an allMSU profile. It was one of those, “if it will make you shut up” moments between friends, Afonina said. That was how she found herself herded in front of the computer screen, poised to type something alluring about herself.
The problem was, at first, she didn’t know what to write because she could write anything. The petite brunette could become a tall blond in a few keystrokes. But she didn’t know if she wanted to become just another online personality that doesn’t exist in real life. “[Online dating] does have a stigma. Since you can be anonymous on the internet, it brings up the question if you are ever going to know these people,” Afonina said. But she said she doesn’t think that prevents people from having success finding love. Afonina said that just because someone has a chance to lie doesn’t mean a person will take it. After all, she didn’t.
[keys]But that doesn’t mean Afonina was drawn to the every profile she read, even if it was authentic. “I did have a couple that were like ‘Hey, let’s get together.’ And I was like ‘Uh, no thank you please,'” Afonina said.
And sometimes social networkers are looking for any kind of relationship, even if it’s not loving. Afonina’s friends who use allMSU have found people to hang out with casually, even though their first intention was a relationship. “You can do it and have fun with it. It depends on how hard you want to try for it,” Afonina said.
Not everyone who has tried online dating with allMSU has come out with this carefree point of view. Physiology senior Omar Khalidi has had his profile up for a while and, contrary to Afonina, has found the whole situation uncomfortable despite his efforts to make it fun. His advice is not to do it or, at least not to take it seriously. That’s because people online are always different than in person and even if someone meets a person, their physical appearance is often disappointing, Khalidi said. “You can’t be into someone for who they are when you don’t know what they look like,” he said.
[Khalidi ]Even if Khalidi made arrangements to meet up with a real bombshell, her looks may not make up for the fact that she couldn’t hold a conversation. “A lot of people just talk differently online. They’re interesting. You meet them in person, and it’s just uncomfortable,” Khalidi said. He said his experience made the meaning of a one-sided conversation clear to him because the girls he went out with refused to talk. He found out that people who are only comfortable conversing through a keyboard are no fun to hang out with in real life.
So why do people continue to log on and update their profiles? Khalid still has his profile up today, despite his recommendation for everyone to stay away from online dating.
“All these people have goals. They are there for a reason,” Catalina Toma said. Toma, who works for the department of communication at Cornell University in New York, researched online dating to understand how people use technology to achieve personal goals, like finding potential relationships. What Toma found was not surprising — people lie. “Online is ripe with deception because people can say anything they want. Technology really allows you to lie a lot so you can present yourself in the most positive light,” Toma said.
[mice]However, most profilers don’t lie excessively. Often the lies are so little that they wouldn’t even be noticed in a face-to-face meeting. Women claim their are a few pounds lighter while men say they’re a few inches taller. Toma said her research showed that no one is extremely deceptive in their online dating conquests. “People lied, but they didn’t lie by much. We found that there was the most deception in the photograph,” Toma said. Perhaps, this is because physical appearance causes more anxiety than personality issues for most people.
Despite the issues with online dating, some people can find love. Sarah Sears, a communication freshman, met her boyfriend on allMSU. The first time she met him, it was a disaster. She said he was a complete jerk at first. “He put on an act like he was all that and more,” Sears said. She was determined never to see him again after his charade, but he kept messaging her. The next thing Sears knew, she was going out with him again and, the second time, found that he wasn’t at all how he first seemed. They dated casually, then decided to make it official, and Sears still keeps her allMSU profile up, but searches for friends instead.
Besides allMSU there are plenty of other options to find love on the Internet for people who aren’t MSU students. Online dating services are popping up everyday. A popular site for the relatively younger generation is Plentyoffish.com, which offers a “chemistry test” to match up with others. They also offer a block function, that will force an unwanted admirer to leave their virtual crush alone.
Other nationwide services include craigslist, Match.com and eHarmony. Craigslist is notorious for its personal ads. It offers everything from “strictly platonic” to “casual encounters,” and the person logging on must certify that they’re 18 or over and will report any illegal activity. Interesting finds include an “exotic real handyman” whose rates are the same for fixing things clothed or naked to a “lonely chef with no one to cook for.”
Match.com and eHarmony will guarantee to shield your eyes from anything so forward, but there are fees involved. It’s generally free to look, but contacting anyone will cost you. Match.com costs $16.00 per month and eHarmony.com costs $50.00 per month. It’s more expensive because they do the matching for you — the eHarmony staff and software helps manage searches, pointing an individual toward people they think might be a good match. Match.com, on the other hand, offers a “Make Love Happen Guarantee,” where if a user doesn’t find someone special in the amount of time paid, the company will give the users months for free.
But keep in mind when using any dating site, that not everyone has the same luck as Sears, or gives people second chances like her. Some taglines indicate that someone is looking for a good time rather than love. Titles like “chill guy looking for four girls to please me” and “just for kicks” are giveaways. Others are harder to spot, but meeting a person face to face several times will help flesh out exact intentions.
Online dating is becoming more popular with the average joe because it is more accessible than it was ten years ago. It’s no longer just a nerd’s land — anyone who wants to can date online. But the key word is anyone, even the naked handymen and the 6 foot 5 body builder with deep blue eyes and a raspy voice to die for. If a person doesn’t act true to their profile, chances are they are not serious about having any type of relationship, in real life or in the virtual world.

Posted in Sex & HealthComments (0)

College Blues

Jenny always had a passion for music, ice skating and painting. In high school, she was an honors student and President of French club. She was the center of her group of friends, a social butterfly and always good for a joke. She was just as happy watching movies with her mom as she was going out with her best friends. When she got to college though, very little made her happy.
She slept a lot, neglected phone calls from friends and stopped going out. She skipped class and her grades slipped for the first time in her life. Jenny, though fictional, represents the many students who find themselves depressed in college.
The American Psychiatric Association reports that one in four young adults will have an episode of depression by age 24. They are not certain why, but they can guess some of the reasons. Some suggest that depression is an inevitable response to a rough childhood or a tragic event. However, John Taylor, a psychologist from the MSU Counseling Center, disagreed with that notion. “You need to remember that we all get a little depressed sometimes. It’s normal, but our depression should not linger,” Taylor said.
What is known is that the primary age of onset of depression is young adulthood. For many this time period involves leaving high school and going to college.
[Taylor]College is one of the most common times to have a first episode of depression or anxiety. Students are at risk because they are going through a number of transitions: leaving home, changing daily routines and sleeping habits and losing the social support structure they are familiar with. Students add experimentation with alcohol and sexuality to their responsibilities of going to class and doing their homework. Stretching the limits becomes part of the college experience and some students end up feeling overwhelmed and lost. “It’s not like college is bad, but it’s a normal transition in life and it creates some stress,” Taylor said.
Many students find the number of self-defining questions they encounter while transitioning to college only adds to their stress level. Choosing a major is a confusing and agonizing decision for many, and larger decisions like that are only followed by more questions like “What are you going to do with your degree after you graduate?” As adults, many feel they should know the answers to those questions. “So many people don’t. And I really believe you shouldn’t have the answer for everything because that’s why you’re young and learning,” social work and psychology junior Teresa-Jo Barabe said. She said she sees a lot of people who are extremely depressed on MSU’s campus. It almost seems common — and it is.
While both genders are dealing with the same experiences and transitions, it is recorded that twice as many women are diagnosed with depression than men. “All we know is that women… get over to the Counseling Center more often,” Dr. Leigh Anne White of Olin Health Center’s Multicultural Psychiatric Services said. Psychologists have suggested that hormones might be the cause of the gendered disparity, but a conclusive answer has yet to be found. It is a national trend that about 70 percent of students seen in counseling centers are women, Taylor said.
Social theories surrounding the gendered differences suggest that depression is just as common in both genders, but it is more culturally acceptable for women to ask for help because of the way males and females are socialized. Women want to be in relationships. They tend to be communicative and feeling oriented. Consequently, females want to talk about their feelings and address the emotional problems they are facing.
On the other hand, men are socialized to be stoic, to be the sturdy oak. “As the saying goes, boys don’t cry. And, even though it’s the 21st century, this very much still operates. There’s a lot of homophobia in our culture,” Taylor said. Men who show sensitivity or expose their emotions are often afraid that they may be criticized or judged. It’s hard for men to come forward. Taylor said he thinks there are as many men who are depressed as women. But, their coping mechanisms are less outright and often, so are their symptoms.
While women will most likely experience sadness in moods, men will experience more physical symptoms. They may feel achy, fatigued, lack persistence and motivation. Taylor said men tend to turn to substance abuse and drinking to address their emotional difficulties.
Neither gender can do as well in classes when they are clinically depressed. That is why it is a particularly important issue for students. “Sometimes their energies are very low. People don’t get out of bed. Their attention and concentration are gone. It’s the reason that we need to intervene early because the terms go by so quickly,” White said. That is the reason behind MSU’s Olin Health Center and Counseling Center proactive efforts to identify students suffering from depression.
One of the initiatives happening on MSU’s campus to address depression is a quality improvement project at Olin Health Center. The project involves routinely screening students for mental health issues in order to better detect those who need help. Eventually, the project plans to screen up to 80 percent of students who come in to Olin. A mental health screening will become just another precaution like checking your blood pressure.
Another active program at MSU is the Patient Help Questionnaire Nine or PHQ9. The PHQ9 is a depression questionnaire from the MacArthur Initiative Toolkit that asks nine questions to evaluate if a student fits the criteria for depression. Part of the kit also deals with depression education. The questionnaire is done on the computer before a student’s appointment, either in the waiting room or online at home. There is a score criterion a student gets which determines if they have mild, moderate or severe depression.
But even with new programs such as the PHQ9, sometimes both Olin and the Counseling Center are lacking resources. The Counseling Center itself does the best it can with a very small staff. “There’s 13 of us — 13 to 46,000 plus [total MSU students]. It’s a real juggling act,” Taylor said. While the Counseling Center does have a training program, most young interns do not stay on after internships. When student needs are heavy, the Counseling Center has to ask other colleagues to step in.
[LG]The Counseling Center is open in the Student Services building Monday through Friday. It has a 24-7 phone line to help students who need immediate help and a website (www.couns.msu.edu) with self-help information. Students experiencing symptoms of depression should know they are not alone. According to www.teendepression.org, about 20 percent of teens will experience teen depression before they reach adulthood. Between 10 to 15 percent of teenagers have some symptoms of teen depression at any one time. However, 80 to 90 percent of students suffering from depression fully recover by seeking out help, White said.
Depression seems to be taboo among students. Finance junior Laura Gourley said depression is something that is bottled up because college students think it is not normal. “I think it’s really sad that more people don’t get help for it. I think the simple fact that talking about it kind of alleviates it. But since people don’t talk about it, it tends to feed upon itself and it just gets worse and worse, ” Gourley said. Students instead tend to undress the word depression. People will casually say they are depressed when they are not.To be depressed is a mood disorder. It is not a word to throw around. For people who are depressed, the common usage of the word affects them, every day and every minute of their life. The person sitting next to you, your professor or friends could be depressed. “[Some students] come in touch with that word on a way different level then other people,” Barabe said.
Many college students do not see that they are just as at risk for depression as others. Jenny didn’t go to college expecting to be depressed. She didn’t even know what was wrong. She just lost touch with what made her happy, stopped being herself and she didn’t know why. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Posted in Sex & HealthComments (0)

College Blues

Jenny always had a passion for music, ice skating and painting. In high school, she was an honors student and President of French club. She was the center of her group of friends, a social butterfly and always good for a joke. She was just as happy watching movies with her mom as she was going out with her best friends. When she got to college though, very little made her happy.
She slept a lot, neglected phone calls from friends and stopped going out. She skipped class and her grades slipped for the first time in her life. Jenny, though fictional, represents the many students who find themselves depressed in college.
The American Psychiatric Association reports that one in four young adults will have an episode of depression by age 24. They are not certain why, but they can guess some of the reasons. Some suggest that depression is an inevitable response to a rough childhood or a tragic event. However, John Taylor, a psychologist from the MSU Counseling Center, disagreed with that notion. “You need to remember that we all get a little depressed sometimes. It’s normal, but our depression should not linger,” Taylor said.
What is known is that the primary age of onset of depression is young adulthood. For many this time period involves leaving high school and going to college.
[Taylor]College is one of the most common times to have a first episode of depression or anxiety. Students are at risk because they are going through a number of transitions: leaving home, changing daily routines and sleeping habits and losing the social support structure they are familiar with. Students add experimentation with alcohol and sexuality to their responsibilities of going to class and doing their homework. Stretching the limits becomes part of the college experience and some students end up feeling overwhelmed and lost. “It’s not like college is bad, but it’s a normal transition in life and it creates some stress,” Taylor said.
Many students find the number of self-defining questions they encounter while transitioning to college only adds to their stress level. Choosing a major is a confusing and agonizing decision for many, and larger decisions like that are only followed by more questions like “What are you going to do with your degree after you graduate?” As adults, many feel they should know the answers to those questions. “So many people don’t. And I really believe you shouldn’t have the answer for everything because that’s why you’re young and learning,” social work and psychology junior Teresa-Jo Barabe said. She said she sees a lot of people who are extremely depressed on MSU’s campus. It almost seems common — and it is.
While both genders are dealing with the same experiences and transitions, it is recorded that twice as many women are diagnosed with depression than men. “All we know is that women… get over to the Counseling Center more often,” Dr. Leigh Anne White of Olin Health Center’s Multicultural Psychiatric Services said. Psychologists have suggested that hormones might be the cause of the gendered disparity, but a conclusive answer has yet to be found. It is a national trend that about 70 percent of students seen in counseling centers are women, Taylor said.
Social theories surrounding the gendered differences suggest that depression is just as common in both genders, but it is more culturally acceptable for women to ask for help because of the way males and females are socialized. Women want to be in relationships. They tend to be communicative and feeling oriented. Consequently, females want to talk about their feelings and address the emotional problems they are facing.
On the other hand, men are socialized to be stoic, to be the sturdy oak. “As the saying goes, boys don’t cry. And, even though it’s the 21st century, this very much still operates. There’s a lot of homophobia in our culture,” Taylor said. Men who show sensitivity or expose their emotions are often afraid that they may be criticized or judged. It’s hard for men to come forward. Taylor said he thinks there are as many men who are depressed as women. But, their coping mechanisms are less outright and often, so are their symptoms.
While women will most likely experience sadness in moods, men will experience more physical symptoms. They may feel achy, fatigued, lack persistence and motivation. Taylor said men tend to turn to substance abuse and drinking to address their emotional difficulties.
Neither gender can do as well in classes when they are clinically depressed. That is why it is a particularly important issue for students. “Sometimes their energies are very low. People don’t get out of bed. Their attention and concentration are gone. It’s the reason that we need to intervene early because the terms go by so quickly,” White said. That is the reason behind MSU’s Olin Health Center and Counseling Center proactive efforts to identify students suffering from depression.
One of the initiatives happening on MSU’s campus to address depression is a quality improvement project at Olin Health Center. The project involves routinely screening students for mental health issues in order to better detect those who need help. Eventually, the project plans to screen up to 80 percent of students who come in to Olin. A mental health screening will become just another precaution like checking your blood pressure.
Another active program at MSU is the Patient Help Questionnaire Nine or PHQ9. The PHQ9 is a depression questionnaire from the MacArthur Initiative Toolkit that asks nine questions to evaluate if a student fits the criteria for depression. Part of the kit also deals with depression education. The questionnaire is done on the computer before a student’s appointment, either in the waiting room or online at home. There is a score criterion a student gets which determines if they have mild, moderate or severe depression.
But even with new programs such as the PHQ9, sometimes both Olin and the Counseling Center are lacking resources. The Counseling Center itself does the best it can with a very small staff. “There’s 13 of us — 13 to 46,000 plus [total MSU students]. It’s a real juggling act,” Taylor said. While the Counseling Center does have a training program, most young interns do not stay on after internships. When student needs are heavy, the Counseling Center has to ask other colleagues to step in.
[LG]The Counseling Center is open in the Student Services building Monday through Friday. It has a 24-7 phone line to help students who need immediate help and a website (www.couns.msu.edu) with self-help information. Students experiencing symptoms of depression should know they are not alone. According to www.teendepression.org, about 20 percent of teens will experience teen depression before they reach adulthood. Between 10 to 15 percent of teenagers have some symptoms of teen depression at any one time. However, 80 to 90 percent of students suffering from depression fully recover by seeking out help, White said.
Depression seems to be taboo among students. Finance junior Laura Gourley said depression is something that is bottled up because college students think it is not normal. “I think it’s really sad that more people don’t get help for it. I think the simple fact that talking about it kind of alleviates it. But since people don’t talk about it, it tends to feed upon itself and it just gets worse and worse, ” Gourley said. Students instead tend to undress the word depression. People will casually say they are depressed when they are not.To be depressed is a mood disorder. It is not a word to throw around. For people who are depressed, the common usage of the word affects them, every day and every minute of their life. The person sitting next to you, your professor or friends could be depressed. “[Some students] come in touch with that word on a way different level then other people,” Barabe said.
Many college students do not see that they are just as at risk for depression as others. Jenny didn’t go to college expecting to be depressed. She didn’t even know what was wrong. She just lost touch with what made her happy, stopped being herself and she didn’t know why. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

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Medievally Minded

What if it were possible to create a world full of knights in shining armor and maidens in distress? Perhaps we could go back to a time when Old English is spoken, before King Arthur became a legend. A common sight would be the long elaborate gowns of females, and the helms and swords that are bestowed on men. It is hard to imagine what it was like, but what if it could be recreated? [medie1]
A student organization works to bring this idea into reality. The Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) re-enacts events, skills and art from pre-17th century Europe. Its members dress up in full garb with helms, shields and swords. Most members got involved with the group because of the elaborate measures the SCA takes to recreate the past.
For physics junior Michael Sigler, the reason for joining SCA dates back to childhood. “As a science fiction and fantasy writer, many of my favorite books, writings, and video games contain elements from the period. The opportunity to learn how to fence, make chainmail or learn archery felt a part like living the games as well as making my own writings more realistic,” Sigler said.
Down to the last stitch, there are numerous sources on SCA’s Web site that show how to dress or make simple medieval clothes called “garb.” SCA members usually make their own clothes, although sometimes bartering or trade services are available when the person cannot handcraft it. Women wear plainly colored long skirts and peasant blouses. Men often sport trousers and peasant shirts that are almost never tucked in. Basic is considered best to achieve the air of the time.
It is not proper to wear a white belt, sash or baldric, which is a belt across the chest that is considered too flamboyant. White is reserved for members of the Chivalry, or those with recognition in the society. Brightly colored belts, such as red, green or yellow, are often used to indicate the wearer is a student of someone that has been honored for excellence in a SCA field of endeavor. Necklaces of chain links without medallions or pendants are also worn by special groups. These wardrobe do’s and don’ts are taught in classes at SCA events, where the masters of each trade teach their skills to pass down to future members.
Like Sigler, most members join for the experience. When members come together, they bring stacks of books, materials and knowledge to share. Group gatherings and classes offer the opportunity to learn to make crafts or armor and just gain information about a time period.
When together, the members adopt a persona and talk, look and behave as though they only live in ancient times, knowing nothing of today. They have last names, first names and pretend to have been eyewitnesses to historical events that spanned throughout their fictional lifetimes. For example, if a person lived in England during the reformation of the church, being “there” during Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne Boleyn is possible. No one is allowed to choose someone known as Lancelot. It is assumed names like the famous Lancelot, who bewitched King Arthur’s Gwendolyn, would create superiority complexes among members. However, many veteran members have added intricate family trees and histories to their personas instead of showy names. “I was told there were three ways to look for your persona – one was ‘I like this name,’ another was that you go to an event and say ‘Oh, I like that garb… where are they from?’ and the last was to research it and say ‘Oh I like this era,'” animal science senior Racheal Thomson said.
[sigler2]Japanese, Celtic and Middle Eastern personas all exist among SCA members. Personas are meant to change over time and some members have more than one persona. Some personas visit other places and therefore mix characteristics of two ancient cultures. It is not uncommon to find strict personas either, or those who are a certain century head to toe, from garb to tongue to fight. Most new members take on a persona that crosses eras and areas of the world. Mechanical engineering junior Ashley Kulczycki’s persona is Emma, an 11th or 12th century girl. Kulczycki, like many members, is still learning enough about the time period to be a convincing character. So far, Kulczycki’s persona, Emma, has decided to wear dresses of bright colors with few buttons. This says a lot about Emma. She is poor rather then rich, because buttons were expensive and only the rich could afford them. Given her poor status, she is probably humble. Emma most likely would not have witnessed many of the recorded events in history, so room is left for the imagination.
But why do all of this pretending involved with SCA? Most members say that it is a break from the real world or an opportunity to experience what they often read in books. MSU’s SCA is only one branch of the original non-profit organization, the Society for Creative Anachronism Incorporated. The original SCA started in 1966, when a few friends who were history fanatics and science fiction and fantasy fans hosted a big outdoor party in Berkeley, Calif. They sent out an invitation for an unlikely tournament on May 1, summoning “all knights to defend in single combat the title of ‘fairest’ for their ladies.”
Surprisingly, the tournament was a success. In fact, so many people came the friends decided to make another, except this time on a larger scale. In order to reserve one of the public parks for the gathering, the organizers needed to list a name for their group on the application. Since recreating the Middle Ages in 20th century Berkeley was an anachronism – something “out of time” – and because it was done through creativity, they came up with “The Society for Creative Anachronism.”
Word of the SCA quickly spread through the network of friends and science-fiction devotees. One event led to two until eventually there were six events held in the first year and nine in the second. In the third year, a chapter was founded on the East Coast named the East Kingdom, making the original known as the West Kingdom.
Soon, the Californians organized the SCA into a non-profit educational society. The act of recreating the pre-17th century world caught on, and thousands of SCA groups were created worldwide. To manage the new members, the original organization separated each group into kingdoms, or categories based on their locations. “It’s the parts where we spilt up the world. We are in the Middle Kingdom, which is Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, a little bit of Canada and maybe Wisconsin,” Kulczycki said. Since 1966, the Society has grown to 19 kingdoms that cover the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia, South Africa and Australia. There are more than 30,000 paid members of the corporation, and the total number of participants is around 60,000 people. [sca2]
It gets even more complicated as the kingdoms are broken down further into smaller and smaller sections – almost like how a country has its states and the states have their cities. Within a kingdom, which can cover many states and thousands of miles, there are subdivisions called Principalities and local chapters called Baronies, Shires and Cantons. Each group has its own officers to run each section. The officers are the members of SCA who actually plan and run the events, practices and other activities for the rest of the participants.
Furthermore, there are Households and Guilds that exist within Baronies, Shires and Cantons. These are unofficial groups within the SCA and consequently determine their own internal structures. Some households have a feudal basis, which means the household consists of a knight and his lady, and their squires and men-at-arms. Other households are founded by participants that are only concerned in the re-creation of a certain era in history. And some households are simply groups of friends, who like to socialize and travel to events together – including the university SCA group. These types of unofficial organizations are often founded by people that come together just to share their knowledge.
These smaller SCA groups do partake in large-scale tournaments together. The biggest one, the Crown Tournament, which is held semi-annually at various locations, is where all of the experienced heavy weapons fighters battle for the title of King. The next Crown Tournament will be held on May 24 and 25 at the Drawbridge Inn and Convention Center in Fort Mitchell, Ky. Winners and losers are determined on the honor of the participants – if in real life, a blow would have caused a mortal wound, the fighter is honor-bound to proclaim himself or herself “dead.”
At the tournaments, the fighters put on metal helms that weigh more then their entire garb put together. They wear padding to protect knees, elbows, kidneys and groins. The warriors choose their weapons – a sword and shield, two swords, a sword and dagger or a sword and a sword with some sort of creative anachronism. All weapons, no matter the choice, are made out of bamboo so if a hard blow comes, they become floppy instead of shattering into wooden bits. By the time the full garb is on, most members look like they just stepped out of a story book.
After hours of preparation, they fight, but the focus is not on winning, but on honor and honesty. A fighter cannot hit his opponent while he is down because it would defeat the purpose of displaying skill – it would be cheating and dishonorable. This emphasizes chivalrous behavior characteristic of the times and encourages good sportsmanship.
Fencing, which is Thomson’s specialty, includes battles with one sword, two swords and even the combination of dagger and sword. As an opponent gets hit, he or she has to forfeit the limb that was struck. If a fencer “loses their leg,” they end up fighting while kneeling. Matches can be won with one hand behind the back. Sigler said fighters are taught to learn the feel of a sword, sensing its weight and balance, as well as the actual act of using the sword.
For Sigler, the best part of fencing is the adrenaline rush that comes when she is charged by her opponent. “The entire experience, the clash of metal, the quick motion, the heart pounding excitement – and then the soft tap of the master stroke as it ever so gently lands its graceful blow on the loser’s helm or body,” Sigler said. The whole process is taken seriously, and everything is played according to how it would have been at that time.
While it may be hard to imagine how things were, the SCA members pool their own creative ideas to bridge the past and present. At tournaments, all modern technology, even cell phones, are nonexistent. Going to markets to barter goods is a common pre- or post-battle activity and crafts such as card weaving and wood whittling are taught in between matches. “They’re [SCA Members] completely enthralled in this whole idea that society has gone bye-bye and you have this little world right here that you just get to have fun in,” Thomson said.
Once the tournament is over, the winner of the heavyweight fighting claims his or her title. In the Crown Tournament, this title is king. Most may think of a king as an all-powerful royal, but in SCA, the position of king has a different purpose. Once crowned king, he or she cannot fight in most of the tournaments that are held. This is because when the programs first started, there were typically one or two excellent fighters who would dominate everything. The idea was to crown him or her as king so the battles would end up fair.
[thomson]After being crowned, the king picks the queen. Together, they monitor the kingdom in which they won the tournament. It ends up like much a second job because the royalty has to make appearances at all different functions. “Since it’s a non-profit organization, it’s basically that you’re paying for your job,” Kulczycki said. A lot of members see the title of king or queen as a privilege. The king and queen’s responsibilities rank from maintaining records of SCA groups and history to maintaining communication between kingdoms to dealing with problems in each society. At their appearances at events, members can come before them and address issues.
After the king and queen are chosen, all members are subject to them. The kingdoms in themselves are independent of each other and, because of this, there is a variation among them. These variations included differences in written “laws” established by the king and queen that define specific rules and customs that give each kingdom its unique personality. To maintain some sort of regularity, all kingdoms build their laws and customs on a framework called the Corpora, originally set by those who started the organization in California. Four to six months later, there is a new tournament designated by the current king, to set up a chance to have a new king.
The SCA is not like a sport or team in which there are a set number of days to meet and hours to practice. Instead, each member puts as much time in as he or she believes is necessary. “I think that’s where a lot of sports, teams or clubs would have a differentiating opinion. Most think that’s it’s planned or it’s playing, that there’s not seriousness to it,” Thomson said. Thomson maintains each member still has to learn, even if the time limit is not as planned or structured as other sports. When in the moment, understanding basics of movement and defense is important. [medie2]
Even in the 21st century, the SCA has shown it is possible to recreate a time in the distant past, filled with honorable duels and small regions governed by the laws and regulations created by a king and queen with dedicated followers. The popularity of SCA organizations across the country has shown this desire to travel back is far-reaching and extensive. It may have been a time when King Arthur was a legend and Henry VIII’s marital exploits were known, but with the SCA’s flexibility and growth nationwide, history gets its own little twist with every new member.

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Authentic Please, Hold the Spice

A Korean student from Kenya arrived late to college and missed his orientation. Understandably, he was a little bit frustrated; he lost a great opportunity to meet people and adjust to his new life. So when his American roommate suggested he come out to eat with a group of his friends, the exchange student was relieved and gladly took the opportunity. The problem was they were getting pizza, something he never had before. His roommate was astonished and said pizza was as close as one could get to a “purely American” food. Taking a chance and broadening his horizons, he decided to go. When they arrived and settled down into their seats, all eyes were on the Korean student as he took his first bite, then his second, until the piece was gone. When asked if he liked it or not, the critic pondered for awhile before reaching a surprising conclusion. He thought it was pretty good – just not as good as roasted goat leg.
Marilyn McCullough, the assistant director of the Asian Studies Center, told this story and swore it to be true, her own son being the American roommate. While many may cringe at the thought of roasted goat leg, McCullough pointed out the Korean student found it natural. Today, it’s easy to stroll casually down the boardwalk and find oneself amidst an array of restaurants claiming to serve authentic dishes. But how many Korean restaurants serve roasted goat leg as an attraction? It leaves room to wonder whether one can really experience a traditional international dish in America. [intl2]
Restaurants everywhere advertise international food. The eating places are always side by side, competing with each other in the art of decoration to appeal to a hungry customer’s eyes. Huge signs light up to barter their specialties at the best bargain price. The delectable scent of intermingling aromas makes mouths water and stomachs growl in ready anticipation. They promise Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, Thai and so many more assortments of selections from Asian cultures. It’s easy to feel as though one is getting exactly what one is paying for – a dish that crosses borders and bridges cultures.
Buying international food is a way to refute or confirm stereotypes. It has the ability to turn a person off to a particular cuisine forever. Some will never make it overseas to experience different cultures first-hand and will base their information on what America imports. “So how am I supposed to know how authentic food is if I’ve never been to the place that it’s from?” journalism freshman Hailey Schaldach said. Schaldach offered her recent experience at Indian Palace, a restaurant located on Albert Avenue, as part of an IAH 202 extra credit assignment. Sure, she ordered Indian food, but it was an Indian restaurant in America. Should the authenticity of the dish be questioned, then, as it crossed land and sea to get to Schaldach’s plate?
Vijay Chaudhary, the manger of Indian Palace, finds international Indian food authentic in America. Chaudhary claims the only difference between Indian food in America and in India is the level of spices used. Most of the dishes that Indian Palace offers are the exact same recipes from India with a slight change – the subtraction of an extremely hot spice or the addition of a particularly sweet one.
[schaldach]In spite of Chaudhary’s conviction it is still the same dish without the added spices, political science freshman Hyung-Joon Jang said most dishes are not genuine at all because of those alterations. “First of all, many people, especially us, tend to think of ethnic food on the globe as something very odd, unpleasant and sometimes nasty to even look at,” Jang said. He recalled many sushi, seaweed and noodle dishes from his childhood in Korea. When he came to America, he found international food that mimicked his home dishes was nothing like what he grew up with. While he felt the sushi looked same or the noodles smelled similar, the taste was always different. It was too bland or lacked something Jang felt was important. Without these flavors, Jang considered the food he grew up with to be completely different in America.
International cuisine is popular to those hoping to experience something new, different and exciting. Why would restaurants tone down a dish if their customers are looking for these qualities? International food used to be more accepted as authentic when people believed ingredients were too hard to gain access to. It used to be America just didn’t have certain spices or herbs available. Kimchi for Korean food was not used because, at the time, it was simply too expensive to import it. Globalization has since changed this. Floods of small Indian, Korean and Japanese shops can be found everywhere today. El Azteco and Indian Palace both are able to ship in spices from places as near as Detroit. While it still may be true some ingredients can only be grown in certain countries, it is no longer that difficult to access these ingredients. [intl1]
Although people are starting to expect restaurants to be more authentic because of this availability factor, restaurants continue to eliminate or substitute ingredients to some degree. The reason for this lies in profits, McCullough said.
Like any restaurant looking for income, international restaurants want repeated customers. In order to have regulars, the owners of the restaurant have to cater to the tastes of the people in the community. While some people claim they want a truly ethic dish, if they are not used to the native spices and ingredients, chances are they won’t like it or come back for more. It is necessary for restaurants to take out the more “exotic tastes,” which would explain why goat leg would not be found in a Korean restaurant in America, McCullough said. While the people might be curious, not many are fully committed to trying authentic international cuisine.
America’s culture is simply prone to blander tastes, McCullough said. While there is no one reason why, Americans prefer sweet to spicy as a culture. Asian cultures, on the other hand, thrive on spicy foods. It is assumed since rice, the base of many Asian meals, is bland, spices are heavy in this cuisine. However, electrical engineering junior Ralph Matthew Prewet IV said there is no reason why Americans should be prone to blander tastes because Americans don’t really have pure American foods. America is a young country, and its culture, including food, is a compilation of other cultures adapted to form a new one.
Prewet gives the example of an ice cream cone, something most consider traditionally American. The ice cream was already there, brought over years ago from another country. The only reason one considers it purely American is because someone decided it would taste good inside a waffle cone. It’s a simple equation, old plus new equals new. Ice cream plus cone equals ice cream cone, which equals American. “It was someone else’s food brought in and combined with something else to make one of nature’s best foods,” Prewet said. This concept can apply to international cuisine brought to America. To Prewet, international foods in America are not authentic because America does what it always does when it comes to food – puts them together. The dishes become “Westernized,” making them less authentic than what might be found in Beijing or New Delhi.
Is it right to label international restaurants in America as serving Korean, Thai or Indian cuisine then? When two cultures collide, the invention of new dishes happens. Restaurants in America often provide a form of a traditional food with a bit of change to it, like the toned-down version of Indian Palace’s extremely hot dish. According to McCullough, this is not unusual and it essentially occurs everywhere. When American food goes to Asia, India, China or anywhere else, it conforms too. For example, if one would go in a McDonald’s in Korea, kimchi is a popular spice placed on a hamburger. In India, the notorious meat-oriented McDonald’s becomes vegetarian. In Muslim countries, there can be no pork.
Jang takes a different point of view. He believes Americans struggle to have purely ethnic food because they approach it with biased perceptions. Therefore, the food represented as international food here is different because the culture refuses to simply try something new. While Jang admits some elderly Koreans eat dogs for health reasons and that few out of the huge Chinese population enjoy cat food, it is not justification to refuse to try any ethnic dishes or change cuisine to suit the public’s tastes. The only thing that differentiates the mass majority of dishes between Western and Eastern food is ingredients and recipes.
To Jang, taste, at first, may seem entirely different. Yet, after further exploration, one would immediately realize these new flavors also carry a somewhat shared taste found in Western dishes. For instance, anyone would admit that Western-style fried chicken resembles Chinese chicken-related food. The only distinction between the two is that the Chinese often add peppers. Also, the American-style noodles are only unlike the “ramen” in Korea because the dish contains, again, more peppers. Steak dinners are dissimilar from the “galbi” in Korean dishes in a sense that Korean galbi contains more sweetening spices.
Zak Eujeland, an employee at El Azteco, disagreed with the idea the only difference is recipes and spices. Eujeland believes if there is a difference, it doesn’t lie in the spices, but instead in the region or province that the food is from. Mexican food, for example, is prepared differently in multiple parts of Mexico. While one is getting an authentic dish when visiting El Azteco, the dish is prepared one of many ways and cannot represent all of Mexican culture.
Many people wouldn’t rely on regional origin when considering whether a restaurant is truly authentic, however. When Schaldach went to Indian Palace, she felt the food was original because her server was of Indian heritage. Likewise, chemistry junior Jacob Wittbrodt thought El Azteco was not authentic until he discovered that it was owned by a person of Mexican heritage. “It brings more legitimacy to it,” Wittbrodt said. [spice3]
Hospitality business junior Nicole Bader preferred to think traditional foods are always presented in a certain way. P.F. Chang’s China Bistro is legitimate to Bader because of the way the table was displayed when she ate there. Since their food was an assortment of dishes presented on her table in an atypical way for her, she felt it was more valid than a mass production method, seen in a meal from Rice Kitchen, for example.
In reality, international food is a process of adapting and conforming to society’s taste. Not everyone can agree upon what is suitable to eat and cook. This question of authenticity is subjective, taking into account any number of factors, including the alteration of the recipe, the area in which the food’s recipe originated or the presentation and decor used to provide customers with a unique cultural experience. In one sense, nothing can ever go untouched among the global exchange of new items. In another, Western versions are as traditional as one can experience without going to the native countries. The real importance is recognizing one fact: part of becoming global is experimenting with foreign foods and realizing a goat’s leg may be just as delectable as a slice of pepperoni pizza.

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Dancing with Dialogue

The stage is set. The lights flicker, revealing nervous performers. A chord is struck and the first note fills the air. The performers move with the beat of the music, starting to dance. It’s a dance of ages, telling a story of a people who lived long ago. They dance for battle first, performers encircling each other, stick striking stick making harsh sounds. Then they dance for peace.
This isn’t just a dance. It’s something filled with powerful emotions. Happiness, anger and frustration are all present, yet the dancers demand perfection. Physically, the moment takes its toll, draining the energy with each strike of a stick. Looking over at each other, they stay strong, taking pride that not one has given in to the temptation of quitting. Hours of planning and rehearsal divulge in just one instant as they dance, and it becomes obvious that MSU Raas is no ordinary dance team.[raasteam1]
Formed in 2002, MSU Raas quickly became an outlet for those who wished to celebrate traditional Indian dances and the beauty of Indian culture itself. In 2005, the Raas team experienced a brief hiatus from the MSU scene. When health studies sophomore Priya Shah and economics and journalism sophomore Meera Patel arrived at MSU, the Raas group officially announced it was unable to continue and eventually disbanded. Because Shah and Patel had a history of dancing from a very young age and an interest in continuing to dance throughout college, the disintegration of Raas was at first a disappointment. But unlike many others, Shah and Patel were not content with just waiting for dance group to find them. Instead, they looked on it as an opportunity to rebuild.
“We were really mad because we have been dancing our whole life…so we did something about it,” Shah said. With high hopes and ambitions, Shah and Patel proceeded to restore the Raas team to what it was. They established themselves as captains and tapped into past experiences to become choreographers. Even though the style that Shah and Patel had grown up with was different than the Raas dance, they creatively found ways to incorporate it.
“We’ve been doing competitions since we were seven – not this one – but an Indian folk dance,” Patel said. For both dancers, it was a mix of trial and error. Shah and Patel’s original style of dancing did not include the wooden sticks used by Raas. While the older dances had some of the same movements, Raas was more aggressive. Shah and Patel struggled to find an in-between. It was then they decided to take an old routine and integrate the wooden sticks.
Sitting in the audience is an experience. The lights play across the stage as the males and females separate themselves into groups, playfully taunting each other. The girls dance to the high chords, the boys answer with every low one. They are talking to each other in steps. There is always energy and the music hardly ever slows from its rapid tempo.
The history of these traditional dances dates back thousands of years. “It’s a religious dance formed in the state of India called Gujarat. It’s done with sticks, which is supposed to represent battles. It’s telling a story,” said Jasper Singh Gill, MSU Raas team member and human biology senior.
[natwa2]To Gill in particular, it is important for people to learn about Raas because of what they gain in experience and eventually learn to stand for. Dancing in Raas means preserving Indian culture and way of life. By representing this culture, Raas contributes to MSU’s diverse landscape in a creative way.
Dancing is not one’s average way of conveying ideas and preserving culture, but it is effective. And for health studies junior and Raas member Nithin Natwa, expanding a worldview is part of growing as a dancer. “The way to adapt and get better at dancing is to learn all aspects. If you see someone from a different background, you try to learn as much as you can about them,” Natwa said.
MSU Raas and groups like it create diversity because multiple cultures and various backgrounds exist on the team. Contrary to what most might believe, “it’s not just an Indian thing,” Natwa said. Anyone can try out to become part of Raas, and dancing abilities are used as the criterion to decide whether one makes it, not cultural or ethnic background. [raasteam2]
Being a part of the Raas team means not only becoming trained in a new style of dance but also acquiring a new social network. For many members, especially during their freshman year, it was comforting to find a place to fit in. “It’s weird [when we don’t have practice]. I seriously miss everyone,” Patel said.
But not having practice seems to be a rare occurrence, especially when it comes close to competition. When there is an upcoming competition, Raas members practice every night, sometimes for six hours. Regular rehearsals can consume up to 10 hours per week.
Most dancers, like Gill, feel the amount of commitment required is necessary. The majority of competitors are people members know from their hometown neighborhoods or surrounding communities. Like most MSU sports, the MSU Raas team competes against the University of Michigan in their competitions. Because they know those people and grew up with them, it makes them want to win all the more, Gill said.
And, if it is all about the competition, the spirit of those who root them on becomes vital. Matching up with your adversaries is not enough. The Raas team needs the crowd. The focus of a team like MSU Raas is to get a crowd out there, to get MSU’s community to support the team. Maybe it’s just to hear the electrifying chants of white and green or experience the rumble of voices on their behalf, but whatever the case, most members love to see support. “That’s what we always want to see. That’s why we’re green, right?” Natwa said.
MSU Raas recently participated in a competition in Ann Arbor called Dandia Dhamaka. For their first competition, the team performed extremely well, earning a third-place trophy in a competition against 10 other teams. It was the first time MSU Raas placed over U-M. With a trophy already under its belt, the team plans to attend another competition in Miami over spring break. Competitions like this are held every year at different schools. “It’s like intercollegiate sports, like football and basketball. There are big events like at some colleges in New York with different colleges competing,” Gill said.
[dance12]Part of the requirements for these competitions is that each team comes up with their own theme. MSU Raas’s theme was derived from the film 300 and formed the basis of the dance, costumes and music. Then, they incorporated traditional songs in a finale, which included upbeat fighting, a playful fight that contrasted with the intense battle executed at the beginning of the routine.
It is that rush of fresh energy that makes Raas so important to its members. Natwa said when the competition comes up, he’s suddenly not tired anymore. “You just get more amp up and more amp up. It’s like you’re in a car and you’re accelerating. You don’t stop accelerating until you’re done with the dance. And when it’s over you’re like ‘Oh that was amazing,'” he said.
Becoming a part of the MSU Raas is entering a commitment. There are competitions, registration and costumes fees, some of which is paid for out of the team’s own pocket. They must fundraise and work hard to get nominated to even participate. Every year tryouts resume and everyone who wants to be on the team has to participate – even Shah and Patel, the captains. “There is no one who just stays on the team,” Gill said. Out of the 30 who usually try out, eight males and females are selected based on skill and effort. [raasteam3]
Those who are chosen become part of the dancing that is meant to represent a portion of Indian culture. To several on the team, the dance Raas is really essential. It helps them balance themselves out as people, giving room for the little things in life as well as the big. “If you want to do something non-academic, it’s really good for you,” Gill said.
MSU Raas is more then a dance. It’s a story. The great part about stories is that they change with each person who tells it. In 2008, MSU Raas has found yet another meaning in its dance tale, and next year, those dancers will tell their own story.

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A Slip of the Senses

We’ve all had those moments when we’ve been in a rush, reached for our keys and been disappointed to find we’d misplaced them again. They’re always in the last place we’d look, tucked underneath a couch cushion or waiting patiently underneath the refrigerator. When we do get around to finding them, our mood is almost always worse for the wear. It seems silly something so trivial in life can affect us so significantly. Moments like these can manifest in how we physically perform or go beneath the skin and affect how we feel. Similar feelings of frustration can surface if we’re under severe stress or emotional turmoil. What if didn’t have to be that way?[quitit]
Zoology freshman Adrianna Gonzalez found such a solution through the nontraditional technique of self-hypnosis. In her sophomore year of high school, Gonzalez was diagnosed with depression. The level of stress in her life began to affect her eating habits and her extra-curricular activities; she even stopped wanting to do what she used to love. Eventually, her original diagnosis of depression was re-categorized as yearly seasonal depression. It was at this time in therapy when she was asked to try a new technique to help her cope; enter self-hypnosis. [hyp]
In her first experience, Gonzalez was told to envision a room. The room in her mind was very, very dark. It had a fireplace on one wall. It was stone, almost like castle walls. Along the opposite wall, there were a few bookcases and dim lamps. Gonzalez said the therapist told her to imagine a “comforting mist.” And it worked. Her depression became less severe, she physically became healthier and her memory improved dramatically.
This may sound like an unorthodox method to deal with everyday issues – imagining a room to cure some kind of problem – but people have benefited from hypnosis for years. Dr. Mary Pratt Miller is one of the numerous therapists that have used hypnosis, and she has practiced it for more than 20 years. “I cannot imagine doing the work I do without clinical hypnosis as a possible means of intervention and therapeutic goal achievement,” Miller said.
According to Miller, self-hypnosis is a wonderful tool because it involves relaxation and inner change. It lowers the blood pressure and reduces tension in the mind and body. Sometimes it improves one’s ability to think clearly, which is why it could help one find things that have been misplaced. Hypnosis is often a reminder – a tactic that digs up what was already there. Miller insisted it is easy to learn, and said “I never take a test without first using self-hypnosis for 15 to 20 minutes.”
Miller claims all hypnosis is actually self-hypnosis, which refers to the method when people do the hypnosis by themselves. “The locus of control is always in the patient,” Miller said. “The therapist is the facilitator of the process. All that is necessary is that the person turns their attention inward and begins to focus on ideas and motivations.”
Although many people would think the process of hypnosis would be difficult, Miller said most of us have even experienced a natural self-hypnosis trance at some point. Things like listening to music, driving a car or riding up many flights in an elevator allow the mind to “escape.” As another example, daydreaming is one of the most common trances.
While hypnosis is based on a trance or escape of the mind, another basic tenet is the idea of repetition or habitual actions. Hypnosis is based on the idea that “repetition strengthens and confirms,” Miller said. Hypnotists give a suggestion and one reacts because the hypnotist used an action word. Then, the hypnotist repeats it to confirm the suggestion which, out of habit, you embrace willingly. Suggestions are activated by a cue, usually some sort of sound like clapping or a certain word. After hearing the cue, the person acts out what was previously told to them in their subconscious state. For instance, a person might bark like a dog every time the hypnotist says “bacon.”
[pratt]In a contemporary perspective, Donna Wilkinson’s New York Times article “Stroked, Poked and Hypnotized in the Search for Relief” addresses current hypnosis. Wilkinson wrote, “Though nontraditional medicine has many skeptics, some techniques have gained credence among pain specialists.” Wilkinson said Dr. Daniel Handel, a clinician at the Pain and Palliative Medicine Service of National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., uses biofeedback (affecting body functions by controlling certain body behaviors), hypnosis, acupuncture and other techniques to aid patients on drug protocols.
Miller shows support for the use of hypnosis in medical settings, and she said hypnosis has been used in United States emergency rooms. For example, Dr. Dabney Ewin, M.D., a physician in New Orleans, has used hypnosis with severely burned or injured patients. In addition, many American OB/GYN (obstetrician/gynecologist) physicians are starting to seek out hypnosis techniques to create painless childbirths, Miller said. However, Miller said because each therapist and patient is a unique person, there are many ways to use hypnosis. “I use a variety of inductions, some with the patient’s eyes open and some with them closed,” Miller said. “Once I even used hypnosis to help a woman find a lost object.”
Although hypnosis may be handy in painful medical scenarios or in the desperate attempt to relocate an important item, many might wonder how hypnosis can be beneficial in the academic life of students. Dr. Lawrence Casler, a professor of psychology at the State University of New York, addresses this subject in his article, “Hypnotize Students and Improve Their Ability to Learn.” Casler suggests hypnosis can spur motivation in classes during lengthy lectures, making one better able to concentrate. Casler takes this ability to focus one step further and writes about how hypnotism can result in faster reading, longer retention and lifting an academic block. The most important advantage for students, however, could be the claim hypnosis can reduce anxiety caused by exams. While Casler admits hypnosis is not magic and there would be cases where it would not help students, he believes the vast majority of students could profit from some form of hypnosis.
Nonetheless, there is room for doubt that the technique can help make life healthier or less stressful. Ladun Olagbegi, a no preference freshman, said she is a natural skeptic of hypnosis. For her, it was not effective. In her hypnosis experience, the hypnotists tried to put Olagbegi in a trance by making her shut her eyes, then open them, until she believed the hypnotist had no idea what he was doing. Eventually, the hypnotist said Olagbegi was unable to be hypnotized in such a short time, and moved on to another girl at the party who was successfully put in trance. Since then, Olagbegi has not tried hypnotism. “I tried it. I didn’t believe it. It didn’t work,” Olagbegi said.
These disbeliefs in the validity of hypnosis can affect the end results, according to Miller. If a person is consciously set against hypnosis, an outcome like Olagbegi’s can occur. Most hypnotists argue skeptics feel this way because they don’t understand the technique of hypnosis. Olagbegi remained skeptical, even with exposure to a positive hypnosis experience. Olagbegi’s aunt went through hypnotherapy to quit smoking. While Olagbegi said her aunt did quit smoking in the end, she believes it was due to successful therapy rather then hypnosis. [olagbegi]
Despite the existence of skeptics, hypnosis has been used as a medical technique for hundreds of years. According to The American Journal of Psychiatry, by Nathan Mark Kravis, priests in ancient Egypt, Greece and China used hypnosis during rituals, in medical treatments and as an anesthetic for surgery. In Kravis’ work, he describes how physicians James Braid of Britain and James Esdaile of Scotland performed thousands of successful surgeries using hypnotic practices for anesthesia and relaxation in the 1800s. Through hypnosis, they reduced bleeding, relieved pain and sped healing.
While we’ll all still have problems remembering where our wallets are, hypnosis might help. Those with problems like Gonzalez’s are not the only people who benefit. Many clinicians believe the success of a hypnotic trance depends on how well it seems to work for current problems. For some people, the idea of an easy, noninvasive solution is enough to make them into believers. “If I can do it, anyone can,” Gonzalez said. “It’s a mind thing. Our mind is more powerful then we know.”

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Revamping Wonder

The Seven Wonders of the World: you hear about them and you know they exist, but do you know what they are? They\’ve been around as long as any of us can remember and serve as historical sites or objects that are in some way unique or unexplainable. They have found their way into history books and the itineraries of ambitious world travelers. But as time passes, can something as monumental as a “world wonder” be changed? Do people have this authority over significant landmarks? According to one man, the answer is yes.
“I started the project before the new millennium began, as a sort of \’millennium project.\’ But, of course, this kind of thing is the result of much thought over years. In 1999, I really took the first steps to make this dream a reality. I bought my first computer to start New7Wonders. The first Web site could be compared to starting one\’s company in one\’s garage – it cost about $700 Canadian!” [Wonder1]
The voice behind these words, and the idea of the new Seven World Wonders, is a man named Bernard Weber. But the Seven World Wonders have been around for eternity and, like most things ancient, that makes them practically written in stone. So what’s all this talk about a new collection of seven? One would think a list that has been dated back to the second century B.C. is irreplaceable.
This original list of the seven wonders was determined by Philon of Byzantium, a Greek scholar. This included Nebuchadnezzar, the Pyramids of Giza, the Temple of Artemis, the Mausoleum of Harlicarnassus, the Statue of Zeus, the Pharos at Alexandria and the Colossus of Rhodes – every one as mysterious as the last with a story behind it. However, over the years, the ancient wonders have been picked off one by one, along with the legends that go with them. Some modern scholars are even suspicious that the Nebuchadnezzar (more commonly known as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon) even existed. Of all those that are actually confirmed to grace the world, only the Pyramids of Giza remains intact today, which is a reason Weber insisted it was time to create a new list.
As of July 7, Weber’s organization, the New7Wonders Foundation, held a worldwide contest to determine the wonders of the modern world. The foundation was created in 2000, based on his idea to make a list decided by everyone in the world, not, as he told Newsweek on July 31, 2006, “decided by one single man.”
Not everyone took kindly to this idea of a new list of wonders. There was talk that the old list was the only one there should be. Permission granted or not, Weber set about his mission. The original list of contenders, comprised from votes of people around the world, was 200 suggestions long. “For a period of some five years, New7Wonders accepted nominations from people around the world, so we began with a completely democratic process. In late 2005, we had around 200 nominated monuments spread throughout the world. Since this is a simply unmanageable number, we first reduced the nominations to the (top) 77,” Weber said.
[folger]United Nations’ cultural organization (UNESCO) compared the new wonders election process to “American Idol.” They criticized the voting process, saying it was too free-reigned and instead suggested the nominees be chosen by professionals. Weber’s “democratic route” didn’t quite appeal to those in UNESCO. But that didn’t stop Weber. He went directly to the source of the problem by naming a former Director-General of UNESCO as the head of a committee working to narrow the list of nominees from 77 to 21 finalists.
The New7Wonders Panel of Experts was made up of renowned architects who “used their vast experience and their personal judgment to select the 21 finalist monuments based on criteria that included beauty, complexity, historical value, cultural relevance and architectural significance,” Weber said.
Still, many people remained dissatisfied with either the narrowing process or the election as a whole. “It’s silly,” said Catherine Semrau, a communicative sciences and disorders senior. “There should be a better way to determine the new wonders.”
As a peer adviser in the study abroad office on campus, Semrau believes the new list of wonders will have no affect on students’ choices about where they choose to go in the world. “I personally don’t think it would determine where I go. If I went to one of the places though…” She trailed off, put her hands out and shrugged as if to say she might check out a world wonder just to see what the fuss was about.
As the election process continued, problems began to arise. In April 2005, Egyptian officials demanded the Pyramids of Giza be pulled out of the race. They were outraged by the contest, saying the pyramids’ greatness should not be determined in a vote. “I can see where (the Egyptian officials) are coming from. Part of the attraction of the old (wonders) was because they were ancient,” said Alissa Folger, an international studies and Spanish senior. “Some of the new ones seem ridiculous.” [wonder2]
Weber defended himself, saying he only wanted to “protect humankind’s heritage across the globe” by holding the election. However, the Pyramids of Giza were removed from the running shortly after and given an “honorary status.”
Although the Pyramids of Giza were pulled from the race, they still received the increased attention experienced by the rest of the nominees. Promotions flew back and forth when the competition started and continue today for the victors. While Weber recognizes increased attention will be directed toward the new wonders, he also sees the election as the beginning of an ongoing project to more accurately document and preserve these places.
“As one of the first documentation projects, the New7Wonders Foundation plans to capture detailed photogrammetric 3-D images of the New 7 Wonders, which are scientifically exact, high-definition records that capture the entire monument. Hence, these New 7 Wonders will be preserved for the future, in scale and with every single detail. We will also work with the New 7 Wonders as a group to help them promote themselves – for example, with books, films, educational tools, et cetera,” Weber said.
Despite some of the general public’s objections, the new list was finally decided. More than 100 million people around the world cast their votes and made Machu Picchu in Peru, Petra in Jordan, the Great Wall of China, Christ Redeemer in Brazil, Chichen Itza in Mexico, the Taj Mahal in India and the Roman Colosseum in Italy the new seven wonders of the world.
After 500 years, the Pyramids of Giza are no longer the sole remaining wonder of the world, with seven new wonders sharing the ranks. The revamped list was released for the world to see in Portugal, appropriately enough on July 7, 2007 (7-7-2007). The new wonder list was broadcast as “the modern version of the Seven Wonders of the World” instead of the “New Seven World Wonders” in efforts to prevent any controversy over the new wonders acting as replacements. However, many would argue there is still controversy surrounding the issue.
Countries let their opinions show when the new list went public. The Chinese State Broadcaster actually chose not to televise the event, and Chinese state heritage officials refused to endorse the competition. It was a different story for some of the other candidates. In Brazil, for example, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva encouraged voting for Rio de Janeiro’s mountaintop statue of Jesus Christ and was thrilled when Christ Redeemer made the list.
With the election over and the new sites decided, mixed feelings and questions remain. Does the new list violate history? Will increased fame diminish the integrity of the sites? What about the people who disagree with the election of new sites completely? [wonder3]
Weber gives us his take on some of these questions on his Web site: “Of course, this will not replace the list of the Ancient Wonders; they will always have a proud place in history. BUT this is not about the past, it is about NOW – about bringing this great concept into modern times, expanding it (the Ancient Wonders were all around the Mediterranean, the only world the Greeks knew at that time – we have such a more varied world to showcase!) and letting the people of the world decide. We have brought a wonderful ancient Greek concept, that of the Wonders of the World, into modern times – and used another wonderful Greek invention, democracy, to make it happen.”
Weighing in on the issue, biology sophomore Mala Jeganathasn said, “They should keep the old [wonders] because they’ve been around forever. They are bigger and better; each one has a story behind it.”
[weber]So what should we do? We, as college students, are part of the future. Should the modern list be honored, or should the original Seven World Wonders be hailed as the only true wonders? Out of 20 students on campus, all of them believed having wonders of the world was significant. Most had no idea that the new campaign took place and the ones that did, like Jeganathasn, felt strongly about the old wonders, whether they are still intact today or not. No matter which approach is taken, the modern seven wonders are here to stay, even though the ability to accurately name a “world wonder” is still up in the air.
If you didn’t get to play a part in this list, the New7Wonders Foundation is at it again! Only this time, the votes go to nominating the New7Wonders of Nature. Vote by logging on to www.natural7wonders.com

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