"Obedience, Drunkenness, and Rape at West Point and Annapolis," by Alpha Unit

Last Friday, Karley Marquet and Anne Kendzior filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming that the US Military Academy in West Point, New York, and the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, ignored rampant sexual harassment and rapes at the academies.
Named as defendants are former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, former superintendents of the two academies, and the current Secretaries of the Army and Navy. The lawsuit states:

Although Defendants and other military leadership repeatedly claim they have “zero tolerance” for such misconduct, the evidence shows otherwise: they have a high tolerance for sexual predators in their ranks, and “zero tolerance” for those who report rape, sexual assault and harassment.

There are three rapes discussed in the lawsuit; one of the women was raped twice.
Karley Marquet is 20. She began attending West Point boot camp in June of 2010. Before describing the events in question, she says that she was taught to follow all directions given by upperclassmen – shining shoes, making beds, emptying trash, and otherwise doing whatever they told her to do.
During the second semester of her freshman year, she stayed on campus over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend; her roommate didn’t. A female friend visited her on the evening in question but left by curfew. Shortly after, her roommate’s boyfriend, an upperclassman, stopped by to visit. According to the lawsuit:

The male upperclassman stayed for quite some time, and then gave Ms. Marquet a sports drink that had alcohol in it. Peer pressure by upperclassmen to consume alcohol is pervasive at West Point. Ms. Marquet drank about one-fourth of the liquid in the bottle, and soon became intoxicated. Disoriented, Ms. Marquet was convinced by the upperclassman to go to his room, where he raped her.

So you have peer pressure, alcohol, and a disoriented freshman. It all sounds familiar.
Ms. Marquet told her sister and a friend what happened. They told her to go to the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (“SARC”). But she was hesitant. The perpetrator stopped by her room several times, she says, pressuring her not to report the rape. In addition, she was well aware that women who did report rapes were called “sluts” and were accused of having “asked for it.” But she decided to report it, not that it did her any good.
West Point didn’t provide her with what she calls adequate assistance.
She was forced to remain in contact with the guy, and West Point didn’t alter her duties, which meant she had to empty his trash every day. As a result of the rape and the hostile environment, she became depressed and suicidal. The final straw was being forced to do “walking hours” with this guy as punishment for a minor infraction. She resigned from West Point. The guy still hasn’t been brought to justice.
In the case of Anne Kendzior, both perpetrators went on to graduate and become Naval officers.
Ms. Kendzior is 22, and joined the Naval Academy in the summer of 2008. She, too, was taught to follow all directions given by upperclassmen. That fall she went to a party given at “Lacrosse House,” attended mainly by Naval Academy students. There was a lot of alcohol. They played some drinking games and had lots of fun getting drunk.
Ms. Kendzior went to one of the back bedrooms to sleep it off. Everybody can guess what happened next: she woke up to find a male student on top of her doing the deed. She says he then rolled over and went to sleep. She didn’t tell anyone what had happened except her roommate. Nothing was made of the whole incident.
A few months went by. Ms. Kendzior and two male students were granted Saturday liberty. They bought some alcohol and went to a hotel room to drink it. She passed out drunk. She woke up to find herself being raped by one of the guys.
She told her roommates, but no one else. Eventually – the lawsuit doesn’t specify exactly when – she reported both rapes to her Academy counselor, but the counselor didn’t encourage her to report them to either civilian or military police. She says she spiraled downhill, becoming suicidal. She finally did report the rapes to the Naval Academy. But the lawsuit states:

Although Ms. Kendzior was only one year from completing her degree, the Naval Academy decided that Ms. Kendzior’s mental health issues caused by the rapes precluded her from becoming a commissioned officer. Only the intervention of Ms. Kendzior’s parents and Congressman prevented the Academy from wrongly incarcerating her at a mental health facility.

She was forced to leave the Academy without being permitted to graduate.
The lawsuit maintains that Robert Gates and his co-defendants are directly responsible for the atmosphere in the US military and at the academies that allows these assaults and rapes to flourish and go unpunished.
You know what I wonder, though? Why didn’t these two fairly intelligent, capable women understand that they were putting themselves at risk of being raped?
It’s not okay to rape people. Furthermore, you can’t make anyone rape you. Rapists are responsible for the crimes they commit. But assuming you can take them at their word, why the Hell do so many women walk blindly into these rape scenarios?
Nobody has a right to rape you. But you are responsible for your own safety and well-being. Not the Secretary of Defense. Not the head of the military academy. Not your Academy counselor. You are. If you can’t tell when you’re being set up for a possible sexual assault, then maybe there are certain environments you don’t need to be in, period.

"How Martin Guitars Changed Music," by Alpha Unit

Buddy Guy and Keb’ Mo’ play Martin guitars. So did Lester Flatt, Brownie McGhee, and Kurt Cobain. Lindsey Buckingham, Shawn Colvin, and Beck play them. What guitar player hasn’t? The Martin Guitar Company has been making acoustic guitars for over 150 years. Some consider them the finest in the world.

Christian Frederick Martin is the man who brought Martin guitars to America in 1833. He came from a family of German cabinetmakers, and not long after establishing his own business in Markneukirchen, he got caught up in a dispute between the Cabinetmakers Guild and the Violin Makers Guild.

The Violin Guild didn’t want cabinetmakers making musical instruments. The Cabinetmakers said that violin makers had no vested right in making guitars, and that Martin’s guitars marked him as every bit the craftsman as any violin maker.

The Cabinetmakers prevailed in this legal dispute, but C. F. Martin had had enough. He left Germany for New York City. In 1838 he sold his retail store to another music dealer and bought 8 acres outside Nazareth, Pennsylvania, where he produced totally hand-crafted guitars made on a one-by-one basis. However:

There were a few features commonly incorporated in most of C. F. Martin’s instruments. Until the mid-1840s, Martin guitars were characterized by a headstock that had all the tuning keys on one side. Martin acquired this design from his teacher in Vienna, Johann Stauffer.

The headstock design with all the tuning keys on one side was discontinued by Martin and went unused until Leo Fender resurrected the design in 1948 with his Telecaster guitar.

During the 1850s, Martin made a major innovation to guitar design – the “X” bracing system for the guitar top. Guitar bracing, I learned, refers to the system of wooden struts that support and reinforce the soundboard and back of the guitar. According to Rich Simmons and Jeff Griffy:

Guitar bracing performs two wildly different functions: strengthen the top of the guitar while allowing it to sufficiently vibrate to produce a warm and resonant tone. In a standard scale guitar with medium gauge strings, the guitar’s top withstands approximately 185 lbs. of constant tension.

A thin top without bracing would buckle or warp in very little time. A top thick enough to withstand the pressure could not sufficiently vibrate and would result in a thin tone with little volume. Bracing a thin top then finds the best of both worlds.

The “X” pattern developed by Martin features the two main braces running in an “X” from the upper bouts – where the body widens out from the “waist” of the guitar – to the lower bouts. The “X” crosses between the soundhole and the bridge, with several auxiliary braces. This pattern creates the strength and well-balanced tones that most builders find ideal.

Martin innovations didn’t end with “X” bracing. During the Great Depression, Martin, like thousands of other businesses, suffered seriously depressed sales. The company explored all kinds of features with the hope of finding something that would bolster sales. They came up with the 14-fret neck.

Before this era, guitars were typically equipped with a 12-fret neck. The story Martin tells is that a renowned banjo player, Perry Bechtel, suggested to F. H. Martin – grandson of C. F. Martin – that he make a guitar with a 14-fret neck; the longer neck would increase the guitar’s range and make it more versatile.

Martin took Bechtel’s advice and introduced a guitar with the longer neck. It was so popular that Martin made it a feature on all its models. It became the standard design for the industry in America.

Another innovation was the Dreadnought guitar, which has become a Martin trademark. The original Dreadnought – named after a type of World War I British battleship – was designed by F. H. Martin and Harry Hunt. Hunt figured that a Dreadnought guitar, with its large body and booming bass, would be ideal for accompanying vocals. It was introduced in 1916 but wasn’t well-received because there weren’t that many singers using guitars; solo players considered the bass overbearing.

But as folk singing became more and more popular, so did the Dreadnought. In 1931 Martin incorporated the Dreadnought into its line. It dominates the Martin line today, and almost all acoustic guitar makers are said to have their own versions of it.

Of course, as with other manufacturers, you can have a Martin guitar made to order. Each size and shape produces a unique tone. The wood you choose has a distinct influence on sound, too. You determine the right “playability” as well. According to Martin:

You need to choose the most comfortable neck that is easy to play in terms of action (height of the string above the fret), string tension, and neck width. If you’re accustomed to playing electric, you’ll probably want low action on an acoustic. Acoustic rhythm players or slide players generally want higher action.

Flatpickers and rhythm players prefer narrow necks. Fingerpickers, with their need for greater string spacing, prefer wide necks.

It may seem obvious, but the fit of the neck of a guitar has to be close to perfect.

As anyone who has built a guitar can tell you, the fit of the neck can be one of the most crucial and challenging parts of a guitar build – particularly if the guitar sports a dovetail neck joint. It involves a long process of carefully carving off excess wood, fitting, refitting, and sheer strength to ensure that the fit is absolutely flawless. Otherwise, a guitar can end up with tuning issues, problems with the action.

Diane, who works as a neck fitter for Martin, says that her job not only requires physical strength but mental agility, “because each and every neck is different.” This means no two sets of problems to solve are alike – just as no two Martin guitars are alike.


Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)