January 2021

The Emoji

Has the emoji been helpful or harmful to us in communicating our thoughts and emotions?

Emojis—we all use them, or at least a form of them, when we text, post to Instagram and now even on Zoom. Whether we use actual emojis or resort to keyboard punctuation in order to make a symbol, they convey our thoughts and emotions when we are not face-to-face with others. 

In many ways, the emoji has helped more than it has harmed us. Say you are texting someone about something that can be taken two very different ways and you want to make sure they understand you correctly. The other person is not able to hear your tone through a text, so you send a smiley face or heart emoji at the end of your message to let them know you are just joking. Emojis quickly express feelings or thoughts that would otherwise take many words to explain. They are convenient and speak for you, even when you yourself can’t. 

On the other hand, emojis have stunted other aspects of our ability to communicate. Body language is a big indicator to others when expressing what we truly mean, even when our words happen to say the opposite. For instance, if you ask someone how they are in person and they say “ok,” they may in fact look sad and walk away—you immediately know that something isn’t right. However, you don’t have access to body language through a text. The other person could reply the same way (perhaps even with two smiley faces), and you would never know how they really felt unless you managed to ask them in person. This is the kind of communication we miss out on when using emojis, and indeed, in texting in general.

However, their pros outweigh their cons. I use emojis all of the time – to tell someone happy birthday, for example, by loading a text up with balloon, present, and cake emojis. One time in particular, I remember, I was texting someone I had not spoken to for a while and wanted to catch up with. I used a couple of smiley face emojis to imitate my optimistic attitude, in the hopes that they could see me smiling through the phone. They received my message well and we proceeded to have a great conversation, emojis continuing to appear here and there. In both of these instances, emojis helped clarify and enhance the message I was trying to communicate to the other person.

At the end of the day, I believe emojis are a helpful tool for communicating our thoughts and emotions more clearly. After all, they make texting more fun, and can put a smile on your face.

Author: Katarina Quintana|Opinions Editor

Reviewing the Riddled and Unique Disney+ Show “WandaVision”

Breaking Down the Easter Eggs and Hidden Sitcom References

Disney+’s new original series “WandaVision” has left many fans confused and beguiled by its inclusion of numerous easter eggs and hidden references. The sitcom-style series depicts Wanda Maximoff (a.k.a Scarlet Witch) and Vision living an idealized suburban life in the aptly named town of Pleasantville; the trauma they experienced in “Avengers: Infinity War” has apparently never occurred. However, they both begin to realize that not all is as pleasant as it seems in Pleasantville: strange occurrences begin to tear at the fringes of reality, and audiences are left to unravel the mystery unfolding before themselves. An examination of the various clues riddled throughout the show may enlighten audiences as to the nature and direction of this seemingly innocuous series. Spoilers ahead!  

Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) will likely catch some of the more obvious easter eggs, such as those in the fake commercials embedded in each episode: episode one features a toaster made by Stark Industries, a nod to Tony Stark (a.k.a Iron Man). The second episode’s commercial features a watch called Strucker, a reference to Baron von Strucker, a known leader of the terrorist organization HYDRA and major antagonist in the MCU. 

Notably, both commercials hint at past traumas in Wanda’s life, according to IndieWire. In “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” Wanda and her brother Pietro (a.k.a Quicksilver) blame Tony Stark for the deaths of their parents, who were killed when a bomb detonated on their home. The toaster in the first episode beeps with increasing rapidity, echoing the sound of a bomb before it explodes. Furthermore, in the post-credits scene of “Captain America: Winter Soldier,” we learn that Baron von Strucker experimented on Wanda and Pietro, giving them their respective supernatural abilities of reality warping and super speed.

Some of the easter eggs may be more recognizable to fans of the comics. According to CNET, the two posters hanging in the back of the grocery store during the second episode’s animated opening—which advertise Bova milk and Auntie A’s cat litter—are discreet references to two Marvel Comics characters named Bova (a bovine human who helped deliver Wanda and Pietro at birth) and Agatha Harkness (a witch with a cat familiar who mentored Wanda in the ways of witchcraft). 

By far the most frequent easter egg has been the symbol of an encircled sword. This shows up on both the computer and journal of someone who is watching “WandaVision,” on the red and yellow toy helicopter that Wanda discovers in her rose bushes, and on the back of the ominous beekeeper who emerges from the sewers. An article recently published on Den of Geek explains that the symbol is the logo of the Sentient Weapon Observation and Response Division (S.W.O.R.D.), a sister branch to the more widely recognizable Strategic Homeland, Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division (S.H.I.E.L.D). 

While Marvel has inserted an abundance of hints about what is coming next in their Cinematic Universe, the show has also paid homage to a variety of past sitcoms. As it was shot prior to the pandemic, the producers recreated classic TV sitcoms by including a live studio audience. During the course of the season, each of its 9 episodes are meant to focus on one specific decade of programming, with each getting closer to the present. Episode 1 takes place in the 1950s and is shot entirely in black and white. From the shooting technique, clothes, plot and home aesthetic, it was evident to many that the episode was influenced by “I Love Lucy” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” 

Episode 2 jumps ahead another decade, taking place in the 1960s. The producers wove in connections to the extremely popular 1960s sitcom “Bewitched” through recreating the opening credits using Wanda. In this episode, Wanda’s use of magic in order to bail her husband out of trouble follows the same lines that can be seen in “Bewitched.” Although Wanda was also seen using magic in Episode 1 to clean and cook, foreshadowing their homage in Episode 2, her use of it here evokes how it would have been portrayed in the 1960s sitcom. However, producers threw viewers for a loop —the episode ends in color instead of the original black and white. Such a colorful ending left many wondering if this was their way of both setting us up for the 1970s and giving one last ode to “Bewitched,” which itself eventually switched to colored episodes. Perhaps something bigger and more shocking is yet to come. 

While many Marvel fans didn’t find the first two episodes enjoyable thanks to the endless search for easter eggs, there were still many that were happy to watch Wanda and Vision reunited. With only two episodes currently out, “WandaVision” has already left everyone wondering what will come next. Are fans correctly guessing Marvel’s plans for the future, or will we all end up pleasantly surprised if our guesses don’t come true? Whatever Disney+ decides to throw our way next, we will be right there waiting, eager to learn about what world Wanda is living in and who’s trying to get inside it.

Author: Shyanne Mortimer| A&E Co-Editor

Author: Kassandra Klein|Copy Editor

Hello 2021!

A glimpse of what this promising new year holds for us

At last, 2021 is upon us. Wow, we made it through 2020, a year that brought the unexpected. None of us were prepared for any of it. Looking back, it is easy to focus on the negatives of 2020, but let us not forget the positives that came out of it. Both the good and the bad have made us stronger as a community. We can finally put 2020 behind us. Yes, I understand that screaming “Happy New Year!” on January 1 does not magically solve all of our problems, but it does give us hope for the good things to come this year. 

In 2021, as more and more businesses and schools begin to open up, we hope to start seeing life return to a similar version of what it was before. I know I’m hoping that at some point this year we won’t have to wear masks everywhere we go. Perhaps we will finally be able to dine-in at our favorite restaurants, go to concerts, go to movie theaters, and actually attend school face-to-face. 

If 2020 taught us anything, it taught us to be grateful. 2021 will reunite us with the things that we took for granted for so long, like grabbing a bite to eat with friends and being surrounded by the people we love. Our elevated appreciation of the little things in life will make 2021 one of the most memorable years of our lives.

We all thought that 2020 was going to be this amazing year of clarity and grandeur but instead were faced with countless adversities that led to clouded vision and fear of the unknown. However, it is also the exact reason that coming out of 2020 we have a clearer vision and clearer perspective of our lives. We know which areas of our world need extra attention and what things we need to distance ourselves from. 2021 is offering us a fresh opportunity to mend broken relationships, make wiser decisions, and demonstrate the power of love to others now that we realize we were and never will be fully in control. We should not expect perfection from 2021, but expect ourselves to make the most out of this year.

Author: Katarina Quintana|Opinions Editor

A Movie to Touch the Soul

Disney Plus new release: “Soul”

On December 25, 2020, Disney Plus released “Soul,” which follows a middle school jazz teacher named Joe and an annoying soul named 22. Joe has a near death experience that helps him appreciate the family he would have left behind and the friends he has never really gotten to know. Along the way, Joe befriends 22, a soul who has given up on having a life on Earth and feels that she has no purpose in life. At first  the two only seem to antagonize each other, but in the end they benefit from each other in their respective aspects of life. Joe gains  more appreciation for life in general, and learns  to both communicate his feelings towards loved ones and ask questions of others. Twenty-two, on the other hand, learns that it’s never too late to be excited for new things to come. Rather than being negative all the time, she opens up and starts to become happy for others. 

Critical reception has been overwhelmingly positive. Times of India says “Soul’ is another landmark film from Disney Pixar, likely to sweep next year’s animated film awards.” The New York Times offers even greater praise, saying that “‘Soul” is integral to its argument about how beauty is created, sustained and appreciated — and to its grounding of a specifically Black experience in New York.” 

Not all reviews have been so glowing, however. Rotten Tomatoes criticized the film, stating: “While it deals with grown-up topics such as the meaning of life, it tip-toes around the idea of mortality, choosing instead to put forward a candy-coloured cosmology that often suffocates its deeper questions under layers of whimsy.” 

As many people have faced hardship as they’ve been forced to stay at home the past year, it seems that, at some point, many of us lost focus on our true meaning or purpose. Fortunately, this movie has managed to captivate the hearts of many, allowing them to see that they are not alone in your situation. When you least expect it, someone can come around and make you want to keep on living and fighting for your dreams. “Soul” will have you reflect on yourself and your purpose in life.Get your popcorn and family,and get ready for Joe and 22’s adventure.  

Darling, C. (2020, December 23). Review: Pixar’s sublime ‘Soul’ one of the year’s best films. Retrieved January 16, 2021, from https://preview.houstonchronicle.com/movies-tv/review-sublime-soul-one-of-the-year-s-15817432

Author: Brianna Garcia|Staff Writer

Author: Nikki Campos|Editor in Chief

Remembering Billie Jean

Honoring her legacy and everlasting impact

On December 23, 2020 it was discovered that Dr. Billie Jean Wiebe, Ph.D., associate professor of Communication and English and Director of the Communications program, had passed away. Her death has left a wave of heartbroken students, faculty and alumni behind. 

Born on December 27, 1951, she was named Billie Jean Utting. She was first associated with Fresno Pacific College as a student, graduating in 1974 with her B.A. in English and Communications. In the same year, Billie married her husband, Richard Wiebe, a philosophy professor at Fresno Pacific who also graduated from the same school in 1974. Billie continued her education and went on to earn various other degrees, including her M.A. from Northwestern University and a Ph.D. from Claremont Graduate University. 

After obtaining her Ph.D., Billie spent several years teaching at Immanuel High School, where she was best remembered for long silences and questions that challenged students to think in  new ways. In 1992, Billie officially returned to her alma mater and became a part of the Fresno Pacific faculty.

In 2005, Billie breathed more life into Fresno Pacific’s list of majors with the recreation of its Communications department; the college had dropped the major in 1982. She left her position as Head of the English Department and began diligently working at writing a curriculum for the program she had obtained her B.A. in. This would become her most enduring legacy. 

Eleanor Nickel, Professor, Director of the English Program and colleague of Billie’s, believes that without her there may not have been a new Communications department for many years.

“The Communication program was single-handed on Billie’s part; she didn’t have anyone doing that with her. She just… did it. The whole program came out of nothing—she wrote all of the curriculum and worked tirelessly to develop the program. Now it has grown to be the same size or bigger than the department it originally came out of [English],” Nickel said.

As the Communications program began to develop, Billie didn’t let the lack of production facilities on campus stop her from offering her students various class and emphasis options.

“She worked with CMAC [Community Media Access Collaborative] downtown and developed a partnership with them, where students would be able to do audio and video production classes there. She worked tirelessly to create this program, and the Communication program wouldn’t exist without her,” Nickel said.

Billie’s work stretched even further than the Communications program: she also had a hand in establishing this very publication, The Syrinx, as an academic extracurricular rather than a mere club. She brought the newspaper into an academic setting with the goal of introducing students to sophisticated journalism.

Adam Schrag, Ph.D,  former associate professor of Communications in Film and Media Studies, faculty advisor of The Syrinx and colleague of Billie’s, explained one of her biggest contributions to the paper was structuring it in a similar manner to the school’s athletics program(s).

“Billie always had a keen eye for how athletes got through universities and wanting there to be some parity with other activities. She wanted to make sure that you would get credits and that the scholarships are then tied to you taking those credits. Like, if you’re on the basketball team. She wanted to make sure The Syrinx had the same structure,” Schrag said

Schrag went on to explain how Billie was an advocate for The Syrinx, wanting students to be allowed an opportunity to speak with their authentic voices.

“Her love for The Syrinx connects in a large way to her profound respect for student voice. But also, the feeling she had that student voices are legitimate, and meaningful and ought to be heard. She always wanted there to be a corner where there was the possibility for authentic student voice. Her legacy with The Syrinx is in really valuing student voice on a profound level, and wanting to make sure that there was a meaningful academic, but also just a student-led space on campus where students could be in charge of what they said and the stories they wanted to tell,” Schrag said. 

For some students, she was a personal advocate. Billie inspired those in her classroom to both find their voices and use them. Many of these students have gone on to write for The Syrinx itself, using everything she taught them about the power their voice has. In many ways, her influence has come full circle.

Two previous Editor-In-Chiefs of The Syrinx and now-alumni, Abigail Brown, Bachelor of Arts in English ‘20, and Leo Loera, Bachelor of Arts in communication ‘18, speak to how Billie inspired them both as students and as staff members of The Syrinx.

“Billie taught me how to use my voice, but also how to use my silence. There is so much to be gained from using your voice, but also listening to others. She instilled personal advocacy within us as students, which creates advocacy for the communities around us,” Brown said.

Billie taught her students how to be their most authentic selves, and is in fact remembered by many for her attentive listening skills that allowed them an opportunity to tell their respective stories. At other times, her students were forced to revel in the silence, trying to find an answer to her hard-hitting questions. This was another part of what allowed students to own their truth in her classroom.

“Thanks to Billie, I was able to create several programs and projects based off of my identity and truth. I was encouraged bravely through her safe space that she cultivated with her students to express myself without fear and without worry of judgement. She had a knack for tapping into her students as a way to invite them in, to step into their power,” Loera said.

Aside from serving as both a mentor and teacher for those in the Communication Program, Billie served as such to many other students in the Fresno Pacific community. Billie taught people lessons which shaped who they would grow to become. Former student Hailey Millhollen, Bachelor of Arts in communication ‘18,  reflects on how Billie taught her that each person’s story matters.

“She reminded me that my personal story mattered. Until someone tells you that your life, everything you do and the things that you say matter, it doesn’t mean as much. Now I want to know what each individual is thinking when I’m speaking with a group of people, because she taught me that we each have unique experiences and everyone deserves the opportunity to share those,” Millhollen said.

Billie’s teachings were more than a mere classroom curriculum: they were derived from who she was as a person. She strongly owned who she was and through this students were able to learn personal integrity, amongst various other life lessons. Karina Guzman, Bachelor of Arts in communication ‘14, reflected on what she has learned from Billie both in and out of the classroom.

“She taught me the power of storytelling and of being a critical thinker. She taught her students to be bold, not afraid to take up space in the world. Even during our times of misunderstanding one another, she taught me the importance of thinking and ownership. Billie taught me how to sit in the uncomfortable,” Guzman said.

For many students, Billie was a model feminist. She opened the eyes of her students in how she completely stepped into who she was as a woman. Rachel Barcelos, Bachelor of Arts in communication ‘14, traces her own feminism back to Billie. 

 “She completely embodied what it means to be a feminist. She has always willingly stepped into positions of leadership and never let herself be silenced. She knew she was entitled to speak, because she was a human being and it didn’t matter whether or not society told her it was her place or not her place—if she had something to say, she was going to say it,” Barcelos said.

For others, she was a friend. Billie’s blunt and honest nature empowered friends and students to do things they never imagined possible. Her continued words of encouragement are what pushed former student and friend, Katy Pacino, Bachelor of Arts in communication ‘13, to continue with her educational career.

“Billie gave me a lot of hope in myself. Being autistic, I never thought college or further education was possible. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be successful in college, but she made me believe in myself. She always made me believe that I could do more, and I wouldn’t be where I am career-wise without her,” Pacino said

As a friend, mentor and advisor, Billie wanted her charges to be successful, encouraging them to push the boundaries of their thoughts and strive to achieve their life goals. She continuously encouraged and supported her students in their dreams, never doubting that something was achievable for them. Former student Jorge Gutierrez-Marron, Bachelor of Arts in communication ‘17, reflected on this as well.

“Billie was a great listener who always gave me great advice. In 2016 I went to Los Angeles for a semester, for a film program, and I wasn’t going to do it, but she encouraged me to go and try something new. She made all of my dreams sound possible, and pushed me to follow those dreams. Everything she told me was worth it and I will never forget that conversation or experience,” Gutierrez-Marron said.

While future Sunbirds may never know the force that was Billie Jean, those still working towards their degree cherish beyond measure the time they spent getting to know and learning from her. Gillian Lehman, a junior double-majoring in Liberal Studies and Spanish, speaks of how Billie has influenced the type of teacher she wants to become one day.

“When you spoke with her you truly felt heard and supported. It was clear she was a strong advocate for her students. To see her passion for her students and people in general influenced me. She inspired me to be an advocate for my future students and others, as well as being intentional with all conversations,” Lehman said.

Billie’s legacy will live forever through both the Fresno Pacific community and her students who will one day leave it, as she helped teach them how to engage positively with the world and other people. Billie taught them how to maintain their dignity, while still listening to and understanding others. No matter the career path her students decide to take, whether a job in marketing or one day returning to Fresno Pacific as she did, her legacy of preparing many generations to change other people’s lives continues on.

Everyone has had unique experiences and relationships with Billie, but her memory still remains in the many generations of her students. Billie was dearly loved by this community and she will be deeply missed by those left behind. As we mourn the loss of someone that so many of us cherished, we wish everyone the fullness and comfort of peace in this new and unexpected hardship.

Author: Shyanne Mortimer | A&E Co-Editor

Photos remembering Billie Jean

Photo Credit: Fresno Pacific University Archives Photograph Collection

Billie Jean (back right) attending the ribbon-cutting dedication at Wiebe Education Center, Jan. 14, 1990. She is seen standing behind Pacific College President Richard Kriegbaum, who is cutting the ribbon.

Photo Credit: Fresno Pacific University Archives Photograph Collection

Photo Credit: Fresno Pacific University Archives Photograph Collection

Photo contributed by: Katy Pacino                                                                                               Billie with alumni Katy Pacino at the Academic Achievement Awards Dinner in 2013.

Photo Contributed by: University Marketing & Communications

Bille with alumni and former Editor-In-Chief Leo Loera before the class of 2018’s graduation ceremony, which took place at the Selland Arena.

Photo contributed by: Leo Loera

Adam Schrag and Billie Jean in front of the Bellagio fountains on November 21, 2015. They were in Las Vegas attending the National Communication Association convention. 

Photo contributed by: Adam Schrag

 Billie Jean Wiebe. Chris Janzen, digital sketch, 2015.

Alumni Jorge Gutierrez-Marron (middle), along with Billie Jean Wiebe (left) and Adam Schrag (right) at the Selland Arena. This photo was taken after the graduation ceremony for the class of 2017.

Photo contributed by: Jorge Gutierrez-Marron

Billie Jean at the Humanities Division Retreat in August, 2017 at Nathan Carson’s home  alongside her fellow faculty members. In the back row (from left to right) Francisco Del Canto Viterale, Manuela Gabriel, Eleanor Nickel, Ph.D., Billie Jean Wiebe, Ph.D., and Daniel Larson, Ph.D.. In the front row (left to right) Nathan Carson, Ph.D., Sandie Woods, Fran Friesen, Graciela Perez, and Adam Schrag, Ph.D.

Photo contributed by: Eleanor Nickel

In a series of interviews people were asked what 4 words describe Billie Jean; their words are below.

Author: Shyanne Mortimer | A&E Co-Editor