St. Olaf researchers map the historical sounds of a city

St. Olaf College - Thu, 07/30/2015 - 2:40pm

St. Olaf researchers (from left) Katharina Biermann ’17, Natalie Kopp ’16, Assistant Professor of Music Louis Epstein, Breanna Olson ’16, and Philip Claussen ’16 are using mapping technology to bring music history to life.

What if a map could not only help us visualize what Paris looked like nearly a century ago, but help us hear the sounds of the city, too?

A team of St. Olaf College researchers, led by Assistant Professor of Music Louis Epstein, is using mapping technology to create a multi-sensory, interactive tool to illustrate the musical geography of 1920s Paris in ways that a book, recording, or paper map could not do alone.

“We want viewers to experience Paris in 1924 — to see physically where concerts were held, listen to a concert program, follow paths historical figures might have taken,” says Natalie Kopp ’16, one of the student researchers working on the project.

The project is part of both the Digital Humanities on the Hill initiative and the college’s Collaborative Undergraduate Research and Inquiry (CURI) program.

Using this type of technology to bring music history to life has only rarely been done before, Epstein says.

“Most historians and scholars use static, paper-based maps that tend to show things such as political, geographical, or topographical context for music history, but these maps tend to be silent and difficult to relate to how music sounds,” Epstein says.

A tool to see and listen
A historical musicologist whose research focuses on the intersections between music, patronage, and politics in France during the 19th and 20th centuries, Epstein earned a B.A. in music from Princeton University and a Ph.D. in music from Harvard University.

For this project, he chose 1924 Paris because of the city’s status as the capital of the music world in the early 20th century, particularly in the post–World War I years. Paris also hosted the 1924 Summer Olympics, an event that drew visitors from around the world to the already vibrant city and encouraged musicians to perform for a wider audience.

This map — one of several on the research team’s public website — visualizes the locations of various musical venues around the city of Paris in 1924, with each category of venue represented by a different layer.

Using mapping platforms like Google Maps and ArcGIS as well as previously non-digitized, historical maps of Paris, Epstein and the student researchers are creating a public website that enables users to see and interact with several different aspects of the city’s musical geography.

One map represents the various performance venues where music was performed — concert halls, theaters, café-concerts, public parks, private salons, etc. Another map offers a way to explore the locations and programs of dozens of performances of a single composer’s works over the course of one year. Yet another map makes it possible to hear the concert programs performed across the city on a specific date. Altogether, there are currently ten maps with which users can interact, with more on the way.

Through a few clicks of the mouse, users can see and hear the music that was performed in a particular venue, on a specific date, nearly 100 years ago.

Adding narratives
Site users can also get a glimpse into the life of a 1924 Parisian through The Unsuspecting Tour Guide, a set of short stories written by student researcher Katharina Biermann ’17.

Using historical data, Biermann recreates the atmosphere of 1924 Paris through a set of fictional first-person narratives.

“I try to present as accurate as possible an image of what it was like to be in Paris in 1924,” she says. “This is especially important in pedagogical terms, because not all students glean equally from images of graphs and statistical analysis. Stories, though, are so distinctly human that they will reveal what graphs and charts cannot.”

Biermann’s short stories are an important part of the project’s larger goal of making music history more accessible to more people.

“Rather than looking at these data to create a thesis or make a comparison, we’ve been trying to piece together enough facts to form a sort of narrative or story — ultimately to recreate a world,” Kopp says. “I hope our project inspires others to create data-narratives as well.”

Why music on a map matters
Epstein says this project provides an opportunity to open music history scholarship to a much wider audience.

“They won’t get the most sophisticated insights through a map, but what they will get is an experience of what it was like to be in a place at a certain time. They can also better understand the context for any kind of music being performed, since most scholarship focuses on art music rather than popular music and the sounds in the street,” he says.

Student researcher Philip Claussen ’16 says while scholars have made interactive academic maps in the past, it hasn’t been done in the field of music history, and certainly not with the kind of scope this project has.

“We are ultimately bringing the musical culture of 1924 Paris back to life in the 21st century, and in a format easily accessible to 21st-century scholars, students, and amateurs alike,” he says.

Epstein hopes this project is a stepping stone for similar — and even larger — projects in the future. And the team agrees that they would like to see other scholars bring their work to life in this way.

“I hope that more academics will consider adding visual elements to their research in order to facilitate the depth of comprehension of that data they are presenting,” student researcher Breanna Olson ‘16 says. “Frankly, an interactive map is a much cooler way to learn than a huge textbook.”

Categories: Colleges

Student connects audiences to art through Boston museum internship

St. Olaf College - Thu, 07/30/2015 - 1:58pm

St. Olaf student Taylor Davis ’16 outside Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, where she is interning this summer.

Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, home to one of the most comprehensive collections in the world, welcomes more than a million visitors each year.

And this summer St. Olaf College student Taylor Davis ’16 is working to ensure that those visitors get the most out of their experience.

As part of her internship at the MFA, which is supported with a grant from the St. Olaf Piper Center for Vocation and Career, Davis is helping facilitate the museum’s various educational programs. This includes special museum tours for toddlers, art-making activities for children and their families, and drawing in the museum galleries for adults.

“Helping run these programs has given me valuable insight into the behind-the-scenes work of museum programming, and has allowed me to observe how diverse audiences interact with and respond to the collections of the MFA,” Davis says.

The MFA’s encyclopedic collection includes nearly 450,000 works of art, ranging from ancient Egyptian artifacts and French impressionist paintings to the largest and finest collection of Japanese art outside Japan.

Beyond educating children and guiding visitors, Davis is also working with the museum’s Head of Gallery Learning, Brooke DiGiovanni Evans, to create an Art Connections Card for MFA’s younger visitors. Art Connection Cards are self-guided activity sheets that children and their families can pick up at the museum to help guide their visit.

“The theme of my Art Connections Card will be bugs. I’ll be guiding children on a hunt for bugs depicted in artworks from several different cultures, including an ancient Egyptian heart scarab and a tiny gold beetle on a 17th-century German automaton,” Davis says.

The world of fine art is an essential part of this Tallapoosa, Georgia, native’s life. An art history major at St. Olaf, Davis will be conducting independent research about “Art and Feminisms” this fall.

Her passion for working at an institution like the MFA has grown as she has learned more about museum education, a branch of museum operations that she believes is one of the core functions of all museums.

Davis says she is constantly inspired by both the people with whom she works and by the artworks and exhibits she is able to experience at the MFA. This inspiration has, in turn, enhanced her interactions with the museum’s diverse visitors.

“Undoubtedly, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that I absolutely love museums,” Davis says. “I knew I loved them as a visitor. But the opportunity to work at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston has shown me that I love being part of what makes it all work even more.”

Categories: Colleges

Knights Earn NABC Academic Excellence Award, Eckert, England Named to Honors Court

Carleton Sports - Thu, 07/30/2015 - 1:10pm

The Carleton College men's basketball team earned the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Team Academic Excellence Award after posting a cumulative GPA of 3.25 for the 2014-15 academic year. In addition to the team accolade, juniors John Eckert and Patrick England were named to the NABC Honors Court, which recognizes men's collegiate basketball student-athletes who excelled in academics during the past season.

Categories: Colleges

St. Olaf names Ryan Bowles as athletic director

St. Olaf College - Thu, 07/30/2015 - 11:36am

St. Olaf President David R. Anderson ’74 has announced the appointment of Ryan Bowles as the college’s athletic director.

Bowles, who is currently the associate athletic director for administration at the University of Maryland, will join St. Olaf on September 1.

Bowles has an extensive background in college athletics, both as a student athlete and administrator.

In his current position at the University of Maryland, where he has been a member of the athletic department staff since 2003, he oversees 11 varsity sports and serves on the department’s leadership team. He is also the liaison to the Athletics Council, a group of faculty, staff, and students that advise the President’s Office on matters regarding intercollegiate athletics at Maryland.

Bowles also oversaw Maryland’s transition last year from the Atlantic Coast Conference to the Big Ten, and he currently serves on the Big Ten’s Sports Management Council.

In his prior roles at Maryland, Bowles directed the NCAA and conference championship events hosted by the university. He also played a leadership role in the development and rollout of a five-year strategic plan for athletics at Maryland.

Bowles began his intercollegiate athletics career as the Asa S. Bushnell Intern for Championships at the Eastern College Athletic Conference in Massachusetts. There he was also involved in event management and was the liaison for a number of championship committees.

He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from McDaniel College, where he was a four-time letterwinner for the men’s soccer team.

“St. Olaf is committed to achieving excellence in everything we do, including athletics,” Anderson says. “Ryan’s passion for Division III athletics, born of his experience as a student-athlete at a respected liberal arts college, combined with his demonstrated leadership in an excellent Division I program, equip him well to lead the athletics program at St. Olaf. We look forward to his arrival on campus.”

St. Olaf sponsors 27 varsity sports, more than any other school in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC), and competes at the NCAA Division III level.

As athletic director, Bowles will be responsible for maintaining and enhancing the integrity and competitiveness of the intercollegiate athletics program at St. Olaf, including recruiting and retaining an exceptional coaching staff and promoting the success and physical well-being of the college’s student-athletes.

“St. Olaf has an outstanding tradition of academics and athletics, and the college’s values match my own,” Bowles says. “I look forward to serving the St. Olaf family as we continue the tradition of graduating student-athletes, developing leaders in life, and competing for MIAC and national championships.”

Categories: Colleges

Student group nurtures alternative music scene on campus

St. Olaf College - Mon, 07/27/2015 - 3:15pm

St. Olaf students (from left) John Kronlokken ’16, Christian Wheeler ’16, and Colin Loynachan ’16 are the organizers of DNNR PRTY, a student-run record label that has helped cultivate an alternative music scene on campus.

Many people know that St. Olaf College has a renowned music program, with choral and instrumental ensembles that tour internationally. What most don’t know is that for the past two years a new project named DNNR PRTY has started to shape and cultivate an alternative music scene on campus.

DNNR PRTY is a student-run record label that encourages musicians to share and work on original music. The group has successfully recorded, mastered, and released 23 songs from 19 different student music groups and individuals.

Started by Horacio Lopez ’14, DNNR PRTY is focused on cultivating a campus band and singer/songwriter base unlike the traditional ensembles St. Olaf is known for.

“We’re here for people who are dedicated to music beyond the classical realm,” says Colin Loynachan ’16, one of the organizers of DNNR PRTY.

The group’s goal is to cultivate an alternative music scene and provide students with the resources they need to work on their music.

“I think it has also become a place for established artists and upcoming artists alike,” says John Kronlokken ’16. “There is a network of support, and I think this is really important.”

DNNR PRTY is focused on cultivating a campus band and singer/songwriter base unlike the traditional ensembles St. Olaf is known for.

Since its founding, DNNR PRTY has released a 14-track record and a video session series.

First Feast, DNNR PRTY’s first project, is a compilation CD featuring campus bands and individual artists. For some, the recording provided an opportunity to share their work for the first time. For others, it was a chance to explore a new music genre.

Fox example, Michael Betz ’15, a member of the St. Olaf Orchestra and St. Olaf Band, was well known on campus for his classical music compositions. DNNR PRTY gave him an opportunity to showcase a different side of his composing.

“There were a lot of people who hadn’t heard Michael Betz’s electronic stuff,” says Christian Wheeler ’16. “A lot of people freaked out at the 8-bit vibe.”

This year’s DNNR PRTY project focused on recording live sessions. This meant a smaller group of campus artists, but still a strong compilation of the talent St. Olaf has to offer.

The response to the project has been overwhelmingly positive. Support from the St. Olaf Music Department, Broadcast Services, the Admissions Office, and other student organizations — like the Music Entertainment Committee and KSTO Radio Station — have helped integrate DNNR PRTY into campus life, and the group’s Facebook page is well-supported by students.

Last year 89.3 The Current highlighted DNNR PRTY in a piece showcasing the strong campus band scene at St. Olaf.

The college’s Admissions Office recently sent out the Oles Rock CD, which features four songs recorded by DNNR PRTY, to approximately 1,500 prospective students.

In addition to its recording projects, DNNR PRTY  has hosted songwriting workshops and collaborated on events with MEC and KSTO.

This fall, for example, Minneapolis-based singer/songwriter Jeremy Messersmith was on campus leading a songwriting workshop where students brought questions and their music. During the spring semester, Chris Koza ’01 hosted a similar workshop and performed.

And DNNR PRTY isn’t just for musicians, but also those who play a behind-the-scenes role in music-making. Last year this involved a lot of filming and video editing for the “Live in Studio A” music videos. The whole video compilation is available online on the DNNR PRTY website and on the group’s Youtube channel.

“It’s also an experience for us,” says Kronlokken. “I want to do this as a job for the rest of my life, so this is a great and unique way for me to gain experience in a nontraditional way.”

Categories: Colleges

Norwegian professor talks to Chicago Public Radio about country’s police

St. Olaf College - Wed, 07/22/2015 - 11:08am

Professor of Norwegian Margaret Hayford O’Leary spoke to Chicago Public Radio from Norway, where she is teaching a course on Norwegian life and society.

St. Olaf College Professor of Norwegian Margaret Hayford O’Leary recently spoke to Chicago Public Radio about new data on how Norwegian police use guns.

A report released by the Norwegian government shows that in 2014 the country’s police threatened to use their weapons 42 times, but only two shots were actually fired during the entire year. Nobody was killed or wounded in either incident.

Speaking to WBEZ’s Worldview program from Norway, where she is teaching at the Oslo International Summer School, O’Leary noted that only in recent months have Norwegian police even been allowed to carry guns while on patrol — a change that has been controversial.

“It just hasn’t been a tradition here in Norway,” O’Leary says. “There’s a high level of trust of police officers in this country, and I think many people feel that if they start carrying weapons, there would be more of a nervousness and a fear that something accidental would happen, that somebody would get hurt.”

O’Leary, the author of Culture and Customs of Norway, has taught at St. Olaf since 1977. She is currently teaching a course on Norwegian life and society at the Oslo International Summer School, a program that has had strong ties to St. Olaf for more than 65 years.

Categories: Colleges

English professor’s book examines women who hold political power

St. Olaf College - Tue, 07/21/2015 - 8:59am

In her new book, St. Olaf College Assistant Professor of English Rebecca Richards examines the rhetoric surrounding women from around the globe in national political leadership.

The book, titled Transnational Feminist Rhetorics and Gendered Leadership in Global Politics: From Daughters of Destiny to Iron Ladies, closely examines different women who have held political power, some for the first time in their country, and how gender expectations have affected their leadership.

“Rhetoric is the study of how meaning is made, and gender is one of the primary ways in which people make meaning of their lives — making gender inherently rhetorical. Rhetorical studies slows down this interpretive process and analyzes how gender is performed and understood in a social context,” says Richards.

In her book, Richards analyzes four rhetorical situations — autobiographies, organization, biographical films, and media representations — in order to conclude that when people think of political women, they invoke the discourse of women world leaders, which limits the potential for women to be world leaders.

“One of my arguments is that we often think of the same few women when we think about women as heads of state — Margaret Thatcher, Benazir Bhutto, and Golda Meir, just to name a few,” Richards says. “I wanted to make sure that I accounted for the variety of women and their politics. Still, as a book it cannot account for everything and everyone, so there are figures that still go under-explored in my book. That gap was hard for me to wrestle with because it is the same gap that I critique in my book.”

Although Richards did not plan on the book commenting on Hillary Clinton and the upcoming election, as it was written after the 2008 election and before Clinton announced her plans to run for president in 2016, the epilogue points out that gendered frameworks are still deeply ingrained in U.S. politics and media, and that Clinton’s campaign doesn’t point to any radical political agenda or proof of gender equality.

Richards has presented her work at conferences, resulting in people wanting to share their own experiences with political figures. Since many of the women Richards wrote about came from smaller nations, it is not unusual for the people she meets at conferences to have had a personal encounter with these political figures.

“Their stories kept me focused on the fact that these political women were and are real people who have friends and loved ones, who have awkward moments, dreams, and anxieties. Even if they become powerful cultural icons, they are still flesh and blood,” Richards says. “This is important to remember when writing about other people’s lives.”

This isn’t the first time Richards has written on the topic. An essay of hers was featured in Political Women: Language and Leadership, an anthology examining women and political rhetoric. Another essay, titled “Who Runs the World?: Hillary Clinton and the Use of Pop Feminism as Rhetorical Strategy,” will be published this fall in an anthology titled Hillary Rodham Clinton and the 2016 Election: Her Political and Social Discourse.

Richards hopes that readers of her new book will not only learn about women who have held political power, but also become critical of political leadership.

“I hope that readers challenge the notion that leadership is a masculine trait or position,” she says. “We need broader, more inclusive understandings of what it means to lead so that we don’t keep associating national leadership only with military power, aggressive violence, and disembodiment. As long as we hitch leadership to such limiting notions of masculinity, we cannot expect even the most ethical political woman to change the geopolitical system to be more peaceful, egalitarian, and humane. Electing a woman to executive leadership doesn’t inherently change the system.”

Categories: Colleges

Sakamoto, Wang plan to join Knights for 2015-16

Carleton Sports - Mon, 07/13/2015 - 4:41pm

The Carleton College women’s golf team has announced its two newest members, as Ayumi Sakamoto and Ziyi Wang have been admitted to the College and plan to participate in women’s golf.

Categories: Colleges

Researchers examine the importance of emotional development

St. Olaf College - Thu, 07/09/2015 - 4:12pm

Associate Professor of Psychology Grace Cho (right) and student researchers Joy Smith ’17 (center) and Anna Johnson ’16 review some of their findings on the way emotions are socialized and expressed in families with young children.

Think back to a moment in your childhood that is particularly tinged with emotion — the anxiety of getting on the bus by yourself for the first time, for example, or the fear of moving to a new town and the sadness of leaving your friends behind.

How did your parents help you? Did they provide comfort? Did they talk about the experience with you? Did they validate your feelings and help you to express them effectively? Or did they minimize the experience and leave you to figure things out on your own?

And who was there for you to help you with your emotions? Your mother? Father? Both?

St. Olaf College Associate Professor of Psychology Grace Cho and two students are spending the summer analyzing this particular part of family life in an attempt to provide more insight into children’s emotional development.

The project, part of the college’s Collaborative Undergraduate Research and Inquiry (CURI) program, examines the way emotions are socialized and expressed in families with young children.

The research team is analyzing parents’ beliefs about emotions and their interactions with children, particularly how elaborative parents are when talking to children about their emotional experiences. The team is also looking at the role of sociocultural factors (e.g., parent and child gender) in the patterns of emotion socialization.

“In the broad psychological literature, there is a lot of attention focused on children’s cognitive and literacy development. The way children become emotionally literate has often been neglected, but it is equally important,” Cho says.

Indeed, research finds that early emotional competencies are linked with greater well-being and positive outcomes later in life.

Cho notes that when developing good socioemotional skills and emotional maturity are sacrificed in pursuit of cognitive and academic excellence, there may be negative consequences. Some researchers have proposed that this trend, for example, may lead contemporary students to have higher levels of anxiety and depression.

The importance of emotional development
Cho says the preschool years are vital for emotional socialization, as this is the time when a child’s awareness of the complexities of emotions really burgeons. The socioemotional skills children learn during this period of time, including how they understand, regulate, and express their emotions, can help them to develop into emotionally competent and healthy beings.

Joy Smith ’17, one of the students working with Cho this summer, says this research is relevant to parents as much as to psychologists, since they are the primary influence on their children during their early years of growth.

L-R) Joy Smith ’17, Associate Professor of Psychology Grace Cho, and Anna Johnson ’16: “Children who understand and express emotions more easily have better empathetic and social skills, which can help to build relationships,” Johnson says. “They even do better academically.”

“Everyone expresses emotion, and emotion is a key part of our everyday lives and interactions with people. Studying how children and their parents communicate about emotion can give us better insight into how children learn and develop emotions,” she says. “How they talk about emotions with their child can have implications for their child’s emotional competence, social skills, and relationships.”

Anna Johnson ’16, the other student researcher, says the project has taught her a lot about the methodology involved in developmental psychology research, along with how vital it is for children to learn to express their emotions.

“Children who understand and express emotions more easily have better empathetic and social skills, which can help to build relationships. They even do better academically. Even before children enter school, they are taught which emotions are appropriate to express and how they should express them,” Johnson says. “If children aren’t able to understand and express emotions, it can affect a lot of different areas of their lives. They are likely to have lower-quality relationships and it can even contribute to disorders such as depression.”

Looking at it from different lenses
Cho earned her Ph.D. and M.A. in developmental psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She teaches courses in child and human development, diverse families, and research methods at St. Olaf.

Her research is located in the intersections of developmental and cultural psychology and family studies. She is concerned with better understanding and enhancing children’s socioemotional development and examines them within the contexts of the family and the broader culture. What is the role of parental beliefs and practices, and how do parents nurture and shape their children’s emotional selves?

Cho also considers how cultural values and norms influence parent-child interaction. Toward this end, she is collaborating with her counterparts at the Catholic University of Korea to examine whether Korean parents express emotions with their children similarly or differently than American parents.

Cho asserts that gender may also affect emotional socialization. There is an assumption in the larger culture that mothers — and women in general — are more emotional and have the ability to express their emotions more freely. This may affect the ways in which mothers and fathers talk about emotions with their daughters and sons.

There is also a cultural assumption that mothers may be more influential to children’s development than fathers, which has led fathers to be understudied historically in the field. However, Cho argues that fathers are as essential in the emotional development and upbringing of a child as mothers. She added that it is important for research studies to give equal attention to fathers and mothers since there are things that fathers may do differently than mothers.

The pathway to emotional competence
Cho hopes that her research will prompt a shift toward a more balanced and holistic approach to child development.

“We should not be only concerned with how quickly children are learning to read, or how well they solve math problems, but we should also be concerned about their emotional well-being too,” she says.

She hopes her research can bring serious consideration into the ways caregivers and educators can better nurture their children’s emotional skills, helping them to effectively manage and express their feelings as they grow. “Caregivers can help children in their path towards emotional competence by providing them with ample opportunities to discuss the variety of emotions they may experience in their everyday lives, by elaborating on the emotions and utilizing rich emotion language while doing so,” Cho says.

“Children benefit when they have developed adaptive strategies and appropriate vocabulary to express their emotions.”

Categories: Colleges

A summer internship that brings artificial intelligence to (campus) life

St. Olaf College - Wed, 07/08/2015 - 10:35am

St. Olaf College student Mary McManis ’17 (front row, second from left) and other IBM interns pose with one of the company’s robots (center) and Watson (behind them).

From winning Jeopardy to becoming a cancer specialist, IBM’s Watson has already made a name for itself.

The artificial intelligence computer system, which processes information more like a human than a computer, has taken on roles that usually requires the work of hundreds, if not thousands, of people.

And this summer one of the people working with Watson is St. Olaf College student Mary McManis ’17. As part of her internship at the IBM research lab in Austin, Texas, she is “teaching” Watson about the intricacies and inner workings of the higher education system.

The whole purpose, McManis says, is to create a Watson platform that can improve the student experience by answering questions a student might have about a school, its campus services, campus life, etc. And this is not the same as searching with Google or Yahoo.

“Where search engines provide you with sources that probably have what you are looking for and require a lot of reading to find your answer, Watson provides answers directly in a user-friendly, conversational format,” McManis says.

Bringing that conversational ability to Watson is where McManis plays a significant role. She is working in the Watson Engagement Advisor, a software that has an in-depth understanding of context and dialogue. This system automates customer interaction by answering questions in natural language with informed and evidence-based reasoning.

McManis is currently starting to develop Watson’s comprehension of the higher education system. This is done through a process where she and the other interns gather questions a person might ask in a normal conversation. Then they establish a set of knowledge — or answers — that Watson would read, interpret, and use to create hypotheses. Watson then scores its confidence on each hypothesis before providing a conversational response that was configured by McManis and the other interns.

And Watson is not a system that is still in the testing stage.

“For starters, Watson is in the kitchen, health care, medicine, banks, and robots. Higher education is another great avenue. Hopefully we can keep making cognitive computing more accessible because this is a technology that can really make a difference in our world,” says McManis, who is majoring in English with a management studies concentration.

Coming from a family of engineers and growing up in Silicon Valley — home to many of the world’s largest high-tech corporations — has given McManis a deep appreciation for technology. She’s put that passion, together with the communication and teamwork skills she’s honed in her management studies classes at St. Olaf, to good use in what she calls a “once-in-a-lifetime” internship experience.

“I only just finished my third week, but it has been a great experience and I am meeting a lot of new people in all parts of IBM,” McManis says.

Categories: Colleges

Clear app censors social media history

Manitou Messenger - Sun, 05/17/2015 - 9:44pm

We have all been warned of the dangers of social media. In every conversation regarding blogging, tweeting or posting, one warning is consistently restated: once you put something on the Internet, the rest of the world is able to see it forever. In today’s world of technology, employers, potential romantic partners and even grandparents prowl social media, hoping to learn more about the lives of those they search. What you post is a crucial factor in determining how you are seen as a person.

But, we have all had our moments. We have all written a post that others were not very fond of. I admittedly have tweeted references to people that are less than flattering. Yes, you can manually delete posts, but what about the long-lost posts that people may accidently stumble upon that put you in a horrible light? Well, there’s an app for that now.

Clear is an in-the-works iOS app that flags old Twitter, Facebook and Instagram posts that could be considered offensive and will, upon request, delete them from your feed. According to Techcrunch, the app prowls your feeds not just for blatantly offensive posts containing, for example, profanities and racial slurs, but also for “warning signs like references to racial groups or sexual orientation.”  The app can even analyze the general sentiment of past posts.

The creator of the app, Ethan Czahor, wanted to help others avoid the consequences of social media that he himself was unable to navigate. But how effective is the app?  For one, it could be a useful device in helping social media users choose less offensive words. This could enforce better social media habits, and make people aware of what they post and its effects.  Another great feature is that Clear does the work of revisiting old posts for you, which saves time if, for example, you have a job interview and want to clear your profile quickly.

The app holds people accountable for their posts by showing any faults and allowing them to decide whether or not to post, but there are some issues. For one, if someone decides to screenshot your post or photo, the app cannot erase that from the device afterwards.

Another misconception is that this new app will “clean up” social media. In theory, it could. However, those who use their social media as an outlet for airing grievances may not be willing to get the app. No one likes being told that they need to clean out their posts. People who are aware of their derogatory posts are not likely to be the ones to purchase and use this app.

While this app will help hold people accountable for what they post, it may also make it too easy for some to censor their past. We should all have to accept our faults on social media. Clear just makes it so you don’t have to pay for them later.

Margaret Shaver ’17 ( is from Centennial, Colo. She majors in English and sociology/anthropology with a management concentration.

Categories: Colleges

Hillary’s fundraising comes under scrutiny

Manitou Messenger - Fri, 05/15/2015 - 9:37pm

At this year’s White House Correspondents Association Dinner, after President Obama’s remarks on Hillary Clinton’s efforts to gain funds for her 2016 Presidential Race, the president’s anger translator Luther, a character originated and played by comedian Keegan-Michael Key on the sketch show “Key and Peele,” had one thing to say: “She gonna get that money, she gonna get all the money… Khaleesi is coming to Westeros!”

Luther’s words summarized the controversy that has been brewing lately surrounding the source behind Clinton’s funding for the presidential campaign.

This controversy boiled to flash point just days before the association dinner, when HarperCollins announced their plans to publish Clinton Cash, a 186-page book investigating the donations made to the Clinton Foundation by foreign entities, written by author and political correspondent Peter Schweizer. Several news agencies, such as The New York Times, The Washington Post and Fox News, were given advanced copies of the book under the agreement that they will pursue in greater detail the stories covered within the pages. Following the announcement of Clinton Cash, a huge debacle began throughout the news media centered on whether or not the book revealed a black chapter of yet another Clinton or was just a normal part of the political conduct, blown out of proportion by Schweizer.

According to The New York Times and the news agencies that received the book in advance, there are various examples of Hillary working in cahoots with different organizations in exchange for massive donations. One such example touched on a free-trade agreement in Colombia that benefited a major foundation donor’s natural resource investments in the South American nation’s development projects in the aftermath of the 2010 Haitian earthquake. The book also detailed the more than one million dollars in payments to Ms. Clinton by a Canadian bank and major shareholder in the Keystone XL oil pipeline around the time the project was being debated in the State Department. 

But what does all this suggest? When we take a look across the aisle, money is still an incredibly important asset and resource for Republican campaigns. The Guardian pointed out the extensive ties Jeb Bush and the Bush family have to the energy industry, with former president George H.W. Bush having made his fortune in oil wildcatting. These same connections that funded former president George W. Bush’s personal failed energy companies now extend to Jeb Bush as well.  The New York Times also reported that Ted Cruz gained the financial backing of Robert Mercer, the co-CEO of hedge fund magnate, Renaissance Technologies. According to Politico, Rand Paul has turned to the billionaire venture capitalists of Silicon Valley, such as PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel and Napster’s billionaire co-founder Sean Parker, in his own attempts to garner campaign funds.

Gathering funding for a political race is not an action that is technically illegal, and has been done by politicians for years. Furthermore, as reported by Newsweek, Schweizer did not attempt to prove any laws were broken in Clinton Cash.  In fact, he practically begins the book by hedging his accusations: “I realize how shocking these allegations may appear. Are these activities illegal? That’s not for me to say. I’m not a lawyer.”

Will Clinton Cash cause some degree of backlash towards Clinton and her campaign?  Most likely, yes.  However, although the book is aimed at just the Clinton family, the information presented sheds light on the common practice employed by politicians, regardless of party, during campaigns: giving companies and donors what they need in return for funding. Because of its discussion on this practice, Clinton Cash is poised to become a hard-hitting investigative piece on the unsavory ways politicians receive money.  But as Taylor Wafforf wrote in Newsweek, “throwing up a bunch of dots and not connecting them isn’t great judgement either.”

As such, it will be up to the readers to choose whether to take the book as a surface level attack at the Clintons, or as a piece of solid investigative journalism.

Sam Pattinasarane ’18 ( is from Jakarta, Indonesia. He majors in political science and Asian studies.

Categories: Colleges

Music Dialogues Lecture

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 05/14/2015 - 9:53pm

The Musical Dialogues Conference, which is a collaboration between St. Olaf and Carleton colleges, aims to provide a forum for students to share original research and creative work. Multiple students from both schools presented their projects and papers regarding music and some of the deeper meanings behind music. Music faculty at the two colleges host the symposium with support from the Broadening the Bridge initiative. Broadening the Bridge launched last January as a result of collaboration between St. Olaf College President David Anderson and Carleton College President Steven Poskanzer. The initiative attempts to foster teamwork and communication between the two Northfield colleges.

University of Michigan Associate Professor of Musicology, American Culture and African American Studies Mark Clague delivered the keynote speech for the Musical Dialogues symposium on May 2 to St. Olaf and Carleton students and faculty gathered in Dittman Center.  His lecture, entitled “This Is America: Jimi Hendrix’s Reimaginings of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ at Woodstock and Beyond,” focused on intersections of  American culture and music, specifically how music symbolizes what it means to be a citizen and a nation.

Categories: Colleges

The Love Column

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 05/14/2015 - 9:52pm

When our parents bought their first mobile phones in the early aught’s, they were used exclusively for emergencies. Now we assume that our friend is having an emergency if they don’t respond to a text within fifteen minutes.

Most of us carry computers in our pockets that are more powerful than the machinery that was used to put people on the moon. Technology is changing and we’re changing with it.

Our cellphones have become extensions of ourselves. Most college students can’t go anywhere or do anything without their mobile device.

Though they enable us to have quick, reliable communication with people outside our immediate vicinity, cell phones negatively impact how we interact with those around us. Whether we’re texting, checking our Facebook or swiping on Tinder, cellphones consume our attention, even when we are engaged in a good personal conversation. It’s distracting and frustrating for a group dynamic when one or more people are so engrossed in texting that vibrating ringtones interrupt every other word.

It seems that we use cellphones as everything except as a phone. In terms of efficiency, this doesn’t make any sense. Mobile phones were created to improve our communication, but they have regressed it instead.

When we type text messages, we have to engage much of our focus. We use our eyes to watch the screen for typos, engage our thumbs to type and put our concentration on developing a succinct message.

We’re fooling ourselves if we think that we can still be present while doing all that. When the response comes, we again revert our attention away from our surroundings back to the screen in our palm. This back and forth can go on for ages. This takes time away from quality interactions with friends and family members, not to mention paying attention in class.

Why not call? It may seem old fashioned but it’s much quicker and more personal than texting. Telephones are remarkable; we have the ability to hear the voice and expression of friends that are miles away. Quality of conversation is also higher because you are completely focused on that conversation with the person on the other end the whole time.

By calling people, we can connect at a more human level without all the hassle and misunderstanding that plagues texting. We have all had those awkward experiences of someone interpreting a text message in a way that we did not intend.

We also don’t irritate the people around us by being distracted for long periods of time, like we do when we when we are texting (have you ever worked on a group project with one of those people? It’s the worst). A one minute call accomplishes the work of ten minutes of texting.

My challenge to you this summer is be conscious of how often you text. If you’re doing it to make plans or flirt, consider dropping a line instead so that you can showcase your personality.

Rather than just typing little quips, make plans to get together. Face-to-face interaction time is seriously declining among our generation, in both amount and quality.

Spend that time being present with the people you love rather than letting your phone distract you with what’s far away or coming next.

Are you an expert on all things romantic? Let everyone on campus benefit from your fabulous advice! Email for more information on becoming one of our love columnists for next year’s Manitou Messenger.

-the A&E Editors

Categories: Colleges

Olympia Snowe stresses importance of bipartisanship

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 05/14/2015 - 9:14pm

On Wednesday, April 29 the Political Awareness Committee invited former Republican senator Olympia Snowe to speak to the St. Olaf community. She served as one of Maine’s senators from 1995 to 2013. Snowe made history as the fourth woman in American politics to be elected to both houses of Congress and the first to serve in both houses of a state legislature. Snowe is known for her criticism of the extreme partisanship in Congress, as outlined in her 2013 book,  Fighting for Common Ground: How We Can Fix the Stalemate in Congress. Her speech, entitled “What’s Gone Wrong in Washington and Why it Doesn’t Have to Be This Way,”  addressed these problems and challenged students to rethink the paralyzing divide of modern-day Congress.

Snowe started her speech with a summary of her personal background. Both of her Greek immigrant parents died before she was nine. After this tragedy, she moved in with her aunt and uncle but continued to commute over an hour to school every day, occasionally getting stranded in Grand Central Station overnight and sleeping on benches. She has always considered herself “a minority of a minority of a minority,” as a female Greek-American from New York who moved to Maine.

On Snowe’s first day as a senator of Maine, Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole caught her looking around the chambers in awe. He said to her, “You are looking around wondering how you got here, but in six months you will be looking around wondering how everyone else got here.” She found out he was right.

“There are smart people in Congress, but there are fewer and fewer who are willing to reach across the aisle and act bipartisan,” Snowe said. She discovered that for many Congressmen, the first priority was working towards re-election instead of focusing on making productive changes during their current term. She expressed frustration that many politicians only care about the potential gain of political capital from each bill rather than the content of the bill itself and therefore sacrifice bipartisanship to please donors and constituencies.”

The 2013 and 2014 Congressional sessions were the least productive in modern history. The last time Congress was this ineffective was in 1805, when the government ran out of money after the Louisiana Purchase. This extreme gridlock is unacceptable to Snowe.

She maintained that when Congress fails to accomplish anything, the American citizens feel the lack of productivity and lose trust in the government. She cited that the recent presidential election had the lowest turnout of voters – 36 percent – since 1942 when America was at war.

“Americans feel powerless to affect the process,” Snowe said. “They don’t receive any benefit from participating in their democracy.”

In 2014, over half of the American public supported compromise across party lines. Snowe believes that now is the time to enact change.

She went on to detail many of her accomplishments during her years in Congress and how she personally tried to end partisanship and encourage compromise. Because of her work, she was named the 54th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes magazine in 2005 and one of the top 10 U.S. Senators by Time magazine in 2006.

In 2012, Snowe chose not to seek re-election to the Senate, but she has stayed committed to encouraging bipartisanship in Congress.

  “I did not leave the United States Senate because I no longer believed in its potential, but precisely because I do. I wanted to give voice to the millions of Americans who believe as I do that the Congress has gone awry,” Snowe said.

“After having two hyper-polarizing political leaders from either side of the aisle, Newt Gingrich last spring, and Rev. Al Sharpton in the fall, it was great for PAC to have someone that stresses bipartisanship,” said Grace Kane ’15, a previous College Republicans representative on PAC.

Snowe urged the audience to speak up about the importance of bipartisanship, saying that “silence is not golden. We have to demand cooperation, and the voices that demand cooperation have to be louder than the voices that demand polarization.”


Categories: Colleges

Professor critiques new genre

Manitou Messenger - Wed, 05/13/2015 - 9:19pm

Associate Professor of Sociology Ibtesam Al-Atiyat is currently working on a research paper analyzing “native informant” writings. A native informant is a person of a particular race, culture, ethnicity or religion that is perceived as an expert on said group due primarily to the fact that he or she belongs to it. Planned to be published in the academic journal Critical Sociology, Al-Atiyat’s research focuses on a new genre of native informant writings about Muslim women that has emerged in Western markets. This genre is generally written by Muslim women themselves, many of whom have fled to the West from oppression in their native countries. Their stories are retold as memoirs.

Despite the claim that the purpose of these stories is to expose the lives of women oppressed by extremist Islam and Islam-related cultures, many of the memoirs are written primarily for Western audiences in Western languages. In turn, the average Western reader consumes the story without sufficient context and understands it as a true representation of the entire Muslim world. Though there are differences within the stories, they depict the same stereotypical images of secluded, veiled and oppressed Muslim women.

“[Due to these stories]women in the Muslim world can only be explained by one variable: Islam,” Al-Atiyat said. “You eventually can’t look at the historical background, or colonialism, economy and politics. The only variable needed is Islam.”

Al-Atiyat also noted that writing about Islam and Muslim women has become a huge money-making industry in the West. Many native informants taking refuge in the West, particularly in the U.S., are now seeking and receiving fame and money for their stories.

“If you want to become famous and be interviewed at CNN and be a celebrity in the West, the one thing you can do is criticize Islam and show connections between Islam and terrorism. And this is how many of those women approach the discourse,” Al-Atiyat said.

The rise in popularity of these novels has generated problems. Al-Atiyat explains that since Muslim women are portrayed in a uniform and homogenized manner throughout the literature, the diversity of stories and conditions of women in the Muslim world is lost. Furthermore, this discourse presents the lives of Muslim women in an abrasive, gloomy and hopeless manner, as if every Muslim woman is suffering from brutal oppression under the patriarchy. However, many Muslim women, including Al-Atiyat herself, serve as counterexamples to this stereotype.

“I am a Muslim woman. I do not necessarily cover my head, not that I have anything against [that choice]. I hold a Ph.D. I am an independent woman. I have a career. My religion did not really limit my life choices,” Al-Atiyat said.

She argues that native informant memoirs generalize the lives of Muslim women by offering an individual face and story as representative of an entire culture. This serves as the catalyst for Al-Atiyat’s criticism.

To prevent oneself from being convinced by this way of understanding, according to Al-Atiyat, one must have critical perspectives that can help in distinguishing good literature from bad literature, or even good scholarship from bad scholarship.

“You have to subject every form of knowledge about women in the Middle East, and about women in Islam, through a thorough critique that should inform one’s criticism of this literature or scholarship,” Al-Atiyat said. In the end, however, the ultimate purpose of this research for Al-Atiyat is “to provide the reader with the critical framework on how to approach this genre of literature, and how to reflect on it critically without losing the sympathy with the human stories.”

Regarding how St. Olaf students should approach this genre, Al-Atiyat believes that the way in which one approaches the text is important.

“It depends on how you read and the purpose of your reading. If you’re reading [these stories] for entertainment purposes, then there is something wrong with you, reading about victimized women for entertainment. If your purpose is to learn about the lives of women, then you owe it to yourself and you owe it to those women to learn about their lives in a more complex, sophisticated and critical manner. And do not take a native informant’s story at face value. You have to critically think and reflect on it. The story might be true, but its representation might be wrong. What is happening to one woman does not necessarily mean that it’s happening to every woman.”

Categories: Colleges

St. Olaf Sentiments

Manitou Messenger - Wed, 05/13/2015 - 8:53pm


hen I was younger, at a sleepover, my parents would come to pick me up and I would beg for another hour because I felt like it hadn’t been long enough. Now, after a four year sleepover, it’s still not enough.

My dad used to say, when I was in the process of picking a college – and, eventually, when I chose St. Olaf for real – that I “drank the Kool-Aid.” 

The idea of college doesn’t become real until you have to hug your parents goodbye. Walking out of that gymnasium, trying to look brave, I found myself surrounded  by teary-eyed freshmen. There was a crying girl walking next to me. Being unequipped to handle this situation I looked for anyone to help me. I made eye contact with the boy on the other side of the crying girl. That boy from Wyoming turned into one of my best friends.

I didn’t hold back the tears. Actually, as soon as I moved to the Hill, I hardly ever held back the tears. I drank the Kool-Aid and surrendered myself to the wild emotional adventure that the next four years became. St. Olaf became the best thing that ever happened to me, simply because of the hundreds of thousands of everyday moments I’ve gotten to share with friends and classmates and teachers and all the people I’ve met along the way.

She didn’t hold back the tears. The first day on a Hoyme window seat – back when Hoyme still had window seats – on the second floor we didn’t hold back the tears. Later that day, in response to one of her questions, I told her, “if this friendship continues, I’ll tell you.” Little did I know.

He told me the next day. The friendship continued. I don’t even remember what I asked anymore. Probably something personal about an old girlfriend, or something like that. We met more friends, shared cookies that somebody’s mom sent along for move-in, watched Paranormal Activity 2 in a dorm room and marched down Ole Ave with a pack of other Hoyme babies to experience our first Jesse James Days.

It’s weird to think about. If, tomorrow, I packed up my things and moved to a new “St. Olaf,” and sat on a window seat with a complete stranger, what would I say about the last four years? I’ve been to class, I’ve done hours of homework, I’ve learned a lot (I hope) but the things that stick out, the things that are window seat worthy are the almost imperceptible moments. The Jesse James Days, the Pause pizza, the poop jokes and the people you’ve shared those moments with.

Do you remember the first snow at St. Olaf? We built a fire in the Hoyme lounge (back before they remodeled the building and made it bright and updated like some sort of hotel) and baked cookies and read books and nobody could stop smiling. 

That was one of those rare moments when I realized I was living through a lasting memory while it was happening.  Remember the first time we went sledding?  It’s funny that most of our memories involve snow. We took trays from the caf and made long sled chains, I tried snorting snow and we took too many pictures of us trying to look “cool.”

How about the time we spent a Saturday trying to film a St. Olaf themed version of The Breakfast Club? Or the night a whole bunch of us ran naked through the baseball fields when nobody else was around? We watched Lutefest die. We watched Cherry Berry open and then close. We went to probably at least 25 Pause dances – some super fun and some awful. We knew Hoyme when those window panes were red. We lived on campus before road signs and roundabouts arrived. We watched potstickers in the Caf take a leave of absence, and we happily welcomed their return. We elected civil servants, defeated some Minnesota amendments, attended demonstrations, started conversations about sexual assault and had open dialogues with one another. As Oles, we have grieved, celebrated and worshiped together.

Categories: Colleges

Is the Champions League losing its spark?

Manitou Messenger - Wed, 05/13/2015 - 8:50pm

The semi­finals of the UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) Champions League are upon us once again, with Juventus, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich proving to be the cream of the crop as the four remaining teams in the competition once again. However, many have argued that football’s greatest club competition is becoming increasingly stale and predictable, with the same rich clubs always progressing to the final rounds. Others have criticized the way in which teams have been drawn, often playing the same teams year after year in the group stages. Has the Champions League lost some of its luster, or is the it still captivating fans around the world.

There is certainly a great deal of evidence to suggest that the tournament has been dominated by a small number of teams in recent years. For example, Real Madrid has reached the semifinals in each of the last four years and Bayern Munich has missed the semifinals only once since the 2009­-2010 season. It is clear that this tournament is becoming more and more predictable as the years go by and it looks to remain that way for the future.

Additionally, the predictability of the group stage draw has not helped to heighten the excitement surrounding the tournament. Bayern Munich and Manchester City have played each other in the group stages for three of the past four seasons, as have Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund. Personally, I feel that a huge part of the excitement of the Champions League is watching teams that rarely play compete head to head. ­The repetition of certain fixtures is making the event increasingly dull.

The fact that a small selection of teams dominate the tournament each year is not surprising. It is representative of the way football is currently operating worldwide. The English Premier League is dominated by the “Big Four,” Real Madrid and Barcelona battle it out in La Liga each season and Bayern Munich runs away with the Bundesliga year after year. There are only a small number of elite sides in domestic competitions and this carries over to the Champions League. Most sides simply do not have the resources to compete for a league title around the world. A monopoly of money and talent has affected leagues in every country.

The Champions League is following the same trend. Last season, all eight group winners won their first knockout round. Many agree that this is extremely problematic to the tournament’s success because many teams find themselves unrepresented in late rounds.

“The aim for the Champions League has to be for every game to mean something but, at the moment, they do not,” former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher wrote in his D​aily Mail column two seasons ago. “Group stages have fizzled out and it has only been from the quarterfinals that the competition has come alive.”

The Champions League has a serious problem on its hands, and it needs to find a way to reinvent itself in the near future or risk becoming an obsolete tournament that will lose football fans around the globe.

Categories: Colleges

Selma’s legacy inspires introspection

Manitou Messenger - Tue, 05/12/2015 - 9:30pm

It was a cold spring morning as I pulled into Selma, Ala. I had been at a conference in Tuscaloosa and had decided to pay my respects before returning to Minnesota. The early hours ensured that only a handful of pilgrims were present. We walked around, detached from each other, and silently observed the sacredness of the place. Somberness pervaded the air and hung like a well-worn tapestry over our vigil. I had wanted to visit Selma to stand in solidarity and yet being there left me bewildered.

Fifty years ago, Selma was the scene of some of the most publicized violence of the Civil Rights Movement era.  As unarmed marchers walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, State Troopers and a posse of local men attacked. Amidst the haze of tear gas and screams of pain and fear, witnesses were privy policemen viciously beating marchers with billy clubs. Amelia Boynton Robinson, a local leader, was beaten unconscious. The image of her lying bloodied in the streets would shock the world and incite global outcry against Bloody Sunday.

Selma still bears witness to that bygone era. As I walked the streets, the dilapidated buildings and aging infrastructure clashed with the commemorative events that would occur throughout the weekend, celebrations honoring the triumph of the Civil Rights Movement. There was also the evidence of several anachronisms; the night before, the Ku Klux Klan had left pamphlets around town and the Edmund Pettus Bridge is still named for a Confederate general and white supremacist. The victory of Bloody Sunday seemed tarnished by these contradictions and I was left dubious of today’s social justice causes.

As I stood trying to reconcile the present with the past, I remembered that Nietzsche was incredibly concerned with the paralysis of man through history. While rarely associated with civil rights struggles, he offers a valuable lesson to those trying to understand the roots of social movements. According to Nietzsche, history should instruct us on how to live courageously in the present. Rather than being immobilized by the past, he implores us to employ the past, be it sublime or horrible, as inspiration for living our lives.

The bridge was my final view as I walked away, passing an elderly couple moving towards it hand in hand. While I was not entirely placated by the insights that Nietzsche offered, I was determined to return to campus committed to action. I began to appreciate the germ of what social justice work I had been previously involved with as tied to the events of Bloody Sunday. It was upon further reflection that I realized the significance of standing on the shoulders of those giants from 50 years ago. Their actions, and the history that they made inspire me to continue their work and to live my life in a manner befitting their legacy.

Nathan Detweiler ’16 ( is from Minneapolis, Minn. He majors in  French, philosophy and political science.


Categories: Colleges

Film historian recreates nickelodeon experience

Manitou Messenger - Tue, 05/12/2015 - 8:45pm

On the evening of Friday, May 1 in Tomson 280, film historian Rick Altman presented to his audience a recreation of early film exhibition through a program of short film clips, illustrated songs and interactive sing-alongs titled The Living Nickelodeon.

Not to be confused with the popular childrens’ TV channel, the “nickelodeon” of the program’s title refers to the 19th century colloquialism for the earliest form of movie theater. The nomenclature originates from the five cent admission cost and the Greek “odeion,” meaning roofed-over theater.

“[The films] help us understand the early years of cinema, when cinema wasn’t yet cinema,” Altman said. “We — looking retrospectively — we easily assume that cinema is in the center, because it is now, and anything else is embroidered around it. But in fact during this early period, cinema was not yet really its own identity. It was still thought of as an offshoot of other systems and media.”

What started as research for his book, Silent Film Sound, quickly evolved into a larger project.

“I looked into finding this cache of illustrated songs and I knew that they were important, but that there had not been enough of them available for people to see,” Altman said.

In 1998, Altman, along with two of his colleagues, put together The Living Nickelodeon as a way to show modern audiences what film attendance was like for people living in the early 1900s.

“[We wanted] to show people how the programs actually worked. They were not just film programs; that the film was pretty much secondary,” Altman said.

Altman’s message was infused throughout the hour and a half long presentation. Altman, accompanied by Kjersti Anderson ’17, began the show with a musical number, and continued with a variety of silent short films, illustrated slides with live musical accompaniment and silent films that also involved live music.

One of the first silent films featured a large man and a small man engaging in a dramatic fight. The film sported impressive effects: at one point the larger man threw the smaller man high into the air. Though the smaller man had obviously been replaced by a dummy, the cut was clean and surprisingly convincing given the fact that the clip was over 100 years old.

This style of editing did not seem to change the overall effect of the film’s slapstick style that had much of the audience in fits of laughter.

As the program progressed through the 1900s, Altman began to inject music into silent films when appropriate.For example, if someone on screen began to play the piano, Altman would also play piano to give the effect of diagetic sound, since recording audio was not possible at the time.

One of the most enjoyable and unique parts of the presentation were the illustrated slides. Intricately designed, often strange and funny, and painstakingly hand colored, these slides were accompanied by songs performed by Altman. At the end of every song, the audience was asked to join in a round of the chorus. This aspect of The Living Nickelodeon differentiated the performance from most other lectures.

Altman was an overall engaging speaker, often injecting jokes into his performance and occasionally going into the audience during the short film screenings.

Altman’s appearance at St. Olaf was sponsored by the Film Studies Program. Altman has traveled around the world, both individually and in a group, to perform The Living Nickelodeon. The list of performance venues ranges from college campuses such as New York University, to international music festivals like the Bologna Festival in Italy, to world-renowned museums such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Louvre in France.

Altman is also the author of several award-winning books regarding film and cinema studies, including Silent Film Sound, recipient of the Society of Theatre Librarians Prize for best book published in 2004 on recorded performance and the Limina Prize for best film book published in 2004.

When he is not performing, Altman is a professor of cinema at the University of Iowa, and continues his research on early cinema.


Categories: Colleges

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