World Cup 2014 preview

Manitou Messenger - Wed, 04/23/2014 - 7:02pm

On June 12, tens of thousands of passionate hooligans will converge in Brazil to take part in what many regard as the greatest party on Earth. That’s right, the 2014 World Cup is not far away, and it’s set to take the globe by storm.

It seems like the perfect time for all the armchair experts, including me, to give their opinions on who the winners and losers will be in Brazil. So, here goes …

Group A features powerhouse and host nation Brazil. Throw in perennially strong Croatia and add Mexico and Cameroon to the mix, and you have the makings of a very entertaining group. It’s hard to see anyone toppling Brazil, who will be driven by passionate fans as well as an array of the world’s most talented footballers. I can see Brazil winning the entire tournament, bouncing back from their last two disastrous World Cup campaigns. As for the remainder of Group A, there doesn’t seem to be much between Mexico and Croatia. However, I think that Croatia will join Brazil in the elimination rounds.

Group B is incredibly strong – arguably the second-toughest pool at the tournament. 2010 World Cup champion Spain will faceoff against 2010 World Cup finalists Netherlands. Throw in a side like Chile, whose ball movement is incredible and possesses unrivaled pace, and anything could happen. Oh, and Australia will be in Group B, too. I can sense an upset in this group, with Spain and Chile progressing.

Group C doesn’t possess the same level of talent as the first two groups, but I expect Japan and Colombia to overcome Greece and Ivory Coast to progress to the second round.

Group D is very dangerous. 2006 World Cup champion Italy will progress, but whether England, Uruguay or Costa Rica follows them is hard to say. England is notorious for failing just when it matters the most, so don’t be surprised if Uruguay finishes second in this group.

Group E seems to be one of the weakest in the tournament. Sure, Switzerland is ranked eighth in the world, but does anyone really believe that they are better than Italy? France is not the powerhouse it once was, Ecuador only seems to be able to get results at home and Honduras is more than likely happy just to be participating. Switzerland and France should progress here.

Group F should see Argentina cruise to victory, followed by Bosnia and Herzegovina. Iran and Nigeria should provide a little competition for second place, but I’d be surprised to see them beat either of the two highest-ranked teams in their pool.

Group G. Some would call it the Group of Death. With a German team full of stars, Portugal being led by Christiano Ronaldo and Ghana taking huge leaps in international football, the United States appears to have its work cut out. The U.S. should be able to beat Ghana, but it seems unlikely it will be good enough to finish as one of the pool’s top two teams. Don’t be surprised to see either of these two teams in the semi-finals.

Finally, Group H seems to also be devoid of the talent seen in other pools. Belgium and South Korea will progress, overcoming Algeria and Russia along the way.

It should be a scintillating summer of action in the world’s most football-crazy nation. Expect things to get even crazier when Brazil goes all the way to collect the 2014 World Cup.

Categories: Colleges

Music on Trial: Mason Jennings embodies vibrant local music scene available at Oles’ fingertips

Manitou Messenger - Wed, 04/23/2014 - 6:58pm

Like it or not, you live in the North. If you do like it, then you can already tell me a thousand reasons why Minnesota is the greatest state ever. If you resent the location of your college choice, let me change your mind. Two words, or rather, a name: Mason Jennings. He’s not just for Minneapolis moms and girls who just got out of bad relationships.

On April 5, Mason Jennings performed at the State Theater in Minneapolis. He played songs to an audience with a median age of 54, mostly from his new album “Always Been,” but he threw in some old kickers like “Be Here Now” and “Your New Man” for fun.

Jennings expressed many times that he was happy to be back in the city after traveling the country on tour with his two sons. The State Theater is not exactly in the price range of college-age students, but I was still shocked that I was among the youngest in the audience, especially because his music is becoming more popular among people our age.

To me, Mason Jennings embodies what it means to be from another place but call Minnesota your home. During his concert, that is what he did: “I’m glad to be home,” he said over and over.

Jennings was born in Hawaii, grew up in Philadelphia and traveled in his youth all over the country. His experiences in different parts of the United States are evident in his older songs, especially in his self-titled album that includes “California,” “California [Part II]” and “1997.”

Jennings chose to settle down in Minneapolis because he heard it was a great place for up-and-coming musicians. Like half of our campus, Jennings adopted his home and has become very proud of it. Many students claim they live in bubble, but that is a personal choice. Your time in Northfield may be short, and you may never return after graduation, but if you connect yourself to the culture around you, you’ll find your years on the Hill more meaningful.

Hannah Marti ’14 summed this up perfectly when she told me, “There’s a whole lot of things that are fun and interesting out there, and when you find them, it’s awesome, and you grow from it. That’s my experience with searching for local music in Minnesota.”

Mason Jennings is one example of great music in the cities. Others include Jeremy Messersmith, whose recent album just hit national charts; Caroline Smith, an Ole fav; Rogue Valley; Atmosphere; Brother Ali; Trampled by Turtles; Dessa,; 4onthefloor; John Mark Nelson; The Ericksons; The Pines and Twinkie Jiggles Broken Orchestra, a band fronted by Dessa’s bassist.

And you don’t have to be able to afford tickets at the State Theater to hear great musicians. Keep an eye out online for local shows. First Avenue in Minneapolis is the center of the music scene. Others include The Varsity, which just won an award for having awesome bathrooms; The Cedar, a non-profit venue of worldly sorts; the Amsterdam Bar and Hall in St. Paul and The Turf Club, if you’re not into frills. Keep your ears open for the Local Show on The Current on  Sundays at 6 p.m.

Jenning’s lyrics describe the culture of Minneapolis perfectly: a little quirky, very down to earth and compassionate. You can live without recognition of place, or you can live in the place you chose to go to school, even if you don’t call it home. If Mason Jennings, who has seen and sung about every street corner in the United States, can come to the State Theater and declare Minneapolis his home, then St. Olaf students can find meaning in their temporary home.

Either way, as Mason Jennings would say, “Make yourself at home, cause I’m going out” to go listen to local music.

Categories: Colleges

Science in the News: April 18

Manitou Messenger - Wed, 04/23/2014 - 6:55pm

Do black holes actually exist?

According to the latest theories of renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, the answer to this question is “sort of, and most of the time.” Let me explain.

Black Holes have received much critical thought over the last century, though they were first hypothesized in the 18th century by an English and a French scientist. A black hole is a region of extremely dense matter which exerts so much gravity on the space around it that it warps space-time. A black hole has enough power to bend and pull even light into its mass.

According to Albert Einstein and his peers, black holes have a boundary called an event horizon, a point of no return. Up to the event horizon, space seems indistinguishable from the rest of the universe. However, if something were to pass this invisible line, it would be sucked into the center of the hole, called the “singularity,” stretching out like spaghetti in the process. These scientists believed that nothing escapes the dense mass, not even light (hence the name “black hole”).

Toward the end of the 20th century, however, Stephen Hawking declared that black holes are not as clingy as they previously seemed and do in fact release small amounts of their contents in the form of radiation (light). His argument revolutionized the study of black holes, since it implies that black holes can evaporate as well as form. They need not be permanent fixtures of the universe. If nothing new were to feed them, they could feasibly dissolve into space.

Since that time, astrophysicists have presented many new theories about event horizons and information theory. Some hypothesize that information, in the form of matter, is conserved in black holes according to the law of the conservation of mass, while others argue that black holes throw their contents into perpetual chaos. An interesting theory newly published in 2013 presents the idea that black holes emit significant radiation up to the point of the event horizon. They have dubbed this radiation a “firewall” because it incinerates anything that crosses the event horizon prior to being sucked into singularity.

This past January, Hawking published another paper that addresses firewalls, the information paradox and event horizons. Primarily, the paper rejects the firewall theory, but Hawking also calls into question the fundamental concept of the event horizon and the preservation of information.

Hawking works from the assumption that the CPT theorem must hold (an exact symmetry of Charge conjugation, Parity transformation and Time reversal that holds for all physical phenomena). In other words, firewalls seem to break important rules of theoretical physics, as do event horizons. In their place, Hawking proposes the existence of an “apparent horizon” which resembles an event horizon but is more flexible and is temporary rather than fixed in space-time. He asserts that black holes should actually be redefined as “metastable bound states of the gravitation field” since they release radiation just as they absorb it. In fact, Hawking believes black holes to be in constant flux between evaporation and condensation.

As for the information paradox, Hawking suggests that black holes take in information, scramble it through chaotic gravitational collapse and release it in scrambled form, resulting in ineffective information loss. He humorously compares the process to weather forecasting (sorry, Paul Douglas). Nevertheless, Hawking has received wide-ranging criticism for his new ideas and his paper has yet to be peer reviewed.

The term “black hole” is a misnomer, since they are neither holes nor black (i.e. invisible). But for now, the concept definitively exists … though it will surely continue to evolve.

Categories: Colleges

There is no ‘civilized’ torture

Manitou Messenger - Wed, 04/23/2014 - 6:51pm

Many of us take for granted that the importance of mental health has become common knowledge. However, a new mental health concern has attracted the attention of critics in the past several weeks. A method of discipline in prisons, called “civilized torture,” is facing media scrutiny for being ethically problematic.

The category “civilized torture” includes extended solitary confinement and other forms of non-physical discipline. Although these techniques have been around for hundreds of years and many have proven to be effective to some extent, critics argue that civilized torture crosses ethical boundaries.

Most Americans are against physical torture for criminals. The general consensus is that it would be monstrous to even consider harming people physically. However, when it comes to mental manipulation, the opinion lacks unity, and our indifference is impacting the well-being of U.S. citizens. “In prison-crazed America, state violence is exercised not through bloodshed but through civilized torture,” an Al-jazeera article stated.

Take a moment to realize that this method of discipline is not a technique used on a faraway island by military forces ­– that is an issue for another article. Isolation and other forms of “civilized torture” are human rights violations occurring on U.S. soil. Recent studies have focused on the impact of solitary confinement on prisoners in New York, California, Texas and many other locations across the country. These studies have found that solitary confinement correlates with negative impacts on mental health and increased thoughts of suicide.

Many critics argue that once a person becomes imprisoned, they should lose many of their personal rights. However, incarcerated Americans do not only lose their freedom; they also find that many aspects of their life are no longer in their own control, and they experience a loss of agency. It’s only reasonable that Americans want to see perpetrators of injustice punished. However, I contend that the very essence of humanity is acknowledging the inherent value of other human beings, and in order for us to survive violations of justice, we must respect the humanity of others, regardless of offense.

We can sugarcoat it all we want, but at some point we must confront the reality that “civilized torture” is, indeed, a form of violence. Extended periods of solitary confinement and other non-physical methods of discipline cause inhumane mental strain on subjects, and that mental harm can have long-lasting effects.

There are steps we must take in response to this human rights violation. We must raise awareness of the issue through constructive discourse, and we must review the research surrounding methods of discipline within the context of prisons. Without belittling concerns about economics, practicality and social justice, we must consider the weight of our actions against our fellow citizens and the long-lasting implications of our justice system that may impact those citizens’ lives for years to come.


Amy Mihelich ’16 ( is from Forest Lake, Minn. She majors in English and political science.

Categories: Colleges

NYC sick leave legislation provides admirable model

Manitou Messenger - Wed, 04/23/2014 - 6:50pm

As college students, when we get sick we have the ability to stay home from classes with little penalty.  Yet, for most of the American workforce, that is not the case. However, New York City is making headway with a new law that requires paid sick leave.  To be honest, it’s about time.

The new law comes in conjunction with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s efforts to stem income inequality in New York City.  Along with universal Pre-K and higher taxes on the wealthy, paid sick leave for workers represents just one facet of the growing progressive policies being discussed across the nation.

The law specifies that companies with five or more employees must provide paid sick leave to workers.  On top of that, the law also allows employees to take leave to tend to family members who are sick, a boon for single mothers.  As a result, 1.2 million workers in NYC will be covered under the law.

This law provides relief for customers and employers as well as employees.  Before the law’s passage, employees either had to tough out the flu and come into work or lose a hefty portion of their paycheck.  Now, you don’t have to worry about the guy who makes your sandwich getting you sick, at least in NYC.  Furthermore, employers may not be fretting over the cost of the law because it only covers employees of longer than three months.

While this law is good news for the Big Apple, the federal government should take note of its effect.  Something like this law should be applied across the nation.  Although paid sick leave may not be as effective as a boost to the minimum wage, it does give the nation a little taste of what progressive policies can do.  Besides, we all use the many service industries that the law impacts, and it would be nice to know that the sauce on our burgers is not contaminated by sneezes from the flu-stricken worker who made it.

This law should function as a stepping stone for greater initiatives such as minimum wage increases.  Once the American people can swallow paid sick leave, it is only a matter of time until they push for something bigger.

As Congress continues to drag its feet on raising the minimum wage, smaller initiatives like paid sick leave in NYC are making progress. If the U.S. is the richest country in the world, it should be able to cover its citizens when they feel their worst.  It’s common sense: You don’t want someone with a cold handling your lunch. The entire idea behind reformist initiatives such as paid sick leave is to use the government to solve large issues like economic inequality.

Small initiatives like these underscore the reformist nature of policies today.  Coming out of the great recession into an economy of stagnation and income inequality, we are looking for solutions.  Instead of turning to something radical like a revolution, we reform ourselves.  Reforms start with paid sick leave, but they shouldn’t end there.  Issues like this should not be conservative or liberal, they should be common sense.

Seth Ellingson ’15 ( is from Powder Springs, Ga. He majors in political science and Russian.

Categories: Colleges

Gretchen Morgenson discusses journalism careers

Manitou Messenger - Wed, 04/23/2014 - 6:48pm

On Friday, April 11, Gretchen Morgenson ’76 gave St. Olaf students interested in both journalism and finance an in-depth look at the professional world in both fields.  Morgenson is currently the assistant business and financial editor and writer of the weekly “Market Watch” column for the New York Times.

Morgenson spoke at length about her long and varied career.  Aside from her position at the Times, she has also worked as the executive editor at Worth magazine, a business writer and editor at Forbes magazine and as a staff writer at Money magazine.  She also gained experience in the financial world as a stockbroker for Dean Witter Reynolds.

“Sometimes the path goes in a lot of weird directions, but if you learn from every experience you had, good and bad, and if you keep in mind what you really enjoy doing, you’ll end up doing what you really love,” Morgenson said.

Morgenson arrived at the New York Times in 1998, where she was able to combine her interest in finance and knowledge of Wall Street with her skills as a journalist.  In 2002, she won the Pulitzer Prize for Beat Reporting for her coverage of Wall Street.

The session, which lasted just over an hour, concluded with a question and answer period in which Morgenson addressed the rapidly evolving nature of the journalism industry. Newspapers have declined in popularity in recent years with the rise of the Internet, social media and blogging.  The traditional big names in the industry, such as The New York Times and the Washington Post, have had to adjust their business models in order to stay relevant.  Nevertheless, she emphasized the importance of journalists and the newspaper industry.

Morgenson herself is an example of the relevance of journalists.  Since the financial crash of 2008, she has devoted much of her time trying to uncover the true causes of the financial meltdown.  In 2009, she co-authored a book with Joshua Rosner entitled “Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon,” which explained how oversights by officials in Washington D.C. contributed to the crash.

Morgenson went on to dismiss the idea that newspapers were dying or becoming irrelevant.  Reporters, she said, are crucial since they inform the public and uncover abuses by those in power. Financial reporters are especially important in this aspect since they help keep Wall Street relatively honest.  While it is true that the industry needs to evolve, there will always be a need for news.

“The Internet has upset the business model, but I think there is still a keen desire for news, and I think the importance of what good journalists do is undeniable as far as shining the light on the dark corners where sometimes bad times happen,” Morgenson said.

Categories: Colleges

Model U.N. team succeeds at Wisconsin conference

Manitou Messenger - Wed, 04/23/2014 - 6:46pm

The St. Olaf Model United Nations team recently won several awards at a conference they attended in Wisconsin, marking a significant first for this young team.  The conference was at the University of River Falls over the weekend of April 3-6.  Caitlin Connell ’17 won Best Delegate Honorable Mention, the second-highest award at the conference, and Ben McManamon ’17, Maggie Connell ’17 and Hannah Brown ’17 won Best Delegate Nominee, the third-highest award.  Overall, the team received Best Delegation Nominee for their work representing Austria.  They were in the top five delegations out of 58 teams, mostly from the Midwest, to attend the conference.

“We won several awards, but I am most pleased about the interactions we had with delegates from other schools,” Thomas Weihe ’17 said.  “Most of them seemed very happy to have worked with us, and we were happy to work with them.”

This was the first time the team attended the Arrowhead Model U.N. Conference (AMUNC) at the University of River Falls, and they did not know what to expect.  Typically, the team only attends one conference a year in Chicago.  They plan to continue into the next academic year by again attending the Chicago conference and are bolstered by their success this year.  They will add to their victories by bringing in new members, practicing more and hopefully attending more conferences next year.

“We hope to continue attending the conference in Chicago and the Arrowhead conference in future years,” Maggie said. “We really want to continue to develop the program by working more with our surrounding schools to run smaller simulations.”

Maggie’s twin sister, Caitlin, is also a part of the first year-dominated team.  “We want to invest more in preparing for the tournaments so that we can get more out of them,” Caitlin said. “We have a team composed of a ton of freshmen this year, so we have a lot of time to improve and develop the team, which is really exciting.”

Model U.N. involves students representing a country by writing resolutions and negotiating for that country.  They work to emulate the process of actual United Nations meetings and assemblies.  For a conference, schools sign up for the country they want to represent before attending.  Before and during the conference, students research how their country would respond to situations and prepare resolutions.  They are also required to prepare speeches for opening remarks and arguments for their resolutions.  Each person on the team is assigned to a different committee as a delegate.  The committees range from environmental to economic to women’s rights councils.

The overall goal is to learn more about international affairs while developing writing and public speaking skills.

“I  joined Model U.N. because I really love public speaking, and international politics are a huge interest of mine.  This program has really given me better insight into how the U.N. works,” Maggie said.

The Model U.N. team was excited to have accomplished so much this year, but they are eagerly awaiting next year and the new talent and development it will bring.  With this year’s success, the team will just have to wait and see where they go in future years. St. Olaf Model U.N. is one of three main competitive clubs on campus, along with Mock Trial and Debate, that involve both politics and public speaking.

Categories: Colleges

Baseball splits games with cross-town foes

Manitou Messenger - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 7:41pm

The St. Olaf baseball team hosted MIAC rival Carleton College on April 8 in a doubleheader on Mel Taube Field. St. Olaf came into the game in strong form, having beaten Concordia College the previous day. The Knights proved too strong for the Oles in game one, running to an 11-6 victory. However, the Oles proved to be resilient and rallied to record a 13-8 decision in game two.

With the game locked at 5-5 in the first encounter, Carleton broke the game apart with a six-run offensive outburst at the bottom of the sixth inning. Sam Maus ’14 led the way for the Oles in the loss, starting the game with a solo shot and recording a run-scoring single in the second inning. Jake Mathison ’17 also recorded two hits in the defeat.

The Oles bounced back quickly in game two in what was an excellent team performance. Four Oles had multiple hits, and Chris Paradise ’14 drove in three runs in the 13-8 victory. Nate Gelle ’15 also starred for the Oles, recording 12 hits over seven innings. Gelle struck out five batters during his strong performance.

St. Olaf (15-9, 6-2 MIAC) currently sits in third position in the MIAC standings. They are in a strong position to reverse last season’s disappointment and claim a place in the MIAC post-season.

Categories: Colleges

‘Oh What a Lovely War!’ delights and challenges audience

Manitou Messenger - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 6:08pm

If gore and fear are clichéd techniques for keeping historical events current, what other approach can reawaken an audience’s horror? Joan Littlewood’s “Oh, What a Lovely War!,” recently revived by the St. Olaf Theater department and directed by Artist in Residence Gary Gisselman, argues that the answer is farcical comedy.

Through its outrageous humor, a position-oriented setting and ominous electronic headlines that tally the causalities of World War I, Gisselman’s production haunts the audience with the realization that war will never have a true victor.

Originally written to honor the 50th anniversary of World War I, “Oh What a Lovely War” explores the politics that led to the war, the reality of life both in the trenches and back home, the propaganda used to sustain both sides and the pointlessness of it all in the end.

Rather than following one solider through the war as many war memoirs do, the play calls for a circus master, Andy Lindvall ’14, who conducts goofy “war game” charades and keeps the audience invested. The show functions as a startling collage of experiences: soldier’s written works, statistics and song parodies from the 1900s that the cast ensemble effectively carries. These vignettes are shockingly interrupted by comical sequences that keep the audience from crying.

This nonsensical humor never feels insensitive but rather blurs the historical connection to the present enough that the audience does not realize what a terrible event they are laughing at.

One example includes soldiers in bayonet training who must hold their rifles in between their legs. One accidently shoots open a red umbrella, revealing his lack of a weapon. Other examples include stereotypical, country-specific step-dancing, bushy mustaches and jokes tailored to the St. Olaf audience. By the end of the first act, I felt guilty for having laughed at the subject matter, yet I knew that there was no way around it: It was just too hilarious to ignore. This contrast between loss and comedy proved to be the tension that would blossom into shellshock by the production’s end.

One way that this contrast was implemented was through the stark and mechanical setting that expressed the systematic nature of war. With commanders often standing on the balconies, the audience was positioned in effectively the same trenches as the soldiers. This view not only encouraged sympathy but also gave the audience a clear view of the historical photographs that displayed center stage. It also placed the audience beneath the headlines scrolling numbers of losses, leaving us forever looking up for progress or hope.

The stage itself was covered in cogs, one of which was placed upside down near the back where a structural beam lined up with the center third to create an upside down peace sign. Whether it was intentional or not, its ironic presence summarized the message of the play.

Finally, the production diverged from the script and rewrote the ending to force the audience to reexamine the philosophies of war. Following the heart-wrenching ode “Adieu la vie,” which included the whole cast, a recording of the cast naming every war and military conflict in recorded history played. With each named conflict, a cast member fell to the ground.

In the end, some were left standing to carry on, but far more had fallen. This culmination of wars reminds us of how many times we have sought to fix our differences through war and how many times we have failed.

By the end, I was at a loss. A loss of words, thought, spirit and heart. All that was left in my mind were thoughts of complete bewilderment over the gravity of the tragedy and sympathy for the fallen. Such is the mark of an effectively powerful production.

While many a history class covers World War I, it is easy to forget about the impact of the “Great War” when we often place the focus on World War II or more recent conflicts. World War I, however, destroyed an entire generation, left parts of the world broken and introduced mechanical harbingers of death the likes of which the world had never previously known. For these reasons and so many more, it is of the utmost importance that we do not forget the lesson we as a world learned from it: War has no winner in the end.

Categories: Colleges

Room draw process requires technological makeover

Manitou Messenger - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 5:51pm

With the post-spring break letdown, midterms, class selection and finalizing summer plans, it is no wonder that Oles dread this season of stress and craziness. When you factor in the room draw process, the entire first half of April becomes unbearable.

No matter how a school conducts room draw, it is bound to be stressful. After all, it is important for students to select the most compatible roommate and the most ideal location. However, St. Olaf’s in-person room draw system makes this process even more stressful, hectic and dramatic than it needs to be.

Think about it: in this age of Internet and interconnectivity, we still rely on a paper system. This paper system necessitates drama. First, we have to wait for little slips of paper with our room draw numbers on them to be placed in our P.O.s.  After that, the intricately timed system requires an entire weekend of waiting in tense lines and making on-the-fly adaptations when our first and second-choice plans fall through.

Many colleges have room draw processes similar to our own; believe it or not, it is actually very common to have a completely offline room draw process. Still, other colleges have moved some or all of the rooming process online. Many colleges send students their draw numbers electronically.  Others, such as Macalester College, use an online preference and ranking system for their room draw. In this system, students connect online with the friends they hope to live with and then rank their rooming preferences.

An online process like this takes pressure off students. In this system, students are better able to plan out their room rankings. Groups can meet, discuss and fill out their preferences together instead of solely depending on one member of the group to wait in line and select a living space.  Sending one representative can result in stressful and compromising situations. If everyone participates in room draw, it is more likely that everyone gets a say in the living situation.

Additionally, an online system is simply less dramatic. There is something about the P.O. placement that conjures up pictures of students stressing around the mailbox area, waiting for their slips to come through. While receiving an email with your draw number is also stressful, at least students do not have to congregate and compare numbers in the same place.  Waiting in line to select your room is an even more stressful prospect. An online selection, again, does not necessitate that everyone congregate in one place, watching to see who is successful and who is disappointed.

Many of St. Olaf’s selection processes have already been streamlined. An online room draw process could resemble online class selection. While all Oles know that course registration is complex, we can agree that it gets the job done fairly and efficiently.  No one knows anyone else’s placement numbers.  Some get into the classes they want; some don’t.  It is still stressful, but at least we aren’t all standing around to see who got into a class and who didn’t.

Regardless of the process, room draw is bound to be dramatic. However, St. Olaf could mitigate this stress by switching to a room draw process that isn’t completely offline. All St. Olaf students have access to electronic resources; it is time to start utilizing them for the room draw process.  With a new system, St. Olaf could make this time of year a little less stressful for everyone.


Maggie Weiss ’16 ( is from Minnetonka, Minn. She majors in English and political science.


Categories: Colleges

Cindy Corrie shares story

Manitou Messenger - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 5:46pm

On April 8, the words “forget the fear,” repeated from stories of children in Gaza, were repeated in Viking Theatre through a speaking event by Cindy and Craig Corrie, the founders of “The Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice.” Cindy and Craig encouraged students and community members of all ages to work to resolve the issue in Gaza in any way they could imagine.

“It’s the critical issue of our time. It connects to so many others,” Cindy said.

The eleven-year-old foundation was created in memory of their daughter, Rachel, a peace activist in Palestine who was crushed by a bulldozer while protecting the home of her host family.

After the confusion of September 11, Rachel sought to understand all that she could about the conflict of cultures, including eventually traveling to Gaza to participate in nonviolent protests against the Israeli government’s presence in the region. There, she wrote of her observations and sought to raise awareness about the shootings, governmental intimidations, destruction of wells and clearing of neighborhoods that she witnessed.

“Writing is brave. It is maybe the only brave thing about me,” Rachel wrote.

During her time in Gaza, Rachel stayed with the Nasrallah family and practiced the “BDS” approach to protesting: boycott, divestment, sanction. She also slept by wells in order to ensure that they were not destroyed in the night and held a press conference on the roof of a demolished neighborhood.

On March 16, 2003, Israeli government-funded bulldozers reached the Nasrallah family’s neighborhood. Activists stood between the houses and the bulldozers, and the machines consistently pushed the protesters out of the way but did not harm them. When Rachel tried to maintain her ground to protect the house, however, the bulldozer continued forward, rolling over her and then retracing its tracks, despite demands to stop.

The Corrie family sought legal justice for the death of their daughter by raising a trial against the State of Israel. After 15 court dates, the single judge decided in August 2012 that because Rachel had died in an “act of war,” the Israeli military was not guilty.

Disgusted with the results, the family formed the foundation and appealed to the Israeli Supreme Court. The case will be heard May 21, 2014.

Meanwhile, Rachel’s story has been transformed into two stage plays. The first, “My Name is Rachel Corrie,” is an internationally acclaimed production that in the past year was successfully performed in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The other is the work of St. Olaf alumnus who adapted the play in 2010 from Rachel’s published journals and letters.

This production,  “I Stand Alone,” explores the many facets of Rachel and how she was more than any one role that she played in life. A video of the performance was played during the assembly in Viking Theatre.

In the same strain of remembrance, the Rachel Corrie Foundation works to promote education, the use of writing to advocate for equal rights and the provision of resources to grassroots groups.

Suggested ways to contribute include “adopting a newspaper,” in which the reader chooses a newspaper or media outlet to monitor. When an article concerning the Israeli-Gaza conflict comes up, the reader critiques the article if it seems too vague or incomplete and sends a thank you note for accurate reporting.

“The children of Gaza still dream,” Cindy said. “If you can think of anything to change the situation, not just help the people, but change the situation, it is truly a prison [there]. Now more than ever.”

The Corries wished Oles for Justice in Palestine luck and expressed their hope that students will explore the organization. Cindy also advised that the group network with more groups like it in the area.

“Everyone makes a difference in any small way,” she said.

Categories: Colleges

Softball team enjoys home success: Oles clinch first-season wins over the Wildcats

Manitou Messenger - Mon, 04/21/2014 - 2:35pm

The St. Olaf softball team recorded two strong performances to record their first wins of the season on April 11 against College of St. Catherine on Mabel Shirley Field. The Oles cruised to a 9-1 victory in game one and, despite facing a more challenging test in the second game of the doubleheader, proved too strong once again with a 6-3 win to complete the sweep.

The Oles started slowly in the opening game, with the Wildcats holding a 2-0 advantage through the first four innings. In search of their first win of the season, the Oles erupted with four runs in the fifth  inning and three in the sixth inning to all but assure themselves of victory.

Stephanie Borndale ’16, Brooke Paradise ’17 and Afton Wolter ’16 had two hits each in the win. Borndale led the way with three runs batted in.

The Oles started more quickly in the second game, with two runs in the second inning and one in the fifth. The Oles held a 3-0 lead into the seventh inning before the Wildcats produced a valiant fight back, sending the game into extra innings after leveling the score.

Becca Walz ’16 hit a walk-off three-run homer to end the Wildcats’ chances. Haley Schrieier ’15, Woo Bandel ’16 and Alex Lebens ’16 each had two hits in the game.

The Oles’ (3-17, 3-7 MIAC) next home action will be against Carleton College on April 17. The game takes on extra significance for the Oles, as the Knights currently sit level with St. Olaf, at a 3-7 MIAC record. The last time the two teams faced off, in a 2013 doubleheader, each team took home a victory.

Categories: Colleges

‘Fly a Little Higher’ raises cancer awareness

Manitou Messenger - Mon, 04/21/2014 - 2:31pm

The Lion’s Pause hosted a truly special event on April 4: the inspiring Fly a Little Higher Benefit Concert. The concert was a moving testament to the message of light and love that 18-year-old Minnesota musician Zach Sobiech inspired in so many before passing away from osteosarcoma in May 2013. Featuring speakers, performances and even a whimsical bubble machine, the event was a successful fundraiser and a celebration of a remarkable life.

The idea of a benefit concert was first introduced by first-year Sammy Brown ’17, Sobiech’s best friend and bandmate, with the help of St. Olaf’s Cancer Connection (SCC) club.

“I came to St. Olaf, and during the co-curricular fair I saw that St. Olaf had a cancer connection club,” Brown said. “Some not-so-great things had happened in the last three months, and it was weird not having friends and family, so I thought, ‘This could be somewhere where I can feel comfortable with those feelings.’”

SCC strives to provide a supportive environment for those touched by cancer as well as fundraise for various organizations, so the club proved a perfect outlet for Brown’s idea to have a benefit concert for her friend.

“I envisioned it, and they executed it,” she said. “I told them what we’d done in the past, and they did all the hard logistical stuff.”

The event ended up being very successful, raising over $1,000 and attracting 250 people. Sobiech’s parents Rob and Laura attended and spoke.

“We were so blessed by the amazing turnout at the fundraising event,” Laura said. “It was a beautiful Friday evening after a long, hard winter, but the room was full of college students willing to listen to what we had to say. I love seeing young people sacrifice for something bigger than themselves – it gives me so much hope for the future.”

Also in attendance was Justin Baldoni, director of the award-winning documentary “My Last Days.” The documentary, available for viewing on YouTube, has garnered 12 million views. SoulPancake and Wayfarer Entertainment, the documentary’s production companies, were in town to film a one-year-later follow-up documentary to “My Last Days,” which will feature the benefit concert. Love Your Melon, a charity Sobiech worked with that makes hats for cancer patients, was also present to sell merchandise.

The first hour of the concert was a Wellness Center swiped event and started with a screening of “My Last Days.” Brown closed out that portion with her new single “How to Go to Confession,” accompanied by fellow first year Claire Belisle ’17 on the violin, and then a rendition of Sobiech’s song “Clouds.” The audience joined in on the emotional song as bubbles floated out of a machine and tears welled.

“That was one of the best moments of the night,” said SCC co-president Kelsey Mullen ’14.

After a short break, the campus bands Appomattox and Sikk Dood performed and the night wound to a close.

“We were very pleased about the event.,” Mullen said. “We were very excited to be working with other groups that are very passionate about their work. I think for everyone, the takeaway message was positive.”

The name of the concert, Fly a Little Higher, was inspired by a lyric from “Clouds” and is also the name of Laura Sobiech’s memoir, which will be available on May 6. Brown recommends the book to those interested in gaining more insight into Sobiech’s life.

“A lot of people commented on the videos, ‘Wow, I loved that, I wish I actually knew you,’” Brown said. “The book has tons of detail; it’s very personal. It’s going to have pictures, too.”

Oles interested in supporting the Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund can visit the website at

“You can donate and buy both of our CDs and my single and other stuff: necklaces, t-shirts, prints,” Brown said.

A significant portion of the proceeds from iTunes music and Laura Sobiech’s upcoming book will also go toward the fund.

Brown expressed her profound gratitude to the students of St. Olaf for making this concert a success.

“I personally was very touched by everyone who showed up,” Brown said. “I’m so proud that St. Olaf raised almost a thousand dollars. It’s not an easy thing for a college student to spend money if it’s not for a Cage cookie. So way to go, St. Olaf, for seeing the things that matter and making a difference. This is such a crazy, weird experience having these two worlds collide – it’s weird seeing my best friend through the eyes of my roommate or my friend from class – but I am thankful for it, and it’s cool seeing [Zach] having a continuing influence.”

That influence was strong at the benefit concert.

“Changing the world is done with the small things in life – the little choices we make each day. I want the students at St. Olaf to know that I am truly blessed by their kind words and dedication to making this world better,” Laura said.

The celebration was proof indeed that with optimism and love, all of us can “fly a little higher.”

Categories: Colleges

Local Natives showcase musical variety

Manitou Messenger - Mon, 04/21/2014 - 2:29pm

This year’s MEC Spring Concert welcomed Los Angeles alt-rockers Local Natives to campus. The band’s April 5 performance came the night before they played their sold-out show at First Avenue, and the concert’s relatively low attendance spoke to the band’s small but enthusiastic Ole following. Known for its afro-pop and psych-folk influences, Local Natives has been compared to everything from Arcade Fire and Vampire Weekend to Grizzly Bear and Fleet Foxes.

Before the band took the stage, two opening acts warmed up the crowd with varying degrees of success. St. Olaf campus band Toast kicked off the event with a short set that successfully projected its acoustic, vaguely folk-rock sound. Although the group seemed to be fairly new, their assuredness on stage spoke to their compatibility as a group. Further, Toast engaged the crowd with personal anecdotes and attracted a group of fans near the front of the crowd who cheered for each member by name at several points during the set.

Less engaging was the second opener, Aero Flynn, which serves as a permanent part of Local Native’s national tour. It sounded as if the band’s front man told the crowd that this was “our first show as a band,” which could have explained their lackluster and stiff stage presence.

The large amount of reverb on the microphone also made their echo-y sound difficult to relate to at times. While the band was a step up from Toast in terms of musical proficiency, their polarizing musical style made for an uninspired set.

The energetic atmosphere returned at 10 p.m. when Local Natives finally took the stage. Met with loud cheers from a growing crowd of Oles, the band launched into their dynamic, rhythm-heavy hour of music right away. The opening song “Breakers” from their 2013 album “Hummingbird,” with its propulsive rhythm and forceful guitar, made for an impressive introduction. Front man Taylor Rice was anything but stiff as he lurched around the stage, working up a sweat in the process.

Heavy with dedicated fans, the crowd sang along to several songs but was probably most audible during songs from the band’s first album, 2010’s “Gorilla Manor.” “Airplanes” and “Who Knows Who Cares,” the last song before the encore, both elicited especially loud cheers from an audience that only grew more energetic as the set went on.

The band’s least-successful effort came close to the end of their set. “Bowery” featured keyboardist Kelcey Ayer on lead vocals and, while in keeping with the band’s overall sound, was not as distinctive rhythmically and almost

lazy in comparison to their preceding songs.

Yells of “no” could be heard during the band’s initial exit from the stage after “Who Knows,” and 30 seconds or so of the crowd chanting “one more song,” prompted Local Natives to do just that. Their encore “Sun Hands” was easily the concert’s highlight. With drummer Matt Frazier’s rhythms amplified to twice the volume they are given in the recording, the band fed off the crowd’s energy and delivered a rousing closer to an already lively night of music.

While Local Natives did not leave the stage until around 11:15 p.m., their captivating set seemed to fly by in half that time. Although the turnout was relatively small, the band undoubtedly gained several new fans during their lively and engaging 75-minute performance.

Categories: Colleges

Let George W. Bush unleash his inner artist

Manitou Messenger - Mon, 04/21/2014 - 2:21pm

What are the first words you think of when you hear the name George W. Bush? Some might go for the categorical terms and say “president” or “Republican.” Others would head straight to political diction and say “tax cuts,” “war on terror” or “controversial election.” But did you ever think people would say “painter” when referring to the forty-third president of the United States?

On Saturday, April 6, George W. Bush decided to show the U.S. that he could paint more than just fluffy puppy dogs. If you don’t know what I am talking about, quickly pull out your phone or computer and Google Image search “George Bush paints dogs.” Get ready to have a good chuckle.

In Dallas, Texas, George W. Bush’s exhibit, entitled “The Art of Leadership: A President’s Personal Diplomacy,” opened to the public and created quite a stir. The exhibit features portraits of a variety of world leaders. Just to name a few, George W. Bush depicted Vladimir Putin, Mohammed bin Zayed, (the crown prince of Abu Dhabi), Václav Havel (the former president of the Czech Republic), the Dalai Lama himself and his father.

The exhibit features an introductory video explaining a little about why Bush decided to paint – he was inspired by Winston Churchill – and why these particular world leaders made the cut.

Bush says, “I spent a lot of time on personal diplomacy, and I befriended leaders and learned about their families and their likes and dislikes, to the point where I felt comfortable painting them.”

If you think the facial expressions selected for each leader are related to whether or not he worked well with them, you would be correct. For example, Bush and Putin recently quarreled over the size and ferocity of their dogs, with Putin claiming that his is “bigger, stronger and faster” than Bush’s. Bush says comments like that did factor into how he viewed Putin and helped give his portrait very intimidating eyes.

Bush states that painting his father was a very emotional experience. He says, “I watched him very carefully through his presidency. I always admired him as a man. It was a joyful experience to paint him. I painted a gentle soul.” This explains why the son painted a smile on his father’s face.

While the media is enjoying this display of what they call ‘a softer side of Bush,’ others have some more controversial takes on Bush’s new hobby. One Texas man, after seeing the exhibit, said, “Perhaps he should have tried this before he tried politics.” One could call this comment a little harsh when speaking about a former president, and I personally find all the fuss the media is creating over these paintings quite odd. If former President Bush wants to paint world leaders to freshen up the Bush Center and ramp up tourism, I say kudos to him. None of the world leaders are being harmed by the Bush Center having a painting of them on display. If I painted a picture of the Dalai Lama and had a gallery create an exhibit of my art, no one would tell me that I didn’t have the right to display my hobby.

People who think it is inappropriate for Bush to show his art are too connected with Bush as a former president instead of looking at him as Bush the man who has a hobby that he is proud of. To be completely honest, I am not crazy about Bush’s politics. I oppose the six trillion dollar wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but if a sixty-seven-year-old man wants to paint dogs and world leaders for the Bush Center, I say keep calm and carry on.

Jocelyn Sarvady ’15 ( is from Atlanta, Ga. She majors in American studies.

Categories: Colleges

Media’s missing flight fixation skews the news

Manitou Messenger - Mon, 04/21/2014 - 2:20pm

I’m going to be honest: For a newspaper writer, I don’t keep up with news that much. But over the past month, Americans have been enthralled by the search for Malaysian flight MH370, which went missing en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur. However, was all this attention merited?

First, an update: According to Al Jazeera, Australian officials encountered two “pings” during a search for the plane off the country’s west coast.  Angus Houston, who is coordinating the Australian search effort, is confident that these electronic signals are from the missing aircraft’s blackbox.

Officials are eager to find the blackbox because it could have recorded the aircraft’s last minutes. This would give many people closure on what happened to the aircraft and could end the search completely.

Now searchers are scrambling to find this box that will give us all the answers before its month-long battery dies and leaves us clueless. It’s dramatic one-liners like this that drive sensationalist news coverage. Don’t get me wrong: This is a tragedy. For the friends and family of the 239 people on board, closure rests on finding that metal casing with flight data and voice recorders inside.

However, the media circus went to town on the few facts that were provided in the initial search. Bill Carter of the New York Times railed on news outlets – specifically CNN – that took the few initial facts and concocted grand schemes, filming their reporters in the cockpits of Boeing 777s narrating what might have happened across sparkly flight simulators.

They have been rewarded for their unending, speculative coverage as well: Ratings have skyrocketed. Depending on whom you ask, the ability to increase ratings by exacerbating high drama either makes you a good journalist or a part of the problem.

This whole story reeks of high drama. The handful of solid facts give plenty of room to extrapolate schemes. Maybe it was terrorism. Maybe a meteor hit the plane. There hasn’t been a plane disappearance since 2009, and it took two years to find that one. Could it take  even longer this time?

There are themes of international crisis and collaboration, the threat of failure, complete and utter mystery and, perhaps most intriguing, systemic technological collapse that would make thousands afraid to get on a plane again.

I am disillusioned with the media but am not dumb enough to think that coverage like this will change anytime soon. Hey, at least a news outlet focused on a story for more than four minutes. With enough spit-shining, this could be written off as a positive move!

The question is: What did we miss by obsessively covering MH370? Well there is the situation in Ukraine, which has erupted into political turmoil over Ukraine’s ties with Russia. Or, even less reported, the violent student protests occurring in Venezuela right now.

More broadly, how do we determine what events deserve coverage at all? The short answer is rooted in how we consume news media. Even if you just click on those links without the intention of actually reading their eye-catching stories, it counts as a victory for the news outlet and promotes the popularity of the topic. As a result, the news sources post more related stories loaded with advertisements so they can earn as much money as possible.

My challenge to you is this: Do not click! The news will still be there, and when it’s resolved, I’m sure you will know. In the meantime, you can just wait for the #blackbox to show up on Twitter.

Michael Enich ’14 ( is from Chicago, Ill. He majors in religion.

Categories: Colleges

Bookmark and Share

Syndicate content