Students study the value of dialogue as Smaby Peace Scholars

St. Olaf College - Tue, 12/03/2019 - 9:28am
Manuela Novoa Villada '21 and Kristina Quanbeck '21 spent seven weeks in Norway examining how dialogue can facilitate peacemaking and conflict resolution between parties who strongly disagree with one another. 
Categories: Colleges

St. Olaf celebrates the season with annual Christmas Festival

St. Olaf College - Wed, 11/27/2019 - 10:01am
The theme of this year’s Christmas Festival, held on campus December 5–8, is "A New Song of Grace and Truth."
Categories: Colleges

A Global Semester View: Captivating China

St. Olaf College - Wed, 11/27/2019 - 9:37am
One of the 20 St. Olaf students traveling on Global Semester, one of the college's renowned faculty-led study abroad programs, provides a glimpse of the group's experience in China.
Categories: Colleges

Musical moments

St. Olaf College - Mon, 11/25/2019 - 4:33pm
Play Video How Do Oles Discover The Arts, Dive Into The Sciences, And Explore The World? At St. Olaf College, music sings and plays its way into campus life every day, in almost every way. Music has taken Oles around the world, and it has provided powerful performance opportunities right here on campus. As more […]
Categories: Colleges

To Include is To Excel: Inclusive learning in music

St. Olaf College - Mon, 11/25/2019 - 1:17pm
As part of our series highlighting the nearly 50 To Include is To Excel projects that faculty and staff have developed, Assistant Professor of Music Louis Epstein shares his work to ensure that students with a variety of musical backgrounds experience an introductory level music course equitably, with every opportunity for success.
Categories: Colleges

Digital Issue Nov. 21, 2019

Manitou Messenger - Mon, 11/25/2019 - 3:43am

As part of an initiative to integrate more digital content into our print publication, the Manitou Messenger is going digital for multiple editions throughout the year. With this new digital push we hope not to just encourage people to #readthemess but #clickthemess and #watchthemess.

Categories: Colleges

SGA resolutions endorse divestment, make textbooks more accessible

Manitou Messenger - Sun, 11/24/2019 - 9:14pm

The Student Government Association (SGA) Senate unanimously approved two resolutions during their Nov. 19 meeting: one urges the College to divest its endowment from fossil fuel companies, the other initiates an SGA-funded textbook provision program.
The divestment resolution, presented to Senate by the Climate Justice Collective (CJC), also presses the College to post quarterly investment statements on the St. Olaf website and make “total divestment from unethical investments” the main priority of the St. Olaf Investment Committee’s Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) policy, among other things.

The textbook resolution, presented to Senate by SGA President Devon Nielsen ’20 and Vice President Ariel Mota Alves ’20, mandates that $5,000 of SGA’s budget be spent each year on course-required textbooks to be loaned to students through Rolvaag Memorial Library. This new textbook program, the SGA Textbook Program Senate Initiative, aims to make course-required textbooks more accessible.

Divestment Resolution
About eight percent of St. Olaf’s $534 million endowment is invested in the fossil fuel industry. Those investments are anathema to CJC, a student group that pushes for environmental justice. The divestment resolution urges St. Olaf not to make any future investments in fossil fuel companies given their role in fueling climate change.
The resolution emphasizes the fact that St. Olaf has complete control over whether it divests even though the College’s investments are handled by Cornerstone Partners, a consulting firm

“Our job is to invest the portfolio within the guidelines set by our clients, so what we’re not going to do is put our own views ahead of St. Olaf’s,” said Cornerstone Partners Senior Managing Director David Russell at a Nov. 18 meeting. “You don’t want me making decisions on what St. Olaf decides to include or not include in the portfolio.”
So far though, the College has shown no signs of intending to divest. The President’s Leadership Team did not answer whether the College views itself as obligated to follow Senate resolutions when asked by the Messenger.

Chief Investment Officer Mark Gelle did not comment on whether the Investment Committee would heed the resolution’s call to list “total divestment from unethical investments” as the primary concern of its ESG policy.
Whether divestment has the power to reduce carbon emissions is a contested question. Shell Oil Company, Peabody Energy and the Goldman Sachs Group Inc. have all reported that the divestment movement can have negative material consequences for the fossil fuel industry.

But a divested St. Olaf, even coupled with other divested colleges and universities, might not have the power to reduce emissions.
Russell said that, while some companies own enough stocks to influence emissions, “the college and university ecosystem, collectively, doesn’t really, in and of itself, consist of that much of the market.”

Even if a divested St. Olaf cannot stunt fossil fuel emissions, CJC member Abby Becker ’20 said divesting is still desirable because it acts as a moral statement.
The Resolution’s push for the College to release Total Investment Statements might also fail to materialize. Cornerstone Partners will not reveal the names of companies their clients privately invest in, nor the amount they invest, Gelle said.
But CJC has managed to align the Senate with their cause. The Resolution commits the Senate to a pro-divestment stance, to encouraging the student body to learn more about ESG policy and divestment, and to stand against the destruction of marginalized communities and the environment.

“It’s a stepping stone, we now have a bigger platform to run the divestment campaign,” Becker said.

With the new resolution and their popular Sept. 20 climate strike, CJC has demonstrated their capacity to garner student support for their aims twice in short order.

Textbook Resolution
The textbook resolution initiates the SGA Textbook Project Senate Initiative, which will annually set aside $5,000 of the SGA’s budget for purchasing course-required textbooks to be loaned to students through Rolvaag Memorial Library.
The resolution cites a survey conducted by the SGA Textbook Task Force – a group tasked with gauging students’ textbook purchasing experience. The survey “concluded that a significant amount of St. Olaf students show a demonstrated need for access to textbooks.”

Of students surveyed, only a third feel that they can afford their textbooks, half have not purchased a book for a class because of its cost and half believe that their ability to complete coursework was affected by not having a textbook.
“Purchasing textbooks has always been a hardship for students from low-income backgrounds who have to carry an already long list of financial responsibilities, and this is something that people don’t always talk about,” Mota Alves said.
While Rolvaag already loans students textbooks for some courses through its Course Reserve system, half of surveyed students said the library does not offer the textbooks they need. And almost 60 percent said the textbooks they need had already been checked out when they tried to borrow them.

To alleviate these problems as efficiently as possible, the Textbook Project will use a set of rules to determine which textbooks it should purchase and how many. The Textbook Project Committee – a group tasked with carrying out the project – will handle the selection process, and Rolvaag will purchase the chosen textbooks using the $5,000 set aside by SGA. The $5,000 will be split evenly across both semesters – $2,500 worth of textbooks will be purchased for fall courses and $2,500 for spring courses.
Rolvaag will loan these textbooks to students for two hour intervals, Mota Alves said.
The Project Committee will publicize the project by encouraging faculty to tell their students about it and advertising it on social media, among other methods. At the end of each semester, the Committee will evaluate the program by assessing usage and getting recommendations from students.

The Committee will form in time to purchase textbooks for fall semester 2020, Mota Alves said.

The Resolution also initiates a Committee-led textbook drive to collect unused textbooks from students and faculty at the end of each academic year. The Committee will organize the textbooks into a bank and loan them to students on a first-come-first-serve basis at the beginning of the following year.
The textbook drive will begin collecting textbooks during the end of the next academic year, Mota Alves said.

“Textbooks is my biggest project,” Mota Alves said. “It’s something that is very close to my heart and I must admit that I was emotionally overwhelmed with the passing of the resolution.”

Categories: Colleges

St. Olaf music professor shares insight with the New York Times

St. Olaf College - Fri, 11/22/2019 - 12:23pm
Assistant Professor of Music Louis Epstein, a musicologist who also performs original children’s songs, spoke with a New York Times reporter about the music kids enjoy.
Categories: Colleges

Oslo Opera House, Steven Garcia

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 11/21/2019 - 11:53am

“I was just wandering around Oslo at Midnight because I was bored,” Steven Garcia ’20 said. “It’s an absolutely beautiful building and I was inspired to capture it. I was very happy with how they turned out.”

Categories: Colleges


Manitou Messenger - Thu, 11/21/2019 - 11:44am

Categories: Colleges

St. Olaf Sentiments

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 11/21/2019 - 11:42am

At the Cage, textbooks lay on my table with their binds bent. Pencils scatter themselves across loose leaf sheets of notes I’ve taken, and my tea spoon soaks in coffee, leaning casually against the side of my mug. It’s midday and I am organizing an alternative low-fi playlist perfect for Sunday study sessions and just long enough to distract me until my 1 p.m. lunch plans with my freshman year roommate. The ambience is cozy and relaxing. It’s moments like these when I am reminded of how much St. Olaf feels like home.

I’ve developed a recent crush on fiction writing. In fiction, I can pretend I focus well with music, drink coffee and talk to my freshman year roommate. In fiction, I don’t have to avoid running into my ex-boyfriend at the Cage. It is so much easier conforming to this theoretical concept of an “Ole” than confronting the fact that I do not feel as though I fit at this school, so fiction can make me seem palatable for you. The girl I describe myself to be – studious at the Cage – is agreeable. She is written exactly how she should be. Or not. If I wanted to, I could make the story less agreeable.

The ambience is cozy and relaxing. It’s moments like these when I am reminded of how much St. Olaf feels like home.

Buzz. Buzz. Buzz. My phone vibrates against the table, shaking my notes. Clicking the power button with my thumb, I unlock my phone to skim the notifications from my friend. A few words stick out to me: “accident”, “help”, “hospital”. Before I get a chance to reply, the buzzing begins again. I answer the call. Screaming. Wailing. All I can decipher is “Old Main”, so I stuff my work clumsily into my backpack and race towards the building my friend called out to over the phone.

I scurry along the pavement forgetting that my feet are half-a-size too small for my shoes. With one swift misstep, I fall face first onto the ground. Hard. My whole body stings and I do not get up right away. Instead, I let my limbs rest at awkward angles undisturbed.

A lot more uncomfortable, right? Just as quickly as I created the quaint Cage scene, I took it away. Fiction writing is a powerful tool to garner emotion, and it has been rather therapeutic for me when I don’t get my way. In fiction writing, I can make the impossible happen. I get a do-over. I can time travel or visit any place in the world. Or I can study at the cage with coffee, textbooks and loose leaf sheets of paper strewn about. Maybe I can use fiction to convince myself that St. Olaf could one day feel like home. But for now, I guess I will just have to play pretend.

Categories: Colleges

Dumpster fires of the NFL

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 11/21/2019 - 11:34am

Alright folks, we’re back for round two. It’s time to once again dive headfirst into the league of legally permissible gladiatorial combat that is the NFL. But have no fear loyal readers (and by loyal readers, I mean my mom. Hi mom!), we have gotten through the hell that is analyzing the good teams. We have choked down our metaphorical vegetables. Now we get to look at the dumpster fires of the league, the teams that are going nowhere fast and should feel bad about it. This week, we get to make fun of the five worst teams in the league and relish every moment of it. Now, without further ado, let us begin.

5. Miami Dolphins

If a month ago someone told me that this iteration of the Miami Dolphins would only be the fifth worst team in the league, I would’ve laughed them out of the room. Without any doubt, this is a team that is actively trying to lose. The product they had been presenting every sunday could barely have been called football. There were discussions of whether or not this team could beat the college program the Alabama Crimson Tide, and there were legitimate points being made against a Miami victory if that game had ever taken place. But then … to the horror of Dolphins fans worldwide, their team started winning. They rattled off two successive wins, the first against the admittedly horrible Jets, but the week after that they shockingly topped the Indianapolis Colts, a team that many thought were legitimate contenders in the AFC. This was all wrong. This wasn’t part of the plan. This team had literally the past 9 months selling off all of their bet pieces, only for it to backfire. I am so sorry, Dolphins fans. The first overall pick is gone. Unless his most recent injury destroys his draft stock, dreams of getting Alabama QB Tua Tungaviloa are all but dead. The football gods are cruel, heartless bastards.

4. New York Jets

Why anyone ever has any faith in this team to do well is beyond me. For God’s sake, they’re the Jets. I’m pretty sure that there’s a clause in every Jets contract that explicitly requires underperforming and disappointing the greater fans across the greater New York area. This team made such flashy moves over the offseason, signing the likes of CJ Mosely and Le’veon Bell. These signings along with a Sam Darnold with a year of experience was supposed to propel them into contention. But then because Jets they fired the GM who handed out those contracts right after he had done their whole draft and everything went to crap. Then because this team is apparently run by a gaggle of squirrels in suits, they tried to pawn off their best players for pennies on the dollar, even going as far as to promise to not trade them and then immediately turn around and shop them as was the case with star safety Jamal Adams. I pity Jets fans, but I have no sympathy left for the organization. They will forever be the butt fumble of the NFL, but hey at least you aren’t the worst team in NYC.

3. New York Giants

As a lifelong Giants fan, this is extremely painful to write. I want to focus on this team’s upside, how with a few solid free agent signings and a good draft of two, this team could return to its Superbowl form (which seems oh so very far away now). But if I were to do that, I would only be kidding myself. This team is BAD. And sure, you can blame injuries. Some of the few bright spots on the team such as Saquon Barkely and Sterling Sheppard have been on and off the field this year with injuries, but with everything around them being so putrid I doubt it would make much difference in the long run. I hate to say this so soon after the Mara family cleaned house following the 2017 season with the firing of Ben Macadoo and Jerry Reese, but it might just be that time again. Pat Shurmer and Dave Gettlman have shown an inability to build and manage even a borderline competitive team. With so much young, easily-squandered talent on this team in the likes of Daniel Jones, Dexter Lawrence and Evan Engram (to name only a few), I, as a Giants fan, am not confident in this organizations ability not to ruin it.

2. Washington Redskins

I have taken to calling this team the Deadskins, for that is what this organization is. Dead. This organization has done so much wrong in the Dan Schneider era, it is honestly hard not to despise them. From their refusal to change their name to something that JUST ISN’T A RACIAL SLUR, to the misdiagnosis of Trent Williams’ cancer as “minor,” and something that he doesn’t have to worry about, their sins are numerous. I honestly don’t blame former coach Jay Gruden for having had both feet out the door before they fired him, I would have done the same thing. This organization has no future. Adrian Peterson needs to sign with a different team so that he doesn’t end his Hall of Fame career with this joke of a franchise. Rookie QB Dwayne Haskins will have his potential squandered, and there is no doubt about that in my mind about that. Nothing good will come to this franchise as long as Dan Schneider owns it. Luckily, D.C. has other teams like the Nationals and Capitals to keep them sane, because FedEx Field will be nothing but a desolate wasteland of failure and misery for a long-time coming.

1.Cincinatti Bengals

Surprisingly enough, the worst team in the league has the brightest future of any of these teams. While they haven’t been selling big pieces to acquire more draft picks (mostly because they had no big pieces in the first place), their ineptitude has at this point secured them the first pick in the draft. They will be able to build around that draft pick (hopefully a QB for the sake of fans in Cincinnati), and even though he has been hurt all year, they still do have one of the best receivers in the league in AJ Green. Don’t get me wrong, this team is god awful, just maybe not for much longer. Then again, they are the Bengals, so I’m sure they’ll find some way to royally screw it all up.

Categories: Colleges

Minnesota Twins: 2019 Wrap-Up and 2020 Outlook

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 11/21/2019 - 11:31am

In 2018, the Minnesota Twins lost more games than they won, with a record of 78-84. I wrote an article at this time last year suggesting that the Twins had the chance to turn things around and build a playoff team for 2019. However, I never could have guessed that the Twins would stampede their way to the playoffs with a mind-boggling 101 wins.

The 2019 Twins broke new ground thanks in large part to the hiring of an inexperienced 37-year-old manager named Rocco Baldelli. Twins beat reporter Do-Hyoung Park reports that part of Baldelli’s influence involved his focus on “building relationships and creating a fun, comfortable clubhouse environment to empower his players.” Under Baldelli’s guidance, the Minnesota Twins shocked the baseball world by setting a new all-time record for most team home runs in one season and broke the 100-win threshold for the first time in over 50 years. Last week, Baldelli was recognized for his extraordinary efforts with the AL Manager of the Year award.

All of this sets the stage for a very exciting 2020 season. Baldelli has proven his effectiveness as a manager and the Twins once again have plenty of room on their payroll to afford the more expensive players in the free agency. The gaping hole for the team this offseason is in their starting rotation; four of the five Twins starting pitchers have reached the end of their contract. Last week, the Twins resigned Jake Odorizzi, one of those four pitchers, to a one-year, $17.8M deal. This was a necessary move, as a hole this large would be very difficult to fill entirely with free agents.

Regarding the other three vacancies in the starting rotation, the Twins should dream big. There are plenty of well-established pitchers on the market and the Twins have plenty of cash to spend. I hereby advise that the Twins sign two major starting pitchers: Hyun-jin Ryu and Dallas Keuchel. One is a former Cy Young award winner and one is a runner-up. Both are seasoned MLB veterans who aren’t looking for a ridiculously long-term deal. Both are rumored to be searching for a three- or four-year deal for a considerable, but not unreasonable, sum of money.

Other worthy candidates for a deal with the Twins include Wheeler, Hamels, Roark, Anderson or Lyles. These pitchers would come at a slightly lower cost but still offer the Twins a great talent. Perhaps the Twins sign either Ryu or Keuchel and then select from my basket of other options. Or perhaps they don’t read the Manitou Messenger. At the very least, they need to somehow acquire two more above-average starting pitchers in order to construct a 2020 postseason team.

Still, that leaves one starting rotation spot empty. However, the team can (and likely will) fill this spot from within the organization. The best option at this point is Randy Dobnak, who rocketed through the minor leagues last year and impressed in the majors with a 1.59 ERA through 28.1 innings. Suffice to say, Dobnak will be able to fill in the back end of the rotation. If he hits a rough patch, the Twins still have internal options for a fifth starter in Brusdar Graterol or Devin Smeltzer.

All in all, the Twins are poised for another terrific season in 2020. With a bright young manager, one of the best lineups in the game and an opportunity to improve pitching this offseason, there’s no reason they shouldn’t repeat as AL Central Division Champions.

Categories: Colleges

Finding success in an era of struggle

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 11/21/2019 - 11:31am

Both the men’s and women’s hockey programs at St. Olaf experienced what I would argue were defining moments over the past year. Both programs faced the departure of experienced and well-respected head coaches, and the hiring of two young, fresh faces to take their respective places. Alongside this head coaching shift, St. Olaf hockey received a new home on the Hill, a drastic change from their previous location off-campus.

These changes forced both programs to reevaluate and enter a period of transition. As with any transitional period, for any franchise, the hockey teams have struggled to find their footing in unfamiliar territory. Neither team has won a game at the St. Olaf Ice Arena since its inauguration in January 2019. Neither team has won a game, home or away, in their 2019-20 seasons so far. While losses were expected, it is not inaccurate to say that no one envisioned this prolific of a struggle.

However, while it is possible to take these defeats at face value and come to the conclusion that hockey at St. Olaf is simply ‘bad,’ I believe there is more to both programs than meets the eye.

Watching the men’s team play against a nationally ranked St. Thomas last Friday night, it was clear that the Oles were not outmatched, holding a tight defensive line and notching a couple good counter-attacking shots before ultimately falling 0-1. While the situation for the women’s team was more lopsided, they too showed glimpses of promise through some sparkling scoring chances on the fast-break, chances which ultimately caught St. Thomas unawares and led to a 19th minute goal for first-year Samantha Martin in the second period.

“However, while it is possible to take these defeats at face value and come to the conclusion that hockey at St. Olaf is simply ‘bad,’ I believe there is more to both programs than meets the eye.”

Although their records may not reflect it, both men’s and women’s hockey programs are showing definite promise. Both rosters feature majority underclass athletes who are continuing to develop their skills to match a difficult Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Both new head coaches are young and come from successful programs themselves, and while it may take some time to build trust among players, they will surely transfer their developing sets of skills to programs that share bright futures.

Most importantly for both teams, the support from fans is still there. Student-athletes from across campus turned out on Friday and Saturday nights to cheer on the Oles at home, and parents and community members also offered their support from the seats. It would seem that, as the losses continue to pile up and brief glimpses of greatness continue to shine through, support for the teams continues to grow. It’s the paradox of defeat – people want to be there when the tides change.

And, rest assured, the tides will change for these programs. The desire to win, both among the players and the fans, continues to grow. With time comes experience, for coaches and players alike — experience that will naturally translate into success on the ice. Through all the tough defeats and glimpses of brilliance, the character of the teams and of the fanbase will continue to develop.

As with any great franchise, it is necessary to take the good with the bad. While it is clear that St. Olaf hockey is currently in the bad, I think the good is right around the corner.

Categories: Colleges

For the love of the game

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 11/21/2019 - 11:28am

A St. Olaf student’s successful career in sports betting.

When you imagine sports betting, it might be easy to picture bookies and attendees throwing money around at a horse race, a frenetic financial chaos similar to stock exchanges and pre-computerized securities trading. But like in a stock exchange, this chaos has vanished in favor of the digital world. The rise of sports betting with its path towards legalization in many states has also triggered a rise in the use of algorithms to predict which teams and players to bet on.

Largely, the process of creating algorithms to determine the success of individual players or teams is enabled by a recent change in sports as a whole, where teams and stakeholders have started using data and statistical modeling to not only decide what players to play when, but how the game is played. This revolution was brought to the forefront by the bestselling book “Moneyball,” which inspired the movie of the same name.

One St. Olaf student is using this statistical approach to sports to improve his own game, and also to make money in sports betting. Let’s call him Jay, as he must remain anonymous to maintain NCAA eligibility. Jay bets using a website called DraftKings, a site featuring a wide range of sports betting avenues, but bets almost exclusively on football. In order to maximize his chances of winning, he bets using a system where a lobby of individuals will each set forth a lineup, and based on how successful the players in the lineup are, they earn points. The half of the lobby with an above-average number of points get 180% of their bet back, and the other half lose it all.

This method is ripe for success, as you only have to beat the average competitor, not the Vegas odds. And so, to ensure that he wins a significant majority of the time, Jay uses algorithms to decide which players to pick for his lineup. The results speak for themselves. Every season Jay takes $25, with the hopes to multiply it as much as possible. Last year, he turned his $25 into $1000. This year, Jay is on track to replicate his staggering 3,900% return on investment, a return on investment even the biggest and most successful sports brokers would envy.

The secret to his success is the effort he puts into his algorithms. These algorithms are intensely complex mathematical functions that use over a dozen individual player metrics to spit out which players are likely to score him the most points on DraftKings. These metrics can be as simple as average yards per game to as complex as to which team is projected to be playing from behind, causing a higher likelihood of late game passes. Of course, creating the algorithm is just one part of the process. Jay spends about 24 hours a week collecting and inputting the data needed to fill in his massive excel spreadsheet that houses the algorithms.

In interviewing Jay, I realized there was something deeper than just his intellect and an ability to make money on sports betting. There was a wholehearted love for sports and a love for numbers at play. With the amount of effort he was putting in and the comparatively low amount of money he was betting, I asked him why he did it. He was certainly making below minimum wage, after all. I asked if it was to fulfill a career ambition.

“I would do it for free, just because I really love it,” Jay said. “If this was a lucrative, stable job, I would definitely consider it. It is a very good combination of things I love.”

Categories: Colleges


Manitou Messenger - Thu, 11/21/2019 - 11:24am

It took me about a year and a half, but I think I can say with full certainty that I have exhausted the St. Olaf dating pool. As a first-year, hookups and dating seemed inconsequential – my romantic life was an opportunity to explore and have fun. That exploration, however, has slowly developed some unintended consequences.

At dinner the other day, I was talking with my friends about an ex-boyfriend of mine. I told a fun anecdote about a time his close friend Ruby* and I went to dinner together. I had nothing against Ruby. She was a nice girl who always treated me with respect and kindness. But Ruby is a close friend of my ex-boyfriend and as a means of disassociating myself from any romantic feelings towards him, I figured it would be best for my mental health to avoid Ruby. After all, Ruby was a part of my ex-boyfriend’s world, and we belonged to different friend groups, so it was easy to keep those worlds separate.

“Ruby? She’s my SI instructor for religion!” My friend exclaimed.

“No way,” another friend chimed in, “She lives right across the hall from me!”

I realized then that our worlds were not as distant as I had previously thought. Somehow my ex-boyfriend’s world overlapped with my friendships and I was at a loss. Sure, I could keep adding people to my “avoid-eye-contact-at-all-costs” list, but I had already watched it grow exponentially over the past year as I added the names of my recent ex-boyfriend and, by association his friends and their friends.

In a small school, it is impossible to avoid the ghost of relationships past. It is tempting to try and distance yourself from old heartaches, but learning to confront your post break-up reality is part of moving on. People have as much power over you as you give them, and unnaturally trying to keep your worlds separate can be draining. Especially considering that memories of your failed romances will haunt every inch of this school. It is at Old Main where you first spotted that cute person in your 9:00 a.m. BTS-T class. It is at the Cage where you had your first coffee date or at Viking Theater when you went to see Incredibles 2 together. For me, it was at the Caf when I carried my food to my table.

Just as I was setting my tray down, I look up to see my ex-boyfriend one table over. He was facing me, laughing with his friends. We had not yet made eye contact, so in that moment I had a choice. I could either take my tray downstairs and eat in the Pause or take a seat at that table. Whatever decision I was going to make would say something significant about me – my coping mechanisms, my conflict resolution tactics and my insecurities. Was I going to live the rest of my time at St. Olaf in fear of an array of college boys, or was I going to confront my relationship ghosts head on? Sitting down would mean I was ready to let go.

So, I took my tray and went to go eat in the Pause. However, as I turned the corner and walked past the dishroom I stopped. I glanced at my reflection in the window and then at my uneaten food. Refusing to acknowledge my history was ironically what was giving it so much power. By actively avoiding my past I was not allowing room for personal growth. That is never a healthy way to live.

When navigating relationships at St. Olaf, it is important to develop healthy coping mechanisms in case the relationship ends. We are young and bound to make mistakes when it comes to love. Sometimes those mistakes cost us a few friends or partners, but hiding from your past will make your time here so much more unpleasant. Especially on such a tiny campus, it is practically impossible to entirely forget old relationships. You will see them, and St. Olaf will somehow remind you of their existence. You have a choice, too: you can hide from your ghosts or let them go.

I took one last look at my reflection in the window. My heart was racing and I stared myself down. I had made my choice. So, I walked myself back to the table at the Caf, and took a seat.

*names have been changed.

Categories: Colleges

A&Eats: Cozy caf meals

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 11/21/2019 - 11:22am

“I love when there are soup options in the caf, especially the vegan soup options,” Sylvie Deters ’22 said.

Categories: Colleges

2019: The Year of Horror Movies

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 11/21/2019 - 11:18am

Against all odds, 2019 has delivered more evidence of a genuine horror-film renaissance

2019 has been a year of welcome surprises for movies. Comic-book movie naysayers have been silenced with Marvel’s “Avengers Endgame” and DC’s “Joker” raising quality standards of the genre. A new throwback mob movie from Martin Scorsese has been embraced with universal acclaim despite its unlikely Netflix home. This year has even seen unprecedented success in the international film market, with Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite” clearing $100 million at the box office and setting limited-release U.S. opening weekend records. Perhaps the most miraculous of the surprises, however, has been the affirmation of a legitimate renovation of the horror genre.

This is a renovation that has been in the works for many years now. At the cusp of the 2010s, the genre was saturated by franchises like “Paranormal Activity” and “Saw.” Despite having critical receptions as low as their budgets, Hollywood’s gore and jumpscare stuffed seasonal franchises dominated the market. Industry experts worried over diminishing annual profits of horror movies. Sans a few indie and international outings like “The Babadook” and “It Follows,” the genre was seeming increasingly disposable and stale.

The latter half of the decade, however, has suggested more promising prospects for horror fanatics. Thanks to companies like A24, more obscure and artistically driven horror films like “The Witch,” “It Comes at Night” and “Hereditary” found widespread distribution and attention. Hollywood horror movies began to find its groove again, with mainstream hits such as “It” and “A Quiet Place” each raking in over $300 million in the box office.

However, the real game changer was perhaps the critical and commercial success of Jordan Peele’s 2017 film “Get Out.” “Get Out” was a blockbuster horror sensation, becoming the first horror movie to compete for the Best Picture Oscar since 1991’s “The Silence of the Lambs” (Peele took home the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for the film, becoming the first black man to do so). And among 2019’s most popular and critically acclaimed films are horror flicks: “Us,” “Midsommar” and “The Lighthouse.”

“Us,” Peele’s second horror outing, has been every bit as commercially and critically popular as “Get Out.” “Us” earned $250 million – becoming the most financially successful original horror film of all time. Peele’s films have been noted for their carefully constructed socially commentary, with “Get Out” and “Us” being interpreted as criticisms of this era of so-called “post-racial” America. Peele has also made good use of his famed background in comedy, splicing crowd-pleasing comic relief into his films.

“Midsommar” comes from “Hereditary” writer and director Ari Aster, whose freshman effort shocked audiences, going on to be hailed as “the scariest movie since ‘The Exorcist’” by certain critics. For “Midsommar,” Aster decided to downplay the horror elements of the film, focusing instead on creating a mesmerizing atmosphere. On top of much play with melodrama and trauma, Aster’s films have been noted for their arthouse influences with allusions to the films of Ingmar Bergman and Andrei Tarkovsky. “Midsommar,” despite positive critical reception, has been the subject of much debate, with as many people disparaging it as hailing it a masterpiece.

Robert Egger’s “The Lighthouse,” however, may be the year’s horror stand out. Fans have been calling the film a bona-fide modern classic since it opened to rave reviews at Cannes. Like his freshman effort, “The Witch,” Egger’s film is a meticulously researched and crafted New England period horror film. Despite only featuring two actors in the entire film (Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe), audiences have been entranced with the film, rallying for Academy attention for both actors. Eggers shares similar arthouse influences with Aster; the two have discussed their admiration for Bergman on a podcast.

Peele, Aster and Eggers have found much success in their respective lanes of the horror genre, each releasing successful sophomore efforts in 2019. As the year has shown, despite anxieties about an increasingly changing landscape, film as a serious cultural force is not going anywhere. In fact – as perhaps is the case for horror films – it might just be getting started.

Graphic by Thomas Hardy/Manitou Messenger

Categories: Colleges

Agnes A Capella concert has all the elements of an entertaining evening

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 11/21/2019 - 10:48am

Agnes A Cappella had the audience clapping, cheering and laughing along to the music at their fall concert on Nov. 15.

Agnes A Cappella is St. Olaf’s resident soprano and alto a capella group and includes students, Katie Anderson ’20, Emily Bohlig ’20, Alina Villa ’20, Jessica Folson ’21, Emma Borkowski ’21, Meg Swanson ’21, Gabbie Hotlzman ’21, Chloe Militzer ’21, Kylie Landa ’22 and Mila New ’22.

This year, their fall concert focused on the theme of “Fire, Water, Earth and Air.” The set began with a medley of rain themed songs, including “It’s Raining Men,” by The Weather Girls, ‘’Thunder” by Imagine Dragons and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from “The Wizard of Oz.”

After the introductory medley, each member or the group took turns performing solo pieces with the rest of the group acting as the mandatory a capella backup. Villa was an essential part of the backup with their beat-boxing prowess, and the group expressed thanks at the end to Folson, who they said “gives us all of our notes to sing every single song we sing.”

Notable solos included Anderson’s heart-wrenching performance of “Turned to Stone” by Ingrid Michaelson and Holtzman’s energetic rendition of “Mr Blue Sky” by The Electric Light Orchestra.

“Hill Harmonics,” St. Olaf’s mixed-voice a cappella group performed three songs during the concert’s intermission. The group’s wobbly but comedic set was a definite crowd pleaser. You can check out Hill Harmonics in a full concert on Saturday, Nov. 23 at 6:30 p.m. at the Pause Mane Stage.

The concert included a decent amount of group participation – at one point, the singers taught the audience how to sing some basic a cappella techniques and, during intermission, Agnes members invited the audience to play a Kahoot filled with fun trivia about each Anges member.

At times, the balance seemed a little off, with the background singers drowning out the lead. However, the shaky balance could have been due to questionable tech, as deafening screeches occasionally filled the Pause, making everyone in the audience flinch.

The concert may not have been pitch perfect, but the Agnes A Cappella put on an entertaining, captivating performance Friday night.

Photos: Claire Strother/Manitou Messenger

Categories: Colleges

“Cloud 9” amounts to a shocking, powerful, thought-provoking performance

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 11/21/2019 - 10:42am

This past Friday, the St. Olaf theater department opened its production of “Cloud 9” by Caryl Churchill. Filled with non-traditional casting and a remarkable scenic and costume design, the production delivered a powerful statement on the intersection of repression, colonialism and identity.

“Cloud 9” is a bold complex play that utilizes absurdism to challenge the ways sexual orientation, gender, race and class identities intersected in both 19th century British colonial Africa and 1970s London.

“Holistically, the production was a marvelous success. “Cloud 9” is a powerful and frequently shocking play that requires a great deal of reflection from the audience,” Eli Aronson ’21 said.

The first act of the play, set in British colonial Africa, shocked the audience from the onset. “Cloud 9” immediately submerged the audience into the absurdist and bent reality with cross-gender, race and age casting. The play continued to shock through tense character dynamics, jarringly direct and profane dialogue and simulated sex acts. It was clear through the direction and performances that special attention was paid to these potentially problematic elements to ensure they effectively furthered the themes.

The second act, set 100 years later in 1970s London, was an interesting departure from the world created in the first act. The characters are free to explore and embrace their identities, but still struggle to fully overcome the repression developed in the first act.

While the show was well performed, there were some standout performances that made this production extraordinary.

Rachel Ropella ’20 performed with incredible strength and clarity of intention. Playing the secretive Harry Bagley and the bumbling Martin, Ropella’s attention to detail was evident in every scene, conversation and vignette. Bianca Davis ’21 performed her contrasting roles in the first act with excellent distinction and variety and in the second act, her performance as the lesbian single-mother Lin was a scene stealer.

Additionally, both Claire Chenoweth ’20 and Kendall Otness ’21 portrayed their roles with excellent dramatic gravitas that especially grounded the new reality in the second act. Seeing Chenoweth’s performance as the elderly mother Betty in act two expertly articulated the struggle of self-expression and societal oppression.

There were times when the pacing of the show lagged or accelerated unexpectedly. Some moments seemed to swell lethargically but were often immediately picked up by the energy of Ropella or Davis’ characters.

The scenic and costume design was decadent and tastefully absurd. The production transformed the proscenium Kelsey Theater into a thrust stage with the audience seated on the stage itself. Brian Bjorklund’s scenic design and Aimee Jillson’s costume design possessed a beautiful attention to detail and complemented the dramatic and absurdist themes of the play. The physical concept was seamlessly tied in with the overarching dramatic concept was a testament to the creative abilities of St. Olaf’s theater department.

Holistically, the production was a marvelous success. “Cloud 9” is a powerful and frequently shocking play that requires a great deal of reflection from the audience. It is encouraging to see that the St. Olaf theater department is unafraid to present difficult and uncomfortable art that forces the audience to think critically about how one is complicit in the oppression of others and oneself.

Categories: Colleges
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