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

MDA issues consumer advisory for non-organic Fresh Thyme Farmers Market blackberries

KYMN Radio - Thu, 11/21/2019 - 10:57am

Please see update below from Fresh Thyme issued at 2:30pm this afternoon (Nov. 21, 2019) FDA investigating multistate Hepatitis A outbreak St. Paul, MN: The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is advising consumers to not eat any non-organic blackberries purchased between September 9 and September 30, 2019, from Fresh Thyme Farmers Market grocery store locations.

The post MDA issues consumer advisory for non-organic Fresh Thyme Farmers Market blackberries appeared first on KYMN Radio · Northfield, MN · AM 1080 & FM 95.1.

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

Rent control will do nothing to solve California’s housing crisis

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 11/21/2019 - 10:36am

The conceit of the free market is that generally it supplies most things efficiently to most people. Whenever it fails to supply, it is a market failure.

There is, unquestionably, a market failure at play in California’s housing market. This market failure has managed to place California as one of the richest states with the most homelessness. The question is simple: why has the market failed to provide enough affordable housing to Californians? The answer is simple: not enough housing is being built.

The California legislature has just passed a bill to limit rent price increases, which, while well-intentioned, will ultimately fail to help the housing problem. The problem in California is not that existing housing is too expensive, it is that this expense happens because there is simply not enough housing options in the first place. If it were just a rent price problem, then there would be a surplus of empty apartments and homes in California, with people just unable to rent there. The simple truth is that not enough housing is being built.

This is not just a practical question in California – rent controls have time and time again proven ineffective in reducing housing costs and homelessness. In fact, the Washington Post referred to rent controls as “the one policy all economists can agree is bad,” as it is fundamentally inept at solving the real problem at hand; there are not enough places to live.

This is not a carte-blanche, conservative, anti-government intervention argument. In fact, there is a state intervention in the California housing market that would actually do a whole lot to address this issue. Furthermore, it is contained in a bill already proposed in the California State Senate.

California Senate Bill 50 would attack existing zoning law in California. Outside of the very center of California’s major cities, local zoning laws prohibit housing that is not single-family housing. This is because the constituents deeply involved in local governments want to see their home values go up and have misaligned incentives that lead them to pass zoning law to keep others out of the market.

This bill would forcefully change much of the zoning law in California to allow for the spread of more urban housing, including apartment and condominium complexes. Doing so would dramatically increase the amount of people who can live in these neighborhoods and, as the vehement opposition of local homeowners associations tell us, would decrease property value (and, therefore, rent).

A secondary benefit of this policy would be reducing the environmental impact of these neighborhoods. With urban expansion, the need for cars would decrease and maybe finally the famous LA traffic would start to be reduced. Furthermore, the people living within California’s largest cities have some of the lowest environmental impacts in the U.S. This comes from a combination of not needing air conditioning, being less likely to drive cars and environmental regulation in the cities and California. Increasing the size of urban parts of these city areas would dramatically reduce the carbon footprint of California as a whole.

This bill has sat stagnant for months, as it has divided the California legislature. Some are scared that the increased development could price people out of the market, as developers may elect to build high-cost places to live rather than homes that could be afforded.

With all due-respect to California’s politicians, this idea is at best ignorant and at worst pandering spurred on by a detestment of any and all of the economic literature on the topic. When looked at in a contemporary or historical lens, the development of and creation of more housing in a market with a constant demand will always decrease price. Gentrification is already a massive problem in California’s urban centers and suburbs, specifically because not enough housing is built to satisfy the demand.

If the California legislature wanted to actually make movement on solving California’s housing crisis, they would pass the bill they’ve already written: California Senate Bill 50.

Logan Graham ’23 is from Warrenville, Ill. His major is undecided.

Categories: Colleges

Obama calls out cancel culture

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 11/21/2019 - 10:32am

A video of former President Barack Obama criticizing cancel culture has been gaining attention on social media. The video is from a rare public appearance Obama made on Oct. 29 at an Obama Foundation Summit, but his even rarer harshness raised eyebrows for his online fanbase.

To be clear, definitions of cancel culture can vary, but my definition is attempting to hurt someone’s career and steer success away from them if they are bigoted. People deserve second chances, but most celebrities who are cancelled have good reason to be.

Obama claimed that young people on social media think activism is being “as judgemental as possible.” He said that people can tweet against a celebrity and “sit back and feel pretty good” because of how “woke” they are.

He even defended his views by saying, “People who you are fighting may love their kids.” Whatever that means.

Basically, Obama hates social media activism and cancel culture and his harsh language offended many young people, including myself. I am not a big fan of Obama to begin with, but with the 2020 elections ramping up, Obama cannot be excusing racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination, which is what cancel culture targets.

My favorite example is when cancel culture targeted actress Scarlett Johansson after years of problematic actions and comments. She took the lead role in the live-action adaptation of the Japanese manga series “Ghost in the Shell.” She also tried to take a transgender lead role in “Rub & Tug” despite being a cis-gender, white person. She then responded to criticism by saying that she should be able to play “any person, tree or animal.”

Many people had conversations about the complex subjects of representation in media and plenty agreed that Johansson was a bigot who should not be supported. Johansson is the type of person who does not deserve a second chance anymore because she is clearly bigoted and there are people with much more talent and intellect who can do her job better.

Social media allows many more people to be educated about the other media they consume and good conversations about politics can occur when a celebrity is cancelled. Obama says cancel culture is not “bringing about change,” but I actually got into politics and educated myself after seeing so much buzz about the 2016 elections on Tumblr and Instagram.

“Obama says cancel culture is not ‘bringing about change,’ but I actually got into politics and educated myself after seeing so much buzz about the 2016 elections on Tumblr and Instagram.”

Does social media activism get bills to pass or wars to stop? Absolutely not, but activism does not have to be at the macro level. Simply educating Americans in every way possible can have great impacts on our conversations about topics such as race and gender.

When people, especially politicians, are abrasive to “wokeness,” it just means they do not like being politically correct or watching their language. It is really not hard to be polite and not racist or sexist.

Considering the 2020 elections are ramping up, Obama must uphold high standards for Democrats and even higher standards for anti-racists and anti-sexists. The discussion within the party must be about how to alleviate and ultimately solve America’s oppressive structures and that requires accurate language or political correctness or “wokeness,” as Obama calls it.

While I understand that sometimes teenagers on Twitter can be ruthless and harsh, the majority of cancel culture deals with either clear examples of bigotry or debates about the gray area and both situations are completely valid and helpful for political discourse.

While Obama may have tried to point out the extreme of social media, he actually offended teenagers who learn and discuss politics on platforms like Twitter. Social media activists who spread the word and debate about political correctness are not the enemy.

Karen Larionova ’23 is from Eden Prairie, Minn. Her major is undecided

Categories: Colleges

What Instagram’s new change could mean for content creators

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 11/21/2019 - 10:30am

A quick read through some people’s reactions to Instagram’s recent announcement regarding likes made me realize that there is actually a misunderstanding about what the announcement was in the first place. No, Instagram is not removing the feature that allows you to like people’s posts. So do not worry – you can continue liking every single post by your celebrity crush. However, you will not be able to see the number of people who have done the same. Only the owners of accounts would be able to see the number of likes their content received.

“Likes on Instagram are a form of capital that speaks to one’s value and credibility.”

Countries like Canada, Japan and Brazil have already implemented this change. Instagram’s CEO, Adam Mosseri announced that this move is an attempt to de-pressurise their social space – to see Instagram shift from the more competitive comparison of number of likes to an emphasis on the content and appreciation of people’s work and art. The potential implications of this feature for U.S. social media culture has a lot people in a roar of conversations and debates.

I cannot help but be skeptical of how this move would affect smaller businesses and growing voices on Instagram. A lot of influencers and businesses benefit directly from the metric system of like counts and earn a living from it. Whether it had been Instagram’s intention or not, it has become a platform from which entertainers, entrepreneurs and content creators can find creative means to market themselves and engage visibly with their audience. Likes on Instagram are a form of capital that speaks to one’s value and credibility.

I am not saying that all accounts that have many likes have great content; we all know that is not true. Nor am I saying that the actual content cannot speak for itself in exclusion to the number of likes it gets. However, when you are a growing business or an influencer, on top of the work you put into creating and marketing your work, users’ ability to see the number of likes you get on posts can speak mounts on people’s continual positive perception of your work.

Instagram is not oblivious to this and they even acknowledged it, promising to come to an alternative of how businesses and content creators can communicate value to their market and audience. Whether or not Instagram ends up making this test permanent in the U.S., it will be interesting to see if they choose to protect businesses and influencers from being negatively impacted by the change.

While Facebook Inc., which owns Instagram, says this change is a ‘fundamental’ one, many people insist that this is one of many ways the company is asserting its power on their market – to have more businesses and content creators pay for ads directly to them. I am not indifferent to some of the positives that can come from reducing the arbitrary measures young people use to define their worth. But, honestly, when it comes to Facebook, there is always something cringy about their ‘well-intended’ initiatives disguising the profit-driven ethic that I have come to associate them with.

Lerato Mensah-Aborampah ’22 is from Maseru, Lesotho. Her major is undecided.

Categories: Colleges

New registration system is a step in the right direction

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 11/21/2019 - 10:29am

As anyone who consistently reads the Manitou Messenger from start to end will know, St. Olaf is implementing an entirely new registration system. It will be first come, first serve; seniors get access first, then juniors, then underclassmen. The Registrar’s Office promises an easier and more straightforward registration process, a claim that may or may not prove true in the long run.

“In a first come, first serve system, being early to the game is everything.”

The day spring registration opened this year, one of my friends and I skipped lunch, made Kraft mac n’ cheese in her microwave and signed up for classes within five minutes of registration opening. We knew the timing did not matter, but it made us feel a little more in control; with five majors and two concentrations planned between us, any amount of fantasized control over our class registration was calming.

As a first year, I heard plenty of advice and theories from peers and upperclassmen alike about how registration works. It felt to me like a convoluted, incomprehensible system: throw your classes into the void and hope it all works itself out. Cross your fingers and pray to the Registrar. Now, some of this panic is just my flair for the dramatic. But there is a general consensus among students that the old registration system is stressful and confusing.

So, will the new system be better? That remains to be seen. I can, however, offer some predictions. My class tested the registration system over the summer when we signed up for first year writing and religion classes. As a Great Conversation student, I did not have to go through the process, but most of the first years I know did. As a whole, they found the process pretty simple – with the caveat that they had no prior experience with which to compare it.

The first years’ approaches to registration varied. My circle of first years included both ends of the spectrum: some were like me, refreshing the page every few minutes until the program opened, while others forgot about it altogether until the very last day.

It is this difference in timing that worries me. In a first come, first serve system, being early to the game is everything; making mac n’ cheese and huddling with your laptop is necessary rather than slightly obsessive. For me, it raises a few potential problems. The most obvious is that this urge to be early will go overboard and that the already high-strung St. Olaf student body will just become more stressed – exactly the opposite of what the Registrar’s Office intended.

Of course, there is no such thing as a perfect registration system. It is a process that will cause stress and difficulty no matter how well designed it is. And as a whole, St. Olaf’s new system seems more straightforward and the first years generally had no complaints. Although I worry about the added anxiety the first come, first serve aspect will inevitably bring, I still think it is a better system.

Registration will never be a low-stress situation, but the new system is a nice attempt to make it less convoluted. If all else fails, register early, cross your fingers and eat some mac n’ cheese.

Grace Klinefelter ’23 is from Omaha, Neb. Her major is undecided.

Graphic: Anna Weimholt/Manitou Messenger

Categories: Colleges

Many campus buildings remain inaccessible for disabled and injured students

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 11/21/2019 - 10:22am

Although St. Olaf is a predominantly residential campus, many residence halls and other buildings remain inaccessible for students with disabilities or injuries.

Mellby, Thorson, Hoyme, Rand, Hilleboe and Kittlesby residence halls, as well as the Theater Building, lack elevators and other accommodations. Students who have suffered due to this issue are voicing their concerns, and the Student Government Association (SGA) and Residence Life staff, conscious of this pending problem, are looking to find a solution.

Navigating campus can be especially tricky for students who suffer injuries mid-way through the year since they have not arranged to live in an accessible dorm.

Mahmoud Aldirderi ’20 had reconstructive ACL and meniscus surgery in late August 2019. He lives at the bottom floor of a Rand stairwell, which forces him to traverse two flights of stairs every time he needs to go anywhere.

“I could not put any weight on my foot in my case, whereas if only my ACL was torn I could use my foot,” Aldirderi. “So, initially I stayed off campus at some very good friends of mine. They took care of me after the surgery, they had cars and I didn’t have to bother with the inaccessibility – no stairs.”

Two weeks into the semester, Aldirderi’s physical therapist gave him the green light for putting more pressure on his injured leg. He then moved back into Rand. However, the dorm’s inaccessibility persisted as a problem. Usually, students in a similar situation are able to move to a more accessible dorm. Aldirderi received this offer but needed his roommates for psychological support and, due to the severity of his surgery, to assist him with standing up, showering, changing ice packs and other things.

Even with his friends’ support, the stairs were a huge obstacle for him.

“It was isolating,” Aldirderi said. “The stairs were horrible. I would rather just stay in my room all day and end up not doing anything.”

Recent graduate Kayla Carlson ’19, who has a physical disability, experienced the lack of accessibility on campus every day for four years. Not only was Carlson incapable of accessing most dorms due to their lack of elevators, but she found that the supposedly accommodating residence halls also lacked proper infrastructure.

“The solution has been to just put people in accessible dorms but even though Larson has an elevator, it doesn’t have an accessible bathroom,” Carlson said. “Same with Mohn. As far as I know, Ytterboe doesn’t have a shower with a bench.”

While academic buildings on campus are generally more accommodating for people with disabilities, the Theater Building remains inaccessible. Though the building has an elevator in the back that accesses the green rooms, it requires two flights of stairs to reach classrooms on the upper floors.

“It’s simply that the school should take into account students with disabilities regarding their architecture. Period,” Aldirderi said.

This is not an issue that has gone unnoticed. Student Government Association (SGA) President Devon Nielsen ’20 and Vice President Ariel Mota Alves ’20 are aware of the lack of accessibility at the College and intend to address this issue in spring 2020.

The two executives are both board members of the Minnesota Association of Private College Students (MAPCS), an organization comprised of Minnesotan college student government representatives. MAPCS seeks to find innovative solutions to the common struggles of private colleges by means of a collective effort.

“This coming spring [MAPCS] are going to discuss accessibility. This will be an ongoing conversation,” Mota Alves said.

This particular issue is not unique to St. Olaf alone, but extends to most private colleges in Minnesota. With many dorms without elevators, oddly shaped terrain and seasons that alter landscapes with time, maintaining accessibility throughout campus is a challenge.

From a legal standpoint, it is permissible that not all campus dorms and buildings are created equally.

“[An] example could be a student who needs to be able to be in a wheelchair while showering,” said Associate Dean of Students for Residence Life Pamela McDowell. “Not all halls have showers you may roll into – but as long as some halls do we meet the requirements. As we renovate we do try to address more of these accessibility concerns.”

Both staff and student authorities are cognizant of this pending issue. Feasible solutions, however, are highly complex, requiring architectural ingenuity that limits quick change.

“I applaud St. Olaf for their work,” Nielsen said. “But my ultimate dream would be that St. Olaf continues that drive to become more accessible throughout campus.”

Categories: Colleges

Class project tests trayless Stav Hall, provoking backlash

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 11/21/2019 - 10:22am

Stav Hall went trayless for two nights last week in a pilot initiative spearheaded by students from an environmental studies course.

Five students from the course “Environmental Policy & Regulation in the United States” led the pilot initiative to gather information regarding student responses to a trayless cafeteria and to see if no trays is a good fit for St. Olaf.

The use of trays in the cafeteria leads to increased food waste and water usage, which contribute to poor campus sustainability, group members Cameron Goebel ’21 and Rose Sandell ’21 said.

No trays were present in Stav Hall during dinner Nov. 12 and 13, unless needed for accessibility reasons. Student volunteers weighed leftover food to gather data on food waste.

The students held the pilot as part of a class project that encouraged students to work toward a change in environmental policy.

“I want people to come out of this class and not think of policy as something that’s way off in Washington,” said visiting instructor in environmental studies Megan Butler, who leads the class.

The group landed on the idea of a trayless initiative after group member Becky White ’22 reached out to Bon Appetit General Manager Traci Quinnell and various other cafeteria workers. Northfield City Council Member Suzie Nakasian also spoke with group members about their project.

“She recommended that we do a pilot program, to see if we could try it first and then get some data, figure out public reactions, and then move forward from there,” Sandell said.

Goebel sent an email to the student body detailing the pilot program on Nov. 10 and a survey to gather feedback on Nov. 14.

The survey included four options regarding the trayless initiative – full support, on the fence, do not support, and don’t care. Of the responses so far, more students selected ‘do not support’ than ‘support,’ while ‘on the fence’ was the most popular option, Sandell said. The results so far are inconclusive.

“We saw a lot in the survey, people were asking, ‘I’d like to see if this actually makes a difference,’” Goebel said. “That may take them off the fence.”

During dinner on Nov. 19 and 20, the group weighed leftover food to measure the difference in food waste between having trays and not having trays.

“We’re hoping that there’s a significant difference,” Sandell said. “Maybe it’ll push people that are on the fence to be like, ‘oh, so this actually had an impact.’”

Sandell and Goebel noticed a majority of students expressed disapproval and frustration with a trayless cafeteria. This frustration led some students to attempt to skew measurements of food waste by placing bundles of napkins into the disposal bins to make them weigh more.

“We knew public reaction was going to be bad,” Sandell said. “We just didn’t know to what extent.”

Butler indicated that other groups working on projects for class have not faced the kind of push-back the trayless pilot has so far received.

“I think those dissenting opinions are important to understand, and to decide if this policy change is necessary,” Butler said. “I think they’re doing a good job collecting that data, too.”

The group also used the pilot to gauge whether a trayless cafeteria would be a good fit for St. Olaf in the future.

“I don’t think mandatory no-trays is a good fit,” Goebel said. “But I do think there’s a huge aspect where if people knew there was more of an impact, they would change their autopilot behavior of grabbing a tray.”

Although Bon Appetit cafeteria workers expressed support for eliminating trays, preliminary student responses indicated that an entire elimination of trays would not be possible at the moment. A culture change has to happen before trays can be eliminated, Goebel and Sandell said.

“I think at this point it’s just about bringing awareness to people,” Sandell said. “Now we’re kind of just hoping for a culture shift, and this just might be the start of it. It might be people recognizing the problem now.”

Categories: Colleges

New Faribault solar garden follows statewide energy trends

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

A new solar garden in east Faribault will open by the end of the year, part of Minnesota’s sprint towards carbon-free electricity. The garden will allow neighboring counties the opportunity to save money on their energy bills by investing in locally-sourced solar power.

The Rice County facility will operate under a cooperative model, where residents from Rice, Dakota, Goodhue and Scott counties can pay $25 to access the solar garden’s energy through their subscriptions to Xcel Energy, according to a Nov. 6 article in the Lonsdale News Review. The facility is built on the property of an area farmer after discussions between the property owner and Cooperative Energy Futures, a Twin Cities energy co-op.

Many solar gardens in Minnesota are relatively tiny facilities on four acres of farmland. Despite their small size, these facilities have a significant impact on the surrounding community. Solar gardens allow people to utilize solar energy in their homes without requiring them to install solar panels of their own. For residents who wish to minimize their carbon footprint but live in forested areas or lack the means to install their own photovoltaic system, solar gardens are indispensable.

Minnesota has one of the largest solar garden programs in the nation, generating more than 500 megawatts of solar power each year. They account for 58 percent of Minnesota’s solar capacity, according to a report issued by the Minnesota Department of Commerce.

Independent organizations such as Cooperative Energy Futures manage the development of new solar gardens across the state. These organizations use solar gardens to provide companies like Xcel Energy with an eco-friendly alternative to the combustion of fossil fuels.

While coal remains Minnesota’s largest source of electricity, renewable energy sources like wind and solar are becoming increasingly popular. Xcel Energy offers the nation’s largest community solar program from its headquarters in Minneapolis. The company encourages its customers to subscribe directly to solar gardens. In their monthly bills, the company issues reimbursements for the solar energy each subscription contributes to the Xcel Energy grid.

Xcel Energy is discontinuing its largest coal-fired electricity plants and switching to more sustainable sources of power. This year, 29 percent of the company’s energy comes from renewable sources. By 2050, they plan on providing 100 percent carbon-free electricity.

This company’s movement toward renewable power reflects a larger shift toward environmentally-conscious living. The shift has challenged groups to become more conscious of their energy usage, St. Olaf College included.

Numerous groups at St. Olaf have spoken out against the College’s fossil fuel investments. The Environmental Coalition takes a public stance against the fossil fuel industry and advocates for public education on climate change, while the Climate Justice Collective has pushed for the College to divest its endowment from fossil fuel companies.

Within the larger Northfield community, the recently-approved Climate Action Plan suggests a way for the town to run on 100 percent carbon-free electricity by the year 2030. The development of a new solar garden in Rice County further predicts a future of continued sustainability for Northfield and surrounding communities.

Categories: Colleges

College will soon hire Muslim chaplain

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 11/21/2019 - 10:16am

For the first time in the College’s history, St. Olaf will hire a Muslim chaplain.

Three final candidates for the position had on-campus interviews last week. The College aims for the chaplain to begin working on Jan. 1.

“We’re really in a new era for St. Olaf,” said Director of the Lutheran Center Deanna Thompson ’89. “Our college ministry staff is becoming multifaith, and I think that it’s going to help St. Olaf become more religiously inclusive.”

The chaplain will provide religious support for Muslim students and the student body at large, foster interreligious activity and function as a spiritual leader, according to the chaplain job description.

“They’ve gotta have good people skills and they’ve gotta be able to relate to and understand and sympathize and empathize with students first and foremost who are going to be coming to them with all sorts of different issues,” said chair of the religion department Jamie Schillinger.

The Lutheran Center will finance the hiring, just as it financed the hiring of Rabbi Shosh Dworsky in January 2019, Vice President for Mission Jo Beld said. The College has aimed to hire a Muslim chaplain since the Lutheran Center’s founding in 2018.

St. Olaf is collaborating with Carleton College in the hiring process. If both colleges agree on a candidate, the chaplain would work part time for both institutions. This is the desired result for St. Olaf and Carleton, though each could hire their own chaplain if their preferences do not align, Beld said.

The chaplain will work two days per week at St. Olaf and three at Carleton, College Pastor Marohl said.

Many different people are involved in the hiring process, including Beld, Marohl, Associate College Pastor Katie Fick, Thompson, Schillinger and Taylor Center for Equity and Inclusion staff members, among others.

Beld and Marohl declined to disclose the candidates’ names or their prior work experience, though they said each bring unique qualifications to the table.

“We do have a pool that has some things in common with one another, but ways in which they’re really different, and that’s what you want in a successful application process,” Beld said. “I think it’s fine to say that all of our candidates feel a strong sense of call to this work.”

Schillinger said the hiring marks “a promising development in terms of St. Olaf living up to what it claims to want to be, which is a place where interreligious dialogue and interfaith interaction is vibrant.”

The hiring reflects a growing desire for Muslim chaplains at colleges and universities across the country as those institutions aim to become more inclusive and equitable, Marohl said.

Unless the coming years see a significant growth in students of another faith, the hiree will be the last chaplain St. Olaf hires for the time being, Marohl said.

St. Olaf came close to hiring a Muslim chaplain last spring, but the effort fell through when the favored candidate ultimately declined the offer, Beld and Marohl said.

“I think that this person will plug in in ways that we can’t even imagine yet,” Marohl said. “Hopefully they feel like they’re able to connect with all of campus.”

Categories: Colleges

Mellby Lecture explores animism

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

Chair of the sociology and anthropology department Christopher Chiappari delivered the fall 2019 Mellby Lecture, titled “Beings, Relations, and Power: The New Animism in the Highlands of Guatemala,” on Nov. 12 in Viking Theater.

Chiappari explored animism through his research in Guatemala and the work of several other anthropologists. Animist belief systems assign personhood to things that do not, under common Western philosophy, have animate properties. These include rivers, plants and, as specifically mentioned in Chiappari’s lecture, stones.

Chiappari examined anthropological interpretations of animism to encourage the audience to expand their way of thinking. Chiappari stressed that the line between truth and fiction – particularly in spiritual symbolism – is not always as obvious as it may initially seem.

Although indigenous spiritual practices are foreign to Western thought, symbolism, metaphors and the real effects they can have on people are not unique to animists. In animism, it is believed that certain things possess personhood. In Mayan spirituality in Guatemala, animism is seen through an emphasis on ancestors, ceremonies, stone beings, and Nawales – a complicated term Chiappari said to be loosely translated to “spirits.”

Because of how broadly and erroneously spirits are often defined, Chiappari carefully and intentionally used the word “person” to describe the attributes assigned to objects by animists.

“The way we use [the word] ‘spirit’ is profoundly unclear and it often would be clearer if we just said ‘person,’” Chiappari said.

He further defended his deliberate word choice by reminding the audience of the secular use of the word ‘spirit’ in Western religious traditions.

“We introduce a term from our own religious tradition to describe other cultures when it is alien to [us],” Chiappari said.

This othering of animism by Western ways of thought has existed since the term was first used. Chiappari discussed the work of E.B. Tylor – the man who coined the term – as heavily influenced by British imperialism. This influence is reflected in Tylor’s Eurocentric writing that describes animism as a primitive belief system, further emphasizing Chiappari’s call for the audience to redefine how they view symbolism and spirituality.

It is easy from a Western social context to write off animism as silly or fictitious, Chiappari said.

“[People would] like to think certain things are literal as opposed to metaphorical – real versus imaginary. I think the line between those are not always clear,” Chiappari said. “Let’s think about how we talk about the sunrise and the sunset. On one level we know how the sun and the planets orbit, but by saying the sun rises – in that sense – is the sun doing something metaphorical?”

Chiappari used the applications of metaphors in Western society to challenge the audience’s preconceptions of what truth is and how to practice faith. In order to strengthen this point, Chiappari returned to anthropologist Irving Hallowell’s example of stones in animism.

“One might say ‘C’mon Chris, that’s a metaphor. Stones can’t speak. They can’t listen. They’re not alive.’ [However] we might think about it, the idea of animism … [can] expand our way of thinking,” Chiappari said. “It’s not to come up with a new systematic approach to everything, but if we think about the way we use language and metaphors, I say metaphors are real.”

Categories: Colleges

Northfield Rotary Cogwheel – November 21, 2019

Northfield Rotary Club - Thu, 11/21/2019 - 9:52am

Next Week: TURKEY TROT ­— All hands on deck!

Birthdays: Jim Prichard (11/17), Kim Briske (11/22), Art Monaghan (11/25), Beth Kallestad (11/26) and  Matt Hillmann (11/29)

Last Week:

The politics of division and fear are both dehumanizing and dangerous, said Minnesota Representative Todd Lippert (DFL-House 20B). A vision of America that pits urban against rural, white against black and brown and old immigrants against new needs to be replaced with a more hopeful narrative, Todd said, one that acknowledges common interests and focuses on economic and racial equity. 

Todd, an ordained minister and first-term legislator from Northfield, said his vision is based on what he calls “communion table values.” We welcome people; we value everyone, and we make sure everyone has enough. From a policy perspective, those values translate into fully-funded schools, clean water, a stable climate, the wherewithal to care for children and elders and more generally racial and economic equity. 

“We’re in this together,” he said. “We have to be.”

Todd has an affinity for small towns and rural areas. He grew up in a small town in northwest Iowa, earned a degree from University of Iowa and received his theological training at United Theological Seminary in New Brighton. He served as a parish minister for eight years in southwest Wisconsin and has been at First UCC Northfield for the past seven years. He plans to resign in February to dedicate more time to promoting a common political agenda across geographical lines. 

Todd said he is excited about the city council’s recent adoption of a climate action plan. He is a member of the House Climate Action Caucus. He also serves on the Agriculture Committee and Water Policy Committee. He said land management that puts carbon in the ground is a productive strategy to achieve carbon sequestration. 


Kristi Pursell grew up in Minnesota and moved to Northfield in 2014. She serves as executive director of Cannon River Watershed Partnership (CRWP). She is married with two children, a first grader and a four-year old. She will share more when she does her formal classification presentation.

Outbound Exchange Students:  

Anel Barojas Velazquez, Japan

Erin Gunn, Brazil

Paul Hanifl, Japan

Elsa Hoff, Spain

Andre Ischler Simonet, Spain

Elsa Kasten, Czech Republic, Slovakia

Rachel Leonard, Brazil

Athziri Marcial Rodriquez, Brazil

Samuel Pratt, Italy

Julia Radtke, Norway

Lezly Marcial Rosas, Italy

Armando Vadez, Taiwan


Guest: Cole Jones (Cogan)

Scholarship Enhancement:  

Sophie, our exchange student from Germany


• President-Elect Vicki Dilley announced that three new members have been approved by the board. They are Krista Danner, The Y’s new executive director; Amy Gorowitz, member of the Northfield School Board; and Karen Alawalla is renewing her membership after some time away. They will all be formally inducted at a later date.

• Jim Pokorney informed us that a group of turkeys is called a “rafter.” He wants Rotary’s rafter equivalent to sign-up for one of 57 volunteer spots at this year’s Turkey Trot. Look for a signup online or at today’s meeting.

• Robert Bierman thanked the club for its passionate support of the Turkey Trot, now in its 19th year. Sponsorships came in well and as of last Thursday, we had 668 people registered. He would like to see the food donations grow this year. Keep that in mind.

• Alan Anderson reported that the city council earlier this month passed a Climate Action Plan for the city. He encouraged us to go to the city website and read it.

• Janine Atchison thanked all who helped make last week’s Thanksgiving dinner at The Key such a success.  

Coming Up:  

Decmber 5 — Tony Huettl Classification (Quinnell)

Decmber 12 — Mark Priszler, Exchange Student (Lasswell & Frago)

Decmber 19 — Ellen Iverson, Classification (W. Sivanich)

Decmber 5 — No meeting. Enjoy the holidays.


Categories: Organizations

Steve Paulsen, Parts 1 & 2

KYMN Radio - Thu, 11/21/2019 - 8:52am

Edina Girls Tennis Coach Steve Paulsen joins Wayne in the studio. In Steve’s 28 years as a girls tennis coach, he has won 23 state championships! Steve is also a Northfield High School and St. Olaf College graduate.  

The post Steve Paulsen, Parts 1 & 2 appeared first on KYMN Radio · Northfield, MN · AM 1080 & FM 95.1.

Missa Bay, LLC recalls salad products due to possible E. coli O157:H7 contamination

KYMN Radio - Thu, 11/21/2019 - 5:00am

Class I Recall115-2019 Health Risk: HighNov 21, 2019 Congressional and Public Affairs WASHINGTON, Nov. 21, 2019 – Missa Bay, LLC, a Swedesboro, N.J. establishment, is recalling approximately 97,272 pounds of salad products that contain meat or poultry because the lettuce ingredient may be contaminated with E. coli 0157:H7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety

The post Missa Bay, LLC recalls salad products due to possible E. coli O157:H7 contamination appeared first on KYMN Radio · Northfield, MN · AM 1080 & FM 95.1.

Adventures in the New Humanities: Aren’t you CURI-ous?

St. Olaf College - Wed, 11/20/2019 - 4:04pm
In this "Adventures in the New Humanities" blog post, Professor of History Judy Kutulas encourages her colleagues to participate in the college's Collaborative Undergraduate Research and Inquiry (CURI) program.
Categories: Colleges

2018 NERC Long-Term Reliability Assessment

Carol Overland - Legalectric - Wed, 11/20/2019 - 3:42pm
From 2018 NERC 2018 Reliability Assessment, p. 21

I’m so far behind, but here it is, the NERC 2018 Long-Term Reliability Assessment. The 2019 NERC Report should be out soon, so it’s time to get caught up.

The NERC Long Term Reliability Assessments over time are stored HERE. Just scroll down and click on “Reliability Assessments.”

It comes out annually, but not consistently at the same time each year, and it seems that when there are significant changes, it’s delayed. The 1998 Reliability Assessment was the first one I used in a transmission docket, used mostly because it showed the reliability margin projections were adequate, not at all reason for the “we’re going to freeze in the dark in an incubator without a job” hysteria.

While we’re waiting for the 2019 NERC Report, let’s take a look at what the big picture looked like at the end of 2018:

The above is from the NERC Report, p. 22. This increase in solar is good news, and solar follows peak — YES, GOOD (but the way they’re going about it sure sucks, central station installations on prime agricultural land isn’t acceptable). Let’s be clear — the only way to reduce CO2 is through decreased combustion. See the green section for coal? Note how it’s staying the same over the next 10 years? Same goes for natural gas, increasing at about the same rate as solar. And hazardous/toxic emissions? Well, seems there will be an increase. And continued dependence on nuclear, that seems unchanging too.

Remember how CapX 2020 was predicated on 2.49% annual growth? Remember the May 11, 2005 Capx 2020 Technical Update ?

What a farce… here’s the reality of peak demand generally — 2.49% annually? Nope, check the NERC Report, p. 10:

And the Xcel Energy specific Peak Demand? This is from their SEC 10-K filings:

THIRTEEN YEARS LATER, we still haven’t met the 2006 peak. But in the meantime, we’ve built $2+ billion of CapX 2020 transmission lines that we don’t need. MISO is building $6.65+ billion in MVP (Multi-Value Projects) o which Minnesota ratepayers pay a significant percentage. These are transmission projects that we don’t need, projects built to facilitate bulk power transfer across the MISO region, economic based projects that have no benefit to us in Minnesota, no need for us, we’re a pass through state.

No need? For sure. Check these reserve margins (remember when MISO’s reserve margin was 15% and they said that would lower with the big transmission build-out? Now they’re saying 17% isn’t enough?):

How stupid can we be? Well, we’re finding out, and the bill is coming due.

Categories: Citizens

Open Skate

City of Northfield Calendar - Wed, 11/20/2019 - 3:34pm
Event date: December 15, 2019
Event Time: 12:30 PM - 02:00 PM
1280 Bollenbacher Drive
Northfield, MN 55057
Open skate is available most Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays and is open to all ages. Ice skates must be worn on the ice at all times, Helmets are recommended. Please do not lift children in the air while on the ice. Please skate in one direction. No horseplay or playing tag on the ice.

HRA Meeting

City of Northfield Calendar - Wed, 11/20/2019 - 1:46pm
Event date: November 26, 2019
Event Time: 04:00 PM - 05:30 PM
801 Washington Street
Northfield, MN 55057
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