Author: Annie Halloin

Campus buildings host calligraphy

Last week, the students of Professor Ka Wong’s Art of Asian Calligraphy class unveiled an artistic display titled “Out of Character: From Japanese Prints to Chinese Calligraphy,” located in the Buntrock Cage Student Gallery, the Tomson third-floor display case and the Dittman Center Print Room. The project explores different interpretations of calligraphy as a form of linguistic and artistic expression and offered Asian 286 students a chance to demonstrate what they learned throughout the semester.

One display, prominently placed in Buntrock, is comprised of three billboards of calligraphy written on golden paper between two massive landscapes comprised of individual characters. The expressed intention of the work is to “interpret and integrate the Chinese characters for bird, fish and child/person into new artistic forms.” The first landscape piece shows flying storks in the distance as bird characters. The display also focuses on the evolution of Chinese calligraphy, particularly how the art form changed over centuries. Students recreated poems such as Zhuangazi’s “The Joy of Fish” from around 300 B.C.E. The exhibit contemplates the tension of calligraphy as a mode of public linguistic communication used for government documents, public decrees and official religious writing, along with private poetic and artistic expression.

Ka Wong’s class not only chronicled the artistic progression of this ancient art form thousands of years ago, but also exhibited how artists continue to expand the tradition of calligraphy today. The display in the Dittman Center Print Room took inspiration from Japanese Modernist artist Yoshida Hodaka and his prints currently on display at St. Olaf’s Flaten Art Museum.

The exhibit on the third floor of Tomson focuses on the meticulous and dedicated discipline required for creating calligraphy. Students accustomed to writing Western letters in the Latin alphabet remarked on the difficulty of learning details such as stroke order. Each character in calligraphy has a precise sequence in which the lines must be drawn, and adding a line out of order invalidates the entire word.

“It’s a lot harder than I assumed it would be,” Aisling O’Sullivan ’18 said. O’Sullivan described how a seemingly simple task – like creating a dot on the paper – required more skill and technique than she expected.

“Even a line wasn’t just a line,” O’Sullivan explained. “You have to go horizontally over your work twice, from left to right to left.”

Anna Gloriana Stephen Mwamasika ’18 said her inclination to pursue dentistry inspired her to take the calligraphy class.

“Proper technique requires developing precise muscle control in your fingers,” Mwamasika explained. Both Mwamasika and O’Sullivan concluded that whereas handwriting in the United States serves a mainly utilitarian purpose (even barely legible, scribbled notes are acceptable), fine calligraphy creates a kind of social status. Many people perceive calligraphy as a testimony of personality and character attributes. Taking the time to create excellent calligraphy characters “foreshadows your motivation and discipline,” Mwamasika said.

Such dedication and fine precision ultimately developed into being able to select characters and styles to represent personal and poetic meaning. Nutthanai Chowwiwat ’17 noted how preparing for the displays gave every student a chance to notice their own improvement over time.

“It’s great to see the final product,” he said. Each student got the chance to carve their own personalized seal and stamp for their final product.

halloi1@stolaf.edu

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Trump’s gaffes ostracize women voters

John Cassidy’s recent article in The New Yorker asks the question America has been wondering for 11 months: is Donald Trump’s campaign finally coming to an end? Has his bombastic parade of obscene and offensive comments finally gone too far? Is something he said irreversibly damaging enough to take him out of the running for President?

To give a brief review of recent events: Donald Trump recently defended his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski after he physically assaulted a female reporter. Trump flippantly dismissed the reporter, Michelle Field, saying to CNN that “she probably made it up” despite video evidence of the scene which proved her claim and a charge of simple battery from police in Jupiter, Florida. In any normal campaign, this would have ruined a candidate’s political career. Regardless, Trump continues to defend his campaign manager, claiming that Lewandowski had the right to defend himself because “she had a pen in her hand which Secret Service is not liking because they don’t know what it is, whether it’s a little bomb.”

This disregard for women’s physical safety simply adds to his unforgettable remarks in Wisconsin, where Trump claimed that women who seek an abortion ought to have “some sort of punishment.”

Trump’s misogynistic comments are hardly new, and are merely representative of his persona. The real conundrum which confounds political analysts is that Trump has repeatedly contradicted known facts, blatantly lied about his own positions and retracted all of his previous statements the next morning. He refuses to answer any probative question about his policies with the now famous defense that the media is attacking him unfairly. It should be obvious by now that this man does not have the mental, logical or moral capacity for Executive Office.

Yet his supporters love him – despite the outrage to his tirade against Mexican immigrants, about whom Trump said, “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

This comment alone made Trump lose millions of dollars in sponsorships. Regardless of his unconstitutional plans to ban all Muslims from entering the United States and bring back torture tactics against suspected terrorists when he becomes Commander in Chief, and despite the fact that he encourages violence from his supporters at rallies across America, the horrifying truth is that Trump is not retaining and growing in popularity despite his offensive comments, but because of his offensive comments.

Trump has tapped into a political base of white undereducated males who lack economic opportunity and feel as if they have also lost their political voice due to public censure. Their uninformed xenophobia causes them to resent foreign immigrants becoming economically successful and to fear anyone who doesn’t adhere to Christianity; the mainstream media’s broad response to those fears is the accusation, “You’re racist.” White males feel forgotten after decades of being silenced by popular opinion. This voting base does not see political correctness as an attempt to protect minority groups but as a way of disregarding their problems. They love Trump because he refuses to apologize to the media’s insistence of political correctness: Trump promises to make Make America Great Again for them.

Will Donald Trump’s political campaign eventually collapse? At this moment young and optimistic Bernie Sanders supporters are attempting to do that for him, by violently protesting Trump rallies. However, they are only making things worse. Pitting the most extreme political groups in the United States against each other will only create more animosity, more resentment and more bitter adherence to radical party principles. We, as a Nation, will never be able to pass policies in such an ideological gridlock. An election between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in the fall would spell existential disaster for America’s political system.

Women have the chance to quietly and effectively end Trump’s campaign once and for all. Currently 47 percent of Republican women would not support Trump, nor would they support the potential democratic nominee, Bernie Sanders. A moderate candidate between both poles could capture these votes. Compromise, not protests, will win the majority of supporters. Politically moderate young women will decide the fate for America next fall.

Annie Halloin ’18 (halloi1@stolaf.edu) is from Eau Claire, Wisco. She majors in English and religion.

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Search history screenings may save lives

Thanks to a new software program called GoGuardian, select school dis- tricts now have the ability to monitor and report the Google searches of their students at school and home. The public has a right to be con- cerned, and they certainly ought to be. The act of constant civilian monitor- ing screams of a totalitarian regime. Still, GoGuardian’s proponants claim that the software that enables this intrusion has also been saving lives.

Ontario Christian Schools in Los Angeles have begun using the software to identify students who repeatedly searched Google for the word “suicide” and suicide-related terms so that they can intervene with counseling services. While positive and well-meaning, this policy still begs the quesion: should we accept technology’s seemingly intrusive ability to impact the greater good?

Like many school districts, Ontario Christian Schools distributes Google Chromebooks installed with virus protection and website restrictions to its students. NPR reports that the software program was originally installed to protect school laptops from restricted material: pornography, online games, hacking services etc. The ability to track student’s web browsing and history is not unique to GoGuardian; every inter- net search browser offers this ability.

However, Ontario Christian Schools are going further with this information by reporting sui- cidal searches of students to school counselors, administrators and par- ents. Such reporting seems to be a growing trend. Rodney Griffin, Chromebook administrator for Neosho School District in Missouri, says that around once a semester he calls parents late at night and says, “I think you need to check on your child.” Is this unacceptable behavior on the part of the school districts? Firstly, the laptops themselves are the property of the school dis- trict and loaned to the students; students would have to sign legal agreements and accept the terms before taking the computers home. When we question privacy invasion, it is important to remember these laptops are not private property. Secondly, tracking Google searches is not a new idea. Marketing com- panies constantly monitor their advertisements. Lawyers can pres- ent Google searches as evidence in court. Google searches can provide us with incredibly unique and insight- ful data. Seth Stephens-Davidowitz wrote a landmark article in the New York Times and proved that restrictive abortion laws do not actu- ally reduce abortions. By analyzing nationwide Google searches, he con- cluded that searches for “home abor- tion methods” spiked in states such as Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas, which have restrictive abortion laws. In short, Internet searches are a way to track data that people are reluctant to share due to cultural stigma and shame. Nevertheless, that informa- tion can still help impact attitudes, laws and intervention going forward.

On the issue of suicide, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force acknowledged how difficult it is “to identify and help people who are not already known to be at increased risk for suicide.” Depression can be incred- ibly difficult to talk about, and asking for help isn’t always as easy as it sounds.

To me, the acts of the Ontario Christian Schools seem to be reason- able within these legal parameters. Within the United States, monitor- ing Internet searches cannot invade the protection provided by the First or Fourth amendment. While peo- ple have every right to criticize and question the acts of the school dis- trict, I find myself unable to con- demn school administrators attempt- ing to curb the third leading cause of death among 10-24 year olds.

Ultimately, this is not a question about a single school district in Los Angeles, but of our worldwide attempt to prevent tragedy through the use of technology. Within hours of the ter- rorist attack in Belgium on March 22, international press began questioning Belgium’s attempts, or lack thereof, to gather Internet intelligence on known radical groups. Many have accused the European Union of holding indi- vidual citizen’s privacy above soci- ety’s safety. Going forward, this must be an honest, transparent global con- versation. How much government surveillance is necessary? Can we compromise technological privacy in the name of public security? At what point do we become the monitored dystopia Orwell imagined in 1984?

Annie Halloin ’18 (halloi1@sto- laf.edu) is from Eau Claire, Wisco. She majors in English and religion.

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