Author: Jocelyn Sarvady

Let George W. Bush unleash his inner artist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jocelyn Sarvady ’15 sarvady@stolaf.edu is from Atlanta, Ga. She majors in American studies.

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New study calls smokers rights into question

While growing up, many of us heard from our teachers, our parents and our doctors about the dangers of smoking. When the people around us felt they had thoroughly drilled the “no smoking” message into our heads, advertisements on television took over. I am referring to the rather terrifying ads in which smokers tell stories about how cigarettes ruined their lives. Those advertisements make you not want to smoke as much as the Sarah McLachlan ads make you wish you could adopt all the homeless dogs in the world.

Society also taught us about the dangers of inhaling secondhand smoke from the people around us. This knowledge resulted in a huge cultural leap from our parents’ generation, when many doctors examined children while smoking. Just imagine someone putting a stethoscope up to your chest and asking you to breathe in and out while they take a drag from a cigarette. Now, research is illuminating the dangers of thirdhand smoke, which is inhaled while interacting with the surface residue where people have recently smoked.

Dr. Lowell Dale, Medical Director of Mayo Clinic Tobacco, provides a definition of thirdhand smoke and why it is such a threat. She writes, “thirdhand smoke is generally considered to be residual nicotine and other chemicals left on a variety of indoor surfaces by tobacco smoke. This residue is thought to react with common indoor pollutants to create a toxic mix. This toxic mix of thirdhand smoke contains cancer-causing substances, posing a potential health hazard to nonsmokers who are exposed to it, especially children.”

While many believe that people have the right to smoke, have enough medical studies been released in the past few years that the government might be prompted to take further measures in limiting smokers’ rights? I decided to see what fellow college students thought about smokers’ rights and the effect smoking has on those who don’t consent to being exposed.

Erin Knadler ’15: “So I kind of agree with the doctors and politicians that have started banning smoking inside places. It’s a little absurd to ban it in parks or on the street because realistically the smoke won’t harm you as much there because it has somewhere to go.”

Sam Macomber, a sophomore at Dartmouth College, has similar ideas: “I think it’s OK to restrict or eliminate smoking indoors or on private property. For example, the ban on smoking in New Hampshire restaurants is wonderful. It is not, however, okay to regulate smoking in public spaces such as parks.”

Andrea Dover ’14 had animals’ interests in mind when asked about thirdhand smoke: “I feel bad for pets that end up jumping onto those surfaces,” she said.

Julie Anne Franzel ’16, used humor to make a solid point about smoking around others: “I think that smoking within ten feet of people is equivalent to making everyone within ten feet of you eat two of your ten chicken Mcnuggets. Not everyone wants that.”

Negative legislation for the tobacco companies could be the nail in their coffin. Since the early 1990s, the deflation of tobacco companies’ ‘family friendly’ image has caused massive corporations, like NABISCO, to be broken apart and sold into pieces. In 2003, after the Philip Morris Company spent millions on branding and self-promotion, the corporation realized they could never be successful under such a tainted name and were forced to rename; this is a risky move in the business world and is often only done as a last resort.

Chemicals, including nicotine, cyanide, radioactive polonium-210, lead, arsenic, butane and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons have been found on surfaces after someone has been smoking in the room. Personally, I find this fact terrifying. Someone can make the decision, to a certain extent, to stay away from secondhand smoke, but one can’t consent or control being around the chemical residue from past smokers.

Our health and well-being should not be controlled by others. It is our decision to eat salad or cake for dinner. It is our choice to work out in Skoglund instead of lying in bed all day. Just like smokers say it is their right to smoke, the same could be said for non-smokers: It is our right not to be affected by the chemicals from someone else’s choice to smoke.

Jocelyn Sarvady ’15 sarvady@stolaf.edu is from Atlanta, Ga. She majors in American studies.

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Oles win nine straight, claim first round bye

Filler words offer composure not professionalism

On the first day of my sophomore year in high school, a teacher did something I will never forget. Without the students’ knowledge, the teacher pulled one student aside before American Literature began and asked him to tally all the ‘likes’ we said on that first day.

At the end of class the student stood up and said, “I tallied all the “likes” that were said today and who said them.” I can still remember my classmates’ reaction, a mixture of groans and laughter. Then our teacher said each of our names, asked us to stand up and told the class how many “likes” we said. Luckily, I only said three “likes” that day. I remember feeling bad for the girl who said thirteen “likes” in the 45-minute class period.

So why did we laugh or get upset about a teacher tallying “likes?” Why was this how my English teacher started the first day of class? The overuse of “like” has been equated with being uneducated and is generally more common among teens than adults. “Like” is simply one of those annoying filler words people say when they are nervous but trying to act casual. Today, words such as “like” or “umm” mark a death sentence in a class presentation, a telltale sign that the student is unprepared.

On the other hand, “like” is also simply a way some people talk. For instance, when providing an example of how a “valley girl” would speak, the mimic would have at least one unnecessary “like” in it. Some regional accents just have more “likes” in their speech patterns, making it unfortunate that some people are labeled unintelligent because of a slight grammatical flaw.

Everyone has their own personal quirks. I have a friend who flips her hair back whenever she is trying to make a point in conversation or is telling a particularly funny story. I have been told by friends that I say “literally” when I should be saying “figuratively.”

Now the question is whether we, as educated students, should let the unnecessary “likes” slide by as a quirk or should be that annoying friend who points it out.

The problem with not pointing it out or not trying to stop our own “likes” is that everyone has many moments in life where sounding and looking professional is key. For instance, what if we are concerned that a friend might go into “like” overdrive during a job interview? I am pretty sure those getting called back for a second interview aren’t saying, “I like majored in chemistry with like a 3.5 from St. Olaf.”

My teacher in high school ultimately did all of us a favor by counting the “likes” on that first day. I remembered listening for the “likes” on the second day of class and made sure the word never came out of my mouth. You could tell everyone in the class was speaking carefully and truly thinking about what they were going to say. And I have to admit it, not saying “like” pulled our class discussion together into a more conscious discourse.

Jocelyn Sarvady ’15 sarvady@stolaf.edu is from Atlanta, Ga. She majors in American studies.

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Olympics: Is a boycott the answer?

Flashback to 1980: President Jimmy Carter pushed the United States to boycott the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow as a protest of the Soviet Union’s soldiers in Afghanistan. Unfortunately the soldiers stayed in Afghanistan for ten more years, and the Soviet Union retaliated by staying far away from the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

In 2014, the Winter Olympics will be held in Sochi, Russia. The United States is facing a different sort of dilemma: whether or not President Vladimir Putin’s new laws concerning gay rights will keep the U.S. from playing in the games.

For those who don’t know what is going on in Russia, here is the Sparknotes version. If you are gay or support gay citizens of Russia with homosexual propaganda, you could be fined up to 5,000 rubles, which is roughly 150 USD. If you are a public official, the fine can be up to 1,500 USD.

If you are a tourist in Russia caught preaching pro-gay rights, or if you have something as simple as a pamphlet promoting equal rights, you could face 15 days in prison, swift ejection from the country or up to a 5,000 ruble fine. If a tourist uses media to engage in propaganda, the fine is 50,000 to 100,000 rubles or a 15-day detention in Russia that could lead to deportation. Cracking down on what is seen as homosexual behavior all comes from Article 6.21 of the Code of the Russian Federation on Administrative Offenses.

So what do these new laws mean for homosexual athletes? Russia is saying that they will arrest any openly gay athlete that tries to compete in the games, as well as any fan or trainer that supports equality of this nature. Moral of the story – don’t walk around Russia with rainbow anything or you run the risk of being sent to prison for 15 or so days.

So what is an athlete to do? Athletes both gay and straight still want to participate in the games, which is understandable. These men and women spend most of their waking hours practicing their sport and want to show off their skills to the world. They don’t want their sexuality to keep them from getting to live their lives the way they see fit. But there is also the question of safety for these athletes.

To quote the much beloved George Takei – “There have been urgent calls for boycotts of the Olympics and of Russian exports like vodka,” he said. “But a boycott of the games would punish athletes who have trained for years to participate, and a boycott of Russian vodka isn’t going to affect the kind of change needed. Besides, with Russia’s confirmation that it will enforce its law, our LGBT athletes are in real danger, and their safety must be paramount.”

Mikayla Holland, a junior at Bryn Mawr College, is currently studying abroad in Moscow. “I think that the best thing for the U.S. and other countries who disagree with Putin’s anti-gay laws to do is to go to the Olympics and perform well,” Holland said. “We should show Putin and other Russians who agree with him on this issue that our LGBTQ athletes are an asset and a source of national pride, not something to punished.”

There is a new proposal to relocate the 2014 Olympics to Vancouver, Canada. Vancouver was the last city to hold the winter games, so their venues are still in great shape.

Unfortunately it might already be too late; the International Olympic Committee has dismissed the complaints against Russia’s new laws and gave the city of Sochi the green light to continue everything as planned.

Image by Daniel Bynum

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How to erase an ex’s existence on Facebook

Valentine’s Day is considered by many to be a day of love and romance, a day spent with that special someone in your life, an afternoon and evening filled with chocolates, flowers and joyful memories. There are also those people that call Valentine’s Day the “Hallmark Holiday.” They believe it is a day designed to make men feel obligated to buy their partner the perfect gift or doom their relationships.

This year, Facebook and the people at Clearhart Digital decided to ring in Valentine’s Day by launching new app called KillSwitch. KillSwitch is a 99 cent app that removes all records of ex-friends from your Facebook history, usually ex-boyfriends or ex-girlfriends. So all those happy pictures of the two of you and all those mushy statuses and private messages saying how great your sweetheart is and how much you hope that you will be “Together 4 Ever” are gone from the cyber world.

Assuming that this app is designed to appeal to women, I asked 10 Ole women what they thought of KillSwitch. I was surprised by the variety of answers I received.

Katelyn Regenscheid ’15 said that she realized the value of the app and believed that it was only a matter of time before a company would find a way to make money on the idea.

“The app is a great idea because I’m sure tons of post-relationship men and women will purchase it while they sit around with friends after the breakup and bash their exes,” Regenscheid said. “Psychologically, I’m not sure if it’s really necessary; financially, someone is going to get rich off of raging teenage emotions.”

Both Jessica Price ’14 and Kim Moren ’13 had more of a negative reaction to the KillSwitch app.

“I’ve never been the type of person to want to erase a person from my life completely,” Price said. “I still like to remind myself of all the happy moments we had together.”

“I wouldn’t say that KillSwitch is generally a good idea because most of the time, trying to erase the past isn’t really healthy,” Moren said.

Elisabeth Springer ’15 believed that we are who we are, bad relationships and all.

“I just wouldn’t do it unless it was absolutely necessary,” Springer said. “Sure, the cheesy posts and pictures might be a bit embarrassing, but I feel that our collection of past human experiences make us who we are today, and deleting a picture can’t delete the past or the fact that what happened, happened.”

Ellie Mears ’15 saw both pros and cons to the KillSwitch app. She said a strong pro for the KillSwitch app is its use by people who have been in abusive relationships.

“At first I thought this app was a bad idea. I would personally never want to erase any of my memories that I have with my ex, good or bad,” Mears said. “However, I know a couple girls who would disagree. One was mentally abused by her ex-boyfriend and another was raped. Both these girls saw the boy who hurt them on Facebook all the time through pictures and old statuses, even though they had blocked the guy from their accounts. For these kinds of relationships, the app would actually be a huge help.”

Abuse would be a solid reason to look into buying this app. In some cases, the girl or guy abused by their partner might be better, emotionally, by getting off Facebook entirely for a few weeks after a relationship has ended to truly start allowing themselves to heal.

Outside of abuse, removing any record of your ex because things did not end on the best of terms will not erase the relationship and the memories. And, who knows? When you are older, you may want to look back at old photos on Facebook to remember that college boyfriend from way-back-when. You could have a really good laugh at your youthful mistakes and your previous terrible taste in men.

sarvady@stolaf.edu

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Oles win nine straight, claim first round bye