Tag: weekly column

St. Olaf Sentiments: March 13, 2015

Skills for the Real World

The singing birds, the scent of damp earth in the air, the drops of sunlight reflected in puddles! Gleeful Oles bringing their caf trays and hookahs into the fresh air! Rolling down the car windows and blaring the radio!

It all points to one thing – no, not spring – I mean the fact that I am going to be unemployed and potentially homeless in, like, two months.

It’s time for me to make a thorough inventory of the marketable skills I’ve acquired in this hallowed institution of learning. When I agreed to take out student loans that I would have to barter my firstborn in order to repay, I assumed that along the way I would acquire some skills that would bring all the employers to the yard.

The first one that comes to mind is definitely my ability to sleep in any location, at any time of day. The thinly-carpeted floor of the library? Yes. A couch in the middle of Tomson traffic, under the scrutinizing glare of every administrative figure? Especially yes. This should signify to prospective employers that I am adaptable. I don’t rely on an established routine; I take initiative and step outside my comfort zone.

Another quality that I think will land me a solid, no-food-stamps-necessary salary is my ability not to care what I look like while dancing. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a picture of yourself dancing at the Pause or a similarly, erm, laissez-faire off-campus venue, but I can assure you, you look like a hot mess. I am no exception – in fact, I have had the misfortune of confronting the photographic evidence – and I have learned to embrace it.

This fearlessness is actually quite the sought-after “transferable skill.” My possibly delusional lack of self-consciousness will enable me to project confidence and charisma during my super legit professional presentations on business-type charts and stuff.

I would also note the resourcefulness I demonstrate in seeking out myriad forms of melted cheese on weekend evenings. A basic human settles for slice or two of Pause pizza, but as an outside-the-box critical thinker, I combine my pizza with delicassies from Taco Bell and even the grossly underrated mecca of processed fare that is Kwik Trip. I don’t settle until I’ve achieved the exact ratio of carbs to saturated fat that will knock me into a stupor. If that isn’t being a go-getter, I don’t know what is.

To highlight my superior problem-solving capacity, I would point to my successful handling of mold problems in every dorm room I’ve lived in. Never mind whose negligence created the mold in the first place; that’s neither here nor there. What matters is that I have always eliminated it, like a boss.

What allows me to sleep peacefully at night knowing that I am a viable candidate for paid, non-imaginary employment is my superior ability to enter a room ten minutes late and convince everyone it’s not a big deal by acting like it’s not a big deal.

I’ve exercised this mind control on just about every professor I’ve had, and let me tell you, I have perfected it. No supervisor will ever be able to perceive my flaws – namely, regular tardiness – if I refuse to acknowledge them!

Writing this has been a tremendous relief. I trust that I will nail the segue from graduation to the 9-to-5 world. Some pessimists would have you believe that a Bachelor of Arts degree isn’t worth what it used to be, but I know that these four years have granted me a full arsenal of marketable skills. I expect that a year from now, you’ll be reading my success story on the St. Olaf Web site. Um ya ya!

grosse@stolaf.edu

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St. Olaf Sentiments: March 6, 2015

In eighth grade, I was in the spring play. I had the role of Lady Beatrice, no doubt a crucial part of a middle school production of Once Upon a Mattress. My friends and I were both intoxicated by the we-run-the-school power trip that is the last couple months of middle school and alarmed by the prospect of the imminent unknown: high school. So when somebody – I can’t remember who it was – proclaimed, “Last show; nothing matters!” we all latched on. Those four words became our mantra for the rest of the weekend.

Worried about messing up your lines? Last show; nothing matters! Feeling nervous because that boy you like is in the audience? Last show; nothing matters! Don’t feel like being quiet backstage? Last show; nothing matters! We felt pretty empowered, and definitely cooler than all of those seventh graders.

Something about senior year of college must evoke those same guttural feelings of exhilaration and anxiety that the end of middle school did, because sometime last September, I blurted out, “Senior year; nothing matters!” – probably as reasoning for why we really should order Pause pizza at 11:00 on a Monday night, and the mantra has stuck.

Among friends, the refrain is used to justify not only ordering Pause pizza more than one time a week, but also staying at lunch an extra half an hour instead of getting a start on homework, or dancing the night away at yet another Pause dance because who cares. I went to the Minnesota Timberwolves game Monday night on Kevin Garnett’s dime – thanks, Kev! instead of spending the night studying. Senior year; nothing matters!

The mantra has an element of humor, of course. We know that a lot of things matter during senior year and always – on campus and everywhere else. Oles are currently confronting issues of race, racism, privilege, social responsibility, sexual assault and awareness, mental health, depression, religion and religious tolerance, climate change, environmental stewardship, gender, sexuality, sexism, sexual health, ignorance, apathy and so many more.

We are surrounded by a lot that matters. But often all of those important things get lost in the daily struggle of finishing the Spanish reading for tomorrow and studying for the bio test on Friday. It is so easy to lose sight of what really and truly matters when so many things do – and deciding not to study for Friday’s bio test at all is probably not a great idea either.

So, what am I even talking about? First, I said that it’s senior year and nothing matters, and then I provided a litany of a lot of things that really matter and typically do not get the attention that they deserve and that they need.

I think the “senior year; nothing matters” mantra is really an exercise in being intentional, which is something that Oles of all ages can probably adopt. It is about reminding oneself – and one another – what does matter, especially when time is precious, like during the last semester of the last year at St. Olaf College.

So, how can we translate “senior year; nothing matters” from the overly-tired and increasingly-nostalgic ramblings of a histrionic college senior into a day-to-day practice at St. Olaf? Great question. Let me know if you find an answer!

I’m kidding. Here are a few ideas:

– Eat dinner with your friends, even if you have a busy night. When you laugh with friends, your body releases endorphins, which makes you healthier and happier. Also, your friends probably have a lot they can teach you. Listen to what they have to say.

– Go to a play or a dance concert or somebody’s senior recital. Spend an hour or two taking a study break and immersing yourself in art on campus. It’s like Netflix live!

– Buy a cup of rainbow sherbet in the Cage. That’s right, the Cage has had sherbet for the past week or so! I think maybe it’s left over from a Valentine’s Day shake special, so it will probably run out soon. Adult life is coming and the consumption of multicolored frozen desserts becomes less and less socially acceptable with age. Take advantage of your youth!

– Go sledding. There’s a beautiful blanket of snow out there right now, and spring is right around the corner. Maybe But actually probably not, so no rush on that one.

– Have important conversations about things you care about. Stay up a little later than you should once in a while. Don’t forget to laugh. Channel your inner out-of-control eighth-grader.

Whether you’re a prospective student who has picked up this paper on a whim during your campus visit, an alumnus preparing for your fiftieth class reunion, a parent who has never set foot on campus, or a real live college senior, remember: senior year; nothing matters!

belisle@stolaf.edu

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Music On Trial : Soundtrack set to a typical day in the life of an Ole

In life, there exists a school of thought that each and every person’s life is a movie, and that people are the stars of their own movies. Well, I say we are no exception, and, as Oles, we have our very own special soundtrack. While our lives vary from day to day and person to person, there are some experiences we share here at St. Olaf and thus, some songs that have the potential to hold meaning for many of us. So here it is – a playlist to connect you with each and every person you pass on your frigid trek from dorm to class to Buntrock to work to wherever else you spend your days here on the Hill.

7:00 a.m. – Rise and shine! Sure, it’s early, but gosh darn it you need to get to the Caf before class… ha… ha ha… kidding. May the chorus of snoozed alarms echo from Thorson to Kittelsby as we all pretend 8 a.m. classes, five days a week, aren’t steadily killing our collective spirit. Thank goodness for dance music, because Basshunter’s “Please Don’t Go” will give you the energy to get up and put on some deodorant please do this while still appreciating your desire to be back in bed.

8:00 a.m. – All right, you made it along with about 80 percent of your classmates. Way to go, team. But getting there is just the beginning, and if anybody wants to stay up in class, you’re going to have to support one another. So in the spirit of solidarity, “Keep Together” with Hunter Hunted. I do hope you’re not in such a morning rut that you have to resort to High School Musical…

10:30 a.m. – Thank goodness you have a break from class, because skipping breakfast has your stomach rumbling, and that is a problem that desperately needs fixing. Whether you’re working in the Pause or just swinging by for a slice, I recommend getting a little nostalgic with “Stack That Pizza,” an old favorite by Brass Camel. Unfortunately, the band members graduated last year, but if you ever heard the song, I guarantee it is still buried somewhere among the biology and literature scattered around your brain.

1:00 p.m. – It’s test day. I am so sorry. But, to cheer you up, I have a fact and a song. Did you know that listening to music, but specifically unfamiliar music, can boost productivity? Unfortunately Meghan Trainor or Kanye might not cut it if you know the lyrics back to front, but “Dreamsickle” by Muus is a brand new folksy tune that will keep you focused for at least the first couple listens. Though you’ll have to switch it out of rotation once it becomes your new favorite. I know it’s mine.

2:00 p.m. – Your test is over. You’re so happy. You’re practically belting out “Beautiful Day” by Michael Bublé because it feels so darn good. It’s all you can do not to dance down the hall, and you’re smiling like a goon, and oh… my… goodness…

2:01 p.m. – There they are. You met at a party once. It was very “Call Me Maybe,” by Carly Rae Jepsen. But neither of you ever called because you felt awkward and embarrassed the next day. And now it’s progressed into Jepsen’s new tune “I Really Like You,” and it’s pretty awkward. But just wave and smile – no, not like that, that’s a creepy, creepy smile! There, much better. Now you’re one step closer to remembering each others’ names.

4:00 p.m. – Uh oh… your phone is ringing. It’s your parents. You love your parents, but that test today left you feeling a little stressed and you really don’t want to talk about it. It’ll be all “I Bet My Life” by Imagine Dragons, and in the end it will be okay, but it’s just not what you want to do right now… but you pick up because it’s rude not to. It’ll be over soon. Plus, if you’re lucky, they’ll sympathize with you and send a care package. Yummy.

6:00 p.m. – Two hours later and that call with your parents still has you a little shaky. Unfortunately, they didn’t promise to send a care package. They just wanted to tell you that the dog got into the pantry this morning and needed a serious bath. “Don’t you know, it was just a real mess. I spent my whole morning phone call with your Aunt Barb cleaning Special K off the floor.” Despite this incredibly mundane call, you find yourself stressed about everything. “Bills” by LunchMoney Lewis is playing on repeat in your mind and you hate everything. TGIF and there’s a Pause dance tonight…

8:00 p.m. – After deciding that the stress isn’t worth it, you’re feeling like trolling a little, and as part of your Pause dance pre-party, you’re working your way through the Lonely Island’s entire discography. “Threw It On The Ground” is resonating especially hard right now, because you know it takes a really special mood to know that that’s not your dad… it’s a cell phone.

11:00 p.m. – It’s finally here. You can relax, and the rest of your night is “Runaway Baby” by Bruno Mars… until you crash into bed, of course. And then you can start over again tomorrow morning.

christeg@stolaf.edu

About Elena Christensen

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Music on Trial: How to discover great new music

I live in fear of waking up one morning and realizing that I’ve fallen deep into a rut. You know, having the epiphany that I’ve worn variations of the same outfit and pondered variations of the same thoughts while the world around me thrashed, and then oops! years have passed, and I’m closer to death with nothing to show for it.

One of the ways I try to ensure that this will never happen to me is by constantly seeking out new music. However, perfectly-curated playlists don’t arrive in my PO with the same regularity as solicitations from credit card companies and letters from my dear friend, Sallie Mae. Thus, I’ve learned to exploit the resources at my disposal, and I hope you will too, with this handy guide to discovering new music…

Method 1 – Songza: I list this first because it is my personal favorite. I have yet to find another site as comprehensively organized around moods – anything from “aggressive” to “raw” to “nocturnal.” If you’re like me and need your playlist to be 100 percent aligned with what you are feeling in a given moment, check this out. Unlike Pandora, which leans heavily on popular singles, Songza will probably expose you to a song or artist you haven’t heard before.

Method 2 – Word of mouth: Find that kid with the slouchy beanie and black-framed glasses and ask him what he’s listening to these days. Surely you will be enlightened. Just kidding! It’s always a fun conversation starter to ask friends and acquaintances if they’ve heard anything good lately. You can also learn everything you need to know about people by asking them what their favorite song is.

Method 3 – The Current playlist: The only thing Oles love as much as fair-trade coffee and nose piercings is the Current. No shade; it’s totally justified. The radio station consistently delivers a spirited mix of cutting-edge new stuff, forgotten treasures, campy “No Apologies” tracks and indisputable classics. When you hear a song you like, take note of the time, then get the artist info on the station’s daily playlist, which is always up-to-date online.

Method 4 – The Hype Machine: This is for the person who’s already heard everything on the Current – hell, they DJ the Current. This person needs something fresh, something ahead of the curve. The Hype Machine features tracks that are being released and blogged about in real-time.

Method 5 – Spotify “related artists” feature: This is kind of cheating, because it won’t really take you to any truly breathtaking new territory. It will, however, deepen your understanding of some of your favorite genres and eras. It’s cool to see which artists are in conversation with each other.

Method 6 – Movie/TV soundtracks: If you know how to secure a job being the person who selects movie soundtracks, please hit me up immediately, because that would be a dream. Sometimes even the lamest, soapiest productions xoxo, Gossip Girl feature awesome music from bands outside the mainstream. Try to remember one key lyric so you can Google it later.

Method 7 – Live music: Very few “broke” college kids would shell out the money to see an artist with whom they weren’t at all familiar. The opportunity to see a random act perform live at little/no cost does present itself, though. Check out the group rocking one of the dinky, lesser stages at a festival. Show up for the openers for the band you paid to see, instead of just assuming that they’ll suck.

When all this is finished, you’ll experience the adrenaline rush of a successful hunt. Gaze upon the bloodied carcass – I mean, new playlist – with pride. By soundtracking your life in a new way, you might start to see things in a new way.

grosse@stolaf.edu

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St. Olaf Sentiments: February 27, 2015

Oscars 2015, or The Unexpected Virtue of Gambling

I love the Academy Awards. Not because I really care that much about who wins; I know which movies were my favorite this year and I don’t require validation from some mysterious, shadowy conglomerate of film elites.

I also don’t really care about the show itself. Let’s be honest, as a televised event, The Oscars are rather long and boring. As you might expect, about half of the broadcast is commercials. But unlike other major televised events, such as the Super Bowl, they’re not even enjoyable ads.

Companies that advertise during the Oscars should feel an obligation to create entertaining, or at the very least mildly tolerable, commercials. These people are watching the Academy Awards; haven’t they suffered enough?

However, good TV commercials are a rarity, so I can give the Oscars a pass on that front. But even the show’s content, delivered at a snail’s pace between commercial breaks, is in no way enjoyable nor entertaining. Every year, the award presenters give the same inane speeches on the importance of each category. Are all of them really that essential? I’m just saying, one sound category is enough.

Then there’s the “entertainment” between awards. There’s no reason for it to be there. Yes, people enjoy the one upbeat Best Song nominee, but everything else is either boring or cringeworthy. The Academy could just announce the awards and say goodnight. No one would notice any difference except for a decline in their desire to blind and deafen themselves.

I’ve never understood why every year there are a million articles online about how awful that year’s host was, as if there has ever been a good host of the Academy Awards. Sure, some put in a good effort, such as last year’s Ellen DeGeneres, but there is truly no human being on earth who could ever redeem the mind-numbing blandness of that award show. The host of the Oscars is like a gardener in Chernobyl; it doesn’t matter how good they are, they will never be able to turn it into anything pleasant.

So if I don’t like the Oscars, why do I dedicatedly tune in every year? If for nothing else, it’s really just for the sport of it. It’s like a horse race; they’re all strong, worthy competitors who deserve to be there, but I don’t have any strong emotional investment in the winner. Speaking of horse racing, this leads me to my favorite Academy Award tradition: my annual Oscar betting pool prediction contest.

I participate in the betting guessing as well, which is probably a conflict of interest since I also run the pool , but it’s just a friendly wager, so no one causes a fuss.

I love this tradition because guessing Oscar winners is my secret talent. I consistently get around 70 percent of my picks correct. This year was no different. 17 out of my 24 predictions came out on top. Some of my misses are understandable: I mean, no one saw Whiplash’s Best Editing win coming. Some of them were tight races: I figured Michael Keaton would pull through after Birdman’s Director’s Guild momentum, but sadly no.

Despite my powerful guesswork, I unfortunately only came in second place this year. Some punk made a few lucky guesses on the tight races. I was not dismayed, however, as I won every single one of my other, private, friendly Oscar bets. So overall, I had a net profit of $20 worth of strong moral character.

The moral of this story is that while the Academy Awards are an inherently lifeless and hollow piece of network programming, they can become the highlight of your year with the one tool that can make any event a festive treat: gambling.

mayo1@stolaf.edu

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