Color Me Impressed!

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by Faith Quist, sophomore writing coach

If you enjoy learning about the astrological signs, you’ll definitely enjoy this book. Colorstrology by Michele Bernhardt is a colorful and compact book that contains a date for each birthday of the year—including February 29th! Each birthday has three sections: what the color says about the person, how the color benefits that person, and compatible birthdays. Much like the astrological signs, Colorstrology seeks to showcase the uniqueness in people and how they might be compatible with others.

I was first introduced to this book when I was at a marching band party. A group of friends and I were sitting in a room talking when someone picked up the book from a table. Soon we were all looking up each others’ birthdays and birthdays of mutual friends we knew. It was really fun to sit in a circle and see how other people related to their birthday color.

What I love so much about this book is the assortment of colors and how simplistic, but deep the book is. The three sections on each page make the book easily understandable. I admire the amount of the thought and idea that go into each birthday, and I love learning about other people through their colors.

With the New Year coming, and all the parties that come along with it, Colorstrology not only makes a great ice breaker, but a great gift as well!

Da Vinci vs. the Cuckoo Clock

by Katie Ward, senior writing coach

“After all, it’s not all bad. You know what the fellow said- in Italy for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long Holly.”
-Orson Welles, The Third Man

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As I begin to write this post, I am finding it very difficult to remember 2017, not through lack of ability, but lack of will. This morning I sat in the Writing Center with a handful of other coaches and tried to come up with a list of things that have happened this year; we rattled off disasters, tragedies, corruption, deaths, but when I said that I didn’t want this post to be scathingly cynical, we tried to think of a few positives as well and came up blank. What good came out of 2017?

That’s a fair question. Every angle of the world, let alone our country, let alone Minnetonka, let alone ourselves, has been bruised by the pain of this year. Millions of lives have been lost, from the natural disasters in Mexico, Florida, Puerto Rico, California, and Texas, to the terrorist attacks in London, Manchester, Barcelona, Manhattan, Las Vegas, Charlottesville, and Somalia. North Korea launched nuclear weapons. DACA was rescinded. Catalonia and Kurdistan’s revolutions were crushed. It is hard to watch the news because our universal question is no longer “What if something bad happens?” or even “When will something bad happen?,” but “What bad thing is happening right now?”

And yes, something bad is happening right now. There is no doubt about that.

But that is not all there is in the world.

This year, we have had hope. It has been shot and beaten and distorted nearly beyond recognition, but it is still there, and this is not in spite of tragedy, but because of it. At no point during this year did the world give up, as much as it may have wanted to, simply because that’s not what we, as humans, do. As long as there is human need for human kindness and human kindness for human need, there is hope. As long as we ask “What bad thing is happening right now?” as well as “What can I do to help?,” there is hope. As long as there is resistance, there is hope. I am not saying this in a veil of false idealism; look at our country. Racial prejudice is built into the foundation of our government. Natural disasters devestate our land beyond physical crisis. Politicians, producers, and countless other celebrities use their power to abuse and harass women. These are some of the worst truths of the world. But they aren’t the only things in America. Sports players are raising continuous awareness for police brutality and racial injustice; Minnesota elected America’s first female Somali Muslim legislator, a former refugee. Billions of dollars have been raised for Hurricane Irma relief alone; global donation has increased as well. Roy Moore, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and dozens of other men are finally being held accountable for their crimes; this spring’s Women’s March was the largest demonstration in American history.
In short, things are bad. No amount of blind optimism can hide that. But I’m not an optimist. I’m a realist. The reality is, we resist. The reality is, we endure. The reality is, we have a future, and we will fight for it. As the immaculate Orson Welles points out, the best comes from the worst. This pain makes us strong. As 2017 draws to a close and you stand in the shortening shadow of 2018, do not ask yourself “What if I do something?” or “When will I do something?,” but “What will I do right now?” So long, Holly.

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Literature and Leadership

 

by Preston Chan, junior writing coach

As a part of my VANTAGE Global Business class this year, we had a really great leadership unit where we read literature to learn about leadership. You might think this is crazy – how can literature teach you about leadership? I was thinking the exact same thing before we started the unit. Much to my surprise, literature actually taught me a lot about leadership – many things I would not have been able to learn without it.

One work of literature we read was Oedipus the King, a classic play written by the renowned playwright Sophocles. In the play, Oedipus and his brother-in-law, Creon, rule the city of Thebes. They have very different leadership styles: Oedipus is a very open, extroverted leader who wants to discuss political matters right out in the open, while Creon is more of an introverted leader who would rather discuss matters in private before announcing them to the public. In the real world, some leaders might possess the traits of Oedipus and others might be like Creon, but none of these leadership styles is necessarily “right” – only different. The great thing about Sophocles’ plays is that there is no right or wrong, only gray areas. One might argue that it is more democratic and fair to the people to be more open during the decision making process. Others might argue that leaders should carefully plan out their decisions before sharing with the public.

This is the beauty of reading the works of great minds like Sophocles; one can ponder and discuss what characteristics or perspectives are ideal without being able to decide what is the “best” or “correct.” One might see various pros and cons in the views of different characters and be unable to determine what characters are “good” and “evil.” Complex plots and character relationships like these truly make for great discussions and debates.

So the next time you pick up a book at your local library, consider reading some classic literature. It doesn’t have to be Sophocles (although I highly recommend it). I suggest that you read it with a friend or someone with whom you are close. Have discussions about what you think and what your views are. Chances are, this process may teach you some things about leadership or other qualities that may be valuable for the rest of your life.

To Be or Not to Be, in a Galaxy Far, Far Away…

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by Karsten Johnson, sophomore writing coach

Winter is upon us and with it brings the greatest day of the year: December 15th, the release date for Star Wars 8. Star Wars has created a sci-fi empire that looks to be never ending. While Star Wars has managed to stay in the public eye since 1977, the works of William Shakespeare have remained a literary staple for over 400 years. But have you noticed any similarities between the characters from Star Wars and those from Shakespeare?

 

“That these are not the droids for which thou search’st.”

George Lucas built a universe from scratch, but what made fans and critics love Star Wars were the characters within that universe. Shakespeare had a great variety of characters across his many works. Here are some comparisons between some of their most famous characters.

Romeo – Luke Skywalker

While both Romeo and Luke are protagonists for their respective stories, they are almost polar opposites. For their development as characters, we watch Luke grow as a person as a result of the loss of his aunt and uncle and the death of his mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi. Luke learns not to hate or kill needlessly as he tells the emperor, “You’ve failed, your highness. I am a Jedi, as my father was before me.” Romeo also experiences loss in his life. Both his friend Mercutio and his beloved Juliet die. Instead of dealing with things rationally, Romeo turns to the Dark Side and kills Mercutio’s murderer Tybalt. Romeo also fears life without Juliet so he kills himself, the act is both romantic and further proof that he is a Sith Lord. Yoda said that fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate and hate leads to suffering. Romeo feared, Romeo angered, and Romeo suffered.

Julius Caesar – Emperor Palpatine

Julius Caesar was ruler of Rome, the mighty empire, where as Emperor Palpatine was the ruler of most of the galaxy. Both were ambitious men who seized power and ruled to improve their own lives. Another similarity is that they both had to combat opposing forces attempting to seize their power. Caesar was killed by Brutus and the other conspirators, men he believed to be his friends. Palpatine was killed by his apprentice Darth Vader in an act of betrayal. While Caesar’s fatal flaw was pride, Palpatine’s flaw was not accounting for Vader turning to the light side of the force to save his son. As a wise emperor once said, “So it’s treason then.” Caesar Act 3 Scene 1  

Hermia – Leia

Leia Organa was a senator in the Galactic Senate and an essential member of the rebel alliance whereas Hermia chose love instead of an arranged marriage. Some similarities between them are that in both Star Wars and A Midsummer’s Night Dream the fathers of Leia and Hermia are villains. They both are under the rigid order of not only their fathers and also a governing body. Leia defies her father, Darth Vader and his empire while Hermia defies Egus and the ruler of Athens. Both of these characters managed to be forces to be reckoned with, despite the perceived inferiority of women in their societies. Hermia, being a character in the 17th century where women’s rights were lacking, to say the least, and Leia in a Sci-Fi genre made up of mostly men.

 

A Lasting Impact?

I believe that both Star Wars and Shakespeare will remain popular and have a lasting impact on society. Shakespeare’s works are mentioned in the Minnesota state curriculum as “timeless dramas.” According to the Congressional Record, Star Wars has been mentioned on the Senate floor 8,460 times. As Shakespeare seems like it’s never going away, what does the future hold for Star Wars? Will it remain in popular culture, with new movies always coming out, or will this dilute the franchise and take it out of popularity?  I close with an (almost) quote from Hamlet, “To be or not to be, there is no try.”

Kitchens of the Great Midwest

kitchens of the great midwestby Maggie Shea, former Writing Center coordinator

Welcome back Ms. Shea! She now has more time to write and she suggests this book for a great winter break read.

Aracely Prmentula’s cooking attracted regular customers from as far away as Fort Dodge and Ottumwa, and recently even two people who drove all the way from Minneapolis. This was amazing to Eva, to have people drive that far to eat something you made…She liked to fantasize that Randy and Aracely would get married and she could move in with them and grow ingredients for the restaurant all day. Anything to be part of it all.”

Lars Thorvald launches this story, singing a love song to the two women he loves best in this life: his wife, Cindy, and his newborn daughter, Eva. Food, his first love, brings tragedy and passion in this fun, delicious read. Raised by the baker Gustav Thorvald and forced at 12 to learn to make lutefisk, Lars found his home in kitchens. While working as a chef at Hutmacher’s, a lakeside restaurant, he fell in love with Cindy, lured in by her knowledge of wine and quality ingredients. They married, pregnant at the altar. Soon after, Cindy ran away with a sommelier (wine expert) and Lars devoted his energy to raising their child Eva.

Quirky, food-loving Eva is at the center of the narrative. Readers follow her through triumphs and tough times into kitchens rustic and chic. Food is the thread that holds her chaotic life together, and her path takes unpredictable turns into spectacular creations and foodie adventures. Teens will relate to her search for friends who “get you” — Eva’s group is a quirky bunch. The characters are complex, funny, and sometimes heart-breaking.  As I read the last pages of the glorious, fate-filled conclusion, I did not want to leave Eva and her close circle of authentic, talented friends. Luckily, readers can linger with the characters by trying out some of the yummy recipes included in the novel.