A Night at the Opera

Controversy. Sex scandals. Drinking songs. Anvils as percussion. Yes, it is a night at the opera.
All of these themes comprise La Traviata, one of the world’s most popular operas, which is showing at the Wharton Center on May 22. The Wharton Center is showing an entire repertoire to add magic to those warm summer nights.
The Michigan Opera Theater (MOT), based in Detroit, Mich., is bringing the show to campus. The MOT brings one show a year to MSU and MOT communications coordinator Rebekah Johnson said La Traviata is a good opera to start with if you’ve never experienced one before. “Opera is one of those things that envelops all different arts and culture together: theater, art, singing, music and dance. All of these different elements of art, music and culture are put together. It is a big conglomeration of art forms,” Johnson said.
Without knowing much about the opera, it can seem boring, uninteresting or just a bunch of overwhelming voices hurting your ears. But with a little background and familiarization, the opera can be quite engaging. “I am a recent former student and typically students are afraid to try it,” Johnson said. “Before you go, do research on [the] Internet. When you actually go with research you will be surprised that you really like it. [Students] can really get into it.”
Political science junior Rachel Penn is living proof the opera can be an enjoyable experience for all ages. Penn’s family took her to her first opera at the Wharton Center as a young child and she has been a “huge fan” ever since. “My grandpa started me on opera because he listened to it,” Penn said. “It wasn’t such a shock when I was older.” Penn saw La Traviata last year at the Metropolitan Opera in New York and was moved by the scene when the main character, Violetta, was talking to the father of her lover, Alfredo. Alfredo’s father convinced Violetta the two should not be together.
Forbidden love is a pervasive theme in La Traviata. The story is set in mid-19th century France, starring Violetta, a courtesan (a prostitute who associates with men of wealth). Alfredo Germont, a member of the wealthy class, is quite taken with Violetta when he meets her at a ritzy party. He engages her in a song among the heavily-drinking guests and urges them to “drink to love and our drinking will render our kisses more ardent.”
Alfredo falls in love with Violetta to the chagrin of Alfredo’s father, who is displeased with his son associating himself with a “wayward woman.” To start a new life together, Alfredo and Violetta move to the countryside, but Alfredo’s father eventually convinces Violetta to renounce his son to save their family’s reputation. Drama ensues, emotions run high and the music punctuates the powerful themes with ebb and flow with every crescendo.
“If a student listens to the music, I think they will be moved and the experience of the theater is fun,” Penn said.
Interestingly, the dramatic plot of La Traviata was inspired by real life events. Historically, it all started with Marie Duplessis. Agenor, son of the Duc de Guiche, fell in love with Marie and was forced by his father to break off the relationship. To be associated with a “wayward woman” who was not married and not a virgin would ruin the reputation of those in “high society.” Alexandre Dumas, son of the author of the Count of Monte Cristo, also had an affair with Marie, but she died at the age of 23 from consumption. Quite affected by their love affair and her death, Dumas blended his story with Agenor’s to create a tragically romantic novel that later became a play. Giuseppe Verdi set the play to music and “La Traviata” was born.
A few instances in popular culture have taken cues from this opera. If the plot of a wealthy man falling in love with a prostitute sounds familiar, it is because the ‘80s box office hit “Pretty Woman” was loosely based off of the storyline. In the movie, there is a scene where Richard Gere and Julia Roberts are at the opera and Roberts is intently watching the show. They are very appropriately watching “La Traviata.” When asked if she liked the opera, Roberts memorably replied, “It was so good, I almost peed my pants!”
The song Alfredo sings to Violetta when they first meet is called “Brindisi (Libiamo Ne’ Lieti Calici)” or “The Drinking Song.” This well-known tune is one everyone has heard. If you’re skeptical, look it up. Chances are you’ve heard this upbeat song in any Italian restaurant you’ve ever been in. As another interesting note, Verdi relied heavily on the use of an anvil as the main percussion piece in his music, possibly making him the creator of punk-rock.
To students who have never experienced the opera before, Penn would tell them to give it a chance and not stereotype it as “a singing woman wearing Viking horns.” Above all, she said the music is the most important element to appreciate.
Even if opera will never be your cup of tea, a trip to the theater can be a unique experience and there are plenty of other theater productions in the area to put a little magic into a warm summer evening. Lansing’s BoarsHead Theater is showing Escanaba in Love, a sequel to the popular comedy Escanaba in the Moonlight. To make a night out of the experience, the BoarsHead Theater offers “Dinner and a Show” packages that include discounts at some local restaurants, such as Beggar’s Banquet and Clara’s, when tickets are booked through the BoarsHead box office.
The Riverwalk Theatre is a non-profit community theater in downtown Lansing, just three blocks from the capitol. They offer small, kitschy shows, such as the family comedy The Ransom of Red Chief and I Hate Hamlet, a spoof on the Shakespearean tale. MSU’s Summer Circle Theater offers free shows performed by MSU theater students on the banks of the Red Cedar at 8 p.m., rain or shine. The 2008 season includes Red Herring by Michael Hollinger, running June 11-14; The Girls in 509 by Howard Teichmann, running June 18-21; and Number the Stars, based on the book by Lois Lowry, running June 25-28. For night owls, the MSU Summer Circle offers a late-night show under the stars with more mature content. These edgier shows include Medea by Christopher Durang and Wendy Wasserstein, June 20, 21 and 27; as well as Baby Food and The Other Person by David Lindsey-Abaire, June 18, 19 and 28.
At first glance, an opera may not seem like a thrilling concept. But with a little research, you may find yourself surprised. Love it or hate it, a night at the opera could be an experience you never forget and leave you a little more culturally and artistically aware.

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Fiddle Me This

[one]Feet were a-tappin’ and fiddles were a-twangin’ as the MSU Philharmonic and Fiddlers ReStrung fused their creative styles of music together to create a new sound. The orchestra loosened their collars and embraced the spirit of bluegrass as the different groups blended classical with folk. The college students and fiddling group meshed their talents to create what can only be described as a “classical hoedown” on campus.
The Fiddlers ReStrung, a group of string players out of Saline High School in Saline, Mich. was founded by string educator and composer Bob Phillips when he was a music teacher in Saline. As a teacher, Phillips included alternative styles of music – meaning anything non-classical – into his teaching repertoire.
“As a double bass player, I’ve been thrown into every ensemble possible. My background as a musician is eclectic and I took that into the classroom,” Phillips said. “Fiddlers ReStrung grew organically out of the fact that I was teaching and kids thought it would be cool to start a group. They wanted to play, perform and explore improvisation.”
[bob]Music education senior Cori Smith serves as the artistic director for Fiddlers ReStrung and member of the MSU Philharmonic Orchestra. “It is more of a calling,” Smith said. For Smith, it began when Phillips put out a call to her 8th grade orchestra class to audition for the fiddling group. She performed with the group in high school and went on to a performing career for two years, touring the United States and Canada. After Smith enrolled at MSU, Phillips retired and she was offered her former teacher’s position. “He has been probably my most influential mentor in my entire teaching career. I call him up whenever I need advice,” Smith said.
Fiddling has surely become part of the culture of Saline. “It has grown into something now where even if there were no fiddle teachers, they would find a way to continue the tradition, because it’s become such an integral part of the community,” Smith said. Phillips said many music teachers see teaching as a performance and the act of teaching is to be a performer in classroom. His own style of teaching is more than just presenting information and organizing kids. Phillips used humor to motivate and encourage his students.
Fiddlers ReStrung focuses on preserving fiddle music, serving the community and promoting positive qualities of young adults. “The students have respect for all walks of life,” Smith said. “We played at a school for children with autism and [my students] got a chance to see what life is like for their peers in different situations. It is really important for [my students] to see what they do for other people’s lives. They are very mature kids.”
Adriane Rasmussen is a high school student at Saline High School and plays the cello in Fiddlers ReStrung. “The main reason that I love fiddle music is because it lets you think outside of the box,” Rasmussen said. “Fiddle music just seems way more interesting and inspiring than classical music. The other reason I like playing fiddle music is because when I play with the group, the music seems to come alive.”
But being dedicated to the fiddle typically tends to draw an older crowd. Saline High School senior and cello player Catherine Noble was happy for the opportunity to collaborate with the MSU Philharmonic students in a January concert on campus. “It is good for us because we don’t get to play with college students very often,” Noble said. “It’s cool to play with people closer to our age.” [two]
When Raphael Jimenez, the associate director of orchestras, invited Fiddlers ReStrung to perform with the MSU Philharmonic Orchestra, he thought the event would create a sense of inclusion and unite two different musical styles together. “The world is a tapestry made out of many different colors,” Jimenez said. “It is through music that those colors can be preserved. It would be awful to have one single planet that is just gray.” Jimenez said the contrast between two such different musical styles creates an opportunity to promote and cultivate folk music, which is traditionally American. American folk music started as an oral history and was sung to express struggles people had to endure. War, civil rights, work, oppression and economic hardship have all been the subject matter of folk songs. “To me, heritage is extremely important,” Jimenez said. “What makes us different is what makes this world wonderful. I think it is extremely important to cultivate and promote differences. This concert is a way to show that we have cool stuff here in the U.S. and we should learn more about it.”
As for fiddle music, Smith describes it as a feeling. Originally used to accompany community dances, fiddle music now permeates every venue, from theaters to dance halls to family gatherings around the fireplace, Smith said. “It is tricky to define, but in general, fiddle music is unique because is a spontaneous, creative, inclusive act of shared music-making. There are no rules, and anything can happen.”
[fid1]For their performance together at MSU, the orchestra first played a suite from the ballet “Billy the Kid” and selections from “Pops Hoe-Down,” including “Pop Goes the Weasel” and “Turkey in the Straw.” Fiddlers ReStrung then took the stage in black and red studded uniforms and played three tunes featuring individual solos. A few students incorporated square dancing into the performance. It was on the last song, “Orange Blossom Special,” that the two groups united their unique sounds in a joint performance.
Smith gave her cowboy hat to Jimenez as he conducted the orchestra. With the crescendo of the final note, Jimenez raised his hat and the audience erupted into applause. Getting into the American folk music sprit, the audience even let out a few “Yee-haws.”
A week after the concert, Smith said the concert left a lasting impression on the high school students. “They are still talking about it. They thought it was really cool to hang out with people that are young enough that they can still relate to them, but old enough that they can look up to them,” Smith said. “The experience of playing on stage with a good orchestra and having a really responsive crowd was really fun for them.”
With one more year of undergraduate study, plus student teaching, Smith said this is her last year as creative director for the fiddlers. The decision was hard for Smith, and the students are what she will miss most. “I’ve been doing this for four years now and there are just a lot of really great kids in the group. I love watching them grow up. That’s probably my favorite part of the job,” Smith said.
Smith aspires to teach high school music and develop musicianship programs that will incorporate different genres of music into the classroom. “That is sort of a job that is just starting to be explored now, but I think it’s important especially in our culture,” Smith said. “It’s losing music very quickly and becoming the iPod generation where kids don’t really connect through music. I want to help bridge that gap.”

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All Aboard!

[megabus]The feeling of the winter doldrums is one that any inhabitant of a Michigan winter knows well. It is that time of year when the constant cold, sludgy snow and overall feeling of sluggishness can bring a frown to even the most enthusiastic MSU undergrad’s face, as they scurry from class to class trying to remain outdoors for as few seconds as possible. Dread this time of year? Fear not, seasonally sad student, for there is an inexpensive, convenient mode of transportation to get you out of dodge for a weekend trip.
That option is called the Megabus, a non-stop intercity express bus company that offers fares to travelers as low as $1 via the Internet. The bus travels daily to Chicago as well as to eight other Midwestern cities: Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and St. Louis. As the Megabus goes on its tour de Midwest, the icon of a stout little driver dons the side of the bus, happily escorting travelers wherever they go.
[energy] With winter starting to get seriously cold, it was time to put the Megabus to the test and find out if it could provide that little weekend getaway. I got my fiancé, Justin, and both sets of our parents on board with the idea of the bus. A few clicks of the mouse later and our tickets were booked.
The Megabus picked us up in Ann Arbor, arriving at 5 p.m. sharp – right on time. Setting eyes upon it for the first time, I was surprised at how well the bus lives up to its name. The blue bus we went on was a double-decker, truly “mega.” By 5:10 p.m., everyone was on the bus and the wheels set in motion. Chicago, get ready. Nighttime soon fell (5:15 p.m. in winter!) and an old western movie played on the DVD players that ran along the ceiling of the bus. Although the movie choice could have been better, it was A nice luxury to offer. A layer of snow blanketed the road, freshly renewed after each passing car as it fell from the sky. There was an hour stretch where a car was in the ditch no matter what time you looked out of the bus window, but the Megabus sailed on smoothly among the difficult conditions.
We arrived in Chicago around 9 p.m. (gained an hour), only 30 minutes late considering the snowy roads. We took a short cab ride to the Seneca Inn and Suites, which is an old apartment complex that has been converted into a hotel. The conversion gives the place a quasi-homelike feel. In true classic Chicago style, we dined on deep-dish pizza for dinner.
The early light of Saturday morning wrapped itself around every city skyscraper in its path and woke me early. In the light of day, I could see the Hancock Building directly outside of our hotel window. On Monday, the 100-story complex, an iconic landmark of the Chicago skyline, would fill with various people returning to their offices from a much-needed weekend. Much like bees in a hive, the building would be buzzing. But not today. Saturday is a day of relaxation, a day of escape. It was also a day of channeling our inner Eskimo and braving the bitter cold. Michigan Avenue (also known as the Magnificent Mile) was our challenge and we prepared for the task.
With a wind chill of -25 degrees, we gave ourselves once-overs before leaving the comfort and warmth of the Seneca. Hat? Check. Gloves? Check. It was time to go.[cupcakes]
Justin and I had to leave our parents behind because, truthfully, they were just too slow for us. But we made plans to meet later at the Hershey’s Café of Chicago before traveling on our merry way. Justin and I bounced along the Magnificent Mile with the enthusiasm of kindergarten students on the first day of school. The atmosphere of the city was energetic as herds of people moved quickly along the sidewalks. The city’s energy made my winter-plagued spirits start to rise, despite the chilly conditions. We bustled up and down the strip for three hours, devouring eyefuls of the city and gulping down the excitement. Soon, it was time to reconvene at the Hershey’s Café.
Chicago is where Milton Hershey discovered the chocolate-making equipment that would later revolutionize the industry. I sipped a cup of Hershey’s hot cocoa as I took in the silly atmosphere of the place. Every song that played throughout the store had something to do with candy; a singing employee stationed a counter filled with cupcakes custom-made to your request and chocolate was piled as high as a young kid could crane his neck. Although this place would have been absolutely awesome if I were 10, I could still appreciate the light atmosphere. Justin decided to get the full experience and had the singing employee whip up two giant cupcakes, which we happily enjoyed as we sat by a mural of flying Reese’s Pieces. It wasn’t exactly the cupcake itself that was big; it was the frosting that literally composed 2/3 of the dessert’s height. A sugar buzz quickly ensued and we were ready to brave the Windy City again for another two hours of shopping before heading back to the Seneca.
Our parents had already retreated to our room and we took some time to share our activities and purchases of the day. To cap off our trip in style, we made dinner reservations at a restaurant called Carmines, the most genuine Italian restaurant I have ever experienced, with accents and all. Just like the atmosphere, the food was authentic and delicious. After a long, windy day and a great dinner, I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. [couple]
The Megabus does not sleep in on Sundays and arrived, as promised, to Union Station at 8:30 a.m. On the return back to Michigan, the roads were again slippery with snow but the trusty Megabus delivered us back to Ann Arbor safely. As I stepped off the Megabus, I thanked the driver and got my bag out of the underbelly of the vehicle. Our trip was short, but sweet. The Megabus had given us an inexpensive and stressless way to relieve the drudgery of the winter. I realized how long I had been looking forward to our Megabus trip and that it provided me with the warmest thought one can have during a Michigan winter: something to look forward to. The cold Michigan air flooded my senses as I trudged back to our car and the responsibilities of Monday loomed a short 24 hours away. I wanted to flee back to the Megabus and begin another winter getaway. I looked back. There’s always next weekend.

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Realizing the Dream

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said you don’t have to have a college degree to serve, which is good news for MSU undergrads. To serve, Dr. King said you only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love. MSU offers many ways to celebrate the powerful message of Dr. King – no degree required. Upon hearing the words “no classes,” it is natural for many sleep-deprived, homework-loaded Spartan to use the day catch up on sleep, study or complete those other menial tasks that are often put by wayside. But the holiday really isn’t about taking a day off, it is about giving back, and there are many opportunities for MSU students to seize the spirit of the day and make a difference.
Motivated by Dr. King’s powerful message, the Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives wanted to use this opportunity to engage the MSU campus and remind everyone of M.L.K., Jr.’s dream.[mlk12]
“We try to highlight and educate to keep impressing upon people that we have to live, work and learn together; it is up to us,” said Audrey Bentley, the programs and events coordinator for the office.
The theme for this year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebrations at MSU is “Experiencing civil rights through Arts and Culture.” The theme coincides with MSU’s “Year of Arts and Culture,” the year-long initiative to recognize and appreciate arts on campus. In an effort to include and accommodate all, the activities are free.
[together]For those interested in gathering on the holiday, students can participate in a full day of activities on Jan. 21 that capture the essence of King’s message: the importance of giving back to the community. The celebrations on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day begin with activities organized by “Into the Streets,” an MSU student group where student volunteers work with community agencies, including nursing homes, soup kitchens and shelters. The service-learning project usually draws nearly 350 students each year. Volunteers are encouraged to pre-register at MSU’s service learning Web site, by clicking on the “Into the Streets” tab or at the “Into the Streets” Web site. On the actual holiday, student volunteers will receive their assignments at 8 a.m. at the MSU Business College Complex. From there, they go “into the streets” to live up to the name and mission of the student group and make a difference. For those unable to pre-register, they can receive assignments on site at the Business College Complex that morning, at a later time of 9:15 a.m. In the past, students have volunteered with the Salvation Army Toy Drive, at the MSU Greenhouse, helped paint and clean local homes and advocated change through newsletter distribution and letter-writing.
Justin Rumao, Into the Streets co-chair and mechanical engineering senior, said the agencies always embrace the needed help. “Whenever we can bring students to help, [the agencies] are always appreciative,” Rumao said. “They are more than grateful we are there.”
Nick Tecca, civil engineering freshman and new “Into the Streets” member, joined the organization soon after he arrived on campus. Tecca learned of the group from a stand in the Engineering Building. While the freshman hasn’t had a chance to participate yet, he is looking forward to the volunteer opportunities in the future. “I joined because it sounded like a solid group that was doing something important,” Tecca said.
“Into the Streets” is not the only option for students looking to act on M.L.K. Jr. Day: the Student Leadership Conference is being held on Jan. 21 in the MSU Union. The theme for the conference is “United for a Cause: Awareness, Inclusion and Action,” and the event will explore the impacts of the major society on social reform, social justice, inclusion and equality through lectures and workshops. “We’ll be talking about history and different cultures, not just African Americans. [The message] goes beyond the African American experience and looks for those who may have experienced different treatment because of who they are,” Bentley said. The conference begins at 8:30 a.m. and ends at 3 p.m. [MLK2]
Following the conference, there will be a commemorative march from the Union to Beaumont tower where Dr. Lee N. June, Vice President for Student Affairs and Services and Assistant Provost for Academic Student Services and Multicultural Issues, will give a speech emulating the motivating essence often used by Dr. King. All are then invited to the MSU Museum to view “Quilts and Human Rights,” an exhibit exploring the role of quilt makers in raising awareness for human rights and paying tribute to prominent human rights leaders. The exhibit begins at 3:30 p.m.
The celebrations will come to a crescendo with a community dinner in Akers Hall. The dinner is intended to provide an opportunity for faculty, staff and students to interact with each other, exchange stories and dialogue about their personal experiences with diversity. “It goes beyond networking and is an opportunity to educate, enlighten and put depth into [Dr. King’s] message,” Bentley said. “The dinner is what we want the whole campus to be like: everyone getting to know each other, talking and having a good time. You find that we’re not so different.”
Housing and Food Services co-sponsors the dinner and creates an impressive spread, Bentley said. “The meal is five-star. It is food you don’t cook at home. People look forward to this event and there is warmth to the room, like family.”[different]
For students who can’t make it out on the actual holiday, some activities will occur prior to Jan. 21. On Saturday, Jan. 19, “Showtyme at MSU,” a talent show organized by students, will take place. In the past, the event has drawn crowds of approximately 700 students to the International Center Food Court from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. The event gives students a chance to express themselves and their experiences through their own personalities and voices.
On Sunday, Jan. 20, the commemorative concert “Jazz: Spirituals, Prayer and Protest” will take place at the Wharton Center’s Pasant Theatre. Bentley said this is an event that bridges the community and draws huge crowds. “We’ve had to expand the performance to two shows. People come from across the state,” Bentley said. “It is an opportunity to listen to jazz centered around a powerful theme.”
The work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has affected us all. He traveled thousands of miles, wrote numerous books and articles and participated in many non-violent protests in the name of civil rights. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a new definition to greatness by recognizing that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. This definition of greatness means that everyone has the opportunity to be great because everyone can serve. The gift of service is invaluable and will have positive lasting effects on both server and receiver. Take a day, or even a spare moment, to think about the message Dr. King lived and died for. He proved achieving greatness can be done by simple acts of kindness and the power to create change in within us. Be great this holiday.

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Creatures of (Relaxation) Habit

As the weather gets cold, the time arrives for people to favor all things comfortable. A ritual of relaxation is a source for needs that are ultimately human: something to look forward to and a sense of control. My form of relaxation revolves around Thursday “Girls’ Nights.” This night has become a ritual I look forward to at the end of a busy week. It is when my friends and I get together to be entertained by the NBC show, The Office. As much as we rely on that good laugh at the end of the week, our main purpose is to talk, gossip, vent and catch up with each other. We discuss the ups and downs of our lives, long after the show’s 30 minutes are up. But this ritual of relaxation cannot be a unique occurrence. Other stressed out MSU students must have similar (or not-so-similar) events they use to relax and relieve stress.[kellycat12]
Lianna Hadden, head of athletic training for MSU volleyball and cross country, has a background in sports psychology and said people create habits for a sense of control of everyday situations or life in general. If we know the next step that is coming, we don’t stress as much. People also use rituals as a form of relaxation, from breathing techniques to visualization. Rituals keep the mind focused on small goals so we don’t fixate on the greater task at hand and we don’t become overwhelmed. Hadden sees many rituals and habits performed by her athletes.
“Many athletes feel they need a routine or habit to maximally perform at their sport,” said Hadden. “I had a volleyball player who needed to chew the same flavor of gum before every match. It doesn’t matter what the habit is – it is the relaxing effect it takes on the psyche of the athlete.”
Relaxation is often an unlikely luxury in the life of a college student, but a notion of control often feels necessary. Especially as exams approach, time to slow down and unwind can often be put on the back burner. But many students employ their own personal relaxation rituals in the spare time they do have. English senior Lisa Senakiewich practices a ritual of spending the last moments of the day completely by herself. “I just go in my room and close the door. It’s my own downtime,” Senakiewich said. Senakiewich also has a ritual of calling her boyfriend at the end of each day. This is an example of the little habits created to look forward to, signaling the end of the day.
Others find relaxation though movement and productivity, like environmental biology sophomore Emily MacLeod. MacLeod cleans the house when in need of stress relief. “If my surroundings are messy and disorganized, I can’t focus. I clean and feel a sense of order,” said MacLeod. If no cleaning is necessary, MacLeod also listens to the indie pop music of Sufjan Stevens on her iPod.
[macleod1]An off-beat relaxation ritual is performed by kinesiology freshman Tiffany Evans. When feeling stressed, Evans lies on the floor and tightens every muscle in her body. After a few moments, she relaxes one muscle at a time. The freshman said the exercise makes it feels like the stress is flowing out of her body. This practice is a technique often used by athletes prior to competition and in yoga.
But what happens if a person can’t relax without performing their ritual? Sometimes people can rely on a ritual so much it can cross into dangerous territory. Sarah Carson, a doctoral kinesiology student in sports psychology, said while performing a routine, a person is in control. It is when a behavior controls a person that a ritual becomes obsessive-compulsive. “Sometimes a ritual turns into a superstition, and that’s where it starts to hurt you,” said Carson. “The sense of control a person gets from a superstition backfires because it is more about luck. Then you are giving control to a ritual.”
Dr. Lionel Rosen, psychiatrist and MSU professor, explained the dark side of rituals. Sometimes these rituals, or certain behaviors, are taught to us and sometimes we do things that result in something positive happening. Therefore we keep doing it. “When the ritual serves no rational purpose, or when it has symbolic significance but no real utility, and when it has to be repeated to the point of interfering with other normal behaviors, it is considered a compulsion,” said Dr. Rosen.
Rosen said anyone can develop rituals. People who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorders are more prone to have a spectrum of rituals. Extremely orderly people, those with religious beliefs that involve rituals, and young children are also prone to develop repetitive behaviors in response to certain situations.[rosen]
After speaking with Carson and Dr. Rosen, I became slightly concerned about my enthusiasm for my Thursday night ritual. While I don’t think there is much danger of becoming obsessive about my ritual, compulsions are serious and often need to be professionally treated. Rituals become dangerous when they become a “need” and your mind can’t rest until that “need” is fulfilled.
Does a stressed out student need to relax? Yes. Should a person be dependent on routines that are familiar to obtain that stress relief? No. In this case, moderation is imperative when searching for comfort. Many MSU students find comfort in an array of rituals and habits that provide healthy stress relief. As for me, I will continue to look to my Thursday night routine as an outlet. With graduation rapidly approaching and my blood pressure rising a bit more each day, I will enjoy my ritual: happily, healthily and moderately. Whether you call it a ritual, routine or habit, Hadden summed it up simply. “Humans are creatures of habit. We like to know what is next.”

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The Paper Sculpture Club

In the ’80s, director John Hughes created an iconic movie about the differences of five teens spending a Saturday in detention: the athlete, the princess, the rebel, the brain and the basket case. Each person had a distinct personality and brought a unique perspective to an undesirable situation. While under lock-down and guarded by their neurotic principal, “The Breakfast Club” members each had the task of writing an essay about who they think they are.[birds]
The scenario is reminiscent of an evening that took place recently in the Art Museum at MSU. Many people with different tastes, personalities and perspectives came to “The Paper Sculpture Show” to create something they think is art.
“The Paper Sculpture Show” is an interactive exhibit at the museum to involve the community in the making and presentation of “art.” Art is a broad term and is classified in many ways, depending on who you’re talking to. In this case, art is what the public created out of 8.5 x 11 inch sheets of paper designed by various artists. Museum goers took the paper, glue, tape and scissors and created their art. By doing so, participants left a piece of their personalities on display for all to see. In a sense, they left a part of “who they think they are.”
Five people in particular descended upon the exhibit. All are quite different from each other. Michelle Mercer, a nutritional sciences junior who describes herself an “not creative” and right brained; Nicole Bush, an interdisciplinary studies senior with a quirky personality and outbursts of random behavior involving sprawling on the ground unexpectedly; Daniel Lewis, an English junior music buff who can be seen walking around campus with his huge headphones blaring the latest music you’ve never heard of; Adam Sprangel, a hospitality business senior who spends many weekends catering gourmet food to the members of the Varsity Club; and Dustin Voss, a hospitality business senior who runs cross country and track for MSU and always gets in a quick joke. Adam and Dustin were the most alike of the group, sharing the same major, willingness to goof around and their routine of getting wings on Thursday nights. Despite their busy schedules and different lives, the gang attended the exhibit.[daniel]
The five arrived at the museum independently of each other. They took some time to look at the sculptures already created. With the exhibit’s unique nature, it is difficult for one to get a sense of how “The Paper Sculpture Show” works. One oddity included an entire wall of the museum filled with paper bird cut-outs. “It is the bird wall. It’s a staff project,” museum worker and art history junior Erin McCue said. “We want to fill the whole wall. We’re getting close and we have one more week.”
“I liked the manipulation of the guy’s face,” Daniel said of a particular paper patterned with various expressions of a man. “I thought the sculptures would be bigger, not sheets of paper. It wasn’t what I expected.” The exhibit wasn’t what Michelle expected either. “I thought it would be more like, ‘Here’s some paper, go to work.’ It was more organized,” she said. After preconceived notions were put aside, the group gathered their materials and went to work.
The Breakfast Club’s task was mandated by the spiteful high school principal, Richard Vernon, referred to as “Dick” by the rebel of the group. At the Art Museum, there was no Dick Vernon present, but The Paper Sculpture Club took the task of creating “art” along the same lines The Breakfast Club would have. There was a lot of laughing at each other, inappropriate joking and hesitation to create their art (although no cold cuts were thrown around). But by the end, they each created something different from each other and unique to the exhibit.
Dustin chose to modify the man’s face by substituting his eyes for naked women; Adam created a long box resembling a catering platter with the eyes Dustin discarded attached to the end engaged in an unblinking stare. Nicole used fancy scissor skills to cut the straight paper edges curvy and stood her creation upright into a bowl-like structure. Daniel created a “two-page flip book” for a poem he created on the spot. “It was more of a to-do list that I made rhyme,” Daniel said. “The design on the sculpture looked like notebook paper so I went from there.” Michelle had a little trouble envisioning her creation. “I don’t know what it was (that I made),” she said. “I took stuff from different artists’ designs and taped them together. There was no thought process.”
“The Paper Sculpture Show” experience concludes with hanging the new creations on the walls or placing it on a table display. Dustin and Adam finished first. They laid their art work on the table display before heading out for their beloved buffalo wings. Nicole and Daniel also chose the table display. Breaking stride with the others, Michelle hung her work on the wall.[people]
The experience was over and the group went back to their individual routines. Had this been truly akin to The Breakfast Club movie, the practical Michelle would have created a group manifesto of “who they think they are,” while the jokester Dustin and untamable Nicole would have shared an intimate lip-lock. But for one afternoon at “The Paper Sculpture Show,” five individuals came together, interacted with each other in an unusual environment and left a piece of themselves behind for others to see. In the movie, Dick Vernon justified his mandate of the assignment by saying “Maybe you’ll learn something about yourselves.” Perhaps “The Paper Sculpture Show” allowed Vernon’s justification. The hospitality business majors Dustin and Adam learned they could enjoy a twist on their set Thursday night routine, while the rambunctious Nicole found her more tranquil, sentimental side by stating she won’t come back to pick up her creation. “I don’t want to have to part with it. I want to think it’s in the museum forever.” The musically-absorbed Daniel discovered the connection between his passion for art and its relationship with academics. “The arts are important. They flesh out the campus and MSU’s entire feel,” he said. “Arts give more legitimacy to academics.” Last but not least, the science-inclined Michelle learned she could create art in her own way. “My classes are more problem-solving where there is a definite right and wrong answer,” she said. “Art isn’t like that. I had a good time.”[michelle]
In one short span of time, each person revealed a side of themselves they don’t usually publicize or didn’t even know they had. They trickled out of the museum in similar fashion to how “The Breakfast Club” left detention. After a Saturday of lock-down, the characters thought they’d be running for the parking lot. Instead they found themselves moving at a slower pace, taking time to observe the unexpected moment one last time. As “The Paper Sculpture Show” gang went their separate ways, I think their impressions of each other and perceptions of themselves were altered for a moment. Life can’t imitate art all the time — only once in a while, if you’re lucky enough to realize it. That day, a group of individuals took an opportunity to learn something about art. In the process, they discovered qualities about themselves, the museum and each other.

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A is for Arts

MSU appreciates the life art brings to campus and the strength, dimension and depth it brings our culture. The 2007-2008 academic year has been officially designated with a year-long celebration of the dynamic duo: arts and culture.
Colorful acrobatics of Cirque du Soleil, huge diamonds at the MSU Museum, an interactive hands-on exhibition in the Art Museum at MSU, oodles of guest lecturers and a guy who makes fiber sound suits out of garbage. These are just a few of the events coming to MSU for the “Year of Arts and Culture.”[simon]
In her February State of the University address, Lou Anna K. Simon stated:
“Across the nation and here in Michigan, structural social inequalities persist. These inequalities result in tangible disparities in things like income levels and access to quality education and health care, and intangible disparities like reduced expectations and respect. They are insidious because they limit individual dreams and collective innovation.
(I’m interrupting Ms. Simon for a sec to say that it’s depressing right now but keep going, it gets better.)
“We must commit ourselves to reversing these trends… we cannot overlook the critical role arts and culture play both in nurturing the human spirit and preparing our students for a global world. While there are many ways MSU advances arts and culture through teaching, research, and outreach, I want to highlight one special example here: We will officially declare 2007-08 MSU’s Year of Arts and Culture.”
The initiatives our president speaks of are basically a smorgasbord of events specifically created with this celebration in mind. Also known as “Signature Events,” the list is very long and an interesting and enriching value of each of them could easily be pointed out. Out of the pile, here are five events students (on a budget) might enjoy.
The Paper Sculpture Show
The Paper Sculpture Show at the Art Museum at Kresge Art Center. Forget about not touching things in a museum. You can leave your mark all over that place! First, 29 artists designed the paper boxes: think less delicate origami. Next, you choose the design to suit your tastes and create a three-dimensional piece of art that will live out its time in the museum for all to see. As the weeks pass, more visitors create boxes and the exhibition grows. Best part: It’s free. 9/4/2007- 10/14/2007
Dinosaur Dash[art2]
MSU Federal Credit Union Dinosaur Dash. The MSU Museum and MSU Federal Credit Union are moving their bones to keep funding for the dinosaurs from becoming extinct. The annual Dino Dash 5K race/walk is an event that helps support the educational programs at the MSU Museum which holds the area’s only fully-mounted dinosaur cast. MSU Federal Credit Union Dinosaur Dash entry forms are available at MSUFCU branches, Playmakers on Grand River Ave. in Okemos, and at the MSU Museum; or on-line at Events/DinosaurDash . 10/7/2007
Marion Post Wolcott Photographs presented by The Art Museum at MSU, at Kresge Art Center
A picture says a thousand words, so get your eyes and ears ready. Marion Wolcott Post was ahead of her time. While the culture believed women should be in the kitchen, Wolcott-Post was using her work as a social commentary in the U.S. The exhibition shows Wolcott’s photographs from the obscure to her best known work, such as her documentation for the Farm Security Administration. Wolcott’s photography dealt with such issues as racial discrimination in the South and the lives of the poor as well as the wealthy. Price: free. Experiencing the work of a world-renowned, kick-ass woman photographer: priceless. 10/20/2007- 12/14/2007
Anuna: Celtic Origins
Anuna rose to popularity after being the voices of Riverdance: the people who sang the Irish tunes Michael Flatley jigged to. Fourteen singers and three musicians create a group of talent and diversity to keep the evening one of your more interesting nights. The group will be doing their thing in Cobb Great Hall in the Wharton Center at 7:30 p.m., and it cotst $20 for students. Really, if these people can make Flatley do that with his legs, you might just get into it also. 10/24/2007
Arts OR Crafts
[stage]A world premiere play written specifically for the Year of Arts and Culture (YAC) by Head of Acting director at MSU, Rob Roznowski, who described the play as a chance for the College of Arts and Letters to show they are a vital and active part of the university. Satirical, quirky and thought-provoking, the play examines the question of what truly makes a creation “art.” A series of one skit after another, “Arts or Crafts” is designed to keep you laughing, tongue in cheek the entire time. The event takes place at the Pasant Theatre, Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. The price is $15 for general public and $12 for students and seniors. “We have a responsibility to do this on stage for public consumption, to explain the human condition. The stage becomes a cultural laboratory. We want to prove arts are compelling and necessary,” Roznowski said. 11/13/2007- 11/18/2007
To organize the information and events, a team of MSU staff members collaborated to create a website for the celebrations. The site went live in August. You can surf around, check the news features and read longer descriptions of the events. While MSU has always had a multitude of ways to explore arts, MSU Communications Manager and Year of Arts and Culture committee member Lisa Mulcrone said now it’s easier than ever for students to learn about the huge number of offerings MSU has and how take advantage of them, especially outside of the classroom.
“Students can certainly benefit from the Year of Arts and Culture. Because we’ve gathered so many events, programs and information about arts and culture on one Web site and are promoting them in a coordinated fashion all over campus, it’s easy to find many ways to explore programs or events that they might not be aware of or experienced before,” Mulcrone said.
Even our near-and-dear electronic friend, Facebook, has gotten into the YAC spirit. Facebook features a group entitled, “Year of Arts and Culture!” aimed at bringing students’ attention to the events happening by featuring Spartan Podcasts, photos, discussions and reminders of upcoming events.
Studio art junior Jen Hamilton has been attuned to the impact of the arts in her life and its significance on campus. Hamilton has a keen eye for the artistic and said it is everywhere in our lives, from the clothes you wear to the music you like to the box of cereal you bought at the grocery store. “Art is definitely a significant part of students’ lives. It’s a significant part of everyone’s life and most of the time we take it for granted because we’re so used to it,” Hamilton said. You see those things so much and don’t even consider the fact that they’ve been designed, that they’re art. It’s important to keep art thriving on campus. It gives people perspective and a greater understanding of art’s influence.
“It’s one of those things where, if it were suddenly taken away, life would be a lot different,” Hamilton said. “We need to do everything we can to promote appreciation for the arts.”[stockshoe]
Poet Amy Lowell once said art is the desire of man to express himself, to record the reactions of his personality to the world he lives in. The way we perceive our world should be recorded in any medium possible so our inspirations can live on to inspire others. If a record is left of what we saw and how we felt, future generations can take our messages with them, be it a tangible object or intangible concept. The future can be much stronger and strength is to be found within the exploration of arts and culture; this exploration will be pervasive on campus this year.

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Summer (Sports) Dreams

[run]Exams are finally finished. The weather is warming up. My skin is tingling with the anticipation of soaking up a few rays and producing some much needed vitamin D. I dream of many happy hours at The Peanut Barrel with my friends. I will be busy with summer classes and a part-time job. But summer will also be filled with running mile after mile – some of them as structured workouts – preparing for MSU\’s upcoming fall cross-country season. This means getting up before school or work, being diligent about proper nutrition and hydration and getting enough sleep to repeat the cycle the next day. With summer fast approaching, most university athletes will continue doing what they always do: train.
[gymnastics]The life of an athlete can seem glamorous. Athletes clearly have a passion for their sport, and media coverage and attention is an extra bonus. But what about family vacations or road trips with friends? If an athlete can\’t accommodate in favor of their sport, trips are nearly impossible to take. Athletes depend on their bodies to enable them to demonstrate their sport with grace and ease, and that appearance of effortlessness comes at a price. Just as college athletes train during the season, the foundation of their work is done in the summer. Kinesiology senior Kristen Coleman, a member of the women\’s gymnastics team, has spent every summer of her college career in practice mode. Coleman has never been able to take a vacation because of training, and her exotic spring break destination has been the Jenison Field House. Coleman also ran sprints twice a week with other athletic teams on the field hockey turf. With soaring temperatures and critical conditioning coaches, such a regiment is a far cry from the ideal summer for most college students. \”We have a summer conditioning program that is body part-specific,\” Coleman said. \”There are 12 to 15 exercises that we do three times through. It\’s very intense and progressive. By the end of summer it gets crazy.\”
Victoria Iakounina, a microbiology senior and Coleman\’s teammate, has spent every summer at school training four to five days a week and taking classes. To add to her hectic schedule, Iakounina works in a campus microbiology lab and uses summer as a time to focus on volunteering at Sparrow Hospital doing \”stuff I don\’t have time for during the fall,\” she said. Iakounina would have liked to participate in the study abroad program, but training and competing have prevented her from doing this. \”Gymnastics is a year-round sport,\” Iakounina said. \”In summer, we get a plan from our coaches involving less routines, strong conditioning and cardio-based workouts.\”
As for summer vacations, Iakounina was able to take a trip to New York last summer but found gymnastics was still in her thoughts. \”Vacation-wise, it\’s something that is always on your mind, like staying physically active,\” she said. \”You have to find a balance to do what you want. The coaches can\’t require you to train, but you want to maintain your skill level.\”
The National College Athletic Association (NCAA) restricts coaches from requiring their athletes to practice in the summer. All workouts performed by athletes during the summer are considered \”voluntary,\” but are \”highly suggested\” by coaches. But just because the coaching staffs can\’t be there legally does not mean they aren\’t watching. Men\’s basketball guard Bryan Tibaldi said athletes have to be self-motivated and aware the coaches expect certain things, and that they will know if an athlete is failing to meet these standards. On top of pushing themselves to the edge physically, university athletes have to do it with pressure from observant coaches.
Head women\’s soccer coach Tom Saxton sends a conditioning package home with his players for summer. The package is, of course, voluntary, but the implied message is one of necessity; in order to be in top form for the start of the season, his players must follow the conditioning orders. \”We say when we finish the season in November, strength, conditioning and skill become the focus,\” Saxton said. \”It\’s most important to develop the individual in terms of fitness and skill. Come April, we\’re ready to play, but we have a three month gap. We encourage the players to not waste their hard work. We work hard to peak in fall.\”
Saxton said he has to trust his players to train to be fit for the fall season. But before being allowed to practice, players have to pass a baseline fitness test. This test includes the \”Beep Test,\” which requires soccer players to run for 20-minute segments that become progressively faster. \”Running is the most efficient way to train for soccer,\” Saxton said. \”We try to get them used to doing long distance runs regularly for 30 to 50 minutes.\”
[bball]These training scenarios of an athlete are vigorous, no matter what sport is involved. According to Tibaldi, training is quite regimented, with intense lifting four times per week. Practice begins with morning lifting, followed by an afternoon workout of skill development (shooting and ball handling drills) and conditioning. Having to plan the day around workouts is inevitable. \”You usually work it out where you can get three or four days with family – a long weekend type deal,\” Tibaldi said. \”We get the fourth of July week off and a week before school starts.\”
But some members of the athletics community are able to live it up in the summer. Saxton said that as a coach, the summer is a fun time when he and his staff use a \”system\” of information gained in the spring to line up the team and anticipate where freshmen will come in. Coaches and staff are always doing continuous professional development by attending clinics and conferences. \”I want to be on the cutting edge of training,\” Saxton said. \”We\’re always recruiting. I want to stay fresh and not become old school.\”
With all of this focus on recruitment and motivation to train for a sport throughout one\’s entire college career, many athletes do run the risk of becoming resentful of their sport. \”I think there were times, especially on some of those early morning workouts in which you had some negative feelings toward your sport, but they were certainly short-lived,\” Tibaldi said. \”Most of the time I realized that playing and competing in a big time program at the highest level requires incredible commitment and dedication. It helped that all of my teammates and I were all passionate about basketball and about improving. So I think you grow to enjoy the work and the structure because there is no substitute for it.\”
This love for the game can transcend any resentment, even during the summer months, when the peers of athletes aren\’t subjected to constant training and practice. A focus on activities outside of sports also can help head off any negative feelings. Striking a balance between dedication and normalcy is a delicate act, but it is necessary to keep an athlete going.
\”Sometimes I would feel like my sport ruled my life,\” Iakounina said. \”That is why it was important for me to discover balance in dedicating time and being just as committed to doing things that I personally liked, like hobbies and making sure to rest sufficiently so that I never grew to have feelings of resentment toward gymnastics for being such a huge part of my life.\”
Running repeat sprints in 90-degree heat doesn\’t exactly sound like fun. Getting up before the sun rises to lift weights seems absurd. Delaying, or – gasp – even missing happy hours at the bar to work out for the second time in one day isn\’t ideal. But an athlete\’s summer of toil isn\’t for naught. Once the new semester starts, MSU athletes get to showcase the foundation they\’ve meticulously laid and all they\’ve sacrificed for in the summer – and I feel this way as a member of the cross country team.
For me, the miles in lieu of other typical summer activities will lead to a chance to do something great this fall. The true gratification of my hard work will be delayed until the start of the season – from the first race in September to the last race in November. The thought of putting on that green and white uniform for the chance to represent MSU is an intoxicating pride that surpasses any buzz the best happy hour can provide.

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