College Update

Hello! In August, I published a little blurb about starting college and how excited I was for it. I published that post during the first week of school and now I am in my second semester. I just finished my spring break. I still love it and I’m still excited to be here! I was fortunate to find a group of friends within the first two days and we still hang out in our regular lounge. I’ve taken a variety of classes from Art History to Politics, but most of my classes are geared toward my English Lit and Writing major. I’ve run the gamut of professors from fairy godfathers to goblins, but I manage to make it work. Overall, Bethel is an amazing school, and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be! 💜💜💜

Dr. Strange

Welcome back! You may be wondering why I’m reviewing a movie that’s six months old by now. With the impending release of Avengers: Infinity War, this post kicks off Marvel Month! This installment of the Marvel Plan for World Domination tells the story of famed neurosurgeon Stephen Strange, his fall from glory after losing the use of his hands, and his ascendence to Sorcerer Supreme of an entirely different kind of science.

One of the standouts of this movie is the stunning visual effects used to capture the effects of magic. From rotating buildings to teleportation to astral projection, the world of magic is brought to life with breathtaking accuracy and beauty.

When it comes to Stephen himself, his arrogance is strangely charming. This may have something to do with the fact that he is already known for playing the deduction wizard on BBC’s Sherlock, but in any case Benedict Cumberbatch is the darling of fangirls of multiple genres. In addition, watching Strange’s utter humiliation and insanity lends a bit more humanity to a godlike character. Lying in the hospital bed after an 11-hour operation, his paramour Christine tells him “No one could’ve done better.” In typical Strange fashion he replies “I could’ve done better”. His commitment to saving lives and trying to escape his new reality is endearing, if somewhat futile.

I’ve said it a million times and I will say it a million more: Rachel McAdams is a wasted actress in this movie. Her role as Christine Palmer, the paramour-turned-martyr-turned-something else feels sloppily written and is entirely unnecessary. They could have given her more screen time, cut the role entirely, or let a lesser-known actress take the role.

One of the more useful and complex characters is The Ancient One, also called the first Sorcerer Supreme. Played by Tilda Swinton, this guru has more to her than meets the eye but has a benevolent heart for her students, if protecting them by unconventional methods. One could compare her to Loki in some ways, both mysterious and somewhat mischievous. As the Ancient One says, “we never lose our demons. We only learn to live above them”.

The philosophy of the Ancient One provides a nice contest to Mordo, Strange’s colleague and sparring partner. Mordo follows the black-and-white approach to good and evil, and blindly trusts those he calls “good”. The shattering of Mordo’s world sets him up to be an excellent villain in future films. Unfortunately, this film has a laughably flat villain with zero personality or purpose other than engaging in excellently choreographed fights.

I confess I started watching this one evening and paused it halfway through when I realized I had reached the end of the actual plot. The second half of the film has a few surprisingly poignant scenes, but mainly the “grand finale fight” of every action movie. The time manipulation adds an interesting aspect, but overall it’s nothing totally different than any other Marvel movie.

Overall I give this movie 6/10 for stunning effects, a nice cast, and a decent setup for future movies. Points deducted for rambling plot and some useless characters. I would say this movie is not for viewers under age 15 due to some fictitious dark magic and slight gore, but Marvel fans and those interested in “mystic arts” will appreciate the film

19 Books to Read by Age 19

I am both an avid writer and a voracious reader. I’ve read at least 100 books over my lifetime, but few stick out as lasting gems. Those gems are listed here for your entertainment and consideration. Many of these are YA, so keep these in mind for younger friends and family as well. Enjoy!

1. The “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” series-5 books

This modern take on Ancient Greek mythology is written for young adults but all ages can enjoy it. The series follows young demigod Percy Jackson as he navigates his newfound identity as a son of Poseidon and the joys and challenges that come with it. Since the publication of the first series, Rick Riordan has written multiple sequels and vastly expanded the world of demigods. While these sequels are good books, the first five remain the magnum opus of the collection.

2.  The “Hunger Games” series-3 books

This wildly popular YA series deserves its acclaim. Most people are familiar with this but a brief summary for others: The series uses young Katniss Everdeen to explore issues of class differences, corrupt government, sacrifice, and identity.

3. “Sleeping Freshman Never Lie

This independent novel explores Scott Hudson’s freshman year of high school, along with major life changes at home. High school students will relate to his growth and turmoil, from stumbling into covering his least favorite subject on the newspaper to wondering how to help his wayward older brother. The novel is equal parts hilarious and heartwarming.

4. “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” (I read the first book, but there’s a whole series)

This book, while saccharine-sweet, is a lovely story of friendship and the turmoil of the transition between child and adult.

5.”Twilight” series (4 books)

Hear me out before y’all unsubscribe: it’s a perfect example to writers of what NOT to do. Also, sometimes we just like to read trash, the same way some people like to eat candy. I once read it when I was about 12 for the “romance” and “adventure”. Now I read it to laugh at Bella, and critique the lack of word choice and characterization.

6. “Romeo and Juliet” (1 play)

This play is a cornerstone of Western culture. The tale of star-crossed lovers, while unrealistic and trite. is an entertaining read. Yes I read Shakespeare and Twilight both for fun, that’s just me. Even if romance is repulsive, it’s worth a read simply for cultural knowledge.

7. “Paper Towns” (1 book)

I had to put a John Green book on this list because he’s my spirit animal, but I wasn’t going to be cheesy and put The Fault in Our Stars. Paper Towns is a mystery/coming-of-age story about a high school senior who tries to find his missing crush and ends up finding himself. It’s really endearing, has a lot of cultural references, and is generally gender-neutral in terms of appeal.

8. The Penderwicks (2 books I’ve read, there are some more sequels) This endearing series tells the story of four Penderwick sisters, their eccentric professor father and lovable dog Hound. Set in Massachusetts, the first book details a summer trip to a mansion and the second is a year in the life of the quirky family. Young girls can relate to the sisters, and parents will enjoy the heartwarming hijinks. This is a little on the younger side of YA, from about 10 to 13, but still a pleasant read

9. Little Women -(1 very large book) I cannot believe I almost left this off the list! This is one of my favorite books of all time. It centers on the March family of four sisters and their parents as they navigate challenges and keep faith in Civil War-era Massachusetts. The three main reasons I love this book are 1) a strong emphasis on Christian faith without feeling preachy 2) strong women who take charge and protect those they love 3) the focus on family and friendships. This is the perfect book for mothers and daughters to read together.

These are some of the books that have greatly impacted my life and remain treasured stories to this day. Let me know if you’ve read any of these, or what some of your favorites are!

Monumental Occasion!!!!

Hello all!! Yes it is unusual for me to post two articles in one day, but this is an unusual occasion: I have just had my first article published in the Bethel University Clarion!!! The text of the article is below the pictures. This is less an instance of hustling and fighting for what I want and more a story of showing up, taking the opportunity that was offered, and then making it happen. I’ll post a link to each weekly article as it gets published, but this one is a special occasion. Enjoy!!!!!

New Dunn Bros to open and hire students

The coffee shop will include a stage for performers and open this spring on County Road E.

By Elena Vaughn

A new Dunn Brothers Coffee slated to open this spring will hire Bethel and Northwestern students.

The shop will share a building with the American Red Cross at 1160 County Rd. E. in Arden Hills. The owners? Two Bethel alums.

Greta and Adam Dvorak graduated in 2012 and 2013, both with degrees in biblical and theological studies. They began dating after graduating, then got married December 2016.

Adam Dvorak is in his second year of working as the Bodine residence director, while Greta Dvorak is a barista.

Greta Dvorak was inspired to open the shop during college, but her love of coffee began in middle school. She first told her father of her idea to open a shop.

“Coffee is a family/cultural value,” Greta Dvorak said. “If I’m drinking a cup of coffee with you, it means that I want to be with you, I want to sit with you (and) be present in our conversation.”

Greta Dvorak will run the main operations while Adam Dvorak will oversee finances. Greta Dvorak’s mother will help make and serve coffee while her father will lend other support.

Greta envisions the shop as a center of community and growth, both among college students working and studying there and within the larger Arden Hills community.

The space itself will feature a fireplace with seating, conference rooms, a children’s area and a long community table. There will also be a stage where local artists of various kinds are invited to perform and share their creations.

The menu of the new shop will include pastries, breakfast and lunch sandwiches, soup and an appetizers menu. The beverage menu will feature many types of coffee, smoothies, iced tea and lemonade.

Greta Dvorak’s passion for college student growth came from a positive experience her senior year at Bethel, where she was a resident assistant in Getsch alongside Adam.

Their focus on hiring mainly college students stems from their desire to foster community outside of the store itself. They are open to hiring students of all majors.

Adam Dvorak recalls days of building community when he was an RA in college.

“Living life with those men was so impactful for me,” Adam Dvorak said. “Those nights where life just happens, it’s just people sitting together, getting to know each other.”

His advice for building community is consistent investment day-in and day-out, even in the “insignificant” moments.

Application announcements are forthcoming.

Elementary-Modern Deduction

elementary

The adventures of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are well-known to the world, but “Elementary” puts a modern spin on these complex tales. The familiar deduction wizard, portrayed perfectly by Jonny Lee Miller, is a recovering drug addict relocated to New York. Joan Watson portrays a fresh take on his trusted partner, as well as his addiction counselor. A hardworking NYPD captain and a loyal colleague detective round out the principle cast. The show balances heart, humor, and challenging mental and ethical puzzles. The show tactfully addresses Sherlock’s addiction without exploiting its dramatic value; rather it adds complexity and depth. In point of fact, one of the strengths of the show is the complexity, depth, and many relatable facets of each brilliant character. 9/10 for complex characters, engaging logic puzzles and ethical dilemmas, and wonderful multi-episode arcs. One point deducted for occasionally excessive gore. I wouldn’t recommend this show to anyone under age 15, bur adults will enjoy it immensely.

Thoughts from a College Girl 

Hi everyone!!! I am aware I haven’t posted in about two months and I apologize. I had a Rosetown show and work at Raising Canes. And this week marks Welcome Week at Bethel University in Arden Hills!!! To celebrate/apologize, here’s an extended metaphor describing my current mentality. College is like Skydiving-stepping off the solid surface out into nothing. Falling through the air with all the things swirling around me. But I’ve made some friends so they are kind of a home base. I’m learning how to navigate both the architectural and social labrinyths of the institution, and hourly grow more confident in my place in this wonderful community. I look forward to tremendous growth in all areas of my life. Let College begin!!! 

Where Men Win Glory-A True American Hero

(I found this picture of Tillman online. He’s wearing his pro jersey for the Arizona Cardinals)

Jon Krakauer’s stunning biography Where Men Win Glory details the life and death of Pat Tillman, a nationally known NFL player who turned down a multimillion-dollar contract to serve in Afghanistan, a decision that ultimately cost him his life. The chapter arrangement is reminiscent of Steinbeck’s style in The Grapes of Wrath, alternating between Tillman’s life and chronicling the Afghan political turmoil that led to his untimely death in 2004. I honestly don’t care much for political history of any nation, but reading about the thoughtful, tough, sensitive, gentile giant named Pat Tillman, I wish I could have met him. I realize posthumous tributes are often written with rose-colored glasses, but Krakauer authentically paints a complex man who’s at once relatable and strange in his uniqueness. I’m not even done with the book yet and I can already give it a 9.5/10 for entertaining anecdotes, a relatable protagonist, and an emotional tribute. Half a point lost because the politics aren’t my cup of tea, but I respect the narrative structure. Even if you have no clue who Pat Tillman is, read this.

Passengers-The Power of Isolation

Passengers is a thoughtful movie that explores the primal human need for community. After spending a year alone on the Starship Avalon due to a technical malfunction, Jim encounters (in an interesting way) Aurora, a young beautiful writer. (So she and I are kind of twins. 😉 ) As the only two humans awake on the entire craft, their dynamic is interesting and extreme, yet elements of it ring true in every relationship. The only characters of note in the two-hour movie are Jim Preston, Aurora Lane, and the android bartender Arthur. (A ship deck chief appears later in the movie, but only as a plot device for action). The wrench in their relationship is inevitable to viewers, but it creates good dialogue among both characters and audience. The movie seems to suffer an identity crisis in the third act, abruptly shifting from a thoughtful philosophical drama to a high-stakes action flick and then back again. While the movie does an excellent job as a cerebral romance, the action feels forced and rushed. There is a certain conflict that adds an insidious undertone to the movie and drives the action of the third act. Overall 8/10 for thoughtful and original plot, exponential stat power, and discussion-provoking ideas. Points deducted for the identity crisis.