Thursday, November 20, 2014

Best Served Cold: More Writing Prompts for Our Early Arrived Winter

By Courtney Dekanich, English major at Silver Lake College and editor of The Novice
The last of the fall leaves have barely hit the ground – and Thanksgiving dinner has yet to be served – and a steady flurry of snow has already begun to spiral down upon us. Winter has yet to officially begin and it’s already time to break out winter coats and mittens, pompom-topped hats, and snow boots. While many have greeted the premature changing of the seasons with a groan, the unmistakable chill of winter in the air can undoubtedly serve as a source of inspiration for all those looking to create.

If you’re having trouble getting started, here’s another week’s worth of prompts from the staff of The Novice. Take a look at the prompts, let your inspiration run its course, and send the products of your creativity to If you send in your work, your submissions will be considered for publication in the upcoming editions of The Novice, Silver Lake College’s own literary and art publication.

Happy writing!

1. It’s ten below and your car breaks down on a very quiet – and very empty – country road. Just as you’re about to brave the cold and hike back to the last house you remember seeing, a pair of headlights appears in your rearview mirror. When the car stops, you’re relieved to be getting help. When you see the driver, however, you’re absolutely shocked. Why? Who’s the driver? What happens next?

2. Walking down the street one day, you heard a strange noise suddenly come from a narrow alley. When you go to check it out, you find nothing but a dead end and a package wrapped in beautiful paper and topped with a gorgeous bow. The tag, however, reads “DO NOT OPEN.” What do you do?

3. It’s a Friday night, and you’re home alone in the middle of the worst blizzard in years. When you answer a sudden knock on the door, you find a shivering figure on your doorstep who very politely says “I seem to have driven my car into a snowbank and was wondering if I could wait out the storm here.” You’re quite speechless as you recognize the person. Who is it (they can be famous or infamous, real or fictional, living or dead), and how in the world did they end up alone in the middle of a Wisconsin blizzard?

4. You finish building your own version of Frosty the Snowman in your front yard one day. In the middle of the night, there’s a knock on your door. You open it to find a very alive – and very serious looking – snowman on your doorstep, greeting you with the words, “I think it’s time we had a little talk…” What’s on your snowman’s mind?

5. You’re walking through the mall when a jolly looking department store Santa tries to flag you down. In a hurry, you say Merry Christmas and keep on walking, only to hear him call you by name. Confused – and more than a little curious – you turn to him, only to hear him say “I know what you did.” What did you do (if anything), and what happens next?

6. Write a break up letter (or love letter) to winter weather.

7. You stumble upon a very disgruntled Christmas elf, recently released from Santa’s employment, and does he have the dirt to dish on the big man. What does your new elf friend have to say? What happens when Santa himself suddenly walks in on the conversation?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Reckless Face of Humanity: Online Communication and Respect

By Shaughn VanGinkel, senior Communications major at Silver Lake College 

It's October 25th, a cool, breezy day at the Spartan Stadium where the crowds are roaring and shouting for their teams to take the field. Enter Michigan State vs. Michigan, a long lasting rivalry to clash once again on the battlefield of the Spartans. Just as the players are taking the field, Michigan performs a rather odd pregame ritual of driving a large wooden stake branded with their name into the soft, rich soil of Michigan State. Each player of Michigan State looks on in brewing anger as the hammer pounds the stake into their field inch by inch. Coach Dantonio cannot stand to see another second of their soil being pierced by another team’s logo and immediately calls out disrespect against their long lasted rivals. This fire lights within the players and the game progresses with Michigan State crushing Michigan in the second half of the game.
The drama involving the stake burns through sports media and launches heated debates between sport debrief specialists as they wonder whether or not the unsportsman-like conduct of Michigan’s pregame ritual is to be tolerated. They go about debating in a civilized manner to see if the situation is able to be worked out between coaches and players.
As this story hits the freedom and public access of the internet; however, that civility immediately decays in the comment sections that are opened for debate once the incident is turned to article format. People of all backgrounds unleash verbal cannon fire on each other as more people log on to view the article.
It absolutely amazes me how quick people are able to retort to freedom of speech with any argument. It doesn't matter what the subject or so called “opinion” is about, because there are many people that ironically use the words “freedom of speech” like a sharpened blade against any equal foe. It feels less like an unalienable right and more of a backup against disagreement, and it happens every single day for the most ridiculous of reasons.
            I can't stand it when I look at the comment section on Youtube or the posting sections of Facebook and witness personal information and harmful grammatical usage being spewed from the fingertips onto the keyboard, and with access of technology becoming easier and integrated into our own brains, the problem only thickens. Respect? Forget about it! It's the freaking internet, right? It's not like you can actually be held accountable for your own verbal atrocities...right? WRONG!
            The greatest sensation we know as the internet has officially become the burial ground of everything you have been drilled on as a child. Respect, morality-hell, even intelligence has been known to take a dive off the face of our humanity once you jump on a popular website. Many seem to have gotten the idea that just because an individual is not directly in front of you, there is free reign to scorch and strip them of happiness in order to fuel your own personal ego. A perfect example of this is the increasing wave of hatred that plagues the religious. I decided to pay a visit to Youtube and look up some videos on “The Amazing Atheist.” His name immediately makes the hair upon my neck sharpen as I scroll through many of his feeds as I knew immediately this man was some kind of pseudo-intellectual thinking he has the world all figured out. Listening to some of his videos, I began to feel proven wrong a little bit. He knows quite a bit about his historical facts, but his common sense seems to be lacking.

He continues on with the video, continuously attempting to debunk and rip apart any idea of religion. I realized then that this wasn’t about debunking any kind of theory; this was just underlying malice candy-coated in the form of a Youtube video. It’s as if the video itself was based on disrespect! With his arguments lacking any real fire power, I whisked down to the comment section to discover horrendous examples of what the ugly face of disrespect looks like. The insults ranged from “godtards” to “atheist f***” and became gradually worse as I scrolled through the feed of the comment section.
Of course “The Amazing Atheist” isn’t the only one guilty of this kind of disrespect. Another youtuber by the name of VenomFangX, a pro Christian channel, possesses recordings and live streams gushing with disrespect against atheists, slandering them and threatening the fear of hell with each and every word he utters. Some of his content is actually so vulgar that his videos get taken down a regular basis just by the Youtube administrators themselves due to their conflicting views and sometimes illegally ripped audio files.
One of his few videos I was able to locate, it's lengthy but his comment sections are the real threat. 

       His comment sections, like The Amazing Atheist’s, are a continuous battleground of numerous different parties unloading their verbal weaponry and unleashing fire on all who oppose their point of view. What’s even worse is the fact that I saw the EXACT SAME insults splayed all over the comment section of Venom as I did with The Amazing Atheist.  Keep in mind, this isn’t some crazy argument about religion or atheism, this is the horrifying reality of people of all backgrounds ripping each other at the throat simply because they all have their own belief system or viewpoints. 
            Many other hot button topics are plagued with disrespect and hatred. In the weeks and months leading up to the political elections, you may have noticed some of your favorite news channels being flooded with political information about what the Democrats, Republicans and Liberals are up to. This is the time of year where I roll my eyes 180 degrees into the back of my head so I don’t have to witness the putrid amount of mudslinging that is burned into every 20 second commercial between airing times. 

        People, this is the new face of humanity. You would think that with a popular news site like Fox News, you would find the comment section to contain writing that is credible and comments that encourage each other as fellow Americans to make the right choice as a team to not only better our nation, but even our allies outside of the border. Instead, you are greeted with the unpleasant, humanistic rage focused on demolishing the opposing party of all of its ideals.
On October 14th an article was posted of Hillary Clinton's speech talking about the educational system and its apparently ineffective methods of being affordable to students. There is absolutely nothing wrong with what Clinton is discussing. It’s an important idea that has been expressed by many for years and for those that are concerned for the educational upbringing of future generations. The main beauty of this article, however,--or rather, hellish experience--is in the comment section as it is with Youtube and Facebook. The comment sections is brewing with insults ranging from “Killary Clinton” to “Hilarity Clinton” and even the common “dumb c***” insult. This is one of the only speeches she has given so far this year and people have gone as far as to already tear apart her name internet wide and news wide. That’s not even mentioning the numerous amounts of people that counteract by slandering the ideals of other politicians when compared with Hillary’s, which can be viewed in the exact same comment section! There are even people insulting each other with remarks that have nothing to do with the actual article itself!

            "Eugene2012" and others appear throughout the comment section writing similar "comments"
              Where does this fueled rage and hatred for others stem from and why is it so easy to wield as a weapon? Honestly, I cannot form an answer for you. Maybe humanity has lost touch with its humbleness and instead prefers to thrive off the idea of ruling with a steel plated ego, or maybe most humans fear the idea of mental anguish and hide themselves in a palace of loneliness and security from others. Whatever the case is, I encourage all of you to look to your hearts and the next time you are writing a song or novel or even when you are about to write a comment on Youtube, for the sake of respect, treat your words like an offering not like a sharpened blade. A respectful word leads to respectful actions, and respectful actions lead to a healed world.

Shaughn VanGinkel is a Radio/Communications Major At Silver Lake College.
His hobbies include singing and performing and is heavily involved within his community of Two Rives and their various festivals. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Seven Sparks: Another Week's Worth of Writing Prompts

By Courtney Dekanich, English major at Silver Lake College and editor of The Novice

November has arrived, and as the leaves continue to fall, a faint hint of winter’s chill can already be felt in the air. Leaves and snowflakes, pumpkin and peppermint – they all share the days as winter draws closer and the countdown to the holidays begins. This approaching changing of the seasons, this time of ever growing happiness, thankfulness, and cheer, often serves as sources of inspiration for writers and artists, all those who seek to create.

If you’re having a bit of trouble getting started, here are a few more prompts from the staff of The Novice that could help you through another week. Take a look at the prompts, see what they inspire you to create, and send your work to If you send in your work, your submissions will be considered for publication in the upcoming edition of The Novice, Silver Lake College’s own literary and art publication.

Happy writing!

1. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, write about the thing in life which you are most thankful for.
2. Write about the most terrible Thanksgiving dinner disaster you can possibly imagine.
3. If you were asked to make a float for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, what would it be?
4. You have won an all-expenses paid trip to the location of your choosing, and it lasts for the entire winter season. Where are you going (and why), and what will you do there?
5. The Christmas season often makes people nostalgic about their childhood; what was the best part of the Christmas season as a child? What do you miss most?
6. Write a letter of protest against the one holiday movie or television special you cannot bear to watch again.
7. This Christmas, the last tree left on the lot looks a lot like the one from the Charlie Brown Christmas special – and it’s all yours. How do you decorate it to make it look nice?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

What's Your Silver Lining?: on Finding Oneself through Reading

By Tanya Bouche, senior Business Management major at Silver Lake College

When I was younger, what seems like 100 years ago, I had a very short temper. I was frustrated by the smallest things- from how my shoes would be tied to someone teasing me about my looks or the way I talked. I started to develop what they now categorize as ADHD. People have seen my attitude as “Come on. Keep teasing me and I am gonna get you back.” Being that I was a child with wild, brunette tight little curls and a bad temper, the other kids in my small Bay View Milwaukee neighborhood (back in the late 80's and early 90's) would continuously pick on me.  Since I have grown up, for the most part, I have learned to handle my temper by talking to someone, doing arts and crafts, gardening, studying, cooking or baking, and reading. I have done a lot of soul searching on my own through reading and through writing short stories. These activities help me constantly make improvements within my life.
While I read or write, I reflect on how I feel and how I can change my situations. I read The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick a while back--a book clearly written about me. I sat at my dining room table reading, still in my pajamas, with my cup of coffee on the cup warmer. I realized that I also was thinking of different ways to handle my anger issues if they were to rise again. This book, for me, was a constant page-turner because of the situations presented. Patrick goes through a very hard break up with his wife, ends up checking into a psychiatric hospital, and meets new people. While Patrick is in the hospital, he begins to exercise to better his physical appearance and to become self-disciplined.  During his journey, he finds other ways of coping with his Bipolar disorder by reading, exercising, and dancing.  He meets another woman, Tiffany, while getting fit and learning how to control his behavior. I can relate to how Patrick feels, because when I read I feel a lot calmer, and it helps me put my life into perspective.

What Patrick does not realize is that while he is doing this “dance thing” he is also falling in love with his dance partner, Tiffany, and falling out of love with his ex-wife, Nikki.  Tiffany suggests that he could pass letters through her to give to his ex-wife Nikki, since Nikki is a friend of Tiffany’s sister. He thinks it's a good idea, because this way he is not going against the restraining order’s guidelines. What Patrick is not realizing is that Tiffany is helping him cope with the break up while feeding him with hope of reconnecting with his ex-wife. I relate to this scene when I am having a problem with things like writing papers or understanding what I read. I distract myself with something else and come back to the problem when I have had a chance to cool off.

While sitting in the back seat of his brother’s car with his broken leg propped up on the back of the front seat, Patrick comes to a conclusion. As Patrick watches Nikki, her new husband, and their two kids playing outside of his old house in the cold winter snow that has fallen in their big front yard, he realizes that he is content and ready to move on. When he sees that Nikki is smiling and having fun with her new family, he realizes that she has moved on and made a better life for herself.  All he really wants is for Nikki to be happy, whether it is with or without him in her life.  When he realizes that Tiffany has been the one writing the return letters he asks her to meet him on a bridge, which is in the park near his house.

 In a way I can relate to this story, because I feel this is similar to the way that my husband, Jesse, and I found each other. I was reckless in my earlier years, and didn’t feel like accepting what was happening to me. Then I met Jesse. We had our fun getting to know each other, while my problems and worries were starting to fade away. Then we fell in love and found our “silver linings,” started a family, worked through my postpartum depression after giving birth for the third time, and found our way again. We are now here and happier than ever, for the most part. We still have our triggers and anger management issues, but we find ways to work through them together, like Patrick and Tiffany did.

 I am not saying it is easy for anyone to find their way in today’s world. What I am trying to say is, that the answers are within our own selves and we have to find what makes us happy. In my case lately, it is waking up early, choosing a book from one of my many overflowing bookshelves, grabbing a cup of java, and wrapping myself in my red velvety blanket while sitting on my big, fluffy-pillowed couch and reading as much as I can before everyone else in the house wakes up. The advice I am offering for dealing with your frustrations is to find what makes you happy and go with it. Find a great book and read in comfort, or find a pen and paper and spill you guts. Reading might just put your situation into a different light and may even help you think of other ways to deal with certain frustrations.
Tanya lives in Manitowoc, WI with her husband and three children. In her spare time she likes to read to her kids and work in her gardens.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Week of Writing Fearlessly: 7 Prompts from the Staff of The Novice

By the staff of The Novice, Silver Lake College's literary and visual arts journal

Crunchy fallen leaves in scarlet, orange, and gold are permeating the air on campus with that earthy-festive leaf smell.  Weekend trips to pumpkin patches and cafes with family and friends are flecked with cinnamon, swatches of Instagram-worthy gourds, and flannel. As writers, we're supposed to be inspired this time of year. We're supposed to be filling composition notebooks, scribbling away as if energized and moved by each sip of our harvest-themed beverages.

If the words aren't exactly flowing for you, here are a few prompts from the staff of The Novice to get you through the week. We challenge you to submit your favorite piece to  We’ll consider all submissions for publication in our spring issue of Silver Lake College's literary and arts journal. 

Happy writing!

1.       Write a break up letter to something that you can’t stand (pumpkin spice lattes, writer’s block, Mondays, mornings, etc.).
2.       Write about “the one that got away” (it can be a person, an opportunity, a lost object, etc.).
3.       Imagine that you walk into your room one day and a strange box/package/item is on your bed.
4.       Write a letter to a famous historical figure or celebrity you love.
5.       Write a letter to a famous historical figure or celebrity you can’t stand.
6.   Write about a night at a haunted house or an afternoon at a pumpkin patch. Let that night or afternoon be full of drama. 
7.   Write about a favorite/least favorite Halloween costume from childhood or adulthood. Who did you become? How did the costume transform you?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

No Bad Habits Here!

By Shaughn VanGinkel, Communications major at Silver Lake College

            Well, here I am writing my first blog post ever. A blog? You might as well just call it an online paper. Now that I’m in that mindset, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be facing writer’s block at some point, burning through draft after draft with phrases and sentences leaking from the deeper corridors of my brain.
             Writer’s block, how that pair of words so deeply etches itself into my writing habits. It forces me to halt what I’m doing as my thoughts accidentally get their shoe laces tied together and crash on their face, being unable to continue any further. Some people would call me lazy, and think that I am simply making excuses for myself. Others would call me inept, doubting my ability to scribble anything on paper worth reading. While I respect such opinions because of how often the cases arise (writer's block, brain lock whatever you want to name it), the reality is that many writers such as myself have our moments of struggle. Thankfully, however, a great many of us have adopted some rather interesting methods to continue our writing and to sidestep the constant accusations of laziness against us.
            Let’s face it, people. Writing is simpler than we think. We experience it each day through our various means of technology. We flow from one text message to the next and pound the keyboard with one Facebook message to another. Why then is writing professionally such a difficult task? Whether it’s an English assignment or even a novel, many of us have faced these struggles one right after the other, trying to think beyond our slanged and twisted language that we communicate with each day.
             I remember back in the 8th grade when I used to write descriptive book reports from the various stories I was pretty much forced to read despite my lack of topic interest. It wasn’t necessarily the story itself that disinterested me, but the idea of trying to manifest the story into my own words on to paper. THAT by itself was a nightmare to me in my young age. Hearing the teacher’s words “write a paper” was equivalent to getting smacked across the face by a red dodge ball on the four square court outside, the words themselves leaving behind a burning sting. The same thing occurred every time I would attempt to write out a paper. I would deliver an okay intro, and then immediately lock up the moment I tried to form a body. My mind would blank and my hand would tremble as I would sit with the paper lying before me, unfinished and mediocre. Eventually, I would simply give in and walk back to my bedroom, knowing that I would have to explain to the teacher that somehow this was not due to my laziness. But, I decided that after so many repeated attempts and blanks, maybe my mind just needed to see things other than wooden pencils and blank pieces of white paper.  
Photo: Sherri Seals via Pinterest
            I pushed myself away from the table and strolled outside for a fall nature walk. As I stepped outside amongst the dancing red and orange leaves, I began to feel a sensation like no other. I was fascinated by the colorful artwork that was moving before my eyes and my brain began to trigger something rather amazing. It’s as if at that moment, information began to overflow, words and colorful sentences appeared and vanished before my eyes as if my paper was being written without me lifting a finger. Fascinated, I hastily returned home, flying through the leaves fearing the sensation would soon leave my presence. I immediately jumped to my chair and wielded my pencil as I burned through each word, each sentence and every line filling like a glass of water and the paper itself was my resulting pitcher. What a rush! I had never experienced an information flow like that. That was when I first discovered the term “gateway." To me, a gateway is a means of being able to trigger my thought process when I seem to have run out of steam or to put it simply, refueling.
            From there on, these gateway methods have been present through my life to this very day, and as I have gotten older I found these interesting writings habits out of the blue. From the nature walks to more simple methods of just having a glass of water to refuel my system, whatever little triggers helped me to wash away writer's block, I would be more than willing to use. Many of my puzzled friends would always ask why exactly these methods worked for me when suffering from writer's block, and honestly, I can’t give anyone a straight answer.
             Many of the “professionals” would say that the explanations of these methods could simply be broken down by science. But why make an effective method of writing be so complexly explained, especially when nearly every one I have academically been involved with has their own tendency, such as twirling a pen or drawing a picture to illustrate the words in front of them? 
            Truthfully many of the “experts” (I’m really stretching that term) will say something along the lines of “These actions/habits are due to certain brain wave patterns or certain synapse triggers etc. etc.” Heck, all you really have to do is Google “writing habits” or “good and bad writing habits” and then count how many times you see the words “studies show…” Scientists are struggling way too often to explain simple matters that don’t actually need some pseudo-intellectual textbook explanation. The way I like to express my own writing habits or what the experts call “nervous tendencies” is that it’s something that calms me down. It helps my papers get back on their feet, it relaxes. That’s all the explanation one ever needs whenever you twirl your pen or drop everything and go for a short nature walk. IT REFRESHENS YOU.
            All the same can even be said for myself as a novice lyricist/poet. Music writing is pretty much the same as fictional writing except there are some extra elements that one must think about. While the words themselves are important, you must also think about whether or not you actually want your song to rhyme, the structure of the beat of the song as well as the melody, and what kind of attitude you want the piece to project as your pen or pencil etches the story in front of you.
            “When the glimmer of her eyes
Captivates me from across the street,
The beauty of her full gaze
Shall stay the movement of my feet.”

Just the beginning scratches!
This is just a taste of some of the lyrical complexity I try to develop as I come up with new song lyrics. These four lines alone took me quite a while to develop in the sense that I needed to not only split it up into four phrases to make it melodically captivating, but so it also makes some lick of sense to the listeners and performers! The amount of writer's block intensifies when it comes to all these different elements that must be intertwined. To compensate, I intensify the amount of study habits that I have at my disposal! Sometimes I will go on an extended nature walk while carrying a bottle of water with me in order to sustain my energy. I have learned that using multiple different habits is actually useful for more difficult projects. It’s as if my own mind automatically projects the amount of habit usage I need in order to complete my assignment or writing project, whatever allows the words to glide across my sheet to form the final piece of story I so desperately desire.
I honestly enjoy the many different study habits that I have developed throughout my many years of writing and I am unashamed of the power and influence they have given me over my writing to this very day. Of course, I’m not saying to go out and smoke 20 packs of cigs a day seeing as those have clearly awful side effects, but there are many alternative means of allowing one’s writing to flow. You don’t need some crazy intellectual who thinks he/she knows all to explain it to you nor do you need to completely destroy yourself, but to find your happy medium. Your writing must be fluently expressed from your heart and through your own mind. I encourage everyone to try different writing habits and see what will actually trigger you to become a more fluent writer. It’s never a weakness to stop your writing to go out for a nature walk or to have a glass of water by you at all times to get the ol fleshy word processor going!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Are You a Puppet?

By Mike Peeters, senior English and Information Science & Technology major at SLC

With technology becoming ever-present in our day to day lives, it has become impossible for us to escape the barrage of information that we absorb throughout our days. From the constant vibrations from our phones to the ad banners present on and off the screen, we are pummeled with so much information and 'proven facts' that the average toddler can contemplate an argument as to why McDonald's is the best restaurant ever! And while this may seem like a silly example, in reality, the grown ups aren't all that much better. From Kony 2012 to the ALS Ice Bucket challenge, the average adult is on the same level as a toddler. That is, they're eager to jump on band wagons with prescribed facts as their voice and emotions as their driving force. While this may sound insulting, let me ask you a question about the latter since it's the freshest example in our minds: In regards to the ALS charity, how much of your donation is actually helping somebody and how much of your donation is going into somebody's paycheck?

It would not surprise me if you found yourself googling that very question. If you look them up on Charity Navigator, a watch dog group that evaluates charities and how they handle themselves, you'll find that the group has an excellent record in transparency and has a proficient record in regards to finances. So, this charity is actually a good charity as they dedicate $15.5 million towards their total $21 million budget for community services and research . However, what's to say that I didn't lie just now and what's to say that the motives behind the drive weren't lies from the start? How eager are we to accept the information that we're given as fact especially when those 'facts' are encouraging us to pursue something that's a 'good cause?'

Before I continue, I will say that the information that I gave is correct- at least, in regards to what Charity Navigator claims- a resource I've personally found to be trustworthy. However, the question I asked still stands- When we are presented with some cause that seems like a good cause, why are we so eager to accept the facts they give as facts? When asking this question, another movement comes to mind that became a hot topic issue in 2011: The Kony 2012 movement. This movement- which was pervasive in some areas and nearly absent in others, was a movement driven by social media. The purpose of this movement was to detain and prosecute Joseph Kony- a warlord from Uganda who's militia employed child soldiers who were taken, by force, from their homes and families and brainwashed to the point of where they would commit atrocities against anyone standing in the militia's path.

Most people, including myself, never heard of Kony until the organization, Invisible Children, released a video on Youtube that swept through Facebook. This video reiterated the points made in the previous paragraph while showing photographs and video footage of children suffering because of the actions of this militia. As the video propagated the masses, marches, campaigns and charity drives started up throughout the US. And thanks to my presence on a UW campus at the time, UW Platteville for those wondering, I found myself within a student body that was infuriated and ready to fight for change.

From the short-lived Kony 2012 club to the sidewalk markings scattered about telling when meeting times were to all those damn stickers scattered throughout the dorms and more importantly on my door... the campaign was in full swing. The slogans were all the same: Kony must be stopped; Kony must be caught; Kony must be prosecuted and then the occasional, behind the scenes sayings that called for a summary execution. Needless to say, there was an incredible amount of passion throughout the campus. However, did anyone know anything besides what that video (and later) what that organization claimed?
One piece of advice that was given by a former advisor of mine was to question everything while only accepting proven facts. With some loose knowledge revolving around Africa and the fact that the concept of a child soldier was common throughout the militias, I decided to confront the Resident Floor Assistant that I was under since his enthusiasm had lead to the plastering of stickers and posters on our floor. While playing dumb, I asked him what the movement was for. Who or what was Kony and why did it matter? He proceeded to answer me with claims made by the video. So then I took it a step further. I asked him why this one warlord mattered when there were many just like him throughout Africa- some worse; some better. The response he had was baseless and incredibly emotive- a response that basically amounted to, “Well, if we can get this one, then maybe the others will rethink what they're doing.” So, with one last step, I asked him how he knew the video was telling the truth.

At this point, all reasoning was gone and emotion took over- his face turned from pale white to beat red as he responded with questions like, “Why would someone lie about something like that?”

In reality, the footage within the video was over a decade old. Kony was a real person who committed atrocities against his own people and others. However, his peak was over a decade ago and at the time that this video was released, his militia was mostly non-existent. Furthermore, when the movement swept through the nation, several people from Uganda came forward and spoke the reality they knew: Kony was no longer relevant and worse, he was one of many- a group that they claimed included Uganda's leader. To add on to the complexity, many Ugandans (and westerners who had studied the culture) came out saying that the issue was even more complex than ever by showing that the region had been inhabited by two warring tribes who never got along. So what was really going on?

While being emotive when one is supposed to be objective is unacceptable, my R.A.'s question was legitimate: “Why do people lie about things like that?”

The answer is simple. People lie to get what they want--especially when they know that what they want cannot be obtained through legitimate means. This dark reality has always been present and within the realm of social media and popular culture, it has been destructive. Movements, like the anti-vaccine movement and homeopathy (the idea that water, with a lower dilution than if you were to take a bottle full of solute and place a drop in the ocean and that this diluted water can heal you because 'like cures like'), persevere throughout our culture even though there isn't a shred of proof in their favor. Yet people cling to them and as a result, everyone suffers. Ultimately, the Kony 2012 movement wasn't any different.

No one is completely sure of the overall impact this movement had. One of the higher ups within the organization was caught touching himself in public after temporarily losing his sanity. People kept on coming out with new information both for and against Invisible Children, the organization behind it. However, one thing that happened thanks to the marches nation wide was that of the President sending military advisors to Uganda to hunt down Kony, his group, and any other similar group. In other words, the president gave the screaming masses their cake- and after doing so, the movement faded away as the sense of victory swept through the followers. However, to the Council of Foreign affairs- an independent organization that many academic leaders and politicians are a part of--who evaluated the situation shortly after the advisors were sent, this was anything but a victory. In their eyes, Invisible Children manipulated information by “blowing up” Kony's impact on Africa.  Furthermore, the council noted how the organization ignored the atrocities committed by the local government and suggested that with the campaign being humanitarian in nature, it was a political benefit for those politicians who jumped on the band wagon.

With assertions like this, to say that the masses were given cake is an understatement. But even then, the truth still remains- the impact of our actions is unknown at this point. And we may never know what, if any impact, was made. It is for this reason then that we must reevaluate how we handle information. In college, we are told over and over again to use reputable sources- be they from books, journals or from the databases available. And for many, this requirement was present prior to college. So then, why are we so eager to accept the information we see posted throughout social media when, at the same time, we are incredibly selective to the information used in our academic lives? As mentioned before, some claimed that the region impacted was home to two warring tribes. What's to say that our advisors didn't give one tribe the upper hand needed to wipe out the other tribe? I guess all of this can boil down to a single question: is blind faith truly harmless after all?

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Novice: A Silver Lake Reflection

By Courtney Dekanich, junior English major at Silver Lake College

Another year at Silver Lake means another edition of The Novice! Formerly Silver Reflections, The Novice is Silver Lake’s own literary magazine, a celebration of the Silver Lake community’s original writing and artwork. For any writers interested in submitting work, send us your poetry and prose! For any artists interested, send us your photography or photographs of your sketches, paintings, or sculptures.

How does one go about submitting their work?

All you have to do is email your submission to

We’ll be accepting submissions until January 17, 2015.

After all selections have been made for the spring publication, recognition will be awarded for best poetry, prose, and visual art. All submissions will also be entered in a drawing for a $25 gift card.

While every edition of our campus literary magazine has been special, unique, this year’s is something of a milestone – this spring’s publication will be its 50th edition!

I’ve had the privilege of being a part of The Novice over the past few years, helping to go through the many submissions of writing and artwork that we receive each year, helping to make the difficult decision of which pieces are included in each final publication. In working on The Novice, I have come to realize that it’s so much more than just a literary magazine.

Our campus literary magazine has always been a reflection – as its previous title suggested – of the Silver Lake community, and recent years have proven no exception. The past few years have been times of great change for Silver Lake. We’ve gotten a new college president, seen the construction of a new music building. Even now, construction is underway on our new campus store and, of course, the much awaited Starbucks venue.

And, true to form, Silver Reflections has evolved to reflect these changes. Just last year, we took suggestions for a new name, finally settling on The Novice, revealing the new title at a reading at last year’s Spring Symposium.

For going on fifty years, The Novice has been a commemoration of this change through the talent and creativity of the members of this community. It can continue to do so as long as you, the readers, writers, and artists of the Silver Lake College community, keep on sending us your work.

Courtney Dekanich is a junior English major at Silver Lake College. She is the managing editor of The Novice, SLC's literary and visual arts journal. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The illusion of aliveness: truth and reality in O'Brien's The Things They Carried

by Mike Peeters, junior English and Information Systems Technology major at Silver Lake College

Of all the things that have advanced thanks to our evolution, our level of sentience is perhaps the most influential in the developments of art and literature. Because of it, we are able to interpret our surroundings through our senses in a way that allows us to interpret the moments in life that capture our attention. However, if you were to present a situation to a group of people, say three individuals, would they give you the same story if asked?

This question has received an incredible amount of attention with law enforcement going from handing convictions out like candy to cases where the only evidence is that of the eye-witness
testimonials going to the complete opposite where most judges and juries dismiss such evidence while demanding evidence that is physical and measurable. Now while to some that may sound absolutely crazy, the reasoning is simple and Tim O'Brien captured it in a beautiful manner in his book, The Things They Carried.

To summarize, the plot of The Things They Carried revolves around O'Brien's experiences both
surrounding and during his participation as a soldier in the Vietnam Conflict. However, rather than
publishing it as an auto-biography, O'Brien instead chose to write it as a memoir. In other words, he wrote the book as a hybrid between fiction and non-fiction where the general setting of the book is true and various moments presented are true. However, certain individuals and events are either entirely made up or modified extensively. Now while his choice to write it as a memoir was done, in part, to preserve the anonymity of those he served with, he chose this method because to him, his memories were merely fragments of a perception that failed, at times, to understand what truly happened. Within the text, he stated, "The thing about a story is that you dream it as you tell it, hoping that others might then dream along with you, and in this way memory and imagination and language combine to make spirits in the head. There is the illusion of aliveness."

Considering the power of this statement, one cannot help but to feel as though the beliefs at their very core are being challenged. Are the things we see truly what they are or are we seeing what we want to see or what another wants us to see? If our perception is but an illusion, can we truly say that there is such a thing as non-fiction literature sans for those books that objectively lay fact after fact on each page? Even within the realm of fiction, what does this imply when a writer tries to create a character whose identity is nothing like like their own? Is it possible to emulate or do we concede ourselves into thinking that we are capable of emulation?

Ultimately, these questions challenge the very core of art and literature. However, I find these questions to be incredibly healthy questions to ask, because they assert the need for responsibility be it in portraying an accurate depiction of a character whose persona is completely foreign to the author or in any attempt an author may make to report upon an event or idea that they are familiar with.

In regards to responsibility, if a writer or even a reader keeps these questions in mind, they should carry with them a sense of prudence that requires an attentive and observational mind. Furthermore, it should bring the question of what implications a work may have. Is this work going to make people aware of an issue? Could this work bring harm to another or rather, could this work bring a much needed understanding of another?

Ultimately, there should be no question that each individual has their own perspective. Now while technology has allowed thousands to look through a single lens, it cannot stop each, individual mind from having a different interpretation of what they see. With that said, it has to then be accepted that in comparison to the event presented through that lens, that some perceptions are going to be wrong while some are going to be right with all of the remaining being scattered somewhere in between the right and the wrong. Therefore, at least to me, it seems only responsible that when one is writing, that they either make it clear that they are speaking solely from perspective or that they are taking the time to do the research needed so that they can gain more information from the perspectives of others so that they can present a truer picture.

*The conflict in Vietnam was never officially declared a war by congress.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Bard and the Big Screen: Bringing Shakespeare into the 21st Century

by Elizabeth Fritsch, senior English Major at Silver Lake College

Friends, Romans, Countrymen lend me your ears and your computer screens!  We are celebrating a historic year – the 450th birthday of Shakespeare (on April 23rd to be precise).  After roughly 400 years since Shakespeare gifted culture with a plethora of poems and plays, he is still celebrated by many as the most influential writer in British, western, and world literature.  Few writers have stood the test of time and are celebrated with such fervor.  (My apologies to Thomas Kyd and Ben Johnson for missing out on being the scorn of high school English students and joy of English majors.)  Shakespeare has remained a constant.  Who cannot recite the first line from Hamlet’s famous monologue (“To be or not to be?  That is the question.”) or Julius Caesar’s pitiable “Et tu Brute?”  How often do we compare a modern day tragic love story to Romeo and Juliet or a ruthless female villain to Lady Macbeth?  While Shakespeare has remained a constant, how we approach his plays has changed drastically.  Theatrical productions of Shakespearean dramas have by no means disappeared, but the world of filmmaking has provided an entirely new way to appreciate the Bard’s work.  So as we celebrate 450 years since Shakespeare’s birth (and in two years celebrate 400 years since his death), I encourage you to sit back and watch one of the many film adaptations of his work.  (And I really do mean ‘sit back.’  If you saw a play during Shakespeare’s time you were likely standing during the whole three hours.)  Here are a few suggestions:

Much Ado About Nothing (1993)

“Hey, nonny, nonny!”  With a cast that includes Emma Thompson, Kate Beckinsale, Denzel Washington, and Keanu Reeves this timeless Shakespearean comedy and story of betrayal comes brilliantly to life.  The acting is superb and setting is stunning.  Definitely a must watch if you’re in the mood for a happy ending.


If you are adamantly against a happy ending – fear not!  Titus Andronicus receives a pitiful lack of attention when it comes to the Shakespearean cannon and is often overshadowed by Shakespeare’s later tragedies such as Hamlet and Macbeth.  The modern film adaptation of Titus Andronicus aims to elevate the status of what could easily be considered Shakespeare’s darkest and most brutal plays.  Director Julie Taymor stylizes the violent drama and actress Jessica Lange makes Lady Macbeth look tame in comparison to Tamora, queen of the goths.  By the time you reach the end of the film, you will understand why Titus Andronicus never made it onto the high school syllabus.

The Tempest

The Tempest, one of Shakespeare’s most inventive plays has also been transformed by Julie Taymor.  The film modernizes the story by changing the gender of the protagonist to a female, played by Helen Mirren.  Prospero becomes Prospera and the slight change provides viewers with the chance to explore the ideas of gender and power.  As with Titus, The Tempest is highly stylized and visually alluring, especially with the character Ariel.  The sorcery of the play is brought beautifully and powerfully to the screen. 

Love’s Labour Lost

This adaptation of Love’s Labour Lost (set in Europe in 1939) turns the comedy into an entertaining musical.  Though the plot of Love’s Labour Lost is weaker than the previous plays mentioned, the film is cheerful and humorous and will put any viewer in a good mood.  Alas, there is no hope for a sequel -  no copies of Shakespeare’s play Love’s Labour Won remain in existence.

Do you have a favorite Shakespeare film adaptation or a play you'd like to see on the big screen?

Elizabeth Fritsch is a senior English major with minors in History and Theology.