This Week in History | The Pony Express


Our first modern postmen and their steeds

Founded on April 3 1860, now nearly 160 years ago, the Pony Express was a short lived business that became the stuff of legends in the wild west.

The Pony Express was founded by William Hepburn Russell, Alexander Majors, and William Bradford Waddell. These three men came up with a solution to the problem the gold rush in California and other areas of the west had caused–a lack of communication between families that lived across the country from one another. The route began in Missouri and ran over 2,000 miles to California. Before the express began letters took months to travel from the east to the west. The Pony Express cut the time it took for letters to travel down to a mere ten days. The first Pony Express ad read, “WANTED: Young, skinny, wiry fellows, not over eighteen. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred. Wages: $25 per week. Apply: Central Overland Pony Express Alta Building Montgomery Street”.

The route

The riders of the Pony Express were well known for their bravery and sacrifices made to get their precious cargo from one destination to the next. Even famed American author Mark Twain weighed in on the riders, calling them “swift phantoms of the desert”. Along the route, there were over 190 way stations that riders could stop at to feed and care for or switch out horses when their own become exhausted. These stations were set up every ten to twelve miles and were no small part of the business’s short-lived success.

One of the most famous riders was an individual by the name of Robert Halsam, who was more commonly known as “Pony Bob”. Pony Bob gained his fame for his bravery on one of his routes when he ran straight through the Paiute War around the age of 18 or 19. The uprisings in the area had shut down nearly all the other routes that ran through the territory.

Down in history

Unfortunately, less than a year and a half after the Pony Express began, it ended. The riders were quickly replaced by the transcontinental telegraph, which sent messages with even more speed than the riders could ever hope to keep up with. Still, due to the Pony Express’ short but impactful place in American history, it has gone down as a legend for the ages. Though many of the stories of the Pony Express are mostly myth now, it is still rooted in a real business that revolutionized how mail was delivered to people of the United States. The perils the riders of the express faced crossing the country to deliver their precious cargo cannot be forgotten.

“The King’s Choice”: More engaging than thrilling


Two of the most jam-packed days in Norwegian history

War movies. I am reasonably sure we can agree that films centering around the topic of war are rarely cheerful. They might have moments of comedic relief or a heartwarming or uplifting ending, but on the whole, an average war film will at least leave watchers with a single tear threatening to fall. With this in mind, I have not gone to see that many war movies over the years.

When I sit in a seat, potentially with some popcorn or candy, I want to laugh and be merry, not weeping openly over men and women who died because someone somewhere got on their high horse and tried to take over the world. However, if I had to watch a war movie for say, I do not know, a film review for “The Ranger News”, I would not run away screaming.

Maybe it is not so bad

As it happens, “The King’s Choice” was easier to get through than I had hoped. Set in 1940s Norway, the film takes place over the course of roughly three days, and focuses on the decision of King Haakon VII, during that time. At that point in the war, Norway was determined to remain neutral, but Germany was equally determined to overrun and occupy the country.

King Haakon and the rest of the royal family flee to a safe farm in the countryside, and thus begins the game of cat and mouse between the Norwegian government and the Germans.

No bark, massive bite

With a cast of sympathetic and engaging characters, “The King’s Choice” does a good job of capturing the attention of its audience and making them invest in the final outcome. Haakon himself is a tall, weary-looking sixty-eight-year-old who looks as though a strong wind could carry him away.

The gentle nature with which he speaks to his grandchildren and the young soldiers he comes across throughout the film is refreshing and more human than monarchs are normally portrayed as. This made it a genuine surprise when Haakon’s backbone shone through as he defended his country and all the people within it that depended on him.

The King’s Choice Awards

“The King’s Choice” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, but the only awards it formally won were from the Norwegian International Film Festival. The film was awarded with best Norwegian film, best music and sound design, best screenplay, visual effects, editing and best supporting actor.

If you missed UW Parkside’s run of “The King’s Choice,” the film is available for rent or purchase on YouTube and Amazon.

Newest “Tomb Raider” suffers pitfalls

Movie is mixed bag, yet Laura Croft is finally respected


It is no secret that video game movies are often notoriously bad. Faithfully adapting interactive entertainment into a passive viewing experience is quite the challenge, since it serves as a less engaging method of delivering a familiar story.

March 16 saw the release of “Tomb Raider” as an attempt to tackle the task and quell common criticisms of the genre. The film centers around video game icon Lara Croft, the titular Tomb Raider, as she embarks on an adventure to find her missing father on a mysterious, deserted island. The film does suffer some of the same predictable pitfalls as other adaptations, but Lara Croft’s footing is surprisingly stable this time around.

A re-imagined character

Back in 2001, Angelina Jolie portrayed the original version of Lara Croft: an oversexualized action heroine. In contrast, Alicia Vikander plays the far more serious protagonist of the rebooted Tomb Raider title of 2013 (which, by the way, is amazing), and she does it surprisingly well.

This Lara is a troubled young woman turned hardened survivalist. From her dramatic delivery to her muscular physique to her detailed expressions, Vikander commits. Lara is an instantly sympathetic character, and the dangers she faces are grueling, all thanks to the convincing performance.

Thankfully, director Roar Uthaug is the first of three filmmakers to treat the character like a human being. The camera does not oversexualize Lara Croft. This issue, commonly known as “The Male Gaze,” never burdens the film, and that is massively respectable.

The film’s shortcomings

Inevitably, “Tomb Raider” is not as good as the game upon which it is based. Over ten hours of story were crammed into two hours of footage, and it shows. The pacing takes a dip at the end of the second act. Some character motivations do not remain consistent. A few plot points could not hold up to even moderate scrutiny.

My biggest criticism of the film was of its villain–Vogel, played by Walton Goggins. Whereas I loved his performances in “Lincoln” and “The Hateful Eight”, Goggins mutes his performance here. He looks and sounds bored the entire movie, which is quite disappointing to see from such a skillful actor.

A final verdict

2018’s “Tomb Raider” is a mixed bag. Despite its flaws, the movie is undoubtedly entertaining. Not only is Alicia Vikander inspiring in the role, but the action throughout the movie is also clever, grounded and gripping.

The film is “popcorn” entertainment–pulpy action with a handful of effective character moments sprinkled throughout. Its protagonist is well-realized, and the the plot serves up a relatively robust adventure story, which is a miracle for a video game adaptation. On the movie grading scale, “Tomb Raider” gets a “B-” from me.

Speaker talks black mental health

Phillip Roundtree challenges mental health stigmas


The Office of Multicultural Student Affairs brought Phillip Roundtree to address black mental health issues.

On Tuesday Feb. 27, students got the chance to listen to Phillip Roundtree talk about his experience with mental health and how it is current to today’s society. This event called “Black Mental Health Matters” addresses an issue that many have attached a negative stigma to.

Who is he?

Roundtree is the founder of Quadefy, which is “a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing empowerment services to enhance the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual strength of an individual, team, and/or business.” Roundtree travels the country giving speeches that try to help people cope with mental health issues in a positive way. He says, “you will rarely hear me say suffering because words have power, words impact stigma. So no I am not suffering, I am living with mental wellness issues.”

Roundtrees  struggles of getting a masters degree in social work, an MS in Exercise science, being a Pro Natural Bodybuilder and Powerlifting Competitor, as well as his journey dealing with anxiety and depression has made him want to help other people who struggle with expressing and recognizing mental health issues. Roundtree tries to “give a face, voice, and hope to those who’ve yet to recognize their emotional and cognitive strength.”

Society’s impact

Society has put mental health and wellness in a dismissive state. Roundtree wore a shirt that said “this is what depression looks like” which sparked the conversation of what mental wellness looks like in society and the media. He says, “we are used to seeing people who are dealing with psychosis in the media. We do not see people like me, a black man who is 35 years old.”

Another thing that we see in society is that in the black community, people look up to musicians as role models and hip hop music as a guide for living life. Roundtree said that “being a product of the 90’s” led to him coping with the death of his brother by getting a tattoo because this is what he saw from rap groups like Bone Thugs and Harmony.

As college students, having someone that you can relate to is a vital key to success. Zachary Atkins, a student here, said “college students can relate to [Roundtree] because he expressed the importance of being aware that any one around us could be going through a troubling time. I think listening to someone be comfortable in their own skin and openly talk about living with a mental illness can make someone more comfortable to get treatment or accept their own mental wellness state.”

Black Mental Health Matters showed students that it is okay to have mental wellness issues and that there is nothing wrong with seeking help from others.

Why everyone should study abroad

Tues., Feb. 19, was a day where anyone interested in traveling abroad could check out several stations for study abroad programs that were set up in the main square of Wyllie near the library. The options that were available to look into to study abroad included Germany, Japan, India, China, Scotland, and more. Many people, including teachers and students, who have gone abroad before were more than happy to explain the program and answer any questions one may have regarding studying abroad. While there won’t be another Study Abroad Fair very soon, don’t be alarmed. While the fair is over, there are still plenty of opportunities to learn more about the programs available, as well as the finances needed to take on such a studious adventure.

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