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Walking in the Steps of Charles Darwin

By Peter Rice
February 11, 2011

After being graduated from Cambridge University, Charles Darwin went on a five-year scientific expedition to the Pacific Coast of South America. Journeying on the H.M.S. Beagle from 1831 to 1836, Darwin made several observations that led to his theory on the evolution of species. As a man who never jumped to conclusions, Darwin patiently researched the validity of his theory before finally publishing On the Origins of Species in 1859. In this work, Darwin described the process of evolution and natural selection, while giving a theoretical explanation to the diversity of life and fossils that populate the world. This paradigm shift of scientific understanding is still fascinating researchers today. As breakthroughs in science emerge, researchers are continuing to push the bounds of understanding into places that Darwin could have scarcely imagined. Knowing what he never did, it is now your turn to journey in the footsteps of Charles Darwin.

The Department of Earth & Marine Science is offering an exciting trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos during the second summer session this year. All students are welcome. Through the enrichment of field work, cultural emersion, and historical significance that Ecuador and the Galapagos offer, Dowling students of all majors will walk away from this trip having gained so much. Though not necessary, Dr. John T. Tanacredi, Professor and Chair of the Department of Earth and Marine Science at Dowling College and the trip’s leader, encourages students to take credit courses along with the excursion in order to upstart a degree or fulfill a few electives. Beyond this, the trip is also a great addition to any résumé that job recruiters will certainly smile upon.

It is important to understand that this trip is not a vacation. Every day is carefully planned and orchestrated in order to engage the present students and enhance their overall experience. However, there are great times to be had. From the people you meet, the pictures you take, and the things you buy, there will forever be a memory.

If you are interested, space is limited and time is quickly running out. No later than March 3rd, 2011 your $1,000 deposit, which is non-refundable, is due. All final payments will be requested by April 29th, 2011. Please contact Dowling College’s Office of the Registrar to register. In total, you will spend $3,995 for round trip airfare, airport taxes and surcharges, lodging, meals, ground transportation, and entrance fees. Assistance on the payments can be found by contacting Bursar about financial aid packages and loans for which you may qualify. Of course, there are out-of-pocket expenses that you should expect. For example, tuition for any credit course taken, extra services/food, optional travel insurance, international departure tax, merchant fee, and passport and visa fees are your responsibility. While on this trip, you should bring comfortable clothing for the tropics, hiking shoes, and insect repellent; and you should visit your doctor to ensure that you remain healthy before and after. Once registered, you will receive more details about final preparations.

After making sure that your passport is updated and that all fees are taken care of, you will be just about ready to leave. If you have any questions, you may contact Dr. Tanacredi by either calling (631) 244–3394 or sending an email to Tanacrej@dowling.edu. With his thirty-five years of experience as an educator and researcher, Dr. Tanacredi has led many expeditions around the world, making him a great resource. To learn more about the credits you can earn while taking part in this international trip, you can also contact Dr. Tanacredi.

Quoting Michelangelo, Dr. Tanacredi believes that “the greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark.” Just as Charles Darwin did so many years ago, we too must dare to challenge ourselves to do greater things in life. Anyone can take part of this great experience; it only takes a step in the right direction.

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Zombie Spaceship Wasteland

By Clayton Fusco
February 11, 2011

Patton Oswalt is a subversive, riotous stand-up comedian, a critically-acclaimed actor (noted roles include the voice of Remy the big-cheese chef in Pixar’s Ratatouille and a doughy New York Giants-obsessed stalker in the indie film Big Fan), and, now, a published author. Oswalt’s new book, Zombie Spaceship Wasteland, continues with his time-honored tradition of creative versatility. Wasteland is a fragmented amalgamation of nostalgic essays about both Oswalt’s formative years as a youth in Sterling, Va., his forlorn years as an unknown traveling comedian, comedic vignettes detailing bizarre, self-created greeting cards and wine lists and even a short comic book about a territorial dispute between two modern, trendy vampires. Along the way, Oswalt leaves a multitude of footnotes and “full disclosure” lists on what he was looking at on the internet while writing specific chapters in his wake.

Upon opening Wasteland, the reader will immediately realize that they are in for something completely different. The first page with text lists Oswalt’s other literally fictional work, including a children’s book entitled Everyone Resents. Three pages later, Oswalt is quoting Cindy Brady, the Cunninghams, and Major Frank Burns from M*A*S*H. In Preface Forward Intro, Oswalt expresses his gratitude to the writers of poorly-written summaries on the back covers of novels, which led his unknowing mother to buy her young son dark, risqué works such as Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange. The following chapter, Ticket Booth, details Oswalt’s teenage job working in a suburban dungeon-esque movie theater in the late 80’s. At the time, Oswalt reveled in the idea of escaping this dead-end occupation and the co-workers that inhabited it in order to truly see the world. However, it dawns on him that this place and these individuals make up an important chunk of his life. So much so that he still dreams about it.

As for the simultaneously intriguing and perplexing title of the book, Oswalt explains that almost every young, nerdy writer’s early stories will either feature the tropes of zombies, spaceships, or wastelands. These three universal motifs will also symbolize their lives in some way. Oswalt ultimately penned two wasteland tales (which he has utter disdain for now). In one of the stories, his main character searches for the “mythical west coast”; this no doubt relates to Oswalt’s trek from a Dungeons & Dragons-playing Virginian suburbanite to a culture-skewering comedian with caustic wit to spare.

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Black Swan

By Stephen Sullivan
February 11, 2011

Black Swan is an incredible film. The psychological thriller stars Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, and Vincent Cassel, and is one of the best films of 2010. The main plot involves a young woman, Nina (Portman), who struggles as she competes for the main role in a ballet production. The film is set in New York City and has a dark, almost ominous tone. The ballet company is prestigious, exclusive, and highly competitive. The production’s director, Thomas (Cassel), is a quasi-misogynistic and pretentious character. He reluctantly casts Nina as the lead for the production, doubtful of her ability to portray the alter-ego of the White Swan. While the Black Swan is the embodiment of a sensual, dark, seductive character, Nina is portrayed as innocent and sweet. The main character struggles when attempting to portray attributes she is not familiar with.

Nina begins to spend her free time with Lily (Kunis), an edgy peer from the ballet company. She pressures Nina to loosen up and to embark on a path of self-destructive behavior. Nina’s radical departure from her earlier, naive lifestyle affects her ability to focus on the director’s demands, but strengthens the nuances needed to better portray the Black Swan. The film takes a strong, dramatic turn as Nina begins to lose control of her life. The film does an excellent job of developing the characters and their relations with Nina.

The acting in Black Swan is captivating, especially Portman’s portrayal of the lead character. The film is visually stunning, complemented with an ethereal score by Clint Mansell. Portman does a noteworthy job of showing the horrors and self-doubt in terms of preparing for a recital. Nina’s struggles can be compared to others’ experiences when preparing for a performance or an important event. The ballet scenes in particular are captivating, with Portman and Cassel doing an excellent job of representing the practice and skill required to master the art.

In a year of sequels and blockbusters, Black Swan stands out as a true form of high-art and as a cinematic masterpiece. All the elements of a truly incredible film are woven together nicely to form a complete and utterly enthralling experience. This film is highly recommended and skeptics should not be put off by the attention to ballet. The film focuses a great deal of time on character development, with ballet acting as a supplement. The notion of your dark side coming to taunt you is explored, found, and presented in a way that is wholly haunting.

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Mind Reading: Is It Possible?

By Jennifer Siebert
February 11, 2011

Robert Channing, a psychic and mind reader, appeared at Dowling College December 6, 2010. The event was filled to capacity, with both Dowling students and Dowling staff, and was made possible by Theresa Gabriel, Director of Student Activities. This was Channing’s second appearance at Dowling College.

He began by asking questions of the audience. Many were skeptical. He asked someone to pick a number between one and one hundred. The first student to volunteer was a junior at Dowling College, studying to be a special education teacher. She did not whisper her number to her neighbor or write it down on paper. After Channing joked around with the men on the other side of the room, he wrote her number on a piece of paper. He asked the girl to call out her number to everyone. “Fifty six,” she said. Channing had written “56” on the piece of paper. Mind reading?

One student, a senior at Dowling College enrolled in the aviation program, suggested that “he was reading her expression.” A science professor at Dowling later stated: “he planted the number in her head in some way. They are very good at what they do.” Was this really mind reading or was it a simple trick?

Robert Channing told one Dowling student during the show that “you will marry rich and never have to worry about money.” To another student, “you will have three children.” She was pregnant at the time of the show.

Channing was not about to let the audience think that he was simply a good visual observer. Channing proceeded with the show with two student volunteers. They each placed tape over his face and eyes. After a few jokes and some quick tricks, he was blinded by thick layers of duct tape.

Every audience member was asked to write down answers to different questions on pieces of paper. Remarkably, Channing was able to provide detailed information about what the students wrote on their papers! He simply reached his hand into a pile of papers and called out names. Not only did he know the names of the students without looking, but he was also able to describe in detail what each student wrote down on their paper. This conflicted with one business student’s theory that: “he memorized a list of names of all of the people who signed up for the show before it even began.” Channing went to such great detail with some of the students that he was able to describe their most embarrassing moments (written on the cards) almost to the letter. He accurately described one student’s story of wetting her pants while riding in a shopping cart! She claimed she had never met him or spoken to him before the show. Several students had similar experiences.

Channing was also able to describe what some people were wearing in the audience with the tape still covering his eyes. He had some students bring objects to him, and he had to guess the object without touching it or looking at it. He was able to successfully identify one student’s passport, without looking at it, and he was even able to identify the country from which the passport had originated.

So, is mind reading really possible? Did Channing memorize the names of the audience members or plant people in it to keep the show going? Did he speak to any of the students before the show? Or was it really mind reading? That is for the observer to decide. Channing captivated his audience for over an hour as they wondered how he did it, adding some witty jokes and comments that kept the mood light and fun and truly entertaining. Everyone left the show with a smile, and many went to ask questions even after it ended. When I asked him how he did it, he said “it is all in the mind.”

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