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Author explores evolutionary path of feathers

Conservation biologist Thor Hanson speaks to library director Susan Barnes Whyte following a reading and discussion of his latest book “Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle” on Oct. 10 in Nicholson Library. Joel Ray/Photo editor

A conservation biologist asserted that feathers are one of the greatest evolutionary objects, as they extend to many different aspects of life, from fashion to fly-fishing to bird watching.

These statements were part of Thor Hanson’s author reading Oct. 10, which focused on his recent book, “Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle.”

The book outlines these different uses for feathers and shows how they are unique evolutionary pieces because of their wide range of uses.

While there have been books written about many evolutionary topics, Hanson said that he was drawn to feathers because of how they work their way into so many different areas of life.

“Many things in nature have been beautifully adapted to one aspect of life, but not like the varieties of fields feathers have been used in,” Hanson said.

During the writing process, Hanson said he interviewed everyone from biologists to anthropologists to feather-clad showgirls in Las Vegas.

“There’s a surprising depth to human fascination with feathers,” Hason said. “And there’s something unique about how people study and sense and use feathers. We’ve adopted them for so many uses.”

Hanson’s personal interest in feathers had roots in a college trip to Kenya. Hanson’s group studied the feeding hierarchy of vultures, which entailed collecting multiple animal carcasses to use for vulture feeding observation.

Hanson reached into a rotting zebra intestine, and it exploded all over his shirt, face and hair. It was difficult for him to separate the intestines from his hair, which made him wonder how blood interacted with the feathers of meat-eating vultures.

After some personal experiments with feathers and animal intestines, Hanson said he realized that the intestines were more difficult to remove from the intricate feathers than they were from human hair.

He said that this explains why scavenging birds, such as vultures, don’t have feathers on their heads.

Hanson said that part of the adventure of writing his book was learning how to combine science and creative writing into a story that would be true to both fields.

“For me to get into the book world, I had to take the back door,” Hanson said. “I had to travel through a corridor that deserves more traffic. There’s such an importance of storytelling in science.”

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Joanna Peterson/
Managing editor
Joanna Peterson can be reached at linfieldreviewmanaging@gmail.com.

Slam poet delivers an emotional performance

Chinese-American slam poet Alvin Lau kicked off Diversity Week on Oct. 16 in Ice Auditorium.

He didn’t so much recite poems or present poems, as he lived poems. After each flurry of syllables, his chest heaved as if his entire existence was crammed into each poem.

Unlike most performers, Lau did not mention the organ that served as a backdrop. With such an atmosphere, one couldn’t ignore the way the venue metamorphosed into a church of rhythmic words. Watching Lau was not unlike attending a brunch where Maya Angelou, Marshall Mathers, Lance Armstrong and Howard Zinn were seated at a table adjacent to your own.

Blending his biography with art, weaving memoir with performance, Lau used the intimate setting to converse with audience members during his set.

Augmenting artifice with interaction, the poet challenged those in attendance to be politically conscious and socially active.

Lau isn’t known for his subtlety, and his openness onstage rendered emotional reactions from those in attendance.

Covering such wide ranging topics as domestic abuse, parenthood, homosexuality, politics, love, cancer, sports, spirituality and the art of writing, the poet seemingly created a verbal mural by mixing mosaics that included scenes as diverse as breaking into a house dressed as a conquistador on Columbus Day, wiping eyebrows away after chemotherapy, hanging question marks like mistletoe, breakdancing on the sidewalks of Chicago, and witnessing two girls kiss in Canadian rain.

Featuring such lines like “as we watched you take an eight stroke lead at the Masters, it was like you were putting across the green hearts of every minority in this country,” Lau recognized aloud the responsibility that minorities in the media have, while simultaneously showing his devastating disappointment when hegemony stifles yet another social cause.

Many of his poems are posted to Youtube and other video sharing websites, and Lau is enthusiastic about the future of poetry and the wide audience such technology brings.

Lau also talked about the role poetry has played in his own life, speaking briefly about leading several poetry workshops he hosted around the nation.

He said that it is important to have a variety of writing prompts when hosting workshops for a variety of people. Writing poetry in a prison presents entirely different challenges than writing after pre-algebra class, though both are important to take into consideration.

Writing proved to be a lifestyle for Lau, but he entreated audience members that writing recreationally can be productive, if not lucrative.

The poet’s emotive attitude, conversational nature, overt agenda and penchant for rhythm characterize his act. His performance depended on participation of its listeners, not just during the show but afterward: as part of a community, part of a democracy and as global
citizens.

Whether poetry is something that hangs on your wall, or hip-hop is something that plays in your ear buds, Alvin Lau offers an experience that is sure to incite something in those that hear it.

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Greg Larson
/For the Review
Greg Larson can be reached at linfieldreviewculture@gmail.com. 

 

Students visit Portland for a blind dining experience

Students got a chance to experience what it is like to be blind at the Blind Café in Portland on Oct. 14. The event was sponsored by the Linfield Activities Board. The students ate, listened to music, and heard stories, all while in the pitch black dark.

“Our blind waiter led us in a sort of conga line to our table, where the food was waiting for us,” freshman Chloe Shields said. “There was a lot of laughter as we felt around to discover where our plates were and tried to maneuver our forks to the food. Talking was very different because gestures could no longer be seen. The blind waiters answered questions from the diners and then there was a musical performance. At the end they lit a candle and brought everyone out of the darkness.”

Shields said it was a disabling experience to be “blind.”

“In the complete darkness my eyes were straining to see something, and I kept blinking as though the next time I opened my eyes I might be able to see again,” she said.

The group could not see what was served, as it was completely up to the waiters. As everyone searched around their plates for the food, Shields said she found salad, polenta, lentil soup, and some sort of mashed vegetable. The food was completely vegetarian, gluten-free and vegan.

“Large bowls of couscous were passed around, and then the dessert of chocolate mousse was distributed in teacups,” Shields said.

The darkness provided a challenge as everyone tried to refill his or her own water glasses. Shields said the darkness made no difference in the taste of the food.

“I don’t think the absence of vision impacted the actual taste of the food for me, but interestingly the fact that I couldn’t see the food made me a more adventurous eater,” Shields said. “I’m annoyingly picky and normally would have shied away from the food served, but having to discover what I was eating by tasting it made it a very enjoyable experience.”

The audience was provided with a live concert. The darkness allowed the group to experience music without distractions, such as cell phones, or the restrictions of other people being able to see others’ emotions.

“I could focus much more on the music without visual surroundings to distract me. Strangely, even though I was in complete darkness, I still closed my eyes when I was listening intently to the music. The music didn’t affect me quite as much as others,” Shields said. “However, I could hear some people around me crying.”

The darkness forced people who are able to see to navigate and function without visual cues. The participants had to use their other senses more.

“I found myself making a map of the room in my mind as I was led to the table. When they turned on the lights I realized I’d seen the room fairly well in my mind, although all the noise of the other diners had made me imagine a much larger room,” Shields said. “Something I found very interesting was that everyone, including me, seemed much less shy. There was a feeling of anonymity in the dark.”

Shields said she would recommend others try this, if not at a Blind Café, at least to replicate the experience at home.

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Kelsey Sutton/
Copy editor
Kelsey Sutton can be reached at linfieldreviewcopy@gmail.com. 

 

Forensics team speaks out about experiences

She didn’t think she was capable of competing with an award-winning forensics team when she began college, sophomore Clara Martinez said.

But Martinez has been part of Linfield’s forensics team since the beginning of her freshman year. The team recently participated in the Steven Hunt Classic tournament at Lewis & Clark College on Oct. 6 and 7, which featured several Linfield finalists.

Sophomore Stephanie Stovall was a finalist in the impromptu persuasion category, while Martinez was a finalist in the analysis communication section.

Before that, at the United States Air Force Academy Forensics Classic on Oct. 1, junior Chris Forrer received a first place in Open Program of Oral Interpretation and second place in Open After-Dinner Speaking. Martinez placed third in Open Communication Analysis.

Jackson Miller, associate professor of communication arts, coaches the team.

Each tournament features individual events, such as  extemporaneous speaking, impromptu speaking and performing literature.

There are also British parliament debates, which feature debates on controversial issues and current events.

“We have debate topics related to current events,” Martinez said.  “Not all of the topics are about current events, though. Some are aimed more toward engaging students in philosophical debates.”

The team prepares for meets at weekly practices, where members catch up on news, write debate briefs and practice speeches, said junior Linh Tang, who has participated in forensics since her freshman year.

“You have to be well-versed in current events if you want to be able to compete and do well,” Martinez said.

Being on the forensics team is time consuming and requires intense dedication, Martinez said. But the experience connects her to students at Linfield and from different institutions who are equally passionate about debate and the art of communication, she said.

“I meet so many different students from colleges because you spend so much time in tournaments,” she said. “We all share this love for competing and public speaking.”

Tang said the team has impacted her life in a variety of positive ways,  from sharpening her public speaking skills to improving the way she balances school and extracurricular activities.

“I would highly encourage students from all major and experience in public speaking skills to join Linfield Forensics Team,” Tang said.  “You will get the kind of experience you have never had before. It will change your college life in a way you would never expect.”

Martinez said that at age 16, she never would have dreamed of being so engaged in public speaking.

“I didn’t know what to expect from college,” Martinez said. “Neither of my parents went to college and I couldn’t picture what type of experience it would be for me.”

Martinez discovered the Linfield’s forensics team at the activities fair during her first few weeks on campus. And even though she said she thought of herself as a shy student, she went to the first meeting and joined the team.

“I remember that the day before my first tournament,  I was still hesitant to attend the tournament,” she said. “But  [Miller] told me that the draft of my speech was ‘speechy,’   so I told myself I could do it.  Now, after seeing how terrifying public speaking can be at first, I feel like I can do just about anything related to public speaking.”

Tang said she attributes much of her positive experience to Miller and his wife, Kathleen Spring, for their dedication to the art of public speaking and to their investment in the group.

“[Miller and Spring] have really been there for us, helped us to get great experience, “ Tang said. “They have become our forensics mom & dad.”

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Joanna Peterson/
Managing editor
Joanna Peterson can be reached at linfieldreviewmanaging@gmail.com.

Change Corps encourages service, roundtable discussions

Even just between the eight girls sitting in an odd-shaped circle, the passion and excitement during the first community service roundtable meeting of the year was contagious.

The group met Oct. 4, mainly discussing the outcomes of Taste of Service and also brainstorming community service activities.

This was the first of the monthly meetings, which, just like in years prior, invites all students interested in community service to  discuss ideas for ways to get involved. However, there has been a   change since last year concerning community service at Linfield.

Change Corps has been initiated, bringing a new student perspective to the office of Community Engagement and Service.

A group of five students comprises the Change Corps, with two directors and three coordinators who are all dedicated to organizing community projects and engaging students in service.

One of the corps’ directors, sophomore Shelby Hollenbeck, said that the Change Corps has been an empowering change for Linfield.

“I think there’s a really big interest in community service from students, but we didn’t have the staff to really make everything happen,” Hollenbeck said. “So now [we can] help provide the school with more opportunities and give the students more responsibility to make things happen.”

The Change Corps works on projects, such as Taste of Service, Make a Difference Day, Global Youth Day of Service, alternative spring break and others.

“We’re very broad,” Hollenbeck said. “We have everything from environmental issues and sites to the youth and reading, to hunger and homelessness, we cover a lot of different projects and opportunities.”

The core group meets weekly to coordinate new project ideas, discuss how they can improve, and come up with new ideas of how to engage more students in the community.

“[The Change Corps] are passionate about what they’re doing and they’re students who want to be involved and get other students involved in the community,” Hollenbeck said. “Many people don’t know we exist because we’re a new program, but we are here and we’re here for students. We love to have other students involved and helping and volunteer in here or just give their input.”

Because having student involvement is such a huge part of their jobs and community service as a whole, Hollenbeck said that having the once-a-month roundtable meeting will help gain valuable input on how students feel about the projects and activities and to inform them of upcoming events.

“It’s important to have monthly meetings to keep the students aware and engaged on what’s happening in our office—it helps let the students know what’s going on and get their opinion,” she said. “It helps us help them get involved.”

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Andra Kovacs/
News editor
Andra Kovacs can be reached at linfieldreviewnews@gmail.com.