February 6, 2006
The Squid and the Whale
| February 6, 2006
Noah Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale owes to its title the oft-featured exhibit at New York’s Museum of Natural History depicting the two sea creatures in the midst of battle. There in a suspended, jarringly life-size diorama, clasped to the ridge of a sperm whale’s mouth, a giant squid protrudes like a bulbous tumor.
Like everything else in the dysfunctional family at the center of the movie, in Baumbach’s film, it’s cancerous.
Set in Park Slope, Brooklyn in the 1980s The Squid and the Whale opens on a tennis court. “Me and dad against you and mom,” the elder son Walt (Jesse Eisenberg) elects, setting the stage for what becomes a too-earnest battle.
A few groundstrokes and a forehand slam to the wife’s chest later, Bernard (Jeff Daniels) has won the match and alienated his family. His wife Joan (Laura Linney) drops her racquet in disgust as Bernard stands motionless, half-exulted, half-guilty. Back at home in their elegant brownstone, the Berkmans talk over dinner.
Walt, a sixteen-year-old with literary pretensions, tells his parents about what he’s reading in English class. Bernard bristles at the suggestion of A Tale of Two Cities and regards his son dismissively. “Minor Dickens,” he exclaims.
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February 7, 2006
With the growth of scientific technology, the cloning of human stem cells has raised ethical questions that Prof. Rita Calvo, molecular biology and genetics, presented along with positive scientific effects yesterday.
Calvo first focused on the details of embryonic stem cells, explaining the potential therapeutic uses, such as replacing damaged tissue and finding cures for ailments like heart disease and Alzheimer’s. Besides the ethical controversies, Calvo said the main problem of stem cells was possible rejection from the body’s immune system. She then reviewed the scientific facts of cloning and its moral dilemmas.
“I can’t imagine why people would want to do reproductive cloning,” Calvo said. “And most scientists, at least those who have spoken up, don’t agree with it either.”
After gaining a general understanding of the science at hand, Calvo split the audience members into groups to debate controversial topics ranging from the ethics of therapeutic cloning to the funding of stem cells.
Government funding of stem cells in particular received a large amount of focus.
“The whole question of funding is very interesting and it is to some extent very political, and I don’t just mean now; I also mean before,” Calvo said. “Funding levels aren’t necessarily driven by the science. A lot has to do with advocacy groups so it isn’t as pure as you would think.”
Calvo hopes that by first providing students with a basic understanding and then debating the topic at hand, they would feel a sense of balance.
“I hope they found it stimulating and that they learned something,” Calvo said. “I wanted to both educate and stimulate them.”
Father Robert Smith, Bioethics Society faculty advisor and Cornell chaplain, said that debates on controversial topics, such as stem cell cloning, are central to a university community.
“This is the kind of interdisciplinary discussion that is so crucial,” Smith said. “You have scientists who are talking about science and the ethics of it. That’s what bioethics is about.”
The lecture, titled “Stem Cells and Human Cloning: Panacea or Disaster?” was sponsored by the Bioethics Society.
Archived article by Blair Robin Sun Staff Writer
February 7, 2006
Having already performed his monodrama in cities worldwide, international dramatist Michel El-Ashkar brought his two-act play about the inspiring life of the Lebanese writer, artist and philosopher Kahlil Gibran to Cornell yesterday.
The two-act play featured excerpts from The Prophet, Gibran’s masterpiece and most famous work, including readings about children, love and marriage, as well as explained the life of the remarkable artist behind the piece. The Prophet, published in 1923, has sold more copies in the 20th century than any other work except the Bible.
The play focused on the major events of Gibran’s life, such as his immigration to the United States at the age of 12, his return to Lebanon and subsequent education in Beirut and his study in Paris. More importantly, however, the play highlighted Gibran’s personal relationships and their accompanying joy and sorrow.
Specifically, the play concentrated on the inspiration that Gibran gained from his family members and close friend, Mary Haskell, an American teacher with whom Gibran formed a lasting and important friendship. Haskell not only became Gibran’s friend, but also his teacher, editor and source of intellectual stimulation.
Additionally, the poverty and political instability of Lebanon that occurred during Gibran’s life was discussed throughout the play. Gibran’s response to this strife in the form of articles and books were meant to stir people of Lebanon descent to help restore the country. Gibran lived from 1883 to 1931.
The play also emphasized the importance and eternal nature of human passion in which Gibran believed. “Be free and unafraid of expressing your passion in life