Are we alone in the universe? Whether or not you are a sci-fi buff or one of those who believes we are not alone should check out the movie “Monsters.” Written and directed by new comer Gareth Edwards (Hiroshima; In the Shadow of the Moon), the film is an entertaining watch. Starring Scoot McNairy and his stunningly beautiful real-life wife Whitney Able, this science fiction drama takes place in present day Central America. The film picks up a few years after a satellite designed to collect samples breaks apart over Mexico upon its reentry to Earth. “Transpermian” life forms quickly reproduce and most of Mexico is turned into a quarantined area that’s crawling with killer extraterrestrials. McNairy plays Andrew, a photo journalist, who is reluctantly charged with getting his boss’s daughter Samantha (Able) safely back to the United States. After missing the last ferry to the U.S., the two are forced to either travel through the quarantined infected zone or remain trapped in Mexico for the next six months. The two choose pay guides to lead them through the very dangerous quarantined zone to the American border. What lies ahead for them is no easy task and they are sure to have some close encounters of many kinds. Their journey is bound to be action packed but one question remains, can they reach the border before being killed by the menacing extraterrestrials? Although the film’s special effects were underwhelming, the two stars McNairy and Able make up for it with their excellent acting. As their adventure unfolds the two begin to grow intimately closer to one another. Their romance grows naturally, probably because they are husband and wife off-screen. The two refer to this movie shoot as their honeymoon. McNairy is a seasoned actor and has appeared in many movies and television shows. Some of the most notable television shows include “Bones” and “C.S.I.” McNairy has been in some major movies but often receives small roles. His lead role in “Monsters” lets his acting flourish. I expect some big things from McNairy’s acting career in the future. For his role in “Monsters,” McNairy won best actor from the British Independent Film Awards. Able is fairly new to acting, and has been limited in her roles. She was ranked #83 in Maxim Magazines hottest 100 female celebrities in 2010. Able saw most of her acting work in 2010. She has seemingly natural acting abilities that make her a very likeable character. One thing that I find disappointing about the film is the lack of up close shots of the aliens. They are often encountered in the dark and it’s very hard to see much detail. The aliens are very generic in the vague appearance given and seem to merely resemble giant squids that flicker like a jellyfish. Given this film had an extremely low budget of $800,000, the finished product was worth every penny. The movie has a very serious vibe and is not your typical cheesy low budget sci-fi film. Because of the strong acting by McNairy and Able, I would rate this film a solid 7 out of 10.
[caption id="attachment_4976" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Student Jeff Martin poses with his bike. Contributed photo. "][/caption] Being a 52-year-old non-traditional student is hard enough, but being a 52-year-old student who had his leg amputated one year ago would have to be even harder. Jeff Martin, a junior computer science major, was diagnosed with diabetes. Last year was he was told he would have to have his leg amputated or lose his life, due to an infection in the bone of his foot. “Infection was spreading and we had to get rid of it,” Martin said. “I lost my leg a year and 10 days ago. Since then, on June 9, 2010, I got my prosthetic and on July 24 I rode the bike portion of a triathlon. “ Not only did he lose his leg just a year ago, but he began to ride in the bike portion of a few triathlons. In September he rode 15 miles in a Make-a-Wish Foundation fundraiser. Martin then began to think of something much larger. “I needed to step it up a notch, so this summer I am riding my bike all the way across America,” Martin said. “From 15 miles in an hour, to all the way across America: I guess that is stepping it up. I don’t know where I will go from there. What can you do beyond that one?” The event will be long and grueling, but for a great cause. The riders will be stopping by rehabilitation centers to speak with recent amputees and tell them from a first person point of view how their lives will be affected. I’m going to be the youngest one on this ride,” Martin said. “There will be two in their 70s, one in his 60s and one in his late 50s. We are going to start in California and end in Florida. We are going to stop at 20 rehabilitation centers along the way. The main point of the ride is to stop and give hope to the ones who are hurting. We are thinking we will encourage some people and give them hope, and that is why we are doing this ride.” The ride will be a way to pass on some help from people have already experienced it. Most students at Western do not know what the ride is for, but once they hear it, it only shows how much people care. Kynslie Otte, a junior English major, was very intrigued by what Martin would be doing. “It is crazy to think of what he will be doing,” Otte said. “Once I heard he had only done 15 miles before and is now going to go across the country—that just blows my mind. It’s wild how some people will do so much for other.” It is an adventure to go from one side of our nation to the next, but to be able and speak with people and help their lives out along the way just adds to how great the experience may be. Casey Carpenter, a senior philosophy major, was just as amazed as others. “To think he just had his leg removed a year ago and now he is doing something so big,” Carpenter said. “Going from riding a few miles for foundations to riding across America in less than a year is just incredible. Just to spread some hope to everyone who could use it.” The adventure will start on June 1 and go for nearly eight weeks until July 22. The winds may blow the riders all around, but the experience they will experience may be worth all the troubles that come along with a cross-country ride. “One of the rehabilitation centers will be a Shriner hospital,” Martin said. “It will be all young children. I think it will be the toughest and the most rewarding, all in the same day. I will take all the prayers I can get right now.” The men involved in the ride will be keeping a daily blog about how the trip is going throughout the entire eight weeks. Anyone can check in on the tour at either www.amputeesacrossamerica.com or on www.winningthebattles.com.
Hold on, Western students! Don’t sell those textbooks yet, and keep those notebooks out! Classes may be over, but we still have one week left of school: the most dreaded week of all – finals week. Beginning May 4, students must take a final exam in each class they attended this semester. But don’t freak out yet. Even if you’re not ready today, there are lots of things you can do to prepare yourself for the upcoming tests. Among the many resources available to students here on campus is the Center for Academic Support, or CAS. The CAS is located right beside the library and is open to students Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Center is run by student tutors who provide free sessions and workshops in subjects including reading, writing, math, study skills, and a variety of specific courses listed on their website. Students seeking help at the CAS can study one-on-one with a tutor or in a group with other students learning the same subject. Don’t forget to bring your Western ID when attending a session. Cathy Gann, the reading and study skills coordinator, has some helpful hints for students during these trying times of final reviews. “Studying should be continuous,” Gann said. “Always go back and look over your notes at least once a week.” Gann also promotes the Cornell Method, a two-column system of note-taking. For more information on the Cornell Method, request a handout at the CAS. By writing down what they hear in class, students are able to create sort of a self study guide and are therefore better able to retain the subject matter. “You remember more of what you hear than what you read.” Gann said. Another tip Gann has for students is to always try. Even if you don’t know the answer to a question, take a guess. It’s better to get some points than none at all. Also available for student support is Western’s Counseling Center. This center is located in Eder 203 and is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Although faculty advisers are more suited for career and course advice, the counselors here are excellent at helping students relieve stress. During finals week, there’s a lot of that stress going around. One thing that students struggle with above all during finals is test anxiety. Steve Potter, one of Western’s counselors, was able to give some great advice about test taking. Using a technique called biofeedback, Potter can help students learn to control their fight or flight response. This is the instinct that arises when one perceives a threat. Quite often, this is what students feel when taking a test. To decrease stress using biofeedback, Potter trains students to increase the temperature of their hands. As the temperature in one’s hands increase, stress levels go down. All students have to do is focus on remaining calm. “It’s important to relax as much as possible,” Potter said. “When people are calm, they do better on tests.” So how are students preparing for finals? English Education major Sarah McClure says her most successful study techniques are to make notecards and rewrite her notes, then compare them to the textbook or lessons to see how accurate they are. “I like to test how well I remember things,” McClure said. McClure also says that as the semester comes to an end, she is much more worried about papers to write and presentations to give than tests she has to take. Another lesson Potter wants students to learn is not to overdramatize things. So many students use words and phrases like “always” and “never” and “terrible.” Often students are just blowing things out of proportion due to stress. Try to avoid misconceptions like “having a tutor means I’m dumb” or “failing a test makes me a failure.” Finals aren’t designed to make students look stupid or to embarrass students. They’re simply a learning experience. And there are always people at the CAS and counseling center that are here to help students succeed.
[caption id="attachment_4896" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Schneider answers questions about her native country of France during her presentation last Wednesday. Haley Jennings | Staff"][/caption] The United States has long been known for its diversity of cultures. Missouri Western State University has also become a gathering place for students of many different races, languages and religions. One such student put together a presentation to better educate our students on her culture. Melanie Schneider is a business major at Western, but she is not from St. Joe. Schneider hails originally from France. Western has an exchange program set up with six other universities in six different countries. Schneider came from our French exchange school, Université d’Angers, pronounced ‘onshay’. Schneider’s hometown is called Le’Mans (‘la mon’), and is about an hour from Paris. In addition to learning the English language, all students in France must study abroad. Schneider says she signed up late, and the only school available for a business major to attend was Western. “AProxy-Connection: keep-alive Cache-Control: max-age=0 I don’t regret it,” Schneider said. Wednesday, April 13, Schneider presented a PowerPoint all about life in France. It was focused on French culture and also talked about what school there is like for students. For example, when they go to college, it costs about 350 Euros to get a bachelor’s degree. In American money, that’s only about $525. It sounds like a great idea, but their curriculum is very different from ours as well. They don’t have midterms, but they do have finals, and unlike ours, these exams contain only essay questions: no true/false, no multiple choice. Like us, the classes aren’t mandatory – it’s the student’s choice to show up or not. But in French schools, you really want to be sure and go to class because their professors don’t print notes or post them on the computer or use a textbook for their assignments. If you miss a class, you miss the notes; if you miss the notes, you fail the class. And if you fail a class in France, you don’t just retake that class. You must retake the entire year of classes! Another trait Schneider talked about was learning languages in French schools. From the time they turn 11, French students begin learning English. It is a mandatory class. In high school, they can choose to learn Spanish, German, Italian, or many other languages as well. There was only one drawback. “The English they had us learning was British English,” Schneider said. “It was quite a shock to come over here and find out that Americans don’t talk that way.” European English sounds very different than American English, but Schneider learned to speak with Americans very quickly. In fact, she’s only been in America since August 2010. Guess those lessons in grade school paid off. Americans are also culturally very different from France. For one thing, a topic that we openly discuss quite often in America is religion. In France, your faith and beliefs are considered very personal and are never talked about in public. Something else that would never happen in France that Americans do all the time: we greet strangers on the street. Schneider was very uncomfortable with this when she first came here. “[In France] people you don’t know, you don’t talk to.” Schneider said. Remember our discussion on how much school costs in France? $525 for a year compared to our $13,000? Well, there may be a very good reason for that. Have you also noticed everyone complaining about the crazy climb in gas prices? Let’s do some more French math. Our gas is almost $3 a gallon right now. Theirs is 1.50 Euros a liter. That’s about $2. But there are four liters in one gallon. So their gas costs about $8 to our $3. This is also why the vast majority of French inhabitants, students and career-men and -women alike, walk or take the trains and buses to their destinations. Few of them own a car. Not to mention their driving school is almost like real school. You have to pay 2000 Euros and take so many hours of training classes to get your license. Sharon Moore, a French major hoping to teach English abroad, attended Schneider’s presentation. “[I learned] that the university system is much more affordable,” Moore said. Ceasera Robinson, an English education major minoring in French, was also in the audience. “I learned that gas prices are high and that I can’t be too friendly to people on the street,” Robinson said. Schneider has enjoyed adjusting to life here in the States and other students enjoyed learning about France from her.
There is always a chance the price of tuition will increase while attending college. Missouri Western State University is one of the most financially responsible colleges to attend in the state, but at some time Western needs to raise tuition to pay for more things and advances the students could use. Esther Peralez, vice president for student affairs, is waiting to hear from the commission to find out if the increase will take place. “We have asked for an increase in tuition," Peralez said. "Right now we are just waiting. We sent in a waiver for a penalty so that we will not be penalized for asking for the four and a half increase all other institutions are asking for, but the president and governor do not want us to go over a five percent raise in tuition.” The tuition raise may not seem like a lot of money, but the students who decide to pick up a full workload next semester will have to pay for it, one way or another. Dillon Powell will be entering into his senior year in the fall aspiring towards a degree in criminal justice. For him, the payments will come out of his pockets. “I plan to work a little more over the summer to make up for the small increase I will have to pay for,” Powell said. “It won’t be horrible to pay for, but I wish there would be an easier way to take care of it.” The increase the university is asking for will be about an extra $7.50 per credit hour for in state students, and an increase of $13.70 for the out of state students. A full time, in state student will be looking at an increase of at least $9Proxy-Connection: keep-alive Cache-Control: max-age=0 The out of state students will be adding on at least $164 to next semester’s bill. Jennifer Webber will be a sophomore at Western majoring in physical education. The problem with the tuition increase is that it will not affect some students as bad as others. “The increase will not be too bad on me,” Webber said. “I will take out extra student loans to take care of the raise. In the end I will have to pay for the loans, but I will worry about that when the time comes.” Peralez believes the increase is necessary for the university to move forward. The increase will show little effect to the students, but should better results to the school. Peralez believes the students will be fine with the increase as soon as they decide on the ways to payment option that fits them best. “Some of the students do get the grant money and that does pay for the tuition,” Peralez said. “We do know they won’t be increasing Pell Grants. They usually had extra money from that. Probably most students will use the loans to pay for it. Also, many of our students work many hours, so I am sure they would be responsible and work more hours or just know they will need to be working more.” The increase will only benefit the university, but will be a slight discomfort for the students to overcome. The university will know in the near future on whether or not the increase will happen. The university will let the students know as soon as they are informed of the change.