The English House Gazette opens its fall 2013 season with four profiles.
Sam Fox, whose beat is street art, writes about a wunderkind Haverford student who has made his name writing about street art.
Katie Griefeld, who writes about religion, visits the Quaker collection at Haverford’s Library and talks to its director, Anne Upton.
David Roza, who is covering the paranormal, travels to the creep but compelling Eastern State Penitentiary to interview Annie Anderson, who works there as a historical researcher.
Saira Kitagawa, whose beat is the immigrant community, talks with Ellen Polsky, the director of Philadelphia’s Nationalities Services Center.
December 01 2013 | Uncategorized | No Comments »
RJ Rushmore’s obsession with street art
By Sam Fox
Michael “RJ” Rushmore is obsessed with street art. “I just fell down a rabbit hole,” he says.
Originally from Chicago, Rushmore found his passion when he was living in London five years ago. One day, his father brought home a piece by the Faile street art collective and asked Rushmore if he knew anything about the artist. Rushmore was curious, so he sat down at his computer.
“I was like: I could research this thing or I could do homework.”
That weekend, he started going into East London, which has a lively street art scene. His Saturday trips soon turned into
Portrait of RJ Rushmore by Elbow-Toe
Before his introduction to Faile, Rushmore had not had good experiences with art. He had gone to galleries and gotten sneered at. He was frustrated by the pretension of much modern art.
“I tried to stare at Duchamp’s urinal, and I just didn’t really understand why I was staring at a urinal,” he says. “Street art, to me, is just way more accessible.”
Rushmore believes that the best works of street art make the most of their location and age gracefully.
He remains unimpressed with the “yarn bombing” trend of recent years, which involves knitting projects that cover public spaces. These pieces might look good at first. But then it rains. And they are ruined. And they don’t wash away.
In contrast, Rushmore prefers an artfully placed “wheatpaste”–or a type of glued-on poster–which can become part of its surroundings with time. As it fades, gets written over, and becomes a host to moss, the work manages to gain character and beauty.
Since his transformation in London, Rushmore has fostered his obsession through a variety of solo and collaborative projects.
His critically acclaimed “Vandalog” blog, which chronicles street art around the globe, celebrated its fifth birthday last week.
During his gap year before coming to Haverford College, he curated an exhibit and published a book about it.
Last summer, he interned at Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program, which asked him to curate an exhibit at their gallery in October. Rushmore also works remotely as a co-curator and liaison for the LISA project, a street art organization in New York City’s Little Italy.
At Haverford, he is a student comanager of the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery. He also commissions murals at James House, a student art space. Thanks to Rushmore, three of the building’s walls are covered with striking images: a giant black crow, a crowd of colorful people, and a pair of fantastical beasts.
This coming December, he plans to release his second book, which covers street art, graffiti, and the Internet. He argues that the Internet is a kind of “public space” that is changing the way street art is practiced and understood.
It is quite a lot of output for a self-described “twenty-something.” continue reading »
December 01 2013 | Uncategorized | No Comments »
Ann Upton oversees one of the nation’s largest collections of Quaker material
By Katie Greifeld
Magill Library’s Special Collections, home to Haverford College’s prized Quaker Collections, is as quiet and reverent as a Quaker meetinghouse itself. In a library that hums with the academic pursuits and activities of hundreds of elite liberal arts students, Haverford’s Special Collections library is a place of silence and scholarship.
Records of the Fallsington, Pa. Quaker meeting
It is fitting that Haverford College, a Quaker institution whose history is rooted in the area’s early days of Quakerism, houses these Collections. One can catch a glimpse of it as they make their way to the main tier bathrooms, which are located right next to the Special Collections’ heavy wooden doors.
In this serene place is the office of Ann Upton, Haverford’s Quaker Bibliographer and Special Collections Librarian. Upton, 60, does not look the part of the dowdy librarian portrayed in books and movies. Her handsome green, suede blazer matches her eyes too well to be a coincidence, and contrasts well with her light gray hair and the black sweater she’s wearing underneath. Gold studs line her jacket collar, a bold look that does not match her personality.
“I’m a little anxious,” Upton warned. “It’s good though – you’ll edit all this out and only take the good stuff!”
Though nervous about being interviewed, Upton was eager to speak about the Special Collections, which is home is “materials that are too fragile or rare to be in the main collections.” Special Collections materials include manuscripts, college archives, rare books, photographs, artifacts, and other primary source materials.
There are over 4,000 rare books, maps, and manuscripts in the Collections today. Notable items include the Morley family papers, an important family in the College’s foundational years, and the William Pyle Phillips collection, which contains four folios of William Shakespeare’s plays.
The Special Collections also houses the Quaker Collection, which Upton proudly describes as “the third best in the world.”
The Collection consists primarily of Quaker writings in the form of publications, manuscripts, letters, and diaries. It boasts approximately 35,000 printed volumes, including the journal of Margaret Hill Morris during the Revolutionary War, and personal letters between members of the Cope family.
The Haverford Quaker Collection also helps care for records of meetings in the Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Yearly meeting, a responsibility it shares with the Swarthmore College Friends Historical Library.
However, when asked if the Haverford Quaker Collection could be considered a ‘Quaker Museum’ of sorts, Upton responded with a laugh.
“It would not be an interesting one, as we have very few Quaker artifacts,” Upton explained. “With our Quaker Collection, you mostly have to interact in a different way than just looking at things.”
While this may be true for some, many scholars approach the Special Collections and Quaker Collection with delight. Roughly half of the people who visit the Collections are not affiliated with the College at all. This is especially true in the summertime – many scholars who frequent the Collections are professors themselves, pursuing their own research. In addition, the Collections also receives “an amazing number” of email requests for help. continue reading »
December 01 2013 | Uncategorized | No Comments »
Isn’t bad at all for Annie Anderson, who works at Eastern State Penitentiary
By David Roza
The room looks like a set from a horror movie. Walls of fractured tile, chipped plaster and exposed brick surround a grimy floor and a ceiling of broken glass, sepia-toned with dust after decades of disuse. A surgery lamp the size of a car tire with four enormous light bulbs hangs precariously from a rusty fixture like a macabre chandelier in the middle of the gritty room. The chilly air blowing in from the October wind outside gives the room an eerie, spooky mood.
“So, this is where Al Capone got his tonsils taken out!” says the red-nosed, blonde-haired woman who lights up the gloomy room with her warm disposition and kind smile. Her name is Annie Anderson, and she is the Historic Site Researcher at Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia’s infamous prison-turned-museum where the notorious Chicago crime-boss Al Capone did indeed have his tonsils removed during his brief stay at Eastern State in 1929.
Like Capone, Anderson hails from Chicago. The young historian majored in English at Calvin College before working as a journalist for various publications and earning a Masters degree in American Studies at University of Massachusetts Boston. Unlike Capone, Anderson hopes to stay at Eastern State for quite some time.
“It is really fun to be employed as a historian…it’s sometimes hard to imagine all of the people who lived here because right now it’s so empty and quiet and abandoned,” says Anderson amidst the still sobriety of the tomb-like ruin. “I love that I can imagine it being populated by the inmates.”
It is indeed difficult to picture that this half-dilapidated building—whose historical exhibits are interspersed with heaps of rubbish and piles of broken masonry—was once a bustling penitentiary that housed 1,700 inmates. The 184-year-old building was shut down in 1971 because its aging infrastructure could not support a rising inmate population.
The abandoned building quickly deteriorated into an overgrown urban forest that housed little more than a colony of stray cats. Efforts to restore the building for historic preservation began in the late 1980s, and the penitentiary was opened for tours in 1994. According to Eastern State’s website, easternstate.org, early visitors had to sign liability waivers and wear hard hats to avoid the risks of walking through a building that had nearly crumbled into collapse.
When asked about the wreckage, Anderson said, “Eastern State is trying to pursue this interesting way of being a stabilized ruin. We try to stabilize the spaces that are here without necessarily altering the landscape or doing massive improvement projects, so that the building looks like what it did when it closed in 1971.”
Anderson’s role as Historic Site Researcher is to uncover through archival research the details of the penitentiary’s living past, hidden somewhere beneath the debris. continue reading »
December 01 2013 | Uncategorized | No Comments »
Ellen Polsky’s job is to help immigrants learn English. It’s a her life’s work and she loves it.
By Saira Kitagawa
Ellen Polsky’s office in Central Philadelphia was a mess. There were papers, books and files everywhere. Her business cards were all over the floor and posters were half hanging off the walls. Her desk was also a mess except that a photo of her daughters, Samantha and Lia, who strongly resemble their mother, was somehow visible between the piled up papers and files. Behind her seat, there was a calendar, but number of days was completely hidden underneath the crazy scribbles of schedules.
“It’s ridiculous, it’s ridiculous!” Polsky said as she swung her head to keep her grey-brown shoulder length hair out of her face and took a bite of her cold hoagie with tomato, cheese and lettuce from Wawa.
Polsky is the Director of Education in National Service Center for Immigrants and Refugees. Since she lost her assistant recently and NSC is looking for a new Executive Director, schedules had been pretty hectic for her.
She explained this was one of the reasons why the new ESL program for Muslim women at Al-Rashadeen Mosque in Northeast Philadelphia had been on hold for the last month. The last class was held after the Ramadan in September. Polsky had found two women to teach at the mosque, but because of a lack of staff and funding, she was not able to get back onto the program.
She hoped that NSC could reopen the class before December when everything is more settled. She explained this all in a rush as she finished eating her hoagie, rolled the Wawa wrappers in a ball and threw it in the rubbish bin 3 meters away from her. She missed.
Polsky, 56 was wearing a white-and-black shirt with flowers and neat black pants. She recalled that she used to look similar to the young Patty Hearst. When she was 20 and near the Ecuador border, she was captured by the local police who thought that she was Hearst who had been kidnapped by terrorists. Since she did not have an ID card or a passport, she had trouble explaining that she was not the kidnap victim. She laughed and her brown eyes twinkled behind her grey glasses as she told the story.
“I love my job, Polsky said. “I always come in with a smile and leave with a smile. I may be tired but I will be happy.”
At the NSC, Polsky is in charge of the English as the Second Language program for new immigrants and refugees. Although the non-profit world is tough with less money and long work hours, she has always enjoyed creating the “comfortable environment”. continue reading »
December 01 2013 | Uncategorized | No Comments »
Three stories that focus on the college.
Sydney Espinosa, who covers science, surveys Bryn Mawr students to discover their definition of success. She got some surprising results.
Alex Hamel, who covers campus life, also did a student survey. This one was about how students handle the bone-crunching stress of finals week. (Hint: Lots and lots of coffee.)
Tianyuan Zhang, whose beat is called Culture Shock, interviewed Chinese students at Bryn Mawr and asked them: What caused the most culture shock when they first arrived in America? Who would have thought it would be Mac ‘n’ Cheese?
January 09 2013 | Uncategorized | No Comments »
Bryn Mawr students have their own definition of what success means
By Sydney Espinosa
There was something strangely tense at Bryn Mawr College.
The campus was quiet and still underneath the winter-chilled midday sun, which shined lazily behind thin, feathery clouds.
The crunchy brown leaves rolled by like the tumbleweeds in a 1960’s Spaghetti Western. A small group of students hurried into nearby dorms and libraries.
Outside, the campus was almost empty. Inside the dorm rooms, libraries, coffee shops, and computer labs were a hive of
activity, buzzing furiously.
Students occupied every table in the Lusty Cup cafe, each of them in a different stage of stressed exhaustion.
Chargers for laptops, phones, and music players filled each outlet, jutting from the wall like roots, sprawling out into nearby Canaday Library.
It was finals week for the 1,300 women at this prestigious liberal arts college in suburban Philadelphia.
Why were they working so frantically? They wanted to do well in their finals. This last-minute push was their way of trying to succeed.
The dictionary defines success as “the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like.”
But, what exactly characterizes this elusive concept called “success,” at least among Bryn Mawr women?
To find out, a survey was sent to Bryn Mawr students asking them to supply their definition of “success”—not only today, but in the future as well. With a response rate equal to eight percent of the student body, several clear trends emerged.
To begin with, the vast majority of respondents chose “High grades/GPA” as best describing success at Bryn Mawr. This ranked well above several other traits that were listed, such as “Volunteerism/Civic Engagement,” “Involved in lots of clubs,” “Scholarships/Fellowships,” and “Lots of internships.”
When asked to indicate what they wanted their future to hold, respondents said happiness was most important, then — in this order — social network/relationships, a career, romance/marriage, financial security, an advanced academic degree, making a lasting impact, and, finally, parenthood.
Reasons for attending Bryn Mawr centered on financial aid offered and the college’s sense of community. Almost no one had changed their major, but many wished that they had. Plus, most thought that their Bryn Mawr experience had made an impact on their definition of “success,” their academic interests, their post-graduation plans, and career path.
Interestingly, students described themselves as “goal-oriented,” “hard-working,” and “a leader,” much more often than as “successful.”
Why don’t students feel that they are “Bryn Mawr College” successful?
It might be that there is a disconnect between definitions of personal success and what success at Bryn Mawr is perceived to be.
For 19-year-old History major Quinn Conlan, ‘15, from Annapolis, Md., academic achievement does not necessarily exemplify success for her personally, even though it may by the college’s standards.
“Success is not how well I do [in class],” said Quinn, “but how much I get out of it.”
Quinn exemplifies a viewpoint that the college administration has pushed on its students through various efforts such as offering free SEPTA tickets that can only be used for non-academic purposes. According to the administration, these “fun initiatives” were meant to encourage students to focus less often on grades.
Yet, as the survey showed, the old image of Bryn Mawr success is still there, and students can still get hung up on the academics.
“Academic pressure holds me back from changing my definition of success to a more holistic one,” said Emma Mongoven, 20, a Classics major from St. Paul, Minn.
Still, Mongoven and many other students reported that their own personal definition of success had changed over time.
She described how her personal focus had moved away from her grades and more towards thinking about her satisfaction with life. continue reading »
January 09 2013 | Uncategorized | No Comments »
How Bryn Mawr students handle the mind-crunching stress of finals week
By Alex Hamel
It’s that time again — ashtrays are fuller, shiny Red Bull cans fill the recycling bins and students in sweatpants walk like zombies, their unrested eyes drooping.
Its finals week at Bryn Mawr College and the recipe for relaxation is nowhere to be found.
December 13th was the last day of classes, leaving a week for students to complete exams, final papers and daunting presentations. Though there are no classes, there is still the pressing demand of final work and the need to complete it all on time. It’s a major stress maker.
“I think it’s very unhealthy the way college students handle finals and the subsequent stress,” says Anne, 20, a junior. “The demand of finals is stressful enough, and then there is the stress about the damage we’re doing to our bodies. It’s a vicious cycle. Too much is expected in too short of a time.”
How do students handle the stress? To find out, a survey measuring the intensity of stress and what students do to cope was sent out to Bryn Mawr students. It had a 10 percent response rate, a substantial sample of the roughly 1,300 who attend the all-women Main Line college. (In exchange for their candor on the survey and in the following interviews, the names of students have been changed.)
The survey confirmed that stress is a major factor. Sixty percent of the respondents defined themselves as “moderately” stressed, while 40 percent describe stress during this period as “extreme.”
How do they handle it? Most — seven out of 10- use caffeine as a booster, while about two out of 10 use alcohol to help them relax.
Caffeine is available in many forms – in coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks and pills such as No-Doz. Eight out of 10 students get their caffeine through coffee.
“I generally use caffeine to prevent stress,” says Evelyn, 19, a sophomore. “For example, I might have a cup of coffee or a soda while I work on a paper in order to reward myself and keep myself alert.”
Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system. In even moderate doses, it can increase alertness and reduce fine motor coordination. But, ingesting a lot of caffeine can cause insomnia, headaches, nervousness and dizziness, according to a report by Washington University.
Amy, 21, a senior, replaces sleep with the stimulant. “I basically just toss aside sleep in lieu of Red Bull and coffee,” she said. “I know it’s bad, but what are you going to do, you know?”
Like Amy, 15 percent respondents also reported using energy drinks, which mix large doses of caffeine with sugar and other stimulants like guarana and taurine. These drinks provide a quick way to become awake and alert.
Drinks like Red Bull and Rockstar are able to bypass the FDA’s limit on caffeine by not calling themselves sodas. Rockstar contains about 250 milligrams of caffeine compared to the approximately 100 milligrams in a cup of coffee.
Are the ways students attempting to relieve their stress actually working in reverse? Are they using caffeine to stay awake in ways that are often at the expense of staying well-rested and healthy?
There are fans of healthier ways to manage their stress. About half of the students use exercise. However, during finals it is often hard to find time to exercise because of time constraints and the feeling that energy should be expended on schoolwork. continue reading »
January 08 2013 | Uncategorized | No Comments »
Chinese students new to America are shocked by some of our habits.
By Tianyuan Zhang
Among more than 1,300 students at Bryn Mawr College, students from China make up about 10 percent of student body. Every year, according to “People’s Website” in China, the number of Chinese students who apply to American colleges increases by five to ten percent. As more and more Chinese students march into American campuses, their voices about their lives in the United States become stronger and more audible, and their experiences and complaints of culture shock can no longer be ignored.
The cultural differences between China and America cause misunderstandings, conflicts and troubles, but they also encourage students to communicate and get closer. Please read the following stories, listen to the voices of some Chinese students and find out about their culture shock experiences.
As the stories includes roommate conflicts and misunderstandings, their full names are not used in exchanged for candor about their thoughts and experiences.
In no special order, here are four things that irk and confuse Chinese students about their American experience.
1. What’s so special about Mac ‘n’ Cheese?
Cheeeeeeeese! While American students smile at the cameras, calling for the most popular dairy product in the world, Chinese students are fed up with Swiss cheese, Cheddar cheese, blues cheese and especially, Macaroni and Cheese.
“Cheese stinks!” said Sunny, a Bryn Mawr freshman from China, “I simply don’t understand why Americans are crazy about these smelly things.”
Cheese has never been an ingredient in Chinese cuisine. Nobody cooks Chinese dishes with cheese. Even if all kinds of cheese are sold in markets, they are never the popular goods. Many Chinese have never had cheese until they went abroad for the first time.
“I hate the smell,” said Sunny. When the fermented milky smell first hit her nostrils, she said she wanted to throw up: “It’s disgusting!”
Among all the cheese products, Macaroni and Cheese is Sunny’s least favorite. Her roommate Sarah is a huge fan of Mac ‘n’ Cheese. Sarah ate a bowl of Mac ‘n’ Cheese every night. It bothered Sunny constantly.
“She ate Mac ‘n’ Cheese in our room and the smell spread,” said Sunny, “it made me nauseated.”
After a long struggle of trying to accept this cheesy smell, Sunny finally asked Sarah to eat outside their room.
“I did not mean to be offensive and selfish, but the smell haunted me for hours and I could not concentrate on anything.” said Sunny.
“I was sorry because I could tell that Sarah was annoyed.” Sunny said, “but what else can I do?”
As time went by, Sunny’s Chinese nose started to accommodate the smell of cheese, but she was still confused, “I still do not understand, what’s so special about Mac ‘n’ Cheese?”
2. They Don’t Know How To Wash Their Clothes!
On a sunny quiet afternoon, two Chinese students were talking in the laundry room in Denbigh Hall at Bryn Mawr College.
“There is no way I can wash my underwear by hand!” said one of them, “there is nowhere I can hang and dry them, so maybe I should throw them into the washing machine.”
“No way!” answered the other, “That’s your underwear! You should hand-wash!”
Mothers in China teach their children to always hand-wash their underwear, because they consider it the best way to prevent cross-contamination.
“My mom said it’s important to hand-wash and air-dry my underwear,” said Lina Kong, a first -year student at Bryn Mawr College. “Underwear directly touches your skin, so we don’t want to contaminate underwear by germs from other clothes.”
After Kong came to America, she found that nobody hand-washed clothes and it was almost impossible to hand-wash underwear.
“You don’t want to wash them in the bathroom and let everybody watch you doing it, do you?” she said.
To make the situation worse, Kong found nowhere to hang and dry her underwear.
“Even if I hand-washed them, where should I hang them?” Kong said, “There is no balcony in the dorms and no hanging ropes in the closet. Don’t tell me you want to have an underwear exhibition in your room!”
With all these difficulties ahead of her, Kong once thought about throwing underwear into washing machines.
“But I cannot imagine my underwear rolling in a drier,” Kong said, “Honestly, why do Americans do that?”
In the end, she decided to tie a rope inside her closet and dry her hand-washed underwear on it.
“Being able to hand-wash and air-dry made me happy,” said Kong, “No offense, but I think Americans don’t know how to wash their underwear,”
3. Too Much Sunlight Causes Cancer!
It was only early April, the warmth of sun just returned and the smell of spring grass just sneaked out of the soil. Ya, a junior at Bryn Mawr, was dragged out by her roommates to have a “sun-basking party” on the Merion green. Reluctantly, Ya went out — but with her umbrella in hand. continue reading »
January 08 2013 | Uncategorized | 1 Comment »
Two pieces by students who traveled off campus to find a story.
Ariel Kraakman, whose beat was public art, has a piece on the tradition of Christmas decorating the streets and rowhouses of South Philadelphia.
Ivy Gray-Klein, who covers the arts, has a story about the tremendous success of the music web site Bandcamp, which links musicians with new audiences.
January 03 2013 | Uncategorized | No Comments »