The Rise of Handmade Tattoos

Tattoos are popular at Bryn Mawr, particularly stick and poke style

By Rachael Lightstone

Frankie Bliss looks like a stereotypical hipster-style college student. She wears denim overalls and an oversized jacket; choppy blonde bangs fall messily over her thick-rimmed glasses. The tiny tattoos which speckle her arms catch the eye as she lifts her hands to make a point or to brush away a stray bit of hair.

A multitude of bees dot her left arm. Tiny flowers and designs speckle the other. A miniature skateboard adorns one wrist, and a line drawing of the famous painting The Kiss peeks out from her sleeve. Bliss reported that she wasn’t sure exactly how many tattoos she has, but it was up to fifteen.

“Not many of mine have really significant meaning to me, other than I just really like them”, she said. “I think it’s a really cool representation to have things I love visibly on my skin… I love them and they help me love myself more.”

Bliss is not alone. Today, it is fairly common for young adults to have tattoos. A 2010 report from the Pew Research Center found that nearly 40% of millennials had a tattoo, and most of them had more than one. And according to the National Institute of Health, almost three-quarters of tattooed people got their first ink during the traditional college years, 18 to 22 years of age.

Bryn Mawr students’ reasons for getting tattoos vary as much as the people themselves. Cassandra Paiz, class of 2021, chose hers from her favorite artist’s Facebook page offering half-off on certain designs. Cassie Paul, class of 2018, got hers as a memorial to her dog that passed away. Anna West, class of 2021, chose her favorite flower as a reminder of home.

For many of them, empowerment was the major force behind their choice.

“I’ve always been really into reclamation of your body and your skin,” Bliss said, “because I’ve always felt very uncomfortable with my body image and myself, and I felt like one really good way to do that was through putting art that I liked on my body.”

Some students, who asked to remain unnamed, said they placed tattoos over self-harm scars as a way of healing and reclaiming that part of the body.

For West, getting a tattoo was the perfect way to heal after a bad break-up. “Honestly, I’ve been through lots of therapy, but that’s the best way I’ve found,” she quipped. “The most therapeutic was just getting a tattoo.

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The Rainbow Coalition

A Muslim teen as superhero, a female Thor, a gay Iceman.

The world of comics is no longer dominated by white males.

Kamala Kahn, Muslim Superhero

By Courtney Eu

Whether you are a Captain Marvel fan or Hulk fan, the idea of a white male hero is clear. There have been decades where most of the comic books have been dominated by white men, whether superheroes like Superman and Batman, a misfit like Hulk or Wolverine, or a kid growing up like Archie. The majority of comic books portray homogenous people and only offer one type of narration.

But, that is changing. Recently, there has been a big push to diversify comic books so that different readers can connect to characters more like themselves. Over the past couple of years, Marvel comics, which is owned by the Disney Corp., has released many new superheros, such as an Afro-Latino Spiderman, a Muslim Ms. Marvel, a female Thor, a gay Iceman, a Korean Hulk, an African-American female lead in Iron Man, and a lesbian Latina-American Chavez.

Disney has had huge success with Marvel comics, amination and TV series and the whole Marvel studios itself. Forbes says that has been more successful than DC Comics — the home of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman — which is owned by Warner Bros Entertainment, because Marvel understands what people loved about their comic books.

Comic books are successful when they allow people to be transported into another world. This world of the white male superhero is well known by companies like Disney’s Marvel Studios, who have successfully sold millions of comics with this formula. However, whether this change to diversity hs been welcomed or not, male dominance and superiority in comics is over.

As reported by Market Watch, at the last New York Comic-Con several comic book sellers reportedly did not like the change they were seeing and blamed the loss of sales of comic books to the rise in diversity. Unlike most books, comic books are mostly sold through specialized store, so they are heavily dependent on this one source of income.

Superhero Chavez, Latina Lesbian

Based on data from comichron.com, a website for comic research, the comics that sold the most so far this year are Marvel comics and DC comics which fit the male superhero formula. Many social media channels have voiced their opinion about the increase in diversity of characters, and many have not liked this change.

Comic books are big business but the “total comic book and graphic novel Direct Market sales in February 2018 took at nearly 8% dip in dollars and a nearly 20% dip in units compared to February 2017.” Right now, “there’s a struggle going on over what a comic book is and who the audience should be” said ICv2 President Milton Griepp in an interview with Market Watch.

Many fans have left the comic book world because they feel the new characters are politicizing the comic books. This could be connected to the drop in sales, but there could be other reasons too. One possibility is that the new story lines could be less interesting compared to the old comics.

Korean Hulk Superhero

They are not transporting people into a fantasy world and possibly not connecting to a growing diverse audience.  But diverse superhero movies featuring people of color have been hugely successful recently. Marvel’s Black Panther topped $1.1 billion dollars worldwide and has passed other superhero movies like the Transformers and Skyfall. Wonder Woman also did extremely well grossing $412.6 million dollars, and prior to Black Panther was the highest-grossing superhero movie.

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Hungry for Chicken Feet Stew

Chicken Feet Stew

Chinese students know who to call when they want homemade food.

By Yuqi Zha

It was 12 :05 a.m. Jackie Liu, a Chinese freshman at Bryn Mawr College, was still working in front of her desk. Words flowed out of her fingertips into the document on her laptop screen. The page count at the bottom showed she has finished 3 pages—2 more pages to be done for this assignment, which was due in 9 hours.

Some strange noises distracted her attention. Her stomach was growling.

At the same time, WeChat (a social media app like FaceBook popular among Chinese) messages were popping up on her phone screen relentlessly. It was time for Liu to do something about her hunger.

Liu opened WeChat and entered a WeChat group named Pangpang Lulu, which is the origin of all those messages. There are a couple of hungry Chinese students like Liu in that group, needing some energy to fight against their homework in this long lonely night.

The sole purpose of this group, now having 38 Chinese students, is to place orders collectively at a private Chinese home kitchen in Philadelphia, called Pangpang Lulu, which provides them with Chinese cuisines that cannot be found elsewhere.

Pangpang Lulu was opened on the 1st of February, 2018, located in an apartment near Temple University. Pangpang Lulu doesn’t have a storefront—it offers take-out and delivery services only, including late-night delivery, covering all regions in Philadelphia.

It is the only place that specializes in making spiced stew dishes, which are popular traditional dishes in China. Without the rental cost for a storefront, the prices of its dishes are affordable to students, with entries ranging from $10 to $13, and it quickly became popular among Chinese students in Philadelphia.

“We started Pangpang Lulu solely out of love for spiced stew dishes,” said Leslie Mou, one of the co-owners of Pangpang Lulu, who is also a junior at Temple University. “We think it is a shame that we can’t find such delicious Chinese dishes in Philadelphia.”

Mou came from Chengdu, the capital of Szechwan, where spiced stew dishes are very popular —and very hard to make. The key to success is the spiced soup base that is used to stew the meats for hours. It usually contains more than 10 different Chinese spices and even Chinese medicines.

In China, each restaurant specialized in making spiced stew dishes has its own recipe for the soup base, which determines the different smell and taste of the dishes. Like the recipe for Coca-Cola, the recipe for the soup base is the core trade secret of those restaurants.

The most common spiced stew meats are chicken feet, pork feet, pork ears, pork tails and other animal internal organs, which people from other countries usually dislike. But the Chinese love these stews.

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Pedal Power

Sales of electric bikes are climbing

Electric bikes for rent in Madrid, Spain

 By Joseph Staruski

His face lit up with curiosity as he watched us pull up, from his seat in the coffee shop. People swarmed us asking about them, wanting to know what sleak new invention we were riding on. It was like we were celebrities. All it took was a couple of e-bikes.

“I get this all the time” said Tim Isle, the sales lead at Trek Bicycles at 47 West Lancaster Avenue in Ardmore, who took me for a ride on an electric bicycle. I got to see the excitement first-hand as electric bicycles are on the rise throughout the world and in the United States.

The typical electric bicycle is has a battery attached to either the middle frame or above the back wheel. It has a small motor that provides extra power to the rider proportional to their effort. Essentially, if you work harder, the motor works harder too. “A lot of commuters think about it as flattening out the road,” said Isle.

The NPD Group, a company that studies trends in consumer products, said last October, “electric bicycle sales have nearly tripled over the last 37 months” in the United States. Also, Google web searches for the topic of electric bikes increased by 45 percent in the United States when comparing July 2015 with July 2017, according to Google. In comparison, the number of searches for the topic of “bicycle” compared at the same time periods did not change.

The trend is expected to continue with projections from statista, a market research company, showing that the market for electric bicycles worldwide will grow from $15.7 to $24.3 billion dollars from 2016 to 2025, an increase of 55 percent.

But despite all of the apparent interest, some people might still have some reservations. Alex Winoski, a manager at Cycles BiKyle at 1046 West Lancaster Avenue in Bryn Mawr, has been working at the specialty bike shop for 11 years, since he was 16. He said he had some reservations of his own about electric bicycles before trying one a few years ago at the Philadelphia Bike Expo. “It’s something you don’t think you want until you try one,” he said. His mind was changed. After the expo, he decided to start selling e-bikes at his shop.

Another difficulty for electric bicycles is their price point. At Trek in Ardmore, they can sell for as much as $5,000 and none less than $2,000. Isle said “they’re too expensive to really be a trend right now.”

So who would buy such an expensive bicycle? Anthony Hennessy at Trek in Ardmore said people buy them for all different reasons. He said there are people who use it to compensate for physical ability like older people and someone with advanced asthma. There are couples who want to ride together at the same speed, but have different ability levels.

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Big Screen Revival

College students stream video, but still enjoy the movie theater experience.

By Steve Lehman

In the age of online streaming, college students are going to local movie theaters more than you would expect. In fact, they’re going even more than they used to.

A recent study from the Pew Research Center shows that 61% of young adults use online streaming services as their preferred method of watching TV. When you have access to thousands of movies online for the monthly price of one traditional theater ticket, why go to the theater at all?

Isaac Kahan, a Haverford College junior, has some answers. While he enjoys streaming movies on his phone just like any other college student, Kahan also frequents the Bryn Mawr Film Institute (or BMFI) and other nearby theaters.

“I like the movie theater experience,” he told me in his apartment on Haverford’s campus, about a 10-minute bus ride down Lancaster Avenue from the BMFI. “I like how you can… go into another world for a little bit. And it feels like you’re doing something more productive than just watching a movie in your room.”

Why does he go the BMFI specifically? Because it’s easy. Kahan and other Haverford students can either walk or take the bus to Bryn Mawr, while Bryn Mawr College is around the corner from the theater.

Statistics some local theaters are actually thriving. Philly.com reported that the Bryn Mawr Film Institute “represents a rousing success in the digital age” due to “tapping into the movie-loving community in its backyard.”

The BMFI, an independent and non-profit movie theater, is selling more memberships to students now than in the past few years. Patricia Russo, membership manager for the Bryn Mawr theater, said that they “see a positive trend” in student membership sales.

The increase isn’t accidental: the BMFI is pushing for more student involvement. Possible reasons for the increase in student memberships include local business discounts, an annual College Night, and more community partners such as colleges and secondary schools in the area. “We’re doing as much as we can to bring in students,” Russo said over the phone.

This isn’t unique to the BMFI. Four local movie theaters managed by the parent non-profit Renew Theaters, based in Doylestown, each saw a steady increase in student ticket sales over the past three years, according to Renew Theaters’ Membership Manager Lauren Nonini.

Based on data provided by Nonini, student attendance at the Princeton Garden Theater leapt from 4,318 in 2015 to 10,344 in 2017, while the Ambler Theater, County Theater, and Hiway Theater saw similar — though less dramatic — increases over the same time span.

Streaming is convenient and easy, but Netflix can only go so far. Some college students want more out of their movies, especially if it means a way to relieve stress, get off campus, and not think about school for a while.

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Libraries Live On

Bryn Mawr’s Ludington Library remains a vital part of the community

 

By Deeksha Raina

On a Wednesday afternoon in the Ludington Library in Bryn Mawr, there isn’t a single empty table in sight. Every table, including the ones tucked away in remote corners of the library, has at least one occupant, ranging from small children laughing over a picture book to college students furiously typing away on their laptops, head bobbing to whatever tune is blasting through their earphones.

In the airy indoor reading porch, an elderly couple sits together sipping on coffee and thumbing through their books. A few tables away, a high school student practices speaking in French with her tutor. Despite it being a weekday afternoon, the library is  bustling and full of life.

The Ludington Library, one of the libraries of the Lower Merion Library System (LMLS), is just one of many that have managed to keep the library relevant to the community in the new digital age.

Roz Warren, a library assistant at the Bala Cynwyd Library, another library in the LMLS, noted, “In the old days, when there was no internet and you had to write a report or research paper, you would come into the library to find research material. But now that’s not really the case.”

Public libraries are no longer document-centric, shifting towards a user-centric model instead. It’s no longer about the books that libraries have. Rather it’s the range of services one central location can provide for its community.

Today, libraries provide so much more than just books and dvds. The Ludington Library, among others, provides community members with meeting rooms, access to computers, wifi, tax forms, and even baking pans shaped like teddy bears and trains. And of course, the library provides students with a much-needed quiet environment to study.

The Ludington Library is not alone in these changes. In 2015, the American Library Association (ALA) president Sari Feldman said, “Today libraries are less about what we have than what we can do with and for our patrons.”

Public libraries have added computers, wifi, access to printing services, and digital literacy programs to the core of their services. Unsurprisingly, with such additions to the library, visitors continue to stream in and the data is there to back it up. In 2012, the American Library Association found that there was a 54.4% increase in visitors to public libraries over the past ten years.

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The Hot Pot Impresario

Long Xiang could barely cook — until he opened his own restaurant

By Yuqi Zha

One year ago, Long Xiang, 22, was a junior Business Engineering major at Drexel University, and was a really bad cook.

Today, he is the owner of About Hotpot, the most popular Chinese hotpot restaurant in Philadelphia at 125 Sansom Walkway, and spends hours in the restaurant’s kitchen.

Hotpot is a traditional Chinese dish that uses a stove to keep a soup base boiling in the pot, which is where the name “hotpot” comes from. Raw meat and vegetable are placed into the pot and cooked at the table. The key element that determines the success of a hotpot is the soup base, which often takes hours and several complicated steps to make.

“Believe it or not, I couldn’t even make tomato fried egg,” said Xiang while preparing the secret weapon that makes About Hotpot so irresistible, the beef-tallow hotpot soup base, made from beef fat and various kinds of spices.

Tomato fried egg is a traditional Chinese dish that almost every Chinese learns to cook as teenagers.

Xiang stood in front of a huge pot of boiling beef-tallow with a large silver soup ladle, wearing a pair of long cooking gloves that go all the way to his shoulders. The brown scorch marks on the blue gloves tell the difficulty of this process.

“It’s hot,” said Xiang. “By ‘hot’ I mean 170 °C (338 °F) to 200 °C (392 °F).”

He constantly paid careful attention to the heat while talking, added more than 10 different spices in the designated  order and kept stirring with the soup ladle.

“This is a really painstaking process,” said Xiang. “…Sometimes I stopped stirring for only 15 seconds to answer a phone call. When I come back, the spices were charred. Boom! Everything is over.”

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The History Behind the Accent

Veronica Montes long journey from Mexico to Bryn Mawr 

By Azalia Sprecher

Since crossing the U.S.-Mexico border at age 18 in 1988, professor Veronica Montes of the Bryn Mawr College Sociology department has dedicated herself to building bridges between the classes she teaches and her life experiences.

Montes, a petite woman with a large presence and lively eyes, energetically entered her classroom one recent Monday afternoon and greeted her students who had just returned from spring break. They mumbled a hello.

“Okay, who had a fun spring break? Any cool trips?”

She looked around, hopeful and expecting her students to respond, but to no avail. She smacked her lips and picked a student.

“Amanda, I know you did something fun. Tell us about it!”

Montes’ enthusiasm for teaching is undeniable, and she is adamant in connecting with her students. It helps that she is motherly, emitting a warm and welcoming presence that can lift the spirits of any post-spring break college student. Another undeniable characteristic that sets Montes apart from other Bryn Mawr professors is the songlike accent that carries her words to the ears and hearts of her students. Accents are usually the first thing one looks for when pointing out a foreigner, but what most people don’t think about is the journey behind the accent.

Professor Veronica Montes

Montes was born in the state of Guerrero, Mexico in 1970 to a working-class family who struggled to make ends meet. The family decided to relocate to Mexico City, and as a teen in Mexico’s largest city, Montes had dreams of continuing her life in the nation and culture she loved. All that changed during the 1980s when Mexico’s economy took a turn for the worst as the value of Mexican currency plummeted. The Montes household lost everything, and after her father abandoned his wife and children, Montes’ mother was left to fend for the family. She was the first to migrate to Los Angeles in 1986 with the help of a coyote, a smuggler who aids migrants in illegally crossing the border. The Montes children stayed behind to finish their education.

“Like thousands of migrant women, my mother did not know what she would face once she stepped on American soil,” said Montes about her mother’s decision to leave her children behind.

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Bringing Them Back Home

A Philadelphia planner is trying to bring people into the city.

By Joseph Staruski

Decades ago, America saw a great decline in urban populations as many people in the middle class moved to the suburbs. Gregory Krykewycz is hoping that that trend will change and that people might move back to urban spaces. In fact, he’s planning on it.

A mild-mannered academic urban planner, Krykewycz loves to talk about city planning. Bicycles, pedestrians, trains: these are the types of things that Krykewycz thinks about on a daily basis as an instructor at Drexel University, a volunteer at the Media Borough Environmental Advisory Council, and the Associate Director of Transportation for the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.

Greg Krykewycz

Why does he want to see people move back to the city? Well, mostly because it is good for the environment.

When he was younger, Krykewycz saw himself being an environmental planner. His hope was to buy up land outside of the city and prevent people from developing there. He wanted to directly fight back against the progress of suburban development and save the natural environment around the city.

“But I really quickly learned, once I got into school, that it’s really expensive,” said Krykewycz. So, he took a different approach. His plan now is to make the city so great that people simply do not want to move away. “It is better to make the developed places more attractive so that the development pressure outward is reduced and you get organic preservation of land as opposed to just buying everything up” he said.

Krykewycz likes what he does so much that he volunteers his time with the Media Borough Environmental Advisory Council. He has lived in Media, a borough west of Philadelphia near Swarthmore College, for four years and has volunteered there for most of that time.

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Profiles & Projects

A diverse group of stories:

What is like when your classroom is your dining room table? Colleen Williamson writes about an evangelical family in Jenkintown who has decided to homeschool their four children.

They even have a name for it: Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).  It refers to mass deaths among honeybees — an no one knows what causes it. Audra Devoto looks into the latest efforts to find what is killing American honeybees.

Judy Wicks, founder of the White Dog Café near Penn’s campus, has been a culinary pioneer, but food is only one of her passions. Another is social activism. Sabrina Emms profiles the author and activist.

Why do they call it Posse? Nicole Gildea explains in a story about the Posse Foundation, the non-profit that pays for full tuition, room and board for low-income students at prestigious colleges.

About 1,700 meals are served each day at Bryn Mawr’s main dining hall. Sophie Webb has written a day in the life of Erdman dining hall that explains how it gets done –from start to finish.

As a jewelry designer, a crafts person or an artist who produces items for sale the real challenge is to find customers. As Jian White relates, that’s where the website Etsy steps in to help.

At age 76, Sister Ann Marie Slavin is still spreading the faith. Colleen Williamson profiles a Franciscan nun with more Twitter followers than some movie stars.

Bryn Mawr student Helen Hardiman has a job whose purpose to scare the hell out of you. Maire Clayton profiles “Madame Rust” of the Fright Factory.