Four Trends

Where do asexuals fit into the gay culture?  Theresa Diffendahl writes about asexuals at Bryn Mawr, Haverford and Swarthmore.

Kelsey Peart reveals that canning isn’t just something your grandmother did. It is  making a come back among Millennials.

Ava Hawkinson writes about the intrusion of ghosts and things that go bump into the night into selfies.

It may be hard to believe, but beer is less popular on college campuses these days. Ryan Gooding explains why.  Gooding also offers a profile of a brewer who specializes in making the ancient libation called mead..


A is for Asexual

Asexuals search for a place in gay culture

By Theresa Diffendal

The “A” in the acronym LGBTQIA+ that is used as an umbrella term for the queer community as a whole is thought by many to stand for allies. In fact, it represents a group with growing visibility: the asexual community.

Asexuality, defined as a lack of sexual attraction to other people, in conjunction with aromanticism, which a lack of romantic attraction to other people, exist on the aromantic/asexual, or aro/ace, spectrum.

The spectrum serves to show the degree to which people feel sexual or romantic attraction, with allosexual — those who experience sexual attraction on a regular basis, — at the opposite end of asexuality. Those who fall in between allo- and asexual on the spectrum often refer to themselves as “demi” or “gray” sexual or romantic.

Asexual group at 2011 San Francisco parade

Asexual group at 2011 San Francisco parade

However even as the queer community seeks to be all-inclusive and establish “safe spaces,” or places those with marginalized gender or sexual orientations can feel included, a rift has formed over the issue of hyper-sexuality.

Many queer-exclusive spaces have a reputation of being hyper-sexualized, such as Pride Parades, bathhouses, and gay bars. Many of these scenes also exclude members of the very community they are supposed to serve because they are only accessible to those over 21.

The increasing visibility of asexuality has many queer groups trying to find ways to adapt to accommodate those who do not engage in or are made uncomfortable by sexual activity.

The origination of the term asexuality as it refers to sexual orientation can be attributed to Michael Storms who, in 1979, put forth a model of sexuality similar to the aro/ace spectrum discussed above. The Kinsey Scale – a scale which rates sexual orientation from strictly heterosexual to strictly homosexual – also added the category “X” in its Kinsey Reports as early as 1948 to represent those who reported little to no sexual attraction.

Role of social media

Despite the early originations however, AVEN (the Asexual Visibility and Education Network) which focuses on issues related to asexuality, states that the first group for asexuals did not appear until October of 2000 in the form of a Yahoo group called “Haven for the Human Amoeba.”

Asexuality — and marginalized orientations in general — have often found acceptance and communities on the internet. Tumblr has a number of blogs whose purpose is to provide information about or help people come to terms with asexuality, such as asexual research.

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Yes, We Can!

Canning food at home makes comeback

By Kelsey Peart                                                                                                        

Mina Harker, ‘15, is finishing up her degree this semester but something she has found during her time at Bryn Mawr will stay with her after she leaves.

Harker discovered her love for canning while juggling a knack for gardening and a tight, student budget.

Canning“There’s something magical about opening a can up in the winter and reliving memories from the summer,” she says, motioning towards her kitchen cabinet that houses her various canned creations.

The Wall Street Journal credits “the worst recession in decades and a trend towards healthier foods” as the main influences towards self-sustainability. Canning is the next logical step for an avid gardener.

Reasons to can include cost-efficiency, better taste, year-round organic produce availability, and the pure joy that comes with “a mini-time capsule,” as Harker describes it.

Although there is not a lot of hard data available about canning, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence: canning-related cookbooks and workshops are popping up all over the country.

There is one solid statistic that is telling. Ball Corporation, a name synonymous with the Mason jar, has seen a 60 percent rise in stocks over the past three years,due mostly to an increase in sales.

2014 has been one of the most successful years for Ball Corp. According to its annual report, it has seen a 5.5% increase in net sales from 2013, every year’s sales proving to be better than the last.

Sales up

Ad Age reveals that Ball Corp.’s sales were mostly flat throughout the ’90s, so this rise in popularity is attributed to the millennials. Ball Corp. has begun targeting the younger generations as a result.

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Ghostly Selfies

Ghosts are hogging the picture in some selfies

By Ava Hawkinson


Only Peaches Geldof and her young son Astala were bathing in the bathtub. But the selfie, which Geldof took, revealed a third presence sitting right behind them.

The picture, taken in 2013, shows a small hand, which rests on Geldof’s shoulder and clasps a chunk of her long blonde hair.

These four bony fingers are neither transparent nor blurry. They look as real and alive as Geldof and her son.

Selfie Ghost 2 Geldof later uploaded the selfie to Instagram and captioned it, “Close up shot of the mystery ghost hand in the pic I took of Astala and me In the bath!! And no that isn’t my hand – one of mine was around his waist to hold him during the photo, the other holding the camera to take the shot. Also the hand is around my shoulder so totally weird angle if I did it myself!! How terrifying!! I am shitting myself! #haunted #ghost.”

Geldof claimed that the hand in the photo was that of a woman who died 100 years ago.

Apparently Geldof’s South East England home was built by a man and his pregnant wife, and the wife later miscarried and spiraled into a deep depression. She ended up drowning herself in the house’s bathtub, Geldof said, according to Huffington Post.

Rise of spirit selfies

Geldof’s selfie is only one of many selfies that have gone viral over recent years for documenting ghost-like presences. There are hundreds of “spirit selfies” all over the internet.

Earlier this year, a blurry face floated over a woman’s nose as she took a picture of her newly-dyed light blonde hair.

A couple weeks ago, Julian Eltinge, a famous actor who died in 1941, is said to have appeared in a selfie a couple took while dining at a New Orleans restaurant.

There are countless other selfies like these.

Since the late 1800s, people have claimed to capture ghosts lurking in the backgrounds of their photographs, but this claim was never as widespread as it is today.

It seems that every week a new picture becomes viral which has a ghostly presence in it. And, strangely enough, most of these pictures are selfies.

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No more PBR?

Beer consumption is declining on college campuses

By Ryan Gooding       

In many ways, Dan Hopkins, 21, fits neatly into the stereotypical vision of a college-aged male: tall, slender, sandy blonde hair, a snappy sweater to go over his slim-fit khakis.  But in one regard, Hopkins breaks with the mold: he’s not a fan of beer.

“Beer is nasty,” said the senior at Haverford College on Sunday afternoon in his on-campus apartment.  “I think it’s just an acquired taste that I’ve yet to acquire.”

In the early 1990s, Hopkins would have been something of a standout.  According to data collected by Gallup’s Consumption Habits poll between the years of 1992 and 1994, nearly 71% of 18-29 year olds preferred beer over wine and liquor.

Today, however, Hopkins is far from alone. By 2014, the same annual survey found that preference for beer amongst young people plummeted 30 percentage points, making beer less popular than wine and spirits amongst young people for the first time since Gallup began collecting alcoholic preference data in 1992.

At Haverford, the story is no different.

Beer TapsThough no internal data exists demonstrating a reciprocal decline in the popularity of beer at the elite liberal arts college, talking with Hopkins, his peers, and campus administrators quickly reveals that, for a variety of reasons, the trend is alive and well locally.

Quality Over Quantity?

“It’s easier to lose interest in beer when you’re only exposed to the s—– stuff,” says Hopkins, as he prepares his late-morning Sunday breakfast. “Especially if you’re younger at

Haverford, most of the beer that you’re exposed to is of a very low quality.  That’s going to effect how you think about wanting beer.”

Parties at Haverford exhibit no shortage of beer.  The problem is not supply, says Hopkins, it’s quality.

High-quality, craft beers – despite an wealth of local and affordable craft breweries – are far from abundant on Haverford’s social scene.  Instead low-cost alternatives such as Natural Light, Natural Ice, Pabst Blue Ribbon, and the like are vastly over-represented.

“I think that most people’s experience with alcohol at Haverford has at least something to do with Natty Light,” Hopkins explains, referring to Natural Light, one of the cheapest and therefore most readily available beers at Haverford parties.

“Natty Light is like dirty water,” Hopkins continued.  “If I only had natty light for my entire college career, I would hate beer too.”

“In fact,” he checks himself, smiling as he does, “that’s kind of why I do.”

Though, to pin beer’s waning popularity at Haverford solely on a shortage of high quality beer would be misguided.  Quality is merely one piece of a larger, more troubling puzzle.

The Demise of the Casual Beer Continue reading

The Master of Mead

Bill Ristow’s home brewing has led him to an ancient drink

By Ryan Gooding

“It’s really just a storage unit,” begins Bill Ristow.

He walks down a narrow, brightly lit, but sparsely decorated hallway beneath the Haverford Gable Apartments, just across the train tracks from Haverford College, the school he currently attends.  His stride is long, relaxed, almost bouncy – just what you’d expect from the lanky collegiate cross country and track runner – yet he moves forward with an authoritative presence.

Dangling precariously from his right hand, swaying back and forth as he walks, is a wine tasting glass.

ill Ristow samples some of his mead

Bill Ristow samples some of his mead.

At the far end of the hallway, Ristow pauses in front of a stark-white door, save for a black number “7” neatly painted at eye level.  He asks me to hold the tasting glass as he rifles through his pockets, presumably looking for the key.

“This is part of what I like so much about home brewing,” Ristow continues, finally producing the key from his back pocket.  “At least when it comes to wines and mead, you don’t need crazy infrastructure.”

He pauses again, this time as he struggles to force the key into the lock.  “I mean, you can do it in a kitchen, or a living room, or in our case, a tiny storage unit,” he concludes.

The deadbolt clicks back and the door swings open, revealing a drab, sparsely cluttered storage space that can’t measure much more than five feet across by 12 feet deep.  The right half of the unit is almost completely unoccupied, save for the half-dozen jugs and bottles containing his most recent experiments.  Dominating most of the left half is a stack of white boxes.

“Sorry it’s not visually stunning.”

Ristow steps inside and gestures silently to the boxes.  He approaches the stack; reaches into a box labeled “Orange Clove Mead” in beautiful, handwritten cursive; and from it, produces an unlabeled wine bottle. For a moment he stands motionless, staring proudly down at the bottle in his hands.  Several long seconds pass before Ristow looks up again, smiling.

“Want to try some?”

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Campus Life

The English House Gazette, the blog for stories done by students in the Art264W News and Features Writing course at Bryn Mawr College, is up and running for the Fall 2015 semester.

We begin with four stories related to campus life:

Maggie Heffernan writes about the debate of the so-called “smart drugs” being used to enhance academic performance.

Aliya Chaudhray tells the tale of how Bryn Mawr College decided to make including SAT scores optional for applicants to the school.

Alison Robins captures the tense and tender moments of a group of college students rehearsing a musical with opening night just days away.

Elisabeth Kamaka profiles the Bryn Mawr student and cellist Sarah Lew, who took up the instrument at the age of five.

Art264W is a journalism course offered to Bryn Mawr and Haverford College students in the fall semester and taught by lecturer Tom Ferrick Jr.,


Say Goodbye to the SAT

SAT scores are no longer required at Bryn Mawr College

By Aliya Chaudhry                                                                                                               

Standardized test scores have long been considered to be an integral part of the college application.  Now, more and more colleges are dropping the requirement, with the number of test-optional colleges growing to over 850, according to

Bryn Mawr College went test-optional in 2014, making the class of 2019 the first set of applicants who were not required to send in test scores for either the SAT or the ACT.

SATFour years ago, Bryn Mawr conducted research looking at 10 years of standardized test score submissions along with GPAs, curriculum and how students were judged. The research showed that, “standardized test scores did not give us as much information saying that this was the best indicator of a student’s success,” according to Peaches Valdes, dean of undergraduate admissions at Bryn Mawr College.

The results of Bryn Mawr’s research matched those of a research study conducted by Bill Hiss, a former dean of admissions at Bates College, who found that going test-optional was beneficial for colleges and universities and that transcripts were actually the best indicators of academic success.

Valdes said, “We had institutional data and we had national data and therefore then we launched with going test-optional.”

Standardized tests, particularly the SAT, have been criticized for a number of reasons, including the belief that they test outdated or irrelevant information and are not a reliable indicator of academic ability. In addition, it has been pointed out that minority students and student from lower-income backgrounds perform worse on the SAT than others. Students criticized standardized tests for evaluating test-taking abilities instead of knowledge, ability or skill.

Briana Grenert, a sophomore at Bryn Mawr College said that the SAT is, “not going to test how smart we are but how well we can take the test – that’s all it is.”

She said, “When our scores improved it was when we stopped paying attention to the content and just focused on the form.”

Mary Sweeney, another sophomore at Bryn Mawr College, stated that she believes the preparation involved in taking standardized tests is “overall a waste of time because it just teaches you how to take a test which is not a really important skill.”

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The Play’s the Thing

It’s crunch time for the student directors of “Next to Normal.”

By Alison Robins

When Kristian Sumner walks into Old Rhoads Dining Hall Thursday night, her job is to turn the empty room into a black-box theater. As co-director, Summer must transform the defunct dining hall into a make-shift three-level set fit for simulated sex, drugs and rock and roll for the next two hours.

With the Bi-Co musical theater group Greasepaint’s production of “Next to Keep CalmNormal” opening December 11th, there is no time to waste getting ready.

“Can someone call Amy?” Damon Motz-Storey, a senior at Haverford College and the other co-director of the production asks. It is 8:15 p.m., and rehearsal should have already started.

A voice breaks from the one of the actors who are present, running lines and practicing notes in the back of the room. “I called her, she’s on her way.”

Amy Xu, who plays the daughter, Natalie, is not the only one missing.

Brian Wang, who plays her brother Gabriel, walks in right on time. He immediately begins to do 100 jumping jacks because he was late by 10 minutes the day before.

As soon as Xu walks in, Motz-Storey turns to Sumner. “She owes us 50 jumping jacks.”

Sumner nods. “Yo, Amy! Jumping jacks…” She looks at Xu, standing still, and Wang, jumping quickly and perfunctory. “Brother and sister jumping jacks, go!”

“With a cast this small, we can’t start if someone’s not here,” explains Motz-Storey. There are six actors. “We could already be six minutes into the act if they weren’t late.”

* * * *

The cast prepared for what would be their first full run-through of “Next to Normal,” a rock musical about a nuclear family gone wrong with a bi-polar matriarch, a pacifying father, a genius daughter, and a son long dead.

“Well, we’ve done it before,” Sumner says about tonight being the first time the whole show would be run through in one go. Continue reading

The Cellist

Her love of the cello began at age five

By Elisabeth Kamaka

There it was, one of the largest and most intimidating stringed instruments in the music classroom, nearly as big as she was. And she would be playing it.

Others tried to discourage her from playing such a large instrument, but she would not listen.

Five-year old Sarah Lew’s small hands could barely reach the strings as she struggled to play her first note. As she brought down her bow to touch the strings of the cello, its distinct calm and solemn tone suddenly filled the entire classroom. And it was from that moment, little Sarah Lew made up her mind: she was going to be a cellist.

Lew, 19, is now a sophomore at Bryn Mawr College. She is majoring in chemistry and interested in pursuing forensic chemistry or neurological research. Life is different for the Houston, Texas native trying to adjust to the fast-paced East Coast academic life.  But rather than leave her cello to collect dust at home, Lew brought her cello to Bryn Mawr, where she performs with the Bi-Co Haverford-Bryn Mawr College Orchestra.

Although she has studied general music and choir, and plays the piano and flute, Lew considers herself a cellist. “I’ve dabbled in pretty much every string instrument but the only one I can consistently say I do well playing is the cello,” she explains. Lew usually practices in blocks of 30 minutes to an hour but doesn’t like to put pressure on herself about practicing. She says during school “when things get really bad” she has a hard time keeping up with her cello practice. “If I’m going to practice, I’m going to put everything into it and if I’m stressed out already, then I don’t want to stress myself out more.”

The Bryn Mawr Haverford College Orchestra

The Bryn Mawr Haverford College Orchestra

Lew is currently one of the personnel managers for the Bi-Co Haverford-Bryn Mawr College orchestra. Her responsibilities include managing the orchestra’s attendance book, and communicating with members who are absent. Lew says that one of the challenges of being a personnel manager is remembering everyone in an orchestra with 75 members. Although she says that she now knows most of the members in the strings section, “I made a super big mistake…and asked a random oboist about a clarinet player.” This valuable work experience allows Lew to learn the everyday workings of running an orchestra, and provides much-needed support to Heidi Jacob, the orchestra conductor. Lew plans to continue playing her cello in the future but she does not know if she will “join a professional group.” However, Lew said that she may be interested in teaching music in the future, even as a part-time job. Continue reading