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October 20, 2011

Dorm Dive: Art & Athleticism

in Campus Journal/Weekly Features by

Cariad Chester and Brennan Klein

C. Sera Jeong/The Phoenix

Juniors Cariad Chester and Brennan Klein occupy this airy Alice Paul loft. Other students often ask Klein and Chester how they came about such a sought-after room as juniors in the housing lottery. According to Chester, “there’s a loophole in the housing system that allows a senior who went abroad for two semester to will the room to rising Juniors. It’s all part of the algorithm, ask Rachel Head about it.”

A. Sera Jeong/The Phoenix

A. For this room they were after a “zen” and a modern approach. Chester sums up the decór as “artsy-athletic-romantic,” as a reflection of Klein’s athleticism and Chester’s appreciation for the arts.

B. Some of Klein’s soccer paraphernalia include Soccer jerseys that are lined up on display along his bed, and ticket stubs from the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa, which Klein attended last year.

C. On the opposite side of the wall hang an assortment of prints, including paintings of van Gogh. “Together, we’re pretty ‘now,'” Chester said.

The high ceilings, accentuated by the floor-to-ceiling windows that allow for light to fill both upper and lower levels, is one of their favorite aspects of the room. Yet they feel that one of the negative aspects of living here is the absence of an elevator in this bi-level room, “but that’s just us bragging about living in a loft,” joked Chester.

D. Alice Paul is the second newest dorm on campus and as the recipient of the American Institute of Architects 2010 Housing Award, the students feel that “structurally, it is very sound, it has really nice linoleum floors and the wall color is unbelievable.”

The duo loves taking advantage of the natural flood lighting while reading and finishing assignments.

D. Sera Jeong/The Phoenix
B. Sera Jeong/The Phoenix

Scott Arboretum celebrates fall, Forbes ranking

in Around Campus/Campus Journal by
The amphitheater is a part of the over 300-acre Scott Arboretum. (Cristina Matamoros/The Phoenix)

While the college often tops the rankings when it comes to academics and great financial aid, those aren’t the only two qualities that draw attention to the college. When people walk into the campus, these words may come up into their minds: vibrant arboretum, modern and classic, magnificent and expansive. Swarthmore College, again, was recently acknowledged as one of the most beautiful campuses in the country by Forbes Magazine. The Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College, a garden encompassing approximately 330 acres of the campus, brings various trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals and bulbs to the campus and makes it an ideal place for meditating and relaxing.

According to Julie Jenny, the Educational Programs Coordinator of the Scott Arboretum, this Arboretum, formed in 1929, is a memorial to Arthur Hoyt Scott, a Swarthmore college alumnus. The idea of having an arboretum originated when Scott didn’t have the chance to appreciate some kinds of plants around Swarthmore during Scott’s days, like tree peonies and irises. He could only go to Connecticut to see them. Therefore, he hoped to have a place in the area around Swarthmore for people to enjoy the beauty of and learn about a variety of plants. Sticking to this purpose, the arboretum devotes itself to educating the public about horticulture and botany as well as providing gardeners information about the plants suitable for home gardens in eastern Pennsylvania and the Delaware Valley.

Parrish Beach in the fall. (Cristina Matamoros/The Phoenix)

Last Saturday afternoon, the Scott Arboretum celebrated its Fall Festival in the Lang Concert Hall. This annual celebration is usually held in October. During every festival, fascinating speeches about various gardens’ designs and styles are given to the public.

This year, the keynote speaker was Fergus Garrett, the head gardener and CEO at Great Dixter, one of the most renowned gardens in East Sussex, Britain. He gave a speech on the past, present and future of Great Dixter and introduced the contribution of Christopher Lloyd, a great garden writer who made Great Dixter famous.

Mr. Garret shared with audiences a number of meaningful pictures and the stories behind each picture, from the black-and-white family photo of Lloyd to the colorful images of modern gardening projects. He indicated a valuable attitude toward gardening by introducing the garden in this intimate story-telling way. As Garrett stated at the end of his speech, gardening is a way to show the spirit of a place and to understand a sense of place. It connects people and provides people chances to respect the history of places.

This inspiring speech contributed to the success of the Fall Festival this time for the Scott Arboretum. In addition to inviting these experienced speakers, the Arboretum is constantly making every effort to bring their members more perspectives about gardening. Julie Vrooman, a resident of Swarthmore, has volunteered at the Arboretum for sixteen years.

“I work every week on Thursday morning. I am one of the people who gardens outside. You may see us in the bush pulling out leaves.” she said. Her volunteer experience helps her to develop her interest in gardening. She mentioned, “As an arboretum volunteer, you can go through a whole training class where you will learn the appropriate gardening techniques and the history of the arboretum. The people I am working with are also very knowledgeable. And just to work with plants helps me to learn more about them.”

Ruth Gundlach, who is also fond of gardening and now beginning to plant things for birds, said “I have been a member for two years. There are a lot of lectures that are really informative and there are many chances to see the beautiful gardens around the world. I have never been to Great Dixter before so this is a nice experience for me,” said Ruth Gundlach, who is also fond of gardening and now beginning to plant things for birds. Last Sunday, she participated in a special peony event organized by the Scott Arboretum. Participants learned about peony and joined in a bargain peony sale.

The Arboretum welcomes people of all age levels, including students. Students can join in the Scott Arboretum membership by paying ten dollars per year. The membership organization, The Associates of the Scott Arboretum, is formed to provide supports to reach the goals of the Arboretum. The mission includes to expand educational programs and horticultural activities. There are a lot of activities organized for the members. For instance, the members can receive the Arboretum’s quarterly newsletter, Hybrid, to learn about the gardening and plants. They are also able to go to Garden Day for free, which is an annual tour of private gardens.

According to Ms. Jenny, students’ responsibilities are just to learn to appreciate this place and to be aware that there is a special office on Swarthmore campus and a group of people that are working to keep the college beautiful.

“Young people [are] the future for gardening,” Garrett said. “We need these sensitive people to manage these places properly, to be creative and to protect the places.”

Student project aims at Indian educational reform

in Around Campus/Campus Journal by
Shah and Patel co-founded the Independent Thought and Social Action organization (ITSA). (Courtesy of www.facebook.com/ITSAInternational)

In a sweltering Indian classroom, as a student raises her hand with a question to understand the concept of photosynthesis, she is silenced by her teacher with instructions to memorize the definition on the blackboard. This authoritarian system has silenced questions and stamped out curiosity over the years as students follow the traditional system of rote memorization.

Riana Shah ’14 and Jwalin Patel may finally be able to break the silence. The duo co-founded the organization Independent Thought and Social Action (ITSA) about two years ago during their senior year of high school in an effort to reform and modernize the Indian educational system. As an internationally recognized educational reform organization, ITSA strives to provide Indian students with an outlet to discover themselves as thinkers and learners through a series of critical thinking, writing and discussion summer workshops.

Patel, now a student at the University College London, but previously a student of the Indian system who switched to an international educational high school, reflected, “As I went through the Cambridge system of education I realized there was a big divide between the two systems. The Indian system of education was not much of an education. It was just lots of information without a focus on developing critical or creative thinking skills.” Educated in India until the ninth grade, Shah’s frustration with pure academic regurgitation and minimal discussion reached its zenith as she realized the large disparity between her education at Bard High School Early College in New York and the traditional Indian system she was once a part of.

At Bard High School Early College, Shah was convinced that teachers need not be authoritarians who have the last word and that many answers come in shades of gray. “The realization that my solutions have just as much power to make an impact empowered me, so why shouldn’t students in our hometown of Ahmedabad have the opportunity to feel the same way?” she said. The motive behind ITSA’s construction was to reform a traditional school system based on rote memorization and passive learning to a dynamic one “geared toward producing thinkers and not solely technicians,” according to Patel.

Pooling their educational experiences together, they incorporated the methodology developed by the Institute for Writing & Thinking at Bard College into the ITSA curriculum to foster the thinking skills needed by the next generation of world leaders.

Initially after conception, ITSA implemented its curriculum in two schools. However, this past summer, ITSA has expanded its affiliation to over twelve schools in two different cities in the Indian state of Gujarat, Ahmedabad and Rajkot, with the help of a formal internship program, the Swarthmore Foundation Grant and a few Swatties who were dedicated to their vision.

Piecing together narratives from ITSA’s student-run blog, Emma King,ITSA intern and student at Bard, Shah’s alma mater, writes about ITSA’s identity workshops detailing how ITSA delves deep into the students’ minds to extricate all that they wish they could share. King noted that most of the kids initially described themselves as “obedient,” “polite” or, most frequently, “disciplined.” After the open-class discussions giving these students a nudge to identify qualities in themselves that weren’t held to societal standards, the children used words such as “creative,” “independent” and a “learner for learning’s sake” to describe the fabric of their being.

Each year ITSA workshops have a different theme based on various forms of social responsibility. Moving outside the confines of the classroom, they have begun a mentoring program to put the students’ passions into action.

ITSA team member, Meghna, who is studying engineering in college upon witnessing ITSA’s discussion forums, said that, “had something like ITSAbeen in my life when I was in high school, I might have chosen differently.”

Patel and Shah have brought awareness of the global education systems to campus, and are in the process of applying for the Lang Opportunity Scholarship worth $10,000 to fund these efforts. The exponential growth and impact that ITSA has had foreshadows what collaborators envision to be “the possibility for not only regional change, but also a national remodeling.”

ITSA has freed students from traditional educational constraints, so much so that a student exclaimed, “It’s like we actually have freedom of speech here!”

Reasons to see indie film “Weekend” this weekend

in Campus Journal/Columns by
Indie film “Weekend” lingers on the connection between two gay men after a one-night stand. (Courtesy of www.lasplash.com)

There is a raging maniac urgency underneath the cucumber-cool surface of the limited-release Indie film — you know the type. We presuppose these “quiet” and “thought-provoking” and often “foreign” films to have a stable niche audience of art school students and masochistic yuppies — but they don’t. From the increasingly corporate festival circuit to the please-buy-me distributor dance to the inertia of limited-release invisibility, the Indie is always fighting for survival in an incredibly vicious market. This viciousness is masked by a certain bourgie-bohemian “oh whatever, art is art, money’s no matter” sensibility which in the end does nothing to mitigate the dollars-and-cents realities of film production — capitalism’s still capitalism even when it’s arthouse.

Alright, further preambling be damned — I’ll cut to the chase. You should all trek to Philly to see Andrew Haigh’s “Weekend,” playing at the Ritz Bourse (400 Ranstead Street). I would tell you how long it’s going to be in theatres except, well, I can’t. Because the smaller “niche” cinemas that show these “quiet/thought-provoking/foreign” films have bills to pay too; they only keep movies around as long as they are economically viable. Of course, this is true of every cinema, from multiplexes to drive-ins, but for Indie movies this means really rapid traffic and really brief theatrical releases. This circuit of temporariness is one version of Indie Hell (another version of Indie Hell would be the forced viewing of “Clerks” forever and ever, but this is a semantic distinction).

So I would urge you once again to go see “Weekend” if you are looking for something to do in Philly this, ahem, weekend. I even have two highly persuasive reasons. One, it’s good. Two, it’s politically significant in very exciting ways.

“Weekend” is about two gay men (in Manchester? I think? It’s never clear) who meet for a one night stand and proceed to spend the next 48 hours or so together. Both in plot and aesthetics, “Weekend” borrows lightly from other movies dealing with temporary but meaningful connections (it is especially indebted to Sophia Coppola’s “Lost in Translation” for its sense of timing) but it is something entirely new and wonderful: fleeting and weighty, meditative and mischievous, it’s just really really good.

Russel, played by Tom Cullen, is a semi-closeted man whose discomfort and alienation even among his best friend’s family is so palpable it hurts. He mumbles and smiles and suffers, generally lost amidst the happy straight folk in his life. Enter Glenn (Chris New) whose politics, artistic proclivities and queer-and-here energy catalyzes something radical in Russel.

The emotional intensity is couched within a necessary impermanence: Glenn is leaving on Sunday for Portland, where he’ll live for two years. It sounds half like emotionally misanthropic neorealism, and half like a schmaltzy love-conquers-distance rom-com, but it’s neither. A friend with whom I saw the movie put it this way: people are happy and unhappy, funny and unfunny, performative and devastatingly sincere and “Weekend” captures this balance beautifully. It’s just very human.

And the performances are exceptional. Reviewers have been drawing attention to the theatricality of the movie, calling it a “chamber play” or a “chamber drama,” which is generally pretty annoying and meaningless but in “Weekend” actually works. Both Cullen and New are trained in the hyper-British “Royal School of X” tradition, and the magnetism of the film’s pacing has a lot to do with their ability to subtly transfigure small spaces during Haigh’s unwavering long takes. Instead of relying on montage to sustain tension, Haigh’s static camera allows dialogue and physicality to take center-stage. The effect is hypnotic.

So yes it’s good, but why is “Weekend” politically novel? Well, for one thing it’s very aware of its stakes — what queer cinema looks like, if it looks like anything at all — but it is resolutely unpreachy. Glenn repeatedly refers to the ubiquitous telling of straight storylines (actually, he’s a bit of a Swattie, which is both appealing and horrifying), so much so that it becomes a form of redundant self-reflexivity.

You begin to understand that Haigh is envisioning not just queer subjects but queer narrative. And the documentation and “telling” of stories is intractably linked to plot development: Glenn records his partners the morning after every sexual encounter, hoping to create an archival artistic installment that he bemoans “no straights will attend” (a coyly self-aware commentary on “Weekend” and its own chances at the box office). And Russell keeps a diary to the same effect, though it is not meant as public epistolary — as public in any way — the way Glenn’s art project is. Instead, he shares it with Glenn and Glenn only.

But how is this story, of two white able-bodied gay men who briefly meet then go their separate ways, radical or insightful? Placing “Weekend” within the context of Hollywood gay representation, one appreciates the extent to which Haigh engages coming-out narratives in significantly new ways. Other high-profile gay- or trans-themed films end with death, rupture, tragedy (“Brokeback Mountain,” “Milk,” “Boys Don’t Cry” and others and others and others).

In gay public media, we have two formulations: LGBTQ organizations that articulate coming out as life, and Hollywood storylines that associate outing with death. “Weekend” is much more contemplative about what queer “telling” entails, suggesting it is less about ponderous inevitable narratives than about ephemeral connectivity, contradiction and uncertainty — about stories without final endings. Let us hope that, after his first feature, Andrew Haigh’s stories are still largely untold.

Nolan is a senior. You can reach him at ngear1@swarthmore.edu.

Alumni panel reflects on Quaker ties to activism

in Around Campus/Campus Journal by
Margaret Perry ’08, Cynthia Richie-Terrell ’86, John Braxton ’70 and Mark Harris ’08 (not pictured) return to campus to discuss connections between Quakerism and activism that they have encountered after Swarthmore. (Julia Carleton/The Phoenix)

On Monday evening a panel of Quaker alumni held a discussion about activism and faith in the Scheuer Room of Kohlberg Hall. The Quaker Activist Alumni Panel consisted of four panelists invited back to campus by Joyce Tompkins, a campus Religious Advisor: Mark Harris ’08, Cynthia Richie-Terrell ’86, John Braxton ’70 and Margaret Perry ’08.

The panelists came from a variety of personal experiences and backgrounds, but all mainly focused on the connection between Quakerism and activism. Panelists focused on important themes in both Quaker and activist life — resistance, history, family and dialogue.

The event was prefaced by a call for a moment of silence. After a pause, President Rebecca Chopp gave a brief speech about the importance of examining things like Swarthmore’s Quaker heritage in the “wake of strategic planning.” She also introduced the invited panelists and their detailed their activist accomplishments at and beyond Swarthmore.

Cynthia Richie-Terrell ’86 was the first panelist to speak, and she began with a quote by George Fox, an important Quaker theologian whose writings are central to modern Quaker faith and practice. Richie-Terrell explained that “let your life speak” is an often-quoted tenant of Quaker thinking, which encourages a spirit of activism in one’s life. The panelist then detailed her family’s long history of activism and how this crucial element of “family history” influenced her life today.

Ritchie-Terrell added anecdotes about her own activism at and beyond Swarthmore, including the “profound work” of speaking out against the apartheid. Echoing sentiments introduced by President Chopp earlier that evening, the panelist described Swarthmore as a “leader in things intellectual, as well as in having a huge endowment” and that these resources should be put towards promoting social change. Richie-Terrell further noted that by “asking the hard questions that need to be asked” activism can help enact “positive social change.”

The second panelist was Margaret Perry ‘08, a recent graduate of Swarthmore who has spent time teaching in Malaysia. She shared a moving anecdote about stepping on oil waste, discharge of deep-sea dumping, on the beach one day. To Perry, stories like these are part of “Quaker heritage as experience, subjective absolute experiences.”

One additional experience of importance that Perry chose to relate was about her early introduction to the faith. As a homeschooled child in a Quaker household, she learned early on about testimonies, Quaker documents recounting belief in everyday life, and was especially struck by the “equality testimony.” Perry described the testimony as “humbling and empowering,” because equality reminds one that no one is better than any one else. The speaker concluded her introduction by telling Quakers that activism means continuing to ask, “What do I believe?”

Mark Harris ’08 is a current member of the Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches, an ecumenical consortium of Christian denominations. As the Quaker representative of this body, Harris facilitates dialogue and discussion between a variety of religious groups. The bulk of his presentation focused on the Quaker faith as it exists in a modern global context — faith outside a vacuum. Consequently, Harris focused on Quakerism as “both relational and theological. Both categories drive the other.”

Theology, according to Harris, is something that Quakers are generally afraid to talk about, but it is an extremely unique aspect of the faith. Though a “robust holy spirit” is not unique to Quakerism, the spirit’s “work in human lives and human history” is its most important theological idea. He added that this ability to look for the worth in all religions is a positive benefit for interfaith dialogue, which in itself is a form of activism.

The final speaker was John Braxton, who shared remarkable personal experiences about his time during the Vietnam War. Serving on a medical supply ship, “The Phoenix,” Braxton delivered medicine to both the North and South Vietnamese, risking his own life as well as committing an act of “civil disobedience.” He added that the climate of the war tested his idea of “what it means to be a Quaker in a time of war.”

Moreover, by leaving Swarthmore for longer than one semester, Braxton lost the right to student deferment — an exemption to the draft for students attending secondary education. As a conscientious objector, Braxton was not required to serve in direct combat, an exception that he regarded as humorous. While ruminating about these ideas at 16th St Meeting, he saw Swarthmore Professor George Lakey dispose of his draft card, inspiring Braxton to do the same. Braxton quoted Lakey as saying, “There comes a time when one can no longer resist.”

Since this is illegal, Braxton served 17 months in federal prison. He concluded his talk by offering a quote on actions for future Quakers. “Quaker values mean being revolutionary. Confronting the structure that makes wars possible.”

In a concluding question-and-answer session, the panelists spoke candidly about a variety of issues, including Quakerism’s role in Swarthmore’s strategic planning. Harris spoke about the importance of religious literacy for encouraging tolerance in an institution, and Richie-Terrell called for leaders to “raise hard questions” and challenge the status quo. Perry echoed similar sentiments. “For an institution that is educating human beings, not just marines, it’s important to talk about integrity.”

Members of the local Quaker and campus communities, including a newly reformed Swarthmore Student Quaker group, asked further questions about a larger student history on campus. The evening concluded with a reflection on both the past and future for Quakerism, activism and their connection to the Swarthmore community.

QSA, SQU commemorate Coming Out Week 2011

in Around Campus/Campus Journal by

Events highlighted LGBTQ issues at Swarthmore and beyond

QSA sponsored a fashion show and auction for charity in honor of Coming Out Week. (Julia Carleton/The Phoenix)

Few people — Swarthmore students among them — complain about getting time off for holidays. From Christmas to Independence Day, there are eleven U.S. Federal holidays that have been recognized by acts of Congress. Many are symbolic of American culture or honor great American leaders. Some were controversial in their time — it took more than a decade after Martin Luther King Jr.’s death for his birthday to be recognized as a national holiday, while some holidays are still controversial, such as Columbus Day, which celebrates the landing of Columbus in the new world, an event which many see as honoring the destruction of America’s native peoples. One of the many holidays that is not federally recognized is one that is recognized every year at Swarthmore — National Coming Out Day, which at Swarthmore took place from week of October 3 through October 7 this year.

Coming Out Week at Swarthmore is sponsored by a consortium of groups, including the Swarthmore Queer Union (SQU), COLORS and the Queer Straight Alliance (QSA). It has been held during early October since 1995, and is one of two weeks designed to highlight the LGBTQ community along with the Sager Symposium in the spring semester. Events range from talks by speakers and panelists to movie showings, to community gatherings. This year, students and faculty engaged in a public panel discussion, held a candlelight vigil for LGBTQ people who have committed suicide and ran a workshop about Transgender issues.

“Coming Out Week on Swat’s campus is … a fun way to actively try to build the open and safe campus and wider community we desire and also to educate people about the obstacles in our way,” said Ian Perkins-Taylor ’13, SQU and QSA treasurer and organizer of Coming Out Week. “For example, several people on the Coming Out Week planning committee were very adamant about including trans issues in this year’s week since Swat is not nearly as trans friendly as it is queer friendly, and the Trans Issues and Ally Workshop was one of my favorite events of the week.”

Another event was a bagel brunch hosted by Hillel where students watched the film “Hineini.” “[The movie] was about students’ process of reconciling her religious identity and sexual orientation, and then starting a gay straight alliance at her Boston-area Jewish high school,” Perkins-Taylor said. “This means a lot to me because Coming Out Week is all about pride: pride in yourself and your identity, but also pride in your community, and this sentiment shows me that people at Swat have this pride and want to share it with their home communities in order to make them safer for and more accepting of LGBTQ folk.”

Perhaps the most visible element of Coming Out Week is the chalking of the most commonly used paths around Parrish, McCabe and Sharples with slogans and ideas designed to raise awareness of LGBT issues to the Swarthmore community.

Previously, the chalking has caused controversy — including an article in InsideHigherEd — because of explicit sexual statements and pictures, but this year seems to have been relatively calm.

Of course, one of the core objectives of Coming Out week is not only to increase awareness about LGBT issues, but also to provide a designated, welcoming time for LGBT students to be open about their sexuality or gender if they aren’t already. The phrase “Coming Out” parodies early 20th century debutante’s parties to ‘come out’ into society. In a society that often assumes heterosexuality, coming out to friends, family and others can be difficult and stressful. By providing a time when others are actively encouraging them to come forward, Coming Out Week makes a difficult decision and conversation easier and supported for LGBT students. “Personally, I wanted Coming Out Week to bring awareness to some of the queer issues that are present on campus but not to do so in a scary, didactic manner,” said Bryan Chen ‘14, one of the event organizers.

The origins of Swarthmore’s Coming Out Week can be traced back to a half-million person 1987 National March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights. On the second day of the rally, Dr. Robert Eichberg, an activist and psychologist, gave a speech establishing October 11 as National Coming Out Day, which has since been observed in all 50 states. “Most people think they don’t know anyone gay or lesbian, and in fact everyone does. It is imperative that we come out and let people know who we are and disabuse them of their fears and stereotypes,” said Dr. Eichberg in an interview with The New York Times in 1993.

Since the original rally in 1987, Coming Out Day has been held throughout the US and across the globe, spurring greater understanding and knowledge of the LGBT community. However, work remains to be done in terms of awareness and safety for LGBT students in the United States. Swarthmore is one of few universities nationwide with a Coming Out Week — in fact, according to Psychology Today, only 7% of colleges across the country have resources for LGBT students. Swarthmore has multiple LGBT affiliated organizations that are associated with the Intercultural Center. “National Coming Out Day, which always occurs during fall break, is pretty well known in larger queer communities, which usually hold pride parades and events around the day, but it is certainly not as well known in general as Coming Out Week is on Swat’s campus,” Perkins-Taylor said. “I think that as the national and international community becomes more aware of queer issues, the day will become more well known.”

Following the 1987 establishment of Coming Out Day, the movement has spread across the United States and became an international phenomenon. This year, Coming Out Day was celebrated in Germany, Canada, Switzerland, and Britain on October 11. Yet still, in Parrish but not in Congress is Coming Out Day recognized.

Adding beans’ fiber and protein goodness to brownies

in Campus Journal/Columns by
Lauren’s recipe for Black Bean Brownies.

Hope you all had a wonderful fall break. Swarthmore was blessed with beautiful weather. Of course, my body chose this time to get sick, but I took full advantage of the warmth for a good part of the break. As my condition worsened, I lost my appetite for everything except chocolate. Good quality, savory, dark chocolate… really soothes the soul.

Speaking of which, I’d been meaning to use some of the chocolate I had to make brownies some time. Banana brownies, one of my favorites, would have been top on the list if I hadn’t remembered a recipe that a good friend of mine recommended to me for this week’s baking endeavor.

This recipe comes from a cooking blog she came across one day, called “101 Cookbooks.” The author, Heidi Swanson, seems to really enjoy making healthy recipes and emphasizes using organic or other healthy alternatives to commonly used ingredients. From herb scrambled eggs to cucumber peanut salad, she has a great variety of highly original recipes that would be fun to experiment with when you have the time. I highly recommend that you baking/cooking fans check out her blog at www.101cookbooks.com.

Our special guest for today’s treat is the black bean. So small and yet packed with nutrients, fiber and protein. I guess it’s nature’s way to provide some of the really ‘good stuff’ in small quantities, just to keep you coming back for more.

Now that I think back on the foods I’ve eaten, the black bean is a key ingredient to many dishes I am partial to. For one thing, I always get the black bean burger and bean salad at Sharples when I get the opportunity. (And if you’ve always wondered why black beans in particular are used as meat substitutes, the beans are rich in protein, iron and vitamin B.)

And it also helps that I grew up in a Korean food culture, which uses black beans in many ways: black bean paste stew, noodles made from black bean and the popular black bean soy drink. And because the black bean is so rich in fiber, even just a small portion of any of these foods will leave you reasonably satisfied.

It never occurred to me to add these to sweet foods, but the more I looked over the recipe, the more I felt that it was natural to add black beans to brownies. I anticipate that the beans will give the brownies an even softer and denser texture, so that you can really sink your teeth into them. And it just gets better. According to Swanson, the black bean taste isn’t even perceptible in these brownies, and the black bean batter “really worked.” I’m really excited to try these now.

Still not convinced? Black beans help regulate normal blood sugar levels, and they can help prevent heart disease, diabetes and digestive problems. Just think: you get to enjoy these health benefits at the same time that you satisfy your sweets cravings.

Lauren is a junior. Please submit any recipes you would like to share with Lauren for her to try out for her next column by e-mailing her at lkim1@swarthmore.edu.

What do I? How do I? Your sex questions answered

in Campus Journal/Columns by

I’ll be dedicating this week’s column to answering reader questions. You can submit your questions anonymously online at swarthmorephoenix.com/sexed.

What do you do when you walk in on your parents having sex?

Oh, that’s a sticky situation — in more ways than one! I know that it can be hard the first time you realize that your parents are not Barbie and Ken. They are built anatomically correct. Worse still, they use those “correct parts” to do things that just seem so wrong. But, rest assured, these things are not wrong and your parents want to get down just as much as you do.

So, what do you do? It really depends on what your relationship with your parents is like and how open your parents are. I’m going to assume that, when it comes to sex, you and your parents don’t talk casually about your respective sex lives with one another.

Now, if you barge into their room when the door is closed and they’re playing hide the salami, just walk away as fast and discreetly as you can. Your parents have a right to bone in the privacy of their room without worrying about you. You are intruding on a private affair and (hopefully) you weren’t invited. Flee the scene, hoping that you are still having sex at their age, and treat yourself to an ice cream cone or something for the trauma. Do not disturb them or interrupt. This is your mistake. Next time, realize your parents’ right to privacy and knock very loudly.

However, if this is a midday, afternoon delight on the living room sofa sort of deal, no discretion necessary. Make sure that they know you are there. Still, walk away as quickly as possible, but slam the door, or clear your throat loudly as you go away, or stomp up the stairs or do something that lets them know that you are there.

This is your way of saying, “Can you guys please remember that I’m here this week and take that shit inside?” You have the right not to walk in on your parents’ love-smash in communal places as much as they have a right to smash away in their private places. Chances are, if they see/hear you there, they will be more cautious next time.

If they bring it up in conversation (all superior forces forbid!), just laugh it off. Say it was no big deal, but you would really, really, really love it if you never had to see that again. Don’t, by any means, make them feel bad about it (especially, if you were intruding on their privacy). It’s not your job to make anyone feel guilty about sex. There are enough people in this damn country to do that already.

Everyone tells me that lesbian sex will be easier than straight sex, because “You have the same parts! You know what feels good! You’ll know what to do.” But knowing what feels good on my body is really different from a) having the dexterity/tongue skills to do it, and b) different from knowing what will feel good for HER. Help? -Scared.

Scared, sex should be enjoyable! If you are ever feeling ‘scared’ or pressured, just take a step back and proceed as your comfort allows.

Sex, whether straight, lesbian or otherwise, is an adventure. Don’t have lesbian sex because you think it will be the easy way out. It isn’t. Do it because it’s what you want to do and you’ve found a partner whom you want to do it with. If it does genuinely interest you, I advise you to find someone and, because of your apprehension, get to know them a bit and become comfortable with them before you have sex. This way, you can feel free to talk with them openly about sex, what you are ‘scared’ of, what you want, and your comfort level.

The logic that your friends are using is that straight sex is more difficult because each partner has different parts. However, as you point out, there are intricacies to lesbian sex, too.

Now, yes, you may feel more comfortable with the genitals of someone of the same sex because you have similar ones. You’ll be able to easily identify her passion nub and the vaginal opening … but that’s about it. Having the same body parts doesn’t necessarily mean you know what someone likes, another point that you make. Like I always say, everyone likes something different.

Further, cunnilingus skills are not a recognized Darwinian adaption. No one is born with an innate knowledge of how to munch a carpet, whether you are male or female. That’s something learned over time with practice and patience and changes with each partner. That dexterity and those tongue skills will only come with experience.

So, Scared, allow yourself some room to not know what you’re doing. Communicate with your partner about your apprehensions and explain that you just want free reign to explore without the pressure to be a tongue-twizzling goddess. Chances are, she will feel similarly or will understand your feelings because she once went through the same thing.

Once you’ve gotten it all out in the open, just start slow and have fun with it. This can translate into gettin’ on down there, Jacques Cousteau style, and exploring the deep or just talking dirty. There is no need to jump right to oral sex or penetration. Things like mutual masturbation, fantasizing or dry humping will give you the opportunity to get an idea of what your partner likes so that, when you do go deep sea diving, you know where to start.

Non-penetrative sex is also a great way to become intimate and build trust with someone before taking the plunge. Consult my columns on non-penetrative sex, penetration, and oral sex (all on The Phoenix website) for more specific details.

I know that the Swattie mentality is that you must surpass every expectation all the time, but, remember, you cannot get an ‘A’ on the exam if you’ve never been to a lecture. So, Scared, start attending those classes.

How do you know so much about sex?

When I started writing this column, I promised myself two things: 1) I would never publish anything that I would be too embarrassed to let my father read and 2) I would try never to write about things I haven’t experienced myself or give advice that I wouldn’t take. These stipulations prohibit me from answering this question. But, I think I’ve said enough.

Vianca is a junior. You can reach her at vmasucc1@swarthmore.edu.

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