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Making the Best of It: Crochet Resources

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Whether you believe or not, spring break is finally within reach! Ten days of free time, here we come! With all that free time, it’s the perfect opportunity to pick up a new hobby that will give you a break from all that mind-numbing reading and help keep you awake in lectures once we’re forced to come back. What is this you ask? Crochet!  I know it sounds daunting, difficult, and maybe even dangerous, but crochet really is something that you can learn to do and enjoy. Don’t worry, I’ll point you in the right direction and be there to help you every step of the way.


First for some basics. Crochet is a method of making fabric by tying together some sort of fiber, usually yarn, together using a set of loops and a hook. It’s a method used by people all around the world, from Russia, Chile, Japan, Syria, Ireland and everywhere in between. Much like knitting, it can be used to make a variety of clothing, accessories, home goods, toys, and pretty much anything else you put your mind to. Unlike knitting, crochet is not possible to make using a machine and also uses about a third more yarn.


It doesn’t take many materials to get started, and they’re all relatively easy to find, if you know where to look. The easiest place to get what you need is to go to a store, such as Michael’s or Joann’s. The employees will be able to help you if you have any questions and they have a great variety for getting started. If you don’t want to leave the comfort of your home, there are lots of online stores too. Some of my favorites include KnitPicks, LoveCrochet, Wool and the Gang, and Herrschners. You can also find a small amount of supplies on Amazon, which are sufficient for getting started. However, I would not recommend relying on getting your yarn there for most pieces as their selection is small and generally of poor quality.


There are a few supplies that you will need to get started. The most obvious one is yarn. The best kind for beginners is one that you can easily undo if you make mistakes on your first piece (and believe me, you will, and that’s OK). These are yarns that are twisted tightly, easy to get more of, and not hairy. Red Heart brand yarn specifically their “Super Saver” line is a great first yarn as it comes in a huge variety of standard colors and is easy to undo. However, it is acrylic, meaning it’s made of a man-made, petroleum-based fiber. If you want a natural fiber, Cascade brand yarn is made with different kinds of wool from sheep and alpaca; I would recommend their 220 line to start. Lots of patterns for beginners will tell you exactly the brand to get too, which you can also do if you want to use a pattern.


You’ll also need hooks. You can use either plastic or aluminum hooks to begin with since both are smooth and durable; I would not recommend wood hooks because they can snag the yarn, making them harder for beginners to use. The other thing you’ll need are stitch markers, which you use to keep track of counting when you do circular or big pieces.Everything else you need might already be in your desk drawer: this includes a ruler and scissors.  However, don’t buy anything until you see what your instructions call for.


Finding beginner instructions is extremely easy. Searching “how to crochet for beginners” on Youtube will bring up a variety of different step-by-step tutorials and starting projects. If you don’t want to weed through all of these results, finding a single blog with tutorials helps too. My personal favorite is Mooglyblog.com. In addition, Amazon Prime offers a video class included in your membership. There are also websites that specialize in video crafting classes. My favorite is Craftsy, where you can buy a single video series and watch it as many times as you want. They also have helpful forums you can use to get help. Another option is CreativeBug, which requires a subscription, but once you have one you have access to all kinds of classes.


You can also go old-school (*gasp!*) and learn through books and human interaction. Most books of patterns have tutorials at the beginning of them, but they aren’t always comprehensive enough to learn from scratch unless the whole book is labeled “for beginners.” Generally, you want something with lots of illustrations. A great beginner’s book is “Chicks with Sticks Guide to Crochet,” which has a variety of different patterns and plenty of pictures. Don’t be afraid to check out your local library or Barnes & Noble either, as they will have more than you think. To find someone to teach you in person, you can either ask around to find someone to help or go to store and sign up for a class.


Okay, so you have supplies and you have instructions on doing stitches. Now for your first project! Most classes have set projects you can make, but if you are using Youtube videos that don’t give a specific pattern, the easiest thing to make is a scarf. This way you don’t have to focus on reading a pattern, but can work on using that hook and making the stitches. Using your yarn and a 4.0mm hook, make a chain the width you want the scarf; your instructions will show you how to do this. Then work on doing single crochets, the smallest stitch in crochet. After you get about a third of the length of your scarf, you can switch to half-double crochet, the medium sized stitch, and then move on to double crochet, the tallest crochet stitch.


If this scarf doesn’t catch your fancy, other easy things you can make and find patterns for include hats, fingerless gloves, blankets, bags, and mug cozies. Googling what you want followed by “for complete beginners” should give you what you need.


There is also an amazing site called Ravelry that is home to an international fiber art community. On it you can find forums for help, patterns, make a catalogue of the yarn you own, and keep track of the projects you make. It is as nerdy as it sounds, but it is super helpful and easy to use. You can find me on it as bessbg23, so feel free to reach out using the messaging if you need help!


Before I send you forth into the world to start your crochet journey, I want to leave you with a few words of encouragement. Learning it may be a challenge, but don’t give up! If one method of learning doesn’t work, try something else or a combination of resources. I know you can do it. At the same time, remember to take a break if you need it. There will be times where you’ll be frustrated and want to throw the whole thing in the garbage, but set it aside for a while and come back when you’ve calmed down. You will need to undo what you’ve done sometimes because of mistakes and that’s okay. Really, it is, and you will finish that piece eventually. As a word of caution, you will get tangled up at some point, but this is part of initiation into the world of yarn. Don’t squirm too much, ask for help getting untangled, and if all else fails cut yourself out and start over. Finally, if you’re called a grandma, own it! There’s nothing wrong with knowing how to make things, and there are plenty of us young’uns who make.


Now, go forth and make

The Longer the Better? Albums and Music in the Age of Streaming

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On Jan. 26, Migos released “Culture II,” the sequel to their 2017 hit “Culture.” In many ways, “Culture II” sounded exactly like its predecessor, with its palette of moody trap beats, A-list features, triplet flows, and a healthy collection of Audemars Piguet watches. However, the two projects had one major difference: their length. Running an arduous 106 minutes over 24 tracks, “Culture II” was a long, bloated step down from “Culture” and its relatively compact tracklisting. Migos’ most recent effort, with an additional 11 tracks, was 50 minutes longer than their 2017 release. Long albums certainly aren’t an anomaly within the music industry; however, artists are increasingly releasing longer and longer albums. Ultimately, artists are trying to inflate their album sales by racking up streams on arduously long albums and exploiting the Billboard charts. While previously uncommon, more and more artists are putting out enormous, bloated albums to the detriment of their artistry.

To fully understand why long albums are financially beneficial to artists, the Billboard ranking criteria must be closely examined. According to Billboard, for an album to generate one “sale” on a streaming service, such as Spotify or Apple Music, songs must be played 1,500 times. The listener can choose to listen to the whole project or just one song. As long they generate 1,500 streams, a sale is added to the album’s Billboard ranking. So, if someone were to listen to “Culture,” they would have to play it around 115 times front to back before a sale was registered. “Culture II” in contrast would only have to be played 63 times to yield the same statistical boost to the Billboard count. In this way, people who simply play a long album and let it run its course end up being drastically more beneficial, allowing the album to stay on the charts longer and maintain its popularity and buzz.

Migos aren’t the only artists opting to put out longer projects. The trend appears to be concentrated in hip hop and R&B; artists such as Lil Yachty, Lil Uzi Vert, Jhene Aiko, and Drake have been releasing longer and longer material. Lil Yachty’s most recent project was 30 minutes longer than his debut. Lil Uzi Vert’s “Luv is Rage 2” was 20 minutes longer than the original “Luv is Rage,” and a half hour longer than “Lil Uzi Vert vs. the World” and “The Perfect Luv Tape.” Drake is an interesting case in that he has been exploiting the streaming loophole since 2016. His album “Views” was an arduous 90 minutes, ending with his ubiquitous hit “Hotline Bling.” The addition of “Hotline Bling” to the tracklisting is especially important, as Drake would have known that the song (which was nearly a year old when “Views” released) would continue to see heavy streaming. By adding “Hotline Bling” to the tracklisting Drake boosted his Billboard charting significantly, capitalizing on the population of listeners who just wanted to play “Hotline Bling.” The most egregious example of stream farming, however, is the most recent Chris Brown album, which boasted 45 tracks  running for 3 hours and 19 minutes, and a note from the artist to “leave the album on repeat.” If it wasn’t clear before, Chris Brown certainly signalled that artists are well aware of how to game the Billboard system.

It’s evident that artists are catching on to the trend of boosting their Billboard stats with longer albums, but the question of whether listeners should be concerned is another matter entirely. While artists certainly generate more revenue with these projects,  the decision to lengthen albums is hurtful to the artform. Artists are tacking songs onto their albums to rack up streams, creating a relatively disposable listening experience. Granted, not every artist is interested in producing a concise and cohesive album, but one would be hard-pressed to find a Lil Yachty or Migos fan who prefers their recent output to the more engaging (if shorter) “Culture” and “Lil Boat.” Ultimately, reform is necessary on the part of the Billboard charts. An artist shouldn’t have to be three times as popular as another artist in order for them to chart higher with a shorter album. This is not to say that artists should be forced to produce short bodies of work, only that those who choose to do so should not see charting as an unattainable goal. Streaming has undeniably changed the face of music today. However, listeners may not be doomed to sit through 100 minute projects until the end of their days. The new Lil Yachty release “Lil Boat 2,” expected soon, is 17 tracks long. While not a brief album by any means, “Lil Boat 2” will be six tracks shorter than “Teenage Emotions” after the latter was almost universally panned by critics and fans. It’s too early to say, but perhaps things are moving in the right direction.


David Corcoran: A Life in Journalism

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Last Friday, nearly 60 people huddled in the Lang Performing Arts Center Cinema. Some were there to hide from Winter Storm Riley and the accompanying blackout afflicting other parts of campus. Others were there for the free dinner and complimentary copy of “The New York Times Book of Science.” Everyone, however, was eagerly awaiting a presentation by David Corcoran.

Corcoran was the editor of Science Times, the weekly science section of The New York Times, from 1988 to 2014. He is currently associate director of the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A graduate of Amherst College, Corcoran’s foray into journalism appeals to aspiring journalists at Swarthmore eager to start their career after a liberal arts education.

Witty and engaging, Corcoran captured the audience’s attention with humorous anecdotes about his humble beginnings.

“When I was younger, most people thought Superman was their hero. My hero was Clark Kent,” he said.

Growing up in a family of avid New York Times readers, Corcoran wanted his articles delivered to and read by households across the country. He started writing his first stories in high school, covering basketball games for his small local paper in New Jersey.

After college, he worked at The Record, a paper based in North Jersey. At The Record, he was an editorial page editor for 10 years.

“A lot of my tasks as a journalist involved answering e-mails and complaints from readers. As you can imagine, we got a lot of them,” he said.

Throughout the 1970s, Corcoran became interested in science-related news, from the burgeoning environmentalist movement to the lives of endangered whales.

“The environmentalist movement was a big deal, and people cared about that. We had no trouble publishing those stories,” he said.

Corcoran cites John McPhee, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and prolific author, as one of his sources of inspiration. McPhee writes about a diverse range of topics, from plate tectonics to the Alaskan wilderness.

At The New York Times, Corcoran began as a copy editor, and eventually moved to the Science Times because of his his deep passion for science. Apart from editing and writing articles, Corcoran also hosted the Science Times podcast, which he worked on with a fellow producer. He is currently hosting “Undark: Truth, Beauty, Science,” a podcast exploring how science interacts with broader society, and discusses a broad range of topics, including hydroelectricity and ancient civilizations in Nubia.

When asked about how he chose topics to cover in his articles, Corcoran replied, “I think it’s a matter of instinct. Something seems important because it affects a lot of people’s lives, or maybe scientists discovered something that nobody knew. Anybody who works in news develops an instinct for it. That’s why we work in news because we feel like we know what’s important and want to communicate that.”

Although Corcoran has retired from the Science Times, he edited “The New York Times Book of Science,” a collection of the top science stories in the past 150 years, published in 2015.

“Science is as important as it ever was, maybe even more so because of climate change. I think that climate change is the biggest story of our time, and if you are a responsible citizen, you care about climate change. And people do, if you look at the comments sections of news. People are really engaged. Some people are wilfully ignorant, but I think that has always been the case,” he said.

Over the years, Corcoran observed that things have changed at a dizzying pace, especially the business models of major newspapers.

“Classified ads used to be huge profit centers for newspapers, but they vanished overnight when Craigslist came along. You woke up one morning and they were gone. Display ads, such as those for Bloomingdale’s, slowly dropped away. Revenue and money that were used to pay our salaries was going away,” Corcoran explained.

“The New York Times is doing quite well, but since 2004, the US has lost 50 daily newspapers and  hundreds of weekly newspapers. The number of people employed in the newspaper business was half of that in the 1990s,” he said.

Despite the looming economic uncertainty over journalism, Corcoran remains optimistic about its quality.

“I don’t see a big collapse in the quality of journalism. You’d think that if the money wasn’t there, there wouldn’t be good journalism. In some sense, that’s true, for example when news outlets close down. But for the national news and things we care about, I don’t see this decline,” he said.

Corcoran also thinks highly of specific news sites which continue to uphold journalistic excellence.

“The New York Times is different from the way it was when I was there, but I think it’s good, if not better. The Washington Post is a lot better. Along comes a couple of outlets that didn’t exist before, such as Vox, and they all do quality journalism, not to mention nonprofit news sites. I’m encouraged by that,” he said.

Upon reflecting on his experiences, Corcoran offers some pragmatic advice for Swarthmore students intending to follow in his footsteps.

“I hope you will do what I do, which is to follow your interest. I was passionate about news at a young age. I became a journalist and have never been sorry that I did. I would probably make more money and have more regular hours in another profession, but wouldn’t have been as happy,” he said.

Although he encourages students to pursue their passion, Corcoran also cautions them about the potential difficulty of finding a job.

“But it’s not so easy now. It was easy for me to get hired and get my first full-time job, but it isn’t easy anymore. Most of you are going to graduate from this elite school and that is not going to hurt you, but it’s not easy to find gainful employment which puts food on the table, especially in this business.”  

Aside from job searching, Corcoran highlights student debt as a possible concern.  

“If you’re interested in science journalism, you can go to science graduate programs, but you must be careful to not be saddled with too much student debt. You need to pay off debt, rent, and food. All of a sudden, you have to do work that you don’t want to do, which stands in the way of serious journalism.”


Editor’s Note: This event was organized by Keton Kakkar, with the help of the Forum for Free Speech.

Attendance at the event was said to be around a 100 people when published and has been changed to more accurately reflect event attendance. (March 9th 2018)

The Power of Women: The Red Lips Project

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On Friday, Feb. 23, I walked from Parrish to one of my favorite places on campus: the Women’s Resource Center. As I got closer, I could see the strings of light hanging in the windows of the second floor contrasting with the darkness of the evening.  When I entered, I was greeted by the comfortable vibe radiating from the WRC.

I walked up the stairs to see people strategically placing lamps on the floor and spreading lipsticks out on the table to the sounds of Beyoncé. A photographer walked around the room, testing the lighting to ensure the area was ready for all the photos that were about to be taken. I had entered the Red Lips Project.

The Red Lips Project was founded by Swarthmore alumna Aditi Kulkarni  ̇̕17 after her sophomore year. The project came from simple beginnings, later developing into the powerful movement that it is today.

“I felt like in my life, there wasn’t necessarily a space for me and my friends to kind of be open about how powerful they were, and I didn’t like that, and I wanted to see that change. I’ve always been really interested in photography and I’ve loved taking pictures of my friends,” Kulkarni said, discussing the conception of her project. “So it sort of just started with me wanting to take pictures of my friends and I thought that red lipstick was a really powerful way to show off the intrinsic strength present in all women.”

On Friday, however, there wasn’t just red lipstick; there was a multitude of shades so those who came could choose the color that best suited them. After applying their chosen color, often with the help of a friend, Kulkarni would then take the attendee’s photo. Once the photo was taken, they would then move on to one of the most moving aspects of Kulkarni’s project.

The next portion of one’s participation in the project is perhaps the most difficult. After having their photo taken, attendees would be recorded answering a single question: “What makes you feel powerful?” This seemingly simple, succinct question is incredibly thought-provoking and can bring about incredible answers.

“I loved the photos. But I didn’t want it to just be about the photos,” Kulkarni explained. “I wanted it to kind of show their stories, so I thought that a quote about what makes them feel powerful accompanying the photo would be the best way to kind of showcase that.”

During her time at Swarthmore, Kulkarni’s project had to slow down due to the hectic nature of college life. After graduating, she was able to bring the Red Lips Project back to life. Though having more time to pursue the project was important, Kulkarni was also strongly motivated to create a space for women to feel powerful as a result of the election and the topics of discussion that are so often on the news. Kulkarni also spoke of the Me Too movement and the inspiration it provided to her, especially since their goals are similar.

Citlali Pizarro ̕ 20, the diversity peer advisor for the WRC, played a key role in bringing the Red Lips Project to Swarthmore for the relaunch. Pizarro has been working with Kulkarni on the project, giving her feedback and ideas.

“It reminds me of all the strong women in my life,” Pizarro said, discussing the project’s meaning. “It reminds me of [Kulkarni’s] strength, it reminds me of the strength of all the women who raised me, and it keeps me grounded.”

Pizarro shared one of the powerful women she sees in her life, her mother.

“She’s an incredible woman who is incredibly powerful. She is a curator of art … and [is] into art as resistance. She taught me that art can be super powerful,” Pizarro explained.

Her mother’s passion for the arts has trickled into Pizarro’s life as well, as seen in her love of theater, poetry, and spoken word.

The importance of the space was lost on no one. For some, the experience was deeply personal and reflective. For others, it was empowering and joyful in its nature. Regardless, having the space was a powerful moment for everyone involved.

“A big part of my identity is that I’m a feminist,” shared Alliyah Lusuegro ̕ 20, who attended the event. “So I think being empowered and showing others through this social media project different, diverse faces of women who feel beautiful is a really great thing.”

Kulkarni’s goal of creating a space where women could feel empowered was undeniably reached on Friday. Even if you didn’t have a photo taken, the joy of everyone in the room was palpable. Seeing people’s eyes light up when they saw their photo was an incredible thing to witness. What made this event even more amazing was seeing that female-identifying people of all races came to the event, further showing that representation in the arts and in life matters.

Kulkarni hopes to see the movement grow and gain back the momentum it had during her time at Swarthmore.


Profiles in Art: Liya Harris-Harrell

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Swarthmore is filled with people from many different places and backgrounds, which means a plethora of stories can be told. One artist who is telling these stories is Liya Harris-Harrell ̕ 21. They are a prospective art and chemistry double major who has been drawing for most of their life. So far in their time at Swarthmore they have had their work featured in two art shows. Harris-Harrell has a unique, fun style that makes their work a pleasure to view and a great fit for this series. Not only that, but their style also allows for examination of the different emotions art can elicit.


“I would describe my art as, like, a really bubbly vibe. I think this is really captured by how I like to capture color in what I do, art wise,” Harris-Harrell explained. “I always try to use bright colors because I’ve been told that by others that my art makes them feel happy and I think that the colors are like a huge reason behind why I like to use bright colors.” Harris-Harrell does this with the pastels and light-hearted characters that fill their designs.


Harris-Harrell’s work comes from a mixture of inspiration from other artists along with their own unique take on art. They are passionate about designing and creating diverse characters and representative of the people in their life. Along with people around them, Gabriel Picolo, Laura Brouwers, and Jen Bartel are artists from whom Harris-Harrell draws inspiration.


“Being an artist to me means to be able to make art that you enjoy,” Harris-Harrell discussed. “I think that art should encompass what the artist finds inspiration in. Sometimes the art we make has a message, and sometimes it doesn’t, and that is okay.”


“I’ve always been interested in, like cartoons, as a kid, but I’ve gone in and out of drawing. I just got back into art at the end of senior year of high school when I got really into comic books,” Harris-Harrell explained.


They explained that their interest in art and potentially majoring in it became more serious last year. For Harris-Harrell art is a way to destress. Even though their interest in majoring in art is rather recent, their interest in art has been there for years.


“I think my first drawing was, like, My Little Pony fan art, because I was really into it in seventh grade,” Harris-Harrell reflected when thinking back to their earlier artworks. “It’s really embarrassing looking back at old art work that I did back in 2013, but I still have most of it, and I find myself going back when I have art block and redrawing it.”


For some artists it can be difficult to reflect on their past works, but for Harris-Harrell it shows them how they have progressed over time and gives them a sense of pride.


“My advice would be to focus on what you like to do, and not worry about if others will like it.”


Making the Best of It: A Talk with Tara

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One of the first makers that I met at Swarthmore my freshman year was found in an unexpected place: the freshman job fair. Costume shop manager Tara Webb ’ 94 was there looking for student shop assistants. I recently sat down with her in the shop to find out more about her experience making at Swarthmore, both during her years as an undergraduate and her recent years here working with students.


Webb’s mother was a weaver, and she grew up having a variety of materials around.


“[Crafting] was something I was given to do after school,” she said.


In high school Webb began drawing, weaving, and sewing for herself and her friends. Later she picked up embroidery and knitting. Swat, however was a different story.


“I didn’t have as much time to make because it’s, you know, Swat,” she laughed.


Webb does recall making large collaborative watercolors with her friends that were “psychedelic mixes of styles.” The dorms she lived in at the time also had collaborative poetry steno pads in the lounge, where people would add lines when inspired and also leave notes for one another. Webb also found a creative outlet working in the costume shop as an assistant herself.


The LPAC costume shop was relatively new at the time, so her position as an assistant consisted mostly of organizing the large piles of clothing that didn’t yet have racks to go on. However, she still considers it a wonderful experience that led to an internship after graduation and, later on, a career in costuming and design. Working in the shop provided a chance to fit some making into her schedule and get paid as well.


Webb’s favorite medium to work with changes over time. Currently, she likes making her own natural fabric dyes out of food scraps such as avocado peels, a skill which she shared in dye workshops on campus this past fall. She also aims to have a sustainable wardrobe by cutting down on her clothing waste through upcycling and repairs. Knitting, however, is something she still enjoys, even if it’s a slow process, taking up to two years for a hat. Time is also a factor that plays into what kind of mediums she uses, like it does for many makers. While embroidery is something she loves, it is harder to fit in especially since she no longer commutes by train.


As for the changes in the making community here, Webb has observed that it changes drastically depending on the students on campus at the time. Psi Phi’s predecessor, SWILL hosted some crafting-oriented events along with LARPing (live action role playing). The Women’s Resource Center has been a prominent space for making and gathering as well. Various knitting groups and sewing centers have also come and gone on campus.


Another huge change she’s seen is with the ease of learning a new skill with the wide variety of online resources, especially YouTube.


“Before it had to be someone sitting and showing you, but now you can just look it up,” she says. This, she believes, is one of the reasons that there are more makers, which makes it so much easier to find other makers to befriend.


Webb also gave me a variety of recommendations for fun places to find supplies in Philly. For fabric, she recommends Gaffney’s on Germantown Avenue, Fabric Row on South 4th Street, and Jomar for discounted manufacturer quality fabric. Loop on South Street is the place to go for yarn.


This interview left me inspired and hopeful. There’s something about hearing about all the other options for making that others love that makes me want to try even more new mediums. While there may not be as much time to make here, there is a light at the end of the tunnel where there is a bit more time for making. And who knows, maybe there can be a career in it as well.


MGMT Leave Their “Little Dark Age” Behind

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A year ago, a new album from MGMT wouldn’t have been particularly highly anticipated, and it especially wouldn’t have been expected to be any good. When “Little Dark Age,” the lead single from the band’s 2018 album of the same name, was released in October 2017, it seemed as if the band had found a new creative gear. Synth pop with a dash of goth, “Little Dark Age” was a fresh, exciting sound for the  00s indie darlings. MGMT have evolved their sound with each release⸺not always for the better, as their self titled LP was a relatively uninspired, lo-fi psychedelic album. “Congratulations,” the group’s 2010 follow up to “Oracular Spectacular,” saw the band experiment further with psych rock and pop to critical acclaim, but failed to generate enthusiasm with fans of their previous record and its hits such as “Kids” and “Time to Pretend.” Now, no longer haunted by the spectre of their past hits, MGMT are back with a well-executed and catchy synth and psych pop album.


“Little Dark Age” kicks off with the zany, infectious song “She Works Out Too Much.” Cascading synths and the driving bassline make this track exciting and danceable. The main draw, however, are the sarcastic lyrics which describe a failed relationship due to a lack (or excess) of exercise: “The only reason we never worked out was / He didn’t work out enough.” Voiceovers color the song with a variety of workout commands and exercises. In its last third, the song builds triumphantly with a section of saxophones, giving the song a climactic finish. These odd song topics continue with the song “TSLAMP,” or “Time Spent Looking At My Phone.” This track features the widest array of different sounds on the album, with synth passages and classical guitar interrupted by humming vocoder vocals which function more as instruments than as a way to deliver lyrics. “TSLAMP” sees the band musing about phone obsession: “Find me when the lights go down / Signing in and signing out / Gods descend to take me home / Find me staring at my phone.” The album’s lead single remains one of the strongest songs, as its haunted synthpop aesthetic is catchy and fun while remaining spooky. “Little Dark Age” exemplifies the strength of the albums hooks. While the instrumentation and quirky lyrics are certainly a huge draw, the sticky grooves and choruses are what will keep listeners coming back. “When You Die” contrasts its light, groovy instrumentation with aggressive declarations of hatred: “I’m not that nice / I’m mean and I’m evil / Don’t call me twice.” This track benefits from guitar work reminiscent of George Harrison which keeps the song plucky and light while the reverb-drenched vocals tell the listener off.


Unfortunately, the album takes a slight dip in the second half with the songs “James,” “One Thing Left to Try,” and “When You’re Small.” While these songs still have their interesting moments, they aren’t quite as engaging from start to finish as the tracks from the first half. Songs such as “When You’re Small” and “Days That Got Away” are meandering and low-key, relegating them to a pleasant if relatively inoffensive position in the tracklisting. The album closes with the song “Hand it Over,” which sounds as if the band is performing in an underwater dream sequence. While “Hand it Over” may not shake the listener like “She Works Out Too Much” or “Me and Michael,” the choir-like voices in the chorus play nicely off of Andrew VanWyngarden’s vocals in a way which soothingly brings the project to a close.


“Little Dark Age” is a welcome return to form for the indie darlings behind “Electric Feel,” “Kids,” and “Time to Pretend”. While the project lags slightly in its second act, there are plenty of memorable, infectious hooks paired with great synth pop instrumentals. With their most recent release, MGMT have left their self-proclaimed “Little Dark Age” behind.


A Taste of Home on Lunar New Year

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My parents and I never ran out of plates to use⸺ unless it was Lunar New Year. On that special occasion, we cooked up a storm. We adorned our dining table with dumplings, vegetable stir fry, braised pork, spiced beef, and many more dishes, all displayed on the table using every single plate in our kitchen.


Lunar New Year is one of my favorite festivals. I grew up in Singapore, a predominantly Chinese society where Lunar New Year is a public holiday. My extended family lives in China, and every Lunar New Year we would Skype one another to show off our tables full of food. I loved Lunar New Year when I was at home and was pleasantly surprised to learn about the Lunar New Year celebrations at Swarthmore.


Lunar New Year is celebrated in various parts of Asia including China, Vietnam, Mongolia, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore. It marks the beginning of a new year according to the lunar calendar, which tracks both lunar cycles and solar phenomena. During Lunar New Year, households and businesses are abuzz with activity, including worshipping deities and ancestors for good fortune, as well as thoroughly cleaning out properties to purge the environment of evil. Friends and families gather for feasting and merrymaking to honor their close relationships.


Although Lunar New Year is not as grand an affair in most of the U.S., many Swarthmore students gathered last Friday, Feb. 16, to celebrate Lunar New Year.


The celebration began at LPAC with a dinner and performance organized by the Intercultural Center. As participants enjoyed some Filipino food, they watched a lion dance by the Penn Lions. The Penn Lions are a lion dance troupe at the University of Pennsylvania and have been performing for colleges, museums, and other organizations since 2007.


Lion dance is a traditional Chinese dance performed at Lunar New Year and other occasions such as business inaugurations. Two performers dress up in one lion costume and mimic the movements of lions as they dance to loud percussion music. In Chinese belief, the loud music deters malevolent spirits and demons from interrupting an important event.


As the Penn Lions’ percussionists started sounding their drums and cymbals, the lions began to move, adjusting their speed to match the rhythm. Their goal was to destroy a poisonous spider on the ground and usher in prosperity for the year ahead. The spider represents the hardship from the past year that the lions must destroy.


With each resounding beat of the drum and clang of the cymbals, the lions ran, jumped, blinked shyly at their audience, or nuzzled up close to them. Most spectacularly, the lions sometimes stood on their hind legs, necessitating one performer in each lion to stand atop the other’s shoulders.


When the time came to confront the spider, the lions carefully approached the spider, scratching behind their ears as they contemplated their best plan of attack.


In a flash, the lions charged at the spider while the music built to a crescendo. They tore the spider up, revealing a cabbage underneath the spider’s body. This was “Cai Qing”, the climax of the lion dance. The lions gobbled up the cabbage and spit the shreds at the audience to bless them with wealth and abundance. To end the lively performance, the lions unfurled two red scrolls inscribed with auspicious Chinese poetry.


Sara Zhou, a junior at the University of Pennsylvania and External Vice President of the Penn Lions, has participated in lion dance since freshman year. Zhou sees lion dance as a way to keep in touch with Chinese culture. “I didn’t feel so connected with my culture before college, so participating in lion dance is a way for me to go back to my roots,” Zhou said.


Besides the Penn Lions themselves, audience members also enjoyed the lion dance.


“I thought the performance and music were powerful. They provoked a visceral reaction in me, like when the lions were attacking the spider. They were scary,” Nicholas Anderson ‘20 said.


“I loved the lion dance a lot, “ Alexis Riddick ̕20 said. “I liked the fact that there were two people in each lion costume and they had the strength to lift somebody up.”


Besides the lion dance, there was also a Hot Pot Party hosted by the Swarthmore Chinese Society. Hot pot is a Chinese dish where a pot of broth is placed on an electric or propane stove at the table. While the broth is boiling, raw ingredients displayed on the table are put into the broth to cook. When the ingredients are done cooking, they are removed from the pot for consumption.


Inside the Intercultural Center, students lined up to cook their favorite ingredients in the pot from the vast selection prepared by SCS. There was a seemingly endless array of ingredients ⸺ beef and pork slices, meatballs, cabbage, mushroom, rice noodles, and much more. Meanwhile, the television played the annual Lunar New Year extravaganza on China Central Television, a staple of many Chinese family gatherings.


SCS Co-President Sophie Song ̕20 stressed the importance of holding the Hot Pot Party. “We host a Hot Pot Party every year because Lunar New Year is about being with your family. There are many international students around, and it’s sad for them to be alone on Lunar New Year, so we try to make it a happy occasion,” she said.


Leren Gao ̕20, the other SCS Co-President, agreed with Song. “It’s great that so many people are at the Hot Pot Party. A lot of people are away from home, and it can be especially difficult for freshmen. We are trying to bring a bit of home to Swarthmore,” she smiled.


Among the crowd savoring their food, chatting with their friends, and watching television, an undeniable coziness arose. “Lunar New Year is different from Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is noisy and crowded like a carnival. At this Hot Pot Party, I feel like I’m coming home, because there are lots of people around, just eating and hanging out,” Zechen Zhang ̕18, a student from Tianjin, China, said.


“Having people come together and celebrate is important for keeping my identity of being Chinese. The Hot Pot Party is one of the few events where I feel I can connect to tradition and heritage,” Zhang added.

“It’s great that we got the funding and location to hold the Hot Pot Party this year. It’s important for Chinese students abroad and Chinese-Americans away from home to honor our culture through this event. Hopefully, as the years go on, we can expand this event. It will require more funding, but hopefully we can get that,” Billy Yang ̕19, a student from Inner Mongolia, China, described his vision for the future of SCS.


No matter how far from home we are, Lunar New Year is a wonderful time for us to connect with others and share our delight in one another’s presence. That is the universal spirit of Lunar New Year, which transcends culture and tradition to bring people from different backgrounds together.


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