VOLUME 8, ISSUE 6 (MAY 2011)


Alyssa Freeman ’12

In the midst of the violent tornados that ripped through Tuscaloosa, Sarina Gill, a student at the University of Alabama, posted as her Facebook status, “ I am alive.” Another student posted a You Tube video vividly depicting the brutal force of the twister that barely missed Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium. Alabama was hit the hardest, as one of the most powerful storms to ever hit the South swept through the region. Reports indicate nearly 250 people were killed in Alabama and hundreds of others injured. Additional deaths were also reported in Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia and Kentucky. As of April 29th the death toll has risen to 319 across these Southern states. A state of emergency has been declared in Alabama and Arkansas as schools, businesses, and government offices closed. Some homes were flattened, others had their roofs sheared off cars were thrown upside down. The tornados were made worse by earlier storms so that entire trees were uprooted, their branches, snapped off. Obama is expected to visit the state on Friday, April 29th, along with National Guardsman troops have been called in. FEMA officials will be surveying the destruction that was witnessed by survivors. The decision to cover the tornado’s ferocity put journalists at grave risk.

Dusty Compton of the Tuscaloosa News did not know that his photo of the tornado would wind up on the cover of every major newspaper across the country. He and his colleagues had been watching the storm system. Compton and his crew drove to obtain the best view while they listened to the radio, hoping to get closer to the tornado. As they sat in a mall parking lot they watched it approach, materializing from over the hill. The newscasters were in a quandary about whether to warn people in the malls, take cover, or call their families. They decided to drive up to the curve in front of a store and instruct people to take cover. Despite the extraordinary risk to their own lives, Compton and his crew opened the back door to the store, and started shooting photos of the reportedly mile long tornado. A video of the tornado, unframed and raw, has now been featured on several news channels and on the Internet. The newscasters were apparently there before the fire fighters and police. They inadvertently became part of a rescue effort since nearby houses had collapsed and people were missing.

Two weeks earlier, students at the University of Alabama were asked to seek refuge in the basements. Similarly, at the Tuscaloosa News the staff was asked to find shelter. Storms, according to Compton, form unpredictably in Tuscaloosa. He attributes this to an “atmospheric anomaly.” According to Kirk Johnson of the New York Times, predicting tornados, despite the advancement of digital tools that read storm cells, is still a guessing game.

The guessing game continues as officials estimate the death and injury toll as well as the costs to repair the damage caused by the tornados. Alabama was definitely hit the hardest; the town of Tuscaloosa is completely in shambles, although the University of Alabama was largely spared. Nonetheless, people have lost homes, cars, and resources. The recovery process is daunting and Obama referred to the destruction as “heartbreaking.” Yet the government’s response has been uplifting and Obama has proved himself compassionate and efficient in the face of disaster unlike Bush’s response to Hurricane Katrina. Since entire communities have been devastated the time and resources needed for the recovery process will be staggering and the human toll will be immeasurable.



Dominic Veconi ’11

Mr. Gagstetter: “In theory, you can get HIV by getting breast milk in your nostrils.”

Ms. Rowen: “You wouldn’t say to your mother, ‘Mother, may I be permitted to go to the movies on Saturday?’ You wouldn’t say it that formally. Actually, you probably wouldn’t ask her at all!”

Dr. Matthews: “We’re having too much fun. Let’s talk about death.”

Dr. Marion: “I locked the door. They can’t get in. Fantastic! How about that?”

Student: “I’ve never seen a blue rooster.”

Dr. Johnson: “You need to get out more.”

Dr. Casey: “And you know that after I teach you I need to go out and do battle with Michael Bloomberg and Cathy Black and the forces of darkness.”

Dr. Birch: “I’m like Dr. Ruth! Except I don’t answer sex questions. She’s short too! I’m like Dr. Ruth for English!”

Dr. Schubert: “Have you ever tried to herd cats?”

Student: “Can I give this to you after lunch?”

Mr. Rubenstein: “What? You want to ask me out for lunch?”

Dr. Aydemir: “Javier, what can’t you read?”

Student: “Oh, nothing. I’m good.”

Dr. Aydemir: “Oh, okay. So you CAN read.”

All Teacherisms are published and transcribed with the explicit permission of the teachers being quoted.

If you have a Teacherism and would like to submit it, join the Facebook group “BHSEC Teacherisms: The Bardvark Column,” or email them to dveconi@gmail.com.




Nika Sabasteanski ’12

Cut off as I am, it is inevitable that I should sometimes feel like a shadow walking in a shadowy world. When this happens I ask to be taken to New York City. Always I return home weary but I have the comforting certainty that mankind is real and I myself am not a dream – Helen Keller

I watched an Amish man attempt to hail a cab on Orchard and Houston. He had an orange beard and a straw hat and wore corduroy pants and a button down shirt with suspenders. He stepped out into the middle of the street and cautiously raised his hand, constantly looking back at the reassuring sidewalk that he could run to for safety. When finally a cab stopped for him, a rare occasion on that street, he hesitated before stepping foot into it and shepherded his bewildered looking family into the taxi. Most people stopped to stare at the show unfolding. The convergence of the two worlds both contrasted and enhanced the setting and characters themselves.

I’ve often thought as I hurriedly walk through the throngs of tourists that crowd in front of Katz’s Delicatessen why they can’t just go back where they came from. Someone once had an idea to give out of towners a separate lane to walk in on the sidewalk because they just walk so slowly and erratically. They huddle there in front of the restaurant, gazing upward at the sky seemingly so different here on the Lower East Side than somewhere in Middle America. Sometimes a mother will stand by the parked cars and wait for an empty space on the sidewalk so she can snap a keepsake of her daughter, pointing at the establishment sign. Families meet on the sidewalk, waiting for missing members until they can go inside and catch up on all the years they haven’t seen one another. The double decker tour busses always drive past me as I wait at the long light on Allen Street and the people stare down from them, bedazzled by the cramped buildings and the crater sized potholes, by the mural in front of the train station of the two lovers, and the American Apparel model wearing a long blue skirt blown askew by the wind with a white blouse tucked into her waist band. She must look so different juxtaposed to the diner and t-shirt store beneath her than whatever background she is against wherever they came from.

However, tourists are easy targets for ridicule. They stand out against the camouflage of natives with their ignorant expressions and plodding pace. They choose to visit New York sites that give them the vibe of the city about as well as the first reader’s digest gave readers a taste of “Cry, the Beloved Country.” But aren’t we a little possessive too? Since we were born here and live here, we feel entitlement. The city is our patrimony and outsiders are trying to take pieces of it away with them in their memories. Yet there are times when I’m sitting at home, thinking, I’m just so bored…I wish there was something for me to do. Here I am sitting in arguably one of the few centers of the universe, pining for adventure and excitement, while these tourists who clog the streets pointing at the blur of people hurrying past them or at the lights that adorn the tops of all the buildings seem to be enjoying themselves. And I’ve seldom but more importantly thought as I hurriedly walk through the throngs of tourists that crowd in front of Katz’s Delicatessen that my mundane, wearisome routine is their vacation.




Hannah Frishberg ’13

The newest addition to the social science department, Professor Veronica Vallejo, is impressed with the BHSEC community and our wide array of class options. Born in Quito, Ecuador, Professor Vallejo grew up in Dutchess County, New York, and attended graduate school at Georgetown in D.C, moving back to New York with her husband to take this current position at BHSEC. Impressed with the inquisitiveness and maturity of the student body here at BHSEC, Professor Vallejo “appreciates the freedom that educators have here to create their own classes based on their own research interests”. She is excited to be a new member of the BHSEC community.

She is currently teaching three sections of ninth graders, and emphasizes the similarities and differences between the histories of North and South America as part of her comparative approach to her material. This, she finds, “sets students up for the world history that they learn in their global history classes”. Furthermore, Professor Vallejo finds the sequence of classes in BHSEC’s history curricula to be quite logical, and is impressed by the variety of electives students have to choose from in the college program.

As to the organization of the United States history curriculum in general, Professor Vallejo stresses the importance of allowing students to interpret primary texts and build historical arguments by putting evidence together. Although she acknowledges the importance of historical periodization and the memorization of key dates, Professor Vallejo believes that the most important aspect of learning history is the student’s ability to come up with their own solution to historical problems, and not to rely on historians. Interpreting and discussing history, Professor Vallejo feels, is more important than learning about events chronologically or by memorization alone.

Professor Vallejo’s favorite area of history is Latin American history, particularly New Spain in the eighteenth century; her preferred aspect of history being “that I am able to learn about the region that my family is from. In studying the history of this region I am able to get an intellectual understanding of the people while also better understanding my own background”. In high school, Professor Vallejo’s favorite subject was not history, but biology. It wasn’t until an influential global teacher introduced her to the cultures of the world that she became inspired and thus gained a new interest in history.

On the topic of the internet’s impact on students’ relationship with history, Professor Vallejo expressed only approval. The availability of online digitalized archival sources and many historical websites, she believes, “provides students with access to the work of top historians. Many sites can provide students with primary documents and artwork, which may be used in the classroom to get a deeper understanding of a particular time period”. Outside of BHSEC, Professor Vallejo hopes, “to get back to the archives in Mexico this summer in order to continue research on women’s health in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century”.

Excited to be working at BHSEC and having the chance to expose students here to the people and history of Latin America, Professor Vallejo certainly seems to fit right in with the rest of our open-minded staff here, and she is a welcome addition to the social science department!




Alyssa Freeman ’12

In an attempt to spice up the 83rd annual Oscars, two “young” and “hip” cinema stars were chosen to host Hollywood’s most prestigious awards ceremony. Anne Hathaway was tastefully acknowledged by the Hollywood Reporter as having “worked her derrière off.” She sang, danced, and looked stunning throughout her multiple wardrobe changes ranging from a tuxedo to a spectacular red Valentino gown. James Franco on the other hand, was cited as “boring”, “disengaged” and even “smug”. The Washington Post described him as “heavy-lidded and smirky,” while USA Today talked about him “preparing for a remake of dazed and confused.” Regardless of their charm and appeal, why would the producers of the Academy think that two contemporary actors could carry the Oscars the way experienced hosts such as Bob Hope, Billy Crystal, or Whoopi Goldberg could? With this in mind The Associated press pleads in a review of the show: “ Bring Back the Comics.”

Granted, the Academy Awards have become old. Throughout his eighteen year run as an Oscar host, Bob Hope joked about the length of the ceremony. For decades, television audiences would fall asleep and awaken to the announcement of the Best Picture Award. Television was the primary vehicle for family entertainment in the latter half of the Twentieth Century and at the beginning of the Twenty-First. In the second decade of this century, we do not sit in front of the television transfixed. The channel changer, IPOD, IPAD, Lap- top and Blackberry are all close at hand. In a world driven by the global broadband speed test how are audiences supposed to sit through a three- hour ceremony?

To make matters even more difficult for the producers of the Academy, our media obsessed culture predicts the winners long before they are announced. The range of award shows preceding the Oscars combined with blogs, tweets, gossip columns, not to mention quality reviews from tried and true film critics such as AO Scott and Robert Ebert, turned the Oscars into a predictable night. The acting awards for the leading and supporting roles that were awarded to Colin Firth, Natalie Portman , Christian Bale, and Melissa Leo were all anticipated and inevitable. The “King’s Speech” was a cinch for Best Picture. The question remains, how does the Academy continue to keep audiences interested?

This year, in addition to the two young glamorous hosts, viewers were engaged through social media. This included James Franco’s live-tweets throughout the ceremony that documented photos and real-time videos of back stage antics of him dressing in drag, checking his phone while in drag, being fitted for his bald cap, and a few of himself and Hathaway offering power bars to the nominees. A spokes person for Twitter, Matt Graves, spoke about how the “Hashtag”, which is the symbol number used by Twitter to mark keywords or topics, was shared during the Oscar broadcast to encourage viewers to interact during the ceremony. Furthermore, according to Crimson Hexagon, an opinion analysis platform that breaks down and monitors social media sites, seven percent of the total conversation during Billy Crystal’s tribute to Bob Hope included conversations amongst people who missed past Oscar hosts. Could this represent an older generation of Twitter users?

No doubt, the use of social networking sites keeps viewers connected and provides an experience of community during the Oscars never before offered. Given the sentiment “Bring Back the Comics,” perhaps a combination of experienced hosts and viewer access to networking sites would offer a compromise for different generations, and keep the Oscars alive for another 83 years!




Ella Fornari ’12

BHSEC’s newest teacher, Dr. Seth Halvorson has, to the surprise of many actually worked at BHSEC prior to this semester. While last semester many students fought over Dr. Halvorson’s time slots in the writing center, this semester he is an intricate part of the college program, teaching three Year One seminar classes, and one humanities elective entitled Argumentation and Advocacy. Writing remains an essential focus in Dr. Halvorson’s BHSEC classes, although he is no longer working at the writing center. His academic background, like many teachers at BHSEC is both extensive and impressive. Upon graduating from Macalester for his undergraduate degree, Dr. Halvorson became a member of a political think tank at Harvard Universty. He then attended graduate school at Stanford University, and finally obtained his PhD at Columbia University.

On the first day of Year One Seminar, Dr. Halvorson joked that his first day working at BHSEC was probably around his 35th first day of school, a staggering statistic that made us all count our harrowing first days. After these academic endeavors Dr. Halvorson put his degrees into practice and helped form The Dragon Academy, a private school in Toronto, Canada. The school he helped establish, like BHSEC, was formed upon a new model of teaching, being museum based. Having returned from Toronto this summer, Dr. Halvorson is now a faculty member at Columbia University and teaches in the philosophy department. His “Contemporary Civilizations” class at Columbia is similar to the Year 1 Seminar curriculum at BHSEC. This semester Dr. Halvorson is splitting his time between the two very different academic atmospheres as faculty at both Columbia and BHSEC, running out after fifth period to catch the train uptown to Columbia.

He has proven himself to be a teacher of a unique caliber, grading over sixty essays in two days. “It was the first time I’ve been kicked out of the Columbia library in a few years,” he noted, commenting on the nine hours straight that he spent grading our papers. When the students responded in awe and told him that it usually took about a month to get a paper back at BHSEC he said, “You guys spend a lot of time and effort on them, you deserve the same from me.” His class consists of engrossing theories, interpretations and modern examples that solve the Hermeneutic problem for the 21st century audience. He described Machiavelli’s argument about alliances and self-interest through a game-theory simulation in which his students competed for jolly ranchers and mints and analogized Hamlet’s ghost to Denmark’s political past. He has offered a fresh and motivating slant on Year One Seminar.

In addition to his academic his accomplishments, Dr. Halvorson has spent much of his spare time as a musician. He plays both the drums and the banjo, and had played in bands ranging from punk, ska, space rock, and honky tonk and is deaf in one ear as a result of what he calls “less talk, more rock”. Dr. Halvorson’s favorite TV shows are Arrested Development and Modern Family. His love of Wes Anderson films is also very apparent in class when he connects themes to Rushmore and Fantastic Mr. Fox. Dr. Halvorson offers many other pop culture references throughout his classes, providing interesting spins on the otherwise classic literature taught in Year One Seminar. More than anything though Dr. Halvorson’s past experiences in education and philosophy make him a welcome addition to BHSEC by both students and teachers alike.




Isabelle St. Clair ’13

3,505 miles away from the heart of New York City, across the Atlantic Ocean lies the city of Valladolid, Spain, a place incredibly different from our bustling streets of Manhattan. On Thursday, February 10, 2011 twelve BHSEC students flew to Barcelona and then to Valladolid. Waving goodbye to the life they knew in New York, they entered a new world full of different customs, beliefs, and norms. The ten BHSEC students and two faculty advisors braved the eight-hour airplane flight, the six-hour time difference, and three weeks away from home to fully immerse themselves in Spanish culture to better their fluency and to gain an appreciation of a different society.

The ten BHSEC students spoke very little English while they were in Valladolid and jabbered away in Spanish as they lived with host families scattered across the city. They soaked in information about Spanish culture, its language, and its unique qualities. They traveled to school with their host students to Escuela Jesus y Maria, which starts at eight o’clock in the morning.

However, they didn’t go to school every day. Students often visited other cities and historical and cultural sites. Getting accustomed to their new life, the BHSEC students traveled around Valladolid and went sightseeing. “While abroad, students had the opportunity to visit historically rich cities such as Ávila, Salamanca (home to the fourth oldest European university in continuous operation), Segovia and Burgos,” remarked Ms. Bates, the Student Activities and International Program Coordinator and one of the faculty advisors on the trip.

The exchange trip to Spain allowed the students to improve their language skills and develop a more profound understanding of Spanish culture. “It was awesome,” observed Nyesha, a 10th grader who traveled to Spain. “It was a good experience because I didn’t know that much about Spanish culture before I went. But now I have a different perspective of it,” she also commented. “It was a linguistic and cultural odyssey,” said Isabel, another 10th grader, mulling it over.

After three weeks, BHSEC students packed their bags for the trip home saying goodbye to their host families and to the Spanish culture. They departed March 3, 2011 to the Valladolid airport where they would fly to Barcelona, then take a plane to Madrid, and from there fly back to NYC. However, their connections became jumbled and they missed their plane to New York. So instead of arriving on Thursday they arrived Friday, safe and sound. Now they are back at BHSEC and back to the stressful current of work, but with a new window open for them.

Foreign exchange programs are great ways to enhance one’s educational experience, broaden one’s personal outlook, become adventurous, and learn new things. The Spanish Exchange Program has allowed curious students to explore and study in another country, maturing and reflecting in throughout their journey. Ms. Bates said, “This year’s program was a great success overall and we hope to continue BHSEC’s Spanish Exchange Program for many years to come.”




Jack Jenkins ’12

If you took the PSAT, you may be regretting having filled in the bubble at the beginning of the test that would publish your email and home address as well as your test results to colleges across the country. I am under bombardment. Unopened letters have been collecting dust in my room for several months. More than half of the emails in my inbox are from colleges, and the spam detector is having trouble recognizing the emails for what they are. Needless to say, I have given up reading these messages and letters, given up even taking note of the names of the institutions that are sending them, with my sanity and my sleep at stake.

The picture may be different for someone already with a narrowed-down college list. In that case, it may be well worth it to keep in touch with colleges via email concerning any tours or seminars being offered. Apart from being a source of that kind of information, college messages also give a different picture from that offered by college guidebooks, one that is more familiar with the dynamics of the school. I am still in the process of narrowing down a list, and although the information I am receiving is meant to help me with this task, I find myself frustrated with the amount of work that must be put into engaging with every letter and email.

The other reality is, colleges will make themselves as attractive as possible to prospective students, which can be infuriating when trying to compare the quality of schools. It is impossible to discern what schools are right for you just by glossing over so many similar appraisals.

I recommend purchasing a college search aid, such as the Fiske book, or at least thumbing through the ones provided at the CTO office from time to time. It presents an array of excellent colleges, but since it offers the same statistics for every school, such as percent graduation rate, quality of life and cost of tuition, it is impossible to effectively compare schools.

College letters and emails are useful in trying to figure out what kind of school is right for you. Just by looking at how the colleges describe themselves stirs up the important questions that must lead the way in the college search process: do I want to go to a small or a large school, a school that specializes or is liberal arts oriented, do I prefer a city, town, or country environment, and do I want my experience to be more academic or more social and extracurricular? Still, as valuable a service as this is, college letters and advertisements should certainly not form the foundation of anyone’s search process.




Leo Vartorella ’13

While I do not usually eat gelato in cold weather, my Bardvark duties sent me on the hunt for one of these cold, tasty treats. For those of you who have never experienced the wonder that is a gelato, it is an Italian ice cream, except much less solid and a lot creamier. There are no exclusively gelato shops in my neighborhood, which is instead overrun with Italian ices. However there are many coffee shops and bakeries that serve it. The shop I went to for this article was Nectar on Court Street in Brooklyn, located between a desolate watch repair shop, and a rival ice cream parlor. Nectar is an extremely small restaurant that is very popular with the booming population of young families in Cobble Hill. They are open for both breakfast and lunch, and along with gelato they also serve a variety of salads and sandwiches. While I do go there for the occasional gelato, the actual food is a little out of my price range for an average lunch. The first thing you notice when you walk in is the size of the place. To the left the wall is lined with a wooden bench, accompanied by a table, which takes up the rest of the customer area.

The size of the shop can become a bit frustrating seeing as how it is usually full of young screaming children, left to their own devices while their parents get sucked into their Blackberries. It seems that almost the instant you walk in you are stepping over young children running back and forth, flailing grilled cheese sandwiches, always on the verge of falling down or knocking something over. Hanging on the walls are black and white pictures of refugee children from distraught Middle Eastern and African countries. The sad pictures give the place a sort of pseudo art studio vibe even though they tend to be a downer. As you look at them, your purchase seems frivolous and unnecessary in comparison to their struggles. Call me crazy, but it might not be the best strategy to make a customer feel guilty about buying your product.

Behind the counter is an array of blenders and fruits, which all eventually lead to the kitchen all the way in the back of the shop. Nectar does not make it’s own gelato, but instead serves Ciao Bella. There are a plethora of flavors to choose from, including cookies and cream, vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and malted milk ball. I went with the vanilla this time, and it was delicious. It had that creamy yet light texture that only gelato achieves, as well as a great flavor. The price is pretty reasonable at only $3. Overall the gelato was scrumptious, and the somewhat hectic vibe is not too terrible considering you are in and out in only a minute or two. I recommend Nectar to anyone who lives in the Carroll Gardens/Cobble Hill area who is in the mood for a cone or cup of frozen Italian goodness.

If you are not able to make it down to Brooklyn though, there is a very popular gelato shop right here on East Houston. It is called Il Laboratorio Del Gelato and is completely devoted to gelato. Jon Snyder, who founded and then sold the previously mentioned Ciao Bella Gelato Co, owns “The Lab”. His shop has an enormous variety of flavors ranging from Thai chili to wasabi. The prices are as cheap as gelato will get, especially for a restaurant renowned by famous foodies and chefs such as Mario Batali. Do not let the exotic flavors scare you though, this café has something for everyone, so try it on your walk to the F.




Alexi Block Gorman ’12

When first I heard about the situation in Egypt, it was not the uprising itself that was mentioned to me indignantly by a peer, but instead the action on the part of the government that student found most appalling: They had shut the internet down. An outrage, yes, but is being cut off from one’s precious twitter account more worthy of striking a fundamental chord in the hearts of the young than revolution itself?

However, I have heard twitter lauded in various walks of life as a surprisingly effective way not just to organize such movements, but to get the word out to a global community whose voices could easily have gone unheard. Social networking has indeed created a more efficient means of contact than ever, has enabled global communities to more freely exchange information and touch one another’s lives, but has also been condemned as the imminent death of the only “real” kind of communication, face-to-face. So which is it?

In a way, Egypt’s bold move was directly in response to our generation itself. We are responsible for the popularization of these networks that now our peers in middle-eastern countries are engaging in not as a form of recreation, but ostensibly as a weapon in its own right. The Egyptian government was fast enough to recognize the power these networks afforded the rebels and disarmed this technological infantry, but not without creating more unwanted global publicity, and only for five days.

The technology that young revolutionaries are now bringing to the table involves us in their situation in more ways than one. Globalization, a product of such rapid technological advancement, has created in recent decades a sense of global responsibility within not only the governments of more developed countries, but more importantly the upper and middle classes, who have made it a prominent addition to their social values. However, while most adults are only expected to donate while diligently continuing to develop their professional lives, celebrities and students are expected to spend their summers making a difference in impoverished parts of developing countries. Between that and technology, teenagers are an intrinsic factor in the globalization of our communities and in enabling these rebels who have learned to long for the possibility of freedom, if not freedom itself.

We must remember, though, that these young people, empowered by the education that makes them receptive to new possibility, are both the ones energizing the revolution and the ones being recruited hand over fist by Al-Quaeda. Perhaps not excessively in Libya, but certainly in Yemen, locale of other recent uprisings, and also a hotspot for terrorist activity. In these hostile environments, adolescence is often an all but abandoned state of mind, as boys become men without time to mourn this loss. In the Middle East, where nearly two thirds are under thirty years old, the unrest of youth will drive the population toward either of the two extremes. Would that the progress of these frustrated young men and women toward freedom and democracy were quite as fast and sure as the advancement of their technology!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s