Archive for October, 2011

SF State students gogo dance their way to a degree

By xpressmagazine

By Lina Abascal
Photos by Elijah Nouvelage
It is Wednesday night, and it isn’t school, boy troubles, or a long day at work that’s stressing out SF State students Ally Forrest, Noella Haverkamp, and their friend Brigitte Bakr. As the ladies frantically throw booty shorts, fishnet tights and bras around a cramped dressing room, they experience the ultimate go-go girl problem: what to wear.

The four-girl troupe calls themselves the Pop Rockettes, after their employers and the event they dance for: Electro Pop Rocks (EPR). The group performs every Wednesday night, and when they are booked for outside events. When the lights dim after the opening set, two girls strut to either side of the DJ booth in six-inch contemporary versions of the 1960s go-go boots called “stacks.”

“We get really, really sweaty,” admits Forrest, the longest standing member and leader of the Pop Rockettes. The girls’ break time is usually spent guzzling water and reapplying bronzer to their stomachs and chests, to create the illusion of abs and bigger cleavage with contours and shading —as if wearing three bras on top of each other wasn’t enough.

Forrest, an SF State sophomore from San Mateo, has a rotating hair color palette, multiple facial piercings, and at least three visible tattoos. Despite her alternative appearance, when Forrest enters the dressing room she looks like any other SF State student: dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, with faded henna tattoos on her pale skin.

Go-Go Dancers

Two hours before they begin, she hones the girls’ energy onto this night’s outfits, which are constructed out of pieces worn for a previous performance. Embarrassed, Forrest explains the troupe usually has unique outfits for each performance, but EPR is a weekly event, and it gets pricey.

Despite this, the group is under pressure to defend the club that’s given them the opportunity to dance for over a year. Forrest claims EPR helps the girls out with funding their outfits.

“I keep my receipts and they reimburse me,” she explains.

While pinning her hair up, Haverkamp interjects, disagreeing with Forrest’s defense over costume costs.

Go-Go Dancers

Heather Buantello looks at herself in the mirror in her dressing room while other members of the Pop Rockettes, an all-girl go-go dancer group, prepare to perform at 715 Harrison in San Francisco on Wed. Sept. 21. Heather was trying out for the night to be a permanent member of the group. The group is still seeking a fourth member. Photo by Elijah Nouvelage

“They pay for some things, but not for everything,” Haverkamp says, noting that they have to supply their own boots – which run for about one hundred dollars.

When not go-go dancing, Haverkamp works as a sales associate at Hot Topic in her hometown of Foster City, though she considers dancing to be just as much of a job.

“Sometimes the extra money I put into go-go dancing bothers me, but at the same time it’s me choosing to invest in my dancing career,” Haverkamp says of purchasing things like boots, shorts and bras with her own money.

The girls agree that the event does not pay for most items because some are expensive and others could be used for everyday outfits.

“It would definitely be nice,” Haverkamp says as she imagines if all outfit expenses were covered. “But I wouldn’t expect it.”

Bakr, Forrest, and Haverkamp won’t confirm the amount they get paid for Wednesday’s event, but Forrest says the girls no longer dance at any event for free.

“We’re at the point where we don’t need to dance for free,” she says. “It doesn’t benefit us and we want to be professional.”

Go-Go Dancers

Members of the Pop Rockettes, an all-girl go-go dancer group, perform at 715 Harrison in San Francisco on Wed. Sept. 21.

The Pop Rockettes used to dance at TORQ, a monthly event held at destination club Ruby Skye for an eighteen-and-over crowd. They have since given up the gig for undisclosed reasons.

The topic is uncomfortable, leaving some of the girls laughing while others struggle to figure out an eloquent way to explain the situation. They occupy themselves by continuing to put together outfits in an attempt to appear busy.

“They have other dancers working there now,” says Forrest, who explains that a current Pop Rockette took the job—but as a group, the troupe are no longer affiliated in any way.

Located at 715 Harrison Street, EPR claims to be the largest electronic weekly event in North America. The crowd is generally between eighteen and twenty years old, and draws college-aged commuters from cities all over the Bay Area. The space also attracts a mix of inexperienced club-virgins, gangster guys with fitted caps, and rave girls in imitation go-go outfits. Patrons attend the event religiously, creating at least an hour long line for entry. Over the past year, admission prices have risen to fifteen dollars a night. Many of the event’s regular attendees are fans of the Pop Rockettes. Many have favorite members while some pursue friendships and maybe more with them.

“I made a second Facebook,” explains Forrest of her solution to random EPR club goers finding her. “I have one with my first and middle name, and then one with my nick name and last name. Anyone who knows me as Ally is probably my real friend.”

Go-Go Dancers

Members of the Pop Rockettes, an all-girl go-go dancer group, prepare to perform at 715 Harrison in San Francisco on Wed. Sept. 21

Rather than making a fan page, Forrest opted for making a second profile, citing that fan pages are for “actual celebrities.” Other members of the Pop Rockettes recognize the possible positives of having fan accounts, but so far have created one page for the group rather than personal pages. None of the girls say they have any actual stalkers, but the group giggles when the subject is brought up.

“I always want to be friendly, but there’s a fine line between ‘friendly’ and ‘too friendly,’” says Bakr regarding any male fans that approach her when she’s not dancing. “I think it’s important to make that line very known.”

The Pop Rockettes are nervous about contributing to existing stigmas surrounding dancers of their kind. Many rave events or clubs feature go-go girls on flyers to appeal to male attendees.

“I don’t want to be one of those dancers who thinks she’s more important than the DJ,” says Forrest, who explains there’s no reason she should ever take the place of a DJ on a flyer.

The Pop Rockettes go to great lengths to set themselves apart from the average raver. Forrest tries not to be too harsh on the “Kandi Kids” who go to EPR, admitting that she used to be one herself.

Go-Go Dancers

Members of the Pop Rockettes, an all-girl go-go dancer group, tke a short break while performing at 715 Harrison in San Francisco on Wed. Sept. 28

“Kandi Kid” is a name given to a typically young raver who wears beaded bracelets that resemble candy. The jewelry is affiliated with ecstasy use, and Kandi Kids tend to take the rave lifestyle seriously, even outside of events.

“We are providing a service and deserve respect. We aren’t just random girls dancing around drunk in our underwear,” Forrest says of herself and the Pop Rockettes. Since EPR has switched venues, there is ample room for attendees to imitate the Rockettes’ dance style.

EPR doesn’t stress sobriety as much as many clubs do, and unlike many go-go troupe’s Facebook pages – the Pop Rockettes do not explicitly state their dancers are one hundred percent sober. The girls casually sip margaritas in the dressing room, barely finishing half between the four of them.

“I take this seriously,” says Haverkamp, who explains that dancing while drunk would be near impossible, especially in six-inch boots.

On Wednesday morning, Forrest and Haverkamp wake up to go to morning classes at SF State, while Bakr heads to work at an office in Park Merced.

“I want it to be a part of my life, but I’m getting older and have a career, so I don’t have as much time to dedicate to it,” she says. Although now, Bakr is in her fourth year of go-go dancing.

The group finally decided that two girls will wear white and pink, while the others will rock white and blue. Forrest ties pieces of tulle she bought at her favorite discount fabric store in the Mission around the other girls’ waists and boots. The dressing room is getting sweaty and cramped and the girls head out for a cigarette to relax before the next three hours of dancing. Just another Wednesday night.

Death of the Dive Bar

By xpressmagazine

It’s 2:30 in the afternoon on a Sunday and Clooney’s, the sizable dive bar on the corner of 25th Street and Valencia, is in full swing. Older patrons with carved faces line the horseshoe-shaped bar while the only young people in the joint—a few late twenty-somethings along the back wall—nurse hangovers with Bloody Marys and Bud Lite. Deb, the thin blonde bartender who looks like she could throw down at any second moves slowly behind the bar and pours with a heavy hand. The regulars who line the bar joke with Deb and talk to each other, only breaking their loud chatter when the Giants do something hopeful or heartbreaking.

“Bars like this are a dying breed here,” explains Isaac Fitzgerald, writer, editor and dive bar aficionado. What the young Boston transplant is talking about are Mission district dive bars. Open the door to any one of the bars that line the district’s corridors and drinkers are met with an atmosphere where anything goes and it’s almost impossible to be thrown out. The chiseled faces and rough hands of the regulars make the scene as they talk and joke with bartenders who have been slinging drinks in this city for the last thirty years. Rough and tumble dive bars used to dot Mission streets like mosquitos on a warm damp night, but as the years go by and the area changes, many of the places just aren’t what they used to be.

Dive Bar

“A dive bar is somewhere you can show up any old time and know you’re going to get a spot,” says Josh Spainhoward, an Ohio native and San Francisco transplant who has been drinking in Mission dive bars for the last seven years. “You can belly up, order a shot and a beer and stare in the mirror and nobody’s’ going to say hello. The bartender will be around when your glass is empty and that’s it,” Spainhoward explains as he takes a drag on his cigarette and sip of his pint and lounges on an outdoor patio on a rare, balmy San Francisco night.

The Mission district is called a “city within a city” for a reason. The area has been a longtime home to San Francisco’s working class, from the Irish, German and Italians to the current Latino population – the small district has opened its city streets and bar doors to the day laborers and the downtrodden. Wander away from the main thoroughfares of the district and in the back alleys and hidden corridors, and that is where the real dive bars are found. “They’re somewhere you go to drink and stare at the wall and kinda daydream and chat it up with those around you, but for the most part you’re there to drink and not do anything else,” Spainhoward elaborates, a half full pint in his hand and a small smile on his blond haired, blue eyed Midwestern face. These are bars without rules and pretensions, bars where patrons don’t go to be seen or be a part of any scene; they go to drink with friends who are closer to family and mingle with people from all walks of life.

“A dive bar is a place where you can’t get thrown out,” explains Fitzgerald as he sits back in his barstool with a Bud in his hand. The light streams down through a dirty window and the Giants score another home run. It is only three in the afternoon on a Sunday and already regulars are blitzed. Old men with long gray hair tied back into ponytails clink beer bottles over baseball victories as Deb continues to keep the beer caps popping and liquor flowing.

“Let me tell you a story that happened here (at Clooney’s),” says Fitzgerald, while his hands grip the beer bottle and the crowd around the bar lets out a collective sigh over a ball game disappointment. “I was in here on a Sunday afternoon, much like this, but there was no sports so there was a much thinner crowd. These 4-5 Irish guys who had obviously been up all night doing drugs were just in here getting drunk and this one girl was talking to one of the guys and then started talking to the other. The guys’ tempers rose, and after having been a bouncer at Zeitgeist, I just saw what was about to happen.” Fitzgerald’s voice starts to rise as his hands gesticulate in time with the story.

“The guys go at each other’s throats so I actually grab them throw them outside, I come back inside, I’m feeling really good about myself and they peek their heads in.” At this point Fitzgerald sighs and shakes his head, seemingly in disbelief at the story he is telling and the words that are coming out of his mouth. “And the bartender doesn’t blink. She just says ‘Guys if you’re willing to calm down you’re more than welcome to come back in, stay and have a drink.’ They come back in and immediately start a fight. A chair gets broken, they knock over the bubble gum stand. Again we throw them outside and bolt the door, cops come, cop walks in and before anyone could say anything the bartender was like ‘They won’t come in here, I’ve never seen those guys before in my life.’ And I was just floored. You cannot get kicked out of this bar. You really can’t, and that’s the kinda stuff that happens at a dive bar. Part of it has to be what’s allowed.”

Clooney’s, and other dive-y places that line the Mission district corridors have a rich history. Though the area is currently known to have a primarily Latino population, it wasn’t always like that. After the infamous 1906 earthquake, the district was home to mainly Irish. According to Kevin Mullen, a San Francisco native with Irish-born parents, in an interview with local news outlet KALW, after the devastation of the 1906 earthquake and fires, the Irish population moved out of SOMA and into the Mission. Mullen tells KALW that the Mission soon came to be known as the Irish district and that the “Mission Irish” were “a little more rough-edged than other types of people.” As the Irish started to flood the Mission district, so did Germans and Italians. It was this wave of culture in the early 1900’s that established the Mission as a rough and tumble working-class neighborhood.

Dive Bar

Currently, many people equate the Mission district to a hotbed of Latino gang activity and violence. And while that isn’t far from the truth, the area was once home to an overwhelming majority of San Francisco’s Latino day laborers. Since residents have first planted roots and started working in San Francisco, districts have grown and changed depending on population shifts. It wasn’t until the 1930s that the Mission started to gain the reputation and population it has now. As is the story with most population redistribution in San Francisco, the whole thing started with rent prices.

In the 30s, San Francisco’s Latino population lived in North Beach, but rent prices started to skyrocket and the first place the forced out population found to go was the Mission district. They started at 16th Street and worked their way into the small landscape, changing the dynamics of the area and politics of the district. As the 30s turned into the 40s more Latino immigrants came from South America and Mexico and made a home in the working-class neighborhood. As the area started to grow and change, so did the drinking establishments.

Mission bars became meeting places for locals, but for immigrants they were much more. MissionMission, a blog about the Mission district culture featured a Mission Loc@l piece about longtime Latino dive bar El Tin Tan. The bar is located on 16th Street, in between a taqueria and a dingy residential hotel whose barricaded door has a broken lock and Spanish instructions hanging in the window.  The small bar, crowded in the middle of chaotic streets, armed with a heavy door and pulsating Mexican pop music is more than a place to get a beer for immigrants—it is an opportunity to start a life. “Informal meeting places where immigrants gather and hear about job opportunities have always been vital to settling in America. Despite its humble appearance, El Tin Tan is one of these places, famous…as a key stop in the United States for Latinos hoping to escape poverty in their home countries,” according to the article.

Dive Bar

The Mission district’s population is once again going through a radical change. Once it was immigrants who flocked to the dingy streets in hopes for a better life, free of whatever was binding them in their oftentimes Latin American home countries. Now, the transplants are white kids. Urban twenty-somethings are attracted to the Mission for its budding art scene, flurry of new restaurants and cheap rent in one of the most expensive cities in the United States. “Young people who work at Google are coming in, and those people want style, they want clean bathrooms. As the neighborhood changes we’re seeing a decline in dive bars. But that’s because the secret is out: this is a great city, everybody loves it and it’s kinda like this resurgence,” explains Fitzgerald. In an attempt to expand horizons, young and hip bar owners are buying out places that were once owned and operated by Mexicans—in one recent example, a Mission district Latin dance club is being renovated to be a French gastropub.

These small bars, where anything goes and the world could either be a pearl or a rock, used to be a staple of the once working class Mission district. Now the grizzled regulars are slowly being replaced by the city’s young, hip and rich. “They’re turning dive bars into destination spots,” explains Bill Bergstrom, a San Francisco native, San Francisco State graduate and longtime dive bar patron. “I’ve seen it the most in the 500 Club and the Gestalt Beerhaus.”

The 500 Club, at the corner of Guerrero and 17th Street, was once a working class staple. The dimly lit semi-spacious dive bar was home to a group of Latino blue-collar workers, a hot rod car club, the 500ers, and off-duty bike messengers. The Vegas style sign that runs horizontal along the front of the building advertised the bar opening at 6 a.m. Bergstrom sits back and reminisces of evenings past when he and friends would be able to take refuge with the day laborers, car enthusiasts and messengers – the 500 Club was a place to get away and hide for awhile. The bartender was curt, the drinks were strong and the decor was non-existent.

Dive Bar

With a deep sigh and a heavy heart, Bergstrom guesses it was about five years ago that the bars started to change. “Suddenly on a Saturday night you were unable to get service.” With the change in neighborhood came a change in the patrons. The bars were slowly but surely attracting a new crowd, a group of people who came from all over the city. The locals weren’t the ones sitting on the ancient bar stools anymore; it was the new wave of Mission hipsters and visitors from other parts of the city.  “They were taking people who used to enjoy local flavor and pushing them to other neighborhoods,” explains Bergstrom.

The 500 Club isn’t the only dive bar guilty of trading the title of dive to that of destination. The once dive bar Zeitgeist is perhaps one of the most infamous to do so. According to Fitzgerald, Zeitgeist has had an interesting history. The large bar, known mostly for it’s outdoor seating, disgusting portable bathrooms, strict rules, juicy burgers and punk rock jukebox, was originally a gay bar. When the AIDS epidemic hit San Francisco, Zeitgeist owner Hans Grahlmann, a motorcycle enthusiast, decided to shift the bar from a gay spot to a motorcycle hangout joint. Zeitgeist ran as a motorcycle bar until the late 90s – early 2000s when Grahlmann was shot and the messengers took the bar over. Zeitgeist slowly started evolving into a hipster bar when the bike messengers took over, and within recent years, a destination bar. “Now the secret is out,” laments Fitzgerald.”people are coming from the Marina and they love it. The staff is still there, but it’s not a dive bar. Zeitgeist is an institution now and the bar reflects that.”

Though according to Bergstorm and Fitzgerald, many of the famed bars have transitioned from dive to destination, some places are handling the development better than others. Both agree that the 500 Club is the worst in dealing with the transition, but Bender’s Bar and Grill is arguably one of the best. “Benders to me is what Zeitgeist used to be,” says Fitzgerald while he passes his now empty beer bottle from hand to hand. “Benders is more authentic, it’s owned by a bar worker it’s owned by guys who say fuck this, why should I be slinging drinks when I could be slinging drinks and owning my own place?”

Benders has been through a lot, to say the least. The large and spacious yet dimly lit and dingy bar on the corner of 19th Street and South Van Ness has experienced not one, but two fires, noise complaints and fights – you name it, Bender’s has had it. And somehow, through it all, the little bar has managed to stay open and keep a following.

“This place used to be a dive bar, and then it burned down,” says Bender’s doorman Michael Madfes. Seated on top of a bar stool haphazardly placed outside next to the ashtray, Madfes jokes with regulars in between checking identification cards. The SF State alum keeps a twinkle in his eye and darts through the door at random intervals to sip from pint glass sized drinks waiting for him on the bar’s counter.  “It has definitely changed, but I think for the better. Before the fire it was smaller, darker, louder and more compact. Then they remodeled it, opened it up and made it roomier.”

Though it’s no secret Bender’s is no longer a dive bar, that doesn’t stop the pre-fire patrons or downtrodden drinkers from sitting back with a shot and a can and soaking in the atmosphere. In its transition from dive bar to destination, Bender’s made major steps to make the bar more welcoming – the most recent renovations included the construction of a kitchen that includes both vegan and vegetarian options, a stage area for shows and a staff that has banded together to create a small family.

Gretchen Stelzenmuller, a pint size, punk rock cook at Bender’s explains that, “it’s a small crew who has been working there for a long time,” and through those long and busy nights, the small crew has somehow been able to make a motley family out of the bar. The staff listens to each other, takes note and works with each other for the common goal of keeping the bar running. The bar manages to cater to patrons old and new, hardened regulars drink beside fresh-faced 21-year-old students, and somehow the two juxtaposed drinkers find refuge and solace together.

To many, community is the key to keeping a bar running. “I’ve worked here for about four years and it’s really evolved,” says Clooney’s bartender Laura Dunne as she sits for once behind the bar, drink in hand and watches her twenty-something bleached blonde daughter run the bar drinking establishment she normally works. “We get all kinds of people: gay, straight every nationality.” One of the biggest secrets of Clooney’s success is its lack of a theme. By not catering to one type of drinker, a bar opens itself up to all drinkers willing to move past the main drag and look for something that lacks a theme.

The other biggest secret to Clooney’s success is what most of the new trendy bars sorely lack. “The owner is the nicest person you’ll ever meet,” continues Dunne. “He treats us well, he’s kept the prices the same and he’s here every morning.” It’s no secret Clooney’s has been around for a while–the history seeps out of the strong wood walls and ownership isn’t going anywhere. It’s true that if you look at the owner of Clooney’s, he will not strike you as the picture perfect image of seen-it-all bar owner. In fact he looks young and too fresh-faced for the dive bar industry. But take a deeper look and you’ll see that the bar has been in the same family for decades now, the rules are the same as when it first opened and truth be told, though the owner is young, he’s not going anywhere.

“Every step along the way, things change,” explains Spainhoward as he takes a last drag of his cigarette and walks back to his motorcycle. “Nothing lasts forever, you just gotta roll with the punches. My favorite bar is no longer there, but I don’t cry every night. If I’m in the mood for something, I go somewhere else.” And go somewhere else is what the patrons of the original Mission dive bars are forced to do. As the area changes and grows, drinkers have to realize there is a whole city to explore. Though the “city within a city” that is the Mission district is becoming quickly gentrified, other options lie within a few mile radius. The only hard part is convincing yourself it’s time to leave.

Put a Lid On It

By xpressmagazine

By Liz Ireland
Photos by Gregory Moreno
On a bright Sunday across the bay in Oakland, James Frank’s kitchen slowly fills with the sweet smell of boiling grape juice and sugar. The sunlight that streams in through an open window, adding to the aromatic heat wafting through the small, open kitchen. As the grape mixture begins to boil and thicken, Frank lines up three long rows of small, sterilized mason jars. He fits a well worn metal funnel over the top of the first jar to begin the end of a process that will keep his fruit fresh and tasty for at least a year.
“It’s an annual ritual,” explains Frank, a tall, well-built man in his late thirties with a thick brown beard. “If I don’t do it once a year I get really bummed out and I miss it.”  The now filled, capped, and sealed mason jars start to cool, the ritual Frank talks about is the preservation process of jamming, canning and pickling.
Every year Frank and his wife, Jessica, gather fresh fruits, around the beginning of fall, and go through the age old process of canning. It not only preserves delicious flavors for the months to come, but for over a year after the first can date. By combining heat, food, and sealed bottles, Frank and Jessica carry on a method that dates all the way back to the 1790s.
Canning

Paula Bagby pours raspberry jam into jars at her home in Pleasant Hill on Sept. 24. Bagby's raspberry jam won the grand prize at Oakland's Eat Real Food Fest's Jam competition. Photo by Gregory Moreno

Canning initially came into being when the infamous French Emperor Napoleon offered a cash prize to the first person who could figure out a way for food to be kept fresh, healthy, and tasty for long periods of time. Enter chef Nicholas Appert. Fueled by the promise of money and influenced by corked wine, Appert experimented for about fifteen years before he finally found that by sealing food in jars and boiling the entire thing he could preserve fruits, vegetables, juices, soups, jellies, syrups and even dairy products. It was not until 1810 that his findings were published and put to use. Since then, the canning process has developed considerably.
Now, canned foods are most commonly associated with soups, jams, jellies, and other grocery aisle staples. The products mostly stocked by these retailers are in metal cans and filled with preservatives. As Frank places the sealed jars into cardboard boxes for safe keeping, he explains that one of the best things about canning fruits, vegetables and soups yourself is knowing what exactly goes into your food.
Canning

(From left to right) Tahryn Smith, Brody Clark, and Anna Smith-Clark choose between different assortments of herbs and spices during a bitters workshop at Eat Real Food Fest in Oakland on Sept. 27. Photo by Gregory Moreno

The process of canning is once again gaining popularity in centers for urban sustainability.  Along with knitting and sewing, canning is becoming increasingly popular for people who not only want to know what is going into the food they eat, but also take pride in making things themselves.
DIY culture is a non-mainstream movement that has gained considerable momentum over the past few decades in underground subcultures. It is a term that could mean anything and everything from grassroots political campaigns to fermenting kombucha on a kitchen counter top or even knitting a scarf.
The philosophy behind DIY is summed up nicely by MAKE Magazine editor Mark Frauenfelder to The Huffington Post: “Our daily survival depends on seemingly magical gizmos that provide our food, water, clothing, comfort, transport, education, well-being, and amusement. But you can make your world a little less confounding by sewing your own clothes, raising chickens, growing vegetables, teaching your children, and doing other activities that put you in touch with the process of life.”
Oftentimes DIY-ers create a community around their passions and hobbies, they establish bonds with others through craft and create a homegrown tie to their local community. DIY attempts to take people away from consumer tendencies and put them in the mind frame and lifestyle of creation and sustainability.
“Ultimately, what we need to be creating is a cultural shift,” explains Wigg party leader Morgan Fitzgibbons.  “Soon there will be an event that will cause people to spring into action. We need to start preparing for that.” One of the many preparations he is referencing is canning.
The Wigg Party is a community-building group led by Fitzgibbons. It operates within San Francisco’s Alamo Square district and organizes various events and classes that focus on green movements within an urban environment. The Wigg Party’s main belief is that by changing one city, a community at a time, they will eventually change the world. Leaders look to classes such as bike repair and at-home canning as a way to spread the word and practice of DIY culture.

“We need to develop skills that our grandparents and our great-grandparents possessed,” Fitzgibbons goes on to say. “Things like sewing, cooking, and canning.”

Canning

While the lost art of canning may not be at the top of most people’s “to learn” list, it is a practice that is rising in urban sustainability movements. Fitzgibbons is also quick to echo Frank’s point—when people jar food themselves they are able to bypass any sort of unnatural preservatives and know exactly what is going onto their plates and into their bellies.

Frank, a Supervising Nationalist with the East Bay Regional Park District, has always had a close relationship with his food. Not only does he can his own jam, he ferments his own kombucha and puts it on tap, ferments apple cider, presses apples and works with friends to distill his own liquors. And since the age of seven, Frank has been taking cues from his family. Most of his first experiences with food cultivation were on his grandmother’s farm on the East Coast. Frank explains that the grape jelly he is making today was originally his mother’s recipe – she would make ten cases every year and give most of it away.
“It’s been a part of my upbringing, it’s been ingrained into me,” says Frank, as he surveys the tools used for the day’s jelly yield.
Canning

Jars of radishes, pickles, carrots, and apricots sit in Paula Bagby and John Widroe's refrigerator at their home in Pleasant Hill on Sept. 24. Photo by Gregory Moreno

The tools needed for a small jelly batch are simple. For the day’s batch, Frank uses a large stew pot, a fruit press, strainer, metal mixing bowl, cheese cloth, ladle, tongs (or a jar lifter), funnel, and measuring cups. Frank also admitted that for those so inclined, the fruit press could be substituted with a wine bottle. The ingredients are about as simple as the tools, three pounds of grapes, fourteen cups of sugar and pectin, either powder or jellied.
Frank starts by weighing and washing the grapes. He then takes small handfuls of the fruit, puts them into the heated soup pot and begins the mashing process.
“You want to start in small batches,” Frank explains as he crushes the grapes. After a few minutes of mashing, the three pounds of grapes are reduced to a pulpy, sweet-smelling mess. Next, Frank transfers the whole thing into a strainer lined with cheesecloth. Then he takes careful steps in squeezing the juice from the grapes. Once the juice has been carefully extracted, Frank pours the juice back into the soup pot. He says that the juice has to come to a rolling boil before anything can be done with it.
Once the boiling happens, Frank measures fourteen cups of sugar into the grape mess. The next step is better done with two hands, one to dump the pectin, the other to stir. As Frank stirs in the gelatinous pectin, the fragrant, purple mixture begins to thicken and his stirring becomes less rigorous.
As the mixture begins to calm and thicken, Frank skims layers of bubbles off the surface, and the real canning is ready to begin. He places a well-used metal funnel over the top of the first sterilized mason jar and ladles in enough warm jelly to fill the can. The tongs remove the threaded lid and place the canning ring on top of the jar, sealing the whole thing with a quick flick of the wrist. Frank repeats this process until most of the jars are filled and the pot empty. With that easy process, Frank and his wife are able to enjoy the fruits of their labor for the year to come. Frank says anyone can do it and the cans also make great last minute gifts.
“It’s not that much harder than making a pot of soup,” explains INNAjam mastermind Dafna Kory. “It’s really simple and it gives you an appreciation of what it takes to get to the final product.”
Kory was able to turn her jam hobby into a successful jam business. While Frank was taught canning and jamming from his family, there are a variety of outlets from which anyone can easily learn. Kory explains she started online.
“I taught myself, the Internet is a wealth of knowledge. I got a recipe online and went to the store. Jam is one of the easiest things you can make,” she says.
For those not impressed by internet tutorials, Leena Trivedi-Grenier of LeenaEats recommends the traditional book format.
“There’s a lot of disinformation on the net,” says Trivedi-Grenier. “It’s important to start off with a published book. The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving is the first book I ever used. It’s really good because it allows you to make small batches, not everyone has thirty quarts of fruit at home.”
Though it may seem archaic, intimidating or time consuming, canning, jamming, and pickling, the outcome is worth the effort. In the end, the only difference between the can in your hands and the one on the shelf is the lack of preservatives and richness of flavor.
Canning

James Frank pours a glass of his homemade kombucha at his home in Oakland on Oct. 2. Photo by Gregory Moreno

Beyond Ambiguity

By xpressmagazine

By Julio Cortez

Photos by Gregory Moreno

It’s a warm Thursday evening in San Francisco’s Union Square, a bustling shopping destination for those ready to indulge in wool-rich fall essentials during the current Indian summer transition. Bradley Miller, a downtown makeup extraordinaire, gazes at Zara’s fall 2011 womenswear campaign highlighting high-waist men’s trousers and tailored military overcoats. The people at Zara somehow got ahold of the celebrity hairstylist that gave Hollywood’s vanilla starlets that boyishly tussled pixie cut.

Sexual Identity and Fashion

Though fashion is constantly evolving, it’s no secret the culture is simultaneously recycling highlights from runways past. The 90’s grunge revival is alive and well, and the return of minimalism echoes on the streets of San Francisco, furthering the androgynous inspired wardrobe of modern day trends. Street style’s latest garbs are geared towards a unisex friendly market, syncing male and female textiles. Color palettes and minimalist basics are now more effortlessly interchangeable among the sexes.

A little navy-blue number is tucked away inside Zara on Sutter Street. Bradley calls earlier in the morning to put the medium, all-over sequin blazer from the women’s fall collection on hold – the largest size in stock in San Francisco. Two others of the same blazer are on the sales floor, both of which are tagged extra-small.

Bradley admits that he would’ve bought the $200 blazer if they had a larger size, pointing his fork at the evening sky above Café de la Presse on Grant Street. The traditional men’s cut with the sparkling twist is what inspires the one time SF State student to plan a disco look around the blazer while he’s at work. “In this city, stores like Zara are always out of large sizes in the women’s department and small sizes in the men’s department.” Could the flocks of slender gender-benders from FIDM be to blame for this? Bradley thinks so.

“I had a very awkward sense of style growing up and boy’s clothes didn’t look good on me,” Bradley says of his thin frame and feminine features.

In middle school, his mixture of boy’s and girl’s clothing even sparks rumors that Bradley is a hermaphrodite. The 1993 beyond baggy jean and over-sized flannel jacket trend have thankfully yet to return to our wardrobe rotation; back then, it was all that was available to boys Bradley’s age.

There’s a misconception about men wearing women’s clothing. Bradley doesn’t want to be a woman, but he gets verbally assaulted for wearing billowy womenswear paired with trim tailored menswear.

“The feeling of wearing clothes is so relevant to how people feel inside,” says Bradley, noting that we all live everyday in fashion. “Why wear something someone else chooses for you to wear?” In Bradley’s world, and for many of the trendsetters in this city, there is no men’s or women’s section – just a giant closet full of inspiration.

Sexual Identity and Fashion

“These girls are walking around in their type of fashion – nylon stockings, tank tops as dresses and rainbow colored hair,” says Bradley, praising the Oakland’s street femmes for their ballsy attempt at style. “These girls smell like pot and talk like Lil’ Wayne, but no one is attacking them for dressing the way they dress.”

There’s a cliché that relates to this: fashion is not pretentious, it’s the person wearing the clothes that’s pretentious. Fashion shouldn’t be about menswear or womenswear. It’s the person inside the clothes that’s male or female. “That’s it,” exclaims Bradley.

“I’ve learned to appreciate it for what it is,” Bradley says of getting attacked by downtown haters for his sexually ambiguous attire. “People are seeing in me what they don’t normally see everyday. They’re getting one step closer to accepting it.”

Bradley’s Facebook doppelgangers are McCaulay Culkin and Denise Richards. You’d expect people to freak out a little when they second-guess his looks and not the unisex trousers from American Apparel he wears to work. “I am 100 percent a male in my mind, but people flip their shit because of what I wear.”

Andrej Pejic, the androgynous runway and editorial phenomenon, dubbed male model of 2011 in the fall fashion issue of New York magazine. The issue’s Prettiest Boy In The World feature by Alex Morris highlights Pejic’s ability to make a career of working both sides of the runway.

Sexual Identity and Fashion

Lady Gaga ditched her teal wig, archive Gianni Versace silks and fluctuating “Born This Way” era beauty mole at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards. She instead opts for her Jo Calderone alter ego; an Italian, twenty-something, faded lover of Gaga’s with a scorned heart and a vulgar mouth.

The male image is slowly creeping into a state of deconstruction, allowing itself to implement daring details and traditionally feminine influences. Think about where you live and your accessibility to fashion when letting your style freak flag fly. Although gender-bending style is making its way back into the mainstream, it’s easy for some to confuse unisex with cross-dressing and cross-dressing with androgyny.

“What’s androgyny?” asks fashion writer William Biga, a 24-year-old Colorado Springs native and San Francisco transplant. “It doesn’t end or start with dressing like a guy or a girl – it’s more about blurring the lines.”

William believes that it’s easy for the experimental male to throw on a pair of heels, but androgynous style can easily become a gimmick instead of a message. In short, just because you can doesn’t mean you should when it comes to experimenting with gender boundaries.

Something about San Francisco street style allows us the freedom to explore fashion outside of our comfort zones – if we want to. Masculine and feminine come together when utilitarian structure and our generation’s gothic rehash become more readily available at retailers such as H&M, Cotton On and Allsaints Spitalfields.

The San Francisco girl can be identified by her love affair with Dr. Martens, which on occasion is accompanied by a floral dress and fur á la Courtney Love circa Live Through This. The iconic footwear is tied to the punk and skinhead movements, but most importantly its durability as a men’s work boot. Now, more than ever, its widespread accessibility and variation allows it to become a necessary staple for both sexes.

Fashion students trot along Market Street in this season’s knock offs of last season’s runway favorites. Campus gators embrace the combat boot revolution, another unisex trend that has become accessible for boys and girls thanks to budget friendly mall brands.

New wave goth in the 80s got out of control in the hair and makeup department. The style of 90s grunge allowed boyfriends and girlfriends to lend each other their oversized flannels and Nirvana t-shirts in case they want to freshen up their morning walk-of-shame. Today, it’s evident that San Francisco youth love borrowing a note from the good, bad and ugly pages of time.

“You don’t realize how weird San Francisco is and how quickly you assimilate to the city’s ability to liberate you” says William, opting to take his Marlboro smoke break indoors whilst resting on a black weathered coffee table in his barren Nob Hill apartment. “You go somewhere else and people still have a hang up about men using the women’s bathroom. I’m like, ‘really? I’m not in San Francisco anymore.’”

For such a global city, there’s still a sense of everyone needing to adapt to different rules and regulations when it comes to gender and fashion.

Certain parts of the city allow us to express ourselves with clothing a little more freely than others.

“If I wear my skirt downtown, tourists see it as a novelty,” says Biga, “but someone else can reference the inspiration behind my obsession with Rad Hourani.” Hourani is a Canadian designer of Jordanian and Syrian descent recognized for his signature unisex approach to silhouettes.

It’s crucial to comprehend fashion’s regional dialect. Biga recalls one early Saturday morning shortly after moving from Colorado two years ago.

“I was walking down Sutter on my way to work. There was this tall, bearded guy with long black hair pulled up into a tussled Japanese bun,” describes Biga, motioning his hands above his buzzed scalp to mimic the style. “His autumn-colored pleated skirt that went down to his ankles caught my attention, and his tobacco colored boots.”

There was nothing gimmicky about the man’s look, which Biga recalls looking like a Yohji Yamamoto model just a few blocks away from being mistaken as a drug fiend in the Tenderloin. When Biga delivers his skirt look, he admits to just looking “like some gay boy in a skirt.”

For some, their image is based on more than sampling from visual inspiration. Sometimes it’s a little deeper, maybe even a spiritual experience.

By day, Brooklyn bred Terry Tsipouras finds himself managing a doctor’s office in San Francisco. By night, the creative looker performs as a drag queen and promotes local nightlife events.  In Greek, his first name is actually Theodoros, which translates to Theodore. He went by Teddy from a young age. When moved to Connecticut, where he was raised, his my mother had such a strong accent and would roll her D’s like R’s that eventually teachers just assumed his name was Terry.

“It’s funny to trace the evolution of your name and how you end up with it,” says Tsipouras, who cites that more often than not you can find meaning in a name’s conception, “in this case I really now understand how I ended up with Terry.”

What’s in a name? “Mine is an androgynous name that really does apply more to me than the latter,” he says, “regardless of not owning it at birth, it still found me through a series of unusual circumstances.” Such is life.

“I have read, in esoteric literature, that an orange energy field covers San Francisco,” says Terry,  “this explains why many receive the telepathic calling to come here and pursue some form of personal enlightenment.”

Terry reflects on a calling of his own from the Bay, joining two of his best friends on their move to San Francisco at the same time as Burning Man. At the time, Terry was in an “insecure place of bewilderment,” as he says, having just graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York with an emphasis on accessories design.

Sexual Identity and Fashion

“I had followed all appropriate societal paths towards growth and was still left with an instinctual feeling of incompleteness,” reflects Terry, yearning to discover who he is in the past, present and future.

Following his gut and listening to his heart, Terry realizes that his quest is far from over and that he needs to break his ties in New York City to continue on the path towards self-discovery.

“I called my mother, had her move all of my things to her basement, and started a new life,” Terry admits proudly. “It’s been five and a half years and my journey continues.”

First exposed to the city through Burning Man, Terry describes his experience with San Francisco fashion as spiritually-based futuristic tribal. “I really think that the fashion here is beyond trends,” says Terry.  “Exemplifying the theory that fashion starts on the streets with the youth.”  That’s not to say that many in the quiet San Francisco scene don’t pay attention to trends, but instead choosing to ignore the trends that other cities around the world are creating.

The experience one has with fashion is personal, which Terry believes is someone’s individual quest calling on them to mirror how they feel on the inside with their clothing.  Everything in this city is a statement. “What do I want to tell the world today? How will my exterior armor portray the path that I have endured? What does my image say to the world and does it match my personal journey?” These are questions that Terry believes many San Franciscans, including himself, face when getting dressed.

However, when it comes to the evolution of androgyny, Terry feels it cannot be contemplated through the constraints of something societal and physical such as a city’s border. In fact, he definitely doesn’t see it as a trend, accepting it as something bigger than a person’s lifestyle. “I consider myself to be a Berdache,” says Terry, “a two-spirit being.” Berdache is recognized in the Native American culture, as well as in the cultures of other indigenous tribes. The presence of male and female energies are in him. Although some scientists may argue Terry’s claim through an imbalance of hormones, he doesn’t agree.

“For me,” Terry says, “the ability to channel both male and female energies is a gift from the universe and provides evidence that there is a world beyond the physical.”

San Francisco has a more compassionate and conscious understanding of sexuality that Terry says allows him to dress as he feels without worrying if the garment happens to be made for a woman or a man.

“After all, these restrictions in fashion are all evolved human regulations that mirror current societal standings and their only constant is change,” says Terry.

If you took a stroll through the Castro last December, you may have seen Terry channeling  a Greek Jesus on posters for club promoter Joshua J’s “Big Top: Homo for the Holidays.” The poster suggest that Terry prefers to wear Jesus’ birthday suit while two angels hold a banner with the event date over his goodies. If your eyes don’t know where to go when stumbling upon the ad on his Facebook profile, check out the romanticised crucifix tattoo centered on his chest or the flowing brown locks held down by a leather crown of thorns. In an alternate poster, Terry delivers what his friends label a humorous Mary Dragdalene look. We’ll take one of each print if your archives are open, J.

It’s not just religious iconography that inspires the 30-year-old artist. In August, he collaborates with friends, including Bradley Miller, on a photo illustration honoring femininity and its resurgence of power in modern society.

“The message was to tell the world that we are all Gods and Goddesses, that we are all Kings and Queens, that we are all part of the thread of the universe that binds us,” Terry says of the shoot.

In other words,  we are all connected.  Terry believes that our journey is one of remembrance and back tracking to a place of acceptance and honor, “a place where we were not separate but equal,” emphasizing a loss of unity in humanity overtime.  Gender boundaries are broken and blended in the fruition of Terry’s vision,  portraying a female as a male, a queen as a commoner, and Egyptian/African as a Caucasian.

“I was seemingly passable to the untrained eye,” admits Terry, “through the use of symbolism, color and posture that we have attached to what we know of as royalty.”

What we see in and out of our own little San Francisco world is completely subjective. “Once all of these labels are stripped away, there lies a being that is just like you, a being conceived and manifested through the wonder that is love,” Terry reminds us.

Green Roofs give San Francisco a sustainability edge.

By xpressmagazine

By Sage Kemmerley
Photos by Elijah Nouvelag

They sit silent on rooftops and cling quietly to walls. They sneak into small corners of concrete and spread out over thousands of square feet. They’re here, and they mean to stay.

From above, these patches of green and bright colors that dot the cityscape are helping turn San Francisco into a blissful Eden. Here and elsewhere, cities are transforming themselves into havens for green ‘living roofs’ – rooftop gardens and other projects that provide new and creative spaces for plants to flourish in the urban landscape.

Green Roofs

Not only can plants be snuck into unusual spaces around a city to attract the eye, but they also contribute to improvements in air quality and balancing the local ecology by attracting certain insects and contributing to pollination. “Living architecture…in San Francisco’s neighborhoods creates a better quality of life for everyone,” says Mike Kerwin, co-founder of Lorax Development in the city that creates green roofs on residential buildings. “Not only do living roofs encourage wildlife diversity, but buildings become more energy efficient and they manage storm water runoff, which benefits the building, the residents, and the surrounding environment.”

Though not easily seen from street level, the Osher Living Roof at the California Academy of Sciences is one such achievement. The Academy’s roof is the largest living roof on a natural history museum in the world, hosting 1.7 million plants native to California. The roof keeps the temperature of the building consistent by reducing roof heat loss and contributes to the surrounding ecology by collecting rainwater to prevent roof runoff. Its purpose is educational, as well as practical and sustainable.  The native plants that have been installed – Strawberry, Self Heal, Sea Pink, and Stonecrop – were selected for their year-round vitality and attractive blossoms to lure curious observers and honor Northern California species.

But the roof isn’t all flat, and the slopes of the bio domes that sit atop the roof of the Academy pose a design challenge. How to get the dirt to stay put? An ecological design firm created BioTrays for the roof, biodegradable trays made of coconut fiber to house the plants. Fifty thousand of them cover the roof, and since they’re porous, roots grow through the trays and interlock to create one large mass, according to Academy Senior Botanist Frank Almeda. Solutions like these propel the ecological design field by removing the limitations of roofs and sloped surfaces.

Bay Localize is a local nonprofit project that works to support the green economy with community projects like roof greening. They explain that living roofs can double the life of a roof by offering protection from temperature changes, ultraviolet radiation, and other damage, and only need to be inspected a couple of times a year.

Green Roofs

City College of San Francisco installed a green roof on their Joint-Use Facilities Building at their Ocean campus as part of the building’s complete sustainable design, which includes solar panels and a geothermal-powered heating and cooling system. “We wanted to design a building that was sustainable,” says Marian Lam, head of Facilities Planning and Construction at CCSF. “We wanted to utilize the current features that we would be able to use in a building, and we wanted to achieve the LEED certification.” LEED, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a certification system for green building developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Green Roofs

Richard Parker is a founding member of 450 Architects, a certified green business, and also a member of the SPUR Sustainable Development Committee in San Francisco. He works to facilitate the installation of living roofs within the city and county, and has proposed a project for a community building in the Fillmore District with a rooftop garden that feeds a restaurant beneath. “For me, a green roof is one component of sustainability,” says Parker. “I think the roofs are a wholly unutilized space. The city’s kind of awesome from the roof level.  The concept was that the community space would have this beautiful greenhouse with a glass floor, an architectural jewel celebrating the creation and serving of food in the same building.”

By greening rooftops for garden systems, energy efficiency, ecological balance, and by installing living plants wherever blank space is available in our habitats, we are getting back to nature. Rather than simply decorating spaces with plants and flowers, new sustainability ideas like roof greening are bringing humans back into harmony with the natural world and giving living things new spaces to thrive.

Staying in the freedom zone

By xpressmagazine

By Natalia Vasquez
Eric Verduzco

A thick scattered group of clouds race the Monday commuters home for a hot dinner, diving over one another in clusters that intertwine in delicate yet aggressive patterns. Nobody enjoys the first day of the workweek, and any interference with its commencement snowballs from mildly inconvenient to Guantanamo scaled torture. Now, Bay Area nine-to-fivers must deal with BART service disruptions each and every one of these horrific days.
“I get it, they made their point, but I didn’t shoot anybody and I just wanna get home,” the perfectly styled petite Jamie Arias huffs from her Market Street store Juicy Couture. She lives in Antioch and after working a full shift she returns home to a husband and two daughters who rely on her “to handle all the Mom stuff,” like prepping dinner or balancing the family budget. “And I certainly can’t leave my husband in the kitchen unattended,” she mouths with glossy rose lips and sarcasm in equal shades of hot pink.
When Charles Hill was shot on July 3, 2011 the BART police immediately evacuated all civilians from the area, according to witness Alexander Monsanto. “I heard the shot but I didn’t notice any yelling or struggle before that,” he recalls the sound ripping through the static of the bustling UN Plaza just as the bullet ripped through Charles Hill’s vital organs.
Security footage later shows the officer emerging from a BART train and taking less than one minute to remove his gun from the holster. It was only six more seconds before he opened fire on Charles Hill.
Chief of Police Kenton Rainey would later comment he was completely satisfied with officers’ responses.
“There were people screaming, and running, and nobody knew what had really happened but it went from zero to chaos just like that,” says Monsanto, his full lips part enough to reveal his teeth as his eyes scan to and fro while he replays the scene in his head.
A press conference the following day attempts to relay the events. Chief of Police Kenton Rainey explains that they were responding to complaints of a drunk man with an open container on the platform. The officers who arrived first acted to the best of their abilities, according to Chief of Police Rainey. They were placed on administrative leave until a psychologist could properly evaluate them. Rainey brushes over exact details between the officers and Charles Hill, only that Hill was armed with a bottle and a knife. He explains that because of the open investigation he cannot say anything specific. An open investigation by BART’s own criminal division, coupled with an investigation by SFPD.

Bart Protests

A protester sneaks into Embarcadero Station during a demonstration against BART on Aug 15, 2011

On July 11 the people responded by taking to the streets. People enter into the stations, behind the fare gates and chant to disband BART police. One person even jumps on top of a BART train to keep it from departing the platform. They hold open train doors so they wont be able to depart, and clog the platform so customers cannot board. YouTube video shows frantic personnel trying to handle the situation, but to no avail.
The horde of people not only takes over trains, they take over the streets. People walk in the center of Market Street during rush hour, slowing traffic and potentially harming themselves. Some approach police officers shouting obscenities. They chant in loud echoes reverberating through buildings of commerce, “you can’t shoot us all!”
This delays the evening commute which, according to a BART press release, delayed ninety six trains “putting at risk the safety of thousands of passengers and BART employees.”
On July 12, BART holds a meeting to review their police department. Members of the public are present to make comments to the committee comprised of BART directors. One man asks about gun training BART officers receive, citing previous incidents of unnecessary violence. Annette Sweet, a member of BART’s board of directors, explains that BART police now undergo an additional sixteen hours of training every year and Rainey explains they must qualify at a gun range every two months.
BART officials fail to cite non-violent training or civilian training, only a gun proficiency screening.
Krystof Lopaur of No Justice No BART takes the mic. Lopaur has advocated to disband BART police prior to this incident and the board knows him well. He demands to hear how a transit agency manages a police force and what kind of management training they have undergone. The answer is none. Although, board members did undergo training to shoot.

Bart Protests

A protester is arrested during a demonstration against BART at the Civic Center Station platform on Aug. 22, 2011

Lopaur also points out that while protesters and personnel alike were outside the safety areas of train platforms, BART continued to run trains through stations without stopping at top speeds, “putting at risk the safety of thousands of passengers and BART employees.”
Lopaur’s message is simple, disband the BART police because a transit agency does not have the training to handle a police force, as demonstrated by these casualties. He warns that if nothing is done, things will not quiet down.
In mid August rumours of another protest began circulating. The threats claim people would take to the streets with more force and bigger disruptions. They threatened they will be larger than the incident on July 11, and warn BART to prepare for them. And prepare they did.
BART, in a press release on their site maintained safety as their ultimate goal. “A civil disturbance during commute times at busy downtown San Francisco stations could lead to platform overcrowding and unsafe conditions for BART customers, employees and demonstrators. BART temporarily interrupted service at select BART stations as one of many tactics to ensure the safety of everyone on the platform.” As emails obtained through the Freedom of Informations Act points out, BART took action prior to imminent threats of danger on the platform. Officials acted several hours before any sort of “unsafe conditions for BART customers” were underway.
The largest organizational tool, much like in the Arab Spring, continues to be social media. The people garnish this technological tool to organize and gain solidarity across the Bay Area and to stand up for the minority class.
Dirk Peters contacts BART business partner Forza Telecom and Wifi Rail Inc. to eliminate cell phone and internet service on August 11 from 4pm to 8pm, according to emails. Peter’s emails were sent at 8:45 am, well before any disruptions. When the anticipated hour arrived, the BART was empty of any protesters and merely disconnected commuters.
BART had also planned its own press conference and what has been called publicity stunt to shuttle customers to and from a press conference intended to sway public opinion of the transit agency according to emails obtained by The Bay Citizen. Linton Johnston orchestrated the ordeal and even prepared a script for “loyal customers” to read at the conference which read among other things, that their life felt as risk. Only one rider attended.

Bart Protests

A protester raises his arms at officers as he gets surrounded during a demonstration against BART on Aug 29, 2011. Protesters marched up and down Market Street from Civic Center to Embarcadero BART stations.

As Chris Battle writes for the blog Security Debrief, “whatever action BART did take should have dealt with the actual protest and not with the lines of communications used to organize it. Law enforcement must become more intelligent in its reaction to social media. And that’s what it is, reaction.” Battle writes about security and politics of Homeland Security and a partner in leading Homeland Security strategic communication practices. “What law enforcement really needs to do is proactively educate itself on social media and learn to use it to its advantage in a positive way.”
Al Jazeera points out that because the BART tunnels would not have Wi-Fi or cell phone service. The technology services are merely a luxury provided to customers, putting the policy in a legal gray area. Linton Johnson, BART’s communication representative, cited a 1969 Supreme Court ruling as justification.
After the cell shut down people struck back harder than ever. Demonstrators cover their faces and march from the Embarcadero up Market Street. They are many, and their voices demand justice for the seven lives BART police have claimed since the 1970s.
“They say they’re here to protect and serve us, but BART police just make me nervous!” the mass of masked men and women chant. Many are wearing faux blood stained shirts in honor of the blood shed by the victims.

Bart Protests

“We are all Oscar Grant! We are all Charles Hill!” they cry as signs demanding justice for the deceased thrust towards the sky. Their message is clear, they want BART police to disarm and disband before more lives are claimed.
“I wonder why they didn’t shoot for his arm or his legs,” writes Hill’s physician, Dr. Rupa Marya, in a letter published by the Bay Guardian. She only remembers Hill as a pleasant person suffering from substance abuse.
Krystof Lapour maintains this has to do with an underlying class war that is inherent in the BART police model. Because they are serving paying customers, they set up clear boundaries for whom they will ultimately protect and serve. This class war was left out of the media, who framed the story much differently than BART surveillance and witnesses remember it.
Many news corporations framed the scene as a violent drunken homeless man advancing toward police armed with knives.
While somewhat accurate, Hill having often been at some level of intoxication and also having knives on his person, witnesses recall him holding an unbroken bottle but not necessarily wielding it at the officers. One witness, Melyssa Jo Kelly says she heard nothing from officers before they opened fire. She only heard the three shots on the platform. “It can happen to any of us, so if we don’t look after the people who don’t have power ultimately it could affect the safety for us all,” she concludes in an interview with Josh Wolfe.

Bart Protests

“What if this was your son?” calls Native American leader and No Justice No Bart Activist Running Horse. He urges the BART riders to think about the very real dangers of a police force serving only those who pay. While Charles Hill was a transient and lived in the outskirts of society, Oscar Grant was different.
On January 1, 2009 while revelers brought in the New Year with champagne and song, an altercation broke out between BART police officers and a group of young minority men at the Fruitvale Station in Oakland. Shaky cell phone videos from YouTube show four men sitting and cooperating with officers while observers yell, “fuck the police!” The officers are standing over the men and approach with force. As one man begins to rise to his feet, an officer restrains and kicks him back into line with the group.
“There are disproportionate minority arrests within BART, while only 8-12 percent of riders are black, African Americans make up 60 percent of all arrests made,” explains Lopaur of No Justice No BART. He claims the BART police epitomize a class war.

Bart Protests

They force Grant to his stomach, with his arms behind his back. One of the others in his group is handcuffed and pulled to the side. Grant squirms from his stomach to his back before two officers attempt to return him face down on the floor. Johannes Mehserle reaches to his belt and pulls what he thought was a taser. He grabs his 9mm and shoots Grant in the back, restraining him for good.
“We often have to deal with agitated and sometimes even violent people,” according to Marya. “Through teamwork, tools and training, we have not had to fatally wound…in order to subdue,” her comments of the BART police response to her patient.
Rainey explains that officers receive crisis training meant to deescalate situations but admits that BART officers are trained to “not kill people but shoot at center mass to stop the threat.” One of the two officers present at the shooting was only in his thirteenth month on the force and had not undergone the crisis training before July 3. It remains unclear if this is the officer who opened fire.
BART has ensured the public through press conferences that officers are merely there to protect riders. “Sargent Hartwig says they are serving paying customers which creates a minority problem,” Krystof comments of the interchanged vocabulary. And he maintains this mentality is the exact reason BART is not there to protect and serve like city police officers. By serving only a customer, BART police are providing a service rather than serving citizens, according to Lapour.
Spokesman Jim Allison has been quoted referring to the patrons of BART as customers, denoting the financial relationship. They further exemplify Lapour’s point by stating while they respect the First Amendment “Paid areas of BART stations are reserved for ticketed passengers who are boarding, exiting or waiting for BART cars and trains, or for authorized BART personnel. No person shall conduct or participate in assemblies or demonstrations or engage in other expressive activities in the paid areas of BART stations, including BART cars and trains and BART station platforms.”
Johnson maintains that they were only keeping public safety in mind not to limit freedom of speech. “We love the First Amendment… and as long as they remain in the free speech zone outside the fare gates.”
On September 8, the protesters chose to remain outside the fare gates, but was met with police in full riot gear and the closure of Civic Center and Powell Street stations. The protesters were asked to leave the area several times, after refusing officers closed the entrance and exits to the stations. For over two hours, a group of journalists and protesters were held captive in a swarm of police officers. The officers asked the media to present proper press identification if they insist on being released without citation. They were separated from the group as protester Nick Koehler recalls, “why is the media not being allowed to record our arrests? They’re singling out people one at a time, the media needs to record our arrests!” One by one, demonstrators and journalists are pulled from the group and put in zip ties.
Johnson refers to a free speech policy BART has had in place that can be found on their web page. Clicking the link you will find the rules clearly outlined by BART. Anybody may offer their opinion, so long as they have filled out a permit at least a week before they plan to share their opinion. Free speech is not permitted in the paid areas, something reiterated in defense of arresting several protesters. The unpaid areas are the only “free speech zones” if the person has obtained the correct permit.
Free speech permits may be denied by BART for a variety of reasons, including previous disruption or destruction of BART. If more than one person has filed a permit for that day and time, the application may also be denied. If BART deems the intent of those wishing to speak freely as dangerous or disruptive in any way, they will be denied. If the applicant can’t make it past these standards they may exercise their freedom of speech, but limitations apply.
The permit only remains valid for a maximum of four weeks, and the BART administration can pose “reasonable time, place, and manner conditions to prevent interference.” This includes: the time and date the free speech may take place, the amount of people able to speak freely, and at which stations. They also reserve the right to limit suitcases, chairs, tables, bags and other containers without limitation. The permit rules continue to elaborate that any sort of disruption to BART personnel, patrons, concessions or operation will be grounds to revoke the permit.
The actions dominated headlines across the nation and even to freedom fighters in Egypt. The American Civil Liberties Union writes on their blog, “no, it wasn’t in Egypt or London, it was in San Francisco.” The move had been unprecedented and many legal rights activists demanded that BART rethink their actions. The blog continues, “the First Amendment protects everybodys right to free expression, and when the government responds to people protesting against it by silencing them, it’s dangerous to democracy.”
The ACLU threatened legal action along with the Federal Communications Commission, but quickly backed down. They too have recognized the difficulty in regulating within the free speech zone. Instead the ACLU has began to work with BART starting in late August to implement the proper time and place to eliminate cell service.
While it remains federally illegal to “jam” cellphones, the private business relationship between BART and service providers does not fall under this law. The technology used was entirely different. That being said, section 333 of The Communications Act of 1934 only prohibits the shut down of communications from federal agencies. These factors were clearly not considered before emails were sent.
The precedent remains, so long as people organize in our technologically driven world through Facebook and Twitter they will prospectively be subject to communications policies by private institutions. These private institutions will be able to revoke free speech without the proper form, turn off modes of communication, and if a person is deemed a threat they may be shot.
Lapour and other of No Justice No BART continue to attend BART meetings and keep requesting the BART police to disband.
“We aim to allow civilian review within our policing agency to create better accountability, I could have got that wrong,” Board of Directors member Tom Radulovich explains during the BART PD review. “But here we are again with another police involved shooting and we may need to examine that option seriously.”

Bart Protests</a

What’s Klout all about?

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By Jessica Graham

With her eyes fixed on the computer screen, Angela Doll Carlson, Tweets, posts and shares her way to a higher Klout score. Her goal: to get one person to actually reach out to her and bring her a donut.

Klout measures influence across social networks. The San Francisco-based company created the social media analyzer to see just how influential, or “popular,” you are online based on the likes of Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr. Your influence is based on a scale of one to 100.

Carlson, a Chicago-based writer, personal trainer and musician spent years building up an online identity – a “castle in a cute little social media neighborhood.” According to Klout she is a “specialist,” influential in a specific field. But despite Carlson’s influence online, she still hasn’t gotten that donut.

“So far I influence like 479 people,” blogged Carlson. “No matter how many times I tweet about it though, not one of those 479 people will bring me a donut so I ask: what good is that anyway?“

Initially, Klout was a tool for many social media junkies to see how far their message travels online. As more people use Klout, being unpopular, or having a low Klout score, may have bigger consequences.

Students may leave school, look for a job and realize that a potential employer analyzed their Klout score. With a low score, it’s hard to stay competitive.

One SF State student is preparing for this day. On Twitter, an impressive Klout score of 70 rests next to her profile picture, showing one purple-haired, mascara-clad Francesca Ali.

In the real world, Francesca Ali is Franko Ali, a visual communications design major and marketing minor. His Twitter profile picture is a social media experiment on whether being an attractive girl online has any effect on one’s Twitter followers. With plans to work in marketing, Ali’s future may depend on his ability to maintain a high Klout score.

What's your Klout?

Curious how your Klout score stacks up? Compare yourself with these notable people and see how you do.

“The fact that it’s in beta and I have a 70 right now is cool,” said Ali, sitting at the center of a huge wooden table in the Cesar Chavez center. “Once it’s out of beta, I will put my Klout score on my resume.”

Klout measures your social media activity using an algorithm, then gives you a score and a list of topics you are influential about. Your score is heavily based on how many people you influence.

Levine, who writes for several media outlets including Business Insider, New York Magazine, and FoxNews.com, uses Klout to monitor how well she is engaging her audience online. As a writer,  Levine wants to ensure what she is influential about matches what she writes about.

“Some topics fit me and some are based on just one story I did months ago, but must have come up because I happened to excessively hashtag it or something,” said Levine.

But some topics come out of left field, leaving several Klout users to wonder about the accuracy and reliability of the budding tech company’s data. According to Carlson and Levine, Klout won’t be a useful tool until its results are more trustworthy.

“For a while Klout said I was influential about teeth, which maybe accurate in some alternative universe, but I have no idea what I’d been tweeting to give that impression,” said Carlson.

According to Joe Fernandez, Klout will be releasing a feature called ‘Score Insights’ in the next few weeks. This will show you exactly why your score went up or down and can help you better understand your topics.

The idea of employers judging your eligibility on a Klout score does not sit well with SF State journalism student KC Crowell. Crowell says that Klout is giving credit where’s credit’s not due. Sitting against the wall in a desk riddled in lewd doodles and gum, Crowell shares her experience with Klout.

The biggest problem with Klout is that someone like Justin Bieber can be more influential about iPhones than Apple, according to Crowell. Facebook and Twitter followers can be purchased through marketing companies–some charge a dollar a follow–increasing the chances that the desired message will be retweeted, shared and plus one’d. If people can buy influence, then the people who are actually influential about a topic have a harder time leveling up. Crowell believes this is wrong.

“Trying to use it to measure any meaningful influence, is like saying your a homeowner because you have Monopoly money,” said Crowell.

Besides purchasing influence, people are learning how to manipulate Klout’s algorithm to get a high score.  Klout users are spending more time on Twitter and Facebook because those social media hold more weight with Klout and can boost your score. Joe Fernandez, CEO and co-founder of Klout, acknowledges Klout’s computing flaws, but shares he is still in the process of understanding how Klout interacts with the world.

Fifty tech lovers, writers and social media junkies are all simultaneously staring at their computer screen. On the Spreecast, Fernandez announces that he is logging in live from Klout headquarters and will be answering questions from the virtual crowd.

“At the office,  we call this the ‘Warren Buffet problem,’ where somebody hugely influential in the real world, but not active at all on the social web, wouldn’t have a Klout score,” says Fernandez. “The same way Google says their goal is to index all the world’s information, we want to understand the world’s influence and that’s going to take us a long time.”

Fernandez and his team waste no time exploring the concept of Klout and real world interaction. Fernandez admits that his team uses the Klout score during the hiring process. It isn’t the deciding factor, but it helps them identify if someone is actually influential about the things they say they are. For some students, this could mean social media will play a larger role than an entertaining past-time. It could actually play a role in finding a job.

So what does this all mean for students? Will their futures be dependent on virtual, game-based social media analyzers? According to Ali, people like his dad are already monitoring employee’s social media activity. As a lawyer, his father scans the Facebook accounts of potential interns. Employers already have access to the information Klout collects, so the negative effects of being rated on your online influence stems from being active on social media in general.

“I want to be seen online for the kind of person I am, because in this creative industry this creative thinking, different thinking, rather than stark professionalism, is desirable,” says Ali. “The fact that I can be see as an outgoing person that’s insightful, clever, and snaky, the fact that I can be seen that way without even having to have and interview, to me, that’s an opportunity.”

Food trucks are the newest craze in San Francisco eateries

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After the Monday lunch rush dies down, Tan Truong washes his hands, pulls a few paper towels from the dispenser and quickly dries off before tossing the crumpled towels in the recycle bin and steps down from his truck. He leans against the front of his food truck to shield himself from the slight breeze that has picked up in the nook between two buildings on Mission Street where he and two other trucks have parked from 11 am to 2 pm. Over the gentle roar of the generator, thirty-six-year-old Truong divulges the secrets behind his success with his latest business venture, Kung Fu Tacos.
Growing up in San Diego on traditional Chinese cuisine, Truong moved to San Francisco fifteen years ago to study International Business at SF State. After starting his own ground stable restaurant, Candybar, on Fulton Street, he decided to challenge himself with something new in August 2009. He saw the success of the food trucks in Los Angeles and thought that the idea would pair well with San Francisco.
“I think that people in San Francisco are drawn to new and exciting ideas, especially when it comes to food,” Truong says. “Food trucks and street food vendors have really pushed the envelope with different cuisines and concepts. It’s a good opportunity for folks to sample from a variety of different vendors in a fun environment.  It’s like a party with great food. Everybody loves parties.”
So what inspired the menu for the truck?
He remarks simply, “I love tacos.”
For Truong, the combination of childhood staples like roast duck and BBQ pork marinated in a variety of Chinese spices pair wonderfully with salsas inside two warm corn tortillas. Originally planning on just running his truck outside his dessert bar during happy hour, the idea quickly expanded into much more. Right now, Kung Fu Tacos works independently, but also teams up with groups like Truck Stop SF, and of course, usually runs three to four services a week with the illustrious Off the Grid.
The question begs to be asked though, other than the fact that San Francisco residents are total food lovers, why have food trucks become so popular in the city specifically? Matt Cohen, the founder of Off the Grid, contemplates momentarily before disclosing his main theories.
“Markets are a great way to have spontaneous interactions with your neighbors [because] you’re all standing in line together, it’s inevitable that you will start talking to someone,” he says. “It makes neighbors very approachable if you see someone eating something delicious it’s so easy to ask them, ‘Hey, where did you get that?’”
But perhaps the most fundamental reason is space. With the clear geographical restraints that are the city limits, there is only so much commercial space available to young chefs looking to make a name for themselves. Living in a food obsessed city can hurt as well. With almost every other retail space on the streets occupying some sort of eatery, the obvious lack of space leads to extremely high monthly rents for a tiny space that would not encourage people to cram inside. With low overhead and the ability to come to the customers rather than forcing them to crowd inside a small space, food trucks allow talented foodies a vessel for them to create a following in an open air area.
“Once you get past the initial price of the of the truck and the repairs, it makes much more sense,” says Ben Goodnick, an employee at the food truck, Little Green Cyclo.
Twenty-one-year-old Goodnick has worked just about every position from cooking and driving since the truck’s inception in September 2010. Now he mostly sticks to the front of the bus, always taking orders with enthusiasm – no matter how long the line. He just makes sure to stay out of the way of the chefs who crank out orders with speed. He believes that the biggest downfall of food trucks is the lack of space within them.
Despite the tight quarters, food trucks still manage to produce dishes that keep the customers following the trucks around the city every day.
“No matter how banging a restaurant is, they will not do the same numbers as a food truck,” he states.  “At the end of a busy night, I look down at the tickets and realize we had four hundred customers.”
It seems that any truck that joins forces with Off the Grid is guaranteed success due to the cult-like following that surrounds the group. Cohen had no idea when he started Off the Grid in July 2010 that it would take off the way it did. Originally planning to open his own late night food truck, he became extremely familiar with permit codes, which led him to work as a consultant for food trucks. After working with the trucks for a while and seeing the lack of organization, he decided to put a group together of the best of the best and host events for those trucks to work alongside each other.
Cohen’s philosophy for the food trucks themselves is based more on quality than quantity and not just any truck can join the ranks. After the initial application process, trucks must undergo taste tests, and periodically throughout the season, their products will be tested. As of now, seventy trucks rotate around eleven venues, with Fort Mason remaining by far the largest venue with thirty vendors. Cohen is adamant about keeping the number of trucks relatively low at each location.
“Our core commitment is all about a win-win situation,” Cohen says. “I want every truck to have a good night.”
He explains that having too many trucks in one location would dilute the overall cash flow for individual trucks. There are plans in the works, however, to expand location-wise throughout the Bay Area. By the end of the year, Cohen aims to bring his fleet of trucks to San Jose and Oakland, with plans for locations in Marin by 2012.
Standing outside his truck at dusk, with the cold wind common in the Upper Haight blowing the curls of his peppered hair that have escaped from under his blue baseball hat, Jim Angelus smiles big and calls out to approaching customers, “What can I get for you tonight?” With his pen and paper at the ready, he looks eagerly at the small crowd gathering around his new truck.
Up until three months ago, Angelus was working grueling twelve to fourteen hour shifts at a restaurant downtown. That all changed when his wife became pregnant with their second child. He decided right then and there that he wanted to be a family man first and a restaurant man second. With food still a driving force, he knew he wanted to stay in the culinary world. While at the downtown restaurant, Angelus had made attempts to bring food trucks to the neighborhood in order to attract that demographic to his restaurant for a full meal after sampling the truck treats. That is when he got the idea to open his own truck and join the fast growing food truck culture. But what to cook? Having no formal training, Angelus has always relied on the words of wisdom imparted to him by his mother who was a chef, and his natural instinct.
“I wanted to do a truck that was based more on, I guess you could say, comfort food,” he explains.
Angelus recalls group outings with friends to Off the Grid and the skepticism he met when he would suggest something like a kimchi taco from Seoul on Wheels. He laughs as he admits that some of his friends may not be as adventurous as he is when it comes to culinary concoctions. It was his friends’ timidity, however, that inspired the theme of his truck.
“Everyone seems to love bacon,” he says. “As an ingredient, it’s magical, it’s sweet, it’s savory and can be used in every meal.”
Thus, Bacon Bacon was born. Despite only being in business for about eight weeks, Angelus and his bacon have acquired quite the following – something he attributes to the bacon hype that seems to have captivated society. Mostly though, it might be his marketing and prominence in the community, currently running about five to eight services a week, with roughly three of those at Off the Grid events.
After going to Off the Grid for the first time last week, Angela Thang introduces her friend Ryan Leake to the wonders of the Fort Mason gathering. On the group’s busiest night by far, the two huddle together to avoid getting in the way of the lines of hungry foodies, at least ten people long at Pica Pica Maize Kitchen and Onigilly Samurai Snack. While sharing a platter of fried plantains from Pica Pica, Thang talks about her love for the event. She explains, in great detail, everything the two have tasted and the dishes yet to come. In her excitement, she has to pass the red and white checkered plate of plantains to Leake to avoid spilling them. With her hands now free, she gestures to all the trucks she has tried that night and pushes up her wire-framed glasses as she attempts to look over the crowd to see what she may have missed because of her short stature.
“Everything is so creative, I can’t help but wonder, how do they make this on a truck? But then I remember – it’s San Francisco, it’s so diverse.”
Taking advantage of Thang’s distraction, Leake, a fourth year culinary student, casts his light eyes downward as he devours most of the plantains, stopping only to comment on his surprise at the reasonable prices the trucks offer.
“It’s not horribly expensive, everything ranges from three to nine dollars,” he says in between bites.
For the two, pork was the favorite ingredient of the night. They split the “MC Hammer” from Brass*Knuckle, a slow roasted ham, melted cheese and jalapeno pepper sandwich. Next up is the Thai braised pork sandwich topped with a foie gras mousse and pickled cucumber. Their favorite, though, is the tender pork belly bun with pickled daikon radish from Chairman Bao Bun Truck, one of the more popular trucks.
The bun truck, which usually boasts a menu of six different baked or steamed buns, is run by Kevin Kiwata and Curtis Lam. Originally started by Mobi Munch, a company based in Los Angelus in May 2010, they decided to sell to Kiwata and Lam in early 2011.
Lam, a chef, had been looking for a way to break into the culinary world, and when the opportunity arose to take over a truck, he and Kiwata knew they had to pounce on the situation. Thus far, the venture has proven to be a successful and viable way to support themselves.
Kiwata mentions that he loves working with Off the Grid specifically because more trucks bring more people. He does make note that the general demographic is younger than ground stable eateries.
“Some people won’t come out because they prefer an enclosed environment with somewhere to sit,” Kiwata says.
This minor hitch has not deterred locals and tourists alike from flocking to the various locations around the city. During his ten day vacation to San Francisco, twenty-seven-year-old Jon Korecki stumbled upon the offshoot where a few food trucks were parked to try the acclaimed buns from Chairman Bao. Korecki, who owns a restaurant similar to Kung Fu Tacos in his native Ottawa, Canada, came to try the wonders of the food trucks with his wife Anusha, his brother Kevin, and his friend Jarrod Stewart. Peaking out of the white compostable container in his hands are the four buns featured from the truck that day, all neatly individually wrapped and waiting to be eaten.
A big fan of street food vendors, Korecki loves the overall vibe of street food culture and the positive addition the trucks have been to the city. He hopes that one day Ottawa will offer the same.
“It’s great. Not only are you supporting your community, but these food trucks are reflective of some of the best foods in the world,” he says. “Some of the most interesting meals come out of street vendors standing around talking among themselves and to customers.”
Coming up behind the group after surveying Chairman Bao’s truck, twenty-six-year-old  Stewart adds, “It’s fast and convenient, but not processed like McDonald’s-type shit.”
At the end of a busy night at Fort Mason, when the live music has stopped and the last customers have trickled out, the various trucks survey their leftovers. After cooking and sampling their food all night, those who run the trucks are ready to try their comrades’ concoctions. Truong notes that he loves being able to sample what the other trucks have to offer and share his own in exchange, a quality that truly embodies the community spirit that Off the Grid creates for its attendants.
“We usually over order ingredients, at least by a little bit, so at the end of the night we go around and share with the other trucks,” Goodnick echoes. “The guy who runs the cupcake truck loves our coffee so we like to trade.”

Life inside the artist’s den

By xpressmagazine

On the outside it almost blends in as any other building on the street. Its faded pink color and brick stairs give it the similar face of many San Francisco apartments. It isn’t until you notice the small details about the building – the cross plastered above the second story windows with intricate details in the molding, the scalloped ridges that adorn the base of the roof, and the fact that it is at least three times bigger than its surrounding homes – that you realize it is not your average apartment. It’s The Convent; it’s an artist living collective; it’s what twenty-four people have learned to call home.

What once was a convent for nuns run by the Catholic Church in 1936 is now an over-sized living and artist work-space on Oak Street in the Lower Haight neighborhood of San Francisco. Commonly labeled by others as a commune, it is actually an artist living collective, with enough space and privacy for its inhabitants to focus on projects like sewing, DJing, glass blowing, and other forms of art.

After ringing the doorbell, a girl named Gabriella with long, brown hair and a sundress on answers the door, not asking any questions but inviting to come in and explore the place. Making people instantly feel welcome and comfortable is one of the greater qualities of The Convent. When you walk through the door the hallway is long and dark, with a bright expanse of light at the other end, emanating from an empty room with hardwood floors and windows lining both sides. Gravitating towards the luminescent space, you pass an immense staircase leading to the second floor and rows of wooden doors – one that leads to a kitchen, a few with signs reading “off limits”, another that opens up into a plush, antique-looking parlor, and multiple with large brass numbers nailed to the front. The doors with numbers are all bedrooms. Once you approach the radiant room you realize that it is a chapel – a place for meetings, a place of mediation, a place of respect. These components are some of the key things that comprise the elements of living here.

“The Convent is a place for turning inward, focusing on your personal art, and being a part of a community and communal events,” says Brett Hapoienu, who is originally from Rochester, New York, but has been living in the space on and off since last October. “It’s not a commune because we don’t share everything.”

The residents share the main living spaces and work together on different events that they have, but still try to be respectful of everyone and their space. Brett’s role in the house is a manager of sorts, whose duties have become making rounds once people are asleep and helping run the convent altogether.

“I am usually the last one awake,” Hapoienu says. “And I think being the president of my fraternity in college has made me used to checking on people and closing things down at night.”

In the house, Brett is an aspiring DJ and works in a custom-built music studio setup in the basement.

The basement spans the entire ground floor of the building, and is separated into two different sections. One side is equipped with workbenches, tables, canvases and other instruments for the artists’ work. The other side adorns a bamboo dance floor with more than enough space for everyone and their friends to have parties. It also contains a secret door leading to a music room fully equipped with multiple instruments, and across from there a own personal music-recording studio. In order to get there, you need to venture through one of the “off limits” doors, which is only a spiral of wooden stairs leading down or up to the roof, a place either of solitude or for guests to enjoy a great view of the entire city.

The Convent opened for move-in last October, with many of its residents previously living with only a couple roommates and not knowing what to expect.

“There definitely was no cohesive vision or unified voice for the convent,” says Madeline Fauss, who immediately moved into the space when it became available last October, “but it is an amazing thing to wake up and have all of your friends in the same space. You really have everything that you need here.”

But that’s not to say that living with twenty-four people in twenty rooms doesn’t come with its own set of problems.

“It’s definitely all about respect, that’s the number one issue,” says Brett. “A lot of us here like to have a good time, but sound really travels in this place. Not everyone can party in the wee hours, some people work and some people don’t.”

Establishing ‘quiet hours’ isn’t the only problem, however. The tasks that come with living with so many people can become overwhelming, even daunting at times.

“The most important thing that people need to remember is to take care of themselves,” says Madeline, referring to people who become resentful of others that don’t clean up after themselves. “People were wearing themselves out at first because they were taking on too much responsibility, and the hardworking were overcompensating the lazy. They have to realize that in order to live here everyone has to first take care of themselves and then the house is taken care of.”

To deal with the task of cleanliness, the Convent established a chores system so everyone can pull their own weight, as well as a body of representatives to handle problems anyone might have.

“You’re going to have people clashing in any living environment, that’s natural,” says Madeline. “The challenge is to accept that and find healthy ways of expressing emotions.”

Artist collectives in San Francisco first started to become popular in the ‘60s, according to UC Berkeley history professor Richard Candida-Smith, but some groups were living collectively long before they were popular.

“Artists have had close living and working relationships for a long time,” he says, referring to artist Ralph Stackpole’s studio at Mission Street and Embarcadero in the 1930s and 1940s. “It was a center for progressive arts setup for both living and working, but the arrangements were casual.”

He says that housing costs in San Francisco before the 1970s were cheap, so the economy would not have been a factor in deciding to live with others.

“What would have been required probably was a new ideological perspective,” he says, which is similar to what those at The Convent and other modern-day collectives are doing.

Although collectives may not be many people’s preferred way of living, they definitely have their positive aspects.

“Deciding to live in a collective was a life-changing experience for me,” says Michael Latronica, current leaseholder for The Convent. “I think we tend to keep to ourselves, especially in a big city where you don’t know who your neighbors are. Collective living breeds community, breeds what I think lacks in the city for the most part, and encourages people to share and interact with each other, that’s what it’s all about.” Living collectively brings people together not only as a community of friends and immediate neighbors, but also as a network. To live, work, network, experience, create, and thrive with a group of people on a consistent basis is something some people only wish they could be apart of. Just because you live in a place where you have the ability to be in constant contact with people doesn’t mean that it is a constant party.

“There’s power in numbers,” says Brett. “Collective living aids in ones ability to create and affect change through the collective’s strength. That power is best focused if the community has a shared intent or vision.”

But The Convent never had that vision, it’s just a place to live and be inspired and create personal work. So instead of changing that vision, a new opportunity arose. The landlord contacted Michael and decided to open another collective, offering the people who live in The Convent an opportunity to run the new space. Behold, The Center.

The Center has nineteen bedrooms, five offices, a three-thousand square foot event space, and a completely different vibe from The Convent.

“The Center has this angelic light throughout the entire space,” says Michael. “It was built in the 1800s so the building has a lot of character, but it’s very clean and white and spacious. It’s a completely different animal than The Convent.” Madeline and Brett have taken on responsibility as managers of the new space, with Michael in charge as head leaseholder for both The Convent and The Center.

Although the new space houses about twenty people, it is not considered an artist collective. It is more of a business, with a cafe, multi-purpose space and offices offering acupuncture, yoga classes, tai chi, martial arts, workshops, and other things for the surrounding community.

“I am really excited about it,” says Brett, whose managerial role for the Center is to recruit renters into the offices and bedrooms . “The purpose of this space is to facilitate the evolution of consciousness in humanity and to bring awareness to things about the world.” It is literally in the backyard of The Convent, around the corner on Fillmore Street.

There is definitely excitement flowing through the halls of these two spaces. The people that live here feel like they are making a difference either in their own lives or in the lives of others, making that is their ultimate goal.

“I’d recommend collective living in these two types of places because of the potential of what can manifest from the collective gifts, skills, and resources of a group of people,” Brett says. “Together, our network is instantly huge.”

Collectives allow people to brainstorm and inspire each other, and put those thoughts into effect. It’s always easier to do things with a friend by your side, and, in this case, you have multiple people supporting you and enabling you to become a better person every day.

“If you’re having an artistic dilemma,” says Michael. “You have people there to pick you up and get you back on track.”

And that’s really what it’s all about: being there for other people and having a network, a support system, steps away from your bedroom door and allowing yourself to be part of something bigger.

“Part of me doesn’t want to leave here. It’s really been an unreal experience,” says Madeline, who is originally from Richmond, Virginia. “I have found my nuclear family here.”

Fine arts students duke it out at LitQuake Body Slam

By xpressmagazine

By Tamerra Griffin
Inside the dimly lit Cafe du Nord, soft chatter buzzes about.  San Francisco’s young literati–outfitted in thick-rimmed glasses and carefully coiffed “unkempt” hairdos–brave the chilly mist outside, huddling around folding chairs and clutching beer bottles and glasses of wine sweating with condensation.  Two mic stands sit atop a lonely stage at the front of the room, daring souls bold enough to come forth.  Those in question are MFA students from schools across the Bay Area–San Jose State, Mills College, University of San Francisco, California College of the Arts, St. Mary’s College of California, and SF State, to be exact.  Situated throughout the room in teams of three, they compete in San Francisco Litquake’s first ever MFA Body Slam, which consists of game show-like questions, fabulous prizes fit for the dedicated bibliophiles, and opportunities for the students to showcase their latest works-in-progress.
Established in 1999 under the name Litstock, Litquake began as a one-day reading event in Golden Gate Park.  Having since expanded in both participants and festival length, this year’s Litquake spanned from October 7-15, and included a variety of events, from readings and meet-ups to discussions and demonstrations.  And as per tradition, the largest independent literary festival on the West Coast concludes with a booze-infused lit-crawl through the Mission, where patrons simultaneously get their fill of poignant prose and lip-puckering libations.
Lit Quake

The first ever MFA Body Slam was held at the Swedish American Hall in San Francisco on Fri. Oct. 10, 2011. The event was organized by the Litquake, and six universities were represented in the literature trivial event. Photo by Hang Cheng

In tonight’s academic duel, the emcee summons representatives from two schools to the stage, where they each have five minutes to read aloud their latest creations to the audience.  Following the readings are a series of trivia questions intended to challenge the contestants’ knowledge of Bay Area pop culture, with such inquiries as, “Which of the following bands is not originally from San Francisco?”  The team member who answers the most questions correctly takes home a prize, which ranges from signed copies of books to psychedelic Fillmore posters.
Carolyn Ho enters the hall with a small swarm of enthusiastic friends. Dressed in a lengthy ruby coat, she appears to be the heart of the party.  Along with Annemarie (who shortens her name into the pseudonym A.E.) Munn and Justin McElfresh, who goes by Justin etc., they comprise SF State’s team.

After the first round between St. Mary’s and USF, Munn approaches stage left to face Jose Vadi of Mills College.  Vadi reads a selection of untitled creative non-fiction about his Puerto Rican family, focusing primarily on his strong-willed mother and her bout with cancer.  Munn chooses an excerpt from a fictional short story, a romance at the soup kitchen of a meditation camp.  Both students’ voices rise and fall in time with the plots of their respective stories, captivating everyone else in the room.

Lit Quake

Carolyn Ho, a SF State graduate student of MFA, reads her poems on stage during the MFA Body Slam, a Litquake event, at Swedish American Hall in San Francisco, Fri. Oct. 10, 2011. Photo by Hang Cheng

But in spite of these students’ undeniable talents–from Ho’s sexually-charged poem about sandwiches to Justin etc.’s dry humor–the foreseeable future of book publishing is less than bright.  According to the SF State’s body slammers, the shift in the industry from big corporations to independently-owned bookstores and from printed works to online archives makes them alter their approach to getting published.
Ho finds that online publications ensure a longer shelf life of her work.

“It’s unfortunate, but electronics are more permanent than print,” she says.

Lit Quake

Annemarie Munn, a SF State graduate student of MFA, reads her writing during the MFA Body Slam, a Litquake event, at Swedish American Hall in San Francisco, Fri. Oct. 10, 2011. Photo by Hang Cheng

Munn, who also considers herself a book artist, notes that “a book as an art object [now] replaces a book as a physical object, since they’re no longer mass produced.”
Justin etc., embodying a romantic nostalgia for lit culture, maintains that while the publishing industry is undergoing a metamorphosis, it should not have an influence on writers’ intentions.
“The creative process is more important than getting your work out,” he says.

SF State’s Lady Gators gear up for another strong season

By xpressmagazine

By Martin Telleria

Photos by Andrew Lopez

In the storied history of SF State, no sports team had ever won a championship. After opening its doors in 1899, it wasn’t until 2010, over a hundred years later, that the women were able to bring home a title. Unfortunately for the lady gators, they fall into a separate category of history, neither positive nor negative. They are simply forgotten, not given the recognition they deserve, forced to savor the moment alone.

The 2010 lady gators exceeded all expectations, relying on their solid coaching to enter the rarefied air of champions. Coach Jack Hyde, who not only has coached the women’s soccer team for twenty-nine years but also was instrumental in starting the team in 1982, guided the lady gators to the Promised Land and expects much of the same this year.

“My expectation’s for the team this year is to perform at the highest level possible,” says Hyde. “What we try to do is build on the experiences from last year. The returning players had a wonderful experience last year in Hawaii and hopefully they bring that back this year. We’ve recruited good players to come on our squad to hopefully improve it and have the chance to build upon last year.”

Losing players is obviously tough, but incorporating new ones is even tougher. For Coach Hyde and the lady gators, any hopes of repeating last seasons success hinges upon the fresh faces being able to learn the system quickly and contribute at a high level.

“Freshmen usually have good skills but the speed and toughness of the game is hard to get accustomed to,” he said. “I need to teach the players how to take care of their bodies while also trying to get the ball. Also, while the returners from last year are the core, our job as coaches is to blend the newcomers into our system and improve them to be able to play at the NCAA level. They need to strive to reach the height of the returning players.”

While the Gators have started the season with an impressive 7-4-1 record, the manner in which the games have been played has not been quite up to snuff with Coach Hyde. Double overtime to win matches is not what he had envisioned at the start of the season. The inability to consistently score goals is the thorn in the side of Coach Hyde that has followed him from last season.

The SF State women's soccer team gets fierce during a warm up game on September 14, 2011

“We had trouble scoring last year; we need to improve that this year,” he said. “We still haven’t scored much this season but we’ve still won. Our goal is to score two goals a game. We haven’t done that thus far because the front lines haven’t gelled yet. It’s all a building process; we’re still in the stage of getting to know each other and how to react to each other.”

Fortunately for the Gators, a bright light in the form of Nicole Vanni, a returning junior this year, has emerged to keep them afloat during their scoring drought. While Vanni is a midfielder and not necessarily featured on the offense, she has come up huge this season with seven goals in twelve games, two of which were golden goals in overtime to seal wins for the gators

“Players like Nicole, that’s what it takes to go far,” said Hyde when asked about Vanni. “When a team is struggling, you need players to step up and put the team on their back. That’s what she’s done for us this season. I don’t know if I expect her to keep up the scoring pace all season but she broke out at the right time for us. Now everybody else on the front line needs to break out too.”

While the sluggish Gator offense is still looking to hit its stride, the Gator defense is a whole different story. Led by last seasons CCAA defensive most valuable player, junior Annicia Jones, who has saved a remarkable thirty-four out of thirty-seven shots this season, the lady gators defense has proved to be a nearly impenetrable fortress so far.

“At the moment defense is our strong point,” says Hyde. “But as is the case in any sport, that can’t be the formula for winning games. At some point we need to put the ball in the back of the net. Until that starts happening, however, the defense must stay strong and continue to keep us in close games. When our offense catches up to the defense, this team will be very good, good enough to perhaps propel us to greater heights than last season. We’re not looking ahead though; our only focus is the next game.”

The defense has stayed strong and the Gators have continued to win thanks in large part to the familiarity between Jones and her defenders.

“This years defense, we have that chemistry,” said Jones. “The relationship between goalkeeper and defense is important. We know each others strengths and weaknesses. We never yell at each other. No matter if I get scored on, we’re a family, we got that bond, and at the end of the game, win or lose, we’re still that family and we’re still gonna keep pushing each other. I don’t think any other team has that chemistry and that’s why I think we’re so good.”

The defense, however, hasn’t been the only crucial element for the rise to stardom of Jones. The influences of coaches and former players has continued to stick with her.

“Jack’s definitely done a great job, she said. “Replacing people, filling huge shoes from last year. That comes from all the experience he has. And when I was a freshman I learned so much when I was on the bench. Obviously I wanted to play but the former goalkeepers helped mold me into who and what I am today.”

While it’s not easy to pick up where you left off last season, playing with experience helps build a certain confidence one needs to be great. It is very rare to come into a whole new system and contribute right off the bat. If you’re anyone but freshman Justine Hernandez, that is.

“It’s definitely a different level,” said Hernandez. The players are all older, they have much more experience, and the game is so much faster. It’s been o.k. so far, though. I need to give credit to everyone, especially Coach Hyde. Without my teammates encouraging me I wouldn’t be starting at this point.”

Even with her success, however, Hernandez admits that the pressure can be great when comparing this team to last year’s championship winning team.

“You look at last year’s team, they were great,” said Hernandez. “I know it doesn’t fall on any one player, but still, there’s definitely pressure to do good. Pressure’s not always bad though. I see this as good pressure. Pressure to do better.”

While the team is currently ranked a respectable fourth in the region, Hernandez still feels the team has yet to hit its stride.

“Everyone on the team has room for improvement,” she said. “We’ve been getting better all season. We just need to keep getting better if we want to build upon what they did last season. With our coaching and dedication, I think we will.”

With the defense already in top form, the Vanni-led offense is continuing to improve.

“Nicole Vanni’s been killing out there,” said Jones. “We had history in high school playing each other in the semi-finals every year. I knew she was good and had it in her. Now she’s doing all this and everyone’s surprised but I already knew she could do that!”

Leading the team with seven goals thus far in the season, the reliance on Vanni to carry the offense will only take these Gators so far. Only two other players have managed to find the back of the net this season: Hernandez twice and senior Kiley Williams once.

“The offense does need to start stepping it up a little more,” said Hernandez. “We’re actually playing really well together. Our passing game is pretty good. It’s just that last shot that’s been the problem. Our shots just haven’t been going in enough so far.”

Even with the team not quite at top form yet, there is an air of confidence surrounding the team, confidence that was built early on in the season.

“I thought I would be nervous during those overtime games but I was fine,” said Hernandez. “I was probably just too tired at that point to be nervous. Wins like that help your psyche a lot though.”

With a few more wins, the lady gators might just find themselves in the same position they were in last year. And while the older Jones won’t get ahead of herself, Hernandez sees great potential in this team.

“We have such a great team. It’s not out of our reach. We’ll get back there.”

Go get ‘em girls.

Finding Love in Oakland

By xpressmagazine

By Alicia Fischer

Photographs by Cindy Waters

In the vast expanse of concrete known as the Oakland Coliseum’s parking lot B, many people driving by don’t know what’s going on. Brightly decorated trucks are scattered about the lot, with giant black speakers stacked high above them. It’s cloudy and cold, and the breeze from the San Francisco Bay steadily rolls in. At noon, a trickle of neon accumulates at the gates, crossing the BART overpass, and waiting to be slammed into a wall of electronic sound. Welcome to LovEvolution 2011.

When the beloved LoveFest did not return to San Francisco’s Civic Center in 2010, the hearts of candy-raver children and electronic music lovers everywhere shattered. The only day devoted solely to a wide range of dance music was snatched from them, due to a few circumstances abroad and also here on U.S. soil that were beyond their control. But this year, LovEvolution returns to its children once again.

Lee Rous and Andy Gardner (aka Plump DJs) spin on the main stage while a dancer gets the crowd moving at LovEvolution in Oakland on September 24th, 2011

“We were very glad to be able to bring LovEvolution back after having to take 2010 off,” said Syd Gris, DJ and cofounder of the event. “We knew it would be a different kind of event from San Francisco but we felt this year’s event still preserved the spirit of why we do it, in the belief that dance promotes peace, love, unity and respect.”

The fenced-off area is surprisingly empty. Trucks and floats are placed in a circle just like in the past events in downtown San Francisco, but something is definitely missing. Maybe it’s looking past the fences and seeing old, abandoned warehouses, thousands of cars passing by on the highway, or hearing the screeching sounds of BART as it comes to its halting stops. Maybe it’s having to pay $25 to enter the event that was previously free and all about free love and acceptance for all. And maybe it’s the fact that it was cancelled last year and people have lost a little love for LovEvolution. It could be all of these, but nevertheless, the people that do actually make the effort to come from all over the Bay manage to make it an amazing time.

“My favorite part was seeing the fun people that turned up for LovEvolution,” says Syd Gris. “It’s an infectious joy that makes all the work we do year round to make it happen worth it.”

LovEvolution Pikachus Pokemon

A group dressed up as Pikachus pose at LovEvolution in Oakland on September 24th, 2011.

Around 1 p.m., drinks are flowing and there is no place to escape the heavy bass and vociferous beats that are thrown at you from every direction. The number of people increases, but nowhere close to the mass amounts that attended in the past.  It’s primarily a younger crowd, with a few techno-veterans.  People are genuinely happy, running from float to float and dancing for hours in funny costumes or miniscule strips of neon fabric.

“Our actual message and main goal for this year and every event is always P.L.U.R – Peace. Love. Unity. Respect,” says Otto Herrera, a volunteer in his third year working at LovEvolution. “I love the environment and vibe that electronic music brings, especially at events like this where love is trying to be present.”

The crowd at LovEvolution

The crowd in front of the Chocolate Factory float is feeling the music at LovEvolution in Oakland on September 24th, 2011.

Otto works the information booth, helping people navigate the new grounds and answering any questions about the event. He is an adamant fan of the electro-community, and doesn’t think the event has changed merely because it switched venues.

“It’s still the same,” he says. “The only thing that is different is the increase in security and undercover cops, a lot of undercover cops.”

But even the police maintain the love and let people have a good time. “There are no big issues this year,” said Officer A.C. Smith. “People are already drunk or on whatever when they arrive, so unless they are doing something or lighting up directly in front of us, we will leave them alone.”

Earlier, he escorted two guys off the premises for lighting a joint in front of him and another officer. He said his major concern with the day is making sure everyone is safe and having a good time. “There are generally more young women at events like these, so we are mainly watching to make sure any intoxicated men out there aren’t getting too friendly with anyone.”

“There is an increasingly younger crowd at events like these, but that’s where the money is,” says Danny Fonte, a first-time LovEvolution-er at the Heineken concession stand. “There are no assholes here, there is definitely a very good vibe here today.” And that seems to be the prevailing message of this year’s event. Although significantly smaller and more manageable – maybe even tolerable – than past LovEvolutions, those that attended put their all into having a good time and sharing the love.
“This year’s event was great in many ways,” says Syd Gris, “but all things being equal we’d of course prefer to be back in San Francisco, so we’ll take another look at having the event there if that’s viable.”
The Strip Ship at LovEvolution

The Strip Ship goes airborne at LovEvolution in Oakland on September 24th, 2011

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