Archive for March, 2012

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Life Beyond Takeout

By xpressmagazine

Written by Haley Brucato Photos by Nelson Estrada

@hbrucato 

Constant snacks for late night study sessions and a quick slice after a night at the bar can easily be the cause of steady weight gain in college. It’s time to stop using money as an excuse for daily junk eating. Low-cost healthy alternatives are out there, and easily accessible for on-the-go students who balance work, internships, classes and a social life.

When students find themselves  constantly saying “Tomorrow is time to eat healthier and finally lose this weight,” but can’t resist the urges, it’s time to consider other options. Physical and mental health won’t improve unless students truly start paying attention to their nutritional habits.

Ashley Hathaway, a certified nutritional therapist and Gut and Psychology Syndrome practitioner in San Francisco, believes that students on a tight budget are still capable of buying nutritional foods that won’t break the bank. Hathaway stresses that the budget conscious focus on quality versus quantity. Many students tend to grab things that are immediately satisfying to eat in the moment, like a donut or cup of coffee in the morning, but, according to Hathaway, they are only putting their money towards empty calories.

“They get a jolt from that,” explains Hathaway. “But later get quickly hungry because the body hasn’t truly been nourished.”

Procrastination

By xpressmagazine

Don Menn's Glorious Brain

Written by Victor M. Rodriguez
Finally home after a hard day’s work, Airec Sysprasert immediately and almost reflexively  stays true to his routine. He opens his laptop, and, while he waits for his emails to load, he looks in the refrigerator and cabinets for something to whip up.

“I can begin my work only if I do these things first as soon as I come home,” explains Syprasert, a senior at San Francisco State University, “But even then, I get thrown off and I’ll be on the computer well into 4 a.m. trying to finish my work.”

When it comes to life in college, procrastination is a song and dance many students know all too well. It’s easy to get pulled away from the important school work, like reports and projects, when it means having fun or even just relaxing. After all, that paper is not due for another three weeks.

Once it hits the night before, however, one can only live with stress and regret. “Most of the time, I finish my assignments,” says Elizabeth Hernandez, a freshman at SFSU, “But they definitely could be better if they were done without procrastinating.”

According to a report by Piers Steel of the University of Calgary, research indicates three out of four college students consider themselves procrastinators. Steel asserts that these numbers could be on the rise with people making it a way of life and some even being chronically affected.

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Lolita

By xpressmagazine

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Andi Hernandez in gothic lolita dress at the Conservatory of Flowers. Photo by: Melissa Burman

Written by Erin Browner Photo by Melissa Burman

@eringobro 

A multi-layered dress of dark silk ruffles and satin bows bury Andi Hernandez’s petite body. Voluminous, luscious locks of light auburn hair coil down her velvety corset. Tucked under her corset is a shiny blouse, complete with long, wavy sleeves. Raven-black billowy petticoats gather at her waist and form a bell-shape silhouette. The sharp heels of her knee-high, military-style stiletto boots snap on pavement.

The day Hernandez discovered Lolita fashion, millions of young women were doing the same thing; they sat at home and flipped through their precious fashion magazines. Flashes of lingerie and naked women have been the apple of the media’s eye for the last century. Sexism is prominent in the media largely because most of the media (and most of the world) is run by men. What Hernandez, like most other Lolitas, sought was an alternative.

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Hernandez and Morrow. Photo by: Melissa Burman

At first sight, dainty Hernandez looks eccentric and intimidating. Then she smiles; the whites of her teeth outshine the glow of pearls threaded in her hair and around her waist. As Hernandez begins to talk about one of the most important moments of her life, her eyes radiate a sweet glow. She then holds out her hand to display a dazzling onyx jewel on her ring finger and her smile grows ten times bigger.

The first time Hernandez met Elliot Morrow, they sang karaoke together at a meet up in San Jose. The two were practically strangers when they sang “1000 Words” by Jade Sweetbox, a track from the Final Fantasy video game soundtrack. Now the song holds a special spot on their wedding playlist. The lovers dated for three years before they eloped on November 11, 2011. It only seems fitting that their wedding ceremony reflected the Japanese-inspired fashion that brought them together.

Flash back five years to a curious Hernandez cruising through magazines in high school. She remembers squealing when she stumbled upon a cute style while browsing Japanese fashion articles. Images of modernized Victorian dresses struck Hernandez with love at first sight. She’s been a follower of the Lolita fashion trend ever since.

“It’s definitely a world primarily made up of women who dress for women and for themselves,” says Angie Lyons, San Francisco State University student and local Lolita. Historical research fuels her interest in this highly antique fashion trend. Not only because of the origin of the style, but because of the influence of Victorian times.

Ask any Lolita to define her style and she’s bound to include “Victorian,” “cute,” “elegant,” or “innocent.” Lyons describes Lolita style as “princess clothes for the modern maiden,” which is pretty spot on. Essentially, these ladies are infatuated with the idea of pursuing the secret wish many women have – the desire to escape from patriarchal expectations to dress slutty. They want to be a princess, go for tea and receive an offer of marriage from a prince in wonderland.

Maybe Lolitas don’t necessarily marry Prince Charming, but according to a Canadian documentary, some refer to their world as Alice’s rabbit hole. In the documentary, the fashion’s followers say the common Lolita wants to live in a utopia where “creativity and expression are free of modern society’s expectations.” Once a Lolita gains the confidence to take that freedom, the world becomes Wonderland.
But there’s more to Lolita than dressing in princess dresses, petticoats, and corsets. Lolitas have rules, and the first rule is to minimize the amount of shown skin. The innocent style bloomed from the over sexualization of Japanese women. During a rise of prostitution in Japan, women sought a form of expression to rebel against society’s constant sexualization. Lolitas began to dress in innocent, modest clothing to counter the condescending perception of their race.

Not all Lolitas identify with the sociological conception of the fashion. Many associate Elegant Gothic Lolita with a genre of Japanese music. In the 1980s, the Japanese music industry latched on to EGL’s visual form of expression and incorporated Lolita fashion into their musical performances. The use of voluptuous hair, flamboyant makeup, and Victorian-inspired apparel among musicians is known as Visual Kei. In the past twenty years, the Lolita trend stretched worldwide with Visual Kei bands, turning from female rebellion into a form of individuality for all genders and races.

A well-known Visual Kei band is MALICE MIZER. It combines a gothic version of Lolita while still maintaining a sweet, Victorian performance. Members of MALICE MIZER are often dressed in black from head to toe, with pale makeup and shadowy eyes. Its use of dripping blood in music videos, heavy drumming, and extensive guitar solos are similar to American metal bands.

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Erica Brown. Photo by: Melissa Burman.

But the singer of MALICE MIZER won’t give a ghoulish screech like the vocalists of Necrophagist or Megadeth. MALICE MIZER’s vocals are much more musical and prominent, comparative to Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance. MALICE MIZER’s insertion of sweet French lyrics and playful keyboard chords produce a taste of Versailles, which is a core vision of Lolita for its Victorian-esque dressing gowns and attention to detail. The band’s balance of sour and sweet is similar to the huge sub-category of Lolita fashion, Gothic Lolita.

Opposite of gothic on the Lolita spectrum is Sweet Lolita. Erica Brown of Concord is a candied example of Sweet Lolita. A pink, sparkly bow sits on top of bundles of blond, curly hair. Each time her eyelashes blink, her straight-across bangs are flicked away from her doll-like eyes. Pastel shades of every color embody her cupcake-shaped dress. Ivory lace bloomers peek out from under her skirt. Her piggy pink shoes are bulkier versions of Mary Janes, with three times as many bows. Sometimes, the Sweet Lolitas wear candy in their hair (or wigs). Brown carries a heart-shaped wand, that of a child’s toy. She collects plastic children’s jewelry. She acquired heart rings and star bracelets in random places, some at the child’s makeup section of Target, others at Dollar Stores.

The Sweet Lolita’s child-like visage is commonly misunderstood, just as Gothic Lolita’s image is confused as a costume. With a childish appearance and the name “Lolita,” people foreign to the style assume the fashion is a fetish. This is one of the most common misconceptions of the Lolita trend. Every Lolita is determined to explain her fashion when it is confused with the sexually perverted novel, Lolita, by Russian author Vladimir Nabokov. Nabokov’s version of Lolita is a 12-year-old girl involved in incestuous, sexual acts with an older man. His book did not influence Lolita fashion, the literature is not connected to Japan whatsoever.

Lyons explains the only similarity between the two concepts is the name itself, “It’s unfortunate,” she says as she fiddles with the Hello Kitty keychain attached to her cell phone.

“I think it’s very strange when people equate Lolita the fashion with Lolita the book because pedophilia is all about wanting [sexual relations with] children, not about wanting women who dress like children,” says Lyons.

There is a gray line drawing the difference between Lolita and Harajuku fashions. Harajuku is the Japanese “style” Gwen Stefani popularized with her solo album in 2004– the same album that introduced Lyons to Japanese fashion. Most people outside of Japan quickly stamp the label “Harajuku” on any Japanese-inspired fashion. After Stefani released Love. Angel. Music. Baby., Japan’s Harajuku district became a capitol of fashion, and primary reference of Japanese fashion for the United States.

It’s true that the Lolita fashion began in the Harajuku district in Tokyo, but “Harajuku” is not a fashion trend– it is the physical area in which fashion trends are discovered and worn. A San Franciscan would not say she dressed in the Mission fashion to get coffee with friends. Imagine if Stefani’s infamous track, “Harajuku Girls,” was translated to San Franciscans as “Mission Girls.” The imaginary lyrics are amusing, “Mission girls, you got the wicked style. I like the way that you are. I am your biggest fan.”

Stefani is a shining example of evolving fashion, as her punk rock roots led her to Japanese fashion trends. Clothing outlets like Hot Topic cater fashion similar to Lolita, such as steampunk, pin-up or retro– all incorporate full skirts and the flattering accents of a women’s body.

Instead of shopping at Americanized retail stores to put together an authentic Lolita-inspired look, most Americans shop at Japanese designer stores in SF which import the styles straight from Japan. Angelic Pretty downtown SF and Baby, The Stars Shine Bright (also known simply as “Baby”) in Japantown are the two most-shopped spots for Lolita clothing in San Francisco– and probably in the entire nation– according to Lyons, a former employee of Baby.

Lyons worked at Baby during their first ten months of business in SF. Lolitas scattered across the nation came to visit SF for Lolita shopping. Lyons remembers Lolitas crying of happiness, just because they finally had access to the fashion they were most passionate about.

Countless colors of lace and frill create a rainbow of poofy dresses hanging along the walls of SF’s Angelic Pretty. Tables sprinkled with accessories like flowery bracelets, rose headbands, lace veils, and pearl necklaces complete for attention. Long socks are printed with rose, ribbon, cat, cake, fairy, and star patterns. It’s easy to spend a pretty penny in Angelic Pretty and then walk out looking even prettier than the Hello Kitty credit card swiped for the purchase.

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Andi Hernandez, Erica Brown (middle) and Shannon Sorenson in thier Lolita best. Photo by: Melissa Burman

Although buying designer brands is utterly expensive, many shoppers believe the cost is worth the amount of detail and high quality that the Japanese designers provide. Dresses are trimmed with lace, doused with jewels and stitched with ribbons.

Hernandez and Brown agree that most Lolitas receive expensive brand items as gifts from family, or save up over time and splurge on one essential piece, then enhance it with fixings with their casual wear clothing. The cost of dressing Lolita in the United States is a huge obstacle, as the only retail options are high-end Japanese brands with jacked up prices caused by import fees.

Clothing is the meat of Lolita fashion, but outsiders of the trend often don’t know about the communities of Lolitas, and the intense friendships created through this community. Official meets ups occur at least once a month, when members of the Elegant Gothic Lolita Facebook group organize tea time and shopping in Japantown.

A few years ago one of Lyons’ friends, Jennifer Torrence, borrowed a Lolita dress and joined Lyons on a Lolita meet up. Dressing up in Lolita for the first time, Torrence said she just felt really cute– and maybe a little uncomfortable. Despite her trouble breathing, she found goodness in the experience. The highlight of her time at the Lolita lunch was walking in as a newcomer and immediately being accepted by the community, and even more importantly– she was respected.

“Being around all these women who were just having fun and upbeat and sweet and cheery,” said Torrence. “That itself was a really good experience.”

That was the first and last taste of the Lolita community Torrence took. But after only one meet up, she believes if people understood Lolita is not a sexualized fetish (again, the confusion with Lolita the novel), they might be more receptive and keen on trying to understand the fashion, and likely to participate. San Francisco is a society of cliques and small circles where individuals are afraid of branching out from their long-term friends, and trying to find groups with similar interests. Because San Francisco is such a diverse city, these types of opportunities are plentiful, and the likeliness of finding one other person with a similar interest is tenfold.

On the other hand, San Francisco is one of the top destinations in the world. A lot of outsiders peek in to the safe zone many unique people call “home.” With that in mind, clashes of culture wreck the streets every day, and tourists are quick with their cameras to capture the city’s freak show.

Some onlookers are too bashful to ask the Lolitas to pose a photo. “I prefer when they ask to take a picture instead of me turning around to a sudden flash,” says Hernandez. She pretends to look out for photographers, peeking over each shoulder of bows and frills, then laughs.

A Lolita outing can resemble Disneyland. Groups of visitors line up to shoot a photo of Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty. In this case, the princess is a Lolita, and she likes to throw up a peace sign. This sounds tiring, but Lolitas are too polite to say “no.” Manners and the utmost form of elegance is valued by Lolitas, just as it was in Victorian times. It’s crucial for Lolita to remain civilized if she wants to embody the true meaning of her fashion. Usually Lolitas naturally carry those characteristics, or aspire to act as ladylike as Marie Antoinette. If the occasion rose, Lolita too would offer cake to judgmental masses of the working class, just because she is that sweet.

Many times the Lolitas are judged for resembling nursery rhyme characters, such as Little Bo Peep. Once Shannon Sorensen wore her petticoat and full dress to Great America and “some jerk” shouted at her, “Hey, where are your sheep?” She shook it off gracefully– Lolita style. Sorensen and many Lolitas agree that when the situation allows, they are quick to politely teach someone the difference between Lolita fashion and character costumes.

Adorable characters are seeds of inspiration for Lolitas to build on; a single look branches from that seed to create her outfit. But Sorensen doesn’t incorporate inspiration from objects or characters like other Lolitas might. Everyday clothing can be transformed into pieces for her Lolita look.

An elegant bow is tied at the collar of Sorensen’s solid black blouse. Sorensen explains the top is not a brand piece. “This shirt just so happens to go with this skirt,” she says as she fiddles with the peasant sleeves of her top. It’s tucked in to a black corset which is layered on top of a black, silky skirt with cascading layers of frill.

Sorensen says her Gothic Lolita style is very personal. “It’s become so much of who I am, that it’s just me.”

In fact, before Sorensen discovered the Lolita community at a crucial moment in her life. The Lolita had a difficult time in high school while growing up in a suburb outside of Santa Cruz. Stress from classes, crumbling relationships, and the pressure to fit in became all too much for her. Sorensen attempted to take her life three times throughout her high school career. But as she sought professional help and invested in her personal interests, she found a hobby to occupy her morbid thoughts.

Sorensen considers herself a “loner Lolita.” When she says the phrase, there is a soft ease in her voice and she chuckles. The Lolita believes she has found a hobby to occupy her time while alone, and that’s enough for her. Like in girl world, the Lolita community constantly expects each participant to “do it right.” This means hiding skin, having the bell-shape silhouette, wearing the brands, going for tea, and keeping ahead of the trends. But that’s not an element of Lolita that Sorensen appreciates, it’s actually one she tries to avoid.

Sorensen participates in Lolita her own way, by learning to sew her own pieces, writing non-fiction about Lolita characters, and finding music associated with the trend. She is solely paving a path to self-discovery, which gives a deeper meaning to this Japanese fashion.

Kickstart Your Art

By xpressmagazine

Flickr/mandiberg

Written by Leigh Walker
It’s another day at Calen Perkins and Andrzej “Zej” Kozlowski’s home recording studio in San Francisco. Acoustic and electric guitars line the walls, none are tuned and many sit neglected, collecting dust. The duo sit quietly on the floor brainstorming what the next step will be in their career. Perkins twiddles his thumbs and thinks, but Kozlowski has an idea – though he isn’t sure if it will actually work. Many of their friends use a website to get their projects going: Kickstarter.

Kickstarter is a website for anyone who wants to create a project, self-promote, and raise funds. Based in New York City, Kickstarter consists of a team of thirty-six people. The website allows anyone around the world to pledge the amount of money they need for a project, try to get patrons to back it up with monetary donations, and hopefully earn enough money to create their project.

Perkins and Kozlowski are indie folk musicians attempting to use Kickstarter to raise money to record their first full length album.

“We have played a lot together over the last two years and now want to really record a good album,” Perkins says. “We chose to use Kickstarter because it seemed like the best way to raise money for our album. It’s a really easy-to-use format, and they give you lots of tips and guidance along the way to run a successful campaign and hit your goal.”

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From Vandals to Artists

By xpressmagazine

A group of onlookers point out different stickers featured at Slap Art Exhibit in SF State's Cesar Chavez Center On Jan. 27

Written by Natalia Vaskez Photo by Samantha Battles

@nataliavaskez

“It’s an entirely selfish art form, obstructing public spaces just to leave your mark on the world, but when we put it all together it looks like a strong community,” says Micah Serias. His large dark eyes scan the stickers, making out the San Francisco skyline. He scans each individual sticker, also known as a “slap,” with its signature design unique to each artist. The latest evolution of street art can be seen in sheets of tiny mail stickers on the bus, on newsstands, benches, and “pretty much anywhere somebody can see your name,” he says. “I’ve seen a slap on the Bay Bridge where people roll close to the wall and just throw up their name.”

Branding public space with the face of the people is nothing new to San Francisco. The city’s rich history of civil disobedience has been reflected in street art since the early sixties and art has often parallelled those movements for social justice. These illegal art installations stand out from the critically acclaimed art of the galleries because of the inherent risks to the artists. But like so many other illegalities, San Francisco allows residents to bend the laws of vandalism and foster creativity throughout the city.

Most recently slap art came to San Francisco State University in a completely unique art gallery, showing in the Cesar Chavez Student Center. Complete with a keg of Pabst Blue Ribbon and brats for every dietary restriction, students listened to a live band and took in the power of street art. Jordon Aydaub, an SFSU student and street artist, organized the event but the stigma of street art made the private owners of the gallery inflict some strict requirements.

“They said I needed to have a certain amount of illustrated pieces, and all these other random requirements,” Aydaub begins to comment before more people come up and congratulate him on the great turnout for the gallery opening.

This stigma within the art world has unarguably lessened through the pioneer work of key artists throughout the last half century. Most notably San Francisco’s Mission District has “the highest concentration of murals per square feet in the country… and some scholars believe an amount which supersedes that of any city in the world,” according to the book Street Art San Francisco: Mission Muralismo. The muralists of the 1960’s were believed to be inspired through Mexican muralist traditions.

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Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)

By xpressmagazine

Written by Ivanna Quiroz Photos by Godofredo Vasquez

@ivanna_quiroz 

Ten minutes until face off and the brown wooden benches of the Kezar Pavilion are quickly filling up. Outfitted with black Beats headphones, the DJ bobs his head up and down to mostly hip hop and some hard rock. Hoards of people enter, some juggle nachos, hot dogs, and energy drinks – most in clusters, and most clad in t-shirts supporting their gym or favorite fighter. Some groups are happy, cheerily chatting with one another, while others strut back and forth from one side of the arena to the other, game face on.

The star of this production, the cage, sits in the center, surrounded by cushioned blacks seats that constitute the “VIP area.” For the moment, the cage is empty. Its gray floor is clean and its padded corners shiny. For the spectators in the arena, the cage is unassuming, even though in just a matter of minutes, it will transform into a place of chaos. For the fighters waiting to enter, the cage is intimidating, threatening. For within the confines of this hexagonal structure, their fate will be decided. There is always one winner and one loser.

Zhong Luo, the owner of Dragon House, quickly appears for a few seconds and just as quickly disappears, talking urgently through his blue-tooth ear piece. Zhong Luo, or “Sifu” as he is called by his fighters, began learning martial arts at age three from his father and Grandmaster Luo Rong Qiang. By the age of five, Zhong Luo was already winning awards in hand-form competitions. When Luo was fourteen, he was well practiced in San Shou (Chinese kick-boxing), Mongolian-style wrestling, and weight-lifting.

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