Archive for September, 2012

Sunday Streets: Western Addition Edition


Words: Babak Haghighi

It is a beautiful, sunny Sunday in the Western Addition district of San Francisco. Bass is bumping and fists are pumping as a local house DJ puts on a show for his audience across the street from the Panhandle at the southern end of the Sunday Streets route. His unique, yet effective sound system comprises of no more than four boomboxes, each blaring his original beats.

Nearby, two young adults sporting shorts, sunglasses, and bare feet rest on an air mattress on the sidewalk as they sip on their Bud Lights and indulge in some people watching. A couple blocks away, an elderly woman, a child, and a college girl show off their best hula hoop moves while the crowd surrounding them does its best to keep up—just one of many hula hoop circles along the route. Further down the road, a teenager, accompanied by his garage band buddies, puts on a three-man rock show for his cousin, aunt, mother, and anyone else looking for some entertainment. His messy, dark hair swings from side to side as his fingers slide down the fretboard of his guitar. His 2010 San Francisco Giants Championship t-shirt occasionally sways in the calm breeze. Around the corner, a group of Western Addition residents and their families dance to The Sugarhill Gang’s “Apache.” Costumed rollerbladers are easy to spot, and cruising past all of them, at a modest pace, are countless bicyclists. But what brings these people together is the one thing they all have in common—the massive smiles on their faces. This is Sunday at its finest.

If it sounds like a normal day in the city, it’s not. It’s the ultimate hangover cure. It’s Sunday Streets in San Francisco.

Despite its hilly features, San Francisco is a bicycle-friendly city. At Sunday Streets, that friendship turns into a romance. Bicycles, skateboards, and wheelchairs alike take over the streets alongside pedestrians. A pre-determined route is turned into a no-car zone, and along the way there is all sorts of fun to be had.

A Technological Pursuit


Words: Jennifer Sandoval

East of San Francisco past Pleasanton lies the small city of Livermore. The city is normally quiet and quaint, but at two in the morning it holds an urban legend. Just behind the Safeway supermarket, a pair of railroad tracks stretch onward, inviting those who enjoy ghostly encounters to drive along the desolate and dark street beside it. The lights that kept the daring safe from their own fears slowly becomes less frequent until there is nothing left but a row of warehouses, a cement wall splattered with graffiti that divides the street and railroad tracks, and a dim florescent bulb coming from one of the warehouses. This is the destination for those who want to meet Rock Boy.

Although there are many versions of this tale, one story says that long ago a young boy often walked along the railroad tracks as a shortcut to get home. One day, the boy got caught in the tracks and threw rocks at the cement wall as a plea for help. No one was there to hear the clack of the rocks hitting the cement wall.

Clack. Clack.

It is said that if anyone dares to roll down their windows and turn off their car and call Rock Boy three times, he will try once again to get the attention of those who are looking for him.



K-Pop Persuasion, PSY Invasion: South Korean pop star has the U.S. singing along


Alex Pytlarz, 24, (back, right), Justin Ignacio, 22, (back, left) and Angie Song, 24, (right) dance to the song, “Gangnam Style” by K-Pop artist PSY at a dance rehearsal in a studio on Market street. The dance rehearsal was in preparation for a flash mob and lead by Kat Dallons, 24, (left) on Sunday, September 26 2012. Photo by Andy Sweet/Xpress.

Words & Doodles: Charlene Ng
Photos: Andy Sweet

A bespectacled man sits in a beach chair in the middle of a playground as he stares into the blazing sun, consumed by sweltering heat. He seems to be in his thirties. He sports a white button up shirt with rose-colored shorts and his hair slicked back. A soft yet steady beat hums in the background and gradually becomes a more distinct tune. The scene suddenly changes, and the man is now dressed in a shiny, flamboyant, black fitted suit. He is no longer in a park, rather he is in a horse stable and proceeds to break into a frenetic dance. The music picks up into a faster rhythm. Vibrant images of the dancing man continuously change as the scenes switch back and forth. He is dancing in a bus, on a merry-go-round, in a field, and in a sauna. Suddenly a dance battle ensues between the bespectacled man and a fellow in a neon yellow suit in a parking garage. Within a second, he is on the elevator floor as another man vigorously gyrates above him. The scene then cuts to a subway station where a red headed woman along with others characters join him and the dancing resumes. The screen fades to black. It’s over, but a sense of confusion and amusement lingers and the words “Oppa Gangnam Style” echoes.

This bizarre sensory overload, compressed into a four-minute Korean music video that has enticed and hypnotized audiences worldwide, is known as PSY’s Gangnam Style.

The video, released in mid-July, has already racked up more than 300 million views, is number one on YouTube’s top 100. The song itself has also reached first place on iTunes charts and has recently been circulating on some Bay Area radio stations like 99.7 NOW! While Korean Pop usually caters younger generations, Gangnam Style has even allured older audiences.

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A Provocative Change


Jadelynn Stahl (with the bullhorn) and Maria Garcia, are two of the people leading marchers on Slutwalk from Delores Park to the Castro. Slutwalk was formed to help deconstruct the myths around rape, “slutshaming,” and victim blaming. September 8, 2012. Photo by Deborah Svoboda.

 Words: Emily Gadd & Ruby Perez
Photos: Deborah Svoboda

Jadelynn Stahl stands in front of the crowd with a kind of confidence that comes with natural leaders. In her hands she holds a portrait of herself as a child. The little girl in the picture is smiling faintly and wears a rainbow visor that reads “California.”

“Would you call this girl a “slut?” she asks.

She points to the picture. “This is the year I was raped.”

Stahl, along with fifty or so others, gather in San Francisco’s Mission Dolores Park for SlutWalk, a protest that is trying to shine light on the victim-blaming that many sexual assault and rape victims experience. The protest, deemed controversial by some, uses unconventional methods to gain attention to their cause. Some of the protesters are dressed simply in jeans and t-shirts but many sport lingerie and towering high heels. There are wigs, leather corsets, mini skirts, thigh garters, and lots and lots of skin.

The SlutWalk began in 2011 in Toronto, Canada as a response to an authority figure perpetuating victim-blame while speaking at a safety meeting at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School. Constable Michael Sanguinetti told the attendees, “I’ve been told I’m not supposed to say this, however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”

Outraged, Sonya Barnett and Heather Jarvis began SlutWalk in Toronto in an attempt to protest the blame of assault on victims. They believe that the person inflicting the violence deserves the blame, not the victim-no matter what their lifestyle or their choice of clothing is like. Whether they are male, female, gay, transgender, sex workers, prudish or sluts, SlutWalk participants and organizers believe that no matter the gender, age, dress or level of intoxication; rape and sexual assault are never the victim’s fault.

Ahmina Alenthia James visits the Islamic Society of San Francisco on Jones Street to pray and read. Photo by: Tearsa Joy Hammock / Xpress Magazine

The Road to Conversion


Ahmina Alenthia James visits the Islamic Society of San Francisco on Jones Street to pray and read. Photo by: Tearsa Joy Hammock / Xpress Magazine

Words: Hassina Obaidy
Photos: Tearsa Hammock

The first step is often the hardest. Stephanie Skoog has dreamt of this day countless times-the day when she reveals her new identity to the world. She’s not without inhibitions, though. She imagines all the comments construction workers will say when she walks by.

Skoog begins this particular morning as she would the rest from here on out: she wraps a silk maroon scarf, a gift from her friend in Libya, to cover her hair and neck. She wraps layer upon layer around her face and neck, making sure her hair and light skin aren’t revealed. After finishing up her morning rituals, she dresses herself in a silky, bright pink blouse and black pants. She steps out of her room, walks to the front door of her Richmond district apartment in San Francisco and opens the door. Slowly, she peeks her head out, takes a look outside the apartment door then suddenly closes it shut, overcome with fear. Skoog opens the door once more, this time stepping one foot out, then rushes back inside the comfort of her Richmond apartment unable to take that first, big step.

Finally, she pulls herself together, opens the door and walks outside. This is the first time she had revealed her new identity to the world.

She takes the bus across town to San Francisco State University, where she is a student. There, she makes her way to the Muslim Student Association (MSA) room in the Cesar Chavez building. It is here, on the afternoon of May 2, 2012 that Skoog converts to Islam.

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Not Playing Dress-Up


Lindsey Brophy and Sean Lee display their hand-made cosplay outfits in thier forest hill home in San Francisco. The outfits made to look like outfits from a music video by Japanese pop star Kyary Pamyu, with surrealistic and colorful visuals. Photo by John Ornelas

Words: Ben Pack
Photos: Melissa Burman & John Ornelas

The massive crowd is buzzing. The sun is beating down on the concrete courtyard. In one corner sits a small group of ninjas-in-training. They size up the crowd as their metallic headbands glisten. Across the way, stands a troupe of elite robotic soldiers, armed with high-tech laser weaponry. Their red-white and blue-clad leader stands fast, surveying the area. Near them waits an anthropomorphic hedgehog, whose love of going fast is only rivaled by his love for chili dogs.
Scattered around there are beings ranging from human to alien to machine, and some are a mix of all three. There are mercenaries, scientists, mech pilots, lawyers; all eyeing up the competition. This is not a scene from a seventh grader’s history binder, rather these are real people. This isn’t some mystical land, but instead it is San Jose. These are not actors, these are cosplayers.

This scene was months in the making. A look into a cosplayer’s living room reveals the laborious process that is cosplay costume making. Fabric trimmings, chip bags, a disembodied lion head, and wigs are strewn about the room. In the middle of this whirlwind of odds and ends, Lindsey Brophy stands, in this living-room-turned-costume-workshop, working on a strange and cartoonish top. It features gigantic, circular shoulder pads and large eyelashes that are affixed to the breasts, making them look like eyes.

Sean Lee, her boyfriend, is hard at work coating foam balls with resin. After letting them dry and set, he sands them down into fine, smooth spheres which will be attached to form a decorative neck tassel. After all the hard work is complete, the pair will arrive in costume (and character) to an upcoming anime convention. This is the level of their fanaticism.

Desperate Times Calls for Weird Measures



Words: Kenny Redublo
Photos: Melissa Burman

Taylor Reynolds is a princess. A part-time princess.

She drives over to “the Castle,” a Lake Merritt country club in Oakland, California that acts as the Magic Princess headquarters. She takes the elevator down to the basement by the swimming pool, and gets her costume for today’s party. The smell of chlorine and the pile of cheap costumes in front of her is a stark contrast to the regal scene a few floors above. Reynolds puts on her costume. The royal blue blouse with puffy red sleeves and a golden flowing skirt is completed with a red bow in her hair. She’s Snow White for the day. Snow White who smells of chlorine.

She gets into her ‘83 Datsun to get to the party in Tracy. She hopes her car can make the drive. It has overheated in the past. This isn’t the typical carriage for a princess.

This isn’t a typical job.

Reynolds dresses up as a princess, be it Snow White or any other copyrighted Disney princess, and goes to children’s birthday parties around the East Bay when she’s not going to class at San Francisco State University. This is the modern day party entertainer, with less nightmares and childhood trauma.

The pressures of paying tuition and living expenses give students no choice but to find a job. According to the 13.9 percent national unemployment rate among 20 to 24-year-olds, some students haven’t been as lucky. Jobs for students are sometimes necessary and they’re often few and far between.

Get Me Out of Here: Why Students Aren’t Graduating in Four Years


Words: Kayla McIntosh

As Laura Flores sits quietly at her white desk and stares plaintively at her MacBook, she realizes that each class she needs to take for the approaching fall semester at San Francisco State University is at full capacity. Her long curly brown hair is thrown up in a bun and she buries her circular face in her hands.

“Not again,” she thinks.

Eventually she gazes back at the screen and faces her cruel reality. Wearing a vintage crew neck sweater with Spike Lee’s face arranged colorfully on the front, Flores is skimming the school’s class list desperately hoping that there is an open seat in Principles of Human Physiology Laboratory, only to be defeated when she discovers that all five of the classes offered are already full. Flores is frustrated. This seems to be a recurring theme each semester for her.

Like clockwork, she pulls out her notebook and begins to brainstorm her next move. Before she even puts her pen to paper, she knows what to do because she has already done it before. Jotting down the slots for each of these labs on a piece of college-ruled paper, Flores hopes that one of these notoriously unforgiving college professors will give her a break and allow her to squeeze herself into one of their already crammed classes. This will be Flores’ fourth year at SF State but like many, this will not be her last.

From the moment she stepped foot on campus, walking across a stage wearing the school’s vibrantly hued cap and gown was and still is the quintessential dream.

Flores, a first-generation college student, dreams of being a nurse. Helping people is an undertaking that comes quite naturally for the 21-year-old Los Angeles native. Her childhood home was full of youngsters running and jumping and she was always the one to make sure that everything stayed copacetic.

A Peaceful Passing


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Moca, a 9-year-old Pit mix that’s looking for a new home, rests in the home base of Muttville. Muttville is a rescue group that takes in senior dogs, cares for all of their medical needs and either finds a new forever home for them or puts them in a “fospice” home to live out the rest of their days. San Francisco, September 21, 2012. Photo by Deborah Svoboda.

Words: Hassina Obaidy
Photos: Deborah Svoboda

Poor doggie. Poor Max. Just four years old, the black and brown boxer had been diagnosed with stomach cancer a short time ago, and he was slipping away fast-twenty pounds in just two weeks-and now he couldn’t eat, couldn’t even move. Euthanize, the veterinarian at Rancho Santa Margarita Hospital said. That was the best thing to do.

Upset and heartbroken, San Francisco State University student Alyssa Bowdle wanted to stay strong and keep up a positive energy for her dog Max. She knew if she showed her real emotions of grief, Max would be strongly affected.

“My emotions were very much needed to stay strong on Dewey’s [Bowdle’s second boxer] behalf. He didn’t understand [Max] was sick, but needing to stay happy for [Dewey], I didn’t want him to be scared,” she says as she begins to cry. “It wasn’t sad because [Max] wasn’t sad, but I think the entire time I was just trying to stay strong. I was obviously upset, but more so wanting to stay positive.”

The day of the procedure had finally come, and they wanted to make it special. Bowdle and her family stayed home and spent the day with Max as they sat around together, made him a special lunch, and brought his special toys and blanket. When it was time, they took him to the vet. Accompanied by her cousin, a strong Bowdle lay on her side, struggling to control her emotions as she holds Max in her arms.

Prepping for the Polls


Words: Kelly Leslie

It’s the first Tuesday in November. Along with hundreds of fellow students, you make your way to the polling place to cast your vote before class. After months of listening to fervent political speeches and heated debates given by the country’s leading politicians, you know without hesitation which boxes you are going to check on the 2012 election ballot.

Slowly approaching the front of the line, it’s the moment every young adult anticipates at one point or another after their eighteenth birthday.You’re finally of the legal age to exercise the right to vote in an election that only happens once every four years. Handing your student ID card to the volunteer who is checking eager young voters in to cast their ballots, you’re sure nothing can stand between you and your political opinions now. Much to your surprise, you’re turned away. Somehow, you have been branded ineligible to vote.

“It’s my legal right as a United States citizen,” says Graham Woolsey, a first-year transfer student confident voting is a privilege that cannot be revoked. “I’m registered to vote so I should have no problems.”

This year voting may not be as easy as Woolsey say it is. Republican politicians have systematically been making it more difficult for certain populations (i.e., liberal-leaning folks) to vote. Thousands of students from across the country are at risk of being turned away from the polls because they do not possess proper government issued photo identification.

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Red, White, and Pink: Barbie for President


Barbie give a speech about saving the ocean, ‘one fish at a time.’ Photo by Virginia Tieman.

Words: Molly Sanchez
Photos: Virginia Tieman

The message of hope is so last election-the newest presidential candidate is running on a campaign of dreams. Though the 2008 presidential race showed Americans that it wasn’t irregular for a woman to run for office, being a woman is not what makes this candidate stand out. She wouldn’t be the first president to be an actor. She would, however, be the first president to be a doctor, a pop star, and a mermaid. She’s served in four out of the five branches of the military and is pretty handy with a rapier as evidenced by her turn as a musketeer. She has mild religious affiliations if her Christmas caroling gown is any indication. Even though she’s unmarried, she’s in a committed relationship and can stand proudly on her own two feet. She’s also 11 inches tall and made entirely of consumer-grade plastic.

Don’t let her stature fool you: this little woman represents the dreams of girls who don’t want to pursue so-called “feminine” careers. On April 5th, 2012, Barbie’s press secretaries (or rather, Mattel representatives) announced her run for the White House. Though it is not the doll’s first “glam-paign” (she also ran in 2008), it will be the first time she has ever been able to stand erect and watch it for herself. Weighted pink platforms allow the doll, who has spent her 53 years being supported by doll stands, to finally support herself.

“I Can Be…President B Party Doll,” who comes in a variety of skin tones and ethnicities, is a definite departure from Barbie’s predecessors. No longer is she solely a white, flaxen-haired homemaker. Now she represents a multitude of races and professions like astronaut, yoga instructor, veterinarian and computer programmer.

Showman Matthew Bouvier performs one of his many sideshow acts, sword-swallowing, at his Oakland studio.

Sideshow Performer on the Main Stage

By xpressmagazine

Showman Matthew Bouvier performs one of his many sideshow acts, sword-swallowing, at his Oakland studio.

Written by Erika Maldonado
Photos by Nelson Estrada

Men with piled up pompadours and ladies in vintage animal-print dresses and high-heeled shoes swing dance across the floor to local band Lost Dog Found at Oakland’s Uptown Nightclub on a Saturday night.  Shortly after their opening set, pasties and tassels gyrate as women strip down to just enough to leave something to the imagination as part of the “Hubba Hubba Revue,” a burlesque variety show.

Some of the women watch, with arms crossed and blank expressions while most of the men loudly cheer and raise their beers. Burlesque dancing, once entertainment of the past, is experiencing a revival in the Bay Area, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.  Dixie DeLish, a blonde Marilyn Monroe-esque, five-year veteran and her new partner Molotov offer a fresh act in between the solo burlesque dances with an ode to classic Americana.

Molotov, who has been working in sideshow acts since 2000, lays on a bed of nails for their second act. He has been teaching DeLish the ropes to mesh their individual acts into more of a partnership.  Trick rope, bull whips, knife-throwing, sword-swallowing and fire-breathing are all acts Molotov performs throughout the Bay Area.

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