Archive for October, 2012

FruitStandHand - farmers market

Farm Fresh To Go

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Words & Photos: Kelly Leslie

The sun has yet to awaken, but a sea of residents from the Bernal Heights neighborhood flood Alemany Boulevard farmers’ market with empty produce baskets, determined to find the best bang for their buck, until they overflow.

Conscious of the current economic downturn that has haunted our country for nearly five years, students have become intensely aware of the cost of food, all while trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle and avoid packing on the feared “freshmen fifteen.” The question that arises among many new shoppers is whether farmers’ markets are more or less expensive than chain stores like Safeway and Trader Joe’s, and even if you save money, do you sacrifice the quality of food when forced to buy in bulk quantities at large chains?

Regardless of their looks, the clerks at Whole Foods don’t have a say in the price of food. Even the ones with waist-long dreadlocks, plugs, and full-sleeve tattoos aren’t going to negotiate with you. But what about the Hells Angel-looking farmer-dude who stands in the setting sun with his pick-up bed still half full of produce aging in the twilight? Will he be willing to make a deal with you? Will he be receptive to your suggestion of fifty percent off in order to sell out for the day? Are you bold enough to bargain with him?

Venturing through the many markets scattered throughout San Francisco can answer some, if not all of these questions, but there are a few things students should take into consideration while doing their research. Just because an item at the farmers’ market isn’t certified organic, doesn’t mean that it wasn’t organically grown. The ambiance itself, oh so very European, may be what adds the quality of life in urban food-gathering culture. Price varies from farm to farm, and may change based on the time of day. Fruit and vegetable costs may follow the sun downward.

Another thought: Students may also want to note whether they can get everything they need and want at a farmers’ market. Can you purchase just one apple or do you have to buy a bushel? If you’re looking for packaged foods such as Kettle chips or dairy products, you might need to make a trip to the store like it or not.

At the corner of Alemany Boulevard and Tompkins Avenue, giant yellow and white commercial trucks, overflowing with crates filled with a rainbow of fruits and vegetables, crowd the perimeter of the market. Drivers carefully, but quickly, navigate their way through to find the nearest spot in the lot. The brisk air is filled with the incessant chatter of half-awake shoppers who eagerly await the week’s best finds.

“These carrots won the very highly looked-upon, Best Carrots of the Market award,” announces a worker at the Tomatero Farm booth proudly, as she hurries to arrange them in time for shoppers to take their pick. The bright orange carrots with long green, leafy stems are by far the largest at the market, and are guaranteed organically grown.

 

A few feet down the walkway a tall man with a full beard that covers the entire front of his neck, offers samples to passersby. Not quite green, but not quite red grapes are piled high on a table behind him.

“You have to taste these grapes,” he says. The sweet, juicy flavor that comes out of them is shocking compared to their dull, greenish-brown color. Everything at the market is fresh. “You’ve really got to taste [them],” announces a shopper as he walks by.

A farmer across the way draws attention to what looks like the world’s largest avocados.

“One bowl for eight dollars! This is a great deal,” he says. The table in front of him displays dozens of rich green, grapefruit-sized avocados. There are two in a bowl. “These would be great for making guacamole,” says a nearby shopper who is unable to resist.

Granny Smith Apples in Bernal Heights are two dollars a pound, while over in Parkside they are one dollar and twenty-nine cents a pound. At Trader Joe’s they are often marked seventy-nine cents each (so two dollars and thirty-seven cents per pound) and although not organic at

Safeway, you still pay one dollar and seventy-nine cents for a pound.

The sun has finally made its appearance and begins to warm the crowd as it rises higher in the sky. An eager young shopper, dressed in a striped shirt, jeans and flip-flop sandals, is excited to find fresh ginger. He announces that he has never seen it priced so low before. The farmer quickly erases the chalkboard, increasing the price before anyone notices.

“I must have it priced too low,” he says.

Aside from the farmers who hastily arrange produce, change prices, and tend to customers, no one else seems to be in a hurry. Everyone is friendly and smiling here. Dressed in a light blue tank top and jeans with her hair tied in a ponytail, Amrita Emily Rumberger, a w

orker at the Bluehouse Farm booth, looks up and smiles.

“Farmers’ markets guarantee access to amazing quality produce, and it’s affordable,” she says. “The best part is the personal service,” chimed in her co-work

er, Andy Mullin, eager to strike up conversation.

Simone Shifnadel, owner of Zenbelly catering in San Francisco, enjoys being able to speak with farmers face-to-face and ask exactly what was used to grow the produce she buys.

“I noticed that the food at farmers’ markets is just so much more beautiful,” she says. Shifnadel buys all of her produce from the Stonestown farmers’ market, weekly. “[It’s] better because it’s fresher,” she adds. “Sometimes I forget about lettuce I bought at the market and it is still fresh a week later.”

Sunday afternoon, the Parkside neighborhood is in state of what seems to be a torrential downpour, but the red and white sign still points toward the farmers’ market in the parking lot at Stonestown Galleria.

“Farmers’ market today!” is written in giant red letters. White tents line the walkways as farmers and shoppers huddle inside to negotiate prices. It’s later in the day and farmers are offering up deals.

“I see you every week,” says a farmer to a middle-aged woman who scours the selection of iceberg lettuce for the best head for sell. “I’ll throw in some kale for free.”

It’s this community element that draws some people to the market. For others, it’s about being aware of what’s going into the body.

There is only one way to be sure of what you are eating, according to Shifnadel. “It’s simple,” she says. “Eat real foods.”

By “real foods,” she’s saying foods that aren’t processed. That means no Twinkies or Hot Pockets — ever. Taking a look inside Shifnadel’s grocery bag can give a better idea of what these “real foods” are — lettuce, kale, and broccoli just to name a few. “You never have to ask what an apple is made of,” she says.

That is why she, and the throng of others at the farmers’ market choose to do their shopping here — so they know just where their food comes from. Looking for one in your neighborhood? Here’s a list to help you find your local market.

Turn of a Page, Click of a Button

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Photo by Jamie Valaoro

Words: Emily Gadd
Photos: Jamie Valaoro

The smell of freshly bound books filling the air of a bookstore; the yellowed pages of old books in a library; the sound of fingers rubbing against two pages to separate them; the quick flipping between pages to get to a certain spot in the book. These are things that could all be gone someday — if the current eReader trend continues.

The trend shows no sign of slowing down. With the recent release of the iPad mini, more people are sure to begin using eReaders and tablets instead of books. According to the The Harris Poll, 13 percent of Americans say they will most likely purchase an eReader in the next six months. That leaves a significant chunk of people who aren’t but it’s a still a huge increase from years past. 10 percent were unsure if they would purchase one or not.

The most recent federal statistics show that 1,000 bookstores closed between 2000-2007 leaving only 10,600 open. Although it is difficult to credit eReaders with these changes, it is undeniable that both markets are changing; negatively for bookstores, and positively for eReaders.

Electronic books and electronic readers have a longer history than many might imagine. Michael Hart is the creator of the eBook and Project Gutenberg, the movement to put more free-use text on the Internet. Hart wanted to make books more accessible. He began the effort in 1971 when he typed up the Declaration of Independence and posted it online. Hart expanded the project by typing in other bodies of text like the Bible. By the eighties Hart’s online public library contained thousands of titles. Project Gutenberg still exists today, allowing readers to download thousands of eBooks for free on their computers or eReaders.

There have been several models of eReaders, but one of the first well-known devices was released in 1998 by Nuvo Media (now owned by Gemstar) called “The Rocket.” It didn’t really catch on as later models would. The release of Amazon’s Kindle device about a decade later would make eReaders much more visible to consumers.

The first generation Kindle launched in November of 2007 at a retail value of $399. It was only available in the United States through Amazon.com and sold out in five and a half hours, although it is unknown how many of the devices were made available to customers the Kindle remained out of stock until April 2008.

Barnes and Noble released the first generation Nook in November 2009 and it came equipped with a few qualities that the Kindle device didn’t have. While both devices had 3G capabilities, Nook was the first to give its users Wi-Fi access and had memory extension abilities. By comparison, the Kindle was lighter, possessed four more days of battery life and had a text-to-speech feature. A 2011 survey by pewresearch.org asked American adults if they had read an e-book in the past year, or purchased an eReader. It found that 17 percent of American adults had read an eBook in the past year and 10 percent owned an eReader. After Christmas time the survey was given out again and eReader ownership jumped from 10 percent to 19 percent, and 21 percent of adults had read an e-book compared to the 17 percent just a few months before.

Does this mean that smooth computer screens and shiny buttons will replace old-fashioned books? Barnes and Noble Digital Sales Lead and San Francisco State University alum Daniel DeFord doesn’t think so.

“Readers who own a tablet or a reading device of any brand, about 76 percent of them still buy real books. That’s huge,” says DeFord.

What could explain why people still choose to buy hard copies of text? DeFord says, it’s simply a case of nostalgia.

“Despite the fact that they have a better device, they’re going out and making a hugely unwise economic choice to buy something. Why? For sentimental value… We sell products that have a sentimental value to our customers and they will buy them even when it’s a bad idea to do so.”

DeFord is in charge of helping customers of San Bruno’s Barnes and Noble with any Nook questions, in a similar fashion to Apple’s Genius bar. Deford believes that Barnes and Noble’s possession of actual stores and flesh and blood people to sell you their eReader is what gives them an edge on Amazon.

“That’s one of the most amazing things in marketing, right? Actually selling something that is in no way different, but you’re buying the brand,” DeFord says. “That’s exactly how Barnes and Noble can survive and thrive because you see that brand value just going into the store. You want to have a store to go to, so that funds the brand.”

Trisha Paule, a senior at SF State, is a Kindle user but still relies on traditional books, especially for school. “I use [Kindle] mostly when I read for pleasure, [I] hardly ever [use it] academically, so [I use it] anywhere between eight to twelve hours a week.” Paule explained. “I chose it because I assumed it would have a wider selection of books than the Nook.”

SF State creative writing major Cheyanne Cooper noticed when she started taking upper division classes she felt like she was getting buried under books. She wanted an eReader to help her carry around all of her books for school, and decided to purchase the Nook for what she describes as simple reasons.

“When you compare the two, they’re nearly identical in function,” Cooper says. “I chose the Nook because I wanted to support a bookstore and because I liked the look and the ability to add a micro SD [secure digital] card to give me more storage space.”

Both devices give readers the ability to consolidate their libraries into small devices and save them the hassle of going to the bookstore every time they want a new book.

“I have a huge library at my disposal,” Cooper adds. “All I have to do is click ‘buy’ instead of trekking to the store.”

Cooper sees what DeFord emphasizes is the Nook’s greatest function: the ability to keep Barnes and Noble stores open.

“I call it the ‘book amusement park,’ you know, where that’s what’s making it run is the concessions,” Deford insists. “It’s the food you buy in the amusement park that keeps it open. Likewise, it’s the Nook product that you buy that keeps Barnes and Noble open. But that’s not the only thing you get at an amusement park. You get rides, you get fun, you get memories. That’s what Barnes and Noble is! It’s a book amusement park held up by Nook.”

Although eReaders are a more convenient way to buy and store books, some readers will never be able to give up actual books.

“Yeah, it may be more convenient if you’re going on vacation and want to pack like 18 books,” SF State sophomore Audrey Marra says. “But what’s wrong with old fashioned books? I love the way they smell and sound when I buy a new one. It’s something I can basically keep forever and give to my kids.”

Marra is obstinate in her commitment to literature that you can hold in your hand. She is also wary of books becoming digital and experiencing the problems that come with technology, like shorting out when getting wet or contracting viruses. “A real book will never be lost in cyberspace.”

San Francisco’s Oldest Residents

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Words: Ruby Perez
Photos: Alejandrina Hernandez, Andy Sweet & Ruby Perez

The below information is a personal commentary by Ruby Perez on each location. She sat down with SF State’s Chair of the Department of Geological Sciences Karen Grove to discuss the city’s rich topography.

San Francisco defies the odds — one of the most culturally and economically influential cities in the world is spread on a topography that was created a billion years ago on the ocean floor. The hills, just as much as the Transamerica building or the Golden Gate Bridge, are a defining characteristic of the Foggy City. Urban dwellers scale the hills with ease and leave the tourists huffing and puffing in the dust. It brings us a certain kind of pride and a mild fear as we think about our city’s wildly steep and descending hills and predisposition toward earthquakes. Long ago our city was in constant motion, being bent and tilted, while others shifted and rose. Although the forces that were doing the work are now gone, the artwork that is our city’s topography remains.

The birth of our city began when the seafloor (made up of serpentinite and basalt) was created at a mid-ocean ridge and moved toward the continent. Micro-organisms (radiolaria) and mud fell through the water and collected at the seafloor, while at the same time, sand eroded from the continent and flowed down to greet the organisms and mud. The ocean crust with overlying sediments slid beneath the continent, and lifted up to become the rocks we see today in San Francisco. Corona Heights, Twin peaks, Tank Hill, Bernal Heights, Grand View, and Mount Davidson all share the same creation process.

It certainly is a geological masterpiece, and it’s time to appreciate them for all that they are. The following locations are very special in their own ways, and after a little sweating, they become the perfect place to enjoy how visually stunning our city is. Some are lush, cool, and covered with foliage, while others are mostly defined by harsh bedrock. However they all serve as the defining characteristic of the place many of us call home.

1. Tank Hill
Tank Hill was first named after the Clarendon Heights Water Tank which was built in 1894 by the Spring Valley Water Company. However after its discontinuation, the area became open to the public. Underlain by Franciscan chert bedrock, the hill features rock outcroppings that, like the hill itself, was formed on the ocean floor around 130 million years ago. Visitors will notice how smooth and shiny the outcropping are, and realize that they can serve as perfect seating to view the city. Tank Hill is San Francisco’s oldest natural feature and is the most stunning location to catch a view of the Golden Gate Bridge as well as the Bay Bridge. At night, the area is a glowing orb in which the rainbow colored lights of the Castro can be seen as well as the electrifying colors of the signature Coke sign that sits along Highway 101 — this place would give Twin Peaks a run for its money.

2. Billy Goat Hill
There is nothing quite like experiencing the rush of doing something very dangerous. Adrenaline fills the veins as we contemplate something that is possibly very stupid, like swinging from a rope swing at the edge of a very steep hill. Covered in green grass, Billy Goat Hill is the place to visit when you want the view of San Francisco and a dose of danger. A eucalyptus tree sits atop the hill toward the very edge with a rope attached. Sometimes the more cautious civilian will cut down the rope in order to guarantee safety, however the rope is always replaced by those who want to feel the rush of soaring midair over the city.

3. Mount Davidson
Mount Davidson is the highest natural peak in San Francisco, standing at an impressively high elevation of 928 feet. The view from Mount Davidson portrays the southeastern part of the city, stretching along downtown to Portola Drive. The hike up is a little more strenuous than the others, but worth the journey regardless, because hidden behind the tall green grass and array of thick trees is a massive white cross. The cross may look familiar, because it was notoriously featured in the 1971 classic Dirty Harry.

4. Grand View
The raving and praising about neighborhoods such as the Mission or the Haight are nothing new. But often times other San Franciscan neighborhoods are left out, leaving them to be forgotten or written off as unexciting. Although the Sunset hardly sees any sun, and some argue fun, it is the home to one of the most magnificent of views: Grand View. Situated at the tippy-top of 16th Avenue, Grand View features a long and winding staircase that is covered in a colorful mosaic that runs to the top. The view is stunning, with Ocean Beach stretching far and expansively into our city’s signature fog.

5. Bernal Heights Hill
Are you a fan of the Sound of Music? Have you ever wanted to burst out running Julie Andrews style belting out ‘The hills are alive, with the sound of music’ while dancing like that star you’ve always desired to be? An expansive, green, mossy hill, Bernal Heights Hill is the kind of place that would be the perfect location to do just that. The view stretches from the Bernal Heights neighborhood, downtown, to Sutro Towers.

A Sweeter Look at San Francisco

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 Words and Photos: Jennifer Sandoval

San Francisco is a city for foodies. More than any other American city, San Francisco has the highest per capita of restaurants, putting even New York to shame. The city-dwellers take pride in their abundance of small “mom-and-pop” shops and specialty food purveyors unique only to this amazingly diverse city. Among these stores are sweet shops, which make some of the best cookies, macarons, and other treats. Whether you’re in San Francisco for the weekend or have been living here for years, these shops are not to be skipped out on.

Hot Cookie
Location: 407 Castro Street

Dan Glazer, 54, stands near the window of his snug shop in San Francisco’s notorious Castro District. His smile doesn’t falter for a second, until the moment he spots a rack of cookies two inches too close to the display window.

“Can you push the tray away from the window?” Glazer asks the woman behind the counter as he points to the imperfection. She fixes the rack and goes back to work.

“See how I’m so picky,” he laughs as he reflects on what his favorite thing about owning Hot Cookie is (which he ultimately decides is the people whom he works with). Glazer opened Hot Cookie nearly twenty years ago. He decided to give the business a try after moving to the city. He had no idea how popular the store would become.

“As a business owner, you don’t know how successful it’s going to be. I put everything on the line for this store.”

The shop sells a variety of cookies, from traditional items like white chocolate macadamia, to cookies packed with more wild ingredients. One of the more unique items is the mocha-cayenne cookie, a holy matrimony of chocolate and spice. The one notorious item the store is known for selling is the ever-popular penis-shaped cookie. Not only can Hot Cookie satisfy your sweet cravings, it also gives you the option of buying underwear. Placed on the shop’s walls are countless photographs of customers flashing their branded rears in support of the store and its delicious treats.

Chantal Guillon
Location: 437 Hayes Street

Nestled along one of the quaint sidewalks of Hayes Valley, (otherwise unofficially known as “Little France” because of the four different shops within its modest perimeter that sell macarons) stands Chantal Guillon, named after the owner of the store who opened up the petite shop in 2009.

The shop has a total of sixteen different flavors of macarons. The ingredients for these gluten-free macarons are imported from France and Italy, but made locally in a more “traditional” French style way.

“We decided to have one product in order to give all my energy and knowledge in order to reach excellence in that product,” says Guillon. “First is quality.”

Guillon has seasonal options to her menu, too. For Halloween, she created the pumpkin spice macaron, and for the holiday season, she will be coming out with other flavors including nougat and påte de fruit. After a few seconds of flipping through a French-English dictionary, a staff member informs her that the English translation is “crystallized fruit.”

Guillon offers a flavor for all kinds of people. “Each of us have different tastes, someone may think ‘too sugary’ or ‘too sweet’, others may think ‘too sour’. You have to follow your own taste. That’s why we have sixteen different flavors, because everyone is different.”

The shop itself is a treat. “When you make a shop, you want it to be a reflection of yourself,” says Guillon. “When you are in a good place, that looks pretty and nice, you feel comfortable, and we can share with the [customers] and the people who come around, [so that they feel welcomed in a better environment].”

Miette
Location: 449 Octavia Boulevard

A couple blocks down from Chantal Guillon stands one of San Francisco’s cutest confiseries. The store carries a variety of sweets, including chocolates, marshmallows, hard candies, and other treats. In their front display case are jars filled with large macarons of several flavors of unconventional ingredients.
The staff favorite, according to Jeremy Suzio, who works at the Hayes Valley Miette confiserie, may be the rose geranium macaron, which he says tastes like a rose smells. Suzio started his career at Miette a year and a half ago and has since achieved a managerial position (or as he refers to it, “Senior Shop Boy”). Among their choices of macarons is a new seasonal option, the coffee macaron. Suzio says that the flavors of the macarons are subtle but wonderful.

Miette may look like an adorable candy shop, but their cupcakes pack a powerful punch. Their gingerbread cake (laced with a secret ingredient: purportedly Guinness beer!) with cream cheese frosting was voted number four in the top sweets in the nation by Food Network’s Alton Brown. Another favorite among the younger crowd is the oh-so-gooey old-fashioned cupcake with Italian meringue, which tastes like a s’more minus the graham cracker.

Dianda’s Italian American Pastry
Location: 2883 Mission Street

Among the bustling pedestrians and taqueria shops along Mission street is Dianda’s Bakery, which opened up in San Francisco in 1962. The bakery sells everything from cannolis to trés leche cakes.

Dianda’s is currently celebrating their fiftieth-year anniversary, and to promote their products, the bakery places a sticker on the box commemorating their achievement. The bakery also promotes their products by claiming that all products are baked fresh daily on their premises, using the finest ingredients.

Although the shop may not have the best appearance, their bakery is visible to customers who are curious to see the items being made on the other side of the counter. The treats appeal to all kinds of customers by offering a mix of Italian and Mexican baked goods. The shop also offers birthday cakes, which the workers will personalize quickly with lettering before packaging it into a simple white box and branding it with a “Dianda’s” sticker.

Anthony’s Cookies
Location: 1417
Valencia Street

Anthony’s Cookies doesn’t look like an average cookie store. The store is lined with large bottles of milk, and a long wooden table sits on one half of the room. Chalkboards are hung up on the wall, informing customers of the array of cookies that are being made by staff members behind the counter. The rustic appearance of the shop doesn’t stop a line from quickly forming inside the store to try these delicious mini-cookies.

Anthony Lucas, a former student at San Francisco State University, started out by baking cookies for money while in school with no culinary training, and expanded into his very own shop on Valencia. Anthony’s Cookie is now the number one gourmet producer in the Bay Area.

Some of the flavors of cookies are cookies and cream, oatmeal cranberry, and peanut butter.
In an interview with Google, Lucas expressed that he was never a baker and never intended to be a baker, but strived to do something he loved in the field of mathematics.

“I never in my life was good at baking, I know my mother, she was good at baking, but the most I ever came to baking was licking the spoon after she got done whipping whatever she made.”

Lucas believes that the main building block to success of any scale of business is not losing sight of the customers. “We’re very strict on the hiring process. Because if somebody comes into your shop, you don’t want to disappoint them.”

“If you can open up a food establishment in San Francisco, and be successful, you can pretty much be successful anywhere.”

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Simple Do It Yourself Gift Ideas

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Words & Photos: Charlene Ng

It’s that time of year again. One of the most anticipated and, simultaneously, dreaded times of the year: the holidays. It’s a time for family, friends, and of course, gifts.

No matter which holiday is celebrated, holiday shopping can be a stressful experience. Not only is it just time-consuming, but it can definitely burn holes in the wallet without some careful planning. And as a college student, holiday shopping can be even more of a nightmare with the lack of time and money.

So as a holiday gift to you from Xpress Magazine, here are a few do-it-yourself gift ideas to save you the time, money, and torture of holiday shopping.

DIY Calendar Journal

As the year comes to end, it’s time to throw away those old calendars and bring in the new. This DIY calendar journal is a great gift for jotting down daily appointments!

Materials

  •  A small container of some sort. Preferably square or rectangular to fit the index cards (For this tutorial, a origami box was used)
  • 12 Postcards, cards, or photos These will be used to divide the months.
  • 183 4 x 6” lined index cards These will be cut in half, thus resulting 366 cards (One card for every day of the year! Including February 29!)
  • A date stamp (optional) Dates can be written out too!
  • A paper cutter or scissors
  • Twine or ribbon (For gift wrapping)

Instructions

Step 1: Cut the index cards in half. 183 cut index cards will yield 366 smaller cards.
Step 2: Using the date stamp, stamp the month and date on the top of the index card. The dates can also be written out. By leaving out the date, this calendar journal can be reused every year!
Step 3: Trim the postcards, photos, or cards down so they will be the same width of the cut index cards. Be sure to keep the length a little longer than the cut index card.
Step 4: Organize the cut index cards by date and separate them by month using the dividers.
Step 5: Tie some twine or ribbon around the box and you’re done!

DIY Chalk Mugs

Mugs are great gifts for all ages and customized ones are even better. And what’s best about this chalk mug is that you can customize it all the time!

Materials

  • Porcelain mug
  • Pebeo Porcelaine Chalkboard Paint Do not use regular chalk paint (Porcelain paint can be found on Amazon)
  • Painter’s tape
  • Paint brush
  • Chalk

Instructions
Step 1: Before beginning, make sure the mug is clean and dry.
Step 2: Using the tape, tape off the designated region you don’t want to paint. It’s best not to paint the rim of the mug or where you’ll be drinking from.
Step 3: With the brush, apply a layer of paint on the mug. Go over white spots if needed.
Step 4: Before the paint fully dries, remove the tape to avoid peeling the edges of the paint.
Step 5: Leave mug out to dry for 24 hours.
Step 6: Bake mug at 300 degrees F for 40 minutes. It is best to avoid preheating. Rather place the mug in the oven as it heats up to prevent the mug from cracking.
Step 7: After the allotted time, turn off the oven and leave the mug in until it cools down to room temperature.
Step 8: Decorate the mug with chalk and it’s ready to hold your favorite beverage!

DIY Tea Bags

What goes better with a mug than some handmade tea bags? These DIY tea bags are a great gift for tea lovers, especially for those who enjoy loose leaf tea.

Materials

  • Coffee Filters
  • Loose tea leaves
  • Scissors
  • A needle and thread
  • Twine
  • Stapler and tape
  • Construction paper

Instructions
Step 1: First take two coffee filters and align them. Cut a rectangle out of the center.
Step 2: Using the needle and thread, stitch the two filters together. Only stitch three sides together for now. Leave an opening to put tea leaves in.
Step 3: Fill the tea bag with loose tea leaves. The amount of tea leaves varies depending on the size of the tea bag. The tea bags are filled half way in this tutorial.
Step 4: Stitch up the opening of the tea bag.
Step 5: Folding over two corners of the bag, insert a 3 – 4 inch piece of twine under one of the corners. Then fold over the top and secure the string and bag with a staple.
Step 6: Cut the construction paper into a desired shape (rectangle, heart, etc.) and tape it to the other end of the twine. This will act as a tag for the tea bag.

Lemon Cookies

Somebody really smart once said, the way to someone’s heart is through his or her stomach. So why not give the gift of food this holiday season? These lemon cookies are an easy and delicious gift.

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup of butter
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 2 teaspoons of lemon extract
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • parchment paper or wax paper
  • ½ cup of sugar for rolling cookies

Instructions
Step 1: In a bowl, mix butter and a cup of sugar together until the mixture is a creamy consistency.
Step 2: Mix in the egg, honey, and lemon extract
Step 3: Next add the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir until dough forms.
Step 4: Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
Step 5: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Form chilled dough into small sized balls and roll the rounded dough in the remaining sugar.
Step 6: Place the sugar covered dough onto a parchment paper covered cookie sheet.
Step 7: Bake the cookies for 12 minutes or until they achieve a golden brown color.
Step 8: Let the cookies cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Mixed Tapes and CDs

And if you don’t have any time or money for gifts, then a mixed tape or CD is the way to go! Mixed CDs are a great personalized gift for friends and family.

Materials

  • Blank CDs
  • Sharpies or markers
  • Awesome jams that say how you really feel!

Instructions
Step 1: Compile a list of desired songs.
Step 2: Burn playlist onto a blank disc.
Step 3: Decorate the CD!

 

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Instagrammers of SFSU

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Words by: Erin Browner

Maybe it’s San Francisco’s love for the fusion of technology and photography, but Instagram is becoming a favored sharing platform. Users don’t have to be photographers, techies, or smart phone geniuses to appreciate the zillions of photos to explore on Instagram. There’s nothing like riding Muni to school and scrolling through images of the Transamerica building or Golden Gate Bridge complemented with the Hudson filter in our palm.

Problem is, most Instagrammers are doing it wrong. We’ve wasted too much data loading those damn self-portraits to our Instagram feed, it’s time to broaden our Instagram horizon. Check out these expert ‘grammers of SFSU for a little inspiration.

Beth Sohn, 18
Undeclared with an interest in Child and Adolescent Development

Handle: @saturatedlaughter
Followers: 615
User since December 2011

What does your handle mean?
My definition of saturated is when something is completely soaked-in and at its maximum capacity. I have a rather boisterous laugh, and I thought by describing it as saturated, it made sense and also doubled as describing my style of pictures, as I am always drawn towards saturated colors. It just clicked and I knew it fit.

Describe your Instagram style.
The words that pop into my head when looking through my pictures are energetic, organic, unique and most importantly — colorful.

Most inspiring subjects:
Fruit, farmer’s markets, and nature.

What’s your favorite spot on campus to snap an Instagram?
My dorm. There are always people walking around on campus, and I get embarrassed when people see me crouching down or stopping in the middle of a walkway to take an Instagram picture. In my dorm, I can spend as much time as I want setting up or thinking about a picture without feeling judged.

What’s your favorite Instagram?
I really love the picture I took of myself holding up a pineapple against the sky. The sky is such a gorgeous color blue, the clouds are pure white — I just really love how bright and wonderful everything looks together! It was also a challenge to get the right balance of focusing on the pineapple without the sky being too dark, or vice versa, and I spent a lot of time deciding what angle I liked the pineapple to be.

Who’s your favorite user to follow?
@tarantula_tamer is probably my favorite Instagram user to follow. I have always had a fascination of reptiles and insects, and he posts the most incredible pictures of such a huge variety of species!

What hashtags do you use?
When I choose hashtags, I try to not be very specific and use ones I know people look at a lot, like #iphonesia and #bestoftheday. I do not really know what they mean, but I have seen others use them and when I use them, it makes it easy for people to stumble upon my picture. I also like making up random re-makes of the word Instagram, like if it was a picture of hair, I might say #hairstagram or #instahair. I do that because I think I am being funny.

How many photos do you upload?
I aim to upload about once a day, quality over quantity.

Adam Zollar, 21
Stylist

Handle: @zollyw00d
Followers: 1007
User since November 2011

Describe your Instagram style.
Mostly everyday activities/items approached as “artsy” as I can. I try not to stick to one certain type of photo.

Most inspiring subjects:
Myself, nature, and alcoholic beverages.

What’s your favorite Instagram?
Anything when I’m in drag because I look fab.

Who’s your favorite user to follow?
@jeffreycampbell because they’ve given me some love and who doesn’t love looking at shoes all day?

What kind of photo will you always “like”?
HOT MALE BODS.

What hashtags do you use?
The only hashtag that I’ve used is for my drag persona. People take hashtags #way #too #far. #ew.

How many photos do you upload?
I don’t upload daily. I would say about once or twice a week depending on how exciting my life is.

Christina Rose Hanlon, 22
Criminal Justice

Handle: @xxtinarose
Followers: 835
User since October 2011

Describe your Instagram style.
I take pictures of almost anything. I’m an open book so what better way to take pictures of my day. I am also into photography so from time to time I will post pictures of things I have taken while on photo adventures.

Most inspiring subjects:
I seem to take a lot of pictures of my cat Louie. I also like taking pictures of super colorful things like sunsets or art on the side of a building. And just pictures of my everyday life.

What’s your favorite spot on campus to snap an Instagram?
I usually sit in front of the Cesar Chavez building so I actually have taken a few pictures there in between studying.

What kind of photo will you always “like”?
It can be anything, from fashion to food to pets to the sunset. Anything I like, I “like.”

How has your life changed since using Instagram?
I think I have become more inspired to actually take pictures. I recently saved up and bought myself a Canon and since that day, I have been using my camera to take pictures of almost anything.

Kristina Kerley, 22
Journalism Major and Server at American Cupcake

Handle: @allbingeandnopurge
Followers: 1065
User since December 2011

What does your handle mean?
It’s the name of my food blog. On a larger scale though, I regard it as how I try to live my life. I want to take in all the world has to offer (binge on it) and never forget even the tiniest moments (no purge).

Most inspiring subjects:
1. Fresh ingredients – like a cut up fruit, fanned out around a wheel of cheese.
2. Desserts – because they really require perfection, frosting has to be swirled just right atop a cupcake, or a berry compote has to be falling ever so gently down the side of a tart.
3. Visible herbs/seasoning – such as a Caprese salad where you can see the ground pepper against the white mozzarella or the grains of salt still sitting on top of the tomato.

Who’s your favorite user to follow?
I really don’t think I could pick just one, I probably have a Top 5 list, and all but one is food related. My favorites include: @thaoism @ilanafreddye @kazuxxx @lobese @trotterpup

What hashtags do you use?
#food #foodie #foodporn #foodgasm #foodphotography #igfood #sharefood #instagood #instafood #tastespotting #foodstyling #healthy #homemade #cooking #baking

How has your life changed since using Instagram?
I definitely style my home cooked food more, since now I pretty much photograph it all. And it’s the running joke with my friends and family that whenever we go out I have to photograph every dish before anyone touches it. I would also say that Instagram has been the best platform for me to connect with other chefs/foodies around the world. There is a community of food lovers who I have gotten to know and learn from, I definitely draw inspiration from the people I follow.

Brandon Tran, 20
Business

Handle: @dopensteez
Followers: 3,055
User since October 2011

What does your handle mean?
@dopensteez is a reflection of my own take on fashion. It is a description of my unique style and personality.

Most inspiring subjects:
My numerous amount of accessories, bright socks, and distinctive settings.

Who’s your favorite Instagram user to follow?
@Princepelayo. I am inspired by his photos because he dresses very bold. He is not afraid to take risks. He has a very simple and sophisticated look which makes him stand out from other fashion stylists/bloggers.

What hashtags do you use?
#OOTD, which stands for ‘Outfit of the Day.’

How many photos do you upload?
It depends on how busy my schedule is. Most of the time, I try to squeeze in about two to three photos a day.

How has your life changed since using Instagram?
Not only has it given me a whole new perception of what fashion is, but it has also helped me boost up my confidence. It has taught me to be myself and to not be afraid of being different. It has pushed me to become more comfortable within my skin. I was able to bring out my true personality. Instagram was the tool to help surface my passion for fashion.

Chanel Phengdy, 20
International Relations major; Chinese Language minor

Handle: @ahappyphace
Followers: 364
User since August 2011

What does your handle mean?
Keep a happy ‘ph’ace on, even if you truly don’t have a happy face.

Describe your style.
Insignificant things that may not matter to others a whole lot, but I find to be quite significant.

Most inspiring subjects:
I always love to shoot delicious food, amazing scenery, and random quirky things I find along search for good food and scenery.

What’s your favorite spot on campus to snap an Instagram?
The famous “No Name” Lake at my study abroad campus, Peking University.

What’s your favorite Instagram?
A sepia-toned photo of me at the Great Tangshan Earthquake memorial site in Northern China. The train tracks I’m standing on are remnants of the actual earthquake, and I believe the photo captures the ambiance of the real scenery quite well.

Who’s your favorite user to follow?
@_YEONG, a Korean with a cute and quirky style for Instagramming. Her life seems pretty sweet and “picturesque.”

What kind of photo will you always “like” when it shows up in your feed?
Anything food-related. I’m a bit tired of eating mainly noodles and dumplings (standard Northern Chinese cuisine) in Beijing.

What hashtags do you use?
#iphonesia, before Android users used Instagram. #joking

How has your life changed since using Instagram?
Instagram has definitely made interacting with people easy and entertaining. For example, it’s pretty neat being able to follow a total stranger somewhere else on the globe and discover how similar we all are.

Jon-Pierre Kelani, 32
Sociology alumni 2012

Handle: @EsqueJon
Followers: 691
User since August 2011

What does your handle mean?
It means in the manner or style of Jon. It’s about how I carry myself.

Describe your Instagram style.
My style generally reflect where I’m at and what I’m doing. It also reflects what I see. I’m always looking for a combination of high and low light contrast and from there I let the light guide me as I compose my subjects.

Most inspiring subjects:
My style generally is all capturing light on the street, people, and portraits of friends.

Who’s your favorite Instagram user to follow?
@Koci is a IGer that has inspired me because I try to mimic him after I dissect his images.

How many photos do you upload?
I try to upload one maybe two per day. I feel it’s an obligation to myself to take photos as much as possible.

How has your life changed since using Instagram?
Instagram has inspired me so much because it’s a mobile platform that allows me to share snapshots instantly.

Instafame: Bex Finch

By

Words: Barbara Szabo
Instagram photos: Bex Finch

On February 12, 2012, Bex Finch, watched as Justin Vernon (the frontman of critically-acclaimed indie outfit Bon Iver) won a Grammy award for Best New Artist. She had been a fan of his for a long time. Little did she know, he had her eye on her as well—through the digital lens of Instagram.

Justin discovered Bex’s work through a mutual friend. They exchanged quirky tweets and messages back and forth on Twitter, and before long Justin invited Bex to his compound called April Base in Wisconsin to take photos, document his life, and hang out for a week.

“I really admire his ability to maintain a fairly normal life living in his hometown with family and friends close by, while being a Grammy-winning musician who sells out stadiums around the world and gets recognized everywhere he goes,” notes Bex, still bewildered by the experience and in awe that a phone app could lead her to such an opportunity.

Bex (@BexFinch) is what is referred to as “Instafamous,” having over 190,000 followers on the photo sharing application that serves as a visual diary, a window into someone’s life through images and accompanying short captions. Instagram has several built-in filters with which to adjust images, as well as other editing tools, but users can also use other editing programs such as Color Splash (isolates color in a specific area of the photo), Diptick (crop several shots into a collage), and Photoshop Express.

Business Insider named her one of the top nine “Incredible Instagram users that advertisers are dying to work with.” She created the hashtag #FromWhereIStand, which is an image captured from above, as the user looks down at their feet. A hashtag is the “#” symbol followed a keyword or phrase as a way to categorize images and captions so that users can dig through the Instagram world through specific topics.

#FromWhereIStand has become one of the most popular hashtags, and now has more than 150,000 subscribers. The series of photos has a literal meaning (“here is where I’m standing, what shoes I’m wearing, what’s around my feet,” explains Bex), but it can also represent the stand a user takes on an issue. Bex is planning to post a picture of herself standing in front of an Obama 2012 sign to encourage her followers to vote — and to vote for him, she hopes.

“Taking photos of your feet wasn’t exactly a revolutionary idea, but I put words to the idea and started taking photos of my feet almost compulsively to get the series started, which is why it’s credited as mine,” she said.

Bex started using Instagram December 2010, only two months after the app launched. By March 2011, she was placed on the “suggested users” list, composed of celebrities, photographers and companies that catch the attention of Instagram employees. She remained on the list for over a year.

When compiling the “suggested users” list, the Instagram team looks for original photos with a unique perspective, businesses that use the app for branding, and people who represent their own community in a way that reflects the Instagram community as a whole.

“I think Bex’s popularity on Instagram can be attributed to her unique and talented photography skills, timing of joining Instagram and duration she was featured as a suggested user,” says Jared Chambers (@jaredchambers), an Instagram user who started following Bex’s work before actually meeting her.

Tyler McPherron (@tylerturtle), Bex’s boyfriend, also became Instafamous when she recommended him for the list, and within a few months he reached 118,000 followers. They soon became an Instagram couple and started to get noticed all around the city. They recall the time they were spotted at a Lomography photo store opening. The young man approached them, starstruck to meet people who he had known so much about but never actually met before. He had followed their digital lives and this was the moment where a virtual existence transformed into reality. Another time, a young lady dashed down the hill to Tyler and Bex while they were sunbathing at Dolores Park in the Mission District of San Francisco. She was excitedly asking about their work, referring to specific images with vivid hand gestures, light brown eyes gleaming with admiration.

“It’s strange to be recognized, by appearance only, as a photographer, though I guess I do take enough self-portraits and have bright enough hair to stand out,” said Bex.

Indeed, Bex does stand out. Although she is merely five feet three inches tall on a good day, her bright reddish strawberry blonde hair that falls just below her shoulders, accented with bluntly chopped bangs to the middle of her forehead, makes her noticeable from wherever she stands.

While on a cross-country road trip from San Francisco to New York City February 2012, Ed Droste, singer of the band Grizzly Bear, started following Bex’s Instagram photograph feed. He invited her to Cape Cod where the band was cooped up for weeks, writing the music for their new album Shields. They explored the island together and took Instagram photos of one another. She is traveling with the band on a leg of their European tour at the end of October through the beginning of November to document the tour through a photo essay.

“I like that idea of people following my work and can come up to me to talk to me about it,” said Tyler. “Sometimes I think, I have this many followers, I wonder how many of them are in this room.”

Last September, the Israeli Ministry of Tourism invited Bex to Israel for ten days with nine other Instagrammers to take pictures of the country. On the trip, she met President Shimon Peres who invited her into his home and showed the photographers around.

“He even took an iPhone photo of me taking a photo of him,” she says excitedly.

For Bex, using the app worked in her favor, but some people frown upon Instagram users as amateur photographers.

“There are definitely times when people take it way too seriously,” says Tyler. “People get really bent on that gratification of getting likes and comments, and that’s not the real world in many ways.”

Interaction between Instagram users works in the form of commenting on or “liking” images. These actions welcome a communal environment, a place where Instagrammers offer feedback, whether constructive or at times flat out radiating criticism, on images taken thousands of miles away. Bex and Tyler are no strangers to compulsively checking other users’ reactions, in the form of words and symbols, only minutes, even seconds after they post a photo; they switch back and forth between doing that and swiftly scrolling through the feed of images compiled from the work of every user they follow, pausing on certain ones for more than two seconds to “like” it with two quick thumb taps.

“Without Instagram, I would have never been introduced to several of the photographers that have helped shape my creative style and for that reason I see the app as a worthwhile use of my time,” says Jared.

 

MAG_LYFT

Can I Get a LYFT?

By

Words: Barbara Szabo

Chad Heimann is standing on the right side of the checkout counter at Guitar Center in the Nob Hill neighborhood of San Francisco, placing a stack of coupons and flyers into a plastic bin, and gently sealing it shut with the accompanying blue lid. He looks up just in time to see a store employee wheeling a large black case containing a DJ controller toward him. He reaches for his iPhone, immediately realizing that given the heavy rush-hour traffic, the chances of arriving on-time to set up the equipment for his event are slim to none, but after one minute and four gentle thumb-taps of the screen, he knows that a reliable ride to Emeryville is no longer on the list of this afternoon’s concerns. Six minutes later, he dashes out the front door as a black Prius, adorned with a large, fuzzy bright-pink mustache above the front license plate, rounds the corner and pulls up directly in front of him.

The driver stops the car, jumps out, and runs over to Chad. They bump fists, exchange a few greeting words, and grab both ends of the case to carefully place in in the back seat. Chad and the driver are roughly the same age: early 20s. En route, they chat about the similarities and differences between the first and second Beach House albums and Chad talks about the event he is hosting that night; the driver mentions that hopefully he can stop by later when his shift is done.

The driver and Chad are not friends, and in fact they have never met; the driver works for Lyft, a donation-based ridesharing phone app that San Francisco residents can use to summon a ride anywhere in the city, and Chad is his passenger.

“It’s like you’re getting a ride from your friend. That’s the philosophy,” explains Alex Pulisci, who has been driving for Lyft for just over three months and is a cinema major at San Francisco State University.

Introduced by rideshare outfit Zimride in May 2012, Lyft has been slowly but steadily gaining momentum and recognition, partly by word of mouth, and partly due to the mystery of the pink mustaches. Alex sees the mustaches as an inside joke: there is the member of the inner circle, who casually walks out of a bar and is swooped up by a seemingly random car, led into the night by a mustache; there is the want-to-be member, who has seen the mustaches parked or cruising around the city, and decides to look into what it is, and at that point decides whether or not to join the club; and then there is the member of the outer circle, who shoots a confused look in the direction of someone who says, ‘I’m going to catch a Lyft,’ wondering if that’s a new phrase from England he didn’t get the memo about.

So although the pink ornament holds no symbolic, distinctive meaning, it gets the job of calling attention to the service done.

“We wanted to design happiness into the experience… the mustache just presents a good first impression,” said co-founder John Zimmer.

Zimmer and Logan Green founded Zimride in 2007. Since then, it has become the largest rideshare program in the United States, creating a carpool web among 125 university campuses.

“When I learned that 80 percent of seats are empty on highways, I thought this would be a good way to solve that while saving people money and bringing people together,” said Zimmer.

Aside from the high seat vacancy on highways, Lyft aims to address the issue of transportation being the second highest household expense in the United States. So far, Zimride claims it has saved its users $100 million in vehicle expenses. But above everything, the company is excited about the relationships that have formed among people in the community.

“It’s good for networking, because being a cinema major, I’m definitely interested in talking to people who are in that industry,” explains Alex. “I’ve had at least three or four people get in the car who need film work done or are in that industry. A couple of them have let me take down their number to pick their brain later on.”

Lyft is available for iPhones and Droid smart phones, and downloads in a few minutes. The sign-up process includes connecting a credit or debit card to the account, which becomes the form of payment each time the service is used. When someone summons a Lyft, it alerts a driver nearby, who then has to confirm the request. The user’s Facebook profile picture pops up as a tool of recognition for the driver, and as for the passenger, well, the pink mustache is pretty easy to spot. The user then is able to see a map of where the driver is, as well as an estimated time of arrival. The driver is able to take a passenger anywhere within sixty miles of San Francisco. After the ride is over, the suggested amount of payment pops up on the passenger’s phone screen. They have the option of accepting the total, changing it, and adding a tip; the driver never sees the total.

As of now, there are just over 200 Lyft drivers in the city, while the demand for the service is steadily growing. Usually getting a Lyft is easy but occasionally users are out of luck. Thomas Shaddox found this out the hard way, when he decided to use Lyft for the first time on the busiest weekend of the year — the weekend of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, Castro Street Fair, Fleet Week, and Burning Man Decompression.

He requested a driver to pick him up, who quickly accepted. A map displayed the location of the driver on his phone, predicting the time of arrival twenty minutes later. Once the driver got close, the app started to freeze and crash, showing the driver’s location on a different part of the map with each minute that passed. Finally, the symbols on the map seemed to all make sense, alerting Thomas that the driver had indeed arrived. But he was nowhere to be seen. This went on for five minutes, when suddenly the request was cancelled, stating the driver could not find Thomas. But he was there, standing in the same place, alternating between staring at his iPhone and fervently scanning the street. Alas, he saw a pink mustache approaching, and, overcome with relief, inched toward the curb, just as the Lyft zoomed by and continued on its way, without him.

“It was not a good experience. However, I believed this was caused by technical issues with their iPhone application or their servers, ” says one-time Lyft user Thomas Shaddox.

Since it’s a new service, Zimmer and Green are working toward improving the app one day at a time as issues arise. They are thoroughly, almost obsessively, active on Twitter, responding to nearly every complaint (of which there have been quite a few over the past few months, mostly having to do with technical difficulties and an inadequate number of drivers rather than customer service) and showing gratitude and excitement in the digital face of praise. Customers share funny anecdotes via social media, noting the friendliness of drivers. But then again, a positive, affable attitude is one of the few prerequisites for becoming a Lyft driver.

The application process is relatively simple, especially compared to that of a cab driver. There is an application to fill out online, followed by a phone interview. Lyft then runs a background check and looks over the applicant’s driving record for the last three years, and sometimes even as far back as ten years. The applicant has to have a clean, four-door car in good, safely drivable condition.

There are, however, several other conditions to be a Lyft driver: the strength to fist bump; the courage to drive passengers (who are, at times, somewhat intoxicated) to the Tenderloin or Hunter’s Point; and the wisdom to navigate through the streets of San Francisco, or use Waze to guide the way.

Waze, a GPS navigation system app, allows users to reporting traffic problems as they encounter them on the street. The app re-routes the driver as conditions change. Alex uses Waze most of the time, even when he knows the route, to make sure he is as efficient as possible.

The process of becoming a taxi driver, on the other hand, is a bit more complex and lengthy.
An applicant has to complete taxi training at an approved Taxi School, and earn a Taxi Training Certificate as well as a Sensitivity Training Certificate. They must then pass a background check, show a ten year driving record from the Department of Motor Vehicles, obtain a letter of intent to hire from a San Francisco Taxi Company, fill out an application that takes up to an hour and costs $149.50, and attend a four-hour bike safety class. After eight weeks, the applicant has to check in with the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency to find out if the background check has cleared. If so, and if every other step is completed, they are given a permanent driver permit, or A-Card, and a badge.

Cab drivers are less than enthusiastic about Lyft, for these differences in the application process, and also for competition they claim it creates. Green and Zimmer don’t see it that way: their goal is to supplement the 1500 licensed cabs in San Francisco for a population of 812,826.

“In some ways, it is direct competition with cabs, there is an argument there, but that’s not that’s not the way the people at Lyft, the drivers and specifically the people that run it, try to view the company,” Alex says, noting that there is never a shortage of passengers. “We’re not really concerned with competing with the cab companies, we’re not attacking them or anything, and we’re just filling a void that is left in the city.”

Beyond filling a void, Lyft considers hiring exceptionally friendly employees a priority, which is not the case with taxi companies. It is not unusual to hear stories about humorous, outrageous, bizarre, scary, and sometimes even scarier taxi stories.

Photographer Diana Bradbury has lived in San Francisco for just a little over a year, and she has already learned that taking a taxi entails a lot more than simply catching a ride. Sometimes it can even end in a screaming match with the driver.

One night, Bradbury and two of her friends hailed a cab, immediately asking the driver to make three stops, the last two of them only six blocks from one another. A few minutes into the ride, the driver announced that since the last two stops were so close, he wouldn’t make the third stop. At this point, Bradbury asked him to pull over so that she could get out of the car and call another cab, but the driver refused. A fifteen-minute a battle of words ensued, amplified through the slightly cracked left rear window, into the night. After she threatened to call the police, he pulled over and loudly called her rude as she stepped onto the curb and slammed the door with the maximum might of her petite, 100-pound frame.

“I know it was only a few blocks, but I’m not going to walk that late at night by myself, and he had already agreed to drive me anyway,” explains Bradbury, still livid.

The California Public Utilities Commission isn’t too thrilled about the service either. In August, they issued Lyft a cease-and-desist letter, claiming that the service lacks the proper permits and was never authorized by the commission.

Green and Zimmer responded to these claims in a public letter October 8.

“We took the letter as an opportunity to open a conversation with the CPUC and explain what we’re all about,” the letter states. “Since receiving the letter, we’ve had productive conversations with CPUC staff about how these services greatly benefit the local community and complement existing alternatives.”

Since being presented with the letter, Lyft has only continued to grow. Zimmer feels that this is a perfect opportunity to re-evaluate the transportation system in the city and welcome new alternatives. They also hope that the inner-circle of people who are familiar with Lyft will grow as the mystery of the pink mustache fades. But the bright pink color and fuzzy texture never will.

kerley

Kombucha Me Crazy!

By

Words: Hassina Obaidy
Photos: John Ornelas

The strong aroma of vinegar filters the air of 26-year-old Lewis Scaife’s San Francisco flat. He’s well accomplished in the hobbies department, dabbling in hip-hop instrumentalism and whips up homemade ginger beer. His latest quest: brewing kombucha tea.

Kombucha is a fermented sweetened black or green tea with a carbonated, tangy vinegar flavor that was first brewed in Asia and consumed for thousands of years. While not endorsed by the Food and Drug Administration, kombucha is purported to have a variety of positive health effects. As it is a raw food with live bacteria and active cultures, Kombucha bottles claim that their probiotic nature help to maintain healthy levels of bacteria within the body, and the lactic and gluconic acids aid in liver detoxification.

In the kitchens of many San Franciscans, brewing kombucha is a widely popular hobby and is considerably cheaper than buying the bottles in stores. Prior to home brewing, Kristina Kerley, senior at San Francisco State University, would spend about $25 per week on ready made tea like GT Kombucha, or Healing Springs. She began brewing just a couple of months ago after taking a quarter of the mother culture from a friend. What looks like a round-shaped, raw chicken cutlet, the “SCOBY” (Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast) also known as the “mushroom,” or “mother” is the culture that forms in the tea jar and rises to the top when fermented after a week. After brewing a couple of batches, Kerley’s mother culture reproduced five kombucha “babies.” These “babies” grow bigger and turn into mothers, and are then stacked in an unflavored kombucha jar called the “SCOBY hotel.”

More than a year ago, Scaife began brewing in his own small kitchen in his Mission District apartment. Large jars of already prepared tea litter his flat, as well as a 409 bottle filled with vinegar, a drawer full of various kinds of tea bags, and a large, round “SCOBY.”

Scaife says the current culture he is using in his SCOBY hotel is hundreds of years old.

“It’s like when you take a trimming off of a plant and you plant it, then you take a trimming off of that plant and so on,” he says. “The plant itself is very, very old, it’s a composition that’s kind of like a clone.”

Scaife, a support technician at Sacred Heart Preparatory School in the Mission has been obsessed with different home fermentations. He began fermenting pickles prior to kombucha tea and became more and more interested in how preserved foods work without necessarily being chemically preserved. He read about kombucha, ginger beer, and a variety of other fermented drinks.

The kombucha vinegar is a valuable ingredient for cooking as well. Along with salt, it can be used as a marinade for tofu, or meat and adds a whole new depth of flavor. Scaife says that it’s also good for breaking down some of the proteins in meat, or tofu and making their nutrients more absorbable by the body.

“The drink itself is very delicious and it’s just a fun little thing to have at a party,” he says.

Kerley says she feels energized after drinking the fermented tea, although this side effect is not scientifically proven. She began drinking kombucha at the age of 18 when she caught the swine flu and her co-worker at the time urged her to drink kombucha. “It will knock the shit out of you,” she said to Kerley.

She had no idea what it was, but decided to buy a bottle anyway. By the end of the day, she says her temperature went from 101 degrees to normal temperature.

“It definitely knocked the shit out of me,” Kerley says. “I feel so much better when I drink it. It’s just one of those natural things that helps.”

SIDEBAR
The Do’s:

  • Avoid older, neglected, dried out cultures.
  • Cover the SCOBY hotel with a cloth.
  • Ideal temperature for brewing is 74 to 89 degrees.
  • Kombucha should not be disturbed during the seven-day initial brewing process.
  • Make sure to refresh the culture with unflavored kombucha.
  • Sanitize hands with vinegar, NOT SOAP- it kills the culture.

The Don’ts:

  • Brew under direct sunlight.
  • Leave the culture under the sink (too damp), in tightly enclosed space (no airflow), or next to a window (sunlight, hot or cold temperature).
  • Add lemon or pineapple juice because it has a flavor agent & prevents the culture from doing its job.

As living organisms, SCOBY’s need rest too! The SCOBY hotel [PHOTO]

Purported Health Benefits:

  • Contains probiotics- healthy bacteria
  • Improves digestion and increases metabolism
  • Alleviates constipation
  • Detoxifies the liver
  • High in antioxidants and polyphenols
  • Gives you a boost of energy
  • Relieves headaches and migraines
  • Helps lower glucose levels
  • Heal eczema – can be applied topically to soften the skin
  • Improves eyesight
  • Prevents atherosclerosis

For more health benefits visit KombuchaKamp.com.

Transforming into a Drag Queen

By

Edgar Lepe’s transformation.

Words: Kayla McIntosh & Hassina Obaidy
Photos: Deborah Svoboda

Edgar Lepe takes a tube of red lipstick and begins to dab the bottom half of his freshly shaven face. Using a white cosmetic sponge, he blends in the red marks to cover up his subtle dark chin hair. Like an artist, Edgar paints his face as if it were a canvas. After blending concealer and both cream and powder foundation on his face and neck, he waves a black, floral-printed Chinese plastic fan to air dry the makeup after each application. This is just the beginning of a long transformation from man to drag.

The makeup process alone takes Edgar about an hour and fifteen minutes, with the whole process lasting a total three to four hours to transform into full drag mode. This includes showering, shaving nearly his entire body, styling his hair, applying makeup, and putting on his often elaborate outfits.

Edgar transforms from a tall, Hispanic man with a five-o’clock shadow wearing jeans, a t-shirt, and black Converse tennis sneakers to a classy, feminine drag queen with fake red and black roses clipped in his dark black hair, chandelier earrings, and an extravagant dress for a performance. He’s not like the stereotype with his more understated take on drag.

Then, there are the over the top, va-va voom, super glamorous drag queens that take it to the next level with big hair, crazy vibrant makeup and bedazzled dresses.

The epicenter of the city’s drag scene is arguably the infamous Divas in the Tenderloin District. On a Saturday afternoon just as the bar opens, an outcry of drag queens erupts inside the small, dimly lit bar. The patrons outside pay the quarrel no mind as if this is something they are far too used to.
About five women, some in drag, gather around the bar’s counter as one drag queen screams at the bartender. Cursing and continuously barking, the drag queen’s attitude is cutting and harsh.

A unidentified and highly intoxicated young woman claims that there’s a “tranny fight” going on and it isn’t a good time for anyone to talk to them.

“They’re feminine, but not really,” she says as she begins to laugh.

To equate all folks dressed in drag with all those who identify as “trans” is to show a lack of understanding toward the two radically different communities. Drag queens and transgender people have two different identities. A drag queen is one who changes their physical appearance, usually for a performance, and is often characterized by an over the top costume and makeup. As this young woman alludes, many think that being a transwoman means to be unclassy and involved in lurid activities like prostitution. However, to be transgender simply means to have chosen to live your life as a different sex than the one you were biologically assigned. This can occur simply through dress or more drastic approaches like hormone therapy or surgery.

The classic drag queens like Donna Sachet are the opposite of what one may experience at Divas bar. Tall, blonde, and elegant Donna, dressed in a long, sequined red gown is well aware of her celebratory fame. As mentioned in the Winter 2011 issue of Xpress Magazine, Donna is the lead performer at Sunday’s A Drag show at Harry Denton’s Starlight Room at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel. After a decadent brunch and a magnificent show with four talented drag queen performers, Donna and the girls happily take photos with the guests. Once that is over, she is seated to the couch near the bar by Michael Pagan, the producer, and presented with a glass of champagne before the next performance.

“I don’t put drag on, I let it out,” she says.

Donna says her drag queen identity is a character she created and maintained for 20 years. During the day when she’s running errands, no one recognizes her.

“There’s this female character inside me and I always knew it was there,” she says. “I’d put a towel on my hair and lip sync to a hair brush.”

Similar to Donna, Edgar is unrecognizable to those who know his drag identity. A UCSF cancer researcher by day, Edgar also dances for the Peninsula Ballet Theatre on the side. Although his physical appearance drastically changes, his personality remains the same.

“I don’t feel like anybody else, I feel like myself,” he says. “I don’t go out faking my voice. I really don’t even try to fake it. The more you try to fake it, the more fake you look. I like to just keep it as natural as possible.”

Confident, humble, and sociable, Lepe began his drag queen life at the age of 18 with the help of his “drag mom”, Bianca Cruz.

According to Lepe, a “drag mom” is someone who helps an individual transform into a drag queen and they must take her last name.

“It’s like they’re giving birth to you,” he says.

Lepe goes by Paloma Cruz when he performs. He believes that one can’t be a drag queen if they can’t make people laugh.

“Out of many categories of drag queens, I think the successful ones are the pretty ones, but the pretty ones that don’t open their mouth,” he says. “And the ugly ones they can actually make people laugh because you’re either ugly and funny, or pretty and stupid.”

Lepe recounts a time when he was supposed to be a part of his his friend’s wedding in Sacramento, his hometown. When he went to get ready for the event at his aunt’s house, he walked in the door only to find his 91-year-old grandmother there as well. She had no idea that her grandson had two separate identities, and he had no intention of letting her find out.

“I said ‘Tia, why didn’t you tell me grandma was here?’” He eventually had to explain to his grandmother why he came back home from San Francisco with a bag full of makeup and an assortment of ladies’ clothing.

And to his surprise, she did not judge him. She even helped iron his dress for the event.

Before he erupted with the news to his grandmother his cousin took him to the side and asked him, “How do you want everybody else to accept you..if you’re not ready to show your face to the people who care for you?”

And from that moment on, he’s never let anyone stop him from being exactly who he wanted to be.

 

Side profile of DJ

Caught in the Trap

By

Words: Kayla McIntosh
Photos: John Ornelas

A small club in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood is buzzing this Thursday evening. The air is crisp. The temperatures are low. And the music is blaring. It’s 10 p.m. and Temple nightclub is in full swing. This is ground zero of the newest and trendiest electronic music genre. This is Trap.

Intertwined with the city’s well-established dubstep scene, Trap music DJs share Thursday nights with its bass-heavy sister genre. It’s still early, but a crowd has already begun pouring in. The music is so low, the walls vibrate while the DJ spins on his tables behind the small glass booth set at the back of the room. It’s dark and so is the music. The sound of dubstep saturates the dimly lit nightclub. Girls with furry teddy bear backpacks are scattered throughout the club, bobbing their heads to the slow, yet unrelenting throbbing of the music.

Inside a small room known to regulars as the Destiny’s Lounge, off-white walls are lit up by bright red lights. Crowds of guys and girls with tatted-up arms and funky haircuts line up in the psychedelic white room and take seats on the plush leather couches anticipating the next DJ’s set. A small gathering of no more than 20 people stand around patiently waiting for the beats to kick in.

A dark haired, lanky fellow walks behind the booth, sets up his gear and begins to mix beats. Within seconds, the crowd begins to sway back in forth in approval. It’s decidedly hip-hop, but there’s something a little different. The beats start off with a bass-heavy build-up like many other electronic sounding tempos but when it drops it sounds nothing like the dubstep that was playing earlier. Sharp 808s, hip-hop sounding melodies and fast-paced snares fill the ears of listeners.

At first, many linger along the outskirts of the DJ booth trying to get a real feel of this music. Minutes later, girls and guys alike begin flocking towards the front of the elevated DJ booth shaking and shimmying to the sounds in their own individual way. Here, it’s not about how great a girl dances, how attractive a dude looks in his jeans and tee combo, or how drunk someone can get by raiding the bar a few times. Instead, the main focus is the music.

This isn’t dubstep and this isn’t hip-hop. So then what is it? What are these unique new beats that have began to take the electronic dance music (EDM) scene by storm? The latest wave of gangsta rhythms to hit the EDM scene has been labeled Trap music.

In 2003, Atlanta-bred rapper, T.I., emerged on the scene with his second studio album titled, “Trap Muzik.” It skyrocketed to the number four position on the Billboard 200 chart. A hip-hop artist by the name of Yung Joc began to make himself recognized in 2006 with his bass-filled jam called “It’s Going Down.” Catchy lyrics like “meet me in the trap/it’s going down” and an unforgettable beat catapulted the song to the number three position on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 charts. This song, along with other Dirty South hip-hop, is at the heart of what is now known as Trap. Artists like T.I., Gucci Mane, UGK and OJ da Juiceman have emerged as some of the most prominent stars of the new genre. But what the Bay Area and many other EDM fans calls “trap” isn’t necessarily what everybody thinks of.

In spite of its newfound popularity, trap has a long history in hip-hop culture. “Trapping” refers to drug dealing. Chippy Nonstop, a Dubai-born, Bay Area-residing musician who has a modern sounding style of music fusing together sounds from around the world, says “trapping” is “just gutter-ass music made by goons in the literal trap, drug dealing, slanging, stealing cars, slapping bitches.”

This new form of music is taking the Bay Area and the world at large by storm. According to Urban Dictionary, trap music can be defined as being “based on use of the 808 Roland drum machine, pitched and re-sampled hip-hop/rap vocals, pipe flutes, gangsta synth leads, and various FX.” Nonstop is a bit of a fixture in the Bay Area music scene. Her music video, “Kicked Out Da Club” was directed by the notorious white girl rapper, Kreayshawn. The song is predominantly rap but the beat fuses together the two worlds of electro and hip-hop. However, a new form of Trap has emerged that sounds a lot more electronica than it does hip hop. Rapid synths, relatively unheard of in Hip-Hop, are used liberally in Trap.

Chicago-born DJ John “J5” Hirsch has noticed that the trap scene has really taken off since the beginning of this year. In a small and cramped space with roundtables and laptops set on top of a sturdy table, Hirsch and Hauler are working their magic. A huge glass wall facing the bustling Howard street stands as the focal point of this tiny space. It’s Monday night which means that their weekly dubstep show is taking place. A white Mac computer is posted in the right corner with a tiny green light lit up at the top of the screen indicating that the video camera is on. Their set is being live streamed for through their Ustream account (which has had over 3,000 views no less) for their entire hour long set.

As the two DJs switch off, they continuously cheer each other on whenever they hear a dope beat. Hirsch (better known to his followers as J5) is not would you expect from a trap enthusiast. He’s a slender guy and has piercing blue eyes. His long brown hairs grazes just past his shoulders and is covered with a fitted cap. He’s sporting a black tee with the “The Town” plastered across the front and it matches perfectly with his dark, saggy jeans. J5’s demeanor is cool. He’s extremely focused on his music and takes a mere two or three seconds to choose which song he wants to drop next. A sign of a someone who knows exactly what they’re doing.

After the hour-long set is complete, Hirsch, Hauler and a new addition, David Young are all sitting in side room catching up. They’re discussing the music scene and the relevancy of this new style of Trap music.

“When I first heard it, I was like ‘This is basically hip-hop’,” Hirsch says. He and fellow dubstep enthusiast known to many on the EDM scene as Nebakaneza collaborate on Ritual dubstep which runs at Temple nightclub on Thursday nights. Hirsch has an hour-long set in which he mixes some of dubstep’s most popular sounds.

Hirsch’s feelings on trap are more optimistic and look at the good in what trap is all about. “It’s basically Southern trap re-energized,” he says. Not all would agree with him.

“The genre is limited,” Young groans. Young, better known as DJ Rastatronics, has been in this business for more than fourteen years. Since moving to the city a couple of years back from Davis, California, he’s been making his way into the San Francisco DJ scene. He currently holds it down at Shine lounge in the SoMa neighborhood and spins every Wednesday night. A reggae devotee, (hence the “rasta” in his name) his feelings about Trap are rather mixed.

“I can listen for like an hour and then I’m over it,” he says. He claims that artists have been performing this style of music for years and he’s not quite sure why they’re getting all this recognition now. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that southern hip-hop has been making a huge impact on the music scene in the past couple of years. Going to a club nowadays and not hearing one Waka Flocka or Gucci Mane song is nearly impossible. Lounges like Otis have been hosting regular trap nights where they play club bangers like “Hard in da Paint” and “Trap or Die 2.” Once songs like that come on, the crowd goes crazy. The most bizarre part about it is the throng of people are predominantly hipster kids walking around with glasses without lens and tanks tops and skinny jeans. The complete opposite of the black artists that live this trap life and rap about it in their catchy songs.

Some of the most popular Trap artists that follow this hip-hop electro style of music include Flosstradamus, Trill Murray and RL Grime and Salva. Their heavy usage of bass and laid back rhythms have caused for a frenzy of Trap nights to sprout up at venues throughout the city.

Trill Murray (“trill” meaning true + real) has can be considered a Trap music pioneer. Just recently dropping his EP “Lust” in late October, his sounds are an interesting take on this new genre. His confusion on why the two worlds of EDM and hip-hop can’t collide leaves him at a loss.

“To be honest, no one owns music,” he says.“You can do whatever you want. Its not a big deal just have fun and don’t care as much. It’s not the end of the world.”

Trap musicians and enthusiasts are caught between two different opinions- one that says is Trap music is the future of music and one that says it’s ripping off what hip-hop producers like Zaytoven and Lex Luger have been doing for years.

Back in the “It’s basically just hip-hop instrumentals,” he explains.

DJ UltraViolet runs Trap City, a party organization dedicated to promoting Trap themed parties, got up and running just this past summer. “I’ve know about Trap music for years but started throwing it into my sets at the beginning of this year,” she mentions. Trap City is a monthly event ran by DJ UltraViolet and claims to be “SF”s first all trap music monthly,” and their first event was this past summer in July. Some of the artists that have landed on the ticket have been Trill Murray, Chippy Non Stop, Lil Debbie, and Heroes x Villians.

How are all of these artists able to make such unique sounding music and have such a huge effect on the EDM scene today? Some would argue online music sharing makes a huge difference.

“It’s all Internet based,” says Erin Bates, a lifelong hip-hop and EDM music lover. Bates who has been following the Trap scene for a while now sees the web as being the reason why some of the artists have taken off and this style of music has gained such popularity amongst today’s youth. Bates is standing outside of San Francisco State University’s Mary Ward dorm and holding on to a barely lit cigarette. Her hair is blonde and long and she wears a long and flowing skirt that just barely grazes the ground. Her hoop nose piercing hints at the inner badass of her personality. Bates sees trap as a mere intermixture of hip-hop and EDM at its best.

“If it wasn’t for the Internet, they wouldn’t be exposed to each other,” explains. Be that as it may, the Internet is responsible for catapulting many people in to fame these days. There’s always new talent, like two little youngsters, Sophia Grace and Rosie, who covered Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass” hit and collected over 39 million views on YouTube and an appearance on Ellen Degeneres performing with the animated rapstress herself. Fame can be strucken quite easily- only thing necessary is an Internet connection and a little pizzaz. Nowadays, 15 minutes of fame isn’t hard to achieve.

The Internet is everything when it comes to this generation. People check their phones more frequently than they check their actual mailboxes at this point. At any given moment, navigating down the street can be like navigating through a herd of visually impaired zombies. People are constantly updating their status or tweeting out some hilarious 140 or less anecdote to their hundreds of followers. It is no surprise that the Internet is paving the way for Trap music and its artists alike to make their beats be heard.

Soundcloud, a music and social networking site, is the future. The site is allows anyone with an account to upload music to share it with the world. Followers of accounts have their timeline flooded with a myriad of new songs a day. As their website describes, it “takes just a click to share sounds to Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and Foursquare.” Trap music is thriving in parts to the successes of this innovative site. Flosstradamus alone has nearly 42,000 followers while up and coming artists like Trill Murray and RL Grime have around 1,776 and 11,633 respectively. The significance of it all is that there are people who are willing and able to listen to this music from a variety of regions in the world. Trap’s recognition is becoming much more apparent than it was over a year ago. These familiar sounding beats are no longer just exclusively for those interested in trap music. EDM artists have modified it in such a way that is versatile and relatable to all people and not just to people sitting in a trap house in East Atlanta.

Compared to the composers of the original Trap movement, which are usually Southern-based rappers who pride themselves on having money, cars and more women than one man can handle, the followers of this new style of music seem to be anything other than that. Predominantly college kids who are rocking out to dubstep and house music dig on Trap more than anyone else.

Nonstop says that many of the Trap producers have done an excellent job at making the music “more relatable, crazy and insane for even college bros to ‘turn up’ to.” She may be onto something. Hamilton Augustine works for Swing House Studios, a music studio that rents out studios and equipment to musicians, and is still unsure of where this movement stand and will stand in the future. Augustine, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of music, isn’t sure if he can get into it yet.

“I think for fans of digital music, it’s great,” he notes. Augustine who went to the Eagle Rock Music Festival in Southern California this past October and saw that many of the EDM musicians’ sets included some Trap.

“I saw Daedalus spin a predominantly trap set this year which I wasn’t expecting but the crowd was very young and into it,” he says. Be that as it may, do any of these youngsters know where the history of this music really lies? It’s not from the soundboard of the latest producer but in the tough streets of the South where the drug cartel resides. Still it is gaining popularity and spreading all up and down California’s club scenes. Trill Murray performed a show in Los Angeles this past Halloween and Flosstradamus held it down at 1015 Folsom within the same week.

There is no denying that Trap is here and not going anywhere for a while. Music is omnipresent. “ I’m all about change and moving forward,” Murray admits. “I love it when people push the envelope and come up with something new.” And that is exactly what Trap is all about.

Top 10 Youtube Videos

By

In 2004 the winds of political change started to blow, flowing freely from the animated mouth of George W. Bush in a cowboy hat. JibJab.com launched their famous “This Land” video in response to the Bush/Kerry presidential election in 2004, a video that is now considered to be the first ever viral election video. Gregg Spiridellis and his brother Evan made the video in a “pre-YouTube” era and have since gotten more than eight million views. “Politics can be a dry, confusing topic to most people, hardly entertaining. We love bringing the laughs to the people which is why our short videos really resonate.” says Spiridellis.

Since then many others have taken their lead and created viral video parodies ranging from the hilarious poor lip readings of politicians to a few of the not safe for work (NSFW) variety involving Sarah Palin in a porno. Spoiler: you will never look at snowmobiles the same way again.

The Spiradellis bros say that the Democrats and Republicans are equally absurd. Maybe that’s why both sides of the political spectrum seem to be getting their share of YouTube views this election.

Top Ten Videos of the 2012 Election, compiled and commented on by Molly Sanchez.
Click on the title of the video to watch on YouTube.

10. Romney/Obama Hot and Cold

Channel: baracksdubs
Posted: Oct. 16, 2012

When asked about his favorite political videos Spiridellis was quick to point out the lip sync videos that have been going around this election cycle. This YouTube channel specializes in splicing videos of Obama to make him “sing” the lyrics of popular songs (Carly Rae Jepsen’s perennial classic, “Call Me Maybe” chief among them). The choice of song here seems especially poignant given politician’s penchant to smile beatifically one minute and mudsling the next. Fingers crossed for a follow-up video based on Justin Bieber’s “Baby” as an allegory for Medicare.

9. Big Bird for Obama Ad

Channel: BarackObamadotcom
Posted: Oct. 9, 2012

In his first presidential debate Governor Romney had a lot of good comments to make about the state of healthcare and taxes in America, yet the only thing people remember is his stance on public television, or as I call it “The War on Big Bird.” It’s not a huge surprise that a conservative would be against Sesame Street citizens. (We can imagine Bert and Ernie aren’t thrilled with the party’s stance on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell!) Democrats capitalized on this sound bite faster than Mr. Hooper could whip up a birdseed milkshake and this is the result.

8. Homer Simpson Votes
Channel:ANIMATIONonFOX
Posted Sept. 20, 2012

Springfield’s favorite father is back again, this time to discuss the political climate of contemporary America. Mmm….politics. This clip, aired as a promotion for the 24th season of The Simpsons, touches on a lot of hot button issues for this election from voter ID laws to gas station televisions, to Michelle Obama’s stand on health food. Eat your heart out, South Park.

7. Romney Girl

Channel: blndsundoll4mj
Posted Oct. 6, 2012

Trisha Paytas, amateur political commentator and makeup enthusiast would like to remind you that “Mitt” rhymes with “Tit” and “I have two of those so….” The latter maxim is just one of many reasons she is urging her followers to vote for Governor Romney (though the pun-minded among us would like to know how she could manage said “tits” without an Obam-bra.) Laugh at her comparisons between the governor and her cat if you will but mock not her enthusiasm to vote, especially in light of polls that suggest college age women vote less than men. http://www.cawp.rutgers.edu/research/topics/documents/young.pdf
Plus you can read her “eww plane, go away” comment as a subtle 9/11 homage.

6. Shut Your Yapper

Channel: LateNight
Posted: Oct. 4, 2012

I don’t care what your daddy says, Jimmy Fallon election videos are here! This video perfectly parodies the bullying of moderator Jim Lehrer during the first presidential debate who was ignored more that Matt Damon on Jimmy Kimmel. What’s that? You think my jokes are trite? I think you’ll find I have four more videos so jujunah nah neet. Juuu juuu nah naha neeeet!

5. Get Nana a Gun
Channel: SilvermanVideos
Posted: Sept. 20, 2012

Whether her videos are about scrapping the Vatican for parts or doing the nasty with Matt Damon comedienne Sarah Silverman always makes her presence known on YouTube. Her message this election is about the proposed voter identification law that she says will affect “black people, old people, poor people, and students.” Her modest proposal is that everyone buy their grandma a gun license because it will serve as a valid form of identification where a social security card won’t. “It makes sense when you think about it. Cars cost tens of thousands of dollars but if you get a gun you can get a ride virtually anywhere!” Silverman says.

4. The Obama I Used to Know
Channel:http://www.youtube.com/user/JustNewProductions
Channel: JustNewProductions
Posted: Aug. 4, 2012

WARNING: Do NOT watch this video if you don’t want Gotye’s (goat-tee-yay, or Goat-ya?) “Somebody That I Used To Know” stuck in your head for the foreseeable future. This parody, complete with awesome stop-motion body paint showcases one man’s disillusionment with the president. “But you won and then you cut me off, now your speeches never soar as high as unemployment,” and “Sometimes I think that peace prize winners shouldn’t have a kill list” are among some of the song’s tongue-in-cheek lyrics that make this not only an effective parody but also annoyingly catchy and poignant.

3. Kids React to Election 2012
Posted: Oct. 21, 2012

“It’s like five-year-olds fighting over a toy, except the toy is America” is just one of the priceless quotes found in the Fine Brother’s latest “Kids React to” video. Out of the mouths of babes indeed. The responses range from silly to oddly astute and all of them strip the bickering of the political circus to its barest atoms. These kids know nothing of political policy past or present and heck, even a kid ruminates on “binders full of women? And I thought my binder full of magic cards was cool!” Their innocence makes adults both more aware of the absurdities inherent in the political process and of their own lack of that knowledge they thought they would have gained by now. What is the “Electrical College“ college anyway? An archaic institution, or maybe just another PBS show on Romney’s hit list?

2. Patriot Game

Channel: New York Times
Posted: Sept. 17, 2012

Though this creation of the New York Times Op/Ed department may look like a Wreck–It-Ralph trailer, “Patriot Games” is a great testament to the similarity between the two candidates and the silly-ness of the political system as a whole. To boil down speeches to video game-esque “achievement unlocked” scenarios is to showcase the blatant one-upping of each candidate. This kind of searing satire makes the watcher long for the “Game Over” screen.

1. You Must Vote

Channel: VlogBrothers
Posted: Sept. 2, 2012

If the New York Times is brilliant for boiling down politics to video games then Hank Green is brilliant for boiling down voting to Twilight. “Say a guy creates a YouTube video and a bunch of people watch it. Half of them are Twi-hards and half of them are BBC drama fans,” Green says.“ If the Twi-hards leave comments 90 percent of the time and the Whovians leave comments 10 percent of the time, the person who makes the videos will have no idea the Whovians are there and will be much more likely to make content for Twi-hards.” The video was so popular President Obama (or his savvy band of interns) posted it on his official tumblr. His message is succinct and relatable and a great way to encourage young people to exercise their right to vote. Green’s hope in the power of democracy is refreshingly earnest and favors neither party.

Hank Green’s message, like the message of JibJab CEO Spiridellis is nonpartisan. The message, whether it is communicated via a viral video, pamphlet, or snarky editorial is that you, as an American, should exercise your right to vote because it matters to the country you live in. These videos reach millions of people all over the United States and intentionally or not, they spread the message of the inherent silly nature of modern politics. So yes, every candidate can be made to dance, every candidate can say similar truths and lies, and every candidate is basically a monkey in shoes. But at the end of the day, one of them will be the monkey in shoes that makes big decisions on our behalf so we’d better tune in and choose wisely.

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