Posts Tagged ‘Kenny Redublo’

A Night of Fashion

By xpressmagazine

SF State's Apparel Design and Merchendising students present thier work at the Runway Ignite fashion show on Thursday, May 2, 2013.

SF State’s Apparel Design and Merchendising students present thier work at the Runway Ignite fashion show on Thursday, May 2, 2013. Photo by Samantha Benedict / Xpress

By Melissa Landeros
Photos by Samantha Benedict and Kenny Redublo

More than 20 designers, over 120 models, a production team of about 80, 1 runway and 1 night that brought all types of people together to support SF State’s Apparel Design and Merchandising (ADM) students at the San Francisco Design Center May 2nd.

After months of preparation SF State’s Fashion Network Association (FNA) was able to produce the 19th annual fashion show, Runway 2013: Ignite at the San Francisco Design Center, in collaboration with the students from the Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts Department (BECA) and the ADM students.

Every spring semester the graduating seniors from the ADM department create their own line or individual looks to showcase to fellow onlookers, as a stepping stone into their future of making it big in the fashion industry.

While the senior ADM merchandising students help backstage during the production. Working backstage includes numerous tasks from constant model changes, checking the line up, and making sure each individual look is put together as the designer wants it to be.

As guests were checking in and getting a grasp of the venue committee leaders were hard at work behind the scenes getting models ready to strut down the runway. Backstage manager Brittany Poon expressed how she and her team had pre-show jitters but once the show began everything ran smoothly. Poon, said, “Anytime you have a large event, there are bound to be a few hiccups, but my team was well prepared and on top of it.”


SF State’s Apparel Design and Merchendising students present thier work at the Runway Ignite fashion show on Thursday, May 2, 2013. Photo by Samantha Benedict / Xpress

The Fashion Network Association is a student run organization open to anyone interested in promoting/producing fashion events and publications. The FNA is the bridge that connects students and alumni in order to gain industry knowledge and opportunities to network.

The student run association is broken up into committees that have their individual duties when it comes to producing the spring fashion show. The public relations committee reached out to vendors, bloggers, and designers for donations for the raffle, which took place during the show. Raffle prizes consisted of gift cards from JewelMint, Weston Wear, Freda Salvador, and a grand prize of a dress form donated by Menswear Designer Justin Jamison.

Public Relations officer Faviola Vega, said, “I think the FNA team enjoyed the process of seeing the show come together.” Vega said while at times the process was difficult because not everyone was available when needed she was very pleased with the FNA and their contribution to the show.

The FNA model committee recruited models for those designers who did not already have their own, created spreadsheets pairing the two, hosted model fittings, and runway walking workshops. Model committee was also in charge of recruiting a hair and makeup team, which consisted of Fremont Beauty College students and freelance makeup artists who volunteered their services.

Runway model coach Charleston Pierce offered his expertise in helping the student models perfect their walk up until the day of the show. Pierce said, “I saw lots of potential in the models and would love to work with the FNA in the future.” He also said the show was great, there was a lot of excitement and he saw the energy in everyone’s faces.

FNA member Peyton Howell director for the model committee also served as a model to many designers during the show. Howell said, “I was given the chance to work with and wear clothing from multiple talented artists and it was just an exhilarating experience.”

All FNA members promoted the show by posting flyers throughout the SF State campus and promoting through social media outlets like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. The students from the BECA department also created video advertisements for Runway 2013: Ignite, via YouTube and Vimeo.

The BECA students also created short videos about the student designers, which were broadcasted before their looks went down the runway. The production team also recorded the show live but due to technical difficulties the video did not stream on the projector overhead as the show was in motion. Although, the audience was able to relive the show and its highlights once the production concluded.

The ADM student designers showcased a variety of individual looks from exaggerated pieces to upcycled looks from garments donated by Goodwill. Some lines were simple yet very detailed like Genevieve Sixbey-Spring’s scarf collection entitled ISRE. While Allison Brackeen’s Lady V. Lingerie collection was intricate and feminine. Along with individual looks there were 19 collections ranging from 5 to 7 looks each.

SF State design student Kiana Loo created three individual looks one, being an exaggerated piece, another inspired by nature, and an upcycled look. Loo also featured her collection entitled Lotus of short skirts and dresses. Loo was inspired by silk periwinkle colored fabrics that she utilized in her collection. She said, “I wanted my line to be fresh, fun, and flirty, and I also believe it to be very wearable.” Loo future goals include moving to Los Angeles and opening up her own store.

Student designer Van Tran created an individual look and a collection that embodied lots of hard wear in the form of chains and beading. While it took some designers up to 4 months to create their lines, Tran said her line was complete after 1 month. Her collection is called A Royal Battle, and with that Tran said, “I want to move to New York and hope to move up in the design world.”

SF State's Apparel Design and Merchendising students present thier work at the Runway Ignite fashion show on Thursday, May 2, 2013. Photo by Samantha Benedict / Xpress

SF State’s Apparel Design and Merchendising students present thier work at the Runway Ignite fashion show on Thursday, May 2, 2013. Photo by Samantha Benedict / Xpress

Vice President of the FNA Jessie Couberly who was also the front stage manager during the show thought the show was a success. Couberly said, “All the talented people at the show were amazing and they would not be who they are without the support of those around them.” With it being Couberly last semester as the FNA Vice President she hopes that someone will continue to carry on the amazing organization for many years to come.

The entire show lasted about 3 hours and the runway was about half the time. The moment ADM design students are in the program they know what is to expect their last semester at SF State. The designers put in many hours, weeks, even months into creating their garments. The time mounting up until they showcase their line is long awaited but the time all their hard work is shown on the runway only lasts but a few moments.

SF State Student Annmarie Bustamante will be showcasing her line at next year’s annual fashion show. Bustamante already knowing that her work will only be featured for a few moments said it is still worth the strenuous effort. She said, “Seeing your looks in motion with the fast paced strut of the models excites and entertains the crowd and that is more powerful than a still photograph.”

Designer Elena Corona’s line Kawaii Yakuza was inspired by Harajuku street wear, which is a casual look consisting of bright and pastel colors. Corona said, “I wanted my line to be a reflection of my personal style and interests.” Her designs are simple but added touches like studs on collars and intricate headbands make her looks stand out.

Lee Hi, a Korean pop singer who wears toy like “crowns,” inspires Corona’s elaborate headbands. Corona’s headbands each had a theme; one was made of roses while another was made of candy wrappers.

As the looks came down the runway the audience was captivated and one could hear how some ooed and awed at the designs. Attendee Heather Marcy said, “I was literally standing next to my friend pointing out pieces I loved and wanted to wear myself.” She thought the show was a good production overall and had a fun experience.

FNA president Kayla Odwald stressed how the entire show production would not have been possible without the help of several people. Runway 2013: Ignite was established due to the hard work of the ADM department, the FNA, the BECA department, the production/media committees and the generosity of those who donated items to the show.

While this spring show is a wrap there will be a whole new set of designs, designers, and production team next year. Also stay tuned for the upcoming fall semester in which the FNA will produce another fashion show leading up to the spring show.

A Biker’s Plight


By Kenny Redublo

I awake to a sound I hate. It’s like any other morning. I turn off the daily alarm and fall right back to sleep. I can spare the time to sleep in a bit more. As long as I have five minutes to bike to class.

Thirty minutes before class, I finally get my morning routine in motion. Shower, brush teeth, backpack, and bikes. Wait.

I open up my front door and the empty space where my bikes usually would be is, well, empty. The space between my front door and a solid steel gate is this safety zone where I thought was, well, safe.

Not today. There goes my morning routine.

The gate was wide open, slightly swinging from the windstorm of the morning. All I had in my head were incomplete questions.

How did they…? Where are my…? Who left this…?
Then came the blind rage.

I spout out a constant stream of obscenities and curse words as I shatter a planter on my way out of my barren safe zone, but sadly walk back into the house as I realize I don’t need my bike lock any more.

The weight of my bike lock was the weight of my rage being lifted off of me. I began to sadly accept my plight, though I kept running through hypothetical situations of recovering my bikes and the subsequent revenge I would take on the assailants.

But what could I do? What was there to do?
Nothing. All I can do is to move on.
This happens all the time.

I tell myself that and, sure, it calms me down, but it’s not enough. There’s this bikeless void in me and now I’m late to class.

Bikes are essential to the daily commute in San Francisco. The city is taking more measures into widening bike lanes or timing traffic lights for a greener, more efficient everyday commute. San Franciscans are relying on bikes as much as cars or public transit. It’s almost even a burden to wait for a delayed bus or endlessly circling street to street for that prime parking spot.

But bikes are easy to steal. On the SF State campus, according to campus police, during the Spring 2013 semester, there have been twelve reported thefts, compared to last semester’s nineteen reports, and many other thefts go unreported since there’s not much to be done about a bike theft. With a car, there’s insurance, car registration, and, in some cases, tracking devices like LoJack. A car is an investment and protecting that investment is vital. Bikes can be an investment but not on the scale of a car. Insurance on a bike can cost more than what the bike is worth. Grand theft auto is a more heinous crime than bike theft, or petty theft as classified by police reports.

Basically, bike thieves are jerks. It’s a petty crime from a petty person. Their actions shake your sense of safety and ruins your daily routine.

But with trial and error, it’s a learning experience. An aggravating learning experience.

As much as I was inconvenienced by my morning surprise, other people rely on their bikes much more than I do, especially when riding bikes is their job.

Taking care of business on two wheels
Dave Yoha is the general manager of TCB Courier. TCB is a bike messenger service delivering anything, from food and drinks to batteries and condoms. Late night fixes are fulfilled for the residents of the Mission, SoMa, Haight, and neighboring districts thanks to TCB. Going from district to district, the couriers increase their risk of bike theft and its effects can damaging to the business, and more so to the rider.

“It’s always a terrible thing to have happen because it’s something you rely on and inevitably something you have to put money and care into or maintaining or building,” says Yoha. “When it’s something you rely on for your job or your personal training, it affects so many aspects of your day to day life.”

TCB started so people could have jobs. One of the founders traveled constantly, and one time he came home from some messenger trip in Japan and didn’t have a job anymore. He was wanted a job where if he were to leave town for a week or two, he would still be employed.

The original goal of TCB was to start a company for messengers, by messengers that allows them to still live that traveling lifestyle but have a sense of security of being able to have a job when they get home. They made the job what they wanted it to be instead of “some guy in an office telling them what they wanted to be.”

Over the course of 2013, TCB experienced upward to five bike thefts while riders were on the job. Most cases were when bikes were left unattended for a short time in front of restaurants or other drop off points. Theft can happen in a matter of seconds.

There were a couple of incidents where locks were cut through and other odd cases.
“We had a few mysterious instances where one of the riders would have their bike U-locked to a parking meter or bike rack and then they were just gone, which is really bizarre.,” says Yoha.

Though the streets of San Francisco may be crowded, most of the thefts happen during the dinner rush where riders are dropping in and out of businesses and residents.

The string of incidents left Yoha wondering if there was a vendetta against TCB, like someone was targeting the riders, but it was just the opportunities the couriers were giving the thieves. Yoha says that any experienced bike thief can figure out the popular spots where riders would hang out and operate. It was nothing personal, especially in the Mission.

“This is what some guys do–they go around stealing bikes and bike parts.”
According to the San Francisco Police Department crime maps, there have been over 400 reported thefts in the Mission district since the beginning of this year. Theft is no stranger in the Mission, but with its more bike friendly streets like Valencia Street, bike theft is more prominent in the neighborhood.

“I think that even though it’s Valencia Street and it’s kind of a gentrified, localized area, it’s still the Mission,” says Yoha.

“Overall, it’s not the best neighborhood and there are still a lot of people there living hand and mouth and theft is a real life way to feed yourself or provide yourself for whatever other vices you may have.”

“There’s a lot of opportunity for bikes to get stolen.”

Yoha recalled one incident where someone, a “crackhead,” tried to walk off with another rider’s bike.

He was hanging out with three other riders outside of a cafe in the Mission, around the corner of a popular art gallery. The gallery was full of people coming and going and the riders kept a watchful eye on their unlocked bikes. A group of people also noticed the bikes as they walked by and one broke off from the group, casually walking up to one of the bikes. The thief grabbed the bike and started to walk off. As the thief walked away, Yoha and his friends caught the thief instantly, asking him what he was doing. Confused and caught red handed, the thief told Yoha and the riders saying the bike was his and he was just picking it up. Not believing a word, they told him to get out of there and leave the bike alone. The thief knew well enough that wasn’t his bike and the riders made sure of the fact, so he walked away empty handed.

Leaving a bike unattended is a bad idea, even if it’s just for a few seconds and no matter what time it is.

One night, Yoha was coming home after work and decided to stop into Safeway. It was just a quick errand before he headed home so he locked up his bike in front, only locking the front wheel and frame to a bike rack. Coming out of the supermarket, he noticed his rear wheel was gone. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a person scurrying away with the wheel. The thief was even trying to unsuccessfully hide the wheel underneath his shirt. Yoha confronted the thief and the thief claimed he was told to steal the wheel. Since no one else was around especially late at night, Yoha brushed aside the thief’s attempt at an excuse and chased him out of sight.

Some people will do and say anything for a quick dollar.

“Bikes and bike parts are a really easy thing to flip,” says Yoha. “You can steal it with little to no effort, you can flip it and sell it on the street for next to nothing, and get a quick few bucks.”

The monetary value on the street for bikes or parts can range from pocket cash to a few hundred dollars, with the sentimental value is usually thrown aside as collateral.

A bipedal buddy
I had my bike for more than five years. I bought it from a friend for $175 and put in about $300 more into building it to my own personal specifications. It got me around the Southern Californian beaches and Downtown Los Angeles streets and it traveled with me on my move up to San Francisco. My bike got me through the Daly City and San Francisco hills I couldn’t fathom possible in Southern California to either school, work, or random explorations in the city. My mileage couldn’t compare to other riders, but I wasn’t riding for the distance. I was riding to get me somewhere, wherever that was. The in between was just an added perk.

There is a bond between the bike and the rider and there’s no filter for sentimental value on Craigslist. So when a rider loses their bike, they can’t buy back the time and memories stolen from them.

One victim of bike theft on Valencia Street left a note behind for the thief. It was one way of retaliation. The note provided some background for the bike.

One, it was the victim’s mother’s bike.
Two, the victim fixed it up with the last of his/her savings.
Three, the victim works, goes to school, and doesn’t have much money or possessions.
And four, the victim has plenty of doctor’s appointments to go to, for their cancer treatment, and their bike was the only means of transportation.

A note, especially one that tugs the heartstrings and makes its way onto Instagram, is a small way to gain notoriety for a stolen bike. The more people know about it, the better chances are of someone recognizing the bike.

Though there may not be much to do to recover a stolen bike, there are some measures to help ease the worried mind and maybe lead to recovery.

Bike path to recovery
Filing a police report can be a waste of time. The SFPD already has their hands full with more heinous crimes like murders or assaults or drugs. Relying on them to be on the lookout for a stolen bike can provide some false hope.

Filing a police report does give you evidence that the reported bike is yours, which is great for confronting your bike thief, especially if you have a police officer with you.
Riders know their bikes, according to Yoha, and the prevailing attitude among them when they lose their bike is “it’s going to take an army to stop me from getting my bike back.”
Little tricks like hiding notes with your contact information inside of the bike frame or just knowing the in’s and out’s of your bike can invalidate the bike thief when claiming what’s yours to a police officer.

One TCB rider confronted their bike thief while accompanied by a police officer. The police officer wanted the rider to prove that the bike in question was actually his. Asking the bike thief what the gear ratio is already invalidated ownership, but that wasn’t enough for the officer. The rider stood patiently as the police officer counted each tooth on the gear for some solid evidence.

“If some cop or mediator asks how you can prove this is your bike, I would say ‘well, how long of a list do you want? I built it from the ground up, what do you want to know?’” says Yoha.

The rider eventually recovered his bike, but this isn’t the case most of the time. Time is of the essence when it comes to recovery.

“If you haven’t recovered your bike in the first day or two, the chances you’re going to recover it are slim,” says Yoha.

Fighting back
The San Francisco Bike Coalition have been fighting bike theft ever since their inception in 1971. This year, they will be working with SFPD to investigate bike theft rings and to collect statistics on where bike theft is most rampant, according to communication director Kristin Smith. Until their collaboration yields results, SF Bike Coalition holds free courses on educating the public about bike safety and theft prevention every month. If you can’t make it to any of the scheduled classes, there are tips on their website on how to lock up your bike safely and securely around the city.

Bike theft isn’t a problem that can be solved at a source, but there are ways to prevent it.
The best way is to make theft harder for the thief.

Having a U-lock is vital for locking up in the city and the smaller, the better. Larger U-locks have a greater chance of being pried open. Pair the U-lock with a cable to protect the wheels from being stolen and that’s the optimal setup for protection.

Using small cables to secure the bike seat and replacing quick release skewers for wheels are additional options for preventing thieves stripping the bike part by part.

As much as additional gear can help, the most important tip is to be aware of your surroundings. The longer a bike is locked up, left unattended, in an unpopulated, or populated, place, the more likely it’s subject to having it’s parts stolen.

Don’t ever leave your bike unlocked.
Don’t ever turn your back on your bike.
Just use your better judgment.

A Cautionary tale
I took my bike for granted and that put my guard down. My mistakes of leaving it locked up overnight in the Mission or at the bike barn at school with it still being there, intact, made me too confident and too trusting of the city.

I can’t trust this city, or anyone in it.

My bikes were stolen at my home, my safe zone. These things happen where you expect them the least and I now will strive to expect the unexpected.

Where to go from here is back onto the bike path. When one bike goes, there’s always another friend selling one, or giving one away, or parts just laying around. I am still angry about what happened, but I’m still on the move, one pedal at a time.


Sublet Survivor


For Luu, skating was essential for Sublet SF. Skating across each district requires a keen eye for every nook and cranny and connected her with the city even more // GIF created by Kenny Redublo


By Kenny Redublo
Photos by Virginia Tieman

Valencia street is alive as usual. Cyclists ride next to cars and trucks zooming by while couples walk their dogs on the sidewalks as they window shop at the local boutiques before stopping into a cafe for a coffee. It’s a typical Mission day, except for the lack of sunshine. Valerie Luu sits on the patio at Four Barrel Coffee, taking a break from work. She holds a poetry book in one hand and adjusts her hair with the other. The wind is making the day colder than it looks.

This spot is familiar for Luu. Not just Four Barrel, but the Mission itself. It’s her two blocks of comfort in the city, but they’re not her home. It’s been over a year that she’s been on the search for a place to call her home, since a breakup.

“I felt like I had two choices after the breakup: find a Craigslist situation to fall into, which was probably going to be shitty, or go on an adventure,” says Valerie Luu with a skateboard next to her.

“I chose to go on an adventure.”

Luu started Sublet SF in March 2012 after the breakup. Sublet SF is her blog and personal project, where she subleases a room in eight different neighborhoods in the course of one year. She chronicles her different experiences with the residents of the neighborhood, showcasing conversations, photos, or achievements. Her idea came about when she visited Paris a couple years ago. The city of Paris is divided into twenty different administrative districts, or arrondissements. Luu thought it would be a great idea to live in a different arrondissement for a year, but as she was driving around San Francisco after her breakup, she realized she can do that in San Francisco. She just had to do it.

“Whenever I have a creative idea, it becomes implanted in my head and I can’t get it out and I just have to do it,” says Luu.

“I’m at a point where I’m able to [move]. I’m young, I don’t have children, I don’t have an apartment, and I need a reason for adventure.”

Luu skates down Steiner Street in front of her Marina sublet // Photo: Kenny Redublo

Luu skates down Steiner Street in front of her Marina sublet // Photo: Kenny Redublo

An Educated Escape

Luu started her sublet obsession while she was in college at UC Santa Cruz. Between her junior and senior year, she didn’t want to be stuck at a job or in school. She just wanted to experience living in San Francisco. She subleased a room in a house on Scott and Fulton Street. Out the window was a view of City Hall, she was in walking distance to the parks of Lower Haight, and she fell in love with the city.

“Every chance I got, every winter break or summer break, I would come and sublet in San Francisco,” says Luu. “And that’s when I became a chronic subletter.”

When she finished college and moved out of Santa Cruz, subletting was already a part of her life and packing up and moving was commonplace.

The First Sublet

When she moved out of her ex-boyfriend’s apartment in March 2012, she asked her friend Scott to move in with her for the inaugural Sublet SF move. She dreamed of living with her friend and working on art projects together and Scott felt the same.

“We’re both dreamers,” says Luu.

The first sublet of the project was a one bedroom apartment in the Panhandle on Baker and Hayes Street. Luu’s place before the breakup was already in the Panhandle, the neighborhood that made her fall in love with the city. It’s her foundation for San Francisco.

After the Panhandle, she moved to the Marina.

When In Rome

One of Luu’s goals with Sublet SF is to absorb a neighborhood’s culture. Each neighborhood has its own type of people, landmarks, ways of life, and to Luu, it’s a way to find inspiration in the city she lives in.

“There’s studying abroad, right? Well, this is studying domestic,” says Luu.

When she moved to the Marina, a neighborhood of big houses, big boats, and big views, she ran with the culture of the neighborhood, literally.

Marina Green

Marina Green

“Everyone’s running [in the Marina]! Everyone is in running pants!” says Luu. “So I went home, put some on, and ran six miles in the rain. It was so epic.”

She made the goal of running 100 miles during her time in the Marina. Setting this goal one week into living in the neighborhood, she had three weeks to achieve this feat, in which she did, complete with a celebratory donut.

“I’m not a runner by any means,” says Luu.

“Exercise makes me a little sad.”

Urban Inspiration

According to Luu, people living in San Francisco have their “two blocks of comfort.” As she sits on Valencia, she knows this is her comfort zone.

“My life is here, but it gets monotonous and I lose inspiration,” says Luu.

In Chinatown, Luu found inspiration, and the flu.

She shared a bed with a friend and her friend’s cat for two months while having the flu. She might be allergic to cats now.

Maybe it was the neighborhood seen through a fever dream but Luu saw Chinatown as this different entity and hub for urban living.

Chinatown has a grittier, more New York like, visual with more urban commercial streets, grocery stores, and merchants, all with apartments stacked right on top.

“That’s living in Chinatown! Stacks on stacks!” says Luu.

She experienced different people, lifestyles, aesthetics all in one place since Chinatown borders the neighborhoods of North Beach, Russian Hill, and the Financial District.

“Being around so many lifestyles reminded me that I’m in a fantastic city with a lot of different people because it’s easy to get stuck in the same two blocks in the city,” says Luu.

“One of the main goals of this project is to have myself leave my ‘two blocks of comfort’ and see what other people’s ‘two blocks’ are like and hopefully inspire other people to go check out Chinatown and North Beach.”

Subletter’s Rules of the Road

Luu’s parameter for a new place is the monthly price has to be less than $800.

“That’s the goal,” says Luu.

According to the San Francisco Tenants Union, the annual allowable rent increase is 1.9% as of March 1, 2012 compared to last year’s 0.5%. Rental prices from show properties in Bayview cost more than SoMa. The rental landscape has changed.

Bernal Heights Park

Bernal Heights Park

“People say rent is expensive in San Francisco and it is. It’s super scary and I think about it all the time because I’m constantly moving,” says Luu.

“Everyone is afraid of leaving their rent controlled apartments, but there are still cheap rooms [out there] and my hope is that [they] will still exist in some way. Friends will pass it along to friends and friends of friends.”

As a chronic Craigslist subletter, Luu’s tip to find a room in San Francisco is to stand out among the hundreds applying.

“Sell yourself.”

Luu looks for rooms in houses since finding a one bedroom sublet is out of her budget. The sublet in the Marina was the only place to break the $800 rule, with the minimum rent of the neighborhood being at least $1200.

With each move, she is heading toward her ideal amount of possessions. She still has more stuff than she wants. One item includes a box of her journals ranging from the third grade. Paper things are hard to tear away from.

“The ideal is to have a backpack, a suitcase, a bag, my bike, and my skateboard,” says Luu.

“I would love to move on a MUNI!”

Barely Bernal

Luu’s current neighborhood is Bernal Heights. Her experience so far: being domestic.

She calls her room the “Hobbit room.” It’s an attic room with two camping sleeping pads and a comforter on top, decorated with Christmas lights, with some company from the house dog.

Being domestic for Luu in Bernal Heights includes buying groceries at the Farmer’s Market on the weekend, cooking at home, and going home at proper hours (before 2 A.M,). The lack of bars around the neighborhood help reduce her late nights.

Her Bernal room is also her first room by herself, which is a much needed break.

“I didn’t realize there was going to be some unexpected psychological consequences to this project. Displacement, no feeling of home or security… no privacy, which I thought I was fine with.”

Never Stay Stagnant

There are two neighborhoods left in the project: Tenderloin and North Beach. Though Luu set out to live in eight neighborhoods throughout the year, there’s no telling if she’ll stop there.

“There’s a part of me that could continue this, like go to Bayview or Laurel Heights, whatever that means, Ingleside, Glen Park. What are these neighborhoods? I have no idea!” says Luu, laughing.

“But who knows? Who knows how I’ll feel after I finish these last two neighborhoods?”

Luu’s home is Bernal Heights for now, but with this project, San Francisco is becoming her home more and more. She skates around the city, learning its literal nooks and crannies, and reminisces on the places she’s lived in. Bernal Heights is the “neighborhood where you can see all neighborhoods” and she sees the different chapters of her life from the hill.

“I have faith that by the last sublet, I will find the ‘pot of gold at the end of the rainbow’ and maybe I’ll know what neighborhood I want to settle in,” says Luu.

“Maybe I’ll know who I am.”

The changes to the neighborhood she sees during this personal journey reminds her of what her ex-boyfriend’s teacher told him: “Life is all about having homes or creating homes, and then getting kicked out of them, repeatedly.”

“The universe will always kick you in the ass so you can grow,” says Luu. “Never stay stagnant.”

Wii U Experience


Video: Kenny Redublo
Music: 8 BIT PROJECT – Birthday Eve

Xpress writers Jennifer Sandoval and Charlene Ng venture to the Fort Mason center in San Francisco to see what this Wii U Experience is all about.

A More Human Experience


Words: Kenny Redublo 

Waking up in the back of a crashed police car is never a good situation. Lee Everett crawls out of the wreckage, disoriented. The driver is gone and a shotgun is left unattended. Two shells left. It’s enough for now. Lee hears voices from every direction. Unfriendly voices. The cover of the woods should provide him enough time to figure out his bearings.

Lee finds the driver, but something’s not right. His eyes are white and look at Lee with an animalistic hunger. Lee knows he’s just been arrested by this cop, but this is inhuman. The cop has a broken foot but he shows no concern. He keeps stumbling toward Lee.

Lee cocks the shotgun. If he shoots, he’ll be in worse trouble than he already is. If not, he’s dead. It’s life or death. What should he do?

With a push of a button, the player decides Lee’s fate. This is the beginning of the Walking Dead video game, an episodic title by Telltale Games for most modern video game consoles, even mobile devices like the iPhone or iPad. The video game is based on the Robert Kirkman comic, which has also been adapted into an AMC television series. The setting of the Walking Dead is of any zombie fiction, but what it does differently is its focus of the human condition. It questions the acts of humans when civilization crumbles. What Telltale’s video game adds to the Walking Dead experience is giving the players a bigger sense of weight to their own decisions. This is the aspect of a video game that comics, film, or television cannot provide. Visuals can get more lifelike and sounds can get clearer, but the importance of this moral interactivity is what can evolve video games as a serious medium and provide something film, books, or television have not before.

The Walking Dead is about Lee Everett. He was arrested for the murder of his wife’s lover and was on his way to prison when the zombie outbreak occurred. Lee’s past is put on the backburner in order to focus on the choices the player must make throughout the game. It’s less of a distraction and more of a foundation for players to build their image of Lee or themselves in the situation. The player’s interpretation of Lee is developed further with the addition of Clementine, an 8-year-old survivor Lee encounters in the first episode. They are dependent on each other, even if they are strangers. But in this desperate time, strangers are vital to survival, for better or worse. The inclusion of Clementine provides the player with a sense of duty and consequence. Are the choices made for Lee’s or Clementine’s benefit? It plays around with the conflict burden versus attachment. As many other survivors met throughout the course of the game, Clementine is a constant. Her innocence as a child conveys the feeling of care over mistrust, which the other survivors may have ulterior motives.

Player choice is primary to gaining that sense of involvement. It gives in to the idea that the player’s actions greatly affect and manipulate events in the world, either socially through character interactions or how characters react to your actions. It creates the difference between staged and reality. Games differentiate themselves with this concept from other narrative media.

A Gut Reaction

The use of player choice in games opens a way for games to affect gamers as people. The presentation of choice disregards the concern for points or rewards, but to immerse players into a character’s situation.

“It comes down to personal preferences in those situations,” says Ben Janca, gamer and broadcaster. “I don’t try to think if [the choice] is good or evil.”

The choices come less from a perception of morals, but more from a gut reaction, especially in the case of The Walking Dead. Early adventure games like Grim Fandango or text adventures didn’t have a limited time window to make a choice. There was a no negative outcome for taking time out to look at the choice objectively.

“You just have to do it,” says Hayes. “The time mechanic keeps you subjective.”

One of the first major choices is when Lee must kill the zombified babysitter. It is a life or death choice but it matters in the way it is carried out. The player can approach the situation brutally, mashing the button with instinctual fear, but what comes out of the situation is all in front of Clementine’s eyes. It’s an exercise of instinct over logic or survival over innocence. Are the player’s motives to ensure safety or preserve the innocence of a child? The surprise of the outcome is the notification that Clementine will remember everything that took place. It’s a reminder of how these choices will impact the rest of the game. Be it major or minor, these choices have impact.

A Universe of Choice

One franchise that capitalized on player attachment is Mass Effect. Mass Effect is a science fiction epic trilogy for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, and now the WiiU that kept every choice recorded throughout the series. The main character, Commander Shepard, is portrayed physically and morally by player choice. Shepard can be male or female, and a noble or brash commander. The player can choose whether or not to punch a nosey reporter in the face, or calmly talk his or her way out of the situation. Players can choose to pursue romantic relationships with fellow teammates or keep their distance. Each choice has their benefits in gameplay, like new abilities or equipment. The Mass Effect series exercises choice on an epic scale in a literal universe. The sense of fictional scale is on par with the Lord of the Rings series, or Star Wars.

As with those literary and film series, there is a barrier of entry and can cater to the most loyal fans. Mass Effect is expansive and uses moral choice as supplement to its universe but it’s one bullet point on an expansive list of features.

One Life, One Choice

One titles that made that bullet point into a defining feature is Heavy Rain. This PS3 exclusive adventure game is boasted as more of an interactive film, due to its heavy influences from noir, crime scene television shows, and films like Seven. Heavy Rain asks “how far will you go for someone you love?” The question is posed to the player and the four interconnected characters controlled. Each character has their different motivations when faced with the overarching plot of the Origami Killer, a child murderer connecting each character.

The game presents its moral choices like Mass Effect and the Walking Dead, through its dialogue. In contrast to Mass Effect, Heavy Rain is a singular focused narrative. There are no side missions or extraneous worlds to visit. Heavy Rain stays within the sphere of the character in a guided experience. This may take control away from the player but it exercises the pressure of each situation and reliance on instinct. The Walking Dead did take inspiration from Heavy Rain with its quick time events.
Another taut feature of Heavy Rain is how the player’s choices can kill the character for the rest of the game. Choices and mistakes can lead to extreme consequences. The player can even have all four protagonists die and the endings can vary wildly. It mirrors how real life is singular. You only get one shot, according to the writer and director of Heavy Rain, David Cage.

Immersive Attachments

Spencer Hayes, community manager at and philosophy major at SF State, initially felt Lee as an established character was going interfere with the immersion into the narrative.

“I came into the game detached,” says Hayes.

After more of the game, he felt his decisions as Lee became extensions of himself. It dissolved this line between him and Lee. The easiest way to get over the initial hurdle of immersion into a fictional world is for the player to make themselves, a virtual avatar. The Walking Dead has Lee’s story to tell so creating a character wouldn’t work in the game. Other games, like the Fallout series, have players create an avatar of them in the post-apocalyptic future but there is an established backstory written out for their character.

“Creating a character is an immediate way to gain player investment,” says Hayes. “Players buy into what they made.”

Though the experience may seem contained within the confines of the player’s world, at the end of each episode, the player’s choices are compared with others in the form of percentages. It’s a sociological experiment that helps the player reflect upon their own morals. When this is presented at the end of an episode, it alleviates the social pressure that would exist if the choices of others were presented throughout the initial experience. There is a sense of confidence provided when the stats are shown. It provides the player’s choice with solidarity among the community.

The Grey Area

In games like the Mass Effect series, choices are blatantly labeled good or evil. Good and evil in Mass Effect is more labeled as talking calm or brash measures in a situation. The actions of the player character are never morally evil. In the Fallout series, choices are more black and white. The situations that arise are either setting off an undetonated atomic bomb for a large sum of money, destroying a town and its inhabitants, or defusing it for good reputation among the townsfolk. These decisions have great effect later in these games like future characters referencing and judging the player on their decision.

Games like Mass Effect and Fallout are classified as role-playing games, which The Walking Dead is an adventure game. The concept of player choice works better in certain genres.

“I wouldn’t want to see a moral choice decision in Halo,” says Janca.

The Walking Dead is modern exercise in moral choice in video games. Video games have historically presented this concept back from the early days of PC gaming and onwards onto the original Nintendo. The concept isn’t new since morality is fundamental in gauging human nature but how it has been implemented in video games is a new exploration.

Nobunaga’s Ambition was the first instance of moral decisions in video games. It was originally released in 1988 for the PC. This feudal Japan strategy game used moral choices like resource management to affect troop morale and loyalty. This innovation led the series to a now 12-game franchise on multiple systems.

The difference of moral choice in Nobunaga’s Ambition and modern games is the implementation to progress a narrative. The concept leads to a greater sense of character development and player attachment.

What the Walking Dead does differently than the other modern examples of moral choice is the selfishness vs selflessness. Heavy Rain doesn’t have that group survival aspect and sociological analysis like the Walking Dead. It doesn’t pose the choice of what’s best for others. The characters’ motivations lean toward selfishness. There’s a sense of who lives or dies but it’s mostly if the player’s character lives or dies.

An Age Gate

Video games may be hard for the general public to perceive it as a serious medium due to its name. Video games have the word “games” in it, along with the association of kids’ toys and playgrounds. Hayes says there’s a movement to rename video games to “interactive entertainment.”

“It’s not the medium to be concerned about, it’s the message,” says Hayes.

Video games have barriers of entry and one is the generational gap. There is an issue of complexity of video games. Controllers can be intimidating, rules and concepts can be confusing for some and understandable for others. Hayes feels that this barrier can be broke with time.

“As the current generation gets older, technology gets less scary to them,” says Hayes.

As for other media, the act of immersion is what video games have an advantage in, but it’s still a fresh concept.

“Putting yourself in the role of another person is alien to people,” says Hayes.

The Walking Dead is also an example of modern accessibility of the medium over Mass Effect and Heavy Rain. In addition to being on every accessible video game platform, its episodic format is a comfortable length to play casually and not in long binges. The shorter experience is easier to approach and more focused. Its readiness to be downloaded directly onto the system of choice contributes to its accessibility. The barrier of entry of going to buy a physical disc is eliminated with downloadable titles.

Hayes says The Walking Dead is a good place for newcomers to start. It deals with fundamental human ideas and emotions, making the game easier to relate to than other titles like Call of Duty.

The blockbuster games like Call of Duty are still needed in the industry but the success seen by The Walking Dead, as developed by a smaller team and has reached more than one million sales, has shown that the adventure genre is still relevant.

“The player choice is still a financially viable concept in the near future and beyond,” says Hayes.

The smaller titles are accessible to a wider audience, but in The Walking Dead’s case, the content matter may turn a few away. The game is gory, like any other zombie film, television show, or game. It deals with death in a mass amount and in a personal sense. The themes of desperation in an apocalypse are usually the worst of human nature and some audiences don’t want to see that or it’s not appropriate for them.

A Human Experience

Narrative is what mostly what drives the game. It’s progressed through player choice but what keeps the player engaged is the character development. The Walking Dead isn’t particularly a difficult game. The learning curve is low and it gives the game a more accessible chance for its characters to shine.

“I love playing games for the interesting characters and settings,” says Janca. “That’s what drives me to continue with the game.”
With its small package, The Walking Dead packs in enough characters for it to be manageable, unlike other epic series like Mass Effect or Fallout. The small group of characters gives way for more player attachment and as much death as there is in the Walking Dead universe, the weight of any of the characters is immense.

The Walking Dead is an important video game. It takes risks and succeeds where previous attempts failed. It’s important to the medium. Video games still have the stigma for being as young as its audience. The Walking Dead’s exercises in the concepts of morality and choice give the title a deeper meaning other than being just a game. The Walking Dead is an experience, a human experience.

A customer pays for her meal at Hapa Ramen at the Embarcadero Farmer's Market in San Francisco on Thursday, Dec 13, 2012. Hapa Ramen sells their food at the farmers market Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Photo by Godofredo Vasquez/Xpress

From Popping Up to Settling Down


pop A customer pays for her meal at Hapa Ramen at the Embarcadero Farmer’s Market in San Francisco on Thursday, Dec 13, 2012. Hapa Ramen sells their food at the farmers market Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Photo by Godofredo Vasquez/Xpress

Words: Kenny Redublo
Photos: Godofredo Vasquez

The propane tanks hiss as they pump fuel into the burners. Steam comes out of every boiling pot as they cook the day’s batch of broth. Bins of hand made noodles stack up over five bins high. Coolers filled to the top with brown eggs ready for poaching. The deep fryer heats up oil for breaded garlic chicken. Hapa Ramen is up and running outside of the Ferry Building. All of this equipment is set up underneath a canopy next to other vendors just like Hapa. All of this equipment is commonplace for any fully loaded restaurant. This isn’t common. This is a pop-up.

A pop-up is a business that doesn’t have its own location and uses temporary locations to serve meals. For a restaurant, the pop-up is a concept that creates a sense of rarity and spontaneity. The pop-up gives way for innovation in the food world by approaching the customer in unorthodox ways. The pop-up is a recent trend in San Francisco food culture, but as with all trends, its longevity is always in question. The process of gaining notoriety in the food world has changed with the implementation of social networks–pop-ups can be easily tracked and followed. What this brings to the culture is finding what’s unique about the “then and now” experience of dining. What happens after “then and now” is up to the chef and the staff.

Hapa Ramen manager Richie Nakano, center, helps get customers’ orders ready at the Embarcadero Farmer’s Market in San Francisco on Thursday, Dec 13, 2012. Hapa Ramen sells their food at the farmers market Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Photo by Godofredo Vasquez/Xpress

Richie Nakano looks cold. The beanie on his head and simple grey hoodie don’t mask the fact that he sees the breath in front of him. Nakano is the owner of Hapa Ramen and they set up shop in front of the Ferry Building at the farmer’s market every Tuesday and Thursday. The morning is cold, the perfect ramen weather. His crew of six, including Nakano, maintain the rush that comes in at around 11 A.M. The line bends and follows along the sidewalk. Hapa is the most popular booth at the market.

“The term ‘pop-up’ is used so loosely now,” says Nakano.

Hapa does have a regular spot at the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market and the Off the Grid food truck meetup, but it maintains that pop-up sensibility by showing up at restaurants like Wing Wings in lower Haight, and most recently at Hawker Fare in Oakland.

“A pop-up is a restaurant concept, but you’re constantly changing your shit around,” says Nakano. Hapa Ramen has been around for two and a half years, three in the spring. It was initially supposed to be a one time deal, but it evolved into a monthly, now weekly, spot.

Nakano says pop-ups give more leeway to experiment with dishes. They are unique experiences that play to a captive audience, not just the ones looking for sustenance, or the “diner type” according to Nakano. “Pop-ups are special experiences and we wanted to see what else we can do,” says Nakano. A special dining experience isn’t the only motivation to open a pop-up. It’s a way to get a business started.

Pop-up Non-Fiction

One progression of a pop-up is a to transition into a brick and mortar restaurant. Sarah and Evan Rich started as chefs in different restaurants and then started Chef’s Night Off, a pop-up that hosted dinners in different restaurants’ kitchens. The pop-ups started in 2011 and after practicing their specialty dishes, they secured their own space in February 2012. Rich Table opened in mid July and has become one of the hottest restaurants in San Francisco.

One of the first pop-up successes is Mission Chinese Food. Launched by Anthony Myint and Danny Bowien on July 5, 2012, Mission Chinese Food used the kitchen out of Lung Shan Restaurant in the Mission. Offering a Sichuan spin on traditional Chinese food without the MSG, the pop-up gained its notoriety through various food blogs and word of mouth. The pop-up’s big break came in when Bowien and Mission Chinese Food was featured on the Travel Channel’s The Layover, hosted by famed chef and writer Anthony Bourdain. Since then, Mission Chinese Food has made top ten lists including GQ Magazine’s Best New Restaurants of 2011, and Bowien has become the face of the restaurant, appearing on the Martha Stewart Show and modeling for the clothing line UNIQLO. The notoriety also gave Bowien enough motivation to open a Mission Chinese Food in New York.

Mission Chinese Food is a rare case of pop-up success. It has spawned that interest in starting pop-ups but that can be a gamble, according to Nakano.

The Hapa Ramen crew work together to get costumers’ orders ready at the Embarcadero Farmer’s Market in San Francisco on Thursday, Dec 13, 2012. Hapa Ramen sells their food at the farmers market Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Photo by Godofredo Vasquez/Xpress

“Since there are so many pop-ups, some people get the impression that they can do it too when their abilities aren’t there,” says Nakano. “I don’t want amateurs getting people sick.”

A Different Way to Pop

The end point for a pop-up is usually a brick and mortar restaurant or a food truck. The kitchen at Dear Mom had a different pathway.

Before it was the Dear Mom kitchen, it was Fogcutter, a food truck opened up by Carolina Hummer and Guillermo Perez in July 2011. The two worked in food trucks before, one for Hummer and two for Perez, so they knew the workings of the culture. Perez had heard of a new bar opening up with a full kitchen and they were infatuated.

“We’ve been stalking Dear Mom for a long time even before they opened,” say Hummer. “We want to use that kitchen.”

They were invited to do brunch pop-ups when Dear Mom opened up. They were already serving brunch out of the truck so they did whatever they could to get into that kitchen. Fogcutter initially turned into a pop-up to promote the truck, since they were both still in operation. They realized the food in the truck wasn’t selling so they decided to scrap the truck. The truck didn’t help alleviate any stress.

“With the truck, you had the maintenance stresses on top of running a restaurant stresses,” says Hummer. “Even though it was a great experience, I wouldn’t want a truck again.”

So Fogcutter was a pop-up, but after having its residency in Dear Mom’s kitchen, they are now the primary staff. They are the Dear Mom kitchen.

Pop-Up Don’t Stop

As fast as pop-ups come and go, the food culture and trends progress in different directions.

Nakano says pop-ups are the trend as of now, but they a need cusp. “I would want to see pop-ups slowing down. It’s hard to see what’s actually special when there are tons of pop-ups starting,” says Nakano.

He says next year will see more of a transition to pop-ups and less to brick and mortar restaurants. He doesn’t see pop-ups as the future though. “There’s some other model that we haven’t seen yet,” says Nakano.

Hummer says the demand for brick and mortar restaurants won’t change.

“People want to eat and that’s never gonna change,” says Hummer.

“The culture will always be inventive and interesting since San Francisco provides access to fresh produce and ingredients.”

She does think that there’s a movement of underground dinners, like Hungry Bear and Snag Dining, that may be the next step in San Francisco food culture.

“It’ll keep getting weirder, inventive, and stay fresh for a long time,” says Hummer.

When the burners fade, the food is tapped. Foodies leave full on freshly made food served with the sense of it being the last of its kind. With a tweet or a like or a post, the dish won’t be alone in its rarity. The foodies will be waiting and watching with hungry eyes.

Desperate Times Calls for Weird Measures



Words: Kenny Redublo
Photos: Melissa Burman

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

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

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

This isn’t a typical job.

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

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

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