Posts Tagged ‘san francisco state university’

8645490105_51f229cd86_b

Scrapped Up

By

8645492255_82439920ac_b

Melissa Tan works on a dress for her brand “With Love” in her victorian home in the Mission District on Wednesday April 3, 2013.

 

By Kayla McIntosh
Photos by Gabriella Gamboa

The name SCRAP says it all.

Tucked away in SF’s Bayview neighborhood, a junkyard/teacher’s donation center/starving artist’s paradise is waiting to be sifted through. Melissa Tan is completely at home. Carrying two frumpy shopping bags, she rushes past the metal gate and scurries up the mini-flight of stairs into her personal nirvana.

“It’s a good thing I’m not alone otherwise I could spend hours here,” she says nonchalantly.

Her cat-lined eyes are set on the fabric section placed dead center of the cluttered store.

Tan glides past the store’s “free” section, which is stuffed with retro CDs and tattered binders, and walks straight to the recycled fabrics. Most would be immediately overwhelmed. SCRAP is filled with thousands upon thousands of art-related knick knacks.

A plethora of bright and dull fabrics are rolled up and tucked away in dozens of shelves along the aisle. From brown leather to fuchsia jersey to neon lycra, myriad textures are present. Some textiles are new and shiny while others are pungent and dowdy.

Tan starts grabbing.

Dressed in all black, her half shaved red hair makes her stand out. She is rambunctious, humorous and a self-proclaimed hippie who adores designing sustainable clothing. She relentlessly picks up and puts down fabrics that she finds interesting, random or just plain ugly.

It’s a game of the senses.

She unrolls many of the fabrics and chuckles to herself when amused.

“Look! It’s elastic bands for guy’s underwear,” she says with a huge grin as she dangles dozens of the grey and black bands.

Barrels of worn leather are positioned in the middle of the cramped aisle. Grass green velvet is carefully spun around a metal contraption.

Tan sifts through the boxes on the other side of the aisle and finds a small bag of black fringe. She quickly shoves it in her bag. She may feel like using it for her next Burning Man costume.

SCRAP is a non-profit reusable art center but most importantly, it is where Tan purchases most of the fabrics for her recyclable clothing line, With Love. Her label consists of whimsical circle skirts in mesh, velour and jersey. She also has draped tees made of two separate tops. A standout piece is  her black mini skirt made of mesh and fringe. Perfect to wear as a swimsuit cover up.

Every fabric used was either salvaged from SCRAP or from an piece of clothing that was never going to be worn again.

“The most sustainable thing to do is to not buy anything new,” Tan proclaims. Her ideology is that sustainable fashion is only sustainable when in fact, no new material is being used.

The green movement in fashion has been around for decades. This movement refers to the notion of not using fabrics that have been sprayed with harsh pesticides and synthetic fertilizers for the sake of growing cotton. Repurposed and recycled fashion shows off a softer side to an industry notorious for consumerism and self-indulgence. Eco-conscious designers are popping up and creating successful names for themselves in the Bay Area community.

Designers like Tan are producing garments that are either from organic textiles or recycled materials. In pursuit of protecting the environment, designers are putting Mother Earth before the apparel.

Another brand following the eco-conscious trend is Clary Sage.

Environmental lover Patti Cozzato founded the line in 2008. Her store is located on the upscale Fillmore Street in Pacific Heights.

Out front, a small sign with the words “Clary Sage Organics” hangs above the door of the store.

Inside, the interior reflects the aesthetic of the brand. Repurposed pieces furnish the space. The countertops are weathered pieces of wood sanded down to give off a rustic vibe to an otherwise cold space. The concrete floors are polished with grey scraps floating throughout. The walls are covered in metal beams and reach high into the ceiling.

8645490105_51f229cd86_b

Melissa Tan sews a dress seam at her victorian house in the Mission District on Wednesday April 3, 2013.

“It’s all her vision,” Catherine Kwei, head of the Clary Sage stores, says about the modern interior design of the comfortably sized storefront. The “her” being Cazzato, who has manifested a yoga and lifestyle label featuring textiles like organic cotton and bamboo.

Clary Sage initially launched as a yoga brand that sold leggings and tanks but has since expanded to fashion pieces like tees, tunics and wraps. Like the label, With Love, designers of this eco-friendly brand use repurposed materials as well.

Their most famous duds include a pair of knee-hitting yoga pants that come in both organic cotton and recycled water bottle fabric. That’s right. Water bottles can also be used to create chic workout gear.

Designed, manufactured and sold exclusively in San Francisco, Clary Sage has been a staple in the community for the past five years.

Their main clients are eco-conscious shoppers and small business supporters.

Kwei wants consumers to know that living an organic life does not stop at what you put into your body but what you put on the outside as well.

To her, Clary Sage centers on “teaching a lifestyle about living well [and] being well, including what you wear.”

Protecting the environment is the focus of all designers that aim to create eco-friendly articles of clothing.

It’s not just local designers either. Back in 1988, the out-of-the-box, Parisian based Maison Martin Margiela sent models down the runway in a gown constructed of repurposed leather from a butcher’s apron. More recently, fashion model Elettra Wiedemann wore a Prabal Gurung dress made of recyclable materials to the annual fashion prom known as the Metropolitan Gala held in New York City in 2011.

People in the industry have begun to embrace the concepts of sustainable wear. Labels are beginning to let it be known that organic garments don’t have to be dowdy.

The brand, Mina+Olya for example.

Designers and founders, Mina Yazdi and Olya Dzilikhova, teamed up and eventually founded their luxury label in 2011. For the past few years, they produced three collections for the fall and spring seasons.

Some of their favorite fabrics include sustainable wools, organic cottons, silk charmeuse, and hemp.

Their design aesthetics are classic and crisp. Their fall 2013 collection consists of conservatively tailored wool dresses and structured outerwear in muted palettes of grey, camel and plum.

Their collection is sold exclusively at the boutique Curve in the Pacific Heights neighborhood.

Myriad fashion brands have sprouted up throughout the years yet most are difficult to find. Sites like Eco Fashion World serve as guides to all things related to style and sustainability.

Founder and nature enthusiast, Magaly Fuentes-Sagan, finds herself now juggling her newborn and her site.

“The issue of sustainability as a whole is important to me,” Fuentes-Sagan expresses.

Her love for the outdoors, her personal health and animals catapulted her and three others to create the informative site. A variety of designer brands, articles and guides are available to eco-friendly followers.

After graduating from San Francisco’s Art Institute, Fuentes-Sagan immersed herself in the fashion industry for several years until she burnt herself out. Globe trotting was her next move and it was then she discovered the harsh realities of textile manufacturing.

“While traveling, I realized that I did not want to leave the fashion industry but wanted to travel a different road within it,” she explains.

8645488127_54b57b649f_o

Melissa Tan searches through aisles of recycled fabrics at Scroungers’ Center for Reusable Art Parts (SCRAP) on Wednesday April 3, 2013.

She eventually asked herself what about the fashion industry troubled her so much and came to a solid conclusion.

“The answer came easily and had a lot to do with overconsumption and any abuse to workers and the environment,” she admits.

Back in the Mission, Tan is working away at an intricate fabric on her ironing board. Using fabric wax, she precisely marks up the areas she wants to chop off.

After a recently taking a belly dancing class, Tan’s been playing Turkish music while she sews to keep herself entertained. She stands still for a few seconds, peering at the ornate material and deciding on which steps to take next.

“I got this fabric for free off of Craigslist,” she says gleefully. Some “crazy lady” posted that she needed some materials to be taken off her hands and Tan just couldn’t resist.

Tan’s traditional home was transformed into her in-house studio after she was booted out by her prior landlords.

“They raised the prices so more startup companies could start coming in,” Tan sighs.

All around her home is a touch of Tan’s creativity. On her mannequin rests a black velvet and gold cotton gown. Half the bustier is velvet. If Vivienne Westwood created a dress for a gypsy ball, this would be it.

“I like to look at it and come up with ideas,” she says of her creative process.

In the back of her kitchen rests all of her other recycled fabrics. Some from the Garment District in Los Angeles but the bulk from SCRAP. Three tall black shelves are stacked with numerous textiles. Zippers and buttons are tucked away in boxes for Tan to rifle through if needed.

Tan stands and peers at her wall of reusable textiles and tries to decide her next move.

No matter which direction she chooses, the result will be a stylish garb with a repurposed edge.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: The original article incorrectly identified the surname of Eco Fashion World’s owner. Her name is Fuentes-Sagan, not Fuentes-Saga.

Scoutmaster Michael Dotson (left)  and Assistant Scoutmaster Andrew Dotson (right)  a father-son scoutmaster duo for the Boy Scout Troop 88 in San Francisco talk to the scouts during a meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013 at the Forest Hill Clubhouse. Photo by Jessica Worthington / Xpress

Morally Straight: The Changing Face of the Boy Scouts of America

By xpressmagazine

Boy Scouts from San Francisco's  Troop 88 meet at the Forest Hill Clubhouse on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013 to discuss elections. Photo by Jessica Worthington / Xpress

Boy Scouts from San Francisco’s Troop 88 meet at the Forest Hill Clubhouse on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013 to discuss elections. Photo by Jessica Worthington / Xpress

By Rhys Alvarado
Photos by Jessica Worthington

Andrew Dotson studies the climate.

Everyone in Troop 88 refers to him as the “weather man,” one of many hats he wears as assistant scout leader and meteorology major at San Francisco State University.

Every Wednesday, Troop 88 meets at the Forest Hill Club House. Same place, same time, the troop’s been gathering since 1920. Before each meeting, Andrew makes sure the scouts are properly uniformed, their neckerchiefs knotted high, baseball caps off, while some ask him questions about what steps they must take to earn their next badge. The lost sheen of Eagle Scout plaques, mounted on the building’s dark wood and red brick walls decorate the building.

The twenty-one-year-old Eagle Scout, who runs the troop alongside his father Michael, has taken on somewhat of a big brother role among its forty-three members. Andrew prefers to be called “Mr. Dotson” by his troop. They call him Andrew anyway.

Though they may butt heads, like any father and son, each has his place as a leader. Michael holds the compass. Andrew, the map.

“I give the sage, old man advice, and Andrew gives the youthful, energetic advice,” says Michael. “They (the troop) would rather listen to someone closer to their age.”

Joining the scouts after moving to San Francisco in 2002, Andrew, an only child, found an early passion in the hiking, camping and the social mix of people in different grades. Being an assistant scout leader is Andrew’s way of continuing the same welcoming attitude he was shown when he first stepped through the door, iffy about the sight of “dorky” tan and olive green uniforms.

“What I still get out of it is the interaction between different age groups, where no one is discriminated,” says Andrew.

On Feb. 6, The Boy Scouts of America tabled the proposal to lift the ban on openly gay members and leaders, a policy that extends to atheists and agnostics. The pending changes would allow scout troops across the nation to individually decide what kind of policies they would uphold. The BSA’s National Committee — the blanket organization that oversees all troops in the U.S. —will decide on the matter during their annual meeting in May.

In his years as a boy scout, Andrew has become familiar of parents pulling their children out of scouting because of the organization’s stance on gay members. During a recent food drive, doors were slammed on members of Troop 88, without giving them the time to explain their own personal stance on the policy.

“When you come and join, we don’t ask you what your sexual orientation is,” says Andrew. “Our troops policy has always been that we don’t discriminate.”

Boy Scouts of Troop 88 review a map before an all-day 13 mile hike up Mt. Diablo on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013. Photo by Jessica Worthington / Xpress

Boy Scouts of Troop 88 review a map before an all-day 13 mile hike up Mt. Diablo on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013. Photo by Jessica Worthington / Xpress

In 2001, a year before Andrew joined the scouts, concerned parents of Troop 88 sent a letter to the national committee denouncing the non-discriminatory policy.

The letter reads: “We are proud to report that we know of no Scout or parent in Troop 88 who believes that discrimination and bigotry is right. To deny participation in Scouting for factors beyond someone’s control is hateful and harmful and we will not teach this to our children.”

There are just short of twenty thousand scouts within Bay Area troops, teams and crews, and that number has increased 6.4 percent in the past two years, says Ryan DiBernardo, Director of Field Service for the Bay Area Council. Scouting enrollment nationwide, however, has suffered a severe drop in recent decades. In 2011, there were 2.7 million registered scouts, down from a peak of 4.8 million in 1973. Dotson believes that this drop is due in part to the organization’s selective restrictions.

“This is what they’re doing —they’re preventing boys from learning leadership skills to further their future,” says Dotson. “Once it’s lifted, more and more will join the scouts.”

Since the late 1970s, the Boy Scouts national leadership has discriminated against gay members. Last July, Moraga teen Ryan Andresen was denied his Eagle Scout badge by the national committee after telling friends and family that he was gay. Bay Area scouts and supporters have been a driving force behind attempts to lift the ban. Following a two-year study in 2012, the national committee reaffirmed the ban, deeming their decision “the best policy for the organization.” Groups like Scouts for Equality, an alumni association dedicated to ending BSA’s policy on excluding gay members and leaders, have helped gather more than 1.4 million signatures among their various campaigns. Zach Wahls, a son of two lesbians and founder of Scouts for Equality, was hopeful of the national committee’s delay on the decision.

“Though the vote did not go through, this is the first time in thirty-five years that the BSA did not re-affirm their ban,” says Wahls.

A Religious Backing

Opponents who wish to keep the ban in place include many religious organizations. Of the more than one hundred thousand scouting units across the nation, nearly seventy percent of all units are chartered to faith-based organizations. Mormons, Methodist and Catholic churches make up the three largest religions to back scouting troops. Troop 88 is chartered by the Forest Hill Association. Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, a think tank that promotes Christian core values, has been a key figure in standing by scout oath and law, policies both adopted in 1911.

“The mission of the Boy Scouts is ‘to instill values in young people’ and ‘prepare them to make ethical choices,’ and the Scout’s oath includes a pledge ‘to do my duty to God’ and keep himself ‘morally straight,’” Perkins said in a press release. “It is entirely reasonable and not at all unusual for those passages to be interpreted as requiring abstinence from homosexual conduct.”

Dotson says that the interpretation of “morally straight” is confused between proponents on both sides of the ban.

“People are using the oath’s ‘morally straight’ in the wrong context,” says Dotson. “We interpret morally straight as doing what’s right for yourself and other people.”

Scoutmaster Michael Dotson of San Francisco's Troop 88 gestures the three-finger salute, which is used by scout members as a greeting to each other. Photo by Jessica Worthington / Xpress

Scoutmaster Michael Dotson of San Francisco’s Troop 88 gestures the three-finger salute, which is used by scout members as a greeting to each other. Photo by Jessica Worthington / Xpress

Mitch Mayne, a recognized gay LDS church leader and former scout, has seen a compromising shift in the Mormon Church’s view on gay members. Mayne works closely with Mormon leaders, parents and siblings of gay Mormons, assisting them with ways to accept their LGBT loved one. Once married, Mayne admits he’s lived a charmed, celebrated, yet uncommon life of a gay Mormon. He taught Sunday school. He was invited to events. Wore a wedding band. Loved by his church community.

After his marriage had ended two years ago, Mayne was presented with the opportunity to serve as a leader in San Francisco’s Bay Ward.

“I could either say ‘no thanks’ and choose to get remarried and go back to my comfortable, gay Mormon life that I had, and could have again,” says Mayne. “Or I could walk away for the time being and make myself a very public figure and try to create what I had for other people.”

Mayne says that he no longer has to handle the overwhelming amount of calls and emails from Mormons worldwide asking for help on how to integrate gay members into the church. He now has bands of people in different pockets around the globe who help share the message of inclusion.

In the past eighteen months, grassroots groups like Mormons Building Bridges, a Salt Lake City group, has vocalized their support for accepting LGBT individuals. Another group, Mormons for Marriage Equality, an online meeting place where Mormons or those affiliated with the faith can provide mutual support, share stories, and organize activities and initiatives, have formed to span the connection between the church and LGBT members.

Mayne says that gay Mormons often leave the church before coming out —or instead of coming out —because often times, these members are ex-communicated.

“The key to being a healthy, gay Mormon isn’t about stuffing down our Mormon side, nor is it about stuffing down our sexual orientation. It’s about integrating those two sides of our identity in a fashion that allows us to balance two parts of our identity,” says Mayne.

Growing up in Idaho, where many of his church’s leaders were also scout leaders, Mayne, who was vocal about being gay at a young age, says fellow scouts picked on him while leaders turned a blind eye. In return, Mayne had to veneer his identity, eventually leading to him dropping out.

“Scouting is supposed to teach us how to be people that make the world better —how to be kind, how to be diligent, how to be good citizens,” says Mayne. “What I walked away from in my experience in scouting is how to lie about who I was, how to be dishonest, about how to be inauthentic, how to cover up who I was to please other people — and that flies right in the face of what scouting is all about.”

Mayne says that the pending changes of the BSA reflect the evolving Mormon Church.

“The proposed changes to allow Troops to decide who they allow to join would mirror what’s going on in the LDS church today. There’s a lot of leeway given to local congregations to decide for themselves what’s best for their congregation and how to institute policies,” says Mayne.

Boy Scouts of Troop 88 take an all-day 13 mile hike up Mt. Diablo on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013. Photo by Jessica Worthington / Xpress

Boy Scouts of Troop 88 take an all-day 13 mile hike up Mt. Diablo on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013. Photo by Jessica Worthington / Xpress

Links to the Military

Aaron Belkin, a Political Science professor at SF State, has weighed in on the topic because of the close relationship the boy scouts has historically had with the military. Ties between scout practice and the military date back to 1908 England, when British military hero Robert-Baden Powell first published “Scouting for Boys,” —modeled after a military field manual he wrote prior — that taught youth skills on observing and tracking.

Belkin is also Director of the Palm Center, a UCLA law school think tank that conducts research into gender and military issues, and author of “Bring Me Men” that overviews the recently repealed “Don’t ask, Don’t Tell” policy in the military. Belkin says that what interests him about the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is that “even though the military has moved on to a more inclusive policy, the scouts are stuck in the 20th century.”

In recent decades, the BSA has been confronted with cases of child molestation from some of its leaders. Last year the BSA released more than twelve hundred previously secret files, revealing cases of child molestation from 1965 to 1985 within the organization, including about two dozen from the Bay Area.
Belkin says that the ban on gays from being members or leaders does not address prior problems of child molestation within scouting.

“Rapists who rape boys – that’s not about homosexuality, that’s not about being gay. That’s about mental illness and power. Many child molesters who rape boys are not gay. If you want to police predation, police predation. But do not treat that as an issue of sexual orientation,” says Belkin.

Oregon-based attorney Paul Mones works on cases involving people from around the country who were molested in scouting. Mones is actively working on cases dating back to the 1970s. In 2010, Mones won an $18.5 million dollar case against the BSA involving a man who was molested by his former assistant Scoutmaster. It is the largest verdict against the BSA involving sexual abuse to date.

Mones says that in many cases, people take decades to tell anyone else about being molested. In California, this poses problems for those who have been molested but have taken an extended amount of time to tell authorities.

Under the Special Childhood Sexual Abuse Statute of Limitations, victims have eight years (up to age twenty six) or three years after the date “the plaintiff discovers or reasonably should have discovered that psychological injury or illness occurring after the age of majority was caused by the sexual abuse,” to bring a case to court.

“Some perpetrators get away Scott-free,” says Mones. “The main reason people have a hard time coming forward is the shame, they blame themselves for the sexual abuse and think that people will think less of them.”

A petition named The Childs Victim Act has been sent to Gov. Jerry Brown and the California Legislature by those who support the elimination of the civil statute of limitation for child sex abuse. If passed, victims may, at any time, sue their abusers and the institution that allowed their abuse to occur.

National studies of sexual abuse reflect that one-in-six boys are sexually abused before they turn eighteen. Mones says that many confuse reports of sexual abuse within the organization with being gay. Mones said that some of the cases he’s handled involve molesters who were married.

“People think that people who sexually abuse are gay,” says Mones. “That has nothing to do with being gay or straight.”

Funding Losses

Many corporations have withdrawn their sponsorship of the BSA because of its exclusive policy on gay members. The largest notable pull of scout sponsorship include the Intel Corporation, headquartered in Santa Clara, that donated seven hundred thousand dollars in the 2009 tax year. Wells Fargo Inc., headquartered in San Francisco, has also withdrawn funding after donating more than two hundred thousand dollars in the same tax year.

Two of BSA’s national board members, James Turley, CEO of professional services organization Ernst & Young, and Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T Inc., have publicly come out against the ban on gays, promising to move the organization away from its exclusive policy. In a press release issued last June, Turley says that the “membership policy is not one I would personally endorse.”

Looking Ahead

During a recent visit to Troop 88, it was election night, where scouts vie for the senior patrol leader post every six months. Pierce McDonnell, a fourteen-year-old Star Scout, with kind eyes and light brown hair combed over to the side, lost the election for the second time in a row. But for McDonnell, that’s OK.

“In troop 88, we don’t leave it up to the person in charge to make all the decisions. Power is distributed equally, so I know we’ll all be able to have an influence,” says McDonnell.

A shy kid before he joined the scouts, McDonnell says that he learned to be more vocal.

“I believe that when you’re an SPL, you should be loud and big. I’m not very loud and big, so I have a plan,” says McDonnell during his pitch before grabbing a chair to stand on.

Boy Scout Troop 88 badge. Photo by Jessica Worthington / Xpress

Boy Scout Troop 88 badge. Photo by Jessica Worthington / Xpress

“My loud and big plan! And what I’m gonna do is…I’m gonna plan these meetings! And plan ‘em loud and big like Lincoln!” yells McDonnell.

“Will you always be standing on a chair, yelling?” asked one of the scouts sitting in the front row.

“If it helps you, I’ll always be standing on a chair, yelling!” says McDonnell as the troop laughs with him.

McDonnell says that in his time as a scout, he’s learned to get his ideas across, and he’s often the first to raise his hand for school volunteer opportunities. During a recent class presentation, McDonnell decided that he would clear up any confusion about Troop 88’s stance on the BSA’s policy on gays.

“I think that a lot of people in my school can’t see past some of the policies that boy scouts have and don’t see the benefits of scouting,” says McDonnell.

To earn his Eagle Scout honors, McDonnell wants to make a movie interviewing city and scouting officials documenting the thoughts and feelings of the ban against gays. He hopes to present the video to the national council later this year.

“We can all learn these skills cooperatively,” says McDonnell. “Instead of just teaching the leadership to certain people, we want everyone to have the power to lead.”

The Sound of Gender

By

 

Hannah Lew of Grass Widow played at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco on Thursday, December 6.

Hannah Lew of Grass Widow played at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco on Thursday, December 6.

Words: Ruby Perez
Photos: Andy Sweet

A thick layer of cigarette smoke hangs above the outdoor area of San Francisco’s Bottom of the Hill as concertgoers cluster tightly next to one another and drunkenly converse. Here and there beer is spilled, as someone snakes their way through the crowd to get to this friend or that friend. Everyone seems more than content to be spending this chilly Thursday night catching tonight’s performance.

Inside the venue, the same air of excitement and anticipation as outside persists, with the jittery chatter growing louder as the fans wait patiently for the band to take the stage.

Tonight’s performers, known as Grass Widow and composed of Lillian Maring, Raven Mahon, and Hannah Lew, are a San Franciscan trio who generate hooking and often haunting layered melodies that are reminiscent to the genre post-punk.

Forming in 2007, the group are staples in the San Francisco music scene.

However, despite the obvious success of Grass Widow, the band still faces troubles of gender that come with being a woman in a successful band.

Raven Mahon of Grass Widow played at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco on Thursday, December 6.

Raven Mahon of Grass Widow played at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco on Thursday, December 6.

It has been over 30 years since punk rock was born, and around 20 years since the movement called Riot Grrl drastically shaped the way this subculture views gender, yet a dark and looming figure still clouds the music.

Unfortunately, not even the Do-It-Yourself roots of punk have gone without the influence of sexism that continues to prevail in its own subtle ways.

Victoria Guzman, a bassist who attends SF State University, shares the implications of sexism in rock music.

“It’s kind of like when people ask me when I play instruments, and I say that I’m learning to play the bass, it feels like aw that’s cute,” says Guzman. “Rather than cool, let’s collaborate, let’s make music, it feels more patronizing you know?”

This is most prevalent in the clumping of the work of female musicians as though “female” were a genre in itself. The idea is that every female drummer is the next Meg White of The White Stripes, and that all bassists are a Kim Gordan of Sonic Youth or a Kim Deal of the Pixies. Yet the reality is that there is no “female” sound, rather the ignorant categorization of female musicians as being all but the same.

Women are either the radical riot girls of the ‘90s spouting politics in their songs, or they are the syrupy summer sound of Best Coast — there is no middle ground.

“People have the need to identify something that is new with something that is old; a lot of people have influences but it doesn’t necessarily mean that their music is going to sound like that because everyones music is unique,” says Guzman. “Just because it’s a similar genre doesn’t mean its the same, and that’s especially true with girls because they either get placed into one category or the other and if they don’t fit, then it’s no good, they don’t understand it.”

As Grass Widow sits on a couch in the back room of the venue, it doesn’t take long for the conversation to turn to the one that Guzman just shared. Topics of gender, the idea of feminism, and the clumping and generalization of female musicians become the center of conversation.

Lew recalls a past conversation she had about feminism with a girl who claims she is not a feminist and that feminism is no longer necessary in modern days.

“Maybe in San Francisco it isn’t as male dominated as other places, you know like the middle of the country, where it really is prevalent… but it’s obvious that when you begin talking to people everyone has this experience, and it’s real,” says Mahon. “I do think that some people here you know, may live in a bubble and may not acknowledge all these nuances. But you can just look at statistics of what women are making and the income disparity or any other factual evidence to show that women are still unequal.”

Maring continues this ideology by adding, “maybe if you have that job where everyone respects you, and you have a car so you never walk alone down the street, and you have friends who also pretend it’s not happening you can pretty much avoid it all the time and allow it to continue.”

Lillian Maring (left) and Hannah Lew of Grass Widow played at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco on Thursday, December 6.

Lillian Maring (left) and Hannah Lew of Grass Widow played at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco on Thursday, December 6.

The equality they strive for, and the unprecedented sound they have created is something they have worked for in order to create a positive space for everyone. Grass Widow is challenging the current status of sexism.

“If you don’t put yourself out there you’re never going to have to challenge that dynamic,” says Lew. “But we put ourselves out there. We’re in a position where we are trying to make space for ourselves, and the audience, and make space for everybody and that’s why we deal with it. And I think it’s working, just very slowly.”

As they take on these topics, they speak with the kind of confidence and comfort of friends who have known one another for a very long time, and interject with jokes and picking up comfortably where the other left off without missing a step.

Gender and feminism isn’t something they shy away from, and have no problem addressing the inequalities of being a girl in the music industry.

Maring explains that when the group first began, they often received comparisons from music reviewers about the sound of their music — with the only similar defining characteristics of these said bands being that they all share the same sex.

“There used to be a lot more comparisons before with other women musicians, like it used to be like, it sounds like the Vivian Girls, it sounds like the Dum Dum girls, or it sounds like the Raincoats and the Shangri-Las,” says Maring. “Just stuff that doesn’t make sense at all.”

The group is disheartened by these comparisons but break into a laugh as Lew interjects that their band must simply “sounds like boobs.”

Although the humor behind their statement is obvious, the message it hold is anything but. Grass Widow is more influenced by the Velvet Underground, The Kinks, or The Urinals, than say, the Raincoats, although reviewers are quick to compare the two. They firmly believe that gender is not a sound, so to give it one is to devalue a musicians work.

“Gender is just not a sound, it’s just not,” says Lew. “The vocals I think is why people do that comparison, but I think that when women are doing anything then it’s like people are going to measure you on your sexual worth and hopefully that’s going to stop happening soon.”

Mahon continues with this belief, explaining that what Grass Widow has created is an individual and independent voice — not one that can be easily categorized with any female musician.

“We really have made an effort to describe what the music is and what it means to us,” says Mahon. “We wanna make music for ourselves, and the music that we make comes from us so that it’s the dynamic that we have, and that we have is not modeled after anything else.”

Grass Widow began at an early age, although the formation of the band was a long time coming.

“I just came out singing,” jokes Maring. “No but really, as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to play music and sing and dance and be a little show off.”

The band began performing while the women were in their early twenties, however they’ve always held a love of music.

“I was obsessed with the Beatles and just really into music, but I didn’t think I could play music until a lot later which was a whole other thing for me at least, in my early twenties I started playing instruments for real,” says Lew.

Mahon and Lew first began playing music seriously in 2003 with one another, in which they used to have a band with a third party. However soon they joined with Maring and created Grass Widow, and now the trio now participating in national tours and carry multiple releases under their belt.

Grass Widow, loosely involved with the Bay Area Girls Rock Camp, became involved with the camp when used to share a room with the founding member Carey Fay-Horowitz.

The Bay Area Girls Rock Camp, a program that is meant to empower young girls and women through the participation of music, encourages girls to pick an instrument and start a band. Grass Widow explains it’s about what it means to be a woman on stage collaborating with other women, as well as the relationship between a girl and her instrument, and the different genres of music that are available.

“This was our chance to be empowering to young girls that I know I never had,” says Lew. “When I was a kid, I had to really go against the grain to be like, I can play an instrument even though you wouldn’t think that. It was harder that it needs to be a lot of the time so to think that there’s a girl rock camp, that’s amazing.”

Grass Widow supports the movement behind the Girls Rock Camp, often recalling their own personal experiences with music as young girls was not as easy and motivating as it could have been.

“You know I didn’t have that kind of nurturing with music, I didn’t feel like I can do this as a kid, but I’m also glad that I had the experiences that I had because I wouldn’t have it any other way. I made my own tools for what kind of women I was going to be and I was too stubborn to take bass lessons, so I made my own way to play bass, I think that one of the things about our band is that the values of all three of us are very different and we’re like a microcosm of just three different people.”

The difficulties of being a musician are something that follow girls past young age, and even into professionalism. Lew is happy for the girl who believes feminism is no longer needed, but says that sexism is something that is still prevalent.

“I’ve actually had a sound guy come up to me and actually turn the knobs on my bass. Those are the inputs for my bass, you don’t turn my knobs,” says Lew. “You would never do that to a guy and walk up to him and touch him. It was just so inappropriate and just one of the many things that happen all the time.”

Although much of this may seem overwhelming, Grass Widow filters these experiences out and stays positive for sanity’s sake.

“It just happens all the time, but I think to survive and not be totally angry all the time you gotta just filter it out,” says Maring

As far as role models for girls, Grass Widow is hoping that a new generation of role models can be paved that doesn’t include such an emphasis on femininity.

“That’s the thing about when we toured with the Raincoats, they didn’t make us want to be like them, they made us want to be more like ourselves,” says Lew. “So in that way they were really inspiration and that’s what I hope we could be for other women.”

Grass Widow continues with this idea of new feminism, in which women can draw inspiration from others that encourages themselves to be, well, themselves.

“There’s a lot of female icons in pop culture and, at any given point, girls are usually trying to fit their body and their face into like the clothes and the look of what is the ‘It girl’ is at the moment, and that’s been a thing for awhile,” says Lew. “I hope that we’re changing that and that femininity isn’t the defining characteristic of anything a woman does.”


lolitabanner

Lolita

By xpressmagazine

g lolita

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

Written by Erin Browner Photo by Melissa Burman

@eringobro 

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

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

g lolita_40

Hernandez and Morrow. Photo by: Melissa Burman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

g lolita_17

Erica Brown. Photo by: Melissa Burman.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

g lolita2_7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Dangers of Smart Pills

By

By Ivanna Quiroz
Cartoon by Gregory Moreno

Picture 3

Twenty one year old Suzanne* is your average SF State student. She goes to class, goes to work, studies, and finds time to go out with her friends on the weekends. Suzanne is a business major, and, like many students, she struggles with a busy schedule. Sometimes, she feels like she needs a little help and more time. Three years ago, Suzanne was a freshman and all she needed to do was ask her roommate for some Adderall. Her roommate, diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, would frequently sell her prescribed medication to other students. It was the miracle drug that made it easy for Suzanne to focus. Studying for an exam in Macroeconomics suddenly didn’t feel so difficult and writing a ten page paper in one night didn’t feel so stressful. The secret was in the pill. The required texts were more interesting and she was doing well on all her exams. What Suzanne didn’t plan for was the way Adderall would make her feel.

“I have high blood pressure, and, when I would take Adderall, I could feel that my blood pressure was raised and that my heart was pounding. I always got really cold. I didn’t eat and didn’t sleep. I don’t do it that much anymore because I do have high blood pressure. I know that it’s really bad because you can actually feel how bad it is. Your heart is racing the whole time and you can’t calm down,” Suzanne says.

Adderall and Ritalin are drugs usually prescribed to patients with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The difference between the two disorders is based on hyperactivity. Patients diagnosed with ADHD are characterized by excessive restlessness and movement while those diagnosed with ADD are characterized by inattentiveness. Some people are diagnosed with a combination of both disorders. Today, it is common for college students not diagnosed with ADD or ADHD to use drugs, usually Adderall, to help them focus and study.

“People usually do it situationally,” explains Albert J. Angelo, a health educator from Student Health Services at SF State. “They’re doing it because of finals coming up or they feel like they need to pull an all-nighter or they are taking some kind of test that they really need to concentrate on.”

According to a 2010 study conducted by the American College Health Association, eighty-four percent of students report feeling overwhelmed by all they had to do during the year and forty percent feel overwhelmed in just the last two weeks, maybe a reason why many turn to drugs like Adderall and Ritalin.

“One time when I took it I had to write a ten page paper for an ethnic studies class,” describes SF State student Aria*. “I was in the annex and I took half a pill of Adderall with a Monster. I was up for twelve hours in the annex writing. It was really helpful. It kept me motivated and helped me focus on ideas because my mind often scatters.”

“A lot of people like to take it with alcohol or snort it for a stronger effect,” says SF State student Brianna Brostoff. “I think it’s crazy, since I’ve heard stories about people getting completely out of control on it.”

For ADD patients, Adderall has a calming influence but for those who are not diagnosed, the drug does just the opposite. Adderall and Ritalin are stimulants meaning they can temporarily improve mental or physical function. Common short-term effects include high anxiety, hypertension, insomnia and loss of appetite. One of the major dangers of the medication is that it is highly addictive says Dr. Cesar Banda, a family practice physician from Sacramento.

“It’s the same category as cocaine or morphine because it’s highly addictive,” explains Banda. “They [users] could develop tolerance meaning they would need a higher dosage to get the same result.”

“I know that it’s addictive, that’s why I use small amounts,” says SF State student Brian*. “The only amounts to get what I need to get done when it comes to studying. I use it very, very sparingly. I will not take it every day or more than twice in a week except for finals week.”

Other possible outcomes when taking Adderall can include heart complications, dependency, severe depression, seizures, aggressive behavior and even psychological problems such as schizophrenia. There have even been cases of sudden death with Adderall users who had previous heart abnormalities.

“Side effects depend on the person’s body,” explains Angelo. “If you’re taking medication without having a medical exam, you never know what could happen, especially if you’re taking some other medication or if you’re using drugs or alcohol. It could be based on what your biology is to begin with. Anything’s possible.”

The price of Adderall tends to run between five and nine dollars per pill, but can sometimes cost a lot more during finals or midterms when Adderall usage tends to peak on college campuses. Brian describes his usage as seven and a half milligrams once or twice a week, and, during finals, thirty milligrams for ten days.

“It feels euphoric at first and it helps you concentrate on something such as reading that’s very monotonous where your brain ventures off onto something else. It helps you focus on the subject at hand,” he says.

“Its [Adderall] street value is very high, especially in this area where drug culture is so prevalent,” describes an SF State student diagnosed with ADD, who asked to remain anonymous. “Initially, I sold to whomever wanted it, but in more recent days I’ve only sold it to help out friends who needed it for studying purposes. My prescribed dosage is thirty milligrams XR. I’m pretty sure it’s the highest dose available and it costs me, I believe, almost nine dollars a pill. I’ve actually sold it for less most of the time, usually six or seven dollars, but around finals time, about ten dollars each.”

Adderall sales have increased 3,100 percent since 2002 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s becoming easier and easier to obtain a prescription for Adderall, and it’s common to hear of students going to doctors complaining of being extremely distracted and struggling to complete tasks in hopes of getting their own prescription for Adderall. A 2009 NPR.com article estimates that 25 percent of college students have used “study drugs” (Adderall and Ritalin), but the American College Health Association reports that only about 6 percent of college students are actually diagnosed with ADD.

“American kids are lazy,” Aria thinks. “It’s an easy way to get stuff done without actually making your brain work on its own. I think American kids take advantage of drugs and we’re really dependent on them to get stuff done.”

Taking Adderall without having been prescribed the medication and without having been physically examined by a doctor can lead to devastating results, all for a good grade. Bad grades happen, but there are always other options—retake an exam, extra credit or even retaking the class. Bad grades can be changed but repercussions from abusing Adderall could be permanent. So, is it worth it?

*Students wished to only use their first names to protect their identity.

Making the cover of Xpress

By

Xpress has often taken a single photo approach to create the cover for the magazine. This semester, Julio Cortez helped design a cover that was a little more daring. Here is a behind-the-scenes video on how the cover of Xpress Magazine came about.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWau6UiM7rY[/youtube]

Special thanks to makeup artist, Sarah CoySuiGENERIS, and all the models.

A car free Market Street?

By xpressmagazine

By Ivanna Quiroz
Photos by Nick Moone

It is where the Giants celebrated their World Series win. It spreads from Twin Peaks to the Embarcadero. Trolleys, streetcars, and Muni buses journey above it while the Muni Metro and BART travel below it. It’s consistently home to pedestrians, protestors, vendors, tourists, commuters, and cyclists, and it’s definitely no stranger to bumper-to-bumper traffic. All San Francisco locals know Market Street. Some flock to it, others avoid it. Today there is talk of new developments to revitalize Market Street, including an initiative to make Market completely car-free. Would it be better? Worse? How would things be different?

Car-Free Market

Market Street, the busiest and most easily recognizable street in San Francisco, runs the length of the downtown area from the Castro up to the Ferry Building and the Embarcadero. Proposed legislation would close this busy thoroughfare to private traffic, leaving it open only for taxis and busses. Photo by Nick Moone

“As someone who works over in the Financial District, and travels through Market almost daily, I feel like traffic surrounding Market would be congested,” says San Francisco native Issac Dana.  “It wouldn’t do much for pedestrians, as the street itself is still extremely busy and crowded.”
A car-free Market Street has been an ongoing debate in the city because of its ability to improve public transportation and provide a more comfortable environment for bikers and pedestrians. Mayoral Candidate and Board of Supervisors President David Chiu is at the forefront of the discussion and has called for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and other departments to implement further diversions of private automobiles on Market Street.
“A viable vision for the future of Market Street is of a world-class avenue drawing its success from the huge numbers of people it attracts through transit and taxis, and on foot and bicycle, and no private automobiles other than delivery vehicles,” explains Supervisor David Chiu in his statement to the press. “We need to act now to make this vision a reality and to speed up transit while improving the comfort of people walking and biking, and supporting the local commercial and cultural function of the street.”

Car-Free Market

Proposed legislation would close Market St., one of the busiest and most easily recognizable streets in San Francisco, leaving it open only for taxis and busses. The F-Street Market streetcar can be seen passing the Renoir Hotel, both historic monuments, along Market near the Civic Center Bart Station.

There are more than twenty transit lines that run through Market Street that constitute about 125,000 boardings a day, and, according to the SFMTA’s Bicycle Count Report, the location with the most observed bicyclists in 2010 was 11th Street at Market Street totaling in 818 bicyclists. The SFMTA’s Collision Report records that 531 injury collisions occurred in 2009 involving bicyclists.
“The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition is actively involved in the Market Street trials and committed to helping make Market Street the safest and most enjoyable street for people who walk and those who ride bikes,” said Kristin Smith, Communications Director for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.
“I understand that Market is a main thoroughfare, and that there are no other direct routes through that part of the city, but with a few other traffic changes I think it would greatly improve Market Street,” said San Francisco resident Michelle Reyes. “Creating a space that is safer for cyclists and pedestrians would greatly improve Market Street, particularly the mid-market area. There is already a revitalization effort for Mid-Market, and to remove vehicular traffic would further assist that effort.”
Both Chiu and the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) have stressed that the majority of drivers on Market Street tend to be tourists. According to research from the San Francisco Travel Association, there were about 15. 9 million people that visited San Francisco in 2010, and, collectively spent, about $8.34 billion. It’s no secret that tourism brings in tremendous revenue to the city, but endorsers of car-free Market Street have yet to explain how tourism would be affected when driving would be restricted in a popular tourist area.
“I think it would be a very bad thing to restrict cars on Market,” explained Bay Area native Arianne Torres, who often drives downtown. “The city is already bad enough to drive in with all the one way streets and no left turns. It would definitely create even more traffic than there already is.”
“But, because Market Street (luckily!) is not dominated by private cars now, removing the relatively small number (mostly lost tourists and visitors–no one in their right mind drives on Market) would not have the kind of transformative impact on the street as a place that it might have on a more conventional American street,” explained Benjamin Grant, Public Realm and Urban Design Program Manager for SPUR.
Currently, a specific plan has yet to be announced, but since many of the Mayoral candidates, including David Chiu, John Avalos, Dennis Herrera, and Ed Lee support, the initiative, a car-free Market Street could be in the city’s immediate future.

A Vegan Thanksgiving

By xpressmagazine

 

By Jessica Belluomini

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rLeVOgkxFe0[/youtube]

 

Another Thanksgiving with the family and the house is filled with grumbling bellies and the overwhelming smell of food boiling, frying and simmering. The table is set with all the traditional warm autumn colors and empty plates perfectly placed.

The anticipated “ding” finally sounds from the kitchen timer, and food begins to fill the empty places on the hungry table. The bird, the glazed ham, the stuffing, cranberry sauce and beloved candied yams are being attacked with spoons, forks and knives. And then there’s me, sitting there between my feasting family members eating a microwaved vegan meal by Amy’s.

Every Thanksgiving I sit at that table with a bunch of greedy mouths, while I eat my measly microwaved vegan dinner, not feeling thankful at all. One year I thought, I’m going to make my own Thanksgiving dinner for my vegan and vegetarian friends.

Now Thanksgiving really is a time of gratitude, for the organic seasonal veggies, grains and fruits that decorate the vegan table. Best of all, I’m spared from having to sit in front of a smorgasbord of dead carcasses and smelly gravy being shoveled into carnivorous chops.

Recipes:

Vegetarian Time’s Sauteed Garlic and Brussels Sprouts

Ingredient List:

  • 1 lb. Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 12 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered lengthwise
  • 1 Tbs. brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar

1. Place Brussels sprouts in bowl of food processor. Pulse 12 to 15 times, or until shredded.
2. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic, and cook 5 to 7 minutes, or until light brown. Increase heat to medium-high, and add shredded Brussels sprouts, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Cook 5 minutes, or until browned, stirring often. Add 1 1/2 cups water, and cook 5 minutes more, or until most of liquid is evaporated. Stir in vinegar, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

The Vegan Table’s Mashed Yukon Gold and Sweet Potatoes

Ingredient List:

  • 2 pounds of sweet potatoes, quartered
  • 4 pounds of Yukon gold potatoes, quartered
  • ½ cup of non-dairy milk
  • 2 tablespoons non-dairy butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. Place yams and potatoes in a large pot filled with water. Cook over medium heat until soft, like 25 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.
2. Using a potato masher or electric mixer, on low speed, mix potatoes, non-dairy milk, non-dairy butter, salt and pepper until well combined.

Vegan Soul Kitchen’s Smothered Seitan Medallions in Mixed Mushroom Gravy

Mixed Mushroom Gravy Ingredient List:

  • one packet of store bought vegan gravy
  • ¼ pound of button mushrooms
  • ¼ pound of sliced baby bella mushrooms

1. Follow vegan gravy packet instruction and add mushrooms.

Smothered Seitan Medallions Ingredient List:

  • 1 pound of seitan, cut into medallions
  • 5 Tbs. of arrowroot powder
  • 1 cup of olive oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 5 cloves of minced garlic
  • 2 cups of Mixed Mushroom Gravy
  • 2 cups of veggie stock
  • 1 cup of finely chopped green cabbage
  • 2 minced jalapeno chiles
  • ¼ cup of sliced green onions
  • 2 Tbs. of chopped parsley

1. Coat seitan with arrowroot.
2. Fry seitan for 3 minutes with  ½ cup of oil in frying pan over medium heat. Dry oil off with paper towels, then repeat on other side. Put aside.
3. In another pan, add ½ cup of oil, increase to high heat and add onion, saute for 3 minutes.
4. Add mushroom gravy, stock and seitan. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
5. Add cabbage, cook for 3 minutes. Stir in jalapenos, green onion and parsley.

Getting sported at booze events

By xpressmagazine

[flickrgallery setid="72157628037218498" limit="10"]

By Martin Telleria
Photos by Andrew Lopez
The sun shining brightly is the only thing keeping you from staring at the beautiful blue sky. Children excitedly buzz about, anticipation clearly showing in their elated faces. The delicious aroma of the ballpark immerses you, the smell of hot dogs and garlic fries fills the air. Nothing can compare to the atmosphere surrounding a sporting event, a fun-filled environment where adults and kids alike bond and cheer on their respective teams with passion unlike any other. There is no happier place on earth, not even Disneyland. Well, not until the rowdy crowd shows up that is.
Rowdiness

A Giants fan yells during a home game against the San Diego Padres on September 29.

Unfortunately for some, attending a game isn’t enough these days. The wonderful experience of watching competition at the highest level is now tarnished with binge drinkers who look for any opportunity to wreak a little havoc.

“You have to go to a game drunk,” claims Morad Lesov, 23, who was involved in an altercation after a San Francisco Giants game. “Sitting there for three hours is no fun; when you and everyone you’re with is drunk though, that’s when you have the best time.”

While it is true that alcohol can indeed enhance an already exciting event, it is when consumption exceeds the limitations of a person that the true colors of alcohol are shown.

“We had just left the Giants game and were on our way to the train station,” says Richie Cortese, 21, who had attended the game with Lesov. “We’d definitely had a few; we like to pregame. Some other drunk guys got in our faces and we went ballistic.”

In today’s society, the intake of alcohol has become nonchalant to the point that it is normal to see someone stumbling his or her way through the ballpark. The guy throwing up in the corner? Happens all the time. The guy leaving the ballpark with a buzz? Hope you get home safe buddy!

In San Francisco, drinking before ballgames has not just become customary, but remarkably easy as well. Tailgating is a tradition that has stood the test of time, friends and families gather together to eat and drink before a game. The problem? People have begun to phase out the eating part and tailgating now means sitting in a parking lot drinking for two hours before going into the stadium. For some, drinking before the actual game holds more appeal then actually going into the stadium and watching the event one paid for.

“I usually don’t get into the game until the third or fourth inning,” said Greg Manson, 21. “Even when I’m in the stadium I don’t really watch. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Giants, that’s my team. But I can watch the game from home. When I’m at the stadium I want to get loose and have a great time. For me, having a great time usually involves killing twelve beers.”

It’s easy to rationalize this mentality; the stereotypical college kid moniker. College kids are usually thought of as heavy drinkers. Countless films have been made about the legendary drinking exploits at college parties. Likewise, sporting events are also synonymous with drinking; spotting a fat guy drinking a beer in a sports movie is about as easy as hitting a fastball thrown by Barry Zito. It is only logical then that when you put college students at a sporting event the result is binge drinking at its finest. And when you factor in the immaturity of college students with the ill-effects of alcohol, reckless results are bound to follow.

In most cases, when fights or arguments break out at a game, they are usually between fans of rival teams. It doesn’t take alcohol to spark these confrontations; true fans live and die for their teams and see it as their honor to defend their team against anyone. Though this is still no excuse for fighting, the rationale behind it makes sense. It is when fans of the same team fight each that’s puzzling. When under the effects of alcohol, however, things don’t always turn out as you would expect.

Following a recent San Francisco Giants triumph over the lowly division rival San Diego Padres, Lesov and his companions were celebrating the victory in the only way they knew how: more drinks. On their way to the train station from the bar, they ran into two fellow binge drinkers who were looking for trouble.

Rowdiness

A Giants fan is asked to calm down during a home game against the San Diego Padres on September 29.

“We were just walking to the train, messing around a little bit, pushing each other and laughing,” said Lesov. “I accidentally bumped into some guy and he went crazy. He got in my face, started yelling and cursing at me, and then I went off on him too.”

Luckily for both parties involved, no actual fights broke out due to the presence of some sober fans who actually went to the game with the intention of watching.

“We were about to throw down, no joke,” said Lesov. “Some guys got in between us though and kept asking why we were trying to fight each other since we were all Giants fans. I didn’t care. I was so drunk and mad by then I was just trying to take it out on him.”The dangers of alcohol are well documented and wide-ranging. It doesn’t take a car to hurt, or even kill someone. Alcohol pushes extremes to new levels, where a small argument morphs into an in-your-face confrontation and a silly shoving match escalates to full-fledged fighting. The recent beating of San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow, a 42-year-old Santa Clara County paramedic, epitomizes the frightening trend on the rise.

After traveling to L.A. with friends to take in a game between the rival Giants and Dodgers, Stow was beaten mercilessly in a parking lot outside of the stadium by two men who were unhappy with Stow wearing his team colors. Stow, who is still hospitalized, was a victim of fans who took team pride too far, fans who let their emotions get the best of them. While several suspects have been brought in, the case has yet to be closed.

The beating of Stow was not the only major incident at a sporting event this year. At a San Francisco 49ers preseason football game against Bay Area rival Oakland Raiders, two Raider fans were shot in the parking lot after the game, incidents police say were unrelated. At the same game, a vicious beating was reported in a restroom as well as countless brawls in the stands.

With this kind of rowdiness becoming more and more commonplace, the suitability of these events for children comes into question.

“I grew up going to games with my dad all the time, and I loved it,” said Ben Kamekona, 32. “I’m still going to keep bringing my kids to the game but you really have to think about it now every time. You never know what could happen. What if we get stuck in the middle of a brawl, or even worse, crossfire? I just make sure to be more aware now of my surroundings. If I see drunk and rowdy guys in my section causing trouble we’re out of there.”

Making sure children are always safe is not a new idea; parents being protective of their kids is a given. It used to be, however, that sporting events were the perfect environment to take kids, the quintessential father-son experience. And for the most part it still is, minus the constant flow of profanity, river of alcohol, and extreme fan behavior.

Rowdiness

A Giants fan gestures during a home game against the San Diego Padres on September 29.

“It’s not even that I’m just scared that they might somehow get hurt when we go to the game,” says Kamekona. “It’s what they might be exposed to that I’m worried about too. I don’t want my seven-year-old hearing the garbage that’s yelled and seeing the animal like behavior that goes on. If I take ‘em, I definitely steer way clear of the bleachers.”

The bleachers: the cheap seats where drunken people unite. It’s here where the brunt of fights occur, where even sailors would blush if they heard the language used. And it is here where parents should avoid at all cost bringing their children if they fear for the children’s eyes and ears.

“I’ve learned to stay away from the bleachers because I understand what it means to sit there,” said Gerardo Gutierrez, a 51-year-old father of two. “If I go with my friends I have no problem with it; I don’t mind what goes on there. I’m not going to tell people what they can or can’t do; I can’t control that. I can control sitting far away from them, though, and I’m willing to pay a little more when I take my kids. I don’t let anyone ruin the game for them.”

Ultimately what people need to understand is that rowdiness and drinking have become a part of the sporting world culture. Rather then try and change that, fans that don’t want a part of it should just avoid it. That is the only option they have. Sporting events can still be  magical. You just need to do a little extra planning to experience it.

Organizing a Social front

By xpressmagazine

By Victor Rodriguez

Photos by Nelson Estrada

Walking on broken asphalt and descending pathways, the voices seem to get a lot louder. The people passing by at first just read their books in the sun and sit on the grass, but as Sproul Plaza comes within view, a different set of people are seen on the open space and most popular area of UC Berkeley. These are people holding up signs and banners, with red bands on their arms and chalk in their hands. On this day, many groups join together, including an effort from SF State, to show  support by waving banners and raising their fists in anger against the proposed tuition increase of eighty one percent. This story is not only familiar for SF State, or California for that matter, but the whole nation. With various organizations coming from different backgrounds and a multitude of political ideologies, they all share a similar view: Tax the rich and strengthen the working class.
He walks into the empty class located at Burk Hall 226. As soon as the chairs are rearranged in a circle, he sets his black coat on his chair and pulls out a pen and black notebook from his messenger bag. With attentive eyes, he focuses in the direction of where the economic information is coming from. While he writes, a circle of about twenty students are introduced to a familiar idea that seems to push away the economic troubles they seem to know all too well.
The meeting is entitled “Stop the Budget Cuts: A Socialist Perspective,” and the socialist concept is the same one that was introduced for uniting the common workers for equal opportunities by Karl Marx. Before the meeting begins, twenty-five-year-old Terence Yancey says, “The idea of this organization is to give students a voice, to organize independently and fight against the economic problems of capitalism.”
Capitalism, in a general sense, is the idea of privately owning means of production for the purpose of profit, usually taking part in competitive markets.
Socialism

An SF State University socialist group stand with UC Berkeley students as they protest tuition hikes on Sept. 26.

In collaboration with the Socialist Organizer, Yancey, a philosophy major, seeks to organize dedicated students toward speaking out against the budget issues in schools, and specifically in universities. In documents, flyers and literature made available at the table behind the circle, the Bay Area branch of the nationwide organization explains what socialism is and how it can be practiced to resolve this particular problem of deficits in schools, among other things.

Within the United States, it is not strange to believe that socialism has been historically downplayed by mostly right-wing political figures such as the Tea Party and US presidents during the time of the Cold War.
“Socialism is mainly a form of critical thinking,” says James Quesada, an Anthropology professor at SF State. “But historically [in the US], its been given a negative reputation and there’s a misunderstanding on how the [socialist] power operates.”
“Generally, there are a lot of misconceptions about socialism,” says Yancey. “A lot of people associate it with Stalinism. For example, what the Russian Revolution was supposed to be and what it turned into,” explains Yancey, referring to Harry Ring’s article, Why You Should Be a Revolutionary. The article elaborates on how figures that represented the Russian Revolution were on trial in Moscow, labeled as enemies of the same revolution by Joseph Stalin.
“A capitalist system only works temporarily,” says Yancey. “They give to programs and services in times of surplus, but they cut the same ones as soon as things are bad again.” Yancey references the New Deal program of Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s, which in a similar way, sought to give the majority of the population new economic opportunities through relief, recovery, and reform. Some examples include the Wagner Act of 1935, which promoted labor unions, and the Social Security Act, which is still active today. However, due to the focus on World War II industries and drafts, the Republican Party shut down various programs like the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps once they held the majority in office again in 1938.
Socialism

Terence Yancey (right) organizes a socialist group at SF State. Miles Culpepper makes a sign for a protest against tuition hikes. Photo by Nelson Estrada

Different recessions throughout the American timeline have since affected American economy as well, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s. These include the oil crisis of 1973 and the recessions faced during the early Reagan years in 1981 and 1982, which affected mostly small businesses.
After the second meeting, Yancey discusses the agenda for the group and how they can get their name out. He collaborated with the group to come up with the name, “Students for Social Justice.”
Because of apathy or political agitation, this is not the first time that college students have confronted the repercussions of budget cuts and rising tuition costs, nor will it be the last for the time being.
Considering the circumstances, the problem with such a high cost for higher education not only leaves out potential applicants, but also causes a grand scale of disillusionment among the ones already attending.
Back in the Fall of 2009, students attending SF State received an email in late July that described the increase in student fees. Full-time undergraduates alone had to come up with 2,370 dollars. Two years later, this same group now has to pay 3,178 dollars, according to that same annual email that was received around mid-July this year.
The effects of military spending also continue to take a toll, with approximately eight hundred billion dollars being funneled to the military around the world each year. The US government has half that amount up for budget in the coming year, rendering more than a billion a day, according to research done by the Revolution Youth International.
The Socialist Organizer describes proposed cuts by California government, with five hundred million dollars being cut from the CSU system.
In one way or another, students have had a negative run-in with this recent economic trend, but the noticeable thing here is that they are all students of different years. It is not only juniors and seniors enduring the hardship; they are students that come from any college and any background, trying to find ways to make their unique situation better.
“This is not the only organization we have, and we do not stand alone,” says 26-year-old Eric Blanc, another organizer and student at City College of San Francisco.
“We seek to join the same causes as other organizations for the common cause of preventing this crisis to keep from going further.”
Socialism

Sam Badger, a graduate philosophy student, writes a mesage in chalk from a socialist organization flyer at SF State.

Some of these students pay for school out of their own pockets, others look to obtain loans, and many have been denied some form of aid, but they are all searching for a way to make their heavy transition easier.
For socialist organizations, their goal is to obtain equal opportunities for those who work and produce for the benefit of the population. In this case, for the Students for Social Justice, the same principles of socialism applied to education would mean giving educational opportunities to anyone seeking to pursue their aptitude for the betterment of society.
The way to do this would be to allocate the funds of the university toward educational resources for students (making tuition free) and adequately paying teachers. Private property would still be present, but it will serve the community. However, the battle for this objective can arise from any group of any alliance or ideal. “It does not necessarily have to be a socialist group,” says Blanc.
Likewise, Quesada tells us that the idea of socialism is only one way to think with more options toward the construction of our way of living. “It’s a competing political ideology, but it offers alternative ways toward socially and economically arranging our lives,” says Quesada. “One example is like the European social democracy, which provides welfare for all its citizens.”
In a meeting one day before the student protest at Berkeley, Yancey let the Students for Social Justice know that they will make an appearance and protest alongside other groups and students to show solidarity from university to university. This day acts as a reckoning for their movement.
On September 22 beginning at noon, voices ring loud through the speakers. The speakers of various social groups stand side by side and deliver their speech, one by one, into the microphone as their ideas and collective rage flourish to an estimate of over four hundred people.
“This is a first step in getting people to be aware,” says Blanc of the crucial reason for having protests like these and having many organizations educate the masses on an assortment of perceptions for solving the economic problem in schools.
With many banners showcasing what they represent, as well the various tables with sign-up sheets and informative reading material, other representatives hand out their documents.
Thirty-one-year-old Charles Jones hands out a blue paper that explains what politicians are doing to try and solve the budget crisis; cutting programs and other funding as well as imposing new taxes on those already affected, which is the working class.
“We all need to understand that workers’ wealth are going to the rich,” says Jones, a former teacher in Massachusetts who would sometimes work as a private tutor. “We need to tax the top richest people, the top one percent in California alone.”
Jones represents a campaign for “Tax the Super Rich,” whose primary focus is its title. He explains that with so much money that business executives and other rich figures have, nothing is really being done with it and that money is just sitting there.
“This is money that needs to go towards education, healthcare and infrastructures,” says Jones. “Contributions from the rich for higher education is only at seven percent, the rest mostly comes from the people.”
According to the flyer, the top one percent of the richest Californians, or approximately 150,000 people, have a total income of 255 billion dollars. More than three times the whole state budget for the California population of forty million people.
If the problems were not so great for people going to school in-state, other students pay a higher price trying to get quality education. With no chance of financial aid because she comes from Idaho, Jashvina Devadoss, a freshman at UC Berkeley says, “I pay out-of state. My dad has to help me in coming up with about fifty thousand dollars.” A curious figure seeking to understand where the battles can be fought, she wears a red arm band and marches with the crowd, raising her fist and chanting along.
After the heat and passion has riled up so many students, the march begins and paces past various buildings, where professors, administrators and other students would peek through the windows. They chant loud and in sync, “The workers united will never be defeated!” And continue with a call and response, “What do we want? Free education! When do we want it? Now!”
Attempting to enter and occupy Tolman Hall, a study and reference building, some of the protesters are shoved violently out of the way by campus police, while some protesters even take mace in their eyes. Eventually, the mass overcomes the ten or so police authorities and stands inside the building reiterating their chants several times.
For organizations like these, the repercussions evident from this simple collective protest stem from the capitalist system and the concept of private property. Karl Marx wrote about this concept in his work, and it is constantly referred to by these organizations. His theory states that a socialist movement is a historical necessity and is the work of a proletarian revolution, which is formed by the working class who are also the majority. Considering that a small minority control the workers’ wages as well as funding for programs, a workers’ revolution will occur when wages fall, programs are cut and the capitalist system pursues military aggression. He labels them as the bourgeoisie, otherwise known as the upper class.
According to this socialist perspective, the policies that are approved and that affect the cost of going to school can be eliminated by running it under the basis of socialism, which would prompt attendance to be free for students because it would be state-owned and operated, especially since it is a public institution. For Quesada, when push comes to shove, the state needs to intervene and take responsibility for the benefit of the people. “Even in this school, they want to privatize it,” he says, emphasizing the irony.
In response to why students should rise up and organize against the institutions they are a part of, Yancey says, “We as students have the power to act collectively and have our demands met.”

The long road to City Hall

By xpressmagazine

By Chris Torres

Photos by Gregory Moreno

 

Big ideas are floating around San Francisco’s City Hall.  Ideas like Central Subways, state pensions, Shark Fin Soup and America’s Cup.  Impressive goals, but the economy and current mayoral candidates say most of the cash is spent.

The Board of Supervisors takes up much of San Francisco’s civic administration, but as mayoral candidate Terry Joan Baum describes it, the mayor’s office allows its holder to spearhead larger issues, especially in a city with such a progressive reputation.  One of her first plans, if elected, is to reach out to the mayors of twenty of the nation’s other largest cities to discuss specific issues.

It’s September 9, and Baum is on her way to the PG&E headquarters to lead a demonstration against the energy giant on the anniversary of the 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion.  “PG&Evil,” one sign reads.

Fringe Candidates

Paul Currier reads emails in his apartment at a community housing complex in Pacific Heights on Sept. 30.

Visibility is important, so later, she’ll be in the Lower Haight.  As mayor, Baum wants to spearhead the progressive issues that have helped to keep San Francisco in the political spotlight.  She wants to reach out to the mayors of the nation’s top twenty largest cities to perhaps exact similar change at the national level.  With sixteen candidates in the race, she knows her chances, but that won’t make her give up.

“I believe that the world needs San Francisco to lead again, right now,” Baum explains.

Baum ran against Nancy Pelosi for a seat in Congress in 2007, after Pelosi supported the Patriot Act and voted against the impeachment of President George W. Bush.

“I was driven to run because my representative did not represent me,” Baum says.  She was arrested in the process, but did get her chance before the highest court in the land to have her name included on the ballot.  She didn’t get the job, but Baum did receive the highest percentage of any third-party write-in vote for Congress in history.

Baum got an unlikely start in politics in 1970 while stuffing envelopes for Bella Abzug’s campaign for the New York House of Representatives.  One of Abzug’s aides quit, no longer willing to shoulder the candidate’s busy schedule – or her volatility.

“[Abzug] had a nasty temper,” Baum recalls.

Fringe Candidates

Terry Baum and two of her campaign assistants hold up signs denouncing PG&E--a major platform for her run for SF Mayor--as a pedestrian walks by on 16th street on Sept. 20

Instead of stuffing envelopes, Baum found herself at subway stations and on New York street corners, meeting voters and increasing her candidate’s visibility.  It helped get Abzug into the New York House in 1971, and Terry Baum hopes the experience will get herself into the mayor’s office in November.

Back in San Francisco, Paul Currier is trying to get his campaign buses together, one of which is north of the Golden Gate and needs to be moved.  His small apartment is doubling as an office, packed with papers, campaign buttons, literature, and a map of San Francisco with unmarked Post-It notes scattered around Pacific Heights.  A little short-handed, his mayoral campaign has become more of a full-time, hands-on job than he ever anticipated.

“Nobody is working in my campaign but me,” he says without a hint of distress.  He’s been using the internet to organize, and has been increasing his public visibility by showing up at any event he can get out to.  He says that organization is the crucial to a successful campaign.

It’s hard to be visible when you’re not always invited to the community forums and mayoral debates.  If they aren’t, Currier goes anyway, just like Baum did.

Fringe Candidates

Terry Baum poses for a photo outside her San Francisco office at the Redstone building on 16th and Capp Streets on Sept. 20.

“The progressives are circling the wagons around [John] Avalos,” Currier says.

Like many progressive candidates, he’s not in favor of corporate tax breaks to encourage business to stay local and encourage development.  He wants to see art replace blight—something most can agree with.

He went to UC Berkeley and has been homeless.  The political turbulence of the 1970s made Currier decide he wanted nothing to do with politics.  And for roughly 40 years, he didn’t.  When Cindy Sheehan ran for a seat on the U.S. Congress in 2007, he returned to politics as a Field Coordinator for her local campaign, inspired by her bold positions during a period of such low public opinion of officials.

“I’m not a sellout; I’m not for sale,” he says.

Currier has one simple explanation for running: “If not us, who?  If not now, when?”  Now’s as good a time as any.

San Francisco is the first jurisdiction within the United States to use ranked-choice voting since Ann Arbor, Michigan used it unsuccessfully in the 1970s.   Australia uses it to elect members of parliament, MVPs are chosen this way, and this year’s Academy Awards will be doled out via a ranked-choice vote.

Fringe Candidates

Terry Baum hands a leaflet to a man on Carl and Cole Sts. in Cole Valley on Sept. 21.

A 2006 study of the November, 2005 San Francisco Assessor-Recorder race conducted by California FairVote representative and San Francisco resident Dr. Christopher Jerdonek, shows that the system not only improves voter turnout, but it drastically increases turnout in areas that otherwise had low voter turnout by “an estimated 2.7 [percent].”  The report also found the most dramatic increase occurred in neighborhoods “generally recognized as among the most racially diverse and socioeconomically disadvantaged in San Francisco,” implying that ranked-choice voting might serve to boost voter turnout in general.  The report does, however, note that this point “deserves further study and attention.”

It remains to be seen exactly how this will play out in a mayoral race that includes sixteen candidates.  Also absent is concrete data detailing how San Franciscans adapted to and proceeded with the old system.  San Francisco State University Political Science Professor Francis Neely coauthored a July 2006 study with Corey Cook that ultimately found the effectiveness of ranked-choice voting to be, as Neely describes it, “a trade-off.”

It’s happened before.  Oakland’s 2010 mayoral election utilized ranked-choice voting and Jean Quan was swept into office ahead of first round front-runner Don Perata after her combined second and third choice votes totaled 2,025 votes higher than Perata’s first choice showing.

“It’s often the case that if you look at the number of votes cast for that office, and you look at the final number that the winner got after all the ranked-choice voting rounds and eliminations, that the winner got less than a majority of votes cast for that office,” said Professor Neely.  That’s because some voters’ ballots are exhausted, or removed from the count, and in the final count a candidate ends up with more second and third-choice votes than the front-runner’s first-choice votes.

While San Francisco only allows voters to choose three candidates, there are usually many more than that in the race.  If a voter has preference for candidates that are eliminated early in the count, or have a preference for only one candidate who doesn’t make it into office, their ballot would be considered exhausted.

With races for the Australian Parliament, if a voter does not rank each and every candidate in the race in order of their preference, their ballot would be automatically disqualified.

“In races where more money was spent,” Professor Neely explains. “People appeared to have more information and ranked three candidates more often.”  The ballot itself can also sometimes cause errors in voting, which would disqualify them, Neely and Cook’s study found.

Portland, Maine is running an election this year using an altered version of the system.  Portlanders are allowed to rank all candidates, but don’t have to if they don’t want to.  The only limit on number of choices is the number of candidates, which means fewer ballot disqualifications.

Recent polls have shown Mayor Ed Lee to be the front-runner to San Francisco’s highest office.  But with the introduction of ranked-choice voting to this year’s election, there’s a possibility that another candidate might secure a majority vote by amassing more second and third-choice votes.

Exit poll studies found that in both previous instances of this new voting system in San Francisco, respondents said they understood the system.  However, only about 60 percent of participants knew that ranked-choice voting was going to be used at all.  So it’s conceivable that many voters came to the booth without enough information to choose three candidates, leaving their ballot open to possible exhaustion in late-round counts.

While the ranked-choice system gives voters a wider choice in their selections, voters may not have the necessary information to rank three candidates along with their first choice. Bottom line is, while ranked-choice voting allows for a wider variety of choice and perhaps greater voter participation, its greatest hindrance is its relative complexity.

“There is no election system that produces a consistent, good, undeniable, unambiguous outcome,” Professor Neely explains.  “When we aggregate preferences, we have problems.”

With ranked-choice voting, there’s room for a third party.   The argument goes, if you’re a Green candidate like Terry Baum, you’re only taking votes away from progressive democrats or other, more popular candidates.  Baum believes that without ranked-choice voting, she wouldn’t be in the race.  Baum even urges her voters to consider putting her as their second choice and putting a more popular candidate above her.  She suggests John Avalos as that choice.

With ranked-choice voting in place, “[political] endorsements don’t matter,” says Paul Currier.  Regardless of how San Franciscans react to the system this November, ranked-choice voting is sure to give underdogs a better chance to finish near, or even at, the front.

Somebody will most definitely be elected come November.  Regardless of who occupies the Mayor’s Office in January, the issues will be coming down the pipe.  All that remains to be seen is City Hall room 200’s next occupant, and the path that brought them there.

SF State students gogo dance their way to a degree

By xpressmagazine

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

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

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

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

Go-Go Dancers

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

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

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

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

Go-Go Dancers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go-Go Dancers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go-Go Dancers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go-Go Dancers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Golden Gate XPress Magazine   Log in