Platforms: PS3, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360
Release Date: September 9, 2014
Destiny is the child spun out of divorce.
After splitting from Microsoft in 2007 and subsequently the Halo franchise, developer Bungie has executed a vision of the next generation of shooters that feels like it was thought up before the technology could support it. Destiny is the first part of a ten-year vision, merging the MMO (massively multiplayer online) mission structure with a first-person shooter. Hype and developer pedigree has carried this game since its unveiling, but only its pure quality can propel it past its release. Unfortunately, Destiny falls into the trap of many ambitious new franchises by failing to move pasts its good ideas and solid foundation.
Throngs of people flocked to Haight Street on Sunday for the 1st Annual Haight Street Music and Merchants Festival.
For the adults, there were drink specials at the many bars along Haight Street, an impromptu car show, and three musical stages featuring local artists and DJs. Bigger names like Talib Kweli and Erykah Badu also made appearances to DJ for the massive crowds.
“We have closed down the streets, we’re not allowing any outside vendors because we want people to really come and shop and spend their money on the merchants on Haight Street instead of having outside vendors,” said Katrina Belda, who was providing event information to guests in addition to passing out free balloons to younger festival attendees.
Overall shot of the First Annual Haight St. Music and Merchants Street Festival on Sunday September 7, 2014 (Henry Perez/Xpress Magazine)
49er fan poses with a street performer at the First Annual Haight Street Music and Merchants Street Festival on Sunday September 7, 2014 (Henry Perez/Xpress Magazine)
Nicky Diamonds (center) at the First Annual Haight Street Music and Merchants Street Festival on Sunday September 7, 2014 (Henry Perez/Xpress Magazine)
Orly Locquiao (bottom left) setting up a booth at the First Annual Haight St. Music and Merchants Street Festival on Sunday September 7, 2014 (Henry Perez/Xpress Magazine)
Sponsors FTC, Pink + Dolphin, Diamond Supply Co., and Derby SF orchestrated the inaugural event, and saw that Haight Street from Stanyan to Masonic blocked from traffic. There were activities for all ages, including bounce houses, the aforementioned free balloons, and face painting stations.
The mix of activities brought families, street-wear enthusiasts, and curious neighborhood residents out to the event, which felt more like a huge block party than a festival.
After one DJ opted to play a song with a few curse words in it, he apologized. “They want me to keep it clean and family friendly – which I will, after this song.”
“We do plan to do this annually, and hopefully if this year is good we can keep doing it every year,” said Belda.
Clothing retailers Diamond Supply Co. and Pink + Dolphin, who are both relatively new to Haight – Diamond Supply Co., opened for business in August and Pink + Dolphin will be celebrating their one year anniversary in October – coordinated exclusive merchandise releases in honor of the festival.
The first hundred people in the blocks-long line in front of Pink + Dolphin were rewarded with tickets that granted them access to the exclusive gear the shop was selling.
FTC, which has been in its space at 1632 Haight Street for over 20 years, hosted both skate and BMX demos for curious onlookers.
The festival – not to be confused with the Haight Ashbury Street Fair that has happened every summer for the last 37 years – was a collaborative effort between older Haight Street businesses and the newcomers to the street.
And unlike the Haight Ashbury Street Fair, which brings in outside food and merchandise vendors, organizers of the Music and Merchants Festival wanted the event to benefit, well, Haight Street merchants.
I’m Caty McCarthy, a 21-year-old student here at San Francisco State University (obviously). For the next few months, I’ll be blogging every other week about music I dig. I have a pretty broad taste in tunes, from J-Pop to Hip-Hop to K-Indie to Alternative, so I’m hoping that the miscellaneous themes I come up with for Soundcloud playlists entice you guys to keep on readin’ (and listenin’).
For this week’s theme, rad remixes, I picked out some eclectic remixes by artists I thoroughly enjoy, of other artists that I also happen to enjoy. Here’s a play-by-play for each track in this five-song playlist.
London-based/Japan-influenced musician and producer bo en remixed this cheery Kero Kero Bonito track “My Party,” but turned it down a notch. The resulting track is eerie yet simultaneously delightful, with modified deep vocals but upbeat breakdowns. The remixer, bo en, even inserting melodies from his own songs off his debut album pale machine (released in 2013, also the best album released that year) into the track. Bo en doesn’t simply remix, but he re-sculpts the track into one of his own, like a true artist.
Recommended if you like: Disney music on acid, samples of dogs barking
You know that “Latch” song? Yeah, I didn’t either until my co-workers played it about fifty times per shift at work. I initially dismissed Disclosure as radio EDM, until I discovered Flume and thus actually gave Disclosure a shot and realized, “hey, there’s some good electronic music that’s not French or Japanese out there.” Flume’s popular remix of Disclosure’s “You & Me” is totally rad, and has one of the coolest drops I’ve ever heard. (I can’t believe I just called a “drop” “cool.”)
I’m a sucker for anime, and an underrated aspect of anime is definitely the music. Self described as “an eternal homage to the feeling of summer and youth taken by 2D form,” musician Meishi Smile creates melancholic pop music. In this remix of the ending theme for the anime Mysterious Girl X, Meishi twists the tune into a sunny, endearing pop anthem.
Recommended if you like: Drinking milk tea and talking about anime with friends
Indie game developer Phil Fish’s 2012 game Fez was one of the best games of that year, and coincidentally, had one of the best accompanying game scores. The composer, Disasterpeace, later released a remix album of tracks from his score (FZ: Side F), where he himself also happened to remix some of his own tracks. Arguably, the best track on the original Fez score, “Synch,” is remixed here as “Synchrosynct.” “Synchrosynct” is an even more boppin’ track that would probably make even the grumpiest of Phil Fish haters tap their toes in approval (well, maybe not).
Recommended if you like: Listening to video game music outside of video games
“Nightcall,” also known as the song playing during the ultra-cool opening sequence of Nicholas Winding Refn’s Drive, is remixed here by fellow French electronic musician Breakbot. Breakbot gives the track a strong funky flavor, contrasting the original mix.
Recommended if you like: The thought of Ryan Gosling at a disco
Beef pho rolls from Rice Paper Scissors. Photo by Catherine Uy
Azalina's meatball sub was hearty and delicious, according to one attendee. Photo by Hillary Smith
Salumeria's fried chicken drew a constant line of hungry customers throughout the festival. Photo by Hillary Smith
Mexican macaroons with chocolate from La Victoria Bakery Corp. Photo by Catherine Uy
The food festival brought out an array of colorful street performers. This man, for example, dressed as a giant dancing skeleton. Photo by Catherine Uy
Asian street food truck Chairman served authentic steam and baked buns nonstop at the annual event. But Chairman is also known for its pork burgers, which are sweet and delicious, this couple said. Photo by Hillary Smith
A cook from Kama Food Lab prepares “super samosas.” Photo by Catherine Uy
A musician entertains festival-goers as they wait in line for their food. Photo by Catherine Uy
Cholita Linda' Peruvian street food tent was quick at serving up freshly made carne asada and baja fish tacos, which were ordered almost every minute. Photo by Hillary Smith
Last Saturday, thousands gathered to celebrate La Cocina’s 6th Annual (and final) Street Food Festival. The widely anticipated event took place in the Mission District, and showcased more than 80 Bay Area vendors. With free admission, delicious food, and drinks at cheap prices, it was every foodie’s dream come true.
As a fellow foodie, I felt obligated to try almost every food truck and stand. The variety of food available included everything from El Sur’s braised short rib empanadas to Rice Paper Scissors’ beef pho rolls. I cried a little inside after I finished eating El Sur’s empanadas. They were light, fluffy, and bursting with flavor. The beef pho rolls from Rice Paper Scissors were a unique twist on Vietnamese spring rolls. Instead of using rice paper, beef and lettuce were wrapped in thick rice noodles. It tastes exactly like you are eating a bowl of beef pho, but without the broth and extra toppings.
According to the event’s website, this was La Cocina’s last street food festival. Word is that they’re looking for another location to host their epic block party. So, if you missed out on last weekend, don’t fret! Most of the vendors are from San Francisco. Here’s a list of our top 8 favorite vendors and where to find them on a regular basis.
Summer dresses and floppy hats are must-haves this season. Hadiha Nayebi pairs hers with an array of bohemian accessories and cutout ankle booties.
A knee-high socks and dress combo gives Andrea Rocca's outfit a retro feel.
Instead of wearing the usual denim cut-offs, Mikayla Wasiri rocks floral shorts.
Xpress Magazine Writer, Farnoush Amiri, looks boho chic in a crochet lace crop top and floral pants.
Summer hats give Talia Kalwani and her friend Erica Soto a '70s vibe.
San Franciscans and avid festival-goers came together for one last weekend before the end of the summer season for the 2014 Outside Lands music festival.
Undeterred by the cooling temperatures and the return of the ineludible fog, fashion enthusiasts swayed to headliners like Kanye West and the Killers while rocking crotchet tops, army jackets and printed bottoms.
While attending tastings at Wine Lands, getting henna tattooed and enjoying a set by local band, Grouplove, women of all ages rocked their best hipster/bohemian/San Franciscan looks that would only be socially acceptable at an event like this.
The overall theme of the seventh annual music festival was comfort, comfort and more comfort.
Unlike festivals such as Coachella and Electric Daisy Carnival, locals and out-of-towners came ready for the ever-changing Bay Area weather. The key to surviving this three-day, non-stop fest was layers.
As the early afternoon bands took their places at the Panhandle and Twin Peaks stages, attendees rocked out in Summer-appropriate gear but as the Super Moon and headliners like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers came out, so did the beanies and cargo jackets.
One trend that was parading through the seven stages at the iconic Golden Gate Park was the ’70s printed bell-bottoms. This trend gave the music fan enough comfort to jump up and down to Mackelmore and Ryan Lewis while keeping warm and making a statement.
If you live in San Francisco or in any city that has four seasons (unlike Los Angeles), tights are a staple in any female’s wardrobe — instantly making a skirt and crop top cold weather appropriate.
August brings the Bay Area chill on in full force, and many festival-goers relied on trusty tights to avoid catching pneumonia while maintaining their festival style.
In any weather, Golden Gate Park’s thousand-plus acres of hills and mystical forests can get down and dirty, whether you are wandering aimlessly through the Digital Detox or running from the Killers stage to Tiesto’s light show.
The solution to the endless dirt and grass stains for this year’s attendees were boots of all styles and colors. The classic black bootie could be seen on almost every other flower child that weaved through the crowd of more than one-hundred thousand attendees on each night of the festival.
The last trend that (literally) capped off “festival fashion” season was an array of neutral colored fedoras and floppy hats that could be found flouncing on the heads of girls and boys alike over the three-day fest. This year-round appropriate accessory aided concert-goers from the rare rays of sunshine that blessed the music event and kept them a bit warmer as night fell.
With their flower crowns, knee-high socks, band-tees and fringe overload in tow, the people of Outside Lands enjoyed one of the best line-ups of any festival this summer, but made sure to stand out through the fog with their festive style that will sure be outdone next year.
An SF artist uses glass and neon gasses to create light sculptures.
Of the sixty artists who displayed their work in the “UNIVERSE: The Art of Existence” show at the Modern Eden Gallery in North Beach, only the piece entitled “Building Block No. 2” truly separates itself from the pack of mixed media. In a pocket of space, in the middle of the room, centered on the wall, between three arches, the element symbol for helium (He) glows in neon on a bed of silk white roses.
Past a bicycle resting at the foot of the stairs and up the creaky wooden steps of her studio, Meryl Pataky, the multi-disciplined artist behind the helium piece, is at her workstation contemplating reattaching a broken piece of glass tube in the form of the elemental sign for gold (Au). “Should I start over?” she asks herself out loud. Pataky’s aesthetic is always changing, but remaining constant is her overall vision for the works she produces. In her craft she uses the noble gases: helium (He), neon (Ne), argon (Ar), krypton (Kr), and xenon (Xe) amongst other materials such as iron, steel, carbon, and other organic materials like deer hide.
On her own in 2002, the thirty-one-year-old moved across country to San Francisco from South Florida to attend the Academy of Art University. Her interest in neon began in a class taught by Bill Concannon and from there her love for it grew. The medium both frustrated and excited her. “It was a challenge,” Pataky recalls of her time starting out, “And I just really wanted to get on top of it. It’s super hard, and I was like ‘fuck this’—I’m not going to let it get the best of me.”
Neon is the process of heating and bending a glass tube, and the glow is achieved when the gas (filled inside the tube) is charged with the current from the electrodes that are placed on the ends of the tube. Neon is a lost art and the medium presents itself as a treasure. The idea that it can not be reprinted or the fact that only one can be found on one wall is something pretty fascinating when you think about it. “It’s a unique beauty,” Bill Concannon says on the phone. “You’re not just looking at a picture of something, you’re actually looking directly at the phenomena of light being produced by electrically charged gases. If you get pretty close you could actually see that.”
Concannon, Pataky’s mentor at the Academy of Art University has been in the neon industry for forty years and has worked on neon special effects for various of films—listed on his resume are Star Wars, Star Trek, Back to the Future, and Ghostbusters to name a few. Pataky graduated in 2010 but she still considers him a mentor whom still helps her out to this day. “It’s like my extended education he likes to call it,” she says. Concannon was excited about her eagerness to learn and is impressed that she’s stayed with the medium in terms of fabricating it directly and is impressed by her technical ability. “It takes a lot of discipline and it takes a lot of repetition to do what she’s doing,” Concannon says. “It takes a lot of mistakes and being willing to work through those mistakes.” She bends her glass tubes in her studio but she takes them over to his studio to fill them with the gases.
“If I tried to bombard my own tubes in here I’d blow a fuse every time and as you could see we’re running off of extension cords,” she explains, pointing at the orange and white wires around the space of what used to be a brewery.
Her excitement and passion for the cosmos, outer space and nature is contagious. In a way, the work she creates reminds us that we’re just a tiny part of the expanding universe and it [the universe] as a source of inspiration shines through her artwork. She walks to a table around a three by six foot panel getting filled with pyrite, also known as fool’s gold, and shares acalendar with pictures of outer space she got for Christmas. On the pyrite panel, scribbled on the corner of a piece of paper is part of the lyrics to an Everclear song and a sacred geometry outline for a piece she’s working on that’s going to Brooklyn. On the floor and on a table behind her, mini cactus plants are scattered on newspapers and packs of pyrite are on another side table with packs falling onto the arm of a red leather chair by the window. She becomes giddy when she talks about her love for the television show COSMOS and promises to wear her Carl Sagan t-shirt every Sunday [when the show comes on]. Outside of Pataky’s neon world she spends her time being a nanny, riding her bike around, and hanging out with her boyfriend cooking dinners and watching shows on Hulu.
“I’m pretty boring,” she confesses.
Back at her workstation she’s bending a glass tube in the shape of an ‘x’ next to a little mason jar sealed with cigarette butts and tracks from the likes of The Roots and A Tribe Called Quest are blasting from two little speakers beside her; aligned behind her on a high shelf against a wall are terrarium plants; a mason jar of bullets and another of little skeleton pieces; a small half-muscle half-skeleton figure; and on the floor is a paper bag full of black roses she removed from her triangular “Untitled/Journey” piece that has the letters ‘jer ne’ centered on what’s now its replacement silk black roses next to it.
Resting on the floor, under the pyrite panel, is a deer hide Pataky got from Napa being stretched out for her show this summer. She picks up and spreads open a piece a paper that reveals a Rorschach test inkblot for the deer hide. The Rorschach test is a psychological test that examines an individual’s personality. The gold element she was working on earlier is for her “Golden Hour” solo exhibition at the White Walls Gallery in July. The show will be a continuation of what people are used to seeing from her but an elevation of where she was last year.
“The Golden Hour is all about the sun,” Pataky explains of the show’s concept, “And it’s [the show] sort of paying an homage to our mother sun and meditation on the immeasurable.”
The materials she’s using are more periodic elements and the pyrite going on one of the panels symbolizes the sun.
“A single tube of large neon will go vertically up the panel and with the wood slightly curved, the hope is that the light will sort of diffuse and dissipate as it goes out and I hope it’ll look a little cosmic,” she says of her vision for the pyrite-filled panel.
The other three by six foot panel she’s doing will be filled with cacti with a big neon sword that is representative of the Ace of Swords tarot card, which symbolizes a dominance or defeat of challenges. She thinks the outcome of these pieces will be her proudest creations yet. Recently, the stress of it all had been getting to her and she was beginning to doubt herself but an ease befell her one night, after a long day at the studio, when she was shuffling tarot cards and the Ace of Wands popped out of the deck.
“The Ace of Wands symbolizes creative enlightenment,” Pataky says, “And when it popped out of the deck it was a reassurance and validation that everything’s okay, my work’s okay, and I’m on the right path.”
Baby Boomers return to school in pursuit of facing new challenges and accomplishing life-long dreams.
In June of 1973, Anthony Maglio took off from Waco, Texas flying a freight carrier aircraft, just like he had many times before. Almost immediately, this night proved very different.
“I lost an engine on takeoff and made a controlled crash landing,” recounts Maglio. “They found me an hour-and-a-half later.”
He was in a coma for a month, the hospital for a total of four months, and spent another four months learning to walk again. He suffered neurological trauma, and a focal dystonia, which affected the finite skills in his right hand.
He returned to school at Southeastern Oklahoma State the following year and graduated with a bachelor’s of science, with a focus in physics. Exactly forty years later he is graduating with a master’s degree in gerontology (the study of aging) from SF State.
“I’m a lucky guy,” says Maglio, sixty-six, who hopes to start doctoral work in the fall at USF.
Maglio has spent a lifetime in the air, and has survived some close calls. He got shot in the leg while flying a helicopter in the Vietnam War, survived the crash in Texas, and flew to New York the morning of September Eleventh.
“I took off at midnight from LAX on September tenth and landed at Kennedy at six-thirty in the morning,” says Maglio. “I was in my hotel room, less than a mile from the towers, and somehow my wife got through, screaming, crying on the phone. I was in Manhattan for five days and it changed me about a lot of things.”
Afer a career as a captain for Delta Airlines, Maglio retired in 2005 and turned his attention to various projects including golf club design and school.
“I love my god, I love my wife, I love my son, I used to love hanging upside down in biplanes, and I love to learn more than you can ever imagine,” says an infectious Maglio, brimming with passion.
While examining nutritional problems among aging veterans at the VA Center in San Francisco, Maglio discovered motivational therapy, and has focused his work in the gerontology department at SF State toward helping elder diabetics who suffer from an ambivalence toward necessary change. He is using motivational interviewing as a therapy for lack of adherence to prescribed medication.
“A clinician can reach into a patient and draw out an intrinsic desire to make a change,” says Maglio, describing the motivational interviewing process. “It helps people gain an understanding of whatever they are ambivalent about, solve the problem sooner rather than later, save themselves money, and save our government money as well. That’s my dream.”
Of SF State, he says it’s been the best time of his life, academically, and he’s really learning to communicate effectively.
Maglio is one of many older students returning to school, a figure that has risen over the last few years. Approximately one quarter of all higher education students in this country are over the age of thirty, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, and that number is expected to rise. It is not uncommon to see someone in their forties, fifties, sixties, or older, on a university campus.
The American population is getting older. The US Census Bureau estimates that the population age sixty-five years and older is expected to double between 2000 and 2030, from thirty-five million people to seventy-two million. Each year, according to the enrollment data, SF State has roughly fifty or so undergraduate students age sixty or older, and around one hundred post-baccalaureate students that age.
Older students return to school for a variety of reasons. Some, like Maglio, have had a successful career and are in search of a new challenge, and want to develop tools to give back. For others, a college education has been a life-long dream, and is a chance to increase economic opportunities.
Terry Shelmire, fifty-three, works two jobs, seven days a week, and has only had one day off in the past six months. He says his feet hurt. Growing up in poverty, education was not a priority and he says that when you have the choice to start college or get your first job, you gravitate toward a job.
“Once you get in that way of thinking, once the money comes, even though they’re minimal jobs, not very much money, it’s like your momentum is going that way, and it’s hard to pull back,” says Shelmire.
Now he wants to break the cycle. Shelmire is enrolling at College of Marin this Fall where he will complete the remaining nine units he needs to be transfer eligible. He will take statistics, astronomy, and one more elective class.He plans to transfer to SF State in 2015 and major in communications.
“I made so many bad decisions as a young man, and in hindsight, as I look back those decisions kind of stagnated my life,” says Shelmire. “So if I go back I can improve my chances, I can help my community more, I can pursue better positions, better wages, and it can open doors that I can’t get in without education.”
He’s considering work as a minister, but he says most pastors won’t allow anyone without a degree to speak to a congregation. “Going back to school will help me tap into my fullest potential,” says Shelmire.
As the American population grows older, largely due to the aging “baby-boomers” generation, it becomes apparent that more emphasis should be placed on the study of aging, and the needs of older people.
Maglio’s research on diabetes in the elder community is one of many projects within the gerontology department at SF State, the first graduate gerontology program in the CSU and UC systems, founded by Annabel Pelham in 1986.
Part of Pelham’s mission is to debunk stereotypes and mythologies around aging. It is not all about pushing wheelchairs she says.
“We live in a segregated and ageist culture,” says Pelham. “Older adulthood is not really understood and appreciated, and there’s a lot of fear and anxiety around aging. But the potential and excitement that can happen from your sixth decade to your tenth decade is astonishing.”
Pelham grew up in the segregated south of Florida and has always been an advocate for social justice. Although people questioned her, she has dedicated her life to the study of aging.
“I started developing an interest in a class of people that I thought were ill-treated and ignored,” says Pelham. “When I first started in this field people didn’t know what the word gerontology meant.
Pelham’s work in the gerontology department has led to an expanded presence of older people at school. She created Sixty Plus, an independent organization geared to serve the needs of an older population who desire learning and growth in a campus setting. The program offers members an opportunity to attend lectures, partake in day and extended tours, share meals, and other special events.
For older students who wish to audit classes at SF State, Eldercollege, offered through the college of extended learning, provides students over the age of fifty a chance to audit any regular university course, on a space available basis, for fifty-five dollars a semester. Prior to Pelham’s arrival there was no formal opportunity for older students to continue life-long learning at SF State.
“I know that when we have older students in the classrooms, especially the undergraduate classrooms, the younger students gravitate to them and want to hear about their experiences,” says Pelham.
Manuel Sunshine, eighty-eight, a World War II veteran, has been a student at SF State for more than fifteen years. He said it has been difficult to get into the general education classes that all students are required to take. He finds it easier to audit the higher-level classes. Currently he’s focused on environmental science, which he finds increasingly important as the issues of global warming and climate change emerge. “Don’t buy real estate near the ocean,” says a half-joking Sunshine.
He thinks that nutrition and exercise are essential for older people, as well as socialization. He takes a chair exercising class on campus, and sticks to a strictly vegetarian diet. The classes and community on campus help alleviate the isolation that he faces.
For Isaac Hartstone, 88, education is important, but it has taken a backseat to other concerns. He attended San Francisco City College at an older age to receive his GED, but now he is focused on health, and has no interest in returning to school. For him, transportation is a primary concern.“I’m lucky I can still drive a little bit,” says Hartstone.
Dina Redman is a professor of social work and gerontology at SF State and says that older students have a lot to offer in the classroom. “They have a sense of focus, having had a series of different life experiences, and they have consolidated goals in terms of what they want to get from the education experience,” says Redman.
She says it can also be difficult, because older students are often juggling family, relationships, and work outside of school.
Redman coordinates the Student Success Program on campus, which offers a variety of services for students of all ages, including seminars for older students returning to school. She finds older students to be very dedicated students, not easily distracted.
Maglio is certainly motivated. He is planning an eighteen month study to prove that motivational interviewing is an effective therapy for diabetes. After so many years in the sky, his work is very grounded. As a single morbidity, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in America, and for people with other conditions, diabetes compounds the risk. He treats it as an epidemic, and is working hard to make a difference.
He recalls a story about a hummingbird that refused to surrender when the forest was burning. All the other animals had given up, but hummingbird continued to bring water, one drop at a time. Lion asked Hummingbird, why? Hummingbird replied, I’m only doing my part.
“I hate tattoos,” says Maglio. “But if I were to get a tattoo, I’d get a hummingbird. I want to do my part.”
What’s open on your computer screen at this moment?
Maybe there is a Word document with nothing but a rough attempt at an essay waiting for you behind the full-screen Netflix tab on Chrome. Or maybe you have got Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit open, constantly rotating through the tabs.
So, all “normal” things by your estimation, right? I have the same things open too. And then there’s the fourth tab, containing fifteen webcam slots and approximately one hundred fifty plus people lurking and discussing everything from whatever new mixtape is dropping to their porn preferences in a text chat next to these cams.
But what is going on in those fifteen cam slots? There is topless girl cooking, the resident hip-hop head well into his usual day-drinking, a bearded man doing what can only be some sort of weird dance ritual in the shower, and a couple cuddling and engaging in a conversation with people admiring them. Then, because it is the internet, there is always a penis (or in this case, four).
“Is she into some weird voyeurism porn site?” you are probably asking yourself right about now. Not entirely. This just happens to be an average afternoon in just one of the many rooms hosted on the video chat site ICanHazChat.
ICanHazChat came about as the brainchild of several regular users of the Gonewild subreddit, following the inevitable monetization of TinyChat, a service in which users are able to open up a room and invite others to join a video chat.
The site, in its current format, is a cross between group video chats and a Reddit-style community. Like Reddit itself, where a user can create a subreddit in minute for virtually any topic under the sun, ICHC users can create their own rooms, choose moderators, and ban rude or disruptive users. The site has even instituted its own ‘karma’ system, similar to Reddit’s—you gain karma by camming and participating in the chat. Much like Reddit’s system, the karma is nothing but imaginary internet points, but a fun feature regardless.
As the site features rooms that are rated both ‘15+’ for the average user, and ‘18+,’ for rooms with a more adult theme, site admins have created an age-checking process to minimize underage camming.
Funplay and Rhenium are just two of the age-checkers in chat, who also happen to be married.
“I ran across a post on /r/sex about a couple that just had sex on cam for a bunch of other people and thought it was great,” Funplay says, who is coming up on his second year anniversary of being in chat. He ended up lurking for several weeks before bringing the idea up to his wife, who was receptive to the idea.
Since joining chat, they have become a familiar pair in the community, moving from being normal users to ‘self-mods’ (users who can mod up at will and help to moderate the chat.) Eventually, they moved up to being age-checkers along with self-mod duties.
“I’m not sure exactly by who or why we were nominated, but we apparently earned a level of trust with the site moderators and other age-checkers for them to do so,” Funplay says of their recent duties. As age-checkers, they are responsible for not only checking potentially underage chatters in the GW room, but on all rooms in the site.
In their capacity as age-checkers, Funplay and Rhenium tend to end up visiting several other rooms on the site to check on camera reports—although they consider the GW room to be home base for them.
The room also employs a bot to assist with moderating when there aren’t many active moderators available. ‘Modbot,’ along with Triviabot and DjBot are all the creation of Marc, one of the site moderators who has found himself wandering into the site like so many others, and staying, to eventually become an integral part of the community.
“Modbot took a lot of work,” Marc says of the bot which is currently running in four different rooms. Estimating that about eighty or more hours went into the creation of the bots, Modbot works via a combination of stats and trigger words in the room its employed in.
To create an atmosphere that’s welcoming to all (or as much as can be, considering the content of the room), Modbot has an ‘auto-silence’ feature. Words that can be considered offensive, via being racist, homophobic, etc. are cleared from the screen by the bot and the user silenced for thirty seconds, in which anything they say in chat will not be sent through for other people to see.
Users find themselves forming bonds and discussing common interests beyond sex and voyeurism. The chatters come from all walks of life. There are professional therapists, techies and tattoo artists. Students and housewives are also counted among the numerous users to pass through the room on a daily basis.
People from multiple walks of life come together over common interests and form lasting friendships. Two users, yieldtomytemptation and nighttrain_jambalaya are just one of the relationships formed from ICHC.
“I think I was in chat for just over a year, and he was in for about eight months when we first met,” says yieldtomytemptation, of her now-fiance. The pair bonded over shared interests and eventually made the decision to meet in person.
“I was excited more than anything, but nervous that she would realize what a dork I really am,” nighttrain_jambalaya said. Luckily, for him, the ‘dorkiness’ was part of the appeal for the couple who met in October of 2012 and were dating by January the next year. Both of them had met and been intimate with others in the past, which has come up in their relationship.
“I think the hardest part is the fact that we know who we’ve been with and who we talked to. It brings feelings of jealousy sometimes when it comes up,”yieldtomytemptaion says. “The easiest is being able to be frank with each other. I don’t think I was like that before chat.”
While not all couples have a success story like the one shared between these two, this room alone has resulted in multiple relationships and marriages.
So, after all of this, there’s the question that comes to mind: Why? Why do you hang around this room and chat with virtual strangers from around the world, most of whom are lurkers that come in expecting to see naked women?
You know, sometimes I ask myself that same question. And then a user that I’ve connected with and come to appreciate as an amazing person comes in, and they’re genuinely excited to see me. That’s why I come back to the room on a regular basis.
I came in on a whim through Reddit and I lurked, unsure about the whole experience. Then I swallowed the qualms I had and never looked back. I’ve been a part of this community for a year and a half at this point, and I don’t see myself leaving any time soon. I love the community and the people I’ve met in the room. I’ve bonded, I’ve become a self-mod, and enjoy hanging out and joking with everyone.
Interacting with me in person leads to me being seen as this ‘quiet’ type, mainly because I do not often speak up around people I am not familiar with, because I feel uncomfortable and consistently judged for no apparent reason. In this room? I can open up, I’m free to strike up a conversation or jump into an existing one, without feeling as if I’ll be ignored. I’ll come in with some comment or joke ready, and I’m happy. There’s people that share my common interests, people I find attractive and who find me attractive. There are people in here I can open up to and share things with that I’m not even comfortable sharing with my closest friends.
It is not just all purely online contact either. Users form friendships and eventually meet in real life, both for sexual and non-sexual reasons. I have met a number of users and have enjoyed every experience. I have drank with them, wandered around the city with them,and they have pitched in to help me with photo projects. During my first meeting with one of my favorite chatters from the site? I ended up nearly choking during lunch—it has developed into an inside joke between us.
You know how people will say ‘just imagine them naked,’ to someone who is nervous of speaking in front of crowds? As it turns out, it actually is a hell of a lot easier to relax and joke with someone when you have seen their butt.
It is a weird thing to begin with, but even weirder to open up to the world at large and write this. When I do bring it up, I am drunk about seventy-five percent of the time, and terrified as a result. You know what happens? People are receptive to the idea. It can be weird, and when you openly acknowledge that, it takes most of the pressure off the situation. It becomes entertaining, and then you move on. Suddenly, you’re not stepping around the topic with these friends you spend a lot of time with. You can simply say “Yes, so-and-so from chat mentioned that too…,” and it is okay. They may not join the site or even understand why you do it, but generally speaking people will not be rude about it or judge you.
The community is an amazing place, filled with people from all walks of life.. If you see it from the outside, you see a bunch of perverts. Yeah, maybe by normal estimates it is perverted. For people in this community? For whatever reason, we do not like wearing pants, or enjoy being watched and interacting with people as we go about our lives, whether it be the mundane, everyday activities or the more explicit moments in our lives.
Apparently, he was sitting right next to me with his arm around me the whole time. He wanted me to know he is always with me and he is helping my spirit navigate through the difficulties every college student and human being in general encounters. He was explaining that he was taken suddenly, which is true. I was told that he was snapping his fingers and saying that everything slowed down and then boom—he was gone. I was told he had a great sense of humor and he is not upset with where he is now; I found that comforting. I was asked if he was cremated. He was.
My cousin died just over three years ago in a freak accident. A medic in the military, he was patrolling the shooting range on a base when a stray bullet hit him directly in the heart.I do not talk about the loss of my cousin and yet a perfect stranger was able to tell me intimate details about him. He could see him next to me and was able to tell me his favorite drink and candy.
The man telling me these personal things about my cousin—things that even I did not know—was Felix Lee Lerman, a natural born psychic medium. According to Lerman, all mediums are psychics but not all psychics are mediums. The difference between the two is psychics perceive and mediums receive. In other words, psychics take a person’s energy and interpret that in a way that feels like they are looking into the future. Mediums on the other hand communicate with spirits, more commonly referred to as “the dead”, and relay the message to the living.
When Lerman was eight-years-old his grandfather passed away—his first experience with death. “I would kiss him on the cheek everyday when I got home from school. I would watch football with him and we use to eat beer nuts together,” he reminisced.
About a week after the loss, Lerman had a dream in which his grandfather visited him. “It was so real, so normal,” says Lerman. “He would pour me some milk and we would talk. I could smell his cologne, I could feel the stubble on his cheek.”
Lerman remembers his parents being very open and supportive when he told them about his dreams but admits that there were many that did not believe him. “I’d like to think they have come around to the idea by now,” says Lerman. At the time of the dreams, Lerman had no idea what a medium was.
The dreams and visions did not stop. He continued to communicate with and see his grandfather and others. He started reading books about divination; he became extremely enthralled by the idea of where we go after we die. Eventually, he also started to see colors surrounding strangers; this is when he realized that he was a psychic as well as a medium. By the time he was in college, he was receiving messages from those in spirit and giving them to the people that were open to hearing them.
In 2002, Lerman was confirmed by an internationally acclaimed psychic medium. Shortly after, he enrolled in mediumship development classes at the Holistic Studies Institute in hopes of mastering his gift. He earned the certification as an Intuitive Consultant from the American Board of Holistic Practitioners.
Lerman has now dedicated his life to mastering and using his abilities to help people. It is mentally straining to connect with spirits and he says he has to be in the right mind-set. He explains the three components that contribute to the successfulness of a reading; the spirits, the person or people seeking the reading, and the reader. If any part of this trio is off, the reading will not be a success.
Some still doubt that Lerman is a medium, heck I had my doubts too. “Its good to be skeptic,” says Lerman. “There are two types of skepticism. There is open skepticism, which most people are. Then there’s closed skepticism, which I work with and I understand that maybe they have been hurt by other mediums who couldn’t do what they say they could do. I don’t care if they’re skeptic, my job is to help them.”
My reading with Lerman was not my first encounter with a medium. I had been read by a friend of Lerman’s, Kay Fahlstrom, who studied the art of mediumship under his guidance.
Fahlstrom had a near-death experience in her early twenties before her premonitions and dreams began. She was planning to see her friend after work but decided not to because she had been having awful headaches. Instead of making the trip, she went home and turned up the he heat attempting to keep warm. Little did she know, that heater was leaking carbon monoxide that could have killed both her and her cat. That night, Fahlstrom says she left her body. She was unable to remain alive due to lack of oxygen and she suffered what is called a “textbook death”. Her downstairs neighbor was a nurse who was also suffering headaches eventually figured out the problem and ran upstairs to save Fahlstrom’s life.
Fahlstrom realized she had special gifts. She says her first experience with a psychic premonition was a dream about the lottery numbers the night before they were drawn—but no, she never bought a ticket. After that, she received a warning for her brother before he set sail into sever weather. That warning saved her brothers life.
My reading with Fahlstrom was done via phone, a concept that felt odd to me. This woman was telling me that she would communicate with my loved ones for me and tell me what my future has in store for me without ever laying eyes on me? It is hard to believe in mediumship in the first place but this just seemed a step further than impossible. But, I did the reading with an open mind and was amazed at the things she told me.
She began by walking me through what my spirit guides had to say. She explained to me that everyone has a master spirit guide. Some people just have the one and others have multiple guides. The master guide is not someone that we knew in our lifetime, they have been with us since the beginning but the other guides are loved ones that we knew who have crossed over. Each guide helps you with a different aspect of your life such as school, work, relationships, and everything in between. Fahlstrom explained that spirit guides use to be human so they know what we are going through, people also have angels but they were never human.
I wouldn’t say that the accuracy of her words freaked me out, but they did baffle me. The information from my spirit guides was only the beginning, what she told me next was what really got me.
She started by saying, “I have an older woman here for you, she feels like grandma. Do you have at least one grandma in spirit?” I do not. Both of my grandmothers are living. But she was sure of herself. She went on to tell me that the spirit was talking about memory issues and saying, “My brain is not up to snuff.” That’s when I knew it was indeed my grandmother. My dad’s mother has Alzheimer’s and has been unable to talk and communicate with us for a while. Fahlstrom then told me that it is possible for a spirit to move on before the body does. My grandma began communicating with me through Fahlstrom and it became more and more clear that it was her. She showed Fahlstrom a hot plate of lasagna, my dad’s favorite meal that she would make him. She also talked about how I was special to her, I was her star.
I could go on and on about what both Fahlstrom and Lerman said that was spot-on accurate. There were times in the reading that I would be asked about a name such as, “Who’s Jack” or “Who’s Bitty”, and I had no idea who these people are. It made me think maybe the readings were not in fact accurate, maybe I so badly wanted to communicate with the people that I have lost that I am making things up and justifying them in my head. Then, I listened to the readings with my parents. It turns out, Jack is my great-grandfathers name and all the information that was said about him was correct. And Bitty, that’s my moms favorite aunt that was just dropping by to say hello.
After losing their homeland 300 years ago, Catalans are still fighting for their independence.
For Americans, September Eleventh will always be remembered as the tragic day that terrorists attacked our country.Every year on this day, we mourn for the lives that were lost and we stand together as a nation.However, this day is also significant for another culture—and for a very different reason.For Catalans, this day will always be remembered as the day they lost their independence and were forced to become part of the Spanish Kingdom. Now known as the National Day of Catalonia, every September Eleventh, Catalans join together and protest to gain back their independence.
Anna Preston, sociology major at SF State, grew up in a bicultural household with a Catalan mother and an American father. “We strive to be independent from Spain, but unfortunately it is not seen as something feasible to the Spanish government.”
At this point you might still be wondering, who are Catalans anyways? Catalan people are from Catalonia, one of the seventeen regions of Spain, located in the North Eastern corner of the country.With their own language, traditions, and culture, Catalans consider themselves different from the rest of Spain and have been fighting for their independence ever since they lost it.
“I grew up learning both English and Catalan,” says Preston. “In the summers I would go to Spain and during the school year I would be in the United States so I grew up as a part of both worlds. There is a huge sense of pride in our culture that we do not take for granted.”
Catalonia existed as a free nation until 1714, when Catalonia became incorporated into a Spanish state.It all dates back to the fourteen hundreds, when King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile got married, uniting the kingdoms of Aragon and Castile. Their marriage united the two kingdoms, which unified Spain.Then, during the period between 1936 and 1975, dictator Francisco Franco took over Spain in the Spanish Civil War.During this time, Spanish was declared Spain’s only official language and the public use of other languages became prohibited. Catalan language, traditions, and culture were suppressed to the point of near extinction.Schools were banned from teaching Catalan, Catalan books were not published, and some even burned.It was a hard time to be a Catalan in Spain, but Catalans were able to resist this repression and salvage their culture.Once Franco died in 1975, Catalans were able to regain their culture that had almost completely disappeared. It is because of those thirty-six years of oppression that Catalans have become so proud of their distinct culture, traditions, and language.
Susan Wigham started a Catalan meetup group called Trobades Catalanes, which invites both Catalan and non-Catalans to get together and celebrate the language and culture.This group has been meeting up monthly at different locations around the Bay Area for the past four years. As an American, Wigham became fascinated with the culture and language after visiting some friends in Barcelona.
“What interested me about Catalans is the fact that they were once very repressed under Franco’s regime and now they are beginning to grow and gain independence,” says Wigham. “I got started organizing the meet up group because it was an opportunity for me to learn the language and give something back at the same time.”
Four years after creating the group, Wigham has become fluent in the Catalan language. “People have remarked to me on multiple occasions that I must have been Catalan in a previous life” says Wigham, “and I feel like that is possible.”
There are so many traditions unique to Catalan culture, that if I were to attempt to write about all of them, I would have to write an entire book instead of an article.So I chose to write about just a few of them.
You may have heard of the famous soccer team, FC Barcelona, or Barca, known for their long-standing rivalry with Real Madrid.“What many people do not know is that this team is Catalonia’s National team and the majority of their players are Catalan as well.FC Barcelona has become more than just a soccer team to the Catalan people, to them it represents their identity.The club has been used to openly promote Catalan independence. In Spain, soccer has deep political and cultural connotations and Barca has become a prominent symbol for Catalan Nationalism.
Preston talks about what it is like being a Catalan living so far away from Catalonia.“I spoke Catalan throughout my childhood and I still speak it, but I find it hard sometimes to feel connected when I am so far away from Spain.I do not have that many Catalan friends around here so every opportunity I get to go to a Casal, which is a picnic gathering of Catalans, I will go to there just so I can feel reconnected to where I am from.”
Catalans are very proud people and their language is something they are particularly proud of, and rightly so. The Catalan language almost completely disappeared during Franco’s dictatorship but it survived against all odds.Catalan is not a dialect of Spanish; it is derived from Latin and is spoken by millions of people around the world.Most Catalans, however, are fluent in both Catalan and Spanish. But if you go to Barcelona and speak to the locals in Catalan, you will get huge brownie points and appreciation from the Catalan people.
Catalonia’s gastronomic industry has gained a reputation for producing some of Spain’s finest cuisine. Because Catalonia is located in-between the ocean and the mountains, their meals include a diverse variety of seafood and meat dishes.In recent years, a new wave of modern experimental chefs have come out of Catalonia, one of them being Ferran Adria, founder of El Bulli.El Bulli was a Catalan restaurant near the town of Roses in Catalonia that received up to one-thousand reservations a year and only eight-thousand of those guests actually got a table.Many have considered Adria the best chef in the world.
Dia de Sant Jordi
Among Catalonia’s many holidays, Sant Jordi day can be compared to our Valentines Day, in which Catalans celebrate their patron saint by exchanging books and roses.On April 27th, the Catalan Meetup group held a Dia de Sant Jordi meet up at Hoover Park in Palo Alto.It was a warm Sunday afternoon and by one p.m., people started to show up to Hoover Park with typical Catalan dishes and beverages in hand.This was a chance for both Catalan speakers and non-Catalan speakers to immerse themselves in the culture.
Among those who showed up to the meet up was George Vidal.Vidal’s grandfather was Catalan but his parents did not learn the language, losing the remaining ties they had to the culture.“I wanted to get that back,” says Vidal.“I am finally getting back something that I think our family lost because of the civil war. The language connects you so much with other Catalans, even if you are not Catalan yourself.”Vidal is now working with the National Assembly of Catalonia, a civil organization that is pushing for Independence of Catalonia.They are currently collecting votes to petition for independence.So far they have collected about one -hundred-thousand votes and they are trying to reach their goal of one million.
Alejandro Pujol, a Catalan who has been living in the United States for the past 13 years, also attended the San Jordi festivities.He came to America to pursue his masters in business and has been here ever since.“I feel very Catalan,”says Pujol, “To me being Catalan is a strong cultural feeling that you are part of.”
Although the road to independence is long and windy, Catalans will continue to fight for what they believe.And whether or not Catalonia becomes an independent nation, their distinct culture and traditions will always live on.