Category Archives: Culture

Not Your N***a

Featured Illustration by: Kevin Catalan

 

Hip hop; it’s more than just a genre of music, it’s a culture, it’s a way of life, it’s what some people see when they look out of their window every morning, or when they are walking down their streets.

“C-O-M-P-T-O-N!”

We scream the lyrics along with Kendrick as though we have lived life through his eyes, but we haven’t. We enjoy his art, what he is doing with the experience he has had, and his story-telling capabilities, but most hip-hop consumers haven’t lived it. When people who aren’t Black use the hip hop genre as the glue between them and an experience they could never understand that’s when problems begin to arise – a problem that involves the controversial usage of a particular word.

Let’s play a game: what widely used word can mean friend and homie, but can simultaneously be grossly offensive if used in a certain way against a certain group of people?

“I don’t like it, I don’t approve of it,” uttered Zemaye Jacobs, communication major and member of the Black Student Union here at San Francisco State University.

This was a popular reaction to the question ‘how do you feel about people who aren’t Black using the word?’.

If a particular word is coming to mind, ask yourself this: Do you use it, do you stop other people from using it, do you know its history, what in your life has contributed to your desensitization of the word? And yes, it’s that one that starts with an ‘N’.

Do you scream those Drake lyrics at the top of your lungs without a care in the world, or does your social consciousness help you refrain?

N***a, it holds a unique and even confusing duality; it’s safe and it’s not, it’s fun, even hip, yet withholds an immense ignorance if used in the wrong way. There is a less problematic solution, which entails not using it at all. However, there is no magic potion to eradicate the damn thing. Its roots lie in racism, anti-Blackness, and colorism, to name a few, all actively perpetuating systemic issues in this country.

Blair Thomas, an art major and member of BSU at SF State says, “It does not matter if it is a part of pop culture or not. It’s not a word for non-Black people, especially if you cannot respect actual Black people.”

“The attempts over the years to take that word and turn it into something else, have been failed attempts,” explained Professor Davey D. Cook, as he walked to his bus stop.

Cook is a professor in the Africana studies department, who teaches a hip hop course at SF State.

“It’s still a pejorative and people use it as such even when they try to claim that they have somehow sanitized it.”

Let’s talk phonetics.

Most are aware that the original form of the word is Negro, which refers to the color Black, and is used in many languages besides English. To make a VERY long story short, during slavery it became popularly said as n***er, and now it’s popularly said as n***a. Oh how we have progressed.

Connotation aside, this is an example of tense vowels transforming into lax vowels, explained by linguistics Professor Chris Wen-Chao Li. Like ‘player’ being pronounced ‘playa’ to ‘fit in with the cool kids,’ so to speak.

“This is a pretty typical example of phonological reduction as part of grammaticalization,” Wen-Chao Li says.

Phonological reduction, or simplifying how words are said, happens all time and a lot of the time we don’t even realize. Wen-Chao Li provided this example: ‘Jesus’ turned into the expression ‘Jeez’, which then turned into ‘Gee’ as in “Gee, thanks.”

With that being said, the usage of n**** has been normalized immensely. Imagine being a fly on the wall at your favorite rap concert in the Bay Area, at the Oracle Arena, which holds about 19,000 people. Thousands of people are yelling n****s around left and right.

“I don’t give them [non-Blacks] a pass, but what am I gonna do, fight 50,000 people?,” Bryce Page, a local, commented.

It often becomes a matter of picking your battles, because so many people say it.

Many non-Black students feel the same way about the controversial word.

“I have some hispanic friends who use the word and there’s this controversy of whether it’s accepted for any person of color to use because we [hispanics] have suffered too,” said Rosa Gutierrez a biology major at SF State.

“…but I don’t think it’s right for us to use a word that doesn’t belong to us, so I don’t agree with my friends use of the word.”

When political science major, Alex Ayala, was asked what his response is when people around him are using it he said that he always stops it.

“Even if I’m that one person who maybe is ‘overreacting’, it’s just disrespectful,” Ayala states.

But does using it when rapping to your favorite rap lyric change the hundreds of years of history? As Black people gained more rights post-slavery, the word remained and still does. Consumers have allowed the word to have derivative qualities, which as a result gave many reasons to grant themselves access to the word.

“If I hear them say the word in a joking way or like playing around with friends, I won’t confront them about it,” says theater major and African American student, Alissa Harris.

“I don’t like the word period, even when other Black people use it,” marketing major and African American student Donna Tate says.

The Black response to its usage is of the varietal form. Ranging from not minding at all, to being fine with it as long as it’s not of a serious racial attack, to some not wanting to hear the word from anyone. Regardless of confrontation, it tends to make people feel some type of way.

“I think in the face of the type challenges many of us face as Black folks and the type of oppression people are dealing with daily… that’s the ultimate micro-aggression especially in spaces where you are not the majority,” Davey concludes as his bus nears.

I can only wonder that if we as Black people were united in how we feel about ‘n***a’, then would society, or non-Black peoples, also be on the same page when it comes to the usage of the word. OR if racism died with slavery instead of manifesting itself into a systemic form, would the word usage still be as impactful. Black people are about three times more likely to be killed by police force than any other race still today. The original meaning continues to exist and shows its ugly head with every pull of the trigger.

In Their Shoes: Challenging Gender Norms Through Androgynous Apparel

Once upon a time there was a world where any gender could walk into a clothing store and not have to worry what sex they were shopping for. As amazing as that may sound, for now it can only remain a dream that can one day hopefully become a reality. Don’t give up yet, there are still options!

When it comes to apparel now-a-days, I can say that I’ve seen it all. Women dressed in tailored suits, men in chiffon skirts, and kids in non-gender clothing. I grew up as a tomboy, so wearing my brothers big shirts and oversized pants were easy to obtain. This memory led me to question what it would’ve been like for me as a young boy trying to fit into my sisters clothes. The truth is, I probably wouldn’t of been able to fit any of it due to the way my body was built. Is this what goes through the minds of men who prefer to wear women’s clothes?

After interviewing some students from San Francisco State University, along with faculty and people from the San Francisco community, they said yes. The three main issues that were brought up the most when asked were the main audience being focused on women and femininity, the lack of sizes, and clothing stores sticking to the regular boy/girl sections.

 

Monét Panza, 19, Poses in Vans and
baggy windbreakers. (Left and Right)
Photos: Jazmine Sanchez

What really defines androgynous apparel?

For people like Aaron Steinfeld, 25-year-old graduate student at Sf State, and LGBTQ youth advocate at the Family Violence Law Center, androgyny means an ambiguous gender identity or gender representation, which can deal with either someone’s internal sense of how they think of themselves and or how they present that to the world.

“There definitely seems to be more gender/queer presentation in fashion, but I think that there’s a difference between gender identity and gender presentation, and someone who might have an ambiguous or androgynous gender presentation, and might as a cisgender person,” Steinfeld says.

“I’m trans and I like presenting feminine in society to lure the rest of the world, and how putting on clothes everyday feels very important to me to display an accurate representation of myself to the world.”

In fashion, androgyny has been seen more and more on the catwalk by designers like Gucci, Kanye West (and many more), and most recently at New York Fashion Week, Maison the Faux. So it’s no surprise that non-gender clothing has been making itself a big debut. According to 44-year-old Health Education Professor at SF State, Ivy Chen, a lot has been driven by the acceptance of it through Millennials and the new Generation Z.

“Millennials and Generation Z are much more open and accepting of all different kinds of identities, and therefore those types of attitudes about discriminating and feeling like you only can be this and that, those attitudes will die out,” she says.

Students like 18-year-old Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts major, Karla Orozco, feels that androgynous apparel is in fact favoring the female sex – that it is easier for women to find male clothing than for men to find female clothing.

“If it’s going to be something that’s for everyone then it should be for everyone you know? I think that’s definitely something that has to change in the industry,” Orozco says.  Another student like Rosa Gutierrez, 20-year-old Biology Major also agrees. “I do agree that it’s harder for men to find clothes which usually leaves them without a section to look into,” Gutierrez says.

Aaron Steinfeld, 25, in pink velvet mini-dress.

The facts are that the “rules to fashion” have continued to change throughout the years and we’ve seen this through many advertisements, and also, on the fashion runway. But the real question here is has the industry limited itself to a certain audience?

“Millennials and Generation Z are much more open and accepting of all different kinds of identities, and therefore those types of attitudes about discriminating and feeling like you only can be this and that, those attitudes will die out.”

Of the bigger community, when seeing sizes range from only small to large, it shows that these clothing companies are limiting themselves and not serving the whole audience.

28-year-old graphic design professor at California College of the Arts, Juan Carlos, feels that fashion has always been portrayed for the skinny community.

Juan Carlos, 28, Graphic Design Professor at California College of the Arts

“A lot of the clothes that androgynous apparel companies make, and I’m happy it’s being made, fits mostly models that are super skinny, and when you’re bigger you have more restriction on what to wear, and it’s a lot harder to find clothes that fit,” Carlos says.

When shopping in the women’s section he is usually a size 10 or 12, and because of his size, he feels that thrift shopping offers a wider variety of things for everyone.

I find myself doing the same thing. As a hip-hop dancer, I’ve always enjoyed wearing slouchy clothes because of its comfort. I hate wearing tight clothes that don’t let me breathe, and because of my figure, I find myself making my own clothes. The same thing goes for Juan Carlos and many others.

Drag queen Jordan Isaac, also known as “Kiki Krazier,” finds himself making his own women-inspired clothes for his performances due to the lack of sizes being offered to him.  

“Most of my clothes are made, but if I do have to buy something, it is a bit unflattering on me,” he explains.

“For example, I have to make a dress out of an oversized shirt because I can’t fit a store bought dress. They don’t have that for men, they do not sell dresses for men. Most companies who say they want to offer androgynous clothing mostly focus on women. The truth is, if you want something that is tailored to your body, you either make it yourself or get it made for you.”

Companies like Target have already jumped on the no-gender apparel bandwagon by switching up their Boy and Girl sections to just Kids. Is this what is going to pave the way for families to open up their mind on allowing their children to wear whatever clothes they feel comfortable with?

Chen explains that companies like Target are being very inclusive.

“For example, in the past you had a kid who would identify as a girl and you would only stay in this one section, and you’ve never even seen the boys section, that’s a whole half that you actually don’t browse and don’t have the opportunity to buy from.”

As a company, Chen feels that it is a smart financial move that will allow customers to see everything the company has to offer rather than just a single section.

Clothing companies like Kipper Clothiers in San Francisco have made a statement by offering women tailored suits to those who want it. Other companies like Sixty-Nine, based in Los Angeles, offer clothing that doesn’t fall under labels, simply clothes for anyone to wear. And there are many more following suit – the only thing is that although it is such a great movement, there are people that feel companies are still lacking on the aspects of gender, sizes, and clothing stores conforming to boy/girl sections.

The more we open up, have more visibility, and mainstream non-gender clothing, could possibly change what these companies are lacking to serve all sexes. An array of clothing items being displayed, ranging from multiple colors and sizes that anyone can pick up and take home, is a dream, for some, waiting to be seen in retail stores. The fashion industry has a lot to offer, and hopefully through time, it will be capable to offer this as well.

 

Featured Photo: Aaron Steinfeld, 25, dons eye-catching lipstick and
eyeshadow. Aaron is a LGBTQ youth advocate at Family Violence Law Center 

All photography by Jazmine Sanchez

Tinder – The Social Currency for International Students

We live in a time where most services are just a click away, and love is no exception. Well, that depends on how you define love. Over the years several dating apps have hit the market, and amongst the most popular ones is Tinder.

Since 2012 Tinders’ users, now over 50 million in more than 190 countries according to The New York Times, have been swiping left or right with the goal of a so-called ‘match’, or a mutual like. You basically go shopping for a potential partner, friend, or hook-up based on their looks and a short description known as a bio.

Tinder as a City Guide

Students at San Francisco State University, where over 1500 international students call home, use apps like Tinder to meet people even if just for a casual hook-up, but that’s not the only reason students are drawn to Tinder. Surprisingly, a lot of international students use the app for more than just a quick way to get laid.

25-year-old Hanna Grimsborn, a marketing major from Sweden, has found Tinder helpful but not in the way you think.

“I actually never meet someone from Tinder for a date, and I think it’s mostly boring to chat with people I don’t know,” she explains.  “Recently I realized I could use the men I matched with to get recommendations on good bars, night clubs, restaurants etc.”

 

 

While Grimsborn’s method has resulted in various tips on stuff to do in the city, a lot of men still want to get something more out of a match.

“They usually respond friendly to my questions about recommendations and suggest me to go there with them. I never do, I just take away our match instead.”

Apps like Tinder can be somewhat of a meat market, and Grimsborn is very clear on why she has issues with this modern form of dating. In her experience men write stuff they would never have the guts to say in real life, which has led to both compliments and sexist comments. Men she has been matched with also seem a lot more interested in talking about themselves rather than getting to know new people.

“I’ll avoid those guys,” she says.

Fallon Salomon, a 23-year-old history major from SF State, went out to explore the world with Tinder as her companion. During her semester abroad in Amsterdam, she was introduced to the notion that dating apps can indeed improve the quality of her social life. Even though Salomon only lived in the Netherlands for six months, she had a four month-long relationship thanks to Tinder. She also got to learn more about the Dutch culture through people she met on the app.

While the relationship didn’t last, Salomon says she has had great experiences through Tinder, meeting people she wouldn’t have met otherwise.

When you move to a different country there are so many new impressions. The language is different, the culture is different, the food is different, even the traffic is different. Typically you will use every opportunity to get to know people so you don’t have to be alone. According to Salomon, it’s easier to make friends on Tinder abroad than at home.

“I think people are much more outgoing abroad. There’s a certain kind of curiosity there, that I just have not experienced here at home. I’m not sure why that is!”

 

The Culture Shock

Social culture variates throughout the world, and therefore people from different parts of the world will use Tinder in different ways. Today, the app has users in more than 190 countries, so using Tinder as a traveling tool can actually serve as a cultural journey.

“Some of my most important memories from studying abroad were born from the people I met on Tinder. I talked politics with all of them, and appreciated, and gained from their perspective,” Rebecca explains.

Rebecca, a 26-year-old international relations major from SF State, reminisces of her semester abroad in Israel, and the friends she made through Tinder.

“They were never really tour guides, but spending time with their friends and participating in their traditions was an invaluable experience of cultural immersion.”

For Rebecca, the dating app served as both a way to improve her language skills and to meet potential hook-ups. However, she says that American and Israeli women were treated very differently. For example, men would assume that American women are easier to get than Israeli women, and would experience more sexual comments, while Israeli women who were considered harder to get, were treated with more respect.

“They think because we are on a date, hooking up is expected or guaranteed, regardless of if there is chemistry.”

 

A New Dating Era

By now you might think that women are the only ones using Tinder for things other than sex. While research shows that men use Tinder more as a hook-up app, there are still some using it to make friends.

When Fabi Rausch, a 22-year-old electrical engineering major from Germany, traveled through Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore, he found Tinder helpful for getting in touch with locals. However, he wouldn’t want to get a girlfriend through the app.

“Apps like Tinder can be very objectifying because you judge people based on their looks. I made some friends when I was traveling, but I prefer meeting people in real life” Rausch explains.

Dating apps like Tinder are being used for much more than one-night-stands. Instead modern technology can, and is, helping young people connect with new cultures and languages, especially while being abroad. Imagine being placed on the other side of the world without your main form of communication. It can be nerve wrecking to not know anything or anyone, and for a lot of young people dating apps take some of this pressure away. It’s an informal platform that helps you enter a new society. Bottom line here is that dating apps can be used for so much more than dating. Perhaps your new perspective on life is just a swipe away.

Kava: A Legal Drug Taking San Francisco by Storm

Featured Image by: Laila Rashada

Kava is a legal drug currently gaining popularity in San Francisco due to its sedative and relaxing qualities.

Whenever the words “drug” and “legal” are used in the same sentence, proverbial red flags are raised to the sky, all with the same question: “does it even do anything?” The short answer is yes, but the more important question to answer is: “Is kava right for me?”

Marijuana isn’t for everyone, and neither are psychedelics or dissociatives, but everyone’s reasons are different. It could be because someone doesn’t enjoy the act of smoking, they think being high is too intense, they’re scared of the effects on their health, it gives them anxiety or simply any of the other countless reasons to not partake in certain drugs. Yet, particular aspects of various drugs are appealing to people that are normally against drug use, such as euphoria and clarity. Kava is a one-ingredient plant that is advertised to have amazing health benefits.

Video by: Mike Massaro

We often lose scope of the potential healing and nourishing effects of Earth’s natural gifts. Just the mere label “drug” is enough to deter people from even considering it as a way to treat their day-to-day stress, insomnia, and ill-feelings via a boost to their immune system.

“I’ve been drinking kava for about two weeks and have noticed benefits already,” says Katherine McCarty, who is a new employee at the Kava Lounge in San Francisco.

“My awareness, innate ability to heal and sleeping patterns have all improved. The more I drink, the more I feel the effects, almost like a reverse tolerance.”

Before being appropriated in San Francisco, kava was commonly grown and used in places like Hawaii, Melanesia, and Fiji. Kava is a plant grown in the Western Pacific, but its roots are what’s harvested for its sedative effects. Natives hold ancient knowledge for the applications of kava, which include its power to mend ailments such as urogenital conditions, respiratory ailments, and skin diseases.

The roots themselves are usually prepared into kava by being chewed, ground or pounded, depending on the culture. In San Francisco, kava can be easily purchased either as a powder or as a liquid at a kava cafe. Kava has existed longer in the city as a powder, but its easy accessibility and novelty, which comes from drinking the potion from a cut-across coconut shell, has jettisoned its popularity.

“We get our roots imported from Fiji,” says Priscilla Hill, manager at the Kava Lounge. “There are two main parts to the root: the top root lowena, which feels heavy and relaxing, and the lateral root waka, which is lighter and more energetic. The only other ingredient is reverse osmosis water.”

As a rule of thumb, drug experiences are unique to the person taking them, but kava’s functions are routine, specialized, and minimal; it doesn’t leave much up to personal differences. Kava is similar to the experience of consuming cannabis, which includes being somnifacient, but absent of any effects that stem from a stereotypical high.

Kava isn’t only for stressed out insomniacs looking for a natural cure, it can also be for a group of friends with nothing to do on a Saturday night; the alternative to going to a bar or a café. In fact, many people who have adopted kava into their lifestyle have also pushed out alcohol and caffeine altogether.

Alva Caple owns the Kava Lounge, but he first owned a bar in Topeka, Kansas. He gave up serving alcohol so he could serve kava, which resulted in him opening a kava bar in Hollywood, Florida. After some years of being successful, and also some careful deliberation and planning, Caple decided that he wanted to leave Florida to start a kava bar in California. He was shocked with the amount of bars in California, or lack thereof.

“I wanted to go to California because it was a progressive state, although initially I wanted to start my bar in Berkeley,” Caple explains.

“Six or seven years ago, there weren’t very many kava bars; there were none in the city and only one in Berkeley, San Bruno, and Davis up here.”

The kava business has been going well for Caple ever since opening day and he now has plans to expand into also serving raw vegan food. Not a lot of people know about kava, despite its boasting about a positive lifestyle and health changes, which is also a reason for skepticism.

So, why would a miracle root be so unknown if it really worked? One aspect of kava that is widely agreed upon, by haters and lovers alike, is that it’s an acquired taste.

Drinking kava leaves a trail of numbness across your tongue and down your throat. Imagine what it feels like to halt blood flow to the tongue: numb yet sensitive, with a slight sting and shiver.

The flavor is also hard for some people to forgive. Essentially, there is nothing but kava root and water. Kava translates to English as literally meaning “bitter,” which, if anything, is an understatement. It’s an experience oddly nostalgic to those mud pies in elementary school. The liquid itself is clear with chunks of earth surfacing to and buoying at the rim of the cup, bowl or hollowed-out coconut shell until stirred back to the bottom to become saturated.

That being said, some people really enjoy the taste. David Soutter, a travel writer and chiropractor, actively looks for kava bars when he’s assigned articles around the world.

“I just flew into San Francisco this morning, but I wanted to come to this kava bar,” Soutter says.

“I drink it because it helps me with jet lag.”

While the kava community raves about its effects on sleep, perhaps the most common piece of kava-praise is its effects on short-term anxiety. Cannabidiol, one of the most active cannabinoids in marijuana, serves a similar function in that it is responsible for the couch-locked and calm sensation one gains from cannabis, which come with feelings of physical comfort and mental peace.

Despite all the positive effects, there are some negative ones. For example, kava dermopathy is a fully reversible skin condition that causes incredibly dry skin. This, along with other commonly accepted side effects of kava, is only contracted with excessive use.

Kava is a great way to experiment with natural remedies for conditions such as insomnia and anxiety, meaning there’s no need to place trust in a pharmaceutical company to provide non-poisonous help. It’s an easily accessible drug with ancient knowledge of curing ailments and soothing anxiety, which unsurprisingly is the reason for its mass appeal to the population of San Francisco.

 

Hollywood Down: Years of Box Office Bombs Tax the Film Industry

I remember that evening my dad woke me up to take me to the movies. I was eight-years-old and it was way past my bedtime. The theater was busy, as hundreds of moviegoers poured in at 11:30 P.M. on a Thursday. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace came out at midnight. The magic of a midnight release showing was new to me then, but throughout junior high and high school it became an almost religious fixture in my life. Blurry eyes and beaming smiles filled every auditorium, because the silver screen deserved our attention. The theater held my imagination hostage and I was more than happy with my Stockholm syndrome. These days I struggle to remember the last movie I saw in theaters.

The night out at the movies is the cornerstone for Americans everywhere. The first movie theater in history was the Nickelodeon, built in Pittsburgh, Penn in June 19, 1905. The weekend event, the weekday matinee, the classic first date, the movie theater experience is one that most  can’t imagine a world without. In 2016, theaters hosted 1.3 million moviegoers, outnumbering both sporting events and theme park attendees. Nonetheless, movie theaters seem to be facing an existential threat.

While silver screen isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, the way the cinema operates is taking a beating—and recent box office numbers show a disheartening trend for zealots of the theatrical ceremony.

Marlene Virelas, a former senior manager at Century at Pacific Commons in Fremont, California, offers some insight on how these bombs are handled at the the box office.

“If we knew movies were going to flop, or after they had bad premiere weekends the amount of showings were scaled down,” Virelas remembers.

“There’s a constant pressure on a movie theater to turn a profit because most if not all the sales from the box office goes to the studios, theaters really make their money from concession stand sales.”

 

 

ARTIST: DYLAN PEMBERTON

 

The sheer uptick in the amount of box office failures—commonly referred to as “bombs”—is staggering compared to previous years. In 2016 alone, Alice Through the Looking Glass, Allied, 2016’s Ben-Hur, The BFG, Deepwater Horizon, The Finest Hours, Ghostbusters, Gods of Egypt, The Great Wall, The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Live by Night, Monster Trucks, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows all boasted losses of over $60 million.

Movies from 2017 aren’t spared either. Ghost in the Shell, Power Rangers, and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword are already critically declared bombs, with the later suffering a loss of over $150 million according to Box Office Mojo.

For reference, 2015 had ten box office flops under its belt, 2014 only had one, and 2013 only had to claim five to its name.

American University film graduate Chelsey Cartwright offers a unique perspective. As a member of the millennial age group, she is part of the disappearing moviegoer, and yet as a film major she still tries to make it out to the movies as often as possible.

“Convenience and cost wise, it’s so easy to justify not going to the movies because I can watch a hundred things on Netflix or Amazon or Hulu. I no longer go to the movies if I’m bored,” points out Cartwright.

“These days my trips to the theater are often to pay homage to a film that has plowed its way through the many stages of film-making and is being displayed gloriously on the big screen.”

It is obvious that there is a problem with Hollywood that is keeping moviegoers from putting their butts in seats. When you dig a little deeper though, the butts that aren’t seated seem to belong to solely the ever elusive millennials. According to the Motion Picture Association of America, the 25-39-year-old group makes up the majority of film attendees with 22 percent, while the other 88 percent is spread among the other age demographics. The theater’s main demographic is steadily de-butting movie seats.

“I see videos everyday on my news-feed,” says Cartwright.

“I consume news and gifs and interviews and all things social media. I’m inundated with visual media, so off the bat the idea of a major motion picture isn’t as novel as it once felt.”

 

These days I struggle to remember the last movie I saw in theaters.

 

So where is Hollywood getting its money? The answer seems to rest in overall movie ticket prices. Complaining about rising cost of ticket prices seems have always been a constant, but acclaimed director Steven Spielberg predicted a breaking point back in 2013.

“You’re gonna have to pay twenty-five dollars for the next Iron Man, you’re probably only going to have to pay seven dollars to see Lincoln,” Spielberg told The Hollywood Reporter at the time.

“There’s going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe even a half-dozen mega-budget movies are going to go crashing into the ground, and that’s going to change the paradigm.”

It’s only been four years, but Spielberg’s words are quickly changing from prophecy into problems. Many movie studios have attempted to avoid the coming “implosion” by relying on big budget blockbusters. In the infamous email hacks on SONY,  studio co-chair Amy Pascal emailed a note to her chief lieutenant Doug Belgrad. Assessing Sony’s lineup for 2015, she wrote, in all caps, “THERE ARE TOO MANY DRAMAS/NOT ENOUGH TENTPOLES/NO OBVIOUS BREAKOUT HITS.”

 

 

ARTIST: DYLAN PEMBERTON

 

These “tent-pole” movies are still massive risks. If a studio puts all their eggs into one basket and fails to draw in that millennial 25-38-year-old group, they’re stuck with an unfortunately ugly omelet. The less obvious casualty of this method of movie-making though is the makers themselves.

Hollywood directors are becoming a dime a dozen. Blockbuster director of Jurassic Park, Colin Trevorrow was set to direct the still untitled ninth Star Wars film. Just this past month it was announced Trevorrow was stepping down as director of the project.

“Colin has been a wonderful collaborator throughout the development process but we have all come to the conclusion that our visions for the project differ,” Disney said in a statement.

“We wish Colin the best and will be sharing more information about the film soon.”

Since then, episode nine of Star Wars called back Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens visionary J.J. Abrams. It seems that franchises reign supreme in Hollywood right now, and no director’s vision can supersede a company’s need for profit assurance.

Famed director Christopher Nolan spoke with the Los Angeles Times recently about this pressure. When asked if he would ever consider doing another super-hero or “tent-pole” film, he made sure to weigh both options.

“The responsibility that comes with a large film at this stage of things is always very daunting. But having made tiny films and dealt with the flip side of that, which is just trying to get anyone to see your film, that’s awful in its own way, admitted Nolan.

“Any independent filmmaker can tell you, going to a festival, hoping a distributor is going to like your film and put you on ten screens somewhere — that’s very, very tough and very demoralizing in its own way.”

Echoing Chelsey Cartwright’s words on the movie novelty, Nolan also took time to unpack just what studios need to be looking for with breakout hits.

“What’s interesting about that whole paradigm is, you can’t fault the studios for looking to likely hits, for looking for areas where people seem to want more of something. But Hollywood and the studios have also always understood that novelty, freshness, is one of the magical ingredients of movies. And I don’t think the studios ever want to risk losing that completely,” says Nolan.

Still, the future of Hollywood may be found in the voices of those who criticize it. Cartwright has studied were movies are going with both pencil and popcorn. She thinks there’s a bright future if the box office can find it.

The film industry is finally catching up in terms of diversity, like women in major leadership roles and expansion beyond white heterosexual plots. But it’s a slow going process,” admits Cartwright.

“If it wants to hold on to audiences, the movies will have to speed up. We’re smarter now. Twitter educates us on feminism, Facebook opens our eyes to police brutality, Reddit examines government corruption. Everyday people are coming to expect more out of the media they consume. People loved Wonder Woman. That’s a pretty solid example of people wanting a strong atypical heroine and a subsequent box-office smash. People are ready to push the limits.”

The issues that plague the box office are many, as are studio’s’ attempts to find a solution. The interesting piece of all this is its moviegoers – people who get to decide what technique works. Whatever movies people choose to actually go see, those are the types of strategies studios will continue to use. It is not impossible to imagine that studios just don’t quite understand what audiences want in these changing times, and new kind of relationship is still possible. Something that benefits viewers, producers and creators may be out there. The numbers don’t lie though, and Hollywood needs to find the answer soon.

Free At Last: Gator Pass Grants SF State Students Free and Discounted access to Public Transit

Everyday, thousands of students from across the Bay Area commute to San Francisco State University. For a university that is consistently known for its commuters, you’d think the school’s administration would strike a deal with San Francisco’s public transit. Fear not, they finally have! 

 

We want to make our students commute cheaper and more convenient. We want to make life in this city better.

 

Last Spring, SF State’s Associated Students Organization, a student run government, along with SF State administrators, State Senator Scott Wiener, Nick Josefowitz, a member of Bay Area Rapid Transit’s board and the Gator Pass Project team, negotiated with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) and the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) in order for SF State students to receive a Gator Pass. A Gator Pass, similar to a Clipper card, gives students access to unlimited rides on Muni and discounted rides on BART.  

Once negotiated, students at SF State voted on the proposition. More than half of student voters supported the proposition in May of 2016, leaving the Gator Pass Project Team about a year to negotiate with transit agencies, design the layout, and print 30,000 Gator Passes. 

 

SFSU students patiently waiting for the Muni to open its doors. In San Francisco, CA. On Monday September 25, 2017.
(Golden Gate Magazine/Cristabell Fierros)

 

“Technically if you look at our timeline, we had about a year and three months to complete all 30,000 cards,” John Gates, Director of Fiscal Operations at SF State, says.

 

“A lot of that time was consumed by negotiating and coordinating between the different transit agencies. The process of actually making, printing, and delivering the specialized and customized Clipper Card, took six months alone. We had to move quickly.”

 

In May of 2017, Gates and the team printed 23,000 cards in order to distribute them as quickly as possible. They wanted to hand the cards off to students before the start of summer. They chose to do this in order to minimize the amount of time students spent in lines. By providing students with more opportunities to pick up their cards, the lines shortened, saving students time.

SF State is one of the last universities in the Bay Area to implement discounted transit fares for students. University of San Francisco has been discounting their students Muni rides since 2001, while UC Berkeley followed in 2006. However, SF State is the first university to score a deal with BART.

The deal negotiated with Bart gives students a 25 percent discount on rides arriving at the Daly City Bart Station.

 

SFSU student’s tapping their Gator Pass on the Muni in San Francisco, CA.
On Monday September 25, 2017. (Golden Gate Magazine/Cristabell Fierros)

 

Muni is the only form of public transportation that is provided to students at the University of San Francisco. UC Berkeley also only provides AC Transit, Berkeley’s form of public transit, for students.

Associated Students, administrators, Wiener, and The Gator Pass Project Team knew that without BART, students wouldn’t have voted for the proposition. According to a study done by the university, nearly 20 percent of SF State students use BART when commuting to school.

 

“We want to make our students commute cheaper and more convenient. We want to make life in this city better.” Alexander Kozulin explains. He is the project manager and the brains behind the Gator Pass.

 

“Reducing the university’s carbon footprint. By implementing the Gator Pass, we’re definitely doing that,” Gates added as an additional goal of the Gator Pass.

 

So, all of this seems too good to be true. What’s the catch?

Not only are all enrolled students required to pay a one-hundred eighty-dollar fee per semester, but the pass only works during Fall and Spring semesters, leaving Winter and Summer student commuters empty handed. The fee has caused frustration among students who don’t use public transportation as a way to get to school.  

 

“I would say the feedback from students has been overwhelmingly positive because of the unlimited rides on Muni and the discounted rates on Bart,” Gates says.

 

“There are some students who don’t take public transportation and are like ‘hey why do I have to pay this $180 fee?’. The fee is to benefit the university as a whole, not to buy out transit passes,” concluded Gates.

 

Gates, along with his fellow Gator Pass team members, took into account that some students wouldn’t be using public transportation. They came up with the one hundred eighty dollar fee after considering those factors.

While some students see the Gator Pass as a buy out, the majority of SF State students are enjoying it. The Gator Pass allows students to use their passes throughout the city. So whether or not students are using it to get to school, they’re still able to use Gator Passes around the city as long as school is in session.

 

 

“I use the Gator Pass to get to work in the Marina a couple times a week,” says Juliette Leite, a twenty-one-year-old senior, studying communications at SF State.

 

“It’s nice that students are able to use their Gator Pass throughout the city. It makes the fee totally worth it.”

 

Leite is right about the Gator Pass saving students money. In fact, it saves students one hundred and fifteen dollars each semester. That’s if students are using Muni seven days a week. The 2017-2018-fall semester is approximately seventeen weeks long equaling to one hundred and eighteen days. If students rode on Muni everyday without the Gator Pass, they’d be spending close to three hundred dollars each semester.

University of San Francisco and UC Berkeley also provide their students with a similar deal. Both University of San Francisco and UC Berkeley issue their students stickers to put on their ID cards indicating free transportation. SF State, however, uses a Clipper card which students scan when riding Muni. SF State is the first university in the Bay Area to partner with Clipper.

The Gator Pass Program team, along with Alexander Kozulin and John Gates, worked extremely hard over the course of a year in order to get the Gator Pass up and running.

 

“Alexander does this thing where when he’s worried about something he like pulls the hair on top of his head. I thought he was gonna go bald there for a couple months,” Gate continues as the room laughs.

 

SF State, administration, Nick Josefowitz, the Gator Pass Program Team, Kozulin and Gates went above and beyond to make sure are SF State students were well taken care of and that their needs were met.

 

“It’s a great feeling having this completed. There’s still work to be done. We’re thinking about the next steps. ” concluded Gates.

 

Thanks to everyone’s help, SF State students are sitting pretty on public transit.

Not My President

 

There is no question that politics and ideas concerning our new president have been the main topic of conversation of millions of Americans. You hear the opinions of people in your classes, overhear it during your commute to school or work, on social media, and even during award shows.

The November election was the first presidential election in which millennials made up the same proportion of the U.S. voting-age population as the baby boomers according to an analysis of U.S. census data from the Pew Research Center. Both generations are roughly 31 percent of the overall electorate. It’s understandable since there is now a lot at stake like the fate of immigration, international relations, contraception, and other important social issues. There is a lot citizens have to be outraged about, a lot to fight for and fight against.

Protests are not only growing nation-wide but globally. Take the Women’s March, for example. A total of one hundred thirty-seven cities outside the U.S. were in support of the march back in January, protesting various issues such as women’s right, reproductive reform, LGBTQ rights, and more.

I attended the protest in San Francisco back in November the day after Trump won the presidency. Thousands of people were in attendance. SFPD was there to monitor our demonstration that started from Powell street, through the Mission districts and all the way back to City Hall at Civic Center. Intersections were blocked. Cars that passed by honked their horns in solidarity. It was a peaceful protest, but no one there had peace of mind concerning our new president.

It was a beautiful event, nevertheless. The streets surged with a mass of people as representatives of the true United States– one that accepts and respects all genders, religions, and race– all came together in positivity.

We chanted for equality.

We chanted for human lives.

We chanted for love. We smiled, laughed, hugged, and commended each other on clever slogans and signs like “Pussy Grabs Back”.

It was a sea of love and determination, and as much diversity as you could possibly dream up, all moving as a unit towards a common goal—to bring awareness to some of the social and political issues the government should be addressing to accurately represent the public.

“That’s the power of peaceful protest. That’s our First Amendment right–our right to freedom of speech that is enshrined in our Constitution,” says Ana Brazaityte, a San Francisco artist based in the Mission and avid protest attendee, “This doesn’t go for this particular protest alone, but for all protests that have sparked and spread like wildfire all around the world.”

We are living in a new sort of America where activism gets a rebrand: “Protests are the new brunch!” It shows up on protest signs, tweets and is even the title of the January 30 episode of Jon Favreau & Co’s podcast “Pod Save America,” where Guardian reporter Sabrina Siddiqui explains that for a lot of young people protesting has become the new normal. For example, more than half a million joined the Women’s March in Washington DC in what was thought to be the largest inauguration protest ever, dwarfing the 20,000 when George W. Bush took office in 2001 and the 60,000 who protested against the Vietnam war before Richard Nixon re-took office in 1973. Instead of gathering with like-minded people having bottomless mimosas, we are gathering to call-out the bottomless injustice.

Not only people who oppose these protests, but also the government especially as well, should be taking this these countless protests not as another trend but as a massive gathering of people showing concern about the state the country and even the world is in.

No matter what cause you are fighting for in these protests, the issue doesn’t necessarily have to relate to you personally. The protests at the airport, for example—you don’t have to be an immigrant to be able to empathize with people being detained for hours with no access to counsel, their rights being completely violated–people who are coming into the country legally with proper documents but are still being detained. Just like in the women’s march, you don’t have to be a women to recognize and stand up to the fact that the rights of women have been under attack for ages.

Some wonder if these protests are even effective to create social and political change. An analysis by economists from Harvard University and Stockholm University found that protests do in fact have a major influence on politics. Research shows that protest don’t work because big crowds send a signal to policy-makers—rather, it’s because protests get people politically activated. Larger turnout for the initial protest had lasting effects on voting, political contributions, ideology, and future participation in the Tea Party movement.

“There is not enough data to correlate that knowledge of protests lead to tangible change,” says Argie Hill, a student at UC Berkeley and another avid demonstrator who has attended about 50 to 60 protests.

“As a person with marginalized identities I always question the motives of protesters. If they couldn’t see my humanity before, I sincerely doubt they see it now. But numbers lead to tangible change and as such, protests are important, however, organizing is the key.”

Though it might seem that way, Protesting is not a fad. New protesters might have been distracted or uninterested in the past when other people have been in the fight for a long time before picketing became popular. It’s a valid argument to criticize new protests, but no matter how long you have been protesting—whether you’re just starting now or have been doing so your whole life—it’s all part of a movement toward a better future. Americans are waking up and expressing the outrage they always knew they had, but felt they never had the courage to express.

“In many ways it’s intrinsic to a capitalist system to reform itself with the life blood of the working class and adapt to challenges against the status quo,” says Hill.

There’s definitely a lot more work to be done and protesting is just one of the first steps to eventually make a difference. “Protesting is war. We are not really fighting to be heard, we are fighting to exist,” says Hill.

 

 

Home Remedy

Cole Emde, the master brewer at Black Sands Brewery on Haight Street in San Francisco, pours himself a pale ale that he brewed and is sold in their brew pub on Monday, Sept. 7, 2015. (Ryan McNulty/Xpress)

By Steven Calderon

[dropcap size=”50px”]C[/dropcap]lad in denim jeans and calf-high rubber boots, two men stood over stainless steel vats of boiling water and quickly built up a sweat that bled through their thin t-shirts. A potent aroma rose from barrels of grain that smelled like crushed saltine crackers and boxed cream of wheat. They wore backward hats and paper masks to cover their mouths.

“It’s to prevent from inhaling grain dust,” said Cole Emde, master brewer at Haight’s Black Sands Brewery. “Inhaling grain dust all day every day is not a good thing.”

Emde and home brewer Alex Magill were making a batch of Imperial Pale Lager from Magill’s own recipe at the brewery.

During the mashing process, Magill, 26, stood on a short step ladder and stirred while Emde used a plastic ice scoop to drizzle grains into the vat. He did not pour it straight out of the scooper but instead, to prevent clumping, sprinkled the grains out of the side, much like how a baker might powder fresh doughnuts.

Emde and Magill are part of a subculture of homebrewers in San Francisco, many of which started brewing beer in college, some in high school and others who picked up the hobby when they moved to the city.

Magill got his start in college about three years ago when a friend invited him over to help brew a batch.

“It started as me going over to help out a friend,” Magill said. “And it quickly turned into me just getting drunk and having a good time.”

Magill quickly immersed himself in beer culture and soon came across Black Sands, a one stop shop for brewing equipment, ingredients, recipes and lessons. Magill said his most recent batch will be served at the brewery and he is looking forward to seeing what both fellow homebrewers and non-brewers think of his beer.

While Black Sands is a meeting place and learning environment for aspiring brewers, many other beer fanatics attempt to brew independently in their own backyards.

Upon moving to San Francisco in 2008, Chris Cohen was introduced to the craft and became hooked on making his own beer. He realized there were no beer brewing clubs in the city so he decided to create his own.

“I really wanted to meet more people and talk about it with other people and learn from each other,” Cohen said.

That was the beginning of the San Francisco Homebrewers Guild, which now boasts about 170 due paying members according to their website, one of which is Black Sands. Cohen said homebrewers in San Francisco are as diverse as the city itself.

“In a SF spirit I wanted the club to be open to everybody, not just the white man stereotype,” Cohen said.

Cohen acts as a judge during his club’s beer tasting competitions and this year SFHG will be hosting a statewide competition in late October.

“There’s a real artistry to beer design,” Cohen said. “And you know what, shit, it’s a really fun thing to do with your friends. Just invite your friends over and have everyone brew their own beer.”

Not all brewers are as inclusive, however. Shaun Chan, a biochemistry major at San Francisco State University, said that while having an extra hand is helpful when brewing, he avoids inviting a lot of people over so he can make sure his equipment and work space is clean. He said that sanitation is one of the biggest challenges when brewing.

Chan is from Humboldt County and has been brewing with his friends since high school. He said that part of the reason why he brews his own beer is simply because he enjoys drinking beer and can’t afford to buy it all of the time. Making himself a batch saves him money and a few trips to the store. He is a fan of Indian Pale Ales and his favorite recipe is an all-grain pale ale brew which requires plenty of fresh hops to mimic an IPA taste.

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Grain used in the brewing process at Black Sands Brewery on Monday, Sept. 7. ( Ryan McNulty / Xpress )

While Chan started brewing to have beer on demand and Magill was introduced to it through a friend, some brewers picked up the hobby through pure curiosity.

Ivan Real, 23, works for Keysight Technologies in Santa Clara as a manufacturing engineer and lives in San Francisco’s Mission District. He takes Caltrain to work, and as a result finds less time for brewing than he did when he started a year ago.

“I started brewing beer my senior year in college with my roommate,” Real said. “We got into it because of curiosity. We both loved drinking beer so we thought we might as well learn the brewing process and understand what exactly went into this bubbly intoxicating substance.”

Real brews about five gallons at a time and said he prefers to make ale because it is more “forgiving” and tastes better to him. He said because ales can be fermented at room temperature, it is easier for him logistically since he can let the batch sit and brew anywhere in his home, as opposed to buying and squeezing an extra fridge into his small apartment.

Real said he enjoys the camaraderie that comes with making beer in San Francisco. Cohen’s brew club, Emde’s brewery and homebrewers like Chan bring the community together to keep beer culture alive in San Francisco.

“Brewing is a great way to get people with a common interest together,” Real said. “Ideally if others brew, everyone can bring their newest batches of beer to share and trade with others while we drink and talk.”

Virtual PEDs

Photo Illustration (Peter Snarr/ Xpress)

 

By Drake Newkirk

[dropcap size=”50px”]F[/dropcap]lashing lights, roaring fans, play by play analysis, giant screens, a sold out arena, two teams, one trophy, millions of dollars in prize money and performance enhancing drugs.  These things can be found at any championship sporting event, but the same is true for eSports and competitive video gaming. Popularity and prize pools have grown for eSports. Analytics firm, Newzoo, estimates that there are 116 million eSports enthusiasts who view video game related content more than once a month.

Nearly nine million unique viewers on Twitch, an online video streaming service, watched a four-day multi-game tournament in Poland, organized by Electronic Sports League in March.
“I don’t even care, we were all on Adderall,” said Kory “Semphis” Friesen in an interview referring to competitors at ESL Katowice. Teams competed for a $250,000 prize pool. Since then, critics have questioned whether or not video game tournaments have doping problems similar to those of mainstream sports. Friesen’s former team, Cloud9, took first place in the video game Counter Strike: Global Offensive.

The suspected performance enhancing drug is Adderall, a prescription medication issued primarily to treat attention deficit hyperactive disorder. Its effects on video game performance have not been studied, but it is believed to heighten the player’s focus and reaction times in games.

Learning From Your Predecessors

The Major League of Baseball banned steroid use in 1991, but that didn’t stop athletes from using them to gain an advantage. Steroids were believed to be used by numerous MLB players between the 1980s and into the 2000s. The MLB didn’t implement performance enhancing drug tests until 2003, when the widespread use of steroids ran through the league.
ESL responded to the issue by implementing the same drug testing and substance bans as the Olympics and World Anti-Doping Agency in their most recent tournament – ESL Cologne. Players were tested and none were disqualified.

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*In millions of dollars

“I was not surprised but still happy to hear that ESL Cologne was found to be 100 percent clean,” said Jack Etienne, founder of Cloud9, a competitive gaming company. “As I suspected it was just blown out of proportion and I hope it can be put to bed now.”

The ESL Rulebook section 2.6.4 states “To play a match, be it online or offline, under the influence of any drugs, alcohol, or other performance enhancers is strictly prohibited, and may be punished with exclusion from ESL One.”  This is the only mention of substances throughout the rule book.

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The implementation of PED policies are controversial, some question whether or not the measures are necessary.

“ESL’s drug testing policy is more of a publicity stunt than a legitimate solution to a real problem, CS:GO’s real problem is straight up aimbotting and wallhacking,” said David “LD” Gorman, co-founder of Beyond the Summit, a playcasting studio for the game Defense of the Ancients 2. “Fortunately the steps the majors take now to prevent those at (Local Area Network) events seem to be pretty effective.”

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*Data collected from the official websites of each respective tournament.

The real problem is using cheats downloaded from the cloud.  Aimbotting and wallhacking is a cheat which uses a program to automatically aim and fire at the enemy and provides the player with x-ray vision to see enemy players through walls. This provides the cheater with an advantage by knowing where the enemy is coming from and when they will be exposing themselves from cover. Organizers have since forbid players to use flash drives and cloud downloads of their personalized configuration files.  Instead, players must hand-write the configuration, line by line, to be inspected and entered into the computers by tournament administrators.

“I hope that ESL will enforce the policies,” said Chris “Mudsliide” Slaughter, a professional Heroes of the Storm player. “I think that drug testing is something that’s needed to progress the scene further.”

Michael Poropat, an attorney who focuses on eSports agrees.

“I think it’s something that needs to be done in order for eSports to continue to grow and continue to be considered legitimate,” Poropat said.

“I respect their effort, but I also think that its to save face,” said CJ Scaduto, President of Showdown.gg, an eSports tournament promotion company.  “They’re trying to be taken more seriously like an MLB and NFL.”

Top tiered teams are directly invited to participate in the tournaments, however, lesser known teams have to compete in online qualifiers for a seat at the main event, known as a LAN
Slaughter mentioned the fact that tournament organizers can’t drug test players during the online qualifiers.  Depending on the tournament, qualifying for the LAN will secure the team prize money.  At The International 5, the 16 teams that qualified for the LAN secured a minimum of $55,289.  Prize money for all eSports has grown over the past 10 years. Newzoo estimates $71 million will be awarded this year.

A Growing Industry, and Growing Scrutiny

The eSports industry is exploding and everyone wants to get involved. Amazon outbid Google in acquiring video game streaming website, Twitch.tv, for nearly $1 billion last August.  In response, Google launched YouTube Gaming to compete with Twitch in August of this year.

“We’re getting to a point where esports are so big now you have these non-endemic sponsors entering this space, the amount of (venture capital) funding is increasing,” said Bryce Blum, an attorney who specializes in eSports.

There are numerous games and dozens of tournament organizers, but zero standardization of leagues, cheating policies and rules.  According to Newzoo, eSports revenue will surpass $250 million this year, and that the fan base will grow by up to 37 percent.

Slaughter and Blum, among others, argue that regulation is necessary to uphold the integrity of competition.  Others, like Jack Etienne, founder of Cloud9, believe the issue was exaggerated.

“There has been some misconceptions of professional video game players and specifically the CS:GO players that they use illegal drugs to help them focus,” Etienne said. “It’s something my players specifically are against and we welcomed the tests to clear the air once and for all.”

With hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line in every major tournament, organizers must do all they can to protect the integrity of competition. In August, Valve hosted its flagship tournament, The International, which boasted a prize pool of more than $18 million, with $6 million awarded to the first place team of Defense of the Ancients 2. Valve posted a base prize pool of $1.6 million, which grew from sales of digital, in-game items, to be the world’s largest eSports prize pool.

[pullquote]“We don’t really know what the scope of substance abuse in eSports is because it has never really been studied. All the evidence is anecdotal,” Blum said.[/pullquote]

Both Defense of the Ancients and League of Legends fall into the multi-player online battle arena genre, where teams outwit and outplay the other to victory. These games are strategy focused, and slower paced than the twitch reaction, First Person Shooter games, such as CS:GO.

“In something like Counter Strike, (Adderall) helps you, but in these games, I don’t believe it does, so I don’t think it will ever be a problem within the MOBA scene.” Slaughter said.

Despite all discussion and policy implementation, there is a surprising lack of statistics and hard evidence regarding the substance in the competitive gaming scene.

“We don’t really know what the scope of substance abuse in eSports is because it has never really been studied. All the evidence is anecdotal,” Blum said.

As a relatively new competitive industry, eSports has more obstacles to encounter and resolve. The use of Adderall at ESL Katowice may have been an anomaly, however, Friesen’s comments in the interview ignited a discussion that will undoubtedly help progress eSports.

Photo gallery: Marriage equality passes, and the Castro celebrates

The Supreme Court of the United States deemed that gay marriage was constitutional June 26, 2014. The landmark ruling was celebrated throughout the country with groups taking to the streets to show their support of the decision. The Castro, which has been a central hub for LGBT activism, and symbolism for decades, was no exception to the party. Check out our images below from the celebration.

Photos by Peter Snarr

 

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Guitars Not Guns: The sound of change

Children begin to trickle into the San Pablo Community Center at 6:45 p.m. The atmosphere is quiet and still, but the excitement from the children’s faces is energizing the entire building. Each has a guitar in hand, and a shy smile on their face. They’re greeted by their instructors and assume their seats. For eight weeks, the group will meet for one hour sessions every Tuesday evening. Some of the children have gone through the program before, while others have no idea that during the graduation ceremony after the completion of the program, it’ll be announced that the guitars the kids have been playing are theirs to keep, and not just temporary pieces in their life.

Guitars Not Guns (GNG) is an international, non-profit organization that has been around for quite some time. Founded by foster parents Ray and Louise Nelson in 1992, the volunteer based program, was recognized by the federal government as an official nonprofit in 2000. Its mission is to provide guitars and lessons to foster kids, at risk youth, and other deserving children in a classroom setting with qualified teachers. No child is turned away for lack of funds, and they also specify that they are not anti-gun, they are anti-gun violence.

“A program such as this could offer many benefits to getting children started on a life saving path,” says Patrick Casey, a volunteer instructor and a psychology student at U.C. Berkeley.

Though San Francisco and Alameda counties have chapters, neither are currently as populated as the Contra Costa County chapter, spearheaded by President Barbara Gorin and her staff of volunteers. With the program’s continuously growing popularity, the chapter has faces over-enrollment with the same limited number of staff.

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The organization is always seeking out potential volunteers, according to Contra Costa County chapter President Barbara Gorin.

Gorin has been a part of GNG for nine years now, starting off as a teacher, then moving into fundrsing, then into acting as vice president, and is now the current president of the chapter.

Being completely non-profit, the program runs completely off of donations and volunteers. All guitars are donated from various organizations, either for the students or they go on to get signed by famous artists, such as Deep Purple’s Tommy Bolin, Heart, Slash, and Van Halen’s Sammy Hagar, and then auctioned off on eBay.

“One of the very first artist I went after was Heart,” says Gorin. “I did a fundraiser and this organization donated two guitars to our program. It took me two years, but I was actually able to have Heart sign that guitar.”

GNG consists of children mostly between the ages of eight and 18, and because it’s free, the organization is able to offer up something to kids who might otherwise not have the opportunity to learn how to play music.

“I think that the program offers huge benefits for the community and fills a void that has been created by the removal of many musical electives in schools,” says Jennifer Chong, recreation coordinator for the city of San Pablo.

Tyree Hopkins Jr, a nine-year-old, and 12-year-old Kimyatta Newby are in the San Pablo-based session this May. Hopkins says the class “help us with the guitar and do our chords and help us practice if we want to do a song by ourself.”

“I always tell the kids ‘music is a gift that we can help give to you but no one can ever take away from you,’” says Gorin.

Exploring the city’s national parks

Photos by Katie Lewellyn

We live in a busy city. With cranes that paint the skyline, and cars constantly filling the freeways, one could forget that San Francisco in itself is home to multiple national park sites. Walk down Divisidero Street, and you’re in the middle of a concrete jungle; walk down a trail at Lands End and you’re transported to a mythical forest, with ocean on one side and trees on the other. The vast difference between our typical urban surroundings and the national parks in our backyard is part of what makes San Francisco so exceptional.

ALCATRAZ ISLAND:

Also known as “the Rock,” management of the former prison was added to Golden Gate National Recreation Area in October of 1972. Originally a military fort from 1850 to 1934, Alcatraz has seen a lot of different changes. After playing its role as a fort, it was acquired as a federal penitentiary from 1934 to 1963, and then in 1964 until 1971, went in and out of occupation by the American Indian movement. As a national park site, the Rock is one of the most visited park sites in the country. With the historical hype of being a place where only the worst of the worst were sent to, it’s no wonder it’s still popular.

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LANDS END:

Lands End in itself sounds like a place where the world might finally be coming to a closure. Well, take that description and flip it. Lands End lays on the top western corner of the city, encompassing the cliffside from above the Cliff House, near Fort Miley, to a “labyrinth” made completely out of rocks. Views from all points will take your breath away. There are also trails for hiking.

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FORT POINT NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE:

Built to protect the city during World War II, Fort Point outlives the Golden Gate Bridge that it sits under today. It’s free to the public – but they do have limited hours (Friday through Sunday, 10 AM to 5 PM). But once you get inside, you’ll be taken back in history a bit. This mostly -brick building has archway after archway and multiple spiral staircases that seem to go on for days. The view from the top is also incredible – being right under the famed bridge. Just don’t stand on the walls – really, it’s for your safety that those signs are there.

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BAKER BEACH:

Baker Beach is one of those places you will mostly see on a flashing Muni sign for a destination rather than a real place people go all the time. It’s at the end of the 29 route, right at the beginning of the Presidio. With warm weather that frequents the area, scenic ocean, and cliffside views, it’s hard to tell you’re in our little city until you see the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance – and boy, is that a view.