Category Archives: Entertainment

We are a Culture, Not a Costume

The time has come where society once again shows us how absurd their choice in costumes can be. Sadly, it hasn’t gotten any better throughout the years. We’ve seen things from misinterpretation of the Native American culture, to blackface costumes, to your “typical” Mexican in a sombrero.

Let’s get one thing straight, none of these things are okay to ever wear. Speaking for all races and cultures, we are not a costume.

Every culture has its own unique history, and with that, a lot of it is carried on through what they wear. Fashion has been a part of our lives for centuries, and not only does it distinguish one culture from another, it also offers a cultural background for others to learn about.

When it comes to Halloween, dating back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, it used to be a day where the Celts believed this was the day the dead would return. Through time, it has become a day where people dress up in their choice of costume and collect candy. The biggest problem here though is the choices of what to dress up as.

More and more costumes continue to pop up each Halloween that ultimately bring up questions like ‘do people not think about the statements they are making?’ ‘why would this ever be put out on the market?’, and ‘what, if any, cultural research has been done?’

Where does someone draw the line between whether they are misrepresenting a culture? Does wearing a slutty version of a geisha make you culturally smarter? Does wearing an Anne Frank costume labeled as Child’s 1940s Girl Costume make it OK to represent a historic figure? According to 21-year-old Broadcasting and Electronic Communication Arts major Hannah Pack, no.

 

“I don’t understand how or why someone would want to dress up as something that symbolizes a sad part of the world’s history?” Pack questions.

 

“Maybe the thought process of this costume was to commemorate Anne Frank and those affected by the Holocaust. However a child’s Halloween costume is not the right way to do so. To me, Halloween is about dressing up as something fun that you like. The Holocaust does not match this description.”

 

This isn’t the first time companies have put out costumes aimed for children that in the end show a lack of cultural education. Among these costumes we can find such things as the popular Disney film Moana, Maui costume which sparked up a controversy among islanders. The costume was featured on Disney.com and according to the Huffington Post was removed. The costume featured a brown-skin body suit covered in traditional Polynesian tattoos.

“Let’s face it, our symbols and our emblems, who we are as a people have been used by western society for their pleasure, not for ours,” says Paul Kevin, a hula instructor from Hawaii.

 

“These companies should really ask themselves, what are we trying to do? I’m not saying don’t be funny, but you have great license to pick and choose things and deal with it. If they can’t be more creative than that, then they can’t be creative at all.”

 

 

With all the commotion cause by our current President, it’s no surprise that many costumes this year are showing a wide range of racism seen in our day-to-day lives — like dressing up as a border control officer.

Yes, you read that right, this year Spirit Halloween thought it would be ok to advertise this costume as “fun.”

According to Gothamist, the costume was being sold next to Donald Trump masks. However, just last month, it was officially banned. The only problem is that the “sexy” border babe female version of this costume still exists, and it has sold out online at Spirit Halloween.

Recently, the LA City Council replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day, according to the LA Times  they were “siding with activists who view the explorer as a symbol of genocide for Native Peoples in North America and elsewhere.” A tremendous step forward for the Native American culture indeed.

With all these changes going on, why is it that people still choose to dress up in what they believe is Native American attire? If you look at any online Halloween store and search “indian costume” you’re guaranteed to find things that, if you’ve done your research, has nothing to do with the Native American culture.

Sherri Chiappone, 46, is Native American and originates from the tribes of Karuk, Yurok, and Shasta in California. She states that what her culture wears includes tons of necklaces, usually abalone, shells, accompanied by deerskin leather apron skirts filled with shells. What Halloween stores display as “Indian” is simply a slap in the face to their culture.

 

“I do not appreciate people not understanding cultures and thinking that it’s ok to dress and imitate what they think is another culture’s look,” Chiappone says.

 

“It hurts, as a Native American, to see that and I feel that kids and parents aren’t taking the time to understand or learn about our culture. That’s not who we are, that’s not what we look like.”

 

What is “blackface?” It refers to a non-black performer using character makeup to make themselves look black. This dates back to the seventeenth century when usually whites were entertained by those of dark skin. One famous performance in 1830 is that of Jim Crow, where a performer by the name “Thomas “Daddy” Rice, blackened his face with burnt cork and danced a jig while singing the lyrics to the song, “Jump Jim Crow.”

One recent show that targets this issue of blackface costumes is the hit Netflix series “Dear White People,” which all begins with the story of a group of white students at an Ivy League college putting together an offensive blackface party. The story then follows four black students on their journey to change these offensive acts.

Emenet Geleta, a 21-year-old student at San Francisco State University and a member of the Black Student Union feels that these companies are selling cultures in the most stereotypical ways.

“They get away with it due to the lack of cultural awareness. People get ridiculed for showing pride in their own cultures yet others want to turn around and dress up like them for a day. And that’s my problem with culture appropriation,” Geleta elaborates.

 

“Others want to wear braids and bindi’s, for example, to look “cute” or “trendy,” and those who are actually from those cultures get judged for it by going against the social norms of dress, or get stigmatized for showing their cultural pride.”

The main point is for everyone to have the decency to respect cultural appropriation on different races and cultural backgrounds, this especially includes Halloween stores. Here are some tips on how not to get yourself jumbled in the mess of offensive costumes:

  1. If it represents a certain culture, don’t wear it.
  2. Ask yourself, is this appropriate?
  3. Do your research.

Dream On.

Whether it’s reading our article about using the N-word, listening to our End-Of-The-World podcast, or reporting fashion trends on campus, and learning workout routines on Instagram; we want you to know that we’re hustling for you, our multifaceted readers. Enjoy what we have to offer this semester.

Click on the link below to view the beautiful, first Issue of this semester.

 

XPRESS Magazine, October 2017

 

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.

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.

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.

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 2.32.44 PM
*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.

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 2.32.22 PM

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.”

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 2.31.48 PM
*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.

Will Ferrell plays nine positions

Will Ferrell will play all nine positions of a baseball game. Photo by Eva Rinaldi/Creative Commons
Will Ferrell will play all nine positions of a baseball game. Photo by Eva Rinaldi/Creative Commons

Baseball and Will Ferrell fans rejoice, for today Ferrell will be playing all nine positions during five different Spring Training games.

Ferrell and HBO teamed up with Major League Baseball to film a Funny or Die segment that will be dedicated to fighting cancer. As many baseball lovers know, MLB has teamed up with Stand up to Cancer to help fight cancer.

Ferrell will travel to Mesa, Tempe, Scottsdale, Glendale, and Peoria, Arizona and participate in the following games:

Mariners VS A’s
Cubs VS Angels
Reds VS Diamondbacks
Giants VS White Sox
Dodgers VS Padres

San Francisco Giants’ pitcher Madison Bumgarner asked if he would be able to pitch to Ferrell tomorrow during the game. Ferrell will be catching in the 5th inning for the SF Giants and Bumgarner is insisting on pitching to him.

“You don’t think I’ll be pitching in the 5th?” Bumgarner replied when SF Giants Manger Bruce Bochy told him that Ferrell will be catching then.

Ferrell isn’t a stranger to baseball games though. In 2010, he pitched a Triple-A (minor league) round under the name “Rojo Johnson,” for Texas, caused a brawl, and was ejected from the game.

Ferrell and HBO have not released many details for this project, but know Ferrell and the funnies of MLB will be something great for a good cause.

Here are some of the best reactions to Ferrell’s new project.

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Don’t worry – Fifty Shades will fade away

Xpress Logo 2015

Fifty Shades of Grey was released in theaters last week and people have gone ape shit over it. Over the three day weekend, Fifty Shades broke box offices records making $85.17 million being the fourth all-time best opening. Before the movie was released, people were still losing their minds over the sultry books that lined the shelves of bookstores.

What is funny though is before the author of Fifty Shades, E.L. James, came out with this series, she was writing Twilight fanfic in the privacy of her home, living in the fantasy of vampires and werewolves; just like the readers of Fifty Shades are doing today.

When the Twilight franchise blew up, I was right in the middle of it. Being in my late teens/early twenties, I was engrossed in the books and in love with the movies. The odd “Romeo and Juliet” style book of the forbidden love been a vampire and human was enough to send any fan girl off the edge. I even had the pleasure of meeting Robert Pattinson at Stonestown, yes, the one right by SF State, one evening and sat in the madness of thousands of fan girls awaiting the arrival of the Twilight star.

We all remember that time, too, back when Twilight was the shit. People would be wearing their “Team Edward” or “Team Jacob” shirts, battling over who should win Bella’s affection. Hot Topic even went to the extreme by selling fake blood for people to drink – I promise you I am not lying about this – you know so all us vampires could still live.

Now, though, people will not admit to ever being in the Twilight crowd. Being closely associated to Twilight is a social death wish for any cool person. Even the actors of the movies hate themselves for letting the fade of Twilight brainwash them into thinking that the five part movie would be the greatest thing on the planet to make.

Coming full circle back to Fifty Shades, the same thing is happening. We are trapped in this pop-culture bubble where if one thing even remotely peeks the interest of people, it is suddenly a phenomenon. Today, there are people dying to be the next Ana, wishing they could stumble into Christian Grey’s office and be swept away in a dark, romantic fashion, knowing the secrets they keep are deep. Realistically though, by the time the second movie comes out people aren’t going to be as interested; then they will attempt the third movie, maybe even drag it out to a fourth to waste money and the souls of the actors, all to obtain money off of a dying franchise.

By the time the next Fifty Shades comes out, the next big thing will be developing, sweeping people into a crazy fan filled storm of “HOLY SHIT CAN THAT BE MY LIFE.” Personally, I have nothing against Fifty Shades or the franchise. If that is your thing, then you rock it to your fullest content – I am not judging. But also remember that when that next big thing comes out, it’s just a fad and soon will also be swept under the rug making way for the next fandom.

 

Why ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat Matters

Screenshot of Hudson Yang in Fresh off the Boat (ABC)

As she opens up her purple Rugrats lunch bag, she’s excited to find the food that her mother cooked for her. Inside the plastic container are chow mein noodles with stir-fried meat and vegetables. Wrapped in foil are one of her favorite snacks, crispy chicken egg rolls; But as the small second grader prepares to take a bite of her homemade meal, a classmate interrupts her.

“What are you eating?” asks her classmate, “That looks gross, how come you never eat normal food?”

The 7-year-old with the “super Asian” lunch turns red, and the next day, demands that her mother prepare “American” food instead.

That was me 15 years ago, an embarrassed Filipino-Chinese American who traded some of her favorite cultural foods for Lunchables, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

In my elementary school there were kids who weren’t used to seeing diverse dishes, and like the main character on ABC’s Fresh Off The Boat, I sometimes threw away my lunch because I desperately wanted to fit in.

For years, Asian-Americans have been portrayed as perpetual foreigners. Regardless of whether or not we were born in the U.S., or how assimilated we are to American culture, we’re not perceived as “American.” In many instances, the stereotype is reinforced through the portrayal of Asian characters in TV shows and movies.

According to the Pew Research Center, Asian Americans are one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in the United States. In the United States alone, there are approximately 18 million Asian Americans. However, despite the growing population, there’s still a lack of Asian-American representation in the media. How often do you see Asian American actors with main roles or a decent amount of screen time? Not often enough.

That’s why it’s refreshing to see a show like Fresh Off the Boat, which depicts one perspective of the Asian American experience. The comedy series is one of the first sitcoms to feature an Asian-American family in 20 years since Margaret Cho’s All-American Girl.

Fresh Off the Boat, which is loosely based off chef Eddie Huang’s memoir of the same name, takes a look at Huang’s experiences growing up as a Taiwanese-American. When I first heard about the TV show, I was both excited and nervous. Finally, a show that I could relate to, a show with Asian-American protagonists; but I was worried. Would the show reinforce racial stereotypes or disrupt them?

When I watched the pilot, I laughed out loud. There were a few corny moments, but it was delightfully funny and well-written for the most part. I’ve only seen three episodes, but the show definitely has some potential. Hudson Yang is charming as the young Eddie, and Constance Wu’s timing and delivery as Tiger Mom Jessica is hilarious.

What strikes me most about Fresh Off the Boat are the scenes that are way too real. For example, young Eddie opens a container of chow mein only to be picked on by white boys in the cafeteria. This leads him to persuade his mother into getting him “white people lunch.” Another example that shows the Asian-American experience is when Eddie is continually praised for speaking great English, despite the fact that Eddie was born and raised in America. Although Eddie and his mother share the same ethnicity, they get into frequent arguments over the aspects of their culture. For example, I wanted to cry whenever Eddie told his mother, “You’re never on my side,” because I have said the same thing to my mother whenever we experienced differentiating clashes between our (Chinese-Filipino-American) culture.

Shit got real, I saw bits of my childhood on TV. For other viewers, however, the ABC show is far from groundbreaking. Some viewers voiced their fear on Twitter, saying that the show may continue to perpetuate stereotypes because of the context of its jokes. But we can’t expect one show to be a representation of all Asian Americans. In an interview with Vulture, Huang said, “This show isn’t about me, nor is it about Asian-America.”

You, the viewers, may not have had the same experiences as Huang, and you may not think his show is funny. However, Fresh Off the Boat is momentous because it offers a perspective on what it’s like to assimilate in America.

The Teardown: Escape Dead Island

Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Release Date: November 18, 2014
Average Score: 40, 32, 52

I didn’t think it would happen, on the first Teardown of 2015 no less, but a game for this column finally broke me. I didn’t finish Escape Dead Island. However, I didn’t need to endure the entirety of the game to come to the conclusion that Escape Dead Island is a massive runny puddle of lukewarm diarrhea. In other words, its long list of imperfections make it the perfect game for this piece.

I pride myself on completing these games. Every single one of these broken messes. No matter how many controllers I’ve almost destroyed; no matter how many aneurysms I’ve almost had, witnessing the end credits means that I’ve come out on top on these games which started from the bottom.

I'M TRYING TO TURN BACK.
I’M TRYING TO TURN BACK.

Bottom-dwelling games, like Escape Dead Island, fall into the category of leechers, biting off its main franchise (Dead Island) without also grabbing the features that people liked about it. Escape doesn’t have any leveling mechanics, quest structure, four-player co-op, or a weapon-crafting system like Dead Island did. What it does have is… well, it really doesn’t have much of anything to actually do. You run to a place, grab a keycard, then run to another place. It’s like running useless errands, but these errands are for Hideki Tojo, and you’re also covered in giant, hairy spiders.

Now, go Google Hideki Tojo is so you can understand that joke.

STILL TRYING.
STILL TRYING.

Combat and stealth are a crap shoot filled with crappy shooting. Wonky aiming makes the all-important headshot a farfetched dream, while hitting a zombie with a bat is always a nightmare. Clubbing a pack of zombies never works, except when the game flips a coin and decides that it does. There’s no rhyme or reason;. Just some twisted glitches in the code that can only be lightly likened to “luck.” There are no pointers to give in combat because no strategy is consistently effective.

And that’s why it broke me. The extreme difficulty spikes didn’t come down to skill. It boiled down to how much I could run past the bullshit and pray that I could get away unscathed. The laggy controls can’t keep up with faster zombies near the end so, at a point, when pitted against a room of brain-dead flesh- eaters, I quit. I don’t hate myself that much to go through that.

It's a zombie, you idiot.
It’s a zombie, you idiot.

But I did hate myself enough to play about 90 percent of the game. Even after all that time, I’ve been racking my brain to come up with a reason of why Escape Dead Island exists. It can’t be for profit. No one would buy a garbage fire this hot and… garbagey. It can’t be for its gameplay, of which it has none. And the gameplay that is there is either mindless, frustrating, or both. It can’t be for its looks because it makes vomit look like a Jackson Pollock painting. It can’t be for the story because, it doesn’t really have one, unless you count non-sequiturs and cringeworthy acting a story. If that counts as a story, then this is some Shakespeare ass shit.

Actually, it’s just ass shit that doesn’t deserve a second of your time or any more of my time. I apologize that you had to even think about this game and I apologize to myself for playing this wretched filth.

Apology not accepted.

Making Dollars Out of Death

You’re on your evening commute, riding the 28 bus to Daly City Bart station, and you decide to take a look at your Twitter timeline to see what new kale recipes and animal rights issues your friends have decided to center their tweets around today. Your eyes get big as you notice the hashtag “RIP” with your favorite artist’s name next to it. Shocked, you click the hyperlinked text and read a few of the top tweets. Your thumbs are quickly typing your favorite celebrity’s name into the Google search bar because you can’t believe that it’s true. The top story appears and as you read the headline, with tears in your eyes, you accept that indeed it is true.

You return to your twitter timeline and you see a tweet with a link from a crowd funding campaign claiming to to be raising money for the family of the deceased. In good faith, being the “Stan” that you are, you click the link, read the brief write-up explaining why the family needs this money, and it seems legitimate. You grab your credit card and unknowingly begin giving scammers access to your banking information.

Scammers have now found another way to play upon people’s emotions by exploiting your favorite celebrities after their deaths.

One of the many ways that scammers are doing this is through fraudulent crowd funding campaigns claiming to be raising money for the deceased artist’s family, who, due to some circumstance and despite their family member’s success, can not properly memorialize them without your contribution. For example, Bay Area rapper “The Jacka” of the infamous group Mob Figaz was shot and killed this week and within hours there were multiple crowd funding platforms with campaigns purported to be on his behalf.

Scammers are also using fraudulent headlines attached to advertisements that funnel foot-traffic to sites that gain access to your internet habits. This markets things to you via a process called ‘data mining’.

When Whitney Houston died, record executives, along with her managers, decided to raise the price of her greatest hits compilation albums as well as pull her movies from streaming apps so that sales of her DVDs would increase. Only later did they apologize for trying to profit from her untimely death.

Similarly, when popular hip-hop curator and pioneer Steven Rodriguez, better known as ASAP Yams, passed away in January, there was a slew of Instagram boutiques selling T-shirts with his image on it merely hours after news of his death hit the Internet. While these boutique owners may be less malicious in their approach than say someone trying to steal your identity, there is a certain opportunistic element in profiting from someone’s death that can’t be ignored.

You could be thinking that you’re helping your favorite artist’s family in their time of need when, in reality, there is someone at a desk hoping to make money from misfortune.