Category Archives: Fall 2014

Into the Woods Review

 

Into the Woods intertwines your favorite fairy tales. Image by ArtInsights Magazine.

First, I want to put a full disclaimer that “Into the Woods” is a full-blown musical. A lot of people go into the movie thinking it is just like the rest of Disney’s movies, some music but basically a normal movie. Into the Woods is adapted off of a Broadway play based on multiple Brothers Grimm fairytales.

Now, on to the good stuff. “Into the Woods” takes some of your favorite fairy tales – Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Rapunzel – and intertwines them into something that you have never seen before. It starts off with our favorite characters making a wish, but remember, they’re all singing as they’re wishing, which to me makes it even better. The story then focuses on the baker and his wife not being able to have a child due to a curse that a witch had placed on them.

The Witch explains to the Baker and his Wife that they are to get four items, each which can be obtained from other fairytale characters. With each character the Baker and his Wife meet, you learn their individual back stories, but in a fashion that you haven’t seen before (maybe Cinderella doesn’t want to marry Prince Charming).

As the movie continues the fairytales begin to intertwine more, you begin to learn that not every fairy tale has a happy ending like other Disney movies show. The end of the movie was done beautifully and really makes you think, what are the consequences of wishing for something that you necessarily don’t want? “Into the Woods” really gives you a valuable lesson that although you may really want something, it won’t help you with your current issues and hardships, while family and friendship can help you overcome some of the hardest obstacles in life.

“Into the Woods” featured a star-studded cast, including Meryl Streep as the Witch, Anna Kendrick as Cinderella, Emily Blunt as the Baker’s Wife and Johnny Depp as the Big Bad Wolf. Each song sung told a story into the lives of each character, making the movie even more enticing.

If you aren’t a fan of musicals than I don’t know if this is the movie for you. There is a clear difference between the music from “Into the Woods” and something like Frozen. If musicals and Broadway are things you enjoy, than I guarantee you won’t regret seeing this movie.

For me, this movie was awesome. I am a big fan of musicals and everything Broadway represents, so I was excited going in to see it and it blew my mind. I knew that Disney was good at what they do, especially when it comes to music, but I didn’t expect this. The songs were amazing and really made you feel emotions from happiness to sadness. I loved how the stories intertwined with each other and created a whole new fairy tale that isn’t your typical happily ever after.

Worst White Elephant gifts

We decided to have some fun this holiday season, so across our social media account (Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr) we asked you “What is the worst white elephant gift you have ever received or given?”

These were some of the best answers.

@orginalfreckle takes the cake on the most cringe worthy gift:

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We couldn’t help but laugh at this one:

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We couldn’t decide what was worse in this one:

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Preparing someone early for the rough college nights:

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It’s the thought that counts right? If you have a white elephant horror story, leave a comment and tell us about it! Merry Christmas, everyone!

On fetishes and fantasies—working at Fantasy Makers

Photos and interview by Helen Tinna

Fantasy Makers is an East Bay adult playhouse that brings one’s fetishes and fantasies to life. Photojournalist Helen Tinna interviews Patience Morgan, a professional dominatrix at Fantasy Makers. Morgan talks about what it means to be a professional dominatrix and explains how she likes it.

 

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  • Friday, February 21, 2014, After a hard spanking session with one of her regular clients, Ruby inspects her bruised backside in the mirror. Ruby works out of the Fantasy Makers fetish playhouse as a performance artist.
  • Thursday, December 4, 2014, A rubber fist hides beneath a pile of "Large Dildi" in a drawer back stage at Fantasy Makers, a fetish playhouse based out of the Easy Bay.
  • Thursday, December 4, 2014, Panties and heels line the walls of the "Big Girls Closet", a collection of dress-up clothes for male clients who want to come and dress as women.
  • Thursday, December 4, 2014, A drawer of well organized spanking implements in the back room of Fantasy Makers features such items as a rubber chicken, a flip-flop on a stick, book spines and a heavy cutting board.
  • Monday, November 24, 2014, A Fantasy Maker fills out her client card after a session, where she gives a brief description of how things went, and perhaps some fun ideas for next time.
  • Thursday, December 4, 2014, Fake breast inserts line the walls of the "Big Girls Closet," a collection of dress-up clothes for male clients who want to come and dress as women.
  • Thursday, December 4, 2014, Whips, floggers, brushes, clamps and soft mitts line the inside of the prop closet in one of the Fantasy Makers session rooms.
  • Wednesday, November 26, 2014, Patience (Left ) smokes a cigarette and chats with one of her regulars, Bacchus, on the back deck at Fantasy Makers.
  • Thursday, December, 4 2014, Costumes hang from lockers in the dressing room of Fantasy Makers, a fetish playhouse based in Easy Bay.
  • Monday, November 24, 2014, Fantasy Maker, Aslan sorts through a drawer of stockings to get ready for her next scene. She was asked to dress in school girl attire, and takes her time deciding on the details of her costume.
  • Friday, February 21st 2014, Ruby braces herself against the bed as she gets spanked with a heavy rubber paddle, at the Fantasy Makers fetish playhouse where she works. This session with on of her regular clients is legal, and does not include any actual sex.
  • November 26, 2014, Mistress Patience Morgan answers the client phone at Fantasy Makers, a fetish playhouse in the East Bay. Clients are required to call and describe what it is that they want to do in their session prior to arriving. They are then matched with one of the women on staff, based on which ladies are working, and which would be most interested in that particular scene.
  • February 16, 2014 Ruby Morgan gets ready in the backstage bathroom at Fantasy Makers, a fetish playhouse based out of the East Bay. A drying rack of recently washed dildos and whips can be seen behind her. For her sessions, Ruby usually likes to wear nightgown, or some kind of slip, with thigh highs and a garter.
  • November 24, 2014, Resident den mother, Lorrett, helps a Fantasy Maker attach her garter. She is in the process of getting dressed up as a school girl. She says that although today's outfit is reletively risqué, clients will often request realistic, unflattering uniforms, complete with large grandmotherly panties. "I always put the underwear on the front" she said, explaining that this way, you don't have to take off the garter to get undressed.
  • November 24, 2014, Lorrett (right), gives a tour to Alice, a newcomer to Fantasy Makers. Here, Lorrett breaks down a chart listing the preferences of the women who work at the playhouse. On the left, a name is listed, and on top, are some of the more common scene requests. The corresponding dots that intersect the columns of names and fetish activities indicate each lady's comfort level with the each named scene theme. For instance, a red dot beneath "Adult Baby" means that this particular Fantasy Maker does not want anything to do with clients who want to dress in diapers and prevent to be infants. If however, she put a yellow dot, that would demonstrate that she might participate in a scene like this under the right circumstances. Yellow dots often come with notes specifying these conditions. The most popular condition for doing an adult baby scene? "No Poop."
  • Monday, November 24, 2014 Clem applies eyeliner before a scene in the back dressing room of Fantasy Makers, a fetish playhouse in the East Bay.
  • Friday, February 21, 2014, After binding, whipping, pinching and scratching one of her regular clients, Ruby gives him a hug, to reconnect before switching the the part of the scene where she will submit to him. Ruby works out of the Fantasy Makers fetish playhouse as a performance artist.
  • Wednesday, November 26, 2014, Ruby (left) kisses her daughter Patience a kiss at the Fantasy Makers fetish playhouse in the east bay. Patience was working on her needlepoint stitching between sessions, when her mother, who also works there, stopped in to say hello.

BREAKING: Sony authorizes Christmas release of The Interview

Contributed by: Tami Benedict

Sony has just announced that the controversial comedy “The Interview” will premier in specific locations on Christmas Day. “We have never given up on releasing ‘The Interview’ and we’re excited our movie will be in a number of theaters on Christmas Day,” Michael Lynton, Chairman and CEO of Sony said in a statement. “At the same time, we are continuing our efforts to secure more platforms and more theaters so that this movie reaches the largest possible audience.

So far, Alamo’s Dallas Theatre, Alamo’s Drafthouse in DC, and Atlanta’s Plaza Theatre have announced that they will screen it. “The people have spoken! Freedom has prevailed! Sony didn’t give up! The Interview will be shown at theaters willing to play it on Xmas day!” tweeted actor and director of the film, Seth Rogen.

Speculations are circling that this may have all just been a huge publicity stunt – but really, what are the chances of this much effort going into theaters not agreeing to show your multi-million dollar film.

BBC just tweeted that Sony is “proud to have stood up” to those trying to “suppress free speech” confirming the release of The Interview on Christmas Day. They also added that a White House spokesman said that President Obama “applauds” Sony’s decision.

This story is still developing. More will be added as it progresses.

Where to ice skate this holiday season

Ice skating is fun for all ages. Photo by Ivan Walsh on Creative Commons.
Ice skating is fun for all ages. Photo by Ivan Walsh on Creative Commons.

One of my favorite things to do during the winter is ice skating. Since Northern California doesn’t get very cold and we never get snow, I always have to wait until right around the holidays for the rinks to open up. I decided to compile a list of some of the best local ice rinks around so you can go get your figure skating on.

Dell’Osso Family Farms: This rink is located right off of Mossdale Road in Lathrop. You can see it from the freeway because, in addition to the ice rink, Dell’Osso has an amazing drive-thru light show and snow tubing. This local favorite is only $14 for skates and unlimited ice skating. About every three hours or so, you need to leave the ice rink so they can clean it but that only takes about twenty minutes and then you can be back at it. If you’re not one for ice skating but your friends want to go, they have a fire pit area where you can buy s’more supplies and hot cocoa and enjoy yourself as your friends skate.

Embarcadro Center: Embarcardo Center has the largest outdoor ice rink in San Francisco. Skating is $14 and you’re allowed to skate for an hour and a half. For this rink, you need to purchase tickets online, which has an additional fee attached to it. The rink is open until January 4th and even offers private lessons to those who aren’t naturally graceful.

Downtown Sacramento: If you’ve ever been to the malls in downtown Sacramento, then you know that they always have a holiday ice rink to accompany you while you do some holiday shopping. Their skating sessions last one hour and forty-five minutes and cost $8 for skating and $2 for renting ice skates. What I like about this rink is they offer supplies for little kids to make it easier for them to skate and not get hurt, so it is extremely family friendly. The rink is open until January 19th, the only issue you may have is parking since it can get crazy during holiday time.

Downtown Walnut Creek: Walnut Creek is a great place to go shopping, get some good food, and now in their downtown they have an ice rink. Walnut Creek on Ice is open until January 11th and cost $11 on weekdays and $15 on weekends. Make sure to check their times online – their open skate time is a little different than the others listed above. If you decide that you like this rink a lot you can even get a frequent skater pass online which allows you to have ten visits for $99, making it worth it to some of the die hards out there.

I hope you check these rinks out and have fun while doing it. Some advice from a novice skater to other newbies is tie you skaters tight around your ankles, don’t hunch over, and if you’re going to fall, just go with it since you will get hurt worse if you try to prevent it. Have fun and happy holidays!

Inside the East Bay’s Fantasy Makers

Fantasy Makers employee Ruby hugs one of her regular clients after a session of harsh punishment. Although she spent the last half an hour whipping, scratching and pinching him, she likes to connect with her clients on a personal level, even if the mood of the scene is disciplinary.  (Helen Tinna/ Xpress Magazine)
Fantasy Makers employee Ruby hugs one of her regular clients after a session of harsh punishment. Although she spent the last half an
hour whipping, scratching and pinching him, she likes to connect with her clients on a personal level, even if the mood of the scene is disciplinary. (Helen Tinna/ Xpress Magazine)

A few miles outside of Berkeley is a quaint, two-story home with a white picket fence and an American flag on its front porch. A few blocks to the left is an elementary school, and a few blocks to the right is a small church. The neighborhood is quiet – perfect for a small family, or a retired couple, or even fitting for a newly married couple. But this is the house where women tie-up, whip, wrestle, spank men, get spanked… and get paid for it.

This is the job of a professional dominatrix or submissive, and this white picket-fenced house is full of them. The adult playhouse is called Fantasy Makers, otherwise known as a cooperative of performance artists, and it is a place for one to come with his or her own preferences of roleplay, fetishes, masturbation shows, crossdressing, and sensory play. In this unique form of personal theater, any safe and legal scenario that you can think of is yours. At Fantasy Makers, clients enter a world where, for a little while, they can change anything – gender, age, country (or planet) of origin – even species. It is the strangest, sexiest improv imaginable.

Patience Morgan, twenty-four, has been working at Fantasy Makers as a professional dominatrix for about a year and a half now. Patience, who previously worked as a saleswoman at Clarks shoes, now works at Fantasy Makers doing what she says she was called to do.     

“I had a very liberal upbringing,” says Patience. “I got Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns when I was fifteen. On that same birthday I got Good Vibrations: Guide to Sex, and three months later I got The Topping Book and The Bottoming Book. So pretty much from the moment beginning my sexual exploration, I was into BDSM. I knew it was a part of things.”

BDSM is a mix of bondage and discipline, sadism and masochism — a variety of erotic practices involving a dominant “top” (partner who controls the activity) and a submissive “bottom” (partner who is being controlled). It uses role-playing, restraint, and other interpersonal dynamics without penetration.

This is the role of a Fantasy Maker lady: the client requests to be submissive or dominant and then gets to choose how they want to play or be played with. Not all the women at Fantasy Makers say they are professional dominatrixes, some of them say they simply work as submissives or dominants.

Fantasy Makers is not a business or a brothel—it is a cooperative where cash only transactions are made for privacy reasons. Negotiable rates make the transactions more of a donation rather than a direct purchase. Maintaining a low barrier of entry is a high priority at Fantasy Makers, that is why their rates are the lowest in the Bay Area. Competitors like The Gates, a playhouse similar to Fantasy Makers, charges upwards of $180 per hour whereas Fantasy Makers negotiates rates with clients based on what they can afford. “You don’t have to be rich to play here,” says Lorett, the owner of Fantasy Makers.

The difference between a brothel and Fantasy Makers is there is no sex with clients. “Anything safe, sane, and legal” is their motto.

According to Patience, the most popular clients to walk through the doors of Fantasy Makers are policemen and lawyers. Because Fantasy Makers is a legal cooperative, this gives the clients the incentive that whatever happens in the house stays in the house.

Ruby Morgan, fifty-seven, is one of the newest members to the Fantasy Makers family, and was recruited by Patience, her daughter.

“I had been working here for maybe six months and I’ve been telling mom how awesome it is,” says Patience. “And I was like okay, that’s it, you have to apply. They will love you here. Mom was like, ‘I’m too old, I’m too fat, I couldn’t do it.’ And I was like mom, just come in.”

Ruby and Patience both work at Fantasy Makers a few days a week. Ruby even lives across the street, which makes it easy for her to help out at the playhouse, answering phones and doing laundry.

While Ruby and Patience do not “work” together in sessions, they say working under the same roof is as good as it gets.

“[My mom] and I have always been really close,” says Patience. “She was always really good about learning how to treat me like an adult, and not her child. As I got older we turned into best friends as well as mother and daughter and working with her is literally like having my best friend around all the time.”

Resident den mother, Lorrett, helps a Fantasy Maker attach her garter. She is in the process of getting dressed up as a school girl. She says that although today's outfit is reletively risqué, clients will often request realistic, unflattering uniforms, complete with large grandmotherly panties. (Helen Tinna/ Xpress Magazine)
Resident den mother, Lorrett, helps a Fantasy Maker attach her garter. She is in the process of getting dressed up as a school girl. She says that although today’s outfit is reletively risqué, clients will often request realistic, unflattering uniforms, complete with large grandmotherly panties. (Helen Tinna/ Xpress Magazine)

 Family seems to be a common theme of the Fantasy Makers playhouse. And if the women are the children of the house, Lorrett is their mother. Lorrett, seventy-one, opened the Fantasy Makers doors in 1990 with the help of her mentor, who she called Master Robin, who got her into the business back in 1966 where she started doing bondage modeling. At that time, Master Robin owned the Backdrop Club which served the same purpose as Fantasy Makers. Fantasy Makers became like an extension of the Backdrop Club and eventually started to float on its own.

“I can’t do boss,” says Lorrett. “I have no desire to do boss. But I can do mom. I didn’t get to raise my own kids and now I’m getting remedial motherhood 101.” 

While Lorrett used to work both the business side of the house and do sessions herself, nowadays, she is in the office, doing behind-the-scenes work like answering phones. However, every so often she does her share of “sub” sessions.

Lorrett has watched upwards of three hundred staff members come and go over the years. Right now, there are about thirty women on staff. Even though the turnover rate is high, she says she is proud of all her “children” because each one of them brought what she had, took what she needed, and kept on going.

“They’ll probably have to persuade me once I do leave this body that I’m gone,” says Lorrett. “I’ll probably be answering the phones at least two weeks after I die.”

Even though the women look out for each other like family, that does not stop them from doing sessions together for clients.

“Do you know how awesome it is to get paid to give your friends orgasms?” says Patience.

But according to Patience, it is more than the sexual experience that brings clients in. The sexual aspect is only a component to get at the psychological aspect of a client. As a Fantasy Maker lady, they are figuring out what their clients want based on what they say and what they do not.

Lorrett described fantasies as a subject that society decides not to talk about. And by creating this space for people, their fantasies can come to life; a space is created for acceptance and friendship in a rather unique way.

Bacchus, sixty-three, has been a client at Fantasy Makers for about ten years now. Bacchus was born with a condition called Hypospadias, a birth defect in which the opening of the urethra is on the underside of the penis. This condition made regular sex impossible for him. “I built a whole fantasy world of my own. As I grew up, it was real hard to date. I had trouble expressing my desire for women the way that they expected it,” says Bacchus. “So I kinda gave up.”

Bacchus had been to countless high-end therapists, sex therapists, and sex surrogates. But when a friend told him about Fantasy Makers, Bacchus said that even with all the therapy sessions he had been to in his life, they did not do for him as much as his first time at Fantasy Makers.

“It was like going to a travel agent with an idea of where you want to go, and coming out having discovered a whole new country you didn’t even know existed,” says Bacchus. “It changed my life.”

Fantasy Makers aims to provide a place where people can be absolutely accepted at their most vulnerable in a way that they cannot experience anywhere else. Their mission is to make it all about you.

“This is a school. It’s a place for people to learn about themselves, learn about other people, learn about communication, learn about trust.” says Lorrett.

The women at Fantasy Makers say they have met the wounded, the lonely, the confused, the frightened, and the shamed, but regardless of the fantasy, fetish, or type of play the client wants, the women’s job are to be there for them. At Fantasy Makers, it is about more than sex. It is about connection, acceptance, and creativity.

“Going through the front door is very scary the first time,” says Bacchus. “And that door opens, and you see a person and the smile on her face. She welcomes you in, and offers you something to drink, and sits you down. And then the person you are going to play with comes in and talks to you, interviews you shortly, and then- that fear is gone. I have never felt more welcomed, more comfortable in a place as quickly as Fantasy Makers.”

Multi-faceted Mom

Kang "Kay" Young Kye holds her daughter, Khole, as they observe animals at the San Francisco Zoo for Family Day with other families of VET members. (ALL PHOTOS By Amanda Peterson/ Xpress Magazine)
Kang “Kay” Young Kye holds her daughter, Khole, as they observe animals at the San Francisco Zoo for Family Day with other families of VET members. (ALL PHOTOS By Amanda Peterson/ Xpress Magazine)

Upper division business courses probably do not sound like too much fun to some. They are probably also not classes where you expect to see someone so comfortable and poised as Kang Young “Kay” Kye. As she calmly takes her seat in the front row of the small auditorium, you would probably never guess this senior lived such a busy life outside of her full course load. Not only is Kye an international business major, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, and the president of the Veterans’ Club on campus, but also a full-time mother to her two year old daughter, Khloe.

At SF State, over one hundred parents entrust the campus daycare, the Early Childhood Education Center, to guide their child’s first years, and roughly 25 percent are single parents like Kye. The daycare enrolls children from six months old to three years in the infant to toddler program and three years to five years old in the preschool program. The daycare has been at SF State for forty-two years, since approved by  Associated Student, Incorporated (ASI) and the California State University (CSU) board of trustees in 1971 and opened its doors on October, 10th 1972.

“It’s actually an exceptional program,” says the twenty-eight year old. “It’s just all around a very very amazing daycare center and also they give priority to students and low-income students and of course, just like any student, we’re all pretty broke right? They also prioritize veteran families as well, which has been a huge plus as well.”

Students without children of their own may not be very informed when it comes to what it takes to be a parent while going to school. Kye mentions that as a parent, not only are you responsible for yourself, for your homework, and for attending class, but also for the well-being of your child.

“After I had her, I didn’t go to school [campus], but I enrolled and took online classes,” says Kye. “So I took three online classes my spring semester so I was able to stay home with her still but still continue my education.”

Not only does Kye prove that being both a parent and a student is possible, but that if you manage your time and prioritize, there is no limit to how far you can go in life — and Kye embodies that.

“I think balance is a really important thing,” advises Kye to other parents who are also students. “What I learned is that even though you might want to do 100 percent at everything, sometimes it’s just not possible. So it’s just being comfortable with whatever you’re capable of doing. So as long as you’re trying your best, you should be proud of the challenges that you are already overcoming.”

Kye will graduate from SF State in the Spring of 2015 with a Bachelors degree in international business. She hopes from there to pursue, as she refers to it, a “civilian career” as an international relations representative for a corporation that operates globally.

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  • Kyle, a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, bears a heavy burden as a heavy load as a single-mother, a student, and president of the VETS (Veterans Education Transition & Support) student organization at SF State, and still finds ways to balance all of her responsibilities with grace, putting motherhood first.
  • Kyle explains to a newcomer what the organization does and how to get involved. The VETS Corner, located on the first level of Burk Hall in Room 153, was officially opened on November 9th, 2012, and is a place for student veterans to socialize or make use of a quiet room for study or computer use.
  • The twenty-eight-year-old International Business major, sits the front row of Room 218 in the Business Building at SF State for her first class, Seminar on Business in Society. Kye has back-to-back classes twice a week as a full-time student and is interested in international work opportunities after graduating in Spring 2015 with a B.A. from SF State. Kye began the undergraduate program in 2012 as a single-parent when daughter, Khloe, was 3-months-old. Kye takes education seriously, but does not strain for the perfection to get straight As as she used to. Balance is now what Kye strives for, juggling the responsibilities of being a student, a parent, and president of the VETS student organization at SF State.
  • After a long day at school, Kang “Kay” Young Kye carries her two-year-old daughter, Khloe, to the reception for the opening of the group exhibition “Coming Home, A Veteran’s Experience” at The Art Gallery at SF State.
  • Kye (left), leans in for a kiss with boyfriend, Christopher Michael Lee, after giving a toast with veteran families at the Veteran Family Thanksgiving Dinner at Kay’s home in Daly City. The house was filled to the brim with veterans and their families and friends, who were gathered together as a family for good times and traditional Thanksgiving fare.

 

“Paw-sing” to de-stress

Latin Studies major Jessica Jimenez, 20, pets a 5-year-old German Shepard therapy dog named Maggie at during a SF State Student Health Services event on campus. (Sara Gobets/ Xpress Magazine)
Latin Studies major Jessica Jimenez, 20, pets a 5-year-old German Shepard therapy dog named Maggie at during a SF State Student Health Services event on campus. (Sara Gobets/ Xpress Magazine)

The sidewalks surrounding the corner of 29th and Broadway in Oakland are packed with curious passersby peeping in through large floor-length windows. They peek into a cat’s paradise: scratch pads, various cat trees, teaser cat toys, and shiny frill ball toys are laid out around the room. Nine friendly cats of differing breeds and ages are spread out in the cat zone; one receiving belly rubs from a child as it’s stretched out on a lounge chair, another sits on a man’s lap. Smiles radiate from all but one person during the grand opening of America’s first cat café. She stands in the middle of the room overwhelmed by emotions. As tears begin to roll down her cheeks, she whispers to Cat Man Adam Myatt and says, “It makes me so sad that they don’t have a home.”

Upon entering Cat Town Café and Adoption Center, it looks like your average corner coffee shop. Dark-roast coffee is dripping at the counter with a wide array of cat-shaped cookies to accompany them. Cat postcards and cat pillows are available to purchase and watercolor cat portraits by artist Megan Lynn Knott decorate the walls. Through a set of double doors, the space transforms into a cat lover’s dream where you can hug, pet, and talk to fuzzy feline friends. The themed café, which opened its doors on October 25th, was created to free up some space at the already busy Oakland shelter and aid in helping find displaced cats a home.

The cat café trend, made popular in Japan since the early 2000s, is catered to urban dwellers that may not have the ability to have their own animal at their homes. Instead, they attend these cafés to escape from their busy metropolitan lifestyle and lounge in a welcoming space with free-roaming cats.

KitTea, San Francisco’s very own version of a cat café is soon set to open in Hayes Valley. The idea for the café was thought up when Courtney Hatt, a tech startup worker, found herself stressed and uncomfortable in a busy café. During that visit, she encountered an article about Japan’s cat cafés and thought the therapeutic oasis would be a perfect addition to San Francisco culture.

KitTea will be an onsite adoption center for about ten friendly cats at a time, as well as a zen tea house with sustainable teas from a partnered Japanese Farm. Hatt describes the cafe as a “cat friendly spa.”

Hatt recalls her own experience with an unintended session of animal therapy. Lying down with her chest so tight that she could hardly breathe; she was having a panic attack. Almost instantly, like a radar was sent to her cat, it hopped up on her chest at the exact moment of struggle. Listening and concentrating to the cat’s steady purr led her back to a healthy breath and moment of relaxation. She believes in the beneficial properties that can come from cat interaction. “A purr and/or clear appreciation of touch, gives me a sense of peace and love from deep within,” says Hatt.

Daniel “DQ” Quagliozzi, cat behaviorist, contacted KitTea, upon hearing of their launch, to provide insight on creating a social atmosphere for cats and humans. Quagliozzi believes that KitTea will be a valuable community resource due to the stress and anxiety that humans can get caught up in.

“Cats help us slow down and live in the moment, because that’s what they do,” says Quagliozzi about their ability to help us de-stress. “The human and animal bond alone is a very powerful thing,” he expresses.

The first contemporary setting of animal assisted therapy occurred in the early 1960s, when a child psychologist discovered the benefits of animal interaction by pure accident. Boris Levinson, considered the founder of animal assisted therapy, would bring his dog Jingles into therapy sessions with a disturbed uncommunicative child. Having the dog in session, allowed for the child’s defenses to soften, which, in turn, allowed Levinson to initiate therapy. Upon the breakthrough, Levinson began to do extensive research on the subject and coined the term animal therapy in 1964.

Now, animal therapy is used worldwide to treat various mental health issues including: stress, anxiety, grief, loneliness, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to Christine Morley, health educator at SF State. For the last couple months, she has been working with the San Francisco SPCA and Therapy Dogs International to bring therapy dogs to campus on frequent basis.

“Students experience stress all semester long. I thought it would be a really great service to have them come more often because you have stress from the first day of classes until the end of classes,” says Morley.

The sessions are offered as an effort to promote overall wellness on campus including proper sleep and stress relief. Anywhere from two to four dogs and their owners will come to campus for an hour-long session. The sessions are typically held in the garden area on top of the Student Health Center on the SF State campus. Any student can walk up to hug, pet, and cuddle with the dogs for as long as they please.

On a recent Tuesday, Shelley Fineman brought her longhaired German Shepherd Maggie for a campus visit. The event attracted seventy-one students and campus staff, providing them with a stress-free break away from exams, research papers, and classes. Maggie, a retired search and rescue dog, was dressed with a red handkerchief around her neck and a yellow triangle-shaped tag that read “I am a therapy dog” for easy identification. Students smiled and giggled as they encountered the energetic pup. A student ran up saying “I’ve been waiting for this my whole life” as she bent down to hug Maggie.

Although not enough research on animal therapy has been done to determine a direct correlation between an increase in mental health and the interaction with animals, various studies show that it will decrease stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. The contact with animals will also increase healthy hormones like oxytocin, dopamine, and endorphins that promote happiness.

“Being in the presence of a dog can be calming. You’re body comes to a neutral state of calmness and less stress,” says Morley. She believes the recent recognition of bringing therapy animals to college campuses is due to realizing something has to be done about how stressed college students can get.

The simple act of petting an animal can elicit a relaxation response that can lower blood pressure and anxiety, according to Morley. Cat cafés or visits with therapy dogs are being used as ways to decrease stress. “It’s an easy way to go and get your cat-snuggle fix in and not worry about anything,” she says about the cafés.

Like Hatt, Quagliozzi is intrigued about the benefits of animal interaction and hopes to see cafés of its kind everywhere.

KitTea anticipates an end of the year opening in San Francisco and other cities across America hope to follow suit. Meow Parlour in New York has a tentative December 15th opening date and The Cat Café in San Diego is working on their space.

The ever-expanding cat culture in America has helped promote the openings of the cafés, but perhaps it’s the free therapy that will keep them around.

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  • Bryce, the cat, naps on top of a cat tree on Saturday, during the Cat Town Cafe and Adoption Center grand opening. (Lissette Vargas/ Xpress Magazine)
  • Coffee mugs with Cat Town Cafe and Adoption Center’s logo are displayed for sale. (Lissette Vargas/ Xpress Magazine)
  • Crowds gather at the window to peer into the grand opening of America’s first cat cafe in Oakland on Saturday. BOTTOM: (Left to Right) Zach Melamed, 20, Andrew Wong, 20, and Kelcey Dibernardo, 22, pet a 5-year-old German Shepard therapy dog named Maggie at during a SF State Student Health Services event on campus. (Sara Gobets/ Xpress Magazine)

 

Practice Makes Perfect

Geoff Luttrell, owner of SF Guitarworks in San Francisco, works on a guitar. (Henry Perez/ Xpress Magazine)
Geoff Luttrell, owner of SF Guitarworks, works on a guitar. (Henry Perez/ Xpress Magazine)

Geoff Luttrell crouches at his workbench, squinting hard at the neck of the soon-to-be guitar he is drilling holes in.

Luttrell has owned SF Guitarworks repair shop in the city since 2001. It began as a small-scale operation, headed by Luttrell and one other technician. More than a decade later, the shop is home to five full-time guitar experts and one part-time amp repairman. Collectively, they serve a base of more than three hundred.

He opened the shop more than ten years ago after being laid off from a tech job. His reaction was a bit eccentric.

“I decided I’m not going to ever interview again,” he says. “I’m never interviewing for another job. Period.”

After receiving subpar service from repair shops in the city, he decided that he could do it better. So that became his mission. He attended The Fret Works guitar school in Canada for two months, then came back to the city, determined to begin his own shop. Though he had the drive, he admits his strategy wasn’t full proof.

“It was a pretty feeble plan, really,” he says. “My sole market research was calling a busy shop in town and saying ‘How long to get a setup done?’”

When he was told a guitar tune-up for his instrument would take three weeks, Luttrell decided there was enough work in town to draw from. He was already a machinist who had built bicycle frames, and had worked as a certified auto technician in the city. These building blocks would add depth to his work, he decided.

Besides, he wanted to do something he enjoyed and would challenge him. And it has.

Just as he hoped, the complexities of starting a business and of navigating detailed guitar repairs challenged Lutrell in almost every way possible. Many customers have collections of guitars and come to the shop for fine-tuning, and detail work.

Often, the tasks are not straightforward, like simple restringing or part replacements. But he enjoys finding the solution to each guitar and takes pleasure in the hunt for some unknown mechanical issue.  He loves repairing guitars.

“It encompasses so many different aspects of craft: woodworking, metalwork, electronics, soldering, electrical schematics, finish-work and aesthetics,” he says. “It pulls from a lot of different aspect I have expertise in. And then you use it for something awesome – music.”

Sometimes, the mechanist will work on one guitar for a few days. Other times, like for a simple tune-up, the task requires only forty-five minutes. But for Luttrell, there is not exactly an off-switch when it comes to his work. To his best estimation, he has worked on at least seven thousand guitars.

He says he has tried to picture what it would look like if all the instruments he has done work on were in one room – or if they would even fit in one.

“There’s a lot of blurring in my world,” he says. “When I go home, I build guitars for fun, and I work on guitars all day. So it’s kind of insane, really.

He has done work for guitarists Steve Vai, Bob Mould, and Camper Van Beethoven. But, he does not geek out, he says. When he has assisted famous musicians like these, his mindset is more of a “let’s get this done” versus some type of hero worship. Still, the mechanic is a huge fan of Van Halen and Beck. Luttrell played bass and guitar in more than a few bands as a teenager, whose music was a tribute to exactly their type of power and sound.   

For the amount of time Luttrell spends with the instruments each day, he has very little time to actually play them. That does not bother him too much though. His appreciation of music has shifted over the years. He still plays bass or guitar from time to time, but he rather be working on one now; making it sound better and play smoother, he would rather be perfecting it.

The craft has a lot of dimension, Luttrell points out. Some repairs are completely invisible. One of the most challenging, but fun, aspects of his work is the accountability he has to his customers. When a customer comes in about an issue with their guitar, Luttrell assesses the problem and then a guarantees them he can fix it right up. This can get scary.

Occasionally, a mechanical problem is so minute or complex, he does not exactly know where to start. Nonetheless, Luttrell offers his guarantee. This would seem like bad business, but this has worked for him and his shop. So far, he has been able to figure out every problem a customer has trusted him with.  But Luttrell’s love of his work goes farther than making customers happy. His work has added dimension to his life, but it has also done something beautifully simple – added music to the world.

“It’s added a depth that I didn’t have before because I have this craft that I think is a noble and long tradition,” he says. “I feel like Luthiery adds to the world. It doesn’t take away.”

Gators hockey driven by passion despite struggles

The Gators at hockey practice. (Martin Bustamante/ Xpress Magazine)
The Gators at hockey practice. (Martin Bustamante/ Xpress Magazine)

The SF State Gators ice hockey team was born out of a passion for the sport. As one of the school’s twelve club sports, it was organized last year by students who wanted to play so much they created a team themselves.

The team plays Division Three hockey as one of five teams in the Pacific Collegiate Hockey Association. San Jose State University and Stanford are among the other schools in the association. Last season, the Gators had no coaches but are now coached by ex-players. All but two of the players were born in California with one born in Illinois and one in Guatemala. The Gators have gotten off to a poor start this season, as they have lost their first five games and saw two players fall to serious injuries in the first three.

 

Get to know some of the players:

 

 

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Andrew Duenes. (ALL PHOTOS By Martin Bustamante/ Xpress Magazine)

Andrew Duenes, a mechanical engineering major, is an alternate captain and the team president. He plays on the wing for the Gators. He got interested in hockey as a small child. “I started watching hockey at a young age,” he writes in an email interview. “Both of my parents watch hockey all the time.” He started playing roller hockey when he was five.

The Gators voted for club officers for the first time this year, electing Duenes president. “My job is basically to look over the club and make final decisions,” he writes. He knows he can rely on the other officers. “I trust my other officers to do their job, making this year pretty easy for myself,” he writes. “I couldn’t do much without my other officers.”

Duenes was born in Northridge, California but grew up in West Hills, California. His favorite team in the National Hockey League is the Los Angeles Kings. He describes himself as “a HUGE Kings fan.” He grew up watching them and hoping to play for them one day. He tries to attend at least one Kings game each year and wants to see them face the San Jose Sharks at the SAP Center, the Sharks’ home arena, and at the outdoor game that will be held at Levi’s Stadium February 21, 2015. He especially wants to go because he missed the outdoor game the Kings hosted at Dodger Stadium earlier this year. His favorite NHL player is L.A. goaltender Jonathan Quick. “He is the best goaltender in the league,” Duenes writes. “Watching him play is awesome, with all of the ridiculous saves he makes.” As a spectator, he loves hockey’s fast pace and the skill the players demonstrate. “All of the moves the players can do and the shots they can make is crazy,” he writes.

He believes more people would enjoy hockey if they took the time to actually watch it. “Go to a game, it will change your perspective,” he writes in reference to those who are uninterested in hockey. “Give it a chance, it’s an amazing sport.”

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Matthew Gold, who majors in history, is the Gators’ vice president and plays left or right wing, “depending on what the coaches need at the time,” he writes in an email interview. He has enjoyed hockey for basically as long as he can remember. He was born in 1993, the year Anaheim, California got an NHL team, then named the Mighty Ducks. His father, whom Gold describes as “a huge hockey fan all of his life,” became an avid fan of the new club. Gold, who was born and raised in Upland, California, also is a fan of the team now named the Anaheim Ducks.

Gold got away from the sport for a while until a friend took him to game during his junior year of high school, “and I fell in love again,” he writes. That game also prompted his interest in playing hockey. He starting out on roller skates until late in his freshman year when he discovered SF State had a team. Then, he writes, “I put on ice skates and began actively working to start playing ice hockey.”

He loves hockey’s speed and constant action. “There’s never a dull moment in hockey,” he writes. His favorite aspect of the game is the camaraderie seen even among opponents. “And the best part is after all the hitting and chirping, for the most part, teams can put everything aside and shake hands at the end of the game,” he writes. “There’s a brotherhood in hockey that you won’t find in any other sport.”

He encourages those who say they do not like hockey without having watched the sport to give it a chance before passing judgment. “Don’t knock it til you try it,” he writes.

Gold appreciates how well the team gets along. “This team is one of the tightest I’ve ever played on,” he writes. “I’ve never had so much fun playing hockey.”

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Corey Bemis

Corey Bemis, a freshman who majors in history, is a forward. He has played hockey competitively since he was thirteen. He started out playing roller hockey and only made the switch to ice hockey this season. He admits it is a change, but he was able to make the transition easily. “It was pretty smooth,” he says. The biggest adjustment for him was the difference in skating style, but he reached the same speed on the ice that he was accustomed to off it “after two or three practices,” Bemis says.

The Cupertino native is a lifelong Sharks fan. “I’ve always been obsessed with hockey,” Bemis says. “I’ve been going to Sharks games since I was eighteen months old.” His favorite NHL players are Tommy Wingels and Tomas Hertl of the Sharks. “He’s a fun player to watch,” he says of Wingels. He dislikes but respects the rival Kings. “It really goes to show the Kings’ strength,” Bemis says of L.A.’s historic comeback victory against the Sharks in the first round of the 2014 playoffs in which the Kings became the fourth team to win a seven-game series after losing the first three contests.

“I’d say it’s a growing sport,” he says of hockey in California. People “really should give it a chance.”

 

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Paul Klein, a computer science major, plays right wing. He grew up in a family of hockey players and has been involved with the sport from a young age. “I started playing hockey a long time ago,” he says. Klein is from Laguna Niguel, California and is a fan of the Ducks. He played hockey at JSerra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano, one of the first high schools in the state with a hockey team. He played the sport in the first year a team hit the ice at both JSerra and SF State. He first got involved with the Gators after seeing Andrew Duenes, now the club president, sitting at a table the team set up and wearing a Kings jersey. He thinks the presence of a hockey team at SF State is a sign of the move “toward making it a more athletic school.”

Klein talks about his team’s passion for the sport. “We really do care about the sport of hockey,” he says. He encourages people who are interested in finding out more about the Gators to stop by their table, which is out on the quad every so often, or to visit their Facebook page.

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Ryan Murnane

 

 

Ryan Murnane, a history major in his third semester at SF State, is a defenseman and alternate captain for the Gators. He was introduced to the sport by his father and started out playing pond hockey when he was about ten. He loves that it is “one of the fastest sports there is, always going,” he says. He was born in Wheeling, Illinois but grew up more in and around Sacramento.

His favorite NHL team is the Detroit Red Wings, followed by the Chicago Blackhawks. He will also root for “anyone who plays against the [Boston] Bruins.” He has a particular distaste for that team because he thinks they play dirty. His favorite player of all-time is Steve Yzerman, a Hall of Famer who played for Detroit. Among active players, he says, “I really like the way Steven Stamkos plays.” Stamkos plays for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“I think it’s the greatest sport,” Murnane says. “It’s just a lot of fun.”

 

 

 

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Michael Parra, a criminal justice major in his fifth semester at SF State, plays on the wing– “left preferably”–for the school’s ice hockey club. He started out in the sport by playing street hockey with his brothers in front of their house in San Bruno when he was about six years old. Now twenty-six, he is the oldest member of the team, which he calls “a pretty young group.” The average age of the players is nineteen. He feels a sense of responsibility to the rest of the team because of his age and because of his varied experiences, having both played and coached, been captain, and dealt with injuries. “I want to provide a sense of leadership to the younger guys,” he says. He has played in two international tournaments, one in Canada and one in Florida. “It was actually pretty cool … being able to play in a serious but fun environment,” Parra says.

His favorite team and player in the National Hockey League are his hometown San Jose Sharks and Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins, respectively. He feels hockey “has grown a lot” in California but more so in the southern part of the state. “As the years have gone on, the sport has really progressed, especially in So Cal,” he says. He admits a begrudging respect for the Sharks’ Southern California rivals, the  Kings and the Ducks. “I can’t really stand So Cal sports teams, but I admire their business practices in Anaheim as well as LA,” he says. “They’re doing the right thing off the ice.” He adds that the Kings’ goalie, Jonathan Quick, can be “the best player in the world” when he is at the top of his game.

He thinks more people would enjoy the game if they would only give it a chance. “It’s unfortunate that in the Bay Area, it doesn’t get as much respect as football or baseball, and I think that’s because people don’t understand it,” Parra says. “If people had someone explain it to them…it only takes a couple games to get hooked.”

Parra truly loves the game. “Hockey—I live and breathe it,” he says.

***

Casey Ticsay is a sophomore BECA major in her first season with the Gators. She was exposed to hockey early on. “My family is a hockey family,” she explains. Her father and uncles played the sport. “I’m glad I thought to grow up with it because now it’s my life,” she says. She started playing hockey when she was eleven. “I’ve always played on boys’ teams,” she says, because there were not enough girls to field a separate team. She did briefly play for an all-girls travel team as a kid, but she prefers to be on male teams because it is what she is used to and because she likes the “more aggressive” style of play. She feels her gender has never put her at a disadvantage or made other players look down on her. “I liked how they didn’t treat me any differently,” she says of the boys and men she has played with and against throughout her time in hockey. In fact, she believes skating with the guys has helped her. “It made me a lot tougher and stronger,” says the five-foot-two defenseman.

She is from Granada Hills, California and has long loved the Kings. I’ve been a “huge fan of the Los Angeles Kings since I was a kid,” Ticsay says. “I’ve been going to games literally since I was a baby because of my dad.” One of her favorite players is L.A. defenseman Drew Doughty, though she says, “I love everyone on the team.” She is also a fan of some of the greats from the past. My dad “always talked about the older players [such as] Bobby Orr, Stan Mikita. I like them,” she says.

Ticsay loves hockey and was grateful for the opportunity to keep playing in college. She says she was really glad when she found out SF State has a team because she had played a lot in Southern California and “would have missed it” if she had to stop. She speaks passionately about the sport. “I think it’s exciting,” Ticsay says. “I think hockey’s an amazing sport. I could talk about it all day.”

America’s Holiday Shopping List

It is the most wonderful time of the year—or maybe not. To some, this season may just feel like one huge obligation, but if you are the type who enjoys listing what to get for all your loved ones and coworkers, then be happy knowing you are probably making someone’s “nice” list.

By now, most of you have finished your holiday shopping or maybe you are one of the last-minute shoppers who are struggling to come up with that one perfect present that ends up being a gift card. But hey, there is nothing wrong with gift cards. In fact, a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation in October found that 60 percent of shoppers preferred it as a gift.

This year, the projected spending will be up five percent from last year with the average person celebrating Christ- mas, Kwanzaa, or Hanukkah spending about $804. From clothing and accessories to toys and electronics, here is what is on America’s shopping list.

Infographic by Nadine Quitania and Catherine Uy
Infographic by Nadine Quitania and Catherine Uy

 

Art for Profit

As he works on a large scale, lavish mural project on the blight-ridden streets of West Oakland, artist Joshua Mays is approached by a local business owner. The middle-aged owner of one of the over forty liquor stores in the neighborhood asks Mays if he would be available to produce a mural running along the side of his store, an over fifteen-by-twenty foot area. After palpable hesitation, the man offers a couple hundred dollars compensation and bribes Mays with the exposure that he would get. Mays declines graciously, only to be to be lashed back at with outrage and a sense that he has just declined an opportunity of a lifetime.

“My rule number one is to never accept exposure as payment,” says Mays. “Too many artists rely on that potential exposure to be fair exchange.”

Raised in Denver, Colorado, Mays has spent eight years in Philadelphia, time in Mexico City and Puerto Rico, and some self-described nomadic years spent in and out of the Bay Area. The 38-year-old, living on his own with an in-home studio occupying one of his 2-bedroom apartment, moved permanently to Oakland two years ago following an exhibition he had at Oakland’s Old Crow art gallery, Mays has found a home in one of the state’s most prominently creative regions.

“California is just where there is more of a healthy cycle between money, commerce, and creativity and artist careers,” says Mays. “Our media is paying a lot of attention to the art scenes out here.”

Although The Golden State is known for and has long proven to be a place where many artists have honed there creative talents and been able to launch a career making a decent-to-wealthy living, the vast majority of artists are not given the same credit or compensation for their work that other occupations provide inherently.

San Francisco, the beloved city centered and built upon art culture, is now pushing artists out to make room for the rising tech domain and those making the wages within it. Just last year, over sixty tenants living in a building at 1049 Market Street, most of whom are starving artists and many who have resided there for decades, were sent eviction notices. The lofts just down the road from Twitter’s new headquarters, all affordably leased for under nine hundred dollars, were deemed unlivable and were to be made workspaces costing more than double the price.

But while gentrification in San Francisco has reportedly pushed artists out and into the East Bay, cities like Oakland, too, are becoming less financially available to those trying to make a living through their creative skills Oakland had the highest apartment rent growth in the U.S., at 9.1 percent this year and tied New York for the tightest occupancy, according to MPF Research, a Carrollton, Texas-based rental-housing market-analysis company. And unlike in San Francisco, landlords in Oakland are not even obligated through the Ellis Act to give their tenants move-out cash upon eviction.

As a self-taught painter, illustrator, and muralist, Mays sold his first commissioned piece in high school—fifteen dollars and lunch for a caricature illustration for a group domino tournament. That moment, however insignificant it may be now so many years into his career, contributed to Mays imperative perspective that his work holds value.

Mays, who has been fortunate enough to be able to make a decent living through his art, is urging other Bay Area artists to rid themselves of the preconceived notion that pushing for monetary payment correlates to one ‘selling out.’”

“They are easy to either throw you on the side of ‘you’re whoring yourself out’ or throw you on the side of ‘you’re just as corrupt as the bankers and the politicians who just want to extract whatever from their own greed’.”

In a day where one must spend many thousands of dollars for a legitimate full-sized tattoo, hundreds of dollars to listen to bands while quickly dehydrating in desert heat, people will pay no matter the cost. It is a flawed concept to treat these forms of art as a greater service more deserving of the public’s hard earned money.

Artists like Mays have been commissioned internationally because of how incredible his work is. People love to look at it, but do not actually support it. Creating murals for little or no commission is not worth the time for him anymore. The circumstances over the years have made Mays realize that he would rather just work in his studio and sell his original artwork through exhibitions, set fair prices for the immense hours of work he puts into his work every single day.

If looking at the broader sense of artistic industries compared to other career paths, there is again, no inherent average or scale to measure what is worth what. Mays likens this argument to a hypothetical situation where a third of a said city’s auto mechanics decide to give their services away for free.

“A ton of people would go to a guy who would do it for free and the whole industry would collapse,” says Mays. “I think that is what the artist’s community has to deal with all the time.”

Mays has come up with his own chart depicting what he believes is fair exchange of artistic services based upon years of experience and exactly what is being commissioned. According to this chart, with his experience and skill he should be paid upwards of five thousand dollars for a mural. His goal is to bring the self-esteem and confidence to the artists that he knows and to others in the future that they are providing a service, and that that service is not beneath everybody else in the world’s service and therefore deserves a paycheck.

Social media, from MySpace to the evolved Facebook, have been Mays’ chief marketing tools. He is able to connect with people and sell his work in ways that no other platform could provide. Because of their unsurpassed promotion abilities, they are also providing that much more competition within the art industry. People can make their own business to expose people from all over the globe to their artwork and to promote their art careers.

“The Internet is the new record labels and art galleries of the past,” says Mays. “I think that it puts so much power into the artist’s hands if the artist is willing to do it.”

The issue at hand is that artists are not being paid for their time and money. Yet the fact is that artists need to be more business savvy in their careers and use the marketing tools available to get commissioned work.

Also, at the same time, if making enough money to keep up with the cost of living in the Bay Area is what artists are searching for, picking and choosing clientele’s based on hatred of ‘the man,’ is not going to work. That will only hinder the capability to make a decent living and continue to grow artistically in the Bay Area.