Category Archives: Spring 2013

Double the Work

TopShelf Boutique, owned by Christina Ruiz and originally a traveling fashion truck, currently occupies space in the Storenvy Pop-Up Shop that is shared with other vendors. Ruiz will be relocating to her own spot on the floor above the pop-up in the Crocker Galleria and will be having a grand opening on May 9. TopShelf Boutique features vintage handpicked women's clothes, accessories by local designers, and upcycled items. Photo by Virginia Tieman
TopShelf Boutique, owned by Christina Ruiz and originally a traveling fashion truck, currently occupies space in the Storenvy Pop-Up Shop that is shared with other vendors. Ruiz will be relocating to her own spot on the floor above the pop-up in the Crocker Galleria and will be having a grand opening on May 9. TopShelf Boutique features vintage handpicked women’s clothes, accessories by local designers, and upcycled items. Photo by Virginia Tieman

By Melissa Landeros
Photos Virginia Tieman

What started, as chasing a store on wheels all around San Francisco has now become a simple muni ride downtown to The Crocker Galleria, which is the permanent home for Christina Ruiz’s mobile boutique.

The TopShelf Style boutique’s pop-up shop opened in February because at the time Ruiz, said there were not a lot of “fashion truck friendly events.” It was a slow season for the truck so she figured she had nothing to lose.

The pop-up which was only supposed to be open for a month turned into 2 and a half months. Meanwhile Ruiz was approached with the opportunity of owning her store which is now located on the second floor of The Crocker Galleria. Now just about a year after starting the fashion truck Ruiz’s dream of finally owning both a “brick and mortar” shop has become a reality.

Ruiz and her team had been working day in and day out to prepare for the launching of the store. She had gone on numerous buying trips for merchandise, furniture, and even purchasing small detailed items like doorknobs. Ruiz said, “Getting the store ready had been a collaborative process and a true labor of love.”

Ruiz remained located in the pop-up shop up until the official opening of her boutique which was May 6th. She said having been in the pop-up up until the opening of her store helped a lot, because she was able to talk to frequent customers about the launch.
The May 9th launch party for TopShelf Boutique was an utter success. Ruiz said, “I was overwhelmed by the amount of love.” There was a lot of support for TopShelf Boutique from frequent shoppers to Ruiz team which also included her brother David Ruiz, who mixed free drinks for guest the night of.

Ruiz said, “I want the TopShelf brand to turn into more than just a local business.” She hopes to expand in years to come and she is motivated to grow her online business. Ruiz wants her presence to be known in a wider range.

While her fashion truck will still be in motion around SF, shoppers now have easier access when shopping for the one of kind affordable merchandise TopShelf Boutique offers in store. Ruiz said, “We will have more space to carry a wider variety, some limited at first, more well known brand names, and eventually some shoes!”

Ruiz will continue to hit the streets of San Francisco in her truck but primarily on weekends and the TopShelf Boutique will be open Monday through Friday from 10am to 6pm.

Raiju Takes the Stage

By Jessica Mendoza

The lights dim down in the Depot. The current band, which just performed, left the stage and the workers are setting up the equipment on the stage as they prepare for the next band to take the stage.

While the stage is being set, Vinnie Hecht, drummer and bartender at the SF State Pub, taps his sticks on the drums and practices his part while he looks at his laptop screen for the music notes. His long time friend, Bobby Carroll, is fixing his guitar and playing a couple of notes on his guitar.

“I have to warm up my voice right now” as Scott Wagner, vocalist, tells Darby Keith, guitarist, before the stage is completely set up. Max Coley, the bass player, is sitting down and talking to a few people and selling the bands t-shirts.

People are standing in front of the stage and chatting amongst themselves with beers in their hand. The crowd grows bigger and start gathering in The Depot as eagerly awaiting Raiju to come out and take the stage.

It’s Raiju’s first performance on stage together since earlier this year. “Scott and I know each other since 2006” says Nick. Scott and Nick moved from Los Angeles to the Bay Area. They were looking forward to create a new band. “We put on an ad on Craigslist,” says Nick about looking for musicians.

Bobby and Vinnie have been friends since the third grade. They have been playing together from middle school throughout high school.

They responded to Nick and Scott’s ad and got hold of them. To complete the entire group, they needed a bass player. Later on, Max responded to the ad and completed the band.
“We’re focusing on mystical creatures,” says Vinnie when it came to picking a name for the band. They went through a list of names. Finally, they pick “Raiju”. It pronounces “rye-joo” and it stands for a “Japanese thunder beast” according to the band. Raiju practices at a rehearsal room in the Oakland Music Complex.

“We really wanted heavy metal music that was strange and odd” as Bobby describes Raiju’s music. All together, they wanted a sound that would be “applying to us and to make it fun for listeners”, says Bobby.

Prior to the performance, there were minor technical problems with sound. Once everything is fixing, Raiju is ready to take the stage. The guys were more excited than nervous since it’s the first show.

Raiju goes on stage. Scott thanks the crowd for their patience. He assures them “It usually doesn’t take us this long to set up considering it’s our first show.”

Bobby takes the mic and says “I’m so sorry, but let’s fucking rock!”

The anticipation was over and the show begins. As Raiju plays their first song “Pride and Gluttony +Sanitation by Fire”, begins with aggressive heavy metal sound. Scott jumps off the stage. He screams from top of lungs as his voice echoes through the room. The tempo of the music is faster and faster and slow down and fast again.

While the music is playing, a man jumps out of the crowd and begins the mosh pit. Finally He bumps into the crowd and Scott as he’s singing the song. The man bash into someone and made the person spewing his beer all over the crowded floor.

The guys of Raiju created music for anyone who enjoys the sounds of explosive heavy metal rock coming from the fires of hell and leave your ears will be ringing for days.

Raiju played other songs to the audience. The show ended. Raiju thanks the crowd for the support especially Vinnie, who takes the mic and says “thank you all for showing and I see a lot of regulars from the Pub.”

An Educational Partnership For At-Risk Youth

By Vanessa Serpas

Eunice Nuval sits hovered over the projector. She’s making edits to a monologue written by Jackie, her seventeen-year-old student at San Francisco’s Downtown High School. Far from the typical high school experience, Mrs. Nuval—as she’s known in the classroom—spends much of her time with students reviewing their monologues and plays for their final exhibition at the end of the semester.

Downtown High, or DHS, is unlike traditional comprehensive high schools in the Bay Area. It is a continuation school for students who have fallen off track in the standard-curriculum high school setting and are referred by the city’s School District to more personalized programs offered by DHS.

Ben, an eighteen-year-old student who was transferred to DHS from Raoul Wallenberg Traditional High School says, “I like Downtown better than Wallenberg because I get more support and one-on-one help.”

Unlike Ben, seventeen-year-old Jose, wishes he was still at his previous high school, Galileo Academy of Science and Technology. “I miss being there because my mom wanted to see me graduate from there.”

With a project-based curriculum that connects their hands-on experiences to the “real world,” DHS allows the students to pick a project they are most interested in for the semester.

“Ideally, every subject is integrated around the project theme,” says Robert Ayala, a teacher at DHS. While he has been able to integrate most subjects around the project he is co-teaching, he is still working on integrating mathematics, which at the moment, he teaches as a separate course.

Projects at DHS range from topics like Physics Reflected In Social Movements also known as PRISM, which studies how ideas in social history and physics can be comparable, to Acting For Critical Thought, also known as ACT, which, this semester, focuses on the diasporas in migrant communities through playwriting and stage performance.

Nuval and Ayala run ACT, the theater project she established two years ago in partnership with Elizabeth Brodersen, the first Director of Education at the American Conservatory Theater. Brodersen recalls that only two months after being appointed director, “Eunice called me and said I’m a teacher at Downtown High School, we want to establish a theater project and would you be our partner, and I said sure!”

With the help of Brodersen, Nuval is able to take her students to the Conservatory, located at 415 Geary St., every week for acting workshops with company member and teaching artist, Nick Gabriel.

In the workshops, the students attempt to perfect their stage performance for plays and monologues. Through direction and much repetition, Gabriel works alongside the students to help them out of their shell to create a memorable performance at the exhibition.

“We’re gonna keep doing this if it kills me and you,” says Gabriel jokingly to the class. Over and over again he demonstrates exaggerated performance movements and voice projection that the students need to copy. While this results in giggles from the students, he provides great examples for them to imitate, so as to captivate their audience at the show.

In addition to the weekly acting workshops, Nuval has also generated a partnership with 826 Valencia, a literacy initiative located in San Francisco’s Mission District. Each week, tutors from 826 Valencia work with students to develop their writing skills and answer any questions they may have about the monologues or plays they have created.

When the students are not at the Conservatory, or with the tutors, they are diligently working with Nuval and Ayala grinding away at their work in preparation for the exhibition. Through prompts and daily classroom exercises, Nuval is constantly pushing her students to reach their potential.

Nuval’s ultimate goal for her students—which she feels is being accomplished—is “for their voices to be heard, their stories to be told and to take their experiential learning outside of the school.”

While the exhibition is currently not open to the public because of auditorium space limitations, Brodersen hopes a larger space will soon be available for public attendance.

A Night of Fashion

SF State's Apparel Design and Merchendising students present thier work at the Runway Ignite fashion show on Thursday, May 2, 2013.
SF State’s Apparel Design and Merchendising students present thier work at the Runway Ignite fashion show on Thursday, May 2, 2013. Photo by Samantha Benedict / Xpress

By Melissa Landeros
Photos by Samantha Benedict and Kenny Redublo

More than 20 designers, over 120 models, a production team of about 80, 1 runway and 1 night that brought all types of people together to support SF State’s Apparel Design and Merchandising (ADM) students at the San Francisco Design Center May 2nd.

After months of preparation SF State’s Fashion Network Association (FNA) was able to produce the 19th annual fashion show, Runway 2013: Ignite at the San Francisco Design Center, in collaboration with the students from the Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts Department (BECA) and the ADM students.

Every spring semester the graduating seniors from the ADM department create their own line or individual looks to showcase to fellow onlookers, as a stepping stone into their future of making it big in the fashion industry.

While the senior ADM merchandising students help backstage during the production. Working backstage includes numerous tasks from constant model changes, checking the line up, and making sure each individual look is put together as the designer wants it to be.

As guests were checking in and getting a grasp of the venue committee leaders were hard at work behind the scenes getting models ready to strut down the runway. Backstage manager Brittany Poon expressed how she and her team had pre-show jitters but once the show began everything ran smoothly. Poon, said, “Anytime you have a large event, there are bound to be a few hiccups, but my team was well prepared and on top of it.”

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SF State’s Apparel Design and Merchendising students present thier work at the Runway Ignite fashion show on Thursday, May 2, 2013. Photo by Samantha Benedict / Xpress

The Fashion Network Association is a student run organization open to anyone interested in promoting/producing fashion events and publications. The FNA is the bridge that connects students and alumni in order to gain industry knowledge and opportunities to network.

The student run association is broken up into committees that have their individual duties when it comes to producing the spring fashion show. The public relations committee reached out to vendors, bloggers, and designers for donations for the raffle, which took place during the show. Raffle prizes consisted of gift cards from JewelMint, Weston Wear, Freda Salvador, and a grand prize of a dress form donated by Menswear Designer Justin Jamison.

Public Relations officer Faviola Vega, said, “I think the FNA team enjoyed the process of seeing the show come together.” Vega said while at times the process was difficult because not everyone was available when needed she was very pleased with the FNA and their contribution to the show.

The FNA model committee recruited models for those designers who did not already have their own, created spreadsheets pairing the two, hosted model fittings, and runway walking workshops. Model committee was also in charge of recruiting a hair and makeup team, which consisted of Fremont Beauty College students and freelance makeup artists who volunteered their services.

Runway model coach Charleston Pierce offered his expertise in helping the student models perfect their walk up until the day of the show. Pierce said, “I saw lots of potential in the models and would love to work with the FNA in the future.” He also said the show was great, there was a lot of excitement and he saw the energy in everyone’s faces.

FNA member Peyton Howell director for the model committee also served as a model to many designers during the show. Howell said, “I was given the chance to work with and wear clothing from multiple talented artists and it was just an exhilarating experience.”

All FNA members promoted the show by posting flyers throughout the SF State campus and promoting through social media outlets like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. The students from the BECA department also created video advertisements for Runway 2013: Ignite, via YouTube and Vimeo.

The BECA students also created short videos about the student designers, which were broadcasted before their looks went down the runway. The production team also recorded the show live but due to technical difficulties the video did not stream on the projector overhead as the show was in motion. Although, the audience was able to relive the show and its highlights once the production concluded.

The ADM student designers showcased a variety of individual looks from exaggerated pieces to upcycled looks from garments donated by Goodwill. Some lines were simple yet very detailed like Genevieve Sixbey-Spring’s scarf collection entitled ISRE. While Allison Brackeen’s Lady V. Lingerie collection was intricate and feminine. Along with individual looks there were 19 collections ranging from 5 to 7 looks each.

SF State design student Kiana Loo created three individual looks one, being an exaggerated piece, another inspired by nature, and an upcycled look. Loo also featured her collection entitled Lotus of short skirts and dresses. Loo was inspired by silk periwinkle colored fabrics that she utilized in her collection. She said, “I wanted my line to be fresh, fun, and flirty, and I also believe it to be very wearable.” Loo future goals include moving to Los Angeles and opening up her own store.

Student designer Van Tran created an individual look and a collection that embodied lots of hard wear in the form of chains and beading. While it took some designers up to 4 months to create their lines, Tran said her line was complete after 1 month. Her collection is called A Royal Battle, and with that Tran said, “I want to move to New York and hope to move up in the design world.”

SF State's Apparel Design and Merchendising students present thier work at the Runway Ignite fashion show on Thursday, May 2, 2013. Photo by Samantha Benedict / Xpress
SF State’s Apparel Design and Merchendising students present thier work at the Runway Ignite fashion show on Thursday, May 2, 2013. Photo by Samantha Benedict / Xpress

Vice President of the FNA Jessie Couberly who was also the front stage manager during the show thought the show was a success. Couberly said, “All the talented people at the show were amazing and they would not be who they are without the support of those around them.” With it being Couberly last semester as the FNA Vice President she hopes that someone will continue to carry on the amazing organization for many years to come.

The entire show lasted about 3 hours and the runway was about half the time. The moment ADM design students are in the program they know what is to expect their last semester at SF State. The designers put in many hours, weeks, even months into creating their garments. The time mounting up until they showcase their line is long awaited but the time all their hard work is shown on the runway only lasts but a few moments.

SF State Student Annmarie Bustamante will be showcasing her line at next year’s annual fashion show. Bustamante already knowing that her work will only be featured for a few moments said it is still worth the strenuous effort. She said, “Seeing your looks in motion with the fast paced strut of the models excites and entertains the crowd and that is more powerful than a still photograph.”

Designer Elena Corona’s line Kawaii Yakuza was inspired by Harajuku street wear, which is a casual look consisting of bright and pastel colors. Corona said, “I wanted my line to be a reflection of my personal style and interests.” Her designs are simple but added touches like studs on collars and intricate headbands make her looks stand out.

Lee Hi, a Korean pop singer who wears toy like “crowns,” inspires Corona’s elaborate headbands. Corona’s headbands each had a theme; one was made of roses while another was made of candy wrappers.

As the looks came down the runway the audience was captivated and one could hear how some ooed and awed at the designs. Attendee Heather Marcy said, “I was literally standing next to my friend pointing out pieces I loved and wanted to wear myself.” She thought the show was a good production overall and had a fun experience.

FNA president Kayla Odwald stressed how the entire show production would not have been possible without the help of several people. Runway 2013: Ignite was established due to the hard work of the ADM department, the FNA, the BECA department, the production/media committees and the generosity of those who donated items to the show.

While this spring show is a wrap there will be a whole new set of designs, designers, and production team next year. Also stay tuned for the upcoming fall semester in which the FNA will produce another fashion show leading up to the spring show.

Across the Universe

By Babak Haghighi

Writers find meaning in words. Musicians find it through notes, and artists through their art. Likewise, the astrophysics students who run the SFSU Observatory find meaning by looking at the night sky.

It’s a rare starry night in San Francisco—at least as seen from the rooftop of Thornton Hall. Expensive telescopes of all shapes and sizes decorate the SFSU Observatory, and red and black florescent lights surround them. Under the blacklight, orange and green chalk glows bright on a chalkboard, revealing the specifications of the telescopes. It looks like something out of a glow-in-the-dark bowling alley. The ethereal beats of Canadian band Purity Ring play from a laptop in the corner. It’s the first time Stephanie Lauber has brought music to the observatory, but it’s far from the first time she’s been there.

Lauber, a 25-year-old astrophysics student at SF State, has been running the SFSU Observatory for years. As a student with a more-than-heavy workload, she finds solace in looking out into space from the observatory.

“If I couldn’t come up here, I’d go crazy,” she says.

Her coursework requires endless equations and complex theories, but as a reward, she can look at the stars and truly understand them. Despite her impressive understanding of astrophysics, she is fascinated by the universe for one simple reason.

“Space is cool,” she says.

On a clear Wednesday night, Lauber and her fellow astrophysics classmate Dylan Pounds point the observatory’s best telescope at Jupiter. The $36,000 instrument is a 16-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain with a reflective lens. It stands on a $40 concrete block. Through the lens of the telescope, Lauber and Pounds look at the largest planet in the Solar System and are impressed that the expensive equipment allows them to see the planet’s stripes.

“It’s fucking incredible,” says Pounds, who hopes one day to become an astronaut. “This thing [Jupiter] is so far away, and the fact that we can see it is mind-blowing.”

Other telescopes are pointed elsewhere, and there is much to see in the sky. The stars tell tales of Greek gods and their respective myths, and Lauber and Pounds know nearly all of them.

The observatory is open to the public every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday night, as long as the weather permits. However, it doesn’t get too many visitors. Heavy clouds and light pollution make San Francisco a less-than-ideal location for stargazing, but Lauber explains that it’s not as bad as people might think.

“Yes, it’s true,” says Lauber. “We can see stars from San Francisco.”

As Lauber and Pounds prepare to close shop, the Orion Nebula appears at the horizon. As The Beatles’ “Across the Universe” plays appropriately, Lauber and Pounds track down the nebula with the telescopes. Lauber picks up the Schmidt-Cassegrain’s controller, which resembles that of an Atari controller. She moves the joystick and the telescope reacts accordingly.

“This is the most frustrating part,” she says, eager to track her favorite nebula in the universe.

Being the brilliant astrophysicist that she is, Lauber has no trouble hunting down Orion. The telescope brings out the true beauty of what might otherwise look like a typical cluster of stars.

Once the observatory closes, Lauber and Pounds have to hit the books again. Equations, formulas, and theories await them downstairs. But when they come back up tomorrow, they will use those formulas and theories to explore the universe through the lens of a telescope—one star at a time.

Barcelona After Dark

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Photo by Babak Haghighi

By Babak Haghighi

It was my last night in Barcelona. The sangria-induced hangover was just starting to fade after a day full of Gaudí sightseeing, beach roaming, and paella eating. With an 8:16 a.m. train to Marseille, France the next morning, the smart thing to do would have been to have a low-key night—perhaps stay in at the hostel. But I didn’t come to Barcelona to be smart.

When in Spain, do as the Spanish do: Party. Hard. It was Friday night, after all. So I opted to join a pub crawl with some other travelers from my hostel. It was quite the international crowd, including Ala, a teacher from Poland whom I met in Madrid a few days earlier.

We headed out at 11:30 p.m., which is pretty early for Spain. A typical night out in Spain often starts at around 1 or 2 a.m., but I wasn’t complaining. We started out at Ryans Irish Pub—perhaps not the most authentic example of Catalan nightlife.

“¿Hablas inglés?” I asked the bartender, eager to show off my seven years worth of elementary Spanish knowledge.
He didn’t hear me over the noise, so I asked again.
“¿Hablas inglés?”
“Hmm?” he responded.
I asked once more.
“I can’t hear you, man,” he said in his North American accent.
He spoke English. I ordered a beer.

Downstairs, a group of American girls tilted their heads back and opened their mouths wide as the pub crawl leader poured liquor down each of their throats. Those inane Americans wouldn’t last the night—everyone knew it. This was no college dorm party with watered-down beer. This was Spain. This was Catalonia. This was Barcelona. The night was young.

“These American girls are crazy,” said Ala. I agreed. Not once during my six-month tour of Europe did I introduce myself as an American. I was Californian. There’s a difference, and everyone in Europe recognized it. Introduce yourself as American, and they grimace. Many people seem to have their mind set on what an American is like, and they want nothing to do with it. But introduce yourself as Californian, and their eyes light up, eager to learn more. Once you tell them you’re from San Francisco, jaws drop and shrieks of excitement fill the air. Many Western Europeans told me that they think of San Francisco as “the European city of America.” Not a bad reputation over there.

Four pubs and three hours later, it was time to end the night at a dance club. On this particular Friday night, Boulevard Culture Club, or BLVD as the locals know it, was the place to party. Located right in the middle of La Rambla, the busiest street in the heart of Barcelona’s city center, BLVD is a popular spot for tourists and locals alike. The young, international crowd and variety of music make it a worthy party venue, but even with three dance floors it remains one of the city’s more low-key night clubs.

 

Photo by Babak Haghighi
Photo by Babak Haghighi

The Polish Ala hits the dance floor. Before long, she notices her purse is open and her belongings are missing—particularly one iPhone and one wallet.

Barcelona is no stranger to pickpockets. TripAdvisor, among many other travel websites, lists Barcelona as the number one place in the world to beware pickpockets and specifically distinguishes La Rambla as a hotspot for wallet snatchers.

In Ala’s case, the pickpocket watched her as she danced the night away. Distracted by the good music and good vibes, she failed to notice the pickpocket open her purse and steal her phone and wallet. She searched the floors helplessly and ran back to the hostel in distress.

“They pickpocketed me in style,” said Ala. “You really have to have your eyes wide open all the time.”

With my own wallet still in my back pocket where I left it, I continued to enjoy my last night in Barcelona. Once I realized I was the only person left standing from the pub crawl group, I stepped outside for a cigarette—one which would spark a six-month chain-smoking session in true European fashion. Outside, I met a friendly group of Germans. Nina led the pack, accompanied by her friends Kirillo, Kai, and Man, who were visiting Nina from their hometown, Düsseldorf. Nina had recently moved to Barcelona and worked as a bartender.

It was late. I had a train to catch in two hours. The nightclub was closing. In most parts of Spain, Barcelona included, the nightlife shuts down at around 6 a.m. The streets are dark. Empty. Lifeless. What was, just minutes ago, a vibrant playground for drunken debauchery is turned into a barren neighborhood of sketchy streets and sketchy people.

What the guidebooks don’t tell you is that at 6:01, a new side of Barcelona opens up.

“We’re going to get some food,” said Nina. “Do you want to join us?”

Most people would think to call it a night. I did have a train to catch, after all. But I was determined to let the good times roll. I joined them, curious as to where one gets food in Barcelona at six in the morning after a long night out.

The city was dead. Business hours were over, as evidenced by the aluminum garage doors covering the windows and entrances of nearly every building. Nothing was open. Or so it seemed.

Nina approaches one of the aluminum doors of a seemingly closed shop and knocks. Lo and behold, a man opens a hidden door and lets us into his diner. The place is packed. The cooks are hard at work at the grill as if it’s the lunch rush at In-N-Out. We sit at a table and each order a breakfast burger and a beer. Nina helps me order, as both the Catalan and Spanish languages are mysteries to me—at least as far as burger menus go.

Germans seem to have a reputation for lacking a sense of humor, yet we still shared laughs as we poked fun at each other’s names, among other things. As we waited for our food, Nina’s bartending colleague, Francesca, walked in. Francesca, a beautiful brunette from Italy, had just gotten off work.

“I’m ready to party!” she shouted.

It was nearing 7 a.m. when we left the diner. The sun was out now. The Germans said their goodbyes and called it a night. But Francesca was just getting started.

“Let’s get a drink,” said Francesca.
I had a train to catch in just over an hour.
“I’ll buy,” she said.
I was sold.

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Photo by Babak Haghighi

Francesca moved to Barcelona from Italy just a few months earlier. It didn’t take her long to learn the secrets of the Catalan capital, and she was glad to show me the ropes.

“Sow how do you know Nina?” she asked.
“Oh… I met her a couple of hours ago,” I responded.
“Well what are you doing in Barcelona?” she asked.
“Just traveling.”
“All by yourself?”
“Yep.”
She found this to be both fascinating and crazy.

But Francesca was fascinating and crazy herself. Standing no taller than 5’2”, the curly-haired Italian was an independent woman of wild energy. She envied my travel plans and hoped one day to do the same.

“A journalist, wow!” she exclaimed.

To call her a free spirit would be an understatement. She wore a collection of Rasta-colored wristbands on both of her arms, making her fit in well in Barcelona. She was a fan of marijuana, as it is a huge part of the liberal Catalan and Barcelonan culture.

Francesca leads me southwest along the beachside promenade towards the Port of Barcelona. She was about to show me one of the most intriguing secrets of Barcelona’s late-night afterlife. Francesca walks up to another building covered up by aluminum doors. She knocks, and once again, a hidden door opens. Inside, a busy and bustling bar awaits. Classy Spanish jazz plays from a jukebox in the back. Nearby, groups of friends play foosball and billiards on their respective tables. Well-over 75 patrons sit at the surrounding tables and chat over food and drink. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Tourists need not apply here. It felt like a speakeasy from 1920s Atlantic City, hidden from the rest of the city. After three days of sightseeing and tourist attractions, this was a refreshing change of pace.

Francesca and I sat at the bar. I had less than an hour to catch my train. When in Spain, do as the Italians do (apparently), and take shots of Jägermeister at 7 a.m. She ordered each of us a shot as well as a side of Patatas Bravas, one of Spain’s greatest tapas dishes. The tapa consists of small slices of fried potato covered in a delicious spicy tomato sauce. But Francesca disliked spicy food, so she ordered a mayonnaise sauce instead. It made for one hell of a chaser.

Alas, all good things must come to an end, and so came to an end my trip to Barcelona. It was 7:45 a.m. and I was taking shots in a hidden bar in the middle of who-knows-where. With a kiss on the cheek, I bid farewell to Francesca but promised we’d meet again. My train was going to leave in half an hour, so I rushed back to the hostel, ignoring the pain from the blisters on my feet. I walked into the hostel and the receptionist gave me a smile. She knew I had a good night in Barcelona. Within minutes I packed my bags packed and checked out.

“I have a train in 15 minutes,” I told the receptionist as I left.
“Uh-oh,” she said.

I learned the secrets of Barcelona’s nightlife. I saw the things they hide from tourists like myself. That 8:16 train to Marseille left, along with its dozens of passengers. I was not one of them.

A Biker’s Plight

By Kenny Redublo

I awake to a sound I hate. It’s like any other morning. I turn off the daily alarm and fall right back to sleep. I can spare the time to sleep in a bit more. As long as I have five minutes to bike to class.

Thirty minutes before class, I finally get my morning routine in motion. Shower, brush teeth, backpack, and bikes. Wait.

I open up my front door and the empty space where my bikes usually would be is, well, empty. The space between my front door and a solid steel gate is this safety zone where I thought was, well, safe.

Not today. There goes my morning routine.

The gate was wide open, slightly swinging from the windstorm of the morning. All I had in my head were incomplete questions.

How did they…? Where are my…? Who left this…?
Then came the blind rage.

I spout out a constant stream of obscenities and curse words as I shatter a planter on my way out of my barren safe zone, but sadly walk back into the house as I realize I don’t need my bike lock any more.

The weight of my bike lock was the weight of my rage being lifted off of me. I began to sadly accept my plight, though I kept running through hypothetical situations of recovering my bikes and the subsequent revenge I would take on the assailants.

But what could I do? What was there to do?
Nothing. All I can do is to move on.
This happens all the time.

I tell myself that and, sure, it calms me down, but it’s not enough. There’s this bikeless void in me and now I’m late to class.

Bikes are essential to the daily commute in San Francisco. The city is taking more measures into widening bike lanes or timing traffic lights for a greener, more efficient everyday commute. San Franciscans are relying on bikes as much as cars or public transit. It’s almost even a burden to wait for a delayed bus or endlessly circling street to street for that prime parking spot.

But bikes are easy to steal. On the SF State campus, according to campus police, during the Spring 2013 semester, there have been twelve reported thefts, compared to last semester’s nineteen reports, and many other thefts go unreported since there’s not much to be done about a bike theft. With a car, there’s insurance, car registration, and, in some cases, tracking devices like LoJack. A car is an investment and protecting that investment is vital. Bikes can be an investment but not on the scale of a car. Insurance on a bike can cost more than what the bike is worth. Grand theft auto is a more heinous crime than bike theft, or petty theft as classified by police reports.

Basically, bike thieves are jerks. It’s a petty crime from a petty person. Their actions shake your sense of safety and ruins your daily routine.

But with trial and error, it’s a learning experience. An aggravating learning experience.

As much as I was inconvenienced by my morning surprise, other people rely on their bikes much more than I do, especially when riding bikes is their job.

Taking care of business on two wheels
Dave Yoha is the general manager of TCB Courier. TCB is a bike messenger service delivering anything, from food and drinks to batteries and condoms. Late night fixes are fulfilled for the residents of the Mission, SoMa, Haight, and neighboring districts thanks to TCB. Going from district to district, the couriers increase their risk of bike theft and its effects can damaging to the business, and more so to the rider.

“It’s always a terrible thing to have happen because it’s something you rely on and inevitably something you have to put money and care into or maintaining or building,” says Yoha. “When it’s something you rely on for your job or your personal training, it affects so many aspects of your day to day life.”

TCB started so people could have jobs. One of the founders traveled constantly, and one time he came home from some messenger trip in Japan and didn’t have a job anymore. He was wanted a job where if he were to leave town for a week or two, he would still be employed.

The original goal of TCB was to start a company for messengers, by messengers that allows them to still live that traveling lifestyle but have a sense of security of being able to have a job when they get home. They made the job what they wanted it to be instead of “some guy in an office telling them what they wanted to be.”

Over the course of 2013, TCB experienced upward to five bike thefts while riders were on the job. Most cases were when bikes were left unattended for a short time in front of restaurants or other drop off points. Theft can happen in a matter of seconds.

There were a couple of incidents where locks were cut through and other odd cases.
“We had a few mysterious instances where one of the riders would have their bike U-locked to a parking meter or bike rack and then they were just gone, which is really bizarre.,” says Yoha.

Though the streets of San Francisco may be crowded, most of the thefts happen during the dinner rush where riders are dropping in and out of businesses and residents.

The string of incidents left Yoha wondering if there was a vendetta against TCB, like someone was targeting the riders, but it was just the opportunities the couriers were giving the thieves. Yoha says that any experienced bike thief can figure out the popular spots where riders would hang out and operate. It was nothing personal, especially in the Mission.

“This is what some guys do–they go around stealing bikes and bike parts.”
According to the San Francisco Police Department crime maps, there have been over 400 reported thefts in the Mission district since the beginning of this year. Theft is no stranger in the Mission, but with its more bike friendly streets like Valencia Street, bike theft is more prominent in the neighborhood.

“I think that even though it’s Valencia Street and it’s kind of a gentrified, localized area, it’s still the Mission,” says Yoha.

“Overall, it’s not the best neighborhood and there are still a lot of people there living hand and mouth and theft is a real life way to feed yourself or provide yourself for whatever other vices you may have.”

“There’s a lot of opportunity for bikes to get stolen.”

Yoha recalled one incident where someone, a “crackhead,” tried to walk off with another rider’s bike.

He was hanging out with three other riders outside of a cafe in the Mission, around the corner of a popular art gallery. The gallery was full of people coming and going and the riders kept a watchful eye on their unlocked bikes. A group of people also noticed the bikes as they walked by and one broke off from the group, casually walking up to one of the bikes. The thief grabbed the bike and started to walk off. As the thief walked away, Yoha and his friends caught the thief instantly, asking him what he was doing. Confused and caught red handed, the thief told Yoha and the riders saying the bike was his and he was just picking it up. Not believing a word, they told him to get out of there and leave the bike alone. The thief knew well enough that wasn’t his bike and the riders made sure of the fact, so he walked away empty handed.

Leaving a bike unattended is a bad idea, even if it’s just for a few seconds and no matter what time it is.

One night, Yoha was coming home after work and decided to stop into Safeway. It was just a quick errand before he headed home so he locked up his bike in front, only locking the front wheel and frame to a bike rack. Coming out of the supermarket, he noticed his rear wheel was gone. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a person scurrying away with the wheel. The thief was even trying to unsuccessfully hide the wheel underneath his shirt. Yoha confronted the thief and the thief claimed he was told to steal the wheel. Since no one else was around especially late at night, Yoha brushed aside the thief’s attempt at an excuse and chased him out of sight.

Some people will do and say anything for a quick dollar.

“Bikes and bike parts are a really easy thing to flip,” says Yoha. “You can steal it with little to no effort, you can flip it and sell it on the street for next to nothing, and get a quick few bucks.”

The monetary value on the street for bikes or parts can range from pocket cash to a few hundred dollars, with the sentimental value is usually thrown aside as collateral.

A bipedal buddy
I had my bike for more than five years. I bought it from a friend for $175 and put in about $300 more into building it to my own personal specifications. It got me around the Southern Californian beaches and Downtown Los Angeles streets and it traveled with me on my move up to San Francisco. My bike got me through the Daly City and San Francisco hills I couldn’t fathom possible in Southern California to either school, work, or random explorations in the city. My mileage couldn’t compare to other riders, but I wasn’t riding for the distance. I was riding to get me somewhere, wherever that was. The in between was just an added perk.

There is a bond between the bike and the rider and there’s no filter for sentimental value on Craigslist. So when a rider loses their bike, they can’t buy back the time and memories stolen from them.

One victim of bike theft on Valencia Street left a note behind for the thief. It was one way of retaliation. The note provided some background for the bike.

One, it was the victim’s mother’s bike.
Two, the victim fixed it up with the last of his/her savings.
Three, the victim works, goes to school, and doesn’t have much money or possessions.
And four, the victim has plenty of doctor’s appointments to go to, for their cancer treatment, and their bike was the only means of transportation.

A note, especially one that tugs the heartstrings and makes its way onto Instagram, is a small way to gain notoriety for a stolen bike. The more people know about it, the better chances are of someone recognizing the bike.

Though there may not be much to do to recover a stolen bike, there are some measures to help ease the worried mind and maybe lead to recovery.

Bike path to recovery
Filing a police report can be a waste of time. The SFPD already has their hands full with more heinous crimes like murders or assaults or drugs. Relying on them to be on the lookout for a stolen bike can provide some false hope.

Filing a police report does give you evidence that the reported bike is yours, which is great for confronting your bike thief, especially if you have a police officer with you.
Riders know their bikes, according to Yoha, and the prevailing attitude among them when they lose their bike is “it’s going to take an army to stop me from getting my bike back.”
Little tricks like hiding notes with your contact information inside of the bike frame or just knowing the in’s and out’s of your bike can invalidate the bike thief when claiming what’s yours to a police officer.

One TCB rider confronted their bike thief while accompanied by a police officer. The police officer wanted the rider to prove that the bike in question was actually his. Asking the bike thief what the gear ratio is already invalidated ownership, but that wasn’t enough for the officer. The rider stood patiently as the police officer counted each tooth on the gear for some solid evidence.

“If some cop or mediator asks how you can prove this is your bike, I would say ‘well, how long of a list do you want? I built it from the ground up, what do you want to know?’” says Yoha.

The rider eventually recovered his bike, but this isn’t the case most of the time. Time is of the essence when it comes to recovery.

“If you haven’t recovered your bike in the first day or two, the chances you’re going to recover it are slim,” says Yoha.

Fighting back
The San Francisco Bike Coalition have been fighting bike theft ever since their inception in 1971. This year, they will be working with SFPD to investigate bike theft rings and to collect statistics on where bike theft is most rampant, according to communication director Kristin Smith. Until their collaboration yields results, SF Bike Coalition holds free courses on educating the public about bike safety and theft prevention every month. If you can’t make it to any of the scheduled classes, there are tips on their website on how to lock up your bike safely and securely around the city.

Bike theft isn’t a problem that can be solved at a source, but there are ways to prevent it.
The best way is to make theft harder for the thief.

Having a U-lock is vital for locking up in the city and the smaller, the better. Larger U-locks have a greater chance of being pried open. Pair the U-lock with a cable to protect the wheels from being stolen and that’s the optimal setup for protection.

Using small cables to secure the bike seat and replacing quick release skewers for wheels are additional options for preventing thieves stripping the bike part by part.

As much as additional gear can help, the most important tip is to be aware of your surroundings. The longer a bike is locked up, left unattended, in an unpopulated, or populated, place, the more likely it’s subject to having it’s parts stolen.

Don’t ever leave your bike unlocked.
Don’t ever turn your back on your bike.
Just use your better judgment.

A Cautionary tale
I took my bike for granted and that put my guard down. My mistakes of leaving it locked up overnight in the Mission or at the bike barn at school with it still being there, intact, made me too confident and too trusting of the city.

I can’t trust this city, or anyone in it.

My bikes were stolen at my home, my safe zone. These things happen where you expect them the least and I now will strive to expect the unexpected.

Where to go from here is back onto the bike path. When one bike goes, there’s always another friend selling one, or giving one away, or parts just laying around. I am still angry about what happened, but I’m still on the move, one pedal at a time.

SpeCATular!

photo-1
Cat featured at the Internet Cat Video Festival in Oakland. Photo by Nicole Ellis

By Nicole Ellis

Soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur. Happy kitty, sleepy kitty, purr, purr, purr.

The Walker Art Center, a contemporary art center in Minneapolis, hosted last year’s Internet Cat Video Festival and Oakland had the honor of hosting it this year. Oakland seems like a great fit for this eccentric festival because it’s a cosmopolis of hippies, hipsters, and human cats. Yes, I’ve never seen as many people dressed up as kitties than I did on Saturday at the festival.

The festival was held at the Great Wall of Oakland, which is located on W. Grand between Telegraph and Broadway. “The Great Wall of Oakland is interested crowd-sourced content and engaging the public in art,” Issabella Shields Grantham, the director of the Great Wall of Oakland, explained. The festival did just that. The event brought art to the people and people brought art to the event all while benefiting the East Bay SPCA.

As I walked through the front entrance and past the first group of kitty enthusiasts, I heard Cruel Summer, a San Francisco based alternative punk band, blaring through the amplifier. I was a little disappointed to see they weren’t dressed up like the cast of the musical cats, but as I turned the corner and walked up to the first row of booths, that feeling ceased.

Four words I’ve never heard said in the same sentence: puking kitty gravy boats. Yes, you read that correctly. Ginger Ela and her boyfriend thought up the idea after seeing a post on laughingsquid.com of a puking squirrel gravy boat. The feline lovers immediately thought about adopting the idea and making a cat version. “We just did a kick starter after our video went viral,” Ela smiled. “If you look up puking kitty we’re like the third one that comes up.” Their kickstarter page is the first result that appears after googling “puking kitty.” They must be doing something right because they reached their $14,000 kickstarter goal and are starting to accept pre-orders on the $75 handcrafted saucy boats. “About half of our production run is sold already,” Ela said proudly.

This booth was hard to top and I have to say, the idea was practical and hilarious at the same time. Although I don’t think mounted ceramic cat heads are as hilarious, they are just as fun to look at. Aaron Vonk is a local artist who creates one-of-a-kind pieces and just recently added cat heads to his resume. He crafted a custom cat head mold that he uses to create the ceramic art, Vonk explains. The cat heads are mounted to a wooden backing, some of which are covered in colorful fabric and sold around $40.

After walking past Vonk and Ela’s booths, I decided to check out the blocked off area across the street where people we congregating around art tables. I have to mention that I’ve never seen as many cat ears in my life. A station full of different colored paper made it possible for people to cut and create their own feline ears. My favorite part about the phenomena is once the cat ears were on, it seemed to give people the extra push to be unique. It was like the ears were an invisible cloak that gave people the OK to be weird for the remainder of the day, or weirder in some cases.

I was surprised to see the array of people who were there. When I think of cat people, I think of older ladies who live in Berkeley, but that wasn’t the case. There were children, businessmen, Goths, and every type of cat person under the sun.

“People think that only women like cats, but our ticket sales indicate otherwise,” Grantham explained. “We’ve had inquiries about the festival from families with young children to hipsters to older couples.” Grantham estimates about six thousand people were to attend the event based on ticket sales.

As I left the arts and crafts area, I stood up on a rock to get an aerial view of the event. I looked out past the tented booths when I heard a group of ladies chit chatting near me. “Look at that dog!” one of them said repulsed . “Who would bring a dog to a cat festival?” she continued. One of the other ladies chimes in, “did you see it was wearing cat ears?” she asked. The lady in disgust responded, “No…” she takes a second look at the dog and sees the ears. “Oh yeah, well, I guess I like it then!” she said with a change of heart. It’s safe to say she’s a cat person.

After I do some eavesdropping, I continue to walk toward the other set of booths that line the closed off street. Booths sold specialty cat food, Purrfume, and kitty collars. But the booth that stood out to me the most was the cat-chat booth. Dennis and Rachel Sirringhaus are starting a unique venture. The husband and wife duo are launching a cat video chat website. Think of Skype and Chatroulette. The concept is simple. “Our initial vision is that people can get on[line],” Sirringhaus explained. “They’re sitting at home with their cat and their webcam and they can flick on a button and they’ll be instantly transported to someone else’s living room where that person is sitting there with their cat as well and the cats can interact and the people can interact.” Cat Video Cat is just a website for now. The Sirringhaus’ are trying to gather information and see if this concept is something that people are interested in.

They have the overall vision down, but there are attending festivals and other gatherings to see what the public thinks about it. “It might evolve into something like a social network,” Sirringhaus explained. “We also figured that for this you could fill in some initial bio information for your cat. Like how old they are, funny stuff they do, things they like and don’t like. So when you click on someone else’s cat, you find out about them immediately. And people love talking about their cats. We think cat owners like to learn about other people’s cats too.”

I love this idea. I know cat people will definitely log on to chat.

I join the crowd and walk toward the booth that was giving away t-shirts. Who would turn down a free shirt? I quickly figured out that I had to win a beanbag toss game to get the shirt. So instead of embarrassing myself, I began chit-chatting with the man behind the booth. It turns out the man, Bray Almini, works for kittyflix.com, the top internet cat video website.

“Kittyflix.com is a collection of all the best videos on the internet about cats,” Almini explained. “We are the YouTube of cat videos.”

So you want to your cat video featured on kittyflix.com? Here’s what you do: once you take the video, submit it to the website, the editorial team will review it and either accept it or deny it, and if they like it, they will send you a confirmation e-mail. Then keep an eye out for your video to appear on the site.

“We are a company that’s within its first two years and we are currently the largest cat video site on the internet,” Almini said proudly. The success of kittyflix.com has led to the creation of puppyflix.com, a website featuring puppy videos.

Although some of the cat lovers might not appreciate the puppyflix website, the festival’s beneficiary loves all things furry. The East Bay SPCA was chosen to receive proceeds raised from the event. “It was awesome,” Laura Fulda, the organization’s VP of Marketing, said about the catstravaganza. “I’m so glad they asked us to participate to raise money for the East Bay SPCA. We’ve had walk-a-thons for dogs, but nothing like that for cats.” The non-profit was successful in adopting out two kittens, one cat, and found people interested in fostering in the future.

I can definitely say that I’ve never experienced anything like this before. The people watching was fantastic. The booths were entertaining and creative. The adoptions were heartwarming. The Oakland Internet Cat Video Festival exceeded any expectations I had and I hope it makes its way back to the Bay Area soon.

Waiting for the Punch Line

By Molly Sanchez

On Sunday, they gather. Some dressed up in slacks and blazers, others casual in hoodies and t-shirts. They congregate, exchanging hugs and fist bumps. They laugh and they wait for the talking to begin.

This is not your typical Sunday service, a point made abundantly clear when the be speckled Ivan Hernandez ascends the stage and yells, “Fuck your baby!” into the microphone.

This is Sunday night showcase at The Punch Line club; a ritual comedian Nicole Turley has dubbed “Comedian Church.”

The Punch Line has been one of San Francisco’s most prolific comedy spots since it’s opening in 1983. Its stage has been graced by some of the world’s top comics and everyone from Robin Williams to Ellen DeGeneres to Louis C.K. has done a set there. The stage itself is a landmark, a lighted platform against a backdrop of a mural of the city. When a comic performs there it’s like performing on top of the city itself.

It’s a stage worth waiting for and that’s what they do. The club is divided on Sunday nights with paying customers sitting in the front of house, chatting and sipping their two drink minimum, and the hopeful comics waiting at the bar nursing their free glasses of water. Sunday nights are for comics. The showcase is comprised of 7 or so local comics and host, each getting about an 8 minute set. But these sets are coveted and the process to get one is a rite of passage for aspiring comics in the area.

Comics have to wait about 6-10 months to even be considered for a spot on the coveted stage. “You go in you start going to the Sunday shows and you introduce yourself to the manager,” says Allison Mick, an aspiring comic and a regular at the bar side of the club. Jeff Zamaria is the booker for the club. He’s “the man with the plan,” according to Turley who is always sure to pay homage to him with a hello whenever she comes in the club. Zamaria is only an ominous figure to those who are hungry for a spot otherwise he’s a “dark haired dude with a beard and glasses,” says Mick before chuckling and adding, “I know I just described half of the SF comedy scene.”

According to Mick, new comics have to go to the Sunday show as often as they can and just hang out, waiting to be seen. This, Mick says, “Puts you on Jeff’s radar.”

“Jeff really listens to everyone,” says comedian Sandra Risser “he’s the one who really decides.” Jeff keeps to himself in the club’s back right corner, fielding handshakes from reverent comics and holding up a flashlight to signal to the comics onstage that their set is running out.

Comedian Richard Dreyling describes the process as “a type of interview really,” and says it took him ten months before he got a set there. Comedian, Nato Green also sees the method to the waiting madness. It took Green ten months to get up on the Sunday showcase “the purpose of the wait was to make sure that by the time I got up I understood what did and didn’t work at the club.” Green calls the system of waiting “transparent and fair,” adding that the involved waiting ritual weeds out the “dilettantes and dabblers.”

“If your goal is to become a working comic, then coming up at the Punch Line is part of the process,” he says. “I don’t see any reason why the stage of one of the best clubs in the country should be a place for people who aren’t serious to try something out.”

“Some people check in earlier and really push for it but that’s not usually advised,” says Turley who got up after nine months of waiting. Dreyling disagrees “I don’t think there is harm in going at the very beginning of doing stand up” Dreyling is a 5 time veteran of the club and says “ Jeff likes to see how people get better.”

Once a comic gets up and does well on a Sunday night they can usually expect to be thrown into a three-month rotation of comics and may even be asked to headline weeknights or emcee Sunday’s show. To Turley “it’s a good way to get your name out there.” Dreyling concurs and says a set at The Punch Line is a “way for comics to benefit and develop by having a paying audience in a great club with a high standard for comedy. New comics benefit by seeing comedians who have been at it for longer and don’t make some of the mistakes common to open mic rooms.” Green adds, “The Punch Line system is good at training people to become working comics. If the process is too much for someone, it is a fraction of how hard the rest of show business is. They’re not going to stay a comic anyway. Nothing about show business is fair.”
This Sunday Mick sits on the patio outside the club. It’s mid showcase and the soft rumble of laughter can be heard even outside. She smokes a cigarette and laughs with the comic who gives her a light. They banter about open mics and go on a tangent about what a “porn method actress” would look like. Comics sidle in and out of the club, gently ragging on each other’s sets or talking shop and smoking.

As far as Mick’s Punch Line aspirations go she says she’s looking for “Fame and fortune,” before bursting into sarcastic laughter. She admits more humbly that she’d really just likes “to do well and get booked for shows.” “I love open mics, like a lot,” she says “ but I guess I’d like to do more showcases.” She’s been waiting at the Punch Line for 3 months.

Inside Turley sits at the dark bar and reminisces about her first time onstage there. “That’s when I had the most fun. The sound travels forward and it’s really laughter inducing,” she says sipping water and nodding towards the stage “even with a small crowd the sound travels forward, it’s just designed for it.” Green also recalls fondly his times onstage saying “I feel as comfortable on the Punch Line stage at this point as I do on my own couch, more or less.”

Green has reverence for the club that gave him his start but says “I really built it up in my head. At a certain point, I realized that every stage is just another stage. No stage is magic.”

Fashion or Function?

Crystals
Crystals

Story and Photos by Jessica Graham

Crystals, specifically quartz, are a hot trend in fashion, dominating the runways of designer labels such as Chanel and Prada, trickling down to more affordable fashion outlets like Urban Outfitters and Forever 21.

Ranging from rounded, crystal-clear stones to a colorful, multi-faceted stones, crystals are versatile, abundant and, based on the type, affordable fashion accessory. While crystals are shiny, eye-catching accessory for some designers, to others, crystals hold a deeper significance.

Jewelry makers, like Josh Sisler–a Santa Cruz native living in San Fracisco–use crystals for a variety of reasons, including stabilizing energy fields, clearing Chakra zones, staying grounded and to heighten spiritual sensitivity.

“I keep crystals on me at all times, because they work with the energetic field of the body, the auric system and the chakras,” says Sisler. “If you have crystals on you that resonate with you it aligns the crystal chakras.”

The idea that crystals hold healing or energetic property has been around for ages, but little to no scientific evidence supports these claims. According to Power Treasures, an online mecca for crystal-related inquiries, crystals were used by the Egyptians for protective power. Tibetan Buddhists and Chinese healers sought crystals for their healing powers. The Mayans used crystals for spiritual healing and to diagnose diseases.

However, despite a strong historical use and lacking scientific backing, crystal fans, like Sisler, wholeheartedly believe in their benefits and powers. Read about crystals from three different perspectives.

Josh Sisler
In the middle of the San Francisco’s Union Street Festival, a young man lays down a blanket, and lovingly places several crystals–collected by hand in Arkansas– on display for passersby. Each crystal has a unique appearance, and equally unique story.

Josh Sisler, a local resident intrigued by the juxtaposition of a mystic-looking jewelry maker at a mainstream city event, stops walking through the festival and asks the young man for the most powerful crystal he has. The man carefully places a smokey quartz crystal in Sisler’s hands, unknowingly sparking a spiritual awakening.

Sisler returns home to his flat, sets up an altar to showcase the crystal, and immediately begins to notice he is being guided by the crystal itself through different levels of awakening. He takes a small dose of psilocybin, a psychedelic compound produced by certain species of mushrooms, and through the energetic properties of the smoky quartz, finds himself in uncharted territory.

“I had an out -of-body experience,” says Sisler, his youthful blue eyes wide open. “My third, fourth and fifth dimensional consciousness all merged and it was a very powerful awakening. I was able to directly connect to the earth again.”

Josh Sisler
Josh Sisler

A year later, Sisler, now considered a crystal expert by many of his friends, is dedicated to understanding crystals, their powers and how we can use them to make the world a better place. According to Sisler, crystals were used thousands of years ago by the Atlantians to create renewable energy sources, store information about Earth and keep the body in energetic alignment.

Crystals located at vortex points (identified using sacred geometric mapping) hold concentrated energy that could be used to tap into the Akashic records–the database of every action or thought that exists. In essence, the earth documents itself.

“Direct guidance from the stones is how I learned all of this information,” says Sisler. “ All the information is available on the modern day akashic record–the internet. We can tap into these fields with the crystal pineal gland in our brains.”

While Akashic information has long been inaccessible to the masses, Sisler believes that crystals are our answer to retrieving ancient information and getting back in touch with the Earth.

Sisler is currently perfecting his wire wrapping craft to make crystals more user friendly. After having a vision that he would find crystals in the Santa Cruz Mountains, he travelled there and discovered a large cluster of Merkabite Calcite–his favorite crystal. He makes necklaces and other jewelry pieces using a wire wrapping technique and various metals, such as brass, silver and gold.

Crystals are becoming popular in mainstream fashion trends, but Sisler sees that as a positive opportunity to educate people about the properties of crystals. “Urban outfitters is trying to work with it, but it’s all a trend,” Sisler said. “I think it’s good that they are working with crystals because hopefully people will start to notice that energy and not just use it as a fashion statement.”

Sisler plans to continue following the path the crystals present him, and teach people along the way. Sisler finds ceremonies and workshops are the best way to share his passion for crystals.

“Its the best way for me to communicate with people who are accepting this new way of thinking, says Sisler. “I also like to set up anywhere I can, the side of the street as well, because its a way of getting out to the collective consciousness.”

Fatima Fleming
In a warmly lit apartment above a corner market in Bernal Heights, about eight young women crowd around a table of dried apricot slices wrapped in prosciutto, Brie and crackers. Between laughs and stories about old times, the women peruse a table near the window intricately decorated with earrings, rings, bracelets and necklaces.

The jewelry has a unique look. Several pieces of crystal and other colorful stones meld with a range of metals to produce a flashy, yet vintage look. Some stones are wrapped around the circumference with chain, while others hang simply from a small hook at the top of the crystal.

A slender woman with sharp features and slicked back black hair stands in the center of the room after several minutes of socializing and a few group sing-alongs to the Bee Gees. She quietly introduces herself as Fatima Fleming, the owner and jewelry designer of Sea Pony Couture–a San Francisco-based jewelry company.

“My life has gone in many different directions since I started to do jewelry,” says Fleming during a party featuring her latest work. “I made belly-dancing clothing and had a hat company at one time. At one point I was in Hawaii selling wristbands. I got back into jewelry because of my fascination with vintage.”

Fleming, who has been making jewelry since she was a freshman in high school in 1984, enjoys working with a variety of materials, including crystals and other stones like peacock pyrite, smoky quartz, faceted agate and titanium quartz.

Fatima Fleming
Fatima Fleming

Fleming believes crystals and stones are becoming more popular in fashion trends and attributes some of that popularity, at least in California, to KittinHawk.–a Los Angeles-based couture micro label. KittinHawk popularized using crystals, specifically quartz, setting the bar for other designers, according to Fleming.

Fleming says that several of her customers claim to feel good when good when wearing her quartz crystal pieces.

“I think some people would very much laugh at crystals having healing energy or properties and I don’t laugh,” says Fleming, “but I also don’t stand for anything and don’t state that. I do state, however, that when people wear my necklaces, especially crystals over their heart they always talk about how good it feels.”

In Flemings eyes, any energetic property someone experiences is a result of how they interact with the crystal, or anything for that matter. It isn’t necessarily the crystals causing the effect, according to Fleming, it’s the person.

“I do feel that anything you believe to hold power for you does hold power,” says Fleming. “With that said if you are going to use crystals, make them your own. Put your own energy into them and that is what you will get out of it.”

Drew Shugart
After a long day at work, Drew Shugart hops on his bike and pedals to his apartment in the Piedmont neighborhood of Oakland. Three blocks away from the Claremont Hotel, where he works, a car suddenly cuts Shugart off and he crashes to the street to avoid a collision.

Other than several stitches under his chin, and a broken wrist, he is unscathed. A large circular bruise lies in the center of his chest. It is the only bruise on his body.

Looking back on the accident, Shugart recalls that the phantom amethyst quartz necklace he was wearing moved up towards the top of his chest as he crashed. While the science to measure the power of crystal is insufficient, events such as these spike curiosity about their properties and what they are capable of.

“We are moving away from the whole religion thing and that is opening up this spiritual world that’s completely different than any other place we have ever known. You can think of these things to help guide you through it, or you can think that they don’t do anything,” said Shugart.

Drew Shogart
Drew Shogart

Shugart incorporates crystals into his everyday life, by wrapping the stones in metal wire, which he as been doing for close to a year. He choses the stones from a local stone shop, or from friends who purchase them from around the world. Before starting jewelry, he decorated hats with pins and other materials.

One of his most popular pieces, is a mans hat with a large crystal poking through the brim. Soon after he started wearing the hat to local electronic music events, other people began asking about them. Shugart created his first fully commissioned piece about three weeks ago.

“I can tell you the moment I started wearing the hat with the quartz on my forehead that I felt an uplift in my mood and a change in my attitude,” says Shugart. “I have also noticed a change since I stopped wearing it so much.”

Shugart notices more and more stonework popping up in his Oakland and San Francisco circles. People are doing more than just making jewelry. According to Shugart, creating personal at-home altars that showcase the crystals is getting more and more popular.

While crystals may not be everyone’s cup of tea, Shugart reminds us that you get what you give.

“Crystals put out what you put into them,” says Shugart. “If you’re always in a bad mood, your crystals are going to perpetuate that. If you try to think positively, they will keep that energy flowing naturally.”

Dan Tarro

Dan Tarro neels firmly on a leather couch next to a large window in his impeccably decorated apartment. Perfectly placed potted plants are spread intermittently around the room and the smell of sage hangs in the air.

Dan Torro
Dan Torro

As the sun sets, light floods into the room, illuminating the crystals he has sitting on his coffee table. Seeing an opportunity he reaches his hand up to his ear, puts his fingers near his lobes, and plops out a nickel-sized Burmese amber gauged earring.

After grabbing the earring on the opposite side, he flips back his long brown hair and lifts the earrings towards the light to examine the details of the amber. The rare dark color of the amber glows with the dwindling light.

“For crystal healing you need to tune into what you need,” says Tarro. “I always smoke weed so I am attracted to heavy, grounding stones.”

Tarro, a restaurant server at Fisherman’s Wharf, uses grounding stones, like amber and jasper, to align to a more stable energy. His passion for crystals formed when he moved to Coachella Valley, says Tarro.

At first Tarro like crystals just for their asthetic, but his curiosity about the world left him wanting to know more. He started taking clases at PKOK, an alternative clothing store in San Francisco’s Haight district. Classes, taught by David Tiger in the back of the shop, ranged from drum circles to crystal wrapping, according to Tarro.

While Tarro continues to learn more about crystals, he also takes issue with the hippie-counter culture that supports it.

“I don’t fully subscribe to the overly-airy vibe that a lot of crystal people and new age people do,” says Tarro. “ I don’t think it’s grounded enough.“

Doctor Who

By Molly Sanchez
Illustrations by Kirstie Haruta

Don’t you hate it when you’re at a party and someone mentions their love for the doctor? ‘The doctor?’ you think ‘what kind of person loves their doctor? Is it a Haight Asbury type doctor? Or one of those sexy ones that gets handsy with the novacane? And who is this doctor, who?’ Doctor Who, the question, and the answer. “Doctor Who” is a British science fiction television show that features a time traveling alien. It’s also frightfully popular in nerd culture on both sides of the pond. This means that nerds at a party may have more to talk about than you do, and you don’t want to be socially outgunned by a nerd do you? What follows is enough about Doctor Who and his cohorts to make you look cool at a party. Suck it, nerds!

Things not to say to Doctor Who fans:

The Doctor
The Doctor

1)I like that actor who plays Doctor Who.”

Why it’s dumb: There have been eleven actors who have assumed the role since the show’s inception. This is not a Darren from Bewitched situation (actor quit, substituted with worse actor), or a Richard Harris from the Harry Potter movies situation (inconsiderately died of old age) but is instead a major plot point. The Doctor is a member of an alien race called the Time Lords. Time Lords have the ability to regenerate and to change their physical form and personality. Thus the doctor can be millions of years old and still look like a 30-year-old bloke in converse sneakers. There is even some buzz that the next incarnation of The Doctor might be a woman. Let’s just hope they wouldn’t start calling her The Nurse.

Say instead: “Who is your favorite Doctor? They’re all so different!”

2) “Doctor Who? Oh is that the medical drama where everyone is boning in the supply closet?

Why it’s dumb: First of all, the show you’re thinking of is Downton Abbey. Second of all the name “The Doctor” seems to be an arbitrary title. After sifting through heated message board arguments I came to the conclusion that the title may refer to the way he tends to fix problems in time and space. As a fledgling Whovian myself I’d like to put forth the theory that the title could also refer to his vast knowledge of our world and others, similar to someone with a doctorate degree. But I dare not share this on tumblr, for fear of being torn new one by fifteen year old fan girls. Also the “Doctor? Doctor Who?” joke is one that is played out literally five times each season.

Say instead: “Gee the British make good television. That Doctor Who show just gets better with age!” (Except don’t say “gee”. Only losers say “gee”.)

3) “Sonic Screwdriver? That’s my favorite drink!”

Why it’s dumb: The Sonic Screwdriver is actually The Doctor’s go-to bit of alien technology. The screwdriver can pick locks, mend broken wires, and “in a pinch you could put up some shelves,” The Doctor boasts in one episode. This tool is not without its limitations and substances such as wood, deadlock doors, and hairdryers are impervious to the screwdriver. Lushes of the world need not despair; it is also a fancy cocktail.

Say instead: “That dress you’re wearing must not be a sonic screwdriver because it definitely works on wood. On the serious though, would you rather have a sonic screwdriver or a wand from Harry Potter?”

Cyber Man
Cyber Man

4) “I love that new show, Doctor Who!”

Why it’s dumb: Calling Doctor Who a new show is like saying a blonde girl has no leg hair: outwardly accurate but on closer inspection untrue. Yes the show, as fans know it today started up in 2005. However that shows is a modern reboot of a show that ran on the BBC from 1963-1996. The show was intended to be a family show about a man exploring iconic moments in history by way of scientific elements. This went well until the final series in 1995 received low ratings and shark -jumpy plotlines. Then there was a movie made (very Arrested Development) with a new Doctor and was barely a blip at the box office. At that point it looked like the series, which had run twenty six seasons would be no more. Then in 2005 the series itself regenerated, now incorporating more stand alone episodes, and has done well ever since.

Say instead: “Girl, you must be David Tennant because you are a ten! No seriously isn’t it cool that the series has such longevity? Wish Star Trek would come back to TV”(You don’t have to say that last bit. That last bit is for me.)

5) “So what are you guys? Whosiers? Whoovers? Trekkies?”

Why it’s dumb: It’s not, really. Batshit , meaningless distinctions are part of any mega fandom. Just as contentious and equally silly as the heated “Trekker versus Trekkie” debate, the Whovian v. Wholigan conflict has been going on for years. Urban dictionary makes the distinction that a Whovian is “specifically and old fan” of Doctor Who and a Wholigan is “specifically a new fan, Doctor 9 and up.” Then again urban dictionary may not be the most reliable source, as they seem to define my name as a pure form of MDMA. Which is crazy, right guys? Guys?

Say instead: “Whovian, Wholigan, Who-freaking-cares! Lets just drink and be nice to eachother, ok?”

Dalek
Dalek

SIDEBAR
Here are some more things to add to your Who knowledge tool belt.

Companions
The Doctor, like P Diddy, likes to travel with an entourage. This entourage usually comes in the form of an earth girl he whisks away from her boring life, Peter Pan style, to join him in his adventures. This girl is called a companion and she represents the viewing audience of the show in that she is being lead by the doctor into fantastical worlds. There have been roughly forty companions ( even the occasional male companion) and all of them have ranged in appearance, ages, and time spent snogging the Doctor. Snogging, it’s a fun word. Try to use it sometime.

Daleks
The main adversaries of any Doctor are the Daleks. Daleks are octopus-like mutants who live inside metal shells equipped with an eyestalk and heavy artillery. They are protected by a bullet repelling force field and speak with a robot voice. Daleks live to exterminate the human race.

The Doctor
The Tardis

The Tardis
The Tardis is the Doctor’s main mode of intergalactic transportation. The time machine appears to be a blue police box on the outside and is famously much larger on the inside. The Tardis can only be controlled by Doctor Who and can be uses to travel through time and space. It also translates languages, both alien and domestic for anyone standing within a few feet of it. The Doctor and the Tardis have a loving relationship and at times they share a telepathic link.

Cyber men
Cyber men are human beings whose brains and organs have been put into scary robotic bodies. When humans are put in these bodies their emotions are mechanically suppressed so that they can become lean, mean, remorseless killing machines.

Weeping Angels
Weeping angels are easily the scariest monster in the Who universe and considering the series has featured faceless people, zombies, and more than one possessed child, that’s saying something. The angels look like stone statues but are actually ancient and powerful beings. They derive energy from sending people back in time but are strong enough to kill a human should the need arise. The trick is, the angels cannot hurt you as long as you are looking at them, but the space of a single blink is all the time they need to attack.

Why does everyone on Facebook have tally marks on their face?

April 23rd was a special day for Who fans and many of them celebrated by drawing on their hands. This isn’t the mark of some weird Sci Fi drinking game  (though such a game does exist). It is instead homage to an episode that took place on that same date called “The Impossible Astronaut” which aired last year and featured and alien group called “The Silence.” Freshman cinema major and tally mark wearer, Collin Searles had this to say “The marks are a way the Doctor deals with an alien species called The Silence. Their sort of power is that you forget their presence when you look away from them. The Doctor tallies his arm when he sees one so that he can remember that he”s seen one of the silence.” Searles and others marked their bodies that day and took pictures on facebook and instagram (#thesilence), some bearing the ominous caption “what are these marks on my arm?”