Category Archives: Spring 2015

SF Ballet Review: Romeo & Juliet

Image by laobc via openclipart

 

The San Francisco Ballet ended its 2015 repertory season with the romantic story of Romeo and Juliet at the War Memorial Opera House on May 9.

The principal dancers of the night were Vanessa Zahorian who played Juliet and Joan Boada who played Romeo.

Zahorian had an amazing corporal expression. In Act III, Juliet’s parents want to marry her to Paris, an aristocrat from the same Capulet family, but she refused. In this scene, Zahorian expressed her mixed feelings of fear and love toward her parents and her displeasure toward dancing with Paris. Her movements looked forced and she did not express the same energy as when she danced with Romeo. Even though Zahorian’s facial expressions were difficult to see from the balcony section, her body language could be seen from the last seat of the house.

The costumes and sets, created by Jens-Jacob Worsaae, were amazing. They transported the audience to Verona where the story takes place. In scene II, Juliet and Romeo were married in secret by Friar Laurence. The stage transformed into a chapel with an altar and a renaissance painting of the Virgin Mary holding Jesus in her arms. The lighting created by Thomas R. Skelton added a dramatic look.

One of the most beautiful dances of the night was in the scene called “Juliet’s Bedroom.” In this scene, Romeo spent the night with Juliet where they consummated their marriage. He needed to leave before the sun came out, but Juliet did not allow him and instead, they danced in an emotive pas de deux that was full of subtle movements of passion and love.

 

SF Ballet Official Website

Principal Dancer Joan Boada Garcia Spotlight video

Principal Dancer Vanessa Zahorian

Food Passport: Waraku

The tan tan ramen cooked in a sesame broth and served with ground pork. All photos by Catherine Uy

 

Waraku, the dimly-lit restaurant run by Shabuway and Men Oh owners, Eiichi Mochizuki and Koji Kikura, is quaint and cozy. Despite its simple aesthetic it really speaks to the idea that good things, or food in this case, are found in the smallest places.

When sitting down, on a date or with a group of friends the setting itself is intimate and demure. It’s a very trendy ambience because of the crowd of people that attend this restaurant as popular music is played throughout the background.

The bowls are a favorable portion size, but worth the price at only $8-$12. Jars of peeled garlic are served table side to add pressed garlic to your bowl of ramen.

The tantan ramen is a hearty portion of soup and noodles, oily and hot, with a little bit of spice. The tonkotsu ramen, which contains a creamy, milk-like broth, is infused with rich slices of pork. The noodles, which are thick and have a springy-texture, have a good consistency.

The tonkotsu ramen cooked in a pork bone broth served with barbecue pork.
The tonkotsu ramen cooked in a pork bone broth served with barbecue pork.

All bowls come with basic toppings such as bamboo shoots, soft, slices of barbecue pork, and green onions. The soft boiled egg has a creamy yolk with a custard like texture. It also has a combination of both smokey and sweet flavors.

The gyoza (potstickers) are nothing special. The dumplings are crispy on the top but overly soft on the bottom. The takoyaki (octopus balls) on the other hand, were perfectly cooked, crispy yet soft.

The only issue is that Waraku’s tonkotsu is not really flavorful. It lacks a heavy pork bone flavor and the pork is either too soft or tough.

 

The verdict: The smoked egg is creamy and delicious, and the bowls come with a good portion of toppings. However, a rich broth is what really makes a perfect bowl of ramen.

★★★ out of 5

Waraku, 1638 Post Street

Eco-friendly Fashion: How Sustainability has become Mainstream

This story can also be found in the App Store for iPad! 

“What is the difference between organic cotton and regular cotton?” a customer asks.

“Well, organic cotton is made with 60 percent less water than conventionally grown cotton and is produced without the use of pesticides,” replies a sales associate.

Organic cotton, alongside recycled polyester, silk, bamboo, hemp, rayon, and modal, are materials that are commonly used to make eco-friendly clothing.

Sustainable fashion and eco-friendly clothing are on the rise. With large corporate powerhouses like H&M launching a “Conscious Collection,” to small boutiques that carry and produce their own sustainable clothing and accessories, eco-friendly fashion can be found wherever you turn; and if you’re in San Francisco, these little boutiques can be found on some of your favorite city streets.

 

prAna clothing store in Pacific Heights, San Francisco on April 21st, 2015. Photo by Zhenya Sokolova

PrAna is located on Fillmore Street in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights District. This eco-friendly boutique is on the same street as runway dominating brands like Steven Alan, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren, Ella Moss, and Rag and Bone; in a sea, or street, of sameness, PrAna is able to stand out by providing “sustainably made clothing for active lifestyles,” according to Assistant Manager Chanel Chang.

PrAna began as a yoga clothing company 22 years ago, and ended up developing into an active lifestyle brand while branching out into more variations of stylish silhouettes, as Chang explains. Now instead of just sweat wear, you can find pretty much any piece of clothing from recycled polyester swimwear and organic cotton maxi skirts to hemp flared lounge pants and, of course, their signature madera yoga pants.

The storefront simply exudes PrAna’s mission statement: looking active while remaining sustainable. The first thing to attract your eye when entering the Fillmore location is color and pattern. The store is filled with exotic hues from bright pinks and oranges to mellow, yet, exuberant, blues and greens. Patterns vary from tribal-esque to florals, something so simple, like patterning, makes a big difference.

The store is equipped with large-scale picture installations like, for example, a man leaping from a cliff, and another portrait of men and women, in yoga attire, practicing the child’s pose. Other displays around the store help to promote the mission of the company: One display lays out bathing suit tops and shorts, ideal for swimming, while another showcases pants and a windbreaker jacket, for hiking, if need be.

“Our customers are fun-loving, soulful people who travel well, play hard and care about the impact they have on the world around them,” says Jasmine Schmidt, PrAna’s public relations manager.

If active is what PrAna is aiming for, they definitely have found their ideal customer base in Pacific Heights; the store is bustling from opening till closing with customers who share PrAna’s values for sustainability- even if they don’t know it yet.

Not only does PrAna make sustainable clothing, they also hold community events in their store for neighbors and fellow merchants to take part in. Their monthly event calendar can be found in their Fillmore store, with events from group yoga sessions to ladies night. Stop by and be enthralled by all that this fantastic store has to offer.
As for the future, Schmidt says, “Companies will continue to increase the amount of styles that are sourced sustainable and more sustainable materials. Fair trade apparel will also become more universal with more and more companies starting to open up their supply chain to the end consumer so people can measure their impact from beginning to end. Customers are becoming more educated and more vocal about how and where their clothing is made and they will continue to look for those brands that meet their needs.”

Amour Vert is a sustainable clothing store in Hayes Valley.

Amour Vert translates to “green love,” and what other city in the world is filled with such lovers of green than those in San Francisco. Amour Vert is located in San Francisco’s cozy Hayes Valley District, right next to Patricia’s Green. Their mission, “With every stitch a purpose,” is a reflection of the simplicity that Amour Vert brings to sustainable clothing.

Imagine a chic, edgy, and independent woman, who doesn’t necessarily follow the rules, but is deeply connected with the world around her and who is continually fighting for her beliefs- that is, according to Christoph Frehsee, Amour Vert’s co-founder and owner, the type of lady that shops at Amour Vert.

Incorporating great eco-friendly fabrics like organic cotton, silk, and their classic, one and only wood pulp, Amour Vert connects sustainability and fabulous eco-friendly clothing with the aforementioned fashionable leading lady.

Frehsee and his wife Linda became inspired to create the company after reading an article stating that the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry, right behind oil. This inspiration lead the couple to the concept of Amour Vert, and from the looks of it, they haven’t looked back yet.

Amour Vert is a sustainable clothing store in Hayes Valley.

Amour Vert isn’t the stereotypical kitschy eco-friendly company, with simplistic designs and itchy fabrics- no, they are the pioneers for the sustainability in fashion movement. Amour Vert’s line can be seen in various Nordstrom’s, Lucky, and Revolve stores.

“I don’t like trends,” laughs Frehsee, “but I see sustainability as a natural trend that will eventually become the new normal.”

An added bonus when buying from Amour Vert is that for every T-shirt sold, they plant a tree through their Plant a Tree foundation with American Forests. According to Frehsee, 30,000 have been planted already and the company plans to plant 100,000 by the end of the year.

“Its a fantastic way to give back and it’s close to my heart,” says Frehsee. “We need to be mindful of our resources.”

Alternative Apparel is a sustainable clothing company and store in Hayes Valley.

Alternative Apparel, located in Hayes Valley, is an excellently modern eco-friendly store that specializes in “creating modern basics for a sustainable future,” according to Kai Shane, the store leader.

Alternative Apparel is founded on the premise of eco-friendly activewear. Alternative Apparel started as a wholesale company known for their contemporary and stylish basics, the most sought after being their cloud like cotton hoodies, and now have four storefronts in the U.S- two in Los Angeles, one in New York City, and another here, in San Francisco’s very shop-able Hayes Valley district.

The store, very minimalistic, with a wooden chandelier hanging from the ceiling, showcases what Alternative Apparel is truly about: basics.

“We tend to think of our customers as modern creatives. Our basics act as sort of a uniform because you can take it in whatever direction you like to express your own particular style,” says Shane.

Kai Shane, manager of Alternative Apparel, a clothing store in Hayes Valley, San Francisco, stands at the register on April 22nd, 2015.

When the ordinary person thinks of basics, they may imagine T-shirts, tank tops and knitted pull-over sweaters; however, here at Alternative Apparel, they sell basics with an edge. For example, a black dress, made with silk and exquisite paneled sides indenting on the figure, as well as leggings, patchworked with grey terrycloth and paired with an organic cotton striped bralette. Hoodies are also a big catch here, made with something they call a tri-blend, generally consisting of organic cotton, rayon, and polyester. Last December, the San Francisco store donated 100 of their incredibly soft hoodies to the non-profit Project Homeless Connect for their “Hoodies for Homeless” drive.

Their exclusive basics are made with non-toxic, low-impact natural dyes, and 60 percent less water than traditional use through their G2 process, which is essentially a washing process that uses “ozone technology.”

“I see the future of eco-friendly clothing being mainstreamed,” says Shane. “As customers become more sophisticated and demanding, with new technologies and information spreading, more people will become more compliant with these kind of things. I think it’s going to become just the way we do business, hopefully, I’m keeping my fingers crossed.”

A shopper walks out of Foxglove an eco-friendly store on 24th Street and Treat Ave. in the Mission District of San Francisco. Photo by Emma Chiang

Foxglove, located in San Francisco’s Mission district as well as in Berkeley, is home to a wide array of locally made products, fair trade clothing and accessories, as well as organic and sustainable commodities.

According to owner, Rachel Kinney, Foxglove offers a carefully chosen selection of fashion, gifts and accessories that reflect the modern ideals of today’s conscious consumers. Kinney’s main focus is to provide customers with a thoughtful experience, allowing them to leave knowing that they have made an impact on the world in some way- whether if they bought an item that is fair trade to promote healthy work environments for women in India, or handcrafted by a local artist in the community.

“I can only hope that it continues to grow,” says Kinney, referring to the eco-friendly clothing movement. “The San Francisco Bay has a reputation for pioneering a number of environmental movements, and those ultimately serve as a model for other communities and cities. As information and trends spread, there can eventually be a large impact made when larger markets adopt more sustainable policies.”

Foxglove an eco-friendly store on 24th Street and Treat Ave. in the Mission District of San Francisco. Photo by Emma Chiang

Foxglove carries an ample amount of beautifully made clothing and accessories, from patterned dresses, handmade, one-of-a-kind jewelry, and even children’s clothing! Next time you are dying to buy an unique gift, or just curious about shopping locally, Foxglove is the place to let yourself explore the world of sustainability.

“I just think that it’s important to be thoughtful about the way we consume,” says Kinney.

Skunk Funk, an eco-friendly store located on 14th and Valencia Street in the Mission District of San Francisco. Photo by Emma Chiang

Skunk Funk is another eco-friendly brand located in San Francisco’s Mission District, as well as their second location in the Haight district. Their goal is to provide sustainable fashion for all, by using their own fabrics and textiles. According to their sustainability page on their website, Skunk Funk’s aim is to, “have 100% of our environmentally-friendly fibers certified by 2015 either with the GOTS standard or more globally with the CCS (Content Claim Standard) for all material inputs.”

So what’s sets them apart? Well, first of all, they definitely live up to their name; their clothing is indeed funky, but in a good way. Patters, colors, and styles that are each in their own contemporary with a twist. What sets Skunk Funk truly apart is their seasonal lookbooks, all arranged by color, to fit the consumers desires for fun, fresh eco-friendly fashion. Check out their Spring/Summer lookbook here.

You will not see any of one-of-a-kind these designs in a department store, but you may see them on someone walking on Valencia Street.

Skunk Funk, an eco-friendly store located on 14th and Valencia Street in the Mission District of San Francisco. Photo by Emma Chiang

Sex Talk Sundays with Hillary

Illustration by Hillary Smith / Xpress Magazine

 

Is dirty talk sexy?

Hey weird humanoids. Welcome back to Sex Talk Sundays. Did you miss us? We hope so! Today’s topic: “Is dirty talk sexy?”

Well, what do you think… is it? What even counts as dirty talk? Can you use it on anyone?

My opinion is that of course it can be sexy! It’s one of those things you’re going to have to feel out. And even once you dive in, there’s no guarantee you won’t be turned off by how they reply.

Example:

Person 1: “You’re so sexy, I just want to lick you all day.”

Person 2: “Oh baby, I want to eat you up like the double bacon cheeseburger I had for lunch, with extra chili fries!”

Person 1: “…Uhh…”  *end of all future sex scenes with Person 2*

That may be a crazy example, but I have heard weirder scenarios. From my experience with dirty talk, which honestly isn’t a ton, I’ve learned it’s better once I know the person pretty well. Mostly because it doesn’t seem to come from left field, and they have a hunch when to throw it in. That being said, the nature of dirty talk to me is supposed to be a bit surprising – that’s what makes it exciting.

You may know the person, but when they throw in a “I’m gonna **** you so hard,” or “I’m not going to stop until you can’t take it,” ….well, it is exciting. As long as you feel safe, of course. So when it comes to dirty talk, I don’t see any hard-and-fast rules. If you’re curious, the only way is to test it out. And part of testing it out is bracing yourself for however it goes.

Maybe they’ll get weird about it.  But maybe they’ll get into it, and then you’ll get more into it. And you’ll turn into crazy sex freaks who can’t stop talking dirty! And start adding “in beddddd” to everything you say!

No, don’t do that – that’s weird. But, I think it can really add to hot and heavy moments. If anything, hearing someone you’re messing around with tell you “harder,” or “I love that,” can only make you feel good. Unless you have a fetish for being insulted, which is another type of dirty talk.

I do think it’s worth exploring a few times in your life, if you haven’t given it a whirl yet. Otherwise, it’ll remain an untapped commodity in your life. It would be like never trying a shake with french fries.

And if you have never tried a shake with french fries, then you need to cry. But it’s okay, you can wipe your tears with shake fries.

Sex Talk Sundays with Jay

Photo by jean_koulev via Flickr

 

After being on a hiatus and with finals ramping up, Hillary and I will be doing our last post for the semester. We have come a long way, and our last topic is dirty talk. Does one need it to kink up the sex or not?

So many of us crave it during sex, yet we often feel awkward doing or asking for it. Why do you want to talk dirty to your partner? Why do you want to call your girlfriend a filthy little slut? Because it’s hot. That’s why. It will turn you and your partner on, if you let it happen, that is.

Talking dirty is a skill that all men should master. It’s a great way to turn him or her on. But it’s not easy, and there’s no right or wrong way to do it because every relationship is different and every person likes different things. There’s a fine line between dirty talk and disgusting talk, and it’s hard to find a balance.

Now there’s nothing wrong with wanting to explore the mind’s darker fantasies – to play into a sexual scenario in the privacy of the master bedroom. You shouldn’t feel like a pervert just because you want to vocalize your sexual wants, whatever those wants may be. Talking dirty adds a layer to your cultivated sexual experience.

It can bring you closer to your partner and allow you to explore avenues you may have never ventured through before. It’s nothing to ashamed of; after all it’s sex. It’s supposed to be dirty, erotic, and most of all fun. The hardest part about talking dirty isn’t getting your partner’s permission, it’s coming up with what to say. If you need ideas, erotic literature is a good place to start, and no, I’m not referring to 50 Shades of Grey.

Unlike the library where you have to be subtle and quiet, this isn’t the case when it comes to dirty talk. Raise your voice. There’s a perfectly scientific explanation as to why we say the things we say in the bedroom.

Talking dirty to your partner doesn’t mean you want to degrade him or her. By calling your partner a “little whore,” you’re not actually saying your partner is a whore. You’re simply playing into a fantasy – a change of pace and social placement. If anything, being able to say those dirty, explicit things only emphasizes the trust and intimacy the two of you have as a couple.

If pillow talk makes you and your partner feel more silly than sexy, don’t beat yourself up over it. Ultimately, if you decide that talking dirty isn’t your thing, still having gone there and taken that risk will bring you closer together and make your sex life better no matter what.

If you have any tips, questions or suggestions for future Sex Talk Sunday topics, feel free to tweet me at @WWJAYD.

Smuin ballet debuts at Yerba Buena Center

Image by laobc via openclipart

 

Smuin ballet opened its spring program called “Unlaced Dance Series” on Friday night at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

This season, the company showcases four choreographies, among them, Petal, Rome & Juliet Pas de Deux and the world premiere Ask Me. The styles of these choreographies range from contemporary ballet, classical ballet, and jazz.

The first dance of the program was Petal. Ellen Pickett, a choreographer from San Diego, first choreographed this piece for the Atlanta Ballet. At the beginning of the dance, the stage was illuminated with yellow lights, giving the appearance that dancers were performing in a yellow box. Smuin dancers executed this piece with strength and precise technique. Movements included sliding on the floor, lifts and fast turns. Female dancers wore yellow leotards and male dancers wore blue pants without shirts.

The second choreography of the program was Romeo and Juliet Balcony Pas de Deux interpreted by dancers Erin Yarbrough and Jonathan Powell. This piece was created in 1976 by the founder of the Smuin company, Michael Smuin, who passed away in 2007. Dancer Yarbrough, who has been dancing with the company since 2003, said that this is a special performance.

“I was dancing with my fiancé,” said Yarbrough. “I get to express my feeling of love for my partner.”

The last choreography was Ask Me, a world premiere choreographed by Adam Hougland. The music was a fusion of jazz and retro-soul and the choreography was  energetic.

Susan Morenstein, attendee, came to see the Smuin ballet for the first time.

“All the pieces were very different from each other, so it gave me as a person in the audience a broad spectrum of dance,” she said.

The coming performances of Smuin ballet, “Unlaced Dance Series,” will be held in Walnut Creek, Caramel and Mountain View. For more information, check the Smuin Ballet website.

Inside the tiny house movement

Future tiny house builder, Alain Despatie stands on his trailer where his tiny home will be built in West Oakland. Photo by Katie Lewellyn

A worn-down barn with chipped white paint serves as the backdrop while Alain Despatie struggles to stay balanced on his tiny two-legged folding chair. He points to blueprints laid out on the ground by his feet, displaying the plans for his tiny, future home. Despatie is just one of the many counter culturists taking part in the global phenomenon known as the Tiny House Movement.

The exact origins of the Tiny House Movement are difficult to pinpoint, but the idea of tiny living became highly popularized after the 2008 recession, according to Jay Shafer, who is considered by some the founder of the movement. Since then, skyrocketing housing prices and environmental concerns have led some Bay Area individuals to re-think traditional housing scales and take part in the evolution.

Riding on his motorcycle through the outback in Australia, Despatie had an epiphany. In the first 40 years of his life he established a sedentary lifestyle; owned a home, had a six-figure income, and started a family. However, when his family and house diminished, he embarked on a yearlong motorcycle journey across Australia. “I dropped everything,” he recalls.

For the next year his home would consist of a 3-foot tall tent and the little belongings he kept, like the tiny fold out chair he sits on today. Looking for a compromise between a nomadic and sedentary life, he discovered the house on wheels. With less than $25,000 he could build a solar-powered home from the ground up. “If you really want to live green, with little impact on the planet, you may have to give up sedentary life because that’s part of what’s breaking [the planet],” he says.

According to data collected by the Census Bureau, the average size of homes built in 2013 hit an all-time high of 2,600 square feet, almost twice the size of homes built only thirty years ago. Despite bigger homes, the average household size in America has been on a steady decline for the past 50 years, according to the data.

A tiny house is defined as a home typically ranging anywhere from 100 to 400 square feet. Due to building code restrictions, dwellings of that size are prohibited from being permanently anchored to the ground. David Ludwig, a tiny home architect who has been living in his own 212 square foot Airstream trailer for the past nine years, explains that under both the Universal Building Code and California’s state building code, tiny house builders are restricted.

Architect David Ludwig stands inside his tiny house located in Larkspur. (Katie Lewellyn)
Architect David Ludwig stands inside his tiny house located in Larkspur. (Katie Lewellyn)

The building code was designed around the idea that every home is permanently built to the ground. Their main concern is safety, ensuring that rooms fit minimum sizing requirements to host full size appliances. “Those minimum size restrictions are actually impacting the Tiny House Movement because if tiny houses were built and anchored to the ground, their rooms would be too small to meet the building code,” says Ludwig.

By putting the homes on wheels, tiny houses are exempt from building code requirements and can therefore have smaller bathrooms, kitchens, and living rooms.

About three weeks ago, Despatie traveled to Oakland from Portland with a 20-foot long flatbed trailer attached to a rented U-Haul truck. Today, the forest green trailer bed lies in the midst of blooming flower buds. Long, green grass pokes through the metal frame as Despatie jumps on top of it, animatedly plotting out his future sustainable home.

“I really believe in the idea of a nomadic lifestyle. I’m going to move this maybe once or twice a year with the seasons,” he says.

Legally constructing tiny homes is only half of the battle; the other half is finding a place to park it.

While streaming “Tiny” on Netflix, a documentary about living small, Aimee Brown began obsessing over the idea of having her own tiny house. But after an unsuccessful Craigslist post looking for land to house her shed, she joined countless of others in the Bay Area who are actively trying to negotiate the use of land.

The Tiny House Bay Area Meet Up online group was created to form a community, as well as a support group, for people with tiny homes and those interested in the idea of owning their own. The most popular discussion on the page is the idea of building a tiny house village.

The executive order, Not in My Backyard (NIMBY), gives established members of the community a political voice to say they do not want tiny house villages in their neighborhood. Ludwig sees the local code as discrimination from homeowners who believe that villages will lower their property value.

“The people that are established in the communities are fearful because tiny home communities look an awful lot like the trailer parks of the 1950s,” he says.

In the 1950s, trailer parks were notorious for housing low-income individuals who had trouble with the law, according to Ludwig.

Amy Farah Weiss, who is running for Mayor of San Francisco, is proposing a village that would house 100 tiny homes as a prototype. Her proposal will create low-cost dwellings for individuals who will pay 30 percent of their income. Weiss’ ultimate goal is to pass legislation where Additional Dwelling Units (ADUs) are allowed in backyards and bypass NIMBY.

“What we want to do is create a new understanding about what a tiny house community is,” explains Ludwig. “The way it’s different is that people in the tiny house community want a communal lifestyle, which is supportive rather than isolationist.”

Until such legislation passes, Despatie is trying to stay as low-key as possible while he begins to build his home. He was able to get his hands on basic housing plans from a designer through an online trade.“It’s hard to hide a 13 foot house on a set of wheels, but we have to build it in a way that is respectful of the neighborhood,” he explains.

Tiny house illustration by Winsor Kinkade.
Tiny house illustration by Winsor Kinkade.

“I want to make it as cute as possible, and as least offensive as possible, in order to not generate a complaint,” he adds.

Despatie has been able to find community and support from the tiny house meet up group as he begins the process of building his home. “People are really into it, they want to know what’s going on,” he says.

Unexpectedly, dozens of individuals who want to take part in the movement, but may not have the courage to do so, have offered to help Despatie build.

“I found an in between, this house on wheels that can go wherever it’s suitable and I can take off whenever I want,” Despatie says. “To me, that was the lifestyle that I needed. It took me 40 years to find out what I wanted.”

From an economic and environmental standpoint, tiny houses seem to be the wave of the future. But it’s inevitable that in America we like things BIG.

For Despatie, his future is uncertain, ready to go at a moments notice. “If the city comes and shuts this whole place down, I put everything on my bike and that’s it,” he says.

Big Macs and LSD on Haight Street

The city is threatening a lawsuit against McDonalds over consistent drug deals at its Haight Street location.

Prefer a side of LSD with your big mac? Get it while it lasts.

The San Francisco city attorney, Tuesday, filed an official complaint threatening a lawsuit against McDonalds due to incessant drug sales and 911 calls at the Haight Street location.

In the past seven months, there were 11 instances in which San Francisco Police arrested individuals for drug sales or possession, according City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s letter to Steve Easterbrook, CEO of McDonalds corporation.

In roughly the last year, police received 641 calls regarding issues at the Haight Street location, detailing numerous fights, instances of public alcohol consumption, two dog attacks, and “at least eight auto burglaries.”

In the pre-litigation, plaintiffs requested that the location shut down for one year and fine all potential defendants $25,000 in order to bar them from “maintaining a nuisance at the property.” Furthermore, McDonalds will be unable to operate on the property if the issues raised by Herrera’s office continue.

The letter goes on to state, “In the last six months the police have recovered more than 100 doses of LSD, over two pounds of marijuana, 88.5 grams of psilocybin (psychedelic mushrooms), more than half of a pound of marijuana edibles, and hashish from drug dealers selling their products on your Property.”

But is McDonalds actually to blame?

The official complaint states that the defendants “permit” the use of the property for the “sale, storage and possession of controlled substances,” and alleges “Mcdonald’s has a reputation in the community and among the San Francisco Police Department as a location where people come to buy, sell, and use illegal narcotics.”

According to Deputy City Attorney Megan Cesare-Eastman, the city is asking McDonalds to employ a security guard and improve lighting in the area.

“We firmly believe that, in its current condition, your Property threatens the health and safety of the surrounding neighborhood,” writes Herrera.

The complaint wedged against McDonalds is based under the California Health and Safety Code, which states, “every building or place used for the purpose of unlawfully selling, serving, storing, keeping, manufacturing or giving away any controlled substance… and every building or place wherein or upon which those acts take place, is a nuisance which shall be enjoined.”

Lyft vs. Uber: The Battle of the Rideshares

Illustration by Jay Garcia

 

There’s always a debate on what specific ride share service to take. Between my friends and I, it always seems like it’s a tug-of-war between Lyft and Uber. They both have their pros and cons, but I prefer Uber for multiple reasons.

Lyft is suppose to attract a younger generation of riders, but something about that fist-bump isn’t appealing. On top of that, having a pink mustache on the front of the car is a little dated, and then simply downsizing to the more portable version of it isn’t hip and cool either.

Uber has multiple ways to get you to your destination. My favorite is Uber black car, which is normally a black Lincoln Town Car. If you get lucky it can be a Cadillac Escalade or Chevrolet Suburban.

There are also affordable options such as uberPOOL, which is designed to break up the cost between two anonymous people. This may or may not be the best bet, but keep in mind if someone doesn’t use it then it’s your own ride.

The most popular option is uberX which is a regular driver in a sedan or some sort of Prius. These cars vary and so does the pricing.

In some markets there’s Uber PLUS, which consists of being picked up in a luxury vehicle such as BMW, Mercedes, Rolls Royce or Tesla.

I prefer Uber instead of Lyft due to the different ways of paying. I can also invite my friends to split the fare with me whereas Lyft doesn’t allow that. Being able to see ahead of time what I will be paying for my ride is also a huge plus and provides peace of mind.

With Lyft you request the car and at the end “tip” the driver with what you think he or she deserves. The app does a good job of using the balloon visual to guilt trip you if you’re low- balling. Keep in mind there’s also a score for both the driver and person requesting the car so if you lowball, drivers will see that on their end.

Lyft Line is similar to uberPOOL where you share the cost of the ride with someone else going the same way you are. Lyft is similar to uberX where the vehicles range from compacts to sedans.

Lyft Plus is a partnership with West Coast Customs. The partnership provides white Ford Explorers and is the high end line of fleets vehicles. The pricing ranges for this though. For the student that doesn’t have an expendable income than Lyft might be the better option.

Recently I went to San Diego for a mini-vacation and I didn’t want to be taken to SFO in a Corolla, so I requested a black car. I live in University Park North and the ride experience, although short, was very classy. My driver was in a suit and tie and got my luggage for me so I didn’t have to do anything, aside from simply sitting down and enjoying the ride. I was even able to play my own music through his car stereo via Spotify.

The big difference between uberX and black car is that at SFO uberX isn’t allowed to pick-up or drop-off in the arrivals terminal and must do so at the departures terminal or the driver risk getting a fine. Now with a black car you can go to whatever terminal you’d like without compromising your “vacation mode.”

If you like to splurge a little and treat yourself and friends while kicking off the night, then Uber black car or PLUS might be a better option. Besides, no one wants to be surprised with a charge on their account higher than expected when they could’ve taken a black car for the same price.

 

Uber vs Lyft

Infographic by Jay Garcia

Sharing Economy Apps

The new sharing economy that took rise in the mid 2000’s has introduced people to the concept of gaining goods, housing, and services through exchange instead of spending money.

According to a 2014 study conducted by PWC, 44 percent of the participants surveyed said they are familiar with the sharing economy. After taking the survey, 72 percent of the participants said that they would become involved in the sharing economy within the next two years.

Today the sharing economy is partnering with the tech industry to create different sharing communities that anyone can access on the web or on their smart phone. One of the leading sharing environment companies is Airbnb, a site that allows people around the globe to offer their homes for tourists to stay in at a chosen price. According to the PWC survey, Airbnb averages 425,000 guests per night.

With the nation’s growing interest in the sharing economy, below are five sharing apps and websites that will save you money, and serve as a gateway to the new economy that claims to be built upon community.

Bay Area Community Time Bank

Founded in the ‘80s, 2013 Humanitarian Award winner Dr. Edgar S. Cahn created the Time Banking system during his stay at a hospital while recovering from a heart attack, according to the MI Alliance of Time Banks. The Time Bank system was initially conceived as a solution to the current government spending on social welfare. In 1987 at the London School of Economics, Cahn reasoned that this new currency could be sustainable, and he later began Time Banking in America.

Today there are over 461 Time Bank communities around the globe. People create online accounts to their local Time Bank, and can then socialize with other members and choose from a wide array of different services that each member offers. The Bay Area’s Time Bank, Bay Area Community Exchange (BACE), has over 600 members.

BACE member AZ Zaidi says that Time Banking has not only saved him money, but also introduced him to a world of different people.

“It was mind-blowing to see that I could connect with a totally new demographic of people on types of services or offers or requests,” says Zaidi.

BACE holds meetings on the first Wednesday of each month at the Omni Collective.

Leftover Swap

If you ordered too much takeout and can’t finish your whole meal, instead of throwing it in the trash one can now give their leftovers to a hungry person in the neighborhood.
 Two college roommates, Bryan Summersett and Dan Newman, invented the app Leftover Swap, which launched in 2013 in response to food waste .
 With this app, people no longer have to toss out their extra chow mein. Now they can take a photo of whatever leftover food they have, and post it for other account members to see. People within the same geographical vicinity can offer to trade food or give food for free.

Barterquest

The goal of this website is stated in the name. Barterquest is a website where users can post from their computer or phone any unwanted items, real estate, or services that they want to trade in exchange for points or needed items. Founders Dr. Paul Bocheck and Michael Satz created the website in 2009 as a way for people to save money in the struggling economy and build communities within their cities that can financially support each other.

Couchsurfing

Founded in 2004 by a group of traveling students who were looking for a place to crash in Iceland, Couchsurfing is a website and app that travelers around the world can use to connect with locals and spend a couple days in their home.

Unlike Airbnb, Couchsurfing focuses on pairing foreign 
travelers with people who know their town like the back of their hand, and can guide visitors to local hotspots and gems. In addition to connecting visitors, Couchsurfing also hosts weekly meet ups at local bars and coffee shops for other Couchsurfing members in the area to connect. Today there are an estimated 10 million members and couches are opened up in over 200,000 cities.

Poshmark

Beginning in 2011, Poshmark is an app and online site that gives women around the world a platform and market to swap and sell used clothing. Founder Manish Chandra was given inspiration for this idea after hearing his wife constantly complain about having nothing to wear when she had a closet stocked with new clothes. Poshmark representative Bita Khalenghi says that the amount of Poshmark users has rapidly grown.

“Over the past three years, Poshmark has become the largest peer-to-peer fashion marketplace with millions of users and over 700,000 closets open for sale,” Khalenghi says.

Today Poshmark is one of the largest sharing companies in the world.

“Over $2 million worth of fashion inventory is uploaded onto the marketplace every day, and over 10 million items are for sale from over 5,000 fashion brands,” Khalenghi says.

So if you’re in need for some extra cash, or just want a change in your wardrobe, Poshmark can hook one up with other fashionistas in your town and across the globe.

 

Craigslist Do’s and Don’ts

Screenshot of Craigslist homepage on May 14, 2015. Taken by Jay Garcia.

 

No smoking, no late night parties, no overnight guest, light cooking preferred, no live in girlfriend or boyfriend, and no pets. These are the biggest obstacles when it comes to looking for a place to live in San Francisco. Now if you’re on a time crunch then desperation makes sharing a potential studio or in-law seem like it’s not such a bad idea that you would regret later. To make matters worse is the fact that this decision isn’t up to you, and every potential new home is an audition and has you questioning why you moved to San Francisco.

We all know that a room can easily go for $1,000 or more in neighborhoods such as the Castro, Hayes Valley and the Mission, but places such as the Sunset and Ingleside seem popular with the SF State students. Now the thing with Craigslist is that you must be very vigilant about what you’re doing and be checking throughout the day. When I moved from San Diego to San Francisco I noticed a trend of what yielded more responses and I thought I’d share some tips for room hunters who might not be too aware of the do’s and don’ts.

Attach a photo of yourself. This goes a long way and makes you memorable for a potential open house meet and greet. The way I like to position it is would you consider looking at a listing without any photos of the room? Most likely you wouldn’t and would move on, so keep in mind these landlords are doing the same.

If you say you’re “sarcastic,” show it. You’re in the ring and fighting for a room with potentially hundreds of other people so if you say you’re funny throw in a joke in the email. Imagine skimming through your inbox full of emails and they all sound the same and one of those makes you laugh. You’ll remember it and be more inclined to respond.

Bullet points are your friend and especially good when talking about the boring stuff that’s important. We’ve all heard: “Hi potential roommates. My name is (name), I’m an (age) year old (male/female) from (place). I’ve been in SF for (number) years, studied (thing) at (school), work at (job).” This will bore the landlord to death and cause them to delete your email and move on to the next potential candidate. They all start to blur together with the other emails, and since they’re so common and boring the poster loses interest, fast. The trick is to charm them in the first paragraph and then use bullet points for age, job, schedule, etc. This is not only easier to read but makes it more interesting.

Under no circumstances should these next four phrases be used: “Bring the party home,” “clean but not anal,” “hate passive-aggression” and “a glass of wine at the end of a long day.” These phrases are overused and they mean nothing. After reading so many listings with those words and “fun-loving,” “respectful,” and “considerate,” the actual definitions are lost. Saying something that indicates you are aware that hundreds of people are all saying the same thing makes it seem like you “get it.”

“Drama-free,” is the one thing you never want to mention in your email response either. This phrase is meaningless and points out that you are the one to cause drama. People who are relaxed don’t write things such as that and the thought doesn’t even cross their minds.

Now if you’re going to list your “likes” and “dislikes,” please make sure it’s something specific and refreshing that not all other humans like to do. Such as: yoga, listening to music, laughing, hanging out with friends, cooking or hiking. They key is to be charming-specific, “having the WiFi be spotty and not allow me to stream Netflix without loading” is a charming-specific dislike I shared recently with a potential landlord. Emails with such things, although seemingly silly to you, are seen as refreshing by the poster and bring something else to the table.

You’ve probably heard of “Okay, do you have any other questions?” This is your last opportunity to make an impression, so you better have questions. My go-to question is always “I’m curious about what you seek in a roommate,” because you can always align yourself and confirm that you are indeed a perfect fit for this living situation. Another question that will give you a sense of these people involves their pet peeves. This will either make it a really good living environment or an annoying one for you.

Lastly, make sure to follow up. Again, this is like a job interview and sending them a quick text or email after seeing the place and meeting the potential roommates will make it that much harder for them to say no.

One thing to keep in mind is that these are tips that I have had success with and have proven to be good for me. Some landlords might despise all my tips and delete your email, but in regards to finding a room in the Sunset district and University Park North I’ve been successful.

SF State expands ethnic studies department

The Arab and Muslim Ethnicity and Diasporas Initiative minor, offered by SF State’s Department of Ethnic Studies, is one of the first minors in Arab and Muslim Studies anywhere in the world.

The Department of Ethnic Studies at SF State has a long tradition of breaking barriers. From its inception in the fall of 1969, the department has provided an eye-opening education to people who are willing to have an open mind. Fast-forward to 2015, and the department is once again paving the way for not only the university, but the Arab and Muslim community.

In recent years, there has been little to no classes at SF State when it came to the Arab and Muslim community. One could minor in various other ethnicities, yet no curriculum pertaining to the Muslim and Arab communities counted for credit. For example, the Ethnic Studies Department has minors for Africana studies, American Indian studies, Asian American studies, Latina/o studies, and Race and Resistance Studies (RRS). However, RRS has courses such as Arab American identity that covers topics like post-colonialism processes, critical theory, and perception versus reality. With a recent stroke of luck, the department has now introduced an Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Initiative (AMED) minor, for students interested in expanding their knowledge about these communities.

“When we mean community we don’t mean Arabs and Muslim, we talk about the community of justice. For us it’s all the people that aspire for justice. Justice is at the center of our program, that is going back to the spirit of ‘68. We are exactly exemplifying that in 2015,” says Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi, Ph.D., a senior scholar and an AMED associate professor.

A lengthy student strike erupted on SF State’s campus, which led to the development of an important event in the history of the U.S. in the ‘60s. The strike was led by the Black Student Union and the Third World Liberation Front, and they demanded an Ethnic Studies program, as well as an end to the Vietnam War.

This became a major news event for weeks in the aftermath of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. At one point, University President S.I. Hayakawa famously pulled the wires out of the speakers on top of a van at a student rally. During the course of the strike, large numbers of police occupied the campus and over 700 people were arrested on various protest-related charges.

“Even today in a globally focused world, many institutions of higher education have not expanded their curricula to include the histories, philosophies, sciences and arts of a greater range of the world’s intellectual traditions,” says Kenneth Monteiro, the dean of the College of Ethnic Studies.

AMED is now one of the first minors in Arab and Muslim Studies anywhere in the world. The department takes pride in its rootedness and commitment to diverse communities among whom people belong and from whose textured lives, experiences and trials and tribulations are drawn to enrich material for research, writing, teaching, and academic progress.

SF State offered a variation of Arab and Muslim studies classes in the past where students were able to take classes for college credit when minoring in Race and Resistance Studies. The new AMED minor will allow students to easily fulfill both graduation requirements while learning about social justice in other racial backgrounds.

In addition to the minor there will also be an Edward Said Scholarship for graduate and undergraduate students minoring in AMED. The support from Dr. Said’s family and a generous donation from SF State alumnus Allam El Qadah, the scholarship will recognize students who exhibit exemplary academic qualifications and a strong commitment to serving their community.

“What AMED is about is Arab communities and Muslim communities and also accounting for non-Arab, Arab-majority, non-Muslim and Muslim-majority. We don’t just focus on Muslims,” says Dr. Abdulhadi.

The biggest news came when Dr. Abdulhadi was able to confirm that there had been an establishment Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between SF State and An-Najah National University in Nablus, Palestine. This is SF State’s first MOU with an academic institution anywhere in the Arab and Muslim world.

An-Najah National University is a vibrant hub of learning that nourishes science, knowledge and understanding. An-Najah offers undergraduate instruction in the fields of medicine, engineering, humanities, social sciences and the natural sciences, as well as numerous courses of graduate study in the humanities and the social sciences. Since it was chartered as a full-fledged university in 1977, An-Najah has promoted the acquisition of modern knowledge whilst remaining committed to the transmission and preservation of Palestinian history, heritage and culture. Today, as the largest university in Palestine, An-Najah educates over 20,000 students and is home to 13 facilities, offering numerous undergraduate and graduate specializations.

“It was significant for us to get back on track, reaffirm the commitment to the program and the overwhelming support of the senate was really a good sign that we were back on the right path,” says President of SF State Leslie Wong.

AMED was formed to advance the study of Arab and Muslim communities at home and in the diasporas. AMED is focused within a justice-centered perspective, which is crucial with any sort of Arab and Muslim community, committed to reciprocating a very strong collaboration between SF State and non-university communities. No other place on SF State’s campus is as evident as the in the Cesar Chavez building, where a Palestinian Cultural mural is honoring the late Edward Said. This initiative was a collective effort that was brought up by SF State students.

Minoring in AMED will enable students to do as follows: share the knowledge that is produced with multiple publics, create a better understanding of Arab and Muslim experiences and concerns in North America, promote a culture of justice, dignity, tolerance and peace, and finally, deepen a sense of fairness, ethics and solidarity among and between communities.

“We take pride in developing majors and minors that are relevant to the world and the Race and Resistance minor is significant because it goes along well with other minors,” says Wong.

Looking at what SF State has accomplished it’s not hard to see there’s a proven track record for change. This minor is just the beginning of a new chapter for Arab and Muslim communities and as more time passes more changes will take effect for more justice.