Category Archives: All

Cupid Hits Hard

Cupid Hits Hard at the 12th Annual Valentine’s Day Pillow fight at Embarcadero Plaza, SF.
Always tentative, and always fun, this event is more like a flash-mob with feathers than your typical Valentine’s Day event.

 

Photos and Video by Kyler Knox/Xpress Magazine
Edited by Janett Perez.

Vinyl’s not Dead

The albums not dead for me; I still buy vinyl albums.

Jimmy Page, Led Zeppelin

 

The feeling centered around that nostalgia of unraveling the cellophane from a record, also known as a vinyl, or LP, is one of curious pleasure for many; both for past generations and more recently, the current generation. It is a feeling that has long since faded over the years, in part due to digital music downloads taking the helm.

If you want to get down to the romanticism surrounding that sentiment, just ask anyone who collects vinyl. Some will mention the obvious difference in the quality of sound, others may talk about the obsession of the album artwork fine-tuned within the artistry maintained in the confines of expression revolving around that artist. And of course, a few might tell you about the thrill of finding that deleted Kinks album, which for some is the holy grail of all LP finds.

There are over twenty-five independently owned record stores throughout the Bay Area. Each store has its own personal blend, not unlike your own neighborhood coffee shop; a place one can frequent throughout the week, hoping to sink into that broken-down couch in the back of the cafe. Or perhaps a favorite book store where hours can be spent perusing the seemingly endless bookshelves for irrevocable, unpolished bindings. The reality and similarities behind this passion is one of the many advantages of living in the Bay Area.

 

 

With the recent resurgence of vinyl, comes the sprouting of new record stores throughout the Bay Area. One of the more recent arrivals is RS94109, located in the Tenderloin, a store that’s been around for a couple years. It has spent this year remodeling and installing a bar and coffee shop.

But of all the vinyl stores throughout the San Francisco area, 101 Records has managed to maintain a more relevant and consistent customer connection, fulfilling the needs of its record-seeking and purchasing constituents. The tucked away Telegraph Hill vinyl shop has been in the city for over thirty-three years. It even succeeded to outlast the once booming International franchise, Tower Records, which used to be located a few blocks away, located on Bay Street, a fact which Christian Jung of 101 Records was not hesitant to vocalize.

Jung, being employed with 101 records for roughly eight years, has a fairly keen sense of what needs to be merchandised throughout the store, and more importantly, maintains an awareness regarding an undeniable changing of the guard within the music arena.

When first setting foot in the shop, your eyes are immediately fixated on the battered vintage musical instruments hanging from above. The outdated acoustic and electric guitars and brass instruments sway north to south, the tight squeeze single aisle with a myriad of phonographs; record players and other selections of timeless audio mechanisms, all lead to the basement of 101, a treasure trove that holds over 50,000 vinyl records, spanning from the 1920s to the present.

Jung, a fairly tall man sporting a mod look with a flat cap and goatee, is at the moment just opening the doors and resting vinyl crates on the sidewalk in the hopes of enticing onlookers to enter the shop.

Once he finished setting up the bait, we immediately broke into a dialogue, sharing thoughts about, “the state of vinyls,” the expanding number of vinyl consumers, and music in general.

I asked Jung if he noticed a spike in sales for LP’s in his store along with the current trend and interest of vinyl.

 

Christian Jung: Well in this store we’ve always sold vinyl, never CDs, but it’s been up the last year and a half probably more than before, but also because I curate and make it a little more accessible for the customers. I have more of a passion perhaps more than previous co – workers.

 

XPRESS: In your opinion, what’s the reason for the resurgence of vinyl and LP?

 

Jung: Well there’s the hipster element obviously and then there’s the people that are now aware that the sound quality is better than an MP3 any day, but they’re not comparing it with CDs. I mean if you actually had a quality CD player and a quality turntable and you compared the two, assuming you had the CD version and the same music of the original recording, yes vinyl is gonna sound better. But if the vinyl has been digitized, which now they’re doing because they don’t have the source material there, exists an ongoing debate with what will sound better. If you have a Crosley record player, know that your crossly is not gonna sound better. But it’s also the acuteness element, we don’t know if the younger generation will continue to buy music until there forty or forty-five. So the last seven years there’s been the guys and girls, the baby boomers that got rid of their vinyl collection and are now repurchasing them because either they gave the records to their kids, or the kids took them from their parents and are saying to themselves, “hey I wanna hear this the way it’s supposed sound.”

 

XPRESS: Can you talk with me about some of the audio elements surrounding that idea?

Jung: Well there’s the audio file boom and then there’s companies like MOFI Mofidelity, companies that specialize in audio files. Companies are even going so far as to redoing the sleeves and lamination on the actual vinyl, the same way they were done in the sixties.

 

XPRESS: Does that include the artwork and album artwork and décor, etc.?

Jung: Everything! It’s companies that license things, like certain jazz albums, Speakers Corners Licensed. For instance, they tackled the Riverside Catalogue, which consist of some of the sixties titles, then there’s companies like 4 Men With Beards who are based in the Bay Area. Up north you have Light in the Attic, who are also a reissue company who specialize in a lot of recordings. They track down whoever owns the rights to an album, reissue them, and possibly try and get a write up for that album. For instance, Cat Stevens is popular again, Walkman are popular again. Pop culture has an element.

 

According to statistics put together by BPI, which is a record industry council based in the United Kingdom, Billboard and Nielsen Music have shown that more than 14.5 million LPs were sold last year and sales are up by more than fifty-three percent. At the top of that list in sales is The Beatles Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club band, followed by The Beatles, Abbey Road, and Guardians of the Galaxy, which has sparked interest in younger listeners upon releasing the soundtrack on cassette. When mentioning this to the local record store RS94109 based in the Tenderloin, Austin, an employee, said that he was not all that surprised.

“We get all kinds of people coming in, some who have turntables others who don’t. But the ones who ask us how to operate a turntable out of sheer curiosity is always a plus,” shared Austin.

RS94019 has all of the elements of a hometown, closely-knit neighborhood record shop, attentive and knowledgeable staff, a bar and coffee shop, but most importantly the willingness to discuss each and every album spread throughout the store. The space also houses shows and events with DJs and bands coming through, along with supporting and purchasing LP’s from local artists to stack on the shelves.

With the spike in vinyl sales and having spoken to a number of record store owners and employees, there seems to be a mutual consensus. Perhaps it’s a younger generation that’s just curious about products that aren’t digitized, or maybe the possibility of hearing an analog sound storage for the first time is just too sweet to pass up. Or, if you are anything like me, the chase and likelihood of coming across a rare Janis Joplin album keeps me coming back.

Whatever the case, the curiosity across every board seems to be enticing more and more consumers to record stores, and just maybe for a few, they might come across that find that consumes them in every facet; that is what is so special about laying down a needle to vinyl.  

 

Photos by Christian Urrutia/Xpress Magazine

Freedom of Film

 

The night begins with music. On the screen, a man playing guitar transitions into a kaleidoscopic avalanche of political commentary. A cutout of the current United States Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, dances with a similarly non-human Ben Carson, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. The two twirl around in dresses made of tinfoil.

The film projector stops and the whole room is plunged back into darkness. A smattering of applause, and the room collapses into animated murmurs.

During the independent film screening at the Artists Television Access building in the Mission District on Thursday night Feb. 1, 2018 (Diego Aguilar/Xpress)

The projector flashes back to life and the next film starts. It is a breakneck, dizzying travelogue through lost worlds and parallel dimensions led by the world’s worst janitor. (“It won’t be clean, but it will be done,” he says. Then, later: “By setting the mind’s equator with the distinct line of the horizon, you will become inseparable.”)

After some technical difficulties and shouting from the projection booth, the next film plays. This one is a part live action, part animated short titled “Ass Eatin’ Rock.” It features a tiered rock formation that happens to be just the right height for … well, you know. It’s sort of a surprise to see this one on the big screen. Normally it just runs on San Francisco’s public access channel.

Thus goes Open Screening night at the Artists’ Television Access gallery and microcinema in the Mission District.

ATA is a long-running collective non-profit, comprised of volunteer filmmakers, artists, and general creative types. On the first Thursday of each month, the group opens its small theater space to any and all filmmakers. There are no restrictions on genre or style, so long as each film clocks in under twelve minutes. What the pieces tend to share is an underlying desire to push boundaries. The films playing at the most recent Open Screening, on February 1, exemplify this ethos.

“We accept all films,” Arthur Johnson Weiss, an ATA volunteer and one of the evening’s showrunners announces at the top of the program. “As long as they’re not racist, sexist, homophobic, misogynistic, sexual violence – none of that bullshit. As long as you’re making good things that are fun to watch.”

Arthur wears a red plaid button-up shirt, sleeves rolled up to reveal his tattooed forearms. Dark sunglasses perch on the bill of his camo baseball cap. He is a filmmaker himself, with a few experimental works under his belt. His day job involves grants management, but he declines to get more specific than that, out of fear that his films could get him fired.

“I kind of have a double life,” Arthur says. “My films deal with gay sexuality and dildos and, you know, crazy shit … I create a clear dichotomy between how I survive capitalism and the work that I make.”

The other showrunner of Open Screening is Tim Johnson. He wears a plaid shirt of his own, blue and unbuttoned to reveal a white undershirt with black lettering that reads, simply, “90’s.” Tim attends San Francisco State University, focusing on Liberal Studies.

SFSU student Tim Johnson setting film files to play during the independent film screening at the Artists Television Access building in the Mission District on Thursday night Feb. 1, 2018 (Diego Aguilar/Xpress)

He became interested in video in high school, when friends gave him a copy of “Sonic Outlaws,” a documentary film by indie filmmaker Craig Baldwin. Years later, after he moved to San Francisco, Tim searched for somewhere that embraced video art. He found ATA and decided to volunteer. When he knocked on the door, Baldwin himself answered.

Tim has volunteered with ATA for around four to five years, Arthur about a year and a half. Each month they run things in the projection booth. It’s a complicated process, as they’re constantly switching between formats, film and digital. They usually don’t know what they will be playing until someone shows up for the show with their film in hand.

“Since I’ve volunteered here, I’ve always been enthusiastic about making sure Open Screening happens, because I don’t know anything else like this,” Tim says. “Bring your work, screen it. … Bring your friends. You’re all going to watch whatever it is you came up with, and you’re going to watch what other people came up with. This is …” He looks to Arthur. “I don’t know, is it democratic?”

Arthur thinks for a second, then says, “It’s egalitarian.”

The allure of an open screening is the sense that anything can happen.

“We get a lot of folks who straddle all different genres. The common thread is that this is all artist made and all fairly experimental,” Arthur says. “It’s always weird.”

“It’s just a really cool idea,” filmmaker Dave O’Shea says. “I feel like so much of San Francisco, like the authentic, grimy underground of San Francisco, is just getting polished away.”

SFSU student Tim Johnson (left) and independent ffilm maker Arthur Johnson Weiss (right) discussing film line up during the independent film screening at the Artists Television Access building in the Mission District on Thursday night Feb. 1, 2018 (Diego Aguilar/Xpress)

O’Shea produces an irreverent comedy program for SF Commons public access channel 29 called “The Glory Hole” that airs Fridays at 11 p.m. He has been going to Open Screenings since last summer, routinely showing clips of his self-described “weirdo shit.” O’Shea is the guy to blame for the aforementioned “Ass Eatin’ Rock.”

“[Open Screening] is a cool way to meet other filmmakers and maybe get inspired and hopefully inspire other people,” O’Shea says. “It’s a very kinda open-minded vibe that I don’t see too much of anymore.”

Another filmmaker, JC Collins, has shown his films at one past Open Screening. His most recent work is “Silence,” a heartfelt, unflinchingly explicit visual essay about gay sexuality and shared longing for connection.

“[ATA] is one of the first places I sought out,” Collins says. “I think it’s a great place to get your stuff out there, test it out, see what works for you, see on the big screen.”

The production duo Boredom (Patrick Sean Gibson and Luke Lasley) premieres their music video for the song “Raindrop” by San Francisco’s own Hot Flash Heat Wave. It’s a dazzling, ’60s inspired blast of color and sound that weaves between elaborate animation and live action 16mm film footage. The two had been to open screenings before, but this is the first time they have presented a film.

“I think that the intimacy is super good for young filmmakers,” Gibson says. “ATA is legendary.”

ATA began in 1983, formed by a couple of San Francisco Art Institute students as a sort of punk art collective. Founders Marshall Weber and John Martin lived out of their converted storefront space in South of Market, before the area became trendy and the rent became impossible. Gleefully fueled by a blend of drugs and artistic fervor, the two set about creating their idealized workspace. The collective developed a following, grew in size, registered as a non-profit, and began to earn a place in the city’s cultural history.

Three years after it began, the whole place went up in flames.

After the fire, the crew relocated to 992 Valencia Street, in the Mission District. There they have remained, putting on events for the past thirty years.

Craig Baldwin has been with the organization for thirty-three years. He lives in the residential space on the third floor of the gallery and spends much of his time in the basement archives. He focuses his efforts chiefly on ATA’s Other Cinema, a regular screening of short films that is more focused and consistent than the open screenings.

Baldwin attributes ATA’s longevity to the fortitude of its members.

“It took really hardcore patience, struggle,” Baldwin says. “Ability to take hits, ability to pay a little more rent every time, ability to get ripped off from roommates when you hang out with slackers. Stuff like that. It’s really just being able to endure it.”

Audience captivated by first independent film of the night during the independent film screening at the Artists Television Access building in the Mission District on Thursday night Feb. 1, 2018 (Diego Aguilar/Xpress)

Today, the ATA building stands like a sort of anomaly, hiding in a dark crack that the surrounding shiny establishments keep forgetting to clean out.The neighbors are stores that sell two hundred dollar flannel shirts and display their selection of hats like they’re in an Apple store. The Mission has changed since ATA first came to town.

“Artist run centers like ATA are at risk in the city,” SF State art professor Paula Levine says. “The future of similar spaces and opportunities for artists are dwindling.”

Levine has a long history with ATA. She partners with the group to show student work in their gallery space, on the big screen.

Baldwin says he’s uncertain how long ATA will be able to remain in its current space. They’re halfway through a five-year lease. When it ends, there will be negotiations and an inevitable rent hike.

“I’d be broken-hearted if something happened to ATA’s space,” Tim Johnson says. “But the idea is that ATA will live on even if it’s not in the space it currently is.”

To Baldwin, the key component of ATA’s success is access to community.

“Our whole concept has to do with intercourse between the street and the place,” Baldwin says. “People have to know what’s going on and know the people and make films and come in and visit and show their work at open screenings. You know, that kind of dialogue. We’ve got that going.”

At the end of Open Screening night, after all the films have played, the lights come up and the audience mingles. Some of the filmmakers book it straight out the door and some stay to trade kudos and business cards. Eventually people filter out onto Valencia.

Tim and Arthur have gotten everything packed up. They kill the lights and lock the door behind them. Craig Baldwin is still inside somewhere, probably in the archives. Outside, the night’s showrunners chat with the few stragglers hanging out on the sidewalk. Soon, the conversation dies down and everyone goes their separate ways.

ATA’s screening room sits dark, and as the projectors cool, the space sits silent, empty; it waits patiently, for the creatives to return, and for the screen, yet again, to act as a canvas for moving art. 

Photos by Diego Aguilar/Xpress Magazine

The Myths of the Pit

A wide jaw, stocky build, and short thick hair in an array of colors. The defining features of a pit bull aren’t up for debate when it comes to this dog breed. Behavior on the other hand, never seems to stop being a controversy. Extreme efforts go into painting the picture of a vicious beast, rabid and uncontrollable in any situation. The other side reveals a loyal and loving dog, reacting the way any dog would if put in a bad situation raised by unfit owners. But what depiction holds truth in reality?

When approaching any controversy, education is key. First and foremost, what is a pit bull? Ariana Luchsinger, from San Francisco Animal Care & Control, thinks most people identify a pit bull as just a “well-muscled with a blocky head” dog, but that doesn’t always add up to a pit bull-type breed.

“‘Pit bull’ is really an umbrella term for multiple breeds of dog – Staffies [Staffordshire Terriers], American Bulldogs, Pit Bull Terrier – and as a term is overused and in shelters is overidentified,” said Ariana. “Unfortunately, people get a lot of misinformation about dogs in general, and pit bull-type dogs are the biggest victim of these mythologies.”

The generalization of pit bulls is based around decades of bad-breeders and their actions; over-breeding, improper training, or training to specifically make them aggressive.

“The public often views pitties as aggressive killing machines with a higher likelihood of biting,” Ariana declared. “In truth, they are like any dog; a product of their genetics, their socialization, and their environment.”

Jennifer Rosen, founder of the dog rescue Bullies and Buddies in Redondo Beach, California, agrees that it’s all about the breeders and owners, and that these dogs are a product of bad-nurture rather than the nature in their genetics.

“What’s happening is people are using them as guard dogs and chaining them up,” Jennifer preached as she boomed about a breed she’s loved since she first rescued a pit bull in 2004. “You have a working breed that has a lot of energy and they are sitting there tied up or in a backyard, that’s a problem. It’s really on us as the owners; how we raise our dogs. If we exercise them, socialize them, give them some boundaries, there should be no issues.”

 

 

 Photos Niko LaBarbera/Xpress Magazine 

A complicated process is implemented at Bullies and Buddies in making sure an owner is the right fit and ready for owning a pit bull including applications, home visits, and visits with their trainer at the rescue. Jennifer understands what can happen if a pit bull is given into the wrong hands, and does everything she can to prevent that.

“When they come to me, you know they fill out an application and I see what their lifestyle is, I’ll tell people this is not the breed for you,” Jennifer said with conviction, and added that her answer sometimes turns people off, but she’d rather turn away an applicant than have a pittie end up in a non ideal situation and continue to perpetuate myths.  

Environment and caregiving is everything in this circumstance. Not just for the individual dog itself, but also for the public. Every pit bull that gets treated wrong becomes another statistic for those wishing to ban the breed entirely.

“Your dog has to be an exemplary ambassador because the breed itself can’t afford him not to be – and that’s a huge and unfair responsibility,” insisted Ariana as she spoke about a time a woman had to cancel her adoption because her mom threatened to literally disown her if she owned a pit bull.

“In addition to being a baseline good dog-owner, you have to be willing to demystify your dog to everyone from passers-by to your neighbor, to your family. The public will forgive and forget the trespasses of a Goldendoodle, [but] they will never forgive the same behaviors in a pit bull.”

The American Temperament Test Society is a national organization designed to test the various temperaments of dog breeds.

“The test takes about 12 minutes to complete,” according to the organization’s official website. “The dog is on a loose six-foot lead and three ATTS trained evaluators score the dog. Majority rules. Failure on any part of the test is recognized when a dog shows panic, strong avoidance without recovery or unprovoked aggression.”

An average pass rate for a breed is 83.4 percent. For pit bull-type dogs the average pass rates are: Pit Bull Terrier with 87.4 percent, Staffordshire Terrier with 85.2 percent, and American Bulldogs with 86.7 percent. All well above the average.

But their stocky and muscular demeanor is threatening to those in fear of pitties. Before ever even coming into contact with one, most people on this side of the argument have their mind made up that pit bulls are not to be trusted. Ruth Matias, a junior at San Francisco State University, said she isn’t very fearful of the breed. Her mom on the other hand, is terrified.

“My mom is scared of pit bulls because back in Ethiopia, dogs are guard-dogs, not domesticated house pets,” Ruth explained, elaborating that her mother emigrated to America from Ethiopia. “So whenever she sees [pit bulls] they still instill fear in her. They’re not animals she’d want to go up and pet.”

Pit bulls are at the top of the list for dog-bites in California at 29 percent, right above German Shepherds and Chihuahuas according to the California Department of Public Health. These bites are reported and recorded. The breed of the dog is either claimed to be a pit bull by the victim or by a visual identification from veterinarians and staff at a shelter. In 2015, The Veterinary Journal studied the identifications of pit bulls by shelter staff versus DNA testing of the dog confirming the breed.

Staff shelters identified the attack dogs as pit bulls 52 percent of the time whereas the DNA testing confirmed the dogs as pit bulls only 21 percent of the time. Ariana agrees that shelters are huge on misidentification of pit bulls, a huge problem when it comes to statistics. She points out that the San Francisco Animal Care & Control shelter constantly has pit bull-type dogs in house.

“At any given time, SFACC’s dog population is roughly 30 percent pit bull-type dogs, the majority of which are found as unaltered strays,” she said, emphasizing that unaltered means not spayed or neutered, which is the other huge problem that involves the breed.

“Despite a ton of progress in the realms of public awareness and spay / neuter, pitties are a population that is favored for illegitimate backyard breeding,” Ariana declared, revealing the reason why there are so many pit bulls in shelters and rescues: greedy breeders not spaying or neutering pitties in an attempt to make more money. There are many laws throughout the country that specifically require pit bull-type dogs to be neutered or spayed in order to stop this problem.

San Francisco code 43 section 1 states: “no person may own, keep, or harbor any dog within the City and County of San Francisco that the person in possession knew, or should have known, was a pit bull that has not been spayed or neutered.”

Ignorant breeders break the law, which leads to pit bulls without homes, being found on the street, and hopefully being found by a shelter or rescue before it’s too late for them.

“People are breeding them and trying to make a profit,” Jennifer added, agreeing that the biggest issue here is overpopulation. “Now it’s like they’re a dime a dozen. They are getting euthanized left and right in shelters. Spay and neuter. That’s the problem.”

With more pitties starting out with bad breeders or incapable owners and without proper altering, the stigma behind them just continues. Jennifer finds passion in educating the public on the “other-side of the pit bull story,” knowing that the future for these pups will be bright one day if people are willing to learn what is fact and what is fiction.  

“The bottom line is, each dog is an individual,” Jennifer stated, still knowing that some people’s minds may never change. “You know, what I’ve learned is that you can’t fix stupid. It is a privilege to own this breed. I am so proud everyday.”

 

 

Photography by Nicholas LaBarbera/Xpress Magazine

Get Crafty

To some, sewing may be something that you picked up as a child. For many others, it can become a tricky task to pick up. That’s where this gal comes in.

The first thing you notice about 24-year-old Amy Castañeda is her vibrant locks of hair; A deep plum shade of purple fades into a hot pink hue, making this Youtube ‘Do it Yourself’ star pop while on camera. Standing out is key when making weekly Youtube videos about creating such things as handbags, skirts, jackets, wallets and more!

“I’ve always liked making things when I was younger,” she says.

“I started to sew when I was thirteen and then when I went to high school, that’s when I started getting into making clothes and other things.”

 

Some of her more recent pieces that have gotten a lot of attention are her original design vinyl bags. Experimenting with structures and colors, Castañeda has made bags in the shape of a watermelon, a vinyl record, and multiple logos, such as the famous Instagram camera. At one point, someone complimented one of her bags, asking if it was a Kate Spade piece.

“In general I love making bags,” Castañeda says.

“There are a lot of vinyl bags out there, and I decided that I wanted to make my own. The cool thing about bags is that when I’m done making them they look like you bought them from the store!”

If you’re looking to make a new handbag made out of vinyl, or a watermelon printed skirt, then Amy’s account has it. Her main focus is to get people to sew more, explaining that a lot of accounts on YouTube dealing with learning how to sew are usually aimed to an older crowd. Since she is young, she likes to make her ideas fresh and new to attract younger audiences. She loves to make her videos fun and enjoyable by making it easy and rewarding for anyone to do. She goes into complete detail when it comes to making a piece, from the measurements you should have, to the materials you should be working with to complete the piece.

 

“I usually get comments that are like, ‘your videos are the only ones that are fun.’ I guess that’s what makes [my page] unique because it’s coming from me, a new generation.”

Currently at more than 100k subscribers on YouTube, this savvy artist has already built a following for herself. So how does she obtain all of her followers? According to her, it’s because of the different variety of videos that she puts out there.

One of those followers is 24-year-old social media influencer and YouTuber herself, Andrea Reyes, whose channel usually consists of beauty and lifestyle videos, daily vlogs, challenges, and reaction videos.

“Honestly, she’s great at what she does, and yes, she’s a DIY YouTuber, but she’s so creative and one of a kind.” Reyes says, “DIY’s are all over YouTube, but something about her makes her super unique and there are not many people on YouTube like her, so she definitely stands out!”

Reyes says a good tip for people who want to start making YouTube videos is to, “…never start it for the money, you have to really want it and love creating content. It’s honestly my favorite thing to do – I don’t have many subscribers but the numbers don’t matter to me as long as I’m happy uploading content I love and it’s a passion and if I can help one person on this journey it will be worth it,” she says.

Amy’s journey on YouTube began in the 2012. When she first started she got a shout-out by a YouTube channel called Thread Finger, who noticed her for sewing videos. After that shout-out, she started to become more known which boosted her followers. They are now one of the channels she looks up to.

One thing she says is that most YouTubers have trouble with when starting online is coming up with consecutive ideas to put out for your viewers. In order to keep herself from not making the same videos, she usually gets her ideas from what she’s interested in at that moment.

“For example, I’ll be watching a movie or see a new character from a show and I’ll become inspired to make a piece dedicated to them,” Castañeda says.

Through her quirky and animated choices in designs, at the end of the day she enjoys seeing how her fans recreate things through her tutorials. All the love she gets from her fans and the recreations they make mean alot to her. At the end of the day, her fans are what ultimately pushes her to keep uploading more video content each week.

Another one of her fans is 19-year-old Maegan Bishop, graphic design student at the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles who also freelance models. Not only did Castañeda inspire Bishop to become a better designer, but it also inspired her to design a pair of shoes that she’s been wanting to make.  

“I’m a type of person that totally takes in positive energy from people and when I started watching her videos I could see how happy she was making them and it’s just so beautiful,” Bishop says. “I love it when people are so passionate about their work, it just pushes me to become a better person and put all my energy into what I love to do and become a better designer.”

Amy graduated from San Francisco State University in the spring of 2017 as an Apparel Design & Merchandising major. While taking classes at SFSU, she was featured in the annual fashion show held by the department, where she showcased modern pieces derived from Mexican culture. Her inspiration for these pieces came from the 50’s and wanted to make them wearable for today through Mexican detailing such as floral embroidery.

The Apparel Design & Merchandising department at SFSU offers students a variety of courses from fashion illustration to product development for apparel. Connie Ulasewicz, department chair of the Apparel Design & Merchandising program at SFSU, says the program offers students the idea of designing things in order to solve a problem.

“If the problem is that there’s an industry that creates a lot of ways, how do I design garments with that in mind?” she says. “I make sure that I use all the fabric I have, or I design something from a product that already was. Whatever it might be, remember your understanding that design and garments help people function in the world, that’s their purpose, people learn that along the way here.”

With platforms such as Instagram and YouTube, you’re bound to find someone designing their own clothes and selling them. So, how hard is it really to get your clothes on the window of Saks Fifth Avenue or displayed in Milan? Ulasewicz says that in order for someone who wants to start their own clothing line, you should “learn on somebody else’s dime.” In other words, work for someone else first.

“It’s a very difficult business to get started in,” she says. “You can be working with someone else and at the same time be absorbing the way they make decisions or whatever their mission is and how they’re getting it out to people. The people who do that, I think become more successful because it’s challenging to find what your message, image, vision is in a manner that you can afford to do so.”

Amy has done just that. She currently works for a company in San Francisco called Jolie Coquette which offers minimalist inspiriting clothing. Here, Amy helps with making the clothes and designs as well. In the future, Castañeda wants to continue to make her own designs and one day put out her own label. Most of the clothes she plans on designing will be inspired from the 50’ and 60’s. For this, she gets most of her pieces from thrift shops, where she turns unwanted clothes into something new. For now, she will continue to make DIY videos in hopes to inspire people to get out there and sew.

If you’re en route to designing clothes and making a brand out of yourself, it is not impossible. For example, Judith Rothman-Pierce, 28, owner of the clothing line Rusty Cuts started an Etsy account in 2009 making dresses from vintage fabric and bedsheets. With over 17k. followers on Instagram, Pierce encourages people to start their own fashion designs.

“Do it, practice makes perfect-ish,” she says. “Give stuff to your friends and just see what works and what doesn’t. I think of my clothes more as a craft and not as much a fashion line, so it could be different for everyone.”

Her own clothing line, something Castañeda hopes to achieve in the future, is a dream she plans on making a reality.

Although the fashion industry is a cut-throat world, this fashionista doesn’t plan on giving up on her dreams anytime soon.

“When it comes to sewing, just go for it,” Castañeda says. “Don’t look at something and believe you can’t make it, you’d be surprised as to what you could make, we’re all capable of so much more!”

 

Photos by Jazmine Sanchez.

Internet without Net Neutrality

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will vote on whether to essentially repeal Net Neutrality on December 14, which, if repealed, would be the biggest attack to Americans’ right to use the internet freely.

Net neutrality has been an issue in the U.S. since the internet has been used by Americans in browsers. Freedom to roam the internet with no discrimination has been assumed to be the moral right even before official legislation stated so. Corporations’ attempts to control internet access and bandwidth through Congress have been repeatedly shut down.

It wasn’t until April 13, 2015 that America presented regulations that prohibited internet service providers (ISPs) from discrimination via lopsided bandwidth distribution and complete bans on certain sites and functions the internet provides. Even though Net Neutrality has only been in effect since June 12, 2015, this repeal could be symbolic of a power shift from internet users to internet providers, which will have very real consequences.

With such a huge swing in power, the amount of potential danger to the internet is staggering. Many people worry how drastically their own lives will be affected by a repeal of Net Neutrality. Many parts of the internet will simply die off because they can’t survive in the new, harsh climate, while bigger corporations, like Amazon or Netflix, will build a monopoly on their respective market. Ultimately, Net Neutrality in the U.S. provided a protective barrier for all internet users, promising equal bandwidth distribution across every part of the internet, but if and/or when this barrier is shut down, everyone will have a different, personal reason to mourn the internet as we currently know it.

One valid and popular reason that people use the internet is to share their own creations and have them spread throughout the web for people to enjoy and support. Uploading and sharing personal works on the internet is an effective process to circulate one’s work with no cost to the uploader. A repeal of Net Neutrality would mean that ISPs have total manipulation of bandwidth, which grants them the power to dictate where American internet users can upload and what they can upload.

Communal, niche art districts will be largely destroyed because of their inability to compete with bigger sharing platforms. For example, Tumblr has dominated the blog market, which puts sites like DeviantArt and Pixiv in the precarious position of having to directly compete with their toughest competition.

Allegra McComb recently graduated from Stanford with a major in art. She posts her oil paintings all over the internet, advertising her commission prices and original works for people to buy. She uploads her artwork to multiple platforms, which she believes will grant her maximum exposure.

“My main concern is that, what am I going to do when no one else will be able to see my paintings?” said McComb.

“I already have to work a second job at Peet’s [Coffee & Tea]. I’m not sure what I’m going to have to do now.”

It’s not just about art and struggling post-graduate college students, it’s about everything and everyone. If Americans are forced to selectively choose between what parts of the internet they’re allowed access to, most of them will select the biggest option. For example, why pay for Vimeo if you’re already paying for YouTube? This question and logical conclusion provide the mental steps that eventually lead to, if we continue using the Vimeo and YouTube example, a world where YouTube is the site to upload videos to the internet and Vimeo is a mere memory, only brought up in conversation when reminiscing about how the internet used to be.

Mary Roach is a best-selling novelist and award-winning journalist, perhaps best known for her work “Stuff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.” Roach is worried about what the Net Neutrality repeal will do to the publishing process and journalism field. Especially in 2017, Americans are more independent than ever on the internet for their articles and books. With the internet losing its communication equality, the publishing industry is another market that will most likely completely run by sites like Amazon.

“Right now in the office where I work in Oakland, we have cheap internet for everyone,” said Roach.

“If Net Neutrality was repealed, I’m sure the prices would go up. We need the internet in order to communicate and publish. I’m hoping we’ll still be able function, but I’m not sure.”

The ability for internet service providers to control the way otherwise independent content producers are able to publish is not only horrible for the content makers, but also for the consumers. Many people are already worried about the state of our media, with its current controversies of fake news and corruption.

Taking power away from the reader only makes it easier for corporations to hand feed false information to us. Because the concept of Net Neutrality has been assumed since Americans started to browse the internet, there are currently no laws that support the concept of transparency.

That means, especially when Net Neutrality is first repealed, that internet service providers will have more freedom than ever to take bribes, or any other money-driven ulterior motive, in exchange for giving or taking away bandwidth from any site. Essentially, this gives corporations the ability to buy-out their opponent at the cost determined by internet service providers. This is accomplished by the ISPs either making their platform run slower or completely banning it altogether.

“I already have a tough time believing what I read on the internet, I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to trust it if Net Neutrality goes away,” said Brisa Sepulveda, a concerned student majoring in creative writing.

“I’m obviously against it. This is just the government taking away the rights of [the average American citizen] for a profit, again. Nothing we haven’t seen before.”

This new climate also supports the business model of pairing up. If the internet is sold to us in categories, such as “streaming” or “news,” then it only makes sense for corporations to strive for domination in their respective market. Sometimes this results in the smaller sites dying, other times it results in the smaller sites combining into one or simply being bought out, which they hope will morph them into an unbeatable powerhouse.

“We’re already witnessing big companies preparing for a world without Net Neutrality,” said T Michael Liles, an archiving assistant at the J. Paul Leonard Library.

“Companies like Spotify and Hulu are pairing up. They’re already two of the biggest streaming sites on the internet, but in an internet climate that strives to eliminate competition, the only way to survive is to make friends. If you can’t beat them, join them.”

A world without Net Neutrality is hard to imagine because, as Americans, we’ve never lived in it, but that could all change very soon. America has been spiraling into a fascist government that attempts to control its citizens, and what better way to control people by deciding what they see? There are many reasons to be scared about the potential repeal of Net Neutrality and many of them which won’t be seen for some time. Freedom to roam the internet has been assumed to be an innate right, and now that this right is being challenged, we can only hope that internet service providers will emulate practices as close to the original model as they possibly can. The internet will no longer be controlled by the users, but the providers.

Taking it to the Streets, Part 2

San Francisco is known as a picture perfect city, with its cool neighborhoods, historic streets, bright colored bridge, and tourist spots that attract people from all over the world. However, the city encompasses people from both ends of a very long spectrum: just as there are those who live lavishly in beautiful three-story homes some can only dream of walking into, there are those who dream of resting their head anywhere besides the concrete.

 

At anytime on any given street coming across someone who is trying to conjure up some warmth under many layers of dirtied clothing is not an uncommon experience shared by many. The familiarity of such a scene for San Francisco natives is the reason most just keep walking past unphased. A strong, unfortunate desensitization, to say the least.

 

And not much change has occurred over the past couple years, according to a study called “The San Francisco Homeless Count & Survey” completed by Applied Survey Research. This research team conducts homeless counts all over the U.S. in order to provide accurate information to governments so they know how and where to target the issue. The entire survey has breakdowns by age, sexuality, race, and district, in addition to potential causes and what services are available.

 

For instance in the 2013 count, 41 percent of homeless people were sheltered, leaving 59 percent unsheltered. In both the 2015 and 2017 counts, 42 percent were sheltered and 58 percent were unsheltered.

Surrounding counties are not as rich in services as San Francisco,” Eric Brown a program director for The Catholic Charities of San Francisco expressed.

“That is why many who are homeless come to the city.”

 

And more specifically the downtown area, according to the study “District 6 of San Francisco” which includes South of Market, the Tenderloin, and Treasure Island. This district has the highest count with a total of 3,680 – that is almost 50 percent of homeless population.

 

As such a prevalent issue, the problem of homelessness leaves people – the ones who care – with a sense of ‘how can I, as one person, evoque change?’

 

According to the previously mentioned study, about 70 percent of the total population at some point in time once possessed permanent residence in the city. The rest of the population migrated to the city from other locations, most seeking employment opportunities.

 

When we look at the bigger picture there is a systemic issue deeply embedded in our society, and in poverty. Looking deeper than a problem of poverty is the concern of who is better treated in society; the answer is definitely not people of color with a history of residential segregation.

 

Fortunately there is a multitude of organizations, including “Taking It To the Streets,” in every district that help house, feed, or provide much needed assistance to those affected by this ongoing systemic issue.

 

The Catholic Charities of San Francisco, which has a location in the Tenderloin, in the Mission district, and even more locations outside of the city, help with the issue of homelessness through their provided shelter, housing subsidies, eviction prevention services, and permanent supportive housing programs.

 

We’re focused on not criminalizing the homelessness,” one of the Catholic Charities of San Francisco’s program director, of 19-year-years who wished to remain nameless, explains.

“It’s tough with all the businesses that exist here and all of the wealth, but we’re ever hopeful.”

 

The Catholic Charities of San Francisco continues to expand its efforts as they are planning to open an additional access point.

 

According to the San Francisco Homeless Count Report, there are about 7,499 homeless individuals in the city. The Tenderloin area having the highest population and the Sunset district having the lowest. As far as race goes, 35 percent are Caucasian, 34 percent are Black, 4 percent are Asian, 3 percent are Native American, 2 percent are Pacific Islander, and 22 percent are described as multiracial.

In the Mission District they have the Dolores Street Community services that provides shelter to a demographic that is primarily recent immigrants, as their goal is help those who have been marginalized by society in that area.

 

“The police force, the housing crisis, and gentrification all contribute to people being stuck in the cycle that is homelessness,” Yesenia Lacayo, a program manager of the organization points out.

“The older generation of San Francisco natives who have grown up here and have been here for decades get pushed out and become homeless.”

 

The Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation houses 4,100 low-income residents in six different districts around the city. Many are familiar with the Tenderloin being the heart of homelessness in the city. It might lead one to question; why does the problem of homelessness continue to exist with all these organization at their disposal?

 

“Even with plenty to go around people still need help to find these programs,” Shay Jones from the program proposes as a possible answer.

 

There are a multitude of organizations that try to help the homeless and those who can’t afford to eat a healthy amount of food per day. One of those is CalFresh, provided by the SF Marin Food Bank. In multiple of their locations they provide weekly free meals and fresh food. The demographic they see the most consists of those in transition out of homelessness, according to their Program Manager Tina Gonzalez, who has been with the organization for the past four years.

 

“Yeah I would say there has been a rise in the amount of encampments in the past four years, a lot of people depend on programs like these for stability,” said Gonzalez.

 

Evidently there is an abundance of resources that exist and continue to develop geared toward helping the issue of homelessness. However, if significant change is not taking place, it only reinforces that fact that this issue runs deeper than being able to stretch what money the city dedicates toward the issue. It is embedded in society and San Francisco culture especially. So until action is taken to get to the root of the systemic racism, the cost of living, and the many disparities amongst class and wage the absence of significant change will continue.

Taking it to the Streets

Many San Francisco locals know Haight Street as two things: a tourist trap and a hub for the homeless population, but Christian Calinsky is trying to change this perspective held by the public eye through his program called Taking It to the Streets.

The number one goal of Taking It to the Streets is to get the homeless youth off of Haight Street and into a stable living condition. San Francisco has been attempting to lower the homeless population on Haight Street since the ‘60s, but Calinsky’s program has been more effective in its three years than the city has been in over 50 years.

“We started out as an outreach that just went out on Sundays and gave out bagged lunches,” Calinsky says.

“We only gave ten lunches to test the waters, see what happens, and we also only had a couple of volunteers with us. The next weekend, people had already heard about it, so we moved up to thirty-five bagged lunches and some clothes. The next weekend, we had more donations than we knew what to do with.”

Taking It to the Streets gives the homeless youth of Haight a place to stay in exchange for their service of cleaning the streets that they roam. The program uses its person-power to full effect; dissolving the graffiti off and sweeping the trash in front of small businesses, cleaning up the syringes in alleys where the homeless population inject opioids and stimulants, repainting Haight Street, and everything else that comes with the duty to keep Haight Street clean. Calinsky leads this program, not only get the homeless population in Haight off the streets, but to show that these misunderstood people are hard workers that merely struggle to fit into society, instead of the stereotypical ableist and classist view that dehumanizes them.

 

 

“Whether most people realize it or not, people have a tendency to look at homeless people as failures and subhuman,” said Aditya Sharma, who was the captain of the debate team at his old college and an advocate for getting rid of stigmas regarding the needs of the disabled population.

“People don’t realize that homeless people are homeless for a reason. We should help these people, not judge them.”

Calinsky’s methods have been proven to work by the progress they’ve made. For example, their flexibility to take calls from various merchants around Haight and to clean their brick-and-mortar for free has changed how the merchants treat the homeless people that wander in front of their stores.

“My mom used to work around Haight at salons and she told me one time that she was surprised when she noticed a homeless guy cleaning where she works,” Sage Aguirre explains.

“I think it’s changed how she feels about homeless people. Well, she was pleasantly surprised at the very least.”

His methods are also very effective, to the point where the public notices his efforts merely because of the results. It’s difficult to see the effects of picking trash off the ground unless you saw the state it was in before, but something like a fresh coat of paint on a lamppost is noticeable and appreciated even by tourists. Calinsky has also simplified and expedited this process for maximum coverage.

“We use a paint called Garbage Can Green, not Dark Green, because it’s on everything in the city, like this pole right here,” says Calinsky, as he gestured to a metal rod, functioning as a brace for a tree located in a planter in the sidewalk, framed in the window to his left.

“We even take care of structures with all sorts of colors and repaint them appropriately. We take care of everything.”

Calinsky didn’t come up with this idea, he revived it. In the ‘60s, there was a group who called themselves The Diggers that split themselves up into crews, each had a section of Haight Street that they kept clean. The recycling center in Haight paid The Diggers to clean the streets, but the company was sued for worker’s compensation. Since The Diggers wasn’t an organization, it got shut down.

It hasn’t been completely smooth sailing for Take It to the Streets. Their main obstacle being the regulations enforced by the city. Calinsky’s methods are for effectiveness, not to appease the city’s regulations. Although, the city has become more relaxed on regulating Take It to the Streets in particular because it has been able to make an impact on the homeless community, unlike previous attempts.

“The city doesn’t really know how to deal with us,” Calinsky says.

“We just signed a three-year contract with the city, which is huge for an organization that’s only been active three years. Our negotiations were a huge fight because they wanted us to be a certain way.”

Despite this seemingly coherent and efficient methodology, the city still has a problem with some of their implementation. This is due to fundamental ethical differences between the city and Take It to the Streets.

“Our model is housing first. Over the last twenty years, the city has been saying, ‘No, we need to bring services to the people instead of putting them in-doors and then providing the service.’ But this process has been shown to not work because the homeless population has only gotten larger. Our model has shown that: put someone inside, give someone a shower, let them put their stuff down, and they’re going to be more successful in the long run than if you gave them a fresh pair of socks on the street.”

In just three years, Taking It to the Streets has worked with over five hundred homeless people and have gotten over three hundred of them permanently off the streets and into homes. Calinsky’s unorthodox decisions and persistence through the pressure of strict city regulations has rewarded him with an effective program that has proven itself to make a difference in the Haight.

“The city is very lenient because we’ve accessed a part of the population that they’ve never been able to access. They’ve never been able to do anything about Haight Street.”

 

Video by Alina Castillo

Plus Size

“I use the word ‘fat’ a lot,” says former San Francisco State University communications student, 26-year-old Natalie Meany. She is now a communications professor at Fresno State University and focuses on Fat Studies.

Fat Studies is an academic area of research about fat human bodies. It focuses on the social, political, cultural, and historical aspects of how “fat individuals” are portrayed and treated.

“The world isn’t kind or built for fat bodies, why is that?” asks Natalie.

In 2012, Natalie wanted to write a speech on plus-size issues and she was told by her coach, who was also a plus-sized woman, that the topic “wasn’t important enough.” That is the problem: we (plus-sized women) are constantly told, in many ways, that we are not important enough to care about. That no one will love us because we are not pretty and we are not pretty because we are larger in size than other women.

Natalie hates the term “plus-size.”

“I am not an excess size. I’m just my size. I don’t want to think of myself as an extra person.”

Growing up, she was able to be comfortable in her skin at a young age. Natalie’s mother and sister were both thin and she found it hard to fit in with them at first.

Estrella Y, a political science grad student at SF State, grew up being told not to eat certain things or not to wear certain patterns and colors because it would make her look fat. In the fourth grade, she noticed she was “the big one” in her group of friends. She was constantly thinking about weight because her mom was always on a diet and she had an aunt that was bulimic. She felt “huge” but looks at pictures now and wishes she knew then what she knows now.

Now 33-years-old, Estrella sometimes still faces her insecurities, but she is more accepting of her body now than when she was a child. One could say she is more “woke” now: instead of blaming herself for having the body she has, she blames marketing strategies, globalization, and societal beauty standards for trying to make her feel bad about her body. When it comes to the term “plus size,” she stated she doesn’t know “where people are putting this threshold… if you’re a size 5 and I’m an 18, then you’re a 5 and I’m an 18.” She doesn’t understand why there is the need to have a certain size that declares if you are a “straight” size or a “plus” size.

As for many women, Estrella fails to understand why every article of clothing in the store is not always available in bigger sizes.

“Why can’t one rack have sizes from small to 4X? Why do they have to be separated?”

She explains how creating a section specifically for the larger sizes is a way to make people feel shameful about having to shop in those sections. However, in the stores that have larger sizes, they use a type of “psychological marketing,” as Estrella calls it. Psychological in the sense that they carry sizes 14 and above but Torrid, for example, uses a sizing system ranging from 00 to 6 – size 00 being a size 12/Large to a 30/6XL – to make the consumer feel smaller by not adding the “X” to the end of the number. In this way, the consumer may feel like they are a size 2 rather than a 2XL.

Another struggle that women of all sizes face is the chaotic mismatching of size labels with actual body measurements. This often leads to women not being able to fit in the same label size because one blouse might say 3XL but when you put it up to look at it, it looks like a medium. According to the study “Exploring apparel purchase issues with plus-size female teens” published in the Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, the authors Laurel Dawn Romeo and Young-A Lee realized one reason for this mishap. “There are no relegations surrounding how a brand must label its sizes or if the size must relate to actual body measurements” in the United States. Meaning that brands are allowed to label their clothing however they want, even though the labels might not coincide with the actual measurements of the clothing.

Globalization also plays a role in this structure. When large companies have their brands clothing made in a different country, those countries might have a different idea of what each size is. For example, an XL in China is relatively different than the XL in the United States. Some brands might not be doing this intentionally, but they don’t bother to try to fix this either.  

This is why I, a plus-size woman, have shirt sizes in my closet that range from a medium all the way up to a 3X and pant sizes that range from a 14 to a size 18. When it comes to shopping, I have become accustomed to not necessarily looking at the size, but instead looking at how wide and long the article of clothing is. It took me a while to accept the fact that I had to size up not because of my own fault, but because all the clothing brands don’t label their clothes the correct way.

There has said to be what people call a “fat tax” on plus size clothing, meaning anything above an XL costs more than an XL and below. It is not a secret that several brands do this. Why? Basically because they can. Of course they’re not going to admit that this is true, so they’ll say something along the lines of “it costs us more to make it, hence the extra fabric, hence the extra charge.” But if this is the case, why don’t they charge for the difference between a small and an XL? They know women in the larger sizes will pay those extra bucks because we need to clothe our bodies so we have no other choice than to make our own clothes, which not many people do in the 21 century.

Natalie lived in leggings, knock-off UGG boots and a sweatshirt when she was a student at SFSU because it was the outfit she could afford to wear often.

Though there are stores that claim to sell plus-size clothing, they fail to realize that just like the thin women, plus-size babes might be on a budget as well. These chain stores and sections of these chain stores include Torrid, Lane Bryant, Forever 21+, Charlotte Russe Plus, H&M, Target, Old Navy, and more. Torrid and Lane Bryant probably have the better quality of all the ones listed above, but they are exceedingly expensive. The average cost for jeans run from $50 to $120, a screen t-shirt ranges from $30 to $50 and dresses range from $60 to $130.

You bet I’m taking my ass to Ross or TJ Maxx.

“It’s a struggle to find something that hides my fat,” said 24-year-old Stephanie Ortiz.

 

Stephanie Ortiz and Estrella Y who are San Francisco State University students that take part in a fashion organization on campus and featured in press magazine in a segment called Struggles of Being Plus sized.

After having her daughter over a year ago, the SFSU student found it harder to accept her body. Although she doesn’t blame her daughter for her body change, she admits to the fact that her shopping habits for clothes has definitely changed, in fact, most times she doesn’t even want to go shopping (but who could blame her?). When she finds herself looking for clothes, though, she looks for long, flowy shirts with sleeves, leggings, and high-waisted jeans. These are the articles of clothing that Stephanie feels she can hide her least favorite parts of her body, but why must us plus-size women feel the need to hide ourselves?

Stephanie Ortiz and Estrella Y who are San Francisco State University students that take part in a fashion organization on campus and featured in press magazine in a segment called Struggles of Being Plus sized.

The problem here is that people make the plus-size community, especially women, feel like they cannot wear what they want. Stores will have a small, sectioned-off corner for plus-size clothing but the options are limited. They do not make the same exact article of clothing that is sold in the straight-size section in the plus-size section, and if they do, it usually costs more, as previously stated. We are forced to wear what the industry wants us to wear because it might be “appropriate for them.” They want us to hide behind all black clothing, because it “makes us look thinner” or they don’t want us to wear short skirts and crop tops because “it’ll be too much skin.”

A few years back, Natalie wore a crop-top and high-waisted pants, only showing about an inch and a half of skin. Her aunt told her that she was dressed inappropriately for her size. She shook it off and eventually ended up buying a handful more of crop tops.

“It feels like companies are like, ‘Here’s what we’ve deemed appropriate for your body,” said Natalie.

This is how she feels about plus-size companies not making clothes that make us feel sexy because society believes curvy women can’t or shouldn’t be seen as sexy. The clothes made are very conservative at times and that’s not what all women in their 20s and 30s want to wear.

“Don’t tell me what I can and can’t wear. I’ll decide,” added Estrella.

Stephanie sees people in Spanish-speaking soap operas, commercials, and television shows and realizes that the people are all thin.

“I don’t fall into that category,” she says.

“So it makes me feel like I have to cover it up.”

Recently, there have been more ads and campaigns that encourage body positivity and plus-size advocacy, but it’s still not enough. For example, Sports Illustrated Magazine released their 2016 swimsuit edition with the first “plus-size model” to ever be featured on the front of the magazine. However, their definition of plus-size is a size 12, which is the size that Robyn Lawley, a “plus-size” model, is.

“My head will turn when they have a size 20 model,” Natalie said, “but they won’t do that because it’s not deemed as traditionally attractive.”

For Natalie, it wasn’t enough because she considered how the new average U.S. size for women is a size 16. “More realistic standards would be nice.”  

“I need more than just people telling me to “love my body,” said Stephanie. Stephanie emphasized that although they label Robyn as plus-size, her body size and shape is not realistic compared to millions of women who are also plus-size.

“There is a difference between curvy and chubby and that woman is curvy,” Stephanie.

She wants a model that accurately represents what an average plus-size woman actually looks like.

“Plus-size models have big boobs and a nice butt but I don’t have that, I have a big stomach.”

She also pointed out that it’s not realistic to have that body when one has no time to maintain a good diet and work-out while going to school, working and being a mother. “My daughter is more important than my figure.”  

Stephanie thought that in order to be considered “pretty,” she had to be skinny. Throughout the years, she’s been able to learn to love herself more and more and she is currently in a state where she is not fully confident but she is better than ever. However, when she was in high school, boys would mistreat her because of her body size. She was also bullied by other girls and her self-esteem sunk.

“Kids are cruel,” Natalie said about the same topic, “we’re STILL in a time where it’s socially acceptable to bully someone because of their weight.” There are plus-size women who don’t get bothered by what others say and there are plus-size women that only care about what people say.

There have been several cases where I’ve seen when plus-size Instagram gurus who will post a photo of herself, such as Jessica Torres, or founder of @EffYourBeautyStandards, Tess Holliday, and people post rude comments. Some comments are filled with disgust because “they are embracing and encouraging living an unhealthy lifestyle.”

People tend to automatically correlate fat with lazy. There are several diseases and illnesses that cause weight gain such as hyperthyroidism, Cushing’s syndrome, and depression. Medicines and birth control often can be the reason for rapid weight gain as well. Of course, a poor diet and a lack of exercise can be a main cause for obesity but it’s not the only reason. Obesity is the result of depending on environmental and genetic factors. However, people fail to realize what a person’s life might be like when they are constantly comparing others to themselves. Not everybody has time to go for a 5-mile walk and not everybody has the money to buy healthy, organic foods.

In conclusion, the plus-size community wants people and clothing lines to be mindful of them because the truth is, 67 percent of the women in the U.S. is considered to be plus-size, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. With such a large population in this country, it is hard to believe why it is so hard for companies to realize this. Not all plus size women are conservative and rich so it’s important to be diverse when considering the cost and styles when catering to the plus sized community.

Post-Fire Inferno

The aftermath of the fires

Since the devastating fires that started on a dry, windy night  in Northern California, more than forty people have lost their lives, over five thousand structures have been destroyed, and several hundred thousand acres of land have burned down, according to Cal Fire. The disaster will go into history as one of the worst fires in California’s history. Businesses both in San Francisco and up North have been seriously affected by the devastation, and unknown consequences might occur in the future.

Weed up in smoke

“The county felt like a war zone,” Sarah ElSayed says. She works for Legion of Bloom, which produces and distributes sun-grown marijuana in Sonoma.

“A thick haze of smoke was choking the air and we had nightly curfews. Our city was almost unrecognizable,” she continues.

 

Santa Rosa lost over fifteen hundred homes and structures within the first three hours of the fire. Many people made it safely out of their homes and neighborhoods just before the blazing inferno blew through the area. The entire county shut down for a week as everyone held their breath waiting to see how bad it would get. Entire neighborhoods were leveled to the ground, businesses were destroyed, and people lost everything.

As far as the Cannabis community is concerned, there are several farmers who shared the same fate as others. According to the Sonoma County Growers Association, thirty pot farms have suffered severe damage. Cannabis farmers are also dealing with the crippling effects of not having the adequate insurance necessary to safeguard their businesses.

SPARC, a San Francisco-based medical cannabis dispensary, was heavily affected. Founder Erich Pearson told the Green State that he went to bed on the first night of the fires thinking “at minimum the plants are going to be trashed and greenhouse plastic is going to be everywhere.”  In reality, sixty thousand square feet of barns filled with cannabis were destroyed, along with SPARC Farm’s drying room and processing room, and living space for ten people.

One of Legion of Bloom’s main farms has been severely affected by the Nuns Fire in the eastern side of the county. The fire destroyed much of their infrastructure and incinerated a good portion of their crop, leaving the rest with varying degrees of smoke damage.

“We are still trying to quantify our total losses, as we pick up the pieces and try to save what we can of our farm,” ElSayed explains.

ElSayed thinks the North Bay will see a slight decline in sun-grown flower because of the fires. However, she thinks it is too early to see the total scope of loss.

“I imagine that there will be a ripple effect in the market as we start to fully understand what this may have done to the overall supply chain,” she says.

Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Association, told KTLA that the road to recovery is going to be very long. However, he does not think the marijuana dispensaries will have a hard time getting supply because there are so many farms. In California there are more than fifty thousand marijuana farms, and fifteen thousand of these are located in Sonoma County.

“Although this has been devastating for Sonoma County,” ElSayed adds, “it has been beautiful and inspiring to see our community stand strong and rally together. We are very proud to call Sonoma County our home.”

Sweet Flames

Sift Dessert Bar is a dessert shop with stores in San Francisco, Napa, and Santa Rosa. Their main bakery in Santa Rosa was next door to a building that burnt to the ground.

“We were all on the edge of our seat to see if Sift was still standing at the end of that day,” Andrea Ballus, CEO and founder of Sift, says.

When they were finally able to assess the bakery, they needed a major cleaning inside because the building was so close to the fire. Sift had to close four of their five stores in the Napa/Sonoma-area for two weeks due to the damage. Over thirty percent of their sixty employees were mandatorily evacuated. Despite the damage the dessert chain still managed to keep their employees paid.

“I overheard one of our long-time employees say, ‘That was the worst paid vacation I’ve ever had’,” Ballus recalls.

Most of the Sift stores are located in heavy tourist-driven areas, which means that the customer flow has slowed down after the fires, but it is getting better with time.

“People are realizing that we’re still here,” Ballus exclaims.

“For the most part, you won’t even see the burned areas when coming to visit wine country!”

Though Sift has lost money, the CEO is more concerned about the personal losses than the material damage to their bakery.

“We all personally know someone who’s house burned down,” Ballus explains. “That has been the biggest tragedy – helping your friends put back their lives, after suffering so much at the hands of this fire.”

Wine Country

The wine industry definitely suffered damage due to the fires. According to the OC Register, twenty-seven wineries were destroyed or damaged. With that being said, Napa and Sonoma have roughly nineteen hundred licensed wineries and cellars.

“The image that the wine industry has been destroyed has been overblown,” says Dr. Joe LaVilla, restaurant management instructor and sommelier at San Francisco State University.

LaVilla explains how most of what burned were oak trees between vineyards. The vines themselves acted as a fire break for a few wineries. The smoke could have tainted much of the production, but most of harvest had already been completed.

“Only about fifteen percent of the harvest remained, so the damage from smoke will likely be minimal,” LaVilla adds.

Though only some wineries were seriously damaged, the consequences for those affected can be brutal. The wineries that were destroyed have to start from scratch. If they were fermenting at the time of the fire, had grapes ready to ferment, or had wine about to be put into barrels, that part of their production could be destroyed and will leave a gap in their inventory for a year. The fermentation process in winemaking is when juice from the pressed grapes, containing natural sugars, in combination with yeasts present on the skins of the grape are turned to alcohol. This process can take anywhere from ten days to months. While most of the harvest was completed before the fires started, as little as thirty minutes of exposure to smoke can cause a smoke-taint in the final product.

If any wine was stored on site for aging, and that was lost, then the gap in production could be longer. If they lost the whole production of 2017, the consequences are in the future because wine is not usually sold immediately after it is made.

“Visitors who are staying away because they believe the area is devastated, are doing more damage than the fire did,” LaVilla points out.

LaVilla thinks restaurants and wine shops in San Francisco might see a depletion in inventory for some wines.

“There may be a lack of the 2017 vintage in the future, but it remains to be seen how large it will be,” he adds.

Frank Melis, wine expert and owner of Golden Gate Wine Cellars in San Francisco, says that supply was an issue the first two to three weeks, because some of the wineries he works with burned down. However, he is not worried about the wine supply in San Francisco in general.

“I don’t believe it will be an issue,” Melis explains. “Ninety nine percent of the vineyards were not damaged. It could have been much worse.”

If you are worried about the wine prices, you can most likely relax. The 2017 vintage may be higher priced because of its scarcity, but for the most part, there should not be a sudden surge in pricing, according to LaVilla.

The consumers play an important role in helping damaged wineries get back on their feet.

“Take a day trip and go to restaurants, shops, and wineries for tastings,” LaVilla explains.

“Spending money in the local economy will get people back on their feet faster, because they are earning an income and can then work to rebuild their lives.”

The community remains hopeful

Though local businesses in Napa and Sonoma have suffered severe damage, the people behind remain hopeful. The fire inferno has gotten people closer than ever and showed us how important it is to stand together through a disaster. It might take a while for them to get back on their feet, but they will stand again.

 

Photos by Legion of Bloom

The Butterfly Effect: The Results of Winged Popularity

Miniscule rain drops started collecting on the windows of the Conservatory of Flowers, but anyone inside the building would mistake it for the condensation found inside the building. The Conservatory’s staff is preparing the giant greenhouse for another day filled with curious visitors. While they move through the building to see if anything needs last minute attention, Drew Risner-Davis sits in the left wing, watching a monarch butterfly emerge from its chrysalis, a shell made of hardened protein that protects caterpillars as they transform into butterflies.

Drew, the exhibit manager and butterfly specialist at the Conservatory of Flowers, continues to makes sure everything in the Butterflies and Blooms exhibit runs smoothly, including the unfolding of a single butterfly. While a visit to the Conservatory does not break the bank, any exhibit visitor ill-informed about the price of admission might expect a higher ticket price.

“I’ve been completely immersed in butterflies, and moths a little bit, since last November,” shared Drew, who has worked at the Conservatory for four years.

With a warm smile and overflowing eagerness, the butterfly specialist begins his days at the Conservatory an hour before the greenhouse opens to the public. He first checks the Butterfly Bungalow, a large shadow box filled with rows of chrysalis pinned to the box and newly formed butterflies waiting for their chance to experience the exhibit. It allows him to make sure butterflies are emerging properly while looking for the ones that are ready to join the butterfly community in the next room.

Using cautious hands, the butterfly specialist moves the ready butterflies to the adjoining room where the mesmerizing insects hang from trees, plants, and the ceiling like vibrant Christmas ornaments.

Once he is done with the Butterfly Bungalow, he focuses his attention on feeding the butterflies. Discs carrying sponges filled with nectar — a mix of sugar and water — are placed around the exhibit. Although there are flowers in the room used to feed the butterflies, the extension of the exhibit to close in January, as compared to previous years when the exhibit ends in June, decreases the likeliness that the flowers will produce enough nectar on their own.  

For the rest of the day Drew keeps a watchful eye on the habitat while trying to answer visitor’s questions.

“I get to be here interacting with visitors and really explaining the beauty of butterflies and why they’re so important to the ecosystem as pollinators,” describes the exhibit manager as his eyes light up at the idea of sharing his butterfly knowledge with others.

The 138-year-old Conservatory of Flowers was home to twenty-two species of butterflies and a few species of moths — such as the luna moth — earlier this year, but now currently houses only twelve species of butterflies. With the butterfly’s average adult life cycle around 30 days, the exhibit can carry from 300 to 1,200 any given week.  

Although the greenhouse is the final home for all the butterflies, they do not start their lives in San Francisco. The Conservatory of Flowers receive chrysalis, which are low maintenance and require no sustenance, from farms in Florida and Alabama that breed several species of butterflies. Most of the butterfly species originate from Latin American countries, with the Malachite, a butterfly with gorgeous bluish-green wings, coming from as far as South America.

Unlike the remarkable winged insects housed at the Conservatory, the exhibits flowers are grown in the Conservatory’s own nursery.

“Our nursery specialists designed the exhibit to compliment the space,” explained Maryam Nabi, the marketing and communications manager for the Conservatory of Flowers.

Vivid colors portrayed by the different flowers act as beacons for butterflies. The bright colors tell them there is a probably a flower full of nectar waiting to be fed on. Visitors wearing vibrant clothing are likely to gain a hitchhiker or two while exploring the exhibit.

Butterflies and flowers do not have the left wing to themselves. Koi fish found in a pond in the exhibit add to the stimulating environment, especially one large koi fish that expects food from every visitor that hovers over its watery enclosure.

Thanks to the help of new and returning visitors, the Butterflies and Blooms exhibit was able to return several times since 2006. Due to popular demand, the exhibit’s run was extended to January 7, 2018.

“The community really loved the exhibit,” Nabi exclaimed.

“We really wanted to make sure everyone has an opportunity to see the butterflies.”

Other than the Butterflies and Blooms exhibit, the Conservatory of Flowers is a warm paradise that offers an amazing array of plant life for visitors’ visual consumption. But if you ask Drew, he would explain that the real stars of the building are the winsome butterflies found in the left wing.

“My favorite part is definitely getting to share with people the amazing diversity of our butterflies. And I think that it’s really important in all parts of our lives to really recognize how important diversity is, to our diverse plant collection to our diverse butterfly collection,” Drew remarked.

With San Francisco’s rainy season around the corner, the salient structure found in the northeast corner of Golden Gate Park can be a cheap getaway for anyone. The price of admission for the entire Conservatory is $9 for adults, $6 for youth, seniors, college students, and San Francisco residents, and only $3 for children between the ages of 5 and 11. If a San Francisco resident is also a college student, their entry is only $4, but they must show a piece of mail with their name and San Francisco address on it, and their student ID to receive the discount.

Anyone traveling near or from SF State can hop on the 28 Muni line and exit the bus at 19th Avenue and Lincoln Avenue. They can take a short fifteen-minute walk through the right side of Golden Gate park and find the Conservatory of Flowers at 100 John F Kennedy Drive. Future visitors coming from downtown San Francisco can catch the 5 Muni line, exiting at the Arguello Boulevard stop, then travelling south on Arguello Boulevard until they hit Conservatory Drive.

 

Photos by Cristabell Fierros

Social Media and Relationships

We all know social media plays a big role in the world, but does it have to play a big role in your relationship?

We’ve all been there. Either you’re the friend asking, or you’re the one being asked, “Do they post about you?” It seems like social media is hitting closer and closer to relationships, when it used to be just outlets to keep in touch with those you know. Some think posting about their significant other is very important, it shows they care, they love you, and that they’re proud of you. On the other hand, there are those that like to keep their lives and whereabouts private. But who’s right?

“It depends on the different people’s personality, their privacy level, and how comfortable they are sharing information about their lives,” says San Francisco State University sex and relationships instructor, Ivy Chen.

Ah, of course, one of those, “it depends,” answers.

But it’s true, it really depends on the individual posting. Linda Bernstein, Social Media Strategist and Journalism professor at Long Island University, Brooklyn, said that she has heard many instances of couples being upset about posting. She has found that when the other partner in the relationship doesn’t reciprocate, they tend to get upset because they feel like posting should be equal.

Some may be thinking, “But is it really that serious?” According to Bernstein, yes! About six years ago, Bernstein heard of a couple that was going through a divorce. When the couple got together to sign the divorce papers, they had arranged with the lawyers that they would change their relationship status on Facebook to “single” at the exact same time.

“People are what they are, and social media is just another outlet for people to act, or not act in a certain way,” Bernstein explained.

SF State University alumni, Jan Jerome Ochoa, and his girlfriend, Maria Elena Urquico, have been together for about two years. It took Ochoa almost one year into the relationship to post about his girlfriend on any social media platform, and it bothered her. Ochoa prefers to be more private, and doesn’t think posting about his whereabouts are that important. Still, Urquico encourages her boyfriend to occasionally post about her.

Ochoa goes further to say that he wouldn’t mind one bit if Urquico didn’t post about him at all. He believes that at the end of the day, he’s the one she is constantly in contact with, and wouldn’t question her motives or feelings for him off of some posts.

“Whatever she would want me to post, like a special moment to me, or a special memory between the both of us, I don’t really need it to be put out to everyone else to see,” Ochoa said. “I personally like to be much more private about it.”

Ochoa admits that posting on social media has caused some bickering between the two. This is because Urquico believes that posting about your significant other on your social media does have some validation behind it, but also knows that words speak louder than a post.

“It’s a way for your significant other to show you off, to show that they care,” Urquico said. “It doesn’t have to be frequent, but it would be nice every now and then that we could have a memory somewhere out there in the virtual world.”

Urquico argues that yes, girls post a lot more than guys, but whatever males do post, it must mean something to them since they tend to post less frequently. Ivy Chen has found that generally, more people who identify as women tend to have larger social networks, whether it be online, or a larger group of friends in real life. They also tend to be more in regular contact with their friends and family.

According to Chen, what’s common for a straight male is to maybe have a couple of close friends. In most cases, his romantic partner makes up a big part of how he connects emotionally. Men tend to look at what’s going on in real life with their romantic partner, and when they see that is going fine, they don’t feel a need to advertise it on social media.

SF State alumni, Angelica “Giee” Lapid, posts about her girlfriend frequently, but says she would respect her girlfriend’s wishes if she didn’t want to be so public with their relationship. In terms of being in a LGBTQ relationship versus a heterosexual relationship, Lapid says she doesn’t really see a difference in posting. Pretty much all couples, whether heterosexual or LGBTQ, post about their significant others almost the same.

“Me and my girlfriend do a lot of things that most heterosexual couples do and post about it,” Lapid said.“But heterosexual couples tend to post more than LGBTQ couples.”

But if they’re not posting about you, how do you know when to get a little suspicious? There’s a difference between being private and keeping the relationship a secret. Some get insecure when they aren’t on their partner’s social media, and tend to believe the worse and jump to conclusions. It can have people guessing if their partner is as committed as they are.

Chen suggests that the individual assuming should look for alarming signs. If they claim to be private but they’re posting about every single thing throughout the day, she believes this might be a red flag. A good way to determine if you’re being kept a secret is to evaluate how the relationship is. Chen believes you should take these things into consideration: do you hang out in public? Have you met their parents or friends? Do they make you feel validated and reassured in real life?

“If you’ve gotten a chance to meet your partner’s friends, and they know you exist, and they seem to be really proud of you, and not like they’re hiding you, I feel like those are better signs of how they feel about you and the relationship, rather than how much they post online,” Chen says confidently.

In fact, Chen believes that if a person in a relationship is constantly needing proof that their partner cares about them through social media, it may be a red flag that there is something else wrong. Chen has been teaching at SF State for fifteen years, and has found that needing constant external validation may be a sign that the issue might be with the individual person, rather than with the relationship.

SF State student, Adrian Cuyson, knows that social media is not an accurate representation of what goes on in real life. He posts about his girlfriend, but tries to post in a different way. Cuyson prefers to write appreciation posts dedicated to his girlfriend every now and then. He thinks they are more meaningful and serve a purpose. But at the end of the day, Cuyson knows that the amount of pictures you post doesn’t measure the amount of love you have for someone else.

“It’s cool, it’s a nice gesture, and I appreciate it, but it’s something that shouldn’t be used as a crutch in a relationship,” Cuyson said.

On the flip side, there are those that post “too much” about their significant other. Chen stresses that the primary person who needs to hear “I love you,” is your partner. And sometimes people don’t realize that posting too much and showing how happy they perceive to be in real life can get a little annoying to their followers. It almost seems like people post to get validation from others and are fishing for compliments.

Posting about your significant other is a nice gesture, however, it isn’t something that needs to be done. If the relationship is going well and you feel validated in real life, social media shouldn’t be a factor.

“As long as they realize their relationship is good, healthy, mutually supportive, and that their partner is as committed as they are, why do they need to tell the rest of the world?” Chen said. “It doesn’t have to be a problem.”

 

 

Illustration by Marielle Cabillo, Visual Communication Design major at SF State