San Francisco State’s Dedicated Thespians

Everyone will always tell you to “do what you love”.

Whether it’s to be a tax attorney or Instagram model, someone will make sure to tell you to get a job that never seems like work. The students of the San Francisco State University Theater and Dance department live by this motto, and exemplify what it means to pursue passion, and wave away the confines of a mundane nine to five.

In the middle of campus sits the creative arts building, a treasure trove of performance spaces and thespians working to to master their craft.

“Our students are really open to constructive criticism, getting better, and checking their egos at the door.” says associate professor Laura Wayth.

Professor Wayth has been tasked with directing the department’s spring production of Hair, the revolutionary, counter-culture musical depicting the turbulent times of the Vietnam, hippie era.

According to department director, Todd Roehrrman, “This department always specifically chooses productions that looks at what’s happening in the world currently and speak to what’s going on socially and politically. Hopefully our productions hold a mirror up  to our audiences and ask them to examine what’s going on in their own world.”

Though the department is eager and excited to premier their production, there is a shadow cast upon this joyous occasion.

During the winter recess, one of the department’s most beloved and skilled professors, Mohammad Kowsar, passed away.

Dr. Kowsar was a seasoned actor and professor, having earned his PhD in acting from Cornell and having taught at San Francisco State for 30 years.

Kowsar was noted for his passionate teaching methods and love for theater and students.

“My office was directly across where he taught the Theater Backgrounds history class,” explained Professor Wayth. “Sometimes I would be sitting at my computer, typing, and ask myself ‘What is going on in there?’ He would be shouting, singing, and standing on his desk, it was really amazing. I would always sit here and think ‘I want to take that class!’”

Even without the presence of Professor Kowsar, the community of the theater and dance department is still lively and still looks forward to what they have in store for the future

 

The San Francisco State Production of Hair is set to premier in the Little Theater April 26th

Veterans Find Little Help on the Home Front

In 2014 there was a big scandal at one of the VA Hospitals in Phoenix, Arizona. The staff there were accused of falsifying appointment records to make it look as though patients were properly meeting their doctor within two weeks of their appointments. The F.B.I. and an internal investigation showed that the hospital had operated maliciously by lying about appointment wait times, and forty patients are said to have died waiting.

“When the news of a VA in Phoenix, Arizona first came out I remember my coworkers and I to be very shocked,” says Claudette Araula, who is a registered nurse at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center. “We were already overworked and constantly understaffed because we could not get new staff due to budget issues and another VA was trying to earn more budget by manipulating information.”

Together, veterans and nurses are saying that the Veterans Affairs needs to make changes in order to insure that wait times and access to their hospitals are up to standard. Not all veterans use their VA hospital because most are still young, live far away from one of the 170 medical centers in the country, and some veterans opt for private healthcare through their work.

It’s true that hospitals had financial incentives to decrease wait times from the administration, and falsifying those reports left some veterans and nurses to question the integrity of the system at the time. While there was good being done to make veterans feel welcomed and have their needs met, there was a possible schism.

In 1968 Earle Conklin, a United States Army veteran who fought during the Vietnam War, enlisted and traveled the world. Today he is retired and lives in Portland, Oregon. He was one of the originators of the “Take the Rock Veteran Swim Challenge” event, which is a combined swim meet that prepares veterans and their families to swim from Alcatraz to the beach. This is one of the joys Earle has after retirement, and he laughs at people who think it’s too cold to swim.

Healthcare, Earle iterates, has changed a lot since the 1960s. Communication and technology then was not as streamlined or as fast as it is now. While Earle remembers working in helicopters and helping soldiers get out of harm’s way and to medical assistance, he realizes how different the struggle is for him and his peers to find the best healthcare.

He stresses that “it is more of a question of economics than politics. Politicians will use this for politics.” Earle continues to express what a terrible situation 2014’s VA scandal was, and laments by saying, “I don’t know if it’s ever been cured.”

“Some of them, not all of them, are in it for themselves. A few people at the senior level of Veterans Affairs gained the system for only personal gain. And this happens in banking too and what you see happening at Wells Fargo creating fake accounts for profit,” shared Earle.

In response to the 2014 scandal, Congress implemented the Choice Program, which offered patients assistance with transportation and even helped patients find a hospital close to them.

“The choice program is actually a good idea,” stated Claudette. “We have several vets who live very far away from any VA facility and can’t travel by themselves and this program helps them connect to a specialist or primary doctor faster, but it needs to be better regulated. I have heard vets complaining that the MDs they go to try to ‘make money off the VA’ by sending them to specialist of getting test the do not need. Wait times today is still long due to having to many vets and not enough VA facilities and staff.”

The Choice Program, which can help patients find private doctors, has already exhausted its funds twice since August of last year and Congress provided 2.1 billion dollars of emergency funding for both incidents.

There is a mixed response about the program and towards any privatization of services that are offered by Veterans Affairs. The problem some have is that the Choice Program would take away monies that would be appropriated to Veterans Affairs.

Michael Blecker is the executive director at Swords to Plowshares, a non-profit group that specializes in the counseling, housing, and job training of veterans, and he cannot be more clear about what he sees as an attempt by President Trump’s administration to privatize healthcare.

“The V.A. shouldn’t pay them for private care and I worry about the veterans in the VA who are seeing money being taken away.” Michael expressed. “Right now the Choice Program is taking 200 to 400 million dollars a month in funding.”

Michael has his own opinion on the scandal that happened at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Phoenix. Although it was sad, he thought the scandal was blown way out of proportion and used by some to vilify Veterans Affairs while creating the Choice Program in response to the outcry.

“Money shouldn’t be diverted from the VA but the media and others got it twisted.” Michael continues to say that the news coverage about how patients were dying waiting for their appointments was sensationalized.

Veterans and nurses like Michael and Claudette both praise how healthcare has stepped forward to treat those with post-traumatic stress and depression, even if they were a veteran who never experienced combat.

“We provide service to vets from WWII, Korean, Vietnam war- during these times mental health was not a main concern when the vets retired – they are our sickest patients and at times with multiple chronic illness,” Claudette explains. “The focus on mental health started more during the Iraq and Afghanistan War, this patient population are hit most with the wait times and connecting them with primary physicians. There are also those vets that are from non combat times.”

Michael sees better preparation happening for the veterans who have come back from Iraq and Afghanistan. He especially sees that colleges like San Francisco State University and student veterans are starting clubs on campus for veterans.

He views these outlets as one of the best ways to return service people to finding the resources while seeking higher education. Again, he says the awareness of the stress that this population experiences has been more proactive than it was in the 1980s. He still is weary about the funding from Congress to the VA and about what he sees as money being taken away by The Choice Program. He also sees that responsibility falling on the current presidency.

“I am disheartened by what the Trump administration is doing“,” Michael lamented. “It’s death by a thousand cuts.”

Richard Hui is both a Marine veteran and a registered nurse at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center. He knows both how to be a patient and a caregiver, and also sees a lacking of available hospitals.

“You can tell by the wait times,” Richard explains. “Palo Alto and San Francisco’s medical centers for veterans are very busy. Every time I pass by there I see it’s very packed. With long lines I can say there needs to be more hospitals.”

He’s familiar with wait times and how they often happen. Sometimes, he says, a patient will come in scheduled to be treated for one problem, but when the patient sees their doctor they can also say they are needing other treatment for other conditions they have. This is a common scenario that can increase wait times.

Richard details that appointments are sectioned, but that the appointments are not timed, however, fifteen minutes is sort of the average goal he says is given to each patient, and of course he says no one is turned away because they may have more problems after walking into the doctor’s office.

“I have the greatest respect for the physicians, and all the negative news we hear is usually about the administrators,” Army veteran Earle Conklin argues. “The care is exemplary, and it’s high quality.”

“As far as now, a lot of the Vietnam veterans, because of our age, are dying off,” Barry iterates “So now we’re looking at veterans after Vietnam.”

Barry never needed assistance from a VA hospital himself. Like many others he found healthcare provided through his work. As a San Francisco police officer, the department’s insurance paid for his medical treatment and the treatment for his daughter’s mitochondrial disease. He is thoughtful about the healthcare system today and only knows what he sees.

“They’re never the same when they come back. The entry back into society, you have to have a lot of counseling for veterans. And that’s expensive, so the VA is the one that has to do it,” the Army veteran affirms.

life goes on;

TRIGGER WARNING This article or section mentions suicide, which may be triggering to survivors.

Cocktails, laughter, friends and movies. Everything about the night was typical and telling of a girls night in. However, there was something hidden from the light-hearted fun. What the ladies did not know was that one of their friends had been very certain about one thing at that point in time: that she was going to take her own life.

On the topic of suicide most people, who generally have no clue what it is like to have to have a mental illness, believe the easy answer is asking for help. An accusing, “Why didn’t you say anything?” commonly follows, and is often easier said than answered. The truth is that most people do not even know where to begin asking for help.

During the winter break, this is what San Francisco State University student, Farley Moore, experienced after attempting to take her own life.

Let’s just be honest here, college is hard, life is hard…  and sometimes things become too much. It’s nice to get things off your chest and vent to a close friend or family member. That was a normal occurrence for Farley and roommate Ashley Nerland.

“There was definitely talks about wanting to end things, from my point of view and from hers… I didn’t really think ‘she’s more serious than she is putting off’, no one realized that it was that serious,” Ashley explains.

To those who are unfamiliar with mental illness, who have not personally struggled or known a friend or family member who dealt with this daily, often wonder what it takes to get to this point. And truthfully, there is no concrete answer. It depends on the person.

According to National Data on Campus Suicide and Depression, a study by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the second-leading cause of death among twenty to twenty-four-year-olds. And more than sixty percent of people who die by suicide suffer from major depression. However, that was not Farley’s case.

“It was more like giving up as opposed to depression building up over time,” Farley elaborates, while sitting comfortably on her bed with her legs crossed.

Farley, like many, experiences intense anxiety. Things began to take a turn when an ex-boyfriend reached out to her, saying that he wasn’t going to speak to her again, after making it seem like they were on the road to getting back together at the beginning of December.

“When I have anxiety I don’t eat, I feel like I can’t breathe and my stomach hurts,” Farley explains. “I get panic attacks, my palms are sweaty and I just can’t focus on anything else.”

A study by the American Psychological Association says that anxiety is a top concern among college students with forty-one percent affected, and depression is second in line with thirty-six percent.

 

“When it comes to anxiety there is more to it than people realize; it stems back to the earliest stages when we’re beginning to make different attachment bonds,” explains Nadine Agosta, a Childhood Development professor.

Her earliest memories of anxiousness began as early as eight-years-old, and involved traveling with her mom, who had a tendency to get upset when things did not go right or if given a wrong direction by mistake.

“…if your caregiver doesn’t make you feel good, it can lead to an insecure attachment, thus leaving a child to question ‘what’s wrong with me?’” Agosta continues.

“From there… it just spiraled,” Farley says looking off into the distance.

The anxiety resulted in four consecutive days of no food, eventually just over thirty pounds lost in two weeks, and a feeling of complete and utter hopelessness.

“I didn’t really know how to ask for help, so this was sort of my cry for help,” Farley takes a deep breath.

Ashley eventually contacted 911 after Farley admitted that she had been continually throwing up all night not from going too hard with the drinking, but from mixing numerous pills, such as hydrocodone and Prozac, with alcohol.

Fast forward and Farley is in the company of many adults who suffer from extreme mental illness that keep them from interacting with society at Mills Peninsula Health Center in Burlingame.

“Farley did not belong there, was my first thought,” Ashley recalls.

Being just one year over the age limit meant that she could not be in the youth area, which she felt would have been more her speed.

Fast forward a couple of days and Farley is out of psychiatric care and is set to have therapy meetings that would determine if she would need long or short-term care.

Following her being able to leave the hospital, both Farley and her friend Ashley got matching tattoos of a semicolon, which represents suicide awareness through a message that conveys life continuing.

Semicolon tattoos began in 2013 with a movement called Project Semicolon, started by a woman named Amy Bleuel. The project offers a platform for people to share their stories and aims to reduce instances of suicide all around the world. The semicolon is a symbol that illustrates where a sentence could have ended, but instead the author chose to have it continue.

Whether by finding people who relate to how you feel, seeking mental refuge in close family and friends, or professional help, the resources to help people create their own theoretical semicolons are out there.

On campus, counseling is offered Monday through Thursday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., and till 5 p.m. on Fridays. There are also various groups offered that are geared toward more specific topics: Feel Better workshops, and Self-Empowerment to name a few.

“They [social workers, and therapists at the hospital] didn’t seem understand properly and asked a lot of surface level questions,” Farley describes what it was like in the psychiatric center.

After having gone through this experience Farley is considering being an advocate for mental health, or someone who works at a psychiatric hospital instead of going to law school with her eventual Political Science degree.

“I can relate personally so I would be able to ask the right questions, ones that get to the root of the problem, whereas they are just checking for your state of mind right now.”

Some of those surface level questions included ‘rate your anxiety on a scale of one to ten?’

“Well what is a one to you, if you yourself have never experienced anxiety or mental illness?” Farley questions.

As painful as the experience was for not only her, but the people in her life, she believes that it was necessary in order to get the help that she needed.

 

 

Photography by Adelyna Tirado/Xpress Magazine

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

Letter from the Copy Editor: Cheers to the End

As the year comes to a close, it’s the perfect time for a little reflection. As all but those who were born in it will know, this year has been one hell of a ride.

So to help deal with the aforementioned reflection, as well as the required amount of nostalgia, I think it’s only natural to recommend an adult beverage that goes hand in hand with this particular trip ‘round the sun.

For this trip, I’ve decided the Chateau de Passavant Crémant de Loire will do just fine. After all, it does drink like a mini champagne and while there’s always an occasion to drink sparkling wine – this one really gets the juices flowing, if you know what I mean.

And as a Sommelier, I will do you one better. I shall walk you through this entire experience.

 

As with all proper reflection and sips of wine, you start with where you are now. And where I am now, is finishing the last legs of my last year at school. Scrambling to get the last pieces of homework turned in, the final touches on projects, and beginning to realize this is the last time of enduring the headaches and all-nighters. It’s strange to wonder what I’ll be doing this time next year… let alone two months from now.

Let’s take a moment, enjoy a sip or two of wine just to help digest that thought – I’m finally done with that cycle.

 

Sure, I’ll probably still be at the same job that I have a serious love/hate relationship with. I’ll probably have the same roommates, the same repetitive conversations about whose dirty dishes are in the sink or who didn’t clean out the shower drain, and if I’m being honest, I probably won’t have touched a book, written a story, or started studying for the Certified Sommelier exam.

And unfortunately, Trump will probably still be our President – although hopefully on his way out.

 

Make sure you take a longer sip after that one, really savouring the stress and Tweets we have had to deal with this year. After such a bold political bouquet, feel free to polish off the glass. Really, you’ve earned it.  

 

When I began my journalism journey, I really had no idea what I wanted to do with it or where it would take me. Looking back, it feels like I’ve struggled my whole way through. The only areas I feel I excelled in are copy editing and procrastination. I still grapple to find my voice. I bargain with Premiere Pro, strive to remember which angle the camera needs to be when interviewing a subject, and I still get nervous when approaching someone just to ask them a simple question about whatever subject it is I’m trying to find the right angle for the right story just to make sure I get that A on the assignment.

And with all that being said, to even think that there isn’t a part of me that is excited and enthusiastic about graduating and having the ability pursue stories or topics that I want to write about would be false. I am.

 

Ah, time to add some more wine to that glass for another sip. This time for the uncertainty and unpredictability of the finish that life leaves on your palate.

 

I’m unsure where my place in the journalism world is, or my place in the world in general is.

All I know is the same thing I knew when I started my degree – I want to make a difference in someone’s life with what I write. I think that’s a large part of why I chose to minor in criminal justice. Understanding how to read Supreme court cases enthralled me, and breaking down what the latest ration of Tweets from POTUS really mean, or what the changes proposed by Betsy DeVos to Title IX means for college students. The ability to understand the gravity of each word, to be able to convey the complete and total meaning – and to be able to put it down on paper in a way that others can understand; it gave me a purpose.

I want you to sit back in your chair, and admire the glass in front of you. Realize that even though you have been drinking from it, it is still half full.

 

Because looking back on the past year, specifically, gives me hope. The multitude of events that have happened in the last year that break my heart – and leave me terrified for the future – from Trump being elected, Betsy DeVos revoking and replacing the Title IX guidelines, to threats of nuclear war with North Korea and building a wall on the Mexican border, and the seemingly endless wave of sexual allegations that are dominating almost every industry – not to mention how pissed off Mother Nature is at us – it’s no wonder there is this overwhelming feeling ‘what do I do now?’

Our glass is still half full – even with a few sips taken.

 

If there’s anything I’ve learned in my time in college, it’s that being vulnerable is scary, it’s not always supported as much as we think it is, and that trying to fight the continual struggle of balancing life, work, and school is a real challenge.

So as I embrace the final weeks of my college career and start a new path… life… adventure… whatever you want to call it, I am left with a fear of the future looking a lot like the past I’ve read about, but holding on to hope that change is upon us and it can and will be great. But I’ve got a strong grip, holding on to whatever I can to help me get through whatever is thrown my way.

 

With the rest of the bottle filling our glass, I hold this toast to you.

 

To the students pushing their way through the system to get that piece of paper that open doors to new opportunities. Keep doing what you have to do until you can do what you really want to do. Keep climbing the stairs, step by step until you reach your goal. I promise you it’s worth it in the end.

 

To all the #metoo’s… I hear you and I am sorry. I am sorry for every experience, every emotion, every ounce of pain, fear, anger, and doubt that you have once felt, but I am so proud to be a part of a community that is as strong as you are. Keep speaking up, keep voicing the wrongs that have been done, keep fighting for a change in behavior and in our culture.

Hold those accountable for the wrongs they have done regardless of their power, let yourself be heard.

To all the DREAMERS out there in the world. To say that I understand what you are going through would be unfair and untrue. I can only begin to imagine the fear you face on a day-to-day basis with the trigger, I mean Twitter-happy POTUS that we are so unfortunately stuck with for now. But keep fighting, keep telling your stories because America would truly not be what it is today without you, your family, and your heritage.

And lastly to all the journo’s and future journo’s… keep kicking ass and taking names. Call out the Fake News, call out the faulty, sketchy, unproven, unfounded, and ridiculous things that are said in the media and by those in power. Keep telling the stories of those untold, keep pushing for the marketplace of ideas that was so deeply ingrained in us in the early years of our degrees. Keep fighting for ethical and fair journalism and keep fighting for long, in-depth, eye-opening stories that show the true meaning of what journalism is and can be.

Students Teaching Students: Experimental College at SF State

The halls of San Francisco State University’s Humanities building boast a vibrant, multicolored bulletin nested next to Room 302—a relic of the university’s rich history. The psychedelic tones of muted blues, pinks, and yellows call back to a different time; a time of social upheaval, free thought, challenging the status quo, and experimentation. The bulletin reads, in big letters: ‘Experimental College.’

“The students in the sixties were looking to understand themselves better,” says Kathy Emery, her small frame tucked into an office chair, legs crossed, intense eyes peering out from under silver tufts of hair and half-rimmed eyeglasses.

Room 302, her office, is almost vibrating behind her with the din of heated discourse between students. Somewhere mid-conversation she snaps back in her revolving chair—“when did this become a pub?” The room goes silent for a beat—“I guess so” one student chuckles, and the din resumes. Some of these students teach their own classes at San Francisco State. Some of them are in their early twenties.

She turns back and finishes, “it’s incredible. I’ve never seen it so busy,” she says, her slight grin betraying a sense of faux irritation. She enjoys it.   

“Students were reacting to the social movement [of the sixties].” Kathy, a political science lecturer, is referring to the San Francisco State University strike of 1968.

“One of the demands was to create the ethnic studies, and that came out of their experience with ExCo.”

In November of 1968, the Third World Liberation Front, an amalgam of various minority groups on campus (including the Black Students Union, the Latin American Students Organization, and the Filipino-American Students Union) made national news by staging a five-month long strike, marked by clashes with police and civil strife on both sides, to protest the lack of representation in the curriculum on the university campus. The battle established the campus’s College of Ethnic Studies as we know it today.

The Experimental College, or “ExCo,” in its original incarnation was created and funded by students of SF State in 1965 with one radical idea in mind: a free education designed by the students, for the students.  In what was a essentially a student-run micro-university within the university, students could design and teach other students anything they felt was lacking in the college’s curriculum. It was a platform for innovation and experimentation.

This past semester saw the revival of ExCO, a four-class pilot program designed by Kathy in tandem with SF State Sociology Professor Christopher Bettinger—who found an ad for the program put out by Kathy’s students on Craigslist—and Trevor Getz, the Chair of the History department on campus. The four classes being offered this semester included: a class on Noam Chomsky, a class analyzing the Syrian refugee crisis, a class on cybersecurity, and a class on social movements and digital technology. All classes grant an accredited unit to those who enroll, and were designed and taught by student teachers.

“What students need to learn about is not necessarily what teachers want to teach or what the academy thinks should be taught.” Kathy says.

“A lot of what’s being taught is taught in a way that’s inaccessible to the students in the class and the students can make it accessible.”

The idea is known as progressive pedagogy—that it is not what is being taught, but how it is being taught—or the idea that “student interest should drive the curriculum,” according to Kathy.

“You can use the platform for anything. You can teach funk music, math, etc. It’s a big experiment” says 32-year-old Political Science Major Raymond Larios.

Larios taught “Cybersecurity, World Affairs & Social Implications in the Digital World” this semester, a 1-unit class that he designed himself based on his research and reaction to the hacking of the 2016 American presidential election.

“The offerings here at SF State are very minimal. Since there weren’t a whole lot of offerings, I made this class [and] used the ExCo platform to offer students who were interested in [national security] studies.”

We’re sitting on wooden benches made out of tree stumps, outside of the Business building on campus, where Raymond teaches a class of five students, all minoring in international relations. Their ages range from 20 to 60 and over, according to Raymond.

Raymond explains the process of applying for your own class, from the inception of an idea, to the “on-boarding” process to prep and vet potential student professors. “I taught myself. I did my research, I read books, looked for media materials, teaching techniques…and brought this class to the platform.”

The application process begins in  Kathy Emery’s class, “The Politics of Pedagogy,” where students are required to teach other students and learn the ins and outs of teaching. After, the applicant submits a writing sample, syllabus, and a letter elaborating on the “why and how.” After a thorough vetting process, in adherence with the program’s mission statement, the class is accredited and given the green light.

“It looks like any other class and it doesn’t at the same time,” Raymond explains.

Anthony Drobnick, a 19-year-old international relations minor in Raymond’s class says it’s a different experience.

“For me the biggest change from a traditional class is that in ExCo students play a bigger role in shaping what we’re going to be learning about.”

He continues “I still feel like I can get a good education [from traditional classes] but here in ExCo I feel like I’m playing a more active role in driving the conversation and really participating in my own education in ways that I don’t get from a traditional classroom.”

Through the ExCo program Drobnick could theoretically apply for his own class next semester. “I could definitely see myself teaching in the Experimental College in the future. I really like the idea of just having those dialogues with students. I’ve done tutoring with students before and I just see this as a scaled-up version of that.”

Esvin Diaz, a 21-year-old international relations minor, is also in Raymond’s class. He shares a similar experience with Drobnick. “Both my experiences with community college and in SF State have been similar where teachers control what we’re going to be learning. In ExCo you are able to contribute more than you are in other classes.”

Other students are using the ExCo platform in different ways. Alisar Mustafa, a political science major in her early twenties, taught a class on the Syrian Refugee Crisis this semester. Mustafa lived the first fourteen years of her life in Syria and called the ExCo program the “perfect opportunity to educate people about the Syrian Refugee Crisis. She said “I believe education is the first step to combat ignorance and suggest solutions to the issue.”

Mustafa opened up about the challenges of teaching her own class. “The hardest part was that my topic was very dense and complicated. Many times I did not know the answer to very intricate questions. However, I found myself learning so much more in depth about the topic because I had to find answers to all these questions which further illustrates how ExCo serves both the learning of the educator and the students.”

She finished “ExCo destroys the imaginary wall we, as students, have between us and the education system. The wall of the ‘can’t dos,’ the ‘I’m not qualified,’ and the ‘I don’t have the credentials.’”

Kathy has made a career based on the shortcomings of the educational system and alternative methods of teaching. With a BA in History from Mt. Holyoke College, an all-female liberal arts college in Massachusetts, and a PhD in Education from UC Davis, Kathy came to SF State in 2007, inspired by the idea of the Mississippi Freedom Schools, whose goal was to “create active agents of social change”. She created a class called “The Politics of Pedagogy” based on the university’s archives of the Experimental College of the sixties and the California Labor School’s archives. Students in her class wanted to design their own freedom schools, but the program never formally gained “traction” she explains, as it “wasn’t the right time.”

Until now.

However, there are certain issues the ExCo platform may have to deal with in the future.

“I was thinking the other day, what if i wanted to teach a class on growing cannabis? It would be problematic.” Raymond says.

Schools funded through federal money would have to grapple with that, but Kathy rejected the notion, saying that it would be up to the university to decide, as with any other issue.

Raymond also explained that some professors had been “a little negative in their approach [to ExCo],” but clarified “I have no accreditation to teach, so I don’t purport to do what teachers here who got a PhD or a Masters do. On the contrary, I’m just using everything I’ve learned and facilitating it to others.”

Kathy responded “it challenges the idea of what a teacher is.” She continued “I see it as supplementary. The way teachers teach here is very different form the way students will teach. It’s not competition. It’s different. The university, by its nature doesn’t respond quickly to what’s going on in society. That’s the problem with getting a PhD: by the time you get it the world has changed.”

Kathy explained her process and the potential pitfalls of the ExCo program. “I embed students teaching other students in my class in a small way. I’m there in the classroom teaching them how to teach each other and not just throwing someone into a classroom and saying ‘teach’ without having any experience.”

She concluded “they need structural support while they teach. They’re going to have problems in their classes and they need someone experienced to talk to. it remains to be seen if I can get enough structural support set up for them next semester so that it’ll be successful.”

Raymond summed up the program by saying “here the students have come and taught themselves something but at the same time have made a change to the institution.”

Some of the ExCo classes—among the twenty-four— being offered next semester include “Antifascist History and Tactics,” “Conspiracies! Overtly Covert,” “Funk! A Revolutionary State of Mind,” “A History of Activism in Sports: From Jackie Robinson to Colin Kaepernick,” and “How to Relationship 101: Love and Intersectionality.”

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.