Holistic Healing

Listening to water deluge remixes and the ocean breeze shoulder to shoulder with strangers on any given day of the week is not for everyone. Similarly, downloading new age music on an iPod—complete with wind chimes and the obligatory flute may only appeal to a small portion of the population. But closing your eyes with your back straight and palms on your knees, inhaling deeply and then releasing for an hour on at least one day of the week will not hurt any person and might even make life substantially better.

“I remembering taking a Hatha Yoga class that was life changing,” says Sophie Johnson, 24, an SF State alum who graduated with a degree in both Liberal Studies and Fine Arts. Her response may seem unlikely to those who have walked down the secret staircase in Burk Hall leading down to the basement floor. To the left, a huge room, which is quite unglamorous, is as dark as a cave in the Stone Age. In this room that tastes like stale air, there are no bright, white lights or colorful pink and purple yoga mats that boast eco-friendliness.

Holistic health is often defined as a medical practice that focuses on all aspects of a person’s health, including physical, mental and emotional wellness. Holistic health practitioners say they not only focus on a person’s body, but also on his or her soul, or his or her whole being.

Acupuncture, meditation, massage and yoga have been practiced in other countries for centuries and more recently in the United States as an alternative to mainstream health care. ”Although holistic health practices are not new, the cost for these services is high and has traditionally been available to those who have the money, time, or insurance to cover the costs, according to a New York Times article, “Acupuncture Is Popular, but You’ll Need to Pay.”

“A growing number of people are turning to acupuncture for help with conditions including infertility, chronic pain, depression and menopause symptoms. And they are turning to it even though financially it remains a largely out-of-pocket form of health care,” the article says.

According to Larry Caughlan, an SF State yoga instructor, “Traditions have unfortunately become commercialized and the materialism of yoga is discouraging. People are paying a lot of money for it and you can only do yoga if you have free time and money,” he says.


However, free massage and meditation at the Holistic Health Center at SF State and low-cost community acupuncture centers which do not require insurance have sprouted up in the Mission District and all over the Bay Area. Holistic health is seemingly becoming more available to those who have not traditionally had access.

Yasmin Garcia’s calm smile and the brightness of her pink nail polish are fixating as she begins talking about the Holistic Health Center at SF State, part of an academic program of the Institute of Holistic Health Studies. Garcia, 22, is a senior intern at the center, which is located in room 329 in Hensill Hall, where she and twenty other students intern and volunteer Monday to Friday.

According to Garcia, the Holistic Health Center on campus houses one of the two largest libraries dedicated to these alternative practices in California— the other library is at Stanford University.
Going to school for a certificate in Holistic Health, Garcia debunks some of the misconceptions people may have about alternative practice.

“We favor alternative and natural healing, but we don’t discredit the benefits of Western medicine,” she says. “We can use both.”
She also disagrees that access to massage, meditation and yoga is limited to those with money and time. Garcia suggests places like Yoga to the People on 16th and Capp streets. Free schools, such as the Meditation Flash Mob group, a new club in San Francisco whose intentions are “to create an environment for people from all walks of life to come together in meditation, to expose people to meditation through public display, to come together as a community to send positive intentions out into the world, and to show that leading by example is the best way to lead,” according to their Facebook group page.

“There are great deals for yoga on Groupons,” Garcia adds.


The Holistic Health Center provides free massage on Wednesdays from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., in HSS 306. They also used to provide other services like cognitive therapy, which is a therapy that helps a person retrain their thoughts and personal dialogue to be more positive. They have also provided anger management, relaxation and stress alleviating services.

“Some classes and services have not been offered due to budget cuts,” Garcia says. “A lot of our faculty was let go, which sucks. We want to get the word out and outreach more about the Holistic Health center, but we also want to steer clear of cutbacks.”

According to Larry Caughlan, 65, yoga was historically accessible only to wealthy and educated men who belonged to high social classes because the caste system was imposed in India, yoga’s birthplace. These men kept yoga an exclusive practice for a very long time and “it was prohibited partially because only the higher class could read,” says the SF State yoga instructor who sits straight as a board in a squeaky chair in the only lit room in the Burk Hall basement.

The Transcendentalists popularized intellectual yoga around 1857 in the United States, but this knowledge was kept within the intellectual community in New England by famous authors and thinkers such as Henry Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Walt Whitman.

“Transcendentalism was a literary movement founded in 1836 by Emerson and a handful of other adventuresome American thinkers,” according to a 2004 issue of Hinduism Today Magazine. “Transcendentalism emphasized the individual rather than the masses, intuition rather than reason, the forces of nature rather than the powers of man.”

Fast forward a hundred years or so and practitioners seem to be holding on to some Transcendental values, but not all of these values. At places like the East Bay Meditation Center just across the Bay Bridge, wellness workshops and “meditation for the masses” are offered for free in Oakland—once known as the murder capital of California.

Yoga was revived in the United States and made popular again in the 1960s, thanks to The Beatles and the first Woodstock Festival, where a yoga holy man from India came to speak about it, according to Caughlan.

Found in translation

By Tamerra Griffin
Photos by Hang Chen
Halfway up one of the less intimidating slopes on Filbert Street rests the North Beach/Chinatown campus of the City College of San Francisco.  Its front doors are thrown open, either beckoning pupils inside, or combating the lack of air conditioning with a cross draft; it’s impossible to tell which.  Despite the carrot-colored paint that dominates the halls, the classrooms are covered in a rather sickly yellow hue with white primer attempting to cover up problem areas.  Also distracting from the unsavory wall color are a variety of laminated posters with bold lettering featuring names of colors, days of the week, and basic questions like, “Excuse me, what time is it?” and “What is your social security number?” Students’ shouting voices fly throughout the classroom like paper airplanes aimed at unsuspecting passerby.  The tone of their voices suggests not unruliness, but unabashed enthusiasm.  Such is the case in room 207, where a group of 14 students, the youngest of whom is 23 years old, lean forward in their seats and fixate on a luminous overhead projector.
Today’s lesson?  Counting change.
Teacher Holly Stevens peers over thick black frames at the bright projector, which is marked with small circles of various sizes to represent different American coins.
“Half dollar,” she says loudly and clearly as she taps her black marker against the largest circle.  The class repeats after her, matching her volume and inflection in voices cloaked in a tangy Cantonese accent.  All of the students are Chinese immigrants.  For some, this is their first time attending school , in either country.
According to United States Census data gathered between 2006 and 2008 and published in 2010, of the over 280.5 billion people over the age of five, more than 55 million of them spoke  a language other than English at home.  Similar data collected in 2000 shows that the most frequently used non-English language is Spanish, followed by Chinese and then French, and that the “West [region] has the greatest number and proportion of non-English-language speakers.”  These statistics combine with a cultural expectation that non-native English speakers have a firm gasp of the language upon arrival to create a situation that begs the questions: what are Americans doing to help?  What language  programs and services are offered for immigrants–not just international students–and are they accessible and affordable enough for English-speaking Americans to justify these expectations?Bilingual barriers
Baohuan Huang, 36, and her fellow classmates plays a game of bingo during an non-credit ESL class in CCSF Chinatown and North Beach campus on Sept. 27, 2011. ESL teachers often use the game to help students to learn.

Derek Shen moves with a carefulness and curiosity akin to someone who recently regained a lost sense.  These traits are evident as he sets down his backpack on the warm concrete outside, then tucks his long legs beneath him as he takes a seat beside it, silently absorbing the garden-like qualities of SF State’s Humanities building courtyard.  When he’s settled, he removes from a front compartment on his backpack a sleek, silver digital voice recorder not unlike the ones used by working journalists.
But the 18-year-old accounting major does not aspire to be the next Truman Capote.  With his index finger hovering above the notorious red dot of the record button, he admits before his interview, “Sometimes I record my professors’ lectures so I can go back and listen to them later if I don’t understand.”
Having resided in the United States–Berkeley, California in particular–for just six months, Shen is one of a growing number of Americans, international students, and immigrants who identify as English as a Second Language (ESL) learners.

Holly Stevens teaches her students a lesson on money in her class at CCSF Chinatown and North Beach campus on Sept. 27, 2011. She has been teach ESL for 15 years.

Originally from Changzhi, a small town about 300 miles southwest of Beijing, China, Shen applied to SF State after completing his high school requirements because, according to him, “America has the best business programs in the world.”  While he acknowledges, without an ounce of bravado, the ease with which he can tackle his math homework, Shen admits that his English fluency requires more attention.
“Sometimes the teachers ask a question, and I can’t answer immediately,” he says.  “I take time to really think about it and translate it in my mind before answering.”
Outside the classroom, Shen faces even more difficulty when he encounters those who may not have the same patience with the language barrier.
“Last week I went to the gym on campus, and someone at the front desk asked me a very simple question, but I couldn’t answer it, and I felt a little embarrassed,” he says.  Shen was required to fill out paperwork before using the fitness facilities, but he couldn’t understand where to write certain information.  Shen maintains that “most people are patient and will repeat themselves more slowly, but a few people just say, ‘Never mind.’”
For Fayola Perry, the hurdle is slightly different.  Native to Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago (she moved to the United States when she was seven years old), Perry’s first language was English.  Nevertheless, the journalism and Africana Studies double-major grapples with language rules that are specific to American English.
“My accent is now really refined after having been in the American school system for the past decade and a half, but I remember so vividly being frustrated with having to repeat myself so frequently,” she says.
And in the journalism department, which places an especially heavy emphasis on grammatical precision and correct spelling, Perry must contend with an extra layer of criticism.

One of the volunteer coaches writes down her goal for participating in Project Shine during the orientation on Sept. 14, 2011.

“I write words like ‘favorite’ and ‘color’ with an ‘-our,’ instead of just ‘-or,’” she says, stressing the sound in each of the words.  “And I remember one of my professors marking that on my paper and telling me to ‘watch spelling.’  It’s one of those things that’s innate in how I write.  We [in Trinidad and Tobago] speak what’s considered British English, and my lens doesn’t filter [those words] out as being spelled improperly.”
Similarly, the students in Holly’s class find themselves lost in translation, particularly when dealing with English-speaking tourists who frequent the establishments at which they are employed in Chinatown.  One of Stevens’ students, Bao Huan Huang, works at a restaurant in that neighborhood.  When this happens, she either finds someone nearby to translate, or says in a tone and rhythm that suggest more than sufficient practice, “Sorry, I don’t know English.”

Universal language

In order to reinforce this new vocabulary, Stevens incorporates mathematics into the lesson by giving the class sample problems.  She asks things like, “If I have two quarters, two dimes, two nickels, and one penny, how much do I have?”  Students immediately bow their heads, almost in reverence, over their worksheets as they compute the problem with pencils and fingertips.

Holly Stevens, gives crackers to one of her students who has gotten a "bingo" to celebrate during a non-credit ESL class in CCSF Chinatown and North Beach campus, Sept. 14. Ms. Stevens uses the game of bingo to help her students learn about money terms.

The voice of the first pupil to attempt an answer tiptoes to Stevens’ ears, loud enough to be heard, but not so loud that it will draw unwanted attention if it’s incorrect.  “81 cents,” says the anonymous mathematician.
“Good job!” Stevens replies, without skipping a beat.  Incidentally, the rest of the class echoes her in this statement of positive reinforcement–an attempt to further expand their vocabularies–so that for every subsequent right answer, the room becomes a sounding board of encouragement.


On an expectedly dark and foggy Wednesday evening in SF State’s Humanities building, an unexpected level of energy buzzes in room 548.  Upwards of 100 students mingle excitedly as they indulge in a mélange of finger foods–pizza, grapes, cookies, chips and salsa.  The crowd is as diverse as the snack platter; the students’ ages range from 18-45, and amid the chatter rises colorful accents suggesting a variety of national origins.
The noise dies down courteously when a young woman with a bob haircut and a broad grin (later identified as Laura Marsh) stands at the front of the classroom.  “Welcome, everyone,” she begins in an enunciated tone, “to Project SHINE orientation.”

Students repeat after their teacher during an non-credit ESL class at the CCSF Chinatown and North Beach campus, Sept. 14, 2011. The free non-credit ESL classes offered by CCSF give opportunities to immigrants that want to learn English.

Established over 30 years ago in Philadelphia at Temple University’s Intergenerational Center, Project SHINE provides immigrants and refugees with programs and services in workforce development, health literacy, and civic engagement, all of which work to reduce the feelings of social isolation often associated with living in a foreign country.  Project SHINE also funds ESL and citizenship classes, which are held for free at the City College of San Francisco, among other institutions in California and eight other states including Minnesota, Texas, Colorado, and New York.
Gail Weinstein founded SF State’s Project SHINE 15 years ago.  The university linguist lost her fight to ovarian cancer in December 2010, but the program continues to thrive under the direction of Dr. Maricel Santos.  This year, SF State’s Project SHINE will send 200 students to each of  CCSF’s campuses to work voluntarily as coaches under master ESL teachers.  Holly Stevens and company at the North Beach/Chinatown branch of CCSF are engaged in one such class; Derek Shen is one such coach.
“I feel a little nervous because I’m not sure I can do the job well,” admits Shen a couple of days before his first ESL coaching class, which is located at the Mission branch of CCSF and deals primarily with Spanish-speaking students.  His nerves, however, are overshadowed by his excitement in meeting people from different countries and forming a rapport with his assigned master teacher.

IMG_6118 copy
Students listen to a lecture during an ESL class at the CCSF Chinatown and North Beach campus. Most of the free non-credit ESL classes generally begin after six o'clock.

Not all SHINE coaches are former ESL learners, though.  Most are undergraduate students enrolled in Language in Context and Second Language Acquisition, both within the English department at SF State, who can volunteer 20 hours for SHINE this semester in lieu of another assignment.  Others, like program leader Chelsea Lo, are in pursuit of their Masters in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (MATESOL) at SF State.
Lo, who earned her bachelors degree in business at the University of Southern California, made an abrupt transition to teaching English after a slightly jarring realization at a college close to her alma mater.
After having studied abroad in China, Lo returned to the U.S. inspired and wanting to teach ESL classes at the community college level.  “I met a lady who taught an ESL class at Irvine Valley College, and asked if I could volunteer,” says the Southern California native.  “She initially said yes, but then she talked to her supervisor, who said they’d never had an intern before.  There were a lot of complications with things like liability waivers…the infrastructure wasn’t set up for someone like me to get involved.”  But according to Lo, Project SHINE operates the opposite way, making it “so easy to get experience doing that I want to do someday [as a career].”
And while Shen may not hold the same aspirations as Lo (he plans to take his business degree back to China and start his own yet-to-be-determined business there), he is certainly receiving the experience he hoped for.
Despite his initial nerves, Shen says that once he entered the classroom he “felt very relaxed.  The teacher [Nancy McNee] told me my English is good, and that gave me confidence.”  He says that although most of the students are older than he is, they call him Teacher and thank him for helping them.  Shen also inadvertently receives lessons in a third language through his work with Project SHINE.
“When I help them with something, they say ‘gracias,’ and I think, ‘Oh, maybe [that means] thank you,” says Shen, who plans to tackle Spanish next.  “Everybody is a teacher for me,” he adds.  “Everyone has an advantage, and I can learn something from them.”

Game of Life

The North Beach/Chinatown class concludes with a classic game that challenges the night’s previous lessons.  Chu, the SHINE coach assigned to Stevens’ class, passes out thin squares of cardboard marked with a matrix of random clusters of coins, along with red circular markers.  Holly explains–and Chu translates in Cantonese to ensure clarity of the rules–that she will read out a number, and that if they see the corresponding value on their cards, to mark it with a red dot.  The object of the game is to completely cover their board in red dots; the first student to achieve this “black out” wins a small packet of crackers.
“The name of the game is Bingo,” says Stevens, which unleashes a flood of giggles from the rest of the class.  In Cantonese, “bin go” means “Who is that?”
Some of the more strategic students try to quickly compute the amounts on their cards and write the number next to the coins, but the seasoned teacher catches them and reminds them, firmly but compassionately, “When you’re out in the real world at the grocery store, you won’t have pencils to calculate the change you need.”  When Chu relays this to them in Cantonese, they all respond with a thoughtful, drawn-out “Oh,” and set their pencils down.
Anticipation rises in the room with each number Holly calls out.  Suddenly, Xiu Lian Su jumps up from her seat, punches a scrunchie-encircled arm in the air, and shouts, “Bingo!” before surrendering to her own laughter and collapsing back into her desk.
Stevens distributes the prize, and then offers the rest of the class the same crackers.  Some hesitate at first because they didn’t win the game, but after some reassurance they select their own package of crackers.
“It’s become a tradition I can’t escape,” says Holly says of the snacks to nobody in particular.  “A lot of them come here right after work and are starving.”
Thanks to Project SHINE, Derek Shen and the students in Stevens’ class–and hundreds of others like it across the country–are inching their way toward linguistic sufficiency in the United States, one lesson at a time.  With their unwavering enthusiasm and openness to the variety of “teachers” surrounding them, they will soon be able to unleash their arsenal of multilingual strength and contribute to their communities in more than one language.

Fuck Yeah! for FYF

By Lina Abascal, Photos by Hunter Mulich

Fuck Yeah Fest 2011

Cut-offs and snap back hats filled the Los Angeles historic park Saturday, September 3rd for the annual Fuck Yeah Fest, except a few things this year were different. Event production giants, Goldenvoice, teamed up with festival founder Sean Carlson and his team, renaming the festival a more appropriate FYF Fest and making some adjustments that veterans noticed and newcomers appreciated.

Goldenvoice took the previously DIY festival to the next level with increased security, minimizing the wait time for concert go-ers to get their bags and tickets checked. As the line moved, knowledgeable veterans were overheard mentioning the improved organization, comparing the10 minute wait this year to nearly an hour the year prior.

The six stage festival was already crowded when it began at 1pm, and by 4pm, the attendance was so high cell phones were losing service, noticeable by the amount of lone girls stumbling around the grounds, some of which were (stupidly) wearing heels.

Beginning with the lesser known acts, the afternoon was kick started by an energetic set by the Tijuana Panthers, surf-rock band from Long Beach. Tijuana Panthers thanked their crowd for making it to the festival so early. Though the festival had huge, professional, stage set ups, the band members were nearly lost in a sea of dust kicked up by kids moshing and dancing in the front rows.

Truly completing the LA hipster vibe of the festival, vendor booths were set up in a “Vendor Village” away from the stages. A variety of sunglasses, vintage renewal skirts, and vintage dresses were available for purchase, along with truck beds full of records. Inbetween sets or while waiting for a favorite artist to go on, crowds hovered over bins of records and tried on skirts over their clothes.

The Descedents performing at Fuck Yeah Fest 2011.

Leon Cortes, a San Francisco resident noticed significant changes in this years festival, “there was way more food, and free water. Last year water was $5, I think bottled water was $3 this year,” he said. Having trekked down from San Francisco the past two years to attend the festival, Cortes credited this year with being far superior, with much quicker entry and cleaner, more abundant, bathrooms.

By mid-afternoon, the lines at the food trucks were nearly an hour long. True to the LA food truck culture, FYF had half a dozen food trucks with treats ranging from ($12) cheesesteaks, to Korean food. With so many options, some groups of friends separated waiting in different lines, seeing who got to the front first as The Cold War Kids sounded in the background from the main stage.

“This song is such a bummer, I just cried about it backstage,” joked Smith Westerns front man Cullen Omori to a crowd not so patiently awaiting the next song. The Chicago indie rock band drew an impressive crowd mid-afternoon. Despite a few similar cheesy remarks, the band seemed to have mastered the act of performing a festival set, after being booked at festivals worldwide this Summer, including playing Pukkelpop on the stage that collapsed, killing five audience members.

San Francisco seemed to have a large presence at the festival, causing the crowd to scream every time a band mentioned the city. The Strange Boys, Texan garage rockers, gave a shout out to fellow FYF performer, Ty Segall and “all the homies in SF.”

San Francisco band, Girls, surprised their enormous crowd by including three female gospel vocalists in their performance. Also to the audience’s surprise, Girls played their biggest hit, “Lust for Life” as their opening song, and followed it with arguably their second biggest hit, “Laura.” The band then progressed through their set playing tracks off their upcoming album, “Father, Son, Holy Ghost,” out September 13, sprinkled with other familiar favorites from their debut.

As the sun went down, the atmosphere of the festival drastically changed, transitioning into a chilly 60-or-so-degrees, causing scantily dressed girls to scurry to the vendor tents to find a sweater. An older crowd emerged at nighttime, likely attracted to groups such as The Descendants, Guided by Voices, and Death from Above 1979, who were founded years prior to most of the lineup.

Electronic acts such as Chromatics, Nosaj Thing, Dan Deacon, and Simian Mobile Disco were clumped together in the evening, providing a surprisingly gradual shift from a garage to electronic, having Simian, the most “club” sounding, play last.

When Death from Above 1979 broke up in 2006, the hearts of rock n rollers broke, and many current fans had never even heard of them until after their breakup, with no hopes of ever catching a live show. The duo, which includes JFK of DJ duo MSTRKRFT reunited at SXSW and were included on the Camp Bisco lineup. Headlining FYF Fest gave many Californians the chance to rock out to “Romantic Rights” and “Little Girl.”

By nearly 1 am, shivering masses poured out into the streets of downtown Los Angeles, gossiping about their crazy experiences, and heading back to their cars parked in $20 lots to call it a night.

“It was hot, dusty, but I wouldn’t of had it any other way,” said SF State junior Scott Sanders.


WonderCon 2011 marks its 25th anniversary

“In case you were wondering, Ryan Reynolds is in the next room over,” jokes Robert Kirkman, referring to the Green Lantern star and promotional panel somewhere else in San Francisco’s Moscone Center. He seats himself in one of the half dozen empty chairs for his panel at WonderCon 2011, as the next hour of sarcastic banter and sneak peaks at his authored titles, as well as those under his new imprint, Image-Skybound, gets underway.

Since 2003, the success of Kirkman’s landmark series, The Walking Dead, has propelled him up to and among the ranks of comic book auteurism, situating him with contemporaries like Mark Millar, Grant Morrison and Jeff Smith. The Eisner award-winning The Walking Dead, a brutal, pessimistic chronicling of humanity’s coping with the zombie apocalypse, just concluded the first season of its television adaptation. Kirkman is currently working with developer Telltale Games for a videogame adaptation to be released at the end of this year.

He also spoke of his more tongue-in-cheek, April 20-released title, Super Dinosaur, which Kirkman wrote for his son.

“There’s going to be lots of drama and intrigue, and you’ll probably cry at some point,” he jested. “It’ll be all depressing like The Walking Dead, so you guys will hopefully like it. But for the most part it will just be a dinosaur shooting missiles at things, so hopefully it’ll be pretty good.”

WonderCon 2011 marks its 25th anniversary. It was started in 1987 by Joe Field of Concord, CA’s Flying Colors Comics and Other Cool Stuff, along with other local retailers and comic book, sci-fi, and fantasy fans, as the Wonderful World of Comics Convention. Long-since shortened to WonderCon, the once underground annual has grown into a pseudo-mainstream locus for both geek-related industry giants, the underdogs, and their fans alike.

Booths and events for big names like Nintendo, Marvel, DC, and Capcom tower over the floor, all but overshadowing the smaller retailers and imprints like Image and Dark Horse. Massive gaps are filled to capacity by tens of thousands of conned-out enthusiasts, often decked in homemade costumes, aping their favorite videogame, comic, or anime characters. This phenomenon is known as “cosplaying.” And where there’s a con to be found, cosplayers are right at the frontlines.

Local gawkers and passersby stare in shock, contempt, or some combination of the two at the parade of nerd culture, either expressing their confusion or curiosity, or just cracking jokes. While an extreme aesthetic may merit an extreme response (Solid Snake and Yuffie Kisaragi holding hands, trailed by Princess Peach and Dr. Girlfriend from Adult Swim’s The Venture Bros., what the hell is going on here?), this also speaks to the stigma that shrouds the multiple genres under this cultural umbrella.

The term “genre” had its roots in 16th century northern European art, concerning certain kinds of subject matter related to “the scenes and subjects of common life.” In other words, it referred to the otherwise realistic, non-classical style of painting emerging alongside the rise of mercantilism and what would become modern economics and social structure.

When the term moved to literature, it meant anything but realism, and was stuck onto fictions whose subject matters strayed from the realities of modern life (sci-fi, westerns, or noir, for example). Realism, at least as far as critics and academics are concerned, is the most exalted form of modern literature, with the marginalized “genre” in a place of inferiority.

But realistic fiction itself is a genre with its own rules and limitations. According to sci-fi/fantasy author, Ursula K. Le Guin, “re-fi” is plagued with incredibly narrow and conventional subject matter. Given such a condition of content, “realism is quite incapable of describing the complexity of contemporary existence,” says Le Guin.

Inherent to post-modern art is its ability hide the meatiest content under the works’ mass appeal, the “popcorn-factor.” Over the past four decades, genre-pieces across mediums have occupied such a space. This has afforded the “genre” a few extra points of literary and artistic prestige since the early 1980s. Films like The Matrix or Blade Runner or comics like Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman or Alan Moore’s Watchmen have layers upon layers of philosophy running beneath the reels, or the panels, often touching on ideas of intellectual autonomy and Descartes, gender politics, the nature of authorship, and even being so playfully self-referential as to comment on or redefine the genre itself.

This moves these films, shows, or comics far beyond their pulp-status and into the realm of great literature, their poetic strokes and statements on art and society too significant to be ignored. By re-envisioning the common threads running through the superhero/action or horror genres, as in the cases of Moore’s Watchmen and Kirkman’s The Walking Dead, the cultural significance of these works, along with their favorable mass and critical reception, brought them out from the underground to create high-revenue multimedia franchises with reissues, cinema/television events, and video games.

Artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat and Barbara Kruger are known for their appropriation of cultural iconography in their art, and while not using the motifs or paradigms of the genres relevant to WonderCon 2011, they do serve a similar function. Works like the former’s “Leonardo di Vinci’s Greatest Hits” or lifts from Grey’s Anatomy or the latter’s use of Marilyn Monroe and Malcolm X’s visages under bold, highlighted texts (“Not stupid enough,” and “Not angry enough,” respectively) call to attention the way we perceive, commodify, and perpetuate abstract understandings of art and beauty, either by juxtaposing them with subversive text, as Kruger modus operandi would dictate, or in Basquiat’s case, distorting and cluttering the reproduction altogether.

Both Moore and Gaiman offer depictions of superheroes that might not fit into the paradigms laid out in the gold and silver ages of comic books. Moore emasculated Watchmen protagonist, Night Owl, who, while still as fascistic and authoritarian as any take on Batman, is incredibly melancholic, self-conscious, and impotent. Gaiman took a discarded DC crime-fighter and turned him into the undying personification of dreams and human imagination in Sandman, using him as a lens through which the reader can view cross-cultural mythos and their place throughout human history.

The undertones are heavy, but ultimately it is left up to the reader to discern these stories’ meaning, especially if these are archetypal tales with which the we already familiar, a la Batman or the nerdy teen-cum-superhero. Joseph Campbell purported that similar tales and the need for their existence transcends culture and time. Participating in these “myths” and metaphors, according to Campbell, leads one to truths that cannot be expressed in plain, direct words, so long as these stores continually adapt to modern life. As Gaiman states, “We have the right, and the obligation, to tell old stories in our own ways, because they are our stories.”

Film Society supports media education and aspiring young filmmakers

Mid-afternoon on April 30, a small group of children with their parents and a few volunteers gather in the lounge area of the Press Office for the San Francisco International Film Festival. Two tables covered with construction paper, an assortment of markers, scissors and piper cleaners lay neatly waiting to be used. A slightly eccentric brunette sporting a delicate pixie cut and a bright orange ensemble leads the group of two boys and three girls in an a puppet workshop. The workshop uses the 2009 film, Jillian Dillon, which she directed and produced, as an example to introduce puppetry to the children. This is one of the many events that the San Francisco Film Society hosts to encourage media education with the youth.

The San Francisco Film Society (SFFS) and California schools have a long history together. As a celebration of the twenty year milestone, several special public programs will occur during this year’s 54th Annual San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF54). Better yet, if you cannot make it to any of the programs, the SFFS runs year-round classes for aspiring filmmakers. Still need your fix for cinema? Luckily, SF State offers a one-unit and one-weekend course called Focus on Emerging Cinemas (CINE 325), while USF offers a four-unit, semester-long course called Insider SFIFF.

Sean Uyehara, a visiting lecturer who is teaching CINE 325 this year and also a programmer for the Festival, got into the film festival world by accident. He began by volunteering to screen films for the Golden Gate Awards and ended up making a lot of contacts, which led to a job in the publication department.

“I try to leverage the films to show a breadth and depth of different film making aesthetics currently in the world,” says Uyehara about the Focus on Emerging Cinema class. “I also try to present a film with a guest, such as the film maker. One guest is actually in Paris, but we’re going to Skype him while we’re in the theater.”

During the festival, which runs from April 21 through May 5, a three-day series will occur for college students. This is part of the SFFS’s Colleges & Universities program, which is partially sponsored by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, called College Days. For $40, you can attend the series, which will include screenings of five of the films featured with Q&As with filmmaker guests and lectures.

“[This gives] audiences a chance to discuss what they’ve seen…with a skilled host,” said Rachel Rosen, Director of Programming for the festival.

On April 28, Tilva Rosh, a coming-of-age film from Serbia about two teenagers, will be shown at 10 a.m. The director is a contender for the New Directors Prize. Later that day, The Last Buffalo Hunt, a US premiere, will be shown at 12:45 p.m. The film centers on the annual American bison hunt to illustrate the dying cowboy culture. On April 29, The Dish and the Spoon will be shown at 9:30 a.m. It is another American film about two young adults learning to cope with heartbreak while avoiding reality by binge drinking. Better This World, shown at noon, focuses on the 2008 Republican National Convention and follows the journey of two young activists. The film is up for the GGA Documentary Feature. “What’s fascinating about film is that it really capitalizes on the narrative,” says Uyehara. “It is becoming much more common for non-fiction films to have extremely suspenseful narratives that are a part of it,” he adds in reference to the style of Better This World, produced and directed by local filmmakers, Kelly Duane de la Vega and Katie Galloway. The duo was awarded a $10,000 grant for the HBO Documentary Film Fellowship in 2009.

[pullquote author=”Sean Uyehara, SF State visiting lecturer and Programmer, SF Film Society”]“It is becoming much more common for non-fiction films to have extremely suspenseful narratives.”[/pullquote]

Another way film students in the Bay Area can get involved is through pre-screening of the annual Golden Gate Awards held on the final day of the Festival. The SFSS allows the students an opportunity to review certain films and offer critiques and recommendations to the programmers. If you would like to get involved for next year the screening process begins in September and lasts until January.

The SFFS has another outreach program called Schools at the Festival, (SATF) which began twenty years ago. This program allows students to connect with their local community and the San Francisco International Film festival by allowing students and their teachers to interact with the filmmakers through film screenings, discussions media presentations and much more.

On May 3 at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, in recognition of the anniversary, the SFIFF54 is having a celebratory screening of clips from past SATF films, live stories, tributes to educators and youth filmmakers followed by a reception. The program begins at 5 p.m. and tickets are available to the general public for $6, while members can save $1. Later that day, Teacher Appreciation Night will began at 6:30 p.m. also at the Kabuki. The event will include a special screening of American Teacher, a world premiere about the obstacles facing teachers and the struggle in drawing new talents.

Finally, students, between the ages of 13 to 18, that are interested in film making can attend the Young Filmmakers Camp, which was recently established. College-age and older students interested in film making may also want to consider taking summer courses at the Film Society. Some of the classes featured for this summer are Indie Film Finance with Jeff Deutchaman of IFC Entertainment, Master Class with Disney Animator John Musker, Japanese Monster Movies and Planning and Pitching a Documentary to name a few.

[pullquote author=”Joanne Parsont, Director of Education for SF Film Society”]“Part of it is developing the audiences of the future so they will have a real appreciation of cinema outside of the multiplex or the mainstream movies that kids usually gravitate to or only get to see, broadening their appreciation of the film experience.”[/pullquote]

Joanne Parsont, who speared headed many of the educational programs available today such as Filmmakers in the Classroom, Teacher Training, Causes & Impacts and most of the ones mentioned previously, encourages students to apply for internships with the Film Society. “As our students begin making their own films, they are also encouraged to apply for fiscal sponsorship or for any of our grants or residency programs through our Filmmaker Services department,” says Parsont.

As the director of education, Parsont strongly believes in the power of exposing youth to film and media. “Part of it is developing the audiences of the future so they will have a real appreciation of cinema outside of the multiplex or the mainstream movies that kids usually gravitate to or only get to see, broadening their appreciation of the film experience,” explains Parsnot. “Film is also an incredible medium for connecting young people with the world and developing their cultural awareness—kids can actually see other cultures, other people, and especially their peers in other places, on screen. To learn how an art form is constructed and created from the artists themselves is incredibly inspirational for them, whether they are interested in film making or not, and helps them to better understand how media is constructed.”

Whether you need an extra-unit for the Spring semester or you are a cinema aficionado, Bay Area college students can attend the San Francisco International Film Festival for a fraction of the cost.

A Love Supreme

Like a quiet storm, she enters the café silently wearing a shy smile. The sun is peaking through the heavy windows on one of the warmest days of spring in Oakland, illuminating her freckled cheeks, each freckle resembling a speck of light. She offers a warm hug and a long, threadlike braid falls from her part-coifed and part-shaved head, down the left side of her face. The aroma of grinding coffee beans hangs in the air. After she sucks her iced coffee through a straw, Marisa Manriquez pauses and says, “Polyamory highly threatens the way society is organized.”

Polyamory, or non-monogamy, is a controversial friend of monogamy. Polyamory, the idea that you can have more than one lover or romantic partner at a time, is a term that was formally coined in 1992 on the Internet and attributed to a woman named Jennifer Wesp. In the past, other terms like complex marriage and polyfidelity have been used to describe different multi-partner relationships. Polyamory has been gaining popularity in the Bay Area, particularly in San Francisco, for over a decade. There has been an increased awareness surrounding it in multiple communities, from the queer community to the academic community.

Slight references to polyamory are visible in popular culture in TV shows like Big Love and Sister Wives but this has reinforced inaccurate definitions of polyamory, making the term interchangeable with polygyny or polygamy, which contain the root words “many” and “marriages.” The image that often enters the popular imagination is of one man married to multiple wives. According to Xeromag.com, “The word ‘polyamory’ is based on the Greek and Latin word for ‘many loves’ (literally, polymeans many and amore means love). A polyamorous relationship is a romantic relationship that involves more than two people.” There are, however, various definitions and practices of polyamory.

Manriquez, 27, is a graduate student at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) where she is writing her thesis on polyamory for her graduate program, “Women’s Spirituality: Women’s Wisdom and Body Healing.” She was compelled to research and write about polyamory after her five-year monogamous relationship began to plateau. She and her partner were still in love, but both began to grow separately.

“I became interested in the natural ways relationships change and the fact that love lasts a long time and changes form,” Manriquez says. “Polyamory is an approach to relationships that takes into consideration that you can love more than one person in different ways.”

According to Manriquez, the history of polyamory is rich. At the turn of the nineteenth century in the United States, religious communes attempting to manifest utopian communities on the East Coast started to develop. In 1848, the Oneida community in New York practiced communalism, or the idea of shared property, as well as group marriage and multiple-partner relationships. A Yale theologian named John Humphrey Noyes, one of the founders of the Oneida community, and his followers believed in abolishing the idea of monogamous marriage and private property, because they felt that these ideas contributed to exclusivity and jealousy.

“Resistance to monogamy challenges the status quo,” Manriquez says. “Non-monogamy forces people to face ingrained emotional habits that have come with social conditioning, like jealousy and possession.”

It is debatable, however, whether jealousy results from social conditioning or if is inherent in human nature. Biologists, philosophers, and psychologists have studied jealousy for a long time. According to a Staten Island Advance article from March 14, 2006, “Jealousy is an inevitable, universal feeling,” a psychotherapist and professor at Wagner College in Staten Island, New York named Miles Groth says, “jealousy is rooted in infancy.” He draws from the work of Sigmund Freud and adds that jealousy is a natural and even necessary response. This complex emotion has contributed to resistance toward non-monogamy.

According to Loving More, an online community and magazine dedicated to educating others about polyamory, although non-monogamy has been marginalized from mainstream culture, it is actually being practiced by large segments in the United States.

“Researchers are just beginning to study the phenomenon, but the few who do estimate that openly polyamorous families in the United States number more than half a million, with thriving contingents in nearly every major city,” according to a Newsweek article from July 29, 2009, “Only You. And You. And You,” by Jessica Bennett.
“Only about twenty percent of American adults…are married, living with their spouse, and, together, bringing up a child or children to which they both have a biological connection,” according to a February 1 2011 article in the Baystate Parent Magazine by Doug Page.

“There is a biological foundation for polyamory, as nature is inherently polyamorous,” Manriquez says. “Non-monogamy is ancient, and it arises in cultures all over the world, in Abrahamic traditions in the Old Testament, in parts of Africa, and in the Arab world.”

According to a Salon.com article from June 27, 2010, about the book, Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality, “Before the advent of agriculture…prehistoric humans lived in a much less sexually possessive culture, without the kind of lifelong coupling that currently exists in most countries.” The authors use Bonobos as an example of inherent non-monogamy in nature. Bonobos, human beings’ closest relatives, practice non-monogamous coupling and live in a very peaceful and egalitarian group setting, which has been attributed to their multi-partner sexual relationships.

[pullquote author=”Marisa Manriquez, grad student at CIIS”]“Resistance to monogamy challenges the status quo [and] non-monogamy forces people to face ingrained emotional habits that have come with social conditioning, like jealousy and possession.”[/pullquote]

According to Princeton/Stanford Working Papers in Classics, the article, “Monogamy and polygyny in Greece, Rome, and world history,” aspects of monogamy were institutionalized into the Greco-Roman social structure. The concept of monogamy has been challenged for quite some time and continues to be critiqued by those who believe that loving more than one person is acceptable, liberating, and even radical.

Feminism and Free Love

After one knock, she opens the front door and her green eyes squint under thin, square-framed eyeglasses as the sun briefly warms her electric magenta hair. Jen Day enthusiastically introduces Pepper Mint, her male partner of eight years. Mint is tall and lanky sitting in a rotating computer chair and looks upward to say hello with a sharp but kind stare. Day’s eggplant purple tank top matches Mint’s curly, shoulder-length hair. They make eye contact and smile at each other warmly as the two of them introduce Day’s other male partner, Ari Litton, whose wavy turquoise blue hair comes into view as he waves hello from their kitchen.

Day, 31, an accounting major at SF State, defines polyamory as having multiple romantic relationships at once, and emphasizes that everybody in the relationship approves. She laughs a little as she begins her story about getting involved in polyamory and mentions her high-school sweetheart with whom she remained in a relationship for about ten years. As their relationship progressed, Day and her then-partner decided to begin having threesomes until she realized that she was interested in open relationships that did not revolve around sex. They both began having intimate relationships with other people and eventually the pair split up.

“The person you’re with at fourteen is not the same person at twenty-six,” Day says.

Unlike Day and the majority of people in the United States, Mint, 36, grew up in a household where monogamy was not established as the norm.

“I had parents who had an open relationship,” Mint says. “It was the seventies and they were open, certainly the entire time I was growing up.”

Litton, 27, sits on the floor between Day and Mint, listening intently to the both of them. He playfully rubs his head against Day’s thigh and begins to giggle as he tells his story about getting involved in a polyamorous relationship with Day.

“I got into it three years ago, about as long as I’ve been dating Jen,” Litton says.

Day says that Litton met her and Mint as a couple, adding that Litton was the last man standing at the end of the night. The two claim they really engaged with each other.
According to Mint, the poly community overlaps with several others, such as the bi community and the kink community. Mint adds that people in the goth, rave, and board- gaming communities have gravitated toward non-monogamy. The three of them agree that the polyamory community, which is growing rapidly in San Francisco, is very women-friendly and gender equitable, marking the distinction between polyamory and the more negative notions of polygamy that are commonplace.

From a feminist perspective, the liberation of women and the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s largely contributed to the developing consciousness around love and sexuality.

“Free love was a response to conservative social models of the 1950s, which began deconstructing the idea of the nuclear family and later evolved into the idea of swinging, which is different than polyamory,” Manriquez says. “My understanding of it is that swinging is sex-driven, with love as a sometimes-added factor.” Mint adds that swinging is primarily geared toward heterosexual married couples to experiment sexually with other couples like them.

According to the article, “Feminism and Free Love,” free love is defined as a self-conscious reform tradition. It was part of the women’s rights movement and gave both men and women a choice to experiment with their sexuality, which usually translated into free and rampant sexual relationships. “The nineteenth-century free- love movement was a distinct reform tradition, running from the utopian socialist thinkers of the 1820s and 1830s through the center of American anarchism to the anti-Comstock sex radicals of the 1890s and 1900s and from there into the birth control movement of the twentieth century.”

[pullquote author=”Jack De Jesus, also known as Kiwi, a popular rapper in the Bay Area”]“Being in non-monogamous situations lends itself to sharing things, dismantling the idea of ownership, and allowing people to be more autonomous.”[/pullquote]

The Gay Rights movement in New York and San Francisco also contributed to the developing idea of polyamory, where clubs and bathhouses became popular and accessible to people—queer and straight identified—who desired multiple sexual partners and experiences. The term “queer” gained popularity as a self-affirming umbrella term for people who felt the need to define themselves outside of the definitions of bi, gay, or lesbian. Unfortunately, the AIDS epidemic began to spread in the 1980s and mainstream culture began to point the finger at the queer community. This revealed that the free-love movement had consequences, forcing the generations that followed to shift their consciousness about love, sex, and responsibility. According to Mint, the term polyamory was introduced in the early 1990s, in response to the changing landscape of non-monogamy in the United States.

Sustaining Healthy Relationships

At the shaky wooden table in the crowded Whole Foods café in a black t-shirt, cap, and messenger bag, Jack De Jesus grins shyly upon the mention of polyamory, then his lips curl into a tight smile, revealing deep dimples in both cheeks.

“Polyamory to me means having intimate relationships with more than one person in a responsible way,” says De Jesus, 36, also known as Kiwi, a popular rapper in the Bay Area.

De Jesus, who has been divorced, realized that marriage reinforced the same social systems he and his ex-wife—both of whom are activists—wanted to dismantle. He says that once you involve the state in your relationship, the legality of love becomes problematic because the state’s definition of marriage is very rigid. He adds that in his own experience, monogamous relationships and the institution of marriage perpetuate patriarchy and ownership.

“I don’t want to own anybody and I don’t want anybody to own me,” De Jesus says. “Non-monogamy has allowed me to look at things in different ways, like communication, boundaries, and sex.”

Boundaries, guidelines, and rules play an important role in non-monogamous relationships. According to an excerpt from the book, Redefining Relationships: Guidelines for Responsible Open Relationships, by Wendy-O Matik, all relationships should include honesty, communication, and consent. “When you respect mutually agreed upon boundaries, you build upon the foundation of lasting trust, which is the key ingredient in an open relationship.”

According to Ivy Chen, 38, a master in Public Health and an SF State lecturer for the course, “Sex and Relationships,” couples must establish rules early on in the relationship to avoid unrealistic expectations. Chen says that in monogamous relationships, the agreement is to be exclusive, but often, expectations to be exclusive conflict with other feelings and may cause jealousy.

“In Western culture, we have a tendency to own things so we lock our bike, car, house,” Chen says. “We become vigilant, because we feel like someone will take it. The idea of property is a mindset that extends into relationships, too.”

The top components that contribute to a healthy relationship that Chen brings up in her class every semester include respect, similarities, good communication, and the acceptance of your partner and yourself. Although every couple can and should create their own boundaries and rules, Matik outlines a few guidelines, which include practicing safe sex, respecting space boundaries, treating others as you wish to be treated, and practicing self-love.

According to Day and Mint, boundaries were set early on in the relationship. After eight years, they have relaxed the boundaries, but Mint jokes that two rules for Day remain: “Always use condoms and don’t get married!” Day laughs and adds, “Don’t leave sex toys on the bed, don’t date my sister, and don’t wear my ducky bathrobe.”
Mint says that because we live in a monogamous world, we are well trained in monogamy from the minute we are born all the way through our teenage years. There is a certain process of deprogramming from the standard, which is from monogamy to non-monogamy. “One way to do it is to create rules to make you feel safe,” he says.

For monogamous couples, certain guidelines play a role in sustaining a healthy relationship, and marriage clearly defines that for many people. According to Chen, marriage can offer a needed sense of security, whether for economic reasons or legal reasons.

Although the idea surrounding monogamy as a social system and the institution of marriage is continually challenged, advocates of a so-called dying institution offer their own perspective.

The Institution of Marriage

His handshake is firm but the shy smirk on his face reveals a gentleness that belies his over six-foot-build. John Baker, 39, a graduate student in Public Administration at SF State, talks about what it takes to sustain a healthy marriage while raising a child. With subtle enthusiasm, Baker reminisces about the first time he met his wife at City College of San Francisco (CCSF) as a journalism major.

“She was talking about Star Trek with her brother, who was the editor of the paper, and I thought, ‘Wow, what a cool girl,’” he laughs. “We didn’t actually start dating until the summer after.”

After CCSF, Baker applied to both SF State and Humboldt State University and was accepted and enrolled in both colleges, but stayed in San Francisco to build the relationship. He eventually transferred to Humboldt State to receive his Bachelor’s degree in journalism. He admits that he and his wife experienced tough times because of the long distance. He eventually proposed to her in 1999 after he graduated and when he felt that marriage was the next natural step in their relationship, particularly after he stayed with her one summer and felt integrated into her family.

Although Baker and his wife have been married for nearly eleven years, they have had their fair share of problems, just like any other couple—married or unmarried. The two of them briefly separated for an entire summer in 2006.

“I had been working odd hours as a police dispatcher at the time,” he says. “We also found out that our son, who is now seven, is autistic. We had trouble raising him,” adding that any couple who has a child together begins to experience external stressors that result in several problems. Despite their struggle to make their marriage work, Baker and his wife got back together after some needed time apart. Everything they went through together only made him appreciate her more.

[pullquote author=”John Baker, grad student at SF State”]“I do think that going the extra step of getting married is a huge symbolic commitment. Not to say people can’t have healthy relationships if they’re not married.”[/pullquote]

“The best advice I can give to a newly married couple is don’t be afraid to fight,” Baker says. “The suppression of emotions will just add up. When we have an issue, we try to resolve it quickly, but sometimes it takes time. People say don’t go to bed mad, but sometimes, you go to bed mad and that’s okay.”

Within the institution of marriage, Baker feels that there is already so much going on in exclusive partnerships that it leaves little room to none for anything outside of that one person.

“I do think that going the extra step of getting married is a huge symbolic commitment,” he says. “Not to say people can’t have healthy relationships if they’re not married. You don’t need a piece of paper, but it definitely helps.”

According to Braden Paule, 28, a Child and Adolescent Development major at SF State, humans may be naturally non-monogamous. However, he feels that the rules of marriage, which include exclusivity and monogamy, allow two people to commit to each other in a deeper way. Paule and his wife married last year in June after five years of being in a monogamous relationship. He says that he never felt pressured to marry and that he and his wife talked about marriage for a very long time until they decided it was right for the two of them.

“One benefit of marriage is making the tax situation a lot better,” Paule laughs. “But it did negatively affect our financial aid,” he laments. Both he and his wife are students at SF State.

He lightly pinches his orange-brown beard, and his eyes look genuine as he squints a little, smiling wide as he begins talking about his wife.

“The exclusivity with each other makes me feel comfortable that I don’t have competition,” Paule says. “We are each other’s top priorities.”

Paule adds that the social recognition of their relationship changed drastically in ordinary conversation.People react very differently when he says “wife” instead of “girlfriend.” He feels as if people respect their relationship more, because they are married.

When De Jesus hears people talk about polyamory, it is spoken about in a sex-driven manner, but he argues that it is not only about sex; the root of it is love and building with people. De Jesus prefers to use the term “responsible non-monogamy” rather than polyamory.

“I got into it, or was sort of forced into it, when I was dating somebody who was dating somebody,” he laughs. “I had just got out of my marriage so that first poly relationship wasn’t healthy, because it was still very new to me, and I had to deal with jealousy.”

He did not understand it for a long time, so he decided to study it intellectually by reading books like The Ethical Slut: A Guide to Infinite Sexual Possibilities, by Catherine Liszt and Dossie Easton; Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships, by Tristan Taormino; and Redefining Our Relationships: Guidelines For Responsible Open Relationships, by Wendy-O Matik.

“There are a lot of assumptions being made in relationships, and I’ve had to learn to have awkward and uncomfortable conversations that ended up being transformative,” De Jesus says, affirming that polyamory is all about honesty.

A few of Manriquez’s research questions for her graduate thesis touch on these ideas of honesty, open communication, and transformation. These questions include, “How can a shift from the idea of monogamy to polyamory provide healing and a sense of community?” and “Can polyamory provide a framework for intimate relationships that empower human beings to grow, nurture, and sustain love in abundant ways?”

“I feel lucky that the communities I’m in—the intellectual community and the queer community—have a real understanding of how transient relationships can be,” Manriquez says. “I’m Latina from a traditional Catholic community. They are less receptive to different ideas about love.”

De Jesus has had a very different experience as a straight-identified man of color who practices polyamory, as women and men close to him have reluctantly asked him about what it all means. In the beginning, he was afraid people would label him a player or womanizer.

“My ex-partner makes fun of me all the time,” he laughs. “In different degrees, she’s calling me a ho.”

Mint adds that there is a certain suspicion of men because they have abused their power around sexuality for so long. He adds that because there is a long history of religious conservatism, monogamy was the standard because it essentially kept women in line.

Although De Jesus is a straight-identified male, he says that he does not feel the pressure to fit into that man box and admits to sometimes feeling uncomfortable around other men who exhibit Machismo, or hyper-masculinity. He feels that he belongs to multiple communities, but feels most comfortable around the queer community, particularly queer women of color, who are part of spaces he has made a conscious effort to seek out.

As a community organizer and activist, De Jesus sees the concrete connection between polyamory and his political ideals that include anti-capitalism and anti-imperialism. He feels that polyamory is liberating, because it crushes the ideas the West has enforced about ownership and the language we use around marriage and monogamy.

“Monogamy and marriage reinforces capitalism because it is rooted in capitalism,” he asserts. He adds that instead of sharing with others, we become attached and possessive to the things we own. “Being in non-monogamous situations lends itself to sharing things, dismantling the idea of ownership, and allowing people to be more autonomous.”

De Jesus also discusses the expectations inherent in the discourse surrounding monogamy as a social system. He speaks from personal experience that in other monogamous relationships and in his marriage, he really struggled with ethics when he would develop crushes and the pressure to provide everything to one person. One of his current partners recently told him, “You can’t be everything to everybody.”

He compares different situations to polyamory as a way to start healthy dialogue about the subject, giving examples of soldiers who must leave their families—partners and children—for long periods at a time in the care of other families or friends. He also provides an example of having multiple friends who serve multiple needs in different ways, or people who have multiple kids and who love their kids equally, not one child more or less than the other children.

“There is a culture of conformity and there is no framework for [non-monogamy],” Litton says. “In fact, the framework supports just the opposite.”

Monogamy vs. Non-Monogamy

Her small fingers run slowly along the pointed hairs on her bald head in the dimly lit room. Her voice is a thin whisper recalling her past relationships. “Polyamory means loving everyone and everything spiritually, physically, and emotionally,” Sunshine Velasco, 33, says. The small voice suddenly erupts into long, rhythmic laughter upon her confession that some of the greatest sex she has ever had has been in poly relationships, even the relationships unfortunately gone bad because of dishonesty and lack of communication. She admits that the polyamorous relationships she was involved in were unhealthy because certain boundaries and rules were not set.

“Non-monogamy takes a lot of work, commitment, and emotional maturity, and it is often easier to conform, rather than face all your fears and deal with the criticism and misunderstandings from others who may not support or understand you,” Matik writes. “I’ll be the last one to advocate one type of relationship over another, monogamy versus non-monogamy. What I am most interested in is planting the seeds of autonomy. We have choices. We have options. Just because monogamy is the popular prescribed relationship model doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone.”

According to Manriquez, there is a real lack of role models for young people when it comes to healthy relationships if their only models come from popular culture.

“SF State has such a history in student mobilizing and activism,” Manriquez says. “With our privilege to access higher education, we all have to tap into this potential to be visionary. As students, we have a special opportunity to think critically and engage critically about how our relationships play into larger social structures.”

Reality Itself is Too Twisted

By the end of 1971, the Democratic presidential primaries were well underway. Governor George Wallace, and Senators Edmund Muskie, Hubert Humphrey, and George McGovern were the front-runners by 1972, and the latter would ultimately get the ticket. It was a contentious election, as the South Dakota senator would go up against incumbent President Richard Nixon in the fall. Ideologically, the race was bookended by McGovern on the Left, and Wallace on the Right, leaving the rest battling for the coveted Center.

Caucuses and press events overflowed with rhetoric concerning the Cold War and the military’s then-seven year involvement in Vietnam, claiming almost sixty-thousand U.S. military casualties and a high-end estimate of over one million civilian deaths. Rolling Stone journalist Hunter S. Thompson serialized the absurdity of the democratic processes and media frenzy in his coverage for the magazine in what would later be compiled into Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72.

Renowned for pioneering the controversial “Gonzo” journalism, Thompson often cast aside any or all regard for objectivity, instead inserting himself into the narrative, either literally in the first person or in aesthetic with fantastic (or surreal) imagery and biting, often vulgar quips. His stylistic, stream-of-consciousness brand of writing had a unique place following what would be known as New Journalism. Pioneers like Tom Wolfe and Gay Talese paved the way for this movement in the 1960s and 1970s, as journalists began to adopt the literary conventions of fiction writing. This reflected a unique assurance of the “truth,” as the subjectivized narrative structure reflected the order and perception of their surroundings via the writer’s own gaze.

The amplification of a subjective point of view helps ground the reader, allowing them to discern “truth” from the piece without the pretense of objectivity. Thompson, having come from the tradition of New Journalism, took it to a new extreme; rather than drawing a line between fiction and nonfiction, he skewed the line altogether. He epitomized the Gonzo anti-ethic in his 1971 book, Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas, in which he and his lawyer encounter a series of bizarre and inane happenings, either by virtue of the fact that the duo was perpetually hopped up on a medley of drugs and alcohol or by the very nature of Las Vegas and American consumer culture:

…Stand in front of this fantastic machine, my friend, and for just ninety-nine cents your likeness will appear, two hundred feet tall, on a screen above downtown Las Vegas. Ninety-nine cents more for a voice message. “Say whatever you want, fella. They’ll hear you, don’t worry about that. Remember you’ll be two hundred feet tall.”

Jesus Christ, I could hear myself lying in bed in the Mint hotel, half-asleep and staring idly out the window, when suddenly a vicious nazi drunkard appears two hundred feet tall in the midnight sky, screaming gibberish at the world: “Woodstock Über Alles!”

We will close the drapes tonight. A thing like that could send a drug person careening around the room like a ping-pong ball. Hallucinations are bad enough. But after a while you begin to cope with things like seeing your dead grandmother crawling up your leg with a knife in her teeth. Most acid fanciers can handle this sort of thing.

But nobody can handle that other trip—the possibility that any freak with $1.98 can walk into the Circus-Circus and suddenly appear in the sky over downtown Las Vegas twelve times the size of God, howling anything that comes into his head. No, this was not a good town for psychedelic drugs. Reality itself is too twisted.
— Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

“When people speak of fiction, they speak of fiction that carries great truth to it,” says KQED radio host Michael Krasny. “But even when you talk about truth in journalism, a different kind of truth, you’re obviously not talking about Thompson. Is it a subjective truth, a truth that rings true in subjectivity? People used to apply a standard [of absolute objectivity] to journalistic truth that was impossible.”

Krasny, also a literature professor at SF State, interviewed Thompson only once in his broadcasting career. Possibly intoxicated, Thompson arrived about fifteen minutes late to the studio with some glasses and champagne, along with several scratches and bruises on his face. While the flamboyant writer was much more subdued in person, he described his injuries as having resulted from swimming out on Ocean Beach to talk to the sea lions, Krasny recalls.

“I work in public broadcasting and we try to present as many sides of an issue as we can, so the listener can make up their mind,” Krasny continues. “Is the truth multiple? Maybe. There are often kinds of universal truths that we apply to great literature. I don’t known if you get those with Thompson. You often get what he sees at that particular time and the way he transmutes it, and it has to go through the funnel of his own consciousness and his own way of seeing.”

MuskieFebruary 1972 saw the publishing of the “Canuck Letter,” addressed to the editor of The Manchester Union Leader. A forged document, it held that Senator Muskie used pejorative language in reference to Americans of French-Canadian descent in his home state of Maine. Although having denounced the allegations made in the letter many times over, it received overwhelming media attention well into April, culminating in Senator Muskie’s “Crying Speech.” During the event he admonished the newspaper’s publisher, William Loeb, for running the letter in the first place. The highly emotional speech and snow melting on his face led some, like The Washington Post and The Boston Globe, to speculate that he was actually breaking down in tears.

The previous summer, Democratic Party figureheads were positive that Muskie was the “only Democrat with a chance of beating Nixon.” Thompson felt otherwise, and seized the opportunity to exploit the New England senator’s increasingly questionable emotional stability:

This was bullshit, of course. Sending Muskie against Nixon would have been like sending a three-toed sloth out to seize turf from a wolverine. Big Ed was an adequate Senator—or at least he seemed like one until he started trying to explain his “mistake” on the war in Vietnam—but it was stone madness from the start to ever think about exposing him to the bloodthirsty thugs that Nixon and John Mitchell would sic on him. They would have him screeching on his knees by sundown on Labor Day. If I were running a campaign against Muskie I would arrange for some anonymous creep to buy time on national TV and announce that twenty-two years ago he and Ed spent a summer working as male whores at a Peg House somewhere in the North Woods.

Nothing else would be necessary.
— Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72

Since his losing the presidential election in 1960 and the California Governor election in 1962, President Nixon blamed “the hostile working press” for his losses and usually barred reporters from the White House. After 1962, he seldom held press conferences, except for his indignant speech concerning the recently surfaced Watergate scandal in 1973, in which he lambasted the press for their vicious coverage.

In any case, it seemed as though Nixon was sure to win in 1972, especially after Muskie’s possible breakdown. Some political historian believe that reporters typically cast Democrats’ campaigns in a negative light, especially with McGovern and Muskie, because they did not want to be on the bad end of the Nixon Administration’s vindictive attitude towards journalists. They would run questionable stories like those concerning the “Canuck Letter,” but another falsified story, conjured by Thompson, brought Gonzo to the forefront of traditional news media.

In April 1972, Thompson wrote of Senator Muskie exhibiting signs of being high on Ibogaine. Ibogaine is a slow-onset African sex drug, extracted from the roots of Tibernanthe Iboga, a small plant indigenous to West Africa:

Not much has been written about The Ibogaine Effect as a serious factor in the Presidential Campaign, but toward the end of the Wisconsin primary race—about a week before the vote—word leaked out that some of Muskie’s top advisers had called in a Brazilian doctor who was said to be treating the candidate with “some kind of strange drug” that nobody in the press corps had ever heard of.

I immediately recognized The Ibogaine Effect… There he was—far gone in a bad Ibogaine frenzy—suddenly shoved out in a rainstorm to face a sullen crowd and some kind of snarling lunatic going for his legs while he tried to explain why he was “the only Democrat who can beat Nixon.”
— Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72

John Burks, former managing editor of Rolling Stone and journalism professor at SF State, recalls working with Thompson when he got his start at the publication, as well as Thompson’s “Ibogaine Effect” on Muskie’s campaign.

“About this time Hunter is beginning to acquire a big name for himself,” Burks says. “He’s kind of a new Vaudeville journalist or something, being really outlandish and everything. But the mainstream political reporters don’t know what to think about it. He’s writing everything about Muskie, and the idea of him using some sort of slow-fuse sex drug is completely flipped out.

“So political reporters are hearing all this Ibogaine stuff, and they don’t know whether to believe it, and they sort of don’t,” he continues. “But Thompson’s writing it and it’s getting attention, so they start asking Muskie about it in interviews and press conferences. Naturally, he denies it, but where there’s smoke there’s fire, and the press is running headlines like, ‘Despite reports that he uses Ibogaine, Muskie denies it.’ All this is happening and Thompson’s loving it, and that just blew [Muskie] out of the water.”

The combination of the “Canuck Letter,” public tears, and the obscure African root equivalent of Viagra mixed with amphetamines was central to the media frenzy shrouding Muskie’s campaign, even though said reports were completely unfounded. Thompson would later admit that his Ibogaine piece was a work of satire, and that he never expected it to take hold of the national media the way it did.

“The whole Muskie thing, I mean, it’s silly,” says Krasny. “Look at a guy like Representative John Boehner, and it seems like every five minutes there are tears flowing from his eyes. Thompson had a lot of targets, and Muskie was one of them. That whole story was warped in a lot of ways, and Thompson saw things in a pretty oblique and twisted vision. But that’s what New Journalism was [in a time when] you had journalists like Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein taking down a presidency.”

The Woodward/Bernstein and Hunter S. Thompson camps had in common the fact that they were both willing to do what needed to be done to get the story. Woodward and Bernstein not only took on the Nixon Administration with their reporting on Watergate, but their persistence also led them to uncover a conspiracy leading up through the Justice Department, the CIA and the FBI. Thompson embedded himself in the Hell’s Angels for an extended period of time in his coverage that would be Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, eventually ending in a savage assault on him by several bikers.

But the significant difference in their methodology was their regard for truth, which led both parties down completely different paths. Thompson’s path, the Gonzo path, was much to the dismay of many an editor at Rolling Stone, particularly an accomplished John Burks, who was then on leave from Newsweek.

When the SF State professor was working with Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner to gather up their first staff of writers, Burks brought in nearly half of them, including a younger Thompson.

“Thompson’s initial writing had to do with some local politics in Denver, some wild and crazy bullshit, but nothing memorable,” Burks recounts. “I had a feeling that Hunter was dashing them off, none of the really good Thompson stuff that I had read.”

But through their time together at Rolling Stone, Burks encountered more and more the Hell’s Angels writer’s penchant for the fantastic.

“He’d turn in an article and I’d ask, ‘If I phone this guy up and ask if he said this, what’s he going to say?’” Burks describes. “And Thompson would mumble, ‘All right, I’ll rewrite the fucking thing.’”

Thompson would later attempt, unsuccessfully, to get around the editor’s adherence to careful fact-checking. He would find out the very last minute that Rolling Stone would go to print and wait until about four hours before to try to turn in his piece. There would barely be enough time for the art department to lay the story and photos down, but no time for anybody to edit or question the story.

Eventually, Burks left the magazine, and there was no managing editor for a time. Thompson seldom had a problem publishing his journalistic fantasia with no one to keep him in check.

Towards the end of 1971, the Rolling Stone staff held a retreat at the Esalen Institute in California to discuss their possible coverage of the upcoming presidential
election. The magazine had been around since 1967, covering not just rock music, but “the things and attitudes the music embraces,” according to Wenner.

While political pieces were not uncommon for Rolling Stone (there had been articles concerning drug culture and civil rights), the staff had never embarked on any kind of extensive election coverage. Although the prospect was met with some hesitation, Thompson stepped up to the plate.

Because of the sheer magnitude of the election, spanning the entire country, and the need for constant travel to ensure full, adequate coverage, the publication managed to procure a very expensive, first-generation fax machine. The machine, also known as “the Mojo wire,” upped the ante for Thompson’s knack for turning his work in dangerously close to deadlines, and he took full advantage of it. Writers and editors would often organize his notes and transcriptions over the phone with Thompson, down to the last minute.

“He would wait to send in the most outrageous stuff, with only a few hours to go,” laments Burks. “It would be well-written, charming, and exciting shit. But shit, nonetheless. I know that this was New Journalism, and we would write in our own voice, and we won’t follow every convention, but we have got to tell the truth. People are relying on us as journalists, and there’s a need to hold on to those certain fundamental, ethical behaviors that anybody would expect of us. Hunter didn’t care about any of that.”

Then-writer and senior editor of Rolling Stone, Ben Fong-Torres, a colleague of both Thompson and Burks, saw mostly the other side of the controversial writer.

“I never saw him as an editor [like Burks], other people had that difficult task,” Fong-Torres says. “Most of us towed the line, but Thompson went over the line. We understood him as a different animal and gave him the room to move around.”

The escalation of U.S. militarism with Vietnam in a post-War, post-McCarthy era America spurred a widespread distrust of the “facts” presented by media and government officials. In the 1960s, subsequent counter-cultural movements licensed what literary theorist Linda Hutcheon called “a revolt against homogenized forms of experience.”

This set the stage for New Journalism, a confrontational style pitted against the social realities perpetuated by dominant structures. Thompson had a unique capability of channeling his distrust and disgust towards the prevailing narratives of the time through written word, even if it meant crafting a new reality in the process. Fong-Torres compares him to a cartoonist, able to see and draw in words the caricatures of people, and the absurdity of the “facts.” This could very well speak to his collaborations with artist Ralph Steadman, who accompanied his work with hyper-real, ink-splotch illustrations of the fear, loathing and paranoia he saw in the remnants of the “American Dream,” a theme permeating much of Thompson’s writing.

“Thompson would get closer to the truth than the truth itself,” says Fong-Torres. “What you see isn’t really what it appears to be, and he countered that deception by adding his own layers of perception and ‘truth’ in political coverage. Vietnam showed that traditional journalists could get no closer to the truth than Hunter with his lies.”

While Hunter S. Thompson and the Gonzo approach fall far from the ethical standards held dear by most communications purists, they do call to attention the way journalism mediates what reality is for the consuming public. Thompson’s unabashed personalization grants his work a large degree of self-reference and reflexivity, and paradoxically, it demands our participation in the action while laying claim to real people and events. His revolt against the falsity of objectivity highlights the very nature of truth as being a theory of relativity all its own. Is one real truth possible? Or are we being deceived? And is artifice the best path to the truth?

As the man himself oft said, “Jesus Creeping Shit!”

San Francisco Treats

photos by Gregory Moreno | staff photographer | set on Flickr

“In San Francisco we are surrounded by dense concrete and raging traffic. The park allows me to escape the city and rekindle with nature.”

A double-decker bus full of sightseers drives by Alamo Square, the tour guide barely audible from the sidewalks below. Tourists huddle together for warmth on the top portion of the bus, which is exposed to the elements on this typical overcast San Francisco afternoon. The park is full of casually dressed neighborhood folks—people walking their dogs, taking their children to play at the park and some just lazing around in the grass. The relationship between city residents and tourists can be summarized by this fleeting interaction—tourists come and go, while those who live here go about their day-to-day lives. Yet, it was not until recently that I realized what a compliment it is for vacationers to come to the place you call home.

When I was younger, my family and I would embark on a vacation every summer. Many years we stayed in California, our home state, and went camping or did the obligatory Disneyland pilgrimage. Other times we went the tropical route and flew to Oahu or Puerto Vallarta. The trips were always a great escape from my day-to-day life and signified the importance of a summer vacation—actually going somewhere and doing something outside of the norm.

These days, however, I live the life of a broke college student, stressed over school, work, rent, bills and the like. Needless to say, there is no summer vacation in my future. But just because I cannot afford to travel to a far off destination, does not mean I cannot enjoy the fabulous city that I live in, which just so happens to be ranked the number one tourist destination in the United States by Condé Nast Traveler.

Last year, San Francisco hosted nearly sixteen million visitors, from all over the world—that is almost twenty times the population of the city. Tourists come to see our famous landmarks, eat in world-class restaurants, and explore the diverse neighborhoods. As a city resident, I know how easy it can be to take all of this for granted. But after thinking of all the people who spend their hard-earned money for a vacation in the place I call home, I am once again reminded how lucky I am to consider myself—after six years of living here—a San Franciscan.

View San Francisco’s Treats in a larger map

Which brings me to the realization that just because there is not a tropical or scenic vacation scheduled in my near-future, does not mean there is not a vacation to be had in my own backyard. Normally, it is not hip to hang among the tourists, but I happen to think tourists are on to something. There is more beauty to the city than we usually confine ourselves to. For instance, there are only so many days I can sit at Dolores Park chomping on a burrito and drinking out of a paper bag before even I get bored with the scene. So, if you feel as I do, and are craving to explore a side of San Francisco so often relegated as merely tourists traps or are looking for an exciting adventure right underneath your nose, I encourage you to come along for the ride, for there is much to see and do.

The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the city’s most well-known landmarks, averaging an estimated nine million visitors each year. Completed in 1937, the bridge is an architectural marvel, with its streamlined design, distinct towers, and rusty red coloring, which was chosen partly because of its visibility in the fog.

For most city folk, driving over the bridge is a necessary form of commuting in and out of the city, the beauty of the architecture and views often overlooked as drivers concentrate on the road ahead. But, if you take the time to walk or cycle the nearly two mile long bridge, you can fully appreciate the enormity and grandness of standing atop the deck, bone-chilling Pacific waters rushing into the bay, two hundred and forty-five feet below—weather permitting. On days when thick fog, casting a grey wet haze, engulfs the bridge, it can be hard to see ten feet in front of you, much less the picturesque city skyline.
Pedestrians are allowed to walk on the east sidewalk, which is open to the public three hundred and sixty-five days a year, between the hours of five a.m. and six p.m. Cyclists can use both the east and west sidewalks twenty-four hours a day, though the hours vary for each direction.

While near the Golden Gate, be sure to check Fort Point, located along the pier under the southern side of the bridge. Originally built just before the American Civil War, the brick fortification was used to protect the San Francisco harbor during conflict. Currently open Friday through Sunday from ten a.m. to five p.m., Fort Point offers sweeping views of the Golden Gate Bridge in a uniquely historic setting.
You can learn all about Civil War soldiers’ lives, cannons, and architecture through a free staff guided tour offered daily. Staff members also lead a cannon loading demonstration, where you can learn about the Napoleon twelve-pounder field cannon, a massive bronze piece of artillery.

If going rogue is more your style, historical booklets are available to aid those who prefer to take a self-guided tour. The rounded arches, windowless brick stairwells, and endless corridors, paired with historical artifacts, create a time-warping effect—the perfect place to escape modern life. Be sure to come prepared for the elements by bringing a jacket, it tends to be cooler so close to the water.
Another bayside attraction, so often regarded as a tourist trap, is Fisherman’s Wharf, and to an extent, it is. Yes, I will admit the kitsch factor is a bit unbearable, but the historical significance is worth appreciating. The neighborhood’s name dates back to the Gold Rush era, though these days it is better known for being home to Ghirardelli Square, The Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf, and the Musée Mécanique.

[pullquote author=”Data from Conde Nast Traveler”]Last year, San Francisco hosted nearly sixteen million visitors, from all over the world—that is almost twenty times the population of the city. [/pullquote]

While it is not often I find myself on the wharf, it is always a festive experience. The sidewalks are usually crowded to the point of claustrophobia, as street-side merchants vie for potential customers’ attention. The scents of sidewalk seafood and salt water combine to create an unforgettable aroma. Seagulls fly above as the smelly sea lions bark in the distance. For me, being at the piers is a most foreign experience when compared to my everyday life in the city, a welcoming escape; however, the hectic atmosphere is not for everyone. “I just can’t stand all the people,” Bay Area resident David Velasco, 26, says, “I like going to Aquatic Park more.”

One of the first things I usually do when I reach the wharf is fill up on seafood. The Fisherman’s Wharf Chowder and Crab Sidewalk Stands have provided fresh street food at reasonable prices, since long before street fare was chic. Offering fresh steamed crab, crispy calamari, and, of course, bread bowls full of piping hot clam chowder, the stands have become almost as iconic as the neighborhood itself. I enjoy grabbing my food and taking a seat along the water’s edge to watch the sailboats float by—but be warned, the seagulls can be sometimes be aggressive about food.
After a satisfying meal, I head over to the Mechanical Museum of San Francisco, known also as the Musée Mécanique, located at Pier 45. The building buzzes with music and dings, laughter and conversation. Music and noise from arcade games, and the adults and children alike enjoying them, reverberate in the big warehouse, creating a cheerful vibe. The museum is one of the world’s largest privately owned collections of mechanically operated antique arcade machines and musical instruments.

“It is a great place to visit, have a little fun, and forget about worries for the moment,” SF resident John Foley, 24, says.
Admission is free, but make sure to dig out the change in your couch so you can play a few games, like Skee-Ball, or to watch an old nickelodeon. The museum is open everyday between ten a.m. and seven p.m.

As you gaze out over the bay, through the floor to ceiling windows in the Musée Mécanique, it is hard to miss the famed Alcatraz Island over to the west.

Like other coastal vantage points, Alcatraz once served as a military fortification and later as a federal prison, which housed famous criminals like Al Capone. The Rock, as it is commonly called, though I never hear any locals refer to it as such, or at all for that matter, later gained notoriety because of the infamous escape attempts. The island was also the location of political strife. In November 1969, a group of American Indians occupied the island and demanded reparations for the treaties broken by the United States government. The occupation lasted nineteen months and fires damaged many buildings.

Today, Alcatraz Cruises offers tours of the island that shed light on this rich history. The tours start at Pier 33 and last about two and half hours on average. The daily tour is twenty-six dollars per person and includes visit to the island’s garden, an audio presentation, and a chance to experience the famed Alcatraz from the inside. For the daring, there is also a night tour offered every Thursday to Monday for thirty-three dollars per person. Since the tour starts at sunset, it is best to go when the sky is clear, to fully appreciate the speckled city skyline, gleaming and glittering in the sunlight.

For those who have never been on a boat in the bay, these tours are a fantastic way to experience viewing the city from a different perspective—a postcard perspective. Floating on the waters, I was struck by the familiar sights from an unfamiliar point of view. The Golden Gate lit up to the west, the Bay Bridge cutting through Treasure Island to the east, the lights from the skyline twinkling, and the piers, all lit up, jutting out into the dark waters.

San Francisco’s harbor is of one of the reasons why this city is famous, but there is lots to see away from the water. At just over one thousand acres, Golden Gate Park spans more than fifty city blocks and attracts millions of tourists yearly. Since its conception in the 1870s, the park has been a refuge for city dwellers, offering museums, lakes, meadows, gardens, and more.
“I’ve always seen the park as an oasis in the city,” SF State graduate John Roston, 25, says. “In San Francisco we are surrounded by dense concrete and raging traffic. The park allows me to escape the city and rekindle with nature.”

Having lived off Fulton Street and Lincoln Way, the park’s north and south borders, I have spent many days exploring Golden Gate Park, and am regularly surprised by new discoveries. The sweet smell of eucalyptus and fresh cut grass reminds me of my life before the city. Whether the misty fog creeps through the trees and into the valleys, or sunshine illuminates the lush green foliage, there is never a bad time to take a stroll through the park.

“I love to take runs through Golden Gate Park,” SF State student Brinna Benesi, 24, says.

Heading into Golden Gate Park from the east at Stanyan Street, I always make sure to walk by the Conservatory of Flowers, the oldest remaining municipal wooden conservatory in the United States, according to the park’s official website, golden-gate-park.com. The stark white Victorian greenhouse has a magnificent dome and is surrounded by pristine, manicured gardens. The lawns are great for lounging in the rare sunny summer days, and a drum circle often plays on a nearby bench.

Inside the conservatory, is a wonderland of plants—exotic flowers, ferns, trees, and the like, from all over the world, create a pleasing experience, both aesthetic and aromatic. The doors are open every Tuesday through Sunday between nine a.m. and five p.m. Admission is five dollars for adults, three dollars for students, and free the first Tuesday of every month.
Another of my favorite park getaways is the Golden Gate Park Disc Golf Course, located off John F. Kennedy Drive, right next to Marx Meadow. Created by the San Francisco Disc Golf Club, the eighteen-hole course is densely wooded, which makes for a fun, albeit challenging, game. The course is free of admission, making it a popular spot for people surviving on limited means, such as myself. Another bonus about being in a park, I can bring my dog along for the fun.

While some of the ways to explore this city can be costly, most of the best attractions in this city are free and at everyone’s disposal. So whether you are looking for a whole summer of vacation-like activities, or just an afternoon outside of your normal routine, there are many new experiences waiting. And if being misidentified as a tourist is holding you back, not to worry, seeing as there are more of them anyway.

Jodie Foster presents The Beaver

photos | staff photographer | set on Flickr
authored by Grace Dulce & Meghan Dubitsky

On A drizzly Wednesday afternoon inside the swanky Ritz Carlton in downtown San Franciso, two-time Academy Award winner Jodie Foster walks in the room barefoot with her black Manolo Blahnik pumps dangling from her hand. Dressed in all black, the blue-eyed star commands the room as she drops her shoes and takes her seat front and center.
“Hi guys,” she says with the same bright smile you see on the silver screen.
Alicia Christian “Jodie” Foster began acting in television commercials at the early age of three. Aside from receiving numerous accolades, including two Golden Globes, a SAG and a People’s Choice Award, Foster is also a graduate of Yale University where she received a bachelor’s degree in literature.

Now forty-eight, this Hollywood veteran is directing her third movie, The Beaver, released May 6. Acting alongside Hollywood heavyweight Mel Gibson, Foster plays Meredith Black, wife of mentally unstable Walter Black (Gibson) who tries to cure his depression with the help of a beaver puppet. While the film has a quirky tone, the film focuses on depression and the struggles it creates for families.

“The understanding of depression in this film is a broad spectrum,” Foster says. “Clinical and chemical depression, [and to know] that talk therapy is not gonna work. You need medication, you need to be incarcerated, and you need help because you can’t do it alone. That is at the furthest end of the spectrum and at the other end is life. Which is sad and it gets heavy and it’s a roller coaster.”

Throughout the filming process Foster discussed character motivations with the actors, while allowing instincts guide them.
“It’s really up to them to deliver emotionally and to make those choices,” she says. “Those moments just happen and you just hope the camera is in the right place. There’s a lot of planning to support what hasn’t happened yet.”
Foster admits that the final scene was the hardest to shoot which also happens to her favorite.
The emotional ending features a conversation between Walter and his oldest son Porter (Anton Yelchin), the filming of which involved a lot of rewrites and discussions between Foster and the actors. Ultimately, it was decided the scene only really needed three lines of dialogue because the actors’ performances were so emotional.

“It was so hard to get there,” she says. “[That scene] has the two most powerful lines in the movie, but what we realized is, honestly I could have that scene have no dialogue whatsoever and it would still be my favorite scene.”

With two upcoming film projects and a track record, as successful as Foster’s, having a college degree is still important for the star. Foster, who graduated magna cum laude understands the economic hardships many college students are facing today.
“My nieces and nephews are going through the same thing where they’ve been in school forever and they get out there and there’s no jobs,” she says with concern. “I remembered when I graduated I slept a lot, and that lasted about six months.”

She advises the upcoming graduates to take their time to think about what it is they really want to do with your future. “You have to realize— you don’t have a family, you don’t have to support anyone or pay taxes. Use that time to not worry so much because eventually you’re gonna be stuck,” she says, laughing. “I’m really glad that I had the time to just sit there, and watch old movies.”

The Brazilian Wax- A Painful and Popular Trend

Andrea Low, 22, a student at SF State, walks up the stairs of an old Victorian building to a small room offering $25 Brazilian waxes. Below the room is an old and dingy tattoo parlor. The first thing she sees is a small bed located in the corner of the room and a tray containing the necessary beauty supplies such as warm wax, baby powder and paper strips. The room is hot and stuffy and she immediately wonders if she should turn around and run. She knows people who have come here before and survived the wax, besides how could one pass up a Brazilian for $25, Andrea thought.

The woman’s business card said she was a professional in psychobabble and waxing. “She calls herself a professional in psychobabble because she can really talk your ear off to distract you from what she is doing,” Low says. “I could tell you a couple horror stories about Brazilian waxing but this woman tops them all. She brought her greasy lunch in the room and mid-wax, I joke you not, she takes a bite of her hamburger, and then continues waxing. She wasn’t even wearing gloves! She was nice and all but it’s safe to say I never went back.”

The Brazilian wax is a procedure that involves the removal of hair from around the pubic region. You have the choice to remove all of it or leave a little hair. Depending on where you go, an esthetician might ask a client if they would like to leave strip of hair down the middle, or have a triangular shape with the pubic hair. Sometimes a heart shaped design can be made, which is popular around Valentines Day. Brazilian waxing is mainly affiliated with females but men do it as well.

[pullquote author=”Andrea Low, Student”]“Mid-wax, I joke you not, she takes a bite of her hamburger, and then continues waxing. She wasn’t even wearing gloves!”[/pullquote]

Hair removal gained popularity with American women in the early 1900s when sleeveless dresses, higher hemlines and sheerer fabrics became the fashionable trend. Revealing swimwear that originated in the 1940s resulted in the removal of pubic hair. Hair removal is an ancient tradition and although historians are not sure where it originated, they do know it developed in other countries, centuries ago. Women would remove body hair for both hygienic and religious reasons. Ancient Greeks and Romans would use pumice stones to remove body hair and women in ancient Egypt would use beeswax and depilatories, made from alkali, to remove leg hair.

This kind of waxing originated in Brazil when the popular thong bikini, many Brazilian women wore, became the newest fashion trend. The Brazilian wax gained popularity in the United States through pornography, celebrities, and TV shows such as Sex and the City. The Brazilian wax graced us with its presence in the 1980s in magazines such as Playboy and eventually became a trend among women and men in the United States in the 1990’s. Some people, such as feminists, argue that this kind of media coverage is a form of social capitalism that does not discuss the repercussions of a Brazilian wax. These repercussions include the social control of a women’s body and the childlike appearance the Brazilian wax creates. “A lot of people I know just get their bikini line waxed instead of getting it all waxed off,” Low says. “With the way swimsuits are made for women these days I think you really need to shave or wax down there.”

“It’s a trend that isn’t going anywhere,” Sarah Redmond, founder of Cocoon Urban Day Spa says. Redmond has been in the industry for ten years. She started her career in Ireland then worked in Paris before opening her own salon in San Francisco. There are many reasons people like to get Brazilian waxes. “It makes people feel cleaner and sometimes their partners prefer it,” Redmond says. “People like being hairless down there because it is more appealing and to some more hygienic.”

Walking up the stairs into Cocoon Urban Day Spa, located downtown at 330 First Street, one is welcomed with a relaxing atmosphere. Soft music, comfortable chairs, a glass of champagne and warm smiles greet guests as they walk through the door. In another room, a yoga teacher soothingly instructs her class through different yoga positions. Guests are taken down a warmly lit hallway decorated with pretty paintings and photos into a personal room. To the right of the small room is a small bed topped with wet wipes, numbing spray and a towel. A guest is instructed to use the products then remove all articles of clothing below the waist and lay on the bed with the towel draped over their lap. You’re a little nervous and not exactly sure what to expect next.

Waxing is said to be better than shaving because there are fewer ingrown hairs afterward. Shaving actually promotes hair growth; so the more you shave the more it grows back. Waxing reduces hair growth because it removes the entire hair follicle, which will make the hair grow back thinner and slower. If you continue waxing over a period of time the hair will take longer to grow out and will not grow back as thick.

“Once you see one vagina, you see them all,” Redmond says. “We take our job seriously. We have a goal, see the hair and remove the hair.” As for pain, there’s no way to escape that, it is going to hurt a little. Hairs are being yanked from your body. The numbing spray is supposed to help with the pain, and the complimentary glass of champagne helps to calm the nerves. “It’s a sensitive area so it’s going to hurt a bit, but it only takes about fifteen minutes,” Redmond says. “Also, the first time you get waxed usually hurts the most because the hair follicle is being yanked out for the first time.”

Almost five hundred businesses located in San Francisco pop up on Yelp.com when ‘hair removal’ is typed in the search engine. Many of these salons offer Brazilian waxes and other hair removal services such as leg and underarm. Cocoon offers leg, arm and chest hair removal for men but not Brazilian waxes. There are other salons located around San Francisco, such as the John Francis Spa located in the Castro district, which provides all types of waxing treatments for men and women.

Many wonder if Brazilian waxing is safe. Some women are scared to have a Brazilian because they are afraid it will be painful. Others do not want someone other than their doctor down in that region to perform a procedure. Always call the salon beforehand and ask questions. Make sure the salon has a state cosmetology license and check to see if they reuse the wax on their clients. It is not a good sign if a salon does reuse the wax. Most salons charge between $40 and $100 in San Francisco for a Brazilian wax. Never settle for a cheap wax, such as the $25 Andrea settled for, unless you ask these questions. Sometimes it’s better to pay a little more for a better-trained staff.

To prepare for a wax, some salons, including Cocoon Urban Day Spa, recommend trimming hair to a quarter inch before a Brazilian because it will make the experience more comfortable and the hair will be easier to remove. You can use clippers or scissors. If you generally shave down there, wait two to three weeks to wax for hair to grow back. Also, give yourself about a month in between waxes. Most likely the waxed will not be beautiful-looking at first. The area will look red and puffy. “I tell clients it kind of looks like a plucked turkey,” Redmond says. “It will definitely look a lot better 24 hours after the procedure.” Make sure to plan in advance so that you do not schedule an appointment on the same day you have special plans.

“I’ve had only a couple bad experiences with waxing, but for the most part they have been really good,” Low says. “I go about once a month, so I’ve had quite a few.”

“Once you try a Brazilian wax, it’s almost impossible to go back to shaving,” Redmond says.

Exploring the Science of Skateboarding

Through the entrance, past a myriad of experiments and underneath a skylight appearing to be a hole in the ceiling sits, a crowd of children and their parents packed together on small bleachers. They are here to watch the experienced skateboarders fly around the volunteer-built obstacles.

A section of floor is separated by barriers, like those police use to block streets when there is a parade. Inside that thirty-by-one hundred foot space a number of ramps are set up to allow the skaters to gain speed and provide the crowd with marvels of physics. To announce their maneuvers and the forces acting upon them are Paul Doherty and Steve Gennrich.

Inside the space two wooden quarter-pipes built by middle school students sit facing each other with various objects to skate in between. There are three small ramps, a skate box, a wet-floor sign to jump over, and barriers pushed together and anchored to one of the ramps.

[pullquote author=”Paul Doherty”]“Skateboarders are like astronauts! Our job is to inspire students to learn science, and if we do it through their passionate interest in skateboarding, that is great!” said Doherty.”[/pullquote]

Doherty is the Exploratorium’s Senior Scientist and an SF State adjunct professor. He wears his blond hair pulled back in a ponytail and glasses perched upon his nose. Steve Gennrich is a project manager and exhibit developer for the Exploratorium. Doherty describes Gennrich as an “avid skateboarder.”

“Skateboarders are like astronauts!” proclaims Doherty. He also relates some of their actions to that of cats. “Much like a cat, the skateboarder uses his upper body to direct the lower part.” Doherty explains to the audience how skateboarders are able to pull off tricks that look impossible.

Some of the Exploratorium’s staff feels a kinship with the skaters. “There are artists, builders, engineers, and scientists that work here. We go through the same process as skateboarders. We have to be creative and open-minded. We have to look at a bench and see it in a way that’s never been done before,” said Gennrich. “Skateboarders do the same thing, they think ‘how can I use this in a way that it hasn’t ever been used before.’”

Behind the bleachers and next to the snack bar, part of the exhibit includes a cluster of displays set up to educate visitors on the various aspects of skateboarding. One includes an experiment to test the impact of your jump. You stand on the platform and jump, once you land your impact is measured and displayed on an LED screen. Another shows how the hardness of the wheel is related to the friction with ground.

The Exploratorium held a similar exhibit twelve years ago. At that time they created a website explaining the science of skating and a demo area. On June 12, 1999 the Exploratorium hosted the first event of this kind called The Science of Skateboarding.

They streamed the demonstration live from their website. The ground-breaking event featured skaters Dustin Dollin, Matt Fields, Wade Speyer, Mikey Reyes and others.

“After the event and website I received many emails from parents thanking me for inspiring their children to do a science fair exploration of some aspect of the physics of their skateboards,” exclaims Doherty. “The parents indicated that their children were asking the science teachers at school to explain the science of skateboards. Luckily I work with teachers and when they ask me I provide them the answers for their students.”

This year on April 8th through the 10th various skate shops provided riders for the demonstrations. On Friday night the DLX team skated the obstacles, including many built by the FUELTV show, Built to Shred.

Built to Shred created a teeter-totter skate box and a pendulum manual pad. Their creations were for an episode of the first night with DLX riders from Real, Anti Hero, and Spitfire. The professional skaters included Dennis Busenitz, Peter Ramondetta, Elissa Steamer, Frank Gerwer, and more.

After the first night the Built to Shred obstacles were gone and ramps remained for the FTC and Mission skate shop riders to demonstrate their skills. The rest of the skate-able items were built by youth volunteers contacted through Mission Skateboards and the Exploratorium staff. “We build all our own stuff,” said Gennrich. The Exploratorium’s exhibit builders pre-cut the wood and had the dimensions already figured out. The adults held the pieces together while the volunteers operated the power drills and hammers.

“Our job is to inspire students to learn science, and if we do it through their passionate interest in skateboarding, that is great!” said Doherty.
This year they decided to bring the web page up-to-date and provide a history of the progression of style in the sport, including a break-down of the science behind the maneuvers. There are also some photographs and videos on the website.

“It was a huge amount of work by many people. Steve Gennrich ran the project and got little sleep for days coordinating everything, Built to Shred and Mission Skate came into the exploratorium and built the skate park for us,” says Doherty.

In the 2013 the Exploratorium will be relocating to piers 15 and 17. “Right now we are easier to get to from Marin than we are from San Francisco,” said Gennrich. “We will be moving to a place that is skateboard heavy. But, an environment where the architects have done everything they can to prevent skating in the area.”

The new location will be nine acres and offer space for exhibits inside and out. “Right now we are grappling with the idea of what the skateboarding exhibit is going to be. Is it a public program? Will it be permanent? We know it will be exhibits to help everyone learn more,” said Gennrich.

“The Exploratorium unleashed a bold revolution when it opened in 1969, leaving both classrooms and the museum field changed forever. It was the first place that visitors could play with science and art, to see, hear, smell and feel the world around them. It inspired similar institutions around the globe and became — as it has been acknowledged by its peers — the leader in the science center movement globally and the best science museum in the world,“ said Dr. Dennis Bartels, Executive Director of the Exploratorium in their press release about the groundbreaking for the move. It is also stated that two of the acres will be public open space.
The new building will feature a way to capture rain runoff for use in the septic system of the new location and solar panels on the roof will cover 100% of the expected power use.
Next time you see a skateboarder fly down a hill or bust a tre-flip, remember the physics behind it requires them to posses the skills of cats and astronauts as well as an open mind. Instead of being angry that they are board sliding a ledge by your house, enjoy their ability to look at boring architecture and create a combination of art and science that is all their own.

Life on Octavia Boulevard

It is the spring semester of 2010 at SF State. As the clock ticks ten minutes past 2 p.m. all the journalism students that are on time grab a seat in the computer lab room on the third floor of the Humanities building, waiting for Professor Yvonne Daley to come in and start the reporting class. At the far end of the classroom, some students are busy on the computers, typing last minute edits on their articles, others wait patiently, ready for the professor. Daley always enters with a stack of papers and a smile. Her colorful ensembles give a hint of her waggish personality and amusing way of telling stories. She never forgets to advise her class, week after week, that to report is to carefully observe everything that is going on in the neighborhood. Talking to the homeless man that walks down the street every day is just as informative as interviewing a city supervisor. She often uses the book she is working on as an example of how reaching out to her surroundings has sparked stories and conversations with characters she has come to know. She is calling her book Octavia Boulevard, after the street of the same name in San Francisco.

A year later, Octavia Boulevard sits on the shelves at Dog Eared Books on Valencia Street. The memoir is a composition of characters living in and around her home on the boulevard. As she tells their stories, she scratches the surface on some of San Francisco’s largest issues, such as homelessness. Daley explores how a city so vibrant can hold a dark side as well. As a professor, she has mentored many aspiring journalists with her witty remarks and influential personality. As a writer, it is compelling what about Octavia Boulevard influenced Daley to write a book.

I enter her office located on the third floor of the Humanities building. This time not as a student checking my progress or a grade, but as a journalist writing a brief on her new book. She welcomes me with a smile, as always, and recommends to place a pillow before I sink into her colorful couch. I take my recorder out, along with my notebook and pen, making sure to remember all the advice she gave me when I would sit in front of her reporting class. “My forehead is burnt,” Daley mentions and smiles, as she pats it down with the palm of her hand. The weather had been sunny for those couple of days and Daley made sure to enjoy every bit of it in the city.

“When I first started writing Octavia Boulevard, it was in two different kinds of writing. One was emails back home to my husband, who lives in Vermont,” Daley pauses. “And the other one was more journalistic or narrative about the neighborhood and the various things I was observing.” After sharing some of the material she was writing to the women in her writing group, they convinced her to become part of the story, mixing her observations with the journalistic aspect of what she had written. For journalists, the first rule is to be objective (whatever that is) and to not include personal responses. But in this case, Daley realized a need to include her thoughts on persons shooting up outside her building and the disparity between so much money in a city where the very wealthy live among the very poor, and the middle class seems to be disappearing. “Once I started doing that, I could really see that that was the way to tell this story,” says Daley.

[pullquote author=”Yvonne Daley, Author”]”You know, as a journalist, you have this much room, to tell this story, for this format, and there is all this stuff that you can’t tell, along with your own response to the story.”[/pullquote]

Becoming the narrator also served as a way to address other issues Daley felt important, such as the successes and failures of the counterculture; her generation. “I feel that we blew up,” she slightly giggles. “…our parents notions of propriety and asked for a lot of freedoms and got them, but two things happened. One is that a lot of people gave up the battle and the second is this thing called unintended consequences,” she slightly giggles again. “Such as when you close down institutions with four people with mental illness or drug addiction and you do not create some system to take the place of that institution, you end up with people on the streets who can’t take care of themselves.”

Octavia Boulevard does not only serve as the setting of the book. Daley believes this boulevard is also a nest for both the prominences and failures of San Francisco. It houses the social issues of poverty, social economic status, class and privilege and sets them on the streets for everyone to see, while only a few observe the harsh living consequences. “The boulevard itself came to me to be a symbol of how creative San Francisco is [and] how progressive it is that it did not rebuild an ugly freeway through the city, that it tried to create something beautiful, but that didn’t solve its problems,” she says. As she moves her white straight hair aside, she lists the current issues heavily seen on the boulevard. “The freeway isn’t functional for cars, there’s still homeless sleeping on the corner, and a lot of people lost their housing because it became more expensive to live there once it was fixed up. You know, so what’ve you solved?”

From Vermont and living in San Francisco for a number of years, Daley finds herself in love with the city, but at the same time, is repelled by it. “I adore Vermont and I adore San Francisco, but neither one is ideal for me.” While the lifestyle in Vermont can be rather boring compared to all the side-splitting of San Francisco, Daley stands very critical when it comes to observing the people, such as families, artists, musicians and students, who have been forced to move out of the city, due to gentrification or the high priced living. “Year after year I see people graduate, and they love the city, but they can’t get a job,and they leave. You’re only going to live two to three people in a room for so long,” she says, giving me a gleaming stare, then laughs. “On the other hand, I go to the opera, I go to the ballet,” she says as her eyes widen. “How many cities the size of San Francisco still support other museums in the city? I don’t have that opportunity in Vermont, that’s for sure.”

In class, I remember Daley talking about how journalism was pretty much invented for her. Her natural instinct of being nosy, observing and remembering every detail of a place, then descriptively writing everything she saw has made her work an example of what journalism can be when it is less bombarded with information and facts, and more about painting a scene. Writing a story where the reader can visualize the place, smell the surroundings, feel what the character is feeling, can serve as a descriptive bridge to the larger issue being reported. For Octavia Boulevard, Daley structured the reporting and research as a support for the narrative story of the characters, each picked for a specific reason. “You know, as a journalist, you have this much room, to tell this story, for this format,” she explains. “And there is all this stuff that you can’t tell, along with your own response to the story. Well, these were people who I fell in love with and I worried about when I was in Vermont.” Daley admits writing the book the way she did met her frustration she has always felt as a journalist, by stepping away from framing the story and actually telling a story of people who represent a larger group of San Francisco residents. “Mae West is a vestige of the past San Francisco,” says Daley. “She [with the African American Hebrew Cultural Center] are those blacks that had a strong identity here and have very little of it left.” Daley also uses her landlord as a representation of the many other landlords who hold the lives of many people and take it rather lightly.

It’s a Wednesday evening as I make my way into the Poetry Center where Daley will host her book signing at SF State. In a casual pace, students, friends, older friends and colleagues find a chair and wait for the writer. She enters with the one and only, Daniel Daley, her adorable white dog, making her way to the long table in the front of the room. As she welcomes everyone and talks a little about her book, Daley picks up her copy of Octavia Boulevard and recites a chapter, reading out loud the stories of the people of San Francisco.