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The Aftermath

Dolores Piper (left), great aunt of Derrick Gaines, and Gaines’ half-brother Michael Red (right), 7, pose for a portrait in their home in South San Francisco. Gaines, 15, was fatally shot by South San Francisco Police Officer Joshua Cabillo on the night of June 5, 2012. Photographs by Joel Angel Juárez

HOW FAMILIES COPE AFTER POLICE KILL THIER LOVED ONES

By Jennah Feeley

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n May 2012, two weeks before his high school graduation, Alan Dwayne Blueford, 18, ate one last piece of candy and left his house to meet up with some friends. In the hours that followed he was shot and killed by an Oakland police officer.

Two months later, 15-year-old Derrick Gaines walked with a friend in his hometown of South San Francisco when police approached him. The confrontation turned into a foot-chase that ended with Gaines dead in an ARCO gas station lot, having been shot in the neck by an officer.

In February 2014, San Jose State University police gunned down Antonio Lopez Guzman just beyond the campus borders. Footage from the lapel and dashboard cameras have yet to be released to the public — and details of the confrontation are ambiguous.

Disparities among police records, accounts from family members and media coverage persist in each incident. While the facts in many cases remain uncertain, the concern with police brutality in the Bay Area and beyond is clear. A fatal shot by Oakland police on Nov. 15 marked the 1,000th death at the hands of law enforcement in the U.S. this year alone, as reported by The Counted, a database maintained by The Guardian.

Some cases grabbed the nation’s attention, enraging the public on both sides of the law-and-order conflict, and spread like a shotgun blast across social media platforms. All at once, friends and family of the deceased were swept up in a whirlwind of interviews, police investigations and community uproar. But when the limelight dimmed, those families were left in darkness to deal with the aftermath. Despite the trauma of losing a son, a partner, a father or a friend, people have had to somehow pick up the pieces and find a way to continue their lives. And that’s what Alan Blueford’s mother, Jeralynn Blueford, finds so difficult – that nobody thinks about what happens to families after the police kill their loved ones.

RELIVING THE NIGHTMARE

Blueford thinks about the night she lost her son everyday. She remembers granting him permission to go out with his friends — a moment she can’t take back — and the phone call she received the next day telling her he was gone forever. She recalls a feeling of disbelief, of puzzlement. She thought, “they were wrong, this can’t be. Not my Alan.” She relives the sinking feeling that took over as her husband’s fist repeatedly pounded the counter and she saw the candy wrapper their son had left behind the last time she saw him.

Along with her husband, Adam, Blueford went to the police station for answers, but ended up leaving with more questions: What happened that night? Why had the police killed their child? What could Alan have done to deserve losing his life?

  • Jeralynn Blueford, mother of Alan Blueford, has dedicated herself to a life of activism after police killed her son in May 2012. Click the buttons to hear audio from Jeralynn Blueford.

In the months that followed, Blueford lost herself in grief. While dealing with a lawsuit over the murder of her son, defending his honor in the face of demonizing media accounts and trying to maintain a strong front for Alan’s two siblings, she didn’t think she could carry on. Anger consumed her and the sadness was paralyzing. She stopped working. She felt like she couldn’t move, sometimes like she couldn’t breathe. She said the sensation was worse than having the wind knocked out of you. “It’s like you gasp for air and there’s no air there.” She was on the brink of suicide when she came to the realization that she needed to pick herself back up for her family.

“I was like, ‘damn, it’s unfair for me to end it for me. I have other people, what about Aaron, what about Ashley, what about the grandkids,’” Blueford said. “They deserve to make memories with me. They deserve to share and know who I am. How will they learn about Alan if I’m not around to tell them?”

DEVASTATING AFTERMATH

Like Blueford, Dolores Piper had to learn how to push herself through the intense moments of sadness. Several years have passed since Piper lost her nephew, Derrick Gaines, but his death is still the first thing she thinks of when she wakes up sleepless at night. Having adopted him as a child, Gaines was a son to her, and his sudden death was devastating.

Piper was on her way home from a business trip in Sacramento the evening Gaines died, and didn’t find out he had been shot until her niece woke her with the news later that night. In the hours that followed, police officers arrived at her door to search the house. She recalls frantically trying to call people, but her mind was in such a fog she couldn’t dial the numbers correctly. The events of that night are still hard for Piper to fully remember.

“There was no describing it, where that night went,” Piper said.

Although the funeral brought forth an outpouring, support from the community wavered for Piper and her family in the weeks that followed. The media coverage, she felt, assassinated Gaines’ character almost immediately. Stories stated he had allegedly pulled a gun on an officer, and Piper couldn’t help but wonder, “who looks at ‘allegedly?’” She got the feeling that members of her community in South San Francisco thought Gaines deserved what had happened to him. She chose not to read the comments people made about the incident online.

Piper has instead held fast to the positive memories she has of her son. She remembers him as a chipper kid who could talk his way out of anything. She thinks back to the trips they took to Chicago, Seattle and Vancouver and how he indulged in hotel room-service. She read to Gaines every night, right into his 15th year — “I still have the book beside my bed that we were halfway through.” She’s held onto his books, his shoes, his clothes — all little mementos she keeps to remember him by.

Memories of Gaines linger everywhere in her life. She often drives past the ARCO station where he died and can’t help but think back to that horrible night. Before he was killed, Piper had never considered law enforcement a threat to her son. She doesn’t think Gaines ever believed cops were dangerous himself, either, and must have been shocked when met face-to-face with the officer’s gun that night.

“I think about how he must have felt at that very second, and how that must have been horrible,” Piper said. “If I dwell on those moments, I just get sick.”

These days, Piper still feels like she has to be on the defensive when she talks about Gaines. After reviewing the police report and talking to witnesses, she came to her own conclusion about what happened that night. She quit saying he was shot by police; now she says he was murdered by them. Speaking out about it and her involvement in activism against police brutality has become a means of healing.

POST-TRAUMA ACTIVISM

[pullquote align=”right”]”I feel so bad every time I have to tell my son — I have to re-traumatize him — ‘your dad is dead.’ I feel evil. I feel like a bad parent because I have to remind him every single time he asks.” – Laurie Valdez[/pullquote]

In the face of a similar situation, a turn to activism was obvious to Laurie Valdez. Her partner, Antonio Lopez Guzman, was shot down by university police just off campus at San Jose State. She couldn’t wrap her head around the incident and said it was unfathomable that Guzman would have done something to warrant that kind of reaction from police.

She didn’t think the cops had acted lawfully and realizing their 4-year-old son, Josiah, was going to have to live the rest of his life without a father, she knew she had to take action. Losing her partner was hard, but having to explain the situation to Josiah and his 12-year-old half-sister, Angelique, was agonizing. Angelique continues to try and be strong about the loss of her “papi,” who raised her since age 3, but Josiah still struggles to comprehend what happened. Almost two years later, Josiah still yo-yos between conceptualizing his father’s death and thinking he left to go back to Mexico. His pain is something Valdez “can’t put a Band-Aid on,” and it continuously breaks her heart.

“I feel so bad every time I have to tell my son — I have to re-traumatize him — ‘your dad is dead,’” Valdez said. “I feel evil. I feel like a bad parent because I have to remind him every single time he asks.”

  • Laurie Valdez poses with her daughter Angelique and son Josiah in their home. Since her husband was killed by police, she has been left to raise her children without him. Click the buttons to hear audio from Laurie Valdez.

As far as Valdez is concerned, there is no way of providing justice for Guzman, because he is already gone, but her little boy deserves someone to stand up for him. Valdez created the campaign, Justice 4 Josiah, to raise awareness about police violence and find solutions to help heal communities it impacts. She wants to prevent another child from losing a parent.

“My son is going to suffer, but if I can prevent that for another family somehow, some way Antonio’s death won’t be in vain,” Valdez said. “At least we will save somebody else from having to go through this.”

As Josiah grows up Valdez fears he will search the web for information about what happened to his father and read the comments people made about the incident. Guzman was an undocumented immigrant — and Valdez recalls comments that said he deserved what he got because he shouldn’t have been in this country in the first place. Other comments she saw characterized him as a person Valdez doesn’t recognize. Because he was so young, Josiah’s memories of his father are scarce and Valdez doesn’t want negative comments to paint an unfair picture of the man he was.

“I don’t teach my kids negativity,” Guzman said. “But this is the aftermath.”

Valdez filed a federal civil suit against San Jose State over the death of her partner, which was recorded on cameras worn by the officers involved. She believes the footage from the incident should be released to the public in this case, and in all others like it, so the right people can be held accountable.

In Alan Blueford’s case, the officer who shot him was also wearing a lapel camera it was switched off before he shot the 18-year-old. His mother has become an activist as well, and is working to create the “Alan Blueford Law,” which would require the prosecution of any officer who turns off or otherwise tampers with their camera equipment in an incident where they kill someone. In addition, their pension, under the proposed law, would be transferred to the family of the victim.

Recognizing that families in these situations have minimal government support, Mollie Costello teamed up with Blueford to help make the law become a reality.

“It’s not like you have money set aside for burial costs, or what happens when you can’t work,” Costello said.

Blueford and Costello also opened the Alan Blueford Center for Justice in Oakland as a hub for healing in the community. The center serves as a place for people to grieve, create art and find support in each other. Blueford has found solace in “helping hearts heal,” and aims to be a resource and an advocate for those touched by police violence.

“If we change the laws, not only will it be justice for Alan, it will be justice for all,” Blueford said. “Although I am speaking out for my son, somewhere there is another mother who cannot speak out for her son, and he has no justice. Nobody is calling his name.”

Valdez, too, works to be a voice for families in similar situations. In a televised interview on MSNBC Nov. 4, filmmaker Quentin Tarantino mentioned Guzman’s name in a comment about police violence in America, giving a nod to her efforts. “Wow,” she said. “I’m being heard.”

Piper also organizes friends and family members of police brutality victims as a means of support and activism. She created a Facebook account for the sole purpose of keeping in contact with the loved ones of those gunned down by law enforcement. She participates in marches and works to reach out to the youth in her community. It’s painful, she said, but she does it for her son.

  • Click the buttons to hear audio from Dolores Piper

Despite activism across the nation, the issue of violence between law enforcement and citizens remains unresolved. Blueford and Piper don’t want another mother to lose her son, and Valdez hopes other children don’t lose their fathers the way her son has. They are tired of hearing about fatal encounters with police because, as Blueford put it, “with each case you relive your own story.”

In the meantime, these women have pledged to continue to fight in the names of those lost. They will continue to seek better protections from police and for better support for the families left behind in the aftermath. Blueford, Piper and Valdez’s activism is what helps them carry on through their losses.

“My healing thing is to try and bring other families together so they know they are not alone because I know what it feels like,” Valdez said. ”We’re going to get through this together.”

Summer Ignites Winter

Summer Fenton, Olympic hopeful and SF State Biology major, is on her way to the pre-qualifying round in Colorado
Summer Fenton, Olympic hopeful and SF State Biology major, is on her way to the pre-qualifying round in Colorado. Photo by Mike Hendrickson / Xpress

Words and Photos by Mike Hendrickson

Summer Fenton began snowboarding when she was four years old.  By age six she was competing and had picked up her first sponsorship.

When Mammoth Mountain opened November 7th, a month earlier than the slopes in Tahoe, Fenton was among the first groups of boarders who rode the chairlifts to the top.  With winter fast approaching, Fenton is hitting the slopes in anticipation for the Olympic trials in Colorado this month.

“I want to feel how Olympians feel, I want to feel the honor and feel the competitiveness, the adrenaline, and I want to represent my country,” Fenton says.

Currently, Fenton is ranked in the top-ten nationally for women’s halfpipe competitions.  She hopes to be one of three to represent the United States in the 2014 Winter Olympics this February in Sochi, Russia.

When the nineteen-year-old biology major at SF State found out last July that she was invited to the pre-qualifying competitions in Colorado, Fenton said that it provided some extra motivation.

“I needed to get on my snowboard so bad, I’ve been really hungry to go. I hadn’t snowboarded since July in Oregon. I wish I was snowboarding right now actually. It was nice to be back in my environment and I felt at bliss.”

Summer spends California’s many powderless months in workout sessions with her personal trainer. Every other day she spends two-to-three hour sessions running up sand dunes, spending time on a balance, beam or just general core strengthening.

Two years ago, Fenton suffered a head injury that cost her the season. Despite the setback, she looked ahead seeing the positives that came from the situation.

“Last year I basically had to start from the bottom and work my way up to the top, so last year was a big comeback year for me.  It ended up working out well because I did end up qualifying for the Olympic trials.”

She won the Burton US Open qualifiers which lead to being invited to one of the biggest snowboarding competitions in the nation.

“I think it’s anybody’s game and whoever stomps a run will be the winner.”

Winter is coming, and Fenton plans on being that winner.

  • Fenton is a top-ten ranked competitor in the women's halfpipe and is invited to compete in the olympic trials in Colorado this December. Photo by Mike Hendrickson / Xpress
    Fenton is a top-ten ranked competitor in the women's halfpipe and is invited to compete in the olympic trials in Colorado this December. Photo by Mike Hendrickson / Xpress
  • Photo by Mike Hendrickson / Xpress
    Photo by Mike Hendrickson / Xpress
  • loosens her snow boots after a day on the slopes during opening weekend at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. Photo by Mike Hendrickson / Xpress
    Fenton loosens her snow boots after a day on the slopes during opening weekend at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. Photo by Mike Hendrickson / Xpress
  • Summer Fenton rides the bowl at Balboa Skatepark, San Francisco, Calif. When she's not able to practice in the snow, Fenton uses other board sports such as skateboarding and surfing to help her prepare.  Photo by Mike Hendrickson / Xpress
    Summer Fenton rides the bowl at Balboa Skatepark, San Francisco, Calif. When she's not able to practice in the snow, Fenton uses other board sports such as skateboarding and surfing to help her prepare. Photo by Mike Hendrickson / Xpress
  • Fenton keeps balance while holding up one leg on the balancing beam. Photo by Mike Hendrickson / Xpress
    Fenton keeps balance while holding up one leg on the balancing beam. Photo by Mike Hendrickson / Xpress
  • does exercises with leg bands and weights at Lake Merced in San Francisco, Calif. Photo by Mike Hendrickson / Xpress
    Fenton does exercises with leg bands and weights at Lake Merced in San Francisco, Calif. Photo by Mike Hendrickson / Xpress
  • Fenton keeps balance while her personal trainer provides resistance during a training session at Lake Merced. Photo by Mike Hendrickson / Xpress
    Fenton keeps balance while her personal trainer provides resistance during a training session at Lake Merced. Photo by Mike Hendrickson / Xpress

Design and Refine

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Written Melissa Landeros
Photos by John Ornelas

Bright lighting. Hues of earth tones. Pops of color. A mix of sleek jackets, tailored dresses, intricate outerwear, and fine accessories.  At five thousand square feet, the 440 Brannan studio and showroom is a combined workspace and shopping oasis comprising the ultimate wardrobe selection for all city slickers.

This thriving showroom, equipped with sewing machines, worktables, and a trendy atmosphere, lives up to their slogan of “wear something rare,” because that is exactly what it offers.

Garments are made directly in the showroom and once completed are put out on the floor for purchase. Clients can even stop in and see their

One of the designers working on her garment at the co-op, 440 Brannan Studio. Photo by John Ornelas / Xpress
One of the designers working on her garment at the co-op, 440 Brannan Studio. Photo by John Ornelas / Xpress

garment-to-be right on the cutting table during the creating process.  The showroom sets the stage for up-and-coming Bay Area designers to really show their gusto for fashion design.

Since 1996 owner Rodger Alan has kept 440 Brannan up and running.  His studio was not always a place where designers could produce their garments, but Alan says he “decided to share.”  He brought about the idea of allowing people to rent space and produce what they wanted.

Aside from Alan opening up his space to designers he also has opened it up to students. “You don’t just sweep up the floor when you work here, I actually teach you, and you learn shit,” Alan says. Many of the students working at the studio get hands on experience, and can create their own pieces as well.

Megan Jee, an SF State merchandising student, manages the studio and interns. She oversees the selection process of prospective designers and helps host the studios weekly fashion happy hour on Fridays from four forty to eight o’clock. Since not everyone is a designer and has the opportunity to create something, customers can go into the studio and browse the unique collections while sipping on free wine or beer. “What I really like about this studio is that you are free to create whatever you want,” Jee says.

Former SF State student Marco Ruiz is a current designer and says he really enjoys working at the studio, and appreciates the equipment Allan makes available. Ruiz also says that working at 440 Brannan has provided him with more experience and the opportunity to expand his brand in the future.

Alan says this is a place where, “you make things to sell.” His studio usually incorporates five to eight designers. However, there is a process individuals need to go through before they can rent a space.

One thing that Alan focuses on is whether or not prospective designers produce garments that will portray a similar street style that his studio embodies. The clean-cut urbanite that could take their looks from evening to night is the perfect candidate.  “Someone who makes wedding dresses would not work well in the studio,” Alan says.

Consistently featured menswear designers include Alan’s line Hieros, which is made of limited edition pieces and streetwise menswear. Alan’s esthetic is simple, he says, “If I want to make a cropped jacket, I make it.” Alan designs whatever he feels like creating, and he makes it in his size first. If one of his designs is in high demand he’ll make more.  If not, Alan keeps it for himself.

Women’s wear is also featured alongside the menswear designs.  Gordano is a modern unique clothing line created by Jill Giordano and Brian Scheyer that is inspired by architecture. Their designs include tops, dresses, and bottoms that can easily be converted from day to night.

Quality is important to Alan.  Thats what 440 Brannan is all about, a quality garment, made by quality designers in a space where maximum creativity is encouraged.

The Room With A View

BECA major Brendan Page heads into the monthly midnight showing of The Room.
BECA major Brendan Page heads into the monthly midnight showing of The Room.

Written by Jake Montero
Photos by Virginia Tieman

When I arrive early he is already there.

I’m no longer struck by his unique appearance, probably because we’ve met before, but mostly because of the many hours I’ve spent watching him; incapable of averting my eyes, focused on his every move.

Yet there’s something different about him this time.  As I look closer, the inconsistency becomes apparent.  Last time he was wearing three belts.

Tonight he is wearing four.

The he in question, is Tommy Wiseau.  A decade ago, Wiseau wrote, directed, produced and starred in The Room, a film considered by many to be the worst of all time.

The Room is screened monthly at San Francisco’s Clay Theater to raucous crowds, and with Wiseau in attendance for the films tenth anniversary, this evening is no different.  The Room’s all-encompassing terribleness has generated a dedicated cult following all across the country, with nearly every major city holding semi-regular screenings of the legendary disasterpiece.

By traditional film standards, The Room breaks every rule with regards to good acting, storytelling, camerawork, dialogue, set decoration and general coherence.  Some characters disappear halfway through the film, while others appear out of nowhere.

The Room’s only consistent storyline deals with the “future wife” (the word fiance is never used) of main character Johnny (played by Wiseau) engaging in an affair with his best friend, a younger and more handsome man named Mark, played by Greg Sestero.  This relatively

straightforward plot is accented by a myriad of unexplained subplots, including a strange neighbor, Denny, who wants to watch Wiseau have sex, and multiple scenes where the characters all go outside to toss around a football like a hot potato.

However, it is these very eccentricities that make screenings of The Room an interactive audience experience second-to-none.  You don’t go to the theater to quietly watch and analyze, you go to collectively make fun of some of the most inexplicable footage ever compiled by man.

The evening begins with a meet and greet in the lobby of the Clay, with the aforementioned Wiseau accompanied by Sestero.  Wiseau looks like an aging rock star, with curly long black hair and terminator sunglasses that he insists on wearing indoors.

Pictures are taken and memorabilia is sold and signed; including Wiseau’s new line of boxer brief underwear, for anybody who desires to have “WISEAU” scrawled across their ass.

Because Wiseau and his film often seem too unbelievable to be real, meeting the man behind the madness is an experience that all true Room fans must have.

“He’s like a cartoon character,” says Brenden Page, a Broadcasting major at San Francisco State, who attended his first Room screening.

As the productions sole creative force, it’s impossible to talk about The Room without mentioning Wiseau.  Before the film is shown, both Wiseau and Sestero get on stage, flanked by half naked fans in Wiseau undies, to engage in a Q&A with the audience.  Wiseau is known for his often indecipherable answers to questions.  When asked about the character Denny, Wiseau claims that he is “a little bit retarded.”  Shortly after this however, he claims that Pacific Heights is also retarded, making it unclear as to whether or not he knows what that word means.

Once the film begins, it doesn’t take long for the audience to get involved.  The opening credits feature random establishing shots of San Francisco, the film’s setting, nearly all of which include the Pacific Ocean. Everybody simultaneously yells “water!” when the ocean is shown, only to erupt in applause when Wiseau appears for the first time, riding a cable car as the lone passenger.

There are many established audience traditions, such as tossing footballs around when the characters do and slow clapping during the

films four extended sex scenes.  The audience is required to be silent only once, during the infamous nineteen second flower shop scene, considered by most Room aficionados to be the finest the film has to offer (YouTube “the room flower shop”, you won’t be disappointed).

The throwing of plastic spoons is The Room’s most famous tradition.  In Johnny’s house there are a handful of framed pictures of spoons.  The pictures are never explained, nor are spoons present anywhere else in the film.  Whenever a spoon picture is visible on the screen everybody in the audience is encouraged to throw as many plastic spoons in the air as possible while yelling “spoons”!

By the time the film is over, the theater floor is covered with hundreds of the plastic utensils.

“Tommy was trying to say something profound with The Room,” says co-star Greg Sestero.  “I believe it is his most profound attempt at creative expression. The Room is Tommy and that’s what makes the movie such a unique experience, because no one sees the world the way Tommy does.”

Sestero recently released The Disaster Artist, a book detailing the production of The Room and how he came to know and work with Wiseau.

“From the moment I showed the rough cut of The Room to my family, I knew it was something special and it could captivate audiences in the strangest of ways if given the chance,” Sestero continues.  “That being said, I never thought it would amass the international following it has now.”

The book sheds light on Tommy’s obsession with wearing multiple belts: “It keeps my ass up.  Plus it feels good.”  Fair enough.

The film concludes to riotous applause.  Outside, Room first timers are in awe of what they’ve just experienced.  Whether it’s your first or twentieth viewing, nobody ever leaves disappointed.

“It was a good experience and and it seemed like even the staff really enjoyed it.” says Page.  “The guy at the concession stand left the door opened and was laughing his ass off.  Its a really cool communal thing.”

The Room’s over the top absurdity, has led some to believe that the film is bad on purpose, and that Wiseau is pulling a fast one on all of us.  Greg

Sestero claims this is not the case.

“Tommy believes The Room is the greatest movie ever made. He always has and always will believe that.”

With the amount of joy this so called terrible movie has brought, he might just be right. The Room is screened once a month at the Clay
Theater on Fillmore Street. X

Turkish Uprising

Lecturer in Turkish Studies Dr. David Selim Sayers poses for a portrait in his office Hum 531 Friday Oct. 11, 2013. Photo by Tony Santos / Xpress
Lecturer in Turkish Studies Dr. David Selim Sayers poses for a portrait in his office Hum 531 Friday Oct. 11, 2013. Photo by Tony Santos / Xpress

Written by Thomas Rizza

It’s an uncharacteristically warm Monday in late September at SF State. Dr. Selim Sayers, the newest addition to the Middle East Studies Program, plugs in his laptop to the projector and gets his materials in order. He produces a plastic bag from his case and sets it on the desk. With a smile, Sayers greets the class only to hear tired murmurs from the students.  He then reaches into the plastic bag and pulls out two peculiar metal tubes. “Here,” he laughs as he passes the used tear gas canisters to a student. “Some souvenirs from Turkey.”

Turk 260’s official course name is Turkish Culture and Identities, but it’s really a class about revolution. Dr. Sayers teaches about Ottoman history and literature, but he also is using it as a vehicle to teach about his experiences taking part in the Gezi Park protests in Istanbul over this past summer.

With only sixteen students enrolled, it’s a small class tucked away in a corner on the third floor of the Humanities building. The room is stuffy and looks like it was a janitor’s closet before converting to a classroom. But like the Turkish uprising, every great idea starts small.

The Gezi Park protests began on May 28, 2013 and took place in Taksim Square in Istanbul. The protests were a response to police brutality toward environmentalist activists engaging in a sit-in against urban development in Gezi Park, which would have replaced the park with a shopping mall. After that, thousands of people occupied the Taksim Square and rioted in cities across Turkey in solidarity with the environmentalists and against the authoritarian actions of their government. The protest is ongoing today.

“We were in it 24/7,” recalls Dr. Sayers. “When we got news about a police crackdown or something, we would leave our room and get on the street and go where it was. A few nights in the square a guy gave piano recitals. People and clashes were happening on the street. We would be protesting on the streets.”

Dr. Sayers was born in England thirty five years ago, his mother Turkish, his father British. After his parents divorced at age three, Sayers spent his childhood with his grandparents in Istanbul where he attended primary school. He developed a deep connection with the country that continued into his collegiate career, which included a Masters in Turkish Literature. From 2000 to 2002 he worked as a producer for CNN Turk, a subsidiary of the international news channel. Sayers also wrote a weekly column for the newspaper Sabah and worked as a radio DJ during his time in the country. Much of his family still lives in Turkey, which further strengthened his emotional bond with the country.

Dr. Sayers received an offer from SF State, coincidentally, while he was attending a protest in Zuccotti Park in New York City, the home of the Occupy movement. The protest was in solidarity with the events that had begun in Gezi Park, just days before he stepped on a plane to Turkey. Prof. Burcu Ellis, a member of the board that hired Dr. Sayers, was excited to bring him into the Middle East Islamic Studies faculty.

“He’s dynamic and really hit the ground running,” says Prof. Ellis. “He has a very good focus on social issues and a deep perspective, with his background in media and academic studies. He’s not just a language teacher, he’s the full package.”

Dr. Sayers’ involvement in the events is somewhat a coincidence. He was originally planning to take his annual trip to Turkey in mid-June, but the death of his grandmother caused him to leave sooner. He landed in Turkey on June 3, just five days after the start of the protest. After attending the funeral, he met up with his wife, Evrim Emir-Sayers, in Istanbul where she was working as a fellow at the Netherlands Institute in Turkey. Their office and accommodations are located on Istiklal Avenue, the street that leads to Taksim Square and Gezi Park.

The location exposed them to the vibrant diversity of the protests; the joy and festive nature of the masses of people as they sang and danced, read and distributed literature, performed art in the square, suddenly transitioning to the fear and chaos brought on by police action and resistance.

In one of his more harrowing memories, Dr. Sayers describes an evening where police cleared thousands of people from the park. The police were intent on getting people out of the Gezi Park, not the surrounding Taksim square. What ensued was mass confusion as police fired tear gas, sound grenades, and rubber bullets into the park.

Protesters were running through thick clouds of smoke and dodging other people and trees trying to escape the siege. Eventually Dr. Sayers, his wife, and many other protesters fled to a hotel across the street from the park. The staff let the protestors in to stay the night while the police barricaded off the doors until the park was cleared.

“It’s a strange feeling,” says Dr. Sayers. “When you’re in the middle of it and you have some conviction for the issue at hand. I need to be out here, I need to be protesting. This is something that concerns me and my family. You’re just going with the flow because it’s happening all around you.”

There was no time to feel fear. In retrospect, the events left a mark on him psychologically that has not gone away. He tries to avoid large crowds, because they tend to make him anxious. When he sees smoke, he immediately is reminded of being tear gassed on multiple occasions.

“I’ve never heard a gun being fired,” he continues with a distant look, “and suddenly here I was running away from people shooting at me or trying to avoid being detected by people trying to arrest me and take me to a police station and do God knows what to me. After it ended, I looked back, and then I was afraid because anything could have happened.”

Dr. Sayers left Turkey on July 6 to settle in San Francisco and get his lesson plan in order for his first semester at SF State. Turkish Cultures and Identities didn’t start as a study on the parallels of Ottoman history and the factors involved in the Turkish Rising. The more

Dr. Sayers thought about his involvement in the protests, he felt more compelled to tackle the subject.

“It would have been easy, maybe prudent, if I made Turkish Cultures and Identities about something like literature that I know more about,” states Dr. Sayers. “As I told my students, I’m not an expert on this kind of Turkish political history. But I felt this is a great platform for exploring this [Gezi Park]. I couldn’t pass up the chance. I was an eyewitness. I was in the middle of all this. I do have the historical background. We can do this.”

According to an article published by the New York Times, the Turkish government enforced a media black out strategy that pressured media outlets to sack journalists for reporting on the events in Gezi Park. As of July 23, seventy-two journalists had lost their jobs. The government’s harsh treatment of journalists and the flow of information is one of the main issues that pushed Dr. Sayers to educate people about the protests.

“The media is in no way shape or form independent,” explains Dr. Sayers. “Most, if not all, of it is owned by corporate interest groups that use it as a bargaining chip with government to get their messages out. The private media cannot be trusted and the public media is controlled by the government.”

One of the most egregious examples of the media blackout was when Dr. Sayers former employer, CNN Turk, chose to show a documentary about penguins when the police first took action in the park. The penguin was embraced by the Turkish community as a symbol of the revolution against media suppression. In the face of the crackdown, protesters turned to social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter in order to communicate, as well as share information and images.

Some of Dr. Sayers’ friends from his days at CNN Turk expressed their dissatisfaction with their employers on Facebook. “A cameraman friend made the point that at CNN Turk, we have sent reporters to civil wars and uprising elsewhere in the world,” says Dr. Sayers. “We’ve never been shy about that. It’s sad when the biggest news story of our lives is happening outside our doors and we can’t go cover it.”

The Turkish Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdoğan, famously expressed his distaste for Twitter amidst the riots. “Now we have a menace that is called Twitter,” said Erdoğan. “The best example of lies can be found there. To me, social media is the worst menace to society.”

Dr. Sayers goal is to teach students how to decipher media and formulate an informed opinion about a topic, as much as learning the Turkish history in relation to current events.

“How do you judge the information that you get from a media outlet and how do you weigh that against the history in order to put the pieces of the puzzle together?” asks Dr. Sayers. “There is a big difference between knowing about what events happened right now and appreciating how they came about through history. Take that historical knowledge to assess the news you’re getting right now to know what to trust.”

So far, Dr. Sayers message seems to be leaving an impression on his students. Raphael Sirvent is a sophomore majoring in international relations. Before enrolling in this class, he had no knowledge of Turkey besides the fact that they have some great soccer teams. “I heard about the class when [Dr. Sayers] was advertising it in another class I was trying to crash.” recalls Sirvent. “I wanted to educate myself about Turkey, and he made the class sound really interesting. What’s been super cool is that we’re getting real insider-knowledge that you can’t find anywhere else.”

The class is also a valuable resource for senior Gozde Gultoprak, who was born in Izmir, Turkey and grew up there until her family moved to America when she was ten years old. Many of Gultoprak’s family members and friends still live in Turkey where they continue to be apart of the protests today.

“I wanted to take this class to learn more about the Ottoman Empire, and also hear different perspective from the professor about the Gezi Park protests,” explains Gultoprak. “I know a lot about Gezi Park protests because I read the Turkish News from many different sources every day, but of course the class taught me many more things in addition to what I know.”

Dr. Sayers isn’t quite sure whether to revisit his experiences in later semesters. The situation in Turkey is volatile. By the time he is slated to teach Turkish Cultures and Identities in Fall 2014, presidential and local elections in the country will have taken place.

Will the events from this past semester have a direct impact on these elections? Will the results spawn new protests and bring about change? Revolutions move fast, but we will just to have wait and see.

Paved With Nickels

Rosi Rivera, a mother from South San Francisco, brings four bags of recyclables to Zinc Recycling center with her son in South San Francisco on Friday Nov 20. Photo by Kate O'Neal / Xpress
Rosi Rivera, a mother from South San Francisco, brings four bags of recyclables to Zinc Recycling center with her son in South San Francisco on Friday Nov 20. Photo by Kate O’Neal / Xpress

Written by Maggie Ortins
Photo by Kate O’Neal

His hands are raw. The stale smell of old yeast from empty beer bottles marries with the San Francisco fog as a symphony of cascading glass interrupts the quiet night. Elmer Rodriguez takes a deep breath and dives shoulder deep into the recycling bin that would pay for his next meal.

Rodriguez is 45 years old. He’s been living in San Francisco after immigrating here from Mexico ten years ago. When he lost his job cooking in a restaurant, he decided to take up a new full time job: collecting.

For about a year, he has been staking out Valencia Street with his shopping cart to collect the merchants’ recyclables. “It is a lot better than going into a residential area,” Rodriguez says. “The cans go out more times a week instead of once a week and the owners, they don’t care, so I just take it.”

At five cents a bottle, recycling has become a new form of employment for people who have fallen victim to our collapsing economy.

The amount of money he makes fluctuates. “It depends on how long I wait—sometimes I’ll just get one or two bins full and call it a night,” he says. But the money is always guaranteed.

According to the Aluminum Association Inc., in 2012, eighty billion aluminum cans were produced in the United States. If every one of those cans were recycled, forty million dollars will potentially be up for grabs. Yet, only a select amount of the population is capitalizing on this.

Noel Cruz, who works at the recycling center outside of the Safeway in the Mission, says usually people will bring in two to three garbage bags at a time to a recycling center and receive anywhere from $10-40.

Most of these facilities close at 5:00 p.m., and according to Rodriguez, many homeless people are left with carts full of cans and empty stomachs because the prime time for collecting is at night after residents and merchants put their cans on the curb. But for someone who has no car or residence to store their own belongings, hauling bags and bags of recyclables is not always convenient when you’re preparing for a night on the street.

It is this that leads to the recycling middlemen. They are the people who drive around in trucks offering fast money to desperate can collectors for a fraction of the redemption pay out. Rodriguez says that many will take the money even though they are making less. “It’s so they can have money for the night,” he says.

While many San Franciscans are use to the image of people rummaging through their bins the day before collection, this practice is actually illegal. Technically, everything that is inside of the bins is the property of SF Recology once it is put outside.

However, residents don’t seem to mind. Maurice Valencia of the Excelsior district says that the same Chinese couple comes by and collects his aluminum every week. “They also bring my cans out to the curb for me,” he says.

In California the garbage companies are even going as far as changing the laws in order to reduce the amount of money individuals can receive from recycling. The new law makes it so recycling centers will no longer give refunds for milk jugs, wine bottles and food containers. It also limits the amount that one individual can receive from a single pay out.

Sociologist Teresa Gowan who spent time living among homeless people in the bay area said in a press conference for her book “Hobos, Hustlers, and Backsliders: Homeless in San Francisco”, that we should allow can collectors to receive payment for their work.

“You have all this stuff being thrown out all the time, and it seems like a way for folks on the street to make a bit of money without actually taking anything from other people” she says.

“They feel they have some kind of honor from doing this, and when I see someone with a big ole load of recycling, I feel happy for them that they have worked hard and can make money and do something that is pro-social as homeless people.”

Recycling has hit an all time high in the United States according to a study done by the Wall Street Journal $67 million out of the $97 million cans that were produced in 2012 were recycled.

But with this buy back policy- who is really making the money here? According to the Aluminum Association Inc., it costs about 95 percent less to recycle aluminum than it is to remake it. While the buyback method was started to encourage people to recycle their garbage correctly, beverage companies are the ones cashing in on fast labor. These can collectors have become a freelance workforce that are not receiving benefits, yet they are doing all to benefit the companies, who buy back the scrap metal as well as reducing the amount of waste in landfills.

The unfortunate truth is that our city is not putting money into programs such as affordable housing and doing all but tearing apart the social safety nets that used to exist to aid the impoverished and the homeless. Much like the amount of recycled goods- the number of these types of individuals collecting them is only going up. The recession has turned most of Middle America into a more frugal society. It is not uncommon for a family with two working parents to also capitalize on the amount of money their kid’s soda cans can bring in. Money is money, and in San Francisco the streets are paved with nickels.

Cool Ghouls: They Are Scary Good

Cool Ghouls perform at the record release for Magic Trick at The Chapel on Valencia Street on Saturay, September 14th, 2013 (left to right Ryang Wong, Pat Thomas and Patrick McDonald). Photo by Benjamin Kamps / Xpress
Cool Ghouls perform at the record release for Magic Trick at The Chapel on Valencia Street on Saturay, September 14th, 2013 (left to right Ryang Wong, Pat Thomas and Patrick McDonald). Photo by Benjamin Kamps / Xpress

Written by Macy Williams
Photos by Benjamin Kamps

If the Rolling Stones had a baby with Motown, and the babysitter was the Beatles, Cool Ghouls would be the epitome of that offspring’s sound.

Well, according to the band’s guitarist and singer Ryan Wong, that is.

Since the Cool Ghouls landed on the San Francisco music scene in early 2011, they have become local favorites to students and city dwellers alike. The boys give new meaning to indie retro rock, adding their own twist to music reminiscent of the past.

Their musical influences aren’t the only part of the Ghouls that go way back. Band members Pat Thomas and Pat McDonald—yes, two Pats—have known each other since the fourth grade. They later met Wong while he was in his freshman year of high school.

When McDonald went on to SF State, he met the fourth member of the Cool Ghouls. “I went to visit Pat in San Francisco and that’s when I met Alex Fleshman, who was apart of this really cool group of friends who all hung out in the DSA,” says Thomas, who attended UC Santa Barbara. “These kids were all really smart but they also liked to party.”

Soon enough, the four guys were making music. Just months before coming together, McDonald had discovered a band name with a lasting impression. “I was hanging out at a friend’s apartment watching a DVD of a Parliament Funkadelic live concert and in between songs George Clinton said to the crowd, ‘How y’all cool ghouls doing?’” McDonald says. “I thought that was a really cool name and I kept it in mind even before the band started.”

Friends wanted to hear more of the band, asking when they could see upcoming shows. “It didn’t feel like we were getting popular at any particular point,” Thomas says. “It was the positive feedback that we were getting that made us feel really good about we were doing.”

Creating the songs that put the Ghouls on the map is always a collaborative effort. “We start to write songs by ourselves on our own time,” says Thomas. “When we bring them to each other, they aren’t done yet, which I like because the other guys may have other ideas. I don’t necessarily want to answer all the questions I have myself.”

The band has noticed that the more they progress, the more equally everyone puts input into the music.

Ryan Wong singing and playing guitar as Cool Ghouls perform at the record release for Magic Trick at The Chapel on Valencia Street on Saturay, September 14th, 2013. Photo by Benjamin Kamps / Xpress
Ryan Wong singing and playing guitar as Cool Ghouls perform at the record release for Magic Trick at The Chapel on Valencia Street on Saturay, September 14th, 2013. Photo by Benjamin Kamps / Xpress

“After the phase of writing the lyrics, everything else is created organically,” Wong says. Sometimes listeners say that they can’t tell the difference between songs that Thomas and Wong write. “That just shows that we are on the same page,” Thomas says.

The Ghouls are also on the same page when it comes to their proudest accomplishment as a band thus far: It was when Empty Cellar Records released the Cool Ghouls’ first self-titled album.  “Just seeing the album that we created engraved into this thing, this vinyl, it was amazing,” says Wong.

Thomas feels that the first album will leave a lasting impression. “It’s cool how permanent it is,” he says. “If I get hit by a bus, and the rest of the band gets hit by a bus, this record is still going to be here.”

The Ghouls wasted no time celebrating after their first release. “When the test pressing of the record came in, we had an awesome time barbecuing and getting drunk and basically just celebrating ourselves,” Fleshman says. “The shipment of the records was a defining moment in my life. It was proof of what I have been trying to do for the past decade, for most of my life.”

Listeners are not the only people giving the Ghouls the positive feedback they love. The likes of Nylon.com and 7×7.com, amongst many other publications, have taken notice of the group.

After the first flood of positive reviews and feedback, the Cool Ghouls are now recording their second album, expected to be released in 2014. Although they are in the midst of making their sophomore record, they promise a few surprises. “For the first album, we recorded all the tracks and instruments individually,” says Thomas. “This time around, we are all playing live together at the same time.”

When asked what their fondest memory as a band is so far, the Cool Ghouls are hesitant to answer. “This is still happening, we are still in the moment,” says McDonald. “It’s not time to reminisce yet.”

So what can listeners look forward to in the future of this supernatural phenomenon? “More shows, more albums, we are just going to keep doing what we’re doing,” says Thomas, “Its only going to get way cooler. It’s going to get more vibrant.”

For future show dates and more information check out the Cool Ghouls at coolghouls.tumblr.com.

Halloween Costumes For a Broke College Student

Written by Macy Williams & Sarah Todd
Photos by John Ornelas

Had midterms last week? If so, we know for a fact that you haven’t even thought about a Halloween costume. The festivities are just a few days away, so we put together five budget-friendly costumes for fellow gators with a small amount of time and an even smaller amount of money.

  • Model: Celeste Feeling clever? Psychology majors will appreciate this costume. Throw on a silky slip and attach Freudian phrases to it. Look at you, getting all sassy and smart.
    Feeling clever? Psychology majors will appreciate this costume. Throw on a silky slip and attach Freudian phrases to it. Look at you, getting all sassy and smart.
  • Freudian Slip
    Model: Celeste
  • Everyone has an umbrella shoved in the back of their closet--it’s San Francisco, after all. Transform your old bumbershoot into everyone’s favorite sea creature with a little ribbon and a hot glue gun. Your friends will have no trouble finding you at the bar with this costume.
    Everyone has an umbrella shoved in the back of their closet--it’s San Francisco, after all. Transform your old bumbershoot into everyone’s favorite sea creature with a little ribbon and a hot glue gun. Your friends will have no trouble finding you at the bar with this costume.
  • jellyfish
    Model: Mike Hendrickson
  • Model: Sarah Got a sheet? Perfect, the classic sheet ghost costume is complete. But if you want to really turn heads this year, throw a bra on over that sheet and transform into a sexy sheet ghost. Laughs are guaranteed.
    Got a sheet? Perfect, the classic sheet ghost costume is complete. But if you want to really turn heads this year, throw a bra on over that sheet and transform into a sexy sheet ghost. Laughs are guaranteed.
  • sexy ghost
    Model: Sarah
  • Model: Sarah Todd The government shutdown has come and gone, but everyone is still talking about it. There’s nothing better than making fun of politics, so throw on some old pajama bottoms with a suit and tie and bam, you are a government official on holiday.
    The government shutdown has come and gone, but everyone is still talking about it. There’s nothing better than making fun of politics, so throw on some old pajama bottoms with a suit and tie and bam, you are a government official on holiday.
  • The Government Shutdown
    Model: Sarah Todd
  • Model: Virginia Tieman Remember those naked little troll dolls that sat and stared at you with beady little eyes? Let’s bring them to life! Use a nude colored tank top and glue a gem-like piece of paper to the  bellybutton area. Grab some spray hair dye and pull your hair into a point. Ladies will look adorable and guys will be downright creepy. It’s a win-win situation.
    Remember those naked little troll dolls that sat and stared at you with beady little eyes? Let’s bring them to life! Use a nude colored tank top and glue a gem-like piece of paper to the bellybutton area. Grab some spray hair dye and pull your hair into a point. Ladies will look adorable and guys will be downright creepy. It’s a win-win situation.
  • Troll Doll
    Model: Virginia Tieman

The Sex Chronicles Of A Married Couple

Written by Bek Phillips

 

The first time I made the decision to go all the way with my future husband was perfect. He grilled steak outside on a patio with the sun setting in the background. And with the flawless romantic flair of someone ten years my senior, he locked me outside just long enough to pour the wine and light the candles.

But now, three years later, a lot has changed. My school schedule keeps me away from home and leaves me exhausted come nine. My stepdaughter is in high school and requires more attention and oversight than ever before. And my husband now works out of the union hall, meaning any week he could be in a different city.

So how do you keep the romance alive? For those of you in long-term relationships, it is not easy to admit that sex has lost its flair. It is not easy to accept that you would rather put on your fuzzy pajama pants, which have no sex appeal at all, and curl up with a book rather than go down on each other.

About a year ago, my husband and I reached that point, and in the midst of our lazy lovin’, we decided that something had to change.

But change does not come easy. By then we had our favorite positions, our favorite place, our favorite music, and yes – a schedule. In search of inspiration, however, all we had to do was look out the front door. A large hill covered in trees sat across the street luring us in under the full moon.

Coming home from the bar and with quite a few drinks in us, I pulled him towards the hill, leading with a few promising kisses. Later, lying in a pile of clothes, both of us gasping for breath and laughing, I snuggled closer breathing in the foresty smell and his musky scent while fighting back the chill. We lit our cigarettes and deemed our new adventure a success. Until the next morning.

He was covered in poison oak.

Our search for new passion continued on a rare morning where both of us were alone. Lily was at school, our roommates out, but he was playing videogames. So after some desperate texts to a sister for ideas, I pulled out the fishnet tights, the slutty high heels, and the red and black lingerie that I only used once. Excited, I straightened my hair and put on makeup, and topped it all off with a large fuzzy bright blue robe as a disguise.

Making my way to the living room, I posed, leaning in what I hoped was a seductive manner against the large TV. He looked up, smiled, and went back to playing games. I dropped the robe, and walked towards him, and the controller dropped to the floor.

Passion ignited, all was going well – until the roommate’s truck pulled up in the driveway. In a panic I crawled across the room, barely having time to take off the heels and put on the robe before he walked in. The boys talked for a while and by the time we were alone again, the moment was deemed a flop.

We tried the shower. We tried the yard. In fact, everywhere we went we were looking for ideas.

While writing for the San Francisco Chronicle, I had a story to do in Santa Rosa… and no car. So, with some last minute inspiration, my husband and I packed our overnight bags, booked a hotel room, and gathered piles of change and wrinkly dollar bills we had been stashing to ensure that alcohol would be available.

But it was so hot. It turned out that the room we booked online was less than what was advertised. The air conditioner was not working, the deck we were promised for the extra twenty dollars was nonexistent, and the large king size bed was actually two twin beds separated by a side table.

Layered in grime, we took cold shower… and napped. Things did turn out for the better though. After the interview was finished, we hit the town, went to a brewery, and eventually began stumbling back home. To our delight, the air was nice and cool, and there was a line of fancy plastic sheds outside of some kind of store. We looked at each other, and we both knew we were thinking the same thing. We jiggled each door till we found a rather small one that was open.

Granted we cannot go out and find sheds, hills, and other outdoorsy locations to spice things up at any time, and sometimes… well, sometimes Netflix, a book, or video games are really what we want to do to with the limited time we have together each day.

We are now closing in on the three-and-a-half year mark in our relationship, and the school year is now in full session. Old habits are coming back, and it is all too easy to fall into that rut where we stay in our own routines. But, as this article is more than just the sexual misadventures of Bek and Nick, we’ve learned somethings.

We have learned that sometimes, it is just making time for each other. On the one day we have off, putting on Pandora, a cute outfit and setting the mood can be all the romance you need. We have learned that spontaneity and intimacy are two different things that can collide and meld into the right situation. We learned that it is effort that keeps romance alive.

The other day we were running errands, borderline boring household chores really, when Nick saw a nice restaurant that had just opened in the neighborhood. It was only 2 p.m., and it was completely empty. He grabbed my hand and pulled me in, before choosing a small couples’ table in the middle of the room. He ordered a very nice, very expensive bottle of wine. On the way home he bought me flowers. No misadventures here, I was simply loved… and got lucky.

So how do you keep romance alive? With surprises? Flexibility? Or some spontaneous adventures? Nick and I know: It’s balance. Each night doesn’t have to end in a home run. Yet, it doesn’t have to be only one night a week, either.