End of the Year 2022

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X PRESS

The Man Behind the Dance

Finding the Fusion

S.E.T.I. Phone Home Wake me up when Winter ends Delving into the Dungeon Gym Culture Krazy 4 K-pop The $1.6 Trillion Crisis

- End of the Year Playlist - Letter from the Editor - Staff - Finding the Fusion - The Man Behind the Dance - S.E.T.I Phone Home - The $1.6 trillion crisis - Wake me up when Winter ends - Delving into the Dungeon - Gym Culture - Krazy 4 K-pop
1. King Farley (Intro) — Sideshow 2. Blind — SZA 3. Heart to Heart — Mac DeMarco 4. Make Money — LNDN DRGS, Left Brain, Jay Word 5. Seems Like — Thee Sinseers 6. Sweet to Dream — Jordana, TV Girl 7. NOW THAT YOU’VE GONE — DOOPEES 8. Ayonha — Hamid Al Shaeri 9. Montebello High School Prom — Devon Hendryx 10. Take Me by the Hand — Flamingos in the Tree 11. It’s Our Love — Thee Sacred Souls 12. Kill Bill — SZA 13. Confession — Budgie 14. clam chowder — Shy High 15. I Think I’m Normal — Carter Ace 16. DOPE — Jessie Reyez 17. Ilang Tulog na Lang — Ben&Ben 18. Baliw — SUD 19. Lost — T-Dree, Delux, Cali Life Style 20. A Bird’s Last Look — Macabre Plaza 21. Sunshine (feat. Foushee) — Steve Lacy, Foushee 22. Regestia gyal — Opraah, Liim 23. Wait On You — Jay Worthy, Leven Kali, Na-Kel Smith 24. Mnemophobia — Brainstory 25. the best in me — Aviad 26. I Think I Left the Stove On — Hotel Ugly 27. Last Year — Toro y Moi 28. Hotline — bLAck pARty 29. Ramsey — Seafood Sam 30. Pupils — Opraah, Liim Y E A R 2022 End
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Editor-in-Chief

Caroline Raffetto

There’s nothing like the end of the semester to give you a good reality check. It feels like this whole semester I was living in a bubble — so focused on surviving that I forgot about thriving. I always knew I had to graduate, but I never saw the reality of it until now. I guess that’s what happens when you’ve been in college for seven years. You get so accustomed to the school routine that you forget there is a light at the end of the tunnel — until it smacks you right into the face.

I never would have imagined that I would end my college career being editor-in-chief. I never thought it was something I was qualified or talented enough for, and it felt like I had my confidence tested every step of the way. But with all these struggles of coming into my own as a leader, I was constantly reminded that I was not alone. Xpress Magazine’s Fall 2022 staff always reminded me that we were a team, and that we were in this together. I don’t think I would have survived the craziness of the newsroom without their constant support.

So with my departure it is time to name the next leader of this publication. This was one of the easiest decisions I have had to make all semester. There was only one man for the job: my ride or die this semester… my literal backbone…. Eian Gil. Eian is so incredibly talented and watching him grow this semester into a strong but caring leader has been a privilege. I am confident that Xpress Magazine will be in good hands next semester and am so excited to see what Eian and his team do with the publication. So on that note I guess this is my final goodbye — my curtain call. Until next time…. Ciao

EDITORS

Angelina Casolla Destiny Walker Ciara O’Kelley Asiah Capponi Giovanna Montoya Caroline Van Zandt Kamal Taj Ximena Loeza Art Editor Abraham Fuentes Photo Editor Sarah Bowen Copy Editor Oliver Michelsen Multimedia Editor Justine Brady Diversity Editor Nadia Castro Social Media Editor Daniel Hernandez Design Assistant
STAFF
Tatyana Ekmekjian Josh Carter Juliana Yamada Miguel Carrion
WRITERS
Eian Gil Managing Editor PHOTO

Finding the Fusion

How blended cuisines are shaping San Francisco’s diversity and food culture

The marinated sweet pork hisses back at the chef as he gently tosses the meat onto the hot grill. The sound of the knife striking the cutting board can be heard from the kitchen as onions, jalapeños and tomatoes are finely chopped into neat cubes. All of these elements, paired with beans and rice, are wrapped together inside a flour tortilla –the final ingredient needed for Señor Sisig’s distinctive fusion burrito dish derived from Mexican and Filipino cuisines.

Fusion food is described as a blended assortment of culinary traditions from different countries and cultures. Since the 1980s, modern fusion cuisine is credited to chefs like Wolfgang Puck and Roy Yamaguchi for creating dishes with unexpected flavor combinations inspired from different cultures. However, the fusion of ingredients has been happening long before the 80s. In fact, it has been around for centuries since the beginning of the trade system. San Francisco’s diverse culture acts as an experimental breeding ground for inspiring chefs to gather inspiration from all the different cuisines that are located within the city. According to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Bay Area will become even more racially and ethnically diverse by 2040. San Francisco grants its vistors the unique opportunity to explore the relationship between the city’s diversity and food.

“I was interested in opening my first business. What really changed was, in ‘08 starting to see people in the Bay Area and Los Angeles fuse things that I have never seen before,” said Señor Sisig’s co-founder Evan Kidera. “San Francisco has always been a place where you can find new trending things.”

Kidera is an SF State alumnus who first got into the food business over a decade ago. Growing up around food made him crave to one day open up his own restaurant, even though it would not be an easy journey. Around 13 years ago, the toll of the ’09 recession was felt heavily around the Bay Area with restaurants permanently shutting down their doors all over the city. Instead of feeling disappointed, Kidera thought of another alternative – a food truck.

After feeling inspired from trying Korean tacos in Los Angeles, Kidera knew there was a special connection between combining different cultures into one cuisine. The idea to create a Filipino and Mexican fusion restaurant clicked for Kidera once he spoke with his friend, chef and future co-founder Gil Payumo.

“It was really kind of one of those aha moments where I was like, okay, we could do this,” said Kidera. “Once we started tasting it was like, forget everything else, let’s just really focus on this Filipino and Mexican cuisine fused together because we got the flavors. That’s what Gil does well, and instead of trying to do too much, let’s just focus in on this.”

Since opening in 2010, Señor Sisig has greatly expanded from the inside of a cramped truck parked on the side of the street to multiple brick and mortar restaurants around San Francisco and Oakland.

INTERVIEW WITH SF STATE PROFESSOR, TIM SHAW

In the summer of 1988, SF State Food and Culture professor Tim Shaw was a young college student majoring in Archaeology. After attending an excavation dig in Greece, he discovered how dull the experience was for him. For Shaw, the highlight of his trip to Greece was tasting an array of delicious Mediterranean cuisines. While finishing college, he worked as a lark in a restaurant and fell in love with the idea of becoming a chef.

After over 30 years of cooking experience, Shaw is well-known around SF State’s campus for being the Head Chef at the Vista Room. He inspires and teaches students about how different ingredients are shared within other cultures.

“Technically speaking, a lot of foods are fusion to some extent, and it’s one of the things I teach in some of the food and culture classes here. A lot of foods that we take for granted that are very sort of specific to a culture or a region or a country came about through the idea of fusion food. If you’re taking the idea of fusion food being ideas from different cultures mixing together and forming something new – that’s been going on forever,” said Shaw.

By Daniel Hernandez

While SF State’s brightly decorated Latinx Student Center was bustling with the commotion of students, Alan Gómez sat further away in an office and was deep in conversation with the center’s director.

On any other day, Gómez can be found enjoying the center’s main room. Its walls are decorated with multi-colored papel picado, Latino-related memes and student-designed artwork — an aesthetic that matches his outgoing personality.

However, the dark and distant ambience of the office he sat in better described his serious demeanor. He explained that he was focused on finalizing a plan to film a commercial for “Banda Nite,” an on-campus event hosted by the Latinx Film Club and IDEAS (Improving Dreams, Equity, Access and Success) on Dec. 2 that celebrated Latin music and dance culture.

Gómez, a senior majoring in Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts (BECA), is the president and co-founder of the Latinx Film Club. He describes the club, which was started during the Spring 2022 semester, as an open space for all students to explore their creative side through the art of cinema. Yet, the club decided to take a focus on a different type of art with their latest event.

“We wanted something where it could be a social space, something that would attract people or the Latino students on campus,” Gómez said. “And I said, ‘Okay people are thirsty for parties.’ There are parties every weekend like in the dorms or like this and that. But what’s the one thing that would happen? They get shut down. So we said, ‘Let’s bring the party to them.’”

And that’s what they were able to accomplish.

According to Gómez, their event sold over 250 tickets online. Many more tickets were also sold at the door as students flowed in and out of Jack Adams Hall at the top of the Cesar Chavez Student Center throughout the night. The band named Nuevo Armamento played a mixture of their own music and famous covers such as Los Tucanes de Tijuana’s ‘La Chona.’ Meanwhile DJ Mala Vida mixed music from famous regional Mexican bands like Grupo Firme and Alacranes Musical.

SF State students passionately danced quebradita, a traditional Mexican dance style, while others kept it to a more simple two-step. Yet, despite a clear difference of skill-level, the music that played throughout the night brought everyone together in celebration of the Latino community on campus.

“I think it brought everybody close together,” Hanna Maaloul, the vice president of the Latinx Film Club, said. “There was even people that were outside of the Latinx community that were enjoying it and enjoying other people’s cultures.”

Even though the event was deemed a success by the end of the night, it did not feel that way near the beginning. Within the first hour of the event, the dance floor was empty and event-goers were

hugging the wall. People were slowly trickled into a quiet and dormant room.

It was reminiscent of Banda Nite’s creation.

The plan to create the event was finalized around the beginning of October and the Latinx Film Club and IDEAS proceeded to spend the next two months working to bring their vision to fruition.

However, Gómez explained that those two months were incredibly difficult. Time management was his achilles heel as he had to juggle studying for midterms, Associated Students meetings, creating budget sheets, filming promotions and lead event planning. Fortunately for him, both clubs carried a shared passion over the event and created a foundation Gómez could rely on.

Ricardo Sanchez, the president of IDEAS, attributes Gómez’s passion for the Latino culture within the campus as both clubs’ motivation.

“Alan was just basically the backbone of the operation,” Sanchez said. “He was just out there putting the hard work. I was just out there following his lead and trying to catch up to him.”

However, their passion for the event was tested when they opened ticket sales.

After only having sold two tickets after the sales launch, Sanchez described a conversation with Gómez where they had to make some hard decisions. They both agreed to shut the event down if they sold less than 50 tickets a week before the event.

“We started doing little promotions, little TikToks, just random videos … and that’s when it started picking up,” Sanchez said. “The event started that week. We sold our 50 tickets and we were like ‘Oh, we’re good.’ Then the next day 75. The next day 100. The day of [the event] we had 200 sold.”

For Gómez, it felt like this moment had come full circle, and reminded him of his creative journey up to this moment.

“It made me proud of the creative journey that I’ve had,” Gómez said. “I actually made this event on campus. So I was very proud of myself to create this space.”

Gómez went to high school in Vacaville, a predominantly white city near the Bay Area, where he first found his passion for the creative arts.

“In high school, I wanted to be a producer, kind of like a beat maker,” Gómez said. “ I would just make things, simple little beats, with my high school friends and start rapping to it.”

However, his high school was also the place where he first encountered being racially profiled.

“I grew up around a lot of active gang members so it was kind of hard to really be seen,” Gómez said. “I got profiled in high school by a faculty member. If you were part of this group, you wouldn’t be seen like equal.”

He also remembers finding challenges when looking into receiving a higher education while at his high school. He recalled speaking to a counselor only to feel unsupported. The counselor recommended going to Solano Community College, and although Gómez believed it was the best decision, he still felt as if the counselor only wanted to

W
Alan Gómez, president of the Latinx Film Club, stands at the entrance of Jack Adams Hall within SF State’s Cesar Chavez Student Center after changing into clothing typically worn at bailes for Banda Nite on Dec. 2, 2022. (Daniel Hernandez/Xpress)

get rid of him.

Despite his negative experiences with the high school counselor, Gómez went to Solano Community College from Fall 2017 to Spring 2020 where he studied music theory, practiced sound recording and completed his general education.

Then, when he transferred to SF State during the Spring 2021 semester, he discovered BECA and quickly changed his major from music to his new found passion. Yet, he once again experienced discrimination due to his background.

“I really had to overcome and show a lot of people in my class my abilities because a lot of people were like ‘but you came from a community college,’” Gómez said. “But I’m like ‘yeah? But it don’t mean like that bro. I can probably do better than you anyways.’ So I let my projects

speak for myself.”

After a semester at SF State, Gómez saw a post from his soon to be co-founder Daniel Tinajero on a Discord server asking if people were interested in a Latinx Film Club. Gómez expressed that he felt excited at the idea and quickly founded the club in the beginning of the Fall 2021 semester.

Now, he uses the club to create a safe space where people can freely express their creativity without any judgment or pressure — which was the goal of creating Banda Nite.

“I think people are really missing that identity or that culture like cultura,” Gómez said. “They don’t know what it is when they come here. So I’m like ‘look this is what it is. If you feel good about it then this is what it is.’ You find that identity.”

SF State students create a conga line at Banda Nite which was held in Jack Adams Hall within SF State’s Cesar Chavez Student Center on Dec. 2, 2022. (Daniel Hernandez/Xpress)

Mientras que los estudiantes disfrutaban el día dentro del Centro de Estudiantes Latinx de SF State, Alan Gómez se enfocó en un conversación con el director del centro en una oficina lejos del relajo.

En cualquier otro día, Gómez disfruta el cuarto central. Las paredes están decoradas con papel picado, memes de Latinos y arte de los estudiantes — una estética que corresponde a su personalidad.

Sin embargo, el ambiente oscuro y lejano de la oficina expuso su conducto serio mejor. Explicó que estaba concentrado en terminar un plan para filmar un comercial para “Banda Nite,” un evento organizado por el Club de cinematografía Latinx y IDEAS (Mejorando Sueños, Equidad, Acceso y Éxito) el 2 de diciembre para celebrar la cultura baile de Latinos.

Gómez, un estudiante de año final con especialización en Artes de la comunicación electrónica y de transmisión, es el presidente y cofundador del Club de cinematografía Latinx. Describe el club, que empezó durante el semestre primavera de 2022, como un espacio abierto para cualquier estudiante para que puedan explorar su creatividad con el arte de cinematografía. Aunque el club se enfoca en el arte cine matográfico, decidieron enfocarse en un diferente tipo de arte con su último evento.

“Queríamos algo que pudiera ser un espacio social, algo que atraerá gente o los estudiantes Latinos universi tarios”, dijo Gómez. “Y yo dije ‘la gente quiere fiestas.’ Hay fiestas cada fin de semana en los dormitorios. Pero que pasa cada vez? Lo detienen. Entonces dijimos, ‘Vamos a traer la fiesta a ellos’’’.

Y eso fue lo que podían lograr.

Según Gómez su evento vendió más de 250 boletos en línea. Muchos más boletos se vendieron en la puerta mientras los estudi antes entraron el Jack Adams Hall dentro del Cesar Chavez Student Center. La banda Nuevo Armamento tocaron un mezcla de su propia música y música regional mexicana famosa como ‘La Chona’ de Los Tucanes de Tijuana. Después, DJ Mala Vida jugó música de grupos famosos como Grupo Firme y Alacranes Musical.

Esa noche, estudiantes de SF States bailan quebradita, un baile tradicional de México, y otros bailaron algo más simple. Pero, aunque había una diferencia clara de nivel, la música que jugó durante la noche unió a todos en celebración de la comunidad Latino en la universidad.

“Creo que trajo a todos más junto”, dijo Hanna Maaloul, la vicepresidente del Club de Cinematografía Latinx. “Hasta gente afuera de la comunidad Latinx que estaban disfrutando la cultura de otra gente”.

Aunque el evento fue un gran éxito al final de la noche, no se sentía así desde el principio. Durante la primera hora, la pista de baile estaba vacía. La gente llegó a un cuarto callado e inactivo.

Fue equivalente a la creación de Banda Nite.

El plan para crear el evento se finalizó a principios de octubre. El Club de Cinematografía Latinx y IDEAS comenzaron a trabajar los próximos dos meses para hacer su visión una realidad.

Gomez explicó que esos dos meses fueron increíblemente difíciles. La gestión del tiempo fue su talón de aquiles porque tenía que estudiar

para los exámenes intermedios, ir a reuniones de Estudiantes Asociados, crear presupuestos, filmar promociones y conducir la planificación del evento. Afortunadamente para él, los dos clubs llevaron la misma pasión para el evento que Gomez y crearon un buen base que pudo confiar en.

Ricardo Sanchez, el presidente de IDEAS, dijo que fue la pasión de Gomez para la cultura Latino entre la universidad lo que funcionó como motivación para los clubs. “Alan básicamente fue la columna vertebral de la operación”, dijo Sanchez. “Él hizo todo el trabajo duro. Yo nomas sigue su ejemplo y trato de alca-

Sin embargo, su pasión por el evento fue probada cuando abrieron la venta de boletos.

Después de vender solo dos boletos, Sanchez describe un conversación con Gomez donde tenían que tomar unas decisiones difíciles. Los dos acordaron cancelar el evento si vendían menos de 50 boletos antes del baile.

“Empezamos a hacer promociones pequeñas, algunos TikToks, nomás videos aleatorios”, dijo Sanchez. “El evento empezó esta semana. Vendimos nuestros 50 boletos y dijimos ‘Estamos bien’. Después el próximo día 75. El próximo dia 100. El día del evento vendimos 200”.

Para Gómez, se sintió que fue un momento con ciclo completo porque lo recordó de su paseo creati-

“Me hizo sentir orgulloso del viaje creativo que hoy he tenido”, dijo Gómez. “Yo creé este evento. Estoy muy orgulloso de mí mismo que creó este

Gómez fue a la escuela secundaria en Vacaville, una ciudad predominantemente blanca cerca del área de la bahía, donde encontró por primera vez su pasión por las artes creativas.

“En la escuela secundaria, quería ser productor, algo así como un creador de ritmos”, dijo Gómez. “Lo que haría es simplemente hacer cosas, pequeños ritmos simples, con mis amigos de la escuela secundaria y comenzar a rapear”.

Pero su escuela secundaria también fue el lugar donde experimentó por primera vez con un perfil.

M
DJ Mala Vida mixes famous regional Mexican music such as Grupo Firme and Alacranes Musical on the stage of Jack Adams Hall within SF State’s Cesar Chavez Student Center for Banda Nite on Dec. 2, 2022. (Daniel Hernandez/Xpress) Ricardo Sanchez, president of IDEAS, poses while dancing in Jack Adams Hall within SF State’s Cesar Chavez Student Center on Dec. 2, 2022. (Daniel Hernandez/Xpress)
“Alan básicamente fue la columna vertebral de la operación. Él hizo todo el trabajo duro. Yo nomas sigue su ejemplo y trato de alcanzarlo”.
(FROM LEFT) Hanna Maaloul, Joseph Escobedo, Peter Supertramp and Lupe Amigon prepare to sell tickets to enter Banda Night at the entrance of Jack Adams Hall within SF State’s Cesar Chavez Student Center on Dec. 2, 2022. (Daniel Hernandez/Xpress)
“Alan was just basically the backbone of the operation. He was just out there putting the hard work. I was just out there following his lead and trying to catch up to him.”
Alan Gómez, president and co-founder of the Latinx Film Club, takes time to enjoy the event his club prepared at Jack Adams Hall within SF State’s Cesar Chavez Student Center for Banda Nite on Dec. 2, 2022. (Daniel Hernandez/Xpress)

“Crecí con muchos pandilleros activos, por lo que era un poco difícil que me vieran”, dijo Gómez. “Recibí un perfil en la escuela secundaria por un miembro de la facultad. Si fueras parte de este grupo, no serías visto como igual”.

También recuerda haber encontrado desafíos cuando buscaba recibir una educación superior mientras estaba en la escuela secundaria. Gomez recordó haber hablado con un consejero solo para sentirse sin apoyo. El consejero recomendó ir a Solano Community College, y aunque Gómez cree que fue la mejor decisión, todavía sentía que el consejero solo quería deshacerse de él.

A pesar de sus experiencias negativas en la escuela secundaria, Gómez fue a Solano Community College desde otoño 2017 hasta primavera 2020, donde estudió teoría musical, practicó la grabación de sonido y completó su educación general. Luego, cuando se transfirió a SF State, descubrió BECA y rápidamente cambió su especialización de la música a su nueva pasión. Allí también se sintió condenado al ostracismo por su origen.

“Realmente tuve que superar y mostrar mis habilidades a mucha gente en mi clase porque mucha gente decía ‘pero vienes de un [colegio de comunidad]’”, dijo Gómez. “Pero dije ‘¿sí? Pero no significa eso hermano. Probablemente pueda hacerlo mejor que tú de todos modos’. Así que dejo que mis proyectos hablen por mí mismo”.

Después de un semestre en SF State, Gómez vio una publicación de su futuro cofundador en un servidor de Discord que preguntó si la gente estaba interesada en un Club de Películas Latinx. Gómez expresó que se sintió entusiasmado con la idea y rápidamente fundó el club a principios del semestre de otoño de 2021.

Ahora, usa el club para crear un espacio seguro donde las personas puedan expresar libremente su creatividad sin ningún tipo de juicio o presión.

“Mucha gente vino este año a nuestro club diciendo ‘No me especializo en cine’ o ‘No soy guionista’ o ‘No sé nada de cine’”, dijo Gómez. “Y yo digo ‘Bueno, no importa’. Mientras quieras aprender la cultura, la cultura está aquí”.

Ahora usa el club como un espacio seguro donde la gente puede expresar su creatividad libremente sin presión — la meta de crear Banda Nite.

“Creo que la gente extraña esa identidad o la cultura”, dijo Gómez. “No saben que es cuando vienen aquí. Y yo digo ‘mira esto es lo que es. Si a ti te gusta entonces esto es’. Tu encuentras tu identidad”.

The band, named Nuevo Armamento, plays a mixture of their own music and famous covers such as Los Tucanes de Tijuana’s ‘La Chona’ on the stage of Jack Adams Hall within SF State’s Cesar Chavez Student Center for Banda Nite on Dec. 2, 2022. (Daniel Hernandez/Xpress)

s.e.t.i. phone

LLooking up at the night sky, it’s easy to get lost in the vastness of space — a nebulous murk speckled with points of brilliance. Mysterious planets orbit massive burning fusion reactions, smoldering light years away from earth. These planets, invisible to the naked eye, may hold the answer to one of our biggest questions of the cosmos: are we alone?

Nestled in the foothills of Berkeley, one research center focuses on answering that. The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is an ongoing project conducted by researchers all over, including the Bay Area and UC Berkeley. The Berkeley SETI Center has situated itself at the forefront of the research of optical and electromagnetic transmissions that originate beyond Earth. However, the search for life in the universe is much more than pointing a telescope at something weird and declaring it to be aliens.

The objects in our night sky vary drastically. From quasars to pulsars and neutron stars to planetary nebulas, the observable universe is filled with celestial objects that leave researchers with more questions than answers. For some, an endless void filled with potentially unanswerable questions could leave them feeling hopeless, but for SETI researchers, this is their specialty – quantifying the seemingly unquantifiable.

The SETI Institute began in 1984 in Mountain View, California, and came about as a result of members of a smaller NASA-funded project coming together to maximize the efficiency of their research. NASA, prior to the institute’s inception, was already conducting research on extraterrestrial techno-signatures, and their possible origins. Discussions between project members eventually led to an idea of a non-profit research organization focusing on the science brought about by the Drake Equation.

The Drake Equation, (N=R* × fp × ne × f1 × fi × fc × L) founded by Frank Drake — one of SETI’s first trustees — estimates the potential number of active, communicative extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy. The equation was formulated in 1961, and essentially breaks down the probability of ‘intelligent life’ in our galaxy. (R*) equals the average rate of star formation in our galaxy and (fp) equals the fraction of those stars that have planets. (ne) equals the average number of planets that can support life per star with planets and (f1) equals the fraction of those planets that could support life. (fi) equals the fraction of those planets with life that could develop ‘intelligent life’ and (fc) equals the fraction of civilizations that develop technology that could release detectable signs of their existence. Lastly, (L) equals the length of time for which such civilizations release detectable signals into space.

“The search for extraterrestrial intelligence is central to our understanding of the universe and our view of ourselves,” Carl Sagan, once a member of the SETI Institute’s board of trustees said.

On a calm Tuesday afternoon in November, amber leaves rustle in the autumn breeze. The Campanile towers over Campbell Hall and casts a long shadow across Memorial Glade

The heavy, wooden framed glass doors of Campbell Hall swing

open, leaving behind the brightly colored chalk graffiti on its exterior. The warm, quiet lobby welcomes one to Berkeley’s Astronomy Department. Up on the third floor, the modest, office-like interior might have one fooled into thinking they’re in the wrong place. Maybe unassuming is what they’re going for? No one wears lab coats, no one runs around with clipboards, and there aren’t multiple monitors or flashing lights. It’s just a man in an office behind a desk — David DeBoer.

DeBoer, Research Astronomer at UC Berkeley and the SETI Research Center, has been with the organization since the ‘90s.

“I haven’t done SETI my whole career, although I’ve been tangentially involved with it…in some ways it’s a little random,” said DeBoer with a laugh.

When working on his Ph.D in planetary astronomy, DeBoer met a colleague working for the SETI program. He got involved early on, writing software to help predict potential problems with satellites, like when one satellite would have conflicting trajectories with another.

DeBoer later started working directly with Project Phoenix, the most sensitive and comprehensive search for extraterrestrial intelligence that had been conducted up until 2015. His software was used by them, and he became a faculty member at the Parkes Observatory in Australia where Project Phoenix was being conducted at the time.

DeBoer also helped create a backup observatory site at Georgia Tech, where he was once a professor, and found his way to the Bay Area when development of the Allen Telescope Array began. The ATA is the first radio telescope designed to be specifically used for SETI searches located in Northern California.

The facility at Berkeley focuses primarily on radio frequency searches conducted onsite that use radio telescopes, rather than data from observatories or optical telescopes. However, they do process some data from these different types of facilities, crunching the numbers for places like the Automated Planet Finder at Lick Observatory in Mount Hamilton, California, and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope in Chile.

Radio frequencies or techno-signatures of interest are essentially signals detected and ruled out as being caused by natural, “known” physics. SETI focuses on these particular signatures that lie outside the realm of average physical signals.

“Sometimes it gets challenging…pulsars were an interesting challenge, but compared against that diagram of reasonable naturally occurring signals, they still lie within the boundary,” said DeBoer.

Pulsars are rapidly-rotating neutron stars that regularly emit pulses of radiation.. These celestial objects essentially act like spinning lighthouses, emitting massive amounts of magnetic fields from their poles every millisecond to second — which, in turn, shoot beams of radio waves into space. These objects often lead researchers to think they’ve found something extraterrestrial, only to discover it’s explainable by natural physics.

S.E.T.I., an institute that specializes in society’s curiosity of the cosmos, attempts to expand its knowledge of the universe — moreso, whether we’re alone in it or not

phone home

Edited photo of the top of the Cesar Chavez Student Center on campus under the light of the full moon in San Francisco, Calif., on Dec. 7, 2022. (Tatyana Ekmekjian / Xpress Magazine)

“If we look out and see a signal that isn’t (something created by nature), then we think that some intelligent technological species has produced it,” said DeBoer.

Ideally, researchers would love to be able to search vast portions of space for signatures — but that’s very computationally intensive. Recently, the Hubble Telescope took a long-exposure photograph of what initially looked like a relatively empty portion of the night sky. The image that came back revealed not only stars, but entire galaxies hiding in plain sight — in total, nearly 3000 celestial objects otherwise unknown to astronomers.

The Berkeley SETI Research Center works on multiple larger programs researching extraterrestrial signals. One of them is Breakthrough Listen, a 2015 initiative that contributed $100 million in funding toward a 10-year plan to find signs of intelligent life in the cosmos. It was funded primarily by Yuri Milner, a Soviet-born Israeli venture capitalist and billionaire who also dabbles in physics.

Recently, the Breakthrough Listen Candidate 1 (BLC1) radio signal piqued SETI’s interest. The radio signature was observed during April and May 2019 by the Parkes Observatory in New South Wales, Australia. Scientists initially thought it might be coming from Proxima Centauri — one of the closest star systems to our own solar system.

The features of the signal aroused interest. The signature was a few Hz wide — a narrowband signal, usually indicative of a technolog-

was.”

Humanity has wondered if we were the only things in existence for almost our entire history and some might say that religion attempts to put those thoughts to rest by saying that we are.

“Knowing how we got here in the first place requires knowing about more than just us,” said Brewer.

The field of astronomy is constantly changing. Brewer mentioned how something like astronomers’ grasp of how planets are formed has changed over time, along with other ideas that have been almost entirely refuted. If things we thought we knew have been disproved, what will change in another few years?

Alan Chew, a 4th-year grad student at SF State, has been working with Dr. Brewer on exoplanetary research. He’s also been involved in the UC Berkeley SETI online project that allows volunteers to monitor signals.

“They’ve got all this massive data from radio telescopes from around the world and (you can) go through all of that, looking for a signal that might be interpreted as a signal from an extraterrestrial source,” said Chew.

In the SETI@Home project, anyone could process data which the SETI Research Center uploaded. It launched in 1999 and continued until 2020.

Chew, an older alumni from UCB is actually retired from nearly 40 years of K-12 private education. However, after retiring he decided, “You know what, the astronomy that I learned when I was an undergrad is all obsolete now…and I decided to go back and I entered the masters program at SF State.”

Chew would watch the data on his PC and see all of the random radio signals that would come through and try to look for something irregular that would indicate something other than just noise. Looking back he remembers going on a field trip as a kid to the Chabot Space and Science Center in the Oakland Hills and credits the center for his interest.

“Ever since then I’ve been excited about astronomy and tried to do public outreach type stuff to get other people excited too.” said Chew.

Dr. Brewer’s work with the 100 Earths Project caught Chew’s eye. Its goal was to try and find an Earth 2.0., another planet capable of sustaining life. These projects tie back into our understanding of ourselves and our place in the cosmos.

ical source, not a typical astrophysical one. The signal also appeared to be absent in off-source observations, which is expected for a signal coming from a single point in the sky. It not only persisted for a few hours, but also drifted at a rate that appeared nearly linear, shifting slightly over time — behavior that would be expected for a transmitter in a rotational or orbital environment. Was it aliens?

Unfortunately — or fortunately, depending on one’s opinions of extraterrestrial creatures — the source of the signal was later deemed to be simple radio frequency interference originating from Earth. But, these signatures ultimately help researchers to better tell the difference between interesting or interference.

If we haven’t found signs of intelligent life yet, why should we continue? Why keep searching? If it hasn’t happened yet, will it ever?

For DeBoer, SETI’s work is about more than being the first to find aliens.

“Part of the Breakthrough Listen mission is provide the world’s greatest archive of data that people can use,” said DeBoer.

Dr. John Brewer is a professor at SF State specializing in exoplanetary science, the study of planets beyond our solar system. He finds the field of astronomy new and exciting.

“What really caught my eye was research into exoplanets…back in 2010, there was a few hundred that had been discovered, now there’s a border of 5,000 discovered,” said Brewer.

Brewer, who actually studied photography in his undergrad, is not involved in SETI’s research. But he feels that looking for exoplanets is key to figuring out if we’re alone in the universe.

“There’s a lot of pieces to figuring out whether or not there could be anybody out there,” said Brewer, “I think it’s a question that we’ve asked for thousands of years, before we even knew what a telescope

“I am a person of faith, but I believe there is value in understanding the universe to its fullest extent, and finding an answer to questions that society has yet to answer,” said Chew.

brands on a consistent basis is one of my main goals,” said Nero. His dream would be to open a creative studio to showcase his work and the work of other talented artists that look like him.

Angela Berry, a photography professor at SF State, said the darkroom is “the point where science and art combine…it’s pretty much a chemistry lab.”

Berry, who just began teaching at SF State, loves the sensorial experience that is film photography. She has worked with her own photographs, taken with her phone, and made digital negatives processed by platinum palladium or gum bichromate. Effectively bringing digital back into the analog process.

One of the first cameras Berry has shot with and still uses today is a Hasselblad 500cm. A classic, square format Swedish camera with a vertical viewfinder usually held at chest or hip level. Berry originally went to school for writing, but always loved visual and sound arts growing up. In college she made the switch and majored in painting, but a study abroad program in Berlin with a camera around her neck brought the transformation full circle.

Berry’s relationship with film photography runs hand in hand with her perspective on visual arts.

“It’s narrative and anti-narrative at the same time, it’s explicit and ambiguous, it’s a fragment of something but it’s not the whole thing,” said Berry.

Film photography has the ability of being a medium that is malleable, able to change, bend and flow with every artist. Maybe that’s the allure — the beauty of creation, of seeing a moment become reality. It can feel a little supernatural, to dip a white, gelatin-covered paper into a solution and watch rich-black tones grow deeper and white highlights create detail. A test strip becomes

“The search for extraterrestrial intelligence is central to our understanding of the universe and our view of ourselves.”

a guessing game in a way, moving closer to figure out the photo, squinting to discern between subject or background.

However, with a medium like film, supplies have become difficult to come by – especially in mass quantities, due to how expensive they are. Film cameras and supplies that were once at rock-bottom prices have skyrocketed. “We sell a film called Kodak Portra 400 which is normally $15 a roll that’s now $40 a roll,” said Kevin Jordan, an employee at Looking Glass Photo in Berkeley, CA.

With film photography, a common element that most point out as their favorite aspect of the medium is the time, technicality and process of composing an image. From the moment a photograph is taken in film,

“It’s a different shooting experience, you have a finite amount of photos you can take which changes your mindset and thought process,” said Jordan.

Film requires you to be more careful and meticulous. Artists approach the process at a slower pace which causes more thoughtfulness in regards to what and how they’re shooting. Whereas with digital, they can kind of “spray and pray” according to Jordan. Film is the opposite. It makes the photographer slow down.”

Nero begins the process by making test strips of the image. This saves time and paper and reveals enough of the image to discern whether or not the photograph needs more or less time exposed to light by the enlarger. Time is also key in the development process. Nero places a strip beneath the enlarger, flips a switch and waits several seconds for the enlargers beam to switch off.

After repeating the process at different lengths of time, each strip can now be placed into the developer solution. The solution bath portion of the development process has three main parts; developer, a water bath or stop bath and fixer. Placing his strips into the developer bath tray Nero agitates the test strip by gently shaking it as it’s submerged in the sulfite solution.

Silver halides are converted into silver metal, making the invisible, visible. The pale-colored silver halides are then converted into black-silver metal, leaving an image created by the contrast between black and white.

Digital may offer several advancements to photography and a camera’s ability, but sometimes having a 64GB SD card that can hold somewhere around 12,000 images can hinder the creative process.

The process of developing film is a time and labor intensive journey that requires patience, a bit of chemistry and several tools focused to create a single composition. The necessity for a room that offers a slight bit of sensory deprivation seems serendipitous.

Darkrooms have been used to process photographic film since

the medium’s inception. Even before cameras were invented, the ability to create an image from light was only possible in a room free of any other sources of light except from one precise point; a camera obscura.

Records date the invention of the obscura at around 400 B.C., which was little more than a simple room with a small hole on one side and a cloth draped on the opposite. When a darkroom is created with the correct light conditions, an inverted image will naturally be cast onto the opposing wall. As time went on, the room was downsized into a more manageable, box-like device, becoming some of the first pinhole cameras. These devices would eventually lay the foundation for what we know today as a modern camera.

Photosensitive silver-nitrate is the key chemical in creating an image. This material allows light to essentially burn an image onto a surface. Older ‘prints’ would have been created on paper, but were faint and temporary. Paper was replaced by glass, glass by metal and metal by celluloid; or what is now called film. The chemical process has evolved but remains largely similar to those of the past.

Even today the modern photosensitive process requires the use of a room that blocks out all other light that would threaten the development of the film. Chemicals like hydroquinone, acetic acid and sodium sulfate are some of the culprits responsible for giving the darkroom their pungent smell. These ingredients are found in most photo developers and are toxic if not used in safe, ventilated conditions.

For as much joy as the medium brings to those interested in it, scrounging for materials can burn a hole in their pocket. “It’s definitely been rough,” said Osborne. “Fuji has not produced film since pre-COVID and Kodak was having supply chain issues like crazy... feast or famine, really.”

People found things that they could do outside, creative outlets that were once tossed aside as too time consuming suddenly found a purpose. Those that may have not previously had time for the art, found time during quarantine.

As frustrating as supply issues may be, they aren’t enough to keep enthusiasts away from film.

“You have to learn to work with what you’ve got — to troubleshoot,” said Berry. “In any art medium, problem solving is a really empowering skill set.” The ability to make your work in any conditions and to adapt — these are some of the values that film photog raphy has the ability to develop.

debt on average for a four-year bachelor’s degree is roughly $30,000 per student — though most students take longer, which only increases the amount they owe.

In August, the Biden administration announced their plans for student debt relief, potentially alleviating $10,000 to $20,000 for individuals who qualified. However, federal courts have blocked the debt cancellation initiative, leaving thousands waiting for their debt to be discharged. While SF State students have a lower debt average than most other college students, their average debt of over $18,000 still weighs heavily on them.

Erica Pulley recently uprooted her husband and two kids from San Francisco to begin a doctoral program at the University of Oregon. Prior to that, she graduated from SF State with a bachelor’s in environmental studies and a master’s in broadcast and communication arts. It left her with $150,000 in student loan debt.

“I don’t even know how I managed to do this,” Pulley said. “I had a

counselor in the student aid department, and she was like ‘take what you need to and figure it out later.’ So, I did that.”

San Francisco’s high cost of living coupled with the price of childcare, student loans were Pulley’s only option.

“I took out as many loans as I could during my graduate studies, because we have two kids and were paying San Francisco rent,” Pulley explained. “I took out all the public loans and it’s now accrued a ton of interest. So, I’m at $150,000 for a public school education.”

Pulley applied for Biden’s debt forgiveness program before it got

“I planned for the max, $20,000,” she said. “And it’s so funny to me that that’s not going to make a huge dent. It’s a lot of money, it’s not nothing,” she said.

With her menacing $150,000 in student debt alone, Pulley can’t envision ever living a debt-free life.

“I just don’t let myself care because it’s such an absurd number, and it’s laughable, and I’m never gonna pay it off,” Pulley said. “That debt’s always there, and it’s more symbolic to me than anything else. It’s symbolic of the ridiculous cost of living in San Francisco. It’s symbolic of the ridiculous cost of childcare. It’s symbolic of the ridiculous cost of just existing.”

Natalya Bomani graduated last May from the University of San Francisco. She studied politics and sociology, and accrued $35,000 in debt during her time there.

The amount of money Bomani owes in debt stood out to her, because it was above the national average. But not so surprising seeing how black women are the number one holders of student debt in the country, according to the ACLU.

“I identify as a black woman,” she said. “I love to tell people that, just so they understand that student debt and debt in general isn’t just an economic issue, but it’s a racial and gender justice issue as well.”

According to 2022 research done by the Institute of Education Science, women possess nearly two-thirds of the total amount of federal student loan debt. Black borrowers are disproportionately burdened, mainly due to systematic racism. Black women find themselves at the intersection of these two groups.

As a family, the Bomani’s owe more than half a million dollars in medical debt. Her mother, a cancer survivor, had to pay out of pocket for chemotherapy and radiation — adding to the cycle that many black women find themselves in.

“Thankfully, she’s in remission, but the debt is causing a lot of emotional stress,” Bomani said.

While Bomani thinks Biden’s relief plan is a start and she filled out the application, she doesn’t agree with the term “forgiveness.

“I think the narrative around financial problems is ‘You did something wrong, you didn’t budget well enough,’” said Bomani. “It’s an educational system problem that’s not reaching our under-resourced communities, so it’s a systematic problem, not an individual fault. I shouldn’t feel shame in saying ‘I need help and I need to take this

With Biden’s Student Debt Relief Plan on hold, what are other loan debt cancellation resources for students?

money to survive’.”

From scrapping furniture from friends and family and sleeping on a cheap mattress out of a box, Morgan Butler managed to dodge the student debt bullet by making some strict lifestyle choices.

“I avoid any meal deliveries like Uber Eats,” she said. “I take public transportation, because State has discounts to help me offset those transportation costs. It’s tough. It’s a constant mindfulness of where it is that you’re putting your money.”

Butler is currently working on her Master of Fine Arts and chose SF State because it was the only local college she could afford at the time. She accepted a full-time job as a budget coordinator in the BECA department for the free tuition waiver.

“I literally put no research into this. It was the one place I applied and the only place I could afford,” Butler said. “Just to be able to get through school with no debt, I think will be nice.”

Butler would love to get her Ph.D., but only if she can “weasel her way into some kind of free program.

As Leila Harara boards the BART train for her commute from San Leandro to SF State, a dark shadow of student loan debt lurks in the corners. Harara owes over $35,000 in student loans and expects to almost double that by the time she graduates with a master’s degree in political science.

Nevertheless, along with the financial burden comes personal gratification.

“A part of it that people don’t understand is some people go to school to prove something to themselves,” Harara explained. “My goal isn’t just to get a good job and to be a good worker to feed into the capitalist America. Another part of it is proving to myself that I can achieve something and I can get something done.”

Though she makes an effort not to dwell on the money she owes, fear of her debt reaching triple digits as well as a hefty price tag have put Harara’s dream of law school on hold.

“That’s what has dissuaded me from going to law school, or wanting to get a PhD, just the idea of having triple digit debt,” Harara said.

She submitted her application for the student debt loan forgiveness as soon as the application launched. Although her student debt sometimes feels like a cloud that looms over her head, some days are more sunny than others.

“I’m fearful of keeping the cycle going for the rest of my life,” Harara explained. “Being a lifetime

renter, always having debt, always driving an old car, having to only shop sales or go to food banks for groceries to make ends meet. The financial insecurity and economic hardship is definitely something I worry about a lot.”

Jacob Victorio is a senior at SF State majoring in environmental studies. Although he owes more than $10,000 in student loans, he imagines the number is low because he started at community college. He won’t have to make any payments until he graduates in the summer of 2023 and doesn’t want to worry about it until then either.

“I feel like it’s ‘out of sight, out of mind’ for now. Once I graduate and they start asking for the money back, that’s when it really hits you,” Victorio said.

San Francisco Rising, a grassroots organizing alliance, recently hosted a two-day student debt relief resource fair on campus. Their goal was to help students fill out the debt relief application, but they had to switch gears when applications were paused that week. Instead the group distributed their ‘Student Liberation Manifesto’, a student published zine that highlights the harm student loan debt has on people.

As individuals continue to grapple with large amounts of debt, hindering their well-being, SF Rising outlined their vision for free college — something that states like New Mexico implemented earlier this year.

“A huge part of this movement has been really humanizing the number,” said Alex Lalama, SF Rising’s lead student organizer. She graduated SF State with $27,000 in student loan debt after finishing her master’s.

“We have trillions of dollars of debt – in the Bay Area alone, we have $26.6 billion of student debt,” Lalama explains. “In the Bay Area, the places most impacted by student debt are predominantly black and brown communities. People look at that number and they don’t humanize it.”

Lalama fears her student debt will interfere with being able to save for her future.

“I think a big part about having debt means I’m not able to build any savings for myself. As I’ve gotten older there’s always looming amounts of other debt – there’s always that fear of what if something happens and I don’t have enough money for it? Because I need to pay back my loans and pay back my debt. It’s about being able to provide for myself and feel secure and safe. If I didn’t owe $27,000 in debt, I would be able to do more things for myself,” Lalama said.

Vanessa Torres, a third-year at SF State double majoring in sociology and race and resistance studies, is an active member of SF Rising and participated in the fair to help spread the message.

“I’ve done all this work outreaching to people, trying to imagine a different society where college is free,” Torres said. “To reimagine a different society where actually our basic necessities are met, including having free college for all. I know it’s really hard, because we live in a society where we have to pay for everything.”

Like other cash strapped students, Torres has managed to stay debt-free thus far because of financial aid. She fears that will change next time she has to fill out the FAFSA application because her family is now in a different tax bracket.

“I know a lot of friends and families have taken out loans and have been impacted by it. It affects their mental health,” Torres said. “I see a lot of students on campus and off campus who have already graduated or in graduate school and they’re suffering because of that debt. And it takes a really long time to pay it off.”

Leila Harara, student administrative assistant and Political Science student getting a masters, stands in the Political Science office 304. (Abraham Fuentes/Xpress Magazine) Alex Lalama, SF State grad and SF Rising student coordinator, calls for debt cancellation at the student debt resource fair on November 17, 2022. (Angelina Casolla/Xpress Magazine)

Wake me up when Winter ends

Students

battle seasonal depression as the air turns colder and the holidays approach

AAs the sun goes down around 4 p.m. and the breeze hits frozen noses, classrooms become empty. With only three to four students showing up, professors begin to wonder where their students are. The population of the once-flooded campus starts to dwindle as finals approach and seasonal depression makes an appearance.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, known as SAD, appears for most around November, when the days turn gloomy and rain starts to pour. This type of depression alters one’s mood based on the change of seasons, typically appearing in the winter. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, vitamin D deficiency is a common factor in SAD — an effect of not getting enough sunlight exposure.

Jasmine Macalma, a fourth-year SF State student majoring in public health, has experienced seasonal depression since she moved to San Francisco from warm and sunny San Diego. Macalma noticed a sluggish toll would hit her in November, and juggling work and school became harder.

“I used to gaslight myself when daylight savings comes and seasons change into thinking why I act this way compared to summer time when I’m fresh and happy,” said Macalma.

The empty chairs lead professors like Dr. Florence Uma Bhatnagar, a public health lecturer, to question where students have gone. Since winter comes with deadlines and finals, it becomes harder for students to keep up. Uma Bhatnagar understands the toll mental health can have on her students during this time of year, and believes mental health should come before classes.

In Macalma’s public health classes, mental health is heavily discussed. She expressed how her professors help accommodate students when possible. But she also recognizes that there are other things she can do to help cope with her seasonal depression.

“I try to surround myself with friends because it helps distract me, and being around people helps me realize I’m not lonely,” said Macalma.

Puddles behind Towers at Centennial Square after showers at SF State on Dec. 8, 2022. (Nadia Castro/Xpress Magazine)

According to UC San Francisco Health, the condition can happen in any season, but this disorder is likely related to limited availability of sunlight. For SF State students that come from warmer areas, such as Southern California, getting used to Karl The Fog and less sunshine can be a tough transition.

The climate in San Francisco during winter mostly stays within 50 degrees and rains about every other week.

“It’s hard to get out of bed sometimes,” said Macalma. “I’m usually the type of person to get up early and start my day, but there are so many days where I can’t get up and sleep through my alarm. I get this mood change where I just can’t do this anymore.”

Excessive sleep, negative feelings, anxiety and low energy levels are some of the symptoms that can be experienced while dealing with SAD.

Insider Higher Education conducted a survey of 2,000 students to find the stressors students struggle with most. The top three were keeping up with course work, feeling pressure to do well at college and worrying about money.

College students are at high risk for stress and mental health struggles as they transition into adulthood while simultaneously trying to pick a career path. SF State offers different health services to students that can help with mental health like Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).

SAD drains one’s social battery, leaving their energy low and thus unmotivated to go out. Since there’s hardly any sun during the winter, Healthline says sunlamps can help depression during this time. A sunlamp or light therapy box mimics the natural light outside so that users can absorb some sunlight even when inside. Dawn simulators have a similar effect, waking their user with a brightening light that simulates the natural sun.

Another way to cope with SAD is to maintain a good routine with regular bedtimes. Students can also get energy from going for walks, eating food or doing other invigorating activities.

“I don’t notice it immediately stop. I feel like I get sad until I’m reminded ‘I can do this, I can go outside or to the beach.’ I can do whatever, because it’s more comfortable going outside now,” said Macalma.

If you ever need someone to talk to or mental health services, here are helplines on and off campus.

SFSU Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS): Phone number: (415) 338-2208

Email- caps@sfsu.edu

SFSU Health Center: Phone number: (415) 338-1251

Email: myhealth@sfsu.edu

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: Phone number: (800) 273- 8255

Hopeline: Phone number: (800)422-4673

The Trevor Project (LGTBQ+): Phone number: (866) 488-7386

Empty classrooms on Wednesday in the Humanities building in the afternoon of Nov. 30, 2022. (Nadia Castro/Xpress
Magazine)
A rainy day on campus in front of J. Paul Leonard library at SF State on Dec. 8, 2022. (Nadia Castro/Xpress Magazine)

Delving Into The Dungeon

Bay Area gamers open the doors to a new generation of players

A miniature from the Total Party Chill studio made by artist Matt Ross, @totally_not_panicking on Instagram. Miniatures like this one are made by breaking apart and piecing together material from different miniature sets (Oliver Michelsen / Xpress Magazine)

IIt was in a booth at a Round Table Pizza where Devon Chulick discovered his love for roleplaying games. His mother had purchased him a “choose your own adventure” book. Chulick — a toddler at the time — was too young to read it, so his mother read to him while he rolled dice to determine the different possible outcomes. He wasn’t the slightest bit concerned with the pizza that had arrived at the table — only with figuring out what would happen next in his story.

He was hooked.

Today, Chulick is a professional Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) game master, liveplay host and cofounder of Start Playing, a website dedicated to connecting players of tabletop games like D&D seeking community. He is also one member of a larger community of players in the Bay Area that dedicate their time to getting together with friends and strangers alike, using their imagination to create entire worlds through collaborative storytelling.

Dungeons and Dragons is tabletop roleplaying game originally developed in the early 1970s by game designers Ernest Gary Gygax and David Arneson. The game has changed a lot in the span of 50 years, but its premise remains the same. Players create their own customizable characters, ranging from classic Merlin-esque human wizards to lute-playing goblin bards, and go on adventures crafted by their group’s game master.

D&D doesn’t denote the same connotations it did early on in its existence. With a new blockbuster Dungeons and Dragons movie set to release in March of 2023 starring Chris Pine, Hugh Grant and Michelle Rodriguez, what was once viewed by many as a game for nerds has transformed in the public consciousness into a fun and meaningful pass time.

Though people have been playing D&D for nearly half a century, the game has seen its biggest rise in popularity over the past two years. According to annual earning reports from Hasbro, Wizards of the Coast — the main seller of D&D products — experienced an unprecedented 42% revenue increase in 2021 alone. This is even higher than the previous year’s report, which saw a 33% increase in revenue.

This is due in large part to the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns of 2020 and 2021. Many looking for something new and fun to do in the midst of an international pandemic turned to more escapist pastimes like D&D.

Chulick recognized this early on, which led him to create “Start Playing” with his cofounder Nate Tucker in 2020. The platform allows game masters to set prices for their services, which players can then choose to pay for to play an online game of D&D.

Two years since the platform’s inception, Chulick said that game masters on the website have made a combined $5 million — and over

$100,000 in November alone.

“When you’re in your own space, you’re in your comfort zone,” Chulick said, explaining some of the benefits of the platform. “We’re seeing a lot of people feel really comfortable like, ‘Hey, I don’t have a lot of time. I have three hours every Thursday. I can jump online, I can play my game, I can have the fun I really want. I don’t have to commute…’ And that’s cool. That’s like a whole [new] form of D&D.”

Implied in its category of “tabletop roleplaying game,” D&D has traditionally been played in-person, in a small group around a table. However in a more online world than 1974 many players have only ever played online.

Rue Diaz, a 22-year-old from Modesto, has lived in San Francisco for four years and played D&D exclusively online until recently. Diaz became interested in D&D in the midst of the pandemic, after seeing a popular online show called “Fantasy High” where improv comedians from College Dropout’s “Dimension 20” play live.

Tabletop liveplay shows are a more recent phenomenon, popularized by titles like “Critical Role,” where a group episodically releases their D&D sessions while telling a cohesive story. Many shows, like Chulick’s “Total Party Chill,” go as far as to stream their sessions live for their audience to watch on Twitch or YouTube.

“I saw how fucking fun that shit was, so me and one of my housemates were just in our living room by ourselves… and we just went on a website and were like ‘oh lets make some little characters,’” Diaz recalled. “But I was like, ‘Let me actually try this character. Like hold on, let me search.’”

Diaz soon found a group online through the Start Playing service, and began their first D&D campaign as an Aasimar moon elf with a missing brother. Since then they haven’t stopped playing — though they did have to find a new group after their game master killed everyone’s characters. Diaz laughed recalling that first campaign, saying they prefer to pretend the ending didn’t happen and that their character got married and lived happily ever after.

Despite the mixed results of their first online experience, Diaz has enjoyed playing tabletop roleplaying games online with others for almost two years now. With a new group, Diaz is able to play a game every other week from the comfort of their knick-knack-adorned room.

Playing online mitigates a lot of the issues that come with organizing an in-person session. Conflicting schedules, long commutes and lack of a location are just some of the different obstacles that often deter a group from getting together for a night of D&D. But for some, the experience of sitting around a physical table simply cannot be replaced.

Prior to the pandemic, multiple Bay Area stores consistently

Devon Chulick, game master for “Total Party Chill,” behind his DM screen recounting the party’s previous battle on November 29th, 2022. One player was polymorphed into a dinosaur while another was downed fighting in a dragon’s lair (Oliver Michelsen / Xpress Magazine) Chulick poses for a portrait in front of maps made for the group’s campaign. Though the players have some control over their own narrative, the in-game world comes completely from the imagination of the game master (Oliver Michelsen / Xpress Magazine)

hosted in-person events, inviting players to come in and play tabletop roleplaying games, such as D&D. Though many had to cease over the course of the pandemic for health and safety reasons, some are getting back into consistently hosting these and similar events.

Gamescape SF, a games store located on Divisadero Street, hosts almost-daily tabletop gaming events. One of which is titled the Adventurer’s League, where new and experienced players are invited to join in on a night of D&D.

At the front of the Dogpatch Games store, their windows are adorned with their logo — an aptly eyepatched dog. The front of the store is filled with a plethora of different board games, books and game accessories.

But beyond a small doorway are the store’s community spaces. The main room, which is filled with tables and shelves packed full of card and board games, is referred to as “the Tavern.” It is open to community members most days of the week. Just beyond that is the store’s designated Dungeons and Dragons room.

Small red dice in prop glass vials sit neatly on a shelf, representing the game’s healing potions, while a multitude of different colored dice are piled in small trays at the head of the table in the center of the room.

Andrew Beahm is a manager at Dogpatch Games, and has been playing tabletop games like D&D for twenty years. He helps to organize events in the Tavern and the D&D room, many of which are specifically geared towards beginners.

“People are spending less time physically with friends than ever, to an astonishing degree. And I think that we really want to preserve that warm camaraderie of the game table,” Leahm said. “Nothing really beats the convenience of playing online, but I think the quality of experience is better in person. And with the pandemic, we’ve tried to make it as safe as possible to do that.”

In addition to these physical community rooms, Dogpatch Games also maintains a Discord server, where members can organize their own D&D games utilizing the store’s spaces.

Chulick is an outspoken supporter of any type of play: online, in-person, an open-to-all community or private. But the experience of playing in the Total Party Chill studio is just a little different than the average game space at stores like Dogpatch Games.

Every Sunday, Chulick is greeted at the Total Party Chill studio — located locally in the Mission — by shelves upon shelves of custom painted miniatures. The small meticulously detailed creatures range from undead dragons to tentacled scifi abominations. Chulick prepares as much as he can throughout the week, coming up with answers for any questions his players may have about their quest, or ironing out the lore of the world he specially designed.

Unlike many game masters, Chulick has to worry about the enjoyment of an audience at home as well as the group of players in front of him. He doesn’t seem to let that get to his head though.

“I feel everyone deals with imposter syndrome, but the main thing is if your friends are coming back… or people are coming back because they want to play again, that’s the best insight you can get.”

A miniature from the Total Party Chill studio made by artist Matt Ross, @totally_not_ panicking on Instagram. Miniatures like this one are made by breaking apart and piecing together material from different miniature sets (Oliver Michelsen / Xpress Magazine) The game board at the “Total Party Chill” studio set up to show where the party’s last battle left off (Oliver Michelsen / Xpress Magazine) A miniature of the six-headed dragon Tiamat, a popular “big bad” character in Dungeons and Dragons lore (Oliver Michelsen / Xpress Magazine)

Gym Culture

At 16 years old, Emilia Russell knew the pros and cons of working out in public gyms. On the positive end, working out meant better health, more endorphins and making friends at fitness centers. Getting catcalled and leered at by older men, however, made the hobby bittersweet. Though in the past, gyms have not been overly welcoming towards women and non-binary folks, in recent years, fitness centers across the United States have reported a dramatic increase in female gym memberships. According to a survey done by the International Health, Racquet & Sports Association, between the years of 2010 and 2019, female members had a 32.2% increase while males only increased by 23.2%. Unfortunately, the survey provided no data on the attendance of non-binary gym-goers. Women are more enthusiastic about fitness than ever before, and the result is a safer, friendlier workout environment for all.

Rusell, now 25, has certainly felt the shift in the fitness world’s acceptance of others. During much of their youth, Russell, who is transgender, experienced not only sexual objectification from others during gym workouts, but also hostility towards their gender expression.

“Obviously, it is going to be more men, but you can’t disregard that women can also be bad people,” Russell said. They continued. “I have been intimidated before by, like, a lady who finished up with doing her squats. She turned around, looked at me, and kind of scoffed. So that was, like, a little bit fun.”

In talking about their current gym, however, Russell enthusiastically explains the ways in which it ensures the comfort of all of its members. Russell describes the signs that the gym displays, encouraging everyone to use the restroom they identify with, as well as the abundance of staff members who do not tolerate bigotry or harassment in any form.

San Francisco State University, which boasts an extensive wellness center, also strives maintain a positive fitness environment for the students, staff and faculty who utilize it. Their official mission statement on their website reads, “we strive to create positive and supportive exercise environments in-person and virtually that inspire positive lifestyle changes.”

According to Paula Rivera, a student at SF State who works out at the Mashouf Wellness Center a couple times a week, that is exactly what they do.

“Compared to other gyms, I find it more safe,” Rivera said. “I feel like when I first started going to the gym, like around the age

Shifts in gym demographics create a better work out space
Francesca Caccia uses the squat machine in the Mashouf Wellness Center at SF State for a “regular” workout in San Francisco, Calif., on Dec. 5, 2022. Caccia says working out makes her feel good after, and comes in as often as she can to “stay healthy and fit.” (Tatyana Ekmekjian / Xpress Magazine)

of 16, I would get stared at a lot by men, or catcalled. But here, there’s a lot more employees around. More women around now, so I feel more comfortable being here.”

According to Rivera, while her early gym days would have a distinct gender imbalance in favor of men, lately, she has noticed a far more balanced distribution of people during her workouts. Now that she almost exclusively works out at SF State’s fitness center, not only has she noticed more women attendees, but a less hostile environment in general.

“Here, it’s a variety of both [men and women.] Even if I come early in the morning and there’s some men here, I don’t tend to get the same discouragement that I would get at other gyms.”

Rivera speculates that this uptick in women going to gyms has resulted from a desire for better mental health. For herself, River began to work out as a result of her own fitness goals and insecurities. She has noticed that some people around her also want to reap the physical and mental benefits of physical activity.

“More people want to go to the gym now, especially women want to work on themselves more, so I feel like they’re coming a lot more.” Rivera explained. She continued, “A lot of people go through mental health issues and they want to better themselves. That’s one of the impacts.”

Similarly, Russell believes that people of all demographics started working out in increased numbers during and after the COVID-19 lockdown. Russell explained that during the pandemic, they and their coworkers first started hearing about many different types of home workouts.

“I know there was Chloe Ting, Blogilates, a lot of online people who had playlists on Youtube for things to do at home while we were under lockdown for that long.”

Once lockdown ended, however, many people who had begun workout regimens during COVID wanted to keep up their routines. According to Russell, the pandemic the fitness kick that many people are still on today.

“During the lockdown, I knew a lot of people that were working out and home and things like that, they just wanted to keep moving and I’ve had a few coworkers tell me ‘oh yeah, the pandemic really started my fitness journey.”

Whatever the reason for the trend, the results benefit so many who seek a safe and respectful fitness environment. As men have historically dominated gyms and fitness centers, many women and non-binary people feel intimidated to enter that space.

“If you’re femme or woman-presenting, I think a lot of people just get kind of nervous around, I think, certain sections[of the gym] because of the ‘gym-bro mentality.’ It can be a little bit intimidating.”

This “gym-bro mentality” that Russell describes can make it difficult for some to feel at home taking part in the historically male hobby. According to Russell, it encourages an overly competitive mindset that places value on lifting weights and building muscle, despite the many different exercises available at an average fitness center

“The gym-bro mentality would be like, weights and trying to do the best, and it’s very patriarchal almost,” Russell explained. They continued, “Especially if you’re a first-time person going to the gym. I feel like both men and women and everybody in between can get really intimidated by that.”

Now, as these spaces fill with more and more women, the contrast does not appear so stark. Russell’s gym, SF Fitness, appears to cater to more women than it does men, according to them.

Ameen Safr lifts weights at the Mashouf Wellness Center at SF State because he says that it’s a good way to start his week and help himself feel more accomplished by staying busy in San Francisco, Calif., on Dec. 5, 2022. Safr also shares that “it’s national chest day so [he] had to come in.” (Tatyana Ekmekjian / Xpress Magazine) Seth Saphan works out his arms and back at the Mashouf Wellness Center at SF State in San Francisco, Calif., on Dec. 5, 2022. Saphan comes everyday after school in order to “stay on the grind.” (Tatyana Ekmekjian / Xpress Magazine) Ameen Safr adds weight to his lift at the Mashouf Wellness Center at SF State because he says that
it’s
a good way to start his week and help himself feel more accomplished by staying busy in San Francisco, Calif., on Dec. 5, 2022. Safr also shares that “it’s national chest day so [he] had to come
in.”
(Tatyana Ekmekjian / Xpress Magazine)
“The gym-bro mentality would be like, weights and trying to do the best, and it’s very patriarchal almost. Especially if you’re a first-time person going to the gym. I feel like both men and women and everybody in between can get really intimidated by that.”

krazy for k-pop

OOn most nights, SFSU’s Mashouf Wellness Center is filled with students and faculty working out, playing basketball and rock climbing. But on some nights in room 122, something else entirely is going on: dance workshops. And not just any dance workshops — K-pop dance workshops, with 15-plus fans that dedicate two hours of their day to learning the rigorous choreography of their favorite K-pop songs.

When the general public hears the word K-pop, the first things that come to mind are super-upbeat tunes and singers with colorful hair. But those who are active members in the K-pop community know that it is so much more. K-pop gives them a sense of belonging, a place to unapologetically be themselves and strength to carry on when life becomes too overwhelming to push through alone.

The Bay Area houses a prominent K-pop community, featuring K-pop-themed events, fans who make and sell original merchandise and specialty stores that sell official albums all across the Bay. Not to mention SFSU’s very own K-pop club, K-pop Adventures.

Korean Popular Music — commonly known as K-pop — has surged in popularity in the U.S. in recent years. The boyband BTS, one of the genre’s most popular groups, became the first Korean act to be nominated for a Grammy in 2021. The group has now beat their own record, nominated for two more Grammy awards this year. In a 2021 study found on Statista, 39% of respondents said that K-pop was very popular in their country, which was conducted in 18 countries. So, how exactly has this genre of music taken over not only the Bay Area, but the entire globe?

SF State graduate Yvonne Arceo was 11 years old when she was introduced to the colorful world of K-pop. It’s now 22 years later, and she’s never looked back. “It’s given me a life,” Arceo said. “I don’t know what I would be without it, truly.”

Thanks to K-pop, Arceo says she has found a community like no other, and was even able to study abroad in Korea — a chance she may have not taken had she not learned about Korean culture and

language from the genre.

“I found out I’m really interested in languages,” said Arceo. “It’s allowed me to connect with friends too and make new ones, and I think all those things are special and provide a community for those that may not have it elsewhere.”

This sense of community is incredibly important in the world of K-pop and is mentioned frequently by the singers — known as “idols” — as well as their fans. These idols have garnered unprecedented adoration across the globe thanks to the dedication they have towards their craft and the charismatic way they interact with their fans.

This level of devotion isn’t usually shown for other genres of music or entertainment. When an idol has a birthday, fans across the world organize a variety of events to celebrate. The most common are “cup sleeve events,” usually held in a cafe or boba shop where attendees get a free K-pop themed sleeve with the drinks they order. Cup sleeves provide a safe, fun environment for fans to celebrate their favorite idols surrounded by decorations, music and friends. Other fans decorate planes for their favorite idols or send coffee trucks to their label’s buildings to celebrate their favorite’s birthdays.

Just recently there was a cup sleeve event on Saturday December 3rd, 2022 at My Cup of Tea in San Francisco. This event was hosted by Magic Hour Cafee and even had shops in Castro Valley, Berkeley, Bakersfield, Fullerton and Los Angeles on the same day. The event was thrown in celebration of a member from K-pop band, TXT, Soobin’s birthday.

In Korea, events called fansigns allow fans to meet their biases face-to-face. A “bias” is a nice way of saying your favorite member of the group. At these events, idols meet fans and sign albums. Fans can take pictures with the idols and even give the idols gifts. But what distinguishes these events from a Western singer’s meet-and-

A look into the cultural phenomenon that is K-pop and how it’s taken over the world —— and the Bay Area
K-Pop Adventures, the K-Pop club at SFSU, learn the choreography to the song Fake Love by BTS during their dance workshop for BTS Month inside the Mashouf Wellness Center on Nov. 30, 2022. (Miguel Francesco Carrion / Xpress Magazine)

greet is the way K-pop idols interact with their fans. Sure, American singers show love and appreciation for their fans — but K-pop idols take this to the next level by being overly sweet, loving and even flirtatious with their fans.

While the love between idols and their fans defines K-pop, it can also lead to parasocial relationships. A parasocial relationship is a one-sided relationship, where one person extends emotional energy, interest and time while the other person is completely unaware of their existence. While there are some K-pop fans who behave this way, there are many fans who are not the stereotypical “crazed” teenage girls who think Jimin of BTS is their actual boyfriend.

Joanne Auwae, known on Instagram as the K-pop Granny, is 73 years old and adores K-pop. Since becoming a fan in 2019, she has attended roughly 120 K-pop events and concerts with her daughter and granddaughter. She says that the shared interest has brought the three generations of women closer together.

“K-pop has opened a most enjoyable view of music and youth in this senior’s life,” Auwae said. “I am humbled by the enthusiasm and warmth of people, young and old, who have followed me on Instagram and who share the same love of everything K-pop.”

Auwae has become somewhat of a social media celebrity in the Bay Area and is almost always recognized at the K-pop events she attends. “Some of my fondest memories include meeting the many fellow K-pop enthusiasts at cup sleeve events and concerts,” she said. “If only they knew I am more in awe of them knowing who I am than in their thinking that I’m a celebrity of sorts.”

Kevin Chow turned his love of K-pop into a business venture. After becoming a K-pop fan in 2012 and joining a K-pop cover team, he met a friend and they decided to follow their dream of opening a K-pop store. Chow and his friend made that dream come true back in 2021, when they opened Kloud K-pop San Jose.

For Chow, his admiration for K-pop stems from finally seeing representation on his screen. “I’m Chinese-American, and I was like,‘It’s kind of cool that there’s these Asian artists that are doing really cool things and are looked up to by a lot of people,’” said Chow. “That’s what drew me in. In the U.S., you didn’t really see that many Asian artists or actors in the mainstream media. I really wanted to support that. Seeing that gave me a lot of confidence to do what I want to do without feeling judgment.”

Confidence, self-love, etc. are all very popular themes in K-pop lyrics and give fans the sense that their favorite idols and groups are there for them through it all. The face of the genre, BTS, staged a campaign back in 2017 titled “LOVE MYSELF” aimed to protect and support child and teen victims of domestic and school violence as well as sexual assault around the world.

Jessica Adena has been a fan of K-pop — specifically BTS — for five years now and has found comfort in their lyricism and messages. “Their lyrics and the way they convey their emotions in them is so powerful,” Adena said. “There are songs that have literally saved me and changed my life because I could relate to it. Their songs offer a blanket of comfort, saying ‘It’s ok’ and ‘You’re not alone.’”

Naomi Martin shows the photographer her K-Pop related tattoos at the Soobin Cup Sleeve event at My Cup of Tea in San Francisco on Dec. 3, 2022. (Miguel Francesco Carrion / Xpress Magazine) The organizers and vendors of the event pose for a group photo at the end of the Soobin Cup Sleeve event at My Cup of Tea in San Francisco on Dec. 3, 2022. (Miguel Francesco Carrion / Xpress Magazine) Yvonne Arceo poses with her K-Pop photocard binder inside the Humanities Building at SFSU on Dec. 7, 2022. (Miguel Francesco Carrion / Xpress Magazine) Yvonne Arceo flips through her binder of K-Pop photocards inside the Humanities Building at SFSU on Dec. 7, 2022. (Miguel Francesco Carrion / Xpress Magazine) Arceo’s entire photo card collection, which is three binders full, is worth upwards of $4,000 in resale value. She is planning on selling the pink binder shown in the photo on the left. Photo cards are small, exclusive, never-before-seen photos of K-pop idols that can be found in albums, raffles, gift sets, etc. While market price rarely exceeds $20, resale value on exclusive photo cards can reach upwards of $100. They can be even more expensive if they’re signed.