BRAIN ORGASMS /CONTROVERSY AT RESLIFE / POST-PANDEMIC NURSES / HOSTILE ARCHITECTURE /WAR AND VODKA / CAPTURING THE STARS
NO REST IN PEACE
SASKIA HATVANY editor-in-chief ALBERT GREGORY managing / copy editor ALBERT SERNA JR. content / multimedia editor MORGAN ELLIS photo editor CASH MARTINEZ social media editor NICOLE GONZALES online editor
NICOLAS CHOLULA ABRAHAM FUENTES PARIS GALARZA BIANCA HEREDIA GARRETT ISLEY KARINA PATEL RENE RAMIREZ ESTEBAN RENTERIA SABITA SHRESTHA MAXIMO VAZQUEZ
SELENA ZHAO art director
JUSTINE BRADY EMILY CARDENAS LORENA GARIBAY ANNE KRISTOFF OLIVER MICHELSEN CAROLINE RAFFETTO
With so many firsts this year, finally, there must be a last. The fourth issue of Spring 2022 is a wild beast that could barely begin to be contained in 24 pages. From brain orgasms to funeral workers to an investigative piece about SF State residential workers, this edition of Xpress Magazine doesn’t mince words — and that’s how we like it. To the staff that has poured their hard work into these four issues and our lovely advisor, thank you. You made the toughest school semester of my life the most fun.
BECOMING A NURSE IN THE SHADOW OF A PANDEMIC
THE CITY’S ANTI-HOMELESS ARCHITECTURE
WHY GATOR PASS DOESN’T COVER ALL STUDENTS
RUSSIAN BOYCOTT —OR NOT?
SHOOTING FOR THE STARS
WOMEN IN THE BUSINESS OF BOOZE
WHY DO PEOPLE LOVE ASMR?
INVESTIGATION: RA CONTROVERSY ON CAMPUS
ON THE COVER
IN THE BUSINESS OF DEATH
Cover photos by Morgan Ellis.
The vodka section in Tony’s Market & Liquor located on 24th Street. in San Francisco’s Mission District on April 29, 2022. (Maximo Vazquez / Xpress Magazine)
Are San Franciscans Really Boycotting Russian Products?
BY LORENA GARIBAY Anna Voloshyna sits down at her kitchen island countertop, and she readies herself to answer questions that’ll hit home for her — literally. Behind her are her mixers, stove, pots and pans, all of the tools necessary for her to create dishes that remind her of her current mission. She is cooking for Ukraine, where the invasion is about to mark its third month. When she holds fundraising dinners, she serves vodka but makes sure that it’s not Russian. The war in Ukraine has caused some to call for the boycott of Russian products, specifically vodka. On Instagram, hashtags such as #norussianvodka and #russianboycott have appeared since the conflict began. On March 8, the White House announced in a press release that the U.S. would be banning the import of “Russian oil, liquified natural gas and coal.” On March 11, the U.S. announced another ban on Russian imports, including alcoholic beverages, seafood, non-industrial diamonds, other luxury goods and “any other products of Russian Federation origin.” Meanwhile, some states, including Alabama, Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia, have decided to ban Russianmade vodka. However, some local businesses say that they have not seen much of a difference in their sales, and according to foreign trade data from The United States Census Bureau, Russian trade increased from $1.9
million in January to $2.7 million in March. Voloshyna is a Ukrainian chef and currently lives in San Francisco, where she has been busy holding dinners and virtual lessons in Ukrainian cooking to aid the humanitarian crisis in her home country. She makes a point to source local products for her recipes but does buy imported goods from time to time, depending on the dish. “If we can block the economic power, if we can prevent money from flowing into the country until this country is no longer at war with my country, that’s something I’m willing to do. I’m not buying Russian stuff, I didn’t do it before, but now I’m very conscious not to do it,” said Voloshyna. Voloshyna likes to make vodka infusions and has included some recipes in her new cookbook, “Budmo!” which means “let us be” in Ukrainian and is the equivalent of cheers. For these infusions, she uses roots, fruits, vegetables, herbs and honey. She uses American or European vodka brands, but not Russian. “This is a personal choice for everyone and if you think that this war isn’t fair and it’s cruel and must be stopped then the decision is obvious,” said Voloshyna. Sam Siddique, the owner of Tony’s Market & Liquor on 24th Street. in San Francisco, said the business had seen no decrease in the sale of Russian vodka since the beginning of the conflict. Siddique carries Stolichnaya,
a vodka often associated with Russia. But it has been produced in Latvia since 2000, with headquarters in Luxembourg. The brand’s founder, Yuri Shefler, left Russia in 2002 due to his opposition to Russian leader, Vladimir Putin. Stolichnaya, now just Stoli, is currently going through a rebranding as a response to the Russian initiated war against Ukraine. Jessica Stemwedel has been working as a representative of Southern Glazers, a Bay Area liquor distributor, for 12 years. Since Southern Glazers mostly carries non-Russian brands, Stemwedel said she had not seen a big difference in sales. She said that prior to the war in Ukraine, no one asked about the origins of their vodka brands, but that since then, some customers have been inquiring. She had one customer ask her if their company carried any Ukrainian brands of vodka and that some have doublechecked the labels to make sure that they aren’t Russian products. Ali Mohammad is the owner of W-K Market on 24th Steet in San Francisco. His store carries a Ukrainian vodka brand called Khortytsa.
If we can block the economic power, if we can prevent money from flowing into the country until this country is no longer at war with my country, that’s something I’m willing to do. I’m not buying Russian stuff.
“The Russians are good people, and I don’t know if boycotting Russian products impacts the political part itself,” said Mohammad as he stood behind the counter. “I hope it doesn’t affect the Russian people… the ones making these decisions are their government.” Viktoria Kot, who is from Russia, is a bartender at the Irish pub The Napper Tandy at 24th Street in San Francisco. She is from District Bogorodskoye in the Moscow region. She also has relatives in Ukraine. Kot said that during the beginning of the war, customers would ask her about the situation. But she hadn’t noticed any changes in the bar or guests deciding not to order Russian vodka or drinks. “There should be no politics in the bar because people have their own beliefs. When alcohol is included, things can get fired up,” said Kot. Boris Fudym is the owner of New World Market on Geary Blvd in San Francisco, which caters to the Eastern European community of the Richmond District. The back of the shop is filled with the aroma of warm piroshkis. Fudym, who is from Ukraine, said he holds no animosity towards the Russian community. Russians and Ukrainians share a very similar diet, and they often end up purchasing similar items of the same brands, Fudym said. His sales of Russian products have remained the same, and he said that he hasn’t heard of any other local businesses taking down Russian products. “If they want to eat grechka [buckwheat], they’re going to eat grechka, and they know it’s better to buy Russian because it’s better quality,” said Fudym. Anya El-Wattar is the owner and executive chef of the restaurant Birch & Rye at Castro St. in San Francisco, which serves modern Russian cuisine. El-Wattar, who is originally from Moscow, Russia, found the whole situation devastating since she has family both in Russia and Ukraine. She has been helping her friends and family leave Odessa and move to Poland or Germany. Birch & Rye hosted a fundraiser on April 14 alongside chef Dominique Crenn for World Central Kitchen’s relief work in Ukraine. They managed to raise a total of $108,000 and have also been raising money for Doctors Without Borders with their cocktail “Olena’s Flowers.” El-Wattar said that her servers have been getting questions about the situation in Ukraine and they have made clear their support. “At its core, this concept was designed in the spirit of promoting peace. We see food as a universal connector; we understand eachother’s humanity better when we talk to eachother,” said El-Wattar.
STARS Lick Observatory’s 40-inch lens telescope building on April 29, 2022. Though 20 miles away from the closest source of light pollution, photos taken from atop Mt. Hamilton still must deal with the weather and the faint glow of distant San Jose. (Oliver Michelsen / Xpress Magazine)
The Bay Area astronomers who capture the night sky BY OLIVER MICHELSEN Andy Macica caught his first picture of a supernova by accident. He shot Messier 51, what he refers to as either M51 or “the Whirlpool Galaxy,” 23 million lightyears away on his home telescope. When he later read that a supernova had been recorded, he checked his photos from days earlier to see he had captured the small blur of a dying star in a far-off galaxy. Today, Macica lives in San Jose and works as a parttime telescope operator and tour guide at Lick Observatory. Across his journals and photos, he has documented upwards of 2,500 astronomical events in his more than 30-year amateur astronomy career, a large number of them from his backyard. “The telescopes [at Lick] are large and powerful enough that [seen] quasars… about 2 billion light-years away to 8 or even 10 billion light-years away,” Macica said. “They may be very small; they may look like a star, but the fact that you’re looking at something that far away is quite interesting.” Quasars, he later explained, are highly luminous objects expected by astronomers to be powered by supermassive black holes. Macica is just one of the Bay Area-based astronomers who has devoted their life to documenting the expansive
array of astronomical objects and events constantly floating in and out of our sky’s field of vision. He, and many others, spend most of their nights peering through the light pollution of cities like San Jose and San Francisco, hoping to capture another quasar, comet or supernova on film. Macica doesn’t live on the mountain like some of the full-time astronomers but said that Mt. Hamilton, located about 20 miles outside of San Jose, is the “primo location” for astronomy in the Bay Area due to its distance from the city’s light pollution. Eventually, after years of volunteering and observation, Macica learned to operate the observatory’s 36- and 40-inch telescopes. The 36-inch telescope was constructed in the 1880s and it requires two people to aim and calibrate its focus manually. The road leading up to Lick Observatory, located at the peak of Mt. Hamilton, is narrow, winding and, often lacking a guard rail. Macica makes the drive a few times a week to lead private tours for students and tourists and use the observatory’s equipment for viewings. After showing groups the facilities during the day, with the help of another longtime docent, Pat Maloney, Macica opened the roof of the main observatory’s 36-inch telescope and began setting up for viewing.
An antenna located atop the observatory’s post office on April 29, 2022. Full-time staff live on the premises and sleep during the day for late -night viewings. (Oliver Michelsen / Xpress Magazine)
With a limited time window, the two locked onto Gamma Leonis, Leo, a binary star system that flickers blue and gold in the eyepiece located 130 lightyears away. Throughout his tours, Macica excitedly answered every question asked of him and looked on in awe with the rest of the group as the 120-inch telescope operator opened the massive domed roof for sunset. Sunlight filled the room as the massive deep space imaging device began to turn and rotate towards the opening. In the Bay Area, there are a number of organizations that promote amateur astronomy and photography for newcomers to the scene, as Macica does. Groups like the San Francisco Amateur Astronomers hold monthly “star parties” in the Presidio and on top of Mt. Tamalpais in Marin County for its members, while other organizations such as the Sonoma County-based Striking Sparks hold events at the Robert Ferguson Observatory in Santa Rosa to promote astronomy and scientific education to local students. Elinor Gates, the chief astronomer at Lick Observatory, lives on Mt. Hamilton year-round, just a two-minute drive from the summit and main observation facilities. She said that while one of the main goals of the observatory is the training and education of University of California student astronomers, Lick hosts events encouraging the community to make use of its facilities. “Professional astronomers are often looking for the scientific content of an image that’s taken in a particular color, whereas the amateur astrophotographers are more looking for beauty,” she explained. “Both have wonderful merits. We want to underscore more about the universe, but it’s also amazing to appreciate the beauty of what is out there in the sky.” Regardless of experience, both sides of the spectrum deal with the same obstacles in the form of light pollution and unpredictable weather conditions. Cameras capture images by allowing light to hit the camera’s sensor for a fraction of a second.
Astrophotographers use what are called long exposures in order to capture the faint light given off by distant stars. When shooting near a city, these 10 to 30-second exposures take in the light emitted from buildings and street lamps, often drowning out the astronomical subject of the photo. More than 20 miles away from San Jose, photos captured from the peak of Mt. Hamilton often still come out with a light glow from the city’s lights. Many nights Brian Padgett, a longtime amateur astrophotographer born and raised in Sonoma county, sets up in the front driveway of his Santa Rosa home with his 14-year-old son, Aiden. Before they can begin viewing and imaging on their home telescope, they carry out the often arduous process of aligning it with the North Star, Polaris. Padgett explained that one of his biggest inspirations for getting involved in astronomy was his son’s passion for the subject at a young age. He recalled many nights when the duo would stay up late looking at the images that their telescope was capturing. The following morning Padgett would look at all the footage captured and begin the hourslong process of layering and editing to pull out the best image possible. Things took a turn for the worse, however, when the 2017 Tubbs Fire ravaged Northern California and much of Sonoma County. Padgett and his family had just enough time to get out
Lick Observatory’s 120-inch telescope during sunset on April 29, 2022. Astronomers use the massive machine for the deep space imaging of far-off astronomical objects like quasars. (Oliver Michelsen / Xpress Magazine)
A zoomed-in image of Messier-13 or “the Hercules Cluster,” (left) taken on Brian Padgetts’s home Meade 14-inch telescope (right) on May 9, 2022. Weather is not only tough on imaging but on the photographer; Padgett stayed out till 3 a.m. in 37-degree weather for this image. (Photo courtesy of Brian Padgett)
of their house and get to safety, but in the process, they lost their house, all of Padgett’s astronomy equipment, and the hard drives holding his extensive archive of family and astrophotos. “It took a long time to kind of get back to being able to do it again,” he recalled. “I did replace a scope, not all my scopes, over time. I then started attaching and building that out and was pretty much just doing visual astronomy for quite a while.” Padgett, as well as his son, are docents at the Robert Ferguson Observatory and have spent the last few years building back their astrophotography equipment. Though he now only has one telescope, it is a behemoth. The 400+ pound LX850 mount and 14-inch lens
I love the fact that behind every photo that some amateur astrophotographer posts, there's a lot of effort that goes into it. Like in some cases, there's 20 plus hours of either shooting or editing or setting up.
Meade telescope is covered with a thin thermal coat to keep temperatures consistent and avoid condensation on the internal mirror or lenses. Another aspect that makes Padgett’s scope unique is its ability to lock onto and track astronomical objects such as stars and distant galaxies. Because the Earth is constantly rotating, advanced tracking systems like the one Padgett uses are a necessity for deep space imaging. Without one, a camera is unable to follow the stars, albeit not noticeable to the human eye, constant movement across the sky and images will begin to streak. Once he aligned his system with Polaris, Padgett pulled out a packet of eyepatches. He explained that by wearing one over your dominant eye, you build “night vision,” which allows you to see more when peering through the scope’s eyepiece.
Now, ready to view, Padgett explained some of the other challenges he faces when photographing from his neighborhood. In addition to wiping out most of his belongings, the fire also fundamentally changed the landscape for taking night sky photos in the Sonoma County area. Where there used to be dense foliage blocking the lights of Fountaingrove, a neighborhood visible from Padgett’s driveway, now stand barren trees that allow light to fill the sky and drown out photos of the stars. Another issue that he and other astrophotographers deal with is timing. Prior to the pandemic, Padgett constantly traveled for work, causing him to miss the opportunity to capture multiple astronomical events. Objects and events like that of a passing comet or asteroid provide a one-time-only opportunity for a photo. If you miss them for any number of reasons, your opportunity may be lost forever. Gates recalled being lucky enough to capture a photo of the comet NEOWISE from her backyard on Mt. Hamilton back in March of 2020 before it quickly faded back into obscurity. “The sky is constantly changing, and things aren’t static. [W]e have great objects, like new supernova explosions that one day, it’s not there, and the next day, the star explodes… They’re bright for maybe a few months and then fade away,” she explained. “Some objects, you have even less time to study.” The astronomy community in the Bay Area is a thriving one, due in large part to people like Gates, Padgett and Macica. Padgett teaches courses explaining the basics of astrophotography and brings his telescope with him to local schools and stargazing nights to stoke interest in local students and budding astronomers. Macica, who spends most days either on Mt. Hamilton or in his backyard gazing at astronomical bodies, said his favorite part of the work nowadays is passing his passion on to a new generation of stargazers. “I just like seeing the excitement in their faces, the questions they ask… I’m more in the autumn of my life. They’re in the spring of their life. So seeing the excitement coming from the younger generation means a lot to me.”
In the Business of Death The around-the-clock job of funeral workers Reuben Houston, owner and funeral director at Colma Cremation & Funeral Services, adjusts the blinds in his office on April 16, 2022. He took over the business in December 2019. (Morgan Ellis / Xpress Magazine)
BY SASKIA HATVANY days a week. And it’s really, really, really rare to have a funeral where people are coming in and saying, ‘Isn’t this wonderful? I’m having such a good time. I’m so glad she’s dead,” said Halloran. Halloran is one of approximately 24,700 funeral workers in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics. That number includes morticians, funeral arrangers and undertakers but does not count the array of job titles that work in and around the funeral industry. Many of those who work in the business of death face an emotionally charged and demanding job that often requires them to work around the clock. Reuben Houston, owner and funeral director of
Reuben Houston, owner and funeral director at Colma Cremation & Funeral Services, works on his computer in his Colma office on April 16, 2022. (Morgan Ellis / Xpress Magazine)
When Thomas Halloran gets ready to embalm a body, he makes sure to remove the silver watch from his left hand and hide it from view. He won’t look at the clock’s hands until he has completed his job, which sometimes isn’t until the early hours of the morning. “It’s 24/7,” said Halloran, an embalmer and manager at the Duggan Funeral home in San Francisco. “It’s not uncommon that I get more done personally after 5 p.m. when everyone leaves because I’m not interrupted.” Halloran was just 7 years old when he held his mother’s hand and walked behind the flag-draped casket that carried his grandfather’s body. He remembers every detail, from the church service in San Francisco to the police-escorted limousine ride down to Golden Gate National Cemetery where his grandfather, a World War I veteran, was laid to rest. It was the first of many family funerals throughout his childhood. “Even back then, I thought, this is kind of cool: fancy cars, a lot of pomp, everyone was dressed in black,” Halloran said, sitting behind the dark wooden desk in one of the rooms of the funeral home, the decor of which has remained largely untouched since 1932 when the home opened. By the time he was a teenager, he was certain that he wanted to be a funeral director and spent his free time working as a florist and delivering flowers to funeral services around town. He got his first job at a funeral home when he was 18-years-old. After 42 years of experience in the industry, Halloran concedes that his job can be taxing at times. “You’re dealing with emotional people, five to seven
Thomas Halloran, general manager of Duggan’s Funeral Service, poses for a portrait on the entry stairway on April 5, 2022. Having attended many funerals growing up, Halloran knew from a very young age that he wanted to work in the funeral industry. (Morgan Ellis / Xpress Magazine)
Colma Cremation & Funeral Services, frequently works through the weekend, even though the business is technically closed on Sundays. “It’s like, do I pass it on to one of my staff to pick up the body? Or do I just do it myself and let my staff just enjoy the weekend?” he said. “But yeah, we’re still seven days a week, 24 hours a day.” Houston, 44, is going on his 24th year in funeral work. His kids both grew up accustomed to their dad having to leave at a moment’s notice to pick up a body. Before his daughter began attending college, she would help out around the funeral home. Now, his 12-year-old son is becoming more involved in the business too. “They were born into it. Sometimes daddy had to run to removal real quick. My daughter would jump, basically in the front seat,” Houston said. Family-owned funeral homes were once the norm in San Francisco, where there used to be over 40 privately owned funeral homes, according to Halloran. Now there are just two. Many of the remaining businesses have been bought by large corporations — a practice criticized by Houston, who believes that corporate homes often charge more and offer lesser quality services compared to family-owned affairs like his own. “This is a ministry. You got to have a passion. You have to be able to show human kindness even through the difficult time that you face with these families,” Houston said.
Not much is known about the mental health of funeral workers. One of the few studies on the subject, published in the American Journal of Health and Behavior in 2020, surveyed just 132 funeral workers. Over 60% of the participants reported that they had been struggling with stress, depression or problems with emotions in the last 30 days. The study also found that substance abuse and weight management were commonly reported problem in the field. “It is mentally and emotionally draining. Sometimes I find myself snapping at the people who I really care about the most and who I love and adore because I’m stressed out,” he said. “So emotionally, yeah, I’m burnt out right now.” Even for those who spend decades in the industry, there are aspects to the job that some never get used to. Houston said that he still shudders when he sees bodies sometimes, especially those that have been through traumatic accidents. “You don’t get desensitized, not at all,” he said. “When it comes to kids, it’s the hardest thing. I’ve buried so many young people in my lifetime.” Just one block away from Houston’s office, Troy Milan walks the green candy-colored grounds of the Italian Cemetery in Colma. From the main office at the top of the hill, the view is a seemingly endless sprawl of cemetery grounds. Across a busy street in the distance, the blue and white building of the Greek cemetery peeks out from the trees. It’s one of the 17 cemeteries in Colma, a two-square-mile town that was established at the border of San Francisco in 1924 to serve as burial grounds for the growing number of deceased during the
It is mentally and emotionally draining. Sometimes I find myself snapping at the people who I really care about the most and who I love and adore because I'm stressed out.
The Italian Cemetery in Colma is one of 17 cemeteries just in the town of Colma as a result of the banning of burials within the City and County of San Francisco. (Morgan Ellis / Xpress Magazine)
Mark Fontana, owner of Fontana Monuments, poses for a portrait at the Colma shop on April 5, 2022. “I got stuff to do. I’m never sedentary at all; I like to do stuff,” said Fontana, who indulges in many interests such as cars and winemaking outside of work. (Morgan Ellis / Xpress Magazine)
Gold Rush. “This is like a little town of its own. We have something like 78,000 permanent residents,” Milan said, gesturing to the rows of marble vaults that line the top of the hill of the Italian Cemetery. Milan is the director of community relations at the cemetery, where he has been working for the last five years. He enjoys walking the cemetery grounds and the regular hours and slow pace of the cemetery compared to his previous jobs, which often required tedious commutes. But he also likes feeling like he’s a part of something bigger than himself. “I was working for an E-commerce [company], and it
was always like… we could do better next quarter. But at the end of the day, we all end up here in some form or another,” said Milan. Unlike funeral homes, cemetery workers tend to have a more tame schedule. Still, the job can sometimes be shocking, he said. “I don’t know these people at all…but to hear that wailing, that can really cut to the core sometimes,” said Milan. “Usually when I meet somebody, it’s the worst day of their life… but if you can help them out, then it’s really rewarding.” Colma’s deceased greatly outnumber its living, and according to the town’s website, there are over 1.5 million buried in the two-acre municipality. The town’s main street is lined with funeral-oriented businesses, including florists and monument carvers, who create the headstones, plaques and various monuments that decorate the surrounding cemeteries. Fontana Monuments has been owned and operated by the Fontana family for over 100 years. As a kid, Mark Fontana used to wander into his grandfather’s workshop, and marvel at the giant slabs of granite stacked one on top of the other. Many of the raw slabs that line the walls of the workshop will be carved into grave markers. “As a kid being here in the shop, I just liked it,” he said. “It had everything you needed: noise, explosions, stuff going on and yelling…and then at the end of the day, there was something that you did that would outlive everybody.” Rich Vaccari, who runs the flower shop down the
From left, Rich and Maria Vaccari, owners of Flowerland Floral Shop in Colma talk about their experiences working together in the shop for over 30 years. They got married in Lake Tahoe six years ago but only took a day off for the occasion in order to come back to work. (Morgan Ellis / Xpress Magazine)
street, has a similar family legacy. His grandparents opened the business over 100 years ago, and Vaccari has been working there almost his whole life. The old shingled building rumbles with the passing cars as the structure almost sags at the corners. The name of the shop, “Flowerland,” printed in green block letters along the side, speaks of an era when Colma was a rural plot of land outside of the city, not a sprawling urban cemetery. His wife Maria Vaccari, who runs the business with
him, trims flowers in the corner. With hardly any help, the pair run the small shop seven days a week. “We got married in Tahoe, and we were only gone for a day,” joked Vaccari. “We love doing what we’re doing, so this is home. When we retire, well, that’ll be boring.” Morgan Ellis contributed to this story.
x Maria Vaccari, owner of Flowerland Floral Shop, poses for a portrait with a bouquet that she is working on in the Colma shop on April 4, 2022. Maria is the wife of Rich Vaccari, who took ownership of Flowerland from his grandparents in 1989. (Morgan Ellis / Xpress Magazine)
The exterior of Flowerland Floral Shop in Colma on April 4, 2022. The family-owned flower shop is nestled in between two cemeteries and across the street from another. (Morgan Ellis / Xpress Magazine)
Spikes on the flat ledges of the Nancy E Hudgins Law Offices on May 4, 2022. These spikes are far too large and spaced out to be for the purpose of deterring birds. (Garrett Isley / Xpress Magazine)
ARCHITECTURE BY GARRETT ISLEY
Throughout San Francisco, there are partitioned benches, slanted seating, incongruous planters and spiked ledges. To those with a bed to sleep in and a roof over their head, these may seem like the results of a post-modern civil engineer or go unnoticed altogether. But many of these design choices are deliberate in their effort to deter the homeless. According to Cara Chellew’s academic article — “Exploring the Use of Defensive Urban Design Outside of the City Centre,” published in the Canadian Journal of Urban Research — anti-homeless architecture, often referred to as “hostile design,” is a strategy to deliberately influence or discourage specific behavior. Under the guise of preventing loitering, these tactics can often deter homeless people, a demographic that relies on public space greater than housed people. This is all but a new concept. In 1974, American journalist Robert Caro published a biography of Long Island State Park Commission chairman Robert Moses, titled “The Power Broker,” accusing the chairman of designing and constructing parkways that were too short for buses to pass through, deterring those that relied on public transportation from accessing the developed beaches of Long Island. In 2019 the San Francisco Chronicle reported that residents of Clinton Park in San Francisco placed boulders along the sidewalks to deter loitering and supposed drug use. After gaining national coverage from numerous outlets, this vigilante attempt was short-lived as San Francisco Public Works announced the removal of said boulders in a press release days after. In a city with an exceptionally dire housing crisis, thousands rely on public spaces each day to rest, sleep and seek shelter. The implementation of hostile architecture makes finding a place to sleep away from the elements and with a shred of privacy that much harder.
Bars and spikes placed on ledges in front of the windows of Combined Reality and Levy & Co. on the corner of Market and Guerrero Street in The Castro on May 8, 2022. (Garrett Isley / Xpress Magazine)
Partitioned seating at the 7 bus line stop on the corner of Gough and Haight Street in Hayes Valley on May 4, 2022. (Garrett Isley / Xpress Magazine)
A framed portrait of a regally-dressed Beyoncé hangs above the bar at Wine Down SF in San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood on May 7, 2022. (Morgan Ellis / Xpress Magazine)
BY CAROLINE RAFFETTO AND ANNE KRISTOFF Jaime Hiraishi stands behind the bar at Wine Down SF and peers out at customers toasting and enjoying a glass of wine during happy hour. It reminds her of when she and her business partner Sarah Garand would go to happy hour after work and dream about what it would be like to open their own wine bar. Between pouring glasses of chilled Chardonnay, she enjoys talking to her customers; however, there is always one question that catches her off guard. “Are you the owner?” This question is never directed towards Hiraishi but instead to her male bartenders. These customers are always shocked to learn that the owners are two women of color who built the business out of their love for affordable wine and happy hour. Women bar owners are changing the game by creating safe and supportive environments, and they aren’t the only ones. The amount of women-owned businesses has increased over the last few years. The National Women’s Business Council, a nonpartisan federal advisory board created to provide policy advice about women’s small business issues to the President
and Congress, reported in their annual survey that in 2007 women-owned businesses made up 28.7% of all businesses. That figure rose to 42% in 2019. From the products to the decor, Hiraishi found that owning her own wine bar allowed her to do things differently. Hiraishi and Garand, opened Wine Down in 2016. “We’re not speaking in a way that is inaccessible to anyone about wine because, at the end of the day, we really want to make wine approachable [and] accessible,” Hiraishi said. Hiraishi noticed that the walls of many bars are plastered with images of women that are highly sexualised, so, she traded images of pin-up girls with large breasts and a beer in their hand for images of strong women and inspirational messages. “We have a picture of Beyonce as a queen,” Hiraishi said. “She’s like the center of our bar.” Next to the picture of Queen B is the other centerpiece of the bar: the wine taps. On tap is a crisp Sauvignon Blanc from women-owned Sans Wine Co. Hiraishi explained that they have made it a point to
Jaime Hiraishi, a partial owner of Wine Down SF, pours a glass behind the bar at the SoMa location on May 7, 2022. Whenever possible, the owners source “natural wines” and try to support other minorityowned businesses. (Morgan Ellis / Xpress Magazine)
customers come up to her and tell her that they feel comfortable and safe in her bar. The vibrant lighting coming from huge windows and overhead bulbs highlights her abundant spacious seating. The view from her bar seating displays a wall of red, white and sparkling wine with a slidable ladder for convenient access. Her sleek and mellow design radiates a calm and welcoming atmosphere. Though things are looking up for her and her business, getting there hasn’t been easy. In the predominantly male alcohol industry, she has experienced discrimination of her own. She noted how she felt looked down upon by others in the industry and said that at times when customers see male staff members, they think that they are the owner instead of her. Melissa Myers, owner of the Good Hop Bar and Bottle Shop, enjoys a beer at her bar in Oakland on May 7, 2022. Before opening her own place, Myers was involved in the beer industry for over 20 years. (Morgan Ellis / Xpress Magazine)
feature products made by women and underrepresented people on their menu. “We’ve been very intentional about being inclusive,” said Hiraishi. Melissa Myers, the owner of The Good Hop in Oakland, has been in the beer industry for the past 26 years. She started off working as a brewer, making craft beer at other Bay area breweries, including Pyramid Brewing and Drake’s Brewing. “I was brewing for a gentleman who owned a brewery who decided to hire a guy with far less experience than me,” Myers said. “That was kind of my breaking point.” Myers, who likes to refer to the atmosphere of the retail side of beer as “douchebaggery,” said she felt more supported when she worked behind the scenes. She believes this is because there is less competition on the production end than on the retail end. Myers is always concerned with the safety of her staff due to where The Good Hop is located, on the corner of 24th Street and Telegraph Avenue. She said the bottle shop was recently robbed. Because of this, Myers requests that all of her employees text her when they get home safely. “Women tend to look out for each other,” Myers explained. “No person left behind. It’s not like you just walk away from the bar without your female friend.” Much like Hiraishi and Myers, the idea of opening a bar was a dream come true for Hyeseung Woo, the wine bar owner of Ebb & Flow in San Francisco. After switching career paths and learning the ins and outs of a business and wine along with the year and a half long process to get her alcohol license, Woo finally had her grand opening. But eight days later she had to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She reopened as a retail business, where she stood in it seven days a week trying to sell bottles of wine to make ends meet. “I was very grateful and fortunate to build some regulars and a real customer base,” Woo said, noting how many of her neighbors supported her throughout the years. “It’s definitely growing. Slowly and surely.” She feels a sense of pride when her women
“In general, I think women get a little bit of a challenge when they get to a little bit more authoritative roles,” Woo said. “I still feel like a lot of people expect women to just smile and be nice and agreeable.” She thinks that women who are shorter or smaller in size, like she is, are taken less seriously within any maledominated industry. Wine Down donates part of its income every month to different organizations that support women and underrepresented communities. In July of 2019, they hosted a Drink and Dine event to raise money to protect reproductive freedoms. Proceeds were donated to Planned Parenthood. “Where we put our money makes a difference,” Hiraishi said. “Not only is it supporting us as a womanowned bar but it’s supporting this ecosystem of other women and underrepresented minority populations that we support too.”
Lee Lockhart, an RA at the Towers Jr. Suites, sits in his living room on March 29, 2022. He is currently an RA but will not reapply next semester for the position. (Abraham Fuentes / Xpress Magazine)
Student Residential Assistants Claim Poor Working Conditions Alleged issues with ResLife lead to student departures BY CASH MARTINEZ It was little things, at first. Little things, said former resident assistant Tori Bell, that were part of a much bigger problem — issues within San Francisco State University Residential Life that, according to multiple sources, had gone unaddressed for months. In the middle of the Fall 2021 semester, Bell abruptly quit her position, sacrificing her free on-campus apartment in one of the most expensive cities in the country, all for the sake, she said, of her wellbeing and mental health. It had been less than three months since she’d first started in Residential Life, a remarkably short period of time before her departure. In the end, the negatives outweighed the positives — she said that long working hours, poor living conditions in the buildings, and what she perceived as threatening behavior from the department’s directors ultimately led to her decision to leave. She was willing to live paycheckto-paycheck if it meant getting her sanity back. “I work 45 hours a week, I pay rent that’s too high and I have no groceries,” she said. “It wasn’t a great
decision to go, but I’m happy I did because I’m not here.” RAs, also known as resident assistants or student leaders, serve SF State’s residential communities by providing support, advocacy and roommate mediation to students who are living in on-campus housing, according to their employment contract. In return for their work, Residential Life, or ResLife for short, compensates its RAs with free housing and a meal plan for the entirety of the academic year. “On paper, the position is perfect,” said Bell. Residential Life is SF State’s “on-campus living community,” according to their website, that houses up to 3,500 students across five living communities or residential halls. The department falls under the Division of Student Life & Dean of Students at SF State. DSL facilitates a number of student programs, including Associated Students, Campus Recreation and Presidential Scholars. ResLife director David Rourke said that while the workload — which can include desk assistance, maintaining bulletin boards and being on-call or “duty”
Tori Bell sits on her couch at their apartment in Inner Sunset on April 15, 2022. She quit as an RA at the beginning of the school year after they didn’t give her the support she was seeking. (Abraham Fuentes / Xpress Magazine)
for their residents — can be heavier at the start of the school year, the RA contract only allows students to work up to 15 to 25 hours a week. “The effort and the work does vary based on the type of students that we’re working with and the type of community that we’re in,” Rourke said. “It usually shows up on the higher end at the beginning of the semester because we’re doing a lot of community investment as student leaders are trying to get to know their residents.” Current RA Zion Levi joined the ResLife team in 2020 and said that her introduction into ResLife was positive at first. As a Black student, Levi said she felt represented by her supervisor, who was also Black, had a background in counseling and was “very level-headed.” Things changed quickly when she returned in 2021 — a new residential hall with new residents and new RAs brought on a barrage of issues and conflicts that she hadn’t anticipated. She said it was a tumultuous beginning, with most of the pressure put on returning student leaders by ResLife, which Levi claimed was uninvolved with its student workers. Feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work they were expected to fulfill, sometimes up to 70 hours a week, according to multiple sources, Levi and other RAs chose to reach out to their supervisors and the ResLife directors for support. Their requests for help, Levi said, fell on deaf ears. Rourke said that resident assistants are advised to bring their concerns to their direct supervisors. “We do help and try to guide student leaders to make sure that they’re within that 15- to 25-hour range. Those should be conversations that they’re having with their supervisors. It’s one of the reasons why they all report to a supervisor,” Rourke said.
Meanwhile, across campus in the freshman dorm building, Mary Ward Hall, Olivia Gillett had been sleeping through the long, cold San Francisco nights without a heater. Gillett, a fourth-year student, left ResLife at the same time as her girlfriend Bell. “The heating wasn’t working from the day we moved in,” Gillett said. “It was a mess, like the whole building was broken down, abandoned, unclean and nothing was working.” Rourke said that while he could not confirm if residents and student leaders had moved in prior to the hot water and heating being fixed, ResLife had alerted the RAs that Mary Ward Hall was experiencing plumbing issues, which could potentially affect their ability to move directly into the dorms during their summer training. He deferred to Facilities & Services for more information. Gillett had been planning to quit prior to the issues with heating, hot water and rats. She said she had been working up to 70 hours a week at ResLife and struggled to balance her academic responsibilities with her RA workloads. “When I started working, I didn’t realize the disconnect that [ResLife] directors have from students,” said Lee Lockhart, a current RA for the Towers residential community. Lockhart started working in ResLife at the beginning of the Fall 2021 semester. Around that time, returning student leaders created a group chat meant to connect resident assistants from the different living communities on-campus. The group chat’s intention, said Lockhart, was to provide a safe space where student leaders could be honest with one another — without the influence of directors or professional supervisors. During an all-staff meeting in October 2021, a group
XPRESS MAGAZINE of RAs — frustrated and fed up with the response from ResLife regarding the issues in Mary Ward Hall — walked out, encouraging others in the group chat to join them if they felt comfortable doing so. Soon after, Rourke said that he was made aware of the group chat by a student leader, who had felt bullied and pressured into joining the walk-out. Rourke said that ResLife had been aware but not involved or actively been part of the group chat prior to the bullying allegations being brought to light. He said that, in the context of the chat messages, the student’s safety was a cause of concern. “I was shown the activity in question from [student leaders] who were invited to be part of the group chat,” he said. “I am not aware of any professional team members who were invited into the group chat.” Following the walk-out, emails from ResLife were sent to RAs across all communities with dates and times to meet individually with a director. The nature of the meetings was described as “information-gathering” and “non-disciplinary.”
While Rourke confirmed that such emails were indeed sent out to two students who had missed their scheduled meetings, he was unable to provide Xpress with the email thread due to “department personnel practices” and a California Superior Court ruling from 2008, in which personnel records were deemed to be confidential information. “As that email was a notice in the investigation involving a team member, it is not our practice to share those documents to be in compliance with that ruling,” Rourke said. Levi, who met one-on-one with Rourke and her immediate supervisor, described the experience as feeling like she had been “thrown to the wolves.” “I felt like I was in there alone,” she said. During the meeting, Levi pointed out how she and other Black RAs felt that they had been unfairly targeted throughout the investigation due to their race. Rourke assured her that only three Black student leaders had been called into meetings with ResLife; according to Levi, however, the number was much higher.
Olivia Gillett (left) and Tori Bell (right) hugging their cat Pesto in their apartment in the Inner Sunset on April 15, 2022. They had a difficult time finding an apartment that would accommodate their pet cat. (Abraham Fuentes / Xpress Magazine)
“[ResLife] basically made the situation seem as if we were in the wrong and we were forcing other students to leave… when in reality, we were just letting people know, like, ‘We are over this if you would like to come with us, come with us,’” Bell said. She added that the email made it seem as though RAs were intentionally malicious, pressuring other students into following those who had left the all-staff meeting. Meeting dates were assigned based on class and extracurricular schedules, without taking into account other work that RAs might have been responsible for outside of Residential Life. Students who did not attend these mandatory meetings were sent emails stating that their meal plans would be suspended and the future of their position in ResLife would be at stake. “[ResLife] scared everybody,” said Bell. “Nobody wanted to talk.”
“I know for a fact it was seven [Black RAs],” she said. “I don’t know why [ResLife’s] perpetuating this false narrative. I think it’s funny how [they] put on this whole investigation, but when [a Black student leader] was racially profiled [by campus police], [ResLife] did nothing about it.” While it could not be confirmed if any student leaders were actually fired from their position, Bell and others felt as though the emails were intentionally threatening towards students. Rourke said otherwise, adding that the emails were meant to encourage students to treat the situation seriously.
Read the full story at XpressMagazine.org
APRIL 2022 Passengers sit inside while muni passes the 19th Avenue station on Wednesday, April 27. (Rashik Adhikari / Xpress Magazine)
Gator Pass Still Doesn’t Cover all SF State Students — Here’s Why BY EMILY CARDENAS Every day James Aguilar’s alarm blares at 6:30 a.m. A couple of snoozes later, he usually makes his way out of bed. He dresses warmly in preparation for the morning’s nippy weather when he walks to his bus stop in the wind, which is often worse than the cold. Once on the bus, he scans his Gator Pass, his ticket to ride. Aguilar explained that waking up and commuting to school is a natural routine for him. He has been commuting to SF State from San Leandro for four years. “I wake up, and almost as if time warped around me, I end up in the city an hour and a half later,” said Aguilar, the Associated Student’s (AS) chief justice. The Gator Pass is a transit attached to the student ID. It currently works on Muni and BART, which are the main services that SF State commuters take to get to school. According to John Gates, Interim Associate Vice President of Fiscal Affairs at SF State, between 14,000 and 15,000 students used their Gator Passes to travel on Muni during February and March. The Office of Fiscal Affairs estimated that 3,000 students are using BART on a regular basis to commute. But further expansions are being made to extend the accessibility of Gator Pass benefits to more students in more areas of the Bay. This is because the pass hasn’t always served all SF State students equally. According to a letter from the Student Fee Advisory Committee, an expansion of the Gator Pass will be implemented during the Fall 2022 semester. This
expansion will provide SF State students access to unlimited rides throughout the academic year on San Mateo County’s bus service SamTrans without a fee increase. Based on a 2022 Associated Students Gator Pass survey, 95.4% of 1,220 surveyed students were in favor of expanding the Gator Pass to also include SamTrans. This expansion is a historical trend of increasing benefits of the Gator Pass. Starting with its implementation in the Fall of 2017, it provided unlimited rides on Muni, and a 25% discount off BART rides to and from Daly City. In the Spring of 2019, the Gator Pass discount with BART went from 25% to 50%, and the upcoming expansion does not reduce any of the previous benefits. The Gator Pass is not free, however. In the Spring of 2022, students paid $180 in mandatory student fees for
I think the East Bay is covered, and a lot of [the] North Bay is covered, but it’s just about that South Bay and even Marin County that we need to work on.
XPRESS MAGAZINE the pass. According to SF State’s 2022-2023 Academic Bulletin — which details rules and policies for students — the Gator Pass charge is similar to other mandatory fees students already pay, such as the Student Health service fee of $239 and the Student Body Center fee of $82. Elizabeth Snedaker, a fourth-year SF State student who commutes from Daly City, said she likes the fact that the $180 Gator Pass enables students to ride Muni lines for no extra charge and BART rides at a considerably lower price. Snedaker said she gets overwhelmed by the many fees, including public transportation, that come with being a student. “[The pass] helps me by taking one of those stressors away,” said Snedaker. “I know that every time I scan my Gator Pass, I’ll be okay, and I don’t have to pay for each and every time I ride the bus.”
especially since I’ve been doing it for two semesters so far,” said Fraile Johnson. “I like the idea of the Gator Pass, but I wish that the discount would be for every BART station. I feel they could add more options, especially since this is a commuter school.” Aguilar said that he hopes the blind spots in the Gator Pass system will be addressed in the future and believes that the next step is to make the BART discount system-wide. Aguilar said that students should not have to work their public transportation routes around just so they qualify to get the discounts on the transport. “That’s another big problem because instead of getting that 50%, you’ll end up spending $10 full-ride and adding up — that’s crazy!” Aguilar said. He sees the development of the Gator Pass as an evolutionary process molding itself through student feedback and breakthroughs with its various partners.
SFMTA muni window reflects an SF State student waiting for the bus on 19th Avenue on Wednesday, April 27. (Rashik Adhikari / Xpress Magazine)
Aguilar said the upcoming expansion of the pass is very beneficial to students commuting from various places down the Peninsula, such as San Mateo, Millbrae, San Bruno and San Jose. “I think the East Bay is covered, and a lot of [the] North Bay is covered, but it’s just about that South Bay and even Marin County that we need to work on. And I think that’s super important,” Aguilar said. While the AS survey said that implementing the expansion with SamTrans was popular, there are still students wanting greater coverage. Nyssa Fraile Johnson said that her 30 minute commute to and from SF State costs about $16. Fraile Johnson said that if she goes to Daly City, then she has the 50% discount from the Gator Pass but if she does not stop at Daly City, her fares for the day total up to $32. “It really impacts me because I don’t have a job, so having to use BART every day really adds up over time,
“Just thinking of those broader issues, I get frustrated because I ask myself, ‘Why can’t the state just see this?’” Aguilar said. “Why can’t we get what we need as students and working people through the Bay Area?” Aguilar sees the ability to create change over time as a matter of political willpower. “If our vision is to get students where they need to go in their academic, professional, and personal lives, then we need to make it happen,” Aguilar said. “If we make it happen, we make a substantial investment in our economy and the lives of students.”
Becoming a Nurse in the Shadow of a Pandemic TEENA NGUYEN is one of the nursing students who will be graduating this year from the School of Nursing. She grew an interest in nursing after she traveled to Vietnam to an orphanage for disabled kids. “I worked with nurses who got paid $20 equivalent a month and saw how these nurses utilized their critical thinking skills. You know, they didn’t have a lot of resources, but they really just tried to make it work,” said Nguyen. “They did it for the patient. It’s always for the patient first.”
BY ABRAHAM FUENTES
ANGELICA TUMANDAO, SF State’s Nursing Student Association president, is graduating this semester from the nursing program. Her interest in nursing was fortified after one of her family members got cancer, and she saw the treatment the nurses gave to them. “They were all super caring, not just to my family members, but to my whole family too,” she said. She advised anyone who is looking into the field of nursing to look for any opportunity to volunteer or get a job where they can get a small taste of the healthcare industry.
Even before the pandemic began, the world was experiencing a nursing shortage due to an aging population. This shortage was made worse because of the number of nurses who retired or left the field during the pandemic. The number of registered nurses in the U.S. is expected to grow by 9% in the next 10 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Even though the industry is growing fast, according to the American Nurse Association, a 2020 study by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing and the National Forum of State Nursing Workforce Center reported that the average age for nurses is 52. The survey also found that 20% of them were intent on retiring within the next five years. ”Due to the pandemic, there are more nurses retiring,” said Musselman, director at SF State’s School of Nursing. “Some who are retiring earlier than expected and also younger nurses who are leaving the profession due to long-COVID, or postCOVID symptoms, and the stress of caring for patients during the pandemic.” However, Musselman said that the number of applicants to the nursing program has also increased. This new generation of soon-to-be nurses is close to finishing their degrees, looking to the future with different hopes and dreams.
KING ANGELO SUN is one of the many students who will be graduating this semester from the School of Nursing. His interest in the field started when he was 12 years old after his grandfather had to be hospitalized due to lung cancer. “I was around the hospital a lot when he was hospitalized; the nurses, doctors and staff were just really nice for our family,” Sun said. “And I knew that that’s what I wanted to do in the future and just emulate their care.“He hopes to land a job in an intensive care unit because he’s most interested in bedside nursing. 21
A person popping bubble wrap in front of a microphone. (Xpress Magazine / Paris Galarza)
Why do People Love BY JUSTINE BRADY Long nails lightly tap against a microphone, the sound of cards shuffling as fingers slowly graze each card in the deck. These are just a few of the noises that send waves of tingles down Mia Tikka’s head and spine as she enters a state of pure relaxation. “I started watching ASMR videos around 10 years ago,” said Tikka, an active consumer of the ASMR community on YouTube. “I just love how the tingles feel. They make me feel relaxed, and it helps me concentrate better.” ASMR stands for autonomous sensory meridian response, which is described as a tingling sensation sparked by a particular sound and is felt mostly on the scalp and along the back of the neck. The sensation has led some consumers to call the experience a “brain orgasm.” Although the term refers to a reaction of the body, ASMR is colloquially used to define a genre of online content that induces the response. ASMR can be induced by physical touch as well as visual and aural stimulation, although the most wellknown form of ASMR uses sound. The experience can be activated by whispering, tapping, carving, scratching and more. Over the last 10 years since the term was coined, ASMR’s popularity has exploded online. Today, it’s the second most popular searched term on YouTube. Many people, like Tikka, have turned to it as an outlet to help reduce their anxieties and to correct bad sleeping patterns. Before the term ASMR became mainstream, the
tingles were an unknown phenomenon people would experience, but they never had a way to describe it accurately . In 2009, Mateo Felix was under an immense amount of stress as a college student, and he remembers trying to seek out different forms of meditation to cure his overly anxious mind. While searching through the internet for an answer, he came across a whispering channel on YouTube. Desperate to try anything, Felix clicked on an 8-minute video by the username WhisperingLife and was instantly soothed to sleep, listening to the soft whispers of the channel creator reading a book. “It’s honestly not a stretch when I say that video changed my life,” said Felix. “I used to have such a hard time falling asleep, and listening to those whisper videos just made me feel so relaxed and helped me unwind after a long day. This was before ASMR had a name, so I really didn’t know what it was that I was feeling.” Since the term ASMR did not exist yet, those videos were referred to as only “whisper videos.” “I tend to fluctuate between the triggers that work best for me, but I would say my go-to is probably the sound of tapping against wood or glass. That really just soothes my soul,” said Tikka. While many in the ASMR community have found comfort in these videos, a lot of people are not affected at all. A 2018 peer-reviewed scientific journal study
from PLOS ONE recorded psychological responses in individuals who said they had experienced the effects of ASMR and responses from individuals who had not. The study found that the ASMR group of people displayed reduced heart rate and skin conductance, commonly referred to as chills or goosebumps. The other group did not experience any significant changes, with some even growing agitated from the sounds. The study concluded that ASMR does affect regions of the brain that are closely associated with emotional arousal, similar to the feeling of interacting with a loved one or a close friend. It has been recently noted by Richard and other various ASMR studies that Bob Ross’ painting videos were unintentional ASMR. Ross is famously known for his instructional videos called “The Joy of Painting,” where he would enlighten viewers on different techniques used for landscape oil paintings. While painting, Ross’ gentle voice would give meaningful life advice and share his own personal experiences. “I grew up watching Bob Ross, and I enjoyed the tingly feeling his voice gave me. His soft-spoken voice, his love for animals and painting and his overall positive attitude made him such a joy for me to watch,” said ASMR fan Jim Morris. “I didn’t really know what ASMR particularly was, but I would always feel that tingle sensation when watching his videos which helped with my insomnia.” A February 2022 academic study, called “Untangling the tingle: Investigating the association between the autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR), neuroticism and trait & state anxiety,”found that people who experienced ASMR — who had higher levels of neuroticism and general anxiety, or trait anxiety — displayed reduced anxiety after watching a video. In contrast, the study found that people who have more moment-to-moment anxiety, known as state anxiety, did
I used to have such a hard time falling asleep, and listening to those whisper videos just made me feel so relaxed and helped me unwind after a long day.
not experience any drop in anxiety after the video. After graduating college and entering the world of an uncertain future, Chelsea Rogers’ anxiety was at an all-time high. The 26-year-old had already had “severe issues with sleep,” where she would toss and turn all night, attempting to get just a few hours of solid shuteye. “I started slowly clicking on ASMR videos throughout the span of a couple of months, and I started to experience a very strong shivering feeling starting at the top of my scalp and going down my neck into my back. It was way too intense for me at first,” said Rogers. Eventually, she started to listen to ASMR videos as background noise and would find herself getting so relaxed that she would fall asleep at her computer. After uncovering more ASMR videos that dealt with sounds of carving and scratching, Rogers soon realized that whenever she would watch these videos, her anxiety would greatly diminish and her body would become more relaxed. Without ASMR, Rogers said she would most likely still be that “crazy anxious insomniac.” “It helps me focus better, and it feels as if my mind stops racing as much when I’m listening to it. I think of it as sort of a constant and dependable stimuli that block out noises and distracting things in my environment. But most importantly, I can finally sleep,” said Rogers.
x A person blowing a bubble in front of a microphone . (Xpress Magazine / Paris Galarza)