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6MIX http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix a multi-media journal of public affairs and popular culture produced by students at Hunter College Thu, 30 Jan 2014 16:24:06 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.0.4 Fashion from the Far East Flourishes in NYC http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?p=561 http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?p=561#comments Thu, 30 Jan 2014 16:24:06 +0000 Shafat Chowdhury http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?p=561 As models marched down the runway clothed in long, black outfits, the audience stared in wonder. The world of menswear constantly sees new winners as clothing lines ascend to the apex of fashion. Such was the case at last fall’s New York Fashion Week, or NYFW, when Japanese designers rose to prominence in what is widely considered as the pinnacle of presentation. The work of designers such as Hiroki Nakamura and Jun Takahashi received widespread approval and applause as their noir workwear based outfits stole the show.

NYFW, which was once the haven for classic Americana–or the “Mad Men” look, as some have labeled it–became a gateway for Asian-influenced clothing in late 2013. The blazers and vests that once strutted down the runway were replaced by fishnet tail parkas and black linen tunics. New brands such as Nakamura’s Visvim and Takahashi’s Undercover have become pillars of menswear in the current rise of Japanese high fashion.

With such a stronghold over men’s fashion, some wonder where this Japanese influence in clothing was while the Americana look thrived in the world of menswear.

“Companies like Visvim, Engineered Garments, and Undercover have been around for quite a while but they maintained a low profile in the indie scene,” says Shinji Nakata, an independent stylist based out of New York, while discussing the rise of Japanese high fashion.

“It took years for the likes of Nakamura, Takahashi, Kurazawa, and others to become important because their designs were so abstract,” he says as he tinkers with his dark rimmed glasses. “The idea of taking everyday workwear and then providing all different fits and colors seemed unpopular at first but the individuality of their pieces is what made them stand out.”

Although Japanese menswear did have a hand in the indie scene, it did not take off until designers started to display their work in larger crowds. The transfer from being prevalent in the indie scene to popping up in mainstream menswear took place during the Paris Fashion Week of 2011, when Japanese designers presented their work to the masses.

While brand names such as Christian Dior and Comme des Garcons were popular in Paris that year, Visvim and Engineered Garments exhibited their respective pieces for the Spring and Summer of 2012 along with the Fall and Winter of 2012. They may have been newcomers at the time but the work of the Japanese designers garnered much attention due to their originality.

Creativity and originality prosper in high fashion, but what is it that makes the work of Japanese designers so special? It’s the blending everyday casual workwear with one-of-a-kind fits and colors. With a heavy focus on looser fits and dark steel-toned colors, Japanese designs provide an alternative to the Americana look closely linked to tailored suits and fine knitting. The “dark and drapey” style, as Nakata calls it, deconstructs the idea of traditional formalism, which departs drastically from the customs of American and European designs.

To truly grasp the concepts of Japanese high fashion, you have to visit Nepenthes NYC. Located at 38th Street and 8th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, Nepenthes NYC, an exclusive premier Japanese clothing store, is widely considered to be the hub of Japanese menswear in New York City. With a customer base ranging from college students with snapback caps and Jordans on to businessmen in form-fitting suits, Nepenthes NYC offers a shopping experience like no other.

“The popular demand of our designs didn’t really take me by storm because we do things differently,” says Nepenthes NYC stylist Keisuke Shimizu as he reflects on the rise of Japanese menswear. “That whole classic dapper style was being repeated over and over and now it died out.”

Others have shared the same sentiments as Shimizu and feel that repetition crept into classic American menswear staples, hence its “death.” In stark contrast, others feel that the rise of Japanese high fashion only serves to propel American menswear to even greater heights.

James Tirado, a writer for Four-Pins, a subsidiary of Complex Magazine, believes that there is no such thing as death in menswear. “No way,” says Tirado. “The beautiful thing about fashion, about menswear, is that it’s so competitive; never will one style be completely dominant and kill off the others, it just doesn’t work like that.”

Japanese designers continue their climb to eminence with musicians like John Mayer and rock band The Novembers endorsing brands such as Visvim and Undercover. Some designers have even begun collaborating with the likes of high-fashion mavens, such as Yves Saint Laurent and Mark McNairy.

Shinji Nakata believes these collaborations are great because for the work of Japanese designers to be globally recognized, the likes of Hiroki Nakamura and Jun Takahashi need to make their pieces easily marketable while retaining a sense of exclusivity.

The future seems bright and ever-growing for the Japanese in terms of the menswear scene as they amass a larger audience over time. Still, this provides the spark for competition from rival designers and brands.

“If you spend enough time in fashion, you’ll realize that dominance on the runway is short-lived,” cautions James Tirado. “And even if a trend ‘dies,’ expect a rebirth.”

]]> http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?feed=rss2&p=561 0 Book Review: Amusing Ourselves (and Our Intellects) to Death http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?p=550 http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?p=550#comments Wed, 29 Jan 2014 23:42:04 +0000 Allie Shafran http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?p=550 51NHVAPNVYL

“What is oppression?” asks Neil Postman, in his 1985 book Amusing Ourselves To Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. We are an oppressed people, Postman asserts, but the worst part about it is that most of us don’t even know we’re oppressed. In an age where presidents are Hollywood celebrities, senatorial candidates appear on Saturday Night Live, and “television news casters spend more time with their hair dryers than with their scripts,” the masses are as deeply engorged in entertainment as they are in mindlessness. Characterizing Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World as prophetic, Postman argues that this indulgence in pleasure is true oppression. Our intellectual autonomy is not being limited by a 1984 Orwellian external big brother that we are accustomed to fearing, but rather, by a Huxley-ian internal electronic device that we are accustomed to loving. That which we love, Postman argues, is “ruining us.” This thoughtless entertainment that we’ve welcomed into our bedrooms, seemingly unaware of its crippling effects, has replaced our society’s cognitive analytic discourse with a discourse rooted in sensationalism and imagery, he argues. And the oppressive box of bemusing radiation has marked the shift from the cerebral “age of typography” to the visceral “age of television.”

“How did this happen?” one might ask, to which Postman would sagely reply, “The medium is the metaphor.” In an allusion to Marshal McLuhan’s famous notion that “the medium is the message,” Postman writes, “A message denotes a specific, concrete statement about the world. But the forms of our media, including the symbols through which they permit conversation, do not make such statements. They are rather like metaphors, working by unobtrusive but powerful implication to enforce their special definitions of reality. Whether we are experiencing the world through the lens of speech or the printed word or the television camera, our media-metaphors classify the world for us.”

Two mediums in particular, Postman argues, are responsible for shaping our modern “ definition of reality” into an “age of show business”: the telegraph and the photograph. The telegraph introduced man to “decontextualized information” that was not bound by space or time, which resulted in “fragmented conversation” or talk of neither particularly relevant nor meaningful news. The photograph introduced man to the world of visual imagery, where “seeing, not reading, was believing.” Where “a picture was not only worth a thousand words”, but soon replaced them, for news was now internalized by a superficial glance rather than by in depth conversation.

Building off of the foundational shifts in public discourse created by these inventions, television has further disconnected man from substantive news. Television, Postman asserts, was created for entertainment and entertainment alone. Just like the telegraph was created for speed and speed alone and the photograph was created for images and images alone. The problem is not the invention of these mediums, or more over, entertainment, speed, and images in and of themselves. Rather, the problem arises when we use these mediums to convey something that they where not created to convey: analytical, intellectually probing information. For entertainment does not adapt to hard-hitting news. Instead, intellectually probing news adapts to entertainment, transforming televised news into nothing more than the sheer entertainment its medium was created to carry.

So, Postman writes, the problem is not “Junk Television.” “The A-Team and Cheers are no threat to our public health.” But,  ”60 Minutes, Eye Witness News, and Sesame Street are.” The former draw a clear distinction between what is fun and what is information, but the latter draw a fuzzy line. The latter claim that they are intellectually honest, when in reality, the very fact that they are on TV, a medium rooted in fast-paced images rather than thoughtfully developed ideas, proves otherwise. But the average American does not see this. And so the average American mindlessly looks at pictures, laughs at his television screen, and listens to a new sensational headline every 45 seconds, all the while thinking that he is being fed real news. While in reality, all he is doing is amusing himself, and his brain, to death.

Postman’s depiction of the 1980 “Age of Television” and the illusion that it creates between fact and fiction is eerily prophetic. In 2013 we live in an “age of technology” or an “age of social media.” While the titles of our cultures are different, the crimes that we are guilty of are the same.  Just like the 80’s television era blurred the line of fun and fact, we blur the line of subjectivity and objectivity. We look to a medium that was designed to find dates, and rate the attractiveness of college comrades to provide us information on the Bostom Bombing and Chemical Weapons in Syria. And even worse, we trust this information. As the Boston bomber Reedit incident shows, we have taken mediums created to convey the subjectivities of personal taste, attraction, and connection, and transformed them into sources of objective news updates and loose political facts. We have blurred the line between social media and news media, all the while patting ourselves on the back for staying consistently informed. Thus, at the end of the day we are consuming nothing more than the candy news perpetuated by the 80s televised society.

Furthermore, Postman’s attack on the image as a superficial mode of public discourse that perpetuates misinformation is an insightful reality that defines the social media world. The replacement of deep words with shallow images is not only happening in the newsroom, but in the fabric of our social interactions as well. When we are sitting by our laptops, gazing at our Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Reedit pages, we are doing nothing more than gluing our eyes to image after image hour after hour.  How many times have you started talking to your friend when he/she beings to tell you about his/her activities from the night before? “Oh I already know” you dismissively retort. “I saw it on Facebook.” We’re living in a world where seeing our friends happenings on the Internet replaces hearing about them in a nuanced meaningful fashion. Where we don’t bother asking our old high school friend what she is up to after all of these years, when you randomly bump into her on the street, for “I already know”, you think to yourself. “She just came back from studying abroad in India and last night she was at a college Halloween party where she dressed up as a mouse. “I know. I saw it on Facebook.”  The depths of our shared human experience that is explored through dialogue, is slowly being replaced by the superficial connections that pictures grant us. And so not only our news, but also our daily interactions, have become swallowed by Postman’s image centered “age of show business.”

Postman’s insight into the shape of public discourse is not confined to a coffin buried in the underground of the 20th century. Rather, it is alive, breathing and growing into the tenants of social media and social relationships in the 21st century.  However, one cannot ignore the idealistic nature of the utopian compartmentalized world that Postman argues for. A world where we draw clear distinctions between what is news and what is entertainment, between what is cliché and what is concrete. But in a world where  “Stevie Wonder meets Secretary General” and “Katy Perry’s sing roar to improvised African girls!” are videos featured on the UN.org homepage, is it really possible? And would a society largely made up of Huxly-ian entertainment seekers, content with laughing at their television sets, computer screens, and Facebook profiles, even want it to be? While Postman fails to address this problem, he offers keen insight into how our flashy, quick and dirty society came into being, and how that has transformed our ability to perceive what is real and what is merely a figment of our TV screens.

]]> http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?feed=rss2&p=550 0 For Sasha Nissengolts, Dancing is a Way of Life http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?p=544 http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?p=544#comments Wed, 29 Jan 2014 22:56:05 +0000 Leana Shugol http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?p=544 Over the last eight years, nearly 20 million Americans have tuned in to watch ABC’s primetime series Dancing with the Stars, a reality TV show emphasizing the importance of practice, partnership and, of course, competition. But few really understand how much effort goes into professional ballroom dancing. If one takes out all the cameras, costumes, and celebrities and focuses only on the professional dancers themselves, one would see that their jobs require a lot more than just dancing.

One such professional dancer is 25-year-old Sasha Nissengolts. As a young girl growing up in Ukraine, Nissengolts’ passion and hobby was ballet, but after immigrating to Brooklyn, New York, in 1994, her family could hardly make ends meet. Several years after coming to America, an old family friend opened up a ballroom dance studio in the neighborhood and offered Nissengolts’ family a generously discounted rate for lessons. Nissengolts felt “it was the next best thing after ballet lessons.”

Shortly after starting dance classes, Nissengolts realized that ballroom dancing is nothing like what she expected. When compared to her ballet lessons, she said “the teachers were stricter, the curriculum was more rigorous, and the heels were way too high.” However, by the time she grew into her teenage years, she learned to appreciate the commitment, discipline, and determination required for the sport.

Competitions began early in the young dancer’s career, about five months after she started taking lessons. Each state holds approximately six competitions per year, the finalists of which are invited to the nationals.

Nissengolts competed in two general styles, International Latin and International Standard.

International Latin dances are mostly of Spanish descent and include the cha-cha-cha, rumba, samba, paso doble, and jive. “These five dances are very lively, fast-paced, and some would even say promiscuous,” Nissengolts says.

On the other hand, International Standard dances are very structured and proper dances, most of which originated in Europe. This category includes the waltz, quickstep, tango, foxtrot and Vietnamese waltz. Most ballroom dancers only compete in one of the two categories, but Nissengolts has competed and excelled in both.

According to Nissengolts, the day-to-day life of a ballroom dancer is somewhat different than portrayed by the media. “When watching Dancing with the Stars, it seems although everything just flows, but in reality it takes years of hard work to attain that illusion,” she says.

In ballroom dance, “technique is absolutely essential” and according to Nissengolts, it is not something that continuously advances until a point where it plateaus, but rather, improves exponentially without a limit. “Even Karina Smirnoff –who’s an international dance champion and one of the highest-paid professional dancers on Dancing with the Stars, continues to practice and enhance her technique every day,” Nissengolts says. Smirnoff is one of Nissengolts’ greatest idols and was once her primary instructor before moving to L.A. to work for the ABC show.

Besides technique, one must master the partnership aspect of ballroom dancing. For Nissengolts, it came with romance, which makes the illusion on stage easy to portray, but for most, that is something that must be worked on. “It takes years to feel comfortable with your partner,” she says. “Not only must you be partners on-stage, but you must also be friends off-stage, because otherwise it’s boring. I am very lucky to also be in love with my dance partner.”

Nissengolts has traveled extensively to perform and compete in national and international championships. To reach this level, one must place high in local and national competitions and be invited to participate in the worldwide championships.

Nissengolts competes in the professional open category, the highest level a dancer can achieve. In 2010, she was invited to compete in Blackpool’s Dance Festival, a competition held once a year in England. The event brings together the best ballroom dancers from all over the world. “The invitation to participate was a huge achievement in itself, and although we did not make it to the finals, I am still very proud of myself and my partner,” she says.

Not making it into the finals encouraged Nissengolts to put competitive dancing on hold while she opened her own dance studio. Dance Passion, in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, is already a major success with more than 100 enrolled students between the ages of four and an astounding 81 years old. “I don’t believe in an age-cap in any type of dancing: if you can walk, you can dance,” she says. At first, Nissengolts began by offering only ballroom classes, but now has expanded to include ballet, contemporary, aerobics, hip-hop, and even wedding dance classes. “I love teaching dance as much as I love dance itself.”

Next year, Nissengolts plans on returning to professional dancing. “I’ve had some time to work on myself and my studio, but now I feel it’s time to get back to business,” she says. “Maybe you’ll see me on the upcoming season of Dancing with the Stars.”

]]> http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?feed=rss2&p=544 0 In Pain? Try Some Poisonous Snail Venom http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?p=542 http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?p=542#comments Wed, 29 Jan 2014 22:52:45 +0000 Leana Shugol http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?p=542 A recent study conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that more than 22 million Americans use illegal drugs. Of these, seven million people use psychotherapeutic drugs such as painkillers, tranquilizers, and sedatives.

According to government data found on WebMD.com, 1.7 million people in the U.S. were found to be using psychotherapeutic drugs in 2007. Comparing the two studies shows that there has been a five-fold increase in prescription drug use within only five years’ time. Robert Jamison, PhD, associate professor at Harvard Medical School, says, “The increase is partly an issue of availability.”

Responding to their patients’ requests, doctors have become less restrictive in prescribing opioid pain pills. “But even with its increased use, doctors have not gotten any better at treating pain,” says Anthony Rivas, researcher and reporter for Medical Daily.

Besides the possibility of addiction, painkillers have numerous side effects, such as nausea, dizziness, fatigue, headache, heart attack, stroke, liver damage, among many others. Seeking to curb these side effects, scientists have begun to look elsewhere in hopes of biomedical breakthroughs in pain management.

Centuries ago, it was noted that certain components of snake, snail, bee, and scorpion venom can be used to treat pain. However, it wasn’t until the 20th century that complete discoveries have been made.

Before jumping into the details of how venom can treat pain, we must first understand how pain works. After an injury has occurred, special pain receptors called nociceptors sense the mechanical, thermal or chemical stimuli and send it to the central nervous system, which eventually sends the signal to the brain.

But what is this “signal”? The signal is essentially caused by ions (positively or negatively charged particles), which are transmitted across ion-channels embedded within the cell membranes of neurons. These channels are controlled by charge (voltage) or the number of ions (concentration) on either side of the gate.

Venom works by modulating (propagating or inhibiting) the movement of sodium (Na+) or calcium ions (Ca2+) across the ion-gated channels. Usually, the toxins in the venom keep the gates excessively open or closed; this determines whether nerve impulses will continue to travel through the body.

Dr. Mandë Holford, Assistant Professor of Chemical Biology at the City University of New York, studies a particular species of marine cone snails, which she believes can bring us the next breakthrough in treating chronic pain.

The toxins produced by snails can kill a human within seconds, yet, paradoxically, a smaller dosage or a solution containing those same toxins can be an efficient way to treat pain in humans.

Most of the time, poisonous animals do not produce the toxins on their own, but rather, it’s part of their biology. The toxins are believed to be medium-sized chains of amino acids, those same amino acids that are called the “building blocks of life.” The gene that codes for the toxin in the snail’s DNA is first transcribed into an RNA strand and then translated into the protein (the chain of amino acids).

Because only a small amount of venom can be extracted from each snail, Dr. Holford is trying to find a way to artificially synthesize this sequence of amino acids, bypassing DNA and RNA synthesis. Also, Holford is trying to find out if there are any unnecessary amino acids that can be cut out of the peptide chain, leaving the toxin with the same pain-killing effects. This step is necessary for practical drug development, because synthesis of long peptide chains is expensive and inefficient.

Also, with the ability to synthesize peptide chains “we can make bucket loads at a time, and then have the luxury of being able to modify the toxins any way we want, and screen them quickly to see which version has the most promising effects,” says Zoltan Takacs, PhD, a researcher for the National Geographic Society.

Cone snail venom has already been incorporated in a drug called Ziconotide, which serves to relieve severe chronic pain in cancer and HIV patients. It was approved for sale under the common name “Prialt” by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in late 2004, after 30 years of research led by one man, Baldomero Olivera and his team of researchers at the University of Utah. Prialt is a synthetic form of a ω-conotoxin peptide found in a particular species of cone snails called conus magnus. This toxin is hypothesized to be 1,000 times more effective than morphine, but does not possess the additive traits that morphine does.

Dr. Holford is hoping for a similar discovery with her own species of snails called terebrids and turrids. She believes that the discovery of Prialt is “proof that neurotoxins can be used for other drug developments as well.” Holdford’s long-term goal, along with many other scientists’ goals, is to extend the benefits of natural venom to other medical applications; “for example to treat epilepsy or heart disease,” Holford says.

Research conducted by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) claims that over 116 million Americans are affected by serious, chronic pain each year. This statistic makes pain relief one of the largest areas of study in United States.

Another study published by Archives of Internal Medicine, show that most people addicted to pain pills are family or friends of those using them for medical purposes.

By decreasing the number of painkiller prescriptions given by doctors, we decrease their availability, and thus the number of people using them for medical and non-medical purposes.

Over the last 50 years, research on venom as pain treatment has become a tremendous trend. Hundreds of articles have been published claiming the positive effects of venom, in opposition to common belief that it can only be malignant to humans.

Alla Rivkina, MD, a neuroscience professor at Riga’s Medical University of Stradina, says “my colleagues and I see a bright future in toxin-incorporated medications. We expect major breakthrough discoveries in the near future.”

]]> http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?feed=rss2&p=542 0 In NYC Clubs, It’s All About Who You Know (and How You Look) http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?p=539 http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?p=539#comments Wed, 29 Jan 2014 22:27:27 +0000 Alexa Morang http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?p=539 Quincy Clay stands against the cold glass doors of a French restaurant in downtown Manhattan, feverishly clicking on his iPhone. Looking up, he greets three tall girls with legs as thin as pencils, dressed all in black. He smiles wide and lifts his toned, 6’4” frame. At the dinner table, he touches some of their knees.

Clay doesn’t classify himself as the typical club promoter who sleeps with the models and gives them all the drugs they could ever imagine. He just parties with pretty women, a luxury that some men pay thousands of dollars to do. He gets paid, in essence, to take models around New York City clubs. The models stand at chairless tables while music blasts so loud that Clay practically has to kiss the girls’ ears while he talks to them.

Outside of 1 OAK, a hub of New York City nightlife further downtown, in the Meatpacking District of Manhattan, young women stand in 6” heels, teetering on the sidewalk. Men in button-downs, grey chest hair escaping from their stretched shirts, potbellies sucked in, lean against the wall, staring. Velvet ropes box in patient and some not-so-patient partygoers.

Six tall men hover above the ropes, their broad frames in jet-black suits. They stand in armored lines, like knights guarding the neon, booming castle.

Audrey Leonard has been through the doors of 1 OAK five times in the last year, but hasn’t gone clubbing consistently since the summer. She has never gone to a nightclub without a promoter. “It’s free with promoters, and free is always preferred,” says Leonard.

During the day Leonard doesn’t wear makeup, let alone heels. As she gets ready to go out, she straps on a pair of four-inch black wedges to heighten her 5’4” frame. “Going out with promoters makes me feel ugly,” she says. “In a club I’m a 6, compared to models, who, you know… they’re models.”

Clay goes around New York City looking for such models to come out with him. He approaches them on the street with hopes of receiving a number, but is not always successful. “To most people, especially girls, you’re the devil,” he says. “Some promoters give girls drugs, anything, get them so messed up they start missing their castings. We don’t do that, but not every girl will believe it until they see it.”

Nightclubs boast an impressive $22 billion annual income, according to IBISWorld Industry, and they need beautiful women to draw in men. The illusion this creates, of beautiful people simply being glamorous, in turn draws everyone else. By putting beautiful women at a table, or even multiple tables, nightclubs create the idea of cool. “I would love to go to a place filled with cool people. That makes a party a party,” says Clay.

His boss sits at one end of the table at the swanky French restaurant, a black snapback over his dark hair, plugging away on his phone. Seated at the dinner table are 10 girls. Each grasps the small salad fork between their long, bony fingers. Blue veins poke through their translucent skin as they push around oiled greens on the white plates. Wine glasses are drained quicker than the food eaten, but Clay digs in, making sure none of the girls feel pressured not to eat.

Clay steps out of the black SUV that had been blasting hip-hop from the swanky French restaurant to the club. He immediately greets the largest bouncer, grinning widely as he pats his back. The velvet ropes open, a luxury that some of the waiting partygoers only dream of. Their cover charges will range from $20 to $40.

Clay started what he calls “Image Promoting,” or more commonly known as club promoting, only four months ago. His job is to take out beautiful women to clubs, simple as that. Club owners then pay Clay, all in cash, and provide him and his boss free bottles at a table all night. “You can pretty much get anything you want,” he says.

Clay grew up in Astoria, Queens, not even close to the life he leads now. His mother, a full-time waitress, was unable to provide him with much. Elvin Rodriguez grew up in the Bronx, right outside of Hunts Point, which he describes as the “worst area uptown.”  Rodriguez has been promoting clubs in Washington Heights for eight months now, allowing him access to a world he previously saw only on TV.

Rodriquez retired from the drug business at 22, and he uses his old contacts to bring in heads. “I only have to text one of the guys I used to work with, tell them to bring their boys, and there you go,” he says, looking down at his shiny blue Nikes.

“I bring in a group and they buy a bottle at $250,” Rodriguez continues. “I get 60-70 people in a night, and 30 percent, cash, goes right into my pocket.”

Clay doesn’t have to go out every night to make the same amount of dough. He works Thursdays through Saturdays only. He started off at $50 a night, beginning work at 10pm, usually continuing until at least 3am. He now makes a minimum of $500 a night. “It’s easy money, plus its fun.”

Rodriguez doesn’t feel the same.

“I hate my job,” he says. Rodriguez is currently studying English at Hunter College. He can only take night classes due to his job, currently arriving home at 5am every morning, making it difficult to study during the day.

Both Clay and Rodriguez believe that the world has more to offer than the partying and nightlife scene. Clay is studying for his degree in nursing. “Partying at night, saving lives during the day,” he says enthusiastically over the booming music. Behind him a skinny, barely dressed burlesque dancer swings around on a small stage with a pole between the floor and ceiling.

Leonard does her best to ignore these dancing women. “Clubbing makes them evaluate every single aspect of their bodies,” she says. “They think, ‘Am I pretty enough to make it through the door tonight?’”

]]> http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?feed=rss2&p=539 0 A Walk in the Shoes of a Sneakerhead http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?p=528 http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?p=528#comments Wed, 11 Sep 2013 19:57:00 +0000 Joel Aybar http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?p=528 IMG_2309-800x533

Ever since the mid-1980s, kids have clamored for the new pair of Air Jordans. People used to wait in line overnight, often in the cold and rain, to make sure they got their size. And while the craze hasn’t died down for Jordans and many other kinds of sneakers, it’s possible to get a new pair without getting frostbite too.

Now, people wait for the sneaker “online,” ready to drop anywhere from $160-$800 for a single pair, in a single click.

The sites that sell the sneakers usually freeze because of the sudden spike in traffic when the sneakers become available to the public, usually at 6:00 or 7:00 a.m. To beat the competition, some websites, such as JimmyJazz.com, release their sneakers at midnight.

The Internet has also helped create a new “club” of sorts — people who refer to themselves as “sneakerheads.”

Sneakerheads range in age from pre-teen to middle-age. They buy, sell, and trade sneakers online or at sneaker conventions held throughout the country.

Thirty-two year old Anthony Andriano of Ozone Park, Queens, is a self-proclaimed “sneakerhead.” He’s been a collector since 1986, when he got his first pair of LA Gear sneakers from his mother, and he’s been selling sneakers since 2002. “It’s new to a lot of people, but for me it’s pretty much not new,” he says.

Andriano has seen the demand for sneakers go up in the past five years, a trend he attributes to social media.

“I probably could have bought a house, or a brand new car and a house,” says Andriano as he thinks about how much money he has spent on sneakers over the years–approximately $1,000 per month, he estimates.

Andriano claims he owns about 80 to a 100 pairs of sneakers worth hundreds, some even thousands, of dollars. He works as a janitor in Battery City Park, a job that doesn’t pay enough to support his hobby, so he sells sneakers.

Andriano claims the most he has ever paid for a sneaker is $400 for the Nike Area 72 Charles Barkley Chuck Posites, which were a size too big. “I couldn’t even get the size I wanted. I bought it and luckily my friend who needed the 9.5 had an 8.5 so we just swapped sneakers,” he says. “And the most I ever sold sneakers for was for a $1000 and it was literally in three and a half minutes, for the (Nike) Galaxy Foam Posites.”

As 33-year-old Mikey Loso, of Queens, points out, “It’s not about who dresses the freshest. It’s about who can get the latest sneaker. It’s like a race. That’s where the obsession comes from.”

Loso, a sneakerhead since the early 90s, says his obsession with shoes came from his mother. He says his mother, who also had an obsession with shoes–heels, mostly–would buy him sneakers every time he did well in school as incentive.

“At one point I had over 385 pairs of sneakers,” Loso says. “I had what you call a ‘mural’ or a ‘mountain’ of sneakers.”

Today, Loso is down to “anywhere from 80 to 60 pairs.”

“The life of a sneakerhead is always crazy,” he says. “Sometimes you buy a lot, and sometimes you sell a lot. Depends on what is happening in your life at the moment. When I broke up with my girl and she moved out I had to pay bills without her so I sold a lot.”

But like many die-hard sneakerheads, he isn’t about to quit. “My collection is getting up there again,” he says. “Slowly, but it’s getting up there.”

]]> http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?feed=rss2&p=528 0 CrossFit Draws Numbers, But Also Criticism http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?p=502 http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?p=502#comments Fri, 09 Aug 2013 15:34:24 +0000 Kevin Bruno http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?p=502 6J7A0476_1

Photo credit: Chris Bruno

The sound of death metal blasts through the warehouse-style gym.  Soccer moms and men in their mid 20s sporting tattoos lie on the floor gasping for air next to a dozen barbells loaded with weights.  This is what you are likely to find when walking into a gym that specializes in CrossFit, one of the biggest workout fads to hit the fitness industry in the past decade.

CrossFit attracts people of all ages from different walks of life.  A strength- and conditioning-based workout program, CrossFit incorporates Olympic-style lifts with some gymnastic and strongman exercises.  Workouts are normally performed within a group or class and often last no longer than 30 minutes, without any rest.

Like every new fad, Crossfit has its naysayers.  Many within the bodybuilding and fitness community feel that CrossFit is just another gimmick or marketing strategy to gobble up members’ money.  “It’s definitely not for everyone,” says Robert Rodriguez, who’s been involved in the bodybuilding and fitness industry since the 1980s.  “It’s more for people that are young and healthy enough to perform those dangerous lifts.  Anyone else there is just a ticking time bomb and an injury is waiting to happen.”

Unlike the traditional fitness gym where you will find many resistance machines across the gym floor and members working out independently to their own program, CrossFit is based around a community of people working out together.  Only free weights such as barbells, dumbbells, and pull-up bars can be found at a CrossFit gym.

Bodybuilding gyms and general fitness centers have been around since the days of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s competitive bodybuilding career in the 1970s.  These gyms usually average about $25-$60 a month for a membership, while most CrossFit gyms cost $100-$200 a month.  “It’s way too expensive as well, considering you can pay less than half that and perform the same exercises at a regular gym without hurting your wallet,” said Rodriguez.

Many also feel that CrossFit has gained the reputation of having a “cult-like” following and has just been a way for people to feel they belong to a special club.  However, David Plumey, owner and coach of Shoreline CrossFit in Branford, Connecticut feels that this characteristic is what drives CrossFit.  “I completely agree that it has attracted a cult following,” he said.  ”People are compulsive and feed off of the energy generated by others.  Finishing one of these workouts is like surviving a plane crash.  When you see raw human effort and emotion, it brings people together.”

Recently, CrossFit has been seen not only as a gym or workout regimen, but also as a sport.  Since 2007, CrossFit has hosted an annual competition known as the CrossFit Games, where the highest ranked athletes across the country compete for prize money and to be named “the fittest on earth.”

The first ever Crossfit Games were hosted on a private ranch during a backyard barbecue in Aromas, California and featured only a handful of competitors.  Today, the games have grown into a full-fledged commercial event that takes place over an entire week in the Home Depot Center in Carson, California.  With the increase in CrossFit gyms across the country, there are now regional competitions that qualify competitors for entry into the Games.  In 2012, the CrossFit games were broadcast around the globe on ESPN, proving how much the sport has grown in a relatively short time.

When asked how CrossFit differs specifically from the average gym or other sports in general, Plumey said, “Unlike most sports that rely on a team effort, this is an individual sport. Therefore it brings out your weaknesses and forces you to become a better version of yourself.  It’s always changing and every workout is a new challenge.”

WODs, also known as the “workouts of the day,” are posted on the board each day and offer variation to a crossfitter’s regimen.  “The most important difference between CrossFit and your average gym is that here you get results,” Plumey said.

One that can definitely attest to getting results is Shoreline Crossfitter Fabio Lonero.  Lonero has gone through a complete body transformation, starting from a body weight of 248 pounds. He’s dropped to 166 pounds over the span of a year, and his pant size has decreased from 44 to a 33.

“Before starting CrossFit, I knew I had to do something to change my life,” Lonero said.  ”I was heavy, not healthy, and I didn’t like the way I looked or felt.”

Lonero agrees that the social aspect of CrossFit is an added plus. “There’s definitely a social aspect to it, everyone holds each other accountable, it’s what I basically needed to get healthy,” he said.  ”It’s more than just working out, it’s about helping people, and helping others realize that they could do something they can’t do.”

According to an article in the Marine Corps Times, an ex-sailor successfully sued CrossFit for health damaging effects he experienced after performing a workout at an affiliated gym.  The lawsuit ended with a $300,000 reward and bad publicity for CrossFit.  However, Plumey argues that, “CrossFit can be dangerous if not done in the right way or if a coach isn’t skilled.  CrossFit done properly is for everyone.”

In the end, proponents like Lonero don’t hesitate endorsing CrossFit to friends and family members. “I would recommend CrossFit to anyone,” he said.  ”It could change someone’s life, and I’m living proof.  You just have to be willing to put in the work.  It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done but also the most rewarding.”

]]> http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?feed=rss2&p=502 0 The Dirty Truth About Cleansing Diets http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?p=505 http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?p=505#comments Thu, 08 Aug 2013 20:06:10 +0000 Anna Norum-Gross http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?p=505 images

While working out and eating right have never been more popular than they are now, not everyone is on that fitness bandwagon. Some people looking to lose weight have taken a decidedly easier approach, opting out of gym memberships and ancient grains from organic grocery stores to instead drink their way to a slimmer form. These so-called “juice-cleanse” diets have plenty of detractors, who believe that relying on juice alone to lose weight can be downright dangerous, but many believe they’re the greatest thing to come along in years. Even some major celebrities have endorsed them.

Beyonce Knowles, for instance, claims to have lost 20 pounds on the Master Cleanse diet, which prescribes a mixture of lemon juice, cayenne pepper, maple syrup and water instead of meals.

But weight loss isn’t the only supposed benefit of juice cleanse diets. They are also believed to remove toxins from the body, a belief that has been around for centuries.

“The idea of consuming only water or juice to rid the body of so-called toxins is not new. Virtually every major religion has some fasting and cleansing ritual that supposedly allows the body to heal, regenerate,” wrote Judith Newman in a 2010 New York Times article.

Lucy Cobbs, a 24-year-old costume designer, has tried several juice cleanse diets. “I’ve done Organic Avenue, Juice Press and BluePrint. I had been to their stores and gotten products and advice from people I work with,” says Cobbs. She believes they helped to “re-regulate and cleanse” her system and get her back on a track of healthy eating. When a reporter cited a doctor who had stated there was no evidence that a juice cleanse actually does any “cleansing” at all, Cobbs responded with curt, “Who knows?”

“The idea that [a juice cleanse diet] somehow ‘cleanses’ you, or that this juice is so special that it’s worth $65 a day is a scam on the order of healing crystals and vitality-bestowing magnets,” wrote Hamilton Nolan in a piece posted on Gawker.com.

In an interview with CNN Health, Dr. Michael Picco, a consultant on gastroenterology at the Mayo Clinic, said that cleansing did not have any real benefits. “The whole basis to this cleansing business is that people say it can help things like the immune system, fatigue and depression, and it can clean the toxins out of the colon, and it can aid in losing weight. There is really no evidence to that at all. Sometimes those cleanses could actually be quite harmful, too.”

Kat Olin, who is now doing the BluePrint Cleanse for the second time, says she wasn’t impressed the first time around and wants to give it another chance. “Basically, I think people expect an epiphany, expect to feel the toxins leaving their body,” she says. Because she did not find the cleanse to be difficult to maintain, she is trying it again, hoping to “make up for” the fact that she has not been keeping a healthy diet lately; with a full-time job at a law firm and three young children, she doesn’t have time to prepare many of her meals.

The BluePrint Cleanse website does seem to be aimed at people like Olin who want to consume healthy things but simply don’t have the time. “I know what whole foods are, and I’ve seen people buying them. I would too, but I’m too busy to be choosy,” states the site. Average people with busy lives are meant to relate to this sentiment.

The BluePrint Cleanse juices contain nutrients many of us do not get in our daily meals; they include things like kale, beets and cashews. According to Olin, it is questionable as to whether the BluePrint Cleanse will “trigger your body to cleanse and detox,” as the website states, but she thinks it’s a good way for her to get some of the nutrients she hasn’t been consuming lately.

But can a juice cleanse help with weight loss? If someone replaces all three meals with a low-calorie juice for up to several weeks, they most likely will shed some pounds. But will it last? Joanna Bak, a recent graduate from Tulane University says, “Anyone who has taken a basic nutrition course can tell you juice cleanses do more harm than good. And any weight you lose will be gained back once you go back to your normal diet.”

According to Dr. Picco, “Any weight loss you get is not real. It’s due to loss of fluid and waste and it is potentially harmful. Weight loss needs to be done with diet and exercise.”

“People don’t want to hear that the best way to lose weight and maintain it is to diet and exercise. It’s hard, and it takes a long time. People want shortcuts,” says Sarah Liana, a 27-year-old nanny.  “Remember those things that were in infomercials a few years back that you put on your stomach…[that] supposedly worked out your muscles for you so you didn’t have to go to the trouble of doing actual sit-ups?”

As you might have suspected, it is not healthy to eat little to no food for an extended period of time. In fact, in some cases, doctors link eating disorders with juice cleanses.

Dr. Pauline Powers, who leads the scientific advisory committee for the Global Foundation for Eating Disorders, was quoted in an article in Marie Claire describing juice cleanses as “the perfect pathway to disordered eating, with a great power to lead otherwise healthy women down the path of disordered eating.” Last year, the University of North Carolina Center for Excellence for Eating Disorders added juice fasts to the list of topics addressed with patients.

Perhaps juice cleanses shouldn’t be condemned altogether. Some provide vitamins and nutrients we often neglect to consume. But many juice cleanse diets mislead clients, selling them the idea that the diet will “cleanse their system,” discouraging them from eating entire food groups, such as protein and carbohydrates, for extended periods of time, which can have adverse effects on the body.

Moreover, these kinds of cleanses can be especially dangerous for people who are predisposed to body-image issues. As Courtney Rubin wrote in a 2011 article for Marie Claire, “It’s society’s most accepted form of eating disorder.”

]]> http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?feed=rss2&p=505 0 The Rise of the Longboarders http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?p=493 http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?p=493#comments Tue, 06 Aug 2013 12:06:02 +0000 Jude Buenaseda http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?p=493 longboard_nyc-thumb

“Do an Ollie!” a random man yells at a group of skaters passing by. “I can’t, it’s a longboard!” says one of the skaters as they zoom by.

A vintage style of skateboarding is once again on the rise on New York City’s streets. They move in groups, slashing through traffic and speeding up to make a light. But these groups are not biker gangs or street racers; they belong to a steadily growing population of longboarders, representing a lifestyle of speed and freedom. They use their boards for a range of reasons, from the thrill of going fast to saving money on transportation.

“[Longboarding] is about feeling free and enjoying your time. It’s also good for my health and saves me money on the bus every day,” says Leke Pepaj, a longboarder of four years.

The community of longboarders continues to expand every year in New York. There are many events around the city hosted by many different companies, and each year attendance increases.

The Broadway Bomb race is one of these events and has the largest number of attendees. While it’s a competitive race, the majority of people go just for the experience. The event started in 2006 with just about 12 skaters. At last year’s event, in 2012, over 1,000 people from all over the world attended the race. The race starts from the Upper West Side near Columbia University and finishes downtown near Wall Street.

“It keeps people positive and healthy. I have awesome friends and met awesome people through longboarding,” says Pepaj, who has attended the Broadway Bomb for the past two years.

Like many other hobbies and sports, longboarding has characteristics that attracts certain types of people. “I started skating because I liked how you didn’t need a team or anyone else to do it. I was bad at playing with others anyway so it appealed to me,” says Edward Nieves, a sponsored rider for Earthwing Skateboards. “Skateboarding, to me, is a cheap, easily accessible means of freedom for anyone who seeks it out.”

Nobody knows when exactly skateboards were invented because they appeared in different places around the same time. But the unofficial birthplace was California around the mid 1900s. Skateboards provided surfers an alternative when the ocean waves were flat. Skateboarding was initially confined to city streets and sidewalks, but by the 1970s it evolved into a much more technically oriented sport. Tricks were invented and skate parks were built to make it a competitive sport. It was then that skateboarding split into two main disciplines, trick skateboarding and longboarding.

What makes a longboard unique are its wheels and manageability. In contrast to a trick-oriented skateboard, a longboard has smooth soft wheels and can mimic the moves of a surfboard slashing through waves — they’re not called longboards for nothing; the average longboard is around 40 inches or longer, but range anywhere from 24 to 60 inches.

There are two main longboard companies based in New York, Earthwing Skateboards and Bustin Boards, both based in Brooklyn.

Earthwing Skateboards focuses on the discipline of tech sliding, a form of skateboarding where a skater starts from the top of a hill and does sliding maneuvers all the way down the hill. Earthwing also experiments with different types of materials and stepping out of the industry norm of using 7-ply wood, experimenting with different kinds of fibers in its boards.

Bustin Boards’ longboards are composed entirely of wood, but they have many different shapes and styles. The company focuses on cruising and, more recently, the sport of downhill skateboarding – where usually four to six guys line up on top of a hill and race down to see who crosses the finish line first.

Both companies hold weekly events for riders to meet up and ride together. From beginners to professionals, the skill range of riders tends to be wide. Newcomers are encouraged to participate in these events, as this is how the New York community was first established.

Earthwing holds an event called the Friday Rip every Friday between 8 and 11pm. The event is held in Prospect Park on a hill off the park’s main loop. Riders meet up, skate, watch others, or just talk about their new favorite board.

Bustin’s event is every Sunday around 2pm. The Bustin crew leads the group around Central Park’s six-mile loop starting in the 59th street entrance at Columbus Circle.

The community is like a tight-knit family. Once you know a few of your local riders, you easily expand your network to riders from other places around the city and even the tri-state area.

“One of my closest current friends is named Ricky, and I wouldn’t have ever met him had I not been into skating. He’s the person I skate with the most in the city,” says Sami Hakim, who picked up longboarding through his high school friends.

Various forms of social media also help to foster the growth of the community. From Facebook groups to online forums such as Silverfish Longboarding, riders are able freely to discuss their love of longboarding.

“Longboarding is a way to meet people, a way to have fun, a way to try new things, and personally, it has become my favorite pastime,” Hakim says.  “I’ve chosen this as my hobby, and it’s something I can’t stop doing.”

]]> http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?feed=rss2&p=493 0 To Beard or Not to Beard http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?p=487 http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?p=487#comments Tue, 06 Aug 2013 11:41:00 +0000 Jamal Swift http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?p=487 Samuel

To beard or not to beard — that is the question that many men face today. Once upon a time, When you needed to up your machismo, a beard would do the trick.  Now it’s about fashion, and the beard has become an accessory.

The growing popularity of facial hair can be seen from Hollywood to the ‘hood. Celebrities are sporting the hirsute look everywhere from the stage and silver screen to the red carpet. Even fashion models, for whom beards have long been considered taboo, can be seen wearing them in major ad campaigns and on runways.

“Our research and development say beards are more prevalent in the mainstream and with the younger demographic,” says Heather Lee Lindbergh, director of media and public relations at the skin-care company Epicurean Discovery.

Amir Toos, who has been a fashion stylist for 28 years and also rocks a beard, is captivated by the trend. He remembers a brief time in the 1970s, when body and facial hair were popular across America. But in the 1980s and ’90s facial hair became largely unpopular.  ”Hair has always been a no-no, because it doesn’t translate well on photographs,” he says.

About four years ago, Toos began to see a shift in how facial hair was perceived in the industry. He credits Tom Ford, an American fashion designer and film director, for pioneering this latest trend of man-scaping. “Tom was the first designer to show models with chest and facial hair in his ads,” he says. “It sparked a new way of thinking about beards.”

Toos also believes fashion has influenced different industries. “I now see bankers with beards, but before it was rare to see business men with them,” he says.

As the beard trend grows, not all beards grow the same. They come in different styles and sizes, and they are worn for different reasons. Variations consist of the scruffy, “I’m not trying too hard to have a beard” look; the fully-grown, “I’m more distinguished than the scruffy guy” look; and the long lumberjack, “I can kick the scruffy and grown beard guy’s asses” look.

John-Mark Owen, a stage actor, has the long lumberjack beard. He has had it for most of the past three years but shaves it off completely once a year for work reasons. He grows it back as soon as he can because of its benefits. “I originally grew it because of an insecurity with my overbite,” he says. “But the feedback was so positive. Men are jealous of it and women think it’s alluring.”

Andrew Glassner, a marketing executive, grew his beard because of a lack of time and energy. “I’ve had it for two weeks because I was too lazy to cut it off,” he says. “It wasn’t intentional, but I might keep it because the girl I’m dating wants me to.”

For some men, being cost effective was the reason they grew a beard in the first place.  “I think it’s a fad because it’s cheap. A messy beard being cool, made my life easier. I don’t worry about grooming anymore, I just get up and go,” says Jesse, a bartender in the East Village.

To see the popularity of beards first-hand, you needn’t go further than the Made Men barbershop in Chelsea.  Out of the three barbers working at Made Men one recent Tuesday afternoon, two sported beards.  Justin, who has worked at the shop since its inception, says the fad as having reached across many demographic groups and ethnicities.

The beard has even made it into the hip-hop scene, where, historically, they have not been common. There have been exceptions, such as Freeway and Quest Love of the Roots, who has donned a beard for over 20 years. But today, dozens of rappers wear beards, and leading the way is the thick-bearded Rick Ross.

The hip-hop fan base has followed suit. Shane Day, a self-described hip-hop head, says, “I like the look, it adds to the style. It fits what hip hop is about; it can be tough and stylish.” He is less enthused when referring to how difficult it is to maintain a beard. “It involves more trips to the barber shop and combing it,” he says, adding that “it looks like it’s easy but it’s not. Some guys just let it go but if you want it to look good you have to take care of it.”

Some longtime beard wearers have a less-than-rosy view of the new trend.  Naser, a resident of New York City’s East Village, does not want his beard confused with the current fad. “We are Muslim. We don’t have beards because of trends,” he says. “For us it’s our religion, it’s about piety but it’s not a requirement.” His friend Egad ads, “Yes I see many men with beards now, but when they shave we will still have ours.”

Kirk Wydner, a teacher in Manhattan and long-time beard enthusiast, believes that beards will eventually go the way of stonewashed jeans and leather pants, but he welcomes the decline of the trend. He believes that the proliferation of facial hair has devalued the beard. “Our beards do not stand out anymore,” he says. “When this trend is over, the beard can get back to being special.”

]]> http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?feed=rss2&p=487 0

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