Sunday, October 28, 2012


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Feel free to send in your cartoons and art! We might just publish it. And, feel free to send in Memes!

Cartoonist, Lesa Martin:
Lesa Martin, after retiring from a career of professional ballet and graduating from UCLA, has sparked a wonderful career as a multi-media artist. She has shown her work in the SF MOMA Rental Gallery, and has many ambitious plans concerning enticing new paintings people are itching to see! Her subtle humor leaves us thinking about life. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Magic Week Presents THE MED BEAT: Wait... Which Witch is Which?

Kurtis Morrish

Before I open up a discussion of witch doctors in the past, present, and future, its important to define what (or who) a witch doctor is! The term ‘witch doctor’ is loosely and inappropriately used to describe almost any form of healing that deviates from conventional western medicine. It is commonly (and derogatorily) used to refer to traditional healers in many developing countries, as well as naturopaths and faith healers in the Western world.

In actuality, a witch doctor is also not a witch. In fact, they are almost the opposite: a witch doctor protects against witchcraft and attempts to heal those believed to have had spells or other sorcery cursed upon them. 

Depending on where they are, witch doctors may also fill many roles in the community such as, physical and emotional healers, narrating their peoples' history and foretelling their future, or even finding lost cows or goats. Regardless of where they are, witch doctors play an important role in their local, regional, and even national societies.

Traditional healers in Southern Africa (that we might otherwise call ‘witch doctors’) play an extremely important position as health care providers across many different countries. These shamans, as they are also called, are divided into two specialties: Sangoma (focusing on accessing the afterlife, ancestors, spirits and animals) and Inyanga (primarily herbalists), though many traditional healers have experience and training to some degree in both fields. It is estimated that in South Africa alone, there are over 200,000 traditional healers (compared to 25,000 Western-trained physicians) who are consulted by more than 60% of the total population for individual, family, and community healthcare needs.

Though the vast majority of these healers are of indigenous African descent, there are many tribes that train non-African sangoma students. In South Africa, the formal process of becoming a sangoma is legally recognized as a professional level of training, and is taught in conjunction with university courses by institutes created specifically for the training of new healers.

There are open debates regarding whether or not South African health insurance companies will begin to cover their client’s medical expenses billed for the services of a traditional healer. This issue is most hotly debated surrounding the birthing practices of traditional healers around the world, as many ‘witch doctors’ are trained in the ritual and physical delivery of a newborn. Many have argued that these practices help the process and improve the likelihood of survival and prosperity of both mother and child.

We’ve been talking about Southern Africa, but now let’s hop on a plane and fly to the other side of the world: above the arctic circle in Northern Canada. Here, the First Nations peoples of the Yukon and Norwest Territories (also generally referred to as Inuit) still actively use traditional medicine for all sorts of events, ailments, and proceedings within the community. Some tribes are renowned for their use of traditional midwives who are paired with the expecting mother 2-3 months after conception. These midwives work closely with the expecting mother throughout the pregnancy, preparing her for delivery and a safe recovery following birth by helping to widen the birth canal manually. This activity has not only been widely reported as reducing complications during pregnancy and at birth, not just reducing the pain of labor, but in most cases eliminating it completely! Imagine a pain-free, drug-free delivery... Not something that is found often in our Western hospitals and health clinics.

To many, the thought of witch doctors and ‘superstitious’ medicine may seem like an idea of the past; intriguing due to its mystery, but useless in application to the health problems we face today. But, traditional healers are an active group of healthcare providers in many parts of the world even today, and their presence is growing.

Thinking of the ‘magical’ elements of traditional medicine: the rituals, the herbs, the costumes, and the beliefs, I can’t help but see parallels to Western medicine, which has its own set of beliefs, costumes, mystery, ritual, and magic.

For more information regarding South Africa’s parallel medical systems, read this.

And, more on traditional healing in the fight against HIV/AIDS, read this.

Article sources:

Campbell, Susan Schuster (1998). Called to Heal. Halfway House: Zebra Press.

Cumes, David (2004). Africa in my bones. Claremont: New Africa Books.

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Medical Section Columnist, Kurtis Morrish:

My name is Kurtis Morrish. I graduated from Cal last year as an Integrative Biology major. I am now in the process of applying to medical school in the hopes of one day serving people as a family doctor. By no means do I write to you as an M.D., but I have extensive experience doing all kinds of scientific research; boiling-down long, dry, mumbo-jumbo-dense medical journals into a reduction that is a little sweeter, useful, and hopefully informative for you. I hope to learn as much from my writing as you do, so please hit me up with further questions, concerns, or comments!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Magic Week Presents THE MED BEAT: Vampire Phyisology

Kurtis Morrish

The physiology of life is a magical phenomenon: the more we know about it, the more we realize how little we really know. But what about the mechanisms that keep the non-living “alive”? What about the biological mechanisms of the undead? What about the physiology of vampires?

How do you become a vampire in the first place? Well many of us know the answer to this question: a vampire bite in which blood is exchanged and... Voila! Soon you will be turning pale, fearing the sun, and thirsting for human blood!

The vampire-inducing agent here is, in biomedical terms, a virus. In fact it is a bloodborne virus that ultimately alters your entire blood stream as well as body's physiology. However, this virus is no terminal illness (you’re already dead!); it actually makes you stronger, faster, able to see in the dark, able to fly, and of course, dangerously attractive.

As your body begins to transform into its new (and improved) undead form, your eyes will intensify in color, making them bluer than blue, or greener than green, which will not only help you see at night, but also help you block out some of that wretched sunlight (which you will now have come to loathe). Your canines will sharpen on the ends and elongate from the roots, morphing into your new feeding tools and essentially replacing all forms of cutlery in your life (see, it's even cheaper!). 

Now... I’m no dentist, but I assume the retractability of your new fangs is most likely due to muscles that form within your gums that push the teeth out when it's time to feast, and pull them back in when it's time to seduce...

Speaking of seduction, it appears that one unifying trait among the many different types of vampires found in books, TV shows, and movies (and real life?) these days is that on top of their insatiable appetite for human blood, they also have an insatiable sex drive, which could be intensified by the affects of the virus. One of the first and most significant changes to your physiology during this transformation is that your heart stops beating. Seems to make sense if you are no longer living right? 

But hold on a second—how do all these male vampires have so much sex without a pulse? There are certain features of male reproductive behavior that require a heavy flow of blood to certain important areas, so how does this work in vampires? We don’t fully know just yet. I tried to get an interview with Edward from Twilight, but his agent has yet to return my calls... 
Some vampires can tolerate normal food (though they may not like it), while others cannot. It has been shown that vampires have a preference for the same blood type they were when they were human, and have also been found to use human blood as a mixer with wine, tea, or even to add some taste to their water. 

You see, many internal organs lose their use and therefore quickly atrophy shortly after transformation. Now that you live exclusively off of human blood, your internal fatty tissues, liver, spleen, and intestines atrophy as well, which reduces bloating and creates a slimmer, flat-tummied (for girls), six-packed (for guys), new you. This is perfect for seducing unsuspecting human prey!

Becoming a vampire has both pros and cons for your skin. The virus boosts your skin’s elasticity, taking up to 15 years off your actual age (at time of transformation), and remaining un-aged for hundreds of years. If the people at Dove or Jergens knew how this was happening, then believe me, you’d find it in pharmacy skin care sections across the world. 

However, the virus also seems to enhance your skin’s absorption of magnesium, making you hyper-sensitive to sunlight. Although your new vampire skin is capable of healing faster than you can get sunburnt, a vampire sunburn is much worse than a human sunburn. If over-exposed to sunlight, a vampire’s epidermis begins to vaporize and immediately burn away. So, next time you find yourself at the supermarket or the pharmacy, look for the sunscreen with SPF 100+, and always remember to wear a hat on a sunny day.

Other traits acquired during vampire transformation such as flight, mind reading, glittering skin, or fluency in Latin despite never having studied it before, are still under heavy scientific investigation.

The Med Beat is looking for feedback on the vampire experience, so please, if you know a vampire or are one yourself, share your thoughts by commenting below!

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Medical Section Columnist, Kurtis Morrish:

My name is Kurtis Morrish. I graduated from Cal last year as an Integrative Biology major. I am now in the process of applying to medical school in the hopes of one day serving people as a family doctor. By no means do I write to you as an M.D., but I have extensive experience doing all kinds of scientific research; boiling-down long, dry, mumbo-jumbo-dense medical journals into a reduction that is a little sweeter, useful, and hopefully informative for you. I hope to learn as much from my writing as you do, so please hit me up with further questions, concerns, or comments!

Magic Week Presents ALL AROUND THE WORLD: Abracadabra—magic and art in the city of San Francisco

Asheley Gao

Act I
The Transformation
Who: Hearts in San Francisco
Where: Union Square, AT&T Park, Market Street, etc.
A dove into a flower, a beautiful assistant into a coin, magicians throughout the years have mastered the skills of transformation with a tilt of the wand or a snap of the fingers. The unexpected outcome always puts the heart of the audience on a thread. When the magician turns the city into his stage, every corner is a surprise. Just like the hearts that scatter on the streets of San Francisco, art transforms the city into an ever-changing magical act.
The Hearts in San Francisco is an annual public art installation inspired by Tony Bennett’s song “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”. Initiated by San Francisco General Hospital Foundation back in 2004, the Hearts project invited artists to design the surface of the uniform heart sculptures and raise money for the foundation by auctioning the installations off by the end of the year. Artists splashed their paint on the metal hearts, transforming them into vibrant cityscapes, serene landscapes, abstract geometric collages, and even famous scenes from cartoon series. Even Tony Bennett himself designed a heart with the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, literally leaving his heart in San Francisco. Artists became magicians and brushes became wands; on the stage of San Francisco, the breath-taking transformation of the city into an ocean of hearts left the audience in awe.

Act II
The Penetration
Who: Cupid’s Span
Where: Rincon Park, The Embarcadero
A link through a link, a coffee mug through the table top, the magic of penetration involves one solid object passing through the other. The audience muffles a shriek when the magician’s sword stabs through the assistant’s body, or draws in a deep breathe as the magician walks through a solid wall. Solid through solid, the art of penetration takes the magician and the audience to places they would never imagine. It is the moment when one metal ring is about to be linked to another ring, or the assistant is about to pass through a mirror, that leaves the audience on the edge of their seats. On the magical stage of the Embarcadero, the sculpture Cupid’s Span perfectly captures, amplifies and freezes that exact moment of penetration.
Created by American sculptor Claes Oldenburg in 2002, Cupid’s Span, located right off the Bay Bridge, becomes the first welcome sign of San Francisco. Oldenburg, who specializes in removing daily objects from their context and relocate them in a public setting, blows up the scale of the arrow and bow. Applying an almost pop-art color scheme, the audience is immediately attracted to the red tip of the arrow which is about to go though the ground. The tension created by the string on the bow presents so much strength that it distorts the end of the arrow, pushing it deeper and deeper into the soil. The artist captures the most crucial moment in a penetration act and freezes it into permanence.

The Escape
            Straitjackets, milk jars, water tanks, Houdini has escaped them all. The escape is perhaps one of the most commonly practiced acts in the world of magic. Magicians, or their assistants, are mostly tied up with layers of chains and locks and then put under a life-threatening environment, unlocking their way out with a fatal time limit. Just to make it more engaging, magicians will often put on the face of agony, exaggerating their suffering. Some of the escape acts are executed behind a curtain, like the one over Houdini’s water tanks, enhancing the sense of secrecy and mystery. Much like the escapist, street artists roam the city streets under a velvet curtain, giving out no clue of where they came from or where they are off to; as the curtain is lifted, however, the proof of their existence is revealed on the floors, on the ground, behind the buildings, on top of the roofs. By that time, the magician has long escaped from the scene, disappearing into the crowd.
            Banksy is the Houdini of street art. He stands behind the curtain of the magician, facing the wall, spray can on one hand, stencil on the other. There is only so much time before the night gets old, so he’d better run before anyone is told. Chinatown, Haight-Ashbury, Mission and SOMA, Banksy has escaped them all, leaving behind his stage of magic, the street corners, for his audience to ponder and wonder. 

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The Culture Columnist, Asheley Gao:
My name is Asheley Gao and I’m a junior at Cal, majoring in History of Art and minoring in French. I grew up in Asia, the land of dragons and jasmine green tea, as a kid with too much imagination. Indulging myself in exploring different cultures and what they have to offer (art, movies, cuisine, you name it!), I’m on my way to becoming a woman whose country is the whole world. Along with all the excellent writers at Unleashed, I would love to share with you my adventure and take you all around the world.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Magic Week Presents THE RIPPLE EFFECT: The Spirit of Halloween

Sasha Martin

A little girl, maybe six or seven, wants to be an angel. With her mother, she buys a sweet, billowy, angelic white dress, angels' wings behind and smile in front. But, time speeds, her life put in fast-forward: twelve years later, what might you get?

Angels? Of course they wear high heels heels and garters, haven't you been to heaven? Heels don't go through clouds anymore than bare feet do. God
And, God isn't what you'd think! He actually likes it when we wear really short skirts and show a little elevated cleavage. He thinks it's more pure or something... Right. 

Amazing how the American market can make something so "good" and innocent (as an angel) so sexualized. According to Cosmo, on average Americans rank their sex libido: 6/10. Considering the costume merchandise Leg Avenue, Victoria's Secret, and basically every single costume shop for adults offer, this estimate of 6/10 seems a little inaccurate. More like 20/10. Let's use our critical thinking: why would someone wear a costume that shows more skin than cloth (unless you're Tarzan or something)? It certainly isn't to scare someone or go trick-or-treating. It's to attract a mate, or make sure a mate's eye doesn't bounce on to someone else's Leg Avenue outfit. Halloween is no longer about crafting a costume to celebrate the dead (angel or devil), but about finding and buying one that either makes your three-year-old look cuter than the Jones' three-year-old, or makes you look sexy so you can get laid or have awesome Facebook pictures. Competing markets! Initially, Halloween (originally All-Hallowman or Hallow's Eve) was meant to celebrate something much different than what we represent today...

What is a Halloween costume today? A representation of something in real life or the mystical life... How many school girls go to school looking like this? Well, in the porn industry, many. So, if this girl is emulating anything, it's a porn star. Have no fear! This is not completely her doing or intention. The media and consumerist market is mostly to thank.  Sadly, it's because they know what sells.
 And, let's not forget the sporty girl with her referee outfit! Her number is 69. 
These girls are wearing merchandise that represents a sector of society, sure, but I don't think it's school or sports that comes across in the low zipper or tied up shirt. So, what sector of life are they really representing? 

The funny thing is, sexy or sweet, both these "gettups" aren't quite appropriate for what Halloween is really about: death! That's right. The scariest holiday of the year is scary for a reason. 2,000 years ago, to avoid depression, the Celts celebrated the coming of darkness (winter) and the end of summer light and autumn harvest. With the coming of winter, many died, unprepared for the bone chilling cold and expiration of food supply. On this day in which winter birthed and men and women suffered, the Celts believed a door between life and death would transfuse into the universe, the dead walking amongst the living (really, a zombie fest of sorts). They celebrated these ghosts arrival on October 31st. Why celebrate, that sounds so scary!? Well, with these ghosts presence, the Celtic priests were more accurately able to make predictions about the future harvests and other pivotal occurrences having to do with nature. Because the Celtic life revolved so tightly around nature, this holiday was actually considered crucial to Celtic survival. The Celts would come together and burn sacrifices of food and animals on huge bonfires, hoping the ghosts would be pleased and divulge their secrets. 

Finally, the Celts were overcome by the Romans who twisted the tradition into All Soul's Day, a day to honor the dead (hallow means "to honor"). On this day, not only would bonfires of sacrifice be lit, but costumes of angels, devils and saints were brought to fruition and parades commenced. The Romans also celebrated Pomona, the goddess of fruits (harvest, trees), by "bobbing for apples," a small step towards candy!

Years later, the protestant English moved to America, avoiding such Piegan traditions with disdain. But, in certain areas like Maryland, the harvest was still celebrated as the ancient did. They would hold "play parties," sharing spooky stories of the dead, telling fortunes and dancing. As more Irish and English immigrants came to America, they brought their (now "trick-or-treat") tradition with them of knocking on doors in costume for money. The "treat" was money, and the "trick" was a trick women would preform, believing that on Halloween, they could divine  the name of their future hubby with mirrors, apple parings, or even yarn.

Finally, by the 1920s, Halloween was wide-spread throughout America. And, as capitalism developed more and more of a consumer society, by the 20th-21st centuries, Americans were spending over $6 billion a year on Halloween. This makes Halloween the second largest commercial holiday, more than Easter or Valentine's Day. 

So, when you buy your Halloween outfit, wonder why you're choosing a Long Leg Avenue, when the holiday really stems from a celebration of the end of harvest, life and death. Wonder if it's your choice, or if it's a long-term developed choice of the media, advertisement and white collar men, bringing out the guilty pleasures we all desire to make billions. If you go with the Long Leg Avenue, of course it will be widely accepted, if not encouraged. So, have a little fun, go a little wild-- why not! But, don't forget who put those choices on the hanger. How this sexualization of women (and men!) has been calculated and implemented. Don't forget to ask: why is this costume available? Why do I want to buy it? And, don't forget what Hallow's Eve is really about: the honoring of the dead and the hoping for a better future. 

This isn't a lecture on morals, but a revealing of how Halloween costumes have developed over time. I might just be wearing a Leg Avenue too, but the point is not who wears what. The point is why? And, how? 

Happy (Soon-To-Be) Halloween Everyone!  

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Women in the World and the Ripple Effect Section, Sasha Martin:
I made my own major, The Nature of Emotion as investigated through literature, psychology, anthropology, cognitive science and other interdisciplinary fields, and am minoring in Creative Writing. I created Unleashed for the general empowerment and knowledge of women and men everywhere, and continue to be involved as editor, designer and writer. I am an editorial and PR intern for City Lights. I happen to love the Unleashed staff quite dearly, as well as readers like you. It's amazing what words can do! Feel free to email me at Unleashed. I hope you enjoy!