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Harm reduction would help prevent drug-related deaths at raves

On Aug. 1, Tracy Nguyen, a rising second-year business economics student at UCLA, died at HARD Summer music festival, one of two deaths that were linked to suspected drug usage.

With her death will come a butterfly effect of outcomes. These may include opinions shifting away from a tolerant attitude of Ecstasy-fueled rave culture, the possible banning of music festivals on L.A. County-owned property and further push-pull between the two fronts of drug education and legislation: efforts to educate the public on avoiding adverse drug reactions versus an abstinence-based approach.

Efforts at spreading awareness about how to use Ecstasy in a “safe” manner, known as “harm reduction,” have been shot down in the past in Los Angeles County, largely due to the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act of 2003. This federal law makes it unlawful to knowingly operate a venue that functions as a place to use illicit drugs, which has sent electronic dance music event organizers scurrying to cover their legal tracks.

However, as people continue to die at almost every major rave in Southern California, these efforts, which persist despite government opposition, are insufficient to quell the maelstrom of injuries and deaths due to club drug use.

Although I did not know Tracy personally, her death hits close to home. Last summer, I was en route to the very same HARD Summer music festival. Having wanted to go to the music festival a few years prior, my strict Asian parents pointed to the death of 15-year-old Sasha Rodriguez at the Electric Daisy Carnival in 2010 and said, “No.” It wouldn’t be until I turned 18 that I would go. That day in 2014, I was just like Tracy: a female Asian UCLA student attending a summer rave.

Like many others, Tracy loved electronic music and the festival experience that comes with it, according to Jasmine Lin, a rising third-year communications studies student. At the same time, the increased reliance on rave culture both as emotional and stress release may be putting Asian-Americans at risk for Ecstasy-related adverse reactions, including death, even as rave attendance and Ecstasy usage become more commonplace in the general population. Whether that experience involves drugs is up to the individual, but the draw is obvious: The emotional effects of Ecstasy are well-documented and include euphoria and personal revelation.

Even before the integration of EDM into the mainstream, Asian-Americans, their drug use and the Asian-American dance club/rave scene have been studied, such as in a 2011 study of 100 Asian-Americans. In another paper based on a survey of 250 Bay Area Asian-Americans involved in the dance club/rave scene in 2010, all but three had tried at least one “club drug”: Ecstasy, LSD, methamphetamine, GHB, ketamine or Rohypnol.

Asian-American EDM culture may be something we are all marginally aware of as we pass by people flyering for Asian Greek EDM events on Bruin Walk, but beyond mere observation, the phenomenon begets the question: Why is Asian-American rave culture a thing?

Among other proposals in the literature, a few overarching theories seemed relevant. One, supported by a statement made by one Chinese-American woman, was that her experience with raves and Ecstasy helped her “balance out” the “unemotional and introverted” manner in which she had been brought up. Ecstasy and rave culture may give emotionally rigid Asians and Asian-Americans the freedom to express more emotions.

As a secondary point, one of the authors of the study, Geoffrey Hunt, also summarized another interview subject’s point of view: Asian-Americans “are stressed out and … need an outlet – and using Ecstasy and dancing can provide this.”

Natalie Tantisirirat, a rising third-year music history student and an attendee of this year’s HARD Summer, agreed. “There’s just this sense of community and carefree vibes that people don’t normally get to experience,” she said.

The desire for this unique and oft-revelatory experience, and the musical genre and event industry associated with it, aren’t going anywhere, even as young people continue to die at events in circumstances relating to Ecstasy usage, and as, in response, institutions call for harsher drug-related laws and bans on electronic music festivals in Los Angeles County.

Drugs can never be 100 percent safe, but most deaths caused by drug use have the potential to be prevented with widespread access to harm reduction resources and education. Rather than, as with every new announcement of a young life taken prematurely at a music festival, vilifying rave culture and trying to ban raves, why not come to terms with the reality: Illicit drug use, as it has been for many decades, will continue to at least partially define the coming-of-age experience for some.

Instead of trying to stifle this trend, as generations before us have seen with the war on drugs, we should push for the use of more harm reduction tactics. Currently, harm reduction information is easily available online through documentaries like “What’s In My Baggie?” and other sources.

Nevertheless, this information is less utilized thanks to a lack of advertising, especially on-site at raves. In recent years event organizers have provided better access to emergency medical services and free water – severe dehydration is associated with Ecstasy-related deaths. Though drug usage will never be risk-free, drug-related deaths could possibly be prevented through harm reduction and acknowledgement, as in the case of many states’ curriculums on sex education, where abstinence-based education regarding societal temptations has proven ineffective.

For all the failed D.A.R.E. education many of us received as children, it seems our generation has come to realize that drug use can be enjoyable and relatively safe in moderation, with the first-hand experiences of older millennials and scientific information available online.

Tracy’s passing is recent, and her absence will continue to be felt in the UCLA community for some time. It’s important to not lose sight of what her loss could mean for EDM fans, Asian-American or otherwise, whether or not they choose to partake in drug use, and what can be done, realistically, to make sure no family, community or social network has to feel the same pain again.

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Arts & Entertainment

Reading Rainbow: Throw It Back To the Childhood Favorites

Judy Blume was the woman who discussed coming-of-age topics often uncomfortable to discuss with children and young adults in an entertaining, revolutionary type of way. We all know her as the author of young adult novels such as “Blubber” or “Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret.” If you think that her books may be under your reading level, fret not, because Blume is releasing her first novel for adults in 17 years.”In the Unlikely Event” centers on the tragic winter of the early 1950′s in her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey, when three catastrophic plane crashes kill hundreds. Although the novel comes out June 2, we secretly wish we could start reading to distract us from all the studying we have coming up. So while we’re on the topic of Judy Blume and the revival of her writing career, here are some favorite childhood authors you probably forgot existed and wish you could read again (and if you have time, should).  

 

1. Roald Dahl  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, James and the Giant Peach

Let’s be honest, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” was a little twisted with the idea of children going into a factory and either dying or turning into a blueberry. And Matilda’s telekinesis only gave us a glimpse to what extent her powers can go to cough-Carriepromscene-cough.

2. Lemony Snicket (pen name for Daniel Handler)  The Series of Unfortunate Events (series)

Who doesn’t love reading about three siblings whose parents just got killed in a fire and their psychotic, freaky uncle is constantly murdering people in order to get to their inheritance? And you might as well catch up before the Netflix series arrives.

3. Beverly Cleary  Henry Huggins, Beezus and Ramona, Ramona (Series)

For the perfect, most relateable novels regarding relationships between oneself, siblings, parents and teachers, the “Ramona” series is on point.

4. Mary Pope Osborne  Magic Tree House (series)

Children’s fantasy + historical fiction. These books were your PBS Kids alternative that you would turn to when you maxed out on TV time after school.

5. Crockett Johnson   Harold and the Purple Crayon (series)

His imagination was endless. He had a picnic with nine pies. NINE.

6. K.A. Applegate  Animorphs (series)

The covers were really scary and you probably started reading them because you had to write some science fiction book report, but it sparked your love for Supernatural, so you don’t regret it.

7. Barbara Park  Junie B. Jones (series)

“My name is Junie B. Jones. The ‘B’ stands for Beatrice. Except I don’t like Beatrice. I just like B and that’s all.” Let’s be honest, you had that memorized. She might not have been hooked on phonics, but she was spunky and a little troublemaker, and it was appreciated.

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Arts & Entertainment

Lil B’s Guide to Life

Tonight, Brandon McCartney, better known as rapper Lil B, is gracing the UCLA campus with his presence in a speaking event put on by the Campus Events Commission. The Bay Area rapper, record producer, author and motivational speaker is well known for his memorable quotes. For those of you who haven’t been blessed by the “Based God” yet, here’s a preview of what you can expect tonight:

The man isn’t afraid to shed society’s unfair expectations of masculinity when the moment strikes him. It’s okay to be vulnerable; we’re all people after all.

Comparing himself to two of the world’s most powerful people takes real confidence. Lil B just tells it like it is.

Lil B may not have a degree in biology, but he raises an interesting point on the long-term health benefits of good ol’ oxygen. #staysmiling

He never forgets where he comes from and the support and love that has led him to where he is today. Very classy, Based God.

When you’re this famous and successful, there are bound to be jealous people who try to tear you down. Lil B isn’t scared, he sees right through it all.

Deep. These observations are akin to those of a young Carl Sagan or Neil deGrasse-Tyson.

If you were unable to reserve a ticket, swing by Ackerman Grand Ballroom starting at 7:30 p.m. to snag an unclaimed wristband for the 8 p.m. program. You won’t want to miss this.

As always, #tybg.

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Arts & Entertainment

While You Were Studying: Top Stories of the Week

The week may have just started, but already so much has happened. So rather than opening more cluttering tabs next to MyUCLA and Facebook, I have summed it all up right here for you on one page. If you’d like to dive deeper, just click the link.

1. Sometimes you need to take a two-minute-and-35-second break from all the stress and just watch a video that is mindlessly entertaining. So to kick things off here is a video that has gone viral. [YouTube]

2. Remember this?

Kim K regretfully forgot to add these “Khloe’s journey to jail” selfies to her new book “Selfish,” so the entrepreneur herself is planning on releasing a special edition copy.  [ELLE]

3. After 14 seasons, American Idol announced that after one more season in 2016, it will be ending its production of golden tickets and concluding its presence on reality television. It’s been a good 13 years, but let’s be honest, can anyone actually name all the winners because the only guy I remember is William Hung. [The Huffington Post]

4. Sofia Vergara will be on a six-episode series called “Vergaraland” on Snapchat. We’re not exactly sure how that will work, but do we care? It’s Sofia Vergara, for goodness sakes. And if Joe Manganiello makes an appearance, you know we’ll be all over that. Ten seconds is clearly not long enough. [Variety]

5. And last, but certainly not least. You’ve seen it a million times and even had a mini-freakout when Emily Blunt and Anne Hathaway reunited on an episode of “Lip Sync Battle” but now your most unexpected dream is coming true: The Devil Wears Prada is becoming a musical. There is no word on who, what, where, when or why, but let’s be honest, it doesn’t matter. Just the fact that it’s even in the works is fulfilling enough. [Broadway.com]

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Arts & EntertainmentNews

A Look Back at Dance Marathon

This weekend marked UCLA’s 14th annual Dance Marathon. This event, put on by the Pediatric AIDS Coalition, is a 26-hour-long dance marathon where students take a literal stand against pediatric HIV/AIDS. Let’s take a look back at the original story published by the Daily Bruin on April 12, 2002.

First of all, this story was barely on the front page, and mostly carried on to page three. This is in stark contrast to the current Daily Bruin focus on Dance Marathon and really shows how the event has grown so much bigger over the years. The story opens with, “On your mark, get set, DANCE!” – nothing’s really changed there. The enthusiasm for Dance Marathon that you see on campus today is definitely seen in this first story and the first Dance Marathon.

This first Dance Marathon began with 190 students, and “members of the Interfraternity and Panhellenic Councils collaborated with the Undergraduate Students Association Council, Student Alumni Association and On Campus Housing Council.” There was not a Pediatric AIDS Coalition way back in 2002. It also began as a way for the Greeks to become more involved. 

Dance Marathon co-chair at the time, Emily Whichard, anticipated that this “could be a huge tradition on campus – a unifying thing for a campus that needs that.”

Dance Marathon originally began as a way to unify UCLA as a campus and to get people involved in the community working towards a common goal.

In 2014, Dance Marathon had to be moved to Pauley Pavilion to account for the increase in participating students and the enormity of the event. During the past 13 Dance Marathons, an overall $3,917,480 has been raised for the cause. It truly has become a campus tradition.

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