The Frozen Middle

A young Latino male picks up his food to go and asks for a second helping of the taqueria’s much lauded salsa.  “That will be 50-cents more, sir, ” says the cashier politely.  (The serving is a tablespoon, in a mental note to self. 50 cents?)  The young man shrugs his shoulders and walks out, beaten again.  He had already paid $10.25 for the burrito.  This is the state of the Mission district where I live in San Francisco, where the poor, the middle, and the newly enriched upper middle class reside all together.

You can see it on the faces of those whose pathways you cross every day:

  • early morning worker bees en route to the fancy, unmarked, WiFi-enabled bus that whisks them south to the mothership.
  • others with even larger backpacks hightail it on foot to their jobs on the morning crew to clean kitchens and offices.
  • several run block after block with their specialized smartphone exercise app giving them applause at every new milestone reached…They don’t have to be at work as early as the others.
  • and then there are those like me whose days and nights and weekends all blur into one in an upwards of 90-hours-per-week of work. 

I can honestly say that though I’m not paid nearly enough for the amount of work I clock in, I love my job and that makes it all worth it. Is my health affected?  Possibly.  But I take good care to keep everything in perspective by eating well, drinking a lot of water, stretching several times a day, and trying to get some exercise at least 4 times a week.  

What about those whose livelihoods don’t fulfill on a personal level?  How does that sink the soul in myriad ways?  There is very little room for growth anymore.  It used to be that you’d earn a degree and the world was your oyster. Not so much.  If you earn a degree at an expensive college and your parents aren’t rich, you’re sunk into debt for a good portion of your early-to-mid life – chained to the man, as it were.  

What keeps people living in these urban areas going every day?  Necessity to feed the family, to feel like one is a part of something bigger, to feel like you can be one of those media stars that you see go from rags to riches on the reality shows.  The media fills us with hope that we can grow out of this frozen middle.  The poor lost that hope long ago.  Their future dreams have been shattered multiple times.  Some STILL have possibilities and I see it where I work which is one of my favorite things about teaching in a public, affordable college. People pursue dreams and they can get to the next step, one-by-one.  

The difference between the middle now and the middle 30+ years ago is that now our entire government (all three branches) are bought by the oligarchy which has stretched its octopus-like appendages into the fabric of our every day.  Even local politics have been corrupted by the “families” on the outside who want to swallow the middle whole.  They gorge on the blood and sweat of workers  while enriching their personal fortunes. They buy the politicians to be sure any rights we used to have are removed.  Within 5-years we’ll be bound-and-gagged in a Fritz Lang “Metropolis” with the gulf of class division trapping us.

Is there a way out?   YES!  You have to WAKE UP and become ACTIVE!  And I don’t mean signing a number of the online petitions as you sit and feel like you’ve done something.  Those don’t work.  Politicians don’t READ any of that.  They vote with the $$ laid before them by the vast lobbying efforts of the oligarchs.  WE MUST ACT to change politics.  WE MUST ACT to say “NO” to the lie of “representative government” because it no longer represents the frozen middle.  

Start with keeping up with the people who are working toward real hope and change:

Enrich yourself with knowledge.  Find your way to get out of that seat and DO SOMETHING.  We have to make real change because we’ve been saying that things just aren’t working for us anymore for far too long.




About danaj33

I have been teaching in the Broadcast Electronic Media Art department at City College of San Francisco since 2001. I started teaching full-time in 2009 and am tenured. My career as an audio engineer spans 32-years since the first day I began to record and mix songs on my Tascam PortaStudio (cassette 4-track) in the early 80's while attending college at UC Berkeley. I formed a couple of bands and sang lead (sometimes playing rhythm guitar) until 1988 when I discovered that the "behind-the-scenes" tech realm was much more to my liking. I love how an audio engineer controls the ENTIRE sound mix, and not just one's own instrument. I then began a career as a live sound engineer in earnest and have toured extensively throughout the U.S. and Europe as front-of-house sound engineer for a multitude of bands on various record labels (most notably "Medicine" on American Recordings) and have been a staff engineer at the venerable Bottom of the Hill nightclub since their inception in 1991 leaving a regular shift there in 2010 due to the teaching schedule. The club and its staff are like family. I owned and operated a live sound production company since 1989 (ending officially in 2017) called dcj Productions that has provided sound to the Bay Area community (mostly in the non-profit sector) in both large outdoor sound events as well as nightclubs and music halls. In 1991, I started recording bands on an 8-track Tascam TSR-8 analog tape recorder and moved into the digital realm in 1993 to 16-tracks of Alesis ADAT connected to a Soundcraft Ghost console in my home studio. In 1995, I advanced to Pro Tools and have been recording exclusively digital ever since, combining audio skills in sound for film as a location recordist as well as an engineer in post-production sound design and mixing. I remained "strictly analog" in my live sound mixing until just this past year (2012). Now that one can obtain a decent, live sound digital mixer at an affordable price, it was high time to check out digital for live. I now have a Presonus StudioLive 16.4.2 to work on with my students to give them much needed hands-on experience with a digital console. I co-owned and ran APG Records & APG Studios, an SF record label and recording studio, from 1999 - 2004 which had a distribution deal through EMI. The company folded in 2004. I continue to record music and engineer live performances at many Bay Area venues in addition to full-time teaching at CCSF. In 2001, I was hired to the part-time faculty at City College of San Francisco in the Broadcast Electronics Media Arts department where I have taught many of the classes including Digital Media Skills (BCST119), Basic Audio Production (BCST120), Digital Audio Production (BCST124), Sound Recording Studio (BCST125), Sound For Visual Media (BCST126), Advanced Sound Recording (BCST127), Sound Reinforcement (BCST128), Audio for the Web (BCST135), Video for the Web (BCST136), and Field Video Production (BCST141). I have also taught classes in sound design, audio for animation and games, music video, and computer applications at Art Institute of California-San Francisco, Globe Recording Institute, and Laney College in Oakland, CA. In addition to teaching, I am a writer. I have several blogs and have written many screenplays since 2007 producing a few of them into short films. In 2020, the craziest year and decade of any of our lives, I am starting a book project titled, "Abra, the Imaginarian." Outside Affiliations: - former Co-Director of SoundGirls - current member of Audio Engineering Society and on the SF Chapter Planning Committee - past Vice President and Interim President Board of Directors - Bay Area Girls Rock Camp - past volunteer/contributor to Women's Audio Mission - past member Bay Area Women in Media and Film - past Board of Directors for Camp Reel Stories
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