A Cut Above

A good barbershop is hard to find. There are a few joints that cater to men, but almost comically so, with game shows on the television and Sports Illustrated swimsuit editions on the coffee tables. Salons and chain stores tend to be a bit classier, if less ‘manly’, and make it easy to get a clean haircut if a clean haircut is all one wants. The functional man may just content himself with a decent trim, even if he has to sit through elevator music and smell like perfume. But those who want a true barbershop experience have to search a little harder. My search ended at Barberia.

The towel warmer is decorated with Suavecito Pomade decals and a peeling American flag sticker. Tobacco pipe stands and black-and white pictures of Studebaker trucks hang on the weathered fence planks of the wall. The rickety wooden floor, the faded rug tumbling down the narrow staircase, the rusty iron shoe shine chair, and the bar that serves as the cashier’s counter all give Barberia the feel of an old saloon.

Adrian, who cut my hair, owns the place. Quiet and deliberate, Adrian’s a stocky fellow with a thick tree trunk of a body and sinewed, tattooed arms. He’s been cutting hair for twenty years, and the experience shows. Adrian’s silence reigns over the shop; the only sounds are the buzz of electric clippers, the snipping of scissors, and classic rock playing faintly through an old radio that can still take cassettes. Every once in a while, the phone will ring—it’s a Blackberry that they keep on a tall table made from a section of a bodark tree—and Adrian will tap the hair from his comb and answer. “Barbershop. It’s eighteen dollars for a haircut. Thank you.”

And he’ll put down the Blackberry and pick up the scissors, tilting your head and eyeing your hair with all the precise delicacy of a jeweler examining a diamond. “Roxanne” by the Police started playing on the radio. The barber in the chair beside Adrian’s was an immensely muscular man named Gino, also tattooed, whose short black hair curls in tight Roman ringlets. His customer left and Gino briskly swept the hair into a dustpan and sat down with a heavy creak in the chair.

Barberia used to be called the Olmos Park Barber Shop when it inhabited a smaller building next to Olmos Pharmacy on Hildebrand. Like the new Barberia, Adrian painted and decorated the old Olmos Park Barber Shop himself with vintage photographs and antiques. Although Adrian seems to be the only remaining barber that I recognize since the recent move, the spirit of the place remains unchanged. He brought most of the same decorations to the spacious new shop. The atmosphere seems to effortlessly strike the balance between class and fun. Men seeking a good haircut often have to settle for either the chic or the childish. Sleek salons and chains like Great Clips abound, and one enters the “shop” to the sound of an electric bell and the whiff of perfume and a pile of glossy fashion magazines on a row of plastic chairs. Other barber shops overstretch for some juvenile caricature of male appeal, like Sport Clips or Patriot Cuts on Broadway, with its 15 arcade games and Spiderman posters. Barberia’s eclectic, antique feel and unspoken code of conduct set it apart.

“Barbershop. Eighteen dollars. Thank you.”

Gino sharply got up and lumbered over to Adrian. Gino speaks quickly, in slang. “Man, I stayed out wi’ her lass night and man I slept forever, I was tired.”

“Yeah, she was the lady in red last night,” Adrian said, ponderous and slow.

“And he sent me a text wi’ all this bullshit—man, preaching at me, I don’t want to hear it,” Gino said.

“Mmhmm.”

Gino went back to his chair and splashed some kind of product on his hands and looked in the mirror and ruffled his hair sharply before slumping back down in his chair and humming along to the Police. A lady in a plaid shirt and shorts and cowboy boots walked in with a young boy, maybe five years old, who plopped himself on the booth bench in the middle of the room and kicked his legs while he played on his phone. In an accent somewhere eastern, like East Texas or Louisiana or someplace, she told Adrian about a get-together at her house.

“I’ll be late.”

“I’m thinking we’ll have brisket. I’ll save you a plate,” she said, smiling.

She left and we all got to talking about barbecue. Gino boasted that

he ate an entire rack of ribs the other night. Adrian nodded and simply said, “Yeah, that’s the way to do it.” I asked him if he got many other Trinity students in here, and he nodded.

“Yeah, we get a lot of athletes. Baseball players.”

He tilted my head and glared from beneath his black brows, thinking.  A third barber was cutting hair across the shop from us. He was a bit portly, arching his eyebrows, looking along his nose at the young customer in his chair as he held his scissors at the ready. Adrian asked me if I worked, and I told him that I wrote a little. “You ought to write an article about the Trinity athletes. About how they’re so dignified and behaved, and well-groomed,” he said with an ironic smile. “You know, I hear them laughing and cussing and everything, and then they come in here and they’re so well-behaved.”

Adrian insists on keeping Barberia’s atmosphere manly but familial. “We don’t curse in here. The big guy, Gino, he curses a little sometimes—and I get it, it’s a barbershop, it’s a place to let it out. But we really don’t do that much in here.”

Even as it caters to them, Barberia seems to gently demand that its customers be better men once they enter. It neither emasculates nor coddles its clientele. And though the shop has moved around and shuffled through different barbers, there is a certain steadfast gravity about it. In the calm, terse craftsmanship, in the humble carelessness of the conversations, and even in its most mundane routines, there is a sense that Barberia has weathered the ebbs and flows of our culture and, in some way, will stand forever.

“Barbershop. Eighteen dollars. Thank you.”

Editors Note: This story first appeared in our Spring 2019 print edition and included images taken by Celine Plamondon. Her photography business is called Marie June Photography, and her information can be found below. All credit for these images go to her and her business.

www.facebook.com/mariejunephotography
www.mariejunephotography.myportfolio.com

Book Review: VOX

A couple of months ago, I read an article in the New York Times that listed several new books that had come out under a budding genre: feminist dystopian fiction. If you’ve ever heard of or watched “The Handmaid’s Tale” TV series (or read the book), then you have a fairly good idea of what kind of themes and content you will find in this genre. While I was reading the article, one of the books caught my attention: VOX, by Christina Dalcher. The summary looked interesting, so I decided to pick up a copy for myself.

To provide a brief summary, Dalcher’s novel centers on Dr. Jean McClellan, a neurolinguist living in a United States that is run by the “Pure Movement,” a Christian fundamentalist political movement that has gained control of Congress and the White House and has instituted a policy whereby women are only allowed to speak up to 100 words every 24 hours. This policy is enforced by women being required to wear metal counters on their wrists that are tied to their voices; these counters will deliver a small electric shock if the wearer goes over 100 words, which increases every 10 words the wearer says afterwards. Eventually, if the wearer says too many words, the counter is capable of delivering a lethal electric shock.

Overall, I enjoyed reading the novel. The novel forces you to think about certain issues, especially if you are not a feminist. For instance, does teaching AP classes on Christian fundamentalism bring us one step closer to a dystopian world where women are suppressed? Dalcher seems to think so, and so does Jean, who draws a timeline in her flashbacks that brought the United States to its current state. There are other instances in which Dalcher briefly brings up other issues that seem unrelated to the novel’s main themes but nevertheless play a part in the dystopian world. When Jean and her family (consisting of her husband, Patrick, and her three sons and one daughter) try to leave the United States when the counters come out, they avoid going to Mexico since there is a wall along the entire border, preventing people from leaving. Aside from being a subtle jab at President Trump’s proposed border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, I read this part of the book as “walls eventually keep people in, not out.” I imagine this part will irk some conservative readers and Trump supporters.

The first 24 chapters of the novel are where the readers will encounter the most “political” statements. The dystopia is explained and the main conflicts are laid out. Afterwards, Dalcher’s book mostly reads like a regular novel (mostly because she tones down the political content) and the plot moves forward, which is where the novel begins to fall apart. I have some reservations about the climax, which did not make much sense to me. But other than that, I really like the novel’s structure and how the plot moved forward.

Moving on to themes, several emerge in the novel, such as Christian fundamentalism, family, marriage, patriarchy, women’s rights, masculinity and femininity, gender and gender relations (particularly under a patriarchal dystopia) and the slide into authoritarianism. Many of these themes and conflicts emerge in particular scenes. When Jean gets her counter off, she gets into an argument with her oldest son, Steven, with whom she has several arguments throughout the novel and with whom she has a contentious relationship (Steven is a diehard believer in the Pure Movement’s ideals). During the argument, Steven tells his mother off, saying that it will eventually be illegal for women to insult men. In another scene, Jean gets into an argument with Patrick, where Patrick eventually wonders aloud if his mother would have been better off with her counter on. These two scenes struck me as gut-wrenching, not because it’s the main character’s own family beating down on her, but because of the circumstances in which the arguments took place. In both instances, Jean was propelled by the utter helplessness and verbal hamstringing she felt under the new laws, at times flirting with misandry because of the poor relationships she has with her husband and oldest son.

Another theme that is worth discussing is masculinity and what it means to be a man. Jean frequently compares her husband to a former lover, Lorenzo. Jean sees Lorenzo as having a backbone and willing to stand up for her, while Patrick is a more passive type, willing to let things happen. This is compounded by Patrick working as a scientific adviser to the president; while Patrick was not directly responsible for the counters, Jean still holds him in disregard because he does nothing about it. I believe that Lorenzo’s character is what Dalcher thinks is the ideal man and embodies a “proper” type of masculinity: Lorenzo is portrayed as smart, protective, strong, and romantic. I imagine Lorenzo is the answer that feminists like Mrs. Dalcher have to the “problem” of masculinity in our society.

I highly recommend this novel to anyone who is interested in the themes that I discussed. I will add that the novel is a good follow-up or compliment to “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which has a similar dystopia to that of VOX. While it has its faults, Dalcher’s novel highlights some of the key issues facing America today with regards to gender and tackles them from a feminist perspective.

Photo from Amazon.

Review: Shazam!

Shazam! Is the most recent DCEU movie to come to theaters. Like its predecessor, Aquaman, Shazam! Is full of light-hearted humor to break up the action sequences. Overall, I thought it was a really good movie. And, surprisingly, I found it to have some very conservative values.

In the film, the main character Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is chosen to wield the powers of the wizard Shazam. His powers allow him to become an adult (Zachary Levi), and the first part of the film centers around Billy as he learns to use his powers. In the beginning, Billy abuses his powers and uses them to goof off instead of using them for good.

Eventually, Billy realizes that he must use his powers to defeat the major villain of the movie, Doctor Sivana (Mark Strong). Sivana makes a deal with seven beings who are the physical manifestations of the Seven Deadly Sins: Greed, Lust, Pride, Anger, Gluttony, Sloth, and Envy. They are based off of the Christian sins of the same names.

The movie has the underlying theme of good defeating evil, as Billy was chosen due to his “pure heart” and the fact that he fights the physical embodiments of sin. In addition, the movie strongly focuses on family.

Billy is a foster kid and he constantly runs from home to home in his attempts to find his birth mom, whom he lost when he was a small child. Eventually, he moves in with a large family in Philadelphia, PA. The family is made up of married couple Victor (Cooper Andrews) and Rosa Vasquez (Marta Milans), and the many foster children who live with them: Mary (Grace Fulton), Eugene (Ian Chen), Darla (Faithe C. Dudley), Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer), and Pedro (Jovan Armand).

Rosa and Victor do their best to make each child feel welcome in their home. When Billy first arrives, it is obvious how much the family all cares for one another and how welcoming they are to Billy. The kids try to befriend Billy and make him feel welcome, while Victor and Rosa try to make him feel understood by telling him about their own time in the foster system. Rosa and Victor tell Billy that they take in so many foster kids because they knew what it was like to feel as if they didn’t have a home and as if no one really cared about them. The couple tells him that they want to make their house a true home for the kids and to always make them feel welcome. They want to create a true family for the kids whom they take in.

The family theme is incredibly important throughout the film. In the climax, the foster-siblings all work together to defeat Silvas and the Seven Deadly Sins, in a drawn-out action scene that is peppered with funny moments and quips.

Another important theme in the movie is self-improvement. When Billy first gets his powers, he uses them to cut class and to goof off. His focus turns away from his family and friends, and turns toward his own selfish desires. Throughout the movie, however, Billy learns to put others before himself. This makes him a true hero with a compelling character arc. He grows from a somewhat selfish boy who desperately wants to find his mother to a hero who saves lives—not because it is easy, but because it is the right thing to do.

Movie Review: Captain Marvel

Disclaimer: The following review has spoilers

Captain Marvel is the most recent film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Captain Marvel was directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, and produced by Kevin Feige, who oversees the continuity of the entire MCU.

At as the movie opens, the audience is introduced to a character named “Vers,” a warrior for the alien race known as the Kree. She is captured by the enemy race, the Skrulls, but escapes to Earth, landing in the year 1995. There, she meets a two-eyed Nick Fury, and learns that she was once a human pilot for the United States Air Force named Carol Danvers, and that she gained her unusual powers in a plane crash. She also learns that she had been fighting on the wrong side of the war, and turns on the Kree to give assistance to the Skrulls.

The film was released amid controversy surrounding its star, Brie Larson, who plays the titular character (though the name “Captain Marvel” is never actually given to the character Carol Danvers during the film). The outspoken women’s-rights activist claimed that Captain Marvel was going to be a “big feminist movie,” which upset a good portion of its potential audience, especially many devout Marvel fans. Before it was even released, the film received a tidal wave of negative reviews on the movie review site Rotten Tomatoes, causing the site to consider changing its audience review process to ensure credibility.

This situation spurred uncertainty that the film would live up to Marvel movie expectation. However, this film succeeded in putting most of these fears to rest. There is no doubt that this film will be enjoyed by the general public. The average viewer will see it as nothing more than a cool superhero origin story.

However, those who are heavily invested in the MCU won’t have their expectations blown out of the water. Though Captain Marvel is an enjoyable movie, it doesn’t do anything new. It serves to introduce a character that will be important later, but the stakes were generally low. The movie feels like those released during the MCU’s “phase one”, when all the familiar players were introduced in their own smaller-scale solo films.

This doesn’t make Captain Marvel a bad movie. It simply means that it was burdened with some unreasonably high and wildly varied expectations from diehard Marvel fans that it just could not meet.

If it weren’t held to such high scrutiny, this film would easily be seen as simply fun and enjoyable. Carol Danvers is a solid character and the plot is interesting. There were plenty of moments of genuine emotion and comedy. The film kept a very good pace, keeping the audience interested and attentive throughout. Though the computer-generated animation wasn’t perfect, the imagery was often stunning and colorful, which is a refreshing change from other recent MCU films.

There was fear that the film would be overly focused on feminist messages. The marketing of the film only served to confirm this, as it threw around language suggesting the bravery and physical strength of the character, which perpetuated this fear. Somewhat surprisingly, this was not very pervasive. Danvers is undoubtedly the strongest and most intelligent character in the film. Aside from some snide comments directed towards her by men in her flashbacks, Danvers doesn’t seem to face any obstacles out of mere virtue of being a woman. She is told several times to control her emotions, but the same has been said to many MCU protagonists before her, as lack of emotional control has proven to be a weakness in these films.

These messages can and should be overlooked, as it is important to appreciate a movie for what it accomplishes beyond them. Though it isn’t outstanding within the highly acclaimed MCU, Captain Marvel is a solidly enjoyable film, and might even seem great–without comparison to its predecessors.

Movie Review: Unplanned

On March 30, I went to see Unplanned with various members of Trinity University’s student organization Tigers For Life, a pro-life club. The movie is based on Abby Johnson’s story as she became a director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan, TX, and eventually became an outspoken pro-life activist.

I am an active member of Tigers For Life and consider myself knowledgeable about abortion and Planned Parenthood, as the club often hosts tables on campus to talk to our peers about abortion and other pro-life options available to women. I thought I was prepared to watch Abby Johnson’s story.

I was wrong.

Before seeing Unplanned, abortion was something that I knew about in clinical terms. I knew that suction was used to forcibly remove the unborn child from the mother’s womb. I knew that abortion is a traumatic experience for women, and that it has lasting physical and psychological effects on women. However, all of this knowledge was abstract to me.

But when watching the movie, I watched those facts and numbers and figures become the stories of the women with whom Abby Johnson interacted. I had to turn away when Johnson saw the ultrasound of a woman’s baby as it was being aborted. I cried when the fetus tried to move away from the probe, as the baby struggled desperately to save its own life.

Throughout the movie, Johnson’s Planned Parenthood clinic was watched and prayed over by a group called 40 Days for Life. Johnson had multiple conversations with the members of the group, as she often had to interact with them in order to bring patients into the clinic. The movie showed two very different pro-life groups. One was 40 Days for Life, as they peacefully prayed outside the clinic and tried to offer help and other options to the women who were scheduled to have abortions. The other group were not peaceful nor at all helpful.

In the movie, the people who were a part of 40 Days for Life condemned the other group. The other group is what some pro-choicers try to paint all pro-lifers as. People who shame women for having an abortion, and who hate them for having to make a difficult, terrible choice. They were the ones waving signs with graphic pictures of abortion and its effects on a fetus. And Unplanned did a wonderful job of showing audiences that that is not what the pro-life movement is about. Everyone whom Abby interacted with at 40 Days for Life was understanding and compassionate. While they disagreed with abortion and found it wrong, they did not hurl insults at the women at the Planned Parenthood clinic. We should not condemn someone for their beliefs or for their actions. We can only look at them with compassion and sympathy, and help those around us find a solution for their problems.

Because those with 40 Days for Life were so compassionate and understanding, they became the people to whom Johnson turned when she realized all of the evil that was happening at Planned Parenthood. I—and many others in the audience, judging by the loud sniffling and quiet sobbing that filled the theater—cried with Abby Johnson as her movie-representation cried over all of the lives she had ended.

After Johnson became pro-life, she shared a statistic that immediately caught my attention. She told Shawn Carney, the president of 40 Days for Life, that if people are praying outside of a Planned Parenthood clinic, then almost 75% of the women will not show up for their abortion appointments. Oftentimes, I feel useless when doing pro-life work. It feels like no matter how much our group tables on campus, or however much volunteer work we do, our work doesn’t affect those around us. I think that many people feel the same way. But in the movie, Johnson told Carney that, “You can’t even see how much your work actually does.” And that inspires me to keep going and to keep working. Maybe I can’t see how my actions are actually affecting those around me, but I have to have faith that my small words and deeds really can make a difference.

Unplanned opened my eyes to abortion. It forced me to confront abortion. I walked into the movie theatre with a knowledge of abortion, but I was emotionally closed off from it. I was closed off from the horror that is purposefully killing an innocent life. I didn’t let myself think about how truly terrible abortion is, even if I had a vague idea that abortion is bad. Unplanned forced me to confront abortion, and has made me even more eager to do what I can to help the pro-life movement.

Cover image courtesy of Victoria Ydens; depicting Tigers for Life attending Unplanned.

Review: Vampire Lesbians of Sodom

Vampire Lesbians of Sodom written by Charles Busch and directed by Sarah Bastos played in Trinity University’s Attic Theatre from Feb. 14-16. With a title like Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, one can’t help but give this play a double take. One might suspect the show involves witchcraft, immorality, love, sin, sex or ecstasy, and while the show doesn’t fail to deliver on at least some of those elements, it’s really a campy play about female rivalry and friendship throughout the ages. This production of Vampire Lesbians of Sodom was excellently received because it took a mediocre script and truly brought it to life on stage.

The play is a satirical work that follows the struggle between two female vampires throughout time, focusing on biblical Sodom, 1920s Hollywood, and finally 1980s Los Angeles. The protagonists, La Condesa and Madeleine Astarte, played by Aria Gaston-Panthaki and Sophia Elsadig respectively, meet in Act I when Madeleine is offered as a human virgin sacrifice to the “Succubus” or La Condesa. La Condesa bites Madeleine’s neck intending to kill her, but Madeleine becomes a vampire instead. The rest of the story in Acts II and III follows the vampires as Madeleine seeks her revenge on La Condesa, primarily by stealing away La Condesa’s fame and fortune.

I won’t mince words: I’m not fond of Vampire Lesbians of Sodom as a script. There are some really moving moments written into the dialog while others (including the climax!) are rushed, cheapening the dynamic between the protagonists. There are clever innuendos, but also vulgar jokes that are hard-pressed for a laugh. There is potential to support the LGBTQIA+ community, but the play fails to do remarkable things with its queer characters. Yes, lesbian women are represented, but they’re represented as power-hungry, selfish, catty, and incapable of love. Even at the end, La Condesa and Madeleine only remain together out of pity, loneliness, self-preservation, and selfish ambition. I would argue that queer women, and all people for that matter, deserve a better representation than this in the theatre. In her director’s note, Sarah Bastos said that her goal with the show was “to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community…by introducing you to these two powerful, cunning, and beautiful lesbian women”. While I agree with Bastos that La Condesa and Madeleine are strong and intelligent women, I believe these traits manifested themselves in ugly ways. If this show is to truly support lesbian women, it must also show their hearts and humanity.

Although I disapprove of the script, I felt that Bastos and her team did an outstanding job staging the production, and I’m compelled to give them due praise. The designers truly outdid themselves in transporting the audience from one time period to the next. Holly Gabelmann’s scene design was appropriately crude in the first act before transitioning to vintage and then chic and in the second and third acts, an excellent reflection of the protagonists’ character developments. Alex Oliver, the costume designer, had the characters sporting the best of every era, using a mixture of archaic garments, flapper-inspired looks, and colorful sportswear. With each new act, I really could believe that decades or thousands of years had gone by.

To make the time transitions even more flawless, Sarah Bastos added an emcee-type character, played by Jude Casanova, who provided the audience with silly vampire facts like “Vampires drink blood!” never complete without an innuendo. The character allowed complex scene transitions to occur without snapping the audience out of the world of the play. I scarcely even noticed the set being moved around and recreated. By the time the emcee exited, a new decade waited on stage.

All in all, I was presently surprised by the great quality of this production in spite of my personal criticisms of the script. The actors were dedicated to their roles, the designers and crew transported me to three different time periods, and the director created a dynamic and smooth show. It would seem that only the playwright failed me.

Free use image.

A Minnesotan at the Texas Rodeo

There are few things that are more Texan than a rodeo, and the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo is one of the best. The air was filled with the smell of livestock, BBQ, fried food, and—of course—beer. In any given direction you look, there was a guarantee of seeing someone in a pair of cowboy boots coupled with a hat. And, maybe best of all, a live band played Johnny Cash and Jim Croce classics on repeat.

Despite being from Minnesota, this was not my first Rodeo. A couple of years ago, I went to one in a small Montana town. Let me just say, the phrase “everything is bigger in Texas”, has never been truer. The crowd is bigger, the bulls are bigger, the beers are bigger and the hats are bigger.

I don’t think that the average person really considers any of the competitive events at a rodeo as being a sport. However, to the audience and the participants, it’s even more. Many of the participants are cowboys and ranchers who have grown up riding bulls and horses. All the events are a mix of unpredictability, danger and pure muscle, as the rider can train as much as they want, but the horses and bulls are still just unpredictable animals. The combination of an animal’s unpredictable nature and the fact that they weigh much more than a person, make any event extremely dangerous for the riders. To combat this danger, riders must be incredibly calm and strong and know what to do in any situation, otherwise, it could be fatal.

On top of this, the whole event was very patriotic. The announcers acknowledged the military many times throughout the event and recognized all the branches in playing Salute to America’s Finest. Additionally, there was a swearing-in ceremony for the Army. This was by far my favorite part of the whole rodeo. The officer started off by saying “are y’all ready to join the greatest team on earth”, and the whole audience applauded with American pride. It was refreshing to see that there are people who still love their country. Then when the officer got to the words “I will obey the orders of the President of the United States,” the audience erupted into applause. I have never been anywhere, besides a Trump Rally or other political events, where there has been even close to that amount of approval of our president. Being a Trump supporter and hearing this similar approval for him from other people made me feel proud and comfortable with publicly expressing my political views for the first time in a while, as oftentimes public advocacy for the President is bound to incite some type of rage from somebody.

The rodeo ended with a performance by Brad Paisley. I am more of a bluegrass and outlaw country guy and don’t usually like country pop music, but Paisley is an incredible guitarist so it ended up being quite enjoyable and a great end to the night. All in all, the Rodeo was a positive experience as a Minnesotan. I gained a newfound respect for the athletes, I can rejoice in the fact that our country still has passionate patriots and I gained some much-needed confidence in my political views—all from just an afternoon at the Rodeo.

Photo courtesy of Tim Hoeksema. From left to right: Nathan Darsch, Vaughn Kohl, Blaise Fort and Tim Hoeksema.

Going on a 50’s Date in San Antonio

Although people typically see a lot of the dating etiquette from the 1950s as “ridiculous”  and outdated, many of the customs used then can be adapted easily into 21st century dating. We may now scoff at the idea of only the man asking the woman out or getting parental approval for a first date (especially if you’re in college)—but a lot of the social norms surrounding dating in the 50s had great practical purpose, making them timeless.

Here are some ways you can incorporate ‘50s dating practices into your relationship (or future relationship—these are great for a first date!). While they may not work for every date you go on, having a ‘50s date every once and awhile is a fun way to shake up the monotony of just another night at your mainstay restaurant or coffee shop.

Preparing for the Date

An important part of dating in the 50s was communication and punctuality. It’s recommended that the man asks out the woman at least two days in advance, giving her plenty of time to prepare. This asking also should be done in person, with detail given about what the askee should expect of the date in terms of location and time. Of course, it is also completely okay for the woman to be the asker today, and in a long-term relationship it usually goes both ways.

Once the night of the date has arrived, the woman should be ready on time so the man can pick her up at her door. This means no parking in front of her dorm and sending her an “I’m here” text, but instead actually getting out of the car and walking all the way to her front door. It’s a personal touch that makes all the difference.

Where to Go

In the 1950s, the most common places to go on dates were cheap and fun and didn’t involve a terribly large amount of planning. This is great news, because a lot of popular places (such as ice-cream parlors, diners, parks and coffee shops)  are still accessible today. Here are some great recommendations in and around San Antonio, most of which cost under $25:  

1. The 410 Diner

This 1950’s style is exactly what you’re looking for if you want great food with a bit of vintage flair. It’s fairly inexpensive diner faire with fast service and nostalgic decor and music. Definitely not the healthiest place on earth, but worth it.

2. Japanese Tea Gardens

If you live in San Antonio and have never visited the Japanese Tea Gardens, you’re missing out. Located within walking distance from Trinity University and with free entry from dawn to dusk, it’s practically a broke college students’ dream date location. It’s a great place to go on walks with your boyfriend or girlfriend (possibly after a very filling meal at the diner?) and has beautiful flowers and greenery.

Photo by Maddie D’iorio.

3.  Pearl Market

There are a ton of things of all price points to do at the Pearl. Go shopping at the farmer’s market on a Sunday morning, grab dinner on Friday night, or just take a long walk on the stretch of the Riverwalk which is right below all of main thoroughfares. Events are always going on here, and you’ll never get bored with the Pearl’s endless street musicians, quirky shops, and delicious restaurants.

4. Stars and Stripes Drive-In Theatres

Although this location is not technically in San Antonio (it’s about a half hour drive away from Trinity), it’s definitely one of the most unique and fun places around. Stars and Stripes plays double features on three different screens, and concessions are available. Clear out your trunk and fill it with pillows and blankets.  Even though this option involves making the trek to New Braunfels, it’s an experience you won’t forget.

5. NOLA Brunch & Beignets

This location only works for early morning or afternoon dates, but is still a great option due to the walking distance from campus and the adorable atmosphere both inside and out. Treat your sweetie to some brunch on a cool weekend morning, or if you want to save a bit of money, go for just some coffee and delicious beignets.

6. Commonwealth Coffeehouse and Bakery

Commonwealth is another great morning or afternoon option, and serves great espresso drinks with flakey croissants. This is a great option for a fun between-classes date, or for something simple on a Saturday morning.

7. Amy’s Ice Creams

Amy’s is a staple, and is smack-dab in the middle of the Alamo Quarry, meaning shopping and dining options are bound. Prices are much more palatable than the oh-so-fancy Lick Ice Creams, but with better quality and more fun than just picking up a half gallon of Blue Bell at HEB (which is still an arguably awesome date, by the way).

Photo by Maddie D’iorio.

8. Slab Cinema

If you aren’t feeling like a drive in movie but still want something different than your typical movie theatre, check out Slab Cinema. They have outdoor movie showings at different locations around San Antonio, and nearly all of them are completely free! Nothing beats laying underneath the stars with the person you love, and adding a fun movie just makes it all the better.

9. Sorrento’s Italian Ristorante

An Italian restaurant is a classic date location and Sorrento’s is perfect for this. You know you’re in for a traditional Italian meal when the walls are decorated with old family photos, and what’s not to love about that?

10. Candlelight Wine & Coffeebar

Okay, I might be a little bit biased for this place because it was where I went on my first date with my boyfriend one year ago, and now it’s one of our favorite places. But—Candlelight truly is one of the best date places around. It’s within walking distance from campus, is open late, has a variety of food and drink and a romantic ambiance that is sure to please. Whether you’re in the mood for dinner or just a cup of tea, Candlelight has something for you.

Luke Ayers at Candlelight Wine & Coffeebar. Photo by Maddie D’iorio.

Things to Remember

The most important part about going on a ‘50s date isn’t the location or who picks whom up at the door, but instead the mindset. Put your phone away and let yourself enjoy your time with the person you’re with. Being whimsical and outside the box makes dating all the more fun, especially when it’s with someone you care about. Happy Valentine’s Day!

10 Novels Conservatives Should Read in 2019

It’s a new year, which means many of us have made New Year’s resolutions. While talking with a few friends, I realized that I have read very few fiction novels with conservative ideas and values. So after some research, soul-searching and hours staring at my bookshelf, I have compiled a list of ten books that champion, or at least analyze, conservatism in one way or another.

1. 1984 by George Orwell

George Orwell tells the story of Oceania, a country ruled by a totalitarian government and the ever-present Big Brother. Perhaps not the most uplifting story, 1984 deals with issues of human morality, perseverance in the face of persecution and the ultimate human desire for freedom. It conveys the undeniable message that humans seek freedom from restrictive government and a warning to future generations not to allow themselves to be controlled by the government or the media, all of which are important takeaways in a time of ‘fake news’ and political correctness.

2. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

Mansfield Park is not Jane Austen’s most famous novel, but I believe it is one of her most powerful. It deals with the morality of the characters and champions Fanny Price for her modesty and morality. As always, Austen writes about traditional gender roles and the importance of morality and propriety in relationships, which are always refreshing lessons.

3. Antigone by Sophocles (I recommend the Rex Warner or David Grene translation)

One of Sophocles’ greatest tragedies, Antigone is essentially about the differences between what is the law and what is right. Antigone’s decisions throughout the play shows the audience the importance of one’s own morality and piety, but also the importance of familial relationships and loyalty.

4. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women tells the story of the March girls, four sisters who live in Concord, MA during and after the Civil War. As the siblings grow up from little girls into women, they learn the importance of religion, charity and friendship. While it is a book that ends with a “they all got married and lived happily” statement, Little Women is, above all, about family and growing up to be good people.

5. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel mainly deals with the topic of censorship. The society in Fahrenheit 451 is one in which all dissenting opinions are silenced and the population is forced into ignorance. While not so drastic as in the novel, today’s society has its own version of book-burning censorship in the form of political correctness.

6. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Betty Smith’s novel focuses on a family living in Brooklyn before, during, and after World War I. It is about the Nolan Family and their individual struggles through poverty and other kinds of tragedies. The novel values family and hard work, and praises characters who have compassion for those in need. It’s a wonderful read about a tight-knit family, who perseveres until the end.

7. The Circle by Dave Eggers

While perhaps not the most well-written novel, this satire showcases everything that could go wrong with technology and the media. This book offers a look into something similar to the radical progressive ideology. While the company and its employees say that they are doing what they believe to be morally right, the reader and a small faction of the book’s characters realize that The Circle is a company that cares about power, not morality. They effectively run the world, all while believing that they are saving humanity from themselves. Just as many progressives claim that their policies are about morality, they too seem to care more about their own power than the freedom and happiness of the everyday man.

8. Shelley’s Heart by Charles McCarry

McCarry’s novel deals with a liberal president whose conservative opponent contests the election. While it feels similar, at first, to the Russian collusion theories, McCarry’s novel deals instead with the ins-and-outs of American politics and its politicians. While McCarry does not discuss conserative ideology, his novel does bring up ideas about ethics in politics. It is a fun, interesting read and definitely worth the time.

9. Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare

This comedy has many important messages for the modern conservative, especially after the media disaster concerning the Covington Catholic High School stories. One of the main characters, Claudio, receives false information from an untrustworthy source, and impulsively makes a decision which ultimately causes much grief for every character involved. In addition, Much Ado About Nothing focuses on the close relationships of family and friends, and the devotion (or lack thereof) between two lovers. It cautions readers to question their news sources, to think before they act and to love deeply before time runs out.

10. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Often considered a children’s story, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe deals with themes that are still relevant to conservatives today. Emphasizing family, the book shows the importance of not only familial relationships, but also in forgiveness and acceptance. With his depiction of the battle between Good and Evil, C.S. Lewis also writes about the importance of morality and compassion.

Review: Mowgli Legend of the Jungle

Disclaimer: this article contains spoilers for Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle.

Just two years after Disney’s live action remake of The Jungle Book, directed by Jon Favreau, Netflix has expanded its tendrils into the story with Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle, directed by Andy Serkis. Serkis’s Mowgli is a much darker take on Rudyard Kipling’s original narrative, and an even farther departure from the animated 1967 film.

Mowgli demonstrates the fundamental flaw with identity politics and the importance of value-based identity over holding to your identity. The fundamental question in this version of the Jungle Book story, more so than other versions, is whether Mowgli is a man or a wolf. Though born a human, he was raised as a wolf, and has fought to hold his own place as a true wolf.

The climax of the movie begins when Mowgli is expelled from the jungle and sent to the village. He doesn’t understand the language (unsurprising as he’s never heard it before) but still tries, after some resistance, to fit in with the men. He bonds with the white hunter as a result of their shared history with Shere Khan, but remains cautious.

Mowgli is explicit in acknowledging that he isn’t all man or all wolf, but something in between. This is the kind of nuance with which conservatives are comfortable. Mowgli is able to embrace what progressives might call his “identity” as a man, not shying away from all that entails—namely, running on two legs, and using a knife to fight Shere Khan, rather than his teeth and “claws” like might be expected of him if he really were a wolf.

Mowgli tries for a time to be all man, befriending the hunter. But ultimately, his values are incompatible with the man village. This is clearest when Mowgli discovers that the hunter killed his best friend, the albino wolf Bhoot. Having been practicing with the knife, and becoming more immersed in human culture, it is not until he sees his dead friend that he realizes fitting in with his so-called “identity” would mean rejecting his values.

Mowgli chooses to give his allegiance to the Jungle, not to the Village of Man, yet acknowledges his past, embracing it and determining how it fits with his values. He uses the knife to fight Shere Khan but does not embrace the message of the Hunter who gave him the knife. In short, he embraces what Russell Kirk would call “affection for the proliferating variety and mystery of human existence,” or, one might say, “wolf existence.”

Acknowledging that one comes from a particular ethnic or religious background or that one’s gender affects one’s life is not an embrace of identity politics. We should instead determine what values will guide us, and hold fast to those, rather than allowing ourselves to be buffeted by whatever our culture says we should believe based on our gender or the color of our skin.