Tat-Tuesday: Student share stories behind their ink

Originally published at The Daily Texan.

Yessenia Herrera

Between her personal love of both music and tattoos, radio-television-film junior Yessenia Herrera has a great appreciation for artistic expression.

Herrera said she dreams of a large network of tattoos adorning her body, but for now she settles for the single, minimalist design of an origami frog, inspired by the cover of the album Copacetic.

“I wanted to start small, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted,” Herrera said. “Then I got it off an album cover of a band I like, Knuckle Puck. Their lyrics are very personal to me.”

Though the idea of tattoos can have a somewhat negative connotation, Herrera loves the personal ability to express herself and show that to the public.

“They’re very much about claiming your body,” Herrera  said. “I feel like they’re about personalizing yourself, and I like the art and modification.”


Evan Stack

The album Letting Off the Happiness by Bright Eyes had a significant impact on speech pathology sophomore Evan Stack when he first heard it in middle school.

“When I first listened to it, it really changed my perspective on music in a drastic way,” Stack said. “I think about it daily. I still listen to the record, and I still love it the way I loved it.”

This January, Stack decided to take an unplanned trip to a tattoo shop and get a portion of the cover on his shoulder. But to him, these three fireworks mean more than just a beloved album.

“There’s a lot of lo-fi production techniques that are technically unimpressive but add a human quality to the record,” Stack said. “It symbolizes a DIY musical ideology, and it really struck me poignantly.”


Emily Gibson 

The tattoo of a black-eyed susan — Maryland’s state flower — that marks the leg of journalism senior Emily Gibson is only the first in a planned series of tattoos.

“I got it the summer after I moved here from Maryland,” Gibson said. “It’s where I grew up, and I have this plan that I’m gonna get a tattoo for everywhere I live that shapes me as a person.”

The experience of living in Texas and Maryland have been stark contrasts to one another, with both cultures valuing different sports, different foods and different attitudes. Moving to Texas uprooted her life, and the tattoo helps to commemorate the previous chapter.

“The places where you live inform who you are,” Gibson said. “You learn about who you are everywhere you go.”


Good Flow Honey provides a treat to locavores with a sweet tooth

Good Flow Honey provides a treat to locavores with a sweet tooth

Originally published at The Daily Texan.

In the face of numerous obstacles, the members of the Crofut family pursue their shared passion — the wildly popular Good Flow Honey Company.

The beloved honey, now on the shelves of grocers all over Austin, started out as just a school project for founders Tom and Judy Crofut for their former employer, Greenbriar School.

“The school closed,” Judy Crofut said. “So, there we were with the beehives and the honey. So, we started selling the honey.”

With their children Daniel and Jennifer in tow, Good Flow began. Their product quickly became a mainstay in the diet of locally-minded Austinites such as Andre Davis, an employee of Wheatsville Co-op, one of Austin’s licensed sellers of Good Flow, who believes their honey is one of the best in Austin.

“Their honey tends to be sweeter,” Davis said. “It’s more of like a creamy sweetness with vanilla undertones, it’s not as molasses-y as some of those other ones.”

Once people began to take to their blend of honey, Good Flow began selling juice as well. Placing their personal spin of pure, unprocessed goods on juices helped Good Flow thrive, reaching more customers than ever.

“The juice really took off,” Crofut said. “We got a location on east Cesar Chavez in 1980.”

Then, in 2008, FDA restrictions on the juicing process forced Good Flow Juice and Honey Co. to shutter a significant part of their company.

Though they did initially attempted to work with the government, Crofut said the endless bureaucracy and even typos in official documents consistently blocked their path. Many local buyers still lament this loss, including Davis.

“I loved it. It was way better than the things they on the market have now,” Davis said. “Their orange juice was just the best.”

These days, the Good Flow warehouse is mostly empty. Though they initially bought the space for their juicing business, it’s now being solely used for honey storage, it occupies about half of the space and has an odd, somewhat creepy feeling. However, Crofut said the empty space will not go to waste. She intends to eventually reopen Good Flow’s juicing business. They are attempting to revisit working with the FDA to approve a process which properly pasteurizes the juice, while retaining Good Flow’s standards of raw purity.

“We can still make fresh citrus juice because you can apply the bacteria killer to the outside of citrus, and then squeeze them and make the juice fresh,” she said. “We’re hoping to get in time for when the Texas crop comes in for the fall, but you never know.”

Even after all of these highs and lows, the Crofuts remain passionate about their business. This passion extends to even their children, who now work with the company. Their daughter Jennifer helps out in the office, doing computer work and labeling. She said she’s passionate about supporting the company’s presence in the city.

“My favorite part is watching the product go out,” Jennifer Crofut said. “It’s perfectly hand-done, and we take great pride in it.”

Tat-Tuesday: Students share stories behind their ink

Originally published at The Daily Texan on April 4, 2017.

Kassidy Sablatura

Biology sophomore Kassidy Sablatura has always chased after the idea of self-liberation. She credits the UT community with helping her redefine her values last year and figure out what personal freedom means to her.

To celebrate her transformation, Sablatura designed a tattoo that combines it with her lifelong love affair with music: a bird made of musical notes.

“I’ve always liked bird tattoos,” Sablatura said. “They’re kinda the concept of freedom and liberation. They’re peaceful animals to me, and it’s a universal symbol of freedom.”

After growing up surrounded by music in all of its forms, she currently uses dance to express her love of music.

“Dance is really musical,” Sablatura said. “You have to hear the beats and move in a way that emphasizes them. It made me listen to music more critically.”

Sablatura strongly credits music as the driving force behind her freeing, intrapersonal journey.

“I felt like I had to free myself of other people’s biases to have enough confidence to be strong,” Sablatura said.

Allison Medina

After biochemistry junior Allison Medina’s grandmother died of breast cancer, she decided to memorialize her with a tattoo of the pink breast cancer ribbon.

“It was pretty hard losing her,” Medina said. “I want to go to medical school and do oncology, so it’s meaningful to me. A constant reminder.”

The small tattoo is hidden on the side of her torso to keep it out of sight from others. Dreams of working in a professional field prevent Medina from having visible tattoos, motivating her to strategically place it in a concealed area.

“It’s hidden so people don’t see it a lot,” she said. “But I know it’s there, and it affects me.”

Regina Baker

Tattoos blanket the body of psychology senior Regina Baker. Comprised of different styles from different artists, each design has its own unique meaning, but her favorites are a series of stars that stretch the length of her body.

“There’s 63 stars from my shoulder to my ankle,” Baker said. “Really, they don’t mean a lot. It was kind of a spur of the moment gift from my son’s uncle.”

Baker’s love of art is what propels her drive to ink her skin. Baker takes pride in the artists’ many distinct styles.

“It’s basically a collection of art I get to wear,” Baker said.

Latin-American superstar Eugenio Derbez discusses new film and the challenges of multicultural comedy

Originally published at The Daily Texan.

Eugenio Derbez, named the most influential Latin-American star by Variety, is hugely popular in Spanish-speaking countries, and this week he begins his attempt to make it in America.

He produced and stared in “How to Be a Latin Lover,” a funny and surprisingly sweet tale of a washed-up Hollywood gigolo who moves in with his sister, played by Salma Hayek. The Daily Texan sat down with him to hear about the struggles of transitioning to English and the advice he has for student actors.

The Daily Texan: What was the hardest part about making an English-language film?

Eugenio Derbez: Probably the language and the culture. Let me tell you why: Drama is universal. We all cry for the same stuff: love, death, lust. But comedy depends on where you were born. You go to Argentina and you watch a show, you’re not gonna laugh at the same things. So it depends on where you were born, if you are young, if you are old. Your grandma doesn’t laugh at the same stuff as you, you know?

It’s so hard to make a movie for two different countries, for two different cultures. So it was an experiment, kind of. Our hope was to make (two different cultures) laugh: the Hispanic culture and the Anglos. And I think we found a great mix between the two senses of humor.

Having a director like Ken Marino—and I am a director myself, I direct all of my TV shows—so I brought my style into the American comedy, and I think we found the perfect balance between the cultures. And we have some tricks. There are some scenes that are funny, in the few scenes that I’m in Spanish, we cheated. The subtitles say something different that appeals more to the general market than the Hispanics. If you try to translate every single joke it doesn’t work.

DT: What advice do you have for an actor who is trying to make it today?

ED: I spent many years of my life knocking at the door of all producers. This happened to me in Mexico and, of course, here. I never got anything. There’s a lot of people around, so how can you compete in a market like this?

Everything changed my life the day I decided, instead of asking for a job, to bring something to the table. So what I did then is the same as what I did here. They are like “How did you get a starring role in a movie in Hollywood?” Well, I did it myself.

In Mexico I did the same thing. When I was starting, I worked a lot as a waiter. Then I hired two writers that could develop a script for me. That’s what I did here too. I hired two American writers, they wrote the script and then I went to the studios.

The best way to open the door, even if it’s Tom Cruise, Steven Spielberg, Will Smith whoever you want, is having a good script. A good script is the best key, the best weapon. So I got the script, it was really funny. So I came with everything: a production company and a great script. They said yes and that’s how I got here.

So instead of just waiting and knocking at the door and asking for something, I brought the idea, I put the team together, and that’s it. That’s the best way to do it.

Multi-racial UT student McKenzie Powell finds identity in diversity

Originally published at The Daily Texan.

For many students, college is a time of self-discovery, but for business freshman McKenzie Powell, the struggle has been more complicated than others. As the child of a white father and a black mother, she’s been forced to forge a community of her own.

Although Powell was surrounded by a diverse group of peers during childhood, she said she never felt truly accepted by any of them.

“They would say I wasn’t black enough or white enough,” Powell said. “There was really no where else for me to go.”

She encountered this in high school, where they held a multi-cultural fair to celebrate the student body’s diversity. As a way to showcase the diversity that often exists within people, Powell created her own booth, labeled “the mixed babies booth.”

“There were a lot of people at the school who could identify as mixed babies,” she said. “They didn’t, because people couldn’t accept them for being mixed.”

Once she made it to college, Powell tried to connect with Multicultural Engagement Center at UT, but Powell said she believes they are still segregated from within.

“They have it sectioned off by ‘black studies’ and ‘white studies,’” Powell said. “That doesn’t seem multi-racial if you’re separating by groups.”

As a business major, Powell has a personal sense of drive and independence, and looks to impact the world on her own terms. If given the opportunity, she says she would want to advocate for people of mixed ethnicities and help them understand they do not have to choose one background.

“I’m passionate about the idea of people accepting who they are, and everything that is a part of who they are,” Powell said. “I struggled for a while, and I think it’s important that people let others know who they are.”

New ‘Smurfs’ proves well-intentioned films can still bore viewers to tears

New ‘Smurfs’ proves well-intentioned films can still bore viewers to tears

Originally published at The Daily Texan.

The worst of the three terrible Smurfs films this decade, “Smurfs: The Lost Village” is a stale depiction of one-dimensional characters brought to life by celebrity voice actors.

As the first fully-animated modern Smurfs movie, “The Lost Village” does admittedly boast an impressive look, with bold visuals clearly inspired by James Cameron’s “Avatar.” Massive flowers, towering trees and magical plants surround the title characters, giving the world a majestic feel that the story fails to match, despite a hint of smart political commentary.

Demi Lovato leads the film as the voice of Smurfette, the outcast of Smurf Village. Other than Smurfette, each Smurf has two defining characteristics: they are male and they only have one personality trait. The early bits of the film would be more accurately titled “Snow White and the 101 Dwarves,” with a lone normal person surrounded by neurotic, gimmicky characters.

Much has been made of this “Smurfette Syndrome,” so much so that the concept has become a broad criticism of films with a single female cast member. When films such as those of the Smurfs franchise feature a single female character surrounded by men, it leads to an oddly creepy feeling, as though all the men are simply competing for the woman as a prize. “The Lost Village” carries elements of this issue, which distractingly leads to a question the film skirts around but never answers: How are Smurfs born?

Director Kelly Asbury obviously sees these problematic elements of the Smurf mythos, and addresses them by setting the plot into motion with some of the classic characters stumbling upon a village made up entirely of female Smurfs.

The new characters introduced in this village are highly-capable, generally-badass women that give the toon a refreshingly feminist twist. By turning the classic trope started by this franchise on its head, Asbury makes a strong statement about passive, “token” female characters that few animated movies dare.

Unfortunately, the rest of the movie fails to match the boldness of its subtext, settling for a cheap, predictable plot padded with watered-down jokes and sight-gags that would fail to entertain even lifetime Smurfs fans for more than a few minutes.

The juvenile jokes not only waste the audience’s time, but also the skills of the dynamite voice actors, including “Magic Mike”’s Joe Manganiello as Hefty, “30 Rock”’s Jack McBrayer as Clumsy and “Community”’s Danny Pudi as Brainy. Each has a voice perfectly suited to their character, and they all deliver solid laughs upon their introductions in the film.

Following their humorous debuts, these characters inexplicably stay in the movie and become the supporting cast. Every five minutes or so, each one makes the same joke that introduced them, to an annoying and repetitive effect that makes the movie’s hour-and-a-half runtime feel like four hours.

Adding to the interminable experience of watching “Smurfs: The Lost Village” is its blindingly fast pace. The plot hops from place to place without any time to breathe, taking away all opportunity for character development.

With already flat characters, this prevents the viewer from developing any sort of emotional investment. In the end, it leads to a boring, unmemorable adventure where many things happen, but none of them mean anything.

After two disappointing outings, “Smurfs: The Lost Village,” looked to hit reset with a new aesthetic and the introduction of more female characters — but make no mistake, this is a bad, bad film.

“Smurfs: The Lost Village”

Rating: PG

Runtime: 89 minutes

Score: 1.5/5 stars

Asian blockbusters prime for release on traditional New Year holiday

Originally published at The Daily Texan.

Many Southeast and East Asian nations celebrate Lunar New Year, and the films they watch fit into each country’s own distinct customs and traditions to honor
the holiday.

For 20 years, New Year films have dominated the Asian box office, and 2017 will be no exception to the trend. This year sees the release of “Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back,” a sequel to one of the most successful New Year films. Even the U.S. will join in on the season this year. Zhang Yimou, one of China’s most popular directors, has a new fantasy monster film starring Matt Damon, “The Great Wall,” which will release in the U.S. a little over two weeks after Lunar New Year.

After Hong Kong pioneered the genre in the early ’80s, these blockbuster movies caught on in much of East Asia, but not in China, where films were not even  considered a commercial industry yet by the government, with entertainment films having to be imported from neighboring nations.

Chinese film and literature professor Yvonne Chang considered all films of the time propaganda.

“From 1949 to 1976 (films) were propaganda for educational purposes, but then they were shifted back to capitalist mode in the ’80s,” she said. “People studying in the west and from Hong Kong kind of had to introduce the idea of a commercial film.”

Chang credits the first Chinese New Year movie, Feng Xiaogang’s “The Dream Factory,” not just with introducing the genre to the mainland but for expanding Chinese film as a whole into a commercial industry, for better or worse.

“The emergence of New Year films had landmark importance because it opened up this very important position of commercial film in China,” Cheng said. “Commercial film started with Feng Xiaogang. But today, if you talk to Chinese people about New Year films, they are not so excited. They have grown into this mainstream dominant film, very much like Hollywood. After a few years, the films were not as well-made.”

After this initial growth spurt, New Year films ingrained themselves into East Asian culture, and became another one of the many ways people celebrate the holiday. Franny Fang, Accounting senior and president of the Taiwanese International Students Association, loves New Year films and the way they
celebrate culture.

“They’re really funny and you can watch them with your family,” Fang said. “It incorporates a lot of Taiwanese culture. They will use Taiwanese actors and Taiwanese slang.”

Yi Lu, UT alumna who earned a Ph.D. in radio-television-film after studying film at the Beijing Film Academy, said New Year films tend to be of the same comedic, yet shallow breed.

“At the beginning those films tried to create a story that really get into the holiday spirit,” Lu said. “But as time goes on, those are not necessarily this way, but they just try to make people laugh.”

But despite their superficiality, Lu said she loves the impact New Year films have and their newfound importance to culture.

“For Chinese people, the festival is very important to us,” Lu said. “The family gets together, eats and now watching films becomes a part of traditional
celebrating activities.”