The Facial Hair of a Hundred Years Ago

By David Michael Newstead.

The facial hair of a hundred years ago was like a portrait gallery of old styles and the forgotten empires that created them. In Europe, this was epitomized by Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany whose appearance would be ridiculous to modern audiences. From his elaborate uniforms and spiked helmet to his capes and long handlebar moustache, the man was practically a caricature of the past. In contrast, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson – clean-shaven and in a suit – might be seen as a harbinger of things to come. Of course, clean-shaven leaders in suits are now much more common than extravagant monarchs. And while facial hair may not be the best measure of historical changes, it’s sometimes hard to miss.

The Movember Reader 2017

The Most Famous Beard

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By David Michael Newstead.

Fidel Castro is interesting the way a time capsule is interesting, because his reign intersects with so many major events in world history: the Cuban Revolution, the Cold War, the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the rise of Che Guevara, the Mariel Boatlift, and more. And how many other world leaders ruled through the entire period between President Eisenhower and President Obama, between Nikita Khrushchev and Vladimir Putin? Throughout the years, a caricature of Castro entered our culture and has remained a fixture for decades. He was a bearded revolutionary in green fatigues who gave eight hour long speeches, smoked Cuban cigars, and evaded multiple assassination attempts by the CIA. Outside of that portrait, of course, Fidel Castro was a highly polarizing figure with generations worth of criticisms leveled against him regarding human rights abuses, his communist dictatorship, and the perennial impoverishment of the Cuban people. With his passing, it’s hard to say what the future holds for a place John F. Kennedy called “that imprisoned island”. Over the last fifty years, Fidel Castro went from being a young revolutionary to a senior citizen. The Soviet Union collapsed. And the classic cars in Havana became mechanical reminders of life before the American embargo in 1960. When those cars will finally breakdown and when the ruling Communist Party will finally fall from power is anyone’s guess. But Castro once said that he never shaved his beard, because it saved him time throughout the year. As it turns out, time catches up to us all.

The Movember Reader 2016

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By David Michael Newstead.

Enjoy some blog posts from the last year to reflect on throughout the month of November.

In Search of Theodore Roosevelt

By David Michael Newstead.

Few presidents are as accomplished or as iconic as Theodore Roosevelt. And as this year’s Movember wraps up, I wanted to explore the legacy of our 26th commander-in-chief who still manages to standout in interesting ways a century after his time in office. Of course, there are numerous biographies about him. There are whole websites dedicated to all of his speeches and quotes. And his tough masculine persona is so legendary that even his diplomacy and his economic policies are considered manly.

Beyond those things though, I was determined to seek out some of the real world examples of that legacy. And fortunately for me, I didn’t have to go far.

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Teddy & the Bully Bar is a Theodore Roosevelt themed establishment in Washington D.C. The place is half beaux-arts and half faux ruggedness where they offer drinks like the Rough Rider and the Trustbuster, highlighting Roosevelt’s many achievements. It’s a restaurant with smiling portraits of the man all along the wall. I stopped by this week and, after some deliberation, I ordered the Conservationist, a bitter cocktail swirling around a chunk of ice.

Next, I decided to visit Roosevelt Island – a national park on the Potomac between Washington and Virginia. And in the middle of all the trees and the dirt paths, there’s a titan-sized monument of Theodore Roosevelt encircled by fountains and quotes engraved on four giant stone monoliths, presumably for archaeologists in the future to find. In the meantime, I walked around and tried to absorb the lessons of Roosevelt Island, reading timely advice about youth, manhood, the state, and the importance of nature. I listened to the birds and to the far off onslaught of traffic, taking it all in.

I leave you with one of the quotes I saw engraved there: A man’s usefulness depends upon his living up to his ideals insofar as he can.
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