Top 5 Biology Databases

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While biology majors spend a lot of time “in the field,” they also clock hours in the lab and on the internet for extensive research. If you’re looking for articles on anything from butterfly migration patterns to conservation efforts, these databases (all provided by the library) can help you!

ScienceDirect

ScienceDirect holds over 9.5 million articles and chapters on various subjects. This database divides up the different kinds of sciences into categories, making it easier for you to search topics within a broader subject. Popular articles from each category are listed as well- for example, the article “Aluminum in brain tissue in autism” is currently the most popular article under the “Life Sciences” umbrella.

 

BioMed Central

Boasting access to many different scientific journals, BioMed Central provides a wide range of sources. In particular, you will find scores of research on genomes here. Since BioMed Central is open access, its articles are “permanently accessible online immediately upon publication, without subscription charges or registration barriers.”

 

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Environmental Studies and Policy Collection (Gale)

This collection gets to the heart of the business and political side of biology. The library website explains more about Environmental Studies and Policy Collection:

Providing robust coverage of the field of environmental issues and policy, this collection, which includes magazines and academic journals, provides instant access to the multiple viewpoints of this volatile field of study, including perspectives from the scientific community, governmental policy makers, as well as corporate interests.

 

General Science Collection (Gale)

Current top searches for the General Science Collection include: Alternative Energy, Cancer, Genetically Modified Organisms, Global Warming, and NASA. For the most up-to-date research and trending topics in science, check out the General Science Collection.

 

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PubMed

While a more medically-focused database, PubMed can be helpful for pre-med biology students. According to its website, “PubMed comprises more than 28 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. Citations may include links to full-text content from PubMed Central and publisher web sites.”

 

View the Biology Research Guide for more help.

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Thanksgiving Hours

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Book Review: “Headlocks and Dropkicks” by Ted Kluck

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Library student worker Brennan Kress has loved professional wrestling since he was just a little kid. In a new blog series, Brennan will explore wrestling history and discuss a book by Union professor Ted Kluck.

Book Review:

As an avid wrestling fan, I was overjoyed to see that the library held a book on professional wrestling and that it was written by Union’s own Ted Kluck. My purpose in writing is both a book review and a criticism, not of Ted Kluck’s writing, but perhaps his stance on professional wrestling.

Headlocks and Dropkicks is both autobiographical and informative as it tells Kluck’s journey to become a professional wrestler with the sole purpose of wrestling one single match. Kluck recounts his time training in a wrestling gym and all of the fun and interesting characters he met there. He also describes the amount of work that it takes to become a professional wrestler as he details his training all the way from simple in-ring bumps, to body slams and suplexes.

Furthermore, Kluck litters his novel with wrestling lore along with several interviews with famous wrestlers as they recount their own adventures in wrestling. Packed in with this is some more basic wrestling history, and Kluck does an amazing job of running these stories together, giving the reader a better and deeper picture of what professional wrestling is beyond the ring. For anyone even remotely interested in professional wrestling, whether for training, history, or stories told from the mouths of those who experienced them, Headlocks and Dropkicks is a great source for all of this and more.

However, the book does present a more cynical view of wrestling by showing some of the inner turmoil that most, if not all, wrestlers experience (both through training and their careers). Professional wrestling is a highly competitive industry and one that requires immense determination in which to succeed. Kluck points out many wrestlers who wrestled through injury just because their career depended on it. This shows the harsh reality of indie wrestling. Wrestlers do spend years training and many never make it to major promotions such as the WWE. Wrestling requires a kind of perseverance unlike any other sport and everyone is expendable- meaning wrestlers will drive hours just to get on the card of a show. This also means wrestlers, especially indie wrestlers, make very little money, sometimes not enough money to pay for the gas to drive to the venue. Kluck many times expounds upon this darker side of wrestling.

With that view in mind, as Kluck recounts matches, he has a hard time separating the real from the fake in the sense that he seems to have trouble knowing how to feel. For example, as he watches Ric Flair’s last WWE match, he can’t decide whether to cry as many in the crowd are as they watch a childhood hero hang up the boots, or to feel unsympathetic since the result was scripted since the beginning. Here I disagree with Kluck, simply as a wrestling fan.

There is certainly a dark side to wrestling. Many wrestlers wrestle hurt and underpaid and many crowds are full of loud and unpleasant people. However, that is true for many sports. Wrestling is different, though, when it comes to storytelling. A wrestling match can tell a story unlike any sporting event can, and sometimes it can do this better than television shows. A good wrestling match, if done well, can be up to half an hour long. This is longer than many TV shows and in that time, with few words and technically one scene, two wrestlers can tell a story unlike any other. This kind of story-telling is impossible to explain, one has to watch it. For those interested here are some matches that tell magnificent stories inside them:

 

Bret “The Hitman” Hart vs “Stone Cold” Steve Austin at Wrestlemania 13

 

Ric Flair vs Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania 24

 

Undertaker vs Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania 25

 

John Cena vs CM Punk at Money in the Bank 2011

 

Eddie Guerrero vs Brock Lesnar at No Way Out 2004

 

Tommaso Ciampa vs Johnny Gargano at NXT Takeover Chicago (personal favorite)

 

Through all of these contests, professional wrestling proves to be more than just some big men throwing each other around in a ring. It requires skill, planning, and charisma on the part of the wrestlers to be able to carry a story through a wrestling match. Though wrestling is not a sport everyone will or can enjoy, it should be respected as one of the most unique and yet convincing forms of storytelling ever devised. Though many wrestling matches can be boring and uninspired, there are moments where stars shine and wrestling invokes deep emotion. And when the art form of wrestling isn’t on display, it is simply entertaining.

By the end of the book, Kluck recognizes that when wrestling is stripped to its most simple, it is fun. Like reliving childhood fantasies, wrestling transports fans to a child-like innocence as they watch superheros battle on screen- superheroes who are merely men making up characters and acting like kids themselves. For some, wrestling will always and only be just men fake fighting for the entertainment of others, but for others, wrestling will be seen as an interesting and inviting form of art and storytelling. But the only way to know is to watch it for yourself.

 

*written by Brennan Kress

**for other great books by Union author Ted Kluck, check here!

Spotlight On The NLM History of Medicine

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The United States National Library of Medicine is the largest medical library in the world. According to its website:

NLM maintains and makes available a vast print collection and produces electronic information resources on a wide range of topics that are searched billions of times each year by millions of people around the globe. It also supports and conducts research, development, and training in biomedical informatics and health information technology. In addition, the Library coordinates a 6,500-member National Network of Libraries of Medicine that promotes and provides access to health information in communities across the United States.

The NLM provides access to public domain photos of early medical sketches, snapshots, and diagrams. Some of them are graphic, while others are placid or even humorous. Through the NLM’s  Images of the History of Medicine Index, you can view these photos and learn more about prior medical practices. Thankfully, this is a free resource that you can access online via NLM Digital Collections.

Below are just a few of the fascinating public domain images that you can view and download from the NLM History of Medicine:

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To see more images from the NLM, click here.

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “Unforgiven”

Clint Eastwood’s masterpiece Unforgiven is one of the few Western genre films that managed to receive an Oscar for Best Picture. What makes this even more noteworthy is the fact that Eastwood both directed and starred in his film. The success of Unforgiven  helped to establish Clint Eastwood as an A-list director. Although the film premiered in 1992, Eastwood had the complete script since the early 1980’s; he apparently wanted to wait for the right time and right cast to appear. The leading actors would eventually be Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Gene Hackman, and Richard Harris.

The basic story of Unforgiven is as follows: in the town of Big Whisky, Wyoming, two drunken cowboys disfigure a local prostitute and are treated leniently by the town’s Sherrif. The other prostitutes of the town are outraged and decide to place a bounty on the heads of the cowboys that attacked their friend. An old, notorious outlaw is sought out by a young upstart with the promise of a share in the reward. He reluctantly agrees and garners the help of an old friend to join them as well. The three then set out to find the men responsible.

This great cast and fantastic script makes for a near perfect western. However, as I will elaborate bellow it turns common western themes around quite a bit. If you’re interested you can check it out at the Union University library. Please note this film is rated R for violence and language.

 

 

**** Minor Spoilers Ahead*****

 

 

Clint Eastwood stars as William Munny, a vicious outlaw. In his youth, Munny committed many robberies and murders, but he then reformed, married, and started a family. The film finds Munny with his wife has recently passed away and struggling with an unprosperous farm and two young children. Munny’s longtime outlaw friend, Ned Logan, played by Morgan Freeman, is enlisted to help. Ned has also reformed and settled into a quiet life free from the crimes of his past; however, the reward is too good to pass up. The young gunslinger out to make a name for himself is played by Jamiz Woolvett; he calls himself the “Schofield Kid” due to the revolver he carries. The next character we are introduced to is English Bob played by the late great Richard Harris. English Bob is a famous killer who has made a name for himself working for railroad companies to kill disgruntled Chinese workers. He is accompanied by his biographer W.W. Beauchamp played by Saul Rubinek. Mr. Beauchamp is fascinated with gunfighter tales of the past and he portrays English Bob as a chivalrous and honorable hero in his pulp accounts of the gunman’s exploits. Meanwhile, the story’s central antagonist is that of “Little Bill” Daggett, played by Gene Hackman.  Little Bill is the sheriff of Big Whisky- he sees himself as a man full of grit and power. He commands authority in the town due to his past as a lawman in the tough areas of Kansas and Texas.

The themes and characters expressed in this film are in stark contrast to the common dogma of the Western genre.  The outlaws that set about their mission of revenge on the cowboys are in fact much more emotional and live in guilt of their previous acts. Clint Eastwood’s portrayal of William Munny is very moving as he struggles with the shame of his past and the life of crime that he has returned to. Richard Harris as English Bob also breaks the myths of the Wild West. He carries himself as a noble British gentleman but is in fact a simple, back-shooting murderer as many western outlaw folk heroes tended to be. Gene Hackman’s character of Little Bill Daggett helps to steal the show as he can go from charming and charismatic in one scene to cold, cruel, and quite sadistic- not the traits you want in a lawman. This film blurs the lines of good and evil and perhaps correctly paints the Wild West as rather morally grey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: “To Shake The Sleeping Self” by Jedidiah Jenkins

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Jedidiah Jenkins was a seemingly random traveler I found on Instagram. He was always taking beautiful landscape photos of places I’d never been; I warmed to the creative clothes and cultures of Latin America and the busy importance of U.S. cities that he depicted with his photography. When I read his captions, I realized he was a writer as well, and actually a really good one. He talked about what he was learning on his journey- about himself and his preconceptions, and how he was growing. I enjoyed following his story and got even more excited when his trip ended, and Jenkins began writing in earnest to make a book about his experiences.

Now, that book has been released as To Shake the Sleeping Self, and it came to rest on our library bookshelf this October (annoyingly, it arrived at the library before I received my own pre-ordered copy for my personal bookshelf). The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve turned to nonfiction when I want to read something. Maybe I’m looking for advice, or maybe I just want to know how other people live, and think, and figure things out. To Shake the Sleeping Self is the perfect book to get inside someone else’s mind and feelings. Jenkins writes in a genuine, self-aware tone. He’s easy to relate to because he wonders about things we all do- who he is and who he will be in the future.

Jenkins grew up in a setting familiar to many people at Union: a Nashville, TN, Christian-based home. However, as Jenkins grew older, he began to face doubts about his faith and how to live it out in the modern world. Jenkins thoughtfully discusses these struggles in To Shake the Sleeping Self. He not only shares his personal reflections with the reader, but he also records conversations that he had with friends about spirituality, mysticism, theology, and different cultures and lifestyles. These conversations provide an intimate look into the lives of other twenty and thirty somethings who are figuring things out.

The book also records comic adventures that stem from Jenkins’ differences with his cycling partner, Weston. While Jenkins tries to play by the rules, Weston enjoys rebelling and pushing the limits. The contrast between these two men can even be seen in their two bikes: Jenkins bought the nice, sturdy bike that the shopkeeper recommended for his journey, while Weston chose a cheap, rundown bike that constantly breaks down at inconvenient times. Despite their differences, the two men seem to learn from each other and rely on each other for most of the trip.

From the cities of Colombia to the jungles of Machu Picchu, Jenkins takes the reader through each part of his travels. To Shake the Sleeping Self is an honest look at one man’s self-discoveries through the metaphor of discovering places he’s never been, via unwieldy transportation that he is responsible for. It’s a great book for those who love travel and who seek out prompts for contemplative introspection.

You can check out this book right here in the library- it’s located in our Recreational Reading section.

Content note: language, brief sexuality, substance abuse

Brennan’s Brainstorms: The History of Professional Wrestling, Part 4.

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Library student worker Brennan Kress has loved professional wrestling since he was just a little kid. In a new blog series, Brennan will explore wrestling history and discuss a book by Union professor Ted Kluck.

The Winning Strategy

The WWF (turned WWE in the early 2000’s due to a legal dispute with the World Wildlife Foundation) by 2002 had won the Monday Night War. Vince McMahon actually bought the rights of WCW from Ted Turner. And he had won the war through several simple tactics. First, he was constantly bringing in new young talent, not old stars, and Vince could develop new talent into stars, something Eric and Russo could not do.

Vince kept a team mentality throughout his roster. The guys on the undercard and midcard knew that their role was just as important as the main eventers. Everyone on the roster, to both themselves and the fans, thought that they could be in the main event. There were no glass ceilings placed for most stars, unlike WCW where the main event was established and no one else could enter it.

Impressively, Vince McMahon did not panic at the supersonic rise of WCW. He held true to his roots, adapted his stories to fit the new generation, and came out on top. Thus the WWE had finally established itself as the single largest wrestling promotion in the world. Still to this day, though there are countless other wrestling promotions, WWE is the most, and many times only, recognized force in wrestling. They survived the war.

Aftermath and the Ruthless Aggression Era (2002-2008)

            In the wake of the Monday Night War, WWE made two huge moves as they started their “Ruthless Aggression Era” in 2002. WWE bought WCW and ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling was a smaller niche wrestling company based out of Philadelphia that was renowned for its over-the-top violent matches). With these purchases, WWE found themselves with a multitude of talent. There were so many superstars that one show (Raw) wasn’t enough to give the talent space to work. So WWE decided to make Smackdown (a weekly show used during the Monday Night War to add more TV time to WWE) a major show with an exclusive roster and championships. They also made pay per views Raw or Smackdown exclusive and the two shows only came together for “The Big 4” pay per views (which were Summerslam, Survivor Series, The Royal Rumble, and Wrestlemania). This era was made famous by new major stars that appeared on Smackdown:  most notably, Brock Lesnar.

Brock Lesnar was a huge collegiate wrestler but found greater success in the WWE. After only five months on the main roster, Brock Lesnar won the WWE Championship and became the youngest man to do so up until that point at the age of 25. After Wrestlemania 20 in 2004, Lesnar left the WWE and became a football player for the Minnesota Vikings, though he was cut before the beginning of the 2004 season. From there he went to Japan to wrestle and then became an MMA fighter. He would eventually become the first man in history to win both the WWE and the UFC Heavyweight Championship. He would return to the WWE in 2012. Most recently, Brock Lesnar has had the longest championship reign of the modern era of wrestling, as he held the Universal Championship for 504 days from April 2, 2017 to August 19, 2018.

Two other famous WWE superstars made their debuts in these years. John Cena and Randy Orton began to make a name for themselves throughout the Ruthless Aggression Era. These two also paved the way for the next era of professional wrestling.

The Ruthless Aggression Era marks a post-war time for WWE. They never again had the ratings success that they had captured during the Monday Night War, and have never had it since, but the WWE did establish itself as the most dominate wrestling promotion in history. Still, this era would lead to some much needed change in how WWE treated its wrestlers. New rules needed to be put in place.

Firstly, the practice of blading was stopped. Blading is a practice where a wrestler keeps a small, thin razor in their shorts or outfit during a match. At some point after taking a big hit, the wrestler, away from the camera and hiding from the crowd, would run the razor across their forehead. This would cause them to bleed without much pain and was used for effect in matches. However, after several horrible cases of wrestlers blading far too deep, Vince McMahon banned blading as a practice in WWE. In the PG Era, blood has almost been completely excluded from matches, except in the case of a real accident. Between that time, small blood packs were used instead of blading.

Tragedy also struck WWE during this time. The death of one of their best wrestlers, Eddie Guerrero, left people wondering about wrestling safety. Then in 2005 Chris Benoit committed a terrible murder-suicide. Though no cause for the incident was ever truly established, Chris Benoit’s brain showed signs of serious damage, probably due to the many concussions he had received in wrestling. So, to further protect his wrestlers, Vince McMahon banned many moves that were known to be high risk for causing concussions. These included all piledrivers (save Undertaker’s safer Tombstone Piledriver) and all chair hits to the head.

These tragedies that brought WWE into a new generation eventually lead to the USA Network asking WWE to change its content to a more stricter and family-friendly position. So in July of 2008, WWE switched to officially become a TV-PG show.

 

The PG Era (2008-2013)

            The PG Era was marked by a new group of WWE superstars. Wrestlers who had become legends began to retire, including Shawn Michaels, who lost his last match to the Undertaker at Wrestlemania 26. New stars began to make a name for themselves. The stars with the most recognition in this era were CM Punk and Daniel Bryan. In the summer of 2011, during a rivalry with John Cena, CM Punk would deliver his famed “pipebomb promo.” This was a shoot promo, which means it wasn’t scripted like all other on-mic talks. CM Punk began to rant about how he felt genuinely mistreated by the WWE. At this time in kayfabe (kayfabe describes the character or “fake” part of wrestling. It’s the story being told in the ring, and not the reflection of the real-life events) CM Punk’s contract was expiring and he was still the WWE Champion, a title he would later hold for over 400 days, making him the longest reigning WWE Champion in over 25 years. In story, he was going to face John Cena for the WWE Championship, and if he won, he would leave the WWE with their title still in his grasp. In his shoot promo, Punk railed on WWE stars of the past who he thought were famous only because they were friends with the boss. After several minutes of ranting, CM Punk’s microphone was finally turned off. This talk defined the PG Era and would eventually take WWE into the next Era of wrestling.

CM Punk would defeat John Cena for the WWE Championship at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view. This match is the best wrestling match in the modern history of WWE, earning a 5 Star rating from the critically acclaimed Wrestling Observer magazine. Still to this day, less than ten WWE matches have been rated 5 stars. CM Punk’s real life feud with the WWE would come to a head in early 2014, after the Royal Rumble, when he finally cut ties with the WWE.

In the same way CM Punk tried to take hold of the spotlight, another young talent would use this era to gain traction in making himself a star. Daniel Bryan debuted along with a group of other young stars called The Nexus. After leaving The Nexus, Bryan tried to become a singles star. He won the World Heavyweight Championship but was booked to lose the belt in 18 seconds (which he did against Sheamus). Bryan, however, gained a huge following with fans. He beat John Cena for the WWE Championship in August of 2013, though his title reign was fairly short lived. WWE management thought that Bryan was not fit to be in the main event, but fan support soon forced their hand. At the 2014 Royal Rumble, Daniel Bryan was not even in the 30-man Royal Rumble match (the winner of the Royal Rumble gets a championship match at Wrestlemania). Fans were outraged and their push for Bryan soon forced WWE’s management’s hand.

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The Reality Era (2014-2016)

Daniel Bryan’s popularity would coin the name of this short era of wrestling. WWE management realized like never before how fan involvement, via the internet, had greatly changed wrestling. Daniel Bryan, because of his endlessly supportive fans, was booked into the main event of Wrestlemania 30, where he won the WWE Championship in New Orleans. A person that WWE would not have chosen to be in their main event, was, and this empowered fans. Fans felt like they truly had a say in wrestling that could change the course of WWE stories, though nothing like this has happened since.

In 2014 WWE released their own streaming service called the WWE Network, and they started a talent development center called WWE Performance Center in Orlando. Using young talent that trained at the Performance Center, WWE started a weekly show on the Network called NXT that showcased developing talent. NXT was, and still is, broadcasted from Full Sail University.

The Reality Era would be capped off at Wrestlemania 32, which would boast the largest attendance record in Wrestlemania history with over 100,000 spectators. Roman Reigns, in the main event, defeated Triple H for the WWE Championship at that event.

 

The Women’s Revolution and the “New” Era (2016-present)

            Wrestlemania 32 would mark the end of the Reality Era and the beginning of the New Era. The New Era’s primary difference was found in the Women’s Division of WWE. Up until this time, women’s wrestling in WWE was wrongly viewed as lesser than male competition, and the women were treated unprofessionally. This would change in 2016 as several new women wrestlers changed the face of the Women’s Division in WWE. At the head of this revolution was Charlotte Flair, who is the daughter of WWE Hall of Famer, The Nature Boy, Ric Flair. In 2016, Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks would be the first women to compete in a well-known match and would also be the first women to main event a WWE pay-per-view. The women’s revolution continues to this day as the first ever women’s only pay-per-view is set for October 28, 2018, called WWE Evolution.

Other major accomplishments of the New Era include another WWE brand split between Raw and Smackdown (which had been reunited in the PG Era), and the debut of the Universal Championship, which was won by Finn Balor. Brock Lesnar would return to win the Universal Championship and hold it for 504 days. The tag team, The New Day, would hold the WWE Tag Team Championships for the longest in history at 434 days.

Perhaps the New Era will start a second Golden Age of wrestling. As wrestling grows in popularity around the world, perhaps WWE will continue to conquer, or maybe some other promotion could come along to challenge the WWE. As a wrestling fan, I can only tune in to find out!

 

*written by Brennan Kress

**stay tuned for Brennan’s thoughts on Headlocks and Dropkicks by Ted Kluck

           

 

On The Importance Of Reading

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Since childhood we have been taught the importance of reading. We were taught to read in kindergarten and continued to learn through all kinds of books and reading exercises. In middle school we were assigned summer reading and we dealt with that through high school. In high school we learned critical reading skills and took tons of class time poring over books and writing essays. In college the reading amount only increased, and now we have pressure to read textbooks and scientific articles and plenty of other books in every one of our classes.

But I would bet that at some point in your life you began to dislike reading. There was one point where a new book with new characters did not entertain your mind. There was a point where reading became a chore or nothing more than another assignment. You lost your love of reading. You lost the child-like wonder of opening a new book and being ready and anxious to explore its depths. And this loss of love could have happened at any age. Maybe you were tired of reading after taking online quizzes over books when you were in elementary school. Maybe you stopped reading in middle school where you were assigned book reviews and essays. Probably, you stopped reading in high school, when reading seemed to be a waste of time, especially with Sparknotes there to help you out. Perhaps it was a teacher, whose book choice appeared dry and boring and who stifled any passion to read more. Maybe now that you are in college you find no time to read.

 

But no matter what caused you to lose your love of reading, or if you never had a deep love for reading, here are some benefits of reading that may get you cracking open a good book one more time. And who knows, you may love it again.

 

Firstly, reading boosts brain power. By reading you strengthen muscles in your brain that allow for more memory and function. Just as running increases lung function, reading increases brain function. It may also slow the effects that aging has on the brain and may prevent memory loss and increase short-term memory. It sharpens the mind unlike anything else and prevents mental decay.

 

Reading can help increase empathy. By reading, especially fiction-reading, you increase your ability to empathize with others. If you can understand a character in a novel, you can better understand the people around you. Reading will help you socially, as long as you don’t ignore people because your head is in a book all the time.

 

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Reading can also help you to alleviate stress. Reading causes you to momentarily escape from reality, and not in a harmful way. Reading allows your mind to focus on something else than what’s directly around you, allowing your brain to rest and de-stress. Reading a real book (not an eBook) before bed, habitually, has been shown to help people fall asleep faster, and to sleep better. Reading helps release tension in your body, allowing you to truly relax. Comparatively, watching or reading off of a screen (i.e. phone, tablet, laptop) has been shown to harm sleep habits and to make it harder to fall asleep.

 

Reading helps strengthen memory. Think back to the last fiction book you read. You may not remember all the characters, but I bet you can remember some. The names Katniss, Harry, Frodo, Aslan, Scout, and Gatsby carry with them the stories we know and love. We could talk about their histories, friends, and adventures in the same way we talk about people in real life. If I said the names Alexander the Great, Emperor Nero, Napoleon, George Washington, Martin Luther, Joseph Stalin, and Barack Obama, you may know the stories surrounding them as well. Reading allows us to strengthen passages in our brains that connect stories, attributes, and events with people. And our brain has almost infinite storage capabilities, so you will never run out of space for more characters, plots, and adventures.

 

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Lastly, reading increases focus and concentration. Even reading for 15-20 minutes before class every day may help you focus better in class, even if what you are reading has nothing to do with your class. When you’re reading, if you remain focused on the book,  everything else will pass away and you will be immersed in the story. This focus on a single topic helps train your brain to focus on other things better as well.

 

Readers are leaders. Studies have shown that the majority of millionaires read scores of books a year, like Bill Gates who reads on average 50 books a year. Now, reading 50 books a year won’t make you a millionaire, but what it will do is help you to focus better, memorize more, and increase your understanding of, and empathy with, others. So the next time you are wanting something to do, instead of playing another round of Fortnite, or scrolling through Snapchat and Instagram, or watching more conspiracy videos on YouTube (although all of those things are fun), curl up with a good book and lose yourself in another world. You may even enjoy it.

 

*written by Brennan Kress

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “The Book of Eli”

It seems that if you had to sum up what this current decade’s #1 movie trend has been, it would have to be the setting of POST-APOCALYPTIC.  For one reason or another we are drawn to fantasies of the end of the world, from zombies, robots, climate change, alien invasion or good old fashioned nuclear war. Actually people seem obsessed with not exactly the world ending but how they are going to survive once it has ended. Human beings are definitely optimistic about our abilities and chances to not only survive but thrive in the event of the Apocalypse.

The Book of Eli is not your standard post-apocalyptic film in the genre. While it does offer amazing visuals and brutal action, it also tells a story of hope and destiny that we will never be truly alone and that Someone is watching out for us- we just might need a little faith.

The story revolves around a lone wanderer, Eli, played by Denzel Washington. Eli is a survivor of a cataclysmic war that has transformed the earth into a barre, scorched landscape where you are either predator or prey to a host of cutthroats and raiders. Eli boasst a stoic and non-confrontational attitude but, when threatened, he has amazing fighting skills and seems to effortlessly cut a path through highwaymen and bandits until he reaches a populated desert settlement. The local strong man is that of the character aptly named Carnegie played by Gary Oldman. Carnegie is a ruthless ruler who leads a large gang of henchmen and dreams of conquering other towns to grow his power. He frequently sends his men out on raids for supplies and to search for something special that will aid him in taking over other towns.

The next character to appear is that of Solara played by Mila Kunis. She works in the local inn as a house keeper and bartender; she is protected from Carnegie’s minions because her blind mother, Claudia, played by Jennifer Beals, is Carnegie’s personal courtesan. Things soon come to a head as it is discovered that Eli possess the very thing Carnegie has been after. This leads to a confrontation of biblical proportions. Soon Eli and Solara find themselves on the run from Carnegie and his minions, hoping to find sanctuary further west.

The Book of Eli turns an often over-saturated genre into something with a more meaningful message that Hollywood often avoids all together. Denzel is as charismatic as ever, and Oldman, always known for his ability to play great believable villains, doesn’t let us down. This film came out at the same time as James Cameron’s Avatarso it was somewhat over shadowed by the other film. It was not until many years later that I came across it. I think it’s a great film and if you haven’t yet seen it, you should give it a watch.

*Be mindful: this movie does contain some intense scenes of action and violence and some language.

**written by Matthew Beyer.

***You can check out The Book of Eli from the library.

 

 

 

 

Brennan’s Brainstorms: The History of Professional Wrestling, Part 3.

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Library student worker Brennan Kress has loved professional wrestling since he was just a little kid. In a new blog series, Brennan will explore wrestling history and discuss a book by Union professor Ted Kluck.

The Attitude Era (1997-2002)

The success of the New World Order forced WWF to reevaluate its characters, who were still the same as many of the comic book style characters of the 1980’s. The New World Order had kept Nitro winning the ratings war for months and it was time for WWF to change. It was time to break some rules. And who better to break rules than two of the youngest and most talented stars on the roster: Shawn Michaels and Triple H. These two young pranksters began to run amok in WWF as Vince McMahon loosened the reins on creative development. The two jokesters soon became known as Degeneration X (many times, just DX). Their personas now mimicked the rebellious teens of the day in a way that was new and refreshing. They soon added Billy Gunn and Jesse James (The New Age Outlaws) to their team creating a stable (a team or squad of wrestlers used as a way of building younger stars) that rivaled the NWO. The more violent and raunchy matches that followed gave the WWF the boost it needed for the Monday Night War.

WWF had embraced the controversial, and along with that came more violent matches. The leader of this new style of hardcore matches was Mick Foley. Foley had wrestled under the name “Cactus Jack” in WCW but had made his way to the WWF in the early 90’s. His new character, “Mankind,” was a deranged psychopath gimmick that allowed Mick Foley to engage in tremendous stunts. Foley fell through cages, off cages, through tables, down flights of arena stairs, and took countless chair hits to the head, all in the name of sports entertainment. This hardcore stunt-man style appealed to many fans and by this the WWF began to even the odds.

But there was one man who soon took over and embraced this new “Attitude Era” of the WWF. His name was Stone Cold Steve Austin. At Wrestlemania 14, due to an injured neck, Shawn Michaels was forced to drop his WWF Championship to Stone Cold Steve Austin. Michaels was forced to take a long, extended break from wrestling to recover from neck surgery that left a gaping hole in DX. It was up to Vince to come up with a plan to continue this Attitude Era, and who better to pick up the slack than Stone Cold?

Nicknamed, “The Rattlesnake,” Austin represented the hard-working  blue-collar man who was just trying to get ahead. All he needed a good rival to play off of- a rich, upper-class boss, perhaps. Vince McMahon himself accepted the role. McMahon, due to the Montreal screwjob, was already seen as a heel and soon he embraced the character of an evil boss. McMahon hated Austin (on screen) and Austin hated McMahon and the two had an intense rivalry. Week after week people tuned in to see what McMahon was going to try to pull over on Austin, and what Austin would do in return.

Vince, since he wasn’t a wrestler, made The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) part of his vile team of corporate henchmen. Austin and The Rock had great matches and this Attitude Era built them as immortals of the business. And with this new embrace of attitude, WWF began to slowly gain on WCW.

Fatal Flaw

            The saying “all is fair in love and war” certainly pertains to the Monday Night War. Dirty political tactics were used on both sides in an effort to deface and defeat the other. Each side pursued wrestlers on the opposing show as they tried to build the best roster possible. Vince was certainly better at developing talent while Eric relied on the limitless funds provided by Turner.

But WCW had developed a sneaky and probably ethically immoral tactic. While Monday Nitro was always live and never taped, Monday Night Raw was occasionally taped or pre-recorded to be aired a week or two later. Even with the internet in its infancy, word spread quick and rumors and speculations of what happened on those shows ran rampant. Many believe that WCW had moles in the crowds for these taped shows so that they could record what happened. Regardless of how they got the information, WCW would intentionally spoil the WWF shows live on their programming. By telling fans what would happen, they hoped they would change the channel and watch something that was live and fresh. For weeks and weeks WCW would take time out of their show to spoil the show of the competition. This unarguably devious and reprehensible tactic would soon backfire for WCW.

In December of 1998 an episode of Raw was being taped that would feature the main event by Mankind and the Rock. The Rock was the current WWF Champion and the match was for the title, which Mankind had never held before. This was during the heated rivalry of Stone Cold versus the Corporation (including Vince McMahon, the Rock, etc.). Mankind was booked to win the WWF championship and the live crowd cheered tremendously when Mankind finally did it. Him holding up the WWF championship is a picture for wrestling history and marked the culmination of a long and painful journey of Mick Foley to superstar status. It was a big moment- a big pre-recorded moment.

The show was aired live the first week of January 1999 and WCW planned to spoil the big moment in the main event, hoping to draw away all attention from that match and to their show. So they told their audience that Mankind won the WWF championship from the Rock in the main event. But this time, their tricky tactic backfired. Instead of more people tuning in to Nitro they switched channels to Raw wanting to see how Mankind won the title. That night, WWF won in the ratings for the first week in years, this victory sent the WWF on a winning streak that would eventually win them the Monday Night War.

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The Fall of WCW

Years of ratings war began to draw to their end as WWF took an almost insurmountable ratings lead. There were many important factors that lead to the demise of WCW that are important in viewing the rest of wrestling history.

Firstly, many wrestlers have egos as large as their in-ring personalities. This is no truer with anyone than with Hulk Hogan. Eric had given Hogan (and Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, and other big name stars) creative control in their contracts. This meant they had a say in what happened to their characters. This inhibited WCW’s head writer, Vince Russo, from being able to write cohesive stories. Nitro became a jumbled mess and the NWO remained on top far after their early momentum had died away. This soon led to more and more superstars joining the NWO until it seemed like half the roster was with the NWO. And for those who weren’t, Nitro seemed like a dry desert and WWF seemed like a beautiful land of opportunity. The NWO grew to be too big, split, and even the two groups grew to sizes of their own rosters.

Secondly, in a huge falling out, Hulk Hogan left WCW which left a large hole in the main event scene. Unfortunately, since WCW did not have talent waiting to fill the gap, the main event scene was lackluster and soon the crowd began to notice. With almost every top tier wrestler possessing creative control, the writers could not write out a show and many times wrestlers showed up to work having no idea what they were going to do.

Bad idea after bad idea crushed WCW until there was no hope of revival. With no continuity and many failed storylines, the WCW looked foolish in the wake of its competition. Turner eventually fired Eric Bischoff and hired Vince Russo to be executive producer, but Russo had a habit of not knowing a good idea from a bad one and further drove the company into the ground. Russo devalued his major championship by constantly referring to the “fakeness” of wrestling. Wrestling fans watch the show not because it is real but because it is entertaining. Russo failed to recognize this divide and he effectively killed WCW. WCW had become “every man for himself” in an entertainment business where unity should be priority. Everyone had a say and no one had authority and soon the WCW ship found itself run aground.

*written by Brennan Kress

**stay tuned for the historical conclusion in next week’s post!