Featured Book: “A Short History of Modern Philosophy”



What, then, distinguishes philosophical thought? The questions that philosophers ask have two distinguishing features from which we might begin to characterise them: abstraction, and concern for truth.

Roger Scruton seeks to define modern philosophy, as well as explain major philosophers’ main conclusions, in his book A Short History of Modern Philosophy. As a philosopher and writer himself, Scruton relies on both his experience and historical accounts to decipher the other philosophers’ theories.

The book is divided into several sections, each dealing with an era of thought:

  1. Rationalism
  2. Empiricism
  3. Kant and Idealism
  4. The Political Transformation
  5. Recent Philosophy  (phenomenology & existentialism)

Scruton also focuses on the philosophers of these times, including such famous names as Descartes, Locke, Hegel, and Wittgenstein. In the history of philosophy, it is important to learn about each philosopher’s predecessor, since many philosophers build off of what their mentor taught (or, interestingly, completely reject it). For example, Scruton hearkens back to Aristotle when describing how Spinoza worked:

Spinoza’s philosophy rests on two principles. First, a rationalist theory of knowledge, according to which what is “adequately” conceived is for that reason true; secondly, a notion of substance, inherited through Descartes from the Aristotelian tradition of which Descartes himself was the unwilling heir.

A Short History of Modern Philosophy is especially helpful when you need to compare philosophers, as there are sections on each of the major modern ones just a page away. This book can’t tell you everything you ever wanted to know about Kant- there’s certainly not enough space for him- but it will tell you the basics and guide you in understanding where Kant fits in the philosophical timeline.

Click here to check this book’s availability in the library. Click here to see other books by Roger Scruton.

How To Look At Union Yearbooks Online


When you want to look up a family member or certain year in Union’s history, the “Lest We Forget” Union yearbooks can be a helpful resource. An easy way to search through the yearbook collection is by using the library website online. Provided below are instructions for access.

To access the “Lest We Forget” Union yearbooks:

  1. Go to the library website.
  2. Click on Archives and Special Collections under Quick Links.
  3. Click University Archives.
  4. Lest We Forget will come up in the middle of the page. Click the books to access them. You can find them by year and click through them like an online book to find people’s names. (If you just click this link, it will take you straight to them).


For other archival material, take a look at the Online Archives.

Donny’s Deductions: The History of Professional Bowling

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Donny Turner was awarded the Division II Mr. Bowling Award (as presented by the TSSAA) in 2016. He has been an avid bowler since his childhood, and he continues to bowl competitively when he’s not in class as a Union University math major.

When you think of bowling, you probably think of hanging out with some friends on a Friday night eating pizza and drinking Coke. It is laid back, fun, and totally relaxed. If it ever does get competitive, it is only in good fun and never terribly serious. The majority nowadays don’t even consider bowling to be a real sport. But this was not always the case. Bowling has had one of the most vibrant histories of any sport in the world!

The Golden Age:

Professional bowling, as it is known today, began in 1958. Before this, the only type of bowling that had been aired officially on television was jackpot bowling, a game where each bowler would try to bowl up to nine strikes and the winner would get $1000. The desire to start a professional bowling league that would be aired on TV was headed by Eddie Elias, a sports agent. During a 1958 American Bowling Congress tournament with 60 of the best bowlers, Elias proposed the idea of a Professional Bowling league. He convinced 33 of these bowlers to donate $50 each to start the organization. The league was incorporated.

The Professional Bowling Association (PBA) began in 1959 with 3 tournaments. Lou Campi won the first event and Dick Weber, a future Hall of Famer and acclaimed ambassador for the sport, won the other two events. The PBA tour slowly began growing; in 1960 there were 7 tournaments and then 16 in 1961.  In 1962 the league expanded greatly to 30 tournaments, a number that rivals the amount of tournaments in the modern era. Dick Weber would become the primary face of bowling in the inaugural years of the PBA as he won 10 of the first 23 events. Bowling was quickly becoming extremely popular.

Two bowling-based TV shows grew in popularity in the 1960s: Jackpot Bowling and Make That Spare, a show where bowlers would attempt to make difficult spares and earn money for each spare made. Both of these shows propelled the popularity of bowling greatly, and it was a major factor in getting the PBA to begin being aired live on ABC in 1965. Bowlers were beginning to make a ton of money. Through sponsorships from Ford Motor Company, Coca-Cola, True Value Hardware, and Firestone Tire, the PBA was able to expand the both tour and funding.

In 1963, there was over $1,000,000 (over $7,000,000 today) in prize funds. The top bowler for that year, Harry Smith, made more money than the Major League Baseball MVP and the National Football League MVP combined. Then, in 1964, Don Carter, one of the greatest bowlers of all time, became the first athlete in any sport to receive a $1 million dollar endorsement deal. This was more than 200 times what professional golfer Arnold Palmer got with his endorsements and more than 100 times what football star Joe Namath earned. Carter also made well over $100,000 a year through bowling tournaments and other endorsements with Miller, Viceroys, and Wonder Bread. Being a professional bowler really was a good life.

The popularity in professional bowling also drastically increased the amount of recreational bowling across the United States. Throughout the 1960s, 12,000 new bowling centers were constructed and 4.6 million United States Bowling Congress members existed. Bowling was cool. Everyone, from kids to parents to grandparents, bowled, and everyone loved bowling.

A Quick Aside:

One interesting facet of bowling history is its ties with gangsters and the mafia. Professional bowlers would participate in “action bowling,” a high-stakes form of gambling in which bowlers faced off for thousands of dollars. The dark bowling alleys hidden in the boroughs of New York was where this was the most popular. Often times 50 lane bowling alleys would be bustling even at 1 am. Ernie Schlegel, a future PBA Hall of Famer, dominated this scene. He would go in purposefully smelling of alcohol to hustle other bowlers. They would bet incredible amounts of money, often times more than $10,000 per game. The stakes were incredibly high. Schlegel began doing action bowling when he was just 17. He left the bowling alley that first night with $2,000 knowing he could make a living doing this for the rest of his life; however, not everything about action bowling was so positive.

This world was lawless, and bowlers took advantage of this. People would rig the bowling balls to be weighted illegally to hook more and knock down more pins. This was not unlike gamblers using loaded dice; the gangsters betting on the games were not happy when they found out. They could become violent if the game did not go their way.

There was even an instance where a bowler faked a heart attack to get out of a game. Two bowlers facing off against each other had both bet on himself to lose the match. They were both intentionally trying to throw the match. There were also big guys with guns who had also bet on the game and backed the bowlers. Now, the bowler had a dilemma: he could either step up in the tenth frame to win the game and subsequently be shot by his backer for not throwing the game, or he could intentionally miss the spare and get shot by his opponent’s backer. He did the only logical thing at that point, he faked a heart attack to get out of having to decide. Despite everything, the bowlers look back on it fondly. Limongello, a prominent bowler at that time, said it really was “Good times. I wouldn’t give those days back for nothing.”

The Decline:

Throughout the 70s and early 80s, bowling continued to be extremely successful. Bowlers were treated like rock stars. Bowlers getting 1st place at tournaments still earned hundreds of thousands of dollars, and sponsorship deals were still extremely lucrative. The PBA Senior tour for bowlers over the age of 50 formed alongside the formation of the Professional Women’s Bowlers Association (PWBA). Bowling was thriving and it did not seem to be slowing down anytime soon; except, oddly, things began to slow down and slow down fast.

Professional Bowling began to lull in the late 80s and 90s. Bowling prize funds did not increase with inflation and the number of tournaments in the year began to decline from 30 a year to less than 20 a year. Sponsorships began to dry up, and the PBA began to regress greatly. In 2000, the entirety of bowling was purchased by former Microsoft executives Chris Peters, Rob Glaser, and Mike Slade for $5 million dollars, less than the price of a minor league baseball team. Peters aimed to revamp bowling and give the industry a new image. He created a new website for the PBA (pba.com), and he aimed to stream the qualify rounds for PBA tournaments on a website (xtrafram.tv.). This web-streaming service is one of the few bright spots in a dark time. This service is still offered today and quality and viewership has only steadily increased.

Despite growing efforts, and major publicity from a 2006 sports documentary, A League of Ordinary Gentlemen (a documentary on the 2002-2003 season that followed a few of the best bowlers in the word), bowling was not growing fast, and the downward spiraling economy was not helping. The PWBA folded in 2003; however, the women were subsequently allowed to enter PBA events, and in 2005, Liz Johnson, widely regarded as the best female bowler of all time, made a PBA television show. Regardless, things were not looking up, recreational bowling had declined by 40% in 10 years, and the brand of bowling had never been worse.

Bowling had begun to take on the image of being a “lazy man’s” game. The prestige of bowling had been lost. Bowling was the brunt of many jokes. Jim Gaffigan, a popular comedian, had an entire shtick that made fun of bowling. He commented on the laziness of bowlers saying, “If you’re out of shape and you’re bowling, you’re probably a professional bowler.” He also mentioned that bowling was low on this list of things people could do. He said: “Bowling is the activity you do after you’ve done everything else.” Granted, this is a comedy routine, but there is some truth to his words. The idea of going bowling did not have the prestige of going playing golf or the physical fortitude of playing tennis. Bowling was seen as a lazy activity that anyone could do, but no one really wanted to do.

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The Youth Movement:

The PBA saw its darkest time in the 2010-2012 season. There were only 12 events that year, and only 3 of the events were aired live on television. The only positive to this season was a $250,000 first place prize to the winner of the Tournament of Champions, arguably the most prestigious tournament of the year. For every other tournament, the first place prize fund was between $20,000 and $50,000. This isn’t terrible money strictly speaking, but if you were a professional bowler and not in the top 10, you could barely make a living. The 20th ranked player would barely be earning more than $20,000 per year, half of what the 20th ranked bowler made in the early 1980s. The average income for the remaining 250 best bowlers in the world was less than $10,000 per year. This is, of course, not including sponsorships and other endorsements, but gone were the days of $1 million deals and Coca-Cola endorsements. Thankfully, all hope is not lost. There has recently been a huge movement of youth bowling.

Something interesting happened in late 2008; Jason Belmonte, a professional Australian bowler, did something different. He bowled using both his hands instead of one.

*image courtesy of Jason Belmonte’s official website

This popularized a new form of bowling that had never been seen before. Many people were in favor of this new form of bowling while others were vehemently opposed, but the most important thing is that it put bowling in a spotlight again. It made bowling more interesting and it garnered attention from everyone across the world. Jason Belmonte has even been featured on Dude Perfect, a popular YouTube channel, twice, and both videos have tens of millions of views. He has been the best possible ambassador for bowling, and the youth are taking notice.

Bowling two-handed makes it easier to hook the ball, thus scoring higher games with less experience. This makes the sport more accessible and many more middle and high school bowlers are using this technique. Jason Belmonte has helped grow the sport more than just about any other professional bowler. Youth bowling has seen its first positive trend within the last 5 years for the first time in over 2 decades. This is not a coincidence, and major bowling organizations such as USBC (United States Bowling Congress) have grown as a result. USBC hosts a national youth bowling tournament every year called Junior Gold. This tournament has seen a 300% increase within the last 7 years, from ~1000 to over 3000 entrants. This has had a lasting and positive effect on Professional Bowling.

Through the youth movement, there has also been a huge influx of young bowlers (18-25) who have seen major success on the PBA tour recently. These youth bowlers have already gained the experience of fierce competition from tournaments such as Junior Gold and other grueling youth tournaments. They are capable and often more competitive than some of the veterans on tour, and they have the advantage of athleticism on their side. These bowlers have documented through different forms of social media how often they work out, and they work out a ton. This new wave of youth bowlers put a huge emphasis on staying in peak physical condition, often working out just as much as or more often than they bowl. This has given them an edge over the competition, and it has begun to chip away at the stereotype that all professional bowlers are out of shape. Bowling is on an upward trend.

Bowling still has a long way to go. Realistically, professional bowling will never be as big as football or basketball; however, bowing is growing steadily. Bowling is America’s favorite recreational activity, and youth bowlers are heavily involved and extremely passionate about the sport. That is what it will take to keep the sport of bowling alive. As long as there are people out there who genuinely care about the sport and are dedicated to its growth, bowling will never die.


If you enjoyed reading this blog post and want to learn more about bowling and how to get better at bowling, we have a couple great books on bowling in the Library!

Bowling Execution – A fantastic book on how to get started in the basics of bowling.

Historical Dictionary of Bowling – A book on different terms and people related to bowling. A great book if you want to learn more on the history and terminology of bowling.

*written by Donny Turner

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 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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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.

Thanksgiving Hours


Book Review: “Headlocks and Dropkicks” by Ted Kluck


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


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:









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



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, sexuality, 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, 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.


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