2019 In Review

Amount Of Blog Views In 2019: 4,306

The following posts had the most views and interactions of 2019:

Top 10 Blog Posts of 2019:

  1. How To Print In The Library With Paw Print
  2. Book Review: “To Shake the Sleeping Self” by Jedidiah Jenkins
  3. Library FAQs
  4. 5 Tips For Surviving Severe Weather
  5. Matthew’s Monday Movie: “Cinderella Man”
  6. Matthew’s Monday Movie: “King Kong”
  7. Matthew’s Monday Movie: “The Last Samurai”
  8. How To Print In The Library (For UU Students and Faculty)
  9. Top 5 Underrated Library Perks
  10. Top 5 Social Work Journals

 

Top 10 Book Reviews of 2019:

  1. To Shake the Sleeping Self
  2. Fangirl
  3. The Testaments
  4. Shoji Hamada: A Potter’s Way and Work
  5. Brief Answers To the Big Questions
  6. Norwegian Wood
  7. Serious Moonlight
  8. Gone Girl
  9. Ender’s Game
  10. Looking For Alaska

 

Top 10 Monday Movies of 2019:

  1. Cinderella Man
  2. King Kong
  3. The Last Samurai
  4. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
  5. Raiders of the Lost Ark
  6. I, Tonya
  7. Sully
  8. The Princess Bride
  9. Mean Girls
  10. The 13th Warrior

 

Blog Editor-In-Chief:

Olivia Chin

 

Blog Editor:

Amber Kelley

 

Featured Writers:

Matthew Beyer

Olivia Chin

Ruth Duncan

Callie Hauss

Brennan Kress

Donny Turner

Grant Wise

Tips For Incoming Freshmen (From A Sophomore)!

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Brennan Kress reflects on his freshman year so that he can pass on some tips to new freshmen!

When I came to Union University in the fall of 2018, I can say that I felt a little out of my element. I struggled in certain areas of academic and social life. But now as a sophomore I look back, and with the benefit of better vision, I can see where I went wrong and what I could have done better. So, here are a few tips for freshmen as you start your journey at Union University.

 

  1. Don’t Be Intimidated By A PhD: Every professor at Union University cares for your academic career. They are also all well-versed in their area of study. As a freshman, I was impressed and sometimes intimidated with the vast knowledge that my professors held. Many times the feeling of inferiority on a knowledge level made me feel disconnected from my professors. Instead, I should have used their knowledge and gotten to know them better. So get to know your professors, and don’t let their wealth of knowledge intimidate you!
  2. Be Free To Change Your Mind: Many times I found myself in conversation doubling down on ideas I had little knowledge to support. I reverted back to what I had always been taught and failed many times to ask the right questions. College is, at a very basic level, about learning. You will be presented with ideas you have never heard before on topics you didn’t know existed. So, first, be open to new ideas even if they sound strange, bizarre, or at the outset, heretical. Take time to form your opinion and then once you have, feel free to change your mind! We are all learning and growing in multiple facets at college so don’t expect to think the same at the end of the year as you do now. And if somehow you do, I would argue you didn’t learn like you should!
  3. Take A Sabbath: One of the hardest parts about college is finding good time to rest. Many people struggle from a common inability to rest well. Some of us rest too much, sleeping in and missing classes, and some of us rest too little, staying up late grinding away on projects and homework. Thankfully, we all have a very Biblical mandate to rest, and one of the best ways to rest is to take a Sabbath. Every weekend my freshman year of college I chose either Saturday or Sunday (depending on which day made sense) and I would do no school work on that day. I would not study, read, or do any homework. Surprisingly, this practice actually made me a better student as I would prepare better in the days leading up to my rest. I would take that Sabbath as a day to sleep in, hang out with friends, and occasionally play a few video games. And the best part was that my grades never suffered. I have told countless people about my Sabbath and many thought it would be impossible to get all the work done and take a Sabbath. I don’t say this to brag, but I still managed a 4.0. All that to say, taking a Sabbath is doable and shows faith and trust in God. Pick a weekend day and take the day off! You won’t fall behind. In fact, it will keep you ahead!
  4. Be Willing To Sacrifice The Good For The Great: College is filled with many amazing opportunities for growth and learning. There are endless clubs and organizations on campus and one of the greatest challenges can be finding out what you feel most inclined to do. This can lead some people to try to do everything. A good skill to learn, especially as a freshman, is the ability to say “no” to some things so you can say “yes” to others. Don’t fill your plate to the brim. Find the things which you consider to be most valuable and pursue those.

 

Tell A Story Day (April 27th)

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“Tell A Story Day” is upon us. The purpose of this fun holiday is to offer a special day to read and tell stories of all kinds. Libraries across the country will have unique readings to children and famous authors will gather to share ideas. It is a day to remember one of the oldest practices humanity still continues to today. So, if you’re interested in ever writing a story, or just making your friends laugh, here are some tips on how to tell an effective story. (These tips apply to both written and spoken stories.)

 

1. Know Where You’re Going

Going on a trip is always fun. Most people plan out a trip by finding hotels, checking airline prices, finding tourist attractions, and planning for transportation. Rarely would you go on a trip without planning any of this, or without packing. When it comes to telling a story, planning is key. Determine the point or destination of your story. If your story does not have a point or end idea, then maybe save it, or reframe it. The worst feeling is to get to the end of your story and your audience not understand why you told it in the first place. Know where you’re going and lead your audience there- which brings me to my second point.

 

2. Lead Your Audience

Stories are about guidance. Think of yourself as a tour guide as you take your audience through the story. You know the twists and the turns. You know the places where suspense will be key, but remember that your audience does not know these things. You must bring them there. Do not give away too much at the beginning or save everything for the end. Remember how long you have to tell the story (page count or time limit) and pull the story along that time. Your words (written or spoken) are like a rope that the audience follows to the destination you have determined. As you tell your story, focus only on the details that matter along the road you are bringing them down. Do not allow them (or yourself) to become too distracted. You will lose them quickly if you don’t lead well.

 

3. Stay Focused

It is very easy (especially when talking) to begin to wander around in your storytelling. Perhaps you think of another story while telling one. Your brain has made the connection so you jump to the next thing, leaving your audience confused on where you’ve taken them. Be careful when following rabbit trails. Your audience may begin to believe that there is no destination and that you are just meandering with your words. Once they become directionless, your audience will stop caring about the story. If a tangent is important to the destination, help the audience to understand why it is important.

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4. Don’t Laugh Before the Punchline

I often find myself, usually when telling jokes I find particularly funny, laughing before I’ve delivered the punchline. The problem is, I’ve not helped my audience appreciate the joke more, I’ve only aggravated them. I’ve done so simply by knowing something they don’t. I’m the one telling the joke, I shouldn’t laugh until everyone else does. In storytelling, this can happen as well. If you show emotions out of place with the current moment in the story, you will confuse your audience. If you know something about a character the audience doesn’t, don’t make comments about it until the time when the audience understands. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t foreshadow, but only that you don’t give everything away before the proper time.

 

5. Have a Moral (but not a moral-of-the-story)

We have all heard the line “the moral of the story is…” Since you have undoubtedly heard this before, you understand it is a cliche. Try to avoid cliches as much as possible, including this one. If you tell your story well, there is no need for this tagline at the end. Your audience will have grasped the moral without realizing it. That is the point of the path you are taking them on. By the end they hardly remember every step, but they can look back and see how far they’ve come along.

 

Storytelling is an amazing practice. So take these tips and write and tell away! Take your audience along for the ride, but pay attention: you never know what a story might teach you.

 

*written by Brennan Kress

Brennan’s Brainstorms: Cirque du Soleil

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Over winter break, I had the privilege of taking a long eleven-day vacation with my immediate family. We journeyed west (further west than I had ever been) to Los Angeles. We spent several days there, before spending one day in San Diego (to see the zoo) and the last few days of the trip in Las Vegas. I was blessed to be able to see much that those three cities had to offer.

 

One of the highlights of the trip was certainly attending Cirque du Soleil at the MGM in Las Vegas. Specifically, I went to see their show Ká. I can say without a doubt that Ká is the greatest show I have ever seen.

 

Ká is one of the first performances by Cirque du Soleil that features one continuous storyline. The story centers around two siblings, a prince and a princess, who are split from each other when a rival kingdom invades their own. The performance depicts their journey to reunite, while also showing their conflict and close escapes with the rival kingdom. Landscapes vary from dangerous jungles, treacherous mountains, tumultuous seas, and even the dark lair of the rival kingdom. These transitions are done through amazing sets, stages (more on that later) and incredible non-verbal communication through costumes, dances, and stunts.

 

Ká opened in February of 2005 and has been seen by more than a million people over the course of its tenure. Though Ká is the first performance by Cirque du Soleil to have a concrete, cohesive storyline, it is not only the story that makes the performance so breathtaking. Having sat only four rows from the front of the stage, I can say it is the most technologically advanced theatrical show of all time. And that’s not just me; The Los Angeles Times said the same thing when they wrote about its debut.

 

There are actually two stages (and five smaller platforms) that are used throughout the course of the show. Having been there I can explain it like this; there is a small ring that goes around like a stage, and with what looks like a bottomless abyss behind it. Once the show begins a platform is raised up from that pit. This machine is by far the most innovative stage of all time. It can rotate 360 degrees around and can become almost completely vertical (around 100 degrees). It moves throughout the show as the athletes perform death-defying stunts. I could hardly believe my eyes as I watched the artists run up and down an ever-moving stage.

 

However, the most breathtaking feats came when the acrobats used one of the most dangerous circus constructions of all time, the wheel of death. The wheel of death is a large metal structure balanced like a beam with two open spherical cages on each end. The performers start inside these cages, though they later move outside them and on top of them. The catch is that the structure is constantly spinning and the performers must balance on it as they are turned around like a clock head. Describing such a structure is difficult, but there are plenty of YouTube videos depicting this kind of performance, including the scene straight from Ká itself. The artists ran up and down the wheel, including one performer who used a jump rope as the wheel spun underneath him. The audience could hardly react with each motion becoming more and more dangerous and equally more exciting.

 

Overall the performance took my breath away. The stunts, performed with such precision, made the audience gasp in awe with every twist and turn. Yet underneath the insane tricks rests a heartwarming tale of the reunion of two siblings and the salvation of an entire kingdom. So, if you are ever in Las Vegas and want to see a quality Cirque Du Soleil performance, Ká is certainly the one to see. There is never a dull moment and there is nothing like it in the world.

(The Union library currently has a documentary entitled, “Another Kind of Circus,” on the history of Cirque Du Soleil if you would like to learn more about their origins. You can find access to this documentary from the library page on Union’s website.)

 

*written by Brennan Kress

 

2018 In Review

2018

The library blog gained several new, dedicated writers in 2018. We wrote about everything from new books to wrestling and all that falls between. Let’s take a look back at the best of the blog from this year!

 

Amount of Blog Views: 2,055

Top 10 Posts Of 2018:

  1. Top 5 Underrated Library Perks
  2. Donny’s Deductions: The History of Professional Bowling
  3. How To Reserve A Study Room
  4. How To Use The Library As A Guest
  5. How To Print In The Library (For UU Students & Faculty/Staff)
  6. New In Our Archives: “The Private Papers of John Jeter Hurt”
  7. Myth-Shattering Fun Facts
  8. Top 5 Education Databases
  9. How To Download eBooks To Read Offline
  10. A Brief History of Union University

 

*these had the most views and interaction for this year

 

Top 10 Blog Post Quotes From 2018 (In No Particular Order):

1. 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. – Donny Turner, “Donny’s Deductions: The History of Professional Bowling”

 

2. 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. – Brennan Kress, “Book Reviews: ‘Headlocks and Dropkicks’ by Ted Kluck”

 

3. 1975: it can be argued that this is the year that the first true “summer movie” was born, Jaws. – Matthew Beyer, “Matthew’s Monday Movie: ‘Jaws'”

 

4. Human beings pride themselves on their extensive and diverse knowledge of the world, but sometimes information gets confused along the way. Misunderstandings, urban legends, and flat out lies can infiltrate what we believe is common knowledge. – Ruth Duncan, “Myth-Shattering Fun Facts”

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.

5. Some afternoons you sit on the first floor of the library, bent over your Chemistry textbook, and hold up your eyelids because they stubbornly decide to close on you. “I can’t spend five dollars on a coffee this week. I’m broke!” you tell yourself. If you notice an acquaintance who’s in this situation, escort them into Modero and tell them to pick out a warm and caffeinated beverage – it’s on you. – Danielle Chalker, “Random Acts of Kindness Day”

 

6. Akage no An (Red Haired Anne) was introduced to Japan during the educational reforms of 1952. The series and its authorized prequel have both been adapted into anime, and two schools in Japan (the Anne Academy in Fukuoma and the School of Green Gables in Okayama) teach their students how to speak and behave as the admired character would. – Jordan Sellers, “Fun Facts You Might Not Know About Anne of Green Gables”

 

7. 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. – Olivia Chin, “Book Review: ‘To Shake the Sleeping Self'”

 

8. Are you an Anglophile? It’s okay, you can admit it. If you drink Earl Grey every morning, have the Union Jack hanging on your dorm room wall, or dream of going to grad school at Cambridge, you probably are. – Danielle Chalker, “Featured eBook: ‘The Cambridge Art Book'”

 

9. 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. – Brennan Kress, “On The Importance of Reading”

 

10. 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). – Olivia Chin, “Featured Book: ‘A Short History of Modern Philosophy'”

 

Featured Writers:

Matthew Beyer

Danielle Chalker

Olivia Chin

Ruth Duncan

Brennan Kress

Jenny Manasco

Anna Poore

Jordan Sellers

Donny Turner

 

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!

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

biblia

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.

 

reading fun

 

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

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!

Book Review: “The Martian Chronicles” by Ray Bradbury

martian chronicles

 

Ray Bradbury is one of the most prolific, skillful writers of his generation and possibly of all time. His skill with science fiction is unparalleled by any other author and his stories survive the test of time as they hold true to humanity’s core values and the varied problems they face. This could not be more apparent in his classic work The Martian Chronicles.

The Martian Chronicles is a collection of loosely interconnected short stories published in 1950. Bradbury wrote many of the short stories for various sci-fi magazines before compiling them and publishing them as a collection. The Martian Chronicles span several decades of time as they tell the story of humans colonizing the planet Mars and their interactions with the Martians themselves. Almost every chapter in the story switches perspectives and includes tales about the following: a woman planning to meet her husband on Mars, a man who decides to open a hot dog stand on Mars, stories about the men to first land on the red planet, a tale about several priests who wish to convert the Martians to Christianity, and many others.

These tales are far from the science fiction one may normally consider when compared to the likes of Star Wars, Star Trek, or Ender’s Game. Though Bradbury does mention some large scale battles and wars that one associates with science fiction, he typically tells his stories from the perspective of one person or family usually far from what seems to be the major conflict. Because of this, the stories would not seem misplaced if they didn’t happen on Mars at all but perhaps during American Western Expansion instead. The themes of imperialism, corruptible capitalism, greed, self-righteousness, and manifest destiny all appear in his works. Many of his motifs from books like Fahrenheit 451 make an appearance. For example, one story depicts a man, bent on revenge and obsessed with horror writers, as he tries to kill several people who have shunned him for his love of books. His tactics echo ways that resemble the deaths of famous characters, such as the graphic death of Fortunato in The Cask of Amontillado. Bradbury writes stories that challenge and convict his readers to look at their own society in critical ways. He does this through all his stories, but The Martian Chronicles does so in a way that encapsulates large portions of American philosophy and turns it on its head.

The most intriguing part of Bradbury’s work is his ability to flawlessly perform dark twists. Almost every story has a dark or eerie turn that leaves the reader with an inescapable sense of loneliness. Aided by the idea of being millions of miles away from Earth on Mars, Bradbury uses his dark tales to draw the reader to a point of exclusion. He uses suspenseful and heart-pounding tension to draw his readers to a place of almost fear. And this is not only a fear of the unknown, like many writers use, but the fear of nothingness. Bradbury evokes the same emotion in his short stories as a person may experience driving alone in a car down abandoned roads in the Midwest. But this is not to say that the stories leave one unfulfilled. Bradbury draws his readers down the long, seemingly endless roads of his tales to a point, that once realized makes the journey worth the trouble.

Though each story leaves the reader with many questions, none of the questions feel as though they detract from the story. Each one merely adds to the aura that Bradbury is trying to produce. The end of each story leaves one hungry for the next one, and the next one, until one has finished the book before they had realized they had begun it. The Martian Chronicles are immensely rewarding and are a must read for anyone interested in science fiction. But The Martian Chronicles are not only for science-fiction fanatics; they offer much more than that. Any fans of suspense, thriller, and social commentary and satire, will find The Martian Chronicles both entertaining and interesting. Ray Bradbury shows why he is one of the greatest science fiction writers of all time through his expertly crafted and well written short stories in The Martian Chronicles.

   

*Written by Brennan Kress

* You can check out The Martian Chronicles at our library!