Saturday, October 30, 2010

Book Review - "Countdown to Lockdown"

Professional wrestler Mick Foley is back with his fourth autobiography, "Countdown to Lockdown."

I know what you're thinking - "Really? Four autobiographies?" In his last book, "Hardcore Diaries," Foley noted that he was tied with Winston Churchill for most autobiographies and jokes in "Countdown to Lockdown" that he has now surpassed Churchill.

For those not familiar with Mick Foley, he is a professional wrestler who started his career in the mid-80's and has become one of the biggest professional wrestling stars over the last 25 years, wrestling under the names Cactus Jack, Mankind, and Dude Love. He has enjoyed success in all four of the major wrestling promotions to come up in the last 20 years - World Championship Wrestling (WCW, which went out of business in 2001), Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW, which also went under in 2001), World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE, where Foley reigned as a 3-time Heavyweight Champion), and he is currently a member of Total Nonstop Action wrestling (TNA, which was founded in 2002).

He is mostly known for helping popularize the "hardcore" style of professional wrestling on a national stage, as well for his colorful promo skills, and a very unique charisma that endeared him to numerous fans over his career.

[Click to watch: highlights of Hell in a Cell 1998 - ECW promo - WrestleMania 22 highlights - Royal Rumble 2000 moment - This is Your Life, w/ The Rock - Mr. Socko]

Foley is really a distinguished author, and helped break the long-held stereotype of professional wrestlers being unintelligent jocks. He has authored four autobiographies - "Have a Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks," "Foley is Good: And the Real World is Faker than Wrestling," "The Hardcore Diaries," and "Countdown to Lockdown." He's written two holiday-themed children's books - "Mick Foley's Halloween Hijinx" and "Mick Foley's Christmas Chaos," and a WWE-themed children's book - "Tales from Wrescal Lane." He has also written two novels, "Tietam Brown" and "Scooter." He's appeared on the New York Times Bestseller list multiple times, with "Have a Nice Day" and "Foley is Good" both debuting at Number one. He wrote all of these books without the aid of a "ghost writer," and hand-wrote the majority of them.

"Countdown to Lockdown" is his first autobiography not written under the WWE umbrella, as he joined TNA near the end of 2008, after a nearly 12-year association with WWE. "Countdown" is written in the same style as "Hardcore Diaries," as a memoir looking at a certain point in his life. "Hardcore Diaries" chronicled his preparations for WWE's "One Night Stand" pay per view, with some other stories thrown in.

"Countdown" follows the same format, as it is literally a countdown to TNA's Lockdown event, which features Foley facing Sting in what is Foley's highest-profile match in several years. The diary format looks at Foley trying to get in shape for the match, as well as his reservations about how well he will be able to perform in such a high-profile environment.

The storyline between Foley and Sting has shades of real life in it, as the build to the match is due to Foley being mad at Sting for showing mercy on him in a previous match. He's trying to prove to Sting and the world that he's not washed up and can steal the show at Lockdown. In the book, Foley writes of trying to prove to himself that he's not washed up and can steal the show at Lockdown.

I really found this book to be interesting because it describes what I consider to be the creative peak of TNA so far. I have never been more interested in TNA than I was in the spring and summer of 2009. Everything was just "clicking," the right people were doing the right things and it was just a very compelling, interesting wrestling program. The Sting/Mick Foley match was right in the middle of all that, occuring in April. To get an inside look into something I remember quite fondly was a real treat.

In addition to the countdown chapters, there are several other chapters that Foley has inserted into the book at random intervals. Those chapters have what he has coined as a "Wrestlemeter" at the beginning, a scale of 1-10, with 1 having nothing to do with wrestling and 10 being entirely wrestling based. Foley writes in the introduction - "Armed with this valuable literary information, readers can now make up their own minds; read the chapters in the order they are presented (my personal favorite way), refer back to them at a later time, or skip them completely. Don't worry about hurting my feelings - I'll get over it... eventually. Occasionally, a reader (usually the mother of a wrestling fan) will pick up one of my books and find themselves completely engrossed by everything but the wrestling aspects. For those reasons, the Wresltemeter is a valuable monitoring tool."

The chapters ranking high on the Wrestlemeter mostly describe the end of his relationship with WWE and the beginning of his association with TNA. He writes about his frustration with realizing WWE no longer had faith in him to be an important part of the show. Seeing Mick Foley's slide down the hiearchy in his last two books was interesting. In "Hardcore Diaries," Foley writes that at one point he considered himself and WWE Chairman Vince McMahon to be friends, but noted that was no longer the case. In "Countdown," he recalls a conversation with McMahon where he was told that he didn't connect with the fans anymore and that he was no longer exempt from WWE's dress code policy.

Foley's brief, yet memorable, career as a WWE commentator is also looked at. His anger at McMahon's lack of respect and harsh critiques of his announcing style helped him realize that he no longer wanted to be under WWE contract. He discusses his frustrations in the chapter "The Magic Headsets," which uses a fantasy of a hero slaying a dragon, while being harshly critiqued by a "Mr. McMagical" for the way he is doing it. It nicely sums up the frustration Foley was feeling, while not coming off as too bitter.

Mick also gives his thoughts on the murder-suicide involving Chris Benoit, looking at issues of steroids and concussions. His views on performance-enhancers may not be the most-popular opinion, but he really makes some good points.

The charity work that Foley has been involved in is talked about at great length in "Countdown." From his work with the USO to his efforts to build schools in Sierra Leone, he presents a different side of himself that a lot of people probably wouldn't know a lot about. He also donated 100 percent of his monetary advance for "Countdown" to the ChildFund International group and RAINN (the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network).

Perhaps the best chapter in the entire books is Foley recounting his first meeting with Tori Amos. If you've never read any of Foley's previous autobiographies, that might sound weird. But, if you are familar with his previous works, that is a very unique chapter.

Starting in the mid-90's, Foley began using the music of Tori Amos - specificially the song "Winter" - to pump himself up emotionally for big matches. He wrote in "Have A Nice Day" about how the beauty of her music was able to allow him to visualize the horrific acts he was about to do in the ring. Prior to the book's release, the "Meeting Tori Amos" chapter (which ranked a 6 on the Wrestlemeter) was posted on for fans to preview. Click here to read it. It's one of the most heartfelt things Mick Foley has ever written.

With what I mentioned, along with more, Foley's book - to use a lame cliche - packs a real literary punch. Is it his best book? Foley's first book is considered to be the "Holy Grail" of wrestling books. It literally helped create the genre of wrestling books. Before "Have A Nice Day," there had been a few books penned by wrestlers, but it wasn't seen as something viable that people would want to read. So, in that respect, is "Countdown" Foley's best work? No. But, that's actually a compliment, as he had already written the best wrestling book of all time.

"Coundtown to Lockdown" may not be Foley's greatest work, but it is a definitite improvement from "Hardcore Diaries," which was hurt a little bit by being overly negative. Foley couldn't help it; the build to his match did not go the way he planned it. It affected him in a negative way. With "Countdown," Foley is slowly regaining his confidence and feels like a valuable part of the TNA family, which really comes through in his writing.

This isn't a spoiler, as it happened over a year ago. Mick Foley wins the TNA championship from Sting at Lockdown. What is a spoiler would be to tell you if he was pleased with the match and his reign with the title. That you'll have to find out for yourself by reading "Countdown to Lockdown."

I'll leave with one of the moments that Foley considers one of the highlights of his program with Sting. It got its own chapter in the book - "When Cactus met Mick" (which, of course, got a 10 on the Wrestlemeter). It's a promo where Mick Foley interviewed Cactus Jack. And, yes, those are the same people. He writes that he wanted to try something "out there," to show that his character was somewhat crazy.

"The other wrestlers actaully cheered me when I came through the curtain," Foley begins. "Actually cheered a promo. Some of them even stood. I'm talking about seasoned stars like Booker [T]. A standing O for a promo. It happens all the time for matches. But promos? Not that I can recall.

"Sting told me it was the best promo he'd ever heard. High praise indeed, given some of the guys he's been out there with and how long he's been around.

I might stink up Philadelphia [site of Lockdown], but for tonight at least, I'm the King of Orlando [site of the promo]. Or at least the backstage area of a sound studio that is part of a huge amusement park complex that is located in Orlando. Yes, if that couple-hundred-square-foot area was a country, then for one night, at least, I'd be its ruler."

6 - "Gimme Shelter," Rolling Stones

Number 6 on the list of the top 50 most-played songs on my computer's iTunes is "Gimme Shelter," by the Rolling Stones. I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say that this is one of the greatest songs of all time. A true classic.

This is also one of the few songs that's actually a favorite of mine to rank highly on the list. As I've mentioned a few times before, this is not a list of my favorite songs. This is a list of the most-played songs on my iTunes. It just depends on what I'm in the mood for. Number one on the list is a song I had barely heard since I was a kid, so when I got it on my iPod I listened to it a lot. Earlier this year I got on a kick of listening to a lot of Red Hot Chili Peppers. Last summer I listened to Metallica's Load album a lot. Those two bands have a lot of songs on the list as a result.

"Gimme Shelter" is one of my favorite songs and it's a testament to how good it is that it's so high on my list. This is one of those songs that just sucks you in and takes you to a different place for a couple minutes. If you look at music as art, "Gimme Shelter" is the musical version of the Mona Lisa.

This song is one of the few songs to feature a female co-singer with Mick Jagger, as Merry Clayton lends her vocals to "Gimme Shelter." The way that this song was recorded is something that I feel is missing in music. There's nothing computer-generated or "fake" about "Gimme Shelter." It's the band and Clayton in a studio making music. As Clayton's voice cracks during the song from hitting her high note, you hear Mick Jagger yell in the background. Today, things are so post-produced and done seperately that real moments like that are hard to find in popular music.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ho-lloween, one year later

One year ago today my "Ho-lloween" column was printed in The Concordian. I heard a lot of positive comments about it and it seemed to be one of the most popular things I had written in a while, so I felt this upcoming Halloween season would be an appropriate time to re-print it here in my blog.

For those who don't remember, I wrote a weekly column in the newspaper called "Communication Breakdown." I came up with some names for the column and then decided to go through my iPod and look for song titles that sounded journalism-ey. I showed my list of about 10 possible names to Wendy Holdren, then the Editor-in-Chief. She told me her two favorite names and I picked my favorite of her two.

The opening line for each column was a little cheesy, but I think it's that cute kind of cheesy. You can roll your eyes after reading it if you want. I won't mind.

* * *

Originally published Oct. 28, 2009; The Concordian, Concord University

By Chris Slater

Welcome to the latest edition of "Communication Breakdown." Let me break it down for you.

There's a fun holiday coming up this Saturday for the children. It's called Halloween. Perhaps you participated when you were younger. Dress up as something "spooky" or "scary" and go door-to-door getting candy and other assorted goods. Fun times and great memories.

There's a problem with Halloween, though. It's just for kids. No self-respecting adult still "trick or treats." If you still do, it's because you're not a respectable adult. The term for you is "Man-Child."

The bigwig marketing executives and PR-people realized this problem a few years ago – "How do we market Halloween to the college audience?" I'm guessing that they held a meeting to figure out a solution.

Somebody at that meeting, a younger rookie PR guy, had a figurative light bulb go off above his head. He raised his hand and said, "I have an idea."

"Let's all hear it," they said.

The PR guy collected himself for a second, trying to figure out the best way to formulate his idea. He opened his mouth -

"What if we encourage young women to dress like whores?"

Silence. Another PR guy questioned this by wondering how it would include males.

"Well," the rookie PR guy began, "They can look at the women dressed as whores."

More silence. The rookie is nervously looking around the room. Suddenly, a man begins clapping. Soon, the entire room is giving this rookie PR employee a standing ovation.

"Brilliant!" shouted one. "You’ve saved Halloween!" yelled another.

Now, that may or may not of happened. But, somebody, somewhere had this idea to market what is commonly known as "Ho-lloween" - young women dressing up as whores for Halloween.

Well, technically, the term is "sexy." They’re either a "sexy nurse," or a "sexy police officer," or a "sexy pilot," etc, etc, and the list goes on.

Now, I may not know the exact definition of a whore, but trust me, I know one when I see one.

They are out in full-force every Halloween. There's usually a crowded house or club. There’s usually a lot of alcohol involved. And, by 2 p.m. November 1, the pictures are all over Facebook.

Now the ladies may be wondering, "What’s the big deal? Give me one day to have fun."

Well, it's not always that easy. "Ho-lloween" outfits can give guys the wrong impression of you.

Guys aren't deep thinkers. Here’s a logical guy thought – "She's wearing knee-high boots and fishnet stockings. She's easy."

He's not taking into account that it's a costume. Throw in some alcohol - or something else - and you have the ingredients for a horrible misunderstanding, at best; and something a lot worse, at worst.

Remember when I mentioned Facebook earlier? Pictures on there just don't disappear after a while. That picture of you dressed as a "sexy cop" arresting your "sexy criminal" (as a group of guys cheer you on) stays on Facebook until somebody decides to delete it.

Something to remember this "Ho-lloween" season - dressing like a whore makes people think less of you. If you don't want your reputation to be tainted, don't dress like a whore this Saturday.

Unless your reputation is that of a whore... You know what they say, "If the ill-fitting, trashy suit fits..."


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

7 - "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)," Green Day

Yeah, I like this song. If you get over how cheesy it's become over the years, it's a really good song. Green Day is a very talented group and "Good Riddance" helped show the mainstream that they were more than a goofy punk band. It first shot to prominence when it was featured in the final episode of "Seinfeld," arguably one of the greatest sitcoms of all time. After that, it became a staple of high school graduations around the nation.

Part of the problem is that "Good Riddance" became so closely associated with "Seinfeld" and graduations that it diminished the value of what a good song it really is. These are really heartfelt lyrics, along with a catchy accoustic hook. The message just got lost over the years after associating it with the antics of Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer.

My 12th grade year of high school, I remember there being a lot of anger that we - the Class of 2004 - couldn't use "Good Riddance" as our graduation theme because the Class of 2003 did. I really didn't want to use that song, but anything would have been better than what did wind up becoming the theme to my graduation.

For some reason, there was a contingent of students pushing for the "Saved By the Bell" graduation song to be used. Luckily, those people did not get their way. I don't even know what song was selected. It's so bad I've blocked it from my memory. I know it was by Boys II Men. It wasn't the song everybody would expect it to be.

I didn't really have a strong feeling either way about what the song should have been. I just knew what I didn't want it to be. I thought Staind's "So Far Away" would have been a pretty cool graduation theme. It's something kind of different, which I feel would have made it work. I told a couple people about it and some thought it was good. But, I wasn't part of that clique that was on the graduation committee, so they wanted Boys II Men and they got it.

I believe the Class of 2005 used "Good Riddance" as their graduation theme. At least they didn't use that one graduation song...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

8 - "Jigga What/Faint," Jay-Z & Linkin Park

I like Jay-Z and I like Linkin Park. Their Collision Course album is a pretty cool concept and one of my favorite tracks from it is "Jigga What/Faint." It occupies the number 8 spot on my list.

Looking through my list I realized that it's very rock-oriented. There's not really a lot of other genres represented. I looked through my iTunes to see where most of the rap songs are located. There's around the 80s-100s. So, if I had made the list bigger there would have been more rap included. But, then I never would have finished this list as it's already taken wayyyy longer than I ever thought it would.

If you have the opportunity, check out the Collision Course album. Also, if you're not opposed to getting music through less-than-honest means, you should check out the Jay-Z/Beatles mashup of Jay's Black Album and The Beatles' White Album, which is appropriately known as the Grey Album. The album was put together by famous DJ, Danger Mouse. He's also one-half of Gnarls Barkley. You know their song - "Does that make me craaaaazyyyyyyy?"

You can click here to hear one of the few Grey Album tracks that YouTube hasn't disabled. The people in charge of The Beatles music, Apple Music, did not like the tracks being used without their permission. I don't have any links to interviews, but I recall both Jay-Z and Paul McCartney being quoted as saying that they like the mashups. In fact, shortly after the Grey Album came out Jay-Z and Paul McCartney performed together at the Grammys. Click here to see the video. McCartney comes out at the end; nobody knew he was going to show up. It's pretty cool.

As a general warning, this song & another one I linked contain some profanity. Put your headphones in before listening in public.

9 - "Ronnie," Metallica

"Ronnie" by Metallica is a ballad, in the original sense of the word. It's a story told through song. It's a story about a guy named Ronnie. Everybody thinks he's weird. And, it turns out Ronnie goes crazy and kills everybody. Fun song.

Musically, "Ronnie" has a bit of a country-ish twang to it. I think it works for this song. Metallica has proven themselves to be good at stripping their sound down and focusing on good lyrics. That's the case here, as the words really drive the song as opposed to the instruments.

10 - "Bleeding Me," Metallica

We've finally cracked the Top 10. Metallica and the Red Hot Chili Peppers both have 3 songs in the Top 10, so get ready to see these two bands a lot.

"Bleeding Me" is one of my favorite Metallica songs. It's off of their 1996 Load album and is a very good example of the shift in sound that Metallica underwent in the 90s. Gone was the loud, fast thrash metal and replaced was a slower, more melodic, modern-rock style.

This song is in the style of my favorite Metallica songs - starts off slow, chorus gets loud, then it winds back down. To throw out the buzzword the kids like, it's an "epic" song. At 8 minutes, it's also a pretty long song. Actually, what is probably most interesting about "Bleeding Me," is the fact that it sounds like it ends in the middle and then it just starts over. It's like they were in the studio and thought to themselves, "This song is pretty cool, but what if we take the ending and make it the middle and play for another 4 minutes?"

11 - "She's Only 18," Red Hot Chili Peppers

Red Hot Chili Pepper's double album Stadium Arcadium is possibly one of the greatest modern albums I've ever listened to. This is musical proof of an amazing band at quite possibly their creative peak. I don't know if they can get any better than this album, just in terms of both the quality, quantity, and variety of music.

If you listen to the lyrics, "She's Only 18" is a pretty self-explanatory song. It's about a girl who just turned 18 and is finally out on her own. She's mixed up in the wrong crowd and has a very interesting journey.

This song is even more interesting if you've read Anthony Kiedis' autobiography. Most of Kiedis' songs aren't about one specific person, but rather an amalgation of people in his life. This song just flows like a musical journey through his crazy drug-and-sex-filled life.

Something that could be a subtle jab or just a coincidence is mentioning that the titular girl in the song doesn't like the Rolling Stones. In his book, Kiedis writes about how he's not a fan of the Stones anymore after opening for them in the early 90s. He just didn't like how his band was treated and was very turned off by the entire affair.

12 - "Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seatle," Nirvana

Number 12 on the list of the Top 50 most-played songs on my computer's iTunes again comes from Nirvana. "Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seatle" is a track off of Nirvana's 3rd album In Utero. I've written a few times about that album in previous entries about Nirvana.

Frances Farmer was an actress from the 1940s who went insane and was put into an asylum. Kurt Cobain and his wife Courtney Love both enjoyed her work and life story. Not only did Kurt write this song about her, they also named their child after her.

Probably the greatest episode of "The Simpsons" of the 2000s was one that, ironically, spoofed the 90s. In it, Homer starts a grunge band that mirrors Nirvana. They spoof this song, which you can see by clicking here. Since the person uploading the song doesn't own the copyrights to the show there's only a slideshow of scenes from the episode. There's also a line at the end of the clip from that episode that spoofs "Back to the Future." Great episode of "The Simpsons." If you haven't seen it, you should definitely check it out.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Concord musings

 I have a few short thoughts on a couple different areas. I felt like combining those into one blog.

# # #

I had my final meeting with the Academic Success Center today. I had been meeting with Trena Bolin for the last few weeks about how to fix any problems I was having academically. It was decided that if I didn't have a D or F when midterms came out that I wouldn't have to meet anymore. I didn't, so I don't have to see her anymore.

Most people who know me realize that I'm a big procrastinator. When the meeting started, Trena asked if I had any midterms. My response: "I don't know. I didn't check."

# # #

Homecoming Week is underway at Concord University. For a list of candidates running, check out this week's issue of The Concordian.

Personally, I've never really understood the appeal of Homecoming. I've never really enjoyed any of the events nor have I been excited about the football game at the conclusion of the week. I don't even think I've ever voted for the King or Queen before.

I only attended Homecoming events in order to cover it for The Concordian, back when I did that stuff. I only ever attended one event for personal reasons. That was the Homecoming parade from two years ago. And, even then, I wound up writing a Letter to the Editor in The Concordian about it. It was about how I was disappointed in the football team.

# # #

Speaking of The Concordian, I've been enjoying reading it lately. Well, most of it. It's been a struggle over the last two years, but the paper is slowly earning its credibility back after that disastrous 2008-2009 academic year they had.

I've always been a big proponent of having a solid Opinions section. It's the voice of the students. The opinions section was virtually nonexistent during that 08-09 year I talked about earlier. I tried to help out last year with that weekly column I wrote. This year, there's potential for it. Julia Spencer and Dustin Blankenship have written a couple good pieces for the page so far. There's a lot of potential with the "Imagine" column. The execution is just not coming off well. She starts off each column with "Imagine _______" and then goes on to talk about how things would be better if that were the case. Well, she tries to do that. It usually just turns into her complaining about how sick she gets. There's a way to successfully complain in a column and get things accomplished. Once she figures out how to do it, her column will improve dramatically.

Also, while we're on the subject of the newspaper, I would like to point out that I was not fired from The Concordian last fall for plagiarism. That was another guy named Chris. I had somebody ask me about that recently. Hopefully not a lot of people think that was me.

# # #

We're officially into Autumn here at Concord. For the most part, I don't enjoy it. I don't like seeing trees die and the weather get cold. We've had a couple nice Autumn days, though. I like warm weather and it hasn't been too chilly the last couple days. Here's a picture I took:

# # #

I guess that's all for now. I'll hopefully have some stuff of substance in here sometime in the future. I have a lot more thoughts about all of the above and might elaborate on some of it if I get time.

I also will eventually get that music list complete that I've been posting in my blog throughout the last few months. I also have some other music ideas floating around in my head that I've wanted to write about. We'll see how that goes.

And, I know people want an update on myself and Candace Nelson. I've been dating her for nearly two months and have barely blogged about it. The anticipation must be driving people crazy. I'll see what I can do.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Academic Success; second meeting

I had my second official meeting with Trena Bolin and the Academic Success Center on Wednesday, October 6. If you’re not familiar with what I’m talking about, click here to see my introduction to the Academic Success Center and then click here to see my take on last week’s first official meeting.

This week’s meeting started off on a wrong note, as I woke up late. What caused that, you may ask? It’s hard to pinpoint anything for certain, but I’m going to say it’s possible that my late-night roadtrip to Sheetz caused it. Sheetz is a gas station/restaurant that is apparently very popular. Upon discovering that I was making regular trips to Morgantown, my friend Justin Edens asked me if I was eating at Sheetz. He was disappointed that I was not. During my last couple trips to Morgantown, I noticed the construction of a Sheetz somewhat reasonably close to Princeton. On my most recent trip, I realized that it was open and informed Edens of this. A roadtrip was discussed and finalized for the night of Oct. 5. Click here to see the Facebook album.

Tuesday, I woke up at 8 a.m. for my 9:30 a.m. class. I had class from 9:30-10:45 a.m. Then, class from 11 a.m. until 12:15 p.m. Then, class from 12:30 until 1:45. Then, work at Pizza Hut from 3 p.m. until whenever closing duties are completed, which can be anywhere from 11 p.m. until 1 a.m. So, Tuesdays are pretty full for me. I did all that and finished with work around midnight. Then, we drove about 2 hours to Sheetz. We ate at Sheetz, then drove about 2 hours back. I got home at around 4 a.m. My meetings are at 11 a.m. I wonder why I was late…

I woke up, feeling like shit, but knowing I had to get to Concord at 11 a.m. I was ready to leave for Concord around 10:45, but I knew there would be no way to make it there on time, so I got ready to call Trena and let her know I would be late. One thing stood in my way… I didn’t have her office number.

I looked through every paper that I was given from the Academic Success Center. There wasn’t a phone number on anything. Luckily, I had a backup plan - I sat in my car in my parking lot and went to on my phone and checked the directory. That’s something people might not know - there’s a directory of every Concord professor and administrator on Concord’s website.

I called Trena and let her know I was running late. I didn’t tell her it was because I was at a gas station in Beckley at 3 a.m. She was very understanding. She told me to take my time and let me know when her schedule would be open for me.

I got to Concord and made my way to her office. She was busy with some stuff, so I sat in her office while she finished her work. She was working with another student who was in the Academic Success Center program. I guess that’s the right term for it. Anyway…

It was cool to see this program actually utilized for somebody who needs it. For me, it’s different. It’s like, "You fucked up and have to go to the Academic Success Center. Fix your problems." I know why I’m there and I know what I need to do. I just needed somebody to actually say, "You messed up. You’re here. Do something about it."

The student that I was waiting for Trena to finish up with was doing something else at the moment; she wasn’t in her office while I was sitting there. While I was waiting, she told me a little about that girl and why she was there and what they were hoping to do with her. It was interesting to see one of the student workers come in and have Trena tell her what to say to this student. It was even more interesting to see that very student come into Trena’s office and interact with her. It was neat to see what the Academic Success Center does and how it interacts with a student.

Things are different for me, since I was a part of Concord’s newspaper staff my first semester at Concord. It was part of my job to know who was who and what was what on campus. Within a month or two of being a student, I knew who the Vice Presidents where and what office was which and just general stuff that a lot of "regular" students wouldn’t know.

Regarding stuff on campus, I always used myself as a sort of test. If I didn’t know what was going on around campus, then the average student didn’t know. It was my job to know what every organization was going and what other events were going on. It was like, "I’m the Editor-in-Chief of the newspaper and I have no idea what your organization is doing. I go out of my way to know what’s going on, so if I don’t know, then that random guy over there has no idea either."

That’s the case with a lot of freshman students - which this girl is - and a lot of programs and stuff around campus. A lot of people don’t know what is where and who is who. That was the case with this girl in Trena’s office. I looked at her and could tell that Concord was overwhelming her. If you told her to go to the Admissions Office or the Registrars Office, I’m sure she would have no idea what you were talking about.

That might be something that needs to be addressed at Concord - simplifying things for new students. Maybe the University 100 courses do that; I’m not sure. If they don’t, maybe they need to.

An example about simplifying things for students that involves me would be a recent trip to Morgantown I made to visit my girlfriend - Candace Nelson. I went up there after my classes on Thursday, skipping class on Friday (something I can’t do anymore, now that the Academic Success Center is keeping tabs on me) and stayed until Sunday. Going up there during the school week meant that Candace had class on Friday. I walked her to her class and was basically told, “Occupy yourself for an hour.” I had never been on West Virginia University’s campus before and was just left to fend for myself.

I had heard a lot of bad things about WVU’s campus from friends over the years. It’s cluttered, disorganized, ineffective, stupid, etc… I walked out into the hub of WVU’s campus and looked around. I realized that things weren’t really that bad. It was just a few buildings and a lot of people. It was not a big deal at all. And then I realized that my friends all went to WVU when they were 18, fresh out of high school. And, I put myself in those shoes - how different would this situation be if I were 18, instead of 24? I was such a different person at 18, that same situation would have completely overwhelmed me.

I realized that was the same situation at Concord for some people. I wasn’t overwhelmed by Concord my freshman year, but I know some people were. That girl in Trena’s office was. It’s people like her that need help. Hopefully, the Academic Success Center can help her and similar people.

To get back to me…

The actual meeting was pretty short. Trena asked me how my classes were going. I told her how I felt I was doing. She gave me an update on some financial aid issues I was having. She then told me that if I didn’t have a D or F in any classes when midterms were given that I wouldn’t have to meet with her anymore.

The most interesting aspect of my time with Trena was that we discussed my blog. For the most part, she seemed enthusiastic that I was helping spread the word about the program. We discussed a few issues about some stuff I had written and she encouraged me to continue what I’m doing.

So, that’s where we’re at now. I’m not exactly sure when midterm grades are posted. It’s either next week or the week after. So, I either have 1 or 2 meetings left. That is, of course, assuming I don’t have a D or F in any classes. I feel like I don’t. But, if I do I’ll let you know. I guess this is a pivotal couple weeks for me, concerning my future with the Academic Success Center program. I’ll keep everybody updated.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

13 - "Emit Remmus," Red Hot Chili Peppers

Number 13 on the list of the top 50 most-played songs on my computer's iTunes once again comes from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I tried to look up what literary term explains the title to this song. "Emit Remmus" is "Summer time" backwards. To the best of my knowledge, there is no actual term used to describe taking a word, turning it backwards, and having it make another word. The closest thing I could find was an article saying it was "kind of like a palindrome, but not exactly."

In lead singer Anthony Keidis' autobiography, he mentions this song briefly. It's kind of odd, in that he usually goes into a lot more detail with things. He talks very openly about several aspects of his life - sex, drugs, etc... and he sort of skims over this song. All he really mentions is going out on a date with a woman in London and it inspired him to write "Emit Remmus."

He doesn't talk about whether or not the date went anywhere, whether it ended on a positive or negative note, or even why the title is written backwards. Although, if you listen to the song, you can get the impression that his time spent with this woman did not end on the best note.

There are also the rumors that the song is about Keidis' relationship with Mel C., from the Spice Girls. If you remember your Spice Girls, that was "Sporty Spice," the one everybody thought was a lesbian. Wikipedia says that it was written about her, so I guess it's true.

Irony: I made a joke about not trusting Wikipedia, after linking a Wikipedia article to define a term.

And, speaking of palindromes, check out Weird Al's ode to Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues, "Bob."

Friday, October 1, 2010

Academic Success; first meeting

I blogged the other day about signing my contract for academic success. Click here to read that. Basically, my GPA was low and I had to sign this contract saying I would do better. There are certain requirements I have to meet, and one condition of this is that I have to meet every Wednesday at 11 a.m. and check in concerning my academic success. Wednesday, October 29, was my first check in.

I've been assigned to meet with Trena Bolin. If you go to Concord, you likely know the name. She's done a bunch of stuff there. One memory of Trena Bolin that has always stood out with me over the years doesn't actually involve her, but rather a picture of her. It was my 3rd year at Concord. LeAnne Davis-Henderson was Editor-in-Chief of the newspaper and everything was done except we had a picture of this lady on the front page and neither one of us remembered her name. I remember her calling somebody and trying to describe the picture: "I think she works with you. Here's what she looks like..."

One of my biggest apprehensions about this program was what it entailed. I wasn't sure if people just read from a script and said, "Here's what we have decided to do to make sure you fulfill your contract." It wasn't like that. Trena Bolin looked at my grades over the years and said, "You're a smart guy. You just don't go to class, do you?"

I got a little more enthusiastic about this program after realizing it wasn't just going to be something dumb I had to sit through each week. This actually looks like it will help me in some way. And, I'm being realistic - if I didn't need help, I wouldn't be a seventh-year, 24-year-old college student. Something is wrong with that. I've messed up somewhere.

In addition to that meeting, I also met with Carolyn Cox, Concord's registrar. I now have somewhat of an idea on when I'll be graduating. That's fun. I'm a lot closer than I thought I was.

Meeting with Carolyn Cox also got me my ego boost for the day. I can't go too long without getting my ego stroked. While she was looking at everything I had done, she commented that I was on the Concordian staff for a long time. I mentioned that I was Editor-in-Chief a couple years ago. She replied, "I know. I remember your name." And, now my head is just a little bigger.

Other notes from my first meeting:

- On President Aloia's scale of whether I am "high risk," "medium risk," or "low risk" of not getting a degree, I am right at the bottom of low risk and at the top of medium risk. My number was 69. It's calculated by multiplying your ACT score (23) by your high school GPA (3.02). That was the first time I've ever heard of it. I don't know many details.

- I stole a really cool pen from the Registrar's Office. It's blue. Gel ink. Smooth, literally and figuratively.

- Ironically, after walking out of the Registrar's Office with an idea of when I might graduate, I run into Vice President and Academic Dean Dr. John David Smith and he says to me, "I hope you never graduate, Chris. It's such a joy seeing you around campus."

- Part of this contract was to get me off of financial aid suspension, and that was fixed. As a result of waiting so long to get my financial aid fixed, I was dropped from my classes for not paying my bill. I got put back into my classes, so everything looks to be fixed.

- My next meeting is Wednesday, October 6, at 11 a.m. I'm not sure what will be discussed, but I'll likely let everybody know.