Friday, December 30, 2011

The "Bobby Roode Era" has begun in TNA

At the end of October, I posted a blog looking at the sudden rise of James Storm to the top of TNA. After winning the World Heavyweight Championship from Kurt Angle, I posted a blog titled The "James Storm Era" begins in TNA.

As of right now, that era lasted only one week, as he lost the championship in his first defense to his long-time friend and tag team partner Bobby Roode. Roode turned his back on his friend, cheating en route to his first World Heavyweight Championship victory.

This blog goes hand-in-hand with a post I have submitted to the Under the Ring wrestling blog, looking at the bigger picture behind the scenes that led to Roode's heel turn and championship victory. Once that goes online, I'll post the link in the comments section.

Below are the three videos that you need to check out, as they see the creation of the "Bobby Roode Era" in TNA. They are also essential in order to better understand the Under the Ring blog.

The first is Storm's first promo as World Heavyweight Champion. He calls out Roode and they set up their match for later that night.

Next, Roode and Storm are in the midst of a competitive back-and-forth match. Having a sudden change of heart, Roode decides to take a shortcut and screw his best friend out of the title.

Finally, cameras catch up with both Roode and Storm backstage after the match. Roode puts down his former friend. Storm is seemingly too mad to speak.

Shortly after losing the championship, Storm received a concussion and was out of action for nearly a month. In his place, Storm's friend (and Roode's former friend) AJ Styles stepped up to the plate against Roode. He was defeated through dubious means by Roode at two consecutive pay-per-view events. He is currently scheduled to face Jeff Hardy at TNA's Genesis pay-per-view, January 8. Storm missed the November pay-per-view, but returned to defeat Kurt Angle (the man he defeated for the championship) in a grudge match at the December offering. A rematch between the two is currently scheduled for January 8.

No word yet on when the next chapter in the James Storm/Robert Roode feud will take place.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Some articles I've written

I've been doing a little writing lately. The guy that covered high school basketball for the Princeton Times newspaper moved away and I've been given some assignments in that area. I also wrote a story about the Brothers of the Wheel motorcycle club, who organize a yearly event to give gifts to needy children. That was fun. That article isn't posted online, but it's available in the current print edition of the Times newspaper.

I haven't written much for the Under the Ring blog lately, but I'm hoping to correct that. As I've mentioned, that's a professional wrestling blog that I contribute to. I wrote a piece the other day looking at Kevin Nash's recent WWE return, after he announced on Twitter that he was retiring.

The basketball article and blog post are linked below. With the basketball story, it was on a pretty tight deadline without much notice and I was unable to get an interview with the Princeton High baskeball coach, so it only includes comments from the opposing team's coach. That was corrected in the next article I'm working on now, as I talked to both coaches.

Princeton Times basketball article, 12/21/11

Under The Ring blog post about Kevin Nash

The Princeton Times is printed every Friday. Most of their articles make it online by Friday or Saturday or so. As those become available I'll periodically post some here. With the wrestling blog posts, I kind of do those whenever. I'm trying to get on a more consistent schedule, and I'll keep you updated on those as well.

Follow my magazine on Twitter, @MountainSlate. If that sentence sounds weird, click here to find out what I'm talking about. I'll post an update on that soon.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Female soldier embraces girlfriend upon return

For the first time to be documented, an openly gay member of the armed forces kissed her partner after arriving home after being stationed overseas.

I tweeted a link to the AP's story through my magazine's twitter account. Yes, that's a cheap plug. Check out the story and my twitter.

RT @MountainSlate: First time seen since #DADT repealed, female soldier embraces girlfriend upon return from overseas -

This is something that is really groundbreaking and amazing. But, the sad thing is that it shouldn't be. It's a woman kissing a woman. I'm very happy that gays are now openly allowed to serve in the military. I just feel like we're still so far behind on gay rights. I just don't understand why anybody would have any sort of prejudice against any sort of sexual orientation.

I feel like gay marriage will be our generation's version of women and black people being allowed to vote. My grandkids will look at me one day and say, "Gay people really weren't allowed to get married when you were a kid?" And I'll respond, "Yeah. That was really stupid."

Hopefully things like the picture above will help desensitize people to the idea that gay people are also people and that there's nothing wrong with them.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Homer buys a gun

If you've never seen the episode of "The Simpsons" where Homer buys a gun and joins the NRA, I feel like you should. It's a pretty good satirical take on right-wing gun ownership and the culture that goes along with it.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

My grandpa's in the hospital, part II

Almost exactly 2 years ago to the day I posted a blog titled "My grandpa's in the hospital." He was recovering from surgery to fix a perforated ulcer. Check the 2009 blog to see what that is. Doesn't sound pleasant.

This is one of those things that makes you wonder if this is related to that, because he's in the hospital 2 years later, recovering from surgery to remove his stomach after finding some cancerous tumors in it.

My mom called me probably a month ago and casually threw this out - "Did I tell you Pap was in the hospital?" I think they wanted me to call him "Papaw" when I was starting to talk, but I only got the first part out.

I said no. She responded, "Oh. He's been in there like 3 or 4 days now. He's okay."

She went on to tell me that he had been feeling weak and went in to see what was going on. His blood count was low or something, so they gave him some blood and he was feeling better. She then said that they had found some "masses" in his stomach and were waiting on more tests to see what they were.

A few weeks later she called me to say that it was cancer and that they were waiting to figure out what the next step was. Throughout all of this she was maintaining a fairly optimistic attitude. And then, the optimism seemed to fade. She told me about the surgery to remove his stomach and strongly implied that I should start visiting him more often.

His surgery was last Friday, Dec. 9. I came in earlier that week and saw him for a couple days. I guess it hadn't really sank in yet. They had moved a bed downstairs for my grandpa because he was too weak to climb stairs now.

When somebody has the flu or something and is incapacitated for a few days, that's what it seemed like. He laid in bed and slept pretty much the whole time I was there. He could barely eat anything and he was looking pretty rough. I guess it didn't fully sink in because I only saw him like that for a few days. But, the reality is he had been like that for a few weeks now and will likely be like that for the rest of his life.

They had the surgery to remove his stomach on Friday. I went back to Princeton on Saturday. My mom called me and gave me the bad news once I got home that the cancer wasn't just contained to his stomach and that they were giving him roughly 6 months to live.

So, that's where we're at with that right now. I saw him once after the operation in the hospital. I didn't care much for seeing him like that, which seems to be a bone of contention between myself and my mom. She wants me to be making multiple visits to the hospital and I'm not really in the mood to be doing that.

I don't know how long he's going to be in the hospital, but I assume he's not leaving anytime soon.

So, I guess I'm dealing with the impending death of my grandpa. Maybe at a later time I'll get into one of those sappy "I didn't have a father in my life and my grandpa was there for me" posts.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Mountain Slate

In a blog I posted a week or so ago I announced that I was Editor-in-Chief of Mountain Slate magazine, a publication aimed at informing and serving a young adult Southern West Virginia audience. Now seems like a good time to tell you a little bit more about this.

I can't tell you exactly what inspired this, but it was around the fall of 2009 that I first had the idea to create my own magazine. I was staying over at with Kelly at her place and, like usual, couldn't sleep. She would fall asleep and then I would usually go into another room and stay up with my thoughts.

I started thinking about the state of journalism in this area and I realized the newspapers around here failed to get a key demographic - the teen/young adult audience. Why? Things that they wanted covered weren't getting coverage and things that they needed to know weren't being presented in an entertaining format.

That led me to come up with an idea for a news magazine that would focus on the Princeton, WV, area. It would cover hard news as well as be full of entertaining features. I was so excited when I came up with the name. I remember when I told Kelly about it the next day -

Me: "I'm going to call it 'Prince' magazine."

Her: "We'll work on that."

That was around the end of 2009. Life and other stuff took priority and nothing of real note happened with Prince magazine for almost a year. I met Candace in the summer of 2010. With both of us having a shared interest in journalism, I felt like bringing up my magazine idea with her. She thought it was a good idea and encouraged me to pursue it.

So now we're at the end of 2010. Nothing new has really happened with this magazine idea. It's buried away under stacks and stacks of other papers. It's something I think about a lot, but I don't really do anything about it. I would joke about it a lot in the first half of 2011, saying things to the effect of, "I've been tired lately; running my own magazine is exhausting" and other lame jokes of that nature.

Things really didn't kick into high gear until the fall of 2011; a full two years after the idea first hatched in my head. By this point, the idea to broaden the magazine's horizons had already been decided. I realized that Princeton was really too small to dedicate a magazine to. A lot of Princeton problems are shared by the surrounding cities/counties, so the decision to focus on Southern West Virginia as a whole came about.

Being the journalism nerd I am, I have always kept a running list of story ideas in the memo pad of my BlackBerry. Any time I had an idea, I would type it in there. In addition to a yellow notepad of story ideas and other stuff I had jotted down, I actually had some interesting stuff that I just needed to sort out.

Prince wasn't going to work as a name anymore, so a bunch of different ideas were bounced around between Candace and I. She came up with Mountain Slate and neither one of us hated it, so that is the new name. So, there's her place in Mountain Slate magazine trivia history.

For roughly two years, all that existed for this magazine was a few pages of drawings in a manilla folder. I still use that manilla folder, but it is now bursting through with roughly 100 pages of documents and other papers. We're getting ready to transition to a new filing system.

There is a twitter account - @mountainslate and an email address - mountainslate[at], which is something I'm happy about. As things progress more, we'll work on a Facebook and Google+ page.

I have assembled a staff of roughly 5 people so far. We're not really at the point now where the staff needs to do anything, so nothing is really too binding at the moment. If anybody is interested in working in any capacity for Mountain Slate, get in touch with me.

I have set up a loose timeline and we are still on track for an April print date for issue 1. That is really all contingent on selling enough ads and raising money. When I told my mom about what I was doing, she said to me, "Are you going to be able to fill all those pages?" And I told her that writing the stories and designing the pages will be the easy and fun part. Raising the money will be a little difficult.

We're in the process of finalizing ad rates. Those should be ready in the next week or so.

That's where we're at for now. I'll be back next time with an interesting story about trying to find out information about ad rates. It was the first major road block that Mountain Slate faced. It kind of made me mad. I'll save that one for next time.

Any questions or concerns, feel free to leave them here in the comments section or shoot me a message.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Life update, sort of

I haven't blogged in a while. I know, shocking. I haven't really been too busy this month. I don't know. I've been pretty tired lately. I guess that explains it.

Even this isn't too much of an update. These next few months are sort of transitional for me. I've got some stuff I need to figure out in terms of a job and some other pursuits. I'll fill you in on all of those soon.

Until then, watch this William Regal vs Daniel Bryan match from earlier this month. It was taped in England, the hometown of Regal. The first minute is pretty funny, as WWE plays a joke on Regal as he's walking to the ring, stopping his current music and playing an old, hokey theme he had during a short late-90s WWE stint. He and Daniel Bryan both break character and start laughing.

Also, check out - it's a news magazine aimed at a teen/young adult audience in Southern West Virginia. So far, there's just a twitter account for it. There's a tweet saying that the first issue is tentatively scheduled for April 2012.

Who's the Editor-in-Chief? Me. I'll give you more details on that soon.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Under the Ring

One of my favorite wrestling blogs is Phil Strum's "Under the Ring." Strum, a reporter for the Poughkeepsie Journal, has written the "Under the Ring" blog since 2007. I discovered it in 2009 and have kept up with it ever since.

Over the last month, I noticed that he hadn't been keeping up with his blogging as much as usual. He would usually write some thoughts on each weekly wrestling show, as well as some random pieces, and occasionally he would interview a wrestler appearing in the area.

A couple weeks ago, he posted that he didn't have as time to blog as in the past and asked for some volunteers to help him out. So, I emailed him and set up myself as a contributor.

My first piece was posted last week -

I looked at Monday Night Raw and gave some thoughts. I guess that's going to be my weekly "beat" for now. I also have a bunch of fun ideas in my head for stuff to write. If you read my blog here regularly, you know the kind of stuff I write about. It's just that a lot of the people who read about my blog don't really care about wrestling. So, I'll focus more of the wrestling stuff at Under the Ring. And, I'll do more of whatever else I do here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The "James Storm Era" begins in TNA

"Cowboy" James Storm is one of a handful of wrestlers to have debuted on the very first TNA event in 2002 and still remain in 2011. His hard work, sacrifice, and dedication to the TNA brand was rewarded with his first world heavyweight championship victory last week.

This is the first singles championship of any kind for Storm, who has been seen throughout his career as a tag team specialist. In an era in wrestling where tag teams have faded from prominence, Storm has been an intregal part of two of the best teams of the last decade.

He initially made his name in TNA with "Wildcat" Chris Harris in the tag team America's Most Wanted. They were two young, popular guys, who helped redefine tag team wrestling in the early days of TNA. The duo eventually turned heel and added an additional layer to their presentation. This is around the time Storm developed the beer-drinking aspect to his character. He would come to the ring with a beer bottle and usually wound up smashing it into somebody's head before stealing a victory.

America's Most Wanted broke up and Harris and Storm began feuding. Just about everybody saw big things out of Chris Harris and saw James Storm as just being there. After dominating the feud, Harris bolted for WWE. After a forgettable run there, Harris is nowhere to be found. His former partner is now the top wrestler in the number 2 promotion in the world.

In 2007, James Storm and Robert Roode were floundering. Storm was on the verge of becoming a midcard comedy heel, coming off his feud with Eric Young over a self-created "Beer Drinking Championship." Roode had recently turned heel and didn't really have anybody to feud with. He was in danger of just becoming another person there.

The two formed a team that combined their two characters - Beer Money. The beer-drinking country roots of Storm and the Wall-Street focused aspect of Roode's character. They were instantly hated and became multiple-time tag champs.

A funny thing happens in wrestling with the best heels. They always become faces. It's not on their own terms - the fans appreciate how good they are at their job and begin to respect them. That's what happened with the team of Beer Money.

As the summer turned to fall and the build to TNA's biggest event of the year - Bound For Glory - began in earnest, the big story was the sudden rise of Bobby Roode. He had emerged as the frontrunner in a points-style tournament system of matches held over the previous months, with the winner receiving a shot for the championship at BFG.

Roode won the tournament and received his match against Kurt Angle. After being heavily hyped for several weeks, Roode came up short in the match. In a bit of controversy, Roode's arm was under the ropes and Angle held onto the ropes for leverage while pinning Roode. Both of those facts should call for the referee to break the count.

Through some sort of legal loophole in the contract, Roode did not receive another shot at Angle. Storm challenged Angle instead. The match was made for the first episode of Impact Wrestling after BFG. The video above is from that match.

Storm's ascension to the top of TNA is very interesting and leaves the door open for a multitude of possibilities. Bobby Roode is happy for his friend shortly after winning, but will he want a shot against him? What about the rest of his Fortune stablemates, AJ Styles (himself a multiple-time TNA Champion) and Frankie Kazarian? Will Kurt Angle get his rematch? What about Bully Ray? Ken Anderson? Jeff Hardy? The list goes on and on and on and on...

Tune in every Thursday at 9 p.m. on SpikeTV to see what happens next.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Aftermath of 10-10-10; Looking at Impact Wrestling's last year (Part 2)

Total Nonstop Action wrestling recently held its biggest pay per view of the year, Bound For Glory 2011. Their version of WrestleMania, all of their top storylines are either settled or started each year. Last year's BFG, held on the ominous-sounding TEN-TEN-TEN (aka October 10, 2010), saw the formation of the Immortal faction. Click here to read part 1 of this blog, looking at the formation of this super-group, which merged with Ric Flair's Fortune faction and also took power of TNA away from Dixie Carter.

I'm going to first look at some gaps in logic with this storyline initially, then give a brief synopsis of 2011 in TNA and the Immortal faction. Finally, I'll look at some wrestlers that got a boost from being associated (either with or against) Immortal and who it hurt.

Immortal began when Abyss turned heel under the premise that "They" told him to and that "They" would reveal themselves on "Tennnnn Tennnnn Tennnn!" In order to turn heel, Abyss had to betray his new friend Hulk Hogan. He savagely bloodied Hogan in the ring, even attempting to seemingly choke him to death.

So, two months later, Hogan is the leader of Immortal, who was telling Abyss what to do. So, Abyss attacked and betrayed Hogan in order to join a group that is led by Hogan.

During Abyss' reign of terror, he assaulted TNA President Dixie Carter. Visibly shaken, she went to Bischoff for help. He brought forth some papers to sign so that they could prosecute Abyss to the fullest extent of the law. She signed them without reading them.

That was not a good idea. Turns out those papers gave Immortal control of TNA. I'm no law expert, but I really don’t think something like that would hold up in court. She signed those papers under false pretenses, and it was all captured on film and broadcast to millions of people on SpikeTV.

I could maybe overlook that aspect somewhat if lawyers weren't such a huge part of the angle in the beginning. As soon as Immortal took over, Dixie got her legal team assembled and went to work getting her company back. Nothing happened.

The first roadblock to the Immortal storyline was actually completely out of their control. A group of heels is only as strong as the faces they go against. Kurt Angle was being kept off television in anticipation of his feud with Jeff Jarrett. Rob Van Dam, the man who never actually lost the title being held by his former friend Jeff Hardy, was being used to help elevate the EV2.0 storyline, and Pope & Samoa Joe... Don't even get me started on that.

So, the first challenger to try and destroy Immortal was none other than Ken Anderson. Except for one little problem: Jeff Hardy hit him with a chair and gave him a concussion. The top face in the promotion is now out of commission and we have a pay per view coming up.

What does TNA do? Create dissension in their top heel group barely a month after the formation of it. Matt Morgan and Douglas Williams leave Immortal and become the top faces in the company. Morgan goes on to main event two pay per views against Hardy, while Williams feuds with the lower members of Immortal over the next few months.

A new character who had recently debuted in TNA after the formation of Immortal was Crimson. In January, he ominously tells Immortal that "They" are coming, in a similar manner in which Immortal was formed. Rumors start that this is the return of TNA's most famous stable the "Main Event Mafia." A 2009 heel group, the faction consisted of Sting, Kurt Angle, Booker T, Kevin Nash, and Scott Steiner.

The rumors seem to be true when Angle and Steiner return to the company. Angle had been on storyline sabbatical, while Steiner actually signed a new contract with the company. Sting's and Nash's contracts had expired, which is why they were written out of the storyline initially, but both were still on good terms with the company. Booker T had left the company over a year ago and his status was unknown.

The Main Event Mafia storyline never came to fruition, as Sting had not renegotiated a deal in time, and Booker T and Nash both signed deals with WWE. Scrambling to come up with a Plan B, TNA hastily turned the Fortune faction (AJ Styles, Robert Roode, James Storm, and Frankie Kazarian) face.

So, Immortal was formed and had a face-off with Fortune initially. The crowd responded to it in a big way, only for them to swerve everybody by joining the two groups together. Then, TNA began promoting a faction where most of the talent wasn't under contract yet. When that didn't work out, they broke up Fortune and Immortal after less than five months together.

TNA loves to do work-shoots, which means they like to create staged events based on real events. TNA airs on SpikeTV. The network has helped finance the company in certain aspects, like paying for production costs and certain wrestler contracts. As a result, they have some input into what goes on the show. As a result of this, "The Network" begins causing problems for Hogan and Bischoff. One of The Network's first big things they do is name Sting the number one contender for Jeff Hardy's heavyweight title.

The Network representative is scheduled to debut soon. It would make the most sense for the rep to be Dixie Carter. She lost her company, so she joined up with the Network to get her company back. No, turns out the representative is Mick Foley. He causes a couple headaches for Immortal before he gets tired of working for TNA and gets out of his contract. The network representative idea is then dropped.

Anderson, initially the top face in TNA to battle Immortal, joins the group in the summer of 2011. He is ousted from the group by the fall. Scott Steiner also joined Immortal after initially coming back to destroy the group. Kurt Angle also illogically joins Immortal. After a months-long feud with Jeff Jarrett, which involved Kurt's ex-wife Karen Jarrett (who, as we can tell, is now Jeff's wife), Angle uses Immortal to win the TNA title and joins the same group as the Jarretts.

Shortly before the 2011 Bound For Glory, Immortal is beating down Anderson. Who comes out to save him? Abyss. Yeah, the guy who turned heel to initially set up Immortal is now fighting against the group.

Sting has spent the last year fighting to help Dixie Carter regain control of TNA. A match is set up for Bound For Glory against Hogan, with control of the company at stake. Sting wins. Dixie Carter owns TNA again. Immortal comes down to attack Sting, only to be fended off by Hogan! He's a face again.

Abyss and Hogan, the two most shocking heel turns to begin Immortal, are now back to being good guys. Dixie Carter is in control of TNA. Jeff Hardy is a face again. It's almost like the last year never happened.

So, there's how the last year played out, roughly. Now, let's look at who was helped and hurt by Immortal.


Jeff Jarrett. This was the only heel turn that made sense. He explained it with conviction and got people to really hate him. In real life, Jarrett founded TNA. It recently became part of the storyline a few years ago. In real life, Dixie Carter took control of the company. Jarrett joined together with Immortal because Dixie Carter took his company from him. I honestly feel like Jarrett was such a strong heel that they turned him into more of a comedy character so that he wouldn't upstage Hogan, Bischoff, and Hardy. His heat got so intense, that it made no sense to have him do his silly mixed-martial arts skits to prove he was a better fighter than Angle.

Matt Morgan. He was a middle-of-the-card heel who was positioned as the 7-foot "muscle" of Immortal. He then broke off into one of the top good guys in the company, a position he stayed in for a better part of the year. He's still there, but not as hot as he was. He's in a much better spot than he was last year.

Crimson. He was nobody last year. He came into TNA as a new wrestler and was initially aligned with what was supposed to be the Main Event Mafia. He then went on a Goldberg-like winning streak, that he is still on. He is positioned to be one of the top stars of the future.

Gunner. When Jarrett started doing his MMA-themed gimmick, he came out with an entourage of people around him, just like MMA fighters. Two of them were independent wresters Gunner and Murphy. After that ended, Gunner and Murphy became a tag team. Murphy has faded from the scene, but Gunner has turned into one of the top young guys in the company. I wouldn't be surprised if he is a top contender for the TNA championship by the time we get to the 2012 Bound For Glory. And it's all due to his association with Immortal.

Bully Ray. The former Brother Ray turned heel and broke up his successful tag team with Devon. The two had a very intense feud for a few months, until Jeff Hardy was sent home by management (click here to find out why). After that, Ray was brought into Immortal to essentially replace Hardy. He has gone on to have one of the best runs of his career, and definitely has earned a championship run. His work lately has been nothing short of amazing. One of the MVPs of TNA in 2011.

Who it hurt:

"The Pope" D’Angelo Dinero. He was one of the breakout stars of 2010. After a forgetful run in WWE, he popped into TNA and became an instant hit with the audience. He joined up with Sting and Kevin Nash, seemingly as heels. The storyline twist here was that Nash and Sting were actually the good guys, which would then mean that the Pope was a good guy as well. Not exactly, as he stayed heel after the Immortal storyline began. He has literally done nothing of importance this last year. If TNA released him from his contract, I wouldn't lose any sleep. They have literally destroyed any momentum he had and turned him into just another guy there.

Samoa Joe. See what I just wrote for The Pope. When writing the book titled "Biggest Mistakes in the History of TNA" the handling of Samoa Joe will be the biggest chapter. Not just the last year, but the six years he has been a part of TNA has seemingly been an experiment to see if they can destroy one of the best wrestlers they could possibly have. They have pretty much succeeded.

Rob Van Dam. At this point, it's hard to bury RVD. He has a built-in audience from his years in ECW and WWE. But, when you look at his 2010 and his 2011, he is definitely not where he once was. He held the TNA championship for most of 2010. He lost the title without ever being defeated. He had a ready-made feud with his former best friend and current TNA title holder Jeff Hardy. They kept holding off on that match and waited too long. Secondary, lame, storylines had taken the luster off of RVD. Their long-awaited showdown was a forgettable matchup shown on Impact Wrestling for free.

* * *

That, in a nutshell, has been the last year for TNA. Did it all make sense? No, not really. Was it entertaining? Most of it was, I think. I'm not really a fan of "Ownership of the company" angles, which is one of my biggest complaints against WWE right now, with their Triple H/John Lauranitas deal going on. I feel like the main attraction should be the wrestlers and their pursuit of the World Heavyweight Championship.

Hopefully now that the company is back in the hands of Dixie Carter, she and all the other authority figures will fade to the background and let the wrestlers take the focus. You can have an on-air authority figure, but that person doesn't need to become a weekly character.

We already have some interesting developments to start the next year for TNA and Impact Wrestling. Tune in every Thursday at 9 p.m. on SpikeTV to see the start of the build to next year's BFG.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Little Acorns

This song has a nice message. Take all your problems and rip them apart.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Album Review: Red Hot Chili Peppers, "I'm With You"

I wrote a review of the Red Hot Chili Peppers latest album and submitted it to Concord University's student newspaper, The Concordian. I had planned on writing about the album more in-depth here in my blog, but decided to send it in instead. Never pass up an opportunity to get your name out there in print, if you can.

As you can see from my byline, the album received a rating of 8 out of 10. I don't know where that came from, as I didn't send in a numerical rating. I guess they thought that from the tone of my words that I thought the album was 80 percent good. I'll go with it.

"Guest Writer" is the eighth title I have had beside my name in The Concordian newspaper over the years. I started as a Staff Writer and eventually became Editor-in-Chief, holding just about every other title in between.

If anybody else wants to submit an article or letter to the editor, email it to concordian[at] for consideration. The paper is printed every Wednesday, but for deadline purposes try to have it sent in by the weekend before the print deadline.

* * *

The Red Hot Chili Peppers are back with their first album in six years. Released August 26, and debuting at number two on the Billboard Charts, I'm With You can best be described as the Chili Peppers you remember, but just a little different.

The familiar sound is there, but the difference comes from new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, who joined lead singer Anthony Kiedis, bassist Flea, and drummer Chad Smith after long-time guitarist John Frusciante left in 2009.

Klinghoffer is not as experimental as Frusciante, and thus his guitar blends in more as opposed to taking over, as was the case with RHCP’s last album Stadium Arcadium.

Buzz for the 14-track album has come from their interestingly-titled lead single "The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie." What's the song about? With lyrics like "I want to rock you like the 80s," "Who said three is a crowd?" and, if you listen to the edited radio version, "[long pause] blocking isn't allowed," you can kind of get the idea.

The aforementioned blocking is the only direct reference to genitalia on the album. Indirect references abound, though. A RHCP song is usually about either sex or drugs, or sometimes sex and drugs. That theme continues on I'm With You, although with a slightly more mature outlook. Gone are the days of releasing a song called "Party on Your Pussy," which they did in 1987. Now they keep it a little more discreet, with lyrics like "I can't resist the smell of your seduction" on "Did I Let You Know."

On a serious note, the theme of maturity is there on other songs. With two band members in their late 40's and one in his early 50's, after a lifestyle of hard living, the themes of death and redemption are evident on songs like "Monarchy of Roses," "Brendan's Death Song," and "Meet Me At the Corner."

"Brendan's Death Song," in particular, is one of the strongest songs on the album. It's stripped down, musically and vocally, and shows the rawness of Kiedis' voice.

The piano has never been an instrument of choice for RHCP, but that changes on this album. "Happiness Loves Company," the best track on I'm With You, features an upbeat, fast piano track.

In his autobiography, Kiedis writes that he initially started rapping because he couldn’t sing well. Over the years, he learned how to sing better and his trademark rap skills took a backseat. He goes back to what brought him to the game on the track "Even You Brutus?" as he raps about a girl who breaks his heart. The lyrics are pretty sophomoric ("She was the cutest thing that I ever did see/Drink in her hand and I don't mean tea"), but if you like old-school RHCP, this song is for you.

I'm With You is a solid album, one you could almost consider to be a debut album for the "New" Red Hot Chili Peppers. They are a little older, a little more mature, but the sound is unmistakably Chili Pepper-esque, but with a new twist.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Aftermath of 10-10-10; Looking at Impact Wrestling's last year

The Total Nonstop Action wrestling company changed in a huge way in 2010. Two big names joined the TNA company in Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff. Wrestling fan or not, you know who Hogan is. Most know Bischoff. He is a former President of World Championship Wrestling, the chief competition to World Wrestling Entertainment. After WCW folded 10 years ago, Bischoff briefly appeared for WWE. 

[Click here to see a small blog I posted in 2009 after their signing was announced]

We are currently headed toward TNA's biggest event of the year, Bound For Glory. It is their version of WrestleMania. All of the big angles and stories build for a year and culminate at BFG. This year's event features Kurt Angle defending his World Heavyweight Championship against Bobby Roode and - in a rematch from one of WCW's biggest matches ever - Sting versus Hulk Hogan. If Hogan loses, his Immortal group will give ownership of TNA back to Dixie Carter.

If you don't keep up with TNA, you're probably saying to yourself, "What? His Immortal group will give ownership of TNA back to Dixie Carter? What is Immortal? Who is Dixie Carter? Is 57-year-old Hulk Hogan really wrestling 52-year-old Sting?"

Immortal is the group led by Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff. Immortal formed at last year's Bound For Glory event, held on October 10, 2010. Or, as the booming voiceover guy would exclaim - "Ten! Ten! Ten!"

It appears as though we're coming up to the culmination of the Immortal angle. I'm going to look at the last year of TNA programming and see how this Immortal storyline has progressed, if it's made any sense, and who it has helped or hurt. The first part will focus on the build and formation of Immortal. 

The Backstory 

Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff debuted in TNA in January of 2010. In an additional surprise, 16-time World Champion Ric Flair also debuted on the same day. Hogan and Bischoff initially debuted as "tweeners," meaning we weren't sure if they were good guys (faces) or bad guys (heels). They eventually settled into a face role. Flair came in as a heel and - in a pretty big surprise - turned TNA's biggest face AJ Styles heel with him.

The story told itself - Ric Flair hasn't liked Hulk Hogan for decades. He still doesn't like him. He assembled a collection of wrestlers to take Hogan out of TNA. This continued throughout 2010. The group came to be known as "Fortune," a play on Flair's previous group the Four Horsemen. The initial group consisted of AJ Styles, Bobby Roode, James Storm, Frankie Kazarian, Matt Morgan, and Doug Williams.

Hogan formed a bond with a wrestler named Abyss. He was originally a brooding, evil, amalgamation of Kane and Mankind. He eventually became more human-like and his partnership with Hogan made him one of the top faces in the company.

Other faces in TNA: "The Pope" D'Angelo Dinero, Samoa Joe, Jeff Jarrett, Kurt Angle, Jeff Hardy, Rob Van Dam

Other heels in TNA: Sting, Kevin Nash, Ken Anderson

Dixie Carter is the real-life owner of TNA. She is not a wrestling character and had no wrestling background. Until 2010 she was never mentioned as an on-screen character. People knew she existed; she just wasn't a part of the show. In an effort to "shoot," to appear more "real," she made a couple appearances and, as the build to the 10-10-10 Bound For Glory approaches, became a recurring character. 

The Build 

For most of the year, Rob Van Dam had been the World Heavyweight Champion. As summer turned to fall, we found RVD attacked backstage with some serious injuries. He had to be stripped of the title. A series of tournament matches would be held over the next couple months, with the finals culminating at Bound For Glory.

In a shocking twist, Abyss turned on Hulk Hogan and was revealed as the culprit behind the RVD attack. When asked why, he said that "They" told him to. Who are they? He won't say, but noted that They would reveal themselves on a certain date - "Tennnn! Tennnn! Tennnn!" That was the date of Bound For Glory, October 10, 2010.

Jeff Jarrett had formed a bond with Samoa Joe. They were involved in a months-long feud with Sting and Kevin Nash. In an interesting twist, Sting & Nash recruited D'Angelo Dinero to their side. They claimed to be fighting for the good of the company. Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff, they claimed, were a cancer to TNA. Joe & Jarrett didn't see that and had to be taken care of as well.

Hulk Hogan had been seen only sporadically on TNA programming the last few months. He had been having back problems and had several surgeries throughout the year. Sting, Nash, and Dinero challenged Joe, Jarrett, and Hogan to a match at Bound For Glory. A few weeks before the event, it came out that Hogan would not be able to compete and it was instead a 2-on-3 match.

Abyss had been wreaking havoc on TNA, even assaulting Dixie Carter. She asked Bischoff for help. He handed her some papers to sign so that they could file charges against Abyss. She signed them without looking at them. 


Tensions build throughout the night. In the first twist of the night, Jeff Jarrett walks out on Samoa Joe during his match with Sting, Nash, and Dinero.

The main event comes. It is a 3-way match between Jeff Hardy, Kurt Angle, and Ken Anderson. At this point, Anderson had become a face. So, there were 3 faces in this match for the vacant world championship.

Near the end of the match, Eric Bischoff comes out and looks like he's turning heel. Only one man can stop him - Hulk Hogan hobbles out on crutches and enters the ring. As the two face off, Ken Anderson and Kurt Angle are on the ground. Jeff Hardy stands up and looks at them. Hogan hands him a crutch. Hardy hits Anderson and pins him for the TNA Championship.

Abyss and Jeff Jarrett come out as well. They are "They." Hulk Hogan, Eric Bischoff, Jeff Hardy, Jeff Jarrett, and Abyss stand tall to end the biggest night of the year.

But wait... 

The group is dubbed "Immortal" at the next episode of TNA Impact. In addition to having the TNA Championship, Immortal also has control of TNA. Turns out those papers Dixie Carter signed without reading first gave them control of the company.

Their celebration is cut short, however, as Ric Flair and Fortune come to the ring. It looks like we have a new group to counteract Immortal. Not so fast, though. Flair extends his arms. Hogan embraces him. These enemies who have feuded for the last year are on the same page now. Immortal and Fortune have joined forces.

Dixie Carter is seen backstage trying to reason with Sting and Kevin Nash. They appear to be leaving the building. She apologizes for not believing them about Hogan and Bischoff. They tell her that it's too late for apologies and they are done.

Who can stop Immortal and help Dixie Carter regain her company? In the next entry, we'll take a look at Immortal's reign of terror.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Princeton; 10 years later (getting settled)

[Part 4 of a series of blog entries looking at the first year of my life spent in Princeton, West Virginia, in 2001. I'll look at my home life, school, pop culture, relationships, basically everything going on in my life one decade ago. Click here to read part 1. Click here to read part 2. Click here to read part 3.]

As we all know by now, my mom met a guy named Mark. He lived in Princeton. We wound up moving to Princeton to live with him. He was then sentenced to over a year in jail, shortly after we moved there. The two of us are now in Princeton by ourselves.

Mark lived in a trailer. More specifically, a trailer park. I had never lived in a trailer or trailer park before. I had some initial reservations about it at first, just due to the negative connotations involved. I will say this about it now, that trailer was bigger than the apartment I presently live in and it had two bathrooms.

Mark had lived there with a woman and her young daughter. I was getting the daughter's room. At this point, I still had not warmed up to the idea of living in Princeton. But, I had at least accepted that I had to. But, that didn't make me like it any more. I hated the idea of moving into that room. I didn't touch anything or move anything to "make it mine" for probably the first 8 or 9 months. That meant the giant poster of horses running through an open field stayed up. I wasn't ready to do anything to imply that I enjoyed living there.

As I mentioned in the previous post about music, I didn't do much at this point. I hadn't met any friends and would sit in the living room and watch television all day. Once or twice a week I would mow the lawn. Doing this led to my first-ever job.

I was mowing the lawn when these two women who lived 2 & 3 trailers down from me walked by. They waved and I waved back. I went back to work. I finished up and went to the back yard, where I saw my mom talking to the two women. One was named Jessica. I don't remember the others name. They wanted me to mow their lawns.

Jessica's husband was named Chris. He paid me $20 to mow his lawn. I remember when he handed me the money he said something about drugs, like jokingly telling me not to go buy any pot with it. We'll talk more about those two in a later entry.

Living in Princeton meant we needed to find out where everything was. We first moved down there and I needed a haircut. We had only been there a few days at that point (Mark hadn't gone to jail yet). Mark just had a buzz cut & kept the clippers at his dad's house. My mom said, "You want me to cut your hair?" This was back when I liked my hair pretty short and the length was bugging me. I said yes and she proceeded to cut my hair.

For the next haircut, we found a place off Stafford Drive (the main street in Princeton) called Tropical Sun. They did hair, tanning, and body piercings. I got my hair cut there for the next few years (and in 2002, got my lip pierced there). They eventually moved to a different location in Princeton. I recall getting my last haircut there in 2004. They eventually shut down.

One of the first things we found in Princeton was the library. We got signed up for library cards and checked out some books. My mom has always had this weird thing with the library - she loads up on books. Like she thinks she's not allowed to go back, or something. Like she thinks, "I have X amount of weeks, I can probably read X amount of books."

I don't think like that, so we have different library reading patterns. I picked out my two books and she loaded up on like 9 or something. Within a day and a half, I was done reading. She didn't want to go back to the library, since she wasn't done reading. So, I waited. And waited. And waited. Going to the library together turned out to not really be a hobby the two of us shared after that.

Speaking of reading, I recall reading the Bluefield Daily Telegraph a lot back then. One of the first "events" of the summer of 2001 was the execution of Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber. I read about it in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.

I finally started to accept that living in Princeton was going to happen for a while when it was time to get registered in Princeton's school system. The thing that I hated the most about this was that I was going to get a new lunch number. For those who don't know, you would say your lunch number, ex. 1234, and that number would get charged for lunch. You would then get your lunch bill at the end of the month.

In the third grade, I received a lunch number that I would keep until the fifth grade. For the fifth grade, I moved to a different school in the same county (Ravenswood to Ripley). They said I could just keep the same lunch number. I moved back to Ravenswood in the sixth grade. When they were putting me in the system, they told me I could just keep the same lunch number. The high school just took the middle school numbers. So, I had the same lunch number since the third grade.

It's something little, but at the time I was pretty upset about losing it.

The day we went to the school, I guess we had stopped at a Rite-Aid or something, because I had a new issue of Pro Wrestling Illustrated in my hands. We went to Wendy's to eat lunch. I don't remember what I had, but my mom ordered a chicken salad. To say she was disappointed by the salad would be an understatement. She ranted and raved the entire meal about how bad it was and then swore off Wendys. "I will never eat at Wendys again," she said. To this day, I don't believe she has been back. And, I doubt she remembers why. If you ask her if she likes Wendys, she'll probably say, "Nah, not a big fan." If you ask why, she'll probably say, "I'm not sure. I just don't like it." But, I know why. And now you all do.

When we got to the school, they looked up my records to switch over and found out that there was another Chris Slater in the Jackson County school system. He was in elementary school. There are a few Slaters in Jackson County. My mom married a guy with the last name Slater, so we were only related by marriage. Kids my age, I knew John and Andy Slater. I didn't like them, but I knew them.

We got everything switched over and I was officially a Princeton High School student. We got back in that shitty red truck I've written about before. I picked up my issue of Pro Wrestling Illustrated. I looked through it and learned that Eddie Guerrero had checked into rehab for alcoholism.

It's interesting the stuff you remember. Wrestling has always been a big part of my life, and it was in 2001. We'll go more into the state of wrestling in 2001 in a future entry.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Nevermind; 20 years later

The media loves a good trend. And the mass public loves to be fed the latest trend. Right now, the cool thing to do is celebrate the 20th anniversary of Nirvana's groundbreaking Nevermind album.

I noticed a couple weeks ago that there was a story about Nirvana. I read it and enjoyed it. Then I found another. I read it. Then another. Then another. Then another. Sensing a pattern?

The odd thing to me here is that I'm not rediscovering Nirvana in all of this twentieth-anniversary hoopla. Nevermind and Nirvana itself is a regular part of my music shuffle that I listen to. Last year I did a list of the Top 50 songs in my iTunes playlist. Of the thousands of songs on my computer, 5 of the Top 50 spots were occupied by Nirvana.

Wearing a Nirvana shirt, eating ice cream
I guess the problem I have with this nostalgia kick is the history re-creation that is going to accompany it. All these music journalists are going to pretend like Nirvana was the greatest band of all time, and all these tweens and posers are going to lap it up like they've always believed it as well.

I remember the Guns N' Roses revival from 2009 and all the swirl around that. I was in CVS and saw a Rolling Stone magazine with the headline "Appetite Turns 20!" referring to their debut album Appetite for Destruction. I went through a summer of listening to how they were one of the greatest bands of all time. Then that fad passed. Now nobody sings their praises and we've instead switched our focus to grunge.

Is Nirvana a great band? Yes. They were good at being loud and "grunge-y" and their later work showed that they were talented at being something other than that. And, of course, Dave Grohl has been one of the most consistently impressive artists of the last 20 years.

But a lot of their success had to do with them being in the right place at the right time. Nevermind wasn't even their first album. They had already released an album to minimal success. Had they released Nevermind at the height of hair metal in the mid-80s, I don't think we would be talking about how revolutionary Nirvana was. Hair metal was on the decline, both the music and the over-the-top image. We needed something more stripped down, both musically and image-wise. A guitar, a bass and drums. Loud. No makeup, no spandex. T-shirts and jeans. Occasional flannel shirt.

I've written before about how I didn't really like Nirvana that much until I was in high school. Nevermind came out when I was 5. The only thing I liked at that age was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. As I got older, I learned who they were and kind of liked them, but not too much.

I remember in the fourth grade seeing the cover of the Weird Al cassette that was a parody of the Nevermind cover. I had no idea what it was supposed to be spoofing and was confused by it. The first time I can recall hearing a Nirvana song was a year later in the fifth grade when my friend Joe called me to tell me he realized that the wrestler Diamond Dallas Page's theme song was an instrumental version of "Smells Like Teen Spirit." I later read in Chris Jericho's book that this was a theme of sorts in WCW, as he debuted with a Journey knockoff that he hated and later got a Pearl Jam ripoff that he enjoyed.

I don't care much for their most-famous song, "Smells Like Teen Spirit," but I liked some of their other hits like "Heart Shaped Box" and most of their Unplugged album. I started getting into Nirvana when their Greatest Hits album and previously-unreleased "You Know You're Right" were released. Sidenote: the first album review I ever wrote was about Nirvana's Greatest Hits album for my high school newspaper in the eleventh grade.

Hearing that album got me into some of their songs I hadn't heard. That led me to check out their albums and I've come to enjoy the body of Nirvana's work. There are some songs I really like, some I kind of like, and some I really don't care much for. But, by and large, I enjoy Nirvana.

I'm glad that this 20th anniversary celebration of sorts will possibly help people listen to Nirvana who otherwise wouldn't. But, I don't know if that is true. I figure it will be more like people writing that Nirvana was amazing and people reading it and agreeing with it, without really knowing or caring if that fact is true.

What is good is subjective. Decide for yourself if Nevermind was one of the greatest albums of all time and Nirvana was one of the greatest bands ever.

Youth Day at the Range; Princeton Times

I wrote a story that was printed in the Princeton Times a few weeks ago. I covered the "Youth Day at the Range" event, which taught gun-safety skills to children.

Here's the link to the story -

Here's the link to the pictures I took -

Oddly enough, the online and print editions have different first paragraphs, both of which are nothing like what I submitted. Of the three, I like mine the least. It was admittedly pretty weak. I think I like the print edition's first paragraph the best.

For those who know me, the idea of learning about guns and watching people shoot them is about as far from my idea of a good time as you can get. But, I didn't go there to have a good time. I went there to talk to some gun-loving kids and take some pictures. Mission accomplished.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A lot changes in 5 years

The only thing that stays the same is change. Or something, however the song goes. My cousin Jackie's birthday would have been this month. She would have been 20. She died in a car wreck in 2008 when she was 16.

I was thinking about her recently and a lot of memories came back to me. Shortly after her death, I wrote in my old blog about we weren't particularly close until a few years before her death.

That was mostly due to the five-year age difference. When I'm 12, I don't have a lot in common with a 7-year-old. But, when I'm 20, I have a little bit more in common with my 15-year-old cousin. And that was the case for a few years there.

She was one of those kids that grows up too quickly. I would come in to visit and she'd ask me to buy her beer and cigarettes. I never bought her beer. But, honestly, that's because I only saw her two or three times after I turned 21. I bought her cigarettes a lot.

She wasn't always like that, as a couple memories I have illustrate the theme that things change.

The first story is from 2002. It's around Father's Day, because I remember my uncle asking me if I was going to call my dad and his reaction when I calmly said, "No. Why?" We were all at somebody’s house, helping them move. I don't remember who or a lot of details. Myself and my mom were visiting from Princeton. My uncle was there. My aunt might have been. My other cousin Jessica wasn't there. Jackie was there. I was 15. She was 10.

We weren't really helping much with the moving. We walked down the street to a gas station. We needed candy and caffeine. We loaded up and headed to the register. There was a guy in front of us. He asked for a pack of rolling papers. She asked to see his ID. He didn't have it, so she wouldn't sell it to him.

I guess it depends on the day of the week, how much facial hair I have, and how disheveled I look, but people either think I look a lot older than I do or a lot younger. At this point in my life, I probably have long, super-thick sideburns and likely hadn't shaved for a week. He asks me if I have my ID and is surprised to find out I'm only 15. So, no rolling papers for that guy.

As Jackie and I are leaving the gas station, she looks up at me and innocently asks: "Why would you need your ID to buy paper?" I think for a second about the best way to answer that. "I don’t know," is all I offer.

Fast-forward five years. It is sometime late in 2007. I am 21 and she is 16. My mom and I are visiting my grandpa. A few people are at his house, including Jackie. We're hanging out, bored. There's not much going on. She looks over at me.

Jackie: "Wanna smoke some pot?"

Me: "What?! Okay."

We go outside to a little shed my grandpa has. We go inside. She pulls out a bag of pot. She tells me to hurry up and finish the can of Pepsi I have. Confused, I gulp it down and hand it to her. She crushes it in the middle. I watch in amazement as she grabs a screwdriver and puts a hole in the middle and another near the bottom. "Have you ever seen anybody make a bowl out of a Pepsi can before?" she asks. I hadn't. She hands it to me and asks, "Do you know how to use one of these?"

It's interesting how much things can change in only five years. After she died, I got a tattoo on my chest in memory of her. The tattoo is of the phrase "Keep it on the Up High." Why we said that to each other is kind of a funny story. I told the story in my old blog & I'll get around to telling it again here.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Jeff Hardy returns to TNA Impact Wrestling

Controversial wrestling superstar Jeff Hardy recently made his first appearance on TNA's "Impact Wrestling" program for the first time since being sent home by management in March. Not a lot of details are known, but the story is essentially that Jeff Hardy appeared live on pay-per-view for his match against Sting in an altered state of mind. The match was quickly changed and Sting shockingly pinned Hardy after only 90 seconds.

I wrote about this shortly after it happened in a post titled "Jeff Hardy High on pay per view?" A video of the match is also embedded. In that post, I also give a history of Jeff's issues with drugs and how that has affected his wrestling career.

In the video, Jeff states that he doesn't deserve it, but asks for one more chance from the fans and TNA management. Since he's back in the ring, he has already received another chance from management. The question now is whether the fans will accept Jeff Hardy again? And, of course, the answer is yes. Every time he screws up his career with drug use, the fans openly take him back.

I've often wondered why that is. I've never been a huge fan of Jeff Hardy. I was always more into his brother, Matt Hardy (who is seemingly having his own breakdown of sorts lately, with 2 DUI arrests barely a month apart). One of Jeff Hardy's nicknames in WWE was the Charismatic Enigma, and that vague description really explains a lot. It is hard to describe why exactly people love Jeff Hardy, but they do.

Hardy was arrested on Sept. 11, 2009, for a slew of drug-related charges. A couple weeks ago, he was finally sentenced for the charges. He was placed on over 2 years probation, sentenced to 10 days in prison, and had to enter into a drug-treament program.

Are Hardy's problems over? One would certainly hope so. From both a legal and professional standpoint, this definitely has to be his last chance. If he gets into any more legal trouble, he would likely be sentenced to much more than 10 days in jail. Ruining a main-event match that fans paid nearly $30 to see is one of the worst things that a wrestler can do. By bringing him back, TNA is obvisously going to put him in another high-profile position. Can they trust him? He screwed TNA over once, I hope they won't let him do it again.

TNA has the potential to craft a really good story here. Approaching his mid-30s, Jeff Hardy is on the last stretch of his active career. TNA can present a story of redemption; a man who has spent the last decade being his own worst enemy climbs back from rock-bottom and ends his career in a classy and respectable way.

The wrestling company can only do so much, though. They can craft the best storyline in the world; the responsibility here will be on Jeff Hardy to stay clean and make the most of this chance.

Does Jeff Hardy deserve another chance? No, he doesn't. There are so many young, hungry, drug-free wrestlers out there who want and deserve the spot that both WWE and TNA have continually given Jeff Hardy. But, nobody is perfect and Jeff Hardy is a perfect example of that. Wrestling is all about making money. Jeff Hardy makes a lot of money for wrestling companies. As long as the fans want him back, he'll be back. I do think, though, this will be the last chance that the fans will give Jeff Hardy.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie

The newest single by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, "The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie," is kind of quirky and weird, but I like it. If you like RHCP, and they're one of my favorite bands, then you should like this song.

Princeton; 10 years later (Sept. 11, 2001)

[Part 3 of a series of blog entries looking at the first year of my life spent in Princeton, West Virginia, in 2001. I'll look at my home life, school, pop culture, relationships, basically everything going on in my life one decade ago. Click here to read part 1. Click here to read part 2.]

I moved to Princeton in 2001. A lot of important things happened that year for me, which is one reason why we've been reflecting on the tenth anniversary of it. I moved to a new area, had a lot of changes in my life, and it sticks out in my head when thinking back on my life. One reason that the year 2001 sticks out for a lot of people, myself included, is because it was the year of the terrorist attacks of September 11.

The question everybody asks - where were you September 11, 2001? Well, the latest installment of "Princeton; 10 years later" will look at where I was that fateful day. We'll go a lot more in-depth with being in the tenth grade and things of that nature later. Some of the names that will be briefly mentioned here will get more attention in future posts.

One of the biggest problems that plagued me throughout high school was starting high school in Ravenswood, which used the "period" system and then going to Princeton, which used the "block" scheduling system.

In the ninth grade, I had eight classes that lasted an hour. They were for half a credit. You would have certain core classes - math, English, science - all year. Two semesters at half a credit would equal one credit. Some minor classes - health and gym, specifically - you would take one semester in the ninth grade and another semester in the tenth grade. Half a credit your ninth grade year and half a credit your tenth grade year added up to your required one credit of gym to graduate.

In Princeton, the tenth grade was under the block scheduling, which was four classes a day that lasted something like an hour and 30 minutes. Your gym class would only be one semester in the tenth grade and would count for one full credit.

The problem then, was that I took health and gym in the ninth grade and only had half a credit. So, I had to take them both when I got to Princeton for one full credit. As a result, I was the only tenth grade student in health class at Princeton that year.

One of the things you had to do in health class was "job shadowing," where you went someplace and watched the people work. It was supposed to have something to do with your career. Before we could do that, though, we had to do some sort of stupid full day of workshops in various classrooms. This was scheduled for Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

We were supposed to report to our first block class and then an announcement for all ninth graders (and me) to leave would come over the intercom. First block was the newspaper class. That day we were heading over to the computer lab to learn something about advertisements. Ironic, of course, that the guy in charge of advertisements on the newspaper staff, me, would not be there.

Everybody in the class had these folders that we kept in the classroom. We'd put our stories and whatever other shit we accumulated and that somehow turned into our grade. For this assignment, we were to bring our folders with us. Since I was leaving, I didn't bring mine. Mrs. Slavey, the newspaper advisor, was unusually on edge that day. I saw her snap at a student for something I thought was minor. When we got to the lab, she saw that I had brought nothing with me. It was the first - and only - time she ever had any sort of unpleasant tone with me: "Where’s your folder?" she angrily asked. "I'm leaving in a few minutes, so I, uh, didn't, uh, think, I, uh..." She remembered the workshop thing I had to do and apologized.

Off I went to the workshops. I honestly couldn't tell you what they were about. All I remember was that they were stupid and I didn't like them. We were broken up into groups of 15-20 or so and I knew a girl I rode the bus with, Tonya, so I sat next to her at each workshop.

Before one of them, a girl walks in and casually announces, "A plane just hit the World Trade Center." I processed that in my head. I knew the name "World Trade Center." I knew it was located in New York. Other than that, I couldn't have told you what it looked like. So, I had no visual for what was happening. It's ironic, then, for me, since that has turned into one of the most iconic images of all time.

In addition to the workshops, that is also the day that the ninth graders (and me) got their identification card pictures taken. I don't really know why we needed them. They were supposed to be scanned for getting lunch and maybe other stuff, I don't know. I never used mine. I was wearing a dark green shirt on September 11, 2001. And one of those necklaces that's a bunch of metal balls. Do those necklaces have a specific name?

The workshops took up the first half of the day. Lunch and third block (geography) were uneventful. Fourth block was Science with Mr. Ball. During class, a voice came over the intercom saying that if we wanted to listen to radio coverage of the plane crash we could keep the intercom on. Either Mr. Ball hadn’t been keeping up with the news or he just didn't want to listen to it, he got really perturbed and said, "Why would we listen to that?" and then went back to the lesson.

I got home and that's when the magnitude of what had happened hit me. I walked into the living room to see my mom watching the news. That's when I first saw the images of the towers falling down, of people running down the streets, of smoke and dust filling the air. I don't remember how long we sat there and watched, but after a while she got up and I was by myself. I watched for a while before I started changing the channel. A lot of the networks had a blank screen with some message about how they had suspended their programming for the time being. Like the Food Network and TV Land, non-essential networks at that time, weren't airing any programming. MTV was showing footage from CBS News, as both were owned by the same parent company.

The next day at school we had an assembly. I don't remember much about it, other than we all did the Pledge of Allegiance together. It was a crazy couple days after that. Like the hard-hitting journalists we were, the newspaper staff quickly switched gears and focused our first issue on 9/11.

In a move that will always perplex me, I was given the assignment to write the staff editorial. For those unfamiliar, that is the piece on the opinion section that is anonymous and serves as the official opinion of the newspaper. I guess because I was in charge of organizing the advertisements and whatnot and everybody else was writing more than me, I was selected to do it. I don't really know.

I initially felt overwhelmed by it. This was a really important piece for the paper and I was - at least in my eyes - the least-experienced person on the staff. I was the only tenth grader; everybody else was in eleventh or twelfth grade. I had just moved; I didn't know anybody or anything about the area. And I was writing the consensus of the staff for this horrible tragedy.

The paper was coming out in late September. It had to be completed a day or two before that. For a couple weeks there, I just stared at an empty Microsoft Word screen trying to figure out what to do. I wrote a couple paragraphs at one point that I didn't like. I deleted those and was back to the drawing board.

Then, something happened for the first time in my life. An idea hit me, my fingers started typing, words started appearing on the computer screen. After a while I was finished and felt this odd sense of satisfaction that I've grown to become accustomed to over the years. It was the first time I ever wrote something and felt like it was amazing. I printed it out and showed it to Mrs. Slavey. She loved it. I was so proud of myself. It went into the paper and I got a lot of praise for it from people who knew that I wrote it.

After September 11, a sense of patriotism swept over America. Right after the attacks, it was real patriotism, not the fake kind that we have today when we reflect on 9/11. To raise funds for the newspaper, we had some shirts printed at a discount and sold them for something ridiculous, like $15 or something. Since we were the Princeton Tigers, the front featured a muscular-looking Tiger waving an American flag. The back read "Proud to be an American with Tiger Pride." It's just as cheesy as it sounds, but at the time that's how we felt.

I don't remember how many of those I sold, but was close to a shitload. The key to sales is to be energetic and charismatic. I used to be both of those when I was younger and was very good at unloading those shirts. The Principal, Mr. White, saw me in action and told Mrs. Slavey that he liked my enthusiasm.

A somewhat light-hearted moment came about due to the terrorist attacks. I was in charge of advertisements for the newspaper and I had to call a company about their ad. It was pretty plain and I needed to see if they had a logo or picture or anything. I was still a novice when it came to dealing with companies in matters like this, and I remember the conversation going something like this: "Hi. My name's Chris Slater. I'm with the Tiger Tribune, Princeton Senior High School's newspaper. I'm designing your ad that you bought. I was wondering if you had a logo or anything for your ad? ... No? Okay. Do you care if I put an American flag in your ad? Okay. Thank you." And so I put a flag in their ad. It looked pretty good. And by "pretty good," I mean it looked like a 15-year-old with limited Photoshop experience put it together.

That's the brunt of my memories from September 11, 2001, and the days following. Might check back in with more at some point.