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Hail, travelers, I bring good tidings. PSN has been resurrected with rewards aplenty for its jilted customers. Again I refer you folks to this timeline for the full scoop on the PSN Armageddon. A brief commentary on the offered games.

Here’s the list from the horse’s mouth.

PS3 users can select TWO of the following games:

Dead Nation
inFAMOUS
LittleBigPlanet
Super Stardust HD
Wipeout HD + Fury

PSP users can also select TWO from the following list:

LittleBigPlanet
ModNation Racers
Pursuit Force
Killzone Liberation

Here’s my problem with it. I own Dead Nation, inFAMOUS and LittleBigPlanet. I do not care about Super Stardust HD or Wipeout HD. But if you own the games? Tough luck. During the Xbox Live service outages, Microsoft offered its customers the downloadable game Undertow, but if the customers owned the game already, they received its value in Microsoft Points. Sony is not doing the same, in what I feel is a pretty idiotic move. Sony’s response? “Sorry.”

So there’s the PSN thing. Seems like it is wrapped up for the most part. I will keep you folks in the loop.

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For many of us, it’s fun to read books. The contents within the pages are entertainment, they allow us to escape, or even provoke new ideas. Some of us are challenged by good writing. And I, for one, always wonder what the author of each good story is like. I grew up reading some science fiction and fantasy by Orson Scott Card, and then I found out he was a Mormon. Although I’m leery of the religion, I met Card at a nice, independent bookstore in San Diego. He was engaging, thoughtful, and endearing—everything that I had thought he would be.

I’ve mentioned before in my blogging that I’m not a celebrity hound. I don’t usually care much for the famous—the exciting no-names are more intriguing. But when I added a face and personality to the books that I had read, I felt some sort of tangible connection to the literature. Somehow they seemed more grounded. I’ve met many authors, before and after that encounter with Card, but he will always stand out to me. Now only if I could have lunch with Bill Bryson…

What if I told you that all of you that access to published writers (award-winning and good writers at that!) is usually nothing more than looking in your neighborhood. Here in Morgantown, we’re practically swimming in authors and scholars. After all, most good professors have been published extensively in journals, texts, and even trade books. Some write amazing stories. When I lived in Illinois, I worked at a bookstore while going through undergrad at the University. I commonly sold books from my professors, such as Leaving Atlanta, by Tayari JonesLedbelly, by Tyehimba Jess; and The Echo Maker (winner of the 2006 National Book Award), by Richard Powers. Getting to know the author can be a wonderful way to learn more about the material, and, if you’re an aspiring writer, find out all the secrets to the trade.

Here’s a list of some of Morgantown’s published and award-winning authors, which is by no means comprehensive. I work with the College of Physical Education and Sport Sciences (CPASS), and I study through the Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism and the English department, so this list is heavy on the folks I work with, for, and around on a daily basis.

 

Ethel Morgan Smith

Smith is an associate professor at the English department. She is the author of From Whence Cometh My Help. An excerpt:

Determined to give voice to the African American community that served as the silent workforce for Hollins College, Ethel Morgan Smith succeeded in finding individuals to step forward and tell their stories. From Whence Cometh My Helpexamines the dynamics of an institution built on the foundations of slavery and so steeped in tradition that it managed to perpetuate servitude for generations. Interviewing senior community members, Smith gives recognition to the invisible population that provided and continues to provide the labor support for Hollins College for more than 150 years.

Smith specializes in creative nonfiction and African-American literature. She is working on an upcoming project to be detailed within the website but.if.and.that in April, 2011.

Ethel Morgan Smith, author and professor at WVU / Photo courtesy of Ethel Morgan Smith

 

James Harms

Harms is a professor of English at WVU, and is an amazing poet. He has won three Pushcart prizes, he has published several collections of poems, and has appeared in countless publications and magazines. One of my favorite mags, Smartish Pace, featured Harms, and you can even read one of my favorite poems of his here. One of his better collections, in my opinion, is Freeways and Aqueducts, of which the following praise appears from the English department website:

“Atmospheric and often lovely . . . these poems dwell unapologetically in the quotidian, attempting to transform the banal into the sublime. When this succeeds, it does so beautifully. . . . The collection is worth a good read—both for its images of quiet loveliness (‘you cupped my face like handful of water’) and for its masterfully sustained mood, the pleasant ache of chronic homesickness.”

—Verse

 

Mark Brazaitis

Brazaitis has a book on my reading list, which came highly recommended, titled An American Affair: Stories, which won the 2004 George Garrett Fiction Prize. Brazaitis, also a professor at WVU, offers many courses; one of his classes I wish to attend as a grad student is his fiction workshop (also highly recommended to me). For a sample of his writing, you can visit Sun Magazine and read The Boy Behind the Tree. Check it out!

 

Sarah Einstein

Einstein is receiving her MFA from WVU, and is moving on to Ohio, where she’ll be pursuing her PhD. She is the winner of a Pushcart prize for her nonfiction essay Mot, published by Ninth Letter at the University of Illinois (by my alma mater and creative writing department). You can read selections from Mot and a get a unique perspective on the voice of the “other” at but.if.and.that.

Sarah Einstein, Pushcart winner, WVU alum, and all-around great writer / Photo courtesy of Sarah Einstein

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So it’s four o’clock and I head down to the bowling alley in the bowels of the Mountainlair. I’m thinking to myself that it should be no problem finding some bowlers only to find that the entire bowling alley was empty.

Fate it seems, was not on my side to interview some amateur bowlers. Well, until, luck would have it in walks one of my best friends, Caitlin Fitzgerald with one of her friends–Scott Levine. Scott was visiting from New Jersey and the two had decided that a trip to the bowling alley was just what the doctor ordered (and good thing to because we crossed paths while I was just about to leave the bowling alley, dejected).

The exchange of greetings was followed by a trip to the front desk. A pair of shoes for just $1.06 and a lane all to yourself just as long as you have your WVU student ID. We hand over the money, grab our shoes, and grab some bowling balls and set off on a trip to Lane 15.

Now I’ve been bowling in the Lair a fair few times, but never had I seen it so empty. Another thing I had never seen was amidst the nine white pins, an oddly placed blue and gold West Virginia pin that turned up in our lane in almost every frame that we bowled. Said Levine, “It was almost like it was taunting us. I had a couple of frames where I’d knock nine pins down, but I couldn’t knock that blue and gold pin down.”

It almost became more important then the game. Who could knock down the blue and gold pin? Obviously, Caitlin and Scott and I weren’t taking the game too seriously. It was hard to take the game seriously anyway considering I bowled a 25 in my first five frames (not my best work).

Then things got interesting two strikes and a spare later…and before you know it I’m closing in on Caitlin and Scott who had been duking it out for first all game. Going into the final frame Scott had 104 points. Caitlin had 113. Scott had been bowling well, but tapered off in the end, and in the final frame hit only 6 pins to finish with 110. Caitlin didn’t finish very strong either, knocking just three down to finish with a 116. I came in last with a 99 (still 74 points over the final five frames was a nice improvement from the awful first five).

“I need to work on my approach,” said Levine. Levine continually joked that Caitlin, who claims “she never plays” was hustling us. I was almost inclined to agree…until I saw the second game.

Scott finished with a 99. I bowled a 114. Caitlin bowled an 80. Well so much for hustling, right?

While we were down there, we had the entire alley to ourselves. It made me think of a couple of random things.

1. Why is it called a bowling alley?

No one really needs to answer that.

2. Why is it so hard to be consistent?

This one I actually didn’t have a hard time answering. People who bowl for fun don’t do it every day for one, and that makes it harder to get good. Secondly, people who are bowling for fun are simply there too have fun and don’t really take the game too seriously. It almost gets to a point where you start rooting for the people you are playing against. It’s almost like golf, everybody’s bad. Because if you were good, you’d do it professionally.

It was an interesting experience. I hadn’t been down to the bowling alley in a couple of months, and it reminded me that this is one of those things that people do as a hobby–truly only for fun with absolutely no drawbacks.

So I’m sure all you readers out there have bowled for fun many a time? What’s your best score? And this week’s poll question…how many times do you throw a gutter ball per game (I would say I guttered at least seven or eight times in the first game)?

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Did you ever think that you could make a difference in the world just by drinking a cup of coffee?  Well you can at So.Zo.  So.Zo is a coffee shop on High street closer to campus.  In fact, you can find it right after Casa.  The coffee shop is owned by Chestnut Ridge Church, which first began on campus.  The church soon blossomed and thus So.Zo was opened as way to stay in root with the Church’s basis.

The purpose of So.Zo is so that students can have a place to go where they feel comfortable, partake in unorganized Bible studies, do homework, check out some of Morgantown’s local artists, and drink cheap coffee (only $1.25).

“One really cool thing that I have noticed is that kids feel comfortable enough to come here with their friends and read the Bible on their own time,” said one of the volunteers at So.Zo who declined to give his name.

I have been hanging out at So.Zo myself since I was a freshman and somehow stumbled across it (probably literally, but we won’t go there). I have always felt comfortable going there.  I love the enormous coffee mugs they give you.  One of my favorite things to do in between classes is to stop in and wrap both of my hands around a great big cup of hot tea and curl up on the couch with a good book….or you know, homework. 

One of my favorite features about So.Zo is that the business is a non-profit organization that serves to promote social justice. The coffee shop welcomes people to engage in making the world a better place. 

First of all, you are contributing just by drinking a cup of coffee at So.Zo.  All of their coffee is organically grown and the to-go cups are eco-friendly.  So.Zo also recycles, and just last year the coffee shop had hundreds of pounds of recycling. 

Secondly, So.Zo serves as a showcase for non-profit organizations.  For example, the coffee shop promotes “Dry Tears,” which is a fundraiser to increase awareness of the world’s problem with dirty water.  Did you know that 3,900 children die every day due to dirty water, according to the United Nations Human Development Report?  Every 15 seconds someone dies from a water-related disease.  That equals out to 5,000,000 million people a year dying from a water-related disease, and HALF of the world’s hospital patients.  Compare this.  According to the U.S Geological survey, the average American family uses 100-176 gallons of water a day, while the Average African family uses 5.  Doesn’t this make you want to do something?!  Go to So.Zo and buy a “Dry Tears” bracelet for $2.  All profits go towards projects gaining access to clean water.

Additionally, coming up on April 10th is the 4th annual Amizade water walk for woments rights. All you have to do is carry a bucket of water on a 1.5 (or 2, I have seen both numbers on a few different flyers) mile route walk beginning behind the Mountain Lair.  Walk in harmony with the 1.1 billion people around the world who do not have access to safe water.  For more information click here.

            This is why I love So.Zo.  I walked in and interviewed one of the volunteers, and I walked out signed up to be a volunteer.  So.Zo is a Greek word meaning “to save.”  Anyone can make a difference. It’s just a matter of wanting to, and knowing where and how to do it.  The greatest part about So.Zo in my opinion is that you feel like you are a part of an important kind of community when you walk in.  You feel welcome, and it’s a pretty common notion that others around you at least all have the same passion to pursue making the world a better place.

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By Alex Wiederspiel

West Virginia senior journalism student Jared Ramos is no stranger to the student recreation center. He can usually be found in downstairs weight rooms on the weekends. During the week, Jared frequents the treadmills, which are littered all throughout the three floors of West Virginia’s lavish workout facility. Jared’s a former high school football player and he was grateful for the chance to stay in shape.

“A lot of people go to college and gain weight. They call it the Freshman Fifteen, but I’ve seen people gain more than fifteen pounds in freshman year.”

When Jared was first starting here, he would try to lift every day. The hardest part for Jared (who is a television journalism student), was finding a way to fit it into his schedule.

“Classes, social life, and extra curricular activities have a way of pushing working out to the side. But it’s something that you need to do.”

Another obstacle for Jared, along with many people at West Virginia, is how crowded the student rec. center can become.

“During the week the place is packed between the hours of three and nine. I hate waiting to use equipment. That definitely turned me off of working out at times.”

But staying in shape is an important thing for Jared. Even if he has to go at odd hours of the night, early in the morning, or somewhere in between a class to avoid the high traffic times, he does it. He recognizes that he feels good when he’s in shape, and more importantly he feels good that he’s staying healthy. Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of early deaths in this country and he’s not planning on joining that statistic.

WVU's Student Rec. Center

“It’s scary. There are so many different ways out there to pollute your body that even if you think you’re eating well you should still work out.”

The recreation center provides exactly what people who are trying to stay in shape are looking for. The four floor facility offers a diverse spread of activities. The ground floor has a rock climbing wall, ping-pong, basketball courts, a very large weight room, and treadmills for those interesting in some cardio. The first floor has even more basketball courts, badminton, and racquetball courts. The second floor has a second, smaller weight room, equipped with a plethora of different styles of treadmills. The highest floor is a track. Students can use any of these features as long as they have a valid student ID. Guests can get in for a ten dollar fee.

And to top it all off? A snack bar on the first floor that features delicious combinations of protein shakes, protein bars, pepperoni rolls, and other snacks. It’s a lifestyle that thousands of West Virginia students participate in to varying degrees. Jared says the hardest part is meeting people who have never even been to the student recreation center.

“You need to get off your lazy ass and go get yourself healthy.”

Perhaps not the most eloquent, but the mantra stands true. The recreation center is open until midnight Monday-Friday, until ten on Saturday, and until eight on Sunday. If you don’t have transportation, the WVU bus service runs seven days a week, and the PRT runs every day except for Sunday.

Jared may return to this blog at some time—perhaps during the pick-up football segment.

Alex Wiederspiel is a senior journalism student at West Virginia University and sports director at U92 Radio.

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Let’s face it—Morgantown and WVU aren’t terribly friendly to those newcomers who love literature, poetry, spoken word, or any number of public engagements dealing with our written and spoken language. In fact, you could walk aimlessly around the downtown area, and if you didn’t really know what you were looking for, the most you would end up with is an armful of sandwiches and ice cream and maybe a newspaper or two.

If you walk into Colson Hall, the self-proclaimed “English Building” at West Virginia University, you’re going to see two administrative assistants behind a wall of glass. And that’s only during working hours. You might find a rack or two of the Daily Athenaeum’s newspapers, the local student rag.

Morgantown isn’t a Starbucks kind of town, either, so sniffing out the coffee, while usually a good lead, isn’t necessarily easy. You’re also not going to find students with dreadlocks on the street corner with pamphlets, a la San Diego, Berkeley, or Seattle.

You just have to know where to look. I’m still looking, and I find new information every day. If you have something to add to this list, please email me at butifandthat@gmail.com. But meanwhile, here’s a starters guide to getting in the lit scene at Morgantown, which is actually quite nice – if you can find it.

1. Go to the Blue Moose. It doesn’t have to be for any particular event. Read the scraps of paper on the boards. Talk to people. Ask about the events. Go to an open mic. Don’t expect the servers/baristas to be friendly, though. The past couple of times I’ve gone they’ve been pretty rude and have no sense of time.

2. Stop by Colson Hall, the home to the Department of English. Yes, it’s not very friendly-seeming to outsiders. You walk in and there is a large, glass wall with a couple of administrative assistants working at their desks. They’re very nice and helpful, but it’s not the best setup in the world for anyone coming in for a look-see. They also stash the literary rags in the grad student mailbox area, which is off-limits to outsiders. Your best bet is to ask about events from one of the assistants. To the right of the door, as you walk in, is a reading room which hosts readings from time to time. The faculty are mostly located on the top two floors.

3. Go to the Wise Library. Great little events happen here often. The English department will sometimes host a guest author/poet in one of the reading rooms that house the Appalachia collections, on the third floor. Don’t use the elevators to the front of the building. You’ll never get there that way. You have to go to the back of the library and take the stairs or the elevator. As with all things, you should start at the local library. Seriously.

4. Have a cup of crappy coffee at Eliza’s Café. Located on the fourth floor of the Wise Library, most students don’t even know it exists until their third or fourth year of college. You can chat away in their café, but keep in mind you’ll have to pool together several tiny tables to get a group discussion going, as their setup only seats two at a time. It’s fun to sit in the sunning window on the southwest side.

5. Want to get into the thick of the news? Go to Martin Hall, home to WVU’s P.I. Reed School of Journalism. It, too, doesn’t seem all that welcoming at first. The faculty and administrative assistants are friendly, but they’re tucked away. You can usually find grad students on the first floor, and they’ll chat with you about what’s going on. There’s a board for events on the first floor in the front and back of the hall.

6. Sign up on the listserv for Morgantown Poetry. It’s in Yahoo Groups here.

7. There’s a Barnes & Noble across the street from Martin Hall. You can find some local publications there, and when it’s not raining or snowing (which is only about 40 days of the year) it’s really nice to sit outside.

8. Check out the WVU calendar of events.

9. Go to the Morgantown Public Library. As the son of a librarian, I must confess that this is one of the worst public libraries I’ve been to in a town of this size. The librarians have been pretty rude to me, except for one lady from India, who is so helpful she makes the rest of the crew look really bad. They stare at you if you have a question. They never smile. They don’t answer questions without looking at you like you’re an idiot. They walk so slow time stands still. I don’t mean to be mean, but I guess you should never be rude or condescending to a blogger. All of this being said, the library is still a hub to connect to the community – even if they charge you money for checking out videos like they’re a back-room Blockbuster movie store with mean, public employees. Also check out their calendar of events online.

10. The walkway in front of the Mountain Lair has some interesting activity when it’s nice outside. You can find people peddling roasted peanuts, challenging each other to do inane activities like hula hooping, or, if you’re inclined towards speeches and other fodder, sometimes you can see political candidates speaking on the steps. Across the street, in front of Martin Hall, you can also find people reading poetry, or dancing around the trees. It’s always good to find the guys with beards and sandals, as well as the girls with armpit hair and homemade blouses and dreads. They know where to take you.

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