Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Mick Foley Stole my Pen

[[[After posting the following, it was discovered that Mick Foley did not, in fact, steal my pen. He returned it to Sam, who forgot he had it. I apologize for my slanderous pen-stealing remarks, and any damage they might have caused. Aside from this note my post is unchanged, and will remain so unless offended parties request differently.]]]


[ First I have to note that I write really small, and there's this one type of pen I use that is perfect: really thin line, doesn't skip. I just can't find them, and have to bribe a friend into bringing me back some from PA whenever she goes. I really did love that pen.]

The other day I was really excited about extending the somewhat irritating story that is my title into a heartwrenching metaphor for my (and a couple of yours as well) academic voice being stolen by the stolidity of the class. I was a little too drunk to type at the time, and now I don't care enough to craft it well, so I'll just let you appreciate the potential brilliance. But let's look back on our illustrious guest speakers. All they really did was tell us stories. Not even very useful stories of the kind Joshua promotes. JR was reminiscing about his entrance into the real adult world, Foley, so far as I can tell, wasn't even that secure and was just trying to get some smiles. Don't get me wrong, I was thoroughly amused, because they both spoke well.

Like the class itself, irregardless of Sam's intent the results have the potential to be useful, we just didn't use them well. In fact: Mick Foley is a brilliant story teller. If I were actually taking a writing course this term I would have lobbied to have him visit our class. There we could have asked him all these interesting questions about stories that I think he would have loved because a) we would have labeled and engaged him as someone more substantive than and apart from a wrestler, and b) it would extend his bragging rights about speaking at MIT. It would also have been a friendlier discourse for him. I flubbed it a bit, because after his initial response to 'academics studying wrestling, ay or nay?' was an uniformed (but enthusiastic, thanks!) sound bite of support, I would have felt bad if the poor guy's experience at MIT ended up intimidating him into incoherency.

Take the colloquium. I know not everyone came but they did this skit about the musical entrance at the beginning. It was meant to work the crowd, and it did. It would have been interesting to poll some of the audience members afterwars about their perceptions of it. I thought it was cheap. What did other non-fans think? Did they notice it was scripted? Did wrestling fans immediately know and appreciate it? Did they chose to pretend it was real to increase their parcipatory excitment? From an academic standpoint, was it cheap because none of the post-hoc analysis was done?

I'm only picking on that moment because it was the only one of interest. Sure Foley talked a little about his own foray into academic research, but the point is if you really care, just read his book. In each colloquia it's a room full of wrestling fans, and a few grad students who apparently have to be there. The grad students get credit and the fans had fun seeing Mankind with all his hair. As noted in one of Joshua's post, fans out there thought JR's talk was pointless. They blamed it on us academics, but once again, no academic types were really asking questions. Fans were asking questions, and for the most part they prove an interesting point: if we go back to Sam's classification of fans, there's a divide between mindless strategies of enjoyment, and analytic tendencies. And we see it! Despite the hopeful fact that many of those people were intelligent, and all ought to have enough specialized knowledge about wrestling to justify our interest in them, there was a derth of good questions in what in theory is an academic setting. I feel like I was tricked out of an education and into a glorified story time.

In my life, academia is sacred. As such, I've been operating under the assumption that this class itself is *meant* to be a serious forum for scholarly analysis of a pop culture phenomenum. I had briefly considered the idea that in fact, it wasn't, back when I was trying to figure out why we're failing at the blog-based critical portion of the class, while spending 6 hours a week watching highlight reels. Now post Foley and JR visitations, I have to applaud Sam for his brilliance. As a second year MASTERS student, he's making himself look really good by 'teaching' his very own course at MIT, wherein he gets to spend all his non-thesis hours playing with his other fanboy obsession, AND his token nod to serious work (the blog) is the perfect place in which to cull the periodic nugget of insight for use in his own scholarly work down the line. Oh, and he's building this really awesome name for himself in the pro-wrestling fan community. Behind the kayfabe it makes a lot of sense.

I guess, looking at it that way, Foley didn't really 'steal' my pen. After all, people lose pens all the time. Instead, my pen is somewhere doing something interesting. It just isn't doing it in my hand, which on the whole is my real objection.


Laury Silvers said...

This post reminds me of when I was an undergrad and me and my buddies took some mushrooms and went to a local college club that was not our usual hangout. We were just leaning on the bar watching the regular college kids do their thing. Some chick took exception to Sharon wearing sunglasses. Chick tried to mock her saying, "There's no sun!" Sharon just leaned back against the bar and said in her smooth I wanna be a junkie voice, "And you're no fun."

Peter "The Malcontent" Rauch said...

Well, you can't just assume that your pen is doing something interesting. Somebody at Sloan might have found it.

That said, I enjoyed J.R. and Mick Foley's visits, but was a little surprised at how little I had to say about either. I guess my particular perspective doesn't lend itself well to their experiences. Or perhaps I don't lend myself well to thinking of salient questions when guests visit.

Anonymous said...

To be honest, even if JR and Mick's visits seemed like glorified storytime, those stories are exceptionally valuable to getting a well-rounded understanding of the wrestling business. There's only so much one can draw from documentaries, essays and old match footage. I mean, I was able to ask Mick questions that directly relate to my term paper and his and JR's answers definitely helped flesh out my direction by giving a glimpse into the decision-making process of WWE. These were incredible learning experiences for me and others, and I'm sorry if you didn't feel similarly.

narwood said...

Laury- What's the funny bit? I presume the 'shrooms are important, but you haven't told me dosage, prior experience with psychadelics, or what the other Chick might have been on/doing. I'm not old enough to be telling drug stories - real or imagined, in a public forum, but I will say that I dropped before class, I would tend to find it inappropriate to use my screwed up state to presume the class was not making sense.

Peter- That's sort of like getting up at a funeral and saying "well, no big loss since he was kind of an asshole. He owed me $40 though, the jerk." So... Thanks...

Deirdre- JR did provide some insight into the wrestling business, but no more than if he'd written a book about it, and Sam had then made us read it. Most of Foley's comments had nothing to do with wrestling at all. Perhaps you asked him the relevantly interesting question after I'd left to go set up for the colloquium, but it didn't seem he'd said much of anything that wasn't in his book - it is faster to ask, and I don't diss that, but finding it in the book is called research.

Sam Ford said...

Tess, this debate reminds me of Henry's whole question of the "aca/fan." It's the Joshua Shea thread versus your thread, the argument this class is getting to the bottom of. I told some of my colleagues that, if nothing else, the colloquia with J.R. and Mick was interesting as bringing the subject to the program. There are very few times that we have literally brought a fan community to one of our events...since I've been here, it's been these two wrestling colloquia and Scott McCloud's visit. These have been instructive not for intellectual discourse, necessarily, but by seeing what happens when fans and academics intersects.

It has a lot to do with vernacular theory. But, as you point out, that moment of meeting a "celebrity" speaker leads to either some mark out moments or bizarre attempts at being remembered...what of the fan who went all "Rock" on Foley, or else the fan who used the "f" word to draw some attention?

As for your next-to-the-last paragraph, I've been walking around all day, thinking about it. For some reason, it keeps reminding me of that moment where Mike Tyson was in the ring with Vince, about to announce his involvement in Wrestlemania, and Steve Austin came down, flipped the bird to McMahon and Tyson "with the world watching," and left Vince screaming, "You ruined it!" and kicking at Austin's head...