I’m an English major. When JJ and Stuart proposed writing about the book that changed your life, my mind froze. Did they really want me to choose just one? I’m the girl with a million books stacked in her dorm room, more in boxes at home, and three times as many listed on my Barnes & Noble wishlist. I entertained several ideas, but kept returning to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.

I first read the novel as a sophomore in a little New England high school and was astounded at how easily I could cross the Mason-Dixon line and engrain myself into Maycomb, Alabama. I could feel the stern warmth of Calpurnia, Scout’s complicated mix of annoyance and admiration of her brother Jem, and I could feel the fire of justice and equality emanating from Atticus Finch.

 I read too much, so to pick a book that changed my life would be like picking the stroke that changed a painting, or the stitch that’s holding together my shirt. Basically: hard. But because I love you, the readers of &etc, I rolled up my sleeves and picked one.

The book big enough to change my life was a little one written by a young nobody from a Podunk town in Utah. It’s a children’s chapter book about two kids becoming knights for King Arthur in modern day times. The author’s writing ability is average, the story line is basic, and the sales figures aren’t eye popping.

Even though I didn’t want to admit it to myself, I had to concede that the book that changed my life more than any other was Richard Lyman Bushman’s Joseph Smith biography, “Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling”. I struggled with this because I feel like RSR is a book that has probably changed many lives, and there is something unromantic about that. I thought long and hard about collections of essays I’ve read by Wendell Berry, or Hugh Nibley. I hoped maybe one of Don Delilo’s books, or something I thought might be more personal to my experience, could serve as “the one”. The last thing I wanted to choose was a book that 80,000 people had read in the last 6 years. However, when I really thought about it, there is no book in my short history of reading (I consider the year before my mission to be the first time I really read a book) that has effected who I am more than Bushman’s biography.

If there is one book that could have completely changed my life, it would have been The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Starting a Band. I say could have because in the end, it didn’t really. And that was my fault, not the book’s. I had the book, read it, and then ignored it. And that was a mistake, at least as far as having a band was concerned, which was the central goal of reading the book in the first place.

In 2006, when I came home from my mission, I started working on my lifelong dream of starting a rock and roll band. I went to the bookstore to look for something that would help, and really the only book that was dedicated to the subject was one of those orange Idiot books. I bought it, flipped through it a few times, and then started showing up regularly at my best friend Marcus’ house with my guitar and told him to play the drums until he got tired and dropped the sticks on the ground. He was in the band, but only because he knew I wouldn’t let him quit.

After auditioning a few other musicians,  I settled on a quiet and cool guy named Chris who wrote songs about Fellini films and sang like Neil Young. For some reason I thought he played bass, and so he pretended to for a while before confessing he had no clue what he was doing. But it sounded okay, and I was happy with what we had. We were raw, grungey, loud, and sloppy. We weren’t very focused, but we got kicks out of pulling off gimmicks, like wearing suits and sunglasses and drawing pictures during live shows. We would walk off after the first song, and declare the rest of the show the encore. At a house party, Marcus took the opportunity during a slow drumless ballad to make and eat a sandwich at his kit. We were more concerned with entertaining than making technically good-sounding music, and hoped that the noise we produced somewhere in the middle was enough to get people hooked.

But we were poor, and honestly kind of lazy. After being kicked out of a few people’s garages, we had to look for a place to rehearse regularly. If I had consulted the Idiot’s Guide, I might not have taken the first offer given to us. We found a local music academy on Craigslist, where a nervous long haired retired metal guitarist taught grade school kids how to play Ramones songs. He said we could use his back room after hours, for a pretty hefty hourly fee. We liked the setup and the irony of following groups made up of ten year olds so much that we said yes right away. After a few months, we were in so much debt that we started pawning off our equipment to the academy, with the understanding that we let them use it during class, we could rehearse free of charge. This arrangement worked fine for a few weeks before he started asking for money again. By this point, the other two had lost interest and I was floating from couch to couch while trying to land gigs around town. Nothing would ever work out, and we started to feel like this little after-school program owned our band’s soul.

I found myself going back to the Idiot’s Guide over and over, but the shady situation we were in was so off track from the normal plan of a well-organized rock band that the only option I saw available to us was to start completely from scratch. With Chris spending all his time with his new girlfriend and Marcus’ signs of complete apathy becoming more and more pronounced, I left, moved back in with my parents and never looked back.

That’s a lie. I called the shifty eyed school manager one more time to see if I could pick up my amp for a one off gig, and he said no. My music career ended definitively with a tortured month long episode of depression, binging on fried chicken while re-watching seasons of Lost. I started obsessing over sneaky ways to trick him into giving all of my equipment back, or to somehow come up with the several thousand dollars it would take to buy it all back. Eventually, and reluctantly, I moved on. I kept the Idiot’s Guide, in case I ever managed to get enough stuff together to try again. Next time, I always tell myself, I won’t so much as plug an instrument in without consulting the book first.


Cody is a section editor at the Accolade News and enjoys writing political editorials.

To me, the Occupy the Fish Pond demonstration on Wednesday struck a deep nerve. I was involved (a little bit) in the inception of the idea to try and demonstrate a little more outrage to our fellow students concerning the whole oil-fish fiasco. During some casual conversations with some of my friends (mostly my wife and Stuart Enkey) I became increasingly more disappointed with what I saw as a growing apathy for fulfilling campus life. I began noticing less and less involvement in student driven activities on campus, and it was really starting to worry me.

I certainly considered that maybe I was simply tricking myself because I live off campus, or because I am married; maybe I was simply out of the loop. Although I recognized that all of those things may have contributed to my perception of student life, I nevertheless had a burning for a more fulfilling student experience.

Then the fish died.

When I first heard that someone had put motor oil into the fish pond, I was livid. Not only was I upset because someone killed innocent fish, but also because this was the second time in the two years since I have been home from my mission that this has happened. I knew that this must upset the school’s administration (particularly because they have to pay to replace the fish and clean the pond, and that’s not cheap), but I wanted it to upset the students more. This was our fishpond, I thought. It sits quietly in the center of our humble courtyard, harming no one, delightfully adding to the quaint atmosphere that makes our campus so beautiful. I felt that an attack on the fish was a direct attack on everything I hold dear about Southern Virginia. Or at least that’s how it all played out in my mind.

Then something interesting happened; some students got together at a meeting for The Accolade News and decided they wanted to “occupy the fishpond.” Even though our reference to the Occupy Wall Street movement was, to a degree, a gimmick, we used it to try and draw awareness something we thought was important to know, and it worked. We got over 200 signatures on our petition to raise awareness and potentially have a surveillance camera put in place to monitor the pond. That’s ¼ of the student population. People were taking pictures, sharing stories about why they loved the fish, and telling us where to call to get more fish donated. As I watched all of this unfold, I realized more than ever that people on this campus really do want to be involved. The only trick is figuring out what to be involved in.

That is one of the main reasons Stuart and I started The Accolade; we wanted to help promote more student driven involvement in campus activity, discussion, and art. The sports teams have the Superfans to help promote their games and encourage support, but what about all the other clubs? What about the clubs that don’t exist yet, but are (at least in my opinion) vital to a Liberal Arts atmosphere, such as a debate team, or poetry club? They need just as much student support as the soccer players do. So to me the fish came to symbolize something else; they symbolize what’s unique about Southern Virginia, what’s beautiful. I’ve got 1 year and ½ left, and the last thing I want to do is leave here without contributing something. And that’s why I occupied the fish pond.

by John C. Feinauer

Hey, welcome to The Courser, The Accolade's official blog.

Unlike our sister site, we at The Courser can get a little emotional.  In fact, that's what sets us apart from SVU's online newspaper; as a blog, we can share our whole heart about a subject, if we so choose.  It is a newspaper's duty, first and foremost, to report the news as accurately, objectively, and quickly as possible, while searching for interesting, in-depth information that is not readily apparent to the average citizen.

We'll leave all of that to The Accolade.  As an official blog of The Accolade we still have a name to represent, and we will strive never to report on things that are not worthy of The Accolade News stamp of approval.  However, we feel like it would be interesting to our fellow Knights, as well as anyone else who reads The Accolade, to get a so-called "insider scoop" on many of the events that Accolade staff writers report on.  As a student-run operation, our staff is very much a part of the events on the SVU campus.  We have insights and ideas that we want to share.  A blog is a perfect place to collect the opinions, thoughts, and insider scoops of the campus without feeling too much pressure to be objective reporters.

We want discussion.  Another responsibility of a newspaper is to generate discussion within the community, and we hope that you find things on The Accolade which get you riled up or excited.  We  you take a few minutes to post a comment on those articles and editorials.

What if you want to do more than just comment?  That's where The Courser comes in.  We want you to be a part of the news.  We want you to submit blog posts to us (go visit the 'Want to Contribute?' page) because we think that every SVU Knight should have an opportunity to let their voice be heard.  We'll work with you one-on-one to get you a post on The Courser, if you're willing to work with us.

The Courser is working with groups and clubs on campus to provide informative and fun tabs on The Courser home page, which will hopefully be up and running within the next few weeks.  If you're a member of an on-campus club and have a great idea for a page on The Courser, feel free to email us.

We have a pretty amazing history here at SVU.  From all-girls school to junior college to liberal arts university, we've been constantly growing toward bigger and better things.  Even today we are still moving forward, tackling new challenges and passing new milestones.  Let's keep moving forward, keep making history.  It's the undeniable privilege of every SVU Knight to voice their opinion and strive to make a positive impact on this campus.

That is why The Courser was created; to give every student a way to exercise their privileged right to information and give them a forum to present their ideas.  We want to preserve the standard of bold progress that has shaped SVU's growth by pushing the student body to continue to refine themselves into leader-servants.  This, we believe, is the true genius of small, that individuals can be allowed a voice and a chance to make a lasting difference here.

So, celebrate the genius of small, and celebrate Southern Virginia University.  Celebrate the rich heritage that the Knights have inherited.  Be a leader-servant.  Make a difference.