‘Crank and Cake’ – The Mochila Review invites Ellen Hopkins to perform

EllenHopkins

The New York Times best-selling author stands calmly near the edge of the over lit performance stage in Kemper Recital Hall, leaning against a podium with an expressionless face. Ellen Hopkins unapologetically reviews the 61 years of experiences that compressed into a 20-slide presentation and a collection of poorly composed family photos. One slide parades images of the two young children she now parents, their unconsciously broken smiles masking the travesty of youth that their birthmother’s meth addiction has engineered. Their mother— in nothing more a biological sense— is the multiple-times estranged daughter of Hopkins, whose life-long brawl with low-level meth pushed Hopkins to create her first and most famous novel “Crank.”

“The truth is, I started ‘Crank’ as a kind of personal journey, to try and understand what had just happened to six years of my life… and what had happened to my beautiful daughter, no longer so beautiful,” Hopkins explains. “Addiction, of one kind or another, touches almost everyone. As I wrote, I understood the importance of the story. When she’s clean, my daughter understands its importance, too.”

Hopkins intermixes her poetry and excerpts from her novels as she continues the presentation. Though she’s displaying this Microsoft PowerPoint for the near-hundredth time, her demeanor is no less authentic than if she was recalling her memories for the first time.

“I lived the story; that person was me; that person was my friend and I wanted to stop them, I wanted to turn them around and that’s the experience I want,” Hopkins details. “I want my characters to walk off the page and to be in the room with them and not just on the page.”

Readers often feel sorrow for their beloved author’s life, sympathizing with the devastation that they believe she must feel. But Hopkins doesn’t desire the sympathy, nor does she need it. She’s the type of motherly person that, once you meet her, you’d expect her to say, “It is what it is,” and pick up the shattered pieces.

Each of the memories that Hopkins chronicles forces the audience to feel just a bit more than the previous one.

“I tracked down my birth mother and found out that she has always written poetry… so our first exchange as mother and daughter was she wrote a poem to me about what it was like to leave a baby behind and I wrote a poem back to her about what it was like to be that baby.”

With that line, the crowd drops from a chattering chorus of generally interested listeners to silence. And that silence remains. For a few intensely quiet moments, Hopkins forces her audience to suffer the authenticity of the moment, just as she compels readers to do in each of her stories.

Though, not all of the memories are of tragedy.

Part way through her presentation, Hopkins reads an earlier poem of hers. “Cowboy Charisma” details the single characteristic that she believes makes cowboys perfect: the way they look in blue jeans.

As images of cowboys wearing Wranglers flash onto the screen— specifically, the lower backside of the men— Hopkins reaches the climax of her poem:

“The key to a cowboy’s charisma is watching him walk away.”

And, after a moment of socially encoded awkwardness, the crowd erupts into hysterical laughter.

But, the event is not just an exposition for the audience; it’s also an opportunity for Hopkins to revisit her characters.

“There are things about all of my characters that I’ve either experienced or someone close to me has, so they feel like my kids,” Hopkins laughs, as she tries to describe the intense interplay between her characters on paper and the characters in her mind. “And when I read… it’s like reviving them; they come back to life.”

Though much of Hopkins’ audience is young adults, her final plea is one to the parents of her potential readers.

“There are so many experiences that we as adults don’t want our children to have that sometimes we try to hide the reality that those things exist for them. That’s not gonna help our kids deal,” Hopkins presents, both laughing at her 19-year-old son and cringing at the thought of children who don’t have understanding parents.

“Books are the key to greater understanding and knowledge, so don’t close covers of books, because they make you a little uncomfortable; read the

Music at the Mansion Showcases Local Talents and Historic Landmark

One of St. Joseph's most prominent mansions was rockin' Saturday as hundreds of community members gathered at the historic Wythe-Tootle Mansion April 2 for the fourth annual Music at the Mansion. The event was sponsored by the St. Joseph Museums and the St. Joseph Music Foundation, with funds raised going to the Music Foundation. “Several years ago those involved in the Wythe-Tootle Mansion Committee and the Museum Hill neighborhood had wanted to organize a music appreciation event that brought together local artists. This was very successful and we’ve made it an annual event since,” said Sara Wilson, executive director of the St. Joseph Museums, on the origins of the event. The museum partners with the Music Foundation because they are active in the Missouri Music Hall of Fame, which the St. Joseph Museum houses, explained Wilson. Through this event, the foundation is able to gain awareness and funds so they can continue to support local artists. The event is beneficial for the mansion and downtown St. Joseph as well. “For the Wythe-Tootle mansion, this brings in a lot of people who maybe know we’re here but haven’t visited before, or in a while. I think it’s great to bring people into the Museum Hill neighborhood and downtown because of the history. This year it was coordinated with first Saturday, so I think that the whole day today in downtown St. Joseph [was] a really fun experience.” said Wilson. According to the Music Foundation President, Larry Schildtknecht, the foundation’s main purpose is to expose the community to local talents while assisting the artists. “We raise the bar for live music here in St. Joseph. We are essentially a tool for artists, who we help promote in the community; we don’t book artists, but we do promote through our various events and radio station, KFGH 99.3. We also help artists improve themselves by providing them information, like with taxes and business opportunities,” said Schildtknecht. One local artist the foundation helps support is Missouri Western student, Stephanie Gummelt. Gummelt, a Technical Communication major, has been performing since age 11 starting with her sixth grade talent show. Around age 15 she became more serious about performing. “I really like connecting with people… I love the vibe I get when I’m not thinking about how I look or sound, but I’m thinking about how I feel,” said Gummelt. “I perform at the Paradox Theater, which is where I go to church at. I’ve done [the Wythe-Tootle] mansion before over Christmastime, and I’ve played at Porches downtown too,” explained Gummelt. Gummelt describes her sound as 60s and 70s folk rock inspired by artists like Stevie Nicks and Joanie Mitchell. Although she performs several venues around St. Joseph, most people still recognize her from American Idol in 2014, which she says has helped her grow as a performer. “I realized that a lot of people are quick to support a local person, and even now after a year and a half people come up to me and say ‘We still have you on our TV!’ And it was me being my exact self. It’s definitely helped. I’m more confident and comfortable, and I think my performing is worth people watching,” said Gummelt. Gummelt and several other artists performed all day Saturday thanks to the work of the St. Joseph Museums and the Music Foundation. These artists included Larry Christie, Center State, Under the Big Oak Tree, Jason Riley, The Regents, and Scruffy and the Janitors. All artists provided a variety of music styles, making for a fun and diverse afternoon. Refreshments were also provided by Paradox Coffee House and Bakery, Foster's Martini Bar, Goode Foods and the Museum Hill Neighborhood Association. Overall it was an event incorporating several local resources St. Joseph has to offer. “We are grateful for the musicians and the bands coming out to share with us their talents,” said Wilson. The Wythe-Tootle Mansion is now open for the season on Fridays and Saturdays until October, and there is a new exhibit on flooding in the area opening April 15. Students receive a discount with a valid student I.D. The St. Joseph Music Foundation also has an upcoming event May 14 at the East Hills Mall called “East Hills Unplugged.” This is a precursor event for Joe Stock held over Labor Day weekend.

ISS Hosts Third Annual Ping Pong Tournament

If competitors at Saturday’s ping pong tournament were looking for soft serves, then they should have gone to Dairy Queen. From experienced players to national champions, the matches were intense. On Saturday, April 2, International Student Services partnered with Recreational Services, the Missouri Western Foundation and the Division of Student Affairs to host the Third Annual Dr. Krikor Partamian Ping Pong Tournament. The tournament raised funds for upcoming ISS events and was also aimed at creating awareness about what the ISS offers. “Fundraising is important, but this year we also wanted to have opportunities for community members to meet with international students, and bring awareness more than anything,” said Fumi Cheever, the Director of International Student Services. In order to achieve this, Cheever and her staff set up informational boards about the 37 different countries the 137 international students attending Western are from. There were also several international students both playing in and attending the tournament, and different events the ISS had put on in the past and had planned for the future were presented to the crowd. One such event the ISS will use funds for is to attend the International Education Day in Jefferson City, Missouri. “We’ll be spending all day there meeting other international students and organizations from Missouri universities so we can broaden our horizons on education and events. I’m looking forward to meeting new people… and interacting with other students from around the world,” said Dena Hidzir, an international student from Malaysia and the co-emcee for the tournament. Other events the ISS hosts through these funds include the International Fair in the fall and various cultural events, like the Holi Festival and the Chinese New Year celebration. According to Cheever, the ping pong tournament was started three years ago in honor of Dr. Krikor Partamian. Partamian served on the Missouri Western Board of Governors from 1996 to 2002 and was the Syrian National Ping Pong Champion in 1960. While serving on the board, Partamian was highly involved in the ISS and helped build the program to what it is today. The previous ISS administration used this connection to form the tournament, and due to its success, has continued for three years. This year Partamian played an exhibition match during the tournament against current Missouri Western President, Dr. Vartebedian. Partamian won, although not without a struggle. Vartebedian is pretty good at ping pong! The double-elimination tournament was comprised of 32 competitors. These included Western students, Western faculty and staff and players from the community. Bill Lyons, a player from a local table tennis club, has been playing for 18 years now. The past two years, Lyons, who is 72 years old, placed second in the tournament. “I first heard about the tournament through advertising at the YMCA three years ago where I play in a league three or four times every week. I focus on what the opponent does and try to loop, or put a top spin on the ball. But most importantly, I try and have fun because I enjoy this sport. And of course, I try and beat whoever I can,” said Lyons with a chuckle. Lyons ended up finishing third behind the two-year champion, Brian Hopkins, and the 2016 champion Jeff Johnston, who went undefeated the entire tournament. Johnston, a 1984 Western alumni, is no newcomer to ping pong or a few of his competitors. “I knew both Bill Lyons and Brian Hopkins before coming here today. At one time, Brian had a barbershop off of Frederick and it had three ping pong tables in it. When I found that out, I would come up from Smithville, which is 30 minutes away, to get a haircut because I liked playing ping pong,” said Johnston. Since then, Johnston has gone on to win the National Ping Pong Tournament held in Las Vegas the past four years. Needless to say, Johnston is serious about ping pong, from the amount of time he puts in to the gear he has invested in. “Probably compared to the other people here, my experience is higher than most. I’d say I’m kind of a ringer because the tournaments I normally play are national tournaments. I had a lot of fun today, though, and would love to come back next year,” said Johnston, who enjoyed being able to return to Western and help out the ISS while playing a sport he loves. Based on the overwhelming popularity, next year there will probably be a fourth annual ping pong tournament. So until then, follow Forrest Gump’s example and practice until you’re playing it in your sleep… even if you don’t have anyone to play with.

Fight like a girl

By Melissa Kurtz Girls 12 years and up were invited to attend a self-defense course at Missouri Western’s Griffon Indoor Sports Complex on March 9. Missouri Western partnered with the Kiwanis Club, the YWCA and many others to bring the T.A.K.E defense classes to St. Joseph. This is the second time that this event has been hosted in St. Joseph, and the first time the event has been hosted at Western. The event boasted a turnout of about 200 women in all. Colleen Kowich, director of Alumni Relations, explained that though the event was free for any woman above the age of twelve, people who did donate received gifts from the event’s sponsors. “The donations go to support the Ali Kemp Foundation and the Kiwanis Club of St. Joseph.” Kowich said. “The Ali Kemp Foundation provides this self defense course for free all over the country, and donations go to support that. Those who donate receive a gift bag and a t-shirt from our sponsors.” Rodger Kemp, the founder of the Ali Kemp Foundation, said he believes that women and children are a community’s best resource. “You know, I believe that the world is 99 percent good.” Kemp said. “But it’s the other one percent we have to worry about. It’s predators that cause harm and that take lives. That’s the point of this program, to teach women to defend themselves in that situation.” The T.A.K.E. defense course is an intensive two-hour program that teaches women what to do when faced with the threat of violence. Jill Leiker, a T.A.K.E defense instructor and executive director for the Ali Kemp Foundation, said there are several things women can do to decrease the likelihood of being attacked. “First and foremost, follow your intuition.” Leiker said. “If a situation feels off, it is off. Don’t ignore it, don’t think you’re being paranoid. Be aware, be prepared. It’s what will keep you alive.” Leiker and her partner showed women what to do if faced with physical violence. They showed the best ways to thwart common tactics like chokeholds, hair pulling, or being forced to the ground. “It’s all about physical memory.” Leiker said. “If you haven’t thought of what you would do in a certain situation, you have no recall. You will freeze, and that’s the worst thing you can do during an attack. It can take as little as fifteen minutes for someone to hurt, assault or kill you.” The event raised $1,500 for the Ali Kemp Foundation and proved to be a resounding success with the women in St. Joseph.

Western goes Wild ‘N Out

On Wednesday, April 6, MTV2's Wild 'N Out came to Missouri Western and it got crazy. Nick Cannon and his crew performed different comedy acts and entertained the crowd with stories, jokes and lots of trash talk. With only 700 tickets available, students were lined up outside of Looney well before the doors opened at 6:30 p.m. It was a joint effort of WAC, the CSI and the CME, and tons of prep work went into putting this event on at Western. They had to find a large enough space on campus to accommodate the group and the expected number of attendees. Once they secured Looney, it went on to reserving the appropriate equipment and rooms. With the help of campus police and St. Joe PD, the event went off without a hitch.
 President of WAC Ashley Filipelli and Assistant Dean of Student Development Isaiah Collier played a big role in landing the group for the event.
"We [WAC] first talked about the idea of bringing the show onto campus in the middle of fall semester," Filipelli said. "[Isaiah] Collier brought it to one of my e-board meetings and we all wanted to try and make it happen. We all knew and loved the show and thought that the students and community would feel the same."
When it came time for the event to happen, the anticipation on campus was electric. Cannon and his crew, Chico Bean, Karlous Miller, Conceited, Hitman Holla, Matt Rife and Rip Michaels, made their grand entrance that morning at Potter Hall. Their bus parked outside of Looney was a common place for photo ops from fans and students. The line outside of Looney quickly started growing hours before the doors even opened.
The arena was packed quickly and the show started. With everything from quick jokes to funny stories and even a rap battle featuring some of Western's own students, the crowd was very entertained.
"[Nick] Cannon and the crew, as well as the production people, were great to work with," Filipelli said. "They were all just normal people trying to put on a show just like we were. We all were flexible and willing to listen and work with each other...They were willing to take a bunch of pictures and signed many posters for us. They loved being here and seeing fans just as much as we loved them being here."
Sophomore Amy Insco won VIP passes to the event. Insco enjoyed the special access.
"It was really great to enjoy the show from up close," Insco said. "Getting to do the meet and greet was really cool. We got to meet the crew first, and we had a chance to sit and talk with them. I ended up telling Chico about my Stats II test the next day and he told me good luck...I thought everyone was really nice about hanging out with all of the fans and taking so many pictures. I'm so happy and thankful I got the opportunity."
There were roughly 700 people in attendance, according to Filipelli. Everyone from students to community members, and even some faculty showed up for the event.
"I loved the experience and I would say was one of my greatest experiences as WAC President so far," Filipelli said.
If you missed the event, don't worry. You can catch Wild 'N Out on MTV2.