Category Archives: From the Archives

Bands, songs, albums, and lyrics mentioned in my elementary school writing books, 1981–83

• The Nastybirds (featured on WZAX-FM)

• The Outlaws (appearing now at WaWaWooWooWeeWeeWaaWaaa stadium) (from Arizona)

• Strango Pork and the Oinks – “Simon (the Lion?)”:  “I saw Simon at my door / then he wasn’t there no more / He was walking toward the hardware store / Then I noticed he was not there no more / He started eating all the floor / Then he wanted more / He started eating up the door/ Then he gave out a roar”

• The Sallys – feat. “Billy, “Tilly,” “Milly,” “Molly,” “Willy,” “Wally,” “Joey,” and much more. Available at Wallyworth, Sally Goody, Food Town, and your local Junk Yard.

• Ziggy Samkin – “I like tuna/ and jellybeans / peanut butter / and cheddar cheese / and would you pass the pepper, please?”

• The Tomatoes – “It’s Sunny Again”

• Kirk – “Apeeka My Papa”

• Joey Cool and the Nastybirds – “Saw Some Medicine in a Hardwear Store”

• Unknown – “The Electric Spanker”

• Plooktoo aka Gasser, bluesman; Crabtree Ellen, guitar; Crumbcake Evelin, drums.

• Jimbo Maconi – Jimbo the Brat

• Unknown – “Piggie in the Dryer”

• The Flunks – “Yuk Yuk Yuk”

Forrest Rooney’s Awfulest Hits feat. (SIDE ONE) “Marie,” “Jimmy,” “Billie,” “Katie,” “Sally,” “Johny” (SIDE TWO) “Piggy,” “Babie,” “Daddy,” “Mommy”

• Strango Pork and the Oinks – “I’ll Oink Ya!” “Bet I Can Beat You to the Pigpen” “Look at the Stars”

• Finge Topla and the Uglys

• The Clagatootoo

• The Stinkers – “I Know Why You Hate Me (Because I Am So Dumb)” (feat. on WAZ Radio)

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The Perfectionists: A Play in One Act

I “wrote” this on the subway sometime in the winter of 1996-1997, then decided three years later to include it in my MFA thesis as one of 35 short stories/miniatures. Although the thesis was generally well received, this one part was specifically called out by the committee as drivel. Obviously they had no idea how hard it actually is to get to bizz-buzz.

Setting: A rectangular table with four chairs—two facing the audience, and one at each end. There is a halogen lamp, lit low, in the corner and a plastic pitcher of cheap, very pale yellow beer on the table. Bob, Dottie, Larry, and Frank enter from four different directions and take their seats. They could be anywhere from twenty to forty years old, at least that is the age of the actors who have played the parts so far. Older or younger actors would probably work fine as well. (Casting enquiries may be directed to the Director, 52 Webster Ave., Apt. 39, New Rochelle, NY 10801.) Similarly, while the actors to this point have generally worn the gray pocket t-shirts, tan work shirts, blue sweaters and jeans typical to the Commie-youth look, it would not be inappropriate to give them a jazzy scarf, or a fireman’s helmet, or what have you, because they’re not really Commies, necessarily. After a moment’s silence, the actors speak matter-of-factly and rhythmically with nary a pause between their words.

Bob: One.

Dottie: Two.

Larry: Three. Continue reading

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The first line of every college paper still on my hard drive

…consolidated into a single, extremely long paragraph.

The bravery of Akhilleus, the cunning of Akhilleus, the untapped strength of Akhilleus: throughout the Iliad , these traits of Peleus’ son are spoken of rever­ently, and often nostalgically, by the Akhaian troops. The Greek city-state was a bastion of democracy, where the participation and equality of all citizens was the primary goal of the non-autocratic government. By repeating key words and imagery throughout Phaedra’s five acts, Jean Racine establishes a constrictive script Continue reading

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Inferno: The Lost Canto

I actually submitted this as a paper for English 129 during my freshman year of college. It’s about a previously unknown circle of hell in which fratboy lacrosse players are forced to wear black turtlenecks and berets and listen to feminist theory and Beat poetry. The whole thing is in Iambic pentameter. I think I got a B.

March 2, 1992
English 129

Dante’s Lost Canto

            From a turbulent sleep I opened my eyes

only to wish they were closed once again.

For here I saw the angst of brawny men.

            In their lives, these had never felt such pain. (4) Continue reading

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This day in 1983

5/26/83

I’m sleepy today. I don’t know if I can write anything without my head falling smack dab in the middle of this paper. Today I brought my teddy-bear, Benjamin. He is a quite big bear, but he’s lightweight.

THE END

P.S. I am more tired now.
P.P.S. I am really sleepy.
P.P.P.S. I am really, really sleepy.
P.P.P.P.S. I am really, really, really, tired.
P.P.P.P.P.S. ZZZZZZZZZ!

[More from the fourth-grade archive here.]

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Mix tape, 5/17/96

Made at my first apartment, 411 Union Street in Brooklyn, for my former college roommate Collin:

Side A
Angel – Spectrum
Last Night – Lush
Red Red Wine – Neil Diamond
On the Road Again – Bob Dylan
Late Too Late – Slipstream
Another One Bites the Dust (excerpt, backwards) – Queen
Midnight Train to Georgia – Gladys Knight and the Pips
Hi Falutin’ – Boo Radleys
The Lowdown – Wire
When I Grow Up – Beach Boys
A Boy Named Sue (live) – Johnny Cash
Uncontrollable Urge – Devo
Wind of Change – Hawkwind

Side B
Half a Canyon – Pavement
Ooh Child – Five Stairsteps
Trip & Slide – Bleach
Any Way That You Want Me – Spiritualized
Isi – Neu!
We the People Who Are Darker Than Blue – Curtis Mayfield
Driveway to Driveway – Superchunk
Suspicious Minds (live) – Elvis Presley
Myrtle ’95 – Mixdowns (later known as Thunderegg)

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1990’s Best Music . . . and Worst

THE BEST ALBUM OF 1990: GWAR—Scumdogs of the Universe

GWAR’s much-awaited major-label debut, Scumdogs of the Universe, is basically unlistenable. It is noisy, offensive, and stupid. And that’s why it’s so good. Scumdogs isn’t for everyone—in fact, one of the tracks, “Slaughterama,” shows that it may not be for anyone. If you buy the album, you’ll probably think it’s a joke. But with songs like “Death Pod,” “Horror of Yig,” and “The Salaminizer,” it is certain that GWAR would agree with the Roman poet Horace, who wrote, “What are you laughing at? The joke’s on you.”

Now, no one can touch GWAR. But in 1990, many artists came close. Here, THE FREE PRESS presents its staff selections for the best twenty albums of the year.

A Tribe Called Quest—People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm
Big Daddy Kane—Taste of Chocolate
John Doe—Meet John Doe
Eric B. and Rakim—Let the Rhythm Hit ’Em
Ice Cube—Amerikkka’s Most Wanted
Living Colour—Time’s Up
LL Cool J—Mama Said Knock You Out
Megadeth—Rust in Peace
Mother Love Bone—Apple
Bob Mould—Black Sheets of Rain
The Pogues—Hell’s Ditch
Lou Reed/John Cale—Songs for Drella
The Replacements—All Shook Down
Scatterbrain—Here Comes Trouble
Paul Simon—The Rhythm of the Saints
Sonic Youth—Goo
The Time—Pandemonium
24-7 Spyz—Gumbo Millennium
Neil Young and Crazy Horse—Ragged Glory
ZZ Top—Recycler

THE WORST ALBUM OF 1990: MC Hammer—Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ’Em

If Milli Vanilli are condemned for not singing their own lyrics, why isn’t Hammer condemned for not making his own music? Sampling can be an art form, but to him it’s a free lunch. And while Hammer concentrates on showy dance moves (and while record sales top seven million), his juvenile rhymes deteriorate more…as if that were possible.

Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ’Em is worse than a poor excuse for an album—it is no excuse for an album. But even barring beauts like The New Kids’ Step by Step and Nelson’s After the Rain—who expected anything from them, anyway—an all too vast number of 1990’s albums were just as horrible. Here are some of the worst.

The Black Crowes—Shake Your Money Maker
Andrew Dice Clay—The Day the Laughter Ended
Joe Cocker—One Night of Sin
Havana Black—Indian Warrior
Sam Kinison—Leader of the Banned
The Luke LP, featuring the Two Live Crew—Banned in the USA
Poco—Legacy
Roger Waters—The Wall 

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Nelson vs. Nelson: Triplets Separated at Birth?

In a much-quoted passage of Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare poses the eternal question,“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose/ By any other name would smell as sweet.” Little did Shakespeare know that, almost four centuries later, his words would fit as perfectly as they did when they were first introduced to paper in 1597. For now, in this year of 1990, we have been presented with two milestone movements.

In February, South African political prisoner Nelson Mandela was freed after twenty-seven years in jail; while in June, pretty blonde twin rockers Matthew and Gunnar Nelson released their debut album, After the Rain. Truly, no two groups of similarly named people since the early 80’s outfield heyday of Gary Matthews and Garry Maddox have had as much in common as the two groups of Nelsons—Mandela on the one hand and Matthew and Gunnar on the other.

Apparently, both Nelsons were oppressed in their pasts. Mandela, imprisoned in 1963 for his militant leanings in the African National Congress (ANC), his self-formed radical anti-apartheid group, suffered through beatings, rigid discipline, and hard work in the institution; often, he had little hope of seeing his wife, Winnie, or his family ever again. Similarly, Gunnar and Matthew were beset with injustices: In 1982, at the tender ages of fourteen, their mother unmercifully would not let them play their guitars in the house. Fortunately, such unfairness was eluded by the clever young Nelsons. “As a result of her trying to sabotage our relationship with our music…she actually brought us closer [to it],” Gunnar later emphasized, with no small amount of scorn in his voice.

Perhaps it is their mutual popularity that makes the two Nelsons seem so similar. When Mandela visited the United States in July, 750,000 New Yorkers stormed to catch a glimpse of his face. In the same way, After the Rain has charted at number thirty on the Billboard Top Fifty—and the first release, the poignant and beautiful “Love and Affection,” has already risen to the eighth place on the U.S. Singles chart.

Matthew Nelson is described in Seventeen as “spiritual [and] metaphysical.” Could there be, then, a mental link between the Nelsons? Mandela’s faith in the spirit is not well publicized, but during his visit to New York he was described by Paul Mondesire as “as close to a devine human being as we’ll ever see.”

Maybe the obvious congruence between these men rests on more material matters. When in New York, Mandela was driven through the ticker-tape parade in a flatbed truck with a bullet-proof plexiglass shield atop it; New York police affectionately labelled it “The Mandelamobile.” Meanwhile, Gunnar and Matthew’s love for vintage Mustangs is well publicized. And in another similarity, Mandela voiced his love for the rock music of Tracy Chapman and Richie Havens while attending his anti-apartheid benefit concert at Yankee Stadium, and was described by Pastor Gardener Taylor as “the drum major in the music of freedom.” Gunnar and Matthew also possess deep rock roots—in addition to being the sons of 1950’s late rock legend Rick (“Hello Mary Lou”) Nelson, they claim that they are firmly influenced by such notable megabands as Foreigner.

The likeness betwixt Nelsons exists on an aesthetic level as well. Mandela, with his high forehead and long cheekbones, could easily be mistaken for either Gunnar or Matthew, who are identical twins. Mandela, rumor has it, has even begun to grow his hair to the waist-length stature the Nelson boys are able to boast. Or could the comparison rest purely upon the notion that all three men have the same color eyes?

But whether or not the Nelsons are triplets, it is obvious that their life theories rest upon the same principles of love and respect. When questioned about his sympathy for Fidel Castro, Mandela explained that he admired the Cuban leader for his “love of human rights and freedom.” While Nelson may not approach as political a topic (“Hey, we write about what we know,” Gunnar defends), anyone who watches MTV knows that the two singers simply “can’t live without your love.” Surely, there is no better way to agree with someone than over the feelings of love (and affection).

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How to Get into College, Part I

from WELCOME TO THE REAL WORLD: A FRESHMAN’S GUIDE TO PRINCETON HIGH SCHOOL a.k.a. How To Get Into College, Part I, Presented by THE FREE PRESS

“Freshmen are vegetating blobs of protoplasm.” —E. Buckley

Mr. Buckley, the author of the pithy quip quoted above, retired folllowing the 1989-1990 school year. The reknowned World History teacher/freshman-basher’s departure is yet another symbol of the exciting new feeling around the high school: A suburban version, if you will, of glasnost. (“Glasnost” is Russian for “a melting down;” in this case, a melting down of older customs. If you had been watching the MacNeill/Lehrer Report instead of that Nelson video on MTV, you might have known that.) The mild lipstick attacks that formerly erupted on the first day of school have all but disappeared, and hazing is nonexistant. The Peer Group system, under which groups of freshmen meet with senior leaders, is thriving. (Well, sort of thriving. More on Peer Group later.) To be short, the mentality that freshmen are somehow inherently inferior is now considered gauche.

So don’t be nervous. The high school may look a little bigger than the middle school that you’ve come from. It is. (Though not by much.) So what? A great excuse for being late to class the first couple weeks is that you “got lost.” If you ham it up a little more and break down into tears, no teacher would be cruel enough to mark you tardy. Still, after half a day you’ll probably be able to navigate pretty well—then, the long learning period will have to begin.

Did you know that, according to USA Today, as an average American freshman you should have already recorded your top ten college choices, as well as your intended college major? Well, PHS, long recognized as an above-the-call-of-duty kind of place, refuses to settle for the asinine drivel that such throw-away journals tend to spout. As an average PHS freshman, you should not only know all that stuff, but you should have already applied, early action, to Harvard or Yale. We are not joking. Don’t try to check on your friends in a meager attempt to attain reassurance: They all lie, and you are the only freshman in your whole class who has no clear career goal. Where is my life heading, you cry in terror, Is my entire life down the well? Do I have a fighting chance?

Well, maybe. What you are holding in your hands could be the most powerful device ever endowed to a ninth-grade student. This packet, prepared dutifully by THE FREE PRESS, PHS’s completely independent, student-run newspaper, will tell you everything you really need to know in order to survive in this school. Sure, you may not be able to discern Britania from Britny Fox, but this guide will make you wiser in ways you never knew possible. So read on.

HARVARD UNIVERSITY
Attention: Director of Admissions
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138

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Some Observations on Having Two Broken Arms

“AAAAAAAH! HAAAA HAAAA HAAAA! DAMN, CUZ BROKE BOTH OF HIS ARMS, WHAT A STUPID-ASS, HAAAA, HAAAA…”

Terry Wooding’s jeering died out only because I walked away from him. I diverted my attention from the fading laughter and concentrated on the more urgent task at hand—getting to class. I kicked my locker closed with my foot, secured the velcro straps on my matching blue arm slings, and made my way toward the first floor. I had to wait outside the stairwell door until someone opened it for me. I felt pretty pathetic.

This was not an unwarranted feeling. The previous Friday, I had broken both (yes, that’s two) elbows in a well-publicized bike wreck on Route 206. After that, I came to school with my arms in bondage, cradled in two strangling slings. Here are some observations:

  • Teachers were very sympathetic—especially when I cried to them, whimpering that I couldn‘t possibly write the My Antonia in-class essay because…sniff…I might die if I tried. Even Mr. Manzer, who normally has a veritable book of busts lined up for me, told me that he was sorry I was hurt.
  • Princeton High School’s physical structure discriminates against people who have no arms. For one thing, there are too many doors to pull open.
  • If I had heard one more joke about my condition, I would have puked. How do you like this one: “Duh…if you pull your arms behind your back and move them back and forth, you look like a chicken! Duh, huh, huh,” or, “Hi, Colonel Sanders, Duh, huh, huh.” Then there were the millions of what I call “Oh…sorry” wisecracks—for example, “Hey, William, do you want to come out to play baseball? Oh…sorry. Duh, huh, huh.”
  • I almost booted in English class because the two slings around my neck made me gag.
  • Having arm slings was good for something: I was able to embezzle several hundred cookies fromt he junior bake sale by innocently dropping them into the blue caches. (Don’t even say that that’s stealing—after all, I did make the cookies so I felt I had a right to take them.)
  • My parents gave me rides wherever and whenever I wanted, and I never had to carry anything for weeks. My mother bought me everything my heart desired. My father didn’t mention school once for two weeks.

And now I sit at the computer, staring wistfully at the slings. They are sitting on the stool next to me, full of crumbs and two weeks’ worth of pen marks. Who knows? I may use them again. Even if I don’t need them.

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