Track This: Mr. T Experience's "The Girl Who Still Lives At Home"

Every time I listen to the Mr. T Experience, or MTX for short, I marvel at how Dr. Frank takes a clever turn of phrase and uses it to ever greater effect in each song. For a band that writes "Songs About Girls" with tongues planted firmly in their collective cheeks, the group has gone through many permutations, but Frank has been the one constant in their long career. The band has written many great songs in different periods, whether one is a fan of the more punk and rock 'n' roll period with Jon Von turning in the occasional raucous, garagey anthem like "Kill The Ramones" or "I'm In Love With Paula Pierce" or the power pop records in the early 90s with tracks such as "Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend. Of course, the Joel Reader era produced pop punk classics like Love is Dead, which morphed into a brief indie rock period before the band's dissolution.

The other day I was listening to 1989's Making Things With Light, an album that r…

My Brief Career as a Bear Wrangler

Photo Credit:Chris Wyman
One summer after I graduated high school, I worked at a resort in Northern Wisconsin wrangling bears and mowing lawns, but truth be told I spent most of my time collecting garbage.

An older, German gentleman, Hans, and I drove around in a blue late 1980s F-150 truck, picking up garbage from assorted cabins around the property. He would play polka music on cassette tapes and tell me stories about his younger days. On the days that he was off work, I would drive without music and collect the beer cans that vacationers left in the cabins. If they left food or beer behind, it was fair game, so I had a seemingly endless supply of cheap beer that summer. I did not buy light beer like Keystone, Coors, Busch, Miller, and others, given that I was a Heineken and Newcastle man in my misspent youth. My friends were pleased when I always had extra beer that no one had to purchase.

The bear wrangling was less dangerous than it sounds because they were leery of us. When we r…

Bill Tells A Story: In-Progress Tales That Never Find a Home

As someone who writes both fiction and nonfiction everyday, I often discover snippets of writing in notebooks or in long forgotten files on my hard drive. Generally, I know what they are. At least, I have some idea of why I wrote them. If they are nonfiction, I sometimes revise them for blog posts. The fiction snippets are more difficult to use. I always tell myself that I will finish the story or find a place to use it in my ever-expanding novel that I secretly contend is narratively daring.

This snippet is amusing, if nothing else, so I am sharing it. Perhaps, I want to remind myself at some future date that I will eventually finish each of these brief pieces. Another thing, why did I think I could use goosebump as a verb? For this story, I wonder what was coming next: a scary ghost story, a humorous tale, a novel about Bill and his madcap crew of camp rangers, or the secret life of William Jefferson Clinton. One thing I do know is that I am now hungry for s'mores.

Take it away,…

120 Minutes: How I Wasted My Sunday Nights in the 1990s

Some of my fondest memories from high school include tuning into 120 Minutes every Sunday night on MTV. I discovered many bands, and in the process, developed my musical identity. I still have about fifty tapes of videos and interviews from the show, mostly from the 1990s. Watching them now is like a time capsule of how my musical taste changed. I wore those tapes out by watching my favorite episodes and videos over and over.

One of my favorite episodes featured Matt Pinfield interviewing Rancid, mostly because the videos they picked and bands they recommended were so varied, including oi taste makers like the Business, shoutouts to the Swingin' Utters, and discussions of Operation Ivy and reggae as rebel music. My taped copy of this show is unwatchable because it goes back and forth between speeds, so I am glad Eyesore Video Channel posted it on YouTube.

Another favorite episode was when Henry Rollins and Jerry Lee Lewis co-hosted the show. This odd juxtaposition was even strange…

"When I Write the Book": My Favorite Songs About School and Writing

Since school has begun, I compiled a list of songs about teaching and writing. There are far more about teaching and teachers than writers, but I want to highlight a few of my favorites without picking the most obvious. For example, you will not find Van Halen's "Hot for Teacher" here. I think it is a tad overplayed and does not capture the feeling I am looking for in songs about teaching or attending school. Plus, you all know it. You also know The Ramones' "Rock 'n' Roll High School, but I cannot help myself in including that awesome track, especially paired with the MC5. I'm in search of more songs about writing, so if you have any suggestions let me know. I'm missing so many good ones. Any teaching/student songs would also be cool, especially if they extol the virtues of school. Many of these songwriters are fed up and frustrated with their school experience. That said, here are ten of my favorite in no particular order.

1. John K. Samson-&qu…

To List or Not: My Life as an Obsessive Lister

Those who know me are familiar with my obsessive list making. Every day I make lists that are long, unwieldy, and unlikely to be completed. It is part of my mania that I separate these lists into three categories: fun items, daily teaching/writing tasks, and ongoing writing projects. I listed the fun items first on purpose because these are the most likely to be completed. Sometimes I do actually finish the daily teaching/writing tasks. If not, they roll over to the next day. The ongoing writing projects are generally tasks that I have been working on since time immemorial, and I am not I will ever finish most of them. They too are moved from list to list obsessively until I finally remove them because I can no longer be so masochistic.

Andrei Codrescu, in a 1989 collection of his "All Things Considered" essays, Raised By Puppets, Only To Be Killed By Research, writes about lists in a tellingly accurate, yet humorous essay, "Today We List, Tomorrow We Fail." He ch…

Seasonal Shifts: Hot Spring Mountain Pictures

“A man on foot, on horseback or on a bicycle will see more, feel more, enjoy more in one mile than the motorized tourists can in a hundred miles.” 
― Edward AbbeyDesert Solitaire

My wife and I recently visited Hot Springs National Park and hiked up Hot Springs Mountain. Many of my pictures tend to deal with the juxtaposition of man-made objects and nature. I love to take pictures that show how nature attempts to reclaim its space.