Monday, February 14, 2011

So You Think You Don't Like Valentine's Day, I mean, Poetry

Given the day, it seems appropriate to post this poem. Also relevant is the fact that the poet, Dean Young, is in need of a heart transplant
. Please, someone give this man a new heart so that he can keep writing poems like this one. Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

On Being Asked By A Student If He Should Ask Out Some Girl

I say get her alone in a kitchen.
I say what Keats said.
I say don't wear that. I display the driftwood
you picked up at McClure's the day we saw the whale.
Part question mark, part claw, part stroke
personified. I say buy her a box of crayons,
the big 64 box. I say you'll be dead soon
anyway. Outside the snow hesitates and thaws
but my office has no windows. I say my office
has no windows and down the hall
the copy machines moan, Again, again,
my chair all swiveling squawk.
I say when I was young.
I tell about carrying your chair across the bridge
and how sick your cockatoo seemed the first weeks
in our new apartment. I say we'll be dead soon
anyway. I explain how after looking half the afternoon
for two socks, one mine, one yours, we find them
under a pillow, nestled together like newts in love.
I say it's hopeless as holding a bag of strawberries
in the rain. I mean what happens to wet paper bags.
I say climb the mountain. I read some Donne aloud
like I'm paid to do. I move the triangle
toward the furnace as indication of the indeterminacy
of all human affairs. There is no triangle, there is no
furnace. I say when I was alone
and miserable. I let the canoe stutter
and drift. I lift my hands like someone asked to dance
a dance I don't know how to. I have this pain.
I have died this way in a previous life,
my armor clattering in the dust.
It's spring in the Alps. On Venus it's Spring
and tiny Venusians chortle with sobs far beyond
our registers, inventing new forms of love.
I ask her name. I say spell it. I ask, What
did you get on the midterm? Across the hall,
my colleague explains something 18th century
to a cloud of perfume. I am thinking
this morning to discard the opera,
wrote John Cheever in his journal.
To find out why life has this huge dog,
wrote Vallejo in Spanish in Paris.
He fell over coughing up blood.
If I had my notebook, I'd cross everything out.
I love the sea, how it crosses everything out.
I almost start talking about Wisconsin.
I say, You can do two things, maybe three.
I say the final's on Monday,
mostly short answer, some i.d.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

North Shore Agency: BUSTED

In my last post, I transcribed the e-mail Funkin' A! received from douchenozzle extraordinaire Kyle Fitzpatrick. Now I'd like to share another odd piece of correspondence I received a few weeks ago in the mail, from North Shore Agency, a collection agency with a Columbus, OH address.

Dear Katie Vagnino,

Be realistic.

You don't get something for nothing.

The magazines you ordered from our client, TIME OUT NEW YORK, have a value. Otherwise, you wouldn't have placed an order for that subscription.

That value is in the amount of $19.97.

We expect full payment for that subscription. The value of sending payment on your part is to protect your account with our client.

That account has a value, too.

Make a check payable to North Shore Agency and mail it in the envelope provided.

You don't get something for nothing.

It's not the way it works and you know that.


I find this letter completely hilarious in its tone. I mean, talk about childish shaming tactics! I also, upon checking online and calling Time Out, determined that my account is not actually in collection and my subscription is paid up through June 2011. BOGUS.

A quick Google search of "North Shore Agency scam" yielded a ton of hits, information about class action lawsuits and warnings on consumer scam sites about how NSA obtains/steals old subscription data and sends phony letters. Sadly, most people pay because the amount requested is low and they don't want to jeopardize their credit. Hell, I almost just paid it and figured I'd forgotten to renew my subscription on time. However, North Shore Agency can't even report to credit agencies. This is something they freely admit when you call them, like I did.

Getting a human on the phone was not easy. The number listed on the letter I got just connected me to an automated system that wanted my credit card information. I tried pressing zero, I tried pressing nothing and staying on the line and I just got disconnected eventually. Finally, I located an alternate number, provided by another pissed NSA letter-recipient. I called and spoke to a very hostile woman who admitted that they are being sued by a bunch of people ("well, all companies get sued") and insisted that Time Out New York had given them my information, even after I told her I had just gotten off the phone with them and their records show that my account is paid.

At any rate, I probably should report these clowns to someone. In the meantime, if you get a letter from North Shore Agency, don't send them any money.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


As many of you know, I am a proud member of a Boston "vocal band," a.k.a. non-collegiate adult a cappella group. Yes, I'm even cooler than you thought. When I joined this group back in March 2009, the group had four members (2 guys , 2 girls) and was called Downtown Crossing. Downtown Crossing had existed for some unknown number of years and performed a few regular high-profile gigs (like the Boston AIDS walk) and the occasional private event. However, not long after I joined, 2 of the 4 of us left, and a bunch of new folks came in. And something we all agreed on was that our name kind of sucked. I mean, Downtown Crossing is like my least favorite area in Boston. It's such an eyesore. It brings to mind fast food chains, a urine-soaked T stop, and the sad, gutted remains of the original Filene's Basement.

Filene, I'm glad you're not alive to see this.

So we came up (or, really the friend of a member came up) with a new name: Funkin' A!

The exclamation is part of the name, which will become relevant in a moment.

Funkin' A! is ridiculous, but so is singing a cappella when you're a grown-up. At least with a tongue-and-cheek name, it's clear that we're in on the joke. And let's be real, it's not like people were clamoring to hire us when we were Downtown Crossing.

Now, fast forward to January 2011. Funkin' A! has done a handful of legit gigs, at venues like Harper's Ferry (R.I.P.) and All Asia. We are seven members strong. Our visual blend is excellent (i.e. we're good-looking). We have a functional website, a solid repertoire of more than dozen songs, and a Facebook fan page. Then we received this e-mail:

Hello guys and girls.
My name is Kyle Fitzpatrick. I am the singer/guitarist and primary songwriter of Funkin' A...we have been together using the name "Funkin' A" for 2 years now. Im sending a friendly message telling you I have had this name Trademarked. I have had the official certificate for the past two months. I have known of your existence for a while now, but thought you guys might realize that we did have it first and we play very often. Our website will be up soon. We are going to be recording an album that will be on iTunes in the next few months and your name must change. We will likely come to play Boston. We are completely prepared to take this to the next step if you guys do not comply. Its a great name, and we had it first. I expect to hear back in a timely response, or you will hear from our lawyers.

Kyle Fitzpatrick
Funkin' A

Friendly message? Seemed a little douchey to us. And honestly, how serious can the band be if they don't even have a website? This photo accompanied the e-mail, further convincing us of the ass-itude of Mr. Fitzpatrick, who has yet to master how to flip an image in Photoshop. (That's probably next on the agenda, after setting up a website and leading his Funkin' A incarnation, which happens to be a Long Island-based jam band, to superstardom.)

I mean, he has a goatee and is wearing some kind of beret/beanie chapeau. COME ON.

We composed a polite response to Mr. FitzP, explaining that we hardly pose a threat and hey, isn't the world big enough for two bands with the same silly name? We have no iTunes aspirations. We will never perform outside of Boston. It's unlikely our respective "fans" will ever get confused. And besides, our name has an awesome/hilarious/ironic exclamation point after it. TOTALLY DIFFERENT.

Kyle wrote back a nastier missive than the first one, still threatening legal action and still demonstrating an ignorance of when to use apostrophes. Our group has reached a consensus that if this dude really wants to shell out a grand to pay a lawyer to send us a cease and desist letter, well, let him do that. His money to waste as he pleases. We are doing funking nothing until a certified letter arrives. This is assuming Kyle's crack legal team (apparently he has "lawyers" plural) can even find a physical address for us. Good luck with that, Kyle.

In the meantime, we are considering the following possible names:
1) The Kyle Fitzpatricks
2) Fun$kin' A!!!!!!!!
3) Funkin' B
4) Fuckin' A (though we'd probably lose the AIDS Walk gig)

Finally, for your reading pleasure, I give you Funkin' A's sentence-fragment-infested bio, in which I have highlighted what I believe to be the most mock-able elements:

"Funkin' A is a cognitive ensemble driven by the perpetual quest to rock the funk out. From Long Island, NY - absorbing themselves in as many different styles of music as they can to fuel their diversity....striving to be open vessels to the ever-evolving new possibilities in this musical universe. The band took shape in Jan. 2009. Each musician had been in different projects and various outfits. They are now eclectic groove conductors. Diverse, catchy rhythms...unique songs.. They are not your average band....Come see Funkin' A."

It's true, they are not your average band, excuse me, "cognitive ensemble." They are much, much worse. I would say that if you're in the New York area, avoid this group like the plague, but I don't have to. Unless you're in Patchogue or Amagansett, NY, Funkin' A won't be playing at a venue near you anytime soon.