Friday, December 30, 2011

CONTEST: Letters From Dad

            Last week, my family gathered at my Aunt’s house for our annual Chanukah party.  Each year, we chat with the extended family, eat a wonderful brisket with a side of potato latkes, and exchange gifts.  This year, we were in for an unexpected treat.
            As coffee and dessert were being served, my grandma brought out an old shoebox.  She handed it to my mother, saying, “You might enjoy looking at what’s inside here.”  I watched as my mom opened up the box and took out a pile of photographs of my father when he was a kid at summer camp, along with dozens of letters in his, now lost, cursive script.
            For more than hour, my sister and I took turns reading the letters aloud, much to the entertainment of the whole family.  The letters were short and to the point.  Again and again he would write that he loved tennis and waterskiing, and that he was the starting shortstop on the baseball team.  He wanted them to send him the daily sports section to camp, because he had no way of knowing how his beloved Orioles were fairing.
            The funniest part about the letters was how they ended seemingly every time.  He always asked that they’d send him gum.  He’d write, “Please send up some gum,” or, “I’m out of gum, please send more,” and best of all, “P.S. Please send gum, lots of it.”  Eventually, my grandmother obviously got sick of these requests and she wrote a letter to my father calmly explaining that if she sent him more gum now, by the time it got to camp he’d already be home, so he should kindly stop asking.
            This small window into my father’s childhood was unlike anything I had before experienced.  My dad never really talked that much about what he was like when he was a kid.  Seeing his cursive writing and amateur spelling is something that I will never forget.  Hearing my dad’s 12-year-old voice pleading with my grandparents for bubblegum was the best present I could’ve asked for.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Holiday Story Contest

Hope everyone's been having a nice holiday.  Tonight we are introducing our second story contest.  The topic this time will be the holidays.  We encourage anyone with an entertaining holiday story to submit it to us at  This time, after some controversy over word limits in our previous contest, we will be strictly enforcing a 500 word limit--we will not publish anything over 500 words.  We will accept submissions until the voting begins at 7:00 P.M. on Friday the 13th of January.  The winner, once again, will receive a $20 Target gift card.  Good luck, and we hope to see some great stories.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Student/Teacher Relationships

            Our school is unorthodox. That’s a fact we’re all familiar with. But it’s something that most of us really love about Park. When I get the chance to describe my high school to somebody for the first time, I get visibly excited. “Imagine your house, with all of your friends over, but then inside of the rooms there are desks and whiteboards instead of beds.” Progressivism is a central doctrine of Park. We push the envelope in every angle possible, in order to maximize educational innovation. Unsurprisingly, the lines are often blurry along these fringes. We step into uncharted territory sometimes, and with no reference point but our ideals, the extent to which our school experiments can get concerning. This gives birth to an array of different issues and topics up for discussion regarding the policies of the institution. The one I want to focus on here is on the subject of student/teacher relationships.
            At the end of each year, my adviser has us complete a personal survey so that he can get a rough sense of our experience over the past nine months. One of the questions in the packet reads, “Is there a faculty member you feel comfortable talking about things with?” For me, that’s always been a yes. So much of what our philosophy preaches relies on strong ties between the kids and their teachers, and to be able to confide in one is a phenomenon that is largely absent from other schools. I’ve had conversations with my teachers as if I was gonna be hanging out with them on the weekend, a kind of intimacy that eclipses traditional conventions. When I can comfortably chat with my adviser about the private school party circuit, I realize that “teacher” doesn’t inherently mean there has to be an imbalanced power dynamic. We share a mutual respect for each other, and that allows for closer relationships.
            So when does it go too far? At what point does that comfortable nature turn uncomfortable? The distinctions are often extremely subtle and therefore complicated to discern. But there must be a line, across which lies territory that teachers and students should not step foot in. I’ve heard rumors of some fairly outlandish things happening between student and faculty, and whether they bear any truth is almost insignificant. The fact that there was even any basis to fuel these rumors speaks to our policy.
            I guess the only way to go about this issue is with specifics; each situation has its own circumstances. Let’s take, for instance, a teacher inviting a student over for dinner to talk about an independent project. Some might be weary of this depending on the gender disparity, but for me it doesn’t matter. It’s fuckin dinner, people. There’s nothing suspicious about that. “What if it’s a male teacher inviting a girl over!” To be honest, I just don’t think there are any teachers like that at our school. I see it as an innocent, but friendly gesture (this is assuming the proposal wasn’t entirely surprising).
            What about a student gossiping with a teacher about who’s been hooking up with who? The thought of this just makes me laugh. I think it’s hilarious when a teacher is curious enough to ask about that kind of thing. And for the most part, there are no ulterior motives there. They just wanna know what’s up with their students—details aside, of course. But to say something like, “oh yeah, your advisee got with so and so this weekend,” is frankly harmless. They have enough tact not to make any awkward remarks. And I like seeing their reactions, I like letting my teachers peek into my life away from school.
            I’d say it starts to get weird when things leave the context of an academic environment altogether. Like, a female student going to her male English teacher’s adult recreational softball game…the moment when the activity encroaches on being something irrelevant to school life. And I hate to make the distinction of gender differences, but 95% of the time that significantly changes things. It wouldn’t be as alarming, statistically speaking, if it was a girl going to her female teacher’s game, because that just seems to me like the development of a real friendship away from school, which I certainly don’t have a problem with. Once you add in the gender-opposite aspect, however, assumptions arise regarding a potential sexual nature to the relationship, which is problematic.
            I’m definitely an advocate for strong relations between the kids and their teachers. We just have to be careful not to venture into the aforementioned territory. I think it’s been a seldom occurrence at our school, but that kind of stuff always has the potential of developing, especially at Park.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


            An epidemic is sweeping the senior class.  What started last spring, as a seemingly innocent exploration of sexuality, has become something much more.  The phenomenon at hand is Sophylis: senior guys falling for sophomore girls.  Over the past few months, the numbers have increased exponentially.  First one pair, then two, and now at least half a dozen couplings have occurred.
            How can we explain these recent developments?  A number of factors have most definitely had an effect on this situation; symptoms may vary.  The stem of the problem can be found in the senior class.  Among the affected group, senior guys and girls have grown impatient with the opposite sex, distancing themselves after years of close friendship.  This distancing has created a void, which for the guys, has been easily filled with presence of sophomore counterparts.
            Another substantial factor has been the curiosity of the sophomore girls.  Sophomore year is a time of growth, and these girls are discovering themselves, trying to fit into the social scene.  There is pressure to explore their sexuality and try new things.  After the first successful exploit, other girls realized that they too could pursue their own upperclassman. Conditions remain ideal for fostering more of these relationships, as each party seems to gain equal satisfaction as a result of the liaison.
            The balance of power in a relationship between a sophomore and senior has the potential to be problematic.  A serious, thoughtful relationship is one thing, but pressured flings are something much different.  Necessary precautions must be taken to ensure that no one is unduly hurt in these precarious circumstances.  If a senior and sophomore truly care about each other, and find mutual respect in a relationship, then brilliant, I wish you all the best.  However, seniors, I advise that you take care before delving into the heart of sophomores.  Sophylis is in the air, and there doesn’t seem to be a cure.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Response to "Day of Service"

            Day of Service. It’s the one day each year when you get the opportunity to give back to your community, to help those underprivileged people who you don’t pay attention to the other 364 days. What a noble cause. And look at that, it’s right before Thanksgiving—how perfect. It sounds like a truly great event. And it is, but nothing in this world is as simple as it appears.
            Despite Jake’s enthusiasm for the Day of Service, I see it as a much darker occurrence. Allow me to explain. It’s hyped up to be the day when you have a chance to take place in selfless acts for the benefit of the community. I see no issue with benefitting the community; the problem is with both hyping and selflessness. One half-day of community service does not fulfill your quota for the year. You can’t justify you’ve “given back” after three hours writing greeting cards. The psychology is all wrong. The school acts like it’s such a good thing that we have this day, but the fact that we advertise it as “fun” kind of deflates its significance. People go home afterwards feeling benevolent and satisfied. Sure, you helped, but to really make an impact, it’s gonna take more than a few hours.
            Then there’s the issue of why. Why was this day created? The truth is that it wasn’t created out of necessity, it was created for some other reason. And that makes it almost arbitrary. “Hey, how about, on the day before Thanksgiving break, we have all the kids do community service? It’ll be nice.” That, to me, seems like absolutely the wrong reason to start such a tradition. “We’re being selfless. We’re helping the community.” No, you’re coming in to school and following directions given to you by an adult because that’s what you were told to do. Not to mention, (however clichéd this may be) if you feel good after doing something “selfless”, can’t the case be made that you did it out of self-interest? It seems to be the accursed question of community service, but that’s for another day.
            The Day of Service is not a bad thing, but I question the way it is perceived and what it’s true purpose is. I’m against something that instills a sense of superficial altruism in students. I can’t say, with certainty, that the Day of Service does this, but I ask you to think hard about why you’re actually partaking in it. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Day of Service

            Every year at Park, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we forgo regular classes to participate in a half day of community service.  There are dozens of options, both on and off campus that students can choose to sign up for.  This day provides a nice break from the monotony of classes, and gives us a great opportunity to give back to the community.
            We should be grateful that Park gives them the chance to take off school and make a difference.  Instead, many students choose to just stay home on Day of Service.  They figure it’s a good chance to recuperate, and after all they’re “not missing anything important.”  I personally find this unbelievably selfish.
            I admit that many of the service options are lackluster.  Making sandwiches or picking up trash across campus isn’t exactly my idea of an exciting morning, but that’s not the point.  Even if your participation is negligible in the grand scheme of things, simply skipping out on the Day of Service is not in the spirit of Thanksgiving, or, for that matter, The Park School.
            Our philosophy preaches positive expectations; when students are absent on the Day of Service, teachers assume that they are gone with good reason.  It is true that a lot of kids go away to visit relatives for the holiday.  Meanwhile, other students abuse these positive expectations when they don’t come into school, relying on their teachers and peers to excuse their absence.
            Park students come from all different backgrounds, and everyone has their unique concerns and problems, but something that we all have in common is the luxury of attending a remarkable school.  No matter how we got here, we all share the teachers and resources that compose our school.  So, think twice before you decide to sleep in Wednesday morning.  Is it too much to ask that for just one day a year, we stop thinking about ourselves and take one for the team?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Birds of a Feather

            People tend to arrange themselves in pretty predictable patterns. It’s something that can be observed in almost any setting, not just high school. I was once given an English assignment that asked whether I believed “birds of a feather flock together”, or that “opposites attract”. Hah. Opposites attract? Yeah, sure, if we’re talking magnets or genders. Otherwise, fuck that shit. When’s the last time you thought I need a new friend, but he’s gotta be the complete opposite of me, in every conceivable way, so that we have absolutely nothing in common and no mutual interests? As much as I wouldn’t like to admit it, I associate myself with people who are extremely similar to me, at least at face-value. It’s not because I’m narrow-minded or stubborn or bland (though I may be), that’s just human nature. I want friends who I can make jokes with, play sports with, and do dumb shit with. That isn’t to say those are my only friends—obviously some variety is healthy and necessary—but macrocosmically, we’re inclined to surround ourselves with similar personalities.
We see this principle manifest itself every single day at school. The physical compositions of groups in the hallways, where people eat lunch, where they sit in assembly, are all a result of this default mindset. There’s a reason you can easily put labels on most of the groups in our school, because a couple adjectives can usually sum them up enough to identify the individual members. I used to think Park was above clichés like jocks and nerds. We aren’t. I hesitate in this territory, because I really don’t want to stereotype anyone too heavily, but in essence, that’s what I’m doing. Or rather, not what I’m doing, but what we have done to ourselves. But I digress. Words like jock and nerd are somewhat outdated and misleading, but at their core, we still have the same dichotomy: the kids that are into sports, and the kids that spend more time studying and pursuing academic interests. It’s certainly not a strict dichotomy, however, and there is undoubtedly a significant amount of crossover between the two. My point, though, is that many students would feel comfortable placing themselves in one group or another. Once you have those initial categories, you can split them into even more sublevels. And those final groupings are often your “friends”. There are so many other categories than just the athletes and the intellectuals, but they follow the same concept. I’m simply drawing the connection between common characteristics and friend groups.
So you get it, blah blah, my friends are exactly like me, etc. What’s the problem with that? There isn’t one, I’d say. But, but, we need to integrate! you plead. I acknowledge the reasoning for variety, and I definitely agree. I would get bored of my friends if they were clones of me, too. I’m not really arguing anything here, but rather attempting to rationalize the tendencies of students at Park. There are kids in my grade who I’m fairly confident I have never had a direct conversation with. That’s kind of sad, but at the same time entirely understandable. The reason why, quite bluntly, is that I share minimal similarities with those people. I still respect them as individuals, appreciate their unique personalities, and will treat them with utmost courtesy and decency. We are just inherently different people, and there is no reason to force a relationship that disobeys natural instincts.
I love the fact that there are groups at our school. We’re like a collection of distinct, little families that interact and learn collaboratively in an academic environment. We have friends from other families, too, and sometimes we’re even members of two or three families. Social clustering is not a bad thing, it’s a natural thing. It can turn vicious when the families start becoming exclusive or aggressive, but as a fundamental idea, there’s nothing wrong with it.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


            Critique is imperative in the writing process.  That said, there is a right way to do it and there is a wrong way.  While I’d tend to agree that a writing workshop in English class isn’t always the most effective method of feedback (Praise, Polish, and Question is a little cutesy for my taste), there is still something about the notion of respectful comments that I find attractive.
            When I submit an article to the school newspaper, even if I’ve done a terrible job, the editors still take the time to meet with me personally and discuss any necessary revisions.  Don’t get me wrong; their comments are often harsh and pointed, yet, they have the decency to tell me what I’m doing wrong and try their best to help me fix it.
            Writing for the blog is quite different.  By posting, I am opening up my thoughts and opinions to the scrutiny of the public.  I love that pressure, in fact, I yearn for it, but what really bother me are anonymous comments.  Anonymous: without a name, without pride, without dignity.  Anonymous comments are safe.  They don’t sacrifice your self-image.  Anonymity allows anyone to take on any opinion they choose without having to worry about the repercussions.
            Here is my plea to all of our readers.  I am extremely grateful for your continued allegiance to Student Parking Only, especially since the consensus seems to be that my posts have been pretty lousy as of late.  If anyone has suggestions, queries, or ideas of any sort, I’d love to hear them.  Send in a piece and I’d be glad to post it.  In the end, no one’s going to remember that anonymous comment you wrote.  On the other hand, if you’re brave enough to put your name out there with your ideas and write a decent post, they might just remember you.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Can You Hear It?

            It’s something so common that most people don’t notice it.  It can be found in TVs, or cars, or even people.  We’re trained to ignore it unless we go looking for it.  But when we find it, there’s no turning back.
            When you turn on your TV do you ever notice a high-pitched hum that just won’t go away?  You’ve watched this TV every night for the past 4 years but until this fateful evening you never bore witness to this wretched noise.  Well you better get used to it, because that noise isn’t going away.
            The same thing often occurs with people.  When you listen to someone speak, most times they sound normal.  One day, you’re talking to that same person and you notice that they inhale quite loudly.  Next thing you know, you’re consciously aware of each inhalation they take.  Similarly, if you realize that one of your friends uses the word “like” excessively, now suddenly the same speech that you once found normal seems horribly polluted with the often-misused word.
            How can it be that one event can cause something in our brain to change the way it acts so dramatically?  I wish I could go back to the days when my TV didn’t hum and my teacher didn’t use the phrase vis-à-vis every other sentence.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tastes Good

           I can’t drive my car without listening to music. I can’t do my homework without listening to music. Some nights, I can’t even sleep without listening to music. That’s fucked up, and probably unhealthy. But I don’t care. Music is the most universal form of entertainment on the planet, and probably the most convenient. It isn’t demanding in any sense of the word, and I can have access to all of it from my computer—plus it’s free if I want it to be. In our generation, it’s essentially an implied facet of life. I mean, who doesn’t listen to music? That’s a completely absurd idea to most of us. And, just like food, each person has his or her own personalized taste of music.
The phrase ‘music taste’ is an all-inclusive category that attempts to generalize the preferences and favoritisms of a person in terms of what they enjoy listening to. In my opinion, it gets tossed around rather haphazardly: “he has great taste in music.”, “ew, no, her taste in music is awful.” I hear talk like that a lot, especially when people are fighting over whose iPod to play at a party. But I have a fundamental problem with saying someone has a poor taste in music. Like, what exactly does that mean? How is music preference assessed in a qualitative fashion? What makes a person’s taste in music good or bad? It doesn’t make sense to me. I can’t go out to dinner with my friend and tell him that he has shitty taste in food…it would be meaningless. Music preference, just like food, is entirely subjective and unique to each person.
Despite the arbitrary nature of judging music tastes, many people proudly boast their own preferences and compare themselves to others in a competitive fashion. So then, what do the people who use the phrase in a contrastive manner think they’re saying? To find out, I asked a few people who considered themselves “tasteful”.
“What do you believe makes your taste in music good?”
A: “I think I have a really wide variety in regards to my interests. I'm also patient with songs and artists when other people will give up on them, I will try and find some redeeming aspects to them.”
B: “It's diverse and sounds good and it’s original.”
C: “I understand the art of good lyricism and instrumentalism, as I play music, and really know how to distinguish actual art and talent from a song that is purely aesthetically pleasing.”

“In terms of the actual songs themselves, what makes a particular one good or bad?”

A: “There are a lot of things to take into account: the lyrics, the rhyming schemes, the background music, beat, tempo, sound of the vocals (if there are vocals).”
B: “Lyrics, if like- an emotion/story/truth is told. That's pretty important, and if it sounds good I guess. And sounds different. If it's relatable, makes you feel something.”

“Does your definition of good music change depending on the setting or environment you're in?”
C: “Yeah, when i'm working with my dad in the summer on the farm, the only appropriate music is bluegrass, but if I'm on the table, I really only want to hear something that goes really hard. Likewise, dance music almost exclusively lacks art, but it serves a wonderful purpose: it makes you move.”

First of all, thanks, to all my interview subjects. Now, let’s look at their responses. The idea of novelty/originality comes up more than once. I guess that the theory is: if a song is undiscovered—a gem—then that somehow automatically makes it better. In the same vein, people that listen to arcane bands seem to believe they’re elevated over those who listen to traditionally popular music. Another trend in the responses is the mentioning of artistic and lyrical aspects of songs. By this logic, a song could then be lyrically brilliant but still sound like utter dissonance.
My point in all of this, and I think subject C had the right idea, is that the concept of “good music taste” is extremely circumstantial, and the notion that someone can have a better taste in music than another person is comparable to someone having better taste in food; they’re both misleading.

*I wrote this in defense of someone who many consider (including myself) to have poor musical taste. I disagree with many of the things I wrote. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

And The Winner Is:

The viewers have spoken.  Despite a controversy over word count, Electric Green Jammers is the winner of our first story contest.  Congratulations.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

CONTEST: The Moment

            My parents have been married for twenty-five years. They’ve had four kids together. For my whole life, I had always thought that they were an archetypical couple, a prime example of matrimony. Sure, they fight a lot, but so does any healthy couple. I maintained this image of them through 10th grade, never once considering the possibility that perhaps there was more to their relationship than I could see. 
            Last summer, sometime during July, I was stuck at home with nothing to do. It was 95 degrees out, sweltering and humid. I had to get away. My friends and I made arrangements to go swimming at the club. We arrived at the pool and I immediately made my way to the locker room to change into my suit. The familiar scent of slightly-mildewed carpet engulfed me as I walked down the hall to find a secluded corner. Just as I was turning into an outcrop of lockers, I experienced a sight so foreign and bizarre to me that I became instantly paralyzed. There was my father, right in front of me, nude, and fully embraced by another man. Their limbs interconnected, their lips plastered to each other’s. What a strange encounter, I thought. I wonder why my dad is kissing this man. Does he owe him money?
            “Seth!” He said to me, entirely flustered. “Son, I—I have a confession.” I tilted my head, slightly confused.
            “What is it?” I asked.
            “Seth…please don’t hate me for this, but, I’m gay.” And that was the moment when I realized my dad was a terrible liar.

- S.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

CONTEST: Fun at the Doctor's Office

            I was at my annual checkup at the doctor.  Of course I was due for several vaccines and my doctor proceeded to explain each of them one by one.  There was the average flu shot and tetanus booster, however, this time there was a new one: the HPV vaccine.
            My doctor proceeded to calmly explain that it is important get this vaccine before you become sexually active as a preventative measure.  It was at this moment that a few poorly thought out words escaped my father’s mouth.  He mockingly asked the doctor “Will it help him become sexually active?”  The doctor didn’t find this joke particularly amusing.


CONTEST: Cheerleading 101

            There isn’t one moment I can pinpoint and say definitively that this is the most awkward encounter I’ve ever had with my parents. In fact, I’ve had so many that I probably cannot choose. Whether it was my sister walking around the house with a sex toy asking what it is, or finding my father’s porn stash in his shirt drawer, it is expected at this point. 
            However, a very awkward situation arose at a basketball game- who would have guessed? I was excited to finally get out of the house and enjoy some college basketball with my good friend and my father. It was a great game at the end of the first half, and I was pumped to see the rest. However, that was quickly thwarted. During halftime the cheerleaders ran out to do a performance. As a male cheerleader was lifting down a female one, she awkwardly fell on his shoulders with her crotch in his face. My friend and I started to giggle, until my father looked over and said, “You see that, that’s what your mother and I do.”

CONTEST: Electric Green Jammers

I work out at the gym with my dad on the weekends. We usually keep to ourselves. He lifts. I run. Sometimes we’ll fill up our water cups at the same time or use elliptical machines in close proximity, but usually our workouts don’t coincide.
            But one Sunday afternoon in January I figured I’d alter my usual routine and take advantage of the salt-treated pool. I decided to swim laps for forty-five minutes or so. I put on my swim cap and goggles and jumped in. It was mostly sixty-something’s around me in the pool and a few younger women in the hot tub on the other side of the aquatic room.
            I started my workout and stopped every four laps or so to catch my breath. I had finished my fifth or sixth 100-meter set and I rested arms on the edge of the pool at the shallow end. More people had come in. I was going to have to share my lane. The ladies in the hot tub were still gossiping, the older men in the other lanes were floating with kick-boards, and in through the doorway walked my dad. In a pair of electric green swimming jammers. 
I pretty much died.
Arguably the most mortifying and scarring thing a teenage girl can witness is her middle-aged, hairy dad in a too-tight, too Olympic, too-everything swimsuit. In public. He walked over to me and waved. “How many laps have you done?” I cringed. Every single person in the room had turned to look at us. The hot tub ladies. The senile men in the other lanes. The one lifeguard. The cleaning lady sweeping the water on the sides of the pool.  Everyone.
I did probably the only rational thing I could have done in that situation. I pushed off the wall as hard as I could and tried not to come up for air for the rest of the afternoon. I hope my dad got the message.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

CONTEST: Cameroon

In 2009 my brother Ian went to Cameroon, which was the farthest any of us had ever been from home. After 4 months we were all excited for his return, especially my father.
            The night before, my father couldn’t sleep; he just baked with James Brown playing until sunrise. When I came home from school there was a “Welcome Home” banner draped across our living room, complete with streamers, balloons and an apple pie, a blueberry pie, a chicken pot pie, and a pan of brownies cooling on the table.
            He thought that Ian would come home a different man, that he would realize he didn’t like my father anymore, or wish he’d never left Cameroon, so two hours before Ian’s flight arrived we filed quickly and silently into the sedan, me in the back seat, my brother Kyle driving, and my father holding a warm plate of fried yams: a recipe he found online. Behind the car, the cat sat in the driveway; with a sick desperation my father turned to my brother and said, “Fuck it. Run over the cat.”
           After an hour Ian came into view, with a sun bleached beard and skin the color of African clay. He came over to us, gave my father a hug, and said his first words to us in four months: “Hey guys.” He yawned, hugging my father. When we got home he gave us gifts. My father cried and we all stayed up eating blueberry pie and popping balloons.


CONTEST: French Toast

Okay, so it’s Saturday morning and I’m home alone.  Now I don’t know about you guys but for me clothes are about everyone else, so when I’m home alone, I don’t bother with stupid things like clothes or breathing.  So I’m completely naked as I walk out of my room and walk downstairs to the kitchen.  Then I’m faced with a difficult choice: should I have cereal for breakfast, or should I make French toast?  A question everyone must ask themselves one day.  Well the choice was made easy because we actually didn’t have cereal, so obviously I got to work on the French toast.  Then I was at that point where I needed to get out a spatula.  So I’m bending down trying to find a spatula when I hear an unnecessarily loud scream, immediately after the scream I hear footsteps sprinting down the stairs.  I turn around to find my mother’s friend who had spent the night at our house.  Once I turn around she continues to scream and it is still unnecessary.  Then my mom comes downstairs, thankfully she realizes that it is unnecessary to scream and so thankfully she doesn’t scream, instead she just looks at me she says to me “why are you naked,” unsure of what to say I say the only rational thing I can think of, “It’s comfortable.”  She gives me a look and makes me go upstairs to put on pants, and then I come back down and make myself some French toast.


CONTEST: Nail Clippers

            I was eight years old and I needed the nail clippers, kept in my parents’ bathroom. I had the worst hangnail in the world and it was all I could think about. I skipped down the hall to the opposite end where my parents’ door was closed, the norm at 10 pm. I slowly opened the door, as to not make any creaking sounds and awake my sleeping parents. As I glanced around I saw that my dad's side of the bed looked abnormally high off the mattress. I had Debbie Roffman guys, I was able to puzzle out what was going on. I was in such shock that they had the nerve to continue these escapades even though they were like 40. I dropped to the ground in utter disbelief. I squatted there, not sure what my next move would be. I heard my mom say "I think Z just came in." Oh shit. What the hell was I supposed to do at that point. So I continued my stance, right next to their bed. My mother came around (after throwing a bathrobe over her naked self) and saw me, just chillin there. I got up and bolted back down the hall and into my room, jumped onto my bed, and burst into hysterical tears. My mother came in, shortly after. I was so mortified by the whole situation. My mom, clearly ill prepared as to how to handle a situation like this, stuttered a bit, and then asked, "Is there anything that you need me to explain?" I really was not in the mood for that one, so I begged her to get out, which she did, and I fell asleep crying. Not sure why I got so damn emotional, but it may have something to do with the fact that I'm pretty sure my parents now think I'm a major pervert... thats cool.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

CONTEST: 1995, Thunder and Treadmill

 It was 1995 and my parents had just moved us to a new city.  Along with it came all the requisite “new” things: new school, new house, new friends, new weather?  Damn did this town have some crazy ass weather.  On one particular night I woke to the crack of thunder and saw two small eyes staring directly at me.  “I’m scared,” a tiny voice peeped.  As the oldest of three, I was the stand-in parent, especially at night time.  “It’s okay, I will”- BANG- holy shit!  That is definitely going to hit our house.  “Come on, I’ll take you downstairs to Mommy,” I said bravely as I grabbed her little hand and yanked her behind me. 
Phew, I got us safely to my parents room, pulled down on the handle.  Locked?   I knocked.  “Mom?”  She couldn’t hear us over the storm raging outside.  I looked down at that terrified little face and pondered my next move.  I glanced down at the floor and there in front of us was a perfect image of my mother projected onto the high gloss tile floor.  “Wow, you can see mom there, just like a movie.  She is awake,” I said.  “Oh look,” said my sister as she stared down at our mother, “Mommy is exercising on the treadmill.”  “But we don’t own a treadmi-oh-god! You know what, why don’t you just come sleep in my bed for tonight.”

- LA

SPO's First Story Contest

To all of our loyal viewers, we offer you the opportunity to try your hand at blogging.  We will be holding a contest in which our viewers vote on their favorite stories submitted by fellow viewers.  All stories must be 250 words or less about the following prompt:

An awkward encounter with parents.

Please send all submissions to and we will post them as quickly as possible.  Keep in mind that the stories will be posted exactly as they are submitted so please take care while proofreading.  The winner, as chosen by you, will receive a $20 gift card to Target.  We will take entries until Friday October 14th, and voting will take place from Friday at 7:00 P.M. until Monday October 17th at 9 P.M. If you have any questions about the contest feel free to ask in a comment below and we'll answer it as quickly as possible.

--Mark & Jake

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Index Card Soup

            First off, I give him props for managing to incorporate cats, soup, grades, and inception in an esoteric clusterfuck of an assembly. I can’t speak much to the first two segments, but I do think our former Upper School Principal candidate brought up an intriguing idea in Part the Third. Here’s the policy he was advocating for, in case any of you missed it: relinquish public letter grades for 9th grade students at Park. Kids would still, however, receive grades, and their parents would still get their child’s report in the mail. But under the new plan, instead of having your paltry freshman grades saved on record for colleges to gossip over, they would instead see nothing from that year. K.C.’s justification for this scheme ran something like, ‘it would provide a smoother transition for eight-graders and they wouldn’t feel as pressured to perform, thus allowing them to concentrate on learning and adjusting.’
            His argument makes sense to me, and in context with our philosophy, it sounds like a logical Park move. But I think there are aspects that have been overlooked. I know our school likes to brag about not giving grades in middle school, and I suppose, technically, that’s true. Except that we did get grades, they were just in numerical/symbolic form. Let’s be real, when you got your math test back and it said “OK” on it, you could infer, with adequate precision, your “grade range”. We weren’t that ignorant back then, and neither were our parents. Perhaps more malevolently, our grades were disguised from us, masked with a veil of ambiguity, only for us to discover the truth in a few short years. By high school, we all knew what kind of student we were. There were no surprises at 9th grade quarter reports, or at least, there shouldn’t have been.
            Then there’s the notion of prolongation. Why let kids wait another year until they have to face the realities of high school and the rest of their lives? I hold the position of the sooner, the better. Eventually, the mother has to kick her hatchlings out of the nest and force them to survive independently. The longer we coddle our students, the harder reality is gonna smack them in the face when the time comes. And contrary to ninth grade, tenth grade actually matters. You want as much practice with these new-fangled “grade” things as possible.
            I’m sure most of us would love to live in a world free of evaluation, and I respect Park’s initiative to address this, but the system isn’t changing anytime soon. We can try to go against the grain, but in the end we have to accept that some factors are out of our control for now.

So that’s where I stand. What do you guys think? Am I being cynical?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Letter to an Asshole Driver

Dear Asshole Driver,

            I don’t know you, I really don’t. In fact, the only things I do know about you are the color of your car and how you drive like an asshole. So I apologize, in advance, if I’m making any false assumptions.
            Look, roads are public places. Every driver has an individual responsibility to make sure that his vehicle remains safe, and under control. We must share the asphalt with one another, as cordial members of society. For some reason, you feel like you’re exempt from this universal understanding. You find no moral or otherwise logical conflict with completely disregarding the laws of traffic and commuter code, and that bothers me. Why should I have to wait at the end of the line to get onto 695 when you casually cruise by on the shoulder and bully your way in at the last second? Why should I have to signal every time I change lanes when you thread in and out of traffic without warning?
In case there was any confusion on your end, it’s not cool to drive like a douchebag. I’ve never thought to myself after being aggressively cut off, “I think I wanna know that guy.” It’s overcast, take your fuckin’ sunglasses off. And look, your license plate spells something. That’s crazy, did someone else get that made for you? No? Then you’re just a twat. Of course tinted windows are a given; you can’t possibly let anyone actually see your face! What if they run into you at the grocery store? Then again, you’re probably used to getting kicked in the balls by this point. Seriously, no one cares that your parking spot will get taken if you don’t make it to work on time. We all have places to be. You’re not special, you’re just a prick. And, yeah, most of us have actually heard music before. Don’t feel pressured to have the volume so high that I can tell you’re listening to Linkin Park from four cars back.
But enough criticism. I’m here to make you aware of yourself but also to help you improve as a person. Is ADS (asshole driving syndrome) a genetic deficiency? Is it hereditary? It very well may be, but you can fight the symptoms. First you have to trade in that glossy new Chevy Camaro for a fuel-efficient Toyota. Sorry, I know it looks like Bumblebee from the Transformer movies, but it’s gotta go. Next you need to accept that your wife is the best you could have possibly done. Really, you’re lucky she married you. Try eel, it’s a natural aphrodisiac. I know your brother makes more money than you, but you chose a major you were passionate about, and that’s all that counts. Try and make a friend. Maybe after you find one, you might be able to find another.
Drink tea and do easy- or medium-level word problems to stave off the effects of road rage. But don’t fuck with Sudoku, because that gets me extremely agitated. Plant an herb garden or help your kids with a school project. Help bees pollinate flowers. Help the trash men lift your trashcans in the morning. Help the girl scouts in your neighborhood sell cookies (don’t be creepy about it). Help ants not fall victim to sadistic children with magnifying glasses. Help the saplings in your backyard compete for sunlight monopoly. Help your friend compete for a real estate monopoly. Help your Danish immigrant neighbor find an adequate pastry shop. Help your mom with her insulin shots. Help the local mafia compensate for their poor investments. And help yourself, by not being an asshole driver.

Guy you cut off

Saturday, September 24, 2011

State-of-the-Blog Address

           If you’ve been following recent blog activity, you know that there has been a healthy dose of controversy between two of our writers. The aforementioned point of dispute was regarding the distinction between an opinionated column and a strictly humorous post. Now, I do love a good argument, and their little back-and-forth served as a fantastic publicity stunt for us. That being said, the issue is a valid one. So we’ve made a few slight changes here on the blog. Directly under the title is a new header for page tabs. These tabs feature general labels like ‘Humor’, ‘Advice’, etc. When you click on a tab, you’ll go to a page which shows all posts labeled with that word. Or, if you prefer to just see all articles in chronological order, use the ‘Home’ tab. Hopefully this addition prevents any more confusion.
            Onto the second item. Up to this point, we’ve featured an intimidating grand total of six writers on the blog. That’s kinda pathetic. It was our intent to create a medium compelling enough that it would inspire our readers to want to contribute to it. While we have had a few submissions, it hasn’t been nearly on the scale that we’d hoped for. If you’re funny, if you’re witty, if you’re opinionated, we want to hear what you have to say. Take a chance, submit something (
            I think that pretty much covers everything for now. Thanks again for your continued support, and keep an eye out for new content. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Compromise

Dear J-Hay,

I’m truly sorry that you’re taking my post personally, however the post isn’t about you, it’s about how I feel about your post. Just to be clear I was never offended by anything you said, I just thought that a topic with as much dimension and breadth as Girls v. Guys deserved some broader concerns that come to mind in the daily life of a teenager.
You’re right, this blog does attempt to affect the thought of the average teenager and personally I think that this is amazing. Half of these posts are about silly stuff like how to make money or what shows to watch when the weather just won’t cooperate, but the other half of these posts are about more somber topics that truly matter to the bloggers, like Max’s “Young, Wild, and Free.” I think that affecting a teenager’s thought process doesn’t always have to be revolutionary, but the idea that our peers can influence our thought process through both humor and deep thought through a blog is revolutionary to me. Knowing that other teenagers are sad about growing up connects me to them and I’m happy because of it. Maybe not hysterical laughter happy, but I definitely had a smile on my face while reading that post.
I’m not suggesting in any way that you’re dumb. Pinky swear. I just think that there are always many ways to look at things and we just don’t see eye-to-eye, and that’s all right. If you can get your point across with humor, have at it! I’m not a particularly funny person, so I can’t do it like that. We’re just opposites. John Stewart is both hilarious and a genius, so maybe we both need to make our way to being more like him. I’ll help you if you help me. Maybe we can even co-write about another topic.

Best Wishes,

Quinn Salditch


Dear Quinn,

         I decided to write a post for this blog because it seemed to me that no true opinions were being posted on the website, but rather the site consisted of bloggers over-analyzing and in an attempt to create a piece that would revolutionize the social thought of teenagers. My sole intent was to bring some comedy to this site, as evident through my theatrical post. What I do is an art. What YOU do is a cold habit. Why be so soon to criticize, when all I am succeeding in doing is bringing a laugh to my audience. Obviously YOU need a laugh. As the Joker creepily says, “Why so serious?” Life is too short to over-analyze and take offense to a piece that never had the intent to offend. I am a unique person with my own comedic views, are you suggesting that I neglect my sense of creativity and comedy? Are you suggesting that I am dumb? I wrote this post for entertainment purposes. We all sit in school for hours on end each day and listen to the drones of academic analysis, why would I write a piece that states the obvious? However, if further posts will not be appreciated, let me know. If you don’t want to hear from me, let me know. What I do is an art, what people who criticize do is an unwarranted habit.


Dear J-hay

Dear J-hay,

            Men and women. Two seemingly different species, entirely mysterious to the other. Out of all the things in the world that separate the two, your first thoughts were bags and bathrooms? Really? Although purses and restroom decorum may seem like the most important differences between guys and girls to you, they’re pretty trivial. Yes, it’s true that girls have to sit down when they go to the bathroom. That’s old news. And honestly, purses suck. They’re uncomfortable and full of useless shit that I throw in just because I have the space. I’d take pockets any day of the week. Besides, ever heard of a backpack? Our fellow blogger Mark carries one just about everywhere he goes.

            Granted, I agree with you that both men and women are subject to “horrible experiences,” but those experiences are certainly worth mentioning if your point was to decide which has a better life in this society. So now that we’re on the same page, let’s talk about some big topics.

            Sex. As teenagers it’s on all of our minds. Whether you want it or you don’t and whatever your reasons may be, sex is all around us. It influences the decisions we make and the people we relate with. Both genders are pressured to have sex, but in my opinion, girls will prevail here. The key factors are as follows: who has to initiate the relationship and who can say no. In our culture, men are expected to start the relationship. That’s a massive risk. As childish as it sounds, what if she doesn’t like you back? What if you don’t live up to her expectations? The girl has all of the power in this situation, and that moment of horror while she contemplates your fate is torturous, not to mention if she says no. We can also see this dynamic on any typical Saturday night. The boy has to prompt the encounter with any of several certified, teenage initiation moves, like grabbing her hand and leading her into a bedroom.  Once that bait has been cast, sex is on both of their minds. The question then becomes if he’s going to go for it or not. Traditionally, girl says no, and boy reluctantly complies. The night ends with God rejoicing that two more of his children haven’t had sex before marriage. But what if it’s the guy that isn’t ready? What if she wants to hook-up but he doesn’t? Guys can’t say no. If the prospect of sex is placed before them, they have no choice but to hesitantly acquiesce. Thankfully, most guys do want to have sex, but at least girls have the choice when it comes down to it.
            Clothes. Fashionable girls are cool and fashionable guys are gay. However, with fashion comes responsibility. Girls are required to wear different outfits every day that match and look decent. It can’t be too baggy or you’re sloppy; it can’t be too tight or you’re a slut. Guys can get away with wearing t-shirts every day, and in rare cases can even get paid to wear the same outfit for an entire school year. Granted, they can’t try out fall’s latest fashions, but who cares? I’d rather have a uniform for school than spend time picking out what I’m going to wear each morning. Men can wear a button down and dress pants to practically every event, whether that be a wedding, Bar Mitzvah or school. For girls it’s totally different. Family reunion? Maybe a sundress, but maybe pants and a nice top would be better. Sister’s graduation? A dress would be nice, but it has to cover the shoulders. Maybe pair it with a sweater and it’ll be okay. Don’t know what to wear to school today? Don’t even think about a dress, too fancy. Jeans and a cute top…but what shoes? Maybe earrings today, but maybe not. In terms of clothes, guys have it easier.
            Being a man makes you automatically right when you’re talking to a girl. Whether you actually are or not is unimportant. As a girl, and a fairly confident one at that, I have firsthand experience with male dominance in both a classroom and a social setting. Girls aren’t wrong when they talk in class, just not right. As a boy your ideas are thought of as superior, with a particular sophistication, no matter how much you actually thought it through. This is the reason women can’t be leaders. Female president? Forget about that. Her decisions would be too heavily influenced by her emotions. All of these gender roles are imbued in our subconscious, whether you like it or not, and the majority favor men.
Now back to my boy J-hay. Let me make this clear: I don’t think you’re wrong, I just think you’re right for the wrong reasons. If you neglect all of the concrete examples, it comes down to power and confidence. Those “horrible experiences” that you talked about all have to do with being thought of as normal. You’re not normal if you carry a trash bag around. “Normal” is a golden word for all of us with self-esteem issues. Now it’s no secret that all girls have self-esteem issues. They all strive to lose a pound, have whiter teeth, or prettier eyes. This may come as a surprise to some girls, but men have the same issues we do, they’re just better at hiding it. We’re all the same and we’re all aspiring toward the same goal: to be accepted. So if you want to yell “Yes we can!” at the guy in the mall, go for it. Maybe your words will help him feel a little more normal.

--Quinn Salditch

Monday, September 19, 2011

Flip of a Coin

Every time a baby is conceived, the big guy upstairs flips a 2-sided, 1953 Deutsche Mark and decides if the poor, bloody fetus will emerge a boy or a girl (sometimes both, sometimes neither). With the flip of a coin, a life is defined. There is no doubt we live in a society defined by creepy cashiers who give out discounts like free samples to our large-breasted girl friends, as we stand there with our 7 dollars in hand, ready to pay the listed price for our burrito. I began thinking (which really hurt so I took a break, ate, and continued thinking): Is it better to be a boy or a girl?
I cannot keep track of my things. On a daily basis I can expect to lose my wallet, my keys, my credit card, a friend or two, and perhaps my virginity (Oh, the dreams of a 17-year-old boy!). Girls are lucky. Those smiley pricks are socially permitted to carry a bag around to throw their shit in. I have two pockets to put all my crap in. I hate it when my keys nudge me in places I ought not to be nudged in! Not to say that I want to carry a purse around, believe me. But I would jump at the chance to tote a massive, black, ForceFlex trash bag to carry my things in, if only society allowed it. If I were to do that now, I’d be looked upon as a hobo. Then again, what else is new? The world, once again, unconsciously begrudges my needs. #Letsbehonest, if you saw a schmuck like me walking around with a big black bag, wouldn’t you think, “OMG Let me Mupload this” or “I am so glad I don’t go to public school.” I don’t blame you, I blame society. How dare you force my sharp keys so firmly upon my tender thighs.
Don’t worry guys, in the Public Bathroom Department, we got the girls beat. Whenever I find myself angry about not being able to carry a trash bag around, I quickly cheer up as I pass girls waiting in the line for the bathroom. Ever swam in an Infinity Pool™? Same concept. Not only do they have to wait, but they always have to sit. Don’t get me wrong, sitting is great in the comfort of my own home. I often imagine my Oscar acceptance speech as I rest, asquat, atop my porcelain throne. I must admit, I envy the fact that girls can leave class and go on a secret undercover mission to take a poopy break during school. If I were to partake in such a dangerous mission, I would be found out! Women don’t have urinals, and although they don’t get to participate in those fun games we play while we try to aim our pee, they do get to sit, no matter what. 
Here is the thing: women are subject to horrible experiences and guys are subject to horrible experiences. Next time you see a poor guy carrying a trash bag in the Towson Mall, shout "YES WE CAN" or some other communistic saying like that. Maybe it'll brighten his day and give him hope that he will someday lose his virginity. As humans, we all fear public restrooms. I am happy to be both human and a boy, as I am sure girls are happy to be both females and human. At the end of the day, we can recognize the greatness in both genders of the world, and all that fall in between. Everyone has to put up with shit.
Over and out.

Post by: J-hay

Sunday, September 18, 2011


800,000: the approximate number of views that my YouTube videos have aggregated—a number well into the threshold of human incomprehensibility. It’s a statistic that has followed me, through my adolescence, without ever revealing itself in my physical life. Not because it isn’t a satisfying achievement, but because the videos that I produced were about a video game.
I was thirteen years old when I first broached the realm of virtual filmmaking. Using hardware that I had read about on a tech blog, I scrupulously crafted my pilot episode of Halo 3 Hiding Spots. It was a miserable flop. Though I had surely thought otherwise at the time, breaking onto the YouTube scene as a new user is an onerous undertaking. If no one is looking for you, no one is going to find you. I discovered that the most efficient way to make a name for myself was not to have consistent, high quality content, but to shamelessly publicize. So that’s what I did. I went on to every related video and every related channel and posted the following comment: “COOL VIDEO! You should check out mine.” It was a bait and reel; I caught them off-guard with a compliment, and while intoxicated with flattery, I snuck in a bit of subliminal advertizing. After just a few days, I could already tell my stunt was working.
Once I had established a core group of viewers, the daunting task of keeping them became my main focus. My videos were in a fairly unique niche of the Halo community. Most films of the game were simple exhibitions of skill. Conversely, the purpose of my videos were to demonstrate the areas of the game in which one could go to hide from the skilled players featured in the other videos. I was—and not to belittle a renowned historical figure—the Harriett Tubman of Halo.
Eventually, my infamy spilled over into the actual game. People would recognize my name from YouTube and scream emasculating remarks at me through their headset. I amassed a cult following, people that watched my videos and used my strategies. We made such a significant impact on the community that the company that developed the game had to implement mandates reprimanding those players who practiced my tactics. To a thirteen year old, that’s monumental.
Now, I’d like to return to that initial number of views. To think about it in terms of time is rather fascinating. I estimated that the average length of one my videos was close to four minutes. Let’s imagine, for exemplary purposes, that only one person could be viewing my videos at a time. In this hypothetical circumstance, it would take over 6 years for the video to be viewed 800,000 times.
This period of my life had come to a close before I had even entered high school. I stopped playing video games altogether by 10th grade, and it was also by that time I decided to never let any of my friends unearth what I saw as a thoroughly embarrassing past. So I buried that fragment of my history, and it remained undisturbed for a long time—until I finally reached a level of self-confidence that trumped irrational anxiety of humiliation. Yeah, fuck that. I'm a nerd, what of it?

One of our more popular videos.