Rutgers Review 20th Anniversary
Staff Member 1988-1991
I’d like to be able to tell you that the most important things I learned during college came from the mouths of my professors, heard during lectures held in classrooms. But if I told you that it would be a lie. The most important things I learned in college all seemed to be learned while working on the Review.
Over the past decade I’ve reflected many times on just how well working for the Review prepared me for the big bad world of work. Its funny… I never intended to enter the 9-5 realm, and I never expected to be working in an office anywhere, much less Washington, DC. I thought I’d end up being an English professor on some snowy New England college campus. Ha! Thank God I was saved from that doom and gloom. That said, I only wish that my office jobs had always been as great as my job at the Review.
Working on the paper each week was a total riot. We worked hard, damn hard, to produce a paper we could be proud of… and we did it all for no money. We argued over everything, debated politics, grammar, musical tastes and clothing choices made by our fellow editors. No one was safe from our sarcasm, and we were as tough on each other as we were on everyone outside of the paper. But we had fun, lots of fun, and we did it all with style and intelligence. Watching and listening to my fellow editors, I learned how to be a good boss, and how to avoid being a bad one. I learned how to argue well, and how to concede an argument when the time was right and the other side had a good point to make. I learned to be proud of my writing. I learned the importance of being fair, and I learned how laughter can make a hard job seem a lot easier. I learned how to eat a lot of giros from the grease trucks at 4am. I learned how to break though security doors and gain access to the roof of the Student Center, which is important if you plan to watch the sun come up over College Avenue on the morning the paper is due at the printer’s. I learned how to accept those whose political opinions were different from mine. I learned that they, too, can appreciate that sunrise and that they often will buy you a giro if you are short on pocket change.
I also learned the importance of diversity in the workplace. For a while I was the only female editor on staff. Sure, we had someone writing from the African American perspective, and one of our editors was Asian. We had columnists who claimed to be Libertarians, Anarchists, and even conservative Republicans. We had a young Jewish liberal, a WASPy lesbian from Chicago, and a beautiful young Catholic feminist who spoke out against abortion. Some of these people were indeed women, but none of the other females were around when production time came due. During those times it was just the edit staff camped out in the office until the wee hours of the morning, slouched over the paper’s pages looking for spelling mistakes and run-on sentences.
One fateful night when I got really sick, I found myself suddenly having to run to the bathroom to ralph. A few minutes later I heard a small, timid knock. Coming out of the bathroom, I found about eight of my co-editors, all men, sheepishly gathered in a circle outside the door. "We weren’t sure if we should come in and help," said our then Editor-in-Chief, Ken Spaeth. (Honestly, I was glad they hadn’t helped. At the time I had a raging crush on one of them and I wouldn’t have wanted him to see my tossing my cookies.)
Office quarters were cramped in those days, and I’m sure they still are. We lived out entire dramas in that one little room allotted to us by the University. We had three MacIntosh computers which were really old and grouchy and broke down all the time, probably due to memory overload. There was no internet at that point, an no one had ever heard of a modem. No students we knew had computers of their own. So during finals we would all pile up in the office trying to do our term papers on the Review computers.
At some point we hauled a couch into that office…. I can’t recall if it was a hand-me-down from someone’s parents or a plum picking from a dumpster dive. Anyway, it was smelly and dirty but often used as a place to grab a few needed hours of sleep during production times. It was also the launch pad for many a good romance.
For a long time we also shared that cramped little office at the Student Center with the staff of the yearbook. It was not a happy cohabitation. The two editors-in-chief had dated and broken up in a horrible soap opera-style fight the year before. As a consequence of the nasty break-up, the entire staff of the yearbook was convinced we were sabotaging them. We were, but it had nothing to do with the soap opera going on between our editors. We just couldn’t stand to see anyone take themselves too seriously… especially not anyone who worked for something so seemingly silly as the yearbook. For months the yearbook section editor kept asking us for our staff photos. We turned in a few, but we also turned in some pictures of great writers of the 1930s. Those photos, which had been cut out of a wall calendar we had around the office, included a glamorously sardonic Somerset Maugham. We told the yearbook that he was our faculty advisor. They believed us, and printed the photo in our section of that year’s yearbook. (You’ll find pictures of us and Somerset on pages 146 and 147 of the 1991 edition of the Scarlet Letter.)
We also couldn’t stand to see the Targum staff acting so self righteous. Most of the time they seemed convinced that they were just writing for that paper until the contract arrived from CNN. Many of us (yours truly included) had actually quit the Targum to write for the Review. The Targum thought this showed that we were second best. We at the Review knew better, however. The Targum was obviously just a stepping stone on the path to real fame and fortune at the Review. Anyway, considering ourselves to be very funny and much cooler than the Targum, we tried hard to devise new pranks to play upon them all the time.
Some of those pranks were quite harmless. The Targum staff and the Review staff were often all alone in the building late at night as we tried to put the papers to bed. When we felt appropriately inspired, we would often march en masse over to their office singing patriotic songs such as "She’s a Grand Old Flag." Sometimes we would even climb up on their desks as we sang, throwing our arms out wide like Ethyl Merman. In the post-September 11 world this might not seem very funny, but in 1991 it was hysterical, especially considering that many of us were long-haired liberal radicals. When we’d reach the end of the song we’d burst into applause and then exit patting each other grandly on the back.
Another group that we thought took itself way too seriously was the Cap and Skull. I have no idea what they actually did, or what they stood for, but I know that it had something to do with desperately wanting Rutgers to be more like Yale. Anyway. The Cap and Skull room was also the room where we held our weekly Sunday night staff meetings. One night we met and found that the room had been furnished with a large mahogany-colored solid wood table. Ken Spaeth pointed out that it would be an ideal platform for belly sliding. So we did. We lined up one by one and ran across the room and jumped on the table, sliding across it on our bellies. It became a weekly ritual after that, a ritual that new staff members found somewhat puzzling but fun. And it was a good way to end a boring staff meeting.
Behind all of the sarcasm, however, we prided ourselves on having a solid bunch of writers on staff, and occasionally we turned out some really phenomenal papers. We tried to combine humor with serious political commentary, and we tried hard to ask some of the questions that no one else on campus seemed to be asking. We also tried to create niches for those who needed them. One of my favorite leads to any newspaper story, for example, was written by James Dale in my junior year. James, who has since taken his discrimination case against the Boy Scouts of America all the way to the Supreme Court, was at that time the co-president of the Rutgers University Lesbian and Gay Alliance. He volunteered to write a column for our annual freshman (first year student) orientation issue, focused on the gay and lesbian social scene at Rutgers. He began his piece with: "You’re here, you’re queer, what next?" At a time when only a few were brave enough to come out of the closet, it was a daring lead, full of joy and a certain blithe spirit that RULGA otherwise seemed to lack at the time, probably for good reason.
I’m sure some of my cohorts from my days at Rutgers will write in and tell all about the huge protests that enflamed the campus during our days there. As a staff we were responsible for helping to organize many of the biggest and best rallies, and we played a large role in shutting down a few campus buildings in the years between 1989 –1991 over tuition issues. At one point the Board of Governors decided to raise tuition some 30% between one semester and the next, so we felt we had good reason to protest. Later, our staff would become split over the validity of tuition protests, and the Gulf War would refocus our attention on the world outside of campus…. But I’ll leave the details of those stories to others.
I will say this about our time at the Review between 1988 and 1991: while we thought other people took themselves too seriously I’m sure that a lot of people on campus though we took ourselves way too seriously, too. I guess that was the great irony of my time at the paper. While others may have seen us as political naysayers with too many axes to grind, we saw ourselves as a outrageously fun group of people who never said no to a good adventure. We loved the paper and each other, and for that I am grateful.
I hope that the Review is still a fun paper to write for, and I hope the staff is still giving the Targum a hard time. (They deserve it, I’m sure.) I hope that the paper remains an everlasting bastion of intelligence, humor and political grandstanding. I hope that those who write for the paper make the most of their time there. I also hope that all of my old co-editors are happily and gainfully employed and pursing important dreams and goals. Or at least having fun somewhere mocking the worlds’ stuffed shirts. (They deserve it, I’m sure.)
Me? I’m a content new mom who hopes to impart the right blend of optimism and cynicism on my son. I’m happily employed as a writer here in DC, where things are better and more fun than you’d expect and intelligent people are still willing to play good pranks on their coworkers…
Happy Anniversary, Review!
Staff Member 1990-94
They thought I was the CIA operative planted there to keep those rowdy leftists under surveillance, Managing Editor and mentor Bob Fenster joked, when I joined The Rutgers Review in September 1990. In the semester before I graduated I was viewed as the hardcore rebellious leftist. Someone looking closely can probably read the entire history of The Review from that data.
Maybe some background information would help. In 1990 the country was stuck in a recession that President Bush seemed unable to do anything about, except to suggest that it wasn't patriotic to support his plan to bomb Iraq until some vaguely defined goal was met; while mergers in the mass media left us with fewer and dumber newspapers, television stations, and more homogenous radio stations; the Fox Network was, apart from "The Simpsons," just embarassing us all; and Rutgers University had recently lost its President and was settling in to a new order from the top. If you can imagine such a time.
Now, first, we didn't think it hopelessly implausible that we might be monitored by the CIA, or the FBI, or whoever it is keeps track of noisy but basically powerless college students who're revelling in the joy of being able to print anything they want just as soon as they figure out what they want to print. Certainly, we were just one newspaper among many at just one college among many at just one university among many, but somebody, somewhere, has to be the leading edge of history, and we were perfectly able to believe that we were that edge.
That's for the best. At the time The Review was read principally by the people working on it, and the people in the student government who wanted to see if they got their names in the paper (one person did not, after he made some comments questioning our budget, an example of the punitive journalism we really weren't up to carrying out), the people on the Targum whom we kept interrupting and harassing, and maybe about two dozen other people on campus, some of them named "Zvi." But The Review was the center of our world, and it wasn't easy to imagine that it wasn't the center of everybody else's world as well, and it probably wouldn't have been as much fun if we knew that.
Maybe, anyway. The concentrated rush of trying to put together a newspaper ("Can we do 20 pages this week? Maybe 16? Maybe twelve? Can we do eight?") weekly, without quite the people for it ("What's the difference between a Review staffer and a Review editor?" "Two weeks"), in the face of a never-ending self-imposed desire to do something Important ("Has *anybody* got an idea for a cover article?"), does affect one's thinking. I remember in March 1992 having a sincere hope that a strong showing the New York Primary would encourage Paul Tsongas to re-enter the presidential race. We were not only sure Tsongas was the way to go, but we thought he had a brilliant plan to let a strong primary showing give him a better boost than Bill Clinton would get by his inevitable win. This is not how normal people think.
As another example of the demented thinking working joyously at The Review will bring about -- around 1991 the College Avenue Student Center was being renovated. They offered us the chance to get our office repaired and renovated, the major change being getting rid of the old, ratty, torn-up carpet that had a four-inch wide cut down the middle and which was prone to lifting up and over when you rolled the broken chairs over it. For some impenetrably idealistic reason I didn't understand back then either, we refused the chance to get the office renovated. I think we had some vague ideas that the office was a wreck because we made it a wreck, so there was no justice in having other people spend money fixing it; and maybe that secret administration operatives would use the chance of taking out and replacing all our equipment to either spy on or to sabotage us. When I visited The Review office in early 2000 — the first time I'd set in since I turned in my keys, which looking at my calendar would have to have been August 22, 1994 — the same old carpet was there, rattier and more torn-up than ever. Sorry about that, Review staffs of our future. I was pushing for replacing the carpet.
Does it go without saying we'd have sword fights with the X-Acto knives, even if we usually stopped before somebody got seriously hurt?
There are a lot of strange and amusing things we did. Probably it'd be best if I just wrote a semifictional history of my time at the paper, for publication as a major bestselling novel somewhere around 2008, to catch the leading edge of 1990s nostalgia. I'll send the paper a note if I do that.
Second, I became the apparent rebellious leftist. What was the choice, really? There was some energy towards right-wing activism, but that mostly meant writing snarky letters to the editor complaining about feminist activists who spelled the word "womyn" and ridiculing The Review's relentlessly earnest and quietly-dropped-as-soon-as-we-could-manage wymen's yssues section. Even the conservatives agreed Rutgers' administration was actively evil. They just disagreed what to do about it.
And it was exciting to if not actually do anything particularly rebellious — that takes time and energy and a sense of committment that I couldn't make, what with how the video game Civilization had just come out and was available on the color Macintoshes in the Math and Science Learning Center on Busch Campus — to at least follow the rebellion around and encourage it with warm press notices and the occasional piece of agitprop, and by making fun of television sets falling off their mounts in the Student Center. As far as I know no student was ever crushed by one of them, but we told jokes about it anyway.
The most chaos that I ever managed to spread from the safe confines of The Review was making a mess out of the Rutgers College Governing Association's agenda, an achievement almost as impressive but not as difficult as confusing a Labrador retriever by pretending to toss a tennis ball out in the yard but pocketing it instead. But they hung on many of our words, at least — my articles about them began to run the length and detail of studies of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and lead to the occasional very funny discovery, such as that the RCGA had lost a page of its own constitution, or that a meaningless and impotent resolution passed in 1991 which repealed a meaningless and impotent and forgotten resolution from 1990 (that called for ROTC to accept homosexuals or leave campus after 1993, I believe — which did they end up doing, by the way?) managed to use an early draft of the 1990 resolution, so that not a single word of what was cited in 1991 as objectionably confrontational phrasing was actually in the passed resolution.
And then there was the time they spent a semester and a half negotiating with the administration to get a soap dispensor in each dormitory bathroom. And it was a soap dispensor, a little container of liquid Dial hand soap. When it ran out, they never refilled or replaced it. That's the sort of thing they were able to achieve, when they put their minds to it.
At The Review we were ready to change the world, to take over and make something better from it. Back about February 1990, as tag-team editor-in-chief and managing editors Ken Spaeth and Bob Fenster attended a journalism conference in San Francisco, the editor left behind to finish the paper that week replaced the actual article with a screed about how The Review wasn't living up to its potential and he was taking his marbles and going home. Little did he know Bob and Ken, fired up by the conference, had agreed they should make a better newspaper. I was lucky; I came in at the start of a wave of optimism that The Review could be not only a good paper, but an important one, maybe the best newspaper of all time.
Mostly that ended up being a desperate attempt to keep the paper from actually having to run a two-inch-thick black bar across three columns to fill up space where we didn't have any content, and maybe spending too much time thinking of ways to redesign the graphic style of the paper. I blame the effort to do *that* on Andrew JB Steiger, who pointed out to me that a page I'd laid out had decent enough content, but it was a big and boring mass of grey to look at. After that I started studying layout and design, and you can see in 1991 and 1992 we tried every sort of newspaper design fad there's ever been. By 1993 we'd even found one that worked, and could almost get consistent throughout the paper by 1994. I believe they got rid of it for new experiments in 1995, but by that time I was long since gone. You know how it is once you've cultivated a restless culture relentlessly seeking transcendance.
What we never quite had the time for was to identify and play to our strengths — most of the time I was there, that'd be the "about herring..." humor section written by Ken Goldstein and Keith Fernbach, the funniest pair of people I've ever known, and the people from whom I learned the first two rules of comedy. If you'd like to know, they are:
- Sarcasm is not satire.
- Everyone knows the food at Brower sucks.
On my own I concluded you shouldn't try to be an angry comic if you aren't sincerely angry — it comes across more sad than funny (which, looking at it, may be a restatement of Ken and Keith's first rule); that pop cultural references to things less than five years old are very prone to dating your piece quickly; and that cutting all but the essential words of your joke usually pays off in the joke becoming funnier. When I did take over the humor section for the spring semester of 1994 I ended up following their lead, in some cases successfully. I did drive Kathryn Rasala, the then editor-in-chief — and unknown to me at the time, a distant relative on my father's side — crazy by printing a crossword puzzle with completely improvised clues that no mortal could match to a solution... and then re-printing it exactly the next week, with an apology for the erroneous clues of the previous week... and then re-printing it again, verbatim, the following week... which was perhaps the most tiresomely antagonistic thing I ever did to the readers, but it amused me, and it filled about a third of the page without needing any more work from me.
In any case "about herring..." proved to be amazingly successful, with people actually going out of their way to read it. Somewhere around 1993 I think I proposed we put together a "Best Of about herring..." issue and try to sell copies at a dollar each. Ken and Keith thought I was joking. The issue did get printed eventually, as part of the regular run of things. I believe we concluded that trying to get paid for anything we printed, including advertisements, would require skills we didn't have.
There were other examples of a great start and poor follow-through that we had, such as the early use of computer-scanned photographs (which resulted in screwing up a few articles, like Ken and Keith's guide to nonconventional theories about the assassination of President Kennedy, such as the controversial "Pop Rocks and Coke" theory, when I misunderstood the notes about what pictures to scan); or the attempted newsgroup ru.nb.org.rutgers-review (which ended with our discovery that the only people who wanted to write there already wrote for The Review's printed edition); and the project to put together a version of the paper that might be looked at through that fancy new Mosaic program that campus computer terminals got in early 1994 (which resulted in the discovery I was the only one among us who knew how to write HTML, and I didn't have time to make a web page for The Review either). A web-based newspaper would still be a good idea, if only somebody would try it.
But the goal of this article, besides giving an old-time editor the chance for yet another longwinded self-indulgent block of text (and there are many self-indulgent excesses we engaged in ... "This is not America." "...forgetting once again that underage drinking is against the law." "Inspector Bazalo!" "This movie? Didn't see it" ... this could go on for weeks), is to give some sense of the spirit of The Rutgers Review from my time there, 1990 through 1994, and that's probably best done by this paragraph, taken from a September 1990 article from Editor in Charge of Resigning as Editor Eric Springer and so iconic of our hard-charging and campus activistic lifestyle that when we did a "spoof" issue, mocking ourselves to the limits of our self-awareness, later that year we had to reprint it verbatim:
"Killing every greedy consumer-minded capitalist might do the trick, but we lack the resources, and, alas, my Political Science professor never gave me a demonstration on hip-shooting or proper loading procedures. I venture to say that corporate America is here to stay and no amount of yelling will end their tacky glitzoid reign of power. I suggest flouridating the water or warping the youth with filthy rock lyrics or worst of all, corrupting young, innocent minds with the notions of egalitarianism and justice."
To those currently on The Review, or considering joining it, I have this counsel: it is worth it; and it may end up being one of the most worthwhile things you do with your early life. Save a couple copies of each issue, even ones that don't have your name in it. Harass the Targum editors until they mention you in that semester's Mugrat (being worth mocking in print is one of the great rushes of all time). If the Mystery Science Theater 3000 people come around on another campus tour, *go* to it — I didn't, and I've regretted it since. And don't worry, someday you will recover mentally.
Why, it was only five years after I left that I woke up one morning and hought how marvelous it would be for The Review's 20th anniversary as The eview if we could contact the best writers and editors we had and pull hem together for an "All-Star" Issue; luckily all I had to do was shout, "We're getting the band back together!" and the urge passed. And just last month I realized I'd gotten enough distance from The Review that I couldn't think of the name of Flavio Komouves.
Oh, drat it. Now I've relapsed.
Staff Member 1988-1991
When I joined the Review in 1987 the paper didn't have much of an identity. It was somewhat liberal (the editor-in-chief was the only vocal conservative on the staff) and flippant toward the school administration and especially the RCGA, but for the most part settled for the space between the pretentious importance of the Daily Targum and the supposed wackiness of the Livingston Medium.
After a year on staff I ran for and won the position of editor-in-chief. My managing editor was a person who thought we should strive to be a weekly version of the Targum. Everyone else on staff disagreed with him. Four of us duped the RCGA into paying for a trip to a national collegiate newspaper conference held in San Francisco. I would be in California as the managing editor put the finishing touches on my second issue as EIC. During the trip the outgoing EIC Dennis Glavin, Ken Spaeth and I discussed the future of the paper. We decided that it needed a major overhaul, but we dreaded the confrontation to come with the ME. When we returned we found that the managing editor had pulled several letters to the editor off of page 2 and replaced them with a public resignation. The final lines were priceless — "I leave my keys and two years of my life on the desk." Problem solved.
Oh yeah, the first decision I made was to have Ken replace me as the EIC. I wasn't cut out for it. After trying a variety of positions on staff, I evolved into the managing editor, which apparently was the position I was born for. Imagine that.
Simultaneous to our plan to revamp the paper was an explosion of student activism on campus. This was the first wave of anti-tuition protests in the 1980s sparked by student arrests and police brutality -- and enhanced (if fleetingly) by the addition of union issues, a tenure fight for Amiri Baraka, and a push for student votes on the Board of Governors. We abandoned the archaic 14-inch size paper for the standard 17-inch tabloid size and tried a whole variety of silly visual changes (masthead, font, "siders" instead of headers). But most importantly, we DID get serious...seriously political. For the next few years the Review became the voice of the campus Left. I firmly believe that not only were we influenced by the activism on campus, but that we spurred on much of the activism as well.
The time I spent at the paper was invaluable to me — I learned more working 30 hours a week on staff as managing editor than I did in my classes. The only friends I still have from college are either fellow Review editors or people I met through the paper. One of my most prize possession is a mug we made in honor of our new Review. On it is the opening paragraph of our editorial which claimed "Times change and papers evolve..." The Targum had no monopoly on pretentiousness, but at least we deserved it.
The best issue I ever worked on is lost to history. We were preparing a spoof issue of the various papers on campus (the cover of our Review was a fake Targum; page three was a fake Medium; etc.). Ken Spaeth had a anti-administration muckraking column he called The Smoking Monkey. Each week the headline was some cheesy pun. One of the worst was "Eddie B. shocks the monkey." Ed Bloustein was the president at the time. The premise of the lead article was that Bloustein had turned the tables on the Monkey and done some of his own muckraking. The article was called "Eddie B. spanks the monkey." Back then we had to paste up pages column by column, a painstaking task now made easy by Quark Express or whatever version of Pagemaker you're using. I was literally pasting up the final version of this article, minutes away from sending the sheets off to our printer when our classifieds editor (yeah, we had classifieds) came into the office saying: "Did you hear? Bloustein died." As much as we hated the man, we couldn't run the article... nor did we think it appropriate to run a spoof issue as our last issue of the year. The articles were ripped off the sheets and the files deleted when we were running low on disk space.
Perhaps my memories are a bit apocryphal, but I do think it would have been the greatest issue in the history of college newspapers, this universe or any other.
Er, well, maybe not.
Last thing... back in 1987 our office was located in the small room just across from the radio station (the gay/lesbian alliance was right next to us, if that helps). That tiny hole in the wall housed our ONE computer – a Mac Plus with two floppy disk drives and NO HARD DRIVE. We were running Pagemaker 2.0 off of floppy. Every time you'd scroll down the screen you'd have to flip between your data disk and the program disk a dozen times. We'd never heard of a scanner. All photos were brought down to Targum productions for paste-up. God forbid if someone didn't use the sizing wheel correctly...
You've come a long way, baby.
Phew. Thanks for making me take this trip down memory lane. I could probably go on for hours.
A favorite memory of mine is the all-nighter which turned into the all-weekender when Ken Spaeth and I came out with our first redesigned issue on 17-inch paper. We started Thursday night with the whole staff but eventually let everyone go home because laying out on Pagemaker 3.0 (or was it 4.0 by then?) was taking so friggin' long. Of course the radio picked up nothing, including WRSU, so we were stuck with the THREE tapes we had in the office. I had Graham Parker's "Steady Nerves" (one of his weaker efforts) and Ken had Lloyd Cole's self-titled album and Billy Bragg's "Life's a Riot/with Spy vs. Spy." I had never heard either of those artists at the time, but by the time we dragged ourselves home sometime Saturday afternoon, I knew every word on all three albums. [Side note: I'm a huge Lloyd Cole fan now and through the Billy Bragg on-line discussion group, I met my wife AND Billy interrupted one of his concerts to help me propose to her.] Anyway, we worked all night Thursday night, only stopping for runs to the Grease trucks. Sometime Friday morning or early afternoon an activist stopped by our office to let us know that a "handicapable" (ugh) student was going to protest inacessibility to buses on Livingston campus — and wanted to know if we could send a reporter to cover the event. We kept a straight face until he left. But the second he was out the door we burst into hysterics. The notion was too much, that we had reporters waiting on call for a story... as opposed to the begging and pleading we had to do to get ANYONE to write news — which usually resulted in our writing our 5th or 6th article for the issue, usually under a pseudonym. Perhaps it was the fatigue, but I think Ken almost died of heart failure when I described my vision of the Review Reporters Lounge... five or six reporters (all nicknamed "Scoop") wearing fedoras and smoking cigarettes with long ashes a la
Nathan Therm (now that's dating myself... and now that I'm married, I should probably stop doing that). The phone rings and they all dive for it, fighting each other for the chance to get The Story.
If you've ever been a Review editor, you're probably laughing right now.
Staff Member 1996-2001
The Rutgers Review, when I first came on board, was what you might call the "locus point," or simply the "locus," of various strains of hedonistic, leftist, media-savvy, despairing, incestuous, and often fraternity-like activities. It shared affinities and members and placement in a friends-of-friends network with other media organizations, especially WRSU, and engaged in sometimes not-so-friendly sparring with The Daily Targum and The Medium, though much of the sparring with the latter was simply grumbling. During the day, we drank Biggie Cokes and ate fries. Those of us who were not vegetarians sometimes followed up with a Junior Cheeseburger Deluxe, sometimes two. Those of us who were vegetarians usually just stuck with the fries, or maybe got bean curd at the Schezuan Express. On Tuesday nights, at 9:30 PM, we had pizza and went over the issue, and engaged in what was affectionately known as "horseplay." Sexual tension and just plain good-old-fashion tension had their place at these meetings, but that just made it seem all the more glamorous to an impressionable, wide-eyed fledgling pseudo-journalist/habitual masturbator such as myself. Come Thursday night, the Review crowd did not except themselves from the general cry to "party!" Basement shows, acid trips, black lights: when the Rutgers Review partied, it did it right. Though in its neurotic self-consciousness, it didn’t always enjoy the partying like it wanted to.
I was on the staff for around five years, the five years I was known affectionately by many at Rutgers as "Sweetass," and in those five years the Review was always changing. At times it was politically radical and exciting, and often it was ridiculously insular, and at long stretches it was slick and professional. Highlights included our campaign against the political combine known as Team Cahill, the sprawling interview with Mark Leyner, the spirited interview with Professor William C. Dowling, the Halloween cover featuring an actual corpse, and our incorporation of vegan pizza into the Tuesday-night meetings. Throughout it all, the Rutgers Review provided me, much like a fraternity, with my friends and my family, though unlike with a fraternity the make-up of this family was constituted of burn-outs, vegans, pseudointellectuals, and computer nerds. It was also a great place to procrastinate by playing that meteor-oriented computer game (note to Jesse: please insert actual name of this game, if you can find it) or "shooting the bull," or raiding the Review archives and masturbatorily re-reading all my old articles. Perhaps, who knows, we would’ve all been better without the Review. Looking back on it, I probably would have gotten a lot more homework done if it had never existed. But hey, listen, I don’t have a time machine, and I can’t go back in time and blow up the RSC, in an attempt to preempt the Review’s genesis. And for what it’s worth, I don’t think that would be a good idea.
Staff Member 1990-93
Dear Mr. Fischer:
How it does my heart proud to see that the kids of today haven't completely given up on the traditions of the past, still endeavoring to get their hands dirty with the old newsprint and ink. When I received your missive I went up to the nether regions of my attic and pulled down a dusty wooden box containing several dozen issues of The Rutgers Review in which my writings appeared. Ah, the memories, how they come flooding back to me, reminding me of the happier, simpler salad days that were the early to mid-early 1990's!
I remember the day when I first climbed those soon-to-be-familiar stairs in the Student Center looking for the offices of The Daily Targum so I could offer my services as a Society Reporter. I knew that I needed to start at the bottom rung of that illustrious organization -- covering sorority events, costume balls at the President's mansion, fancy-dress pig roasts -- before I could work my way up to a position such as Style Editor or gossip columnist. Full of anxious excitement I wandered around the Fourth Floor of the RSC, asking passers-by where I might be able to find the newspaper offices. Finally, somebody pointed me in the direction of a rather unpromising looking room. With trepidation I made my way towards the office, slowly opened the door, and made my way inside.
Ah, that first visit to that strange universe! I think that I will always remember the...well...stench is really the only word that could describe what greeted visitors to the Review office. A strange mixture of sweat, fear, marijuana, pheromones, fried food and livestock, it let strangers know that wherever they may have come from, they had arrived in an entirely different world, where the rules of so-called civilized society no longer applied.
Posters of Chairman Mao and Andy Gibb lined the walls, illuminated by a single bare bulb dangling from the ceiling from a precariously frayed wire. Three writers were huddled together over a rusty Tandy computer, possibly for warmth, ignoring the pained moans emanating from the passed-out fraternity pledges sprawled on the couch. Hunched over the layout table was a bearded, naked man working furiously, while in the center of the room three people engaged in a heated argument over whether worldwide socialism would arrive immediately or if it would take at least a year. In the far corner of the room, some sort of cockfight was taking place. I felt like I had finally found home.
This was The Rutgers Review of the early to mid-early 1990's, a wonderful place during a completely unique time. In those days the streets were ripe with the heady feeling of revolution, and we at the Review were filled with a sense of purpose, of being right, of magic! Sure, the Daily Targum may have had the money, equipment, experience, advertising, professionalism, administration backing, alumni support and high-paying job offers, but we had more than that! We had...well, now that I look over that list I realize that we, in fact, had much less, but it sure seemed like we had more, though that might have been the peyote talking.
Still, even with our limited resources and intermittent consciousness we managed to put out an excellent paper, week after week, taking what had previously been a money laundering scheme for the Genovese crime family and turning it into the best damn college publication in the country. Late at night, when I lie in bed silently weeping, it is that thought that makes me smile, at least until the tremors return.
Jesse, you asked us veterans to write down memories of our time on the paper, and while I must still insist that I know nothing about the dead body that turned up in the supply closet in mid-94 I will say that those years were, without a doubt, the most wonderful of my life. I met and worked with amazing people, and got to write about whatever I wanted. Never will I forget the furious deadline crushes, the passionate arguments, and the drunken revelry. Jesse, you and your compadres should treasure these days of freedom and purpose, and should know that the rest of your lives will only feel pathetic and pointless in comparison. May God bless you all.
Staff Member 1995-98
i'm still getting over the time i spent down there. last week i returned a book that i'd owed the alexander library for 5 years and paid fleet bank back $300 i'd stolen from them for beer money by redepositing a bounced paycheck in a new account. i still walk and act with the aura of a man who just knows for sure he's destined for famous greatness but smacks a bit more of central jersey and a boring forever dayjob than that would allow.
the rutgers review entered my life in an innocuous enough way. me and Stu schneider (who recently left a job as basically the director of economic development for Staten Island) were on the A bus and i showed him a story that contained "jokes" in the form of passing references to squirrels. Stu saw Joe Nebus, an old EIC and Humor editor and introduced me. The Review published it! So for the record, at least once, esoteric in-bullshit posing as humor appeared on the pages of the Rutgers Review.
I roomed with Stu between my sophomore and junior year. We were glum all summer. Neither of us had sex the whole summer. Once he killed a grasshopper on the sidewalk for no reason. For our part we stiffed him for the phone bill. On ecstasy that July, one housemate made out with the other's girlfriend-- add one example of compulsive incest to the entire history of New Brunswick. After a party in which a drunk slut fell off our 3rd story roof and emerged with only a scratch, we, up on acid, noticed a keg spilled over an old outlet, sending sparks into the early morning. We only stayed up that late, noticed and avoided a huge fire cuz we were tripping.
We stiffed Stu for the phone bill and when I met him on the street years later in Manhattan over by Angelika he never bought it up. We're still friends.
I keep seeing Ethan Sklar at pretentious underground rock shows. One or both of us is usually playing but we never like each other's music- that's the plight of being in a bad band. similar to the curse of writing for the middle ground college weekly. In mummy movies, no matter what the archeologists do, the mummy prevails and boy is he pissed. Ethan and Marc M. were huge stoners and now Marc's some type of INS or Customs agent person, which Ethan always indignantly forgets he told me.
Matthew Glasser and I just got high on pot and some good Afghan hash (by way of Amsterdam, my friend Ted snuck it back with us in granola) and tried to make each other laugh with short stories written in one hour. We sipped ginger beer and split a Tofutti Cutie, listened to French pop music and the last Thinking Fellers album. Things have shifted around ever so slightly. We're still friends and we're working long term on a sitcom in which 8 gay guys live in a Campbell Soup Factory in Camden, NJ. Ronald Reagan, ET and QBert star in it. You know.
I still live with Terence Keegan but not for long, cuz he just proposed to his girlfriend while on a trip to Japan. Doug Timms lives in Kansas and is engaged to be married to a woman he met because he wrote an article about psychics in the Review that she had a premonition about. His band got signed to a bigger indie label right before it broke up. Hadas Thier lives in Queens and we have a great beer once in a while. I still manage to make eye contact with her-- which is unfortunately more than I can say for a lot of ya, now and/or ever. Nah, I'm bsing, looking through the to/cc: list I see a bunch of people I feel lucky to have met. A bunch of us still live in each other's general vicinity in Brooklyn and/or still keep in regular,
mostly enjoyable contact. Fucking Bruce Springsteen: Glory Days.
But if I had a shrapneled piece of Afghan child for every time I'd cursed the Review's name in the past few years I'd be the US State Dept. If I have advice for you undergraduates, it's look, you've already had your best Review experience, drop out before they really get their hooks in ya. Give it up, go to class, ace it, and get on with dealing with the real world, over which Sunday night at Rm. 439 has no dominion. Conversely, the real world is a piece of shit that's falling apart and you might wanna hide from it for a while. You can go get fries with some sarcastic smarties at Wendy's, or you can go get your boss a peppercorn schmear at Noah's New York Bagels. You can work for the Rutgers Review or some other dream of your that you hope has the muster to float, but will probably be snuffed out by the fucked up grind or maybe just by your own actual lack of fire.
As for me, I'm 27, I'm a Capricorn, my interests include moments of genuine human connection, (including) web porn with photos of old men having sex with 22 year old women and trying to figure out a way to avoid working for a living. I think I'm going to finish Rutgers next winter, but don't worry, I'm going to Camden. I'm sure the Gleaner could use an assistant Humor editor.
Phil Wisdom RC: 1998
I started my career — if one could call it a career, and I don't think one would, at least I wouldn't, so I think I'll call it a stint instead — at the Review in the fall of 1994 and held on until spring of '98. During that period the Review evolved from an intelligently written and admittedly boring newspaper, featuring essays with I-shit-you-not headlines like "Remembering Grandma Gives A Sense of Well-Being" into something, er, wilder (to be kind), with photo essays like "What Should I Wear to the Tesla Concert?" often appearing on the front cover.
How much did I
have to do with this change in focus and editorial content? I think very little. I started as an Arts contributor and then moved my way up through Assistant Arts Editor, Arts Editor proper, Executive Editor, and then hauled myself up to the lofty position of Delivery Boy. Delivery Boy? Yeah, you heard me. But even when I wielded mighty editorial power over every word that went into the Review...I still mostly wrote record reviews.
So yeah, I don't think I steered the boat too much. I'm not sure any of us did, really. We wrote about the things we liked, and we tried to write *like* the things we liked. If I had a nickel for every Thomas Pynchon/Pavement reference in the Review during those years, etc. Plus I think we just wanted to be The Onion.
If anyone had the Vision™ for what the Review would become, a chaotic, mostly satirical weekly, it was Ben Freeman, co-author of Cripple Smash, the best shareware game ever (seriously, it featured Yoda and attacks like the vicious "Toad the Wet Sprocket"). But our beloved Ben didn't wash his clothes much, so I'm not sure about the Vision thing.
There were occasional moments of brilliance that literally inspired the editorial staff to jump up and down with glee. The A-Team/Singled Out board game (a two-page centerfold spread) is a good example of that. We did the best spoofs of other campus papers around. Plus, who else made anti-war statements by Photoshopping the arms off the members of Def Leppard? "'We've gotten rid of our arms, Saddam,' said singer Joe Elliott, 'now it's your turn.'"
We had moments of sheer stupidity ("Fry Mumia Now!" comes to mind), but at least those caused some small havoc on campus. Better to piss people of than be ignored? How punk rock of us. Sorry about that, Grandma.
But in the end, despite where the Review was when we joined vs. when we left, it was worth it: we all got a little drunker, we all got some late-night action on the filthy Review office couch, we all lost a lot of sleep, and we all got some free CD's to boot. And I'm proud to have been a part of any organization that has those kinds of perks.
Welcome to the official site of the Rutgers Review 20th Anniversary.
As you may know, the first issue of the Review appeared on March 2, 1982. Over the past two decades hundreds of fine people have written for the paper and served on its staff, and many of those consider their Review days to be a highlight of their lives. At the very least, nearly everybody who walked through the office doors met somebody unforgettable, or has at least one good story to tell.
This site will serve as a repository of essays and articles by Review alumni, commemorating their time on the paper. Submissions or comments should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Staff Member 1990-93