Adventures in plagiarism

For nerd men in my age group, 1981 was an memorable year at the movies.  Not only were Clash of the Titans and Raiders of the Lost Ark released, but also Heavy Metal.  I have a bit of history with that movie, and that history was refreshed in my mind when I was listening to the soundtrack again the other day.  Very good soundtrack, by the way.  Worth the price just for this song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6s1Jsz1lj1Y  But back on track, the movie.

I went to see it with my two brothers and our next-door (in far east Lancaster, that means he lived almost a football field away) neighbor Tony, the aforementioned Tony Douche.  I was 12, my brother Bob was 15, my other brother mike was 18 and Tony was 18.  The movie was rated R for animated tits and adolescent sex and science fantasy, so of course Bob and I couldn’t get in to see it by ourselves.  Thus, we were with Mike and Tony.  At the theater Mike and Tony tried to say they were our guardians and it was OK for us to see it, but we had one of those few (for back then) theater workers with a conscience, and he wouldn’t let us in.  I remember there were some birds flipped from Bob and I, but in we did not get.  I wouldn’t actually see the movie until many years later, when I wondered what the hype was about.  Oh yeah, boobs.  Heh heh.  South Park did a great take on the movie a few years ago.

I didn’t get to see the movie but I did get to listen to the soundtrack, over and over and over, and stare at the cover (over and over and over).  One of the songs stood out to me, for the lyrics and the way the music fit them: Veteran of the Psychic Wars by Blue Oyster Cult – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIE0wTFg364 .  Almost-teen Glen loved the imagery of the lyrics.  In fact, he loved them so much that a few years later, in English 3 Advanced (junior year at Antelope Valley High School whoo!) he decided to submit the lyrics – slightly altered, of course, to salve the conscience a bit – as an original poem.  In case you stopped listening to the song, here are the lyrics:

You see me now a veteran of a thousand psychic wars
I’ve been living on the edge so long
Where the winds of limbo roar
And I’m young enough to look at
And far too old to see
All the scars are on the inside
I’m not sure if there’s anything left of me

Don’t let these shakes go on
It’s time we had a break from it
It’s time we had some leave
We’ve been living in the flames
We’ve been eating up our brains
Oh, please don’t let theses shakes go on
You ask me why I’m weary, why I can’t speak to you
You blame me for my silence
Say it’s time I changed and grew
But the war’s still going on dear
And there’s no end that I know
And I can’t say if we’re ever…
I can’t say if we’re ever gonna to be free

Don’t let these shakes go on
It’s time we had a break from it
It’s time we had some leave
We’ve been living in the flames
We’ve been eating out our brains
Oh, please don’t let theses shakes go on

You see me now a veteran of a thousand psychic wars
My energy’s spent at last
And my armor is destroyed
I have used up all my weapons and I’m helpless and bereaved
Wounds are all I’m made of
Did I hear you say that this is victory?

Don’t let these shakes go on
It’s time we had a break from it
Send me to the rear
Where the tides of madness swell
And been sliding into hell
Oh, please don’t let shakes go on
Don’t let these shakes go on
Don’t let these shakes go on

 

I changed a few words and rearranged the order of a few lines, but there was no doubt that I stole the “poem” from BOC.  However, I was in an Advanced English class, I figured nobody would catch me.  Plagiarists always think that.  I submitted the poem, and the teacher liked it.  Liked it so much, in fact, that she wanted me to read it to the class.  I had a moment of hesitation but then plowed ahead, and there was sweet sweet applause when I was done.  I’m sure I was thinking about how this would score me major points with whomever was closest to a babe in that class, that she’d be wowed by my sensitivity and ability to express it.  I was gonna feel some boobs, for sure!

But then…of course.  I don’t remember his name, but I think it was Eric.  After I finished reading and the applause stopped, the teacher said something like “that was really well done, Glen!” and I was basking in the glory, Eric stood up.  “It’s also almost completely plagiarized!” he accused, rightfully so.  “He stole it from a song on the Heavy Metal soundtrack by Blue Oyster Cult.”

If we’d actually been in the movie Heavy Metal I would have chopped his head off mid-sentence and then flown away with the sorta-babe on my weird bird.  Since it was reality, all I could do was hang my head in shame and mumble “well, I did borrow from the song but I changed it around some.”  And then I sat down while Eric smirked in conquest, and got the adulation of the sorta-babe.  As it was an advanced English class, I’m sure that he (much like I would have done in the same circumstances) did absolutely nothing with that adulation.  I received a D on the poem and eventually recovered, but I learned an important lesson that sticks with me to this day: if you’re going to plagiarize, make sure you change it enough so you can deny stealing it.

Please…don’t let these shakes go on.

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