Thursday, March 14, 2019


We took all the wrong turns but found our way. If you want to call it parking, we parked. The upended trash can, the right front tire twenty-four inches from the curb. One of us was saying, “It is what it is,” but I’m not saying who. And that was the nicest thing twirling between us, in the twilight, in the twilight corrupted by indifferent lumens. Just then a minor earthquake traveled through our bodies, warm and electric. “Licorice-tickly!” one of us said, while the other kicked a shoe into the air. It landed near a stupendous dog, who regarded the skies with suspicion. The car, haphazard. The shoe, loitering behind a fence. O, the soils and clays slipping beneath us with tectonic helplessness. Improbably, the quake had kindled a distant car alarm.
            LT stared at me until I made the scales of justice with my hands.
            “Fine,” she said. She rolled up her jacket sleeves.
            “I’ll go,” I said.
            “No, no.”
            “I’ll go,” I repeated, and I went. I slipped once, catching myself on the slope of the hill with both palms in the grass, the dewy grass. Could’ve been needles, there, or a pile of crap.
            The dog regarded me with enviable calm. Perhaps he was elderly. Perhaps when you’re the largest of your species, it’s just too much trouble to get worked-up.
            “Come on,” said LT.
            “Okay, okay.”
            “Woof,” said the animal, at last, or maybe it was the echo of “Woof.”
            “And how are you?” I said, resting my arm atop the chain links. He was a slobber-dog but didn’t slobber. Yet he had positioned himself, crucially, atop the shoe. LT’s shoe.
            “Hey,” she said, appearing beside me.
            “I’m getting it,” I said.
            “If getting it is hanging out and talking to this—shaggy fellow—then the shoe will become some kind of chew toy. No?”
            The dog had clambered up the fence to enable LT’s affection: ear-scritchies. As for me, I had become some kind of device, with the fence acting as some kind of fulcrum, waddling me back and forth until I grasped the heel and liberated the shoe. (My breath almost knocked over.) LT repatriated it by holding the fence and hiking herself down to her bare foot. She had tattoos, but none visible in the angles of clothing, the lukewarm twilight. In heels, she was taller than me. I’d never been able to resist her, in fact, I’d never even thought of that. LT was physical and may have said, “I’m a crap person,” more than once. When we had sex (which was never twice in a row) I felt like I was losing control, and then it expired. The shower would go on. The steam would hiss. It was either 7:15 at night or a few minutes earlier.  
            We helped each other down the slippery hill. “The slippery hill!” one of us proclaimed, but I’m not saying who. I regarded the dog one final time when he sneezed, and in sneezing, shook himself wrinkle-free. If a stranger gives you the “Hey, how’s it going face,” that’s a good thing, but it has to be a stranger. Nobody had come outside to investigate the quake. To continue meant that we’d reenter a world that excelled at division, so we stopped on the sidewalk, LT with her back to the streetlamp. We stood there, one of us wearing a worthless smile and the other wearing a malevolent smile, but I’m not saying who wore which smile, only that we stood there, impossibly rooted to the sidewalk, knowing that we could not take another step. 

Friday, March 1, 2019


Here come the American Sportsmen? Great!
They will pay Bryce Harper $300 million? Great!
Has Bryce won a World Series? No? Great!
Basically, he stinks? And he gets the highest paycheck? Great!
There’s hope, then, for everybody who stinks? Great!
Hey, let’s get that haircut? With the swoosh? Brilliant!
What’s the Bryce Harper go-to styling gel? Oh yeah? Great!

So my team sucks an organic, cage-free egg? Great!
Do we get relegated to a lower league? No? Great!
We get the top draft pick? No kidding? Great!
Maybe we should suck for four-score and twenty years? Great!
We’d get four-score and twenty No. 1 draft picks? Great!
Who’s responsible for these lack of consequences? Owners? Brilliant!
That’s them? In the sky box? Sipping champagne? Great!

The more money you have, the better person you are? Great!
New York is the wealthiest American sports city? Great!
The Knickerbockers have a lot of money? Right? Great!
The New York Football Giants have cash? Great!
The Rangers have dough? And the Nets and the Jets? Great!
And the Yankees are loaded of course? Brilliant!
How many titles did these teams win last year? None? Great!

The coach is in charge at all times? As it should be? Great!
He calls time outs? He sends players out there? Great!
We’re losing? Who’s to blame? The players? Great!
They fired the coach? Now? During the game? Great!
There’s a new coach? But we’re still losing? Great!
They fired the second coach? How quickly? Brilliant!
The players still stink? We’ve fired three coaches? Great!

We now turn to our panel of experts – Fluffy, Sausages, and The Machine – which is advising this blog during Complaint Week 2019.
            “How do I pronounce Gekas?” says Fluffy. “Theo-fanis Gekas. Theo-fanis Gekas. Theofanis Gekas! Theofanis Gekas! Theofanis Gekas!”
            “…the king…,” says Sausages, “…out there…, hocking his watch…”
            “Coaches,” writes The Machine. “Why do these fuckers get paid big dollars to help young men run around on fields?”

Thank you, gentlemen. Yes, let’s stick with the coach, for now. There’s a fundamental example here. Let’s say it’s a basketball game. The coach calls timeout. His team is losing by two, late in the game. He diagrams a basket-scoring play on his little dry erase board that duplicates the court, with a three point line, a charity stripe, and so forth. He’s really going at it, with X’s and O’s, and his little purple pen. The bench players are paying attention, but of course, they’re not going to execute the play. Neither are the players who are playing. They know that the star player will just change the play the minute the ball is inbounded. On the other bench, the other coach is diagramming an offensive play, too. Why? you ask. Because there is no defense anymore. Offense is defense. You defend by planning to score. Both coaches, scribbling away furiously in purple dry-erase ink, while the players send text messages, or practice their handshakes. Once the play actually begins, none of the scribbling matters anymore. The play unfolds as the players see fit, with both teams—simultaneously—on offense. The coach is red in the face, he runs up and down the court, he gesticulates like an imbecile, but nobody is listening. But that’s not the complaint, no. Both teams are filthy-wealthy, and both teams SUCK. (Complaint!)

blood and gutstein complaint week 2019: no solutions—just gripes
monday: democrats
tuesday: education
wednesday: poetry
thursday: beer
friday: sports

Thursday, February 28, 2019


 “By order of the Peaky Fin Blinders!”

Whatever happened to that urban fantasy of sitting in the pub’s window, quite forlorn, staring onto the darkening street—the lights, the tipsy hookups, the clamor, the sweet misery of it all—except that the beer costs 10 bucks and it’s served in a thimble-snifter, and everyone in that city is happy enough thinking that their Facebook comments account for true activism. To boot, there is India Pale Ale, like, jumping out of the curtains, EVERYWHERE. This is the beer of the soldiers who hanged “Danny Deever,” am I right? Well, Danny Deever was hanged in 1890, so can we bloody well produce some other styles of beer bloody well already? The Brewer’s Association (and just about everybody else) confirms that American IPA continues to drive the growth of craft beer. Thus, Beer Drinker, your future involves scant pours, skyrocketing tabs, and mega-hoppie (sic) bitterness. But that’s not all. No, there is a tragedy called “pastry stout.” The great, great, great terrain of the dark swills has been compromised by the likes of “gingerbread stout” and “tiramisu stout” and “German chocolate cupcake stout.” Deeee-foooooooook meeeeeeee LIIIIIIFE. 

Yes, there shall be stout and pancakes. Of course there shall be stout and pancakes! You shall pour the stout into the proper vessel, a glassware that permits at least 16 ounces of swill to accumulate. (The froth shall not count toward the total amount of swillage.) Yes, the stout shall be handed to the swiller. Lo, the pancakes shall be placed on a plate, preferably a large plate as they shall be, preferably, large pancakes. The syrup shall be delivered as shall be the pat of butter. It is assumed that silverware will be made available, and by that we mean proper cutlery: fork, knife, rolled within a laundered napkin. Dig it: the pancake shall be
beside the stout. Beside the stout, not within the stout! For the love of Jiminy Cricket, do not put the pancake inside the stout, or inside the porter either, for that matter. And don’t start up with me about stout. “Ohhh, the stout is too heavy.” “Ohhh, the stout is for winter.” (Buzzer noise: Wrong again.) But wait a minute. There is no stout, unless you count the likes of barrel-aged maple pecan bacon-butt stout. Where’s the stout? Show me the stout! And I don’t mean on a dessert menu! SHOW ME THE SESSIONABLE STOUT. 

The view from the pub.

According to various scholars, Rudyard Kipling set his poem,“Danny Deever,” in India, during the British occupation, circa 1890. Two characters in the poem, Files-on-Parade and the Colour Sergeant, are remembering the doomed Danny Deever who’s being hung for a murder. Here’s an excerpt of their conversation, from the third stanza: “‘I’ve drunk ’is beer a score o’ times,’ said Files-on-Parade. / ‘’E’s drinkin’ bitter beer alone,’ the Colour-Sergeant said.” [It’s kind of cold that Files has drunk his beer, a score ‘times, but we digress.] Ah, the bitter beer. True, it could be British Bitter ale, BUT IT’S NOT. It’s IPA, since the poem is set in India, and since the British brewed extra-strength ale so it wouldn’t spoil en route, via barkentines, to its destination, where it would mollify the troops that had been installed to aid in colonial oppression. We at Blood And Gutstein don’t disparage ABV that drifts into the upper register, Nopte, but we do disparage the bitter part, the hops-along Cassidy part. All the hops, all the bitterness, and now, WHATWHAT, the citrus, the ‘hazy’ IPA, the JUICY (“Sweet Lucy!”) IPA, the grapefruit beer, the triple IPA, Cor Blimey, Me Piles Itch Me Soooooooooooooooo.

We now turn to our panel of experts, Fluffy, Sausages, and The Machine, who are advising this blog during Complaint Week 2019.
            “Doot doot,” says Fluffy.
            “My figured goblet for a dish of wood,” says Sausages.
“There’s a national stout emergency,” writes The Machine. “I mean, what happens when all beer becomes specialty beer? Does specialty beer become just beer? And then, one day, when regular stout comes back, will it be specialty stout?”


Thank you, gentlemen. I mean, I will always refer to you as gentlemen, no matter they say about you! Right. Roight. When a style such as stout becomes overrun with nonsensical versions of itself, and becomes Boutique Specialty beer, what will a 5 percent regular stout eventually turn into, a couple years from now: Boutique Specialty? Well, it must be, since we’re installing pastry stout as the normative stout, and we’re installing Juicy Sweet Lucy IPA as America’s Beer, never mind the fact that it appears in carefully metered pours, Aye, in “sniftiz.” Would the American IPA Apparatus produce 10 percent fewer IPAs and 10 percent more stouts? Would the American Beer Apparatus establish a Beer Drinker’s Bill of Rights, such as 16 ounce pours into pint glasses or mugs? I mean, you can’t serve a beer in a shot glass. BEER IS NOT WHISKEY. Mostly though, Show me the stout! Where’s the stout? WHATWHAT? And no four-packs of stout, either, for fooooook’s saaaaake. If you must vend stout in a quantity other than a six-pack, then GIVE ME AN EIGHT PACK OF SESSIONABLE STOUT. (Complaint!)

blood and gutstein complaint week 2019: no solutions—just gripes
monday: democrats
tuesday: education
wednesday: poetry
thursday: beer
friday: sports

Wednesday, February 27, 2019


A few years ago, we took a critical look at James Richardson’s poem, “Essay on Wood,” that had appeared in the The New Yorker. We didn’t “measure” our comments then, and we won’t measure our comments today, either, when we take a look at Elizabeth Spires’ poem, “How to Sing,” which recently appeared in The Atlantic. Our analysis of Richardson’s poem wasn’t personal, and neither will be our commentary at present. Elizabeth Spires is a major American poet, in any event. According to Wikipedia, she has received a Guggenheim Fellowship as well as grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Whiting Foundation. She has published several volumes with W.W. Norton, in addition to one collection apiece with Wesleyan and Carnegie Mellon. As with Richardson, I’ve met Spires, and heard her read, albeit many years ago in Washington, D.C. No, we don’t seek to impeach these accomplishments or the person herself, but we do want to scrutinize the poem’s language, structure, and theme(s).

The poem is short enough to reproduce in its entirety:

               How to Sing

               from a hymnal

               Moderately slow
               Moderately fast
               With vigor
               In flowing style
               Well marked
               With dignity
               With great dignity
               Joyously, but not too fast
               With stately vigor
               Rather slowly
               Not too slowly
               With joyous dignity
               With movement
               With flow

               —Elizabeth Spires, from The Atlantic (January/February 2019)

In its favor, “How to Sing” doesn’t take very long to read. Let’s not make the mistake of regarding the poem, thematically, from a monochromatic standpoint. Ostensibly, it refers to singing, but forgetting the italicized epigraph (“from a hymnal”) for a moment, let’s assume that Spires would like readers to interpret “How to Sing” on multiple levels. The possibilities include betraying, chirping, and crooning, but first let’s investigate this piece as it may apply (of course!) to fornication. We mean love-making. If we may say so, clearly the love-maker is being asked to sing “With vigor” “…but not too fast.” “Majestically” and (of course!) “With flow.” This is how many love-makers are asked to make love, so there’s nothing really new on that frontier, but okay, okay, let’s say this poem is really about crooning, even religious crooning, and if so, how is the singer being advised to practice her or his craft? [n.b. “Moderately slow” and “Moderately fast” are redundant.] “With dignity” and “Joyously, but not too fast” calls to mind the right-wing Bobcat Muzak played at Chick-fil-A and Walmart. I’m hearing The Partridge Family. I’m hearing Spandex Ballet, oops, I mean Spandau Ballet. “With stately vigor” rules out any character in the voice, yet perhaps Spires advocates for religious fervor to be “medium” these days. Pray medium. Sing medium.

What to make, though, of “from a hymnal?” When the word “from” prefaces a poem, it often suggests that the published piece is an excerpt from a longer work, but we don’t perceive that Spires has crafted a longer work entitled “A Hymnal,” and besides, “from” is italicized along with “a hymnal,” which is lower case and appears without quotation marks. Did she excerpt this from a book of religious songs out there in the real, crooning world? This is a possibility, but then why would she seek to publish that in The Atlantic, or why would she claim authorship at all? Does “from a hymnal” refer to an alternative definition of hymnal (see our fornication theory, above) or is the reader simply meant to transfer the weight of “hymn,” from an oddly fictional hymnal, onto the lifeless prayer-jargon that follows? Just what is the larger piece that these italics refer to—we don’t know. Perhaps we haven’t reached the level of enlightenment we must reach, in order to decipher this clue. Its inclusion calls attention to the poem’s structure, however, which is a block of short lines, easy enough, but we wonder (“We WAH WAH WAH WAH / Wonderrrrrrr / WHYYYYYY) if the poem couldn’t be broken and clipped, severely. Maybe this would be a better piece:

                  How to Hymn
                  With vigor
                  in flowing
                  dignity. Joyously,

                  but not too

                  not too

Surely now it is a l=a=n=g=u=a=g=e poem (eek! salt the brisket! run for the hills!) but it is less predictable across its language, form, and theme(s). It demonstrates alternative techniques. There are rests. There are restarts. Each participant is holding a backward palm to her or his forehead!

We turn to our panel of experts, The Machine, Sausages, and Fluffy, which is advising this blog during Complaint Week 2019:
            Fluffy suggests that “Maybe The Atlantic hired The New Yorker poetry editor.”
            Sausages says, “Everything is a characterless glass building with a Whole Foods, Starbucks, and Politics and Prose in the lobby.”
            The Machine adds, “How many words does it have? How are you going to monetize that shit?”

Thank you, gentlemen. If we follow Wallace Stevens’ example, “The Atlantic and The New Yorker are one.” If poetry fits into “everything” and we think it does, then poetry has a Starbucks in the lobby. And as for “(monetizing) that shit,” I wonder how much The Atlantic pays for a poem. I would imagine quite a bit, since The Atlantic, by virtue of its name, purports to be an entire ocean.

Layli Long Soldier

I recently read Whereas, a fine collection of poetry by Layli Long Soldier, which was published by Graywolf in 2017. Some of the poems have been tremendous. In part of her sequence, “Vaporative,” she interprets the word “opaque” as “OPĀK” or more fully “O: open / P: soft / Ā: airplane or directional flight / K: cut through—translating to that which is or allows air, airy, penetrating light, transparency.” Of course a good poet can turn the impenetrable to penetrable.  The Atlantic (which does praise Long Soldier in an article or two) could stand to publish a poem of hers, so she could explain to an audience as vast as the ocean that “a word of lightful meaning flips under / buries me in the work of blankets.” (Beautiful!) (Complaint.)

blood and gutstein complaint week 2019: no solutions—just gripes
monday: democrats
tuesday: education
wednesday: poetry
thursday: beer
friday: sports

Tuesday, February 26, 2019


You may recall Søren Kierkegaard writing as his “second-self” Anti-Climacus in the existential study, The Sickness unto Death. Anti-Climacus, as we understand him, characterizes the fundamental nature of despair as “unaware of being despair,” and hence, the despairing individual doesn’t recognize the gravity of his illness. While Anti-Climacus referred to the self, and the self’s relation to faith, we might broaden this example. The “self” could be the “institution,” or even more broadly, the “academy.” If the academy cannot perceive its own despair, then surely, according to Anti-Climacus, the academy is tragically, gravely unwell. And yet, it’s not a matter of the academy simply repairing itself by “penetrating to some (facile) target of assessment,” no, the academy appears to be entrenched in perpetuating its own despair. Perhaps it enjoys despair.

We like the name “Anti-Climacus.” If there were a similar, pseudonymous counterpart in higher education, it might be “Anti-Vost,” the second-self of the Provost. Let’s imagine the Anti-Vost arriving for work at Fictional U. with his satchel, which contains 1 (one) cigar-pinching device. The Anti-Vost removes his cigar-pinching device from his satchel. “Heh heh heh,” he says. The Provost’s office is across the hallway. The Provost stands at his adjustable desk, he sits at his desk, he stands at his adjustable desk. He tosses a furtive glance across the hallway, into the office of the Anti-Vost, even though he can’t make eye contact with the fellow who’s been engaged to supervise the faculty. But the Anti-Vost has decided that he can’t supervise the faculty. Nobody can. Why should he attempt the impossible? He crosses his ankles atop his desk. “I shall hire an Associate Dean of the Supervision,” he concludes. “That is the path forward.” He wonders whether he should wear a pince nez, or were he regal, a prince nez. In the end, he pinches a cigar with his pinching device. The day’s work is done. 

Detail from the manuscript of The Sickness unto Death

We turn to our panel of experts, The Machine, Sausages, and Fluffy, which is advising this blog during Complaint Week 2019:
         “Doves,” says Fluffy.
         “You must therefore be content to slubber the gloss…,” says Sausages.
         “Everybody is overreaching and underprepared,” writes The Machine. “How many professionals are actually professional?”

Thank you, gentlemen. We concur. (About what, we have no idea, but we concur.) Incidentally, I just read a job posting from a private North Carolina university, who are hiring an Executive Director of the BB&T Center for the Study of Capitalism. Let me get this straight. A corporate university is hiring a corporate executive to oversee the study of corporate behavior at a center sponsored by a large corporation.
         “Well, I’ll be a fleabag at a butt-sniffing contest.”
         Meanwhile, there is urgency in opportunity gap. There is urgency in campus malaise. There is urgency in poor graduation rates. There is urgency in equity gap. There is urgency in plummeting enrollment. There is urgency in student debt. There is urgency in student homelessness. We could say urgency or we could say despair. The Anti-Vost walks past Anti-Climacus in the rain-dark evening, the latter clad in rain-soaked rags begging for nickels and dimes. Complaint!

blood and gutstein complaint week 2019: no solutions—just gripes
monday: democrats
tuesday: education
wednesday: poetry
thursday: beer
friday: sports

Monday, February 25, 2019


It’s 2001. The jazz pianist Tommy Flanagan has passed away. A radio station is interviewing a friend of his. He tells a story. In the story, it’s NYC 1950s or 1960s.
      “We was all playing gigs,” he says. “All the piano players.
      “At clubs around town, and when we was done, we’d go to the after-hours club.
      “This is where the REAL music would happen.
      “There was twenty or thirty of us.
      “Each guy got his turn at the piano.
      “This kid went up there, young kid, his hands was like birds on the piano keys.
      “He played boogie woogie, stride, modern, barrelhouse, avant GARDE.
      “Man, the place was going wild, everybody hollerin’, jumpin’, clappin’ they hands.
      “Then it was Tommy’s turn.
      “Tommy went up there.
      “He looked out at the audience, all severely you see:
      “He played the darkest, deepest key on that piano.
      “Everybody got damn quiet damn quickly.
      “Man, he wiped that cat out with ONE NOTE.”

Where is the Tommy Flanagan of today’s Democratic presidential candidates? Where is the Democratic challenger for the presidency who can wipe that cat out with one note? By “cat” we mean Trump, and by “cat” we mean the twenty or thirty hopefuls who are gathered at the “after hours club” also known as the Democratic National Committee, tossing their fedoras into the ring. Collectively, they are same-y, corporate, ageing, visionless, limpid, smarmy, air-brushed, elitist, tight-assed, and doomed. If your favorite isn’t exactly every one of those, then she or he is some of those. They open their mouths and “Trumpelstiltskin” comes out. We get it. Trump is a Russian asset. He has fornicated with Triple X stars, he has eaten a shocking amount of McDonalds, he has produced single-year tax returns that exceed the career published output of Joyce Carol Oates. Hasn’t this horror story—a cinema known as Trump v. Hillarious—played out before our very eyes, with the “basket of deplorables” triumphing in the Electoral College? Oh, this gang is very Photo Genie. They can run an impressive mile. (They have massive quadriceps.) The best of them will turn eighty in office, should he survive the process. (Should he achieve election.) Whereas the most enviable politician in the country—I speak of Alexandria—is seven years too young to establish an exploratory committee. 

The great Tommy Flanagan at the piano.

We turn to our panel of experts, The Machine, Sausages, and Fluffy, which is advising this blog during Complaint Week 2019.

         “Democratic,” insists Fluffy, “not ‘Democrat.’ Remember that.”
         “Everybody is so outraged about every little thing,” writes Sausages, “that they don’t exhibit proper outrage when something truly outrageous happens.”
         “We live in a country,” writes The Machine, “where elections are non-stop.”

Indeed. The Democratic group struggles to gain traction versus Trump. Outrageousness doesn’t lift any eyebrows. And the election to challenge Trump has been going on since December 2016, blah de bloo, blah de bloo. We need a candidate who can wipe this—entire scourge—out of the public domain—forever. With one note. How about Likability + Vision? Maybe that’s two notes, or maybe this clean candidate will be (shockingly? tragically?) a Republican? Complaint!

blood and gutstein complaint week 2019: no solutions—just gripes
monday: democrats
tuesday: education
wednesday: poetry
thursday: beer
friday: sports

Sunday, January 6, 2019


                         On this night, Joy on Fire were:


                         John Paul Carillo (El Jefe, guitars & side kick)
                         Anna Meadors (saxophones)
                         Zach Herchen (saxophones)
                         Chris Olsen (drums, percussion)
                         Dan Gutstein (words, vocals)


                         Live at Moose Lab Workspace, Brooklyn, DUMBO
                         Friday, December 14, 2018


                         & full of late-day sunlight.
                         (Especially in the rain-darkness.)
                         Underneath the secrecy underneath the bridge. . .