Monday, December 17, 2012


Think Outside The Scraper Box!

10. Because The Worm Is Living With Shayna In The Trailer. Why call him The Worm and not The Wriggler or The Snake or The DigDug Creature or The Silverfish? Because he’s The Worm! And he’s living with Shayna in the trailer! So you fired up the Scraper Box (again) dammit!

9. Because Your Daddy Took Out His Scraper Box And Your Daddy’s Daddy Took Out His Scraper Box. There’s nothing so powerful as the notion of three generations taking out their Scraper Boxes, driving them around properly in the usual manner, returning them to a sensible storage area, and disembarking to the traditional welcome that one would receive, including a reasonable portion of suckling pig.

8. To Join The 1,000,000 Scraper Box March. What a spectacle! All them Scraper Boxes amidst the circular wavings of Patriotic Towels, amidst the droppings of Patriotic Confetti, amidst the Keynote Address by the ghost of Marlon Brando, and his Keynote Refrain: “The Hauling, The Hauling!”

7. Woke Up In The Middle Of The Night And Didn’t Know Where You Were. Nothing comforts a touch o’ the Nocturnal Paranoia more than a little trip on the Scraper Box, unless, that is, the Nocturnal Paranoia does not abate, and you were then a Paranoiac riding around on your Scraper Box at night.

6. To Show Someone Else A Good Time. Uh huh, okay, I see how you—wink! wink!— ‘took out the ol’ scraper box last night’, you ol’ devil you, you ol’ Casanova you, you ol’ PLAYA!

5. One Too Many Jokes That Began With A Boot Up Someone’s Butt. So, a patient appears in the Emergency Room, complaining of an “Inability to Void.” Upon further examination, the doctor discovers a boot lodged in the patient’s butt, and says, (Irish accent optional), Would that Inability to Void ‘ave anything to do with the boot stuck up your arse? Oh that, says the patient, Nah, that’s but a coincidence, been there for years, the boot. No, I really cannot void, I can’t!

4. The, Everything Happens For A Reason, Reason. Don’t know why you took out your Scraper Box? Many Americans cannot fathom the Action-Consequence Continuum, either, so let’s just say what they say—that Divinity wanted you to take out your Scraper Box, and anything that happens (e.g., happy or destructive) must be due to Divinity.

3. To Think Outside The Scraper Box. One always sits outside the Scraper Box, of course, but the real trick is to do some Deep Thinking while astraddle your Machinery.

2. The Economy Is Rebounding. The rebound will lead to Many Possible Americas, including DigDug Creatures, Breakfast Potatoes, and Obese Conservatism, thus choose the off-ramp for your Scraper Box judiciously.

1. Willard “Mitt” Romney Was Defeated. Good ol’ Mitt wouldn’t own a Scraper Box, unless Cadillac made one, and then I spoze he’d strap the dog to it, or drive it into an elevator, or buy 50 of them: two for each house. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


The horror! A rediscovered notepad.

The man who founded Arthur Andersen & Co. nearly a hundred years ago in Chicago, a young professor conveniently named Arthur Andersen, once refused a client’s plea to ‘cook the books’ during the client’s annual audit, even as Andersen was struggling to pay his employees. He famously proclaimed that “all the money in the city of Chicago” would not lead him to compromise his ideals, and the client, the owner of a railroad utility, fired him. The railroad company, as the story continues, failed, and in the wake of this double bankruptcy—both commercial and moral—the little accounting firm stood, vindicated, in the sturdy terrain of ethical principles. (Two heavy wooden doors, replicas of the firm’s original entrance-way, would become the company’s enduring trademark.) A partner rehearsed this ditty for me when I joined ‘Arthur’ in 1990 as an entry level research economist charged to support the firm’s growing practice in cross-border transactions. In short, my group would assist foreign multinational corporations—mostly Japanese and German—in dodging their fair share of U.S. tax. These corporations, from the lands of the former Axis Powers, did staggering American business in vehicles, machinery, electronics, and other goods, yet in many cases, paid little or no tax on their U.S. operations. Given the deep pockets of these clients, Arthur could out-muscle the understaffed Internal Revenue Service, which otherwise sought to collect. A two million dollar investment in hiring the heft of Arthur, for instance, would likely avoid a two billion dollar judgment, and in the end, fewer than all the Yen in the city of Tokyo and fewer than all the Deutschmarks in the city of Berlin could, indeed, purchase creative reporting from Arthur. Work-products were often tailored to please the client, and amid the firm’s break-neck sprint to amass billable hours, professional objectivity was discarded in the name of profits. Around the same time, the United States entered a fairly steep recession, one that underscored the decay of American manufacturing, and where U.S. manufacturers had shuttered their doors, Japanese and German companies in many industries prospered. To my knowledge, Arthur did not engage personnel in Tokyo or Berlin to assist American multinationals in avoiding their fare share of Japanese and German tax, or if it did, the firm derived little revenue from this activity. The idea of growth isn’t, by itself, corrupt, but growth uncoupled from the ‘local’ principles upon which Arthur Andersen & Co. was founded, did lead to systemic corruption. I sat at a cubicle for two years, researching and writing bits and pieces, occasionally directing small client engagements, leaving in 1992. Numerous scandals could have erupted in various corners of Arthur, and eventually, some court actions did materialize. One in particular, involving the audit of Waste Management, served to weaken the firm’s clean-cut aura, before another case, Enron, drew considerable attention and toppled both companies in 2002. Before the Enron debacle, the firm’s consulting wing severed itself from Arthur and became Accenture, a company that continues to thrive today. At its peak, Arthur had been the ‘Titanic’ of global auditing firms, with billions of dollars in annual revenue and a couple hundred thousand audit and consulting employees worldwide. In its greed, however, the firm misapplied its role as independent auditor and consultant, enabling other enterprises in their greed to shelter profits (among other scams). Ten years after Enron, many wealthy corporations—notably led by the financial services sector—continue to abuse their relationships with money . . . and the law. It’s easy to argue for oversight, and there should be oversight, of course, but on the other hand, the larger and wealthier and more arrogant the corporation, the more it comes to resemble a disease. After Arthur’s indictment in federal court, its worldwide practice buckled and perished in a matter of weeks, one client after another dumping its former auditors. I resigned from the firm for three reasons: a supervisor refused my petition for a reduction in overtime so I could care for a dying relative; the unethical commerce at play; and I accepted a small fellowship to write poetry. Ultimately, I, the little poet, endured. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012


A Fair & Lovely Lea.

All this talk about Tiger Woods and his ‘sex addiction’ as if the man were humping what, the front nine holes at Augusta? How many American men regret not going out for JV Smurf in high school? That, of course, could’ve led to Varsity Smurf, and ultimately to lettering, i.e., a jacket, but no, didn’t go out for JV Smurf. Instead, these men grew up trying to emulate Captains of Industry—as if a ‘Captain’ in this context were some kind of ceremonial post, as if one would be the ‘Captain’ of Exxon, or Mercedes Benz, or the House of Hapsburg. As if there was any industry for anyone to captain, in any event, as opposed to a bunch of shoddy warehouses rusting the very dead ground upon which they were erected. What’s the greater joke—that our business leaders are ‘captaining’ square feet of empty air, or that generations of ‘Captains’ have presided over one big ejaculation that squandered the nation’s fixed assets? Perhaps a prophylaxis should be administered to every chap who seeks to emigrate or establish asylum in our fair land. He should be read the words “Welcome to America” as he is being flossed. His sons, he will think, in that moment, will grow up and go out for JV Smurf. That, or they could, one day, make love to a bearclaw or a cruller. It would be too dangerous after all to masturbate with a doughnut, seeing how the average law enforcement professional gravitates toward those confections. The clouds, the clouds, over the water tower, the water tower. Despite all the human activity to the contrary, the cycle of beauty—nimbostratus, stratus—can reassemble every day. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


My pop responds to stimuli w/ his favorite phrase.

When I arrived Chez Gutstein for Thanksgiving, it was clear that my pop had readied himself for some serious Q & A, given his choice of sweater. Blue means business, so we didn't waste any time getting right down to brass tacks, and once again pop proved to be singly opinionated, and audible, both. The magic is in the answer that really isn't an answer, and with that thought in mind, I give you The Blue Sweater Footage. 

Monday, November 19, 2012


“Airing one’s laundry” used to be respectable!

Let’s start by changing the word “ghetto” to “grotto”, in that, you don’t live in The Ghetto, you live in The Grotto, and how about that girl you’d like to chase?, she doesn’t dress “so ghetto” but she dresses “so grotto.” Consider some famous people who arose from humble circumstances, such as the First Artist of the Renaissance, Giotto di Grotto, and the fifth Marx brother, Aleppo, the Syrian Marxist, who engaged in Trumpet l’oeil, which is Vaudeville for ‘Trompe the eye.’ It’s all about getting to be Persona au Gratin as opposed to being Potato non Grata. Are you hiring? Who’s hiring? Well, how about employing a word if you’re hiring, and that word is Celestiality, the urge to have relations with the constellations. Have you lost your virginity? Have you found someone else’s virginity? Either way, you can visit the Virginity Lost ‘n’ Found, to claim a lost virginity or make-available a virginity you discovered in an underwear state, like Ohio. I mean, I’m from Ohio, and I can tell you that Ohio is home to any number of people who have Truss Funds. Sonny Pro Bono didn’t Cher & Cher alike, but he did act in the public interest, he did install his Cherware, and he didn’t really flaunt his timecher in Vietnam, where the Vietnamese kosher pig situation has hardly been resolved. That is, the pig has come to understand that it’s not in his best interests to chew his own cud. I say the pig because there’s only one pig in question, so even if he were declared kosher, there’d be a considerable battle for him and his, uh, loins. Up that alley, Ask Not For Whom the Taco Bell Tolls — the Taco Bell Tolls for Thee.  

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


This was a stressful election!

This is, what I would call, “Trochaic / iambic dimeter.” You could argue a secondary stress on the “ba” in “Obama” but I prefer the “THUMPety” of the trochee, myself. I don’t consider myself a “Trochee Man”, necessarily, since I like to think of myself as a “Man of All Meter.” (I’m quite egalitarian in that way.) Of course, there’s a trochee to “Willard” but we won’t need to deal with that trochee very much longer. Some trochees come and some trochees go. Some trochees spend billions of dollars over seven years doing nothing more than complaining. While this blog, and this post, are 100% free. One election won’t solve our problems but I’d like to borrow an old joke and say that “iamb hopeful.” And I’d like to vote for Joe in 2016. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Thursday, November 8th, 7:30 p.m. at the Squirrel.

November 8th will be roughly ten days after Frankenstorm, and two days after that other storm, i.e., The Election, so we'll either have lots to celebrate, or good reason to move on. In that spirit, join us for DUO EXCHANGE: Rod Smith / Dan Gutstein (words) and Argos (music). The two writers and the two-bass band will trade sets of poetry and music in a 'Duo Exchange', an event influenced by the 1973 free/avant album of the same name, featuring Rashied Ali and Frank Lowe. Free and open to the public, no cover charge, The Black Squirrel (tap room -- downstairs -- 40 craft taps), 2427 18th Street, in Adams Morgan. For complete information, visit our Facebook event page

For more information on Rod Smith: click here.

For more information on Argos: click here

We look forward to seeing you there, and for all festivities before, during, and afterwards.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


For the relief of unbearable interactions. 

The dentist drilled my tooth without any anesthetic, but in the air was, maybe I need an anesthetic. He said, “Raise your left hand if you feel any sensitivity” but I’m like “Why the left—because I’m a liberal?” but he’s like “Hey, I’m from Brooklyn!” so I said, “If I raise my left hand due to sensitivity, will you raise your left hand to acknowledge my sensitivity?” We tested it out once, in the absence of sensitivity, me raising my left hand, he raising his left hand, but in the end, it wasn’t the moment I’d hoped for—you know, a camaraderie amongst everyday people in my life: train conductors, specialized personnel, troubleshooters, certificate holders, dentists, et cetera. He continued to drill my tooth without anesthetic, so I got to thinking about sensitivity. Am I too sensitive? Are we Americans too sensitive? How many people, at the moment, are raising their left hands due to sensitivity? Shoot: how many people, at the moment, are raising their right hands, due to sensitivity? Isn’t that the crux of the political problem we face? If more Americans raise their left hands than their right hands then maybe we could elect the sensitive guy. A small piece of metal sprang into the back of my mouth but the dentist plucked it out, deftly. “Thanks for not swallowing that!” he said. He sat down and took off his mask. “It’s all over,” he added. “You didn’t need any anesthesia.” He stared at the far dentistry horizon. I said, “That’s a good thing, right? Not needing anesthesia.” Because if we put aside the sensitivity then we might not need to signal our discomfort again—and we could raise any hands we wanted, or better yet, no hands at all.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


A self-made man. Romney is not.

The country continues to recover from the severe downturn that damaged many sectors of the economy—housing, employment, energy, currency—during the last couple years of the George W. Bush administration, a contraction characterized by many as the worst since the Great Depression, and one that President Barack Obama inherited at its most onerous depths, not to mention two deadly wars that contributed to the buckling of morale and resources. President Obama has enacted a number of resuscitative measures, including stimulus, health care reform, ‘corporate rescue’, and military draw-down, and while progress has been made, joblessness and debt have persisted. Enter the Republican brain-trust, who, emboldened by gains in the 2010 midterm elections, chose the route of political disengagement, and after several cycles of disengaging with the White House, steered to the nomination, through fits and starts, a single-issue candidate for the presidency, a six-year campaigner for the office, former governor Mitt Romney. In addition to offering scant specifics on his single issue, that is, his claim to be the supervisor who can revitalize our sluggish marketplaces, Governor Romney defaults to a set of antiquated stances on social issues and traffics with the electorate amid a host of bumbling personal narratives that cannot be remediated, despite his attempts at likability. Blood And Gutstein endorses President Barack Obama for reelection in 2012, based, in particular, on clear-cut differences between the candidates in the following five arenas, but also because I distrust Romney’s appetite for indiscriminate criticism. He reminds me, in a certain way, of an over-anxious bachelor who cannot pick-up women, and trust me, Mitt Romney could stand to ‘pick-up’ a few women, the majority of whom will vote Democrat this year.

1. TAX POLICY AS A TOOL FOR LOWERING DEBT AND GENERATING GROWTH. We have managed to avert economic catastrophe, and in order to avoid a return to the precipice, it would make sense for wealthy individuals and (wealthy) corporations to feed the kitty at a higher clip than in a period of stability. Obama supports this tax policy, while the G.O.P., led by Romney, does not. Romney advocates for companies and the “upper crust,” only he cannot demonstrate how routine tax cuts would generate the millions of new jobs he’s promising, with an implication that high-wage factory slots would appear in short order. The phrase “voodoo economics”—championed years ago by George H.W. Bush—comes to mind, as such a promise skips too many intermediate stations. I believe that wealthy persons and corporations can adapt by paying more tax and investing in growth, simultaneously. Obama terms this “economic patriotism.”

2. PRESERVATION AND EXPANSION OF INDIVIDUAL LIBERTIES. A large number of Americans—probably a majority—believe, for example, that a woman should have the opportunity to make every decision about her health. Obama supports this individual liberty, while the G.O.P. platform, as espoused by Romney, does not. The Republicans—perennially, daily—stress their commitment to shaping a less powerful federal government, one that would relieve us from its own smothering presence in our lives, except for the part where this depleted federal authority would regulate the reproductive practices of every American household, loom in every doctor’s office, and potentially, dictate arrests, prosecutions, and prison sentences. The contradiction notwithstanding, restrictions on a woman’s right to choice, for example, would especially imperil low-income families and single mothers.

3. APPEARING PRESIDENTIAL IN THE FOREIGN POLICY ENVIRONMENT. During his carefully manicured trip to the London Olympics, Romney recklessly (and prematurely) criticized the security apparatus at the summer games, eliciting “Mitt the Twit” headlines, and drawing the ire of English political leaders. The prime minister reminded Romney that securing the entirety of big, bustling, international London was just a tad more cumbersome than securing venues in “the middle of nowhere”—a potent dig at Romney’s stewardship of the 2002 Salt Lake City (winter) Olympics. No security breaches materialized in London. The diplomatic ink-stain, however, accompanied Romney on the remainder of his “break-out” international tour, a dud that fizzled out in Israel and Poland, but was intended to buttress his soggy profile. Romney’s more disconcerting error involved criticism of the President shortly after the American ambassador to Libya had been killed as part of an insurgent attack. He was vitriolic when, instead, he should’ve projected the calm statesman: “Today, I will put politics aside and stand together with the President during these difficult moments for our diplomatic mission,” or words to that effect, but the G.O.P. challenger cannot muster this sonority. Obama, on the other hand, matched coolness to the demands of the situation.

4. CHOICE OF A RUNNING MATE WHO COULD ASSUME THE PRESIDENCY. It’s not clear to me how Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan, Representative from Wisconsin, broadens the tent for Republicans. He may prize them a few additional voters in his otherwise ‘blue’ home state, or reassure the legions of ‘tea party’ activists, or stamp a youthful grin on the ticket, but at 42, with just a couple years under his belt as Chairman of the House Budget Committee, he does not reassure as broad a swath of voters as does the presence, on the Democrat ticket, of seasoned political veteran, Joe Biden. Prone to the occasional gaffe, the otherwise affable Biden has been involved in government since 1973, when he was first elected Senator from Delaware, and when Ryan was about three years old. He has chaired various committees in the Senate, served for nearly four years as Vice President, and owns a track record, in this position, of negotiating across party lines.

5. PERSONAL NARRATIVE IN THE ERA OF CORPORATE GREED. Mitt Romney wasn’t reared in an apartment above a storefront, the way Ronald Reagan grew up, but was the son of George Romney, CEO of American Motors and Governor of Michigan. Mitt Romney’s enduring fantasy—that he’s a self-made man—must enable additional delusions on his part. Surely, he understands what it takes to create millions of manufacturing jobs, despite the fact that Bain Capital, where he served as CEO, never manufactured anything, and wasn’t headquartered in a factory. A self-made man would have little to hide on his tax returns, and would release them to the public, although a self-made man might, out of unrelated cruelty, strap the family dog to the roof of his automobile. Several contemporary presidents, including, to the right, Eisenhower, Nixon, and Reagan, and to the left, Carter, Clinton, and Obama, could be described as men of humble origins. Obama was raised by a single mother, and as a person who identifies as African American, has probably overcome more obstacles than Romney can imagine.

The tenor of 2012 America calls to mind, in certain ways, the tenor of 1944 America, in particular for a half-remembered quote by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who charged Americans to keep entrusting him with the country’s efforts in World War II, even as it was a dark era filled with uncertainty. He might’ve said something akin to, “Don’t trust the war to anybody else,” and while I may have the quote jumbled-up, the nation reelected him over his Republican challenger, Thomas Dewey, with that sentiment at heart. A different America now grapples with a different type of uncertain future, but there are compelling reasons—policy and character, alike—to keep entrusting President Obama with the nation’s economic recovery efforts. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


What looking in the mirror used to be like: Hot!

Now that I’m post-hot, all I can do is rub Cholula all over myself in the hopes of producing a third nipple. Then I could front the Scandinavian metal combo, Third Nipple Rampage. “Old hotties never die,” said MacArthur, “they just fade to mild.” The hell, though, if I’m gonna settle for Tepidest or Lukewarmest in the nation. Now that I’m post-hot, I’ll need a greater reservoir for compassion than my balsawood heart allows, I’ll need a greater system for latitude than my Zen-X philosophy allows. I’m beginning to learn that life is more than just clicking ass and taking URLs. Especially here in Doubleclickistan, where avatar oleomargarine and avatar sweet vidalia can slather each other all they’d like. No more coverage in The Huffington Glue Post, nope. Even if Red Rover were invoked I sure as hell wouldn’t come over, nope. I’ve gone from “chili pepper” as in “habanero” to “chilly pepper” as in “habanero left out in the snow.” The radio sings, “Ya / ya / ya / ya / ya /ya / ya / Your Sharona,” as if the lady-in-question were someone else’s Sharona, not my Sharona, not any longer, now that I’m post-hot. What have those Immediate-Past-Hotties done with themselves, I wonder, but cruised the jalapeno aisles, for hours, in supermarkets? Not that I, an Immediate-Past-Hottie, cruise the aisles, myself—god forbid it should all come down to stalking the shiny finish on a Hungarian wax pepper. I suppose I could look forward to the brisk fever of an influenza, oh, to be hot again!

Monday, August 27, 2012


Block out regular intervals for writing. (Coffee optional.)

Every so often, a promising undergraduate writer, a senior soon to earn those final fifteen credits, poses this question—“What’s next?”—in office hours or class. “Workshops,” she or he continues, “have been great. They’ve given me a structure. They’ve forced me to produce. But what happens when school ends? How do I continue to be a writer? What should I do?” To her or him, I have offered the following 15-part manifesto, on the writer’s lifestyle, more or less unmodified over the years. Dig these whirreds to the whys.

1. CHEAP FLAT ‘N’ EATS. The less your rent, food, and extravagance tabs, the less you have to work—to purchase that basket of goods. The more time you have with which to write. In terms of food, the potato (Sweet, Yukon Gold, Russet, Red, et al.) is your friend. Inexpensive, nutritious, and quite tasty. Stock up on the good spud, I say. I myself have devoured many a cauldron of spuds ‘n’ cabbage, with a bitteen butter, salt, pepper.

2. CHOOSE APPROPRIATE JOBS. If you write best in the morning, then reserve that time for yourself. Don’t tender those hours to Huge Corporation. Seek access to office equipment: computers, printers, postage meters, paperweights, festive calendars, etc. If possible, avoid typical cubicle jobs where coworkers have big guts, chronic indigestion, and idiotic puns. Tend bar. Wait tables. There is safety in having more than one job.

3. CORROLLARY ON THE 2012-13 ECONOMY. Yes, I realize there’s a slump, and not just a typical contraction, at that. I used to be an economist. [Aside: At one point, my work for Huge Corporation (That Is Now Defunct) involved the depreciation of every telephone pole in America.] I can say, with some general certainty, that the current economy should be a ripe source of non-career, patchwork, writer-friendly jobs.

4. WRITE REGULARLY. Block out several hours, four days in a row. A walk beforehand can cleanse the mind of its clutter. Toil in a room with no distractions, no cell phone, no conversation. Jazz is okay, in the background. Playing solitaire—with an actual deck of cards—can offer a decent, periodic distraction. Write for months. Pile up drafts. Revision, a vital complement, can take place any time, anywhere: busses, cafes, bars.

5. WRITE WITH RANGE, 1. You can pen pieces about your own anguish, but many mainstream writers prosper by (endlessly) describing their psychic and physical suffering. There are other options besides yourself, when considering content. Write about ideas. Be political, but don’t instruct the reader, as Pinter reminds us, to endorse your position. Wild, twisting language can be the most potent (and potable) content.

6. WRITE WITH RANGE, 2. Write a sonnet or treat the page, as Olson says, as a field. Write in prose or write in couplets, and if you’re a fictionista, conceive of stories that appear in sections, put through-action (but not plot) first, don’t punch the clock. Put character first. Write for the love of rhythm. Write chapbooks. Write novellas. Any poem or story should offer a basic problem, situation, conflict. Beyond that: the deluge.

7. READ REGULARLY. Always have a great book open. “A reader is someone who reads every day.” A writer reads more than she or he writes. In your genre. Out of your genre. Seek texts that inform your line-writing or sentence-writing. Seek texts that challenge the comfort level of your language formation, organizational strategies, and representation of situation. Borrow ideas. Read to steal. Don’t plagiarize, of course, but be a thief.

8. PARTICIPATE IN A COMMUNITY. Find yourself “a scene” or create a new one. A scene that produces regular events, like literary readings or a weekly happy hours. Make chums in this scene. Socialize Up. That doesn’t necessarily mean “age” but writers who are rattling ‘n’ rolling. Listen To Young People, don’t forget, even as you are a young person. Listen to old timers, too. Be an equal opportunity consumer of viewpoints.

9. CONSUME OTHER ARTS. Do you know Stuff Smith? The song—“I’se A Muggin’”—that doubles as a counting game? If so, then you know this excerpt: “… twenty-five, twenty-six, uh uh, uh uh, twenty-nine, woof woof, thirty-one, thirty-two …” but I digress. I don’t mean dumbly stare at a bunch of paintings. I mean, absorb certain elements and learn to recall them, as necessary, when you formulate writing.

10. GET YOUR WRITING OUT THERE. You can blog, you can tweet, you can update your status, you can self-publish a chapbook, you can photocopy, you can submit writing for free online, you can create a small press, you can read at an open microphone event, you can host a cattle-call reading, you can self-promote, you can discover all sorts of social media, you can spend a few bucks on postage, you can spray-paint the dumpster.

11. A WORD ON ASS-KISSING. Don’t get me wrong: ass-kissing works. It’s greedy, and as we know from the fictional Michael Douglas character, Gordon Gecko: “greed works.” If only I could stomach this form of self-promotion, I would hound my famous writer-cousin for a few short-cuts, but alas, I cannot stomach this method. Still, if you’re a smarmy little weasel, go for it. Be prepared—I guess—to really—French some ass.

12. SPEAK YOUR MIND. Rather than smooching anyone’s derriere, how about speaking your mind?—with information at your back. That is, don’t just offer a textual or artistic critique if you don’t really have knowledge of the various traditions that may bolster (or contradict!) your opinions. But speak your mind. Call a phony a phony. Take some well-informed stands. Become a sought-after “conversation partner.”

13. VICE IN MODERATION. John Coltrane died at 40 of liver cancer. One theory is, he acquired hepatitis by sharing a needle, and this led to his fatal disease. Either way, he was reportedly addicted to numerous substances, including heroin. He left behind lots of great American jazz. But what of the music he didn’t get a chance to record? If you smoke so much weed that you can hardly jot down a poem—then you’re not a writer, but a doper.

14. A WORD ON CLIMATE CHANGE. Global Warming will certainly lead to erratic behavior in animals. This, in turn, will lead to Kung Fu Change, as Shaolin Monks—and pugilistic monks everywhere—will attempt to emulate the behavior of these animals in their maneuvers. You may wish to travel now, before Pugilistic Monk Warming becomes prohibitive. Write about your travels, but don’t just say “travel.” Build us a city.

15. MFA PROGRAMS. You do not need to be an MFA student in order to be a writer. An MFA program can offer you financial support, instruction, and a cohort, but you can do just fine by yourself, by practicing Nos. 1-14, above. In fact, if you practice Nos. 1-14 above, then everyone else who’s practicing Nos. 1-14 will find you quite irresistible. Too, you will have every opportunity to develop your writing skills, outside the somewhat isolated construct of academia. If you go to grad school later, it’ll feel like a reward.

For a “Cautionary Tale” involving “The Boy with the Broken Heart and The Boy with the Overflowing Heart,” click here

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Learn how to drink this, the best STOUT on earth.

Primer can be pronounced “primmer” or “pry-mer.” “Roight!” [1.] preparatory exercises. One must consider Limberings of the Ligaments when preparing for “a touch of the STOUT.” Fingerpoppings as it were. Recommended, if necessary, are delectables, spectacles, shower & shave. You must be at least 25 pct. properly attired, i.e., haberdashery, if you will, but you needn’t check your skepticism. do not persist in any sort of referential mania, such as gratuitous politicking. [2.] incantations & recitations. En route to the saloon, engage in a traditional chantey, such as: “I drink a drink / and I skip a drink / and when I skip a drink / I drink a beer.” Yodelings are often necessary, given the circumstances, as well as Jello slappings. If you must, recite a chapter from Because It Is Bitter & Because It Is My STOUT. do not pray to the volcano, the hurricane & the mongoose simultaneously. [3.] at the pub. Roight! If there is but one STOUT on the premises, order a STOUT. Otherwise, request the house menu. When deciding among STOUT, we suggest skepticism (see above) re: anything Walloonie, Walloonie Bin & Metrosexuale Belgique. Your STOUT may appear before you in a goblet. We suggest that you weather this indignity with casual modesty. do not bum rush the STOUT. [4.] what to expect: The nose should admit a waft of the roasted malt, if not a waft of the roasted barley, among other suitable trails. The cap should ride your STOUT, even as it thins, to the bottom of the glass, leaving behind a nice latticework to the sides. The mouthfeel shall be creamy & appropriately carbonated, as the aftermath shall not be boozy. Lo, the STOUT shall deliver a pleasant bitterness & ye shall deliver an appropriate sum, therefore, to the barkeep. If you have needs to make water, make water. do not hesitate, upon your return, to order another pour. [5.] feeling good about yourself. Hoist your second STOUT & have a look around the saloon proper. Say “Hey, Mama” with your eyes. Say “mon petit oiseau bleu” with your eyes. By then the antioxidants brewed into your STOUT shall have informed your corporeal salubriousness. The eyes of others shall behold this radiance in solidarity. do not suddenly conceive of a life to be spent with excessive creams & oils & robes & hairshirts. [6.] a word on porter & black ipa. You may swill English porter & American porter however you wish. You may swill strong ales & black ipa however you wish, although there is a suggested donation of $5 per pint, payable directly to our bar tabs. You may not, under any circumstances, swill any other kind of ales & lagers, if you expect extraordinary favors from us. We define ‘extraordinary favors’ as repeated validation of your radical stances (we ain’t no parking lot!) & anything morally abdominal. do not, however, forget your whiskey flask! [7.] walking home. Beware the temptation of the empanada. Beware the temptation of the meatloaf special. Beware the temptation of the slice, jumbo & otherwise. Beware the temptation of the sha cha chicken. Beware the temptation of rare oop on vinyl. do not eat rare oop on vinyl! [8.] appendix i: the trajectory of a debauch. When contemplating a debauch, consider the Lo-Hi Crescendo: English Porter, American STOUT, Double STOUT, Imperial STOUT. Reversely, the Hi-Lo Crescendo operates from Imperial (~10.0 pct ABV) to Double (~8.3 pct.) to American (~5.8 pct.) to English Porter (~4.8 pct.) You may substitute an Oatmeal STOUT for an American. To wit, there are other trajectories, as well. There are, collectively, The Wounded Capuchin, The Chorus Girl & the Chaise Longue, The Spouse & The Souse, The Gravestone Rubbing & The Intercontinental Ballistic STOUT-drinking Trajectories. [9.] appendix ii: on sessionable stout & sessionability.  We endorse a plain-roasted, plain-bitter American, Irish, or Oatmeal STOUT for STOUT-drinking “sessionability”—meaning that, Ladies & Gents, you could drink flagons of these in sequence, without getting all knockout-y, knock-need-y & knock-knock-y. Your friends at BAG have sampled upwards of 750 STOUT / porter over the past several campaigns, & while we haven’t sampled every brew in the world, we are ready to endorse Sierra Nevada STOUT as best-in-sessionability, Founders Breakfast STOUT as all-around-best-in-STOUT & the Founders suite of dark beers, Porter, Breakfast STOUT, Imperial STOUT, Kentucky Breakfast STOUT, et al., as the greatest such suite available in bottle & draught. [10.] faq. Q: Does STOUT increase performance? A: Ask Zenyatta, the champion race horse, who lapped it up, so to speak, every day. Q: Must I complete a Solemn Round of Industry in the morning? A: Yes, if you intend on drinking any more STOUT. If you drink STOUT, however, the Round of Industry may seem a little less Solemn than for non-STOUT drinkers. Q: Who is the most famous STOUT drinker in the history of the world? A: Catherine The Great, Tsarina Extraordinaire, Commissar & Commissioner of the Russian Imperial STOUT. Q: Will STOUT make me hungry? A: Have a wafer, Lads & Lasses, if you develop a touch of the famine. Roight! 

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Danny Graham, after scoring his momentous goal versus Arsenal.

Many football players (outside the U.S.) contest their sport on the pitch, clad in either home or away kits, with the hopes that a good result in their weekly fixtures will propel their sides upward in the table. That sentence may dizzy the average American sportsman, who probably wouldn’t comprehend why the most powerful football league in the world—The English Premier League, or The Prem, for short—not only permits draws, but crowns a champion at the conclusion of its rugged 38-game season, without carving itself into subdivisions and orchestrating multiple layers of playoffs. Incentives do await for victorious soccer that may not capture a title, as the top few finishers in The Prem gain admission to a couple lucrative, continental club tournaments: Champions League and Europa League. In addition, and most notably, the bottom three teams in The Prem must endure relegation, or demotion to an under-tier, to the Football League Championship division, or ‘Championship’, the teams of which can suffer relegation, themselves, to a lower division, or vault into the big show of The Prem. (Multi-tiered football associations in other countries operate in similar fashion.) On the concept of survival, the punk band Wire conveniently shouted: “Avoiding a death is to win the game / To avoid relegation . . .” and “that’s the lowdown,” baby. That’s the climate.

Enter our side, Swansea City FC, a.k.a. The Swans, who became the first Welsh team to compete in the current version of The Prem, and just the 45th club overall to reach this uppermost tier in English football, formed in 1992. The lads climbed into the rarefied atmosphere of The Prem fresh from an elimination contest among four hopefuls from Championship, amidst forecasts of great calamity. In short, the soothsayers predicted a swift return to Championship for The Swans, averring they would finish 20th out of 20, a one-hit wonder. The Swans, therefore, approached the season without donning any ridiculous airs. Their coach, at the time, Brendan Rodgers, frequently reminded spectators and sports writers that the mission revolved around survival, i.e., placing 17th or higher. They would strive to persevere, with Rodgers’ guidance, by attempting to control possession of the ball in the Spanish style, within a system of triangular passing schemes. Synonyms for this variety of ball movement might include “The Beautiful Game” or “Total Football”—the latter championed by Dutch legend Johann Cruyff. After their first few matches, it also became clear that The Swans, in Michel Vorm, were fielding a world-class goalkeeper, an acrobatic athlete with top-shelf reflexes and superior instincts, who led Swansea to four blank sheets (shut-outs) in their first seven Prem League matches. Two of these, unfortunately, involved scoreless draws at home, where a side would hope to prevail, instead, but The Swans knocked off West Brom and Stoke City at home, before drifting into the middle portion of their schedule.

Would they survive, they would likely require at least one signature win versus a Goliath, and the first of three such milestones materialized on January 15th, at Liberty Stadium, where The Swans hosted a traditional powerhouse, London-based Arsenal. Swans Forward Danny Graham struck in the 70th minute, just seconds after Theo Wolcott had knotted the score at 2-all for Arsenal, a goal that might have otherwise doomed The Swans to pursue a draw. Vorm preserved the 3-2 lead with notable point-blank stops, and in defeating the Gunners, The Swans had toppled a former champion and perennial title contender. The Swans would have needs to prevail on the road, and did so, for the first time, versus Aston Villa a day beyond New Year’s, and later versus West Brom, Wigan, and Fulham. In addition to Vorm and Graham, other Swans distinguished themselves throughout the 2011-12 campaign: defender Ashley Williams; midfielders Joe Allen, Nathan Dyer, and slippery Scott Sinclair; and striker Gylfi Sigurdsson, the Icelandic international on loan. Luke Moore subbed versus Manchester City and defeated the eventual champions with a header, and in the season’s final fixture, Graham tallied against perennial powerhouse, Liverpool; both games at Liberty Stadium ended 1-nil to Swansea. The Swans did engage in some maddening giveaways, among them yielding an agonizing equalizer to Chelsea in added time, a match that concluded 1-1 in late January, yet any student of The Prem would reason that such giveaways, in moderation, don’t represent outliers, but organic moments that bedevil all sides in all seasons. The Chelsea result would deprive Vorm, ultimately, from collecting his 15th clean sheet, but by winding up with 14, the Swans tied Tottenham for fourth overall, a badge of remarkable defense.

As the campaign wore on, The Swans tired a bit, and suffered a four-game losing streak to Everton, Spurs, Newcastle, and arch-rival, QPR. They clawed out eight points, however, over their final five fixtures, with a respectable loss to second-place finishers, Manchester United, two shaky draws but important notches, nevertheless, in the table, and two wins, punctuated by Graham’s goal in the 86th minute versus The Reds, with four minutes to play in the season. After the whistle blew versus Liverpool, Swansea City FC had engineered a good bit more than merely weathering the league. The club placed 11th in The Premier League table, the best of its graduating class from Championship. We could label the 2011-12 Swansea campaign as one that culminated in “wild success” or “success beyond imagination” but The Swans produced, simply put, a winning season, despite dropping more contests (15) than they won (12). They drew 11 times. I would guess that most American sports fans would react by sniffing at such a sequence, reasoning that “winning is everything” and if a team doesn’t capture a Super Bowl title, for example, or World Series rings, their exploits matter about as much as a shuffleboard competition in South Beach. Perhaps Americans have grown accustomed to various professional sports teams mired in chronic tableaux of miserable decrepitude, with little incentive to do more than concern themselves with solvency. Many U.S. sports, true, have become dominated by an elite oligopoly of powerful teams, but nowhere in the NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB do lousy clubs have to stomach relegation to lower leagues, or do hungry clubs receive promotion to the top leagues. Given the big corporate shoulders of the New York Yankees, on the other hand, we might conclude that the underfunded Kansas City Royals, for example, finished pretty darned well, under the circumstances, in winning 71, 67, and 65 baseball games out of 162 games over the past three completed seasons, 2011, 2010, and 2009, respectively, but American culture doesn’t really reward that kind of spendthrift endurance, spiritually or otherwise.

If we consider that half the current Premier League football clubs have enjoyed lengthy, uninterrupted stretches in The Prem, then the odds of Swansea out-scrabbling the other nine sides—each with more experience than The Swans—still seemed a bit meager, but cohesive play and clutch performances trumped the doubters. Out-scrabbling, of course, can exact its own price, and extraordinary manager Brendan Rodgers has left the club for the vacant managerial post at Liverpool. The Swans responded by hiring former Danish footballing star, Michael Laudrup, a chap who’s managed in Spain’s La Liga, who endorses a style of play similar to that of 2011-12 Swansea. He and his roster of likable Prem League upstarts will tour the United States for three exhibitions in the month of July, and after that, face an away date at QPR on August 18th, for the kickoff to the 2012-13 Prem. Allegedly, if Swansea survive a second year in the Premier League, then its ownership may expand Liberty Stadium by thousands of seats. Beyond a second Prem League campaign, who knows? The team could compete for “a place in Europe”—entry into Champs League or Europa. To support Swansea City FC, simply say “Up The Swans!” as often as you’d like. That phrase goes better with Single Malt Welsh Whisky distilled by Penderyn, a going Welsh concern that should certainly belong to a Premier League of World Whisky Distilleries, and a brand that could, indeed, survive—and take it all! Up The Swans!

(This post dedicated to Doug Lang.) 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


A system of devotion

Differentiate between “I thought it” and “I said it to myself.” Did you think “torrid” or did you say “torrid” to yourself? The value of “torrid” is irrelevant except to note that Žižek cannot aid you any longer, if he aided you, ever, at all. Clays, as verb, would be more assistive: he clays, she clays (together) the theory of devotion, for example, amidst the various “systems of devotion.” Theories, that is, versus actual deference, which brings me to Metacarpalism. There are five metacarpals in each hand, offering us ten ways to translate our persistent concavity—if only you’ll shiver off the euphoria. Please, please, please shiver off the euphoria, now. If you were post-structural ever, at all, you might consider puncturing the glass and plunging the big red button that proclaims: Deconstruct. Derrida cannot aid you any longer. Did you think “differentiate” or did you say “differentiate” to yourself? One curvilinear form maps itself to another curvilinear form. That’s called correlation; it’s renewable. Facts about the metacarpals will not open your hand. Metacarpal Diem: Open your hand

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


The tops, together: Louis (L) and Ali (R) in 1965

I am party to several abiding conversations about the categories “most important” and “greatest” as applied, for example, to writing, music, and sports, and have unveiled my findings at intervals in this sphere. Faithful readers might recall my reverence for the “breath-turning” poet Paul Celan, or my declaration of the top 25 (+5) (+1) most essential American musicians, crowned by Louis Armstrong. In this post, I will crane part of the debate —as it is portable—toward the top two heavyweight boxers of all time, Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali. Nobody, in my estimation, can declare a “greatest ever” among the two, thus I will stick to the scaffolding of “most important,” and in the process, perhaps create a definition-by-example of the category, “most important,” itself. There were many heavyweights, indeed, to choose from, and three others—Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey, and Larry Holmes—rate a mention, but scholars and experts operating in a variety of media roundly establish Louis and Ali, in that order, or vice versa, as the most significant pugilists. The popularity of heavyweight boxing has evaporated, following the less notable careers of Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, and Evander Holyfield, and with the rise in popularity of Mixed Martial Arts; therefore, we can perhaps conclude that Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali will always be tops. 

NICKNAME:  THE GREATEST.” A former Olympic gold medalist, Muhammad Ali dominated the so-called Golden Age of Heavyweight Boxing, decking several champions, including Liston and Foreman. He avenged losses in title bouts to Frazier, Norton, and Spinks, and triumphed over a set of lesser-known tough customers, such as Earnie Shavers and Ron Lyle, who might’ve been champions in other eras. Shavers fought Ali and Larry Holmes for the title, losing both matches; Lyle, who died recently, was ahead on two of three scorecards versus Ali, when Ali stopped him in the 11th round of their championship fight. Despite losing many early years in prison, Lyle competed with a number of greats, including a wild win versus Shavers, and a brawling loss to George Foreman, who needed to rise off the canvas in order to prevail in five rounds. This is all to say that the second tier characters in the Golden Age were dangerous, and that, in many other eras, there was no second tier, to speak of, at all. Ali’s most important victory may have come versus then-champion Foreman, when the two clashed at the high-voltage Rumble in the Jungle of Zaire, an improbable win that cemented Ali’s return to the pinnacle of his sport, having lost three years, 1967-1970, in legal limbo. He didn’t fight during that stretch, and was stripped of his belts, of course, after he refused induction into the U.S. military, having articulated the sentiment of other blacks, at the time: “No Vietnamese ever called me nigger.” His defiance of Selective Service, and his brash, groundbreaking personality contributed to his international celebrity. To be sure, Ali was not the first black heavyweight champion to roil the white establishment—Jack Johnson married three white women and was prosecuted under the Mann Act, a law that prohibited the transport of a woman across state lines “for immoral purposes”—but Ali climbed to prominence in another era, and could project power with fewer (or alternative) consequences. His name change, from what he termed a “slave name”, Cassius Clay, to one of Muslim origins, would enable a new mythology, the script of slavery discontinued, demolished. Still, Ali found it necessary to taunt his black opponents, including Joe Frazier, with racially-tinged insults, and even slandered Joe Louis, himself, as an “Uncle Tom.” In 1980, Ali’s decisive loss to former sparring partner, Larry Holmes, would carry notoriety, for the protégé, Holmes, would assume control over the heavyweight division, arguably, for the third most dominant reign in the history of the class. Many of Ali’s exploits—matches, interviews—were broadcast via such television shows as ABC’s Wide World of Sports; nothing, for instance, was more worldly than Don King’s name for Ali-Frazier III: The Thrilla in Manilla. Ali’s gift for a photogenic code of oratory, rap, improv, and braggadocio would complement if not propel the turbulent age of jazz-rock, protest, and rocket travel. 

NICKNAME: THE BROWN BOMBER.” A former Gold Gloves champ, Joe Louis began boxing professionally in the 1930s, and as his winning streak bulged, it became clear to Louis and his handlers that he would have to project anything but the likes of Jack Johnson (or other figures controversial to the establishment) in his public demeanor, should he ever hope for a bout with a white title holder. He would never gloat; never participate in a thrown fight; and never be photographed alone with a white woman. Thus began one of the most triumphant campaigns in U.S. history. Despite losing a disheartening non-title bout to the German boxer, Max Schmeling, the honest, soft-spoken Louis was maneuvered into a shot at the “Cinderella Man,” champion Jim Braddock. Whereas Ali would wrest the heavyweight title from another African American, Joe Louis had to carry himself just so, just to climb into the ring with Braddock. After he stopped the Cinderella Man, Louis engaged in the longest uninterrupted reign in the heavyweight class, nearly 12 years, with the most title defenses ever recorded in the division, 25 victories. Far from being an “Uncle Tom,” Louis humbled white adversaries in the ring, rather than taunt anybody, especially fellow blacks. He clobbered five former or future champions, including the huge, hulking Primo Carnera, Max Baer, and Jersey Joe Walcott, as well as a number of seasoned contenders such as Billy Conn. In all likelihood, he participated in the most important championship fight in the history of the sport, when Max Schmeling returned to New York in 1938, for a rematch, and for a chance to win the crown. Even though Schmeling, a symbol of Nazi Germany, was not, officially, a Nazi, the specter of the murderous, totalitarian regime accompanied him, amply, across the Atlantic. When Louis hurt Schmeling with a thundering blow to the ribcage, then finished the German in the first round, he became the first national African American hero celebrated by all Americans, as the United States had begun to mobilize, politically, against the Axis powers. Louis would enlist in the army during the war, bolstering morale for black and white soldiers alike. As with Ali, he would see nearly three years vanish from his fighting career, from 1942-1944, but return to the ring a winner. While in Europe, he joined the famous Liverpool Football Club as a stunt, but years later, after his boxing career had ended, he played golf at a PGA event in San Diego, the first black man to do so. He may have lacked Ali’s rhythmic verbiage, but Louis did mint the phrase, “He can run, but he can’t hide,” when Billy Conn, the light heavyweight champion, suggested that he could dodge and outbox Louis. Indeed, Conn was ahead on points, late, in the first of two fights between the men, when Louis, a fairly light heavyweight, toppled Conn with two rocketing blows to the jaw. He also said, on a separate occasion, “Everyone has a plan until they’ve been hit.”

Both men suffered after their careers ended, Ali falling victim to Parkinson’s syndrome, and Louis tragically enduring a smothering and unforgivable crusade by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. Louis’ post-boxing life would carry him through demeaning stretches as a professional wrestler, a “greeter” role at a casino in Las Vegas, drug addiction, bouts of paranoia, and hospitalization; he passed away in 1981. His final record, 66-3-0, included 52 knockouts, with 23 coming, stunningly, in title fights alone. Ali, for his part, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005, and is currently 70 years old and prosperous. Oftentimes, when I think of Ali, I think of a split-decision loss, actually, in his first matchup with Ken Norton, who cracked Ali’s jaw at some point during the bout. Ali’s trainer, Angelo Dundee, claimed that Norton fractured it in the second round, suggesting that Ali fought at least 10 rounds with a broken jaw, nearly winning. That kind of storied grit circulates but in rare instances. Ali would finish his career at 56-5-0, with 37 wins by K.O. Still, for my money, the most important of the two fighters is Joe Louis. Long before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball, Joe Louis dropped Schmeling, the ‘infallible specimen’ of the Aryan race, a result that would break the color barrier in national pride. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


This Be Averse!

You can't just dial "S" recklessly. If you do, you might wind up connected to the laissez faire rapper K Sirrah Sirrah & his album Straight Outta Compost. Drop the Que and you've got Sera Sera, an assassin a-sassin' your serum, or some other form of congenial defect. It's all equally worse. So much so, we're now, hereby, a Mistopia, replete with a Miss Utopia contest. When asked about how she would rescue the High Fructose Corn Syrup lobby, one contestant replied: "THNICKITH!" The reply drew Snickers from the audience, all card-carrying Mistopians. If your cousin, Tony Lemons, will sell me a used car, then will your other cousin, Two-Tony Lemons, do the paint job? Ray Milland dialed "M" for Murder but Grace Kelly ended up giving his hired strangler the Scissors, the "S", instead, murdering him, do you see? As if Ray Milland dialed S & M! Some men out there prefer to rob the cradle while some men out there prefer to rob the grave. All these men have attended UKFC, the University of Kentucky-Fried Chicken, where PBR was their go-to brew, Brah. There is a jellybean in the air // There is a jellybean in the brassiere. Too many simulations, these days, involve slapping sounds.  

Monday, April 2, 2012


At the famous "Jump Across 100 Starter Salads"

Yes, you can take my hoarder if I can hoarder some fries with that entrée nous. I usually prefer In-N-Out-Of-Africa-Burger -- where you hoarder a Colonial or Post-Colonial w/ a Lite Boer -- but either way, I'll be finishing up with A Clockwork Orange Julius, the refreshing beverage that, just, meters your mindfulness. It's at The Mall, I'm always at the kiosk, I'm all about the flicks, Slick, and I'm going to see that new movie, BEER HORSE, about a roan thoroughbred who runs, like, really fast, to and from the brewery. It's a double feature, though, and the second film is about an Irish-American leg-breaker boxer bum who gets a shot at the champ; it's called SHAMROCKY. Or, I dunno, it's about a guy, Rocky, who's not who he says. That kind of reminds me of the famous explorer, Ponce de Chameleon -- always changing his clothes, changing his mind, changing his vote from "Pro Romney" to "Leaning Romney." Swing voters, man; too promiscuous. The premise being that they Promise The Couscous, i.e., the whole antsy lotta. Let us now recite: Whose weed this is I think I know // His stash is in the village though // He will not see me copping here // To watch his weed fill up with snow. That's either from Frost's poem, "Stopping to Buy Weed on a Snowy Evening" or Dickens' novel, Little Dorritos, about the imprisonment of those who owe a snackchips debt to society. We can drink tequila; we can say, Goodnight, tequila; and we can dream what the agave dreams, a spiny, parched topography that offers a sappy denouement. The sun-rise brings Industry, it always brings Industry, we must complete a round of Industry, whether it be solemn or not. Come along, say your morning pleasantries with me: Good morning, Industry; Nice power-tie, Industry; You've lost a little paunch, Industry; I don't mind compromising my core values, Industry, just as long as I can provide some trans fat for my people; That's all right, Industry, I guess I don't need a level wage, after all. The Story of the Mendicant and the Fancy Woman always goes like this: The Beggar was a persistent bugger, for each time he saw the Lady, he would beg her and bug her.

Monday, March 26, 2012


Join us Thursday, March 29th, at 5:00 p.m., for LitLive at Maryland Institute College of Art, featuring poetry readings by Rod Smith and Stephanie Barber.

Rod Smith is the author of Deed (poetry, Univ. of Iowa Press) and other collections, publisher of Edge Books, and recent visiting faculty at the Iowa Writers' Workshops. Click here for more information about his writing.  

Stephanie Barber is a writer and artist living in Baltimore. Her book These Here Separated to See How They Standing Alone was published by Publishing Genius Press. Click here for more information about her work.

LitLive is a new literary reading series at MICA, with events held in the Writing Studio, Bunting Center, 1401 Mt. Royal Avenue, 4th Floor, Room 452. The series spotlights Baltimore & Washington, D.C. writers and is hosted by Dan Gutstein. All readings are free and open to the public.

Basic Directions / Parking: The Bunting Center can be found at the corner of West Lafayette Avenue and West Mt. Royal Avenue in Baltimore, and is one of three buildings at the center of MICA's campus. Exits 5, 6, or 7A from I-83. Light Rail to University of Baltimore/Mt. Royal (walk north on Mt. Royal). MARC Rail to Penn Station (Take W. Oliver St. to Mt. Royal, turn right). Garage parking at The Fitzgerald on Oliver Street between Maryland and Mt. Royal. Street parking on or around Mt. Royal.

We hope to see you at the Writing Studio!

Monday, February 20, 2012


The only one for whom an instrument
—the Sousaphone (a tuba)—is named.

Consider the number of unrecorded musicians—like Buddy Petit—and the number of recorded musicians—such as Bunk Johnson—and the number of bandleaders—King Oliver, for example—who were important to Louis Armstrong, a Crescent City native who would become the most exceptional figure, indisputably, in the history of American music. Through cornet and trumpet playing that established his reputation as a soloist (and established the standing of the jazz soloist in general) and his swinging, gravel-sweet voice, Satchmo would eventually influence just about every musician on this list, but calling these men and women important doesn’t mean that they were first to play their instruments or first to hold a microphone close to their mouths. It doesn’t even mean that they were greatest in their genres, or sub-genres, although many of them, posthumously and otherwise, continue to be giants. (Only a few on the list live to play.) No, these musicians excelled at absorbing rich cultural threads and transforming them into performances, recordings, and inventions that attracted the attention of other musicians, or intensive critical acclaim, or the interest of a new and durable audience; or, of course, all three. Many of the artists on this list composed groundbreaking works of their own, but the list, alas, does not contain a host of seminal American composers—Arlen, Barber, Berlin, Bernstein, Brubeck, Cage, Carmichael, Cohan, Copland, Feldman, Gershwin Bros., Glass, Hammerstein, Ives, Q. Jones, S. Joplin, Kern, Porter, Reich, Rodgers, and Strayhorn, among others—who shaped a variety of American idioms, as well as the playing, at times, of these very 25 (+5) (+1) performers. Nor does this list necessarily contain the blogger’s personal favorites, such as the soprano saxophone jazz-man, Steve Lacy, for instance, who may have been a great musician, but whose greatness may have derived from the importance (and greatness) before him, of Thelonious Monk. This gathering of artists ends circa 1970, a point by which every musician contained herein had demonstrated his or her indispensable value to American music, but leaves off, more or less, before other acts—Captain Beefheart, Sonic Youth, Michael Jackson, Run-D.M.C., Public Enemy, et al.—would push into, stagger, and re-ramify the vessels of music and musical commerce. The writer Michael Ondaatje fantasized about the psychological undoing of legendary (and unrecorded, hardly celebrated) New Orleans trumpeter, Buddy Bolden, in his novel, Coming Through Slaughter, but Bolden’s contribution may have been to inspire a very young Louis Armstrong, ‘round about nineteen ought seven, who may have been, himself, offering brassy announcements on his cornet, in the same streets, as part of a job riding atop a junk cart. Undoubtedly, there have been numerous other isolations and obscurities in the development of American music—Appalachian banjo pickers, coal mine protest songs, funeral marches, marches, fife and drum corps, and migrant jug bands are just a few that come to mind—but we should offer thanks for the collective energy that has led us toward these 25 (+5) (+1) important musicians, in A, B, C order:

(Top 25)

Louis Armstrong
James Brown
Johnny Cash
Ray Charles
Ornette Coleman
John Coltrane
Bing Crosby
Miles Davis
Fats Domino
Bob Dylan
Duke Ellington
Dizzy Gillespie
Woody Guthrie
Jimi Hendrix
Billie Holiday
Robert Johnson
Thelonious Monk
Muddy Waters
Charlie Parker
Elvis Presley
Frank Sinatra
Bessie Smith
John Philip Sousa
Velvet Underground
Hank Williams


Count Basie
Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers
Coleman Hawkins
Sonny Rollins
Lester Young

(+ 1 Special Mention)

Roy Brown, for “Rockin’ at Midnight.” [For more on Roy Brown, and other musicians like him, please see the Jump Blues post.]

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Shall we avoid discrepancy & saddening silhouette.

I remind myself on occasion of my dormant bachelor's degree in economics, one that led me to work for the now-defunct and internationally disgraced Arthur Andersen & Co. for two years before I traded that dismal firm for A Life of Adventure. As I continue, perhaps I need to offer a brief disclaimer -- being: I am not a practicing economist, currently -- or perhaps you will count that circumstance in my favor. The country requires a few serious jolts, starting with this: (1) Green Manufacturing. Let's imagine, for a minute, that the ailing economy stabilizes and improves. The unemployment rate, presumably, would drop, but what would that mean? Mitt Romney likes to promise workers in Michigan that their jobs will return, but will they? Does it feel like the American automotive industry is poised to lead a major economic resurgence, full of well-paying, secure, assembly-line positions? In fact, it feels like America is becoming a nation of warehouses and strip-malls, where wholesale and retail drive our economic fortunes -- hence, the emphasis on consumer spending. Imagine, now, a second recession, one in which some of our retail and some of our wholesale don't survive, never mind our manufacturing, which many economists characterize as being in steep decline. What then? Instead of General Motors trying to be General Motors all over again, General Motors needs to become General Motors & Solar. Not only do we need to build electric cars -- to avoid punishing our environment and reduce our dependence on oil -- but we need to consider how we will produce the electricity that will juice the cars. We need to construct solar panels, and wind turbines, and fuel cells, and biomass facilities, among other going concerns -- and the infrastructure required to store and transmit the electricity we generate. The sun is probably going to shine for much of the next several million years, and last I checked, it was free; unless, of course, Comcast gets a-hold of it, in which case, you'll probably receive the sun on pay-per-view, with dreadful customer service. But I digress. A green energy conversion in this country would lead to a slew of new jobs, both in manufacturing, management, and maintenance. We would probably still mine, burn, and sell coal, and still generate some power through nuke-u-lar, but the green conversion, in principle, and in principal, would create skilled, well-paying jobs, and would tap energy sources, otherwise, for free. (2) A Level Playing Field on Labor Practices. It now appears -- doesn't it? -- that going to college makes little sense for quite a few Americans in their late teens and early twenties. For starters, college is expensive, and must be financed through equally expensive loans, but once a young adult has graduated, and enters the labor market, what kind of job is he or she likely to find? The answer is, in many cases, a job that did not require a college degree, and will not reward the student for taking out such costly loans. But according to many economists, even those jobs have fled the country in great numbers, since they can be sourced (or out-sourced) in countries where labor costs are -- horrifically -- detrimentally -- artificially low. If, for simplicity's sake, a Gadget Job in Country B pays $0.50 per hour, and in effect reinforces a poverty-level subsistence faced by the workers who produce the Gadget, then we should apply a tariff to the Gadget, as it enters port in the U.S., that would effectively render the Gadget at such a price as to make it competitive, were it produced in Country A, as in the U.S. of A. We, at least, offer something known as a minimum wage, and while that ain't much in every case, it's a reasonable law, and we should demand that our trading partners abide by similar practices. If they don't, then we should calculate all the costs that are not being fed into the price of the Gadget, and bill that country for said amounts. Maybe our "Captains of Industry" will therefore recognize an opportunity to produce the Gadget in our fair land, creating the varieties of jobs that might offer an alternative to those young adults who feel that they must, at any cost, attend college; our economy should present those alternatives. (3) National Service. Upon graduation from high school, the vast majority of American youth should serve a two year hitch in national service -- some in the military -- but most in what I'll call "Infrastructure." I don't know what, exactly, all of them would do, except that we need to build, rebuild, and restore quite a bit of our highways, bridges, tunnels, lakes, rivers, wildlife areas, et cetera, but also we may need entry level workers in factories and other settings. (Some cheap workers for our Green Energy Conversion, see #1, above.) "Of all the preposterous things you're saying, Gutstein," someone will think, "this is the most preposterous and expensive!" True, this may be costly, and in terms of financing it, I'm only prepared to say that our big-pocket corporations (and corresponding individuals) have to manage it, and finance it, in its entirety. The results, however, should benefit the very corporations that would be tasked with handling the system. I can't imagine that better highways and cheaper energy sources would be detrimental to the bottom lines of these corporations, and in any event, our federal, state, and local government agencies are broke, strained, and incapable, and if left up to them, it just won't happen. I would also like to imagine that young Americans could begin to have a valuable, shared experience in the rebuilding of their own republic, but let me not glow too roseate in my optimistic oratory. Okay? And that's all. Sure, there are other serious issues that trouble us Americans, but these three activities, in my estimation, would set the country toward an enthusiastic course, not seen, perhaps, since the exhilaration of V-E and V-J days in the 1940s. Leadership would have to come first. Someone who could unite the legislators of both major political parties, and also convince everyday Americans that we would all be entering a period of austerity and sacrifice. "Now's the time!" shouts Martin Scorcese before his character blams away at Johnny Boy (Robert DeNiro) in Mean Streets, and that's about right, except for, you know, all the gunfire and violence.