Tuesday, December 15, 2015


Are you left-brine or right-brine dominant? It would depend upon which ocean you await. The Atlantic always approaches shore from right to left whereas the Pacific always approaches shore from left to right. Oceans force you to adopt the same stance, no matter how you might strive to politicize an issue. Our centrists must reside in the middle of the continent—they count both the artist and the analyst among their ranks. An apple, can the centrists paint, a standard deviation, can the centrists compute. Would you apply Right Guard to your right-side armpit, or in general, to conservative body odor? Oh, would there be Left Guard for the left-side armpit or for the perspiration of liberals, who continue to perspire, apparently, without remediation. Personally, I blame this problem on our two-armpit system. Not that a third armpit could stagger the current political impasse, except maybe in a matted hair environment, where an alternative might break the dreadlocks. Do you think that the famous French bell-ringer drives the Hatchback of Notre Dame? Maybe he prefers to ride the Quasi-Moto-Cycle. In France, the Atlantic always approaches shore from left to right, forcing citizens to be right-brine dominant, les droitiers. There, the donkey brays, the chefs braise, the Frenchies tilt their berets.

Sunday, November 29, 2015


If you can’t pay in dollars, then you might as well pay in pathos.

They’ll take just about any currency down at the Five & Paradigm.

So, a guy walks into a bar along with a huge growling grizzly, and the maître d hollers, “Oh my god! Table for two?”, and the guy replies: “Thanks. I know this grizzly situation may be difficult—bear with me!”

Meanwhile, the insect had been dead for such a long time, rigor mantis had set-in, but more than that, it’d gotten fashionable to be a dead insect, it was de rigueur mantis.

I like to sit in the portion of the aircraft where ordinary passengers receive self-help lectures, you know, motivational coach.

A fellow once sat next to me in motivational coach, a famous baseball slugger traveling to attend a Jewish girl’s coming of age ceremony.

He would be, in fact, Casey at the Bat Mitzvah.

How to explain, but the animated character suffered a ritual humiliation at the hands of an angry mob, in the new moving picture, Avatar and Feather.

The village crier scrambled into the town square in a state of alarm: “The Scot is dead”, he shouted, “the Scot is dead.”

“Oh no!” someone called back, “how’d he die?

“He was kilt!”

In an unrelated development, an Irish pop-rock band had to fill out so much American employment paperwork, they changed their name to W2.

“No more leads”, lamented the police detectives, as they chowed-down some lunch at a Mexican restaurant.

“Yep”, they lamented, “it’s a real cold case-a-dilla.”

Thursday, November 19, 2015


Lost Civilizations, from left to right: Leah Gage, 
Mike Sebastian, Patrick Whitehead, and Ted Zook

I hope that listeners will pardon my loud “Oi! Oi!” at the beginning of the first set, but I borrowed that riff from the Sleaford Mods song, “Middlemen”, in order to quieten our garrulous audience at the Black Squirrel, November 15, 2015. A fabulous renewal of the Lost Civilizations + Duo Exchange collaboration ensued. For each gathering, Rod Smith and I provide the words (the “Duo Exchange”) amidst the music, and we always label the most recent outing “the best”, this one without hesitation. Connoisseurs of our collaboration may recall that we script nothing in advance. The music as well as the poems find their own order as the event flows forward.

For a free listen of the first set (39 minutes) click [HERE]
For a free listen of the second set (33 minutes) click [HERE]

Ted Zook (basscello) and Mike Sebastian (saxophones) form the core of the Lost Civilizations Experimental Music Project, to which they invite guest musicians. On this night, Leah Gage sat-in on drums, and Patrick Whitehead joined on trumpet and flugelhorn, making us a six-member outfit. Rod and I attempt to build a city—many voices and humors—every time Duo Exchange sets out, and yet, no matter how much we may anticipate the evening’s trajectory, the music inspires us not only for its abiding quality, but also for the many surprising ways in which the musicians might push, embolden, and shape our performance. 

At times, we might’ve noted the manipulation of silence and the occupation of part-spaces. At other times, we might’ve caught the discordant caucusing in advance of one instrument prevailing. The Big Sound might’ve staggered us, the declarations of agreement that fronted and trailed synthesis. Did Lost Civilizations swing? Oh yeah, I think so. The musicians answered questions—with brassy, reedy, thumping, sawing language—in need of responses, only we had no knowledge of these questions before the performance began. We broke the surface of the evening, vastly replenished.

Rod Smith (left) and the blogger as Duo Exchange

Lost Civilizations reminds us, aptly, that counter-culture hasn’t yet suffered permanent misplacement, and that art, if untethered, represents our best avenue for salvation. Two writers had to fit together, and four musicians had to fit together, and six people had to fit together, in music and verse, and we did, fit. If you attended the show, if you listened to one or both sets, if you read this little review, thanks, and on behalf of Lost Civilizations and Duo Exchange, in the spirit of Duke Ellington, we love you M-a-a-a-dly!

Friday, October 30, 2015


People who don’t listen to music park their cars in front of fire hydrants. People who don’t listen to music develop repetitive stress disorders such as Dyspeptic Political Identity. People who don’t listen to music lament the idle swells of “steely gray clouds” dimming the north-northwest. They wander through the lobby in search of the lobby. They perch like slumbering owls, one-legged, on marble staircases. They marvel at the defunct telephone booth, the handset dangling off the hook, the dial-tone expired. People who don’t listen to music struggle at the vending machine, their currency upside down, their intended treat manacled by the tight coil of the apparatus. People who don’t listen to music suck imported, boutique plum pits. People who don’t listen to music scoff at the buttered onion! They attend registration drives in circular parks but withdraw after discovering that they won’t receive a gift, such as a four-slice toaster or a festive doilies four-pack. They gnaw on the principles of other generations even as the principles of other generations gnaw on them, “gnaw, man”, says a jokester from a jokester generation, but the wordplay carouses briefly, glancing off a plate-glass window. They monitor their carotid arteries during periods of inactivity, often with concerning results, such as mule-kick pulses or blender-on-pulse, pulses. People who don’t listen to music listen to people who don’t listen to music. They clasp their hands like “hurrahs”, only they won’t raise these “hurrahs” over their heads, and their hands, unclasping, approximate the weary countries of sequestration.

complaint week 2015 editorial schedule:
October 30: People Who Don't Listen to Music

Thursday, October 29, 2015


I’m not writing about reasonable or even borderline Manchester City Football Club supporters: they love their club, more power to them. No, I refer to The Washington, D.C. Bros, the ones who’re fond of great hand-clapping songs about Wilfried Bony, for instance, as if MCFC fully mentored the Côte d’Ivoire forward, rather than purchasing him for a whopping sum from Swansea. The same Bros make loud baby-crying noises when an opposing player has been fouled and hurt by a City player, and by this, I mean, “WAAAAAA!”, throughout the game, “WAAAAAA!”, go The MCFC Washington, D.C. Bros. If you represent a smaller club, if you venture into their lair at an establishment known as Lucky Bar in Dupont Circle, then you’ll be outnumbered by The Bros 50 to 1, you’ll be yelled at from the comfort zone of their vastly superior numerical advantage. “WAAAAAA!” go The Bros, “Wilfried Bony! Wilfried Bony!”, they sing, clapping tightly. They purchase replica English breakfast and replica beer, these Bros, they seem to hold jobs. One imagines them toiling as Financial Services Bros, or for special interest that frequently declares skeptical views of, let’s say, poverty, or perhaps on behalf of shadowy multinationals. One doesn’t imagine these Washington, D.C. Manchester City Bros giving back to the community. One doesn’t imagine them tipping, or holding a door open for someone, or self-diagnosing the clinical nature of their behavior. Still, these Bros are people, too. Who will sing for them—“WAAAAAA!”—when their bodies return to the earth? Who will sing for them when they return their sky blues to the hamper? Who will sing for them when the Bud Lite fails to vanquish the demons of the following truth: vastly wealthy foreign ownership buys titles, some of the time, but not all the time. “WAAAAAA!”

complaint week 2015 editorial schedule:
October 29: Washington, D.C. Manchester City Bros
October 30: People Who Don’tListen to Music

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


The student newspaper at George Washington University, The GW Hatchet, recently reported the layoffs of several part-time creative writing faculty members, ostensibly owing to institutional cost-cutting measures. For many years, a number of distinguished part-timers have taught at GWU, and I often regard my own time teaching in the creative writing program—mostly in a part-time capacity—as a formative period in my life. Back then, part-timers often carried teaching loads (2-2) resembling full-time loads and provided valuable departmental service that full-timers often did not provide. Noting that adjuncts probably earn a small fraction of what the full-timers take home, it does not seem like best practices—either corporate or programmatic—to eliminate these low-wage positions.

The article quotes a senior staff member as indicating that “budgetary pressures” drive the reductions among the part-time ranks. Moreover, the article quotes a full-time faculty member as saying “cuts to adjunct faculty will also make full time instructors’ jobs more difficult because they will have to take on more classes and have less time to spend one on one with students.” Both statements trouble me. In terms of cost-cutting, I have to imagine that the leadership of a wealthy, land-owning school could choose from a host of other options rather than axing a handful of part-time faculty, but appears to punish both the creative writing concentration as well as the category of people who may have to scuffle the most with our expensive world in order to teach the arts of prose and poetry. The full-time faculty member, meanwhile, conjures too much privilege among the tenure-track ranks, and misses the point. Here we see part-timers losing part of their livelihood as well as their foothold in the field. I enjoyed the response from a current part-time creative writing instructor (who loses a job) for voicing, in effect, that GWU should invest in people, and should tighten its belt, therefore, by not “[setting out] as many buffets.”

I taught more than 65 courses in the George Washington University English Department, the vast majority of them as an adjunct “professorial lecturer” earning less than $3,000 per section. A goodly gang of folks taught alongside me, in a part-time capacity. We supported each other professionally and personally, and we, as a group, often engaged in service activities—reading series management, literary magazine advising, public office hours, and so forth—that built durable community among hopeful young writers. GWU shames itself by laying off such a vital part of its creative writing program. The very same laid-off instructors are probably reflecting upon the fact that the university does not seem to care much about their plight, and hopefully, these abandoned teachers will not look back as they depart, and not do the university any favors in the future.

complaint week 2015 editorial schedule
October 28: GWU Fires Adjunct Creative Writing Faculty

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


“Let me show you my work,” they say, opening a portfolio in a storm.

It’s plenty brilliant, but it’s not like they’ve been punching the clock down at the smelter for six months.

“My work,” they continue, “attempts to trapeze the stigmata that violates the hierarchies and higher Archies Comics which serialize the tenderloin medallions of our jack-boated & peeper-jack rabbits” [sic].

They smell like every blundering variety of onion—yellow, red, white, sauteed—simultaneously.

One wishes they’d engage in ablutions, even back-alley ablutions, you know, “work” a bar of soap into a lather in order to exfoliate a few olfactory outlets.

“I try to work every day”, they add, if “to work” equates with menacing glances issued upon the skyline from the boxy confines of a dumpster-dove armchair.

The rejection of the treatise, the tilt of the beret, the ankle-height of the denim, the adjustment of the mustaches, the futility of the effort to vanquish an indefatigable booger.

“My opus is to myopia,” they say, “as my oeuvre is to my oeuf, as my opiate is to my Boeuffy the Vampire Slayer.”


The work weak, the work ethnic, the work oat.

The scene shifts to a $3.00 coffee tab.

“I call this my work Visa,” they say, producing a credit card.

It’s a miracle the transaction goes through, it’s a miracle they pick up the tabby, [sic].

It’s a miracle they merely cull the heard of hearing.

complaint week 2015 editorial schedule:
October 27: Artists and Writers Who Say “My Work”

Monday, October 26, 2015


Many of us cheered a Joe Biden entry for two purposes: healthy competition for Hillary, and if not quite good enough to topple her in the early primaries, the presence of a senior-statesman alternative should she wobble owing to prior (and perhaps future?) scandal. Nobody, to this point, rises to the level of the opposition that Biden might have offered, certainly not the regional candidate, Bernie Sanders, who conveniently calls himself a Democrat during this cycle, whose oratory probably won’t broaden the tent. Of course, we can’t blame Bernie for Bernie’s insufficiency, and in all likelihood, he probably never intended his protest candidacy to challenge Clinton as a number two hit on the national charts. No, we might blame the Democrat Machine—pronouns in use: one, she, neither, hers, few—for the odd environment that has produced a shallow pool of hapless alternatives, many of whom demonstrate little or no history as actual Democrats. (I speak of Sanders, Chafee, and Webb.) Before any of the faithful gets snotty with me, Hey, I have voted five times for Clintons, plural, and will again, except I envision the future with trepidation. While the Democrats bank on a career politician, the Grand Old Party of No—pronouns in use: several, his, whomever, he, nothing—appears capable of nominating a renegade anti-politician, with dynastic careerists like the flabby Jeb Bush twisting on a squeaky spit. Hillary projects much relish in debating a candidate like Donald Trump, but if the Democrats intend to counter a rock-star insurgent with a dynastic careerist of their own, one wonders if Biden—potentially more likeable and plenty experienced as a sitting Vice President—wouldn’t make better sense. In the end, Biden has decided to holler from the sidelines, rather than submit to the grind, which might have hacked his fundamental good nature to pieces. Democrats advance toward the primary season with a semi-controversial, lukewarm, somewhat wounded, but widely known candidate, whose own tent-broadening capability remains uncertain. A little more than a year away, the general election might feature a contest between two polarizing forces: a trash-talking (“you’re fired!”) real estate tycoon and a carefully-scripted second-timer, who’ll try to channel the best moments from her tenures as First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State. The Republicans know who they’ll face. They can change their minds yet, and the competition will intensify, especially as the establishment scrutinizes the saggy numbers for many of its darlings. We Democrats on the other hand only have one set of keys, and if we lose them, there won’t be any neighbor on whose door we can knock, just the gaseous wind of a rancid Republican winter: one that denies climate change, to boot.

complaint week 2015 editorial schedule
October 26: The Democrat Machine

Sunday, October 11, 2015


Plas shakes the world in 1958.

Perhaps the Casual Citizen has heard Plas Johnson play, even if the Casual Citizen hasn’t heard of Plas Johnson, by name. The sinuous tenor saxophone soloing that established the mischief of “The Pink Panther Theme” belongs to Plas. He contributed to other famous scores, such as “Peter Gunn” and “The Odd Couple”, backed a galaxy of elite singers and musicians, including Frank Sinatra, Nat “King” Cole, Quincy Jones, Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald, B.B. King, and Ray Charles, and cut a number of hot and bluesy records as a leader, but I get ahead of myself.

I discovered the great Plas single, “Downstairs”, as part of my ongoing jump blues project. Not many would consider “Downstairs” a jump, although the spacious crown of its honking inherits plenty from the bar-walkers. Plas endows the song with a brand of vigorous elegance even as he envisions a world of contours rather than a world of propriety. The slant on “filthy” applies in all the best ways. “Downstairs” becomes a destination and genesis, both, compelling the listener to effect a neat clip down stairs toward a sultry rendezvous that will confirm all the speculation.

In other words, I really dug it, but even then, I didn’t pursue a deeper understanding of Plas, or so I thought. The jump blues project drifted into other genres, some affixed to jump with more obvious lineage than others: early R&B, early rock, rockabilly, surf, garage. I began to admire numbers like Googie Rene’s “Wiggle Tail”, Rene Hall’s “Twitchy”, Duane Eddy’s “Some Kind-A Earthquake”, The Hollywood Flames’ “Buzz, Buzz, Buzz”, and Sandy Nelson’s “Let There Be Drums”, for example. According to many discography sources, Plas played all those dates.

Thus, I awoke to an expanded order in which the constellation contained many more stars than I had originally imagined. Plas recorded “Downstairs” in 1958 on Capitol, which released the tune along with the compelling “In the Loop” the following year. (Some sources suggest that “In the Loop” appeared as the A-side.) Additional Capitol tunes, including the great “Hoppin’ Mad”, may be found on vinyl, as Rockin’ with the Plas. A compilation of earlier band-leading—Bop Me Daddy, on the Tampa label, featuring “Blue Jean Shuffle”—can be found in digital format.

A fellow named Johnny Beecher—leader on “Jack Sax the City” and other New York-themed instrumentals—turns out to be Plas. You may have just heard Plas Johnson on a Benny Carter, Oliver Nelson, or Jimmy Smith record. Many people can recall the Bobby Day hit, “Rockin’ Robin”, but don’t know that Plas Johnson played that tune’s birdcall on a piccolo. We can admire the man’s many appearances as part of the Merv Griffin orchestra and forgive him, generously, for his forays with Steely Dan, Elton John, Linda Ronstadt, and The Monkees.

In terms of his playing, Plas Johnson easily belongs in the company of the greatest jump blues and R&B horn players. Listeners should revere “Downstairs” as they might revere Big Joe Houston’s “All Night Long”, J.C. Davis’ “The Splib, Part 1” (or Part 2), Herb Hardesty’s “Perdido Street”, Johnny Sparrow’s “Sparrow’s Nest”, and Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis’ “Ravin’ at the Haven”, among other saxophone workouts (see comments, below). But owing to the sheer number of sessions and genres in which Plas operated, what title can I bestow upon him? He may be The Most Versatile saxophone (and piccolo) player in the history of American popular music.

Sources of information:
Bebop Wino (blog) “PlasJohnson – Rockin’ with the Plas”
Home of the Groove (blog) – “Plas Plays It Pulpy”
Wikipedia entry for Plas Johnson
In the Can online discography, November 1958
YouTube (various songs and albums, including Johnny Beecher channel)
Allmusic Guide main entry for
Plas Johnson
Plas Johnson web site
Discogs main entry for Plas Johnson
Space Age Pop entry for Plas Johnson
Taming the Saxophone entry for R&B saxophonists

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


We read the word ‘deadlines’ as ‘deadliness’ since we’ve been the victims of procrastination. And what is ‘procrastination’ but a yearning to escape? Hopefully, popular music will address this phenomenon by deploying lyrics that rhyme with yearn, yearning, yearned.  

The earth does not procrastinate. Its crust, its mantle, its tectonic geometry drifts, sometimes in countermelody, to the planet’s general ‘spin’. So, too, shall Regional Dwellers drift in countermelody or ‘dischord’ to the deadlines or deadliness.

Regional Dwellers are a peace-loving peoples, who don’t favor traditional Mono-Deity as they worship, but instead, geo-seismic activity. If worship means a ‘devotion’ that is intended to subdue the rogue element, the object of the worship.

To be sure, one worships the volcano because one fears the volcano. Should the volcano erupt anyway (see ‘deadlines’ above) then Regional Dwellers typically implore the ocean—in prayer—to arrive, to extinguish the volcano. (By gale.)

Of course, this makes hella more sense than Mono-Deity, but in fact, oftentimes, the ocean arrives and misses the volcano entirely. Then you’ve got—well, not so much fire and ice—yet—fire and brine. What to worship then? The mongoose?

No, I was not discussing the pornography inherent in our political terminologies, but since you insist, I shall digress: ‘Filibuster’: From Latin firmus (strong) + libido (caprice) + ustilo (scorch) + tergum (rear). There. Are you happy, Senator?

I have searched for a philosophical system that can unify all the disparate Elements inherent in our world. I read about a Soup-“S’up!”-Swiffer Collider, where broths, bro-greetings, and alt-cleanliness were being pinged off one another at atomic rates of speed. It’s one available tack.

In the absence of systems, Inebriation looms. One worships incrementally, by whiz or by dram. Regional Dwellers turn to Inebriation whether or not the volcano and ocean respond. There’s a point, I suppose, to medicating happiness. All things border other things, after all. Inoculate yourself at all times!

I got stuck in the elevator the other day when a Billy Idol song fizzled onto the Muzak system. A woman in the elevator explained that she felt 50 percent incomplete as a person, and she began to dance—some flips and some hips. She was Dancing with (Half of) Herself, Oh Oh Oh!


Commuter in Argyle Socks. . . . as himself
The Sun. . . . as itself

Dan Gutstein

Running Time:
30 seconds

Advance Praise:
"Socks it to us!" --American Podiatry Lobby 
"Are guile!" --Oxford English Dictionary
"The brightest moment belonged to the sun!" --NASA

Other Films You Might Enjoy:

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


—I’ve got that on my radar.
—Me, too.
—Do other people have it on their radars?
—Everyone has this on his or her radar.

—Remember the days of no radar?
—What was there, if there was no radar?

—Heh heh heh.
—Heh heh heh.
—When my girlfriend moved in, she kept her radar.
—More women are keeping their radars these days.

—Do you see blips?
—Only when I stand up too quickly.
—Sometimes when I’m alone, I hear applause.
—Maybe you’ve got The Clap.

—Okay, I’ve got that on my radar.
—Do you have it on your sonar?
—Should I have it on my sonar?
—The sea ice, after all, is melting. . . .

—Do you have that on your deep space probe?
—I’m not sure I care for that phrase.

—Does man drum in the woods?
—Do you drum in the woods?
—I have no drum. There are no woods.
—Then, you must throw percussion to the wind!


Parker in Red Hat as. . . . Parker in Red Hat.
Passers by as. . . . Passers By.

At the very outset, Parker discovers heaps of tickets. Rails against the cruelty of it all. Resigns himself to the sad regularity of progress. Closes himself off from the world inside his car. All the while Lee Morgan interprets this moment through the bad brass of his phenomenal trumpet + Band. Oh yeah. 

Dan Gutstein

Running Time:

Lee Morgan, excerpt from song, “Morgan The Pirate”, from album Search For The New Land (Blue Note, 1964), Lee Morgan (tp), Wayne Shorter (ts), Grant Green (g), Herbie Hancock (p), Reginald Workman (b), and Billy Higgins (d).

Other Films You Might Enjoy:

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


Voters outside Virginia—as well as many inside the Commonwealth—may not recall very much about former Senator Jim Webb, a Democrat who served a single term after defeating heavily favored George Allen in 2006. During a rally in that election cycle, Allen shockingly referred to a Webb campaign operative as “macaca”, a slur that was captured on camera by the very same operative, who’d been assigned to track Allen as part of best practices employed by many political campaigns. In the ensuing weeks, Allen’s lead dwindled, and the upstart Webb, a decorated Marine Corps officer who served in Vietnam, a former Secretary of the Navy, and a novelist, would eventually triumph by a squeaky margin. We at Blood And Gutstein feel as if Mr. Webb, a very solid character by all accounts, should be given more attention by voters, and at the same time, we feel as if the word “macaca” might play an integral role in the presidential candidate’s aspirations. Below, we have laid out Jim Webb’s path to the White House.

First of all, for Webb to win the Democrat nomination, Hillary Clinton must utter the word “macaca.” It’s unlikely that Hillary would say “macaca” to begin with, but if the scrutiny regarding her time as Secretary of State should continue or deepen, or should the surging Sanders overtake her in the polls, or should Hillary and her campaign sprout additional scandals, she might be vulnerable. The question is, would she say “macaca” publicly or would she say it on a private server? Perhaps she would deem “macaca” classified and therefore reserve it for her private server. Should Hillary never say “macaca” the Webb team could always pursue the mash-up angle, fusing together something like, “I wish those interns would stop mackin’ on Bill”, with “It’s been a while since I went caca.” Given that Jim Webb is polling less than Hillary, Sanders, and (unannounced) Biden, we see the Democrat nomination as the tougher of the two challenges facing the former Senator. He is polling ahead of Lincoln Chafee and Martin O’Malley, however, although pollsters have yet to identify a single Chafee and a single O’Malley supporter.

If Webb should garner the nomination of his party, then he would require Donald Trump to say “macaca” in order to defeat the billionaire mogul for the presidency. Judging from Mr. Trump’s jingoist narrative on illegal immigration, it’s possible that the real estate magnate has spoken the word “macaca” before and might again, perhaps to defy those who might hiss “tsk!” in his direction. Mr. Trump apparently plays many rounds of golf. Perhaps he would shout “macaca” on the golf course. Many former golfing partners of Mr. Trump accuse him of cheating at golf, you know, by kicking his ball free of danger or magically causing his ball to appear very close to the hole. That’s all fine and dandy among his cadre of reality TV stars, et cetera, but he better not demand any “gimme chip-ins” from Putin, or that’ll be World War Three! Trump may want to deport “macaca”, he may want to build a fence to keep “macaca” off the lawn, and he might want to ensure that the offspring of “macaca” cannot run for president in the future. He may want to fire “macaca” as part of his reality TV endeavors. “Macaca”, he would muse, “you’re fired!”

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


Bafetimbi Gomis as “the black panther”, celebrating the winning goal

The recently released documentary, Jack To A King, chronicles the story of a small Welsh football club, Swansea City, which had competed at the top flight of English football a few decades ago, only to suffer a series of reversals until the community, outraged at misfortune and poor management, bonded together to purchase the club. Even as the switch of ownership defied convention and created optimism, the club nevertheless faced a fixture at the end of the 2002-03 season to preserve its league status. Had Swansea dropped the match, it would have suffered relegation from League Two down to a wilderness formerly known as “Conference”, a level of competition where clubs have difficulty attracting professional players and might relinquish their hope. Fortunately, the Swans (also known as the Jacks) defeated Hull City in May, 2003, to secure its place in the league system. From that point forward, in fits and starts, Swansea climbed from League Two to League One, and from there to “Championship”, the second highest tier in English football. The club climbed back into the top flight, the Premier League, for the 2011-2012 season. Most pundits predicted a swift return to Championship.

Fast forward to August 30, 2015, when an inside-out swerving pass from Andre Ayew, a forward who signed for Swansea this past summer, found Bafetimbi Gomis, a striker who has demonstrated his complete game—leaping, speed, strength, instinct—time after time. Gomis ran onto the ball, and with one touch, beat the goalkeeper at the near post. The goal, at the 66th minute, built upon Ayew’s goal, just five minutes earlier, to give Swansea a 2-1 lead. The game ended 2-1, with Swansea earning all three points in the table, depriving its opponent of same. “Its opponent” refers to one Manchester United. Maybe you’ve heard of this outfit? Often called United or Man U, this football team has collected 20 league titles over the years and wields resources far greater than Swansea—maybe ten times greater, maybe higher. “Resources” must include payroll, for sure, but also financial reserves, facilities, worldwide brand recognition, and international fan base, at the very least. This year, the BBC valued the club at $1.98 billion. In contrast, Swansea was sold less than fifteen years ago for a single pound. By beating Man U this past Sunday, Swansea have now defeated The Red Devils three times in a row, after sweeping both matches last season.

Two of the D.C. Jacks after the final whistle

The Swans will travel to Manchester on January 2, to play the return match against United. Should Swansea win that fixture, it would join Liverpool and Manchester City as the only clubs (ever) to defeat The Red Devils four games in a row. By capturing eight points on its first four matches, the Swans currently sit fourth in the table, an improbable distance between this little club and the drop—relegation—predicted by the pundits virtually every season since the Swans reentered the top flight. The club impresses. From the management to the coaches to the starting eleven to the substitutes to the players not named on the game day roster, the club impresses. We American hooligans howl, chuckle, blabber when the Swans topple a financially superior club, but perhaps the time has come when we should no longer view such triumphs as exotic results. In every major sport, in every country around the world, a side that plays with cohesion can beat any other side, despite the gulf in finances, but these outcomes tend to transpire in islands, not as part of a regular streak. It’s early, yet, in the 2015-16 Prem. Thirty-four matches (and 102 points) have yet to be contested (and claimed) but the captain, Ashley Williams, and the rest of the boys, remind us that greatness doesn’t always bloom from big money, but from a team.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


He hallucinated the presence of a girlfriend in his life; he was seeing someone.

This vision led to headaches; he took it with a migraine of salt.

His Jamaican friend rode the autobus; he paid rasta fare.

The same friend decided to effect a clean slate with his legs; a fibula rasa.

A band came on the radio; Ramen At Work.

The song, “Who Can It Beef Now”, tickled listeners with power pop hooks; it didn’t noodle around.

Trans Fats Domino came on the radio; a commercial followed for Trans Fats Domino Sugar.

A commercial followed for Air Trans Fats Domino; for Trans Fats Domino Theory.

The man by now clip clopped down the stairs to the subway; he passed through the stile with style.

He thought of two motion pictures that would take place at the machines that governed entrance to the subway; one of them, “Doggy Stile”, predicted euphoric canine encounters.

He traded the word “citrus” for the word “circus”; in his mind, the Ringling Bros. Citrus was coming to town.

The man traded the word “Mylanta” for “Santa” and the name “Klaus” for “Claus”; in his mind, Mylanta Klaus was coming to town.

There were three stars in the evening sky; “Let us kiss three times”, the man thought.

He thought of a woman he really loved; “Let us kiss three times”—and all will be forgiven.


                 Original gravity: 1.0670
                 Final gravity: 1.0236
                 Alcohol by volume: 5.70%
                 IBU: 30

                 Main ingredients:

                 Yeast: English ale
                 Hops: Fuggle, East Kent Golding
                 Malts: Crystal caramel, Chocolate, Victory, Black

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


I’m not aware of another project quite like the Duo Exchange / Lost Civilizations collaboration, which was renewed on August 16th in front of a small gathering at the Black Squirrel in Washington, D.C. The musicians who form Lost Civilizations—Ted Zook (basscello) and Mike Sebastian (saxophones)—improvise from the beginning; on this night, Sam Lohman accompanied them on drums. The words—Rod Smith and I doing business as Duo Exchange—have no predetermined order. The entire performance, clocking in at just over sixty minutes, invents and reinvents. For a free listen (and free download) at SoundCloud, click [HERE].

Rod and I continue to experience amazement (even awe and euphoria) over the accomplishments of the musicians. It’s hard not to think of language like “tensile sway, swing-swang, magical fracture, muscular patterning, projective texture” when listening to them. For me, the night created at least three maps: (a) the music; (b) the words; and (c) the two layers together. As a reader, I’m always stunned at when the music pushes me to deliver language with emphases and cadences I hadn’t counted on; these effects undoubtedly bounce back and forth from Us to Them, from Them to Them, and from Us to Us. The learning curve is steep and enormously gratifying.

On this night, I should point out that we were joined by a fellow who, attracted by the music, came downstairs to participate a little bit. You can hear him in the 47th minute, as well as when he repeats a word (“honky”) from the grand finale. Did I mention that we had a grand finale? Rod and I both spoke at the same time as the band honked, rattled, and sawed, from about 47:50 through 52:05. I’m not saying you should fast-forward there, automatically, but you should know that it’s coming. In all my years of writing and reading, I never before experienced the raw satisfaction as I derived therefrom. I’m very fortunate to be a part of this collaboration.

Finally, I’m reminded of a jazz hero—Sonny Rollins—and one of his great songs, “St. Thomas”—as Lost Civilizations played onward. I want to say St. Sonny. Oh yeah!

Thursday, August 13, 2015


It’s not the size of the river in the fire but the size of the fire in the river. As such, you may never mention the subsidiaries of rain ever again. Think of all the forlorn rust, the un-drummed rust, the tepid rust. Let us review our policies and procedures before we pince. It’s time to pince, by the way. Did you bring your pince-nez? Think of all the armies who train to pince, think of all the nez. The French vote either “oui” or “nez” while the Turkic peoples may wear a fez. It would follow that a dispenser could dispense pez or it could dispense pince-nez. A doctor may prescribe a monocle if you’ve masturbated too often with one hand—a right monocle corresponds to right-hand overzealousness. Some left-hand zealots (even as late as the 20th century) became Leftenants; these were the tenants who lived on the left side of the building. They often applied for academic jobs, their exploits appeared in the Monocle of Higher Education. Meanwhile, the musician, Prince, has requested a Prince-nez, from a Prince-nez dispenser. The world had never heard “what it sounds like / when doves cry” until the musician, Prince, played his music, apparently, in a public park, no, the world, until that point, had known “what it sounds like / when doves mourn.” What else mourns, I ask you, but the diastolic beat of the clouds?


John Doe. . . . as Bro

Dan Gutstein

Running Time:
25 seconds

Advance Praise:
“Gutstein deftly captures the ethereal scrim between sleep and the harsh realities of commuter rail.”—Celluloid Tabloid

“A Bro is born. Well, not exactly. He is jolted. A Bro is jolted. Awake.”—Talkie Times

“The intertextual rubrics of the slumbering proletariat are, capably, or otherwise, slathered in the luxuries of gradual arrival.”—Pinko Picture

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Wednesday, August 5, 2015


The man detected a return of his symptoms, and thereby requested a Relapse Dance, from the exotic dancer. After his cardiologist diagnosed yet a new condition, the man ordered a Mitral Valve Prolapse Dance. For a while, the man tried to live with this condition, but after a fainting spell, he asked for a Collapse Dance. Conventional therapy didn’t work, surgery ensued, and afterwards, the man sought a Laparoscopic Dance. The man reflected on his life, at one of them, ehhh, express kiosk dingies, with one of them, ehhh, gigantic muffins the size of a bowling ball; on the way home, he inquired about an Elapse Dance. Meantime, the dancer was running out of interpretations, to suit the man’s spectrum of exotica. “Seeing as I’m the only exotic dancer in this gosh-forsaken one-Walmart town,” she thought, “I gotta get me a new perspective, or at least, a wee bitteen of religion.” On the occasion of a-wandering about, she discovered a church, a place of well-scrubbed worshippers, the Loofah-rans. Its well-known founder, Martin Loofah, had been a friar, he had been the deep fryer, deep friar of the fries, down at Mickey Dee’s, so he knew about boiling oil, heat rash, and grease trap—just the kind of expertise a lost soul might seek from her spiritual advisor. There were saints and sinners, winners and loofahs, according to the church’s doctrine. After a spell in residence at services, the dancer began to “loofah thy neighbor”, even as she tittered under the electric light, some serious giggle-wattage. She decided to help the man—who requested her interpretive dances—to reform himself, in the holy house of the Loofah-rans. She might even perform a L’apse dance, there, wielding some bawdy wash.


Ruth as . . . Herself
Marty as . . . Himself

Dan Gutstein

Running Time:
15 seconds

Advance Praise:
“Just like Nixon must have dictated, except, of course, not in that NY accent.” —Film Flam

“Burgliz or Burglars? You decide. And that’s the wonder of this compact effort.” Movie Groovy

“It’s Queens (Ruth) vs. Bronx (Marty) as this great American word is held up to the light of Gutstein’s adequate camera.” —Cinema Minima

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015


After the Despot ordered the defenestration of his political rival, he retired to his bedchambers clad in deniability sleepwear—earplugs and blindfold—as he planned to claim “I heard nothing, I saw nothing” should the meek judiciary ever issue subpoenas. A noisy night of sawing, chopping, and chipping ensued, but the Despot slept like a sack of spuds. When the leader awoke, he wished to experience the symphonic triumph of the mid-morning sunlight, so threw the curtains apart, but imagine his Munch-scream face when he discovered that the woods—the entire woods—had vanished, a column of trucks grunting forward in low gear, each vehicle bearing a pyramid of thick trunks. On television, the Despot’s political rival cemented the disgrace, the deforestation, by branding the Despot an enemy of the root, branch, wood, creature, creation, universe, God.

“Despot here,” the leader hollered into the telephone. Yes, sir, said his deputy. “What the hell has happened?” Happened, sir? “What the hell have you done?” As you decreed, sir. “As I decreed?” Yes, sir. The Despot thought painfully, as if a centipede were gnawing his thought balloon. “What have I decreed?” he asked. The act has been carried out, said his deputy. And with considerable efficiency, I might add. “I ordered a defenestration.” Yes, sir. “You have effected a deforestation, instead.” Sir? “The forest,” said the Despot, “is missing.” Yes, sir. We defenestrated the forest, as you decreed. Sir, added the deputy, your political rival telephoned us this morning. He has challenged you to epee. “Epee?” Yes, sir. “You mean, sword?” It’s a foil, sir, it’s an epee. “Impossible. I have no foil!” Well, sir, we could purchase one using EpeePal.

The Despot received embassies from noon until 1:00, after which he received audiences from 1:00 until 2:00, whereupon he received embassies from 2:00 until 3:00, inasmuch as he received lobbies. Representatives from the prophylactics industry spoke to the Despot about cornering the market for equine rubbers, to prevent the conception of unwanted foals. They would produce, on a trial-basis, a condom billed as Trojan Horse. A group representing the nation’s seiners and trawlers encouraged the Despot to seize the fish: carp diem, they implored. The leader bade his fool approach. Yo, I’m so impoverished, quipped the fool, I ain’t got no despot to piss in. Trumpets signaled the embassies, audiences, and lobbies to toss many banknotes into a circulating hat. The Despot had listened to these visitors; they must subsidize his scrutiny; they must “pay attention.”

That evening, the Despot sat with his soothsayer in the conservatory, each man sipping a tincture. “It’s quite simple,” said the Despot. “They heave my adversary out the window.” Yes, sir, agreed the soothsayer. “They don’t demolish an entire wooded region.” Yes, sir, agreed the soothsayer. “Defenestration. Deforestation. Not the same!” The soothsayer hovered his palms over the leader’s head, as if it were a crystal ball. I see your political rival practicing epee with corked tip, he hummed. “You do?” Yes, sir, the soothsayer hummed: quirky his thrust shall be. Just then, the fool appeared over the Despot’s opposite shoulder. “How now?” said the Despot. He who places confidence in the soothsayer’s racket, said the fool, shall become, himself, a seer-sucker. Dig? Nesting birds brawled in livid riffs on the slopes of roof. There were, after all, no more treetops. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015


If A = B and B = C then A = C, according to Gertrude Stein;

Stein labored as a modernist mathematician, singlehandedly endowing the Transitive Property of Woody Perennials by famously contending, “Rose is a rose is a rose”;

This relationship is not lost upon forward political observers, who apply it to G.O.P. = G.O.P. = G.O.P.;

The formula continues to apply despite the frequent attempts by said Grand Old Party to gerrymander our fair sward of concrete strip mall, i.e., deli, bagel, and karate America;  

O, it gerrymanders, he gerrymanders, they gerrymander, y’all gerrymander, she it;

Similarly, if we let A = George H.W. and B = W and C = Jeb, then we get A = W = Jeb, ergo, Bush is a Bush is a Bush;

“Duh = Duh = Duh”, [overheard], therefore Duh = Duh;

“You can all me Al” [overheard] + “Al dente” [overheard] + “Dante’s Inferno” [overheard] = “You can call me Al Dante’s Inferno” (Duh);

Meanwhile, an indifferent, villainous, remotely-sympathetic character in a novel by Albert Camus practices some calisthenics while awaiting his execution in a North African prison;

He completes a Someursault, he completes several Someursaults, but this is not the point, no;

The Stranger calls to mind several inconsistencies faced by Meursault in the legal system;

Namely, one ought to receive a trial by a jury of one’s pears, not to mention other shrub species and pomaceous fruits;

If you’ve really screwed up, like the protagonist in the Camus novel, then you ought to face a Trial by Journey, but however it goes:  

Don’t stop believin’ / Hold on to that feelin’ / Streetlight people. . . . 


The City
The Storm

Dan Gutstein

Running Time:
47 seconds

Shot on Location:
Apt. 504

Advance Praise:
"Interesting how I am bested -- only -- by another bolt." ----Usain Bolt

"We fail to see the irony." ----Bolt Bus

"The true tempest, alack, Jack." ----Estate of William Shakespeare

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Pictured above: Emily Cohen stars as a southern spoon in “Interview with Spoons”, one of the scenes from “Interviews With…”, a 45 minute DC Fringe Festival comedy-of-interviews also starring (from left to right) Rajan Kapoor, Beth Krause, and Patrick Slevin. Emily and I co-wrote several of the pieces that appear in “Interviews With…” and we have both kept interviewing people over the past couple years. The show will make you laugh repeatedly while the Rogue Collective accompanies the play with live music. For complete information, click HERE.