Well, shucks— that’s me.
Aleksandra (Sasha) Vartelskaya is a regular correspondent for FWIW, sniffing out the best stories and morsels of media from here to eternity. When she is not on the beat for the site (admittedly an arduous job which takes up the vast majority of her time), she can be found prowling the mean streets of her digs of Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, translating Russian articles into English, reading great literature, learning the nuances of the French language, playing Spanish Guitar, and balking at the economic policies of the United States at her job at the Central Bank. Startlingly, she has foregone the traditional method of payment for her investigative work, or even sweat equity, choosing instead to be paid exclusively in pickled herring— a decision which, while it has taught this editor much about the distinctions between Scandinavian, Northern European, and Eastern European ichthyological pickling practices, also costs the site dearly every week in terms of sheer manpower. Her motto is: “1. Everything is impermanent. 2. Everything is better with wine.” A little-known bit of trivia about her: In her former career as an amateur female boxer, her nom-de-guerre was “The Little Dachshund.” This may have been partly responsible for her failure to go pro.
Anti-social Media Guru
S.W. Whelan Anti-post artist, paradoxical photographer/videographer, and poet, S.W. Whelan periodically contributes incalculably bizarre and profound posts to FWIW’s ‘social media’ pages.
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Andrey Zimin, artist, mystic, humanistic polymath, is nearly equally skilled in literature, poetry, philosophy, music, and drawing (personally considering writing and philosophy his strongest mediums). He alternately uses these mediums to plumb the depths of existence as far as they will yield so as to bring back a dancing star apparent even to the most blinded. His work hearkens back to a time, not so very long ago after all, when people read fervently, felt and longed for art and philosophy deeply, and held works of creation to considerably higher technical and ‘metaphysical’ standards. Will such a time ever return? Maybe if the world gets a whiff of more works by those as reverential of, dedicated to, and pregnant with the aesthetic as Andrey is. He hails from St. Petersburg, Russia, and for the last two decades or so has called the Boston area his home. He has published the following works on FWIW: Improvisation to the Flatlands & The Scattered Sun [a piece for guitar]
Gato Loco was formed out of the ashes of Dart Club in 2005 by NYC jazz musician and filmmaker Stefan Zeniuk. Taking inspiration from early cartoons, irreverent mountain goats, and Mezcal smuggled in from their day jobs, the band vowed never to speak of Dart Club again (and indeed the club’s cardinal rule was “Never talk about Dart Club,” and only now, after much time and many vicissitudes, have the band broken their silence on this account), and moved forward immediately with their philosophy of subverting the world with a disorientating, debilitating use of tone, volume, and freakishly foreign sound waves. Their chief weapon is surprise. Their ancillary weapons: swiftness, focus, and humor. Oh— and amazing music.
Incorporating equal parts latin, rock, and jazz, Gato Loco is not genre music. Finding the surprising connections between scratchy pre-war Cuban records, early mambo and salsa of the ‘50s and ‘60s, early punk of the ‘70s, and post-modern avant-garde jazz of the ‘80s, Gato Loco embraces an all-encompasing sound of irreverence, rebellion and abandon that defies place or time. It is tightly written, thrilling and confusing, killing boredom with thought, thought with passion, passion with power, power with— a flaming saxophone.
Exotic and foreign, yet simultaneously urban and familiar. A modern schizoid mentality, and yet universal. Mysterious: yes. Ambiguous: no. Their live shows, like a decadent latin mambo ballroom thrown into the midst of a 21st century rock show, deliver an instant party, filled with celebration and joy. This is BIG music, people. Does any of this make any sense? You’ll just have to hear and see them for yourself.
The band is comprised of an all-star cadre of musicians, individually having played and-or recorded with The Violent Femmes, Vampire Weekend, Sigur Ros, Lauren Hill, Zola Jesus, T.S. Monk, Duncan Sheik, Zakir Hussain, Blue Man Group, to name a few. Since 2010, they have released two albums on the acclaimed Winter & Winter Records, 2010’s Gato Loco (recorded live in Bordeaux), and 2013’s The Enchanted Messa, a reimagination of Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem. They have published the following works on FWIW: Cumbia Call [a music video]
John Guzlowski was born in a refugee camp after World War II, and came with his family to the United States as a Displaced Person in 1951. His parents had been Polish slave laborers in Nazi Germany. Growing up in the immigrant and refugee neighborhoods around Humboldt Park in Chicago, he met hardware store clerks with Auschwitz tattoos on their wrists, Polish cavalry officers who still mourned for their dead comrades, and women who had walked from Siberia to Iran to escape the Russians.
His writing tries to remember them and their voices. He has published three collections of poetry: Language of Mules and Other Poems (Biblioteka Śląska), Lightning and Ashes (Steel Toe Books), and Third Winter of War: Buchenwald (Finishing Line Press). His poems, which have been praised by Nobel Laureate Czeslaw Milosz and read by Garrison Keillor on his Writer’s Almanac radio show, have also appeared in the anthologies Blood to Remember: American Poets on the Holocaust (Time Being), City of the Big Shoulders: An Anthology of Chicago Poetry (University of Iowa Press), and in manifold literary magazines.
A Professor Emeritus at Eastern Illinois University, John currently lives in Danville, Virginia, where he recently completed a novel about two German lovers separated by World War II, Bone of Roads, to be published by Cervena Barva Press.
Matthew Saks is a Colorado-based writer of essays, stories, and poems. Things he enjoys include old houses, coffee, epic conversations with friends, mountains, and long books. He has published the following works on FWIW: Corona [a translation of the poem by Paul Celan]
Robert Leonard Reid is a writer, musician, inveterate mountaineer, and social chronicler. He is the author of five eclectic books of non-fiction, four works for the theater, and numerous magazine articles and essays. Arctic Circle, his latest book (David Godine Publishers), is a polyphonic meditation on the North, inspired by a journey to the Yukon and northern Alaska to follow the long and precarious migration of the Porcupine Caribou to give birth to their young.
Reid’s stories have appeared in Harper’s, AGNI, The Progressive, and many other publications. He has received artist fellowships and literary grants from the Nevada Arts Council and Sierra Art Foundation, and a Silver Pen Award from the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame. A native of Pennsylvania, he attended Harvard University, lived for many years in the American Southwest, and now resides in Carson City, Nevada with his family. He is currently completing a collection of stories, in which That Doubling Is Always Observed appears, and other writings of a similar uncanny vein and timbre. He has published the following works on FWIW: That Doubling Is Always Observed (Author’s Cut)
S.W. Whelan lives with his wife and dog in Queens, New York. His first poetry collection, Holy Hell, was published in 2011. His second poetry book, Watch Your Eyes, is forthcoming in 2015. He is most interested in essence, primordiality, and psychophysiology. His poetry has appeared in The Moon, Grout, and Right Hand Pointing. He has published the following works on FWIW: It Is All Undone [a poem]