These are the lies that we tell ourselves – or, more accurately, these are the lies that we tell other people in order to get them to do things. More precisely still, these are the hustles that compose the tissue of our lives. In his famous essay “Blurred Genres,” Clifford Geertz lists the three dominant metaphors in social analysis: Game, Drama and Text; he picks text as the next great episteme. But that was then, 1983, and this is now. Geertz’s (thick?) prescription has expired and we need a new lens; That lens, we humbly suggest, is the hustle.

We present below a deliberately loose collection of hustles from the minds and experiences of the authors. Some of these hustles are not, in fact, hustles at all. Some fall to the level of flim-flam, some rise to scam, and some are neither fish nor fowl, hustle-wise. If we were to present this sketch in the form of anything but a hustle we would sadly and sorely miss the point. A truly great hustle allows no escape, even when the mark knows that he is being hustled; this is what makes hustling such an enduring and exciting form. You are being hustled. Don’t try to escape.

Classic Video Game Hustles

The Thwomp Hustle: First, get a giant, living block of very heavy stone. Train it to start falling as soon as Mario comes near it. This block is called the Thwomp. Mario is obviously going to deke the Thwomp out and get past it – sorry, sucker, your princess is in another castle. Wanna know what’s in this castle? Your HUSTLE.

The Game Genie Hustle: This hustle took place in the 80s, when I was a wee lad. The trees whispered of “the genie”, a device which would allow even the most indifferent Nintendo player unlimited lives, bizarre jumping abilities, and fantastic additions to the Mario pantheon that no Japanese programmer would ever countenance. Nothing came of it. Then, a few years later, something came of it. It was the Game Genie, and we had been hustled.

Historical Hustles

The Crusades Hustle: Guys. You are not going to believe this – we have to occupy the holy land. No, we’re not going to use knights and so on. This is the “hook” – we’re taking little children, who will conquer Antioch with their wholesome, untainted goodness. Did I say conquer the holy land? I meant “sell the children to some Italians.” By the way, parents, enjoy your hustle.


Ok, so the 70s gave birth to ‘The Hustle,’ and people everywhere started gyrating their hips doing said ‘Hustle.’ However, the real hustle is this: there is no hustle. The people are doing a dance move that is NOT a hustle, since it’s only a paltry form of bump and grind. However, people think it IS a hustle which they are dance. But you can’t dance a hustle, and hence the hustle occurs in the naming of the dance as such. The 70s dance hustle is a semantic one because everyone dances the hustle, thinking that it’s not a hustle because it IS a dance, whereas it really is a hustle because it is poorly named, and they’re being hustled into taking part in a semantic booby-trap. Do I make myself clear?


The Hustle = dance.

People = duped into thinking it’s not a hustle, but a dance

Hustle = People are hustled anyway, because it can’t not be a hustle, because it is named so, and in the people’s misconception, they are semantically hustled.

Social Hustles

The Nick Cave Hustle: I can’t think of a hustle for this title, but it just feels right.

The “Thank God for my fucking Penguin” Hustle: This hustle comes into play in virtually any situation in which a penguin unexpectedly comes in handy.

The How Was your Summer Hustle: Mine was fine. But really, the hustle is, it was very depressing because my grandmother is rapidly losing her mental faculties.

The Awesome Smokes Hustle: Man, cigarettes are great. But guess what? Smoking them is really bad for you.

Chili’s Guiltless Grill Hustle:

They say it’s low in fat, and that you’ll be guilt free when you finish eating. But, they didn’t take the starving, godless children in the Nile River basin into account. They didn’t take North Korean political prisoners being tortured in dank prisons everywhere into account. They sure as hell didn’t take midterms week into account. Chili’s is hustling you out of your rightful guilt, but I would still recommend the margaritas.

Literature and Media Hustles

The Peter Carey Hustle: Write a really bad novel called The True Story of the Ned Kelly Gang. The jacket copy says that it’s a story of a legendary bushranger who rules the outback and takes over the Australian government. None of the stuff on the jacket exactly happens. Tastes like…hustle.

The Red Dragon Hustle: “Behold a great red dragon!” Man, that movie scared the daylights out of me. The hustle version is when you make prank phone calls to a family that lives in Arizona, until they get caller ID.

Butterlung Hustle: You’ve shot me, Mister Bond…I desperately need – a DINNER ROLL! You got me in my BUTTER lung, you fool! Why do you think they call me “Butterlung?” Does this look like blood to you? No, it looks like BUTTER.

the “whatta man”/ s. shani berezin hustle: shani’s name is totally not susan. the proof’s in the pudding: her name is shani. salt-n-pepa even sang about shani in their early nineties smash hit “whatta man” (“with him i’m never losin’/ and he knows that my name is not susan!”). but guess what! her name IS susan! he totally got hustled.

Religious and Epistemological Hustles

the proof’s in the pudding/ bottomless bowl hustle: to prove this hustle, look in the pudding, and keep looking until you see the proof.

finding god doesn’t count.

Time Travel Hustle:

So you’re selling a time machine. You wouldn’t have thought it possible, but not only does it exist, someone also wants to buy it. They sign the sales contract, and then you hand them an empty box. “What the fuck?!” you say, “you bought the time machine, and then you went back in time to steal it before I could sell it to you!” You got hustled. It’s ‘Smack to the Future’ for you.


Time Travel Hoax:

So this time you’re wise to the troubles of selling time machines to hustlers, so you decide to sell the instructions instead of the actual working machine. So, they sign the sales contract, you hand them the instructions. On the sheet of paper, it reads “for instructions, turn over paper.” On the other side, it says the same thing. Caught in this fugue state of perpetual paper-turning hustle, you escape unscathed and several bucks richer. This hustle works best on small children or degenerates with delusions of grandeur.


the false front hustle: to perform this hustle, you just gotta chalk it all up to the hustle, baby. even if the hustle was smoking a joint somewhere in west texas when it all went down, that hustle really gets around, i swear

Ontological Nassau Weekly Hustle:

Did we really write the article, or did monkeys with typewriters happen to hammer out this primer? Or did Jacob Gold write it? Or did you write it? Are you hustling me? Jesus

Further Hustle Reading


The “What Color is your Parachute?” hustle

The Secret Carrion Hustle

The Thirty-Six Chambers of Death Hustle (something about white people)

The Ikea Hustle

The Fine Malaysian Dining Hustle

The Michael Chabon Comics and Literature Hustle Part One