If you have read The Lowbrow Reader you surely have admired the mind-bending cartoons of all-star contributor David Berman. Yet like many, we first encountered the artist through his songs: Namely his near-perfect recording project the Silver Jews, which he laid to rest about a decade back. But congratulations! You have successfully waited out Mr. Berman’s musical retirement: Earlier this month, he unveiled a new band, Purple Mountains, whose self-titled album comes out on Drag City in July. For now, feast on the knockout first glimpse, “All My Happiness Is Gone”—rarely have we been so happy to be this sad. Order Purple Mountains through Drag City, where you can also pick up a new hardcover edition of Berman’s poetry book, Actual Air, plus his book of cartoons, The Portable February.
But how else to celebrate Mr. Berman’s return to music? Easy! Cover your wall in “SilverJewsLand.” With MAD magazine splendor, the brand new poster (above, in miniature), illustrates over 75 Berman songs. And the artist? None other than Jeffrey Lewis—who, like Berman, is a polymathic singer, songwriter, cartoonist, and Lowbrow Reader contributor! Buy a copy of the poster through Lewis’s website today, and watch for both Lewis and Berman on tour in the months ahead.
Family photo albums
Hold these photographs to your chest and ask yourself: Does keeping every picture bring unconditional joy? Do you examine the photos daily, or merely weekly? Are you a professional photographer or simply a hobbyist? Do you know where your rubbish bin is located and, if so, why are you still waiting to place this mawkish debris inside it?
A silver pendant gifted to you by a beloved aunt as she was murmuring her final words, which were, “Cherish this precious heirloom as generation after generation of your ancestors have before you.”
Don’t repeat the mistakes of your forebears. Donate the pendant to your trash can, thus making room for more important things, such as an empty shelf.
The ashes of the aforementioned beloved aunt
These are remains: the very definition of garbage. Take a photograph of the ashes and dispose of them. Let three minutes pass, then delete the photograph.
Do you wish to pursue an uncluttered life, or are you defined and weighed down by your possessions? What will you hold onto next? Old newspapers? Coffee grinds? Your house’s walls and doors?
Bob, your husband
All around the world, people live without romantic partners. They find no end of joy, self fulfillment, and empty closet space. Just remember to commit the legal details of your divorce certificate to memory before burning it.
You have two and need one. Don’t fall prey to cheap sentimentality.
Is there a God? It is hard to know definitively, seeing as you have already discarded all of your religious and philosophical texts. He most likely does not exist—the universe has no room for such frivolity. But if there is a divine power, He clearly doesn’t want your garbage. Does God make junk? Check your sock drawer.
By now, astute readers have snapped up the new issue of Fashion Projects—the Lowbrow Reader’s fancy sister publication about all things smart and fashionable. If not, never fear! Fashion Projects #5, which is devoted to the world of fashion in the museum, remains available for purchase through fashionprojects.org as well as turned on merchants, from Barnes and Noble to mighty Casa Magazines. Those in New York can also get their hands on the new Fashion Projects come Saturday, March 9, as the journal co-hosts a panel about fashion curation. The event, at Parsons School of Design’s Wollman Hall, celebrates Fashion Projects #5 as well as the book Fashion Curating, which was published to acclaim by Bloomsbury last year. For information about the event visit fashionprojects.org or the New School.
—The court hears testimony from —- —, the IT aid who betrayed El Chapo’s hard-won trust to federal agents representing six separate countries. To protect his identity, the tech guy’s voice is altered to sound like Jerry Seinfeld. Over his head, he wears a brown paper grocery bag, which covers a ski mask, which covers his face, which a plastic surgeon has permanently rendered into an electric blur.
—The mistresses testify for the prosecution.
—Diagrams are displayed depicting El Chapo’s daring escape after he was cornered, unarmed and nude, by an elite team of D.E.A. agents. Famously, the kingpin deployed a liquid-powered jetpack to transport him to his awaiting rocket ship—stocked with fuel, rations of astronaut caviar, and the San Luis Fútbol Club—and blasted off to Mars.
—The court hears from Lautaro, the prize lion from the drug lord’s subterranean zoo. The beast tearfully recounts how El Chapo got him hooked on an 18-gram-per-day cocaine habit that culminated when Lautaro, desperate to satisfy his insatiable craving, ate a hophead telenovela starlet.
—Moments after being sentenced to 9,864 consecutive years in a maximum security penitentiary, El Chapo suddenly disintegrates into dust particles, reconstituting himself in the penthouse suite of Playa del Carmen’s most exclusive hotel.
We are longstanding fans of Hess Is More, the mighty New York/Copenhagen musical collective centered around singer and drummer Mikkel Hess. Years ago, the band starred in a Lowbrow Reader Variety Hour Concert, and Lowbrow editor Jay Ruttenberg wrote liner-notes for the band’s last couple of albums. No band beats Hess! Might you take our word for this because of the Lowbrow Reader’s extensive track record of immaculate taste? Of course. But you can also examine the new video, below, featuring a Hess formation performing onstage in Copenhagen. Those in New York might also check out the band for themselves: Hess Is More plays at Nublu (151 Avenue C) on Saturday, January 19.
Greetings from —- — where — and I have escaped for some brief R & R, hoping this holiday letter finds you enjoying the season. It was a busy year for the ——- clan, from family milestones (– years of marriage!) to a long-overdue kitchen remodeling to — —- ——- the future of democracy as we know it. How the year has flown.
At an age when many of our old friends are kicking back with a daiquiri at the 19th hole, — continues to enjoy his work, and there are some weeks when the only time I see his face is on TV. The focus of —’s year has been the – — —- — —- — — ——.
One night when — was working late, I heard a rustling noise behind the house, where we park the bagged leaves until curbside pickup on Tuesday. – — —- —- ——- —– —a leather glove on the garage floor, like someone had dropped it in a hurry, but it was much too small to —- —- —– ———- — —- —- — —– —- —- —- — —— – hiding in plain sight. Of course, I wondered just what kind of person would —- —- ——- —– —- — —- —– —- — — ——- —- — —- —— — — — – —- — —- — a list of funny-sounding names with corresponding figures on a soiled cocktail napkin — —- ——–. Then I remembered — still kept that old VHS player in the basement that —- —- gave us when the FBI — — —, and wouldn’t you know, it still worked! — — —– — —– —– —– — — — —- — — with his adult children in the suite — — — — —- unmarked bills and casino chips in a Hefty bag they hadn’t even bothered to cinch. The — — Russians — felonies — — blackmail — —– —- gold toilet seat — —- lost his marbles —- —- —- orange — — — bright orange — —- — — — — — to say nothing of the smell. — — in a creepy way that would make your skin crawl, and, believe me, we’ve seen a lot. — — —- — started with his father who would dress up in a stolen — —- —- —– —- —— —— ——- —– —– —- —— U.S. Constitution — —- with a drugstore hairbrush. — calls him “the elf on the shelf.” — —- —– sing like a canary — — —- —– — —– —- — whacked himself in the head with the garden rake. — —- —- —- —- —- —– —- And that explained the stranger’s glove in the garage.
Well, what a year. With — at work so much, I’ve had plenty of time for long walks with the girls and recitals with the grandkids, hatha yoga (love my new teacher — —-) and my book club. My favorite was a novel called — —- — And, of course, Netflix binge watching. Guilty as charged, as they say. — —- ——and “The Crown” can’t come back soon enough, though I wonder how I’ll like the series without Claire Foy. She’s fabulous.
Your friendship means the world to — and me, and we hope to see more of you, if not in 2019, then, hopefully, by the fall of 2020. Drop us a line if you have a chance. Though we won’t be able to write back or call, please know you are in our thoughts.
Have a wonderful —– ——–.
As all clear-minded readers know, there is but one fashion magazine worth a close examination: the long-running, sporadically published, intellectually dazzling New York City journal Fashion Projects. Does Fashion Projects happen to be cooked up in the same “office” as The Lowbrow Reader? Sure. Has it shared some contributors over the years? Guilty as charged. Does it happen to be edited by the wife of the Lowbrow Reader’s editor? Yes—okay, fine. But please note that any suggestion that we are even the least bit biased will be taken as an insult.
Turn to the evidence! This month welcomes a new Fashion Projects issue—#5, for those keeping score, the journal’s first print issue in several years. From cover to cover, the issue devotes itself to fashion in museums, featuring long Q&A interviews with curators the world over, be they in Antwerp, London, Toronto, or New York itself. The cover stars longtime Vogue doyenne Diana Vreeland—or rather, Greer Lankton’s fabulous Diana Vreeland doll, situated in the Met’s fabled Costume Institute itself. What’s the wait? Get your hands on Fashion Projects at a local retailer or through fashionprojects.org today!
Those In New York can pick up their issue at the Fashion Projects #5 launch party: Wednesday, August 29, at the RealReal Café at 80 Wooster Street in Soho. RSVP here.
In recent years, Major League Baseball has taken strides to pick up the pace of the famously leisurely game. Last season, it ended the decades-long spectacle of a pitcher tossing four balls to signal an intentional walk; this year, the league has curtailed visits to the pitcher’s mound. What other steps should be taken to speed up the game?
The No-Run Home Run
As with its decision regarding intentional walks, the league has deemed it superfluous for a player to ceremonially circle the bases after hitting a home run. Fans will love the league’s new protocol, in which a hitter, after getting confirmation that his ball has cleared the fence, calmly turns around and walks into the dugout. Likewise, any runners on base when a home run leaves the park are to immediately return to the dugout. A STD (Seconds to Dugout) clock will ensure that no base runner lingers on the field, allowing play to resume in prompt fashion.
The Patriotism Check
“The Star-Spangled Banner” will no longer be performed at the onset of a game. In its stead, when purchasing tickets, fans will check a box confirming their adoration for America. Of course, those attending Blue Jays games will gain a similar option regarding Canada, while fans in Milwaukee can pledge their allegiance to an enormous sausage oozing with cheese. For some reason, the Yankees will continue to pause heaven and earth during the seventh inning to play an antique recording of a jingoistic Irving Berlin song.
The Guaranteed Win
To help shorten the season, the Chicago White Sox have been demoted to play in a corporate softball league. All games previously scheduled against the White Sox will be counted as wins for the opposing team; in the games’ place, an installment from the “The Fast and the Furious” franchise will be aired, both on television and at the uncharacteristically lively Guaranteed Rate Field.
The Subways Series
Following the lead of the Arizona Diamondbacks, which reintroduced the bullpen cart, other teams are encouraged to explore new means of pitcher transport. Many are using ride-sharing apps, others human catapults, while some are simply giving their relievers training in sprinting. Both New York teams have installed bullpen subways; once under the game’s rubber, the mound opens as the pitcher is hydraulically elevated, like a Rockette at Radio City Music Hall. (Auspiciously, the trains fall under the jurisdiction of M.L.B., not M.T.A.)
The Gladiator Rule
Taking a cue from Little League’s “mercy rule,” any regular season game that heads into the sixth inning with a five-run deficit will be called in favor of the leading team. Likewise, if by the seventh inning a game is tied but has grown kind of boring, the crowd will vote with its thumbs to call the whole thing off so everybody can go home already. Seeing as the game is but a meaningless diversion from life, henceforth, a swift coin flip will preclude any godforsaken extra inning play.
The M.D. In Row B
Is there any moment more painful for a baseball fan than watching as a player crashes into a wall or gets struck in the face by a pitch, thus necessitating play to cease as medics and trainers crowd the field? No more! Moving forward, once a player falls in injury, his teammates will rapidly gather around him in close order formation, jog him off the field, and hoist him into a premium section of the stands where wealthy doctors are likely to be sitting. In baseball’s unspoken honor code, any player who takes more than 30 seconds to return to the field will be beaned in his next at bat.
Lowbrow Reader #1 was coughed out in the summer of 2001, which means that we have published under three American presidents: one a mess, one a marvel, and one a minor Wack Pack member sprung from the fiery pits of Hell.
This month, bookstores welcome a grand account of that anomaly in the middle: Brian Abrams’s Obama: An Oral History (Little A). Abrams is a Lowbrow contributor in good standing, whose essay about a childhood encounter with Mel Brooks appears in issue #10. He is also an expert in the oral history format, having written such works on the masterpieces Late Night with David Letterman and Die Hard, as well as on Gawker. In Obama, he tackles his most ambitious book yet, interviewing a flood of people in the president’s circle. These include all-stars (David Axelrod), nudniks (Joe Lieberman), and khaki-besotted Washington types who live for this sort of thing. Collectively, it paints a rich portrait of Obama’s campaign and, especially, presidency. Check it out soon at a local bookstore—or the mom-and-pop web shop run by the kind-hearted folks who own the book’s publisher.
While 2018 will not bring with it a new Lowbrow Reader issue—we work slowly, okay?—readers in New York can get a fix with a simple stroll down West 18th Street. For there lies the great Academy Records, and in the store’s display window, alongside assorted records and CDs, is a rotating display of Musicians You Should Know, illustrated by longtime Lowbrow contributor Mike Reddy with writing by editor Jay Ruttenberg.
The series, which originated in LBR #8, features (gorgeous!) illustrations of nonexistent bands alongside (hilarious!) biographies of said musicians. Every month, the window display turns a page to include a new act—some previously featured in Lowbrow, some in other publications or websites, and some exclusive to the Academy window audience. Check out this month’s display, featuring the Old Greenwich Penitentiary Whipperpuffers, an a cappella group from a white collar prison. And while you’re there, duck into Academy and treat yourself to a record!