Mermaid Haberdashery

Even the most casual and tuned-out browser of The Lowbrow Reader has admired John Mathias’s work: He is the artist behind the glorious toilet drawings that have graced the covers of every Lowbrow issue, as well as our book anthology. But when not dreaming up toilet gags—as if life allows time for anything more noble!—the artist helps run Mermaid Haberdashery, a splendid boutique in Ocean Grove, New Jersey. Much of the store is devoted to Miss Ellie NYC, the jewelry line created by John’s uniquely talented wife, Ellie Mathias. Those near Ocean Grove would be wise to stop by the store sooner rather than later. In fact, head there between April 20 and April 22 and discover savings galore: Throughout the weekend, a 20% off sale extends to Miss Ellie NYC’s collection as well as to vintage clothing, sunglasses, hats, and even original paintings by John Mathias himself. Hop in a car, let the city eat dust, admire the fabled Jersey Shore, and check out Mermaid Haberdashery today!

Infidel

Here’s an occasion worth braving a trip to a comic shop: the debut issue of Infidel, a remarkable new series published by Image Comics. Written by former Vertigo editor and longtime Lowbrow friend Pornsak Pichetshote, the comic also features the work of Aaron Campbell (artist), José Villarrubia (colorist and editor), and Jeff Powell (letterer and designer). Infidel is a horror series with its toes in the real world: Issue #1 follows its protagonist as she grapples with a meddlesome mother-in-law (scary!) who seems to harbor a possibly violent Islamophobia toward her daughter-in-law (even scarier!). Also, the family’s building appears to be haunted. The comic is cast in lush, gloomy colors, both in pictures and words. Pichetshote’s dialogue, always sharp, retains a perfect mix of naturalism and ambiguity, so that every character seems at once true-to-life and capable of a wide slate of deeds, whether in the service of good or evil. We eagerly await issue #2, due out this month. Hit up your local comic proprietor to seek out Infidel—or simply order it through Image.

HQ3

 

August 4, 2026 – Eight years ago, few predicted that Amazon would acquire Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, Barnes & Noble, Trader Joe’s, U.P.S., and FedEx, to say nothing of the United States Postal Service. What’s not in doubt is that Amazon’s massive growth is staggering. Less than a decade after the company’s search for a second headquarters, Amazon is now ready to expand to a third city. As with the 2018 search, the company accepted pitches from cities far and wide, and has narrowed the list to 20 finalists. (Hard to believe that Tucson came in 21st, even after the mayor threatened that five out of six city council members would forgo Prime if it was passed over.) Here is the list of contenders for a third Amazon headquarters, accompanied by excerpts from each proposal.

Washington, D.C.
Our nation’s capital boasts monuments, museums and what would be a super easy commute for incoming Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jeff Bezos.”

Denver, Colorado
“Just say the word and cocaine is legal.”

Cleveland, Ohio
“Our second grade teacher told us that you can defuse mockery by making fun of yourself first, so here we go: What you’ve heard is true. Our river used to catch on fire. With some frequency.”

Bentonville, Arkansas
“Screw it. We give up.”

Minneapolis, Minnesota
“Same.”

Brooklyn, New York
“Still the best BBQ in the U.S.A.”

Hangzhou, China
“We have viewed your Godfather Part II, which, we believe, is not necessarily superior to the first movie, as many film critics have opined. Sometimes, we just want to watch the De Niro throwback scenes and fast-forward through all of the Hyman Roth parts, which we find to be quite boring. Nevertheless, a quote from the film seems pertinent as far as your relationship with our Alibaba goes: ‘Keep your friends close but your enemies closer.’”

San Antonio, Texas
“You guessed correctly: We’re going to talk up the River Walk.”

London, England
“It’s come to our attention that Elon Musk is working on a sort of high-speed, transatlantic transportation tube that will connect the Merrie Olde to your Eastern seaboard.”

Muskville, Mars
“Landed on Mars instead.”

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
“We get the feeling that we were spurned the last go-round because of antics in the wake of the Eagles’s Super Bowl win. Look, we get it: that horse poop guy and, then, pretty much all of the other guys, too. But, we swear we have lots of great art and culture and all of that crap here. Plus, we’re working on our pronunciation of the word ‘water.’ Quick question, though: The Phillies just landed a hot new prospect, so we’re wondering if you guys sell Ritz-Carlton awnings?”

Indianapolis, Indiana
“Please?”

San Junipero
“Since every Black Mirror episode is eventually going to play out in real life, you might as well choose the most positive situation.”

Manaus, Brazil
“Everything here is already called ‘Amazon’ this or that, so you will save a ton on signage.”

Eastern Idaho
“During the HQ2 search, you were accepting applications from nebulous locations like Northern Virginia. So, we figured we’re cool, too.”

Trash Island a.k.a. Isle of Dogs, Japan
“If you say ‘Isle of Dogs’ rapidly it sounds like ‘I love dogs.’ Not picking us would kind of be like saying, ‘I hate dogs,’ which seemingly would complicate your recent takeover of Chewy.com. This is a threat.”

Irvine, California
“We lean pretty heavily on our parks system here.”

Singapore
“Amazon employees are allowed to chew gum.”

Atlanta, Georgia
“There was a bit of a snag last time around with that whole ‘punishing Delta for cutting ties with the N.R.A.’ deal. To show we’re pro-business now, we will dunk former Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle in a giant vat of Chick-Fil-A Sauce. It’s really sticky.”

Boston, Massachusetts
“Playing the Harvard card since 1636.”

 

Amazing Colossal Podcast: #200

photograph by Eric Korenman

Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast debuted in 2014, just after The Lowbrow Reader published its own amazing colossal Gilbert Gottfried feature—replete with Drew Friedman’s Gilbert portrait and Gottfried’s own illustrations—in Lowbrow #9. Podcasts helmed by comedians are hardly rare and overwhelmingly tedious. But Amazing Colossal distinguished itself almost immediately, as Gottfried and his well-researched cohost Frank Santopadre eschewed navel-gazing to dive into the minutiae of old Hollywood with a slate of wrinkly guests. The word “commissary” seems to come up a lot.

This week, Amazing Colossal Podcast celebrates episode #200—coincidentally, the median age of the show’s guests. The Lowbrow Reader salutes Gottfried and Santopadre: mazel tov, 200 times over! Don’t miss a minute of the previous 199 episodes, including chats with Adam West, Susie Essman, George Shapiro, and the great Amy Heckerling (like Gottfried and Friedman, a Lowbrow #10 contributor). And of course, don’t sleep on ACP #200, featuring frequent guest Friedman along with Rupert Holmes and Richard Kind. Listen at iTunes, Earwolf, or gilbertpodcast.com.

Albers, Lustig Cohen, Tissi at Pratt Manhattan Gallery

Fans of smart design in New York City—and who, in New York City, is not a fan of smart design?—would be wise to head to the Pratt Manhattan Gallery to bask in “Albers, Lustig Cohen, Tissi, 1958-2018.” Curated by Lowbrow contributor Phillip Niemeyer (director of the Austin gallery Northern-Southern), the handsome exhibit presents six decades of work by a trio of artist-designers: Anni Albers, Elaine Lustig Cohen, and Rosmarie Tissi. The three women’s careers overlapped in a variety of ways, picking up different threads of cool 20th century thought. The Pratt show features not only paintings, prints, and posters but also books, sculptures, and even typography. There is also a new poster (above) designed for the exhibition by Tissi herself. The show is free and runs through April 28.

museum catalogs by Elaine Lustig Cohen

Drew Friedman’s Chosen People

We are longtime fans of Lowbrow contributor Drew Friedman, whose every portrait finds a truth that cuts deeper than photographs, as the illustrator captures his subjects’ beauty, ugliness, and, above all, humor. His Old Jewish Comedians trilogy deserves a spot on the shelves of even the most hard-bitten goy. Now, fresh in bookstores is Chosen People, a lovely hardcover, published by Fantagraphics, that brings together a new slab of famous faces captured by Friedman. Readers of Lowbrow issues #9 and #10 will be acquainted with two portraits: the illustrator’s wondrous Gilbert Gottfried and Shemp Howard. There are many more, including favored comedians, musicians, disgraced politicians, and podcasters—plus a foreword by Merrill Markoe. Don’t walk, run! Pick up Chosen People today!

Mel Brooks and Chosen People: Photograph by Scott Alexander

Hess Is More: 80 Years


In the Lowbrow Reader Variety Hour shows, we were proud to present some of New York’s most riveting entertainers at Soho’s Housing Works Bookstore: John Mulaney, the Fiery Furnaces, Adam Green, Wyatt Cenac, Jeffrey Lewis, Professor Irwin Corey…the list goes on! Among the best sets came from one of our favorite musical acts: Hess Is More, which tore the roof off the humble bookstore years ago. (It was since repaired.)

In the ensuing years, Hess Is More, which somehow is based in both downtown Manhattan and Copenhagen, has only gained strength. The momentum culminates in 80 Years, the band’s breathtaking new album that was just released on Edition Records, a British label primarily associated with jazz. 80 Years is at once mind-bending and danceable, experimental and endlessly listenable, idiosyncratic and thoroughly accessible. Though it pivots around the songs of lead singer and drummer Mikkel Hess, this record presents a lovely showcase for the astonishing band he has assembled, including saxophonist Matt Parker, pop producer Rasmus Bille Bahncke, David Mason of the electronic act Listening Center, studio rabbi W. Andrew Raposo, and—who saw this one coming?!—trumpet heavy Tom Harrell. The record also features liner-notes by Lowbrow Reader editor Jay Ruttenberg, so you have something to read after you get tired from dancing. Buy 80 Years here—and check out the below video for “It’s Backwards No Matter What I Do,” produced in collaboration with designer Henrik Vibskov, originally for the Museum of Art and Design’s great “fashion after Fashion” exhibition.

We Love You, Gilbert Rogin

photograph by Tony Triolo

We are so sad to learn of the death of Gilbert Rogin: Lowbrow Reader subject, contributor, and, above all, friend. Rogin was a titan who seemingly thrived at everything he tried. He ascended to the height of Sports Illustrated’s masthead, then turned to a career in the corporate magazine realm, helping Quincy Jones launch Vibe, among other achievements. We first encountered Rogin through his fiction: Through the ’60s and ’70s, he published a body of funny, dream-like stories, primarily in The New Yorker. These fueled a short story collection (The Fencing Master) and a pair of sui generis novels (What Happens Next? and Preparations for the Ascent).

Rogin was out-of-print and retired when he crossed our radar in 2009, via Lowbrow contributor Jay Jennings. A stray John Updike quote praising Rogin sent Jennings down a rabbit hole—he soon discovered, as too few had before him, the glories of Rogin’s fiction. As we were preparing to publish Jennings’s essay about Rogin, we discovered that the novelist himself was living mere minutes from Lowbrow headquarters, and became fast friends with Gil. Our subsequent issue, Lowbrow #7, featured Jennings’s Rogin appreciation alongside “My Masterpieces,” the first Rogin story to be published since 1980. (Both later appeared in The Lowbrow Reader Reader book, along with another wondrous Rogin contribution about his friendship with Muhammad Ali.) When issue #7 came out, we celebrated with a Lowbrow Reader Variety Hour show at the Housing Works Bookstore. Rogin read, appearing alongside the Fiery Furnaces, John Mulaney, Larkin Grimm, and Peter Stampfel & the Ether Frolic Mob. Better still: The following year, Verse Chorus Press returned Rogin’s books to print, publishing a handsome single-volume edition of his two novels. Jennings’s piece served as the introduction; Mike Reddy designed the cover.

Rogin was one of the brightest people in New York. The work he left behind is artful and eccentric, full of mystery, grace, and humor. We will be wrapping our heads around it for decades to come.

Musicians You Should Know at Academy Records

“Musicians You Should Know,” featuring portraits of fictional musicians by Mike Reddy and biographies by Jay Ruttenberg, was introduced in Lowbrow Reader #8 and returned for an encore in issue #9. The series was later featured in the long-running online music magazine Perfect Sound Forever, the new humor magazine American Bystander, and a weekly Tumblr page. Now, it hits the streets! West 18th Street, to be exact. Beginning this October, Musicians You Should Know appears in monthly installments in the storefront window of New York’s greatest record store, Academy Records, alongside the recorded wares of nonfictional musicians. Those lingering around Union Square are encouraged to drift west, just off Fifth Avenue, and admire the Musicians at Academy. The inaugural entry: The New York Symphony Orchestra Under the Directorship of Curtis Colsen, the “hipster conductor” first seen in Lowbrow #9, whose baton allows him to post Twitter updates from the stage. Watch your back, Simon Doonan!

 

Selections from the Trump Oeuvre

History has judged Donald Trump a weaker leader than George W. Bush. Yet Trump is, of course, remembered as the far superior oil painter, his vast oeuvre generated exclusively during his fruitful post-presidency. This series of works, presented together at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the first time since the museum’s 2091 blockbuster retrospective, reflects on the early days of Trump’s first term in office. Here is a sampling:

In its angry blur of pink, “Persecution” depicts the Women’s March on Washington, in which scores of protestors took to the streets against the future master. Notably, Trump portrays many of the protestors nude from the waist up, their ample bosoms glistening with meticulously rendered droplets of dew. Through the artist’s clearly beleaguered perspective, the marchers appear aggressive and Amazonian—a sexually charged mob. Note the image of a muscled Christ, generally regarded as a stand-in for the painter, in the canvas’s bottom left.

When the casual museumgoer thinks of Trump, she naturally turns to “Battle of Chicago,” the artist’s heart-rending wartime masterpiece that many consider an American “Guernica.” That piece and similar works grapple with the painter’s second presidential term: Indeed, it is said that the audacious beauty of these paintings is the only good to come of The Bloody War of the Hemispheres. Yet Trump’s first term was a time of relative peace, bipartisan amity, and robust double-digit approval ratings. This untitled still life reflects on that period. In sensual tones, Trump depicts a half-eaten Big Mac resting on his Oval Office desk—a sleepy autumnal reverie with shades of Renoir.

“The Rape of Schwarzenegger” is portraiture at its most lurid. It is darker and more active than what we typically associate with Trump. Though deemed a minor work, it is the rare painting in which the artist chooses to depict himself, here acting in the role of aggressor. (The painter’s adversary is Arnold Schwarzenegger, a California governor and movie actor best remembered for his role in the Sinbad holiday classic Jingle All the Way.) The numbers feverishly scrawled along the work’s edges are thought to be television ratings from a game show that was hosted by both men and clandestinely produced by the Russian propaganda ministry.

In gravitating to painting, Trump was undoubtedly influenced by George W. Bush, whose post-presidential work remains a fixture of outsider art collections around the world. It was through art that Bush sought—and quickly found—his redemption, with frequent portraits of those who went to battle in his name. Although Trump’s work concentrates less on such individuals, at times he did explore similar terrain. In “Woman,” Trump paints a servicewoman newly returned from fighting a covert operation in Australia during the first month of his presidency. Portrayed nude in the Lincoln Bedroom, the Rubenesque soldier seductively stares down the viewer, defiant in seeking earthly pleasure in the face of turmoil. The servicewoman’s stark black lower-back tattoo represents the dark currents pulsing through a troubled nation.

Trump spent his final years largely confined to his dacha, painting. He died at 102, a bottle of hair growth pills upturned near his easel in what was ruled an accidental overdose. “Massive” was among his final works. It deviates from what we have come to expect from late-period Trump, which largely draws on the homegrown: still lifes, figure drawings, landscapes of the artist’s beloved Black Sea. By contrast, “Massive” revisits Trump’s presidency for one final memory—as it so happens, the inauguration that initiated it. Though historical reports regarding the size of the inaugural audience vary, “Massive” is unequivocal, portraying a horde of well-wishers that somehow seems to multiply with every viewing, extending beyond the painting’s boundaries as if to scrape the heavens. Yet despite the throng, Trump gives the work a distinct air of claustrophobia and loneliness. The dichotomy pays testament to the painter’s talents, of course, but also lends credence to the view of Trump, like Bush before him, as an artist marooned in leadership, his soul itching to be set free on canvas.