High There

What is that mist clouding television sets and computer monitors nationwide? We’re not quite sure, but we suspect it has something to do with the recent DVD release of High There, a wild nonfiction film comedy produced by Lowbrow friend Burt Kearns. The movie was directed by its costars Henry Goren and Wayne Darwen—the latter a tabloid TV forefather who was an inspiration for Robert Downey Jr.’s Natural Born Killers character. A few years ago, the pair traveled to Hawaii intending to shoot a television travel show about smoking marijuana in America’s coolest state. They soon ended up entangled in a Pynchon-noirish plot involving the government, the drug trade, and the jailing of a local marijuana advocate. Darwen and Goren went deep into the story, even adopting the greenish alter egos Dave High and Roland Jointz. Check out High There on your movie-viewing device of choice today—and dig the groovy preview, below.

 

Carry Her Pigeons

Temperate weather in New York brings a litany of pleasures: engaging clipboard-wielding charity solicitors in long conversations about how you do not have any money to give them; shadowing tourists through Central Park at a creepy yet legal distance; tossing water balloons at sharp-tailored businessmen en route to their important meetings and trysts. The fun keeps coming.

In recent years, a major amusement has come in the form of the “Flashflock” installations presented around town by longtime artist, New Yorker, and Lowbrow friend Tina Pina Trachtenburg. If you pass through Washington Square Park or Union Square on sunny days, you have likely stumbled upon Trachtenburg’s awing displays, which feature dozens of her beautiful soft sculptures of pigeons and, occasionally, other birds. At times, actual pigeons join the flock, delighting children and confounding dogs. Trachtenburg hand-crafts her sculptures from acrylic felt, using recycled clothing for stuffing. The pigeons are available for purchase both at the installations and through the artist’s website, motherpigeon.com. Dare we say a home is not a home until it features a Tina Trachtenburg pigeon? Yes we do!

What Is in Your Airplane’s Seat Back Pocket?

Airline magazine with its crossword puzzle filled out thrice over, each time incorrectly

Every type of gum ever manufactured, aggressively chewed

Tissues hosting new strains of the flu, rubella, leprosy, the bubonic plague, and an as-yet-unnamed disease tied to donkey manure

Barf bag, gently used

Decade-old safety card, never read, depicting passengers maniacally fleeing a plane crash’s fiery flames

One decapitated head (human)

Amelia Earhart’s long-lost boarding pass

Two diapers, adult sized, soiled

Catalogue of dubious inventions that the airline requests passengers not examine until they are mentally weakened from combination of high altitude, cabin fever, and multiple Bloody Mary cocktails

The Underground Is Massive

Back in 2002, the talented music critic Michaelangelo Matos profiled Slim Gaillard for Lowbrow Reader #2. (The article was later reprinted in The Lowbrow Reader Reader.) Apparently, tastes have changed in the ensuing 13 years: No longer do the world’s youth sway as one to the sounds of Gaillard. In McVouty’s place stand enthusiastic genii of Electronic Dance Music. Who will shed light on this mysterious music, with its thumping beats and exotic drugs?

How about…Michaelangelo Matos! The writer, a frequent Lowbrow contributor in our early years, started writing with passion and verve about the genre long before most grown-ups even considered it a genre. This week, HarperCollins imprint Dey Street Books unveils The Underground Is Massive: How Electronic Dance Music Conquered America, Matos’s 448-page account of the ’00s dance-floor phenomenon. The author guides readers from EDM’s roots in techno and rave culture through the present day, when star DJs earn roughly the same in a single night as the average American takes home during an entire calendar year, provided that the average American happens to play for the NBA. Learn the truth behind the beats. Check out The Underground Is Massive today!

Marilynne Robinson’s Furious

It’s a kind of furious pride, very passionate and stern.
—Gilead

 He studied her face. “You’re furious.”
“That’s right.”
—Home

 The life she’d decided she would never have was there the whole time, trapped and furious, and in that minute she knew that if a man she ought to hate said one kind word to her, there was no telling what she might do.
—Lila

The latest cinematic installment of this blockbuster series will not disappoint fans of the earlier two, and as usual, the team behind the previous adaptations of Marilynne Robinson’s prize-winning novels have hewn closely to the book and also made the film their own, with thrilling results.

Set again in the small farming town of Gilead, Iowa, among the clerical Boughton and Ames families, Lila: Trés Furious, finds the title character (Michelle Rodriguez) wed to the much older widower Rev. John Ames (Duane “The Rock” Johnson). Lila’s past is something of a mystery, and I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler, given the previous films, to say that as the truth of her history unfolds, the characters hop into various modified stock vehicles and undertake numerous cross-county chases through corn fields, wheat fields and cow pastures. Viewers who know the franchise will expect the resulting carnage, high-speed crashes (with stunning CGI affects), and meditations on the nature of grace, shame and predestination. (more…)

100 Years of Humor

Happy April Fool’s Day, for those celebrating. Frankly, it’s not really our cup of tea. Last year, however, representatives of The Lowbrow Reader took part in the day’s festivities. Namely, Lowbrow contributor Phillip Niemeyer and editor Jay Ruttenberg published a chart in The Boston Globe’s op-ed page examining a century of humor, beginning with Charlie Chaplin himself. How about an encore performance? Here is the chart, straight from the august pages of the Globe.

Unenthusiastic Bathroom Graffiti

For a so-so time, call 646-859-4621

Your mom’s cookies suck

Metallica used to rule, but have petered out in recent years

Principal Davis could be better at his job

My sexual member is more or less adequate

The food here tends to be overcooked

I [heart] sunny days

Jeb Bush for President

Honestly, this bathroom really does not smell too horrific, all things considered

Daniel Knox: New Knox, New Knox!

When the Lowbrow Reader staff was younger and in possession of more energy, we periodically arranged Lowbrow Reader Variety Hour shows, presenting the brightest lights of New York music, comedy, literature, and what-have-you. So back in 2012, when Chicago’s Drag City published the Lowbrow book anthology, in a failed bid to impress the publisher, we decided to take the show to their hometown. But who, exactly, were Chicago’s stars? One easy pick: Daniel Knox, who, along with his band, played a handsome set at Lowbrow’s Chicago show, at the Hideout.

Now, the musician—who is equipped with a piano, meaty baritone, and sense of humor as dark and evil as the night itself—has brought forth a sterling new album. Self-titled and released on Carrot Top Records, Knox’s third LP hosts ten moody songs inspired by his childhood in Springfield, Illinois, as well as by a collaboration he completed with the photographer Jason Atwood. Backed by strings and horns, the singer displays a touch of Weimar decadence and ’90s archness. He is a proud misanthrope. “Don’t touch me with dirty hands, god knows where they’ve been,” he sings toward the top. “Don’t look at me with those eyes, god knows what they’ve seen.” Order Daniel Knox today—or check out the man himself, live and in concert. (For those in New York, Knox plays Rockwood Music Hall on April 12.)

Party Like a President

Remember that time we let an outsider artist lead the country for eight years? What about Chester A. Arthur—who, it was said, “never did today what he could put off until tomorrow”? There was also the retired B-movie actor who engaged in a nearly decade-long war against poor people. We’ve had some doozies, America!

Indeed, it can be difficult to take every U.S. leader seriously—a fact that makes Party Like a President: True Tales of Inebriation, Lechery and Mischief from the Oval Office a particularly useful volume. Freshly published by Workman, the book was created by a pair of Lowbrow Reader contributors: writer Brian Abrams and illustrator John Mathias (the pen behind every Lowbrow cover going back to 2001’s issue #1). Chronologically featuring all 43 democratically anointed presidents, plus George W. Bush, Party Like a President focuses not on war, legislation, or economics, but rather the various leaders’ habits of drink, debauchery, sloth, and gluttony. So it is that we learn of John F. Kennedy and crew lounging around Bing Crosby’s Palm Springs pool, chatting up airline stewardesses. (“Everybody was buckass naked,” claims an eyewitness.) George H.W. Bush’s presidency, naturally, is reduced to that time he vomited at a televised Japanese state dinner. Then there is Calvin Coolidge (a chapter already familiar to readers of Lowbrow Reader #9), who was in the habit of waking from one of his afternoon naps and asking an aide, “Is the country still there?” Throughout the book, readers can feast upon Mathias’s lush illustrations.

As Lowbrow Reader muse Gilbert Gottfried says: “I’ve read the book, and I can pretty safely say that most of the words are spelled correctly. He’s got a good sense of where to put commas and periods.” Indeed! Congratulations, Abrams and Mathias! Get to your nearest bookstore and dig into Party Like a President today!

We Love You, Taylor Negron

We are heartbroken over the loss of Lowbrow friend and contributor Taylor Negron. He died at 57 after battling cancer, but in our minds he was forever 25 and as healthy as a child. Taylor was preternaturally funny, smart, generous, and warm—the kind of guy you were always excited to hear from. He was monstrously charismatic. Seemingly everybody in New York and Los Angeles, the cities he bounced between, was friends with him. About a year ago, Taylor started working on “My Name Is Julio: I’m So Bad, I Should Be in Detention,” an essay about filming Easy Money that appeared in last year’s Lowbrow Reader issue. He worked on the piece in his Upper West Side apartment, the now-closed West Village vegetarian restaurant ’sNice, and, bizarrely, a five-star cruise traveling from the Atlantic to Pacific Oceans by way of the Panama Canal. (Naturally, while onboard, Taylor did a reading of the piece in progress.) We were so thrilled to publish his beautiful essay; we are so sad that we will never again get to see Taylor.

Illustration by Doreen Kirchner