J.D. O’Brien’s Zig Zag

Long-time readers of the Lowbrow Reader know and admire the writer Joe O’Brien for his deep love of Chevy Chase: His essay “The Case for Chase” helped light up issue #5, and returned in The Lowbrow Reader Reader book. This year, readers get to go deeper with O’Brien, via his crackerjack debut novel, Zig Zag, recently published by Tucson’s Schaffner Press. Funny and misty in a Pynchon mold, the crime novel traffics in bail bondsmen, the Mojave Desert, and a marijuana dispensary robbery. And the whole affair even opens with a quote from a fellow Lowbrow contributor, our beloved David Berman. Don’t zag, zig! Buy, read, read again, then give a fancy prize to J.D. O’Brien’s Zig Zag at once!

Neil Hagerty Mental Health and Legal Defense

Flip through the first decade of Lowbrow Reader issues, straight through our book anthology, and revel in a dynamic connecting thread: the wonderful articles of Neil Michael Hagerty. From the very first issue (when he wrote about CARtoons magazine), he was among the Lowbrow’s most consistent and exciting contributors, holding forth on subjects from Don Knotts to the sitcom “Wings.” Like Shohei Ohtani, Hagerty’s talents magically spill across territories: He is primarily a musician, known for his dazzling guitar work in Royal Trux and Howling Hex. (He’s a pretty dandy record producer, too.) Honestly, here is a major talent.

Recently, a few unfortunate minutes with the Denver police have landed Hagerty in a pot of trouble. He can use an assist, to help him with legal fees as well as issues beyond that. But who can help? Why, YOU can help, via this handy GiveSendGo page (which replaces an earlier GoFundMe page). Please check it out, and please consider donating some dollars.

Announcing…Lowbrow Reader #12!

We are thrilled to announce the publication of our new issue, Lowbrow Reader #12. It is the first Lowbrow Reader since the dark days of 2020. The issue features poetry by Richard Hell, Brian Abrams’s definitive piece on the actor Robert Costanzo (you know his face), a cartoon by Dave Eggers, and essays about the New York standup showcase Whiplash and the characters who paint the margins of Larry David’s productions. Plus: We unveil architectural plans for the Dangerfield Collection, a contemporary art space showcasing Lowbrow’s vast holdings of Rodney Dangerfield–inspired works.

Order the issue now via our ordering page!

Lowbrow #12 costs $4, shipping included. Check out the Table of Contents:

 

È tempo di inventare!

In 2020, along with some other global events, Now Is the Time to Invent! was published by Verse Chorus Press. The book anthologized Puncture, the sharp-eared music magazine that published between 1982 and 2000, using interviews, album reviews, and some essays to show indie-rock as it was coming into focus. The book was edited by Puncture’s late editor and co-founder Katherine Spielmann along with Puncture hands Steve Connell, J Neo Marvin, and Lowbrow editor Jay Ruttenberg.

Now Is the Time to Invent! received some wonderful praise, including from Rolling Stone and Pitchfork. But there was one major component that was missing: a translation of the book for Italian readers. This week, the error is remedied with the publication of È tempo di inventare!, by the Rome publisher Big Sur/Edizione Sur. Like many fashionable Italians, the book is a bit slimmer than its American counterpart, but it sparkles, nonetheless. Your choice is clear, Italians: Don’t hesitate! Buy È tempo di inventare!

A seguire in italiano! Nel 2020, fra gli eventi mondiali più importanti, si conta la pubblicazione di Now is the Time to Invent! dalla casa editrice Verse Chorus Press. Il libro antologizza Puncture, il giornale musicale dall’udito fine pubblicato dal 1982 al 2000, includendo interviste, recensioni di album e saggi che mostrano la nascita e sviluppo dell’indie rock. Il libro è edito dall’editrice e cofondatrice di Puncture, ormai defunta, Katherine Spielmann insieme a Steve Connell, J Neo Marvin, e Jay Ruttenberg, editore del Lowbrow Reader.

Now is the Time to Invent! è stato lodato dal Rolling Stone e da Pitchfork. Ma mancava una componente importante: una traduzione del libro per i lettori italiani. Questa settimana, l’errore è stato rimediato con la pubblicazione del È tempo di inventare!, dall’editore romano Edizioni Sur. Come molti italiani alla moda, il libro è un po’ più snello della sua controparte americana ma brilla comunque. Lettori italiani, la vostra scelta è chiara: Non esitate a comprare È tempo di inventare!

 

 

Overheard on the Streets of Eden Before the Great Flood

The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So, the Lord said, “I will blot out of the earth the human beings I have created—people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”
— Genesis 6:5-7

“All other societies have banned the bow that fires dozens of arrows at once. Not us, for we are truly free.”

“We have worshipped a golden god. The seas boil. A plague has visited our homes. But her scroll inscriptions.”

“The child prefers to stare at the reflection of the sky in the water, not the sky itself. I’d be concerned if I couldn’t just plop her down right in front of it and get some chores done.”

“Thou shall need proof of attendance to the university for me to begin engraving membership into the Facestone. One final question: What is thy relationship status?”

“You should have seen how many shekels I spent this week on hen wings, deceased dinosaur fuel and a root vegetable tray! I have decided I shall blame this all on the white-haired leader who genuinely seems to care about our well-being but fell off his wheel that one time.”

“You see, we shall be better off with one merchant who will sell all the goods under the sun and deliver them via carrier pigeon in under two hours.”

“That Noah fellow seems pretty cocky to me.”

“A great war brews overseas. Many have died. On one side is good; on the other is evil. But what about those deceased dinosaur fuel prices?”

“The bows that fire many arrows are everywhere already. To truly protect the university students, we must roll a large stone in front of the door!”

“The child within her will not live. If not extracted, the mother shall die. But we have a high court that has ruled against such a procedure, so tough luck. It’s what God wants.”

 

Mother Pigeon

For years, unsuspecting souls passing through Union Square have been in for a crafty surprise: The ravishing “Flash Flock” installations by artist and Lowbrow friend Tina Piña, whose soft sculptures of pigeons are on display (and sale!), attracting curious humans and birds alike. Now, the artist, known as Mother Pigeon, has branched out into a papery medium with Hi I’m Mother Pigeon, a delightful children’s book detailing her craft and mission. The book is illustrated by Piña and written by none other than Jason Trachtenburg: Piña’s longtime Mr. Pigeon and, with their daughter Rachel, onetime bandmate in the fabled Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players.

On Sunday, August 28, the artist takes her pigeons on a rare indoor excursion with “Mother Pigeon’s Impeckable Puppet Show and Storybook.” The event is slated for the wondrous Housing Works Bookstore in Soho. Don’t miss these birds! Head to Housing Works or catch Mother Pigeon in Union Square for your personal copy—and maybe even pigeon.

 

 

Hess Is More: Iboja’s Sange

As longtime fans and compadres of the avant-garde–scented Danish pop act Hess Is More, we are thrilled to land on “Iboja’s Sange,” a wondrous new collaborative album linking Hess with Kenneth Bager and the writer and singer Iboja Wandall-Holm. Ferociously off-centered yet ear-catching, the record revolves around the 99-year-old Wandall-Holm. Although long based in Copenhagen, Wandall-Holm grew up in Slovakia. As a young Jew and budding leftist, she fled to Hungary in 1942; eventually, she was captured by the vile forces of her day and sent to Auschwitz, yet somehow survived the hell of the previous century. In the current demoralizing political era, there is something life-affirming about hearing this ravishingly rusted voice beamed in from a more tragic past, presented amidst the warm beats of the future. Also: You can dance to it.

Those New York unfortunates who missed Hess Is More’s scorching set at Nublu 151 in June are in luck: A simple transatlantic flight can deliver them to Denmark in time for the band’s “Apollonian Circles” residency at Copenhagen Distillery July 1, 2, 7, 8, and 9. The performances are part of the Copenhagen Jazz Festival. Too cheap and lazy for the trip to Copenhagen? Fine, be that way. Observe the glorious new sights and sounds on screen.

Five Bits

Horse vs. Car
My money’s on horse. Because—hear me out—oh, wait, car would win. Vroom—yeah, I can see how car could win. Vroom—yeah. O.K. I am changing my answer to vroom. I mean car. There. Car is my answer. Vroom. I get it. I get it from the “Vroom.” I say, “Vroom,” and then I figure it out. Vroom. Heh. Vroom. Nope—I am changing my answer back to horse. Horse would win. Oh, wait. There was something I used to say to myself; it would convince me. “Horse,” I think it was. No, wait. Yeah. Car. Car would win. Car, but I’m not sure of my answer.

Optical Illusion Complaints
“Welcome to the Optical Illusion Complaints office, or “O.I.C.”—“Oh, I see.”—Oh, I see; it’s a pun. I get it. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. I guess I should I say, ‘Oh, I see.’ Heh heh heh heh heh heh. I work at a pun office. Heh heh heh heh heh heh. Oh, I see. I keep saying that. Heh heh heh, if I keep saying it, I must have made the pun up! Oh, I see. Whoa! Oh, I see. So, thank you for waiting; how may I help you better understand your optical illusion or whatever it’s called, I mean, who cares, I can make up puns, that’ll be my fall-back, who needs this job?”

Directions
Hold on, hold on, hold on—let me live. Also, come back here. Directions—what’s the best way to get back to the city? May I have your car? Will you drive me, be my chauffeur? Just until I get to safety? What are you good at? Will you teach it to me? I’ll pay you. Here, take everything I have. Too soon? Heh heh heh heh, I’m just messing with you. Too soon? Heh heh heh. What if I’m always saying that to you? “Too soon.” You’ll be the “too soon” guy. Too soon? Get it? Saying that to you was too soon? Heh heh, I never liked that expression. You really don’t like it. You just about hate it. Here—carry my bags? Can I have one of the bags back? Here, I don’t want it. I changed my mind, can I have one of the bags? Take one of the bags back. Can I have one of the bags back? Now, can I have two of the bags? What do you mean you lost count of the bags?!! Can I have that hat? What is the meaning of it? Why did you wear that hat? Heh heh heh heh, it’s a funny hat, but, like, weird-funny. Heh heh heh heh, where did you get a dumb hat like that? Funny hat. [Looks around.] What do you mean you lost track of the bags?!!!

Comical Drawings
I need to stop lying. My comical drawings are not going to pay for my web of lies anymore. Wait, what comical drawings? Arrrghhh! This has to stop. Hmmm, maybe I can sell some of my comical drawings, and—no. No. Lies. Lies, all lies! No wonder they don’t let me do a comical drawings. Comical drawings??!???!?!?!!!!!!

Happy Thanksgiving
These are the things that get me by in life: having little to be thankful for; Fear (the book, not the terrible emotion); fear the emotion (not the book—I actually haven’t read Fear; I hear it’s good); the book Fear again—I am obsessed with this book (anyone know where I can find a copy?); little things to be fearful of; Fear (the book—again—not only have I not read it, I have not read it twice—new kind of humblebrag?); fear (the emotion, not the famous short bit); self-help books; Fear (the book, though I still haven’t read it); the book Fear; Fear (the emotion and the book—I actually haven’t felt the emotion; therefore, does the book count? Could I maybe count the book as the emotion, and vice versa? That would help; I am the one making this list); that Fear book; fear of the Fear book; Fear (the emotion); Fear (sic); Fear (ibid), Fear (book); Fear (five); fear. These are the things that don’t get me by in life: nothing—I have fear to worry about.

Is Die Hard a Christmas Film?

As the temperature drops and more trees don sparkling lights, an annual holiday season debate is renewed: Is Die Hard a Christmas movie?

And yet there is another query that is truly the one worth pondering: Is Die Hard a Christmas film, not a mere movie?

In the 1988 picture’s first scene, cinematographer Jan de Bont keenly focuses upon an airplane armrest tensely gripped by New York City police officer, John McClane. It’s a foreshadowing: The upcoming thrills will be aspirationally Hitchcockian, as unnerving as early-to-mid Friedkin or spring of 1931 Lang.

And also there will be Christmas carols.

In the blink of an eye, we see McClane procure a giant teddy bear from the overhead compartment—presumably for one of his progeny but almost assuredly a nod to the 1966 Clint Walker feature, The Night of the Grizzly—as Bing Crosby–worthy sleigh bells echo through the soundtrack.

Two minutes in, we’ve already got sleigh bells.

Upon his arrival in Los Angeles, McClane is greeted by a limousine driver, Argyle—the Sancho to his Don Quixote, the Virgil to his Dante, the Spielvogel to his Portnoy. Argyle’s musical selection—from seminal hip-hop group Run-D.M.C.—is in direct lineage with the usage of contemporary music from 1970s New Hollywood auteurs like Scorsese, Nichols and Hopper.

It is also a Christmas song.

McClane’s destination is his estranged wife’s office tower, which bears features that—try as they might—cannot escape comparison to the 1927 German expressionist feat, Metropolis. Holly McClane is a high-powered businesswoman, who embraces her maiden name and has a steel-like demeanor that recalls a long line of film heroines who find a true genesis in 1928’s La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc.

Her company is also throwing a totally kickass holiday party.

The crux of Die Hard rests upon the shoulders of McClane, himself, who is portrayed by Bruce Willis. Director John McTiernan acts as a nouvelle vague Godard, harnessing his own vision yet trusting his star. McClane’s one-liners are akin to Michel Poiccard’s mutterings in A Bout de Souffle, yet are fashioned with a self-aware wit reminiscent of Woody Allen in the mid-to-late 1970s. (more…)

China Anniversary

It has come to our attention that this summer, the Lowbrow Reader celebrates 20 years of publishing. That’s right: Eleven issues and one book in a mere two decades. Does any other American publication have such longevity and productivity? We think not! The Atlantic? That old cow has been around for—what?—15 years? And the New York Times? Sure, it’s 30 years old or something, but how many issues have those goons coughed out into the world?

While lesser publications might commemorate this marker with some bloated 20th anniversary issue, Lowbrow will be quiet through 2021. But don’t worry, we will return to magazine stands next year, with…um, a very special 21st anniversary edition! In the meantime, you can order our latest issue or wondrous book anthology today. Celebrate the Lowbrow Reader’s anniversary the classy way and pick up 20 copies of each!