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.

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

 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.

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

Vinyl Tigers: Feel the Roar

Regular readers of The Lowbrow Reader have long been acquainted with the work of Doreen Kirchner, whose ravishing illustrations have appeared in our pages since issue #2, back in 2002. Most recently, Kirchner’s art accompanied Taylor Negron’s essay about filming Easy Money, in Lowbrow #9. (Just feast your eyes on her Rodney!) When she is not practicing the visual arts, Kirchner is busy with the rock & roll ones. And a fine rock & roller she is. Vinyl Tigers, Kirchner’s new trio co-starring TV Wayne and Jeff Preischel, just unleashed its debut, a self-titled album. The record is spare and chicly scuzzy, invoking Cats and Dogs–era Royal Trux. No surprise there: We first became acquainted with Kirchner through her work illustrating The Adventures of Royal Trux, a comic book written by another prolific Lowbrow contributor, Neil Hagerty. So, how to proceed? Check out Vinyl Tigers via Bandcamp. Or, better yet, order a CD. Each copy features an original handmade cover—beat that, other bands of America!

Golden Age

At Confession

Man: Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. It has been five months since my last confession. These are my sins. I rejoiced over the death of somebody I once deeply cared for. This person was not a good man—in fact, he committed some horrific, altogether heinous acts. But he had repented. And yet when I saw him hanged, in a public square, before bloodthirsty Iranian masses, I could not help but rejoice in his execution.

Priest: Are you…excuse me, but are you talking about Brody, from Homeland?

Man: Yes, Father. Yes, I am.

Priest: Oh, come on! That character had gotten so annoying!

Man: I know, right? Phew! I can’t tell you how relieving it is to hear you say that.

Priest: If I had to endure one more scene of Carrie crying over him, I swear, I was about to lose all faith. In the show, that is.

Man: The thing is, the writers put Brody in a corner. If he had survived any longer, Homeland would have lost—

Priest: Any credibility. Have you watched True Detective?

Man: No, I’ve been really busy at work.

Priest: Hmmm.

Man: I should watch it, shouldn’t I?

Priest: It’s only an eight-episode arc.

Man: Okay, okay! Forgive me Father, for I have sinned! [Laughter]

At the Therapist

Man: So, work has been going much better the last couple of weeks. I think I resolved things with my supervisor. And I feel fairly confident about how I approached the situation. It’s funny, but you know what I keep mentally comparing it to? In the new season of House of Cards, when Frank Under—

Therapist: I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to cut you off there.

Man: Excuse me?

Therapist: My wife and I are still working our way through season one. (more…)