Mentions | Issue 4 ​

CHARLIE BARDEY, SAMIR CHADHA, CLAIRE COMSTOCK-GAY, KENNETH DILLON, JAMES FOLTA, SIMONE HAYSOM, GILLIAN LEE, BEN LLEWELYN TAYLOR, RORY MASTERSON, REBECCA MCCARTHY, RENNIE MCDOUGALL, RODERICK MOODY-CORBETT, TREE PALMEDO, ELIZABETH PANKOVA, VIOLET PASK, ALANA POCKROS, SOPHIE POOLE, GUS PRUM, JAMESON RICH, ELENA SAAVEDRA BUCKLEY, EVE SNEIDER, ALEXANDRA VALAHU, THEO WAYT

Can’t Get You Out of My Head |

CONSPIRACY

At one point in Adam Curtis’s new series, he tells us that Jews made up the majority of New York City bankers and landlords in the 1960s. Later on, he says that American workers spent the Clinton years systemically faking injuries to get disability benefits and Oxycontin scripts. Amid eight hours of dazzling BBC B-roll and moody songs by This Mortal Coil and Aphex Twin, these dubious claims can slip by unnoticed. I didn’t register them until my second time through. Maybe Curtis has learned something from Slavoj Zizek: if enough graduate students already like you, you can get away with saying whatever you want. 

T.W.

Janet Yellen’s stamp collection |

DISCLOSURES

Janet Yellen holds the key to a vast and mysterious treasure: a stamp collection, handed down from her mother, which the Treasury Secretary has valued between $15,001 and $50,000 over the last quarter century to mounting national intrigue. Precious few specifics are known, though philatelists hoping for anything of obvious lasting significance in the secretary’s holdings should holster their stamp tongs. In January, the Biden transition team revealed that a portion of Yellen’s heirloom draws from various U.S. commemorative issues — including one to promote the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, a celebration of Christopher Columbus’s inexpert celestial navigation four centuries on and a transparent exercise in national myth-making. This thin slice of Janet Yellen’s wealth would conservatively fetch thousands above the federal poverty benchmark if auctioned off tomorrow. But Yellen, who has apparently not added to the collection in decades, seems uninterested in curating it. A worthless fistful of movie monsters and lake fish would likely serve her just as well.

K.D.

The Healy-Raes’ campaign songs |

JINGLE

The Healy-Raes, a political family that control County Kerry in Southwestern Ireland, are primarily a national curiosity, although they occasionally make international news for things like trying to legalize drunk driving, being stepped on by cows, and suggesting that issues with a main road are due to fairy forts around the town of Curraglass. The patriarch, Jackie Healy-Rae, was unexpectedly elected to Irish parliament in 1997; his sons, Michael and Danny, followed him; and three more relatives won seats on the Kerry County Council in 2019. Opponents characterize them as “gombeen men” (scam artists, open to bribes) and they are, but in their campaign ads the family shines. The ads — which sometimes promote a single Healy-Rae, other times the Healy-Rae family at large — are composed primarily of PowerPoint slideshows, featuring Michael, Danny, or Danny’s son, Johnny, doing Irish stuff — posing in a bar, mucking a stall, shooting a rifle, standing next to a priest. The family is famous for showing up to constituents’ funerals, and it’s something of a miracle no one is pictured at a wake. Campaign songs are generally performed by one Kerry wedding band — composed of five white guys, three of whose surnames are O’Connor — that goes by the name “Truly Diverse.” To be fair, the songs are quite catchy.

R.M.

ThingsICantFindOtherwise |

YOUTUBE

Despite the breadth its name implies, this channel exists for the exclusive purpose of posting clips from The Simpsons. A real watch-through of the show may seem daunting –– it has, at this point, seemingly thousands of seasons, at least twelve of which are watchable. “ThingsICantFindOtherwise” offers a way out; from its selection of hundreds of twenty-second to four-minute long Simpsons clips, one can consume several seasons’ worth of jokes, slotted into the interstitial moments of daily life. What a coup! I shudder to think of the nights upon nights I might have wasted in obedience to antiquated, misguided ideas of linearity and plot, just to arrive at this amazing jokewhich I instead got to enjoy all on its own, midday, when I should have been answering emails.

C.B.

Fuck the System |

PAMPHLET

About two years before he became one of the Chicago Seven, and four years before he wrote the longer, more famous Steal this Book, Abbie Hoffman published this guide to getting anything and everything for free in New York. For a loanless university education: “Send away for the schedule of courses at the college of your choice. Pick your courses and walk into the designated classrooms.” For a complimentary bus ride: “Get on with a large denomination bill just as the bus is leaving.” Much of the information listed is outdated by now — you can no longer use German coinage to sneak onto the subway, and Con Edison’s number has changed — but Hoffman’s writing is still optimistic, vengeful, and hilarious. From draft-dodging to birth control to live buffalo, Hoffman can tell you where to go, whom to talk to, and how to charm or offend the involved personnel. The physical pamphlet is gorgeous — staple-bound, white gothic script, a full-bleed photo of an NYPD vehicle — but rare. These days, copies go for anywhere from $800-$2,000, though the work itself is in the public domain, and, as Hoffman writes, “If you paid money for this manual you got screwed. It’s absolutely free because it’s yours. Think about it.”

G.L.

Berlin Philharmonic Digital Concert Series |

LIVESTREAM

The Berlin Philharmonic’s deep archive of concert videos contains its fair share of marquee-name guest soloists — pianist Yuja Wang performs Prokofiev in a one-shoulder gown, experimental percussionist Martin Grubinger gambols and shrieks across the stage — but repeated viewings offer the surprising pleasure of familiarity with the unglamorous ensemble musicians. The camera’s roving close-ups invite observation of facial expressions, body language, whispered asides in between pieces. Over time, it’s hard not to develop strongly held but totally baseless opinions about their personalities. Favorite characters emerge: the incongruously brawny clarinetist or the violinist who always seems mad at her seatmates. The effect lands somewhere between world-class live performance and the world’s most understated reality TV. 

C.C.G.

The Casual Observer: An Armchair Guide to the Darkroom Log |

PERIODICAL

The contents of this short-lived magazine, published by the staff photographers at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, are almost aggressively quotidian. They come from a world in which interstellar observation is as much a part of daily life as lunch and sewage are. An unapologetically literal publication of the meticulously kept darkroom log — plus more typical magazine features, such as astronomically accurate horoscopes and “gAstronomical” restaurant reviews. It’s triple analog porn: a handmade magazine sourced from a handwritten journal kept about film photography. The nine issues were published from 1996-1997, an era during which the GO itself “barely had its own website.” It preserves in amber a society on the cusp of Web 2.0, capturing the random boring shit of daily life decades before social media would demand that humanity do so compulsively. In reading The Casual Observer, you might be surprised at how frequently the impulse to document the everyday is rewarded — here, mundane detail is not something to resent, but celebrate. “I am stunned by the beauty of the new plumbing fixtures in the darkroom,” a writer noted on August 13, 1996. “There is absolutely no leakage.”

G.L.

Exuma |

ALBUM

Known as “Macfarlane Gregory Anthony Mackey,” “Tony McKay,” or, as he called himself, “Exuma, the Obeah Man,” the artist has been described as a “Bahamian visionary, humanistic philosopher and people’s poet” — a musician whose eponymous LP came to him in a dream. The penultimate track warns the listener, “You Don’t Know What’s Going On,” but by the time you get there, you’re anything but confused. The album is a dense and fervent celebration of Bahamian folklore, a dirge-filled invocation of Junkanoo — the Boxing Day parade held across the post-colonial Caribbean to celebrate emancipation. Where else, right now, can you encounter cowbells, zombie breath, and Satan, coupled with McKay’s entreaties to “come go with me / come take my hand / I’m going home?” 

A.V.

Last Days of the Dog-Men |

BOOK

Many dogs die in this book (“dead dogs in the basement freezer, little shit dogs whole and bigger ones cut up into parts”), along with some cats, birds, rabbits, and bream. On the surface, Brad Watson’s first collection of short stories seems to traffic in the boozy, lowdown rusticities of your Kmart realists: hunting, fishing, cheating on your wife — atop a pole vault mattress, and in the presence of your soon-to-be euthanized greyhound, no less — yet the stories exhibit a maximalist  eclecticism. Watson, who died of a heart attack last July, is an unmistakably Southern stylist, his prose bawdy and wry. Most impressive, perhaps, is how he manages to kill off so many animals without reducing them to saccharine props. With a body count second only to Donald Barthelme’s “The School,” it’s a measure of Watson’s talent (and humor) that these stories elude the factory-farmed epiphanies of a certain strand of North American minimalism, in which the life expectancy of a Spitz (like the life expectancy of a marriage) is not long. 

R.M.C.

Greenland |

MOVIE

Director Ric Roman Waugh personally consulted NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory on how to exactly render a civilization-destroying comet impact — a preposterous goal, besides the fact that any concessions to hypothetical accuracy would have sucked all the fun from this pseudo-scientific thriller. Instead, the focus is on Gerard Butler as he shepherds his family to a bunker on the titular island, battling increasingly large comet fragments on the run from this “extinction level event.” The film, discarding a realism that wouldn’t feel real anyway, shows us people breaking down in ways that do. What’s left once you suspend disbelief is an enjoyable pastiche of the Cloverfield movies — perpetual flight, flimsy science, and novel human let-downs.

S.C.

Pull ‘n’ Peel Twizzlers |

MORSEL

Generally speaking, the more a product tries to do, the less it does well (see: two-in-one shampoo, “one size fits most” clothing, Jessica Simpson’s 2004 line of edible cosmetics). These treats are a rare exception. Launched in 1994, they consist of nine individual strands of licorice for you to tug apart and eat separately — a snack designed to entertain first and nourish second. Tie them in knots, twirl them around your finger. Much like string cheese, they’re about the game: if you chomp the whole thing, you’ve missed the point. “Kids love these!” one reviewer writes online. So will anyone emerging from late-stage quarantine with a sugar addiction and a short attention span. You may not be able to do more than one thing at once, but here’s a candy that can.

E.S.

ThisPersonDoesNotExist |

MILLINERY

This AI, created by engineer Stephen Wang to illustrate the deceptive powers of technology, uses an algorithm trained on pictures of faces to generate unique photo portraits of made-up people –– complete with wrinkles, pores, and adult acne scars. Some of the things the AI gets wrong (missing fingers, errant ears, tesselated backgrounds) can be forgiven; ThisPerson’s crimes against headgear cannot. In Wang’s alternate world, outlandish hats proliferate. They sit as tall as top hats or are strapped across foreheads like tiaras. They are lumo, shining, melting, dripping, and, sadly, not for sale. Perhaps the algorithm’s training images favored Lids fans and Panama collectors — or maybe Generative Adversarial Networks dream about gargantuan, melted chapeaus. 

S.H.

“Trust The Process” |

JARGON

When Sam Hinkie, then the Philadelphia 76ers’ general manager, coined the phrase in his inaugural 2013 press conference, it served as a kind of deflection. Hinkie’s “process” was gaming the system by failing: the more the team lost, the better its odds of securing a high draft pick in the NBA lottery. By now, the phrase’s meaning has warped such that it appears on lifestyle websites and in email subject lines regarding third-quarter earnings projections at least as often as on ESPN.com. It’s also the nickname for Sixers center Joel “The Process” Embiid as well as the title of multiple self-help books on subjects like creativity and religion. In 2017, then-White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci deployed the phrase on CNN to defend the U.S.  healthcare system: “Trust the process of the free market.” (He may have trusted too much; the Mooch lost his job just days later).

R.M.

Kurt Vonnegut’s seasons |

TIME

In Kurt Vonnegut’s 1978 commencement speech at Fredonia College, titled “How to Make Money and Find Love!”, he posited that the common notion of four seasons is not only wrong, but “may explain why we are so depressed so much of the time.” For Vonnegut, seasons ought to span just two months — spring is May and June, summer July and August, autumn just September and October. By Vonnegut’s calendar, November and December aren’t winter (that’s January and February), but “Locking,” when “nature shuts everything down.” Its inverse comes with the March and April thaw, “Unlocking.” What else, Vonnegut asks, “could April be?” There’s something liberating in this reimagination: granting those months of sudden chills and last-minute sweaters the specificity they’re due. But as climate change erodes any seasonal distinctions, Vonnegut’s salve for depression may prove short-lived.

B.L.T.

Ithaca Buffalo Ranch Hummus |

DIP

The Google reviews currently average 3.5 stars, presumably due to customer confusion: contrary to its name, this certified vegan product contains neither buffalo sauce nor ranch dressing. It is, in fact, just hummus with hot sauce and celery seeds. Yet the taste is more than the sum of its parts. Maybe it was the packaging’s photorealistic celery, dripping with white and orange sauces, but this jazzed-up tub of mashed chickpeas had me fooled. I guess society at large is only seventy percent ready for true transcendence.

T.P.

Another Round |

FILM

A group of four middle-aged Danish schoolteachers including Mads Mikkelsen (the titular bitch who better have Rihanna’s money) decide to test a Norwegian psychiatrist’s theory that the human body is born alcohol-deficient and thus always in need of a drink. When they start microdosing out of flasks during homeroom, their lives improve as if by magic — Mads’s marriage rebounds and he’s a star teacher again. The school’s Pee-Wee soccer coach suddenly pulls wins like a Manchester United manager. Their success can’t hold; they are soon passing out in the neighbor’s hedges, pissing the marital bed, and stumbling around the teachers’ lounge. But the message is not so neat. Their descent into excess brings serious consequences, but also unexpected benefits. The film’s closing musical number — the most joyous dance sequence in an Oscar contender since “Jai Ho!” — is a final refusal of an abiding American morality: that all aspects of life, even leisure, must be subordinate to work. The film only falters in having anglicized its perfect original title: Druk — literally, “Binge Drinking.”

J.R.

Mikey and Nicky (1976) |

FILM

Nicky (John Cassavetes), a man whose unpaid betting debts have him on the run from the mob, calls on his old friend Mikey (Peter Falk) to help hide him from his blundering assailant in this Elaine May flick that’s part gritty gangster movie, part dark comedy, and part drama about the trials of friendship. Nicky grows increasingly delusional throughout the night: he cackles at his own mother’s grave, accuses Mikey of attempted murder, and tries to swing with his goomar. (Everyone gets upset.) May’s film is a reminder that you can only be so much of a dick before your friends get over it and conspire with the mob to murder you.

G.P.

Museum of Lost Memories |

TIKTOK

Family memorabilia — photo albums, undeveloped film rolls, SD cards, VHS tapes, high school yearbooks — often ends up in thrift stores, cleaved from its original owners. This TikTok attempts to reunite such objects with the people whose lives they depict. Followers sift for clues: the handwriting on a mixtape or the name of a school embroidered on a weathered tank top. The  tank’s owner is found — now middle-aged, balding, and a father of two — in Bethesda, Maryland. When he replied, “That’s in Kenya — 1989 (I was 23),” reactions ranged from touching to deranged. “Idk why I cried when you said it was in 1989 and you were 23,” one user wrote, “I’m 24 now and it made me realise how fast life goes by.” Other memories remain lost. Newlyweds Joan and Adolfo or a young woman named Margie en route to Seville may never know that half a million people nursed a momentary interest in their past selves. 

S.P.

@ChefsandDogs |

INSTAGRAM

The parade of lamb hearts, pig penises, rabbit ears, and duck feet featured on this account, which evangelizes raw meat diets for pets, might be initially shocking, but that only enhances its moral righteousness. ChefsandDogs offers a pleasant balm for the nagging questions of animal agency and subjugation that come with pet ownership. By all means, cage, leash, overbreed, castrate, and euthanize your companions — just as long as you’re feeding them the way nature intended! Because what would dogs eat, if they had a choice? A bunch of animal organs artfully arranged to look like a Sweetgreen bowl, probably. 

E.P.

Survivor: Season 1 (2000) |

TV

Sixteen chiseled contestants, two deliriously appropriative team names, a $1 million grand prize. Who will win it all? Definitely not Ramona or Gervase, the only two people of color on the show, whose treatment by the cameraman leaves much to be desired, but “corporate trainer” Richard Hatch –– a guy who would later do 51 months in prison for failing to report the prize on his taxes. A triumphant pageant of fuchsia tankinis and oblong transition lenses, this early aughts iteration of the castaway favorite aged as well as a sliced avocado. 

A.P.

The Searcher |

NOVEL

Covering only three percent of the Earth’s surface, peatlands store up to twice as much carbon as all of the planet’s standing forests. The peat bogs of western Ireland are known for their “bog bodies,” corpses uncannily preserved by the ecosystem’s carbon content  — as well as the danger they pose to anyone unfamiliar with the territory. To not know one’s way around them is to risk getting lost, drowned, and pseudo-mummified. Set in a fictional town on Ireland’s west coast, Tana French’s detective story about a retired cop looking for a lost boy presents an alternative vision of accountability that stems from the landscape itself: here the dead rest with or without the “justice” served among the living.

V.P.

Nuggs Fake Chicken Nuggets |

BYPRODUCTS

How Instagram’s algorithm decides who sees ads for soy-based, chicken-like nuggets is knowledge possessed by only a select few. But by rearranging a few bytes, an unassuming user can find himself chased across his feed not only by Nuggs the food product, but by Nuggs the brand — Nuggs the lifestyle. The true test of the will arrives when that primary-colored, start-up imagery isn’t simply on a screen, but behind the frosty glass of a bodega freezer. Be wary, dear reader: advertising can work. You will find the nuggets themselves are just fine.

J.F.

“Deja Vu” |

SINGLE

“drivers license” harnessed the zeitgeist with its Bridgers-meets-Lorde brand of heart-on-sleeve pop, and the second single by 18-year old Disney star Olivia Rodrigo ramps up the ambition: rubbery synths, crunchy drum fills, and another totally earnest tale of teen jealousy. Some may find it facile. But it’s time to recognize that Rodrigo achieved what Maggie Rogers and folklore-era T-Swift could not: a merger of indie sensibilities with truly massive pop hooks and stark-naked emotion. She might save the Top 40 in the process.

T.P.

Spider-Man’s Manhattan |

SET DESIGN

The omission of the Chrysler Building from the second Spider-Man game makes for  a   fitting depiction of Manhattan. In 2019, two holding companies — one American, one Austrian — bought the midtown skyscraper and refused to grant the game developers a license to show the building. That’s Manhattan. Elsewhere in this simulacrum of New York, the High Line is never overcrowded, and rainbow crosswalks decorate the West Village, but there are no gay bars. Uptown, minor game characters are ostensibly fending off development, but Christopher Street is just coffee shops and boutiques, and Stonewall has been replaced by a cozy-looking bakery called Just Like Mama’s. Roosevelt Island, meanwhile, has been transformed into a maximum-security floating metal jail. An off-brand One World Trade Center glitters over FiDi, sans 9/11 memorial. It’s New York without history, a gentrifier’s dream — clean, homogenous, gleaming glass and steel without the eyesore of constant construction. On the upside, there’s even less reason to set foot in Times Square: all theaters have been scrapped.

R.M.

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