Mentions | Issue Twelve ​


El Conde |


After witnessing the execution of Marie Antoinette and taking her head as a keepsake, a former soldier of the French Royal Army dedicates his life to squashing revolutions. Being a vampire, his term of service is considerable. Our Dracula decorates himself in Haiti, Russia, and Algeria before succumbing to the infantryman’s ennui, staging a coup in Chile and appointing himself dictator. Thus begins the reign of “Claude Pinoche,” a pseudo-Augusto Pinochet, in Pablo Larraín’s latest. It’s a counterfactual comedy of horrors whose bored antihero lives up to his nickname (“The Count”), and a satire in which evil is as slippery as it is banal. Not for the faint of stomach — hearts are frozen, nutri-bulleted, and imbibed. Still, as our narrator tells us, “There’s nothing more gruesome than seeing a man fall in love.”


HP OfficeJet Pro 9015e All-in-One Printer |


Based on six rave Wirecutter reviews, I purchased the HP OfficeJet Pro 9015e in exchange for $250 plus shipping, extensive personal information, 53 minutes with technical support for set-up, and a contractually binding ink subscription. Several prominent journalists and at least one famous sci-fi author have slammed this notorious refill program as a “user-hostile” scheme. Firmware blocks third-party ink, remotely disables the device when payments are late, and deactivates full ink cartridges when users cancel their refill subscriptions. The scheme arises because the printer is sold below its cost of production. Manufacturers recoup the difference with the profit margins of ink (composition: up to 95 percent water), which they sell at astronomical markups, making it one of the most expensive liquid commodities in the world — after snake venom, Chanel No. 5, insulin, mercury, and human blood.


Here We Are |


This stage amalgam of two films by Spanish surrealist Luis Buñuel — The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) and The Exterminating Angel (1962) — seems at first blush like an arduous exercise, yoking together two stories of well-to-do coteries that respectively gather for a dinner that never comes and enter a drawing room from which they cannot leave. Stephen Sondheim’s final musical, posthumously staged at The Shed, refashions Buñuel’s metaphysical scenarios into two deft acts: one with sparse, modernist fixtures, cocaine abuse, and a sidesplitting suicide; the other with well-dressed neuroses, a dead piano, and resurrection. The result is surprisingly uncomplicated but enjoyably caustic, both an homage to avant-garde cinema and a grim view of those fortunate enough to misread everything in their favor. During the intermission, a viewer quipped, “one really shouldn’t try and make Buñuel philosophical.”


Squaring the Circle (The Story of Hipgnosis) |


Graphic design duo Hipgnosis’s first commission was from Pink Floyd, for the band’s 1968 album A Saucerful of Secrets. Twelve years later, the partners were photographing a frantic sheep on a custom-made therapist’s couch in the Hawaiian surf for the cover of 10cc’s Look Hear? In the intervening years, Hipgnosis created many of the most iconic album covers in music history. This documentary may be an exercise in boomer nostalgia, but it helps that many of its subjects do a healthy amount of eye-rolling at the pretensions of their younger selves. In the end, it’s Oasis’s Noel Gallagher — at 56, a generation removed from the Hipgnosis cohort — who’s most nostalgic, lamenting that album covers no longer occupy a vital place in the culture. Gallagher’s own output is an inadvertent attestation to the form’s degeneration; his worst cover is a glorified stock photo of the New York skyline titled Standing on the Shoulder of Giants.


Home Office Immigration Detention Centre, South Terminal, Gatwick Airport |


For fans of calling things “Kafkaesque,” adrenaline junkies who also really love to sit, and Eastern European passengers chosen by border police to experience the arbitrary malice of Brexit firsthand, this detention center offers a surprise seven-hour-plus immersive experience of grand English tradition from start (beige milk tea offered on arrival) to finish (no one holds the heavy metal door for you as you struggle to wheel your trolley through a narrow hallway). Relieved from the burden of constant connectivity by the confiscation of their phones, visitors relax in the windowless holding cell after being guided through an intake interview that dwells on the important questions: why are you here? What religion do you follow? Which of your loved ones would retrieve your body in the event of severe illness or death? Would you like regular or vegan chicken tikka masala for dinner? If you get peckish before then, don’t worry — unlike you, the snacks are free.


Nymphet Alumni |


This thrilling fashion podcast at the end of history captures the joyful free association available to anyone dressing in 2024. An episode on “Global South-core” spans the rapper MIA, Angelina Jolie, the World Cup, and South London; a theory of the “broquette” postulates that Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” marked the death of the frat bro; the origins of Tiki aesthetics are traced back to the Enlightenment. An important factor underlying such erudite speculation may be that podcasting is still hard to stuff with affiliate links, and that’s refreshing in an era when shopping content has displaced fashion journalism. Since subscribing, I’ve cut back on compulsively surfing e-tailers and started looking inward, in hopes of dislodging the references that lie dormant in my own interior landscape — terraformed, like those of the three cohosts, by the World Wide Web.


Aggro Dr1ft |


Harmony Korine’s psychotic dreamscape set in Miami’s underbelly has been called an “anti-movie.” But Aggro Dr1ft is not anti-sex — every other extra is a stripper, and the antagonist is a literal air-humping sex demon. The combination of infrared-only cinematography, hypnotic techno score, and generative A.I. animation approximates the feeling of playing a psychedelic video game. This is, per Korine, “what comes after movies”: the depthless ramblings of “the world’s greatest assassin,” Bo, who is trying to kill the aforementioned incubus. His motives are somewhat unclear, beyond the sense that the sex demon must die so Bo can live a more balanced life with his voiceless children and big-booty wife. The rhythm of Aggro Dr1ft is so engrossing that by the time Travis Scott shows up halfway through, you’ve already forgotten that there was ever a plot at all.


Project Runway S20 |


In this season, designers are asked to weave personal and political motifs into their garments. Prajjé sews a “43” onto the right flank of a jacket to commemorate the assassination of the 43rd president of his home country of Haiti; Bishme sews a “42” — the age his sister died — to the sleeve of a shoulder-baring bomber; Kara wins the couture undergarments challenge with a reference to the Tulsa Race Massacre, though how a sheer gown garnished with boa feathers relates to the brutal riots goes under-explained. Anna, a new mother, develops “a cute idea element” called “bleeding nipples” — long, twisted, sagging fabric on a bodice. Upon seeing the nips, mentor Christian Siriano insists they not be shown to the judges. If some identities deserve to be represented and celebrated, motherhood is not one of them.


Not So Deep as a Well |


On this 2014 collection, the Montreal musician Myriam Gendron adapts poetry by Dorothy Parker into songs as dry and sad as driftwood. It’s perhaps counterintuitive that one of our most powerful interpreters of quiet American folk music is a Quebecois woman who has opened for pummeling post-rock collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor. But life can surprise you: bluegrass icon Gillian Welch got her start playing bass in a goth band.


Lupin |


In season three of the French detective series, gentleman thief Assane Diop (Omar Sy) dons a number of stick-on beards, bad wigs, and imitation police uniforms made of visibly cheap polyester, each more absurd than the last, to pull off a series of heists increasingly hard to believe. What makes Lupin worth watching lies precisely in how incredible it is that a tall, dark-skinned black man might so easily convince anyone of his innocence. The show’s clumsy attempt at antiracism — in which blackness is somehow a protective factor for people committing crimes — results in an unlikely reversal of black masculine criminalization and hypervisibility that, ultimately, is nothing short of utopian. “There’s only one thing more invisible than a black man in his forties,” Diop quips in one episode — referring, bizarrely, to black women. This author can think of many people more invisible than middle-aged black men. For instance, everyone?


The Killer |


Here’s a well-paid white professional who owns property and maintains six different storage units. He practices yoga, doesn’t drink, attends to his diet, sleeps fitfully, and listens to music to improve his on-the-job performance. He reports to a lawyer whose clients are venture capitalists. In a cutthroat industry in which everyone’s trying to make a killing, an assassin’s work is instrumental but vulnerable: he’s only one mistake away from a very literal severance. David Fincher’s latest film is a sly tribute to professionalism in a world where competence is tantamount to murder. Like its protagonist’s midday meal, it’s an Egg McMuffin without the bun: no nonsense, all business, just protein and sugar and highly rendered fat. Michael Fassbender has never been foxier. His only flaw? He has a girlfriend.


trip9love…??? |


Essex-born left-field pop musician Tirzah’s surprise third album works with a limited sonic palette: detuned pianos, heavily distorted guitars, and a single drum-machine beat. If these off-kilter repetitions at times yield hypnotic results — as in highlight track “2 D I C U V” — they as often leave the listener asking: is this a well-crafted thematic meditation, or did I just listen to the same song on repeat for 33 minutes?


Diplomatic Culinary Partnership |


In consultation with the James Beard Foundation and the “Kitchen Cabinet” — a conservatively chosen gallery of culinary, philanthropic, and educational bigwigs — the State Department has selected 83 chefs to refine the lunch and dinner programs at State Department events (or, in the words of Secretary of State Antony Blinken, “promote American food abroad”). Many of the delegates do indeed influence domestic fine-dining culture, but few could argue that Top Chef-spawned restaurants define the way most in the U.S. actually eat. There’s been a lot of hand-wringing over what “New American” cuisine should be called, but conspicuously little awareness of how its canonization is used in service of soft power. At least this psy-op is open about its CIA ties. (In this case, it’s the Culinary Institute of America President Timothy Ryan.)


Eileen |


For Ottessa Moshfegh, writing is like shitting: “My new shit becomes the shit I eat. I learn by digesting my own delusions.” So it’s perhaps not a surprise that her titular protagonist’s obsession with using laxatives to unleash the mysterious turbulence inside of her is cut from William Oldroyd’s film adaptation, though its script was written by Moshfegh and her husband. Instead, the movie is a less interesting study of noirish light, Hitchcockian orchestral swells, the repressive damage inflicted on us by our parents, and whether the two leads (Thomasin McKenzie and Anne Hathaway) can sustain their mid-century accents (they can’t).


New York Society Library |


A patron of this 270-year-old bastion of literature, scholarship, and erudition nestled snugly on 79th and Madison, Elizabeth Hardwick once said, “Even though it charges a fee for membership privileges, it is not merely a ‘club’ but a democratic institution.” Today, the most compelling rebuttal to Hardwick’s assertion arises not from the historic site’s $270 annual membership dues, but from its draconian rules. Any writer who dares nibble a dry almond will incur the wrath of its stickler staff. As a white-haired art conservator recently confessed to me, “I eat my tomato sandwiches in the women’s bathroom on the second floor.”


The Melt Goes On Forever: The Art & Times of David Hammons |


The most notable absence in this 101-minute documentary is the artist himself. “If you’re quiet or don’t have anything to say,” he once explained, “they say it all for you.” Through archival footage and talking-head interviews with eminent art world figures, directors Judd Tully and Harold Crooks try to do just that. But despite their best attempts to capture the ever-slippery Hammons, they can’t quite pin him down. In the final interview, gallerist Sukanya Rajaratnam recalls Hammons’s reaction to a generous offer on a glass replica of the snowballs he peddled outside the Cooper Union in his 1983 performance Bliz-aard Ball Sale. After he insisted on meeting Rajaratnam on a Manhattan street corner, he presented her with a bowl of water and said, “Tell the client that the snowball has melted.”


The Commitments |


Those who aren’t willing to part with a minor fortune in Ticketmaster fees can get all the concert they need in this 165-page 1987 banger, the story of a bunch of Dublin lads who put together a soul band. Sound is Roddy Doyle’s subject here. There’s a horn player named Joey “The Lips” Fagan; everyone has a crush on a backup singer; the band may be in trouble by the end of the book, but we’ve gotten an entertaining if appropriately questionable taxonomy of soul, as interpreted by a bunch of appropriators: soul is sex, revolution, the politics of the people, parents (counterintuitively), the people’s music, dignity, and also, Guinness. Maybe that last one’s only true on the north side of Dublin.


“Now and Then” |


For today’s listeners, the event that crystallizes a contemporary idea of the Beatles isn’t their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, or even the release of Sgt. Pepper; it’s the death of John Lennon. Since December 8, 1980, every new Beatles product has capitalized on the symbolism of a reunion made all the more tantalizing because of its impossibility. Yet the ten short years he lived after the breakup of the pop group gave little indication that John had any serious interest in playing with the Beatles again. Listen as one of his last demos is raided for an act of drab musical necrophilia by Get Back director Peter Jackson’s neural net and Paul McCartney LLC, and you might understand why.


OneHallyu |


Founded in 2013, this forum soon became the English-language fandom space for all things Hallyu, the wave of Korean entertainment that rose to global popularity in the ’90s. Posts were filled with keyboard-spamming glee, now-defunct image links, unfettered tears, mistranslated gossip about your K-pop “bias” (or favorite idol), and polls about celebrity couples (e.g., “Do you think they had already made sex?”). When the site peaked in 2018 with over 50,000 members online at once, the servers repeatedly crashed, steering fans towards more secure, increasingly corporate pastures. The forum did migrate to a new server in 2019, but it was already too late. Numbers dwindled to a fraction of the site’s heyday; then, the site shut down at the end of last year. RIP to the best place for determining whether your bias had work done.


Don’t Tell Comedy |


A touring comedy club that’s hosted pop-up shows in a bike shop, a furniture store, and a parking lot, this video series showcases ten-minute sets from up-and-comers — they’re longer than the over-too-soon amuse-bouche of a tight five, but without the commitment of a half-hour special. Behind the Page Six-style thumbnails (“MY PASTOR IS IN JAIL”) grins an elder-millennial cast of post-pandemic jokers, at once mining Covid-era isolation and reveling in the chance to be in a bike shop with a non-virtual audience. “Over the last couple years,” says comic Raanan Hershberg in one clip, “I’ve been watching porn on my phone, using reading glasses.” 


Elsewhere |


Yan Ge’s protagonists, for all their cursory resemblance to Murakami’s solitary gray men, know how to eat. Stewed pig feet, sauteed livers, sweet chili fish, breast milk, funeral banquets, frozen pizza, a candy bar hidden behind a gas meter. Yan folds sentimentality, ritual, and banality into an offbeat chronicle of lonely people trying to sustain themselves in strange new roles and tongues, learning how to feed themselves through layers of dysfunction and dyspepsia. These private crises are so tightly wound and neurotic they resemble a sort of existential stress-eating. What would Murakami do, go for a run? No thanks.


The Ritz of the Bayou |


In 1985, the novelist Nancy Lemann left Manhattan for her hometown of New Orleans to cover the racketeering trial of Edwin Edwards, the Louisiana governor who later won an unprecedented fourth term after his acquittal. This atmospheric, fragmented, and admirably peculiar work, which had only one hard-cover printing and no paperback run, deftly captures New Orleans’s idiosyncratic “tropic zone,” where “a flawed thing may be more full of life than a perfect thing,” and any event possesses the capacity to become a spectacle. Focused on the chaos of Louisiana’s governance, with its yearning for charismatic kings over staid leaders, the book can be seen as a bellwether for contemporary politics. In one scene, Lemann recalls an “existentialist reporter” asking what the governor will do if he is convicted. Edwards responds, “I’ll become a newscaster.”


Theater Camp |


A send-up of a 2006 documentary about Stagedoor Manor, a musical theater sleepaway camp in upstate New York that has incubated the likes of Mandy Moore, Beanie Feldstein, and Lea Michele. Both the doc and the mockumentary brim with young talent; both are surprisingly funny and unsurprisingly gay. But neither compares to Camp, a 2003 feature that also parodies Stagedoor and, with a clumsier, more violent hand, better captures the high melodrama of pubescent theater. Parents wire their daughter’s jaw shut to ensure she stays skinny; a teenage, frizzy-haired Anna Kendrick poisons two different campers in a bid for stardom; somehow, Stephen Sondheim cameos.


Javelin |


In a release-day Tumblr post for this record, Sufjan Stevens exited the closet to belatedly announce his partner’s death four months prior. Few people have borne the brunt of our cultural fetish for suffering like Stevens, whose 2015 grief opus, Carrie & Lowell, was dedicated to the death of his mother. But Javelin exemplifies Sufjan’s consistent ability to balance heaviness with hope and humor. Gentle guitar plucks and some particularly worn-down vocals are liberally topped with a song-length Flannery O’Connor refrain, a chorus of recorders, and twinkling electronics ripped from a mid-aughts Christmas commercial. He’s forever the grief-stricken balladeer, but he’s also a goofy 48-year-old making beats on his farm.


“Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” |


Following in the footsteps of jam band grandads the Grateful Dead and Phish, Connecticut ensemble Goose draws out late-aughts indie rock into improvisations lasting upwards of thirty minutes. Like most jam bands, Goose has albums, but (mostly) eschews promoting them in favor of endless touring. (“Endless” is not an exaggeration. Dead & Co.’s drummer insisted that the legacy group’s “Final Tour” last summer was “not final anything.”) This Rupert Holmes cover, a regular set-list feature, doesn’t appear on any studio albums, but it encapsulates the band’s unaffected silliness: it’s the kind of group that plays the Newport Folk Festival and invites Animal from the Muppets onstage. 


Celsius |


The American beverage industry is in its ship of Theseus era, slowly reconstructing the outlawed Four Loko piecemeal. Dunkin’ Donuts released canned spiked iced coffee; Monster Energy came out with a non-caffeinated hard seltzer; Canadians, meanwhile, have access to extra-caffeinated “toasted vanilla” Diet Coke. The leader of the pack is Celsius, a so-far zero-proof energy drink that advertises fat-burning properties and nearly three times the boost of a Red Bull. (The best flavor is cucumber-lime; the worst is the mandarin-marshmallow “Fantasy Vibe,” which has notes of blood.) More than a century ago, the entity that would become the FDA prosecuted Coca-Cola in an attempt to remove its caffeine. Now, amid calls from the same agency to end the Adderall shortage, the government should perhaps be grateful to Celsius, its part-owner PepsiCo, and their military-grade distribution plan for making stimulants available 24/7.


The Terminal Bar |


The year that smog engulfed New York and Henry Kissinger finally died provided a perfect opportunity to revisit Larry Mitchell’s 1982 underground classic of gay literature, in which friends and lovers eke out a livable existence at the heart of empire and fantasize about kidnapping the former secretary of state. A gang of “queers dishing the end of the world,” the characters seek the pleasures of sex, humor, and solidarity amid toxic fumes, ascendant fascism, and the ravages of austerity. Upon learning the homeless shelter they attempt to save from closure is practically a death trap, one character quips: “No action is perfect.”


Psychics on The Real Housewives |


In the infamous Bravo franchise, which has always run on the existential anxieties of affluent women, the metaphysical is constantly at hand. Perhaps that’s why the Housewives frequently employ psychic mediums. Many episodes before Atlanta’s Kimberleigh Zolciak met her football player husband, conceived four children, and released a hit single, her spiritual guide Grandma Rose foretold change on the horizon — and correctly predicted two of the babies’ sexes on television. In New York season four, a Moroccan medium prophesied that Ramona Singer’s husband would cheat on her, which turned out to be the case a few seasons later, when Ramona was forced to confront her feelings on location in Turks and Caicos. Less than a season passed before she found herself across the coffee table from another psychic. She cocked her head and asked, “So am I getting married again, or not?”