Wholphin, the DVD magazine from the creators of literary journal McSweeney’s and quarterly culture magazine the Believer, serves to provide the viewer with sights they had no idea they needed to see.
A scene from "Walleyball," from the current Wholphin DVD
Issue three contains, amongst a variety of other things, what they purport to be “the first documented instance — IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD — where a human has successfully egged a shark.” While actual ovum-piscis contact is not shown, the oddly unmistakable sound of eggshell against scale is heard from off-screen.
Not everything on the disc is so absurd (the shark had it coming, actually, but I digress). One of the more provocative shorts concerns “Najmia, a thirteen year old girl, who flouts custom [in her home country of Yemen] by not wearing a veil, by playing in the streets with boys…and generally by doing whatever she likes.” We also see Dennis Hopper perform a technique known as the “Russian Suicide Chair;” the second in a series of comedic shorts directed by Bob Odenkirk; Election director Alexander Payne’s final student film; and a host of other shorts.
McSweeney’s plans on doing this four times a year.
A given viewer probably won’t enjoy everything (Najmia’s story drags a bit, the comedy in Payne’s film falls short), but any complaints tend to be drowned out by the enormous variety of material and the fact that Hopper’s dynamite-based performance art piece is one of the coolest things ever captured on film.
My favorite selection in the issue, though, has to be “Bobby Bird,” a series of animated vignettes in which a grizzled, aging rock musician ruefully explains each of his tattoos. (Easter Egg: there’s one tattoo of his that doesn’t have a story. Try to find it.) Carson Mell, who has since based an illustrated novel on the character of Bird, crafts each story with sentimental panache, with the end result being equal parts touching and hilarious.
As long as Wholphin exists, I can practically guarantee that they will continue to track down some of the most bizarre, sensational, obscure material possible. For a nominal fee, it’s like having a friend who constantly surfs YouTube and comes up with nothing but aces. I’ve now seen footage of trap jaw ants slowed down by a factor of almost five thousand. Nothing but good can come of this.