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Have You Seen This Braid?

September 16th, 2010 by D.Billy

I’ve said it before.
One of the best things about working at an art school is finding stuff like this on the bulletin boards:



Previously: Never Forget (the) Hand-Painted Eyeballs.

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Times Square to Art Square

July 30th, 2010 by D.Billy

Times Square. I started crafting my own adjective-laden metaphor for that nexus of sensory overload, but then I realized that it might work just as well to list a few results of a web search for the phrase “Times Square is like”. So…
“Times Square is like Las Vegas times 10!”
“Times Square is like Disneyland. Really!”
“Times Square is like some great cosmic porch light, and we’re all moths to the flame.”
“Times Square is like getting a root canal.”

And my favorite pair, which came up in direct succession:
“Times Square is like no other place in the world!”
followed immediately by:
“Times Square is like Piccadilly Circus in London.”
But I was surprised that it took until the fifth page of search results for someone to say something like “Times Square is like the holy grail of promotion”. ‘Cause hot damn is it ever true.


Photo from Stuck in Customs on Flickr

But a gentleman from The Netherlands by the name of Justus Bruns has decided to make it his mission to turn as many of the Times Square ad spaces as he can, for however long he can, into places to display art. He’s calling the project “Times Square to Art Square”, or TS2AS, and this is his pitch:

Times Square to Art Square Teaser from Times Square to Art Square on Vimeo.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Jen Lee Has “Good Intentions” at The Moth

July 16th, 2010 by Jeff Simmermon

Jen Lee is a friend of mine from The Moth, and I just love her stuff because she pours it out straight from the heart. She’s not trying to be liked, she’s just trying to be true to the story itself. She’ll talk about some difficult stuff, and the way she handles it is masterful. She’s not an emotional exhibitionist and she’s not trying to launch her comedy career by making light of dark stuff. She’s a writer who happens to publish with her mouth, and every time she tells a story it’s different and better than the last time.

This is a video of Jen Lee from a Moth slam a few months ago. The theme was “Good Intentions.” Jen grew up as a fundamentalist Christian, and here she explains the hilarious, embarrassing reality behind swallowing fundamentalist doctrine and saving it for marriage — and makes it sound like it’s not necessarily so bad. She’s so funny and awkward and sweet here, and I just had to give her a huge hug when she was done.

So whatever, I’m blowing this horn pretty hard.

Good Intentions Moth Story SLAM from Jen Lee on Vimeo.

Jen runs a blog and podcast for people doing creative work at jenlee.net. She also hosts Voice and Story Retreats, which she says are “one part storytelling and one part soulcare,” and she teaches at Squam Art Workshops. And you know you can’t do all this creative computing without being on Twittter, too — here she is.

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Low-Budget Glamour at Cherry Pop Burlesque

July 12th, 2010 by Jeff Simmermon

Brad and Cyndi run Hotsy Totsy Burlesque on the third Tuesday of every month at the Delancey, right there at the base of the Williamsburg Bridge in the Lower East Side. Cherry Pop Burlesque happens at the same place, the fourth Tuesday of every month, and I can’t recommend either show enough.

You can pay as much as you want in this city any night of the week for entertainment, but for eight bucks you can get right into something wild and weird that you won’t find anywhere else in the country for ten times as much cash.

The storytelling and burlesque scene have a fair bit of overlap in New York. Emotional nakedness and physical nudity are close relatives, and folks like Brad and Cyndi (our new bloggers) work hard at both. Ultimately, both communities are powered by passion and a love for the art form. Lord knows we’re not in it for the money.

That’s why I came to this town and it’s why I’ll either die here or leave a piece of my soul behind when I have to leave this magical, filthy island.

The ladies at Cherry Pop Burlesque were kind enough to let me photograph a show a few months back. What follows here is a loose collection of observations and photos from that night. You can see an expanded photo show here, too.

Seeing burlesque shows at the Delancey feels like something from the bad old days of New York that made me want to move here in the first place. It’s seedy enough to make any loving mother uncomfortable, but not so seedy that I wouldn’t take my girlfriend.

Even the sign for the basement gets me all excited. It’s at the end of a long, red hallway glowing like the understated gateway to hell. Or at least the world of sin that tent revival preachers used to warn against/advertise. This photo reminds me of the Pink Room with maybe a little less overt menace.

Downstairs Lounge

(Photos after the jump may not be safe for work, depending on where you are.)
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New Mules in the Old Stall: Brad Lawrence and Cyndi Freeman

July 4th, 2010 by Jeff Simmermon


Brad Lawrence and Cyndi Freeman (as Cherry Pitz)

Originally uploaded by chinese_fashion

We’ve got a couple more mules kicking in the stall here at the And I Am Not Lying stable.

It’s all well and good for me to log in at a whim (which is apparently every three weeks or so) and blog about my feelings and stuff, and for D.Billy to contribute his take on art and design, but we’ve been getting a little stale.

Not blogging is a lot like not working out: it’s pretty great until you look around and realize what happens when you haven’t been doing it for a long time. You’ve got all this free time, all this energy to do other stuff, and then you start feeling a little flabby and the next thing you know your traffic’s fallen off and you pants don’t fit and nobody is writing you little notes about how great you are.

Or what an asshole you are. There’s no middle ground online.

We’re experimenting with a few things here, and one of the biggest most exciting things is the addition of two new bloggers — Brad Lawrence and Cyndi Freeman. They’re both great friends of mine, and part of what makes New York’s underground performing scene weird, wild, but ultimately cozy and comforting.

Cyndi actually gave me my first shot as a storyteller at a tiny little bar out in Bay Ridge, a place so far out on the R train I thought I was going to have to have my passport stamped. It was at this weird little divey biker bar with a coffee shop and Internet cafe sort of tacked onto the side. You had to be careful when you went into the bar side to use the bathroom — the door opened up directly into the line of fire for the dart board, so it was entirely possible to walk in with a full bladder and end up with a pierced ear. Or eyelid.

She’s encouraging, loving and generous, with a bottomless patience for truly crazy people — she’s also a Moth Slam champion and fantastic storyteller herself. She helped me edit one of my Moth stories the night before I competed directly against her in a Moth Grand Slam. For Cyndi, it’s about helping people and building the community.

Cyndi’s also working on a one-woman show about the life and times of Wonder Woman, which she may actually perform in a Wonder Woman costume. She does gigs at sci-fi and comic conventions dressed up as Wonder Woman sometimes, so it’s not really a stretch.

Furthermore, Cyndi performs around town as the burlesque queen Cherry Pitz. She co-produces Hotsy Totsy Burlesqueand also co-produces a new storytelling show called The Standard Issues at Pacific Standard, at the corner of 4th Avenue and Saint Mark’s Place in Brooklyn.

Brad Lawrence and Cyndi Freeman are married, see – -and they co-produce Hotsy Totsy Burlesque and The Standard Issues together. I know — it’s adorable. And it’s some wild, weird, and fertile crossover territory, too.

Brad is a two-time Moth Grand Slam champion. He did it back-to-back, too, sort of a greatly scaled-down version of Ian MacKaye starting both Minor Threat AND Fugazi. Brad’s pretty much one of the most charming, laid-back dudes you could ever hope to meet. You can take the guy literally anywhere and he makes it all better, because he’s seen so much worse. He’s got his own blogging concern over at Billy Joe’s Boy, and book proposal in the works. He’s also a member of the BTK Band, New York’s only improv-comedy storytelling rock band, and one of the only bands that can guarantee every single audience member a hangover whether or not they even drink anything.

Here’s Brad, telling a story at Seth Lind’s “Told!”:

Brad and I have pretty much the perfect 21st-century dude-friendship — we’ve done home improvement projects together and drank whiskey and shouted together at burlesque shows, and he’s also helped me move. You cant’ ask for a better guy than that.

I’m really stoked to have these two join us. Not only do I love them as friends, I respect the holy hell out of them as artists and I love their weird eclectic tastes. I hope you guys do, too.

Archives Posts

King Kong Smash My Job

January 27th, 2010 by Jeff Simmermon

Do you ever make something and then just sit there looking at it because it thrills you so damn much? Maybe you can’t stop eating your own cooking — or listening to a riff you just recorded. It doesn’t have to merit a footnote in the history of all that has ever been created, but it tickles you in just such a way?

That’s how I feel about this photo of King King attacking my office, below. I’ve got a McFarlane King Kong toy on my desk, and I just snapped it against the view of the skyline from my office window. Ran it through a couple apps on the phone, then finished it off in Photoshop, and we now have a visual representation of my whole thing: monster movies, screaming giant gorillas, low-res output and a lot of love.

King Kong, Office View

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J Train is the Soul Train: Thirsty Man Sings “Winner”

January 20th, 2010 by Jeff Simmermon

Have you ever noticed how some people put a pair of headphones in, and it’s like it’s the performance version of Thor’s hammer? Like by putting those buds into their ears, they are suddenly blessed with an incredible singing voice, perfect pitch and total invisibility? Put on some sunglasses and an iPod and all of a sudden nobody is on the train except Simon Cowell and Dr. Dre, and both of them are hiring. It’s kind of like having a low-budget version of Rock Band that only plays R&B.

You never hear anyone singing Coldplay or Dave Matthews, is all I’m saying. I prefer it that way.

And don’t get me wrong here — sure, sometimes the phenomenon is a little annoying. But other times it is completely the most awesome thing that can happen to your whole week, a beautiful, off-kilter accident.

Like this guy that sat across from me on the J Train last weekend singing Chris Brown’s “Winner.” Check this thing out, it’s beautiful. I love how he doesn’t let his performance stop him from pouring himself a little sip of something from his thermos, then gets his soul stole by the music before the cup hits his lips … and caps it all off with a shameless crotch scratch. Also of note is how quickly the guy next to him stops giggling and starts ignoring the whole thing.

Don’t let me spoil it for you, though – check this out for yourself. It’s stuff like this that reminds me that the world is alive and beautiful and full of strange surprises …

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The King Is Here

December 7th, 2009 by Jeff Simmermon

We were getting off the C train when I heard it – tinny and distant, sure. But unmistakable, still: the theme to “Superman.”

It was coming from some guy’s cell phone. I couldn’t tell whose at first. Then I saw a short, rotund man shoving people and shouting “make way, make way! Here come the KING!”

As soon as he got off the train he spun towards the rest of us and held his hands up in a regal Superman pose, allowing the strains of Donner’s super-score to wash over him. And then he announced it real, real loud, in case any one didn’t catch it:

“I AM the KING, baby. The king is HERE!”

You’ve got to admire that kind of self-esteem…
The King is Here

Archives Posts

‘Roo Shooter at The Moth

November 13th, 2009 by Jeff Simmermon

Kangaroo, Ute, Moon

In early 2004 I was an assistant to a kangaroo shooter in the Australian Outback. Pretty much the only experience more bizarre and terrifying would be if I were to have worked with a kangaroo shooter at the National Zoo.

Before you go getting all fired up, remember that kangaroos are pests in Australia, and people eat their meat all the time. And meat does not just cheerfully lie itself down on the burger bun, either. Kangaroo meat is as free-range and organic as it gets, but you’ve still got to do a fair bit of old-fashioned killing to make it happen — and the process is disturbing, gory, and pretty hideous. Not unlike the rest of nature, the parts they don’t show you on the television programs.

But not a day goes by that I don’t think of that experience in some way or another. It taught me a lot. I learned to get tough, how to do some hard, hard work, and how to put aside all my pussified city liberal ideas and face the realities of the food chain.

I told this story at The Moth on October 22, 2009. I’d told it at the Moth last year, as well as at The Liar Show, Risk!, and Seth Lind’s Told. I’ve also told parts of this story to pretty much anyone that will sit still in my presence since early 2004. I think D.Billy, my co-blogger here, has seen me tell the thing each time, too.

I’ve pitched it to This American Life twice now, and had Ira Glass personally tell me to my face, that while he really likes the story as long as he is a broadcaster in the United States of America, it will not appear on his show. He was actually really nice about it – and he’s right. The story, in its original and best incarnation, has tons of appalling gore in it, the killing of defenseless baby kangaroos and uses the word “cunt” more times in ten minutes than most Americans have heard in their entire lives. And cutting that stuff out kinda neuters the whole enterprise.

If I’m this sick of telling this story, I can only imagine how tired my friends are of hearing it. And I’ve sure made a lot of hay off the experience on this blog.

Unless something tremendous happens, I feel like I can safely say that this story’s been done to death and put to bed here in New York City. It feels good to be all the way through this one and kinda wipe the slate clean for a batch of new stuff.

On the other hand, I’m about to go to Australia again for two weeks starting Saturday. And if I can claw my way in front of a microphone after a couple or six VBs, this thing might rise again. If any of you know of storytelling shows or reading series or something similar in Adelaide or Melbourne, please let me know. I’d love to try this or other stories in front of an Aussie audience.

Archives Posts

Untagged! (Nothing to See Here.)

September 29th, 2009 by D.Billy

I spotted this on my lunch break today:
Nothing to See Here
A contemporary, street-level sequel to Robert Rauschenberg’s “Erased De Kooning Drawing“… or is tape just that much cheaper than paint?
Either way, I love it.

(And yes, I have already submitted this to There, I Fixed It.)

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