This week: Duncan, Richard and Amanda talk Nonsense with Jeff Stark!
What is Nonsense NYC?
Nonsense NYC is a discriminating resource for independent art, weird events, strange happenings, unique parties, and senseless culture in New York City.
What does that mean?
We send out an email every Friday about unique events occurring the following week.
What kind of stuff?
Street events, loft parties, puppet shows, bike rallys, costume balls, interactive art shows, movies in unusual places, parades, outlaw dancing, guerilla theater, burlesque and variety shows, loser open mikes, cirkuses, and absurdist pranks. Nonsense covers the stuff that has no name, or a name that you feel really awkward and self-conscious saying out loud, like “underground.”
Sounds great, how do I sign up?
Um, I’d rather not give you my email address. Can I just read it online?
No. The only place you can read Nonsense NYC is your inbox. We like the intimacy of email, thank you, and this Web stuff is too much work. We promise not to sell your email address or give it away. We’re not going to spam you with useless information either.
OK, I’ve signed up, and I want to know more about Nonsense. Will you print my event?
We’d love to hear about all of your events. The important thing to remember is that Nonsense NYC happens because of you. That means we rely on you to let us know what events you’re organizing and what events you’re attending. Please keep us up to date and don’t assume that we’ll find out about it from someone else. Our job is to gather, edit, organize, and filter; your job is to make interesting things happen and let us know about them. Remember to include all the important information, like the address and stuff, and a brief description. When you put it all together, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please send a text-only email; flash graphics, links to online fliers, and facebook announcements make our life more difficult. You can find a guide to better email communication here.
Also, Nonsense does not list events that cost more than $25 at the door, without door code, RSVPs, or special arrangement. We make some exceptions for obvious extra expenses, like boat rentals. To those of you promoting events: We’re sorry. We know it’s hard. We know it’s risky. We know it’s expensive. But nonsense has always skewed toward cheaper events; our readers expect it.
But one time I sent you something about my band/my movie/my party/my opening and you didn’t print it. What gives? How do you decide what events will be on Nonsense NYC?
To start with, almost all the stuff we list is independent. Also, we like rock bands and experimental musicians and arty films and galleries and museums and big street festivals, but we can find information about all of those things in other places. We generally will not list them.
We use something called the rule of three. That means that we will generally list your event if there are three different things going on: DJs, bands, dancers, costumes, fire performance, theater, film, art, projections, fashion, an unusual space, or several other intangibles. Your event doesn’t have to include all of these in order to be listed, and it certainly doesn’t need all this at once. If you’re in doubt, send it to us anyway — we’re decent editors.
The list is huge sometimes. Where do you find all this stuff? Do you write all of it yourself?
We don’t really write so much as edit announcements from other people. The bulk of each weekly list is culled from other lists and Web calendars. We monitor a couple dozen of them. You can find a partial listing on the Links page.
So, do you go to all of the events that you list on Nonsense?
Not even. We can’t afford it. We go out a couple of times a week, and we generally write a small editorial note if we have an opinion to share. You can find those comments in each post. They’re all marked like this: NOTE.
How can I tell the good events from the bad ones? Will I have fun at all the events?
No, you won’t always have fun. And please don’t assume that merely listing this stuff is some sort of implicit endorsement. A lot of these events are strictly amateur hour. We love amateur hour. But the problem with some amateurs is that they’re just amateurs. It’s hard to distinguish the good stuff from the bad. Some of it, no doubt, will make you wish you’d sat on the couch eating microwave nachos. If you want a safe bet, go to the movies.
That said, if you start going to a lot of the events listed here you’ll start to recognize some of the names of performers, promoters, venues, and so forth.
Let us know if you have a great time at an event. Hell, let us know if you feel like you got scammed out of $5. Send us a sentence or two about the events you’ve attended — especially if you went to something that is ongoing — and we’ll run them in the future. You don’t have to be a professional writer or do anything fancy. Just tell us what you would tell your friends over a late breakfast. Your fellow subscribers will appreciate it.
Why does the new Nonsense come out so late? Can’t you get it out earlier?
No, we can’t. It takes a long time to put this thing together. We have real jobs, and real lives. Both prohibit us from compiling the list earlier in the week. We try to run events for the following Thursday so you can have a heads up, but a lot of the people who do the kind of events that we list don’t always have their shit together.
We print stuff that’s happening on the day we post because sometime the show will happen a few more times throughout the weekend. Sometimes there will be a contact listed and you can use it to reach people and make sure that you don’t miss their events in the future. If you check your email before you go out you’ll still have time to make a snap decision.
What’s with the “we?”
We don’t know. We got used to writing like this several years ago and we kind of like it. It has a lot of antecedents, including the unsigned Talk of the Town section in the old New Yorker. We’d like to think that it alludes to that sort of liveliness and sparkling wit. You may disagree. We will cherish our delusions.
Conceptually, we thought that Nonsense NYC would be sort of a group effort, with its subscribers kicking down a lot of the weekly copy. It didn’t really turn out that way, but we still like to hold on to the thought that Nonsense is put together by its community. In a way, it is: It would be a mighty boring list if there were no events to compile, and the people who make these events happen are the kind of people who receive it.
So who exactly is “we,” and why are you doing this?
Nonsense NYC is compiled by Jeff Stark. Alita Edgar graciously puts together the Wishlist section. Jennifer Liepin edits the Help section. Juliana Driever is responsible for the Learning section. J. Sinopli is the person behind Spectre Priority. Neille Ilel did all the Web stuff.
Why are you doing this?
We believe that there is more to life in New York than getting drunk at slick new bars. We were frustrated when we moved here and couldn’t find a reliable source of alternatives, even though we knew that there were creative people making cool shit happen. Almost more annoying was the fact that certain groups we knew about weren’t always aware of one another.
Our solution was to start a weekly list. We did this in September 2000. Our goals are to help make New York a more interesting place to live, to encourage others to do the same, and to have more fun than just about anyone else. We’re particularly drawn to participatory culture, amateurism, and urban folk art. To us, that means that things are more rewarding when you invest yourself in them, and that you are responsible for entertaining yourself and your friends.
We admire the handmade, the recycled. And we’re generally suspicious of commercial entertainment. That doesn’t mean we reflexively hate television or going to the movies. It’s just that we genuinely believe that everyone has something to contribute, and that life is much richer when people stop treating each other like walking wallets.
Wow, this all sounds so lofty. Are these your ideas?
Not even. We’re stealing ideas from a half dozen places and using the bits that suit us. In particular, we are indebted to Fluxus games, the Cacophony Society, the Suicide Club, the Situationists, American punk rock in the 1980s, the Do-It-Yourself ethic of the early 1990s, the Madagascar Institute, Dark Passage, and the yearly Burning Man festival in Nevada.
We do think that we are witnessing a special synthesis of these ideas in New York right now — this very minute — and that in a few years we will recognize it as a golden age.
OK. So how do you make money off of this?
That’s not really the point. However Nonsense now accepts donations. The newsletter remains free, but there are real costs that we absorb in its creation. We would love for you to donate money to help offset webhosting, software, and computer expenses. The labor remains free.
We aren’t asking for much; a yearly subscription would be a tremendous help. Please consider $5 for the year if you use the list to figure out what to do on a Saturday night, or if you just like to keep track of what’s going on in New York.
Go ahead and donate $20 if you promote events that we list on Nonsense. You know it’s worth it. And we would be grateful for more money if you really like what we do.
To be clear, these are donations: You are not paying for a service, but rather confirming that what we do is valuable and agreeing that independent artists should support other independent artists. If you’ve ever paid for a ticket to see your friend’s band you know exactly what we mean.
But I want to complain about something. Who can I yell at?
You’re getting this ostensibly for free; you’re not allowed to complain. If you have to yell at someone, try a taxi driver: They’re used to it.
I’m not getting the list. What’s up?
We don’t know. First, you should check your spam folder. Several of the major email providers sometimes think Nonsense is spam; first Yahoo and Hotmail, and eventually AOL and even Gmail blocked some newsletters. We use Dada Mail and Tiger Tech and are always trying to fix this problem.
If you don’t find Nonsense in your spam folder there are a couple of things that you can do. You can approve messages from us or put us in your address book or on your whitelist. You can sign up with another email account. And if that doesn’t work you can use your password to access our archives online.
This should be pretty obvious, but please do not flag our messages as spam for any reason. If you want to unsubscribe, please take a minute and follow the link at the bottom of every list or send us an email. Finally, it helps our case if you send an email to your provider to complain that Nonsense is being marked as spam or held.
I forgot what I was going to say, but I’ll probably remember my question later.
email us anytime.