HUMP DAY GRAB BAG: Alternative Alternatives

August 25, 2010

By Max

NOT TO BE A HUGE JERK, but there’s This Pop Singer Who Is Really Famous Right Now and kind of bumming me out. I don’t want to shit-talk cause it’s a total waste of time, but it’s gotten to the point in my life where when people mention how much they love this singer, I feel deep pangs of personal guilt, because it means that the person I’m talking to and I are fundamentally disagreeing on some things. It’s like how in the early 00s (‘member?) sometimes you’d be at a soccer game or the supermarket or a PTA meeting and someone would say nonchalantly that they had voted for Bush, and it would just send up a red flag? It feels like that.

The thing that bugs me about This Pop Singer Who Is Really Famous Right Now is that she purports to be something of a Performance Artist. Now, I’m not going to say that Pop Music and Performance Art are mutually exclusive, but I will say that the kind of Pop Music this singer is making is absolutely antithetical to the goals of performance art. According not only to my, but in fact anybody’s definition of performance art. Performance Art necessarily means something that is expressed / transmitted via (you guessed it!) PERFORMANCE. This Singer’s work is almost always mediated through studio magick, the radio, MTV, YouTube, Fashion Photography, Twitter, etc. It’s deliberately a kind of Art that doesn’t need to be performed live, since it’s readily accessible. Just saying. So when I am getting bugged out about this I figure I can either rage against the dying of the light (incorrect use whatever) or I can offer some alternative to This Pop Singer Who Is Really Famous Right Now. So let’s do that.

So, first: ROISIN MURPHY.

Maybe you already know about her. The thing with This Pop Singer Who Is Really Famous Right Now is that she often claims that the biggest misconception about her is that she’s fake, that she’s artificial, and she wants you to know that she is Always Glamorous, Always In Drag, and very Real. OK I’ll bite: BULLSHIT. This video for the title track from Murphy’s second solo album Overpowered plays with a similar idea, in a much more interesting way (I think). The premise of the video is that Murphy’s stage persona never comes off, that she wears her ultra-bizarre high fashion outfit (Courtesy of Gareth Pugh– Murphy was wearing Pugh long before Kylie, Rihanna, Beyoncé, and the Pop Singer In Question) in cafes, on the bus, etc. as a way of juxtaposing the artificial with the real. It makes an interesting comment on the nature of celebrity culture and beauty. Oh also, this came out in 2007.

KYLIE.

HAD TO GO THERE. The thing about Kylie Minogue is that she’s world-famous everywhere except for the USA. In most of Europe, she’s more famous than Madonna. Madonna has, for those Europhiles (and American Fags) who have been keeping track, been ripping off Kylie for decades. SO while This Pop Singer Nowadays rips off Madonna, she’s actually not even citing the Minogue sources. The almost-Goth, sort of vaguely “dark” aesthetic that This Pop Singer employs was much better used, again in 2007, by Kylie in the video for “2 Hearts”. Other than the fact that this song and video are excellent, the fact that the shiny skull is a reference to Alexander McQueen, the skull itself was actually a symbol of triumph. When this video came out, it was the lead single from Kylie’s “comeback” album X. Comeback, I mean, from breast cancer. Kylie has an authentic right to glamorize the macabre because unlike the Pop Singer Nowadays, who’s whole shtick is utterly devoid of anything involving “the real world” or “obscurity”, when Kylie released this video, singing into a skull microphone, she has just beaten Death. Top that.

GRACE JONES. In your FACE BONES.

It’s no secret that I love Grace Jones. I listen her every single day and she is a totally guiding force in my life. It is with no small amount of disappointment that I continually see This Pop Singer referencing her work. Grace Jones’ eccentricity is best exemplified by the video above (total. personal. anthem.) Unlike the current Pop Singer, who equates randomness and embellishment with intellectual weight, this video shows Grace in what appears to be her natural habitat, running from Keith Haring’s studio to the wardrobe closet to the chiropractor. The message here is that even with this totally unsustainable, unreal level of glamour, she is able to look directly to the camera and sing a love song. The layers of artifice serve to create a distance which the song’s message ostensibly crosses, rather than simply mask the singer’s face. Grace wants you to know that you and her are meant to be.

ROBYN.

Look, one of the things that I don’t understand about This Pop Singer, is how she simultaneously seems to be singing about her “feelings” while denying any trace of actual human emotion. She is bloodless. Does pop music have to be this way? Not if Robyn has anything to say about it. The marriage of a human heart and a dance beat may sound strange on paper, but with Robyn it makes perfect sense.

DIAMOND RINGS

Thought it’d be nice to have a non-girl, non-superstar in the mix. Toronto’s Diamond Rings proves that you can do really cool interesting pop music without a multimillion dollar budget. Look, even Kathleen Hanna is a fan. That ought to be enough. This video is really cool and proves that really, real people can and do succeed at aspiring to glamour and art. Who needs a custom haute couture outfit? Just put a sexy kid in a Karl Lagerfeld t-shirt. Signify, baby. This is what postmodernism ACTUALLY looks like.

So whatever. These are some things you can listen to and watch instead. Check them out.

Stay dry, America. Stay motherfucking dry.


How Are You Feeling Today?

August 23, 2010

by Tommy

Cos I’m feeling great. No seriously, and naturally. This past Saturday was the release party for birdsong #13 at Rose Live Music in Brooklyn.  We read some things, sold some zines, I got to reference that Roseanne/Ab Fab crossover, PAPS made everyone cry (god, “Sometimes” is like the best song in the Universe [it plays toward the end of the video]), Wilkes talked about w33d and a story where a sparrow named Jack is getting surgery to appear more human I mean– we have it going on. And now, starting the birdsong publication cycle over has made me realize there are some loose ends to tie up and new beginnings to mention.

BIRDSONG HAS A TUMBLR!–

Mainly I’ve been using it to visually catalogue where stickers of ours have popped up

and where our publications have made themselves available,

but I also have a different intention.  With birdsong #12, I made a bunch of postcards, addressed them to the Birdsong HQ, stuck each one with a stamparooni, and began leaving them around neighborhood cafes, inside books at The Strand, against bathroom windows, inside refrigerators.  I also had friends in Philly, San Francisco, LA, San Diego and Seattle leave them around for me.  The postcards simply say, “How Are You Feeling Today?” leaving the rest up to the discoverer.  I’m sure many got lost in the mail, thrown away, or still sit in the books, BUT.  A few made it back to me, and starting today I’m going to publish them on a regular M/W/F schedule on the tumblr until I run out of lovelies.  Here’s the front of them:

The first polaroid is of a brick wall that used to say “DO NOT FALL IN LOVE” but is now washed clean (and a pet grooming store!).  The second is a polaroid from 2007 when I lived with Isabelle and Sav, in a windowless room in an apartment Max lovingly named “Pussy Heaven.” The guy sitting is Jesse Benjamin (who created the buzzing animated series Nature Boy) and the hands belong to Jess Paps.  There is a painting of a pug, a picture of John Travolta from Saturday Night Fever, Mondonna in her “Italians Do It Better” t-shirt, and a poster of Janis Joplin (amongst other ephemera).  The back says, “birdsong year 2.”

SO follow us on tumblr and see results of all the casting.

PAUL D’GOSTINO + CENTOTTO

L Magazine contributing editor and birdsong contributor Paul D’Agostino also operates the Centotto gallery, which is now housing Citational Graphologies or A Show of Hands, and they are still open to submissions:

Select a quote, in any language and from any source — book or film, song or speech, periodical or website, or even something you’ve heard uttered by a stranger in passing — write it out BY HAND on any sort of piece of paper, scrap or not, noting the source and your name, and send it via post to Centotto or bring it to one of our events. Submissions from any and all will be welcome, and all will be exhibited.

You can see some of the entries they’ve already received here, and it’s a good addition to yr CV!

EVENTS THIS WEEK

Birdsong fave Erin Markey will be performing this coming Wednesday for Our Hit Parade at Joe’s Pub @ 9:30 pm (you can get tickets here).  This Thursday Max will read some poems for a night of contemporary poetry and music at A Gathering of Tribes, with other local literary luminaries like Chavisa Woods, Gian Maria Annovi, and Tiq Milan, with Maria Gran on sax– 6 pm.


THIS WEEK IN BIRDSONG: 7/12-7/18

July 12, 2010

compiled by Tommy

Monday July 12

Novelist Brando Skyhorse, whose The Madonnas of Echo Park came out last month from Simon & Schuster and getting a lot of good buzz, is reading at Half King in Chelsea tonight.  Despite the questionable imagery of Half King’s logo and namesake

Native Appropriations, anyone?

come keep me company and let’s maybe do the wave or start a chant or a slow clap.  Oh and just fyi, if all goes according to plan Mr. Skyhorse will be one of the birdsong #13 Five on It interviewees.

the Half King, 505 West 23rd St, NY NY, 7pm FREE

Tuesday July 13

If you’ve ever thought about starting a non-profit but were too intimidated by the process, Danny informed me that there’s a workshop tonight, “Nonprofit Incorporation and Tax Exempt Status Class, New York City” (I know, mysterious title right? What the hell is this class about?).  You can register through the website, http://www.vlany.org/calendar/july.php or via phone at 212.319.2787 x1  Here’s a lil description —

This three-hour introductory class introduces individuals, organizations and practicing attorneys to the basics of nonprofit incorporation and federal and state tax exemption. Class includes course e-book with this pertinent information, along with information on fiscal sponsorships programs as well as sample forms and documents.

This class provides individuals, organizations and practicing attorneys with valuable information about starting a nonprofit organization. State issues to be covered include articles of incorporation, bylaws, and the first organization meeting. Federal issues include the Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3) and corresponding regulations, application for employer identification number, IRS disclosure rules, unrelated business taxable income, charitable contributions, and restrictions on lobbying. VLA requires all applicants seeking Nonprofit Incorporation and Tax Exempt Status services through VLA to attend this class before a volunteer attorney can be assigned to them.

VLA, 1 East 53rd Street,  NY NY, 1-4pm

Wednesday July 14

it's the bomb

I’ll be reading some new work at some point on Wednesday night at the Bowery Poetry Club for Verbal Pyrotechnics— a young adult/teen journal started by my friend Elizabeth Dunn-Ruiz and a few others.  There is a $5 cover, but it gets you a raffle ticket for some prizes.  Plus you’ll get to hear some of the short shtuff I’ve been laboring at, recently.  It’s supposed to appeal to a teen audience IE I’m probably not going to read my poems about straight fuckin, so expect it’ll be tamer.

Bowery Poetry Club, 308 Bowery st. NY NY, 8-9:30pm $5

Thursday July 15

(NSFW!)

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Batter up…

January 25, 2010

SO there’s a couple happenings this week we at the Birdsong office think you should be aware of.

If he were a president he'd be Baberham Lincoln

Tomorrow(Tuesday January 26th)’s installment of the “QT (Queer Text)” reading series at Dixon Place will feature Birdsonger Mr. Max Steele (the minx pictured above) reading new and old material, alongside writer/performer Dan Fishback.  Showtime is 7:30, and tickets are available here. Go go go go go go its going to be fanta-stic.

Dixon Place
161 Chrystie Street
New York, NY 10002
bw Rivington and Delancey
F, V to 2nd Ave, JMZ to Bowery, B, D to Broadway/Lafayette, 6 to Bleecker

Is there any greater diagram than venn?

Also tomorrow night is the latest Nuclear Poetry fete, hosted by Aaron Wimmer and featuring (amongst many talented others) Birdsong wrangler, Tommy Pico.   Portions of the reading will be filmed for the group’s Youtube channel (great idea, no?) so you’ll also be able to check it out if you aren’t in town. ps there’s a two drink minimum but you won’t let that stop you, right?

Elmo (downstairs)
156 7th Ave
New York, NY 10011
btwn. 19th + 20th
1 to 18th  or F, V to 23rd