Et cetera 2012: Celebrating the eclectic and eccentric

Public Assembly collects quirk and miscellany from all over Brooklyn to mount the inaugural Et cetera festival.


“You hear all this stuff about Williamsburg being a hipster zone, but I’ve never subscribed to that,” says Ben Sisto, the venue director for Public Assembly (70 North 6th St at Wythe Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn; “So many smart, good people live around here, and I just want to book a venue that is reflective of the actual neighborhood I know.” He will get a chance to showcase his neighbors as organizer of the first Et cetera festival, opening Sunday 16 and running through September 22.

The eclectic bash started taking shape after Sisto locked in two unconventional but high-profile happenings five days apart: the Brooklyn Book Festival’s Bookends Opening Night Party (Mon 17 at 8pm; free) and the Emma Straub Hollywood Variety Hour (Sept 22 at 7pm; $26.95), featuring Magnetic Fields frontman Stephin Merritt and Brat Packer–cum-travel-writer Andrew McCarthy. Sisto contacted like-minded presenters he’d worked with before, such as cycling-oriented film festival Bike Shorts and beer-fueled lecture group Presentation Party Night, where he had given a talk on the origins of the 1998 Baha Men hit, “Who Let the Dogs Out?” The calendar quickly filled up with more than 25 readings, art exhibits and parties. “The whole Et cetera thing is a culmination of random acquaintances,” he says. “I’ve met a wider range of people than my job normally allows me to present and interact with, so it’s a week where I get to say, ‘There’s all this other stuff, too.’” As a primer, Sisto gave us the scoop on a few festival highlights.

The Greatest 3-Minute Book Stories Ever
Presented by: Volume 1 (
More than a dozen storytellers—including Six-Word Memoirs maven Rachel Fershleiser and Better Book Titles creator Dan Wilbur—will be called on “Price Is Right–style,” says Sisto, to tell a bibliocentric tale no longer than 180 seconds. Tue 18 at 7:30pm; free.

“So You Want to Do an Investigation?”
Presented by: Her Girl Friday (
This Brooklyn-based group of female journalists invites ProPublica senior reporter Dafna Linzer and MTV’s True Life producer Roopa Vasudevan, among others, to share details of their investigative projects. Public Assembly hosted their last event about pitching stories (called “Throw Like a Girl”) after Brooklyn Winery proved too small for their meetings. “They’re a hyper-intelligent group; we’re very excited to have them back,” says Sisto. A boozy mixer rounds out the evening. Wed 19 at 7pm; free.

“How Beer Changed Everything”
Presented by: Dogfish Head Craft Brewery (
Dogfish Head founder Sam Calagione and molecular archaeologist Patrick McGovern dive into the 10,000-year-old origins of beer. “It’s going to be both a history and gastronomy talk,” says Sisto. The real treat: Attendees get to taste an as-yet-unreleased brew based on an Etruscan recipe dating back to 800 B.C. Sept 20 at 7pm; free.

Presented by: Vice’s Motherboard (
The provocative magazine’s online video network promises a discussion between a robotocist, a drone ethicist and an urbanist. Topics include the future of robots and cyborg sex. “I’m told it will include flying devices,” teases Sisto. Topping it all off will be a drone musical performance. Sept 20 at 9pm; free.

The Bar Brawl
Presented by: 5 Borough Ladies Arm Wrestling (
The festival comes to an intense end as eight costumed competitors—bearing names such as Nancy Drew Blood and Tom Bruise—go hand-to-hand. Burlesque routines and dance-offs provide additional entertainment, and all proceeds go to the Rainbow Heights Club, an LGBT advocacy group. Sept 22 at 10pm; suggested donation $5.

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