As an interviewee:
Netlabel Interview Project: Vulpiano Records (2/2017), Grandad Jumper: An Interview with Marilyn Roxie (3/2016), Aaron Tsuru’s Anecdotal Podcast (9/2015), The Buzz: Marilyn Roxie: Genderqueer Flag Designer / Founder of Vulpiano Records (2/2015), Fabulously Feminist: A Radical Bookstore in San Fran Fights Gentrification With Passion and Progressive Politics (12/2014), We Happy Trans: 7 Questions – Marilyn (7/2012), SleepWalKing Mag: Vulpiano Records (1/2010), Status Magazine: Issue #9 – Page 71 (10/2009), “Last.fm: A Site for Music Lovers Everywhere” (3/2009; originally appeared on SmashingPumpkins.com)
As an interviewer:
A personal association of games with photography and film has been with me since the gift of a Nintendo 64 as a child. Super Mario 64 was the first 3D game I had ever played, quite a jump from my previous experience with the Nintendo Entertainment System and Atari. Super Mario 64’s immersive landscape and tricky moments — such as those requiring wall jumps and other maneuvers to progress and avoid or defeat enemies — required manual use of the build-in camera controls. These controls were embodied in the Lakitu, the camera-man who follows Mario/the player, through the game. While Super Mario Bros. 3’s curtains and hanging landscape elements evoked a theater stage play, the crucial presence of Lakitu in Super Mario 64 seemed to transform the game into a movie.
Some of my most beloved Nintendo 64 games required extensive manual camera fiddling or waiting for the camera to sort itself out. Playing them again years later, I wonder how I ever got through these games without endless frustration. Donkey Kong 64 and Castlevania 64 have notoriously bad camera controls and break a sense of immersion in the world, while a game like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time has excellent handling, allowing easy maneuvers that encourage exploration.
Read more on Dennis Cooper’s blog
As an artist newly interested in the digital video format, I have been exploring the works of artists both in analog film and digital video to better understand possibilities within the medium. Video art is a kind of tiny nest egg within the broader category of experimental cinema, though it is video art and visual music that I am generally most interested in. Video art has great crossover with conceptual art and performance art, as well as features of pop art and abstract art, among others, though I won’t be focusing on video art in a broader sense here. Visual music films include visual representations to go along with music (like squares, squiggles, flashing colors), as well as silent films with visuals that follow musical patterns. Utilizing video synthesizers, VJ-ing techniques, and software like Max are a few ways to experiment with and produce works within the realm of visual music.Here I have selected ten of my favorite short film and video pieces. The structure of some visual music pieces is not dissimilar to how I arranged my own mental picture about music while it was playing when I was a kid. Not everything here falls into the visual music category, but they share strong shape and color elements.
Julia Serano’s Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive (2013) is an essential, timely book that I was incredibly excited to finally read just recently. Packed with personal essays and detailed analyses of the ways that LGBTQ movements can harmfully police one another – and the tools needed to change that – I would highly recommend Excluded to anyone who feels unaccepted in some queer spaces or wants to end the back-and-forth between marginalized groups in the queer world, without ignoring identity-specific specific concerns, that so often can be a distraction from our fight to define ourselves and gain basic respect and much-needed rights.
One idea that Serano puts forth throughout her book that I would like to focus on in particular, rather than doing a review of the book, is the concept of looking at genderholistically. I think recognition of gender holistically could be one of the most beneficial steps towards acceptance of diverse gender identities. I have bolded some of my favorite parts in the quotes below. Serano applies this holistic concept to feminism and, consequently, it is a useful lens for viewing gender which:
“…moves away from the trite and overly simplistic “nature-versus-nurture” debates about gender and sexuality, and instead recognizes that biology, culture, and environment all interact in an unfathomably complex manner in order to generate the human diversity that we see all around us.” (pg.6)
Serano differentiates “essentialist” thought from the sense of gender expression arising naturally in her chapter on femme identity and reclaiming femininity.
“I am not an essentialist…I do not believe that all women are the same; I believe that all women are different. I believe that women naturally fall over the map with regards to gender expression and sexual orientation. I believe that there are no wholly “artificial” genders or sexualities. I believe that many of us experience natural inclinations or predispositions toward certain gendered and sexual behaviors. But those inclinations do not exist in a vacuum—rather they arise in a culture where gender and sexuality are heavily policed, where they are defined according to heterosexist, cissexist, transphobic, and misogynistic assumptions, where they intersect with racism, classism, ableism, and other forms of oppression. I would argue that this view of gender and sexuality is not essentialist. It is holistic.” (pg. 65)
“Once we accept that on some level feminine expression is natural, that for some of us—whether female, male, both or neither—it resonates with us on a deep profound level … once we accept this, then we can tackle the real problem: the fact that femininity is seen as inferior to masculinity, both in straight settings and in queer and feminist circles.” (pg. 66)
I have received countless questions on this blog, and from others about my own gender expression, about whether it is okay to be non-binary and present femininely. Reading Serano’s account can be a powerful antidote for those who feel shame around wishing to present through the feminine modality; for feminine-presenting / id-ing non-binary folks, femme trans men, and trans women who are consistently marginalized.
Serano also takes to task those who may hand-wave away gender as “just” a performance or “just” a construct.
“Instead of saying that all gender is this or all gender is that, let’s recognize that the word gender has scores of meanings built into it. It’s an amalgamation of bodies, identities, and life experiences, of subconscious urges, sensations, and behaviors, some of which develop organically, and others which are shaped by language and culture…Instead of saying that all gender is performance, let’s admit that sometimes gender is an act, and other times it isn’t…Let’s stop claiming that certain genders and sexualities “reinforce the gender binary.” In the past, that tactic has been used to dismiss butches and femmes, bisexuals, trans folks and our partners, and feminine people of every persuasion…Instead of trying to fictionalize gender, let’s talk about all of the moments in life when gender feels all too real. Let’s stop trying to deconstruct gender into non-existence and instead start celebrating it as inexplicable, varied, profound, and intricate.” (pg. 107-108)
Finally, in Serano’s Homogenizing Versus Holistic Views of Gender and Sexuality chapter, she outlines three tenets of a holistic model:
1) “…while our shared biology and culture may create certain trends (e.g. a preponderance of typical genders and sexualities), we should also expect the variation in our biology and life experiences to help generate diversity in our genders and sexualities (just as there is a great deal of diversity in our bodies, personalities, interests, and abilities more generally).” (pg. 152)
2) “…all human behaviors, including those associated with sex, gender, and sexuality, are complex traits—that is, they arise through an intricate interplay of countless biological, social, and environmental factors. Because there are many different inputs that may influence our sexes, genders, and sexualities, there will always be a wide range of variation in potential outcomes, rather than one or a few discrete outcomes.” (pgs. 152-153)
3) “…one can never truly peel away the biological from the social or environmental…in other words, as a result of our unique environment, experiences, and biological variation, our brains become quite individualized to a certain degree. And it is through our individualized brains that we experience and respond to the world around us. So the notion that one can point to a specific behavior or preference (e.g., some aspect of gender or sexuality) and claim that it stems entirely from biology, or entirely from socialization, is flat our incorrect.” (pgs. 153-154)
The holistic gender framework is very similar to my own ideas I have had for years about gender being a web of social, biological, cultural, and individually determined elements, so I was very excited to see it as a recurring theme and explained so articulately. There is so much wonderful insight to be gained from reading Excluded. I seriously cannot recommend it enough.
It may or may not be hyperbole to say that after I heard those opening words to “Dead Radio”, the first song on Teenage Snuff Film, there was no going back: my life isn’t over yet, it could be too early to say. It was a powerful moment though: subtle drums; a mournful violin; subterranean bass and, of course, that unmistakable guitar sound. Like Ennio Morricone soundtracking a teen drama directed by David Lynch. Or some equally trite metaphor: there’s simply nothing like it, and it’s a good job there’s no shortage of words as I recklessly waste them trying to describe the impact it had on me. I played the opening track a few times, then on to track two: Breakdown (and then…)
|Photo by Andrew J. Cosgriff|
I’m sharper than God in light
I am dangerous, I cut like the sharpest knife
I’m going nova, I hope I can hold her in”
I hate Talk Talk. I love These New Puritans, who always get compared to them, and I get the feeling I should like them but something about them just makes me see red. Mark Hollis’ quavering voice just reminds me of the choreographed “emotiveness” of a lot of today’s stadium indie groups who coincidentally like to namedrop Talk Talk. It’s not his fault and I’m sure he wouldn’t like me either. However, as songwriters they’re clearly excellent and Rowland’s version of “Life’s What You Make It” illustrates that. I refused to believe it at first but sure enough that prowling, sleazy bassline is present in the original amid the rolled up jacket sleeves and gated reverb snares. However, Howard’s braying guitar asides and sepulchral vocal lifts it into a whole other realm. Like Johnny Cash’s covers of NIN’s “Hurt” or Bonnie Prince Billy’s “I See a Darkness”, this recording takes a song recorded by an artist in their youth and alters it. Here, the title repeated throughout is the bitter statement of a man languishing on a waiting list for treatment for grave health problems of his own making through years of destroying his body, regretful but still sneering at the idea of preaching to anyone about how they should be living their life.
The last word on the subject, for now, is this documentary by Ghost Pictures where various people who loved and/or worked with Rowland eulogise him. The subject matter is tragic enough but it’s really hammered home by the endless procession of icons (Henry Rollins, Lydia Lunch, Nick Cave, etc.) looking absolutely shattered, struggling for words to describe the man’s talents. This is no hagiography, though: it looks that way at first, but in the second half his addictions are examined unsparingly. A boy who was, effectively, Rowland’s adopted son speaks movingly of his relationship with him in the early years of his life. Footage of him in the hospital at the end of his life contrasts with him onstage in The Birthday Party: a reverse chronology from a sad, broken presence to the force of nature grappling for the spotlight with Nick Cave. However it’s not all that clear cut: even at the end of his life he was a force to be reckoned with and knew how to command a stage, and even as a healthier young man his fragility was apparent and unconcealed. Even at the end, he left us wanting more.
Rowland apparently wrote “Shivers”, a song that would later become his albatross, when he was sixteen (according to Nick Cave). He went on to write better songs, but only marginally. Irritating for him but fine when you consider what a great song that is and one you’d be happy to have written at any point in your life. Howard says it was a satire of over-dramatic love-songs, but it’s one that could only have been written by the tortured romantic he was (if the accounts of those who knew him and the documentary are anything to go by).
Prayers On Fire (1981) was despised by the band at first, who were worried they’d made a slick record. Time has proved them wrong, and while it’s undoubtedly less raw than their live sound it’s leaps and bounds from everything they’d done up to this point and definitely not over-polished (unlike, say, later Bad Seeds records The Lyre of Orpheus / Abattoir Blues or Nocturama). The band are, well, on fire: Cave’s unhinged rants set against Tracey Pew’s sleazy, speaker thumping bass; Phill Calvert’s frankly insane jazz-punk drumming; Mick Harvey’s all-around skill both on rhythm guitar and most of the keyboards on the album; and of course, Rowland (who also takes the mic on “Ho-Ho”). Henry Rollins said it best when he described it as being “surf guitar in hell” although there’s something free jazz-esque about his playing here too. It stumbles around, sounding as addled as the band (Mick Harvey aside) no doubt were, especially on “King Ink” when he plays the descending melody line post-chorus along with Cave’s vocals and Pew’s bass.
“Wildworld” is less sinister, more darkly romantic, Cave’s twin obsessions with the sacred and the profane popping up again with “our bodies melt together, we are one, post-crucifixion, baby.” This is a seam he’d continue mining up to the present day, still surprisingly successfully at times. The guitar moment of this song for me isn’t, surprisingly, the juddering Link Wray explosions in the chorus but the almost slinky down-strokes playing off Pew’s bass during Nick’s grunt solo at the end.
“Hyperspace” has a hypnotic riff, mood-swing drums and a fantastically snotty vocal performance that is in places double-tracked. The ominous piano line all but buried in the mix is a nice touch. Finally, “Crowned” is the highpoint of the record, with outbreaks of fuzz guitar tantrum married to splashy reverb piano and propulsive tribal drums. Not only is this song full of the kind of religious references that are a staple in the work of his former Birthday Party sparring partner, but “through the vaporous veil of my shotgun bride” seems to be a reference to his project with Lydia Lunch, Shotgun Wedding (1991).
Marilyn: Lydia Lunch has always scared me. A lot of my own baggage around gender had gotten in the way of me being able to appreciate strong women — personality, talents, the whole bit — until very recently. Lydia is the sort of artist I had run away from, mentally screaming, too sonically intimidated to get involved. I did go through a period a few years ago of replaying “Atomic Bongos” just because it is so damn catchy, but other than that, I was just brimming with a mixture of fright and confusion over why her bored murmur or scary caterwauling was considered artistically relevant. I stayed far away, I rolled my eyes and scrolled right past if one of her photos appeared wherever I was browsing around online.
Originally posted on the previous incarnation of Dennis Cooper’s Blog.
“Ball-jointed doll” is a descriptor that can be applied to any doll, past or present, made with balls inserted into the joint sockets for human-like movement. However, today the acronym BJD (sometimes ABJD) tends to refer to ball-jointed dolls produced in Asia, or those made in a similar style to such dolls. These dolls often function as heavily customizable art objects for rather than toys. BJDs come in a variety of styles – realistic, anime, anthropomorphic – and sizes, from a tiny 4 inches (12 cm) to 27.5 inches (70 cm) and up. Since they are handcrafted, BJDs can be expensive, ranging from $200 to $500 and more, even before including clothing, hair, and costs like custom face design (“face-ups”), which are occasionally available as add-ons from the company or can be purchased separately. Big-name BJD companies include Volks, SOOM, LUTS, DollZone, and Iple House.
My introduction to BJDs was through following a Tumblr user called puppet who has been sharing photos of a variety of dolls since 2008. Being a fan of the big-eyed Blythe is what originally had brought me to puppet’s site, but soon I was also intrigued by these other types of realistic-looking dolls that I had never seen anywhere before. It didn’t fully occur to me that there were male BJDs available as well as the female dolls I was used to seeing until browsing around last year and finding ~Deleted Dollshe*’s site, where the dolls look like male fashion models and are photographed well in very human poses and natural environments.
The idea of waify, ethereally pretty boy-dolls that I could customize to my liking really appealed to my own aesthetic viewpoint, the more that I thought about it. I thought back to how I had wished as a kid to have a guy doll that actually looked cute to me, that didn’t look like Barbie’s Ken. Before long, I was conducting research on the Den of Angels forums and saving up for a Dollshe BJD, making my purchase in June and, over the past few months, slowly assembling a wardrobe for “Raphael”, my Dollshe Hound. Now that I have my own, I appreciate ever-more the painstaking process that certain other BJD owners go through for their photo sessions and crafting just the doll they are seeking.
Here I have gathered 25 of my favorite male BJD pictures. There are some people, even within the hobby, that find certain dolls a little uncanny; I have chosen to deliberately emphasize this unsettling aspect with many of the photos I selected. There is quite a diverse range of looks for these dolls and a number of eerie looks and settings, along with the more conventionally attractive, represented. All photos are Creative Commons, linked and attributed to the source.
Originally posted on the previous incarnation of Dennis Cooper’s Blog.
You can view Musical References in Dennis Cooper’s Books over at Rate Your Music and listen to the corresponding Spotify playlist here. Following the text below I have also selected a few music-referencing passages from Cooper’s books and added music videos to supplement them. Horror Hospital Unplugged was particularly enjoyable to take a closer look at for this purpose, because there are many references tucked away that I missed on first, second, and even third passes through, from the integration of lyrics in the background of scenes, to the atmosphere of the record store and bedroom shelves packed with albums.
I am already an obsessive list-maker and, relatedly, a library tech — imagine my delight at finding the best-of lists tucked away at the back of Ugly Man! — so I desired to fill this perceived gap as soon as I found out that someone hadn’t done this already. But I also felt it important due to the reasons why his writing, as a whole, is important to me personally and how I came to read these books in the first place.
I found out about Dennis Cooper around 2009 through this list of Richey Edwards’ Favorite Books, where Frisk was listed. [Richey Edwards: a member of the Welsh rock band Manic Street Preachers whose history was posted about here at DC’s in 2012] I had never heard of Cooper or this book before, and became intrigued. Shortly thereafter I read Frisk as an eBook and Closer as a check-out from my college library, without reading any summary or review beforehand – no clue what to expect. Afterward, I didn’t know whether I was supposed to be haunted or enthralled. Not until much later did I decide that it was perfectly okay to hold both in my head at the same time.
It is significant that I began reading Dennis Cooper’s books around the same time I was finally coming to terms with my gender and sexual identity. In short, I don’t identify as a man or a woman, but I do strongly identify with gay male sexuality. It occurred to me that the subject matter of many of these books reminded me of the content (rather than the writing style I lacked and still lack: the immaculate, enviable crispness of words Cooper often uses to great effect) of my own bizarre scribblings in my teenage years. Reading an author like Dennis Cooper has somehow made me more comfortable with my identification and creative modes of expression than more positive bastions of “hope” or “transformation”. This is likely not despite but because of the preponderance of devastatingly pretty boys in ethically problematic situations. So much of what “squicks” some people out about his books are exactly what has drawn me in, because I am somehow reminded of what both mixed me up and interested me about sexuality in my past and something that is at times uncomfortable to recognize that is still inside of myself. This is probably the reason why it took me about two years from reading Closer and Frisk to make the decision to go on to read more.
And here we come to music. It has not been unusual for me to follow an interest in a particular artist to their own influences and interests. This not only helps me better understand and appreciate the interest that I started with, but expands my own tastes. In the case of the Manic Street Preachers, getting into them greatly expanded my literary reference pool. Through Cooper I have, perhaps inevitably, circled back around to music again through my tracking of these references. Music has been long established as a lens that I can better understand the world through, especially in the realm of making sense of emotions. Dennis Cooper, through his use of music, makes it clear that it is not just a plot prop: he loves music himself, and so it isn’t surprising that it often plays a significant role in the world/s of his characters, including at times characters with music taste dissimilar to his own.
When I read Dennis Cooper, it doesn’t resonate at all with some sense of self-hatred or whatever else people who think his writing is invariably about “shock value” feel is there. For me personally, reading Dennis Cooper’s books challenge me to interrogate the concepts of chaos, beauty, masculinity, and lust, and on a more intimate side, there is a connection with my own sphere of self-identity and attraction. That he does not hesitate to integrate his kickass music taste when it is fitting to do so makes the journey through this dark landscape that much sweeter.
Most Influential Moving Image Works (in no particular order)
Dennis Cooper and Zac Farley – Like Cattle Towards Glow
James Bidgood – Pink Narcissus
Chris Marker – La jetée
Franc Roddam – Quadrophenia
Ed Emshwiller – Sunstone
Ryan Trecartin – Valentine’s Day Girl
Toshio Matsumoto – Everything Visible is Empty
Kenneth Anger – Fireworks
Derek Jarman – The Angelic Conversation
Toyin Ibidapo – Wind in the Wires (Patrick Wolf)
Stan Brakhage – Mothlight
Shaye Saint’s John – Skin Tape
Paul Sharits – T,O,U,C,H,I,N,G
John Whitney – Matrix III
Most Influential Books (in no particular order)
1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die edited by Robert Dimery
Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
My Gender Workbook: How to Become a Real Man, a Real Woman, the Real You, or Something Else Entirely by Kate Bornstein
Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin A. Abbott
Confessions of a Mask by Yukio Mishima
Cult of Boys by Toyin Ibidapo
I Blame Jordan by Collier Schorr
PoMoSexuals: Challenging Assumptions About Gender and Sexuality edited by Carol Queen and Lawrence Schimel
Frisk by Dennis Cooper
Ambient Media: Japanese Atmospheres of Self by Paul Roquet
Disavowals: Or Cancelled Confessions by Claude Cahun
Derek Jarman Super 8 by James MacKay
Ghost Image by Hervé Guibert
Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century by Greil Marcus
Most Influential Albums (in no particular order)
Danielle Dax – Dark Adapted Eye
Television – Marquee Moon
Suicide – The Second Album
Siouxsie and the Banshees – A Kiss in the Dreamhouse
Pictureplane – Thee Physical
Natural Snow Buildings – Daughter of Darkness
The Fall – This Nation’s Saving Grace
Coil – Horse Rotorvator
Manic Street Preachers – Journal for Plague Lovers
Yello – Stella
The Libertines – Up the Bracket
Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures
The Doors – The Doors
Death From Above 1979 – You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine
Spacemen 3 – The Perfect Prescription
Twink Studies will be my first book and the first book ever to discuss twink identity and subculture in-depth. Few journals or mainstream publications have ever delved into twinkhood. Standing in a liminal place between masculinity and femininity and carrying a bit of baggage from each side, twinks are simultaneously described as “thin, smooth, and buff”, “slim or waiflike”, “effeminate”, and “presumably shallow and air-headed”. Anticipated release in fall 2018.
If you identify, or have been labeled by others, as a twink, or are otherwise connected (as a friend, in a relationship) to twink identity, I am currently seeking out interviewees. Fill out this survey form using the fields below and they will get back to you soon with follow-up questions. Thank you for your interest and participation.
I have written a series of guest posts for Dennis Cooper’s Blog from 2013-2016. Dennis is my favorite contemporary author and I have been incredibly honored to explore some of my personal endeavors — such as trekking through his body of literature for every musical reference in his books, or delving into the growing art form of video game photography — through sharing them with him and his impassioned audience. I also maintain a Twitter account that regularly quotes brief excerpts from his books at DennisCooperTXT.
You can play through the beta version of my interactive fiction Twine game HE here.