Stopwatches called feelings

So thrilled to be in Erin Markey and Cole Escola's new show NIGHT MOTHER, which debuts tonight.

Photo by Amos Mac

And it's also playing next week. I may or may not have a tiny cameo. Some exciting things / thoughts.

There are so many ways to tell time. I should know. I didn’t learn how to tell time when everyone else learned. It became this deeply shameful thing for me, everyone else could read a clock, and I could not. (I’d like to think that this is because of my poor eyesight, which went undiagnosed until I was 22 and remains untreated.)

Although I eventually learned how to tell time, I can also tell you that there are other ways of measuring time, without a watch or a clock or a cell phone.. And I can also let you know that inside of our own bodies are thousands of these clocks, stopwatches, called feelings. One starts and then eventually it ends. Clicks on and then seconds/hours/days/months/years later, it clicks off. Done.

I feel like a clock turned on in December 2006 when I first heard Amy Winehouse sing, and then last Saturday morning it clicked off. And I wasn’t expecting it, but now I’m an adult (I guess). So probably another clock just started up. A new feeling? Trying not to see her death as the harbinger of the Apocalypse, but it’s pretty hard. I’m taking this entirely personally, and I think I’m absolutely right to do so.


And I'm A Tiny Penny Rolling Up The Walls Inside

One thing I keep seeing, is people admitting how surprised they are by their own reaction to Amy Winehouse's death. Me too. I don't know why, but I'm really sad about it.

When was the first time you heard Back to Black? I remember hearing Amy Winehouse in late 2006, because my friends Chantal and Tommy were listening to her now-iconic second album. I fell in love, we all did. My friends and I had just graduated from college and moved to NYC and were becoming adults. And something about Amy Winehouse's songs felt really personal.

Jordan, who runs the adorable site EXECUTIVE REALNESS, tweeted "It's strange to revisited an album that was such a large part of a certain time in your life because of a tragedy."
I don't know what tragedy he's referring to (his own life vs. the tragedy of Amy's passing). I think that, for a lot of people our age, Back to Black was really important. Probably younger kids, who heard the record in high school will not think so. For those of us in our early-20s, it felt really right-on. They were songs about how difficult it can be to realize the truth about love. All these lessons you learn in your early 20s, about how to have feelings and how to deal with them.

Amy Winehouse did not die from drugs or drinking, she died from a broken heart.

Of course, she was successful from the get-go. Her first album, Frank, is really weird and really great. Amy seemed like the kind of girl we could all become. Like, all it took is some really amazing luck and then you'd be a pop star. And then, being a pop-star, all it would take is a little bit of difficulty to ruin everything. Such a cruel joke that "Rehab" was her break-out hit. Of course, she should've gone the first time. But then if she had done that maybe none of us would ever have known her. How sad.

The "Rehab" girl was someone I could identify with. Amy's record was about someone having a really hard time. (This was before Tiny Furniture's Aura wanted you to know that she was having "a very, very hard time"-- what? graduating from college? Moving back to your parents' loft in TriBeCa? I'm sorry, I have nothing against Ms. Dunham, I'm just grief-stricken). Amy's record was about real problems, though. But having this weird indomitable spirit about it. Like, "I know I am a mess. I know I am out of control. I can't help it." This is crazy that we got to hear this. In retrospect it's a gloomy foreshadowing of her death, but when I was 22 it really spoke to me. "Rehab" was about fucking up, and realizing it. What 22 year-old hasn't had a bad hangover?

Later, I identified with Amy Winehouse because she has a dental implant, like me.

I think it's really sad that she's gone. I loved her music, fiercely. Though I am pretty certain that even if we had known each other we would never have been friends.

I think the discussion around her death is awful. If she were not a woman, it would be totally different. If Amy Winehouse were a man, she might look a lot like this:

And she was totally iconic, though. Her retro thing is super problematic. Her style launched a kind of movement. British blue-eyed soul revival. This is, ultimately, a Colonialist aesthetic. The "Soul"/"Jazz"/"Blues" thing is a marketing gimmick. How different would Amy's landmark second album have sounded if Mark Ronson hadn't put her in the service of his fleeting Phil Spector Oedipal fantasies? I would hazard to say that the reason she was so popular, so engaging, so immediately iconic, was because of the contrast between her personality and her drag. Like, here is a pop star all tarted up in 60s kitten kitsch rockabilly glamour, how cute. But then she opens her mouth and she's a junky English Jewess, prefiguring her death, basically admitting to the fact that she is not interested in participating in the world. What the world saw in Amy Winehouse's sad-girl-in-a-party-dress beginnings was of course her demise. We all saw her driving off a cliff.

I've been thinking a lot lately about my friend Chuck, who died very suddenly in September 2005. He had had a really rough adolescence, and came quite close to dying for a number of other reasons. But then he got his act together. And then he got meningitis and died, like really quickly, over the course of a day. He would've thought Amy Winehouse was really lame. And he would've thought I am really pathetic for getting so sad about her death. Chuck would have likely called me a pussy. But you know what? He was obsessed with Morrissey (speaking of pussy) and he never even got to hear Amy's records. And anyway he's dead now so his opinion doesn't matter, I guess.

It's so easy to speak for the dead. Once they're gone you can make them mean just about anything.

There's a neat article on Fashionista about Amy Winehouse's influence on fashion. They leave out a biggie, though, Comme des Garçon's Fall/Winter 2008 collection. Apparently, Amy was the inspiration for this collection, and Rei Kawakubo played "Back to Black" during the runway show. Kawakubo's typically pithy description of the collection's theme was: "There's value in bad taste, too. This is Comme des Garçons bad taste."

Which is true of Amy Winehouse and her legacy, I guess. There's value in bad taste. In badness. In fucking up.

I tend to think that "Back to Black" also appealed to Kawakubo in more literal terms. The next year she opened BLACK Comme des Garçons, reinventing classic CdG pieces in Black at a (nominal) discount.

I guess what I am trying to say is that even though everybody knew she was a junky and everyone liked to make fun of her (because she was a woman?) Amy Winehouse managed to influence popular culture in a significant way.

Adolescence is really hard. I think a lot of us know people who never made it out of their teenage years. Even if they physically survived, they did so by deciding to forestall adulthood. We all know people who've chosen alternatives to being an adult in society, and sometimes those choices include death.

Lady G**a has often said that she began bleaching her hair because she wanted to avoid being confused with Amy. As if! Anyway, she can stop bleaching her hair now.

I'm pretty sad about Winehouse dying. I've been listening to her records over and over again since Saturday morning, trying to learn something new from them. We'll see.




What is it?


I don't know.


What do you mean?


But what if the parts I like are the parts someone else doesn't like?


What if I want to?



I've been obsessed with this song and never knew it's name until Ptrck pointed it out at a party. And like everyone already knew it. Hello, World.

Early Birthday Present To Myself

Or, These Amazing Pants I Bought.

I don't know when I started to care about having nice (fancy, expensive) clothes. I know that when I was 13, I wore only black. Black Lee relaxed fit jeans (size 36) and a variety of black Hanes T-shirts, size XL. This is when I was in middle school and had a mound of frizzy curly hair, dyed turquoise, parted in the middle in a vaguely Edwardian effect. I'm just giving some context. But I remember seeing a pair of black vinyl pants in a store on Telegraph Avenue, and wanting them so fucking badly. They were $60 and my parents wouldn't buy them for me. I remember thinking that if I was wearing those pants, it's not as if my life would change, but that it would be some kind of expression of something already in me. I knew that on some level I belonged in those vinyl bondage pants. That is the first time I remember really lusting after an article of clothing.

For a long time I didn't care at all about clothes or fashion. I thought it was really consumerist and evil. And it is, I guess. But about three years ago I became totally obsessed with Comme des Garçons. It seemed to (and still does) touch on the same nerve of a 13 year-old aching for a pair of black vinyl bondage pants. I don't know, I think of it as a form of self-expression.

The genuinely fuckable and formidably genius La JohnJoseph wrote a really great post about the difference between fashion and clothes, to wit:
[Fashion] is a dehumanizing merry-go-round, populated by exhausted whores, neurotics, terrified and ravaged seventeen-year olds, the desperate and deluded of the demi-monde... Clothes of course are different things. When divorced from, ignored by or outside of fashion they are potential, identity, possibility, expression, bliss.
You can check out the post here. I think this is a good way of putting it. I identify with this parsing of fashion, as an industry/culture on a mass consumerist level, and clothes (getting dressed) as a personal and social art practice. I see dressing in fancy designer clothes (to the extent that I do, which is not very much at all) as a form of self-expression, rather than participation in a group. Comme des Garçons is arguably the most avant-garde major fashion label, but Rei Kawakubo's designs are often too prescient to make sense. I feel like it's not even cool, in a way. It's too forward-thinking. This is partly me defending my obsession with CdG by making this distinction between it and Fashion as such. But I think it's also widely true. In an interview with Vogue Italia's Franca Sozzani, she said of Rei Kawakubo:
"She’s even too far ahead in design because, sometimes even I say that, I would never wear certain things she does. I buy them because I believe in her, and then a few years later I will find myself wearing it!"
I'm not the type to buy something (especially something really expensive) without the intention to wear it to shreds, but I agree with the sentiment. But at the same time obviously the clothes are really expensive. And to a degree don't jive with my so-called punk values. Most of the clothes I tend to wear every day are from thrift stores and were purchased a long time ago, carefully collected and preserved from second-hand stores throughout my life. One of my Favorite Artists In The World Whose Work Changed My Life, Kathleen Hanna, said in a recent interview:
"It's like you go a thrift store and you find that weird one of-a-kind thing, and it means more than going to Marc Jacobs and buying this $500 dress that anybody who has a lot of money could get."
But this is also, I think, maybe, about her feelings about Marc Jacobs. Don't go there! But seriously, she raises a good point, about accessibility and about choosing how you look. Like, do you leave it up to the designer / store / magazine / something else to tell you what to wear? And how to wear it?

Another Luminary who I admire very much and whose opinion I listen to because I think we share some similar values, Mx. Saint Justin Vivian Bond wrote on vs blog recently about performing at Alber Elbaz' birthday party:
"I don’t know Alber personally but I’m a huge fan of his elegant clothes. As someone who is philosophically anti-consumerist I am always conflicted when it comes to fashion because I love the talent and creativity that goes into making beautiful clothes. I sort of think of top fashion designers like veal trapped in a gilded cages and force-fed riches and gluttony so that they will produce tenderly exquisite objets which feed and enrich a villainous multi-national corporate paradigm while simultaneously stimulating peoples dreams and desires until they are ultimately fed to a devouring public and sometimes destroyed in the process (phew, long sentence!). Mainly I think of them as artists and Alber is one of my favorites."
Right? I mean, Kawakubo has said, numerous times that she doesn't consider herself an artist, so much as a businesswoman, or journalist, etc. I think this is sort of her pulling a stunt, to an extent. Sometimes the painter is not the person to ask about the painting, too. I am also inclined to agree with Kathy Acker, who viewed designer clothing (she was a Comme fan) as "art for the poor people". Though obviously I am much, much poorer than Kathy was. So this is all to say I have a conflicted and complex series of feelings about my lust for expensive Japanese designer clothing. I'm thinking about it.

And anyway the point is that I bought these really beautiful Comme des Garçons Homme Plus denim pants last week, as an early birthday present to myself.

They were really expensive. I generally buy something designer or nice when it's on sale. Or second hand, or something. The Comme des Garçons MARKET MARKET last spring sort of freed me of my localized CdG obsession. Something about seeing all those amazing clothes being thrown around, people changing in front of each other, clothes getting ripped, somehow devalued them for me, and made CdG seem a little less precious, maybe. Sort of demystified? It was amazing. I saw Debbie Harry there, on the last day, with a dozen dresses under her arm. She likes a sale, I like that. And anyway the big sale also made me think that, you know, not everything makes it to the remainders bin. A lot of stuff sells out. That's the thing about CdG: it's there and also not there. There will be certain pieces (usually a blazer) from any collection that just go, the first day. And only those in the know will know about. It's weird.

Anyway last January we all saw the Mens fall collection, titled "Decadence". A cute idea, and some interesting clothes. For me, however, it began and ended with the pants. The sort of balloon-y things.

In her review, the pithy and punchy Cathy Horyn zeroes in on the pants, saying:
"The collection was engaging, mainly for the strange pinched proportions of jackets and some fabulous wide-leg denim trousers, including one ballooning style pegged at the ankles."
And she's right, as usual. I was totally obsessed with the pants as soon as I saw them. The theme of the collection was "Decadence" which I think was articulated in a couple different ways. The brocade coats and pants, for sure. The layering of T-shirts over each other, under these bathrobe-like coats, I think, create a sort of claustrophobic decadence. And these pants feel decadent too, in their volume. The pants feel pretty emblematic of the theme, and the collection. There're always a couple pieces in any collection that become the hot ticket item, the thing that sums it up, and I think the balloon pants are like this. I'm thinking of the shoulder holster's from Spring 2010's "Adult Delinquent" collection. Although there will be themes or slogans for any given collection, Kawakubo's main aim is always to create something new. A new silhouette, a new texture, a new effect, a new feeling. And these pants are new. I am obsessed with the drop-crotch pants that CdG makes, I bought a pair at the BLACK store last fall. I like how the drop-crotch pants elongate and alter the height and silhouette of the wearer, I think they are also sort of proto-hip-hip in a way. Anyway, these denim pants I bought are like the polar opposite of the drop-crotch pants. These have a fairly straight inseam, they just flare outwards and are buttoned tighter just above the ankle They're not exactly jodphurs, which are wide at the hip and taper downwards, since these are circular-- they don't accentuate the hips or butt, they don't accentuate any boy part, it's an imaginary body part. They're not exactly harem pants, which are loose all around and then tight at the ankle, these aren't flowy, they're structured. They're not like wrap pants or something. They're new. I adore them. When I saw the fashion show, I decided to save up to buy them. And that is what I did.

In the last few weeks, as CdG had it's spring/summer sale, I knew the new collection would be arriving soon, but I could not get anyone to tell me when. I called the store and asked, and was told that there wasn't an exact date. I asked an employee in person, and was told "Sometime around the middle of July, but I'm not sure..." Which is frustrating. It's needlessly evasive, because of course they all knew that the new collection was to debut on 7/15. And furthermore, they had already sent out notices to a wide pool of "valued customers" in NYC to announce this. Why not tell me, y'know? Probably because I never buy anything, at least not at full price, at the store. Anyway what happened eventually was that I went to the BLACK store to see if they had at drop-crotch denim from last summer. I like the idea of CdG denim, because it will like last forever, right? I'll pass it down to my grand children, yeah? I was informed, anyway, that they did not. I asked the girl on duty when the Homme Plus line would come in at the main store, since (I said) I think they might be doing denim pants this season. The girl at the counter let it slip that the new collection would be available on 7/15, but looked immediately guilty, like I wasn't supposed to know. She assured me that in fact, despite what we saw in the Paris show, there would not be any denim in the new fall collection. So, okay.

I went back on 7/15 after work, and it was kind of a zoo. Of course, the country's number one Comme des Garçons collector, Suzanne Golden was there, making her first-round picks. The store was all new and full of people who knew pretty much exactly what they wanted. These are the people who show up on the first day. These are the VIP customers who phone in their orders months in advance. People were talking about which items were already sold out, after being there for six hours. Some other pieces would never sell, not at all. It is very strange. Anyway, I got my pants. I fell in love with them and I got them and I am very happy. They had the same silhouette in washed black polyester, which were inexplicable twice as expensive. But whatever. I wanted the indigo denim. They're really soft.

It's a new shape to wear and be, which is exactly what I want. I want to make new shapes.
It is, though, a tiny bit too warm to wear them, just yet.
(But soon).


The World is Full of Toxic Insulation

Right, so. In between complaining to anyone who will listen, and wasting time formulating my next complaint, and playing it over and over in my head (to see how I would like to make it sound), I actually do stuff. Art stuff, I mean.

First, just as a reminder, I put out the new issue of my psychedelic porno poetry zine Scorcher last month, and you can buy a copy from Birdsong Micropress HERE.

But speaking of Art Stuff, I am doing two pretty different but equally exciting shows in NYC in the next week, and I really want you to come!

First is this Saturday!

Saturday, July 16th 7-9pm
De Castellane Gallery
539 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn


In collaboration with Johnny Sagan of Snowy Wilderness, Colin Self is curating a performance series at De Castellane Gallery. This event, FLASH OF THE SPIRIT, featured performance by Colin Self, Max Steele and Susan Ploetz. You may know Susan as the genius behind the performance project PASH(ly), or as the lead singer of PDX’ hottest new band Finesse. She initially put me in touch with Colin many years ago, and is making a rare NYC performance on her way to her European tour. Both Colin and I are huge fans of hers, and have been deeply influenced by her work. (Check out the interview I did with Susan).

I am so excited to be singing some of my songs with these kids. I haven't been doing a ton of Max Steele performances where I do the music I made by myself. I did some shows in Germany and was revitalized! I will be doing some songs on Saturday, by myself. Maybe a little tlaking and dancing around. And this event is EARLY and FREE so I hope you can all come!

Facebook Info HERE

Okay, and then NEXT WEDNESDAY:

Wednesday, July 20th 8-10pm
Participant Inc.
253 East Houston Street NYC

An evening of performance to benefit The Total Styrene Experience — a performance and recycling laboratory.Featuring performances by: STYRENE FANTASTIC (Lizzie Scott in collaboration with Kyli Kleven and Georgia X. Lifsher), KENNIS HAWKINS, MICHAEL MAHALCHICK, RASHAUN MITCHELL and MAX STEELE. Curated by Patricia Milder. Tickets $15 or $10 with donation of Styrofoam.

Facebook Info HERE.
More info about the project THE STYRENE FANTASTIC.

Here's a description from Lizzie: “At the benefit we will sell refreshments, give away art, sell Total Styrene merchandise, and celebrate the alchemy of turning the glut of Styrofoam trash into a source of artistic abundance. This project aims to create a small temporary space for creative generosity and intellectual abundance in resistance to the commercial and institutional models of competition and scarcity that seem to define current art worlds.”

I will be doing a brand new performance artwork about recycling and Styrofoam. I’m excited to share it with you. I don't want to fall into this Trap of Procrastinators, this Trap of Ego Fools, where I talk too too much about a thing before I do it. But, suffice it to say that the thing I am planning on doing will be a continuation of my previous "art work" and will also be freakier and weirder and hopefully more fun and crazier than anything I have ever done before. So please come check it out. I know the event costs money, but I would remind you that there’s a $5 discount if you bring some Styrofoam (and who doesn’t have a little bit lying around the house?). There will be drinks! And an art auction. And I hope you can come.

It occurs to me today (thank you La JJ!) that I ought to arrange to have somebody film this.
In my mind, I'm still in Berlin. Still on Vacation. Still drinking a nice cool bottle of Club Maté. Maybe. I had such a nice time. And a couple little souvenirs.

First, a delightfully recorded conversation to listen to, between Miss Vaginal Davis, Manuel Schubert, La JohnJoseph and myself. Talking about all sorts of fun. You can listen to it here.

And also, look at these photos La JJ took while I was visiting!

Singing at PORK.

Performing at Chantal's House of Shame.

Really feeling it.

Bein a creep at Iwajla's dinner party.

Just being cool at a nightclub in Germany.

Some more news about two very exciting upcoming shows will come soon. Just gimme a second.


Fucked by Light

I feel just like a tape recorder. I feel just like a VCR. Which is to say: broken! I have no way of remembering, anymore, everything I wanted to. What I want to remember and record is audio-cassette tape static, video grains. But I can't. We've moved onto bigger and nicer ways of remembering.

So many really stupid and really great things were said to me this weekend. More than once, I was tempted to reach for my pen and paper to write them down. There're a couple really funny jokes that've been lost to the weekend which I know I can't get back. And that's okay, because I remember the thing I meant to.

Which is this: a friend of mine was describing an awesome experience he had recently. I won't bore you by identifying him or the situation (that's not my job, identification, that's not my task in life), but I will quote as completely as possible because I think it's the right idea:
"I had an ecstatic experience. It was like light poured into my body. I was-- I got fucked by light. I realized that I should just probably be a saint. So I'm a saint now. I've started a cult. It was like I finally understood. God put a flaming arrow through my heart."
I asked what the Cult was called but he wouldn't tell me.

Fucked by Light.

Happy Monday.



Hello New York. I want to invite you to come to this event tomorrow night:

7-9:00PM $10 (Sliding Scale)
39-31 29th St
Long Island City, NY 11101


Hosted by Colin Self and Max Steele.

In this seminar-based forum we'll explore the language surrounding contemporary issues in sex, gender, race, class, and other cultural concepts.

The idea for this class came out of a conversation I was having on Twitter with Colin. We were talking about queer identity and who is "allowed" to say the word "girl" and what that all entails. And then the conversation quickly became about having this type of conversation; examining our identities and language and processes. And then the conversation turned into the question "How can we get more people in on this conversation? Can we all talk about these things?" And then the lovely Gabriel from Flux Factory asked me if I would like to participate in the Summer School series, and immediately I knew Colin and I had to do it.

Colin is one of the most exciting artists I can think of in NYC, and is also a friend of mine. A constant inspiration. I am so excited to be doing this workshop with him. We're really interested in exploring the traditional/historical model of a Consciousness-Raising session as located between group therapy and political organizing. I can't wait to see all of you and talk this all out.

Hopefully see y'all tomorrow night!