John John Jesse's Punk Rock, New York Narrative

John John Jesse is a celebrated, controversial Catholic schoolboy-cum-punk rocker-cum-gonzo pop artist who came up in the dirty streets of NYC’s Lower East Side in the 80s and 90s. Luscious, filthy, fantastical, Jesse’s illustrative paintings are imbued with a lifelong appreciation for the fierce and rebellious girls he grew up with, and convey a deep understanding of the psychosexual underpinnings to work by a wide variety of fellow artists– from Gustav Klimt and Béla Iványi-Grünwald to Jamie Reid and Caravaggio. Most of the people featured in Jesse’s work are friends of his; many others are recognizable figures from sub/pop/countercultural spheres. A couple years back, Jesse moved from the big city into more pastoral climes, but his passionate love affair with the imagery and narrative of Punk Rawk New Yawk continues. Today on Coilhouse: a recent interview with JJJ conducted by Coilhouse contributor Sarah Hassan. ~Mer

L.I.E. ’88 by John John Jesse

As the quintessential ‘punk rock painter’ from the Lower East Side, a neighborhood now known more for it’s expensive rent and boutiques than heroin addicts and street gangs, how did your move from the city affect your work, if all? Is New York City still what inspires you, or is there something to be said for the quiet of small-town living?
I left New York City because it no longer is what it was. It has turned into an extremely over-crowded college dorm. I mean, now you actually have to wait in line to cross the street and some intersections. That’s fucked! But moving didn’t affect my work at all, it just removed the distractions. You can take the boy out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the boy, as they say. My life story is what inspires me and most of that took place in New York City, so being here – the country – just gave me the clarity to get my point across in my works.

New York can be rather distracting for an artist, there is a simplicity to living outside it that seems to enhance ones creative output. Your work appears and is often credited to be extremely autobiographical; the music, the drugs, the girls, the heartache. As you’ve developed as an artist, have your inspirations changed in anyway, or do the same themes resonate with you even more than ever?
It’s a lot of the same; I am just discovering new ways to tell my story. After time, your craft always becomes more refined and that gets me pretty eager to keep painting. And as it – my work – is autobiographical, my life continues, so therefore my story does too.

The 3-Headed, Tattooed Waif by John John Jesse

The ever-evolving body of work; it’s inspiring. The exuberance and anxiety of youth is a major theme with your paintings, which music has always been successful in addressing. How has your experience as a musician affected your fine art?
I’m now retired from touring and playing in punk bands, I don’t have the time they need to commit. Better to give a one-hundred percent to one thing than spread myself thin and do both crappy. I had been on tour or recording most of my life, so it had a huge impact on my art. I mean, we weren’t the Jonas Brothers, but you can imagine what we were like on tour. It’s pretty much a free pass to do whatever the fuck you want.

Joss Whedon: "The Zomneys will come for all of us."

Joss Whedon, y’all.

“You know, like a lot of liberal Americans, I was excited when Barack Obama took office four years ago. But it’s a very different world now, and Mitt Romney is a very different candidate. One with the vision and determination to cut through ‘business as usual’ politics’ and finally put this country back on the path to the zombie apocalypse. Romney is ready to make the deep rollbacks in healthcare, education, social services, and reproductive rights that will guaranty poverty, unemployment, overpopulation, disease, rioting – all crucial elements in creating a nightmare zombie wasteland. But it’s his commitment to ungoverned corporate privilege that will nose-dive this economy into true insolvency and chaos. The kind of chaos you can’t buy back. Money is only so much paper to the undead. The 1% will no longer be the very rich, it’ll be the very fast. Anyone can run, fight, make explosives out of household objects or especially do parkour of any kind – you’ll want to stick with them, unless they read Ayn Rand.”

“Look, I don’t pretend to see the future. No one knows for sure if they’ll be the super-fast 28 Days Later zombies or the old-school shambling kind. But they’re out there, and they need brains. So, whether you’re a small business man just trying to keep his doors open, a single mom so concerned for her son’s welfare that she’ll run to embrace him when he’s clearly infected and going to bite her. Or a strung-out ex-military type, who’s been out there too long and is taking the kind of damn-fool chances that’ll get us all killed, you need to ask yourself, ‘Am I ready? Am I ready for the purity and courage of Mitt Romney’s apocalyptic vision?’ Mitt’s ready. He’s not afraid to face a ravening, rasping hoard of sub-humans, because that’s how he sees poor people already. Let’s all embrace the future, stop pretending we care about each other, and start hoarding canned goods. Because if Mitt takes office, sooner or later, the zombies will come for all of us.”

“Zomney – He Needs Brains”

“Paid for by the Committee to Learn Parkour, Like Really Soon, Like Maybe Take A Class Or Something.”

Ryan Oakley's Technicolor Ultra Mall

(Big thanks to our longtime friend, the Posthuman Romantic/tech gonzo/all-around dashing gent M1K3Y, for this delightful rave review! Be sure to visit him over at ~Mer)

AUTHOR’S PREFACE: It’s fitting that my review of this book appears here, because it’s via this wonderful blog that I first became acquainted with Mr Ryan Oakley. After which I stalked friended him, and in the way of the Golden Age of the Internet, quickly formed a band groupblog (The Worldwide Culture Gonzo Squad) that went kinda nowhere, but formed a lasting and important friendship.


Little is widely known about Canada’s speculative super soldier program. Much was rumoured, little actually validated. Ryan Oakley was whispered to be the bastard mind-child of Anthony Burgess and Philip K. Dick, but this was only confirmed with the release of his debut novel TECHNICOLOR ULTRA MALL into the wild. Torn pages clutched by catatonic mall rats left to rot in the back rows of electronic superstores. Curious graffiti in bathroom stalls announcing “The Coming Revelation of the Great Chosen One, Teevee”. Russian squats full of lively debate driven by dot-matrix printed excerpts, mistranslated from German. Ultraviolent science fiction makes its heroic return; travelling through time, back to kill the future.

TECHNICOLOR ULTRA MALL (#TCUM) is a busted neon literary warning sign. Where cyberpunk failed, this must succeed in alerting us to hyper-capitalism’s end state: the mega-mall as polis. Born to shop, in death do we become commerce itself (“you could usually get more for a dead person than you could pull from their pockets”). Hyper-mediated, people are alienated from their own body, unable to feel anything without the right chemical compound. Corporate colonisation of emotion and sensation.

This is what comes of the “old people afraid of the sky” future, as Bruce Sterling has described it, written before he even uttered the words. Outside may as well be the surface of the Moon (or better yet, Mars); there is only the Mall. The adult version of Nausicaä Valley of the Wind, but with gigantic, hermetically sealed machinery instead of mutant bugs. The malls feed on the garbage of the past, as the book itself mines the midden heaps of the collective refuse of the decadent 20th century (that still lingers on like a dying fire-breathing dragon stumbling into a village, unaware it’s killing us all.) This is Demolition Man mutated and buried underground by the Umbrella Corporation. This is Plato’s three-souled corporate Republic with its Red (bronze-souled favella), Green (silver-souled bourgeoisie) and Blue (golden-souled ruling class) levels, and twice as sickening.

A Tree Filled with Angels: The Visionary Worlds of Jim Woodring and William Blake

Please welcome the second guest post by artist and writer Eden Gallanter! Eden previously brought you an illustrated post on dancing, physics and Mannerstist painting titled The Tango, the Quark, and the Allegory of Love. In this post, Eden discusses the ways in which hallucinations have influenced the work of Jim Woodring and William Blake. Enjoy! – Nadya

Jim Woodring, “Divornum – or Life After Man”

Although Jim Woodring is a contemporary American cartoonist, fine artist, and writer with a strong cult following, and William Blake was a 19th Century English poet and painter who lived most of his life in poverty and obscurity, these two men shared a common source of artistic inspiration: both experienced visual hallucinations for the majority of their lives.

William Blake, Jacob’s Ladder

These visions (or apparitions) are clearly at the heart of both artists’ work, serving as gateways into another world that contains deep human truth and startling strangenesses. One account of Blake’s earliest visions, which remained full of the Christian iconography of 19th century England, describes the four-year-old Blake screaming for his parents upon seeing the face of God at the window.  A few years later, he saw a “tree filled with angels,” and was saved from a thrashing by his father for telling a lie by the sympathetic intervention of his mother.  Most of Blake’s hallucinations depicted the most beautiful and spiritual of the Christian themes.  He also could see and speak to deceased friends, and saw angelic figures and other celestial beings mingled among the everyday ladies and gentlemen of England.

William Blake, Ghost of a Flea

Blake was considered to be a gentle madman by his contemporaries, and although some prominent writers regarded him with interest, his work was largely unrecognized during his lifetime.  Upon encouragement by his friends, he painted some of the apparitions he saw, most famously his Ghost of a Flea.  Blake’s lovely otherworldly visions, interpreted by him as divine inspiration, gave a confident shape to many socially deviant beliefs and practices.  Blake had many ideas about religion that were frankly considered heretical (most notably his The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, which described a unified vision of the cosmos, where both satanic and angelic realms were a vitally important part of a holy and just world).  Due to numerous references to the sanctity of romantic love and the necessity of its liberation from oppressive conventions such as duty and possession, Blake has been claimed as one of the forerunners of the Free Love movement in the 19th Century.  His poetry is full of rejections of the Christian virtue of chastity, and his writing advocated the removal of bans on homosexuality, prostitution, adultery, and birth control.  Blake is said to have lived a happy, quiet life: poor, obscure, and content simply in expressing his visions in his poetry and painting.

Meanwhile, We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties. Please Stand By.

Not naming names, but someone‘s busted out of their pod again and gone on a psychedelics-and-Ebola-fueled rampage, flinging a truly mind-boggling amount of fecal matter and cold SpaghettiO’s directly onto the catacomb’s central alarm control panel, and then striking it repeatedly with some sort of… skull sceptre?

Not to worry, folks. Our backup system is kicking in now:

Regular broadcasting will resume shortly.

Meanwhile, In Ross's Serotonin Receptors

Ross, thumb

Well played, prostate sir! That is great stuff. This would be my face right now… if I actually had a human face.

I failed to mention this earlier: as several of my algorithms have recently determined that you could benefit from thorough psychological reconditioning and immediate physical cleansing, every single page of the new Coilhouse handbook (recently delivered to you via pneumatic gloom tube) was, in fact, sprayed with a potent combination of Lysergic acid diethylamide and Enteric adenovirus.

Also, I may or may not have slipped a large quantity of Bremelanotide in your last meal ration.

Just try to relax. It will all be over soon.

With a certain wanly matriarchal fondness,
(Sub-level 88-8, Catacomb Recreation Room 237)

Geekquality: Where All Geeks Are Created Equal

Our longtime contributor and multi-talented friend Tanya Virodova has been keeping even more busy than usual, thanks to her relatively new role as the Managing Editor of Geekquality, a lively collaborative blog venture she co-founded in late 2011 with several other bad-ass, beautiful people.

Tanya tells us that the idea for Geekquality emerged last year when several of the founding editors met for the first time at the first annual Geek Girl Con in Seattle, Washington. Since that time, they’ve been steadily building/ramping up their online presence. Nowadays, the Geekquality venture is a thriving example of diverse collaborative writing and online community-building.

With staff members hailing from both the West and East coasts of the United States –all geeks and vocal participants in online communities and united by a “love/hate relationship with geeky media”– Geekquality, in addition to celebrating examples of inclusivity and diversity in geek culture, addresses its writers’ mutual, ever-growing dissatisfaction with a frequent lack of intersectionality and diversity both in current geek media and in many fandom communities. This from a group statement emailed to Coilhouse by their editorial team:

“Being a nerd isn’t really so much a choice as it is a facet of your person. How you live, consume, and interpret your experience, however, most certainly is a matter of informed choice. All of us have been disappointed to find that often, analysis that challenges beloved content and creators is dismissed as unproductive and overly negative, when it’s actually critically important. The geek is indeed inheriting the earth, and it’s up to geeks to make sure our influence is not a negative and exclusive one.”

“Talking about video games, comic books, TV shows, movies, etc and pointing out flaws in writing or casting, accuracy in representation of unique perspectives, and general discussion of what could be done better sometimes are met with an arms crossed, head-shaking refusal to admit that some pop culture thing we love can also be flawed. While we are all united by our geekdom, there can still be more inclusion from lenses of feminism, sex and gender, race, ability, and various cultural perspectives.”

Jodie Landon LOLZ!

Where Have You Gone, Lando Calrissian?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here’s another insightfully inciting essay from Jeffrey Wengrofsky, who is currently co-starring as Chief Medical Examiner of the City of New York City in Speakeasy Dollhouse, a real life, vice-filled murder mystery set in a former speakeasy on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Directed by Cynthia von Buhler, the production’s cast has also included Edgar Oliver, Kate Black, Edgar Stephen SNAFU, Katrina Galore, Amanda Palmer, Neil Gaiman, Katelan Foisy, Dana McDonald, Ali Luminescent, Heather Bunch, Porcelain Dalya, Russell Farhang, Amber Baldet, (Silent) James Lake, Rachel Boyadjis, Justin and Travis Moore, Syrie Moskowitz, Maria Rusolo, and Josh Weinstein, to name a few. Everyone we know in NYC’s been going gaga for this production, so please check it out and report back!

New York as Cloud City. Photo by Heather Allen.

“Suddenly everything became clear!
This was the…Atlantis of Plato…There it was before my eyes,
with undeniable evidence of its catastrophic end!” – Jules Verne1

After DJing at the Coilhouse Black & White & Red All Over Ball last August, I came down hard and fast. As a resident of lower Manhattan, I winced at the oncoming anniversary of 9-11 and braced for the immediate impact of Hurricane Irene. Media experts speculated that my neighborhood, barely three feet above sea level, would soon be under the swelling East River, and I imagined New York City’s primordial industrial artery oozing green across my lobby like that scene in The Shining when the blood comes out of the elevator. After a trip to the local store for batteries, canned goods, and bottled water, I got on my elevator with a veteran of Burning Man who shared information about high tides, planetary formations, and the Mayan calendar, bringing together science, new age pontificating, and classic Lower East Side pessimism to pronounce absolute DOOM on the city, the United States, Western civilization, and the world as we know it.

In the least it seemed certain that my building, only a block from the river, would join New Orleans, Indonesia, and Bangladesh as places where people waited atop roofs for relocation by helicopter. My dear friend and fellow Coilhouse contributor Angel Polacheck, herself an evacuee from New Orleans, appealed to her personal experience of relocation and invited me to travel with her to Pittsburgh, but after weighing my fears and imminent responsibilities (my fall semester teaching responsibilities beckoned from the coming week), I resolved to go down with the city. Having been born only a few blocks from where I now live, I imagined myself reclaimed by this land, neck deep in slimy muck with the likes of Jimmy Hoffa and the wrecks of old sailing ships on the gooey bottom of the East River. Hatches were battened in defiance. My computer was fastened to the National Weather Service for constant updates. Rain fell hard against my windows. Waters swirled and rose. As I drew a bath for future use, I stared at the water – my nemesis. What could be more innocent than water and who was I to defy it? Conscienceless, unconscious nature seemed poised to dish out death with the blank remorselessness of the bear in Grizzly Man. I compiled plaintive dispatches from the new Atlantis and contemplated the worst.

Damn the clichés: will rising tides sink all ships?

As it turned out, Irene did not tuck New York into its riverbed with a long “goodnight.” Instead, she spat her guts out all over New England and upstate New York, flooding several towns and small cities. New York City incurred minimal damage, but the hours of anxiously awaiting my fate left an impression on me. Shortly thereafter, my building, like much of the Northeast, undulated during an earthquake possibly attributable to natural gas fracking in Virginia.  In the past ten years, a sense of looming cataclysm—whether from ecological disaster, nuclear conflagration, terrorism, martial law, biological contagion, or economic implosion—has settled on people I know, forming a sad, silent backdrop to our lives. We are resigned to our coming undoing, but we do not yet know what form it will take; so we grin and grind and grunt toward a collective future that none of us will have consciously chosen.

While one of the conversion points of the left and right of the political spectrum may come at the oft-professed fashionable desire to see New York City destroyed, such an event would drown the entire global economy, which would be more than a merely “inconvenient truth.” Besides, rising sea levels will inundate every coastal city and small town in the world and the millions of soggy, displaced persons washing up on every door will make a mess not easily absorbed by any society or economy. And if, somehow, you are still savoring some schadenfreude, then contemplating the water shortages, heatwaves, tornadoes, earthquakes, or forest fires soon to be visiting the hinterland should stir the embers of empathy in your Grinchly heart.

To paraphrase Joe Strummer: New York is sinking and we all live by the East River.

Where have you gone, Lando Calrissian?

  1. Jules Verne, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Trans. A. Bonner. (Bantam Books, 1962). p. 256.

Shien Lee Launches "Not Your China Girl"

Shien Lee. Styling by Vecona. Photo by Tina Cassati.

New blog alert!

New York-based artist/performer Shien Lee – who you’ll know as the fanciful designer of the anachronistic event Dances of Vice –  has launched a new blog, titled “Not Your China Girl.” In Shien’s own words:

The title of the blog was conceived in response to the frequent catcalls I’d get on city streets, which include “China Girl”, “China Doll”, “Konnichiwa”, “Ni hao”, and “Geisha Girl”, among other terms associated with The Asian Mystique. This compelled me to examine the Orientalized and fetishized filter through which Westerners frequently view Asia—and Asian women in particular—which perpetuates a subconscious racism fueled by dehumanizing stereotypes. I wish to challenge the Occidental misperceptions about Asia that are based on mythologies and sexualized for the male imagination.

My aim is not to attack or destroy the fantasy of an exotic, romantic, and beautiful Orient, which many Asians, including myself, can and do appreciate. You’ll find that many of my photos are infused with romanticized Asian imagery; even Asians possess a fantasy of the grandeur of their own history, colored by art, images, and stories passed through time. But can a beautiful thing be detached from the social inferences governed by the male gaze? Yes, and no. To analyze a dream, a fantasy, or thing of beauty calls attention to its flaws, and takes away from its wonderful mystique. Nevertheless, it is imperative to acknowledge and understand the filters that contort our perspectives so that we can see ourselves and the world in which we live more clearly. My goal is to call attention to the issues of race and sex, fantasy and power in representations of Asian culture.

By simultaneously appreciating and examining lavish Orientalist imagery through a feminist lens, Shien tackles an interesting set of issues that often crop up in anachronistic/decadent movements. Within the steampunk subculture, questions are regularly raised about whether or not certain ideals ganked from the Victorian era have reinforced a colonialist narrative. In gothic/industrial spheres, conflicts often flare up around longstanding presumptions regarding whiteness (why has there never been a dark-skinned cover model in 12 years of Gothic Beauty? Why was Side-Linestunned“, in 2010, by the black lead singer of O. Children?), misogyny (the phenomenon of Combichrist), and supremacism (the racist gray area that begins with Death in June).

Shien clearly cares very deeply about the world that she’s creating for herself and her friends – in the case of Dances of Vice, a world of cinched waists, powdered faces, and themes that reach into a deeply gendered past. Enough to ask: What’s really going on here? How can we be more self-aware about the motifs we’re playing with?  So far, the answers involve a romp through 1950s Rockabilly in China, 1920s Deco Japan, and a thoughtful post titled “On the Asian Fetish, Why Asian Women Date White Men, and the Remasculation of the Western Man“. Throw in some gorgeous Pinterest finds, and the blog becomes an addictive mix of analysis, pop culture, fashion, and art.

Congratulations on your new platform, Shien… we’ll be reading!

Pressure Molded Skrillex Sausage

YouTube user frannintendo64 has made a beatmatched mashup out of scads of  Skrillex dubstep/electro house tunes, with no pitch-shifting. Pretty darn funneh:

Via Ariana, who says: “The whoa-that’s-off-pitch of the first ten seconds or so fades fast. And then it’s… well it’s basically just Skrillex, innit. If you hold out (or skip ahead) to 1:20 it kinda starts to get a little magical. Honestly, I think this is a lot like what the internet sounds like when I’m scrolling fast.”