29 December 2008

Party Like It's 1929

I recently read Indiana University English professor George B. Hutchinson's biography of the Harlem Renaissance writer In Search of Nella Larsen: A Biography of the Color Line. (I read Thadious M. Davis's biography in 1997 when I did a paper about Harlem Renaissance writers.) I'm fascinated with the way I misapprehended Larsen's life. Of course, Hutchinson did a stunning amount of detective work. I had assumed Larsen kind of "dropped out" after her brush with plagiarism. But she just breezed on through that and got her Guggenheim on.

What struck me about this book was all the partying those people did. Of course, that fits in with our ideas of what the 1920s were about--gin and short skirts! But, of course, Nella Larsen knew some fancy-schmancy people. But every time you turn around it's cocktails, dinners, teas, balls, card parties, nightclubs, galas, theatre excursions, dancing! I was writhing with envy. Our DVDs and Internet friends in the early 21st century are so paltry in comparison. I'd rather write lots and lots of letters, go to little parties where there's a punchbowl, and wear gloves.

26 December 2008

Thanks For the Makeup Tips, Pete Wentz

Yep, that's my eye. I bit Pete Wentz's style. Of course, I don't rock my maquillage nearly as heavily as he does. And I think mascara is completely wack. Still, I wanted to see what happened when I caulked on the eyeliner (I used the Prescriptives Deluxe Eye Pencil in black), smudged it around utilizing the sophisticated technology of my finger, then went to bed with it on. I had seen some guyliner featurette maybe last year--and had wanted to try it myself. This is what holiday boredom leads to...

22 December 2008


The new issue of Bitch is out. Yay! And I spent most of Saturday night/wee hours of Sunday morning reading it. It's sort of funny, isn't it, that Bitch is still around--economic downturn notwithstanding--and its nemesis JANE fell long ago, a victim of its own inner decay? And an asshole parent company that decided it would "not fulfill [the parent company's] long-term business expectations," good circulation figures be damned.

Also, Bitch is launching the B-Hive, which allows contributors to sustain Bitch with monthly contributions.

And, of course, I'm very happy to have had my two little ditties published in the lastest issue.

Above quote from Jane Pratt wikipedia.

Image from bitch.com.

18 December 2008

Pins and Needles

Last night I went to Pins and Needles at Cream City Collectives for the second time. This fab idea brings together a group of women and men to work on their craft projects, listen to LPs, and chat. Last night we had Nina Simone and the Dirty Dancing soundtrack on the record player, among others. There are also treats--this time pink-frosted chocolate cupcakes and popcorn seasoned with spices and nutritional yeast. I had so much fun!

I helped Mary, who is a wonderful force at the space, cut up bras for the bra quilt for Danceworks performance The Bra Project next month. It was incredibly satisfying to work with my hands, to see the results of what I was doing. I had really been craving that. Pins and Needles is from 6-8 PM on Wednesdays.

Image from www.danceworksmke.org.

13 December 2008

My Fave Israeli Lives in Wisconsin

My fave Israeli is not--as you might expect--literary wunderkind Etgar Keret, whom I met in Iowa (!) and who has the same birthday as mine. Neither is it Eytan Fox, whose birthday is the day after mine, who has directed Yossi and Jagger, Walk On Water, and The Bubble.

Nope, my fave Israeli, pictured above, is Gil Roth, one of my oldest friends from Madison. I think of Gil first of all as a writer. That's what he's passionate about. That's what we end up talking about--the books we've read...or want to write. A few years ago we even assayed a treatment for a film. Last week when I saw him Gil checked out Lover Of Unreason, the biography of Ted Hughes paramour Assia Wevill--which I had been recommending for ever so long.

Fluent in Hebrew, English, Italian, and Arabic, Gil grew up most of his life in Israel. He attended high school in Madison--his father is an Emeritus Professor at the university--and has been living in the U.S. since. (He lived in New York around the same time I did.) All of this makes Gil sound very much the sophisticate, which he is.

Gil is not only a devastatingly talented, charming, and good-looking devil, he is also a very good friend. During the debacle in which I exhibited the most singularly horrifying judgement of my romantic career, he did not breathe "I told you so," once--even though he so had. Gil has also helped me move--unambiguously the mark of a true friend. Also, there have been really fun times with him--going to parties, bars, the movies, a cafe--that were for all the world like the smartest indie sitcom you could ever imagine.

Sometimes Gil astounds me with his observations about human nature and relationships. He is a very generous person, so people want to tell him their stories. During the longest and best conversations I've had with him, I've realized I'm not alone--there are other people out there with problems like mine. And you could go through life thinking everything was going perfectly for everybody else. So, my admittedly sappy-sounding hope is to help Gil be the best and truest-to-himself person he can be.

02 December 2008

The Book of Courtney: Anne Frank, Jewishness, Readership, and Don't Forget Happy Jewish Book Month!

I am one of Anne Frank's descendants. So to speak. (So, it's wildly appropriate that I am right now reading Ellen Feldman's The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank.) I read Anne Frank's eponymous diary at 13 and was inspired--the idea was one that had always appealed to me--to start my own. It is a practice I've kept for almost 20 (!) years.

I'm not very analytical or (at least I hope) self-obsessed about "my writing," but I do realize my style and voice were formed by both my journal-keeping and having read rather a good quantity of Victorian literature by the time I was 14. The wit evidenced in this blog (it galls me when male acquaintances exclaim, surprised, "Your blog is funny!" Why, yes, dipshits; I'm hilarious, actually) was honed by diary entries cataloguing, a tad snidely, perhaps, the absurdities offered to me by the world--and I it. Most importantly, though, keeping a journal or diary got me writing on a regular basis, made writing a habit. And, of course, the regular habit of writing does have the added benefit of putting one on a nodding basis with the likes of grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Or, more than that, it became natural for me to express myself or even to think in writing and words. Which is, I hear, important for people who write.

Last week I finished reading Elisa Albert's The Book of Dahlia, a book brought to my attention--like Feldman's--by the Jewish Book Month display at my local library branch. Though I found the style a bit too junk food-y for my liking, I'm very glad to have come across it. It was of interest to me because it, in part, dealt with an American woman's experience of Israel and the Hebrew language. And I realized, come to it, that my experience of reading and writing is actually very much rooted in the Jewish experience. (See Anne Frank above.)

Judy Blume's Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself was my first experience with the Jewish experience--if I hadn't read that book I wouldn't have spent a semester at Tel Aviv University, studied Hebrew, or learned about the Holocaust. (In an amazing aside, it was actually in Israel that I first heard of Harlem Renaissance novelist Nella Larsen and read her books Quicksand and Passing.) My favorite book for many years was Amos Oz's Black Box, which I also discovered b'eretz. In fact, my Blogger profile's Favorite Books list would be shite without Jewish writers and Jewish themes.

Reading is as necessary as breathing for me. I obviously have to thank my Black goyische education-major mother for instilling that passion, for making sure I became a person of the book.

01 December 2008

Craftsexy, Pt. 2

These are hard times. Recently, NPR interviewed Chicago residents who had lived during through the Depression. Earlier this year I was saying, "Have you noticed no one talks about the Depression anymore? When I was a kid in the 1980s older people talked about it all the time. In our pre-Fall 2008 fantasy world of endless economic growth, it just wasn't done." Well, obviously, people are talking about the Depression again now.

This all makes me think of crafts, honestly. Maybe because here in Milwaukee we just had Art v. Craft, and craft is very sexy right now. I also think it could be a way to bring people together because I think one of the reasons craft is very sexy right now is that people--at least the ones my age--have been actually angry about being separated from their ability to create, do, or make--which is something I think we need to do as human beings (which is perhaps one of the reasons I spent my year at Madison enraged) and pushed to consume. During the 2004 election I was canvassing in Beloit and, somehow, I got started talking with this old lady about the Depression. She said the things I've heard before--that nobody had anything, that people walked everywhere, that people shared and helped each other out. Well, when you think of it--the sharing, the coming together, the community--this could be craft's shiny moment. I don't think necessarily it would save our economy--because I'm very suspicious of the notion of consuming our way out of whatever trouble we're in (cuz that's usually what got us into trouble to begin with). But I think it could help us save ourselves.

Last night I felt a hankering to start researching 1930s crafts. I think it would be great to get together with friends and whip some up. People could have parties! I mean, yes, I've loved the Dirty Thirties for a long time--as a spoiled brat Gen Xer and history dork--for the design and, well, the immediacy. So, let's rent Bonnie and Clyde and bite Faye Dunaway's style; wear the cute little berets and geometrical patterns; organize walking parties and dance marathons; have canning skill shares. You get extra points if your man looks like Clark Gable.

30 November 2008

Craftsexy, Pt. 1

This year I worked the door, giving people little blue x's if they wanted to leave and reenter the premises. Hundreds of people came, economic downturn notwithstanding. Perhaps it was this very economic downturn that caused the surely overtaxed-though-dizzy-with-relief-just-not-to-be-laid-off writer at the no doubt terrified-by-economic-downturn-and-therefore-cutting-costs
Journal Sentinel to mistakenly report the event was free. Who has time for the costly measures of, you know, checking last year's stories or, like, peeping the Art v. Craft website in the tense post-economic downturn newsroom?

At any rate, I enjoyed this year's event much more. I met Max Estes, the soon-to-be-no-longer-local cartoonist and creator of My Life As a Bunny. (He's moving to Norway.) It's obviously not his fault--but I expected him to be more cuddly. But a man who frequently features his cats in his work obviously has a great deal going for him. Max also has two books out Hello, Again and Coffee and Donuts. I also saw Milwaukee art scene It Boy Colin Matthes, Josie Osbourne, Melissa and JW Buchanan of The Little Friends, and several of the usual scenester suspects. I got a look at Handmade Nation: The Rise of DIY, Art, Craft, and Design, which features Michigander Melissa Dettloff. Yay!

I was impressed by three vendors in particular. Rustbelt Fiberwerks hails from right here in the Riverwest 'hood in Milwaukee. Artist Leah Parkhurst, who has a BFA from UWM, crafts items like t-shirts, aprons, and placemats. Her work is charming and affordable. She has an etsy site, of course.

Skirts by Orangyporangy of Madison are dead cute! It's not just polyester anymore, girls! The designer Natalie makes dresses and tops now, too.

I love ceramics and wish I did them myself. So, it stands to reason I would love Chicago's Circa Ceramics. Made by Nancy Pizarro and Andy Witt, their wares come in candy store colors and feature retro-y graphics. I bought the magnet in the photo above for a typewriter-loving friend. Their ceramics are also available at the store at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

All in all, I enjoyed myself immensely. I saw all different kinds of people there, including two men--one of them Packers-jacketed--and a little boy and several middle-aged women. So, it's like people are starting to think, Yeah, this is a Milwaukee thing.

12 November 2008

Folk Universe

Vetiver goes on tour next month--opening for, um, The Black Crowes on some dates--in support of their new record Thing of the Past. They will be in Milwaukee Dec. 7 at the Eagles Ballroom/Club/Whatever. Friend of Church of Style and cellist Alissa Anderson will be on the road with them. So, uh, you know how that goes...

11 November 2008

They're A Band

Sweated by the likes of Spin magazine, Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino, of the eponymous Brooklyn duo Matt and Kim, are playing a free all ages show in Madison this coming Saturday at Union South. Check them out.

10 November 2008

Let Your Folk Flag Fly

This past Friday Texan alt-country chanteuse and fiddler extraordinaire Carrie Rodriguez performed at the Pabst--bringing along an excellent backing band, which included an utterly scruptious (oh, and talented) guitar player. A maturing songwriter and instrumentalist, she is also a winsome vocalist.

Rodriguez definitely has the ear, so to speak, of NPR, and the Pabst crowd tellingly skewed toward the middle-aged, one that remained emphatically seated--no matter how irresistibly rollicking the tune. Nonetheless, it took me back to my girl-with-guitar music college days.

Hopefully, though, any demographic can enjoy excellent musicianship. My favorite tunes included "Dirty Leather" and "St. Peter's." Her set list, as far as I was able to discern, is as follows:

1. Dirty Leather
2. Seven Angels on a Bicycle
3. Infinite Night
4. Absence
5. Grace
6. 50's French Movie
7. I Don't Want To Play House Anymore
8. Waterbound
9. Let Me In
10. Steal Your Love (Lucinda Williams)
11. She Ain't Me
12. Confessions
13. You Won't Be Satisfied That Way
14. El Salvador
15. Rag Doll
16. Never Gonna Be Your Bride
17. La Puñalada Trapera
1. ??
2. St. Peter's

Photo by Courtney Becks

03 November 2008

Karma Neighborhood Watch

I was walking around Riverwest yesterday afternoon and starting singing "Ooh, Child." (I'd heard the Beastie Boys' "Intergalactic" earlier.) I'm currently looking for a job, so I was singing to myself. It occurred to me, though, that I was singing to all of us. At this point in our political and economic history, we all need to believe things will get easier, brighter.

We need Obama to win. I, like many people, have been almost too afraid to hope! We've seen Republicans lie, cheat, and steal their way to two presidential elections in as many election cycles. It's their specialty by now. Why would they stop this year? If we hope in Obama, and--god forbid!!--we don't win, there seems nothing to do but tumble headlong into the abyss of despair and bitterness. But we have to hope. We have to be able to imagine the better world.

It is perhaps true that certain populations look on Barack Obama as if he were nothing less than a savior--in every sense of the word. That may or may not be a bit co-dependent, but I say to you there is nothing not revolutionary about a Black man as President of the United States. No one familiar with this country's history would suggest otherwise. Obama as President will not wipe out the pain of the country's unjust history by any means, but--by his very existence as a biracial man who is Black and white--we could begin to bring racism's affect on our past and present out into the open. We could talk about it, and, yea, begin to lay our heavy burdens down.

I sat writing this blog post waiting for the 5PM service to begin at the First Unitarian Society in Milwaukee. Imagine my surprise when I heard the sounds of a song from my last year of college being practiced by the pianist in the sanctuary. "Karma Police" just got me where I live. So, today and tomorrow, I'm going to be praying this prayer: Please, please, please, you've got to help us. Please help us. We're scared.

Photo from huffingtonpost.com.

01 November 2008


Today I made the earrings pictured above at a really fun and interesting enameling workshop at UWM's Studio Arts and Crafts Centre. I'm glad I went. Everyone really got into it, which was really great--cuz sometimes people are like, Eh, whatever. This is stupid, infuriating many and ruining the class for some. Maybe because of the rising popularity of crafting and the theory couched therewithin? It's just so satisfying to actually make something, you know? One of the editors of Art Jewelry was also there--and I gave her one of the CoS buttons.

The people staffing the Arts and Crafts Centre were art education majors. I admire art education folk so much. Artists are such clever people, problem-solvers, really. They get such a bad rap; I mean, people think it's expendable or not serious, but art majors have serious skills. They can build shit, paint shit, make posters, make jewelry, draw, etc--which are obviously absolutely essential.

29 October 2008

Thrill Seeking

I got a review copy of Michael Zadoorian's new book The Leisure Seeker last week. I read it and am currently trying to come up with some decent interview questions for him. (Dipshit interviews happen to be my pet peeve. Which is why, ahem, the interview process is so lengthy for me. I'm just saying...)

I found myself revisiting the novel's ending (which I obviously won't give away here) earlier this week (like, Jeez, in a way, it was kinda bogus they did that) and thinking about the continuing presence of (personal) history and stuff in MZ's writing.

Oh, and Michael Z does now have a myspace page. And I'm one of his friends... And he does appear to be cute... Which is really important.

Image from michaelzadoorian.com.

09 October 2008

Tasty, Non?

The world's first ever Josephine Bake Sale, as far as I know, is scheduled for October 18 starting at 4PM at Cream City Collectives, 732 E. Clarke, as a fundraiser for Dave "English Muffin" Mahoney. The event will feature yummy baked goods and a little hoochie-koochie entertainment. All for a good cause, my damies.

03 October 2008

A Prose Poem For Miss Natalie

Dear Miss Natalie,

I saw on your website how you are callin yourself "Alabama" now.
Too obvious to mention the legend that they started calling the playwright "Tennessee" in Iowa, isn't it?

Anyhow, I would dearly love to come visit you. I imagine we'd drink some sweet tea. Gone from hot to cold. And still ever so nice. Repair to the late afternoon and shade of a rocking chair.

Pick some stitches--or seed pearls with you. Knit one, purl two.

I'm feeling a bit sheepish since my mama's from Oklahoma. (Daddy from Texas.) But "Oklahoma" and "Alabama" have similar music--I think you'd agree. Though, for sure,"Oklahoma" is the less attractive younger sister to beauty pageant winner "Alabama" in a sparkly red dress. And, oh, you all do have the sour music and glamour of Zelda...and Tallulah. And, well, not feeling inadequate at all, but also Harper Lee. And, um, that friend of hers.

09 September 2008

Get Your Fest On

Michelle Tea
Our No. 1 Lesbian Crush is in the Church's neck of the woods September 26 for Decibelle (in Chicago), which is brought to us by the Estrojam folks.

Spring Green Lit Fest

This year features Honor Moore, who, though not the Church's N1LC, is definitely a lesbian. Also features Charles Baxter, an English faculty member at University of Minnesota, who is definitely not. September 12 and 13--as in this weekend, y'all--in the place FLW made (kinda?) famous, Spring Green, WI.

Wisconsin Book Festival
Brought to you by the illustrious Wisconsin Humanities Council October 15 through 19. I fantasize about telling Judy Blume how Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself shaped my life. (I'd know nothing about Israeli modern dance now if I hadn't come across that book as an 8-year-old.) Also features Patricia Smith Pulitzer Prize winner Marilyn Robinson. Milwaukee events include a reading by Richard Russo, a Wisconsin authors night at Schwartz on Downer, and a poetry reading at Woodland Pattern.

Madison Zine Fest
Spurred on by the first annual Milwaukee Zine Fest, perhaps, Mad Zine Fest is back. This year, it's at the Majestic Theatre in downtown Madison. One day only! October 18.

06 September 2008

I Should've Done This Yesterday

I've been fascinated by Present Music's Season Opener, as it features so much old-timey goodness: waltz, Charleston, and ragtime by Your Mother Dances; after-concert musical ambience provided by Milwaukee's neo-vaudeville Scarring Party; and the evocative locale of Turner Hall Ballroom. The program, of course, features John Adam's Son of Chamber Symphony. And I hear tell of a Charleston demo. Sounds like the bee's knees.

Image from Present Music's website.

31 August 2008

So Unique

The Bubble Roome Lavender & Geranium
This offbeat, yet pleasing scent always lingered around Faythe Levine's first Paper Boat Boutique & Gallery location. Chartreuse, another lovely Bayview shop, stocks many different items--Ms. Kansas has tried the lotion and shower gel. So, this unique scent will always remind MSKS of that neighborhood.

Matching belts--the kind that many vintage dresses come with--are truly a girl's best friend. Waistlines go boldly where they once feared to tred. They give shape to a dress or top that's a little too big, eliminating the nemesis of vintage dress-wearers everywhere, Floppy Shapelessness Syndrome.

28 August 2008

Meow Wow

You've heard of The Alley Cat Revue Milwaukee, right? A spin-off of the weekly (!!) burlesque show in St. Louis, these fine entertainers, led by the sultry Miss Bella Sue DeVianti, strutted their stuff at Stonefly in Riverwest for the first time earlier this month. The show bill featured burlesque artists from as far away as Minneapolis and St. Louis, including the very talented Miss Lola van Ella. It was great! Very profesh. Very polished. Great costumes. Ms. K especially appreciated Lola van Ella's effort as the MC to educate the audience about burlesque and performance--cuz it's more than just boobies. Unfortunately, Ms. Kansas had to leave at intermission because her companions, recovering from a cold, were feeling a bit piqued. Luckily, and to her surprise, MK met and congratulated the bevy of burlesque beauties when they stopped by the Riverwest Co-op the next day during her shift.

Obviously, these ladies don't play. They're planning to make the show a monthly thing. Catch a performance, including a freebie at Starship on August 30, Burlesque Extravaganza, Part 2 at Stonefly on September 12, and the much-anticipated Mondo Lucha at Turner Hall on September 27.

Image from Alley Cat Revue Milwaukee's myspace page.

26 August 2008

Talking to (Someone From) the Hand-Shaped State

Yep, that's the lovely and talented Melissa Dettloff's eye, folks! That's the photo she sent the Church. Though the beloved Lekkner may no longer be with us, this crafty gal's heart goes on—headless unicorn-style.

When and why did you decide to shutter Lekkner?
I decided to close Lekkner in the fall of 2007. I felt like it had its run—it wasn't fitting into my schedule as well because I was working full-time, and it was getting more and more difficult to find time to search for t-shirts and fill orders. It seemed like time to move on to other projects.

What did you do during your stint at VgKids?
I started out part-time redesigning their website and then went full-time working in the office and taking orders from customers—and then from there went on to be a manager (where I did a ton of different things). I loved working there a lot—they are an awesome crew of peeps to work with and damn good at what they do (which is screen-printing).

Are you crafting full-time now?
[Actually], I'm working full-time as a web designer at a community college. I'm always making things in my free time, but in a way that doesn't generate money exactly. Which I almost kind of prefer—it’s more enjoyable and I feel like I have more freedom in what I do.

Will you pleezpleezpleez come to Art v. Craft?!
Sure! I'd love to. I love Art v. Craft. Though if I did, I'm sure it would be to represent a new project—probably not too much like the things I used to make. I've been getting into soft sculpture more these days [rather] than clothing and pouches [I did under Lekkner].

How did the "Steak Is Wack" phenom occur?
I went through an overuse of the word “wack” phase, and, being vegan, it only made sense to bring the two together...

I noticed you're still in Michigan. Do you plan to stay there—or are you gonna move to PDX or Brooklyn?
At the moment, I plan to stay in Michigan—no plans to move anywhere. I don't see myself in Brooklyn; Portland would be more likely. I live in [a cool Michigan community] now, and I really love it here.

Can you describe an easy-fa-sheezy project that a craft chicken like myself would not be too intimidated to start and finish?
Knit a sweater for your bike! This is a project I started recently. I'm interested in knitting, but the payoff takes too long (for me). So, knitting a sweater for your bike is just making flat panels of knitting and then stitching them to your bike frame. Check out hoorayforever.org/?cat=4. (I will finish someday).

What was the most fun or interesting project you worked on during the, um, Lekkner years?
Hmm, it's hard to break it into one thing. The "Lekkner years" were amazing. I was given so many great opportunities and met a lot of awesome people. I liked being invited and going out to Washington, D.C. to speak at a feminist conference. I liked ending up in a book with Amy Sedaris (Tease). Renegades were fun.

What do you wear on a typical day?
I'm pretty simple when it comes to this—I’m pretty jeans-and-t-shirt (though I have a sweet and above average t-shirt collection from my years at VgKids). Sometimes dressed up with a necklace from the thrift store.

What indie designers do you buy and wear?
Preloved is my absolute favorite. I like Anti-Factory, but I can never get on there quick enough to grab something before it sells out! Valerie is doing nice things with dear birthday these days.

How would you describe your style?
Practical, slightly/barely interesting...I always wake up too late in the morning before work to put much thought into it!

Do you thrift a lot?
Yes! Thrifting rules.

Please tell me about the projects you're working on or involved with [lately].
Boy...well, one of the two big ones is the Severed Unicorn Head Superstore—for which I had an event June 22 and prepar[ed] for by sewing up headless unicorn bodies, lumpy rainbows and the like. The other big one [wa]s a biannual arts event some friends and I have been organizing the past few years called the Shadow Art Fair. We take applications for artists/makers of things to display their work for 12 hours twice a year and round the day out with live music and other fun things. We [had been] able to raise enough money through this event offer up an "arts grant" to the local community.

What's in your studio or work space?
The Gatorade Ranch of Decapitation and Dismemberment [is] my friend Amy's painting studio, and she lets me have a space in it for my sewing stuff—that’s where I do all of my sewing. I really love having a separate space to do that stuff in (compared to the days of running Lekkner out of my bedroom when I lived with my mom).The name is cuz of the severed unicorn headage and because, for some reason, we found ourselves drinking a lot of Gatorade there (and not really being Gatorade drinkers at all [in] the other parts of our lives).

What in god's name is Severed Unicorn Head Superstore?
It’s basically an inside joke with my friend Mark that got out of control. The fact that they are unicorns, and they shed their heads etc., is based on nothing...It could have been anything. I was drawing representations of my favorite animals (shark tooth, unicorn horn, etc.), and he was teasing me because I was separating the part from the whole and latched onto the "severed unicorn head" thing. He started making paintings on records and told me I should make something, too. And from there we have www.severedunicornheadsuperstore.com, which basically became a project that gave me the opportunity to approach sewing in a whole new way (not clothing, not pouches) by making three-dimensional objects out of really obnoxious fabric that I never got to work with much before. The fact that it's kind of a bizarre concept helps, too—it can make for some pretty interesting/weird t-shirt slogans and such.

Did Faythe Levine interview you for her doc Handmade Nation?
Yeah, she interviewed me about Crafters for Critters.

What was living in Detroit like? What did you like about the community?
I lived in Detroit (proper; eastside) with my family until I was 18, when we moved to an inner-ring suburb. I went to college in Detroit at Wayne State University. I love Detroit. It was scary to grow up there sometimes, but there is some crazy shit there that you're not going to find anywhere else, and I still like to go back there and hang out in some favorite places (Belle Isle, for one). I think growing up in Detroit definitely makes you a certain "way" that's hard to put into words.

Also, how would you describe the current state of indie/DIY culture—and where do you fit into it?
I'm not sure I can make informed comments about this. One thing I can say is that my place in it in the past few years has transformed from a wider sort of "global" scale into one that is definitely more community-based. What I'd done in the past was very internet-tied, which allowed a lot more people to see and be involved in what I was doing, but in the past year or so I've been very involved at a more local level in the city I live in. Beyond that though, I'm pretty out of touch. Which doesn't really bother me—I like it better this way. It feels more "real" and more relevant to me and the people around me and the people I care about.


Photo of Melissa Dettloff's eye by, I'm assuming, Melissa Dettloff.

08 August 2008

Futons and Chairs

People who know me know I am very suspicious of couches and beds. One might go so far as to say I am philosophically opposed to them. Have you ever thought about your couch or bed? They're chimeras. Nobody needs them. They make your friends hate you when you move. We've been brainwashed and bamboozled into accepting them, thinking they're necessary. Couches and beds tie us down. Neither is easily grappled with by a single person. To me, they're symbolic of being ruled by one's possessions--to say nothing of being impoverished of imagination.

I was impressed by the importance of futons in Kyoko Mori's Stone Field, True Arrow, which takes place in Milwaukee. (Mori is a graduate of UWM's creative writing program.) Ok, maybe they're not exactly literary motifs--but, then again, maybe they are. I just liked the way Maya and Yuko were able to travel light and sleep on futons.

There's something very elegant about chairs and futons as solutions--how they're comparatively so much easier to maneuver. And affordable.

04 August 2008

Kansas Flava

A short while ago I was sitting outside the Riverwest Co-op eating dinner when a couple strolled by. "I had one of those," I enthused, catching sight of the one-piece gymsuit the woman was wearing with a pair of high white socks.

It was the kind with the striped top and solid blue shorts that zips up the front--the kind girls rocked in middle school for gym class. She told me she got it at the Salvation Army. (Where else?) "Does it have a Broderick's label?" I asked. The dude she was with checked and confirmed that it was. "That's from my hometown," I said.

Broderick's was a textile concern--hide nor hair of which turned up on google searches I did last week--that made sportswear in Parsons, KS. My mother worked there when I was in elementary school. So, we never had to buy gymsuits.

01 August 2008

Iowa Heat

Ms. Kansas isn't the only thing scorching the Midwest just now. Leslie Hall, the Midwest Diva herself and one of the Church's very favorite Iowans, has a new album out called Cewebrity. Not only is she big, beautiful, and brilliant--but also she's got good beats. Check out her video for "How We Go Out." Fellow Midwestern hotties, note bene: shows in Madison and Chicago September 19 and 20, respectively. Holla...

Photo from www.lesliehall.com/midwestdiva.htm.

Disco Rules

I love disco. It is just so hot. At work today I started listening to the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. I dare anybody to come up with a bassline that makes the hair stand up on the back of one's neck the way "Stayin' Alive" does.

To me, these songs are perfect. Having been born in 1975, I admit, though, that there are years and layers of emotional refraction when it comes to my relationship to these songs and, well, the disco experience. My sister, less than two years older; another girl who captured the 1970s falsetto chic enviably well; and I, catapulted into teary, heaving emotional freak-out over these songs--well, Grease more than SNF. (I dare you to find a person born from 1967-1976 who isn't emotionally bonded to Grease.) My sister and I badgered our mother for endless pairs of "Cindy high heels," clear plastic disco shoes marketed to little girls with images of the movie. The musical perfection of "If I Can't Have You" boggled my three-year-old mind.

I "rediscovered" the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack in summer 1996, ashamed I'd allowed kowtowing to the indie rock snobbery bullshit to have separated me from its unbelievable pop splendor. I'm so glad I actually remember the 1970s. I'm so glad I was there. Thank god for the Bee Gees!!

31 July 2008

You Knew I'd Done A Zine, Right?

Unfortunately, I'm not at a machine right now at which I could post an image. Maybe I will later today or, uh, never. At any rate, yes, I've done a zine called Fringe. I shot photos in summer 2003 of my friend Kyala, who had the most awesome clothes, at her apartment. I did everything myself--styling, photography, and layout--except hair and makeup. I printed an edition of 50 copies in spring 2004. Oh, and I went to Madison Zine Fest--so, a copy of Fringe is in the Wisconsin Historical Society collection. And also the Denver Zine Library.

I actually have a second issue that, um, hasn't been printed yet.

22 July 2008

Hot Tea

Writer Michelle Tea is hot, cool, and vicious. Most people recognize her from the autobiographical Rent Girl. She also does spoken word tour Sister Spit and keeps the writing community in San Francisco a hot mess. Michelle Tea is also into fashion. If you haven't read the anthology from Seal Press that she edited, It's So You, go buy it before you do your next paper about fashion--you'll be highlighting if for years to come. The Church caught up with its No. 1 Lesbian Crush and talked jeans, Beth Ditto, and how knowing your outfit is cute makes the world a better place. Photo by Robinberg Photography.

Was the anthology (It's So You) your idea--or were you approached by Seal Press?
I'd been toying with the idea of exploring the social, cultural, and political dimensions of fashion via an anthology for a while, but I wasn't ready to take it on as a project. When Seal Press approached me with the idea it felt like the universe knocking at my armoire—and I figured I had to do it or they'd ask someone else and I wouldn't be able to live with myself!

What has been the reaction to It's So You within your community? (E.g. Is it seen as some sort of departure for you?)
Well, people's first reaction is that it's totally weird, frivolous, and shallow. They're like, ”What?” But that's exactly the reason I wanted to do this book: to knock people's weird prejudices about fashion around, get them to question their assumptions and bias, and to see how fashion, in a sense, is a portal for getting into everything interesting — sex, class, bodies, ableism, gender, work—really—everything. Plus, it's fascinating in it's own right, I think. I'm a huge fashion fan—next to literature, it's my favorite art.

Do you think your clothes can help you become a better person?
I feel like a better person when I like what I'm wearing. I think looking good increases self-esteem, and people with good self-esteem are healthier and kinder. So, yeah, I think it shouldn't be overlooked. I have a friend who is in a recovery home for women who've been through hell—to qualify for the program you need to be a survivor of domestic violence, prison and the sex industry, and have a problem with drugs and alcohol. One of the things this program does is take the women out for mani-pedis, and get them hairdos and new outfits. And it makes a huge difference in how they feel about themselves.

In which outfits do you feel your best self?
It varies. I have mood swings. Even though I'm super-femme-y sometimes I just can't wear dresses and heels. I think I'm in one of those phases right now; I feel like my best self in jeans and a pair of crazy fringed Minnetonka boots that make noise when I walk, and a head string. I am still feeling the head string.

Where do you shop?
I think everything I am wearing right now I got on the sale rack at Urban Outfitters. They mark their shit down super-cheap. For new clothes that's where I go a lot, and, like, H+M. Sorry to be so regular. There are great boutiques in San Francisco I also love for new clothes—Seventh Heart for jeans and t-shirts, and Minnie Wilde for that—plus hot jewelry and umbrellas and feathered headbands. Recently, I lost my mind and got a Barneys card. I'm working out my class issues in new and bizarre ways.

Do you wear jeans?
It's all I want to wear right now. I recently got out of a sort of dumb relationship, but one wonderful thing [about it] was my ex introduced me to Earnest Sewn jeans. They really are a superior jean. Whoa. They're the top-tier of expensive—like $200. I have seen jeans more than that and think, Anything over $200 [means] someone is just fucking with you. A pair of jeans is only going to look so good, but the Earnest Sewn jeans look real, real good. I can't stop wearing the pair I have long enough to take them in the get hemmed. I get separation anxiety thinking about it. I'm going to wear them out tonight and I'm actually excited to put them on.

How would you describe your style--or what kinds of stuff do you not wear?
I really don't know—Aquarius with a Leo rising? Meaning, weird, but not so weird that I won't get laid. I don't like wearing a lot of black and I'm more sensitive to the quality of fabrics lately. If something looks really cheap I won't want to wear it. Weird! Also, I won't thrift torn [or stained] pieces anymore. I guess I'm finally a grown up. I'm really into my clothes actually fitting me, after, like, 15 years of wearing ill-fitting, stained, and torn thriftware finery.

Describe the perfect outfit(s)--money is not an object.
Geez, okay—um, right now, maybe a new pair of Earnest Sewn jeans with a pair of Chloé heels, a giant Philip Lim purse, a Philip Treacy headpiece, some great top—maybe Rick Owens—with a hugely chunky necklace from Marni, and maybe a Rick Owens leather jacket. For day. For night, a dress from Rodarte with Christian Louboutin heels and a crazy Viktor and Rolf coat.

Do you have a cat?
I did, but I released her to retirement at [my] grandmother's house where she can hang out in a backyard and dominate all the other cats.

What [have you been] reading?
I just finished an amazing unpublished manuscript, Switch by Rhiannon Argo. It's totally wonderful! I'm in love with all the characters and sad that I can't hang out with them. Otherwise, I'm in the middle of a bunch of books:Salt by Mark Kurlansky; a fantastic novel called Finlater by Shawn Stewart Ruff; rereading Dangerous Angels, Francesca Lia Block's Weetzie Bat book ‘cause I needed some romance; The Keep by Jennifer Egan, who is truly a genius; Pigeons by Andrew D. Blechman; No Time to Lose by everyone's favorite Buddhist nun, Pema Chödrön; and the new Eckhart Tolle book with the embarrassing title because my mother told me to read it, and I was trapped in an airport and needed something, and there was a giant table full of them—and it's actually really excellent if you like books about dismantling your ego and trying to be less of an asshole. Which I do.

What writing projects [have you been] working on?
Um, I have a pre-apocalyptic David Bowie-inspired novel in progress—plus a fantastical sort of young adult novel about a girl who is so empathic it hurts her. That one has mermaids and griffins, so I'm super having fun with it. I'm adapting my memoir Rent Girl into a screenplay just for the hell of it, and I'm writing a totally unpublishable fictional memoir featuring an unreliable narrator. It's titled I'm Writing A Book Called How You Did Me Wrong. I think it might be my diary, but I'm so warped from writing memoirs that I don't know it.

Do you have style icon? Sorry--that's pathetic. Whose style do you admire and why?
In real life, Chelsea Starr, a writer and DJ who lives in San Francisco, is my number one icon. She just has this ease with wearing huge risks—things that might look just insane on anyone else look totally fierce and natural on her. I just accidentally marked her style because she's been wearing those Minnetonka boots forever, and I, like, blanked it when I bought them. It was totally her influence—subconscious. Beth Ditto has amazing style and keeps looking hotter and hotter and more incredible. She's always been an icon, and now she's getting increased access to high fashion. I love seeing what she's in. I just saw the performance artist Taylor Mac and felt really excited by his costume. I love costume! The late Isabella Blow was so wonderful to see pictures of. I love women who can rock a crazy headpiece. I worry that because I wear eyeglasses; it really limits the accessorizing that can happen around my face.

What creative outlets do you have besides writing?
Honestly, getting dressed in the morning! It gets me out of bed. And then all day I get excited wondering what I'll wear that night. I feel like I felt like when I was a kid playing Barbies, but now I get to be the Barbie.

19 July 2008

Yes, This Is Problematic

I was telling a friend last night about an unsatisfactory situation I find myself in quite a bit: heterosexual guys tend to admire me. He was like, "What's wrong with that?" Well, there is nothing wrong with admiration in and of itself. Obviously, I would rather be admired than reviled. However, this admiration is usually in the context of me finding the guy attractive and, you know, liking him. This is the ideal situation with, say, a married guy with kids because we get a little mutual admiration society going, and that's all very nice. This happens with alarming frequency with the guys I'm trying to mack on, though.

I've described this dreary, all-too-common phenomenon as men developing a crush on my brain. That's great, but, well, I'm cute, too. Men admire my brains, charm, wit, and inimitable style. After a while, it's like a I'm this fag hag for straight guys. And that's just wrong.

08 July 2008

Pretty. Gay.

This morning I dreamt of Golden Girls Barbie dolls. You remember The Golden Girls, right? The 1980s sitcom featuring Bea Arthur as one of a gaggle of post-menopausal pals and the zaniest art direction this side of Staying Alive. My favorite character was always Blanche Devereaux, the Southern belle. Maybe because the show hit me in early adolescence when I was very into mid-20th century theatre and reading a lot of Tennessee Williams. In my dream, the Blanche doll came with the prettiest stuff: spangly, flapper-style dresses with drop waists and shiny decor. Thus, she was the most covetable.

Then at work today I googled Judy Garland. I was curious about why she is such a big gay icon. This reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend this past spring during which I mentioned that I had googled Barbra Streisand. (For the same reason I googled Judy.) "Courtney, are you a gay man?" he chortled. Har har! What a witty beast! He's the one who was telling me his girlfriend's eyebrows (!) make him feel "uncomfortable." And demanded my assistance concocting an underhanded strategem to furnish his girlfriend with more acceptable eyebrows. It was one of those conversations I couldn't believe I was having.

I think I kind of get why Judy's so important, but I think I should learn more. Then I read an article on AfterElton.com about what it takes to become a gay icon. Because that's what I really want.

05 July 2008

CoS Interviews

Church of Style interviews are back! As soon as I stop being lazy: feast your eyes on interviews with Melissa Dettloff, formerly of the beloved Lekkner, and Michelle Tea, editor of the bitchin' It's So You: 35 Women Write About Personal Expression Through Fashion and Syle, which I actually, like, bought! Please stay tuned for that style goodness. Cuz it's comin! I so promise.

Sometimes It Feels So Right

Cream City Collectives
The Cream City Collectives (CCC to those in the know) make anarchism so desirable. Yes, desirable! Every time you turn around, those crazy kids are scheming up some mind-blowing event...and programming. Examples include the Free School, this past spring's Crazy Cupcake Competition at which mind-boggling vegan deliciousness abounded, and the, ahem, illegal vegan restaurant. (Fuck The Man and his health code, yo!) Without getting all tear-y and hiccup-y about how DIY is alive and well in Riverwest--cuz it is--someone is always slapping up fliers about her/his yard sale, which sometimes includes the odd fire-breathing act. CCC also provides space for neighborhood events and meetings, the aforementioned Free School classes, recycled hand-screenprinted merch, a gallery, and a good book selection. Also, their myspace page is the best MK seen, featuring an excellent user-friendly calendar.

Walking Man
Ms. Kansas is recommending this book to everyone she knows. The author, Tim W. Brown, a Rockford native, gave a reading this past spring at Woodland Pattern. Being too cheap to buy the book, Ms. K recommended it to Milwaukee Public Library for purchase--and they bought it. Featuring walking, zines, librarianship, and the Upper Midwest--this book has claimed a special place in her heart. Sniff! An added plus: be prepared to be rendered helpless by laughter.

Perfume Theory
Ms. K does not make proscriptions about style--because what is she: a fascismista? The know-it-alls' proclamations are so high-handed and, to be honest, consumerism-driven. Nu, Ms. Kansas will now set forth her Perfume Theory. It's more about being thoughtful and considerate than fashionable. Ready? One shpritz. That is all anyone ever needs. Ever. Ever. Perfume is an enhancement; it should be a nice little ah! when you get close enough to another person. It is not for roiling in one's wake like some hormone-addled, tasteless teenager. Also, some people just have chemical sensitivities. If that isn't enough of an incentive: ask yourself: do you want to be That Person On the Bus/Elevator/Train/Whatever whose personal fragrance mushroom cloud is causing your fellow passengers' eyes to roll back in their heads? If it's ever happened to you--which is to say, if you've ever found yourself afoul of a pack of college-age males on public transit whose smog cloud of Eau de Postadolescence leaves you no choice but to suck air through the filter of your scarf--the answer is obviously: no.

01 July 2008

I Earn My Name

I miss Kansas. Last week I dreamt I was back in Lawrence. Maybe it had something to do with explaining to a UWM film instructor from St. Paul that Lawrence was named after an abolitionist stronghold in Massachusetts last Sunday. Then, during my shift at the co-op this past week a guy wearing a KU t-shirt came in. I asked him if he were from that fair state--which is something I do whenever I see someone sporting KU or Jayhawk merch. Turned out he was. Now I'm sitting here now listening to Jolie Holland--and it makes me think of barn dances and other crunchy activities--and I almost feel like crying.

24 June 2008

The Church Has Merch

My promise of a Church of Style promo has finally come to fruition! The Church has merch, y'all. I'm retailing these teeny little 1" buttons for $1. This design was created for me by the lovely and talented Derek Reitzel and printed by the VG Kids in Ypsilanti, MI. Hit me up before they become collectors' items!

20 June 2008

Back To My, Um, Roots

The proof that I am not--was not and never will be--a hipster is the fact that during my college years, the Lillith Years, if you will, I was very much enamored of folk music. That's right! Folk music--I liked it. I pored over Ani DiFranco's oeuvre. In the hot minute I took music lessons, one of the songs I asked my teacher to teach me to play on the bass was "The Million You Never Made." (The part at the end is one of the most wicked awesome bass lines you will ever hear.) In fact, I still have Not A Pretty Girl. Yes, all very tragically not-cool. In fact, I attended earnest coffeehouses in which local singer-songwriters performed and saw Cry, Cry, Cry in 1998 or 1999. And, though I haven't listened to it in years, I cannot imagine parting with the Indigo Girls cd I used to sing to in the Community Mercantile kitchen in 1996.

Once I was firmly entrenched in grad school, I tried to toe the line: Radiohead, indie band o' the month, etc. It was just impossible not to like the cool stuff--unthinkable. During a comm studies/mass comm class I had an epiphany: I didn't give a single flying fuck about punk or any of the permutations thereafter. Or hip-hop, for that matter. I didn't have the story to tell about how music had saved my life. I just didn't.

In the past year or so, I've started to reclaim my "cheesy" folk roots. I unabashedly tune in to "American Routes." I love The Be Good Tanyas. I am currently listening to Pieta Brown's latest album on Free Napster. And, yes, I have my theories about roots and folk music and vernacular cultures.

Obviously, it's more complicated than labeling myself a folkhead--what with my predilections for both hot house cuts and preferring silence. But now that I'm in my 30s, coolness recedes. I can get slide guitars and spooky harmonies and just go to church if I want to.

18 June 2008


Ok, I previously thought the SSION kinda sucked. No need watering it down. I saw them when they opened for Yeah Yeah Yeahs in, like, 2004. (This was during SSION's Animal Costume era.) Yeah, they were an art band, but I just couldn't go there with them.

Then yesterday I was looking around Bejeezus's myspace page--and SSION's one of their friends. So, I click over to there. Their song "Clown" is a hot mess! In a good way. And the Glass Candy remix is even better. The next thing I know, I'm googling Cody Critcheloe (he's from the other K state), reading about him online in The Voice and Kansas City's Pitch , and watching the video for "Street Jizz" on YouTube. SSION's had sort of a rethink about its aesthetic and mission, which I guess kind of happens all the time. And that's totally ok with me.

Photo from SSION's myspace page.

17 June 2008

Oh, Tap!

Ms. K sure loves her some tap dancing--whether it's burlesque, Tilly and the Wall, or some good old-fashioned Hollywood extravaganza. In fact, she took a tap class herself last fall. It ain't just for little girls, honey, and it's a hell of a lot more fun than step aerobics. Plus, it's gorgeous to look at and stylish.

That is why Ms. Kansas is eagerly looking forward to the screening of Roberta, a Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers film she's never even heard of, tomorrow evening at the Charles Allis Art Museum. What a dreamy way to spend a spring evening!

Photo from www.cavtmuseums.org.

13 June 2008

Freaky Deaky

You know, one of the things I love best about the anarchokids I know here in Illwaukee is their insistence on putting themselves--rather than some dipshit reality show, movie, cult DVD, or celebrity--at the center of their lives. It's a beautiful thing to see.

One of the most inspiring examples of living life to its fullest that I know of is Gene Gallistel--full disclosure: I dated him for, like, a hot minute--and his Dead Man's Carnival compatriots, co-freaks, and hell-raisers. I haven't seen their show, which promises "a night of comedy, burlesque, clowns, fire, performances, cabaret[-]style music, magic, escapes, and death[-]defying stunts" yet--resulting mainly from my own mulishness about not being on the guest list--but everyone I know was peeing in their pants over their April show.

Hell, I might even catch them at Stonefly tomorrow night since my dinner guests bailed on me.

03 June 2008

Can't Hardly Wait

I was going through people to add as myspace friends (I call it "friendstering" people because it's more efficient--though, I'll probably get sued for doing that now) and I thought about Michael Zadoorian, the Detroit writer, because I loved, loved, loved, his book Second Hand. I shed tears of emotion just thinking about that book. First of all, it helped me to formulate my consciousness as a thirtysomething living in the Upper Midwest. Secondly, it's about a guy who runs a second-hand store for a living! Omigod! Tears of joy! Hand to chest--must breathe deeply now. It was just such a great thing to read about because that's somewhat like my life.

Anyhow, Michael Zadoorian isn't on myspace (WTF?!), but I did google him and went to his website. He has a book coming out in Spring 2009 called The Leisure Seeker. I am so totally stoked! I had been wondering what he had been up to. I'm pretty sure he's cute, too. I hope he still lives in Detroit--because that would help me to further formulate and articulate the meaning of choosing to live one's life here in the Upper Midwest (as opposed to living on one of the coasts or in Atlanta or something) and cohering a sense of identity and place. Anyway, like I said, I'm pretty sure he's cute.

Fools' Goldring

I will not be attending the Goldring Arts Journalism Program at Syracuse University's Newhouse School later this month or, like, ever. I found out in April that I didn't get a scholarship to attend, and, honey, I ain't tryin to take out them kinda loans.

It was disappointing not to get a scholarship, of course, but not getting what I wasn't sure I wanted caused me to think about where I was going and the choices I'm making in life. And, to be truthful, I would not have gone down that road voluntarily.

Also, I left my copywriting job about six months ago--but folks knew that. So, for now, I'm still in Illwaukee--keeping kinda cryptic about my plans.

29 May 2008

When Zines Fall Apart: Ongoing Venus Zine Snark

A few weeks ago, someone I know in publishing mentioned that Venus Zine founder Amy Schroeder sold her publication in 2006. Like Crystal Method, I guess I didn't know. The new owners are Anne Brindle and Marci Sepulveda, the ladies behind Chicago Agent Magazine. That's right--they're in real estate--which is so totally synonymous with indie culture and the underground, right?

The downward spiral of Venus Zine makes sense in this context. I picked up the latest issue earlier this week, which unequivocally convinced me I am so right about everything I've said about Venus in the past. I was nauseous and embarrassed for them when I saw the piece about Amelie Gillette, who serves up self-indulgent, pointless, and poorly written derivative shit every week for the fucktardedly sexist, racist, classist The Onion.

Punk Planet
and Clamor drop like flies, but the newly lame Venus flourishes. The gods do have their revenge! BUST, they of the School of Fuck Me Shoe Feminism, stopped being a contender a long time ago. That's why Bitch is more important than ever.

08 May 2008

Buy You a Hanky

It should be no surprise that I come out in favor of hankies. I bought a blue flowered one recently during a Saturday trip to Fischberger's. Shucks, I'm just a retro kinda girl in some ways. I felt so old-timey a few weeks back in my striped hat and 1940s coat ensemble avec hanky--of course. Which is oh, so appropriate since I was rereading Summer of My German Soldier. A hanky in my jeans pocket makes me feel so genteel and European, yessiree. My summer style plans include appropriating gents' suspenders and square-folded hanky to rock the girl-with- menswear flava.

16 April 2008

Book TV?

I've been thinking of doing a blog about books and reading. I love reading. Books, I realize, are my albums. I go through books like a hot knife through room-temperature butter. And I read rather fast. All of this sets me up to have no comprehension of people who "don't really read." And I'm very thankful to my mother for instilling that love. That's when I lose track of what I'm doing and where I am. I love the co-creative process of words on a page setting off a little movie in my head.

I've noticed that the Favorite Books section of my profile is infinitely more populous than Favorite Music or Favorite Movies could ever hope to be. But when would I have time? Could I do books justice?? Wait! I've got it: a reading label. I think I'll call it Hyperliterate.

11 April 2008

Do You Trust Marc Jacobs?

Do you trust Marc Jacobs to save the world? I don't. I am not trying to start up venuszinepettycriticism.blogspot.com or dis the fashion world's MJ--though, I must admit seeing the designer top that mag's most recent Hot(tttttttttttt) List irked me enough to fantasize about sending a prim, pedantic email that began "I'm not sure if Venus Zine readers are aware of it or not, but the Marc Jacobs label is owned by French fashion circle jerk LVMH..."

I recently read Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster by Dana Thomas. I recommend this book to anyone who's "into fashion." It's mad informative. I had problems with it, though, because a) it just came to an end and b) it never interrogated consumption or even c) asked Exactly what the fuck are we (as in you, retailers, and the rest of us as inhabitants of this fucking finite planet) gonna fuckin do when India, Russia, and China markets dry up; what then, you shortsighted motherfuckers??!!

I'm suspicious of the idea that we can get out of our current environmental and economic problems by buying more stuff--no matter how environmentally friendly or Fair Trade it claims to be--because buying shit is what got us into trouble in the first place, ya know? Let's be wary of this as a solution to all or any of our global woes, ok?

31 March 2008

Oui, je suis une clothing nerd

Today the commentary I wrote and recorded in January ran on WUWM's Lake Effect. I haven't listened to it because my computer at work doesn't have Quicktime. Oh, well. Click on "My Fashion" to check out the audio.

25 March 2008

Thank you, Gudrun Sjödén

I first became aware of Swedish designer Gudrun Sjödén's designs last year while I flicked through the pages of Selvedge. I was instantly entranced by her silhouettes, her usage of layering and, well, trousers. Her models seemed comfortable in their own skin--something an American woman notices right off.

It's become downright eerie, though, the way Gudrun Sjödén regularly manufactures the items for which I've inwardly yearned--the tunics, leggings, coats, and "folkloric" woven trousers. How does she do it??

As if that weren't enough, it appears Sjödén has created the swimsuit of dreams--delightfully reminiscent of svelte 1930s swimwear and endearingly ass-covering.

Photo from gudrunsjoden.com.

04 March 2008

My Exciting Research Question

This afternoon at work, I chanced to think, Does/can/should clothing play a role in one's evolution as a person/spiritual development? Zoinks! If only I could have come up with this when Beverly Gordon was asking for a thesis topic in 2004!!

Surely, surely, this is a sacrilege, though--being aware of what one is wearing leads to the very opposite of evolution or spiritual development. But wouldn't most people say music or dance could play an important role in evolution or spiritual development? If so, why not clothing??

As I see it, if I have something simple, unfussy (yet flattering) on, that's my canvas or backdrop. The simplicity helps me not to get bogged down; the flattering bit means I can feel like my best self--which means I can act better toward others. For the record, I don't think Prada leads to enlightenment. Most likely, that would require hemp and get-ups like the ones worn by inhabitants of Tatooine.

03 March 2008

It's Not You; It's Me, Venus Zine

God almighty, I hate February, unambiguously the worst month of the year! Nothing but lashings of snow, freezing rain on top of that and yet endless layer upon layer of unsightly accumulation. And, adding insult to injury, this year we had the 29th (!)day, lingering on nauseatingly, long after everyone of sound mind had had quite enough, fuming in impotent wrath, ready for the month to just fuck off out of it already.

Ah, so, dear reader, we have finally arrived on the other side. Ah, March! How well do we love thee! Bathe our faces with thy gentle, balmy breezes! Unfurl thy goodly branches so that underneath them we might sweetly sup! Lengthen thy pleasurable hours that we might sing thy praises from early until late in thy golden light! Oh, March! Your children we truly are!

Well, having gotten that out of my system, I'm afraid it's time for the topic at hand. Sadly, I must part paths with Venus zine. No more shall I be able to buy 't! I've been unsatisfied with the direction the zine's been heading in for nearly a year. I haven't liked the fashion stories by new fashion editor Constanze Lyndsay Han. Suddenly, the models were skinny bitches from agencies, not somebody's cute and zaftig friends. And, like a slap in the face, a lot of the clothing was expensive designer shit. How the fuck does that make sense??? That's like putting Mariah Carey on the cover--in that these people have more than enough exposure already--yet the editor allows them to hoover up the space DIY and indie designers could use to get noticed.

I thought maybe the Summer 2007 issue was a fluke. With Björk on the cover, I was willing to let it slide. It was like sand in an oyster shell, though--the pearl of my growing discontent. So, after that it was easy to start noticing other unsatisfactory things about the new Venus, some significant; others not so: the old logo was much cuter, I liked the art direction pre-Summer 2007 much more, Marisa Meltzer's insertion of herself in the Björk interview was editiorially jejune and sloppy, the flogging of How Sassy Changed My Life was tiresome. "Trend Watch" now hawks merch! Thanks for the hoodie update from a few issues back, ladies! This took me completely unawares--considering the fact that these dELiA*s-like staples have been clogging all the stores at every price point! Whew! It's a good thing I didn't miss out on that original fashion moment! Thanks to Venus! In general, there just seems to be less there there.

After flipping through the latest issue, I knew it was time to let go. Not only was it missing the beloved "Style Idol" feature, but also it offered famous girls kitted out in new togs--some of them of the expensive designer kind. To replace the completely awesome feature (chicks and dudes wearin their own unique duds)with the traditional witless approach (famous folk in clothes the stylist slings at them)was symbolic. And more than I could countenance.

So, I can no longer buy Venus zine or support its slide into mediocrity. R.I.P., Store of the Ish! At least I'll have my back issues...

Image from venuszine.com.

24 January 2008

Are Albums Accessories For Straight Guys?

This question is predicated upon a recent realization: women favor the enorm handbags of the past few years as status markers. The bigger your bag, the more fashionable you are. And we all know fashion is power, honey.

Hetero guys, sadly, are not able to avail themselves of bags as weapons of aggression in the quest for social prestige. (Unless they're Pharrell.) So, they use records instead.

Aren't albums more or less straight guys' lifestyle accessories? Don't they clutch at and attempt to align themselves with the makers' image or in-group status just about as frantically as style-conscious women with their bags--wielding the prestige of cool-band-of-the-moment's music the way women deploy fashion??

Ok. But so, what? Though more and more women move to adopt the discourse of music as meaning-giving, we really aren't seeing the similar embrace of fashion by men--our metrosexual friends notwithstanding. I think this is because certain fields are viewed as girl ghettoes--dance, decorative (!) arts, textiles, interior design, anyone?--and fashion is one of them. They just don't rate the way field of inquiry and practice like film, the fine (?) arts, architecture or music do.

And fashion is not buttressed and validated by what I--as a veteran of mass comm/comm studies seminars--call the mythic story of life-saving power. How many texts did I read that did not include some variation of the (male) writer proclaiming: "Music is soooo important to me! Music is my life, man!! Rock 'n' roll/punk/hip-hop saved my life, man!!" Marc Jacobs just isn't out there sobbing to anyone who will listen that resortwear was a revelation.

There is something bitchy and coercive about fashion. Though...it's not like music scenes can't be as codified and sadistically gleeful in their policing and enforcement.

I don't know: maybe the denigration of fashion--which is, at its best, adorning the body as an artistic endeavor--has to do with the with the association of the female with the body and its lower estate vis-a-vis the mind. Maybe that explains why crafts--all about hands, my dears--are considered skanky and arts sublime.

22 January 2008

Is Poetry Dead Stylish?

I'm going to argue in favor of There's-a-pretty-good-chance. How chic is martini-damp Anne Sexton--poor dear--in this photo? I never got quite as into her as I did Sylvia Plath. (Ted Hughes appeared in one of my dreams when I was 19. He asked me to call him dad. But that's all that happened. I swear.)

How can you not be ravished by the sweep and scale of Assia Wevill's--god, poor dear!--life? You know who she is--the hussy Ted Hughes went off with (herself married to a poet)...who, in turn, killed herself (and her daughter with Hughes) the same way Sylvia Plath did. To say Wevill had a very interesting life is quite the understatement. Her family fled Nazi Germany for British-ruled Palestine, and she spent the war years (her teenage years) in Tel Aviv. Successive marriages got her to UK, Canada and UK again. Wevill was a beautiful, intriguing woman, but also very talented--working as an advertising copywriter and producer, and helping Hughes translate Yehuda Amichai's poetry from the original Hebrew (under her birth name Assia Gutmann.)

Even nowadays, poets like Jorie Graham up their glamor factor by being shot by Annie Leibovitz.

Though happiness hardly makes for electrifying poetry, nothing romanticizes the hard livin the muse puts you through like pill-popping poets and their lovely excesses.