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

Bitchtastic


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.