29 February 2012

So So Def

Deaf Jam Trailer from DeafJamdoc on Vimeo.

Tomorrow at the Waisman Center. 1500 Highland Avenue. 8-ish PM.

Also tomorrow evening, Voices From El-Sayed; the film's director; Department of Communicative Disorders personnel; ASL poet. Desserts!

25 February 2012

Big Nights

 I'm willing to say the average U.S. citizen 1) gleans most of his or her understanding of the Middle East or, more specifically, Israel from CNN and 2) doesn't have an Israeli on his or her speed dial. Thus, the average citizen doesn't know what everyday life in Israel is like. As any media studies yahoo could tell us, the media a society produces necessarily has embedded and encoded therewith information about itself. (So, for cultural and educational reasons, I invite you to experience this commercial of mind-boggling cheesiness featuring Yehuda Levi, the hottie from Yossi & Jagger.)

For this reason, I think Israeli film is an excellent "gateway drug" to Israeli society for numerous reasons. I'm not backing myself up with a theorist, but I think the visual experience makes it easier to transpose oneself into a setting. Like, oh, there are palm trees everywhere in Tel Aviv. These are the kinds of cups people use for tea. This is what pay phones in Israel look like. It's easier to "get" what Israeli society is about or like watching The Bubble than, say, attending a dance concert choreographed by Ohad Naharin.

Here are some opportunities to get into Israeli films.

Courtney's Israelicious Film Night Series
This evening we're screening Walk on Water. I got the DVD yesterday afternoon. This may seem like the Israeli film everyone and their auntie has seen dozens of times, but at least three people who haven't seen it will be joining us tonight.

The Oscars
Obviously, the biggest deal. If Footnote wins on Sunday, there will be more interest in Israeli films internationally. And more opportunities for different kinds of filmmakers to get their work out. Maybe I'll even dress up.   

Madison Israeli Film Festival
Also on Sunday! I'm was so excited yesterday I started to get tears in my eyes. The festival kicks off tomorrow with a screening of Super Boy! This is a superduperfun family event. Come for Purimpalooza (P.S. not an official term), snackies, and general merriment of face-painting and mask-making. Prizes! Games! Come to hang out, help out, or both. Starts at 1PM. Movie at 2PM.

This is the only MIFF event during the daytime. The other screenings will be evening events. 

22 February 2012

And Here We Have Hebrew Hip-Hop

Ok. Everyone should be exposed to Hebrew hip-hop, I think. (Yes, I found this perusing HEEB. The commentary is hilar, by the way.) I think, in general, Hebrew hip-hop has a long way to go. But that's probably because I'm like, Yeah, black Americans have invented all the 20th century's important popular musical forms. Is that cultural imperialism?

21 February 2012

20 February 2012

2012 Israeli Film Festival

University of Wisconsin-Madison Hillel and the Jewish Federation of Madison are presenting the ninth annual Israeli Film Festival February 26 through March 1. This year's theme is diversity. No, it's not too Israelicious for you, baby. I'll even walk you through it. All events except those of March 1 are at UW-Madison Hillel at 611 Langdon.

February 26--a Sunday--is for the meshpakha. Snacks, face-painting, and Purim goodness at 1PM. And Super Boy at 2PM. At Hillel, of course.

The  movies to be screened the February 27--A Matter of Size, a film about overweight folks b'eretz and Rabies, an Israeli horror film (the first?), which also stars the overwhelmingly Israelicious Lior Ashkenazi and, yeah, that Ran Danker kid. Complimentary snackies!

Student shorts from film students from Tel Aviv University, which is the school directors like Eytan Fox and Haim Tabakman graduated from, and comedy This Is Sodom are on the program for February 28.

James' Journey to Jerusalem and  and The Matchmaker are the plan for February 29.

March 1, the festival's last night,  is special. Not only will the Israeli Film Festival will be collaborating with UW-Madison's Department of Communicative Disorders to show Voices from El-Sayed and Deaf Jam at the Waisman Center, 1500 Highland Avenue, but also Oded Adomi Leshem, the director of El-Sayed, will be present. Also: dessert reception!

Yes, Yes, Yigal

I'm ready to be his muse...

14 February 2012

Living With Yuval

Yuval is a character in the novel I wrote in 1997. I’m revising the novel, so he’s with me a lot these days. I think about him every day. I even speak to him. (Yes, I know he’s not there.) Personally, I think living with a character is great. At least, it has been so far. My characters don’t talk to me—they’re not independent of me. They’re more like fantasies. I don’t know if I should feel jealous of writers who describe characters upping and making their own decisions or not behaving as they’re supposed. I think I’d like that—with Yuval, at least. I think. Because it would mean they existed independently—and maybe I’d find them out in the world some day. Ok, I’ll admit it: I have a crush on one of my characters. Moving on…

Getting this character right, making him convincing, has necessitated forays into, um, would it be called masculinity studies? This is a topic I haven’t thought of very much, I must admit.

Ok, I'm posting this video now that I finally hit upon the right words to search. One night last week, I was googling "Israeli masculinity" or some such permutation and found this video of Eytan Fox below. I was so completely enthralled, it was so completely interesting, that I watched the entire thing. I was looking for it until earlier this evening. I got the keywords right, so here it is. 

Since then, I've also found some really interesting sources. I cannot wait to read some of the work Raz Yosef does.

Happy Valentine's Day! Here's all you ever wanted to know about Israeli masculinity, but were afraid to ask...

13 February 2012

AWP Approacheth

The 2012 AWP conference in Chicago will be here before you know it. Thank goodness it's so close this year!

Since it is so close, I know heaps of people who are presenting or reading at the conference this year. But the person I want to big up is my friend Jacinda Townsend, lately of Indiana University. Jacinda and I were in grad school at Iowa at the same time, (No, I wasn't in the Workshop. I got my master's in American Studies.) and she was one of my besties. I remember sitting in some place like Perkins one snowy Sunday night in early December with Jacinda and Faith Adiele. As per usual, I was cracking Jacinda up with my hand grenade delivery.

Anyway, Jacinda's book Saint Monkey is coming out this year. Here's a link to an excerpt. And she will be part of the AWP panel "The Literati: Deconstructing Publishing Myths for Writers" (F241) from 4.30 to 5.45PM on March 2. It's my very first AWP. And I haven't seen Jacinda in ages.

12 February 2012

To winter

The past few days have shown us that we had, as Marshall Mathers might say, in fact, forgot[ten] about Feb. February is supposed to be cold—brutally cold, at that. It is not a time suitable for the uncovered face. We’re supposed to reel and and stagger into March like battered pilgrims—with a sense of having reached the far shore, with relief that, come cold rain and mud, the worst weather is behind us. Though I hunch my shoulders against it and curse, I’m glad it’s cold again. A February that’s even warmish is apocalyptic.

One of the things that makes winter bearable or even enjoyable is reading. House slippers, a decent lamp, a cup of tea—you’re good to go with your own personal fortress.
A cozy place for winter reading

Last semester I did not have the privilege of reading a single goddamn thing that I had a choice about—so, I fantasized about what I would read over the winter holiday. I usually crave Ibsen’s plays in early December, but most recently, I set out, literarily, at least, for warmer climes. I read a heap of Amos Oz and a soupçon of A. B. Yehoshua. (David Grossman's Her Body Knows is on queue for my next reading jag, I think.)

I asked some poets and writers I know what they have or plan to read this winter, have read in winters past, and prefer/can't stand for winter reading flights of fancy.

 Linguistics student and sometime book artist David Menees said winter was the ideal time to read books about astronomy since the nights provide more star-gazing time. What he's been reading of late, though, has been Linguistic Perspectives on Second Language Acquisition and Norwegian and Irish textbooks. 

Three current or former Woodland Pattern Book Center (WP) employees emailed their answers. WP Literary Program Manager Chuck Stebelton listed Robert Duncan's The H.D. Book, The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood by Jame Gleick, and Hedy's Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr by Richard Rhodes, which, he wrote in an email, he "borrowed [...] as an e-book from Milwaukee Public Library."

Marie Larson, the former Director of Marketing at WP, is a graduate of Naropa University's MFA program in Writing & Poetics. In an email, she indicated she was reading Alphabet by Inger Christensen, Transfer Fat by Aase Berg's, and Ilya Kaminsky's Dancing in Odessa, which I now want to read.
"I've been reading for school mostly," former WP Education Coordinator Julie Strand wrote in an email. She is the author of chapbook The Mae West Defense and currently an MFA student at Boise State University. Like Chuck, she's reading The H.D. Book. She's also reading Circle's Apprentice by Dan Beachy-Quick and Daniel Tiffany's Infidel Poetics. "Over break I read A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf. Also The Lectures of Gertrude Stein."

What current or former MFA student doesn't dream of becoming a professor in one of the country's most highly ranked creative writing programs? Amy Quan Barry is living that dream. Herself a graduate of the University of Michigan's MFA program in Creative Writing, she is a full professor in the University of Wisconsin's Creative Writing program. According to the program's website, she has received fellowships from Stanford and the National Endowments for the Arts, among other entities. In an email, she wrote: "During break I read: Salvage the Bones, A Visit from the Goon Squad, 1Q84, [and] Yellow Dog."

Last of all, Lisa Rosenbaum is the author of one of my favorite books A Day of Small Beginnings, which was chosen by Spertus, the Chicago "center for Jewish learning and culture" to inaugurate its One Book| One Community initiative last fall. I was so taken with A Day of Small Beginnings when I read it a few years ago that I emailed Lisa to let her know how taken with it I was. She depicted Kraków as I had always imagined it, as an old-fashioned city with cafes and cobbled streets. "I'm reading Philip Roth's I Married a Communist. Of all things!" she wrote in an email. 

I totally get it, though. I read I Married a Communist last school year. Roth immersed me in the 1950s witch hunts—and even convincingly brought the (in my mind anyway) sepia-tinted world of silent film close to me. I raved on over the book, all but insisting my then-housemate read it. She was monumentally unimpressed. Perhaps because, at the age of 85, she remembered what the days of McCarthy were really like. 

Winter helps me feel as if I've truly earned whatever warm, sunny weather we eke out here in Wisconsin. It's interesting how different winter reading is from summer or "beach" reading, isn't it?

I am now on Facebook

Well, sort of. I created a community (?) dealie for Courtney's Israelicious Film Night Series. Also, don't forget to vote for the next film to be screened February 25.So, "like" the Facebook, pretty please.

This semester is going to be incredibly Israelicious! I'm here for you. I promise you can handle this jelly, but, yes, it's sort of mind-blowing all the same. You'll know what I mean a few posts from now.

My Fave Israeli Redux

I think this 2008 post about my favorite Israeli deserves some love. It's about my oldest friend in Wisconsin Gil Roth--or, as he's known in the literary community, Gil Golan Roth. It's also pretty well written, if I do say so myself. He's an awesome writer and has more marketing experience than you could shake a stick at. Also, he's in talks to become the Israeli-In-Residence at Courtney's Israelicious Film Night Series.


A few years ago, I dreamt a guy I'd gone to high school with was telling me that, though he was studying Israeli culture, no one cared about it.

"I took a class in Israeli art history," I said to my douchebag interlocutor.

The next mise-en-scène is Cafe LuLu in Milwaukee's Bayview neighborhood almost a year before the dream at a neighbor's birthday party. I am talking to a woman who has recently been in Paris. Her perfume wafts at me, and for a moment I'm rather convinced I'm in Tel Aviv, not Milwaukee. She is wearing Cabotine, a fragrance my brain apparently will forever associate with the European girls with whom I attended ulpan.*

I realized several years ago how influential Israel was on my own sense of style. I can admit that outfits in the college photos of myself before I went to Israel are--frankly--tragic. I didn't spring to life, Athena-like, with a fully developed sense of line and proportion! I returned from Tel Aviv at the age of 21 with a pair of Naots, a watch with a domed blue crystal, a pair of velour hip-huggers with fuschia flowers on a black background, a strappy LBD I bought from a chain they don't have in the U.S., a hippie skirt in several shades of blue brocade and a pair of black patent Guess platforms. It was in Israel that I (unconsciously) developed the three-pair rule of jeans from observing my German roommate. (Germans do figure interestingly in my style trajectory. I had begged a German friend coming to visit for my 20th birthday to buy a perfume I couldn't get in the U.S. as a birthday gift. He gave me Cerruti 1881. I still had it when I left for Israel a year later, of course. Girls of all nationalities asked what it was.) Inspired by the Ethiopian Jewish girls I'd befriended at Tel Aviv University, I immediately set out in search of a long a-line black skirt and tall black shoes when I returned to the U.S. In short, I'd pretty much had to go across the world to get a style clue.

And I can admit that the summer after I returned in 1997 my friends and I were insufferable as only (self-conscious) undergrads who have studied abroad can be. Ah! those days--of walking to the art-house video rental to pick a Spanish movie and wait while my friend Paul whipped up a flan. Of Paul twirling me around in the living room of the house Mary and I shared that summer to remixes of "Don't Cry For Me Argentina." I insisted on vodka and absolutely no beer in 40-oz bottles for our parties. Luis and I both fell asleep in front of Jeunet's Delicatessen on our only "date." There was a great deal of socializing that summer--evidently--to the neglect of some academic obligations. Though Mary did do well enough on the LSAT to enter law school (though she ended up in med school), and I did finish the paper I was writing on Harlem Renaissance lit ahead of schedule. And very interestingly, I actually didn't know anything about Harlem Renaissance novels before I wandered into the Overseas Student Program office at Tel Aviv University and borrowed Nella Larsen's Passing. This is all true; I couldn't make it up if I wanted to.

Twentysomething pretensions aside, the culture and style of Israel affected me in other ways. I had always had "artistic" interests. In the same OSP office I borrowed what is my favorite novel of all time, Black Box, which I have rhapsodized about sufficiently in previous posts. And wandering around the southern Tel Aviv neighborhood Neve Tzedik is where I first heard of Batsheva, which I've also banged on about.

* An ulpan is an intensive Hebrew course.

10 February 2012

Announcing the Courtney's Israeli Film Night Series?

Image from IMDb
More eyes are on the Israeli film industry since Footnote. Of course, I want to protest that I was down with Israeli cinema before all the johnny-come-latelies came and ruined everything. (It was my secret! And now all these posers and hipsters are ruining everything because now it's cool to like Israeli film! Gah!) And I have been; check this out.

If you can't get enough of Israeli film, there's UW-Madison Hillel's Israel Film Festival February 26 to March 1. And, also, because I'm a real fan from back in the day, I'm going to screen awesome Israeli movies at home. Keep your eyes peeled for an invitation. We supply the Bamba.

We're very excited about the inaugural film--Eyes Wide Open.

Help us decide what film we should screen next! View the trailer, then vote at the right. The choices for the next installment are:

Walk on Water
Yossi and Jagger

I Am Obviously Not In Love with Amos Oz

Photo by Micha Bar-Am/Magnum Photos. 
 Not in the least, of course! He's a bit too old for me. Ah, if I'd been born 20--or even 10!--years earlier, well, who knows...

At any rate, since I started revising the "novel" I started as an undergrad, I've reread my favorite Oz work, Black Box; read To Know a Woman and A Tale of Love and Darkness ; and even finished My Michael. (I've also reread A.B. Yehoshua's novel The Lover and, since school started, finished Late Divorce.) I even skimmed the odd book of Oz crit.

I first read Black Box in 1996 when I was studying abroad at Tel Aviv University. It was for many years my favorite book. I was moved by the characters' ability to bare themselves to each other emotionally. Of course, time and distance (the novel takes the form of letters and telegrams) probably facilitated that openness. Years later, I reread it and was like, What was I on about? Having reread it in the past weeks, I'm like, What was I thinking? This book is absolutely brilliant!! This time, I especially noted the homoerotic currents between Alex, Michel, and Manfred. I've found the way Oz handles sexuality very interesting. What I mean by that is that he's evocative, rather than graphic. This is fascinating to me because evoking invites the reader into a coauthorship--a filling in of the gaps.

If I had a literary wish I'd grill Amos Oz about Black Box. Where did the idea come from? Literary wish part B would be grilling his translator Nicholas de Lange. I'm like, How does he do it? What does the original Hebrew have to be like?Written by angels?!