30 April 2012

Ivri Lider On the Semi-Regular

Video accompanying Cornell Daily Sun's story about Ivri Lider from earlier this month. Like, who? What? Ivri Lider just happened to be around Ithaca, NY in late March?? Well, that's nice...

28 April 2012

My Personal Experience with Vitamin P

Last week I was talking to my boyfriend about some aspect of Israeli society and I mentioned protekzia, commonly known as Vitamin P. My boyfriend is like, What's that? What's protekzia? So, I told him this story...

Last winter, I was interviewing for an internship at a Wisconsin publication that shall remain nameless...unless you happen to ask me. The interview was like, Oh, ehhhh, even before it started. I arrived and was immediately condescended to by the receptionist; the interviews were running late; some office dude would be sitting in on my interview with the hiring manager--as if I weren't nervous enough to make a good impression; and the hiring manager was, let us say, a bit frosty. I think everyone knows the feeling of an interview intractably, intractably, going south...to the Bermuda Triangle of lost causes. Right? So, I was getting that feeling. But doggedly, doggedly, I kept trying to stay optimistic and maybe pull off some kind of turnaround.

Then, I was showing the hiring manager a piece I'd written for Bitch. And the hiring manager was like, "How'd you get published in Bitch magazine?" And I just did not like her tone. By that point, I was like, This isn't going well. I don't think I'm getting this internship. And then I had a stroke of inspiration for answering her question. "There's this word in Hebrew," I drawled. "Protekzia. It means 'connections.'" (This did rather distill the process of that piece's publication pretty neatly.) Some office dude sitting in on my interview let out a little bark of laughter. The hiring manager, however, was not nearly as amused.

Recounting this vignette aloud to last week, I was like: "Omigod, I actually said that." Quel chutzpah! But sometimes, truly, if you've got it, you flaunt it.

27 April 2012

Uriel Yekutiel Rules

Wow, he's such a star!

DiscorulesDiscorulesDiscorulesDiscorulesDiscorulesDiscorulesDiscorulesDiscorulesDiscorulesDiscorules DiscorulesDiscorulesDiscorulesDiscorulesDiscorulesDiscorulesDiscorulesDiscorulesDiscorulesDiscorules

26 April 2012

Barak Heymann Is My Brightest Diamond

This guy can produce (and direct!) the hell out of a movie.

Sun, Apr 22
Me: Shalom, Barak! This is Courtney. Can I call you in the next hour? 6:02PM
Barak Heymann: Sure! I am free now 10:02PM
Me: Yay! I'll call you in 10 minutes, ok? :-> 10:06PM
Me: Hey, let's talk tomorrow, ok? I'm 2hrs ahead of PDX, so my ass needs to get to bed. :-> Tomorrow afternoon or evening? Nice to meet you! Courtney 11:23PM

Israeli film producer-director Barak Heymann--son of Noa, brother of Tomer, the youngest Heymann--has been in the United States since last week, so I have been trying to reach him on his cell phone for an interview for my Israeli film story. I spoke with his brother Tomer Heymann last month. I did talk to Barak for a hot minute shortly after 10PM this past Sunday, but the connection was bad. So, he said he'd call me back.

Then, for an hour, I was the paragon of the good reporter: I actually started transcribing the interview I'd done earlier that day with Israeli film scholar Miri Talmon. By far, it was the easiest transcription I've ever done in my life. (Note: Reporters never think that.) It just flowed. I think Dr. Talmon may be my intellectual soulmate.

My story starts from the unsurprising premise that Israeli film can tell us a lot about Israeli society. There are many reasons to learn more about Israeli society: it has a fascinating sociocultural and linguistic history; gaining understanding about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; the country is an important ally to the U.S.; and for those on the Jewish Studies tip, it's a homeland. Though, Israelis will tell you their country is a problematic place.

Israeli film has been getting hot for, like, the past ten years. (Throw your hands up if you saw Late Marriage!) Israel's entries have been short-listed for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film every year except 2011 for the past six consecutive years. Though an Israeli has yet to take home a statuette, this is obviously a win-win situation.

Weds, Apr 25
Me: How are you? Can I call you in an hour? How late will you be up this evening? 5:57PM
Barak Heymann: Best to call me now I guess 7:15PM

So, why is Israeli cinema bubbling up just now? In the volume she co-edited Israeli Cinema: Identities in Motion, Miri Talmon wrote: "The demand for authenticity of experience represented in recent Israeli films, and for a critique of Israeli history which is rooted in biographically invested fictional worlds, is one of the reasons for the unprecedented success of Israeli films both in Israel and in worldwide film festivals."

Israeli society has been changing since the 1990s, Dr. Talmon says in real time. She identified the peace process and the emergence of Israeli suburbia and television with a "privatization" in the culture. Throughout its history, in other words, Israel was necessarily very focused on the national and, as Dr. Talmon puts it "collective" project of being--to the neglect, it might be said, of the personal. People are increasingly unwilling to do that now.

Isaac Zablocki, the director of the Israel Film Center in Manhattan says: "Israel has become more universal. Israel's story has matured a little bit." Also that: "Israel has grown confident with its own culture" in the past ten years, "develop[ing] its own themes." And a cinema "speaking in [its] own language," as Zabocki calls it, is much more compelling to audiences the world over.

Tomer Heymann's movies like I Shot My Love and The Queen Has No Crown are incredibly personal, yet, to me, they relay critical codes about a culture that can seem very difficult to breach for outsiders. Which is why I'm trying to get hold of his film-producing and -directing little brother.

Thurs, Apr 26
Barak Heymann: Do you want to talk in 20 min. Maybe? I will be free and relaxed.. 2:34PM 
Me: Um. Ok. I can do that. 2:55PM 

(Note: It is true that I often include material for my own geeky amusement [e.g. this post's title]--one of whose side effects is that my co-nerds will spot what I've done and, perhaps, enjoy a little bit of tee-hee-hee. Allow me to explain that, in fulfillment of an assignment for Deborah Blum's J880 class, this post is a "diamond narrative" and I wish to court goodwill by making said post as easily identifiable as possible; Heymann rhymes with diamond; and My Brightest Diamond is a band on the Asthmatic Kitty label.)

24 April 2012

Tomer and His Mom

I love this scene from I Shot My Love so much. Why do I love this scene? I just love that he's sitting there (ok, with a camera on) eating dinner and talking to his mother. That they can be that honest with each other. Her reactions to him are funny and heart-warming. I tried to imagine having a similar conversation with my mother and decided I'd better stop right away.

21 April 2012

Tel Aviv Is For Lovers

More Young Professionals. Makes you want to go chill in Tel Aviv, nakhon? P.S. Doesn't Ivri Lider look like Dan Savage?

20 April 2012

Are You Ready to Let Jhameel Into Your Heart?

I have not been able to stop watching Jhameel's videos since seeing this post on the Bitch magazine blogs last week. What outstanding pop sensibility! And he says his ideal collaboration would be with Janelle Monae. And what lovely, shiny hair he has, amirite?

I also tweeted his "Moves Like Jagger" cover this past week. Is it not completely, completely sweet? Is his voice not prettypretty so as to breathe new life into the accumulation of dreck that was Maroon 5's original? I thought I was being a non-drinking old fuddy duddy because I found drunk performance qua drunk performance, well, problematic. But my friend former Milwaukee poet laureate Peggy Hong agreed with me.

If you cannot stop watching Jhameel, there's more of his stuff here.

17 April 2012

Are You Old Enough to Learn About SSION?

Yes, I snarked on SSION when I first heard of them. And sort of dissed them. But that was in 2004! Almost a million years ago, really. I And I changed my tune in 2008, anyway. Though, even in when I was slagging SSION, I was like, I want to see you become the awesome art band you will truly be when you've got your game together. (It was "Opportunity Bless My Soul" era here, people.)

SSION has a new album and video. Very accessible. Catchy.  Cody Critcheloe keeps the cutie pie vocals, splits from KCMO. For Brooklyn. Oh, snap.

Ok, and if this is your first SSION, you can follow the link to a hot remix of "Clown," circa, like, 2008. I hope they're on tour soon!

D.I.S.C.O. Rules

I am posting this TYP video both to celebrate my disco roots and to draw your attention to Uriel Yekutiel, the mustachioed fellow who works the jumpsuits so well. 

Disco rules.

16 April 2012

All Is Full Of Love

The Heymann brothers in the 1970s. Tomer is bottom center looking a bit shirty.

"Falling in love with the Israeli filmmaker Tomer Heymann would be the most effortless, natural thing in the world. And not necessarily because the fortysomething documentarian is a total hottie."

I recited this--my Israeli film story lead--to my boyfriend recently. Then the realization struck: "It's totally homolicious, isn't it?" My boyfriend allowed that, though he wasn't by any means an expert on what was and wasn't homolicious, it did really seem that way to him, yes.

Well, homolicious is obviously fine with me, but it wasn't intentional. Yes, I interrogated myself about referring to Tomer's looks. Was it necessary? Was it just cheap titillation? Was it heterosexist? (But I realize I would have mentioned a heterosexual filmmaker's hotness. And I'm afraid titillation is a profound and necessary aspect of the human condition.)

What I wanted to convey with my lead, though, was how what I was really picking up on from Tomer's films is that the whole point is love. If you wonder what I mean, there's an amazingly beautiful scene in which he tells his niece Noga goodbye in The Queen Has No Crown. And, I mean, there are several other instances. His films are littered with them: the entirety of It Kinda Scares Me, for example. In his debut film, he is giving and chilled out in his work with a pack of post-adolescent boys to the point that I--seven years after my experience of working with middle school girls--find just this side of superhuman.

Interviewing Tomer and others for this story and, actually very much, the transcription process has had a tremendous impact  on me. Spending hours listening to the way people actually talk and phrase things is a goldmine since a lot of my novel's explication comes through characters' conversations with each other. But more than that, this process has brought home to me the way that art can put you on the edge in a very important way, the way it can push you to your next level.

Right now Tomer is working on a film about Israel's choreographic superstar and Batsheva artistic director Ohad Naharin. I asked him what gave him the idea to do a film about Batsheva, and he told me about seeing the piece "Kyr" in the early 1990s: "It was an unbelievable experience for me. It's like something, you know, opened me. I remember myself [feeling] so high after the show with so many images and colors and feelings."

So, I think I get it. Again, the point is love. That can take so many different forms--and the variations of human experience are really quite beautiful and, in fact, humbling to witness. It's a gift. Of his first exposure to Batsheva, Tomer told me: "You know, it changed me. There are not so many times in life art can be...so big an influence or inspiration with all your life--personal life and creation life." Yeah, I know what you mean, homie.

13 April 2012

Gimme More (Ivri Lider)

What can I say about this song and video that everyone hasn't said before? I find the lyrics incredibly poetic. By that, I mean they're so evocative you can turn them round in your mind forever, remember them, and shudder.

I'm glad that Ivri Lider is writing specifically and openly about his experience of being a gay man. What makes this song so powerful for me is relating to wantingwantingwanting someone so desperately and being unable to stop even though you realize it's no good for you at all. Everyone's had that experience. 

And I'm not reaching or going far afield when I connect Ivri Lider to Israeli film. He's done music for Fox's films, after all. I think maybe that's Israeli art's irresistible hook for me. We're really not trained in the U.S. to think about Israelis' emotional lives or human experience. That's probably not the best policy.

10 April 2012

From My Blog to Prairie Schooner's Server

 ZZ Packer reminds me of my cousin in Texas. But in a good way.
Happy Passover, everybody!

We ran to Iowa City right quick over the weekend, appropriately enough. I saw my friend and former neighbor Cecile, she gave me an anthology of Israeli women writers (more on them later...), and I cased her house for my novel. Also, Cecile was in the Workshop the same time ZZ Packer was and says she's really nice.

I can divulge that a pivotal scene in my novel takes place in Iowa City. My characters are back with me. They're talking to me. They're talking about each other. They're up into each other's business. And I'm writing it all down. Whenever I'm not doing something that requires concentration, I'm crushing on Yuval. This would be heaven if it weren't for school.

Last month I was googling Etgar Keret, the fortysomething don of contemporary Israeli literature, whom I met in Iowa City ten years ago, it happens. Later this month, he and Nathan Englander are appearing at the Chicago Humanities Festival; they both have new books out about now. Etgar, along with is wife Shira--sister of Aviv, subject of one of Tomer Heymann's films (ooh, see how I did that!?)--also makes movies. So, I'm really hoping I can talk with him for my Israeli film story.

My google search turned up a Prairie Schooner podcast about teaching writing featuring him and ZZ Packer. (Well, well, well! ) Admittedly, I was at that juncture too lazy to devote the fifteen minutes to listening to it. But it was a different story last week, now, wasn't it? I wanted to embed the synchronous podcast, which is apparently something new they're doing, but Prairie Schooner doesn't really want the drag on their server like that. So, ok: from my blog to Prairie Schooner's server.

04 April 2012

Preempting This Blog to Make a Self-Aggrandizing Announcement

Should I puke or cry? I found out today I got accepted to ZZ Packer's summer workshop at Iowa.

David, so sanguine, is like, "Of course you did, dear."

My "novel," from which the writing sample that ZZ Packer actually read came--which, consequently, I may have to start giving more respect to by removing the quote marks--is about a black American woman's relationships in and relationship to Israel.

03 April 2012

Say Shalom to Aviv Geffen

Never seen a bona fide Israeli rock star? Say shalom to Aviv Geffen, friends. Brother of Shira, brother-in-law of Etgar, film subject of Tomer. That's how things are in a small country.

A copy of Tomer Heymann's film Aviv is grinning up at me, so  I started googling photos of Aviv Geffen today. It's like, Say what you will, that boy's got excellent hair! And he knows his way around shirtlessness, heroic rock star poses, and hot eye makeup.

But I have it on good word that he's a very nice boy.