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Thursday, September 27, 2012

No Excess Baggage

One of the cool benefits of working with Rebecca is the opportunity to create new things on the side. The focus this past month was on bags, different variations on them. This month alone we made four bags, and shown here are three of them.

Pictured above is a cargo bag, based on the All-Saints bag only enlarged and expanded for more items for loading. Actually, this bag is big enough to bear a load for a weekend’s trip anywhere. It’s made of crocodile-embossed cowhide leather, shown here dyed red. The same bag was made with dark blue dyed leather. Two interior pockets were sewn in for easy access to wallets, passports and cell phones.

Pictured above is a small accessories pouch for my iPhone. I use it to keep my phone charger, iHome music speaker and other things phone-related. It’s made of pleather (leatherette) from a pair of pants that a client left at our studio. The letters on the material was some sort of word jumble that looks like “SEX”.

Pictured below is a tote bag made of a fake reptile-textured cowhide with leopard spots. Again, two interior pockets were installed for easy access to the usual necessities of life. It’s based on a leather tote bag made by Ralph Lauren. This one really turns heads!

After a background of making wallets, purses and bags for Retail Slut, Tasty and Patricia Fields it’s cool to move up to fabricating large bags, almost suitcase-size and working on a larger scale. I’ve always enjoyed creating new things I can wear or use and fabricating these items and watching Rebecca and I use them has been pretty damn exciting.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Happy New Year 5773

At this time of year the Jewish Holiday Season begins, inaugurated by the Jewish New Year, which is now 5773. Around this time I engage in thoughts both religious and secular, but as long as I’m discussing religion I want to talk about my favorite artist, Marc Chagall. The majority of Chagall’s timeless artwork is Jewish-based, mostly reflecting the streets of the European ghettos of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Chagall’s art style strikes an equal balance of fauvism, surrealism and naïve art that still presents a challenge to the viewer. The presence of animals in his painting, such as goats, chickens and cows is not necessarily intended for comic relief but is included because many homes in the pre-war shtetls (Jewish villages) had farms which housed these animals.

Most religious art is bound by tradition but Chagall’s depiction of religion is the freest ever painted, unencumbered by any pressure to follow reverence. While it isn’t irreverent by any means, there is a playfulness and humor that is absent in most religious work.

Whenever Rosh Hashanah (New Year) and its successive holidays come around I always look at my Chagall books and enjoy the works of a brilliant genius. His work transcends the folklore of any religion - if you’ve got eyes you gotta feel it.


I live in the heart of the Jewish hood on La Brea Avenue between a girls’ school and a wig store (heh!) and the school kids walk by under my 2nd floor window. It’s funny when I play my techno-swing records because a lot of them use clarinet, giving the music an almost klezmer-type sound. One day I was blasting out “Chambermaid Swing” by Parov Stelar, the lord high fixer of electro-swing, and I could hear a bunch of school kids hooping and hollering outside my window.

The Mojo Radio Gang - Parov Stelar

Who knew Jewish kids were into this Betty Boop swing shit? But it all fits, the music, the era, the culture, a lot of it has very Jewish roots (Afro too, of course, but this is really Jewish sounding stuff!). Just to make sure I wasn’t imagining things I played “The Mojo Radio Gang” by Stelar and I could still hear those crazy kids outside enjoying the music.

Princess Crocdile - Gry

After doing a little bit of research I discovered that electro-swing is pretty big in Europe, esp. in Britain and Germany, where they even have gigantic festivals dedicated to this hypnotic, insane dance music. Girls dress like Louise Brooks/Clara Bow flapperdoodle and guys look like old bootleggers, and it might all dress-up , but it doesn’t matter. The king of swing Parov Stelar looks like a male model so you don’t need to re-enact “The Sting”.

Chambermaid Swing - Parov Stelar

Just to raise the Betty Boop stakes some more I played “Princess Crocodile” by Gry, a bizarre ballad about a woman who travels through graveyards as a swing band of ghosts vamp on "Sweet Georgia Brown". By the way, the kids didn’t leave until I stopped playing all that crazy electro-swing. Never mind the lame American punk revival, electro-swing is the very next craze. The kids have spoken. Loudly!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Close To Home (Israel, 2005)

“Close To Home” (aka Karov Labayit) is the story of two very different girls assigned to work together, a plot device normally connected to comedy in the United States, but placed in Israeli hands delivers an ingenious take on the Israeli-Palestinian controversy. The overall tone of the film is hard by virtue of the way the city of Jerusalem is shot, focusing on a landscape of brick, mortar and stone.

Two teenage girls working the young women’s division of the Israeli security corps of the Army are assigned to patrol the streets of Jerusalem. They have entirely different attitudes about their work: Mirit (Naama Schendar) is overly serious and diligent in her work, a little too much so, stopping anybody and carding them. Her partner, the more seasoned and cynical Smadar (Smadar Sayar) realizes that picking a terrorist in the streets is like trying to find a needle in a haystack, so her attitude is more relaxed to the point of delinquency. In several scenes we see Smadar frequently taking breaks at boutiques looking at clothes, goofing off at the hair salon with her hair stylist pals, much to the horror of Mirit.

Because Mirit is assigned as Smadar’s partner she finds herself forced to be a party to these hooky sessions, so consequently they turn in their post-patrol report to their CO, Captain Dubik (Irit Suki), who chews them out in front of their comrades. Several scenes of carding are shown, first on the streets, in a border station where women are strip-searched in front of their children, and on a bus dealing with agitated bus riders, the riders having their backpacks and briefcases searched. You’ll feel annoyed and uncomfortable just watching these scenes, and that’s just the point: security sucks because people are basically just trying to get through the day, until something goes wrong.

And something does: a bomb goes off in the streets and Mirit falls unconscious, saved by a handsome passerby, which is the turning point of the film. Mirit develops a crush on her heroic guy, making her slide into a delinquency comparable to Smadar’s behavior.

MIrit spends more time roving the streets half-inspecting people’s IDs and looking for her guy. When she finally finds him at a café she runs to the ladies room to switch into her street clothes and chat him up. He doesn’t even remember her after she tells him the bombing story, and later on when Smadar goes to his home to get him to visit Mirit in the brig (Mirit fucked up again, believe it or not), Smadar realizes he’s already in a relationship and isn’t interested in even being nice to Mirit.

Ironically we find ourselves sympathizing more with flaky Smadar because she’s more comfortable with her femininity and during the film demonstrates a stronger loyalty to her partner than Mirit does. Mirit is all about saying “No” and Smadar is all about saying “Why Not”.

The film ends with a horrific scene where a citizen resents being carded by our two female soldiers, refusing to show them his card. A terrible argument breaks out, and a mob of Israeli men come to the aid of our girls, jumping on the man and beating him unconscious. The girls, for all their training and authority can’t even control an angry mob from beating the man, and the film ends with both girls riding through the streets of Jerusalem looking numb and not even speaking to each other. Unfortunately, the majority of the beating scene is played out just in voice-overs with no visual. Wonder if that was intentional on the directors’ part or it was forced on them. It still carries a strong punch.

“Close To Home” is an intense film that doesn’t offer answers to contemporary problems, but in showing the problems one can almost see how difficult the situation is. Directors Vardot Bilu and Dalia Hager have made an amazing film that brilliantly demonstrates the immediacy of the dilemmas facing security and how it affects everyday people just trying to get by. The principal three actresses (Schendar, Sayar and Suki) are excellent in their roles.

I would still recommend “Close To Home” even if you don’t have an interest in politics, as it perfectly demonstrates the dynamic between two people who have to work together in spite of their differences and still have to learn a thing or two about growing up in this turbulent, uncontrollable world.


I recently saw Mervyn LeRoy’s “East Side West Side”, and it may be the original “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” where everybody ends up pairing at some point with each other. You need a score card to keep up with this one!

James Mason, who’s married to Barbara Stanwyck, gets his flirt on with Barbara’s mom, played by Gale Sondergaard. After a punishingly dull evening with the in-laws James decides to go bar-hopping while Barbara waits for him to come home. He runs into his old flame Ava Gardner, with whom he cheated on his wife with in the past.

Gardner’s new boyfriend punches Mason out in front of Cyd Charisse, who knows Stanwyck personally from the department store she works at. Charisse takes Mason home to medicate him while bragging about her boyfriend, Van Heflin, who’s returning from France.

Cyd asks Stanwyck to accompany her to the airport to greet Heflin. Once he meets Stanwyck, he’s all over her like a cheap suit, completely oblivious to Charisse being in the same room. Stanwyck’s best friend, Nancy Davis (aka Reagan) is throwing a party for Heflin so her husband can woo him into writing for his newspaper. Needless to say, Stanwyck goes alone to the party.

Gardner keeps showing up at Mason’s office and he finally caves in to her seductive charms, because, in his own words, she’s like “liquor to an alcoholic”. While Mason’s guzzling on Ava, Heflin spends all his quality time with Stanwyck.

Stanwyck finally confronts Mason about his tomcatting, so he visits Sondergaard to appeal to her sense of mercy in their relationship. Sondergaard basically tells the previously flirtatious Mason to suck it. When he gets back home we hear that Gardner has been murdered. All fingers point at Mason as the murderer.

Heflin now gets his best detective on, playing a fake drunk act for Beverly Michaels (of Hugo Haas’ “Pick Up” fame). He has a theory she killed Gardner, which is ridiculous because prior to this scene she didn’t appear anywhere in the movie. By the way, at this point Charisse is totally out of the picture, not to be seen from again!

With his name cleared, Mason now gets on his knees begging Stanwyck for forgiveness. Gardner is dead so now he can be the faithful husband she always wanted him to be (!). Predictably, she walks out on him to face a beautiful future with Van Heflin, a man she just met at the beginning of the picture. Women!

On the plus side, any serious student of fashion could learn a thing or two by the wardrobe and art direction of the film, which are absolutely amazing. Every shot looks like it was ripped out of a page from Vogue Magazine. The silhouettes that Charisse and especially Gardner set off have to be seen to believe. Both are mannequin fierce and ferocious!

Thursday, September 6, 2012


Several weeks ago Jack White was in town for a two night engagement at The Shrine Auditorium, which is located near the USC campus. A friend of ours was handling wardrobe duties in his crew so we managed to get backstage. It was a pretty weird situation.

Jack White’s show is divided in two parts, the first being his back-up band being all female and the second half his back-up band is all male. While his intention may have been liberal there was something sexist about that concept, but that’s the least of my concerns.

Not only did both bands have to conform to a dress code – Forties vintage pin-up girl dresses for the gals and suits for the guys – but the light and sound techs also had to conform to this stringent Sunday churchgoer look. There was no choice in colors, either, as White mandated that everyone dress in the color blue. This was his witty way of vanquishing the red and whites that his previous persona in The White Stripes had to adhere by on stage. His eccentricity achieved Batman villain proportions when the light gels that hit the stage also had to be the color blue at all times.

This would be fine and dandy if Mr. White (dig the irony) adhered to his own dress code but he didn’t. He was boringly swathed in a black bowling shirt and black slob pants. How much does it suck to be ordered to dress like Napoleon Dynamite with the corduroy suit when the boss doesn’t even follow his own rules? And I thought the bossy Board of Supervisors sucked ass.

By the way, the music was the dirgiest hippie shit I’ve ever heard.


Further proof that people have lost their minds can be found on lamp pole banners strewn across Los Angeles courtesy of the Annenberg Space for Photography, currently exhibiting rock and roll photographs of the past fifty decades, entitled “Who Shot Rock & Roll?”

The banners are ridiculously offensive and tasteless, as images of John Lennon and Kurt Cobain, both handgun fatalities, are posted next to the title, “Who Shot Rock & Roll?”

Would it really pain the Annenberg if they chose non-gun victims like Prince, Bob Marley, Pete Townshend or Janis Joplin, to name a few, next to the sensational title? It would probably sell the show a lot better and prove that art people might be almost as intelligent as they think they are.


It’s always fun to discover a new writer you’ve never read before. In the past few years I’ve discovered John Dos Passos, Sebastien Japrisot, and Joe R. Lansdale, among others. My latest find is Robert Cormier, known for writing “The Chocolate War” but also the author of many other great YA (Young Adult) titles. I recently finished “Tenderness” and “Heroes”, and they’re some of the darkest teen novels ever written. I recommend all of them highly.


Things that I’ve designed lately:
1. A striped lurex dress for Rebecca (long sleeved)
2. A faux Custo Barcelona velvet top for Rebecca
3. A leather tote bag, influenced by Dior Homme
4. Two large leather travel bags influenced by All Saints

I’ve laid off making tops and jeans for now and see myself hovering more towards designing accessories (mostly bags) because they’re quicker to make and quicker to sell, too. Pictured below is a partial shot of the bag sitting in front of my new Kenneth Cole New York Fashion Guide shoes. What a pair of beauties! I may die tomorrow but let me die in style, baby!

By the way, if you are interested in seeing some of my accessories on sale, you can visit the Funny Crow store at Etsy. Here is the link:
FunnyCrow Shop on Etsy
More items will be added in the weeks to come, and yes, I do take requests.