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This Recording

is dedicated to the enjoyment of audio and visual stimuli. Please visit our archives where we have uncovered the true importance of nearly everything. Should you want to reach us, e-mail alex dot carnevale at gmail dot com, but don't tell the spam robots. Consider contacting us if you wish to use This Recording in your classroom or club setting. We have given several talks at local Rotarys that we feel went really well.

Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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Friday
Apr212017

In Which They Were Taking His Wife Away

ted berrigan by alex katz

Ted and Sandy

by DAMIAN WEBER

Ted Berrigan met Sandy Alper and seven days later they were married. She wrestled him to the ground, sat on his lap, and asked him to marry her. He agreed. She dropped out of college and boarded a bus with him to Houston, where she pawned her watch to pay for the marriage license. She said she dropped out of college because she could tell, in an instant, that “living with Ted would be far more educational than staying in school."

Sandy writes in the introduction,

I lugged a big suitcase out of the dorm, announcing that I was taking some props to the drama department, and we got a bus to Houston. We could stay with Ted’s friend there, Marge Kepler. In Houston we had a blood test and I pawned my watch to pay for the marriage license. We bought Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island of the Mind as a wedding gift to ourselves. That afternoon we made love (I for the first time), in Marge’s bed. It turned out that she had been his lover in Tulsa. Later the three of us had to sleep together because there was only one bed in the house.

The letters between Ted Berrigan and Sandy Alper were published for the first time in Dear Sandy, Hello. In it Sandy explains that she was young (19) but she knew what she was doing. Once married, they visited her parents in Miami, who searched Ted's things and found letters from Ron Padgett about the drug scene on the Columbia campus. The next day the police arrived to take Sandy to Jackson Memorial Hospital mental ward.

Ted writes,

Sandy, get out of that place. If it takes a month, a year, years, get out of there. Lie, steal, cheat, do anything, but get out and come to me. I will be trying every way I know how to get you free. But they have us where they want, they think. I am sure they are going to have this marriage annulled. They are going to find you “disturbed,” and have the marriage set aside. Well, we don’t need to care about that. Our marriage can’t be set aside, no matter what legal authorities say. What is important is that we be together again. We can’t fight them their way. What we have to do is do anything they say, resisting only when we feel we have to. Don’t sign anything. We’ll do what they say, but when their backs are turned, we’ll be gone.

Come here any way you know how. If you think I can help by coming there, tell me, and I’ll hitchhike there tomorrow. Once we are together, we’ll vanish from their sight until such time as they recognize our love, our marriage, our dignity as human beings. Honey, don’t ever let them make you think you are sick, or disturbed, or anything of the kind. We are all sick, and disturbed, but if you ever believed anything I said, believe me when I say that you are the best, the healthiest, the most good of all of us.

She writes,

I found something about love life in The Brothers K. I am going to show it to the next doctor. Maybe he will see that I am not going to destroy myself and you aren’t. I seem to be struggling for both of us instead of just me. You will be part of my whole self forever.

I think I would like to read more Ibsen.

I talked to the Negro maid today. She is a great lady. She ran away with her first husband at the age of twelve and was married to him for twenty-seven years. He then died. She is good. She thinks the whole business is silly. I wish you could meet her. I wish you could be here. These people need much hope. You show people that sometimes dreams do come true if the dreamer works hard and believes. If he has faith and courage.

She writes,

They are putting the annulment papers in tomorrow. I asked them if they would harm you if you came down, and my father said he might even try to kill you if he saw you or lock you up. The doctor has recommended treatment with an analyst or psychiatrist and I would live at home. They  have accused you of much. Mainly of being schizophrenic and not realizing it or trying to do anything about it. Also you are a moocher and live off of others; Anne, Pat, Margie, your mother. They have evidence, letters etc. and what they have said about you. They also said you were not given your master’s degree, not even awarded it, but your letter of non-acceptance was a front and so many more things.

I wish you would write a letter telling me about all the truth about you. No matter how bad you may think it may be. Ted, even though I believe in you and your love for me, they have created doubts. I am not even sure I will believe either of you.

I do believe your love and many of the things you have said to me because I have seen myself the truth in life and the communication we have had is real.

march 1962

Ted responds,

My darling Sandy, I don’t know where to begin this letter. Are we losing? Are they coming between us? Honey, I love you so very very much. I want to answer all your questions very carefully. I want to tell you everything, give you everything you ever want to ask of me.

But forgive me, I must talk a little first.

Sandy, they’re beating us. They’re getting us down. All this about the annulment, and the detective reports, is something we knew from the first. I told you that this is exactly what they would do. Their plan is to separate us, to annul the marriage, and to use your sympathies and your natural feelings for your parents to drive doubts between us like a wedge until finally we are apart for good.

I beg you, I beg you again, don’t defend me. Not to them, not to doctors, not to other patients, not even to yourself. Remember how it was when we were together, remember how I look and seem to you. Remember the love we have for each other. Have faith in your judgment, your feelings, yourself, in me. If you try to argue with their ideas about me, their supposed “facts,”  you cannot win. Their logic is superior to yours, and mine, their age and experience and their determination are something you cannot cope with by fighting them according to their rules. They know how to handle you. In only five weeks they have gotten you to write a line to me which reads “I am not sure I will believe either of you,” meaning them or me. What will they accomplish in another five weeks? or ten? or fifty?

with anne waldman

Honey, I haven’t heard one word from your parents. I have received no legal notice from anyone. What right do they have to decide whether it is all right for you and me to be married? We must not allow them to even question us except as equals. We cannot act like all they want is what is best for you, when they have locked you up. It seems that all they want is what they say is best for you.

Sandy, don’t forget that Sunday night in Miami. Don’t forget your mother asking if you wanted to use her leather coat in New York, your mother and father handing you over to strangers. Don’t forget.”

Ted goes on to admit every weird or incriminating thing he ever did. He was completely honest, and that section of Dear Sandy, Hello reads like an autobiography. She believed him, she believed in him again.

There was a boy in the ward with Sandy who was disparaging of Ted, and whom she grew to dislike. He was also a writer, but didn’t like beatniks, and became convinced Ted was one.

I just met the new male patient. He is a writer from New York by the name of Barry Weiss. He doesn’t know you or Joe. He lived on 11th street. He doesn’t like poetry much and is very wary of your type, he says. He is cynical. He loves Henry Miller and says he can only read 25 or fewer pages at a time and then he must stop. He has sad eyes. Things writers can only write in aloneness and desolation.

On a different day she writes,

Barry talked to me a little, he thinks perhaps you are just an ordinary beatnik. He doesn’t know you. I wish you could give him a good working over. Send me Tropic of Cancer if you can. Barry did give me some candy and apricots so I can’t hate him. He has a few good qualities. He doesn’t think I have the stuff it takes.

And finally, “Barry is rotten as ever. He may leave. I hope so.” We can only speculate he was a know-it-all who knew nothing, and that Sandy didn’t like pretentious no-fun sourpusses.

They were both reading Henry Miller. She noted, “I just finished reading Tropic of Cancer, Barry loaned it to me. I did underestimate it. But still don’t think it is the greatest book. Some parts I liked a lot. I will read them again. He does have great vitality and life. It makes me want to be out even more.”

He writes, “I’m not really incoherent. I’m in a kind of trance from reading Henry Miller’s Tropic of Capricorn. It is so great I have to stop every few pages and wonder." After speaking of killing birds to eat (a fantasy) he writes:

If I killed a little bird and roasted it over the fire and ate it, it was not because I was hungry but because I wanted to know about Timbuktu or Tierra del Fuego. I had to stand in the vacant lot and eat dead birds in order to create a desire for that bright land which later I would inhabit alone and people with nostalgia. I expected ultimate things of this place, but I was deplorably deceived. I went as far as one could go in a state of complete deadness, and then by a law, which must be the law of creation, I suppose, I suddenly flared up and began to live inexhaustibly, like a star whose light is unquenchable.

Sandy, my beautiful, innocent wife, Miller has just said simply much of what I have been struggling to tell you. If I eat dead birds in vacant lots, it is not because I am hungry, but because I need to discover Tierra del Fuego, the land of fire, the fiery earth. I people my poems with nostalgia. They are in part my bright land. And through the past few months, and most of all through my loving you, through marrying my soul, my self to yours as was preordained, I have now flared up like a burning rose, like a dove, and begun to live inexhaustibly, like a star whose light is unquenchable, good to eat a thousand years.

On a different day Ted writes,

I finished Henry Miller’s book called Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch today, and it really was a good book. Miller continually fills me with the joy of life. Right now I am living like the fox lives. All my senses have become sharper, and I smell, see, taste, and hear much more acutely than before. Food tastes marvelous, because we eat little. The weather is simply exciting all the time. We walk up and down all the streets. And all the time I think of you. I want so much to touch you, to lie with my eyes closed and feel you watching me. I do love you so.

Sandy writes,

I am entranced by Miller. Entranced and re-injected with faith. He is great. Your letter was sad because I want so much for you to be writing but I can’t do much now. I certainly don’t want you to be locked up or anything. It doesn’t torture me too much that you are out and free...

I have started reading Big Sur. It is great. I do have faith and courage. We too someday will be able to live our life. This book so far isn’t as wild that’s why it’s easier for me to take. Anyway he was a lot older. Life gets quieter after 50 or 60 I guess.

They exchanged ideas. They listed the books they were reading at the time, and what they thought. No slouch, Sandy was reading the best books, and open to suggestions from Ted, Joe Brainard, Dick Gallop, and Ron Padgett a fine group of instructors.

He writes,

I have some new good books of poetry, and I’m reading a lot, not writing too much, except for the series I’m doing with Joe. I’ve read Go, a novel by Clellon Holmes about New York in the 50s, finished Henry Miller’s the Tropic of Capricorn, read a lot of poetry by a lot of people, and am now reading Frederico Garcia Lorca’s Poet in New York, and the selected poems of Vladimir Mayakofsky, the young Russian poet. Dick has finished a book by William Styron called Lie Down in Darkness, and is reading Styron’s second novel, Set This House on Fire. Styron is a young Southern writer, and he is very very good. Both these books are as good novels as have been done in America since A Farewell to Arms.”

His letters read like his poems.

Joe is sitting over on his bed writing a postcard to you. My fingers are sore from pounding the typewriter. When I first get up my hands are not as loose as later in the day, and I miss the keys sometimes and bang up my fingers. We are making hot coffee now, and preparing to work on our collages some more. We’re still working on our religious one, although Joe has done two of his own, without writing, since I wrote yesterday. So, Dick and I are walking the streets, waiting for his check, and reading our books. I’m reading Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch by Henry Miller and Dick is reading The Tropic of Capricorn. I want to send this (my) book to you as soon as I finish.

She writes back,

I finished Daring Young Man. I am going to read some parts again. Oh! To be with you. Someday I would like to meet Saroyan. I will hope you will not be mad but I started Rebecca by Du Maurier. She reminds me of Conrad only not so intense. Her books so far is atmosphere. The second wife is painful in her ineptitude and shyness although I am sure she is a good soul. I want to finish it so that I can start Bread and Wine....

I read “Kaddish” and “Howl” and “Thank You” and “Fresh Air” and scattered other poems today. Nothing else. I have so much nervous energy. I don’t know what to do. Oh Ted just to walk the streets with you would be enough, to talk to you and hold your hand....

I read Lorca every day. He is good — sounds beautiful — very simple, lyric, and clear. Have been reading in the New Yorker about a beautiful grand modern cathedral. We must remember it in case we ever go to Europe.

He writes, “I’m reading Henry Miller (Tropic of Capricorn), poems by John Ashbery, Joe’s notebooks, and a novel by a writer named Clellon Holmes called Go. Dick is reading the newest book on the pre-Socratics, Tom is reading a book by Edward Dahlberg (who wrote the poem Dave said is very great, remember). Tom and I wrote a collaboration today called 'O’Hara’s Sources.' It’s a fourteen-line poem using ground rules.”

Ted was working on his translation of Arthur Rimbaud’s The Drunken Boat, which wasn’t a literal translation, but instead an homage. She mailed to him to say,

Read “The Drunken Boat” again and I like it of course I can’t be too critical of it as a free translation because I can’t read French. I’ll read it again tomorrow. I like the “Spooky Winds” especially where you put it. The last two stanzas seem much different than the other—tone I guess.

Later she says,

I read the revision of “The Drunken Boat.” I feel so good that you dedicated it to me. I wish you were here so you could explain the various changes. Some of them affect the flow and rhythm and style a lot. Later we can do it. Many of the good parts you left the same. I am going to read them a few more times.

And finally,

I went carefully over “The Drunken Boat” the final version is more idiomatic and modern and concise—less 19th-century I guess. We can talk about the fine details later. I think it’s good to know the reason for picking certain words over others in translation. Some sound better but there must be other reasons.

Ron Padgett insists that Berrigan’s The Sonnets were written by having Sandy pick her favorite lines, which he then arranged randomly based on their sound rather than their meaning. In his writing about his friend, Padgett explains that it was a long growing process for Ted to outgrow formalism and become loose. Ted says of The Sonnets, “Wrote by ear, and automatically. Very interesting results....All of this partly inspired by reading about DADA but mostly inspired by my activities along the same line for the past 10 months...working on collages with Joe."

"Ted," Padgett says, "with Sandy’s help, had set in motion the creative machine he had been assembling over the past two years, the machine that would enable him to create a 'big' work."

The letters span two months and end when Ted went down to Miami to rescue Sandy. She received permission from her doctor to go to the local library. It was her first time out of the hospital and she used it immediately to meet up with Ted. (Many of their letters back and forth contained secret plans for what to do if she escaped, but there was no mention of this attempt.) They hitched to Denver, then decided to head back to New York. They settld near Columbia University. She learned to shoplift and wrote a friend about it, who showed her mom, who showed Sandy’s mom. Her parents hired a private detective, again, to get dirt on Ted, and to find out where they were.

Again, Sandy was committed to a mental hospital, this time Bellevue in Manhattan. None of the letters are from this period — maybe he could visit her, and didn’t need to write. There was a little poem he scribbled then: “I never thought . . . / that I’d come so much to Brooklyn / just to see lawyers and cops who don’t even carry / guns taking my wife away and bringing her back.” Then a judge freed her, and her parents gave up the pursuit.

Damian Weber is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in Brooklyn. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here. He last wrote in these pages about the flies. His most recent album is entitled earnest kid, and you can download it here.

Thursday
Apr202017

In Which Studio Ghibli Is A Top Priority This Spring

Family Time

by DICK CHENEY

Grandchildren are absolute garbage except if you are a younger-type dog. If you are older, dog or man, they do nothing but create noise. In order to sedate them during the week their parents are in Turks and Caicos, my wife Lynne has been screening the films of the Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli. I have been complaining throughout, although these empty days allow me to create content that you will enjoy. Here are my reviews of all the movies I have been forced to watch.

Castle in the Sky

The obsession with blimps begins in this first Ghibli feature, which concerns a militia pursuing powerful ancient technology that is carried around a little girl's neck. The animation was rough in parts and Castle starts with two excruciatingly long action sequences in order not to lose the kids' attention. The main female character was acting a lot younger than her age, which I guess made sense because she was a princess. James Van Der Beek turns in one hell of a performance as a tiny little boy in the English dub. I really wasn't too keen on this overall – too much of it came across as feel good nonsense to keep the audience from falling asleep. The sheer number of guns on hand was also quite shocking. C+

The Castle of Cagliostro

This predated Studio Ghibli. Really neat island setting that Miyazaki would return to. The dialogue is proto-Palladino and fun to listen to given that the basic plot is darker and more serious than most Ghibli films. Lots of nods to Miyazaki's own influences, and the feeling of a madcap caper. Could conceivably be a decent live-action movie without many changes, which you can't really say for many of these. Ultimately there was not a whole lot going on and I was bored halfway through, but a great example of how style can triumph over substance. B

Princess Mononoke

Art direction is majorly improved here. The long scenes in the forest are just gorgeous, while the relationships and setting are relatively underdeveloped in comparison. Maybe the most Japanese feeling of his movies due to the various references to Kurosawa and others. The titular female character is a bit sedate, but Miyazaki compensates through the presence of a much more entertaining antagonist. Really cool setup where you have three groups and none are completely wrong, they simply have different views. It's hard to think of another movie which is anything like that. Some great action and jaw-dropping scale, but the character work was noticeably weak. B-

Only Yesterday

Two hours of watching a 28 year old single woman apologizing for who she is. It's all explained eventually when she flashes back to her father slapping her. "He only did it the once," she cries out, in what may be her final lie. Some really great dark stuff here that you don't see in a lot of movies period, let alone animated ones. It was a little heavy-handed on the proletariat brainwashing, but maybe I just have an aversion to the idea that farmers are closer to nature than the rest of us. But who cares? This is a timeless message, that we can love ourselves and others at any time, and in doing so change our lives for the better. A+

Kiki's Delivery Service

Good god was this fantastic. Complete waterworks from everyone in the room. Imagine you had a cat you could talk to and one day it stopped talking to you just because you sucked. That actually happens here. Kirsten Dunst is excellent in the dub, and you really feel for this witch. It sort of avoids a stretch where it could have feasibly considered some more mature topics, but who cares? The city by the sea (Stockholm?) is such a lively setting and every single tiny house is a palace in my black heart. A better ending would have ascended this to Miyazaki's very best. A

Whisper of the Heart

Miyazaki wrote this for his protege, who promptly died from overwork. Ironically the teenage female protagonist falls asleep at her desk from pushing too hard on her novel. At times this young woman was genuinely unlikable and her ambition to write a story seems to come out of nowhere. She meets a guy who is a decent violin maker, and suddenly she is so jealous she can't shut up about herself. Just intolerable. Tokyo also looks like fresh hell, but a city has never been more realistically depicted in any medium. The scenes with an older man were kind of creepy, but I guess it's Japan so everyone magically becomes Santa Claus once they turn 60. As much shit as I could talk about it, the family dynamic is stupendous and the movie really stays with you. B+

My Neighbor Tortoro

Easily the best opening sequence of anything ever, after which it kind of falls apart. The neglectful father lets his children wander off, twice, and they're so ill-raised that they trust a furry beast who lives in their nearby woods. At least the girls take care of themselves and don't need some boy to promise to protect them. Art direction was incredible, stupendous, but there really is not much there, there. I admit I cried at times, but there is a weird coldness to this, like Miyazaki really wasn't connecting with these people and maybe even loathed them on some level. A-

Pom Poko

What a crazy movie. A prolonged, unnecessary voiceover explains the encroachment of the suburbia on the lovely habitat of a group of racoon dogs. The environmental message was left on deaf ears with me, and showing kids all those raccoon testicles was beyond the pale. At the same time you can't help but be astonished at the amount of work that went into animating this fucker, which is Isao Takahata's masterpiece. No fear at all about making a super-depressing movie: almost no one is ever happy, families break-up, heroes get all their bones broken or are left dead in the road. I can't even believe this was a cartoon. A

Howl's Moving Castle

Easily the worst thing Ghibli ever did. A boring local woman convinces herself that a witch cast a spell on her to make her look like she is 75. Feeling useless, she wanders into a castle and nominates herself to clean it. The concept of the elastic living space was completely overdone way before this, and Miyazaki has nothing really to add to it. The plot makes very little sense from any angle, and if you just view it as an art piece, the various cinematography and art direction is nowhere near good enough to carry the action. A complete waste of time unless you're on mushrooms. C-

Spirited Away

An extremely annoying main character becomes slightly less annoying by rescuing her parents from the spirit world. Sen, as she starts to call herself, is embarassingly immature for her age. Lots of great details in the diegesis you can watch again and again; can't even imagine how much work went into this. They were on the verge of some more interesting themes here that were sorted out in future films. An amazing achievement but is it on the level of a bunch of other movies which made me care a whole lot more? No. B

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

The monster that created this disturbing fable was Mr. Takahata. I was not a huge fan of the animation, but it worked for the subject matter. I appreciated the fact that everything in this was completely screwed up and unsalvageable; however there is something innately frustrating about watching people who do nothing to help themselves. I would not watch it again except by force. B+

Ponyo

There can never be enough movies about how wonderful your mother is. The concept of a five year old boy falling in love seems a little odd until you realize it was a substitution for the love denied him by his father. At the end he and his girlfriend's father also have this weird handshake that I loved. The water-flooded town was so much fun, this movie could have easily been like six hours and I would not have gotten bored at all. A

The Secret World of Arriety

You really never go wrong with tiny people, it is simply always great. This sick wimp goes to visit his grandmother, who has this really mean servant who lives in a cute apartment near the house. When the servant finds out there is someone lower than her, and it's tiny people in the walls (!) she goes crazy, which actually makes sense, because they are living in a nicer domicile than she herself. A lot more could have been done with the concept but since Miyazaki was working off a book adaptation they don't really get much farther than the basic theme of how much we can trust even the people who are closest to us. A-

We also watched Ice Age: Collision Course. It starred Neil deGrasse Tyson as a weasel.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.


Wednesday
Apr192017

In Which We Postpone A Decision Until Some Later Date

Hard to Say is This Recording’s weekly advice column. It will appear every Wednesday until the Earth perishes in a fiery blaze, or until North West turns 40. Get no-nonsense answers to all of your most pressing questions by writing to justhardtosay@gmail.com.

Hi,

I met someone a few months ago, and we really clicked. I have been seeing a lot of her and I have never had so much fun with someone. The issue is that she says she never wants to have children. It struck me as odd that she would bring this up kinda soon, but maybe it was an issue in a past relationship? I did not feel comfortable pressing her further.

I have not thought extensively about having a family beyond a vague desire to have kids "someday." I have been thinking a lot about this though, and I do feel I would like to reproduce with someone I love. Is there any hope?

Jerry C.

Rk5TFxA.jpg

Dear Jerry,

Imagine what a distorted view of the world an individual has to have to in order to be told something in the strongest, simplest terms and wonder if the exact opposite might be true. I have been asked if I wanted kids before, and the truth is I just said whatever I thought the other person wanted to hear. It does not sound like this is a case of that.

Many women and men who announce this may not be able to have children. It is a sensitive topic and you were most likely right not to press it further. Can women and men be convinced or blackmailed into having children even if they say they don't want them? Sure, but this may not be the sort of life accomplishment you can feasibly brag about to St. Peter.

With that said, maybe let it alone for now and get to know your new partner better before bailing because of this. She may explain her reasoning later on or you might decide no kids is worth it to be with the one you love. Not every relationship has to be for life.

Hi,

I recently moved in with my boyfriend of one year, who I will call Davis. Things are going tolerably well, but as with any change, there are some stumbling blocks. Now that we are living together, Davis frequently asks "What do we have to eat?" or begs me to make him something. I do enjoy preparing dinner from time to time but due to my schedule I can't do it every night, nor would I want to. He occasionally makes a meal for us but it generally tastes like garbage. I really don't feel I should be responsible for the culinary work in the apartment and I'm already resenting it every time he puts me in that position. What is the best way to approach a discussion about this issue?

Mila F.

rRHTNDC.jpg

Dear Mila,

It sounds like a small thing, but this probably indicates that Davis is going to look to you to be his mother for the duration of this relationship. You need to nip this in the bud, fast. It sounds like it is too late to fake an allergy to kitchen implements. Davis needs serious help with his dietary approach – "What do we have?" is not really a plan for proper caloric intake.

It doesn't seem unreasonable to ask each person to be responsible for one meal one night a week. Inform Davis in no uncertain terms that this will be end of your responsibilities in this area, and act extremely withdrawn for a significant period after this proclamation.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.