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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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Robert Altman Week

Monday
Sep152014

In Which Kenneth Patchen Created Us All In His Image

"Hiya Ken Babe, What's The Bad Word For Today?"

by JONATHAN WILLIAMS

They've never made a movie about Kenneth Patchen. Now they're too late. The only guy who could play him, Robert Mitchum has just died. He had the voice, the build and the sleepy eyes. He had the laconic barroom style to deliver a poem like "The State of the Nation" whose last line I have altered in the title above.

It's difficult to fathom why he's not read by the young these days. Do the young have enough grounding to read any unconventional poet these days? Basil Bunting always insisted there were still plenty of "unabashed" boys and girls about, but their slovenly teachers had never trained them in the literature that mattered. There were three or four decade when Kenneth Patchen was a poet who mattered to a lot of people. I was having lunch last autumn with J. Laughlin, Patchen's old friend and his publisher at New Directions. He shook his head sadly, "They just don't read Kenneth anymore - how can we understand that?" I don't think we can understand. Each century produces a Blake and a Whitman, a Ryder and a Bruckner. They didn't arrive out of the empyrean with fan clubs and web sites.

Patchen wrote at a time when most writers stayed home and wrote, in places like Rutherford, Old Lyme, Fort Atkinson and Sausalito. The previous generation was into celebrity and reporters followed them to Pamplona, the rue de Fleurus and Rapallo. Patchen had to stay home, and stay in bed - his wrecked back gave him no mercy. Except for a few sessions of poetry-and-jazz with Charles Mingus in New York in the late 1950s, and with the Chamber Jazz Sextet in California, Patchen was a private man, not on stage.

It is instructive, perhaps, to contrast this kind of life with that of two later poets who have recently died: Allen Ginsberg and James Dickey. Both of these men spent early years working public relations on Madison Avenue and neither stopped jabbering for a single second thereafter. Ginsberg was a mensh. His desire to be the spokesman of his generation was the last thing I could imagine or would want, but we always enjoyed being together on what were rare occasions in San Francisco, New York or here in Dentdale. He upset a lot of squares, he opened up liberating avenues, he put himself on the line; but, may I be excused if I have to say that most of the poetry struck me as hard-sell advertising. I was reminded more of Walter Winchell and Gabriel Heater and Paul Harvey than of the Buddha.

Sheriff Dickey, more bubba than mensh, was unbelievably competitive. At a poetry occasion in the White House put on by Rosalynn Carter and Joan Mondale, Jim barely had time to shake my hand. He whispered to his wife, "Come on, honey, we got to work the crowd." He never forgave me for writing to someone that Deliverance was about as accurate about goings-on in Rabun County, Georgia, as Rima the Bird-Girl was in Green Mansions, by W.H. Hudson. I also made the mistake of quoting Mr. Ginsberg on Deliverance: "What James Dickey doesn't realize is that being fucked in the ass isn't the worst thing that can happen to you in American life."

Compared to these public operators, Patchen was as remote as one of the Desert Fathers. (The Desert Fathers is not a rock group.)

I sat in Concourse K at O'Hare Airport in Chicago recently, reading The New York Times and Fanfare and watching the passing parade for about three hours. This is very sobering work. I am not sure I saw one individual who was dressed individually. Most people looked like mall-crawlers. Most people looked overactive and stressful. They were moving at speed, like ants in a formicary. Others were merely bland and moved like wizened adolescents. It would be future ti suggest any sign of appetite among these citizens for Kenneth Patchen or J.V. Cunningham or Wallace Stevens or James Laughlin. A few people waiting for the evening flight to Manchester were reading paperbacks purchased at the airport. John Grisham and Danielle Steele and Dean Koontz were most in evidence. (One young man was reading Camus, but we must pretend he doesn't exist.) I decided to buy The Door to December by Dean Koontz, "a number one New York Times author who currently has more than 100 million copies of his books in print."

Whatever the cause of his crumbling self-control, he was becoming undeniably more frantic by the moment.

Wexlers.

Manuello.

Why was he suddenly so frightened of them? He had never liked either of them, of course. They were originally vice officers, and word was that they had been among the most corrupt in that division, which was probably why Ross Mondale had arranged for them to transfer under his command in the East Valley; he wanted his right-hand men to be the type who would do what they were told, who wouldn't question any questionable orders, whose allegiance to him would be unshakable as long as he provided for them. Dan knew that they were Mondale's flunkies, opportunists with little or no respect for their work or for concepts like duty and public trust. But they were still cops...

That goes on for 510 pages. So, fellow-stylists, there is hope for us all, whether you like square hamburgers or round hamburgers. I go for the round ones, as I am sure Mr. Koontz does. McDonald's has sold over ninety billion of the little buggers. Here's to LitShit and a kilo of kudzu up the kazoo!

New York publishers calculate the fate of the American novel is in the hands of five thousand readers who will actually purchase new hardback fiction. At the Jargon Society we would by delighted to sell five hundred copies of the latest poetry by Simon Cutts or Thomas Meyer. It might take ten years. Of course, out there in the real world, thousands of verse- scribbling plonkers crank out a ceaseless barrage of what Donald Hall calls the McPoem.

Oracles in high places proclaim a Renaissance of Poetry. A distributor tells me of the purchase of twenty thousand hardback copies by a woman poet I have never read nor hear of. The hermits and caitiffs I hang out with don't explore other parts of the literary jungle, and just stick to their Lorine Niedecker and Basil Bunting, and even drag out volumes of Kenneth Patchen when the fit is on them. We few, we (occasionally) happy few...

How did we odd readers find our way to Kenneth Patchen? He, of course, would never have been in the curriculum at St. Albans School or at Princeton, my adolescent stomping grounds. I stumbled across a pamphlet by Henry Miller, Patchen: Man of Anger & Light. Miller I knew about because evil Time magazine had so vilified his book The Air Conditioned Nightmare that I took the next bus to Dupont Circle in Washington D.C. and bought it at the excellent bookshop run by Franz Bder. By the time I was ten I had the knack of discovering the books important to me beyond those required at school. But I was lucky. I had three good teachers in prep school and I lived in a city with real bookstores. And reading books was something you did. Nowadays, books are a form of retro-delivery system with no cord to plug in. Way uncool.

By the time I was twenty and had dropped out of Princeton to study painting and printmaking and graphic design, I was into Patchen in a big away. I read him along with Whitman, Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Williams, e.e. cummings, Edith Sitwell, Robinson Jeffers, Hart Crane, Kenneth Rexroth, Thoreau, Randolph Bourne, Kropotkin, Emma Goldman, Henry Miller and Paul Goodman. Before I was twenty-five I owned the manuscripts of The Journal of Albion Moonlight and Sleepers Awake. I had over forty of Patchen's painted books and a few watercolors. I'd published KP's Fables & Other Little Tales during my stay in the medical corps in Germany. What was the attraction?

Patchen was an original. Someone said, equally, of Babe Ruth: "It's like he came down from out of a tree." He was ready to play. Patchen and the Babe were heavy hitters, and nobody struck out more.

There is a towering pile of Patchen poems that amounts to not much. But he really does have twenty or twenty-five poems that seem as good as anybody's. He had power, humor, intuitive vision and a kind of primitive nobility. He knew his Blake and Rilke. He loves George Lewis' clarinet and Bunk Johnson's comet. He drew fabulous animals and painted very well. There was nobody like him.

Oh nobody’s a long time
Nowhere’s a big pocket
To put little
Pieces of nice things that
Have never really happened
To anyone except
Those people who were lucky enough
Not to get born

Oh lonesome’s a bad place
To get crowded into
With only
Yourself riding back and forth
On
A blind white horse
Along an empty road meeting
All your
Pals face to face

Oh nobody’s a long long time

The poet, painter and publisher Jonathan Williams died in 2008.

"I've Waited For So Long" - The Juan MacLean (mp3)

"The Sun Will Never Set On Our Love" - The Juan MacLean (mp3)

Friday
Sep122014

In Which We Take Anyone Who Speaks Our Language

Good Americans

by KARA VANDERBIJL

The Cosmopolitans
creator Whit Stillman

Aubrey (Carrie MacLemore) is having a rough day. Her bedheaded French boyfriend, for whom she recently left Alabama to live in Paris, has banished her to the maid’s quarters. When he tells her that she can’t use the kitchen in his place anymore, either, she straps on a pair of heels and trudges along the Seine.

But that’s not the worst of it, because Aubrey is about to sit down at a sidewalk cafe with the only people in Paris who are more deplorable than her boyfriend: Hal (Jordan Rountree) and Jimmy (Adam Brody), fellow American expats who lounge around, complaining about French women.

And that’s about all there is to say about The Cosmopolitans. Oscar Wilde once said that good Americans go to Paris when they die, but according to Stillman, you’ve just got to be bored. Paris is the bright pair of shoes or the clever joke you bring to a party to differentiate yourself from everybody else, a word that means nothing anymore except for culture, pleasure, and wealth.

Hal, Jimmy and Aubrey have come to Paris in search of friendship and romance, which, even after watching the pilot, is still the only thing we know about any of them. They have no jobs, no roots, no ambitions: they flit from cafe to house party, glass of wine in hand, seemingly directionless.

Watching them is a little bit like trying to find your way around a foreign city at night when you’ve just spent the past twenty hours on an airplane, not sleeping. You want something to fall from the sky into your lap, like a plotline, or perhaps a conflict, or maybe a free pizza. You want somebody to come up to you and speak in English and lead you to your bed, where you will be able to dream of jokes that are actually funny and dialogue that actually sounds like people speaking to one another.

Expatriatism is all about imagination. We wouldn’t travel at all if visiting other lands didn’t mean exploring the alternate facets of our own personalities. Immature travelers spend most of their time differentiating their new experiences from ones they’re familiar with, asking, “Why isn’t this like what I’m used to?” These people are incapable of imagining the world, or themselves, differently. Seasoned expatriates create a third culture in which aspects of both their native surroundings and their new ones are integrated.

Aubrey, the token fish-out-of-water, is meant to lure us into Hal, Jimmy and Sandro’s territory, the third culture that they’ve created. Normally it’d be hard to believe that a woman on her own in a foreign country would comfortably sit with three strange guys at a sidewalk cafe. These things seem to happen naturally when you’re abroad: it’s like your ears have been fine-tuned to hear your language from hundreds of yards away, that you’ve been outfitted with an internal GPS that leads you to others like yourself.

Still, it’s Aubrey’s willingness to hang out with them that propels The Cosmopolitans into the far reaches of fantasy. Within a few minutes, Hal, Jimmy, and Sandro insult her drink order (sangria) and launch a smear campaign against Hal’s ex, Clemence, who, for all intents and purposes, seemed like a pretty decent person, just not into weird entitled creeps like Hal who are only capable of one facial expression.

Aubrey can’t see these red flags because she’s still convinced that her bedhead boyfriend wants to be with her. Perhaps she believes she’s living inside Beauty and the Beast.

It’s a pity because Adam Brody, of The O.C. fame, is genuinely funny, and he brings his open Seth Cohen face to this role. Unfortunately, this only serves to make the other characters, especially Hal, look like stock photography someone from Yale might use in an admissions brochure.

Of course, one might concede that in a foreign country, when you’ve just been dumped by your beast of a boyfriend and you’re all alone, you’ll take anyone who speaks your language or shows a sign of friendliness. In which case I’d like to tell Aubrey and anybody else considering this as a new fall show: stick to singing candlesticks and talking clocks. The Cosmopolitans may look good, but really, it’s positively primeval. Plus, Gilmore Girls just landed on Netflix.

Kara VanderBijl is the managing editor of This Recording.

"Hard To Love" - The Drums (mp3)

"If He Likes It Let Him Do It" - The Drums (mp3)


Thursday
Sep112014

In Which No One Else Will Ever Get To See It

Intimate Sensual Pairs

by SUSAN COHEN

After learning today that The Knife is breaking up, I'm super glad I bought a Stubhub ticket at the last minute to one of their Oakland shows earlier this year. It was their second performance in the United States in eight years, and now, apparently, it was one of their last. Best decision I've ever made.

The Knife had a hype man with them on their North American tour, and I'm sure he's there for their final Europe shows too. Wearing a codpiece and lime green mesh leggings, he led the audience through an official Shaking the Habitual exercise regime, demanding the audience shout “I am alive and I’m not afraid to die” as they did squats and arm routines.

It’s amazing how much physical stamina that dude had — it was a tough 20-or-so- minute routine — but he had nothing on the men and women who made up the show’s cast. The roughly 10 men and women wore matching jewel-toned jumpsuits, an outfit that managed to be both flatteringly feminine and shapelessly masculine, and when the blacklight hit them just right, you noticed their matching lipstick and nail polish, which turned dayglo orange. Everyone was dancing up a storm throughout the entire length of the performance, when they weren't not playing giant instruments that I had never seen before and that may not exist in real, non- Knife life.

After 10 minutes of this spectacle, I came to a realization that this was the queerest fucking thing I’ve ever seen.

Then again, The Knife has always been queer, even when they weren’t being as explicit about it as they are these days. Who could forget the sexless birdmasks, dark wigs, and black costumes of the Silent Shout era? Karin Dreijer-Anderson’s voice is female, but not necessarily feminine; in fact, its sharp quality, at times deepened by the production process, is often more alien than human. Plus her brother Olof Dreijer once told Spin that he won’t perform at festivals with lineups “that have no more than 50% people who identify as men.” (Notice the “identify.”)

But with Shaking the Habitual, the queerness was even more deliberate, not just lyrically (“Let’s talk about gender baby,” Dreijer-Anderson sings in “Full of Fire”), but musically and visually too. “You could say we are queering certain sounds,” Olof Dreijer told Pitchfork. “We learned about how you can play around with different scales and why a group of people have come to agree that one scale is more harmonious than another.” Replace the word “scale” with “sex” in that sentence and you’ll start to understand why cis-gender and cis-sexuality are considered bullshit by many people.

Meanwhile, in promo photos for Shaking the Habitual, Dreijer wore a long red wig, a jumpsuit reminiscent of the ones used in the current show, and heels that went much higher than his sisters. The music video for “A Tooth for an Eye” features a group of seemingly cis men, led by a girl in braids and a referee’s uniform, doing an expertly choreographed dance. Midway through, they form into intimate, sensual pairs, and no one bats an eye. The Knife has said officially that the video “deconstructs images of maleness, power and leadership.” When The Knife performed the Shaking the Habitual show previously in Europe, the outfits were less colorful but equally asexual, an amalgam of glittery spandex basics that walked the line between feminine and masculine, depending on who was wearing what.

The Oakland performance was as sharply arranged as the “A Tooth for an Eye” video. Dreijer-Anderson faded in and out of the foreground, sometimes taking center stage, sometimes falling to the back and letting one of the other performers lip sync, taking show’s themes of ambiguity and equality to yet another level. Dreijer-Anderson and Dreijer weren’t the stars of this show — heck, it was all so vague that I’m not even sure which one was Dreijer. (The siblings are also cleverly listed simply as “performers” on the show’s official cast list, just like their jumpsuited peers.)

During “Pass This On” — a song whose music video featured Swedish drag queen Rickard Engfors — the dancers formed gender-matching couples and tenderly tangoed across the stage. When the set closed with “Silent Shout,” the lighting changed, turning the dance team into a backlit clan of bouncing featureless silhouettes, literally gender-blinding the crowd in the process.

Basically, The Knife created a stage show where gender and sexuality don’t exist. It was like if Britney Spears’ Vegas act was hijacked by the cast of Cirque Du Soleil — if she had a degree in gender studies.

It's a bummer that no one else will get to see it.

Susan Cohen is a contributor to This Recording. This is her first appearance in these pages. You can find her tumblr here and her twitter here.

"Crake" - The Knife (mp3)

"Wrap Your Arms Around Me" - The Knife (mp3)