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Alex Carnevale

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Ethan Peterson

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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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In Which We Resleeve Ourselves Into Something More Familiar

Important Men


Altered Carbon
creator Laeta Kalogridis

In this future story from novelist Richard K. Morgan, we are thrust into a world where anyone can look however they want. That James Purefoy wants to look like James Purefoy makes sense on its face, but who would want to look like Joel Kinnaman? Joel Kinnaman looks like the "before" picture in one of those old advertisements in Archie comics, the shrimp who would get beat up at the beach or a dinner party (see below). Kinnaman explains fairly early on that he is an Envoy, which is some kind of soldier. The basic point we are meant to get across about this individual is this: he has a rich and storied history, and could tell you things of which you are probably unaware.

Instead of doing so, Kinnaman's version of Takeshi Kovacs is only interesting when he is thinking about killing himself. It would have been an important moment to have a suicidal main character if I already didn't want to cut myself when I saw Matt Damon's goofy face.

It was a mistake to cast Joel Kinnaman in this role for so many reasons:

1) He admits he has never brushed his teeth.

2) His cloying overacting may have singlehandedly torpedoed House of Cards in retrospect, sparking a sexual harassment revolution.

3) The only time he ever had chemistry with a co-star was in The Killing, and that co-star was ostensibly a corpse,

4) His penis is shaped like a soda can and from some angles cannot be viewed by the human eye.

5) His transparent overtraining to look like a soldier (what a fucking Christian Bale wannabe) makes him have the practical dimensions of the star of Where's Waldo,

6) He is Asian when he dies in the show's opening scene, and when he wakes up, he's Joel Kinnaman. We lost so much just right there.

There comes a point in your life when you realize you're dating yourself. In real life, the Swedish-born Kinnaman is married to a tattoo artist. Her skin resembles a sheet of paper that's been written over too many times.

Kinnaman's main antagonist is a Latina police officer named Kristin (Martha Higareda). Kristin is pretty tiny, and the two have so many scenes together that it is very awkward to see them both in the same frame. Perhaps wisely, creator Laeta Kalogridis puts as much focus on the surrounding mise-en-scene as she can. (She even refers to it as mise-en-scene.) The future, in Morgan's imagining, is basically like now except some people can live forever if they have enough money. What they are really paying for is for a version of themselves to be hosted on satellite and beamed back into a new cortical stack should they be murdered.

This has in fact happened to Mr. Bancroft (The slovenly James Purefoy, who has the biggest mole imaginable, gross, disgusting). He wants Kovacs to solve the murder, but despite his ample resources and connections within the resleeving industry, he cannot find an Asian body for his private detective to inhabit. That this is racist is indisputable, so Altered Carbon papers over it with a bunch of roles for African-Americans in which they play second bananas or omnipotent, advisory god figures.

If you think I'm trying to discourage you from watching Altered Carbon, think again. There may in fact be a future, or even a present where someone would want to look like Joel Kinnaman - all gangly and soda-canesque. I'm pretty sure Kinnaman has ruined everything he has ever been in. I don't even remember who he was in Suicide Squad, which is probably for the best.

The worst part of his casting is that Altered Carbon would basically be John Wick if Keanu Reeves would do television. In any case, an actual actor was required for the role.

Ethan Peterson is the senior contributor to This Recording.


In Which We Ask If He Moves His Mouth

I Wrote This By Hand



He is riding the 2 train and getting off four stops before mine. He has that glazed over look. Something has gone terribly wrong.


I think of the right book to be reading, the one that not only piques his interest, but piques his interest in me. My roommate Joann suggests a novelization of the Jim Carrey movie The Cable Guy. My mom suggests a book about training puppies written by a bunch of a monks. "He'll know, on some level, that it is about him," she says without a trace of irony.


Irony is the only thing never in short supply. He is reading now. Well, he is playing a game on his phone also. The object of the game, I can reveal to you all now, is to put a series of frames in sequential order.

When he becomes frustrated or unable to put them in the right order, he pulls out a book. It is a rather tawdry biography of Johnny Carson, who never trusted anyone.


I decide on a book that will suggest a variety of nuances about myself. You don't know me, but I am like a parade: you can have brief snippets of fun, but you can also be trampled.


I notice that when he is reading, his mouth forms some but not all of the words. My roommate Joann says that he is probably learning disabled. My mom says a lot of people do that when they read, which is code for her saying she has been known to mouth a word here or there.


I went to the Met. All the paintings seemed woefully inadequate. Why didn't they talk, or dance? Remaining still is only useful in death.


OK. I have heard his voice. It sounds like when someone who is a bit too much up his own ass says the word 'research.' He talked to a latino girl who admired his shoes (they are gorgeous, they should be in a museum). He told her that they do not feel as good as they look, and turned back to his new book: a paperback copy of Rosemary's Baby. I am ashamed to say I was a little turned on by that.


Some ducks climbed up on an old woman's leg in the park. She was feeding them too much. When they reached for her hand, she said she had to go.


My roommate invited me to the Hamptons, but I can't/don't want to go. The faces of the people there remind me too much of scars.


He wore his workout clothes around five, which suggests that he changed into them at the office. He is quite fit, but his arrangement suggests an almost accidental theme. He took out a gym bag and changed his shoes. I would be lying if I said they looked great, but the last time I looked at a pair of feet and felt pleased was in the shower.



Me, Audrey Hepburn's mediocre sister
My mom, Katie Couric
Him, An incredibly handsome velociraptor
Joann, a female birthed from Channing Tatum's embryo

The possibility of being someone else is the rabbit dogs chase around the Aqueduct.


What a weekend. I did not see him once, and I rode the subway back and forth too much. It used to be that the very first car was always the emptiest, but people caught on, and now it is as crowded as the others. Then a train crashed in Valhalla, and it was only those in the first car who perished in the flames. It goes back and forth like that.


He is back! On an impulse I sat down next to him. He looked up at me and smiled! He was reading The Interestings! (What crap!) I searched for what I would say, and it did not take me very long to come up with something that I believe we can all agree is compelling on the merits: "I'm Lisa. You are? Wait, don't tell me. I don't want to know."


Joann made me go to the Guggenheim. It is like being inside an egg, which leads to us spending most of our time there reading the wikipedia article about eggs. We need something to distract us because the Kandinsky exhibit is so bad.

Joann thinks it is best not to overthink a first date. "A great first date sets up too many unrealistic expectations," she says. She also believes you should always drink on a first date, as a sort of litmus test to find out if he is an alcoholic. Her last boyfriend drank too much, and his skin smelled like Crown Royal Apple.


The date is on Saturday, so I just take the bus until then. Buses are full of divorced dads with their kids and seniors wrapping their wrists in gauze. Someone had the not-so-bright idea to put fabric on the seats instead of plastic, and it is all worn down and discolored, like hair dyed too many colors. When someone (a male) first asked me to describe myself, I found I could not do it. Since then I have put some real time into knowing what to say in response to that question. This makes it seem like I know who I am.


Joann and I cleaned the apartment today. We found three twenty dollar bills in the sofa cushion and paused the mopping for a real meal. She thinks they belonged to her ex-boyfriend. "Don't date a guy who is always losing things," she said. "It's a waste of time." I almost tell her that I lost a pair of earrings she gave me last year, but I decide to wait for a better time. They are probably on the first car of a train somewhere.


How did it go? How did it go? How did it go?

He was working in Rhode Island, he tells me. He says the explanation is going to sound weird, and I don a solemn countenance, preparing myself to say, "But that's not weird at all!" (In this restaurant, all the flames shine in candleholders shaped like golden retrievers.)

He (his name is Jeffrey) was in charge of all the lost and found in the entire state of Rhode Island. It was a job his uncle got him after he dropped out of law school, he says. I ask him what things people lost that were recovered.

"Oh anything," he says, and launches into a list that it feels like goes on for the better part of an hour. Honestly I mostly start touching him just to quiet the barrage, but also because I always wanted to.

"I saw you on the train a few weeks ago," I say.

"What made you notice me?"

"Oh, you were reading some trash."


His apartment is more meticulously arranged than any museum. I used to like going to those places, the kinds of empty environments you could fill with your own thoughts and turn into a completely idiosyncratic experience. I think that possibility has vanished or is at least seriously diminished. (My youth!)

He applies a full layer of cocoa butter to his body before sleep.


An arm and a leg.

Joann met someone, too. His hair is short but oddly covers his ears. She sent me a picture. I asked if he moves his mouth to form the words he is reading, and she says so far, no, but the only books in his apartment are by Jacques Pepin and Foucault.


In the last car, where you are the least likely to run into anyone you know, a chorus sings, "I Think We're Alone Now." The train breaks down at 96th.

Lisa Getty-Francis is a contributor to This Recording. This is her first appearance in these pages. She is a writer living in New York.


In Which We Could Not Be This Married If We Tried

Our Home in Aspen


Fifty Shades Freed
dir. James Foley
105 minutes

Sex during the honeymoon. At the beginning of Fifty Shades Freed, Christian (Jamie Dornan) and Ana (Dakota Johnson) are married in a lovely ceremony. The resulting honeymoon is incredibly tame. At one point, Christian chains Ana's arms to her legs, but he never really goes anywhere after he secures her. He just performs cunnilingus for a bit and I guess she can't move, but why would she have to or want to? Later, Ana is punished by her husband for disobeying her, and she is angry that he brought their dispute into the bedroom. She does not scream, "Never go to bed angry!" but it might as well be the subtitle of this inoffensive film.

Previously, Christian Grey was something of a maniac who acted extremely rashly and would use the excuse of a troubled childhood to explain the various trials he put Ana and others such as his brother Eliot (Luke Grimes) through. As a married man, Christian has mellowed. He is very protective of his new wife, and she feels much the same. When a lively blonde architect (Arielle Kebbel) flirts with him, Ana attacks like a mealy-mouthed tiger. She is so brave we forgive the fact that her teeth look horrendous.

Methods of birth control. Although Ana tells Christian that she is taking the depo-provera shot to prevent his demon spawn from incubating within her, she actually "forgets" to take her shot. She never admits to this passive-aggressive dereliction of duty, but perhaps she can think of no other way to convince her husband to bear her the children she feels she deserves. The Depo shot is about 99 percent effective; that is, one out of every hundred times a baby will be born who is unexpected and possibly even unwanted.

Later - much later - we see Ana and Christian's daughter. Both parents are happy in the glow of their child. The implication is that even though the conception of the child was a mistake, the result is a happy one. I try to apply this basic philosophy to all the unintended consequences in my life, but it does not tell us what is probably more important - how to react to the things we chose for ourselves.

A marriage's rules. Ana's friend Kate (Eloise Mumford) is in an unhappy relationship with Christian's brother. When he proposes to her, she happily accepts, except it escapes no one's notice that he is doing such a thing in an Aspen nightclub. Onlookers don't know whether to applaud or cry. Christian's Aspen home is configured much like his other living spaces, featuring large open rooms complemented by small kitchens. He does not prize the excess of a large kitchen because in all his time spent learning how to control women, he never figured out how to manage a stove.

When Ana goes out to a bar and has a few drinks with Kate, Christian is incensed. "Keep the martinis coming," Kate tells their server, and Ana explains that "Christian will be so mad" and "I'm going to get in so much trouble." Kate never responds by saying, "Do you think this is maybe an unhealthy marriage if you can't go out for one night without having the fetish of the month (were those butt plugs?) foisted upon you?" Ana just sips her martini and returns home an hour later, where she is almost killed by one of Christian's disgruntled employees.

Cooking a marital stew. Christian senses that Ana is uncomfortable in this apartment where she was almost murdered. Fortunately, he has begun making plans for a home where they can both be completely comfortable. It looks something like a haunted house, so understandably Christian hires an architect to tear the entire thing down. Ana is grief-stricken at this thought - you see, she likes authentic things that retain their own charm as ages pass. In other words, she is attracted to someone who is not like her.

Instead of differentiating herself from her husband, the newly-named Ana Grey seeks to become more like him - mysterious, at times even beguilingly aggressive, but with a warm and chewy center. As the most phenomenal soundtrack plays, including an ironic song by Sia, the two fight over whether or not she should use his name in her professional life. Even though she works as a fiction editor at her husband's publishing company, Ana's friends and coworkers keep emphasizing that she has attained her position entirely through merit. 

Like most caricatures, Christian and Ana Grey never do anything wrong, or contemplate something we would not do ourselves. In one scene, Ana finds a loaded gun her husband has left in a drawer. (The drawer was evidently not child-proofed.) She walks into the next room and asks him why he has it. I was stunned by this, since if I found a loaded gun in my husband's drawer I would never tell a soul. But he just calmly tells her to get rid of it. 

Ethan Peterson is the reviews editor of This Recording.