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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

Tuesday
Aug192014

In Which We Thought We Had Spent Too Much Time Apart

Days of Discipline

by TAYLOR HINE

I was an anxious child and grew into an anxious teenager. As such I often found it difficult to make and keep friends; I thrived on the approval of others, a quality that I have come to fully realize only recently.

It makes sense that my oldest friend – whom I met when I was six years old, though we didn’t become very good friends until a couple of years later – was someone whose approval I sought consistently. I did not have many girl friends when I was younger. Vicki and I formed a friendship in which she dictated what games we played and suggested which series of books we should read together next; she was the leader and I was the follower. I wasn’t disturbed by this friendship because she and I were similar in many ways; she introduced me to the books I would treasure for years to come, as well as many movies and TV shows.

I lived for sleepovers at Vicki’s house. I didn't dare invite her to mine, for fear of her witnessing one of my parents’ all too frequent screaming matches. Her house was comfortable and, really, it was tranquil compared to mine. It always smelled of dogs and was covered in a very fine layer of dust and pet hair that went flying whenever someone sat down on one of the overstuffed couches. She had an older brother, about ten years older than us, who was heavily into science fiction; his model ships were often in the process of being built atop the glass-topped coffee table, underneath which were stacked dozens and dozens of Star Wars and Star Trek novels. A hamster cage sat in front of the fireplace; her cat, Aramis, dozed on a cushion nearby. The tall trees surrounding the house rarely, if ever, let in direct sunlight, despite the windows extending from the floor to the ceiling; this was deep in southern Louisiana, after all.

Vicki and I would stay up late reading and watching VHS tapes in her parents’ room while they watched Frasier or Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the living room. Sometimes we would sit in opposite corners of her room (it was painted purple – it never occurred to me that I could ask for a different paint color in my own room) with notebooks propped on our knees and write stories, which we would then swap and read. Her stories were magical and full of mystery – more imaginative than my adventure stories, or so I thought at the time. She was an incredibly talented artist, and this was something I vaguely felt like I had to compensate for in my own creative life. This is not the reason I turned to writing at a young age, because she wrote, too.

Her parents were always kind to me and facilitated our friendship by taking us to places like the aquarium, the zoo, and even out to dinner. I felt like an integral part of their family. Their voices were foreign and kind; her mother, Stella, was born in England, her father, Peter, in Scotland.

About a year and a half later, my family and I moved back to Denver, Colorado, where I was born. This was just a few short months before 9/11. For the next few summers, Vicki and I would visit one another; first my parents and I drove back to Slidell and stayed for a few days, two of which I spent at her family’s house. There had been a blizzard back home before we left – at least five feet of snow was still on the ground when we made our way through the snow-plowed streets – and it was completely melted by the time we arrived home, and everything that grew was the greenest and brightest I had ever seen.

The summer we were eleven going on twelve was different. Throughout our time apart, Vicki and I wrote relatively frequent letters to one another, but they had become less so around that time. We were both inside our own heads; it was just beginning to dawn on us teenage girls that we had bodies and real thoughts that could potentially matter. Vicki flew out to see me for the first time. When she arrived, she had grown significantly taller, she looked thinner, and her hair was cut very short. She looked far more grown up. I wasn’t sure how I looked compared to her, but I was shorter and felt, well, stocky, even though I’ve never come close. As is the case with girls just growing into adolescence, she had also become incredibly self-assured. I noticed her self-assurance and took it as arrogance without ever quite acknowledging that I, too, thought I knew everything. She stayed for two whole weeks, the longest time we had ever spent together at a stretch. I was ready for her to leave about a week in, and this worried me. I thought our friendship was flawed, or that we had spent too much time apart to ever be able to be best friends again.

The following summer, I flew down to spend two weeks with Vicki and her family. Stella had a teacher’s conference in Nashville, Tennessee, so we loaded up the car and drove. This was the same summer that the sixth Harry Potter novel was released, as was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – you know, the one starring an especially eccentric Johnny Depp and the especially creepy Oompa Loompas. Vicki and I got along better during this trip; there was more to occupy our attention. Her parents took us to the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince; we were sixth in line, and we read the novel all the next day on the drive back to Slidell.

I will never forget this trip because of what happened on that drive back. We stopped to eat at a Cajun restaurant called Copeland’s when we finally reached Slidell. Vicki and I were in the backseat, each looking out of our own windows when I smelled something strange and metallic. The skin between my legs was moist, but I assumed it was from the hot humidity. I pulled my legs apart slightly and looked down; the crotch of my denim shorts was darkly stained. I didn’t know what was happening, and I didn’t know when it was going to happen. I wasn’t told it was going to happen now. I put my hands underneath me to keep the seat traceless.

“Vicki,” I said softly. She turned, noticing the odd way I was sitting.

“Yeah?”

Peter parked the car outside the restaurant.

“I’m bleeding,” I whispered. Her eyes widened. She understood. She leaned forward to her mother in the passenger seat and whispered into her ear. Stella glanced back at me fleetingly. She got out of the car and untied her jacket from around her waist. I waited for her to open the door for me; I didn’t want anyone to see me. I felt small, changed, ashamed, ashamed of being changed and of being small.

Peter opened the door for me and Stella stood there with the jacket, ready to help me tie it around my waist. I took it from her and tied it myself while staring at the ground. I lingered behind the parents, behind Vicki even, as we walked inside. I walked with my inner thighs pressed together; I was certain that everyone around me could smell the blood.

After the hostess led us to our table, Stella said to Vicki, “Take her to the bathroom.” She did not say this unkindly, but she was brusque.

“I don’t know what to do,” I told Vicki as soon as the bathroom door swung closed. “I didn’t know when this was going to happen. I’m sorry.” I couldn’t look at her; I stared at her shoes.

“It’s okay. Are you feeling okay?”

I looked down at myself and threw up my hands. “Yeah, I mean, I feel fine.” Then, suddenly, a knife was being pounded into each of my hips.

“Ow.” I winced. “I have sharp pains here.” I put my hands over my pelvic bones.

“You should stuff some toilet paper in your underwear to soak some of it up until we get home. My mom has pads you can use,” she said impatiently.

I went into a stall, embarrassed that I didn’t think of that first. I looked at her feet underneath the stall door and heard her sigh. I ripped through the toilet paper and made a makeshift pad. Now I knew what the silver dispensers in women’s restrooms were for.

I swung the stall door open; its penetrating squeak broke the silence. I looked at Vicki, and she stared back at me, unblinking.

“Has this ever happened to you?” My voice was barely above a whisper. She shook her head.

“Let’s go order our food,” she said, and held the door open for me. I walked through, making sure the jacket was tight around my waist. I let her slide into the booth first, just in case I had to make another dash to the bathroom.

Peter offered me a small smile and I returned it.

“You can call your mother when we get home,” Stella said. “Are you all right?”

“Yeah, I’m good,” I said assuredly.

I don’t remember the rest of the day now. My mother asked me every detail of what happened and I told her.

“Well,” she said, “you’re growing up.”

“I had no idea what to do, Mom,” I said angrily. “Why did no one tell me this was going to happen?”

“Well, did you pay attention in your sex education class?” she snapped.

“Of course I did. At least, I paid attention until I was too embarrassed to pay attention to anything anymore. I didn’t know how old I would be before this happened. I’m twelve. You should have told me.”

She was silent. “Well, it happened,” she said finally. “Has Vicki ever had her period?”

“No,” I said. “She didn’t seem very understanding. She was a little impatient,” I added.

“Well, there you go, then,” my mother said, as though this should so obviously explain her reaction.

I thought about this for the next few days as Vicki talked to me less and less. She avoided my eyes. She often went off on her own, into the dining room to work on her art, or into her room to read. I stayed in my own room and tried to forget about the pains that were still there. When Vicki finally was ready for me, she would invite me to come and watch a movie with her, and I would eagerly accept.

We spent the last few days of the trip like this, and again, I was relieved to part with her again. We didn’t talk about what happened; I thought about what my mother said and how she and her mother had both reacted and didn’t want to bring it up because the last thing I wanted was a conflict. Stella had had to help someone other than her daughter through her first period; Vicki had had to witness my first period without having it herself. We never talked about it again.

The last time we saw each other was when my parents were still together; it must have been at least seven years ago. Vicki and her parents flew to Denver to meet up with her older brother, Richard, for some reason I can’t remember now. We lived a short distance from the airport, so we picked them up, and Vicki ended up spending the night with us while her parents went back to their hotel after visiting with us.

She and I stayed up swapping stories about boyfriends, a ritual denied us in the past; we only wrote about such things in letters and had never had the chance to talk about them face-to-face, giggly and coyly, as girls do. She showed me her sketchbook, and I showed her what books I had been reading recently. We watched the 1970’s cartoon movie of The Hobbit and, for whatever reason, laughed our asses off. We were always able to find humor in everything we watched.

We’ve never stopped writing letters. She’s told me several times that even though we’ve lived apart for the majority of our friendship, it has meant the most to her over the years. I tell her confidently that I feel the exact same way. Our letters throughout college have taken an especially personal turn; this is a time of more than just boys and lost friendships, though I do not mean to belittle our histories. We expect to be seeing each other in the very near future; after all, we’ll both be graduating soon, and there will be no excuses this time.

For a long time, I thought that we wouldn’t remain friends. I thought a good deal about how we were as children; she led the way and I followed her into whatever she found interesting. I resented her for this, when really, we were bound to grow apart somehow, whether it was geographically or not. We held on to the friendship and didn’t let it dissipate. That’s all that we can really ask of each other over such a great distance – that’s all that we want to ask of each other.

Taylor Hine is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Denver. She last wrote in these pages about Cat Power. She tumbls here. You can find an archive of her writing for This Recording here.

"She's Not Me" - Jenny Lewis (mp3)

"Slippery Slopes"-  Jenny Lewis (mp3)

 

Monday
Aug182014

In Which We Fly Perilously Close To The Ordinary Sun

Did You Ask Me?

by DAN CARVILLE

I saw her at a stoplight, through the window of my car, long afterwards. Early morning. The first inches of dawn touched her shoulders. I had a passenger in my car, a friend of mine who I have not seen since he moved to Salinas. He sang along with what was on the radio. As we passed her, trailing a suitcase with a long handle, my friend stopped his singing. He said, "Can there be a single hour left in this night?"

I drove cars many times after that. But I did not enjoy it anymore. How could I, when the possibility remained of passing by another person I know better than myself, moving so fast momentum alone might take me miles beyond her?

I dislike rhetorical questions intensely, but I have to admit the world is filled with them.

I never understood the intimacy of others, or could see myself taking part in it, until I met her. Since she left, I lost whatever understanding she gave me. A key frame, redrawn on paper. One conversation I had with her keeps recurring in my mind.

Flashing her blue eyes, she said, "Dan, you have to stop." I asked what she meant.

"You know, of course, the story of the acolyte?"

I said I did not. She told the fable. It was about a student who invested nearly everything in his instructor, until he heard himself referred to by his teacher as a slave. The student was despondent and suicidal until the master explained that he had done it on purpose in order to shatter the student's imperfect view of him. 

I did not ask the relevance of this tale, both because I dreaded the answer, and because there is no real way to make a woman tell you anything she does not want to. I explained this to her. Her face wrinkled, like she was about to spit something disgusting out of her mouth. She was silent for a few moments.

Then she shouted, "But did you ask me? But did you ask me? But did you ask me?" She forgave me in minutes.

She would not let me touch her for the first month. The anticipation was a monkish ritual to be enjoyed and loathed in equal part. I wondered aloud why she chose this. Did she not want to be with me the way I wanted to be with her?

She laughed and said, "What are you thinking now?" She repeated herself a lot, usually to be silly. I could not help loving that aspect of her, and when she was gone it was the first thing I mocked, quietly to myself. I was at the airport, flying back to New York. I watched a woman repair a wheelchair with one hand. Families and couples criss-crossed each other, alternately wiping off and enclosing their hands in soft, white, slightly damp paper. I said to myself, "What are you thinking now, Dan?" and I said it more than once, more than enough.

I first met her when she was dating a TA I knew from college named Mark. Even though I rarely kept up with my college friends, I would catch up with Mark from time to time. In those days he had a marvelous mind: vindictive, forceful and empathetic all at once. I remember us both walking out of some seminar on the Palestinian situation once we saw the syllabus.

Mark saw the world as an ancient husk. I will not say he hated it. He felt that the idea of improving it was completely in vain, and self-important besides. It was difficult but not impossible to reconcile this idea with the little goatee I never saw him without.

Mark had told me his girlfriend was a musician long before I met them for drinks, and even sent me a few of her songs. I never planned to listen to those mp3s, but I did find it very sweet and maybe a little childish that he wanted my approval. I am not sure what he saw in me, really. It only occurs to me now that he may simply not have had many friends in the husk.

I remember coming home from a Greenwich Village bar at the end of that night. I see myself then as a flame shaped like a man, so excited was I at being able to hear her music; somewhat upset that I had possessed this kind of treasure days prior without knowing it. (But it was not just that. It was also the idea that I might also have, within the walls of the apartment I shared with a computer science PhD named Amil, so many other secret delights waiting to be found.)

She took a job at Columbia and now lived uptown. Mark visited and wrote her from Ann Arbor. I knew I had to break them up somehow, but my options were limited. If she would willingly deceive Mark to be with me, I could not respect her; if something trivial could cleanse her feelings, then I could not really trust her.

After a few days, I just called her. I did not really care at that point, so many times had I given myself over to her voice, her fey discretion, the blush in her face. (I would have also been similarly thrilled by the girl in Willy Wonka who turned into a massive blueberry, had she only become a round, shy cherry instead.)

Dumbly I asked if she remembered me.

"Yes, Dan. I am glad you called," she said.

Despite myself, even though every part of me knew I should not say the word, because I am always frowning at good fortune and expecting bad, I asked why.

She said, "Do you know the story of the falcon, the angel and the death adder?" I said I did not. She e-mailed to me.

I read it quickly and asked, "Which one am I?" I already knew which she represented.

On the other end of the line, I heard her laugh again, chalky and solid like her lower half. "That is the right answer, Dan. I only want to know those who cannot immediately tell which they are." That in her delicious accent.

I met her in the park regularly after that. She would talk to me for hours, never flinching when what I wanted to discuss seemed flimsy even for me. (Once I asked her what she thought about the death penalty and she just rolled her eyes.) We would write when we did not meet, posing each other so many questions. Finally, in Sheep Meadow, I broached the subject that had been on my mind, although I would be lying if I said it was torturing me.

"Have you told Mark about us?" I said. Her first answer would be definitive, final - anything else would be merely apology or confession.

She said, "Dan, what did he tell you? That I am his girlfriend?" I nodded.

She said, "That night we met, do you know what he said to me before we went to you? I can see that you do not, and I am sorry. I thought you knew." Her hair shivered and she touched my body with some blunt instrument. It may have been her hand.

"It was just before we left. He said, 'If you don't like Dan, I will futilely try not to hold it against you.'"

I said that seemed like a nice compliment, but that that I did not fully understand. She watched a group of babies fight over a toy shaped like a fat orange cat and brushed strands of dark hair back from her face. She said, "It may seem like we stop..."

She said, "It may seem like I stopped loving him, but that's not true. I only stopped acknowledging his love."

I think about that almost every morning, since she is no longer here, since she will not say something more destructive to replace that original thought. At first I concluded that those who always gave so much of themselves were by their nature also the cruellest. I hope I am not like that, but I think what she was saying is that we all are.

But then, it seemed like she would never stop wanting me. Unlike anyone else, she never made demands on sex, attaching it to no other part of our lives. Amil moved in with his boyfriend in Prospect Heights and she took his room. Because I snore, we often slept in separate beds. The other reason was that she used her sleeping place also as a sort of office, although she would allow me in it if I asked.

(Do you know how hard it is for me to say or hear her name? I know I cannot put it down here, either. For her to recognize me in real life, putting her suitcase aside for one moment, dropping it fully to the ground, would be nothing. She cannot see me in my writing, she must only see herself.)

After I saw her at the stoplight that day, I again started every morning with thoughts of her. I replayed the most eventful of our past conversations constantly. Paranoia enveloped my brain; I tried and failed to distrust her in retrospect. I thought of e-mailing Mark and asking questions I had held close for so long, but if he felt the same way I did, then I would no longer be suffering alone. (Had he given her to me?) I dreaded the idea of not being original.

Here is the story of the falcon, the angel and the death adder:

The falcon always soared as high as she could, and descended as low. One day an angel appeared to her at the top of her flight. The angel told the falcon that she could soar even higher than the sun, but that she might not be able to return to Earth. The falcon asked how she would feed herself. The angel answered that he, the angel, would provide an appropriate source of sustenance. The falcon asked for a day to consider and the angel agreed.

The falcon flew as low as she could, until the sun dropped out of view. There, in the bowels of Earth, she met the death adder. The death adder told her that she could fly even lower, into the world beneath the world, where she could eat and laugh and love forever with others like her. The falcon asked what she would have to do in return. The death adder said nothing, except that she could never again go to the top of the world, but would have to be content with the space between, where other birds flew nearby.

The falcon asked for a day to consider things. The death adder stuck out his long tongue, but agreed.

The falcon dropped to an old man's porch while she considered these two fine offers. The old man came out to give her a few scraps and leftovers such as he had. He asked the falcon where she planned to fly next.

"I don't know," the falcon said, shaking her dark little head. She could not meet the old man's eyes, knowing that if she did, the man might sense an inclination in her twisted face. "I don't know, I don't know, I don't know..."

Dan Carville 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

"When She Comes" - EMA (mp3)

"Satellites" - EMA (mp3)

Friday
Aug152014

In Which Cate Blanchett Vamps Like A Mere Servant

Ungrateful

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Some things are too good for critics.

In the Lincoln Center Festival production of Jean Genet's The Maids, Cate Blanchett prances around the stage in her undergarments until that special moment when Isabelle Huppert begins humping her red dress and choking her as anyone with a brain would want to be throttled. If you can't enjoy watching Cate playact sadomasochism with one of the finest French actresses of her generation, something is probably wrong with you.

There is something completely non-American about The Maids that is impossible to translate, even when the words themselves are done better than they ever have in a rewrite by Benedict Andrews and Andrew Upton. Any production of this oft-staged comedy is on some level shameful and difficult to watch, since there is no amount of crossdressing or wackiness or satirical commentary that makes people feel OK about servants betraying their employers.

Why do so many theatrical reviews read like histories? It really doesn't matter how anything was performed in the past. The past no longer exists, I think this was a major theme of Mr. Holland's Opus or perhaps The Nutty Professor.

Now, today, you can see Cate Blanchett writhe and spread her legs as Claire, the youngest of the two maids in the employ of Madame (Elizabeth Debicki).  When older sister Solange (Huppert) puts her hand in her sister's mouth as she is straddling her, there is not a lot of thinking that has to go on to realize that this is the kind of fun we never end up seeing anywhere except pirate romance novels. The overall cumulative effect is something like if the girl of your dreams suddenly began slobbering all over you, jamming her fingers in your mouth.


The fact that a play from the late forties could still have any shock value in it at all shows how prudish American culture is, but that is the not-so-interesting part of watching Blanchett smear her makeup and monologue the inner desire she has to poison her fickle employer. Murder is less shocking than transcendent sex play; it is also a lot more understandable.

Cate's ministrations eventually make you realize that, is it really so bad when Bradley Cooper's girlfriend slobbers and jams her fingers down his throat?


Under the bright lights of NY City Center, Blanchett's face oscillates like a sun dial. She is always the center of any action on the stage, just subtle enough to not be overwhelming. Director Benedict Andrews dresses her older sister up more modestly, like the young girl she is not. Huppert's strong accent and sonorously low voice make her sound even more alien than her statuesque blonde sister, and the fact that she makes Blanchett's Claire seem normal is the basic premise of this production.


At some point an actress like Blanchett is just playing herself, or off herself. The latter is a lot more fun. The best part of The Maids occurs when Elizabeth Debicki finally enters the proceedings as Madame halfway through the play, and the natural order of things returns to the household.

We always find it easier to laugh when the existing social order is intact. Disturbingly, the most regular arrangement of individuals comforts us. It was either William F. Buckley or Genet who taught the West that there was a reason things were the way they were. I suppose in some twisted way those two men were peers and co-conspirators.

Hilton Als called this version of The Maids "a rip-off", I guess because there was a video screen, I am unclear on the actual reason. Watching a screen display what is already in front of you is a complete waste of time, but you have to remember that almost half the audience at the performance of The Maids I attended waited in line to get headphones that would assist with their ability to hear the show. If they squinted they might be able to tell Cate Blanchett apart from Elizabeth Debicki, but that would be the sole way they could do it. The only people who go to the theater are actresses, tourists and senior citizens, and it has always been this way.

And critics.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Miles Away" - Philip Selway (mp3)

"Waiting for a Sign" - Philip Selway (mp3)