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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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Tuesday
Nov292016

In Which We Open The Manila Folder

Dear Derek

by LINDA EDDINGS

I got the letters back today, in a manila folder. It looked like he had been collecting them; at least, like they were given care.

The first one was about how I could not shake the feeling I was better off without him, but by the end of the letter, thematically, I wasn't so sure if that was the case. There was the note of apologia – an apology always smells to me like sulphur and the inside of a camping tent. With that said, there was no actual sorry, just the idea that something negative had taken place between us, that had not been accounted for and would not for some time. He left my apartment before I woke completely. I begged him to stay and forced him to go. A girl on the street played hopscotch with her sister. I bought a pregnancy test, but I didn't mention that until the third letter.

installation by katja novitskova

The second one was all about regret. I wrote it in a Starbucks, the one near his place where I always hated to go. It is not stalking to revisit these old places, right? I had already met someone else by the time of this letter, but I was not one hundred percent sure about him. It felt weird to write to him and pursue this other romance, but it is best to be practical about such things. He was, I wrote, never the type of human being I could count on completely. But I still missed him and wanted him back, so I listed all the things I missed about him: that cinnamon smell to his clothes, the way he pressed his cock against me while I slept, how he never once overstayed his welcome.

The third one was in pieces. After I write a letter, all the feeling I put into it is drained from me. I walk around like a skeleton, which is all we are anyway. Ask any x-ray technician. In this epitaph I listed all the problems I thought he and I had. They included a struggle to communicate, a reluctance to bring our true emotions out for fear of hurting the ones closest to us, various issues with trust brought on by the existence of his ex-girlfriend. I wonder – did she write him letters? He deleted all his e-mails, so she must have, in order to leave something permanent in the place we both know.

The fourth one is hardest for me to read. I am a mess by then, barely able to wake or sleep. Stuck between those two poles, I ache for his physical presence. In life it is not enough to be betrayed; we must know the meaning of the betrayal. I ask him all about his new girlfriend, who he posts about incessantly. She is substantially younger than I am, with a different hair color. Worst of all she has a positive mental outlook.

By the time of the fifth letter they have broken up, and I am reassured by this, potentially gratified by this. It has opened up a world of new possibilities for me. Then again, when you want something as much as I do, actually getting it would come as such a complete shock to the system that it might destroy me all over again. Reading back these particular words fills me with delight: I am legitimately impressed at how delusional I become given the right circumstances. "I know you don't love me," I almost write, but hold back. Could saying something make it true?

Linda Eddings is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in New York. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.


Monday
Nov282016

In Which Rory Gilmore Contemplates A Voyage Into The Known

Yale Was Not A Good Choice

by ETHAN PETERSON

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life
creators Daniel Palladino and Amy Sherman-Palladino
Netflix

That last season of Gilmore Girls, when Amy Sherman-Palladino was no longer working on the show, was quite depressing. Nothing, however, could be as sad as the condition these women find themselves in when Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life begins. Lorelai was the brightest light in a cute but sometimes grim New England town. Now she looks completely bored by the place she selected to raise her daughter so long ago. Even the most mediocre people seek appropriately-sized challenges for themselves, but Lorelai doesn't want kids, or a new job, or anything more from her boyfriend than to lie next to her as she watches the Hallmark Channel. An inspirational mother and hotelier has given up.

Things are even worse for Rory Gilmore. She has not found one man of any persistent intelligence. It is far more believable that Rory would be stuck in an endless loop, given that the only male figure she had to look up to during her childhood was barely ever there at all. Her relationships with men conform to the only way of interacting she knows: babbling endlessly to her mother. Some men like a woman who talks a lot, but most do not like to be talked to like the girl's mother.

Rory's Yale boyfriend Logan was always a problematic and underwritten character. His wealthy father made a point of putting Rory down, and she weirdly accepted this determination. Somehow, it seemed to enhance her view of the man's son. Logan lives in London, and when Rory is there she stays in his apartment. He promises not to discuss the other women he is schtupping, and she is cautious about prying too much in his drawers and closets. When we learn he is not really serious about Rory, it is expected and reflects even more poorly on her judgment.

Emily, the girls' mother and grandmother, is the only one who time has altered at all. The role played by Edward Herrmann of Lorelai's awful, distant father was one of the best characters on the show. It seems strange to eulogize his passing given that he was pretty much a monster to Lorelai and nothing like the loving father he should have been. We witness a long funeral scene with sweeping music, and various other lawyers talking about what an irreverent piece of shit Richard was. In the wake of the death, Emily lives in a massive house with an entire Portuguese family who has presumed on her grief.

Minority characters are always completely subservient to the white ones in Palladino-Sherman's writing, and Rory's friend Lane never got half the scenes she deserved during the run of the original show. She has had two children with her husband, but we never even get to learn the names of the boys or speculate on the kind of relationship Rory might have with them. Kids have changed everyone I know, but they don't seem to alter Lane or Rory's other friend Paris, who ironically runs a fertility clinic.

Everyone on Gilmore Girls look none the worse for wear, unless you probe deeper. Lauren Graham in particular is still a vibrant and beautiful woman; even though Luke still has a certain mercurial charm, it feels like she has not completely found the right man. Alexis Bledel enters middle age even more self-possessed; it seems a mystery that she cannot find a man who complements her. They really should have cast her real life husband on this joint, and maybe they still will.

One running joke has Rory ignoring a boy with no self-respect, who believes he is dating her and getting to know her family, named Paul. It is cruel in the way that jokes on Gilmore Girls always were. One character would make fun of another, and this seemingly offhand jibe would represent some deeper unhappiness, and the immensity of the problem would balloon when you least expected it. Sherman-Palladino excelled at writing scenes like this, which ostensibly started as one thing but because something completely different through the flow of his signature patter.

We are supposed to believe that Rory has seen some of the world: the parts that her mother was never able to. At one point, Rory romanticizes a vagabond life, and we realize how much she needs this valuable perspective, a journey that would allow her to see what kind of man she could love who would love her back. Instead by the end of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, she is tied down exactly like her mother. God this show made me want to cry.

Ethan Peterson is the reviews editor of This Recording.


Thursday
Nov242016

In Which Andrei Tarkovsky Writes These Things Down

Destroy Everything

The diaries of the Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky are the notations of a man whose real enterprise was elsewhere. In the 1970s Tarkovsky's frustrations boiled over as he reached the peak of his cinematic powers. Tarkovsky's writing was purely a means to end — a way of framing his real language of filmmaking. As translated by Kitty Hunter-Blair, these notes on films like Solaris, Andrei Rublev and unfinished and unrealized projects reveal Tarkovsky's struggle with the state, his family and himself.

May 10

On 24 April 1970 we bought a house in Myasnoye. The one we wanted. Now I don’t care what happens. If they don’t give me any work I'll sit in the country and breed piglets and geese, and tend my vegetable patch, and to hell with the lot of them!

We shall gradually put the house and garden in order, and it will be a wonderful country house; stone.

The people here seem nice. I’ve installed a beehive. We’ll have honey. If only we could get hold of a pick-up we’d be all set. Now I must earn as much as possible so that we can finish the house by the autumn. It has to be habitable in winter as well. Three hundred kilometers from Moscow—people won’t come dragging out here for nothing.

The two important things now are:

1. Solaris has to be in two parts.

2. Maximum distribution for Rublev. Then I’d be free of debt. And—the agreement in Dushanbe.

To be done in the house:

1. Reroofing.

2. Re-lay all floors.

3. Make second frame for one window.

4. Use tiles from house to roof shed.

5. Make stove for steam heating.

6. Repair cracks in gallery.

7. Put up fence all round house.

8. Cellar.

9. Remove plywood from ceilings.

10. Open up door between rooms.

1 1. Put stove in gallery.

12. Build bath-house in kitchen garden.

13. Make lavatory.

14. Install pump (electric) from the river to the house (if it’s not going to freeze up in winter).

15. Shower (by bath-house).

16. Plant garden.

17. Paint floors and walls of gallery, and beams.

June 3

Yesterday Bibi Anderson was introduced to me. I spent the entire evening wondering if she would make a Khari. Of course she’s a marvellous actress. But she’s not that young, although she looks very well. I don’t know, I haven’t yet decided what to do about her. She’s willing to work for our currency. She’s going to be filming for Bergman through the summer and she’ll be free in the autumn. We’ll see. For the moment I haven’t made any decision. I must talk to Ira.

On the 12th I took Senka to school. My impression was that he had failed, but the headmaster is liberal-minded and didn’t say anything, so for the moment everything is all right as far as school is concerned.

June 12

Last night I had a terribly sad dream. I dreamed again of a northern (I think) lake somewhere in Russia; it was dawn, and on the far share were two Orthodox monasteries, with amazingly beautiful cathedrals and walls.

And I felt such sadness! Such pain!

September 18

I saw a very bad film by Bunuel—I forget the name—oh, yes, Tristana, about a woman who has her leg amputated and who some- times dreams of a bell with her husband/stepfather’s head in it instead of a clapper. It’s unbelievably vulgar. Just occasionally Bunuel allows himself lapses like that.

Read Akutagawa’s story about water-sprites — ‘kappas’. Rather mediocre and limp.

Chukhrai asked me to bring them the screenplay of The Bright Day. He wants me to make it with their team. They’re allegedly thinking of buying Ariel as well. We’ll see. I don’t trust Chukhrai. He’s often let people down. Betrayed them.

November 15

I really have to make a note of the fact that on 12 November 1970 I gave up smoking. Frankly, it was high time. The last few weeks I’ve been feeling somehow empty and dull-witted. Either because I’ve been ill, or because I feel frustrated. You could very easily expire without ever having done anything. And there’s so much I want to do . . .

Reading Thomas Mann’s stupendous Joseph and His Brothers. The whole approach is as it were from the far side. Kitchen gossip from the far side. I can see why the typist, as she finished typing out Joseph, said, "Now at least I know how it really happened." Yes, but as for screening it, I really don’t know what to say. For the moment, I don’t see how it would come across.

I want to restore the house in the country — then there’d be some point. Build a bath-house, cultivate the garden. The children could graze. My father came to see us yesterday. He was introduced to his grandson who wore his smart blue suit for the occasion. Please God.

February 18

"Fear of the aesthetic is a first symptom of weakness." — Dostoievsky’s notebooks, about Crime and Punishment, p. 560.

"The supreme idea of socialism is machinery. It turns a person into a mechanical person. There are rules for everything. And so man is taken from himself. His living soul is removed. It is understandable that one may be calm in such Eastern quietism, and these gentlemen say they are progressives! My God! If that is progress, then what is Eastern quietism!’

"Socialism is despair at the impossibility of ever being able to organize man. It organizes tyranny for him and says that is freedom itself!" — ibid., about Svidrigailov, p. 556.

I’m very strongly affected by diaries and archives and "laboratories" of every kind. They’re a wonderful catalyst.

So — Ariel has turned out really well. Only no one must be told what the script is about.

It’s about —

I. The creative pretensions of the mediocre.

2. The greatness of simple things (in a moral sense).

3. The conflict within religion. (The ideal has collapsed. It’s not possible to live without an ideal, no one is able to invent a new one, and the old one has collapsed: the church.)

4. The emergence of pragmatism. Pragmatism cannot be condemned because it is a stage and a condition of society: indeed an inevitable stage. It started at the turn of the century. Life can’t be condemned. It has to be accepted. It is not a question of cynicism. The war of 1914 was the last war to have a romantic aura.

5. Man is a plaything of history. The ‘madness of the individual’ and the calm of the socialist order.

Parallel between Ariel and the turn of the next century. Super-pragmatism on a state scale, as viewed by the man in the street. Consumerism.

I showed Ariel to Klimov, he said he liked it. Whatever happens I must let Yussov have it, so that he can be ready.

August 14

Culture is man’s greatest achievement. But is it more important, say, than personal worth? (If one doesn’t take culture and personal worth as being one and the same thing.) The person who takes part in the building of culture, if he is an artist, has no reason to be proud. His talent has been given him by God, whom he obviously has to thank.

There can be no merit in talent, since it is only yours fortuitously. The mere fact of being born into a wealthy family does not give a person a sense of his own worth and thus the respect of others. Spiritual, moral culture is created not by the individual—whose talent is accidental—but by the nation, as it spontaneously throws out that individual endowed with the potential for artistic creation and the life of the spirit. Talent is common property. The bearer of it is as insignificant as a slave on a plantation, or a drug addict, or a member of the lumpen proletariat.

Talent is a misfortune, for on the one hand it entitles a person to neither merit nor respect, and on the other it lays on him tremendous responsibilities; he is like the honest steward who has to protect the treasure entrusted to his keeping without ever making use of it.

A sense of self-respect is available to anyone who feels the need for it. I don’t understand why fame is the highest aspiration of the artistic confraternity. Vainglory is above all a sign of mediocrity.

Reading extracts in Novy Mir of S. Birman’s memoirs, with the pretentious, tasteless title, ‘Meetings Granted Me by Fate’. God help us! It’s about Gordon Craig and Stanislavsky. She quotes from a conversation between them about Hamlet, in particular where they are talking about Ophelia.

What rubbish it all is!

Craig’s interpretation of Hamlet is metaphysical and pretentious and stupid. Hamlet as construed by the idiot, megalomaniac Stanislavsky is equally absurd.

At the same time Craig is right when he says that Ophelia falls out of the tragedy, that she is insignificant, whereas Stanislavsky, with one eye forever on the audience because he was scared to death of their verdict, maintains she was a pure, beautiful girl. I’m irritated by this silly claptrap from a silly old woman who wants to attract attention.

August 15

Stanislavsky did great harm to future generations of the theatre; roughly the same as Stassov did for painting. All those lofty ideals — that so-called ‘sense of direction’ as Dostoievsky put it — falsified the functions and the meaning of art.

September 14

Dostoievsky read by the light of two candles. He didn’t like lamps. He smoked a lot while he worked and occasionally drank strong tea. He led a monotonous life, starting off in Staraya Russya (the prototype of the town where Karamazov lived). His favourite colour — the waves of the sea. He often dresses his heroines in that colour.

January 2

If only we could start filming.

February 15

The film was sent to the Committee without any discussion. Sizov telephoned today and said that the film is now much better and more harmonious. But he hinted that there would have to be more cuts. I shall resist them. The length is actually an aesthetic consideration.

I’m going to see Sizov on the 17th; he asked me to; he has to talk to me about something. I can’t bear surprises, they’re always unpleasant.

I am tired. In April I shall be forty. But I’m never left in peace, and there is never any silence. Instead of freedom Pushkin had ‘peace’ and ‘will’, but I don’t even have those.

People are sending me letters after seeing Rublev. Some are very interesting. Of course audiences understand the film perfectly well, as I knew they would.

February 23

Am I really going to be sitting around again for years, on end, waiting for somebody graciously to let my film through.

What an extraordinary country this is — don’t they want an international artistic triumph, don’t they want us to have good new films and books? They are frightened by real art. Quite understandably. Art can only be bad for them because it is humane, whereas their purpose is to crush everything that is alive, every shoot of humanity, any aspiration to freedom, any manifestation of art on our dreary horizon.

They won’t be content until they have eliminated every symptom of independence and reduced people to the level of cattle.

In the process they’ll destroy everything: themselves and Russia.

Tomorrow I’m going to Sizov and he’ll explain what is happening about Solaris. No doubt he’ll try to persuade me and win me over and convince me. The usual story.

I must read the Korolenko story Friedrich was talking about; it’s all about peasant life miles from anywhere in Siberia, and their prejudices and so on . . . It may be a bit like Echo Calls? Screening an existing book is an easier way of doing things.

I somehow think that it’s better to screen inferior literature, which nonetheless contains the seed of something real — which can be developed in the film and grow into something wonderful as a result of going through your hands.

February 26

Late this evening I looked at the sky and saw the stars. I felt as if it was the first time I had ever looked at them.

I was stunned.

The stars made an extraordinary impression on me.

April 2

Evening.

I’m very excited by Zen. At present I’m reading somebody’s dissertation (or simply research notes) about Koan. Very interesting.

"In order to write well you have to forget the rules of grammar.” (Goethe)

"Dostoievsky gives me more than any thinker, more than Gauss." (Einstein)

"We are being sentimental when we attribute more tenderness to a person than the Lord God has endowed him with." (R. T. Blice)

April 6

Here I am forty. And what have I done in all this time? Three pathetic pictures. So little! So ridiculously little and insignificant.

I had a strange dream last night: I was looking up at the sky, and it was very, very light, and soft; and high, high above me it seemed to be slowly boiling, like light that had materialized, like the fibres of a sunlit fabric, like silken, living stitches in a piece of Japanese embroidery. And those tiny fibres, light-bearing, living threads, seemed to be moving and floating and becoming like birds, hovering, so high up that they could never be reached. So high that if the birds were to lose feathers the feathers wouldn’t fall, they wouldn’t come down to the earth, they would fly upwards, be carried off and vanish from our world forever. And soft, enchanted music was flow- ing down from that great height. The music seemed to sound like the chiming of little bells; or else the birds’ chirping was like music.

‘They’re storks’, I suddenly heard someone say, and I woke up.

A strange and beautiful dream. I do sometimes have wonderful dreams.