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Alex Carnevale
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Features Editor
Mia Nguyen
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Reviews Editor
Ethan Peterson
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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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Thursday
Feb162017

In Which Georges Braque Survives Multiple Wars

A Break From All That

by ALEX CARNEVALE

As he had for André Derain, Pablo Picasso chose Georges Braque's wife. Marcelle Vorvanne had modeled for other painters, including Modigliani, and had many cheerful anecdotes about doing so. She loved to drop nicknames on unsuspecting artists, terming Max Jacob "the magus." Her mother was an upholsterer, her father was absolutely missing. Madame Vorvanne was a tiny, stout woman with a low center of gravity; her frequent donning of a large hat made her look something like a striped or patterned turtle depending on her mode of dress.

Marcelle's birth name was Octavie, but she discarded it with much else. Reinventing yourself in Europe at this time was not terribly difficult, and she did it more than once. While Braque was a domineering type, he did not mind having a wife with her own mind. Marcelle was expert at giving people exactly what they wanted or needed. Her major tool of benign manipulation was food and drink; after a conversation with Marcelle, participants frequently felt undone.

In the first year of their dating, Braque was still keeping time with a courtesan he had known since boyhood, Paulette Philippi. Madame Philippi ran an opium den in Paris, and the drug would eventually ruin her good looks and sour Braque's view of her. Braque took Paulette to dinner and sometimes lectures, but he felt his heart moving towards Marcelle. When he returned from an uneventful bout of required military service in 1922, he and Marcelle moved into a double apartment in Paris. She continued calling him by his last name for the rest of their lives.

Marcelle usually went to church alone, which is not to say Braque had no faith in the almighty. He did avoid the chapel in Marseilles when they were summering. "It's probably because I know it too well," he said, "but it bothers me that when I go to the House of God it's Matisse that lets me in." Despite their cohabitation, the two would not be officially married until fifteen years later.

By 1914 the war was on. Braque and Derain were both immediately transferred to the front. Picasso took them to the station, writing fallaciously, "On 2 August 1914 I took Braque and Derain to the station at Avignon. I never saw them again." In the thick of the fight, Braque was awarded the Croix de Guerre and appointed Chevalier of the Legion of Honor.

In a battle at Neuville-Saint-Vaust, Braque was struck in the head. He became temporarily blind, a condition that was relieved by trepanning two holes in his skull to relieve the pressure. "I was afraid of finding him so badly wounded," Marcelle wrote, "that I would not be able to hide my despair." Braque would spend month after month under the care of doctors, during which time he could not even think of returning to his studio.

Picasso and Braque reunited, but as close as they had been before the war, they never got back to where they were. Picasso was deeply troubled by his own avoidance of battle, and remarked to Gertrude Stein, "Will it not be awful when Braque and Derain and all the rest of them put their wooden legs up on a chair and tell about their fighting?" Pablo was an all-around disgusting man.

Return to painting was slow for Georges. It took him until he received his full discharge, after two solid years of convalescence, to think of proceeding past still-lifes. "Survival does not erase the memory," he wrote.

He looked differently at those who had avoided combat: Gleizes and Picibia, Delaney and Duchamp. Even his closest friend. While Braque was fighting for his country, Picasso had become famous and rich. Still serving in the war, Derain looked down on them both.

A short essay of aphrorisms published by Braque in Nord-Sud helped him regain his creative compass and was variously praised and ridiculed by observers. Picasso and Derain in particular thought that "Thoughts and Reflections on Paintings" was nonsense, but it holds up somewhat better today:

In art, progress does not consist in extension, but in the knowledge of limits.

Limitation of means determines style, engenders new form, and gives impulse to creation.

Limited means often constitute the charm and force of primitive painting. Extension, on the contrary, leads the arts to decadence.

New means, new subjects.

The subject is not the object, it is a new unity, a lyricism which grows completely from the means.

The painter thinks in terms of form and color.

The goal is not to be concerned with reconstituting an anecdotal fact, but with constituting a pictorial fact.

Painting is a method of representation.

One must not imitate what one wants to create.

One does not imitate appearances; the appearance is the result.

To be pure imitation, painting must forget appearance.

To work from nature is to improvise.

One must beware of an all-purpose formula that will serve to interpret the other arts as well as reality, and that instead of creating will only produce a style, or rather a stylization…

The senses deform, the mind forms. Work to perfect the mind.

There is no certitude but in what the mind conceives.

The painter who wished to make a circle would only draw a curve. Its appearance might satisfy him, but he would doubt it. The compass would give him certitude. The papiers collés in my drawings also gave me a certitude.

Trompe l’oeil, is due to an anecdotal chance which succeeds because of the simplicity of the facts.

The pasted papers, the faux bois— and other elements of a similar kind— which I used in some of my drawings, also succeed through the simplicity of the facts; this has caused them to be confused with trompe l’oeil, of which they are the exact opposite. They are also simple facts, but are created by the mind, and are one of the justifications for a new form in space.

Nobility grows out of contained emotion.

Emotion should not be rendered by an excited trembling; it can neither be added on nor be imitated. It is the seed, the work is the blossom.

I like the rule that corrects the emotion.

Derain in particular was contemptuous of the publication. "I’m staggered by the aphorisms of Lieutenant Braque,” he wrote to his wife. “I even feel sorry for him, I have to say. What a filthy journal! He doesn’t see that the others are using him. I’d like to know what the General of Cubism thinks of it. As a reflection, he doesn’t exactly strain himself... I can’t help thinking about Braque’s nonsense. It’s so appallingly dry and insensitive. It manages to combine fanaticism with some initial omissions. One needs centuries of painting, good and bad, for or against, in order to have an idea about art. It regulates the imagination."

Along with the essay, a new spate of paintings followed and sold for obscene amounts. This allowed Braque and his wife to move to Montparnesse, where they commissioned the building of a house. Braque's studio took up the entire top floor of this magnificent, modern domicile. Servants filled the new home: a cook, a chaffeur. Marcelle ensured the walls were mostly yellow, the color which did not disturb her husband's restored and fragile vision.

The second World War smashed this reverie. The Braques fled Paris, meeting the Derains south of Toulose. Eventually, however, they would be able to return to their home, finding it had been used as a German officers' quarters. (Only Georges' accordion was missing.) Derain visited Germany as a honored guest of the Nazis, accepting commissions from the party.

Braque refused all entreaties from Berlin. He did leave his home in order to show his face at the funeral for Max Jacob, who had died on the way to the extermination camp at Treblinka.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

Wednesday
Feb152017

In Which We Told An Exciting Half-Lie

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 made some mistakes in my friendship with a co-worker who I will call Jane. Although I am in committed relationship and I told her that, we both have not really brought it up too much since then. It is nice to have someone to talk to at work and if I am beginning honest, things in my relationship have been a bit stale — my girlfriend works long hours as well.

I have been sort of toeing the line with Jane and although I really do like her, I don't want to break up with my girlfriend. Is there anyway to reestablish boundaries? (Nothing physical has happening, although we have come close.)

Theo A.

Dear Theo,

Jane does not sound much like an innocent party either. She knew you were in a relationship and that was probably part of the reason the two of you became so close. There are so many different ways two people can derive sustenance with each other. The kind you have chosen is essentially unhealthy, since it lacks real intimacy with either party, but maybe that is just the sort of arrangement you prefer.

The real problem is in your primary relationship. Maybe you don't want to be with someone who works such long hours. Normally I would advocate a fresh lie, but telling everyone involved the truth is most likely going to lead to your best result. Half relationships can sometimes become full relationships, and it is possible either of these situations might be repaired to your satisfaction.

Hi,

It is always disgusting or skeezy to ask someone who you met while they are working? I have built up rapport with an administrator who is employed at a hotel I often visit for work. I don't want to make her uncomfortable by hitting on her, but there must be some way of letting her know I am really interested.

thanks,

Daniel S.

Dear Daniel,

She has to deal with this a lot in her job. Building "rapport" as you call it is really just an aspect of service jobs. You're a client and thus you receive this treatment because you have paid to receive it. It is really no indication of romantic interest on her part. 

It is OK to drop hints, but never intrude on her private space or well-being. If she really picks up on what you are broadcasting, maybe it is then OK to straightforwardly ask if something more is going on. Without that green-light, you are just being a dick.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.

Tuesday
Feb142017

In Which We Always Desired A Normal Relationship

Mr. Grey's Beads

by DICK CHENEY

Fifty Shades Darker
dir. James Foley
118 minutes

In a Seattle cafe, Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) explains in the most half-hearted manner imaginable that he wants Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) back in his life. He is willing to change, he admonishes her, why would you ever believe otherwise? A moment before, the waiter struggles with a bottle of wine. Both diners appear flummoxed. You see, when two people are together, one of them always feels the slightest bit awkward.

Later, during the first sex scene in Fifty Shades Darker, Jamie Dornan pants like maybe he is going to be out of breath. Regular sex is much more taxing than torture, and it is part of the reason he used to have a contractual agreement that allowed him to take powders for water and gumballs. Next to his stash of various whips, chains and chokers is a glorious room of gumball machines that he only shows to Matthew Fox, and on more serious outings, former child stars. It reminds them all of what they lost.

Grey tells much of his backstory while trying on this normal relationship for size. His mother suffered from drug addiction and died. It is quite disturbing and boring to realize someone's past explains their present, and even more so when it does not fully take into account the considerable weight Jamie Dornan has put on his slender frame for this important sequel. Comparing him to the original Christian Grey, it might be said that there are now two of them. If you did not know any better, you might conclude that Dornan does not give a fuck.

Ms. Johnson on the other hand, really puts all of her considerable charm into this thankless role. She clearly does not want to seem ungrateful: the money from being "fucked" by this man will keep her on easy street for the rest of her life, and she does not actually even need to wintercourse with the blubbery mess like Chloe Sevigny. When Grey gives her an iPhone and a Macbook as a gesture after they reconcile, he texts her to dream of him. She responds, "Maybe. Laters Baby," and Dornan gets this little smile on his face, like how is this woman wanting to work in publishing when she sounds like Demi Lovato after four drinks?

Ana is not really liking her new job, because why would she be an assistant for some guy who looks remarkably similar to her boyfriend, when she could just serve her boyfriend? Eventually, Grey purchases the publishing company. She is not only unsurprised by the fact that she is suddenly working for him, she does not complain. Later, she accepts the position her boss had filled at the top of the editorial chain. Her first memo naturally ends with Laters Baby.

No it does not. She never sends out a memo, or knows what one is, since she has only been an assistant whose main job is to book hotel rooms and relay messages. Despite having nearly unlimited economic resources, Grey keeps having strange women approach him with vague accusations. Normally this would be a red flag for his girlfriend, but it's not like he did anything else weird recently. Bored with their sex life after a single week, he introduces anal beads and a new haircut into their lovemaking. She raises her right eyebrow like The Rock.

Involving Kim Basinger in these proceedings, at an Eyes Wide Shut style masquerade charity event no less, is a bit of a low blow. Director James Foley makes her look like Chelsea Handler a decade-hence. Basinger still gets my blood moving, and it is hard to realize why she is wearing a headscarf like a cancer patient. It turns out that she introduced Christian to this whole psychosexual lifestyle. "Without me, he would be in jail or dead," she tells Ana. "If you really want to make him happy, you'll let him go. Nothing lasts."

Afterwards, Ms. Johnson washes Mr. Dornan with a loofa. During each subsequent sex scene, Mr. Dornan's body is more and more burnt and abused, whereas in some scenes they don't bother applying the makeup since it distracts from his penetration. Everyone who has ever loved anybody knows that Kim Basinger is right and this relationship is going nowhere fast, but she really enjoys the high points: his cabin in Aspen, his massive yacht. I think the subtle moral code here is that having a lot of money is more important than good sex, and maybe a lot more important.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.