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Editor-in-Chief
Alex Carnevale
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Features Editor
Mia Nguyen
(e-mail)

Reviews Editor
Ethan Peterson

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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Friday
Jan242014

In Which They Lived In Velvet Palaces With A View Of The Sun

Modigs

by ALEX CARNEVALE

What a dream Paris is, what enthusiasm there is there, and yet what decorum and order. I went many nights without sleep, without sitting down. People are mad, they're intoxicated, they're happy to sleep in the gutters & congregate in the heavens. 

- George Sand

Modigliani arrived in Paris in January of 1906, but the Italian Jew did not feel like a Parisian until he had a home of his own. He moved into a hotel, then out of a hotel when he could no longer afford it.

His first studio was also his first apartment. The space was surrounded by trash, detritus, misused canvases. He still brought anyone he could to see his work. "During the Renaissance the painters lived in palaces, in velvet, in the sun!" he complained.

modigliani's drawing of Anna, 1911
"Everyone loved Modigliani," intoned one of his enemies. A year earlier he had seen a Russian woman lonely and sad in a cafe. Since this was Paris before the war, she was the finest Russian poet of her generation, Anna Akhmatova.

He made love to her and showed her that he knew of what she suffered, for it was in him also. No woman ever spoke ill of Modigliani, since he was sweet in victory or defeat.

All around Modigliani genius proliferated. The hard metalwork needed for his sculptures grated on him. The toxic fumes, and his general ill health, meant he coughed blood. Still his Sephardic Jewish charms contravened his general lack of hygiene and gloomy surroundings. "He was our aristocrat," Cocteau once savagely joked.

He returned to painting, focusing on portraits because they provided the kind of renumeration he could accept relative to their difficulty. Art schools were hot, drunken rooms packed wall-to-wall depending on how much clothing the models wore. Venice had offered more in charm, and less in the way of competition, but it had no hope of being Paris.

Marie Vassilieff's sketch of the incident: Modigliani is coming through the door at the top

Picasso threw a party for Rousseau, who got too drunk and had candle wax drawn over his lips. Another time, at a bash for Braque, Modigliani burst on the scene and informed the collection of artists and artists' wives and girlfriends that someone was trying to kill him. Picasso hid him from the assailant in the cellar.

He painted Cocteau, who was so disgusted and insulted by the portrait that he gave it away. Decades later it sold for so much money Cocteau regretted the momentary insolence and vanity.

with diego rivera and ilya ehrenburg

He was known and loved, but not appreciated. Each street over another painter burnished an international reputation; the most famous American painter of the time could barely get gallery space in Paris. He was neither first nor last among equals, and his return to painting showed that. Yet it was true what Cocteau would say: "There is something like a curse on this very noble boy."

To improve his situation, common sense and providence suggested a woman. Her name was Beatrice Hastings; she wrote a popular gossip column. He called her Bea and they became roughly inseparable. Later, much later, he would throw her through a plate glass window.

Everyone says that Modigliani drank too much, but only some charge his behavior to it. Picasso seemed to believe the entire thing a ruse, but he was appreciative that his friend brought hash everywhere he went. Amedeo was ashamed of his studio, its dingy cherry tree and pathetic outdoor space.

His situation began to improve and decline at the same time. Few suspected he was seriously ill with consumption. His paintings, in the capable hands of a few art dealers he might rely upon, brought him out of the ghetto and into more dignified surroundings: a hotel room he could afford.

It was there he took the woman who would become his only wife, though they were never properly wedded. Jeanne Hébuterne was the real aristocrat in spirit if not in reality. Like her husband she spoke French and Italian, unlike her husband she had little regard for an inspired desolation. Once, when she planned to go to Marseilles the mere sight of a homeless person at the train station caused her to ask the conductor, "for a ticket to somewhere more civilized!"

Jeanne

Jeanne was fourteen years Amedeo's junior, and her weirdly foreign/native beauty and general manner utterly captivated him. As biographer Meryle Secrest put it, "This was the kind of girl one married: discreet, loyal, and quietly deferential, with an unsuspected streak of independent thought and creative accomplishment." Her practical side buoyed him.

After his death, Jeanne was disconsolate, but prepared. She plotted her expeditious departure from the world; whether she really expected to be reunited with her husband, we can suspect but not really know. She had a fourteen month old daughter when she jumped out of a fifth floor apartment window, and another gestating in her uterus. Here is her orphaned daughter of the same name:

Young Jeanne Modigliani was sent to Florence after her parents were interred. She was told nothing of them until adulthood. She would find out that after her father died, her mother blithely reassured a friend that, "Oh! I know that he's dead. But I also know that he'll soon be living for me."

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Say It Again" - Bad Things (mp3)

"Cold Case" - Bad Things (mp3)

 

Thursday
Jan232014

In Which Mindy Kaling's Name Is An Anagram

From the Mouth of a Babe

by DURGA CHEW-BOSE

Mindy Lahiri and Danny Castellano have finally kissed. Until now, The Mindy Project has been building up to this moment where the gruff and grumpy, sometimes jerk (played by Chris Messina) is wooed by (or woos) his colleague, the sincere and occasionally clueless, though ever-confident, Lahiri (Mindy Kaling).

They are, after all, a match made in Jack and Kate Spade heaven. His waxwear messenger bag to her allover print silk blouse. His Barbour jacket and dude-type maxims to her sequined sweater and Twitter tailored specificity. Theirs is a Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks pantomime with hints of Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn (mostly the slapstick physical comedy; after all, Kaling trips and falls in nearly every episode of the show). She’s a Romantic with a plan and an endless supply of silk, men’s pajamas. He’s a guy who punctuates his sentences with how much he can bench at the gym. Their sexual tension is perfect for TV.

The show resumes on April 1st, but until then, let’s revisit that time we riffed on what might have happened, had their repartee taken a Notting Hill turn. - DCB

The Mindy Project: Notting Hill Episode

From the moment we were introduced to Ed Weeks’s character, Dr. Jeremy Reed, on Fox’s The Mindy Project, Hugh Grant has been the obvious comparison. Like Grant, Weeks is tall and British. Like Grant, Weeks’s long face is one-third forehead and steadied by an all but imperceptible rascally smile. Like Grant before him, Weeks is that precise blend of reticent British rearing mixed with a skewed and slightly overeager American awakening. Dr. Jeremy Reed, as with some of Grant’s most memorable roles, is the London version of what might have happened had '80s Andrew McCarthy and Rob Lowe merged into one. Self-loathing and self-loving, both. A sometimes dope with great hair whose romantic exploits are punctuated by a woeful second act.

For this viewer, a Hugh Grant rom com inspired Mindy Project episode seems inevitable. But which one? Nine Months? Two Weeks Notice? Bridget Jones? Dr. Reed and Dr. Danny Castellano (Chris Messina) could duke it out in the street as “It’s Raining Men” plays. After all, Castellano possesses some distinctly Mark Darcy traits. Or, like in Love Actually Dr. Reed could get caught making out with the office receptionist backstage at Dr. Lahiri’s best friend Gwen’s (Anna Camp) kid’s Christmas recital. And of course, there’s always About a Boy: bored of the New York dating scene, Dr. Reed pretends to have a kid (stealing Gwen’s of course) in order to meet single moms. While one of Grant's most-loved roles as Will Thacker, the lovestruck travel bookshop owner in Notting Hill might be a less obvious Mindy choice, we thought here at TR we’d give it a go.

The episode would begin with Mindy waxing about her favorite neighborhood in New York—probably the West Village. Like Grant’s appraisal of Notting Hill, Kaling’s character, Dr. Lahiri, would catalog the brownstones, the smell of sugar wafting from Magnolia Bakery (the cupcakes, she’ll admit, are overrated), the coffee shop where every movie is shot, the bookstore where every movie is shot, the dollar pizza for hangover breakfast, and the store that sells clothes for grown women who want to look like Parisian toddlers.

Next, Mindy leads us to her obstetrics practice where everyone is huddled around the receptionist’s computer looking at red carpet pictures from the previous night’s Golden Globes. (Likely the Globes so that Mindy can reference the year Matt Damon boasted about getting a better seat than Jack Nicholson). Everyone wittily banters. Betsy (Zoe Jarman) mentions she has a crush on Ryan Seacrest and Morgan (Ike Barinholtz) the nurse, who may as well be a beefier Rhys Ifans (Will's lovably bizarre roommate in Notting Hill, Spike), makes some quintessentially weird yet apt comment. “Funny you should mention Ryan Seacrest in a room full of OB-GYNs, Betsy. After all, his name is an anagram for Try Cesareans."

Then, the most famous movie actress in the world walks in for an appointment. She’s an Emma. Emma Jones. Or Emma Hudson. Or Emma Wood. She’s played by Rachel McAdams or Anne Hathaway. She’s wearing sunglasses, a cornflower blue garment washed Mets cap, t-shirt and jeans. Everyone at the office gets weird and whispery, and awkward. Morgan is not altered in the least. Castellano gawks. Jeremy and Emma are immediately, very sweetly, smitten.  Mindy, seeing potential for a Notting Hill romance, calls everyone to her office for a meeting.

From her desk, she orders Jeremy, without any explanation, to recite a few lines.

“Come on Bridget, we belong together.”

AND

“In my opinion, all men are islands. And what's more, now's the time to be one. This is an island age.”

AND

“Who do you have to screw around here to get a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit?”

Jeremy goes along with it but is confused. Danny interrupts, having figured out what is going on and bluntly asks, “Do you think Andie MacDowell and Julia Roberts are hot?” Mindy rolls her eyes and explains to Jeremy while apologizing for reducing him to stereotype that he’s basically Hugh Grant. The gang all agrees and Mindy insists he “Notting Hill the day” and ask Emma the actress out on a date. Betsy chimes in and instructs Jeremy that, just like in the movie, he should rush out when Emma leaves and accidently spill coffee on her. Castellano corrects her. “Orange juice. It’s orange juice not coffee that Hugh Grant spills on Julia Roberts.” Everyone turns. Mindy is impressed by but prepared to mock Castellano for his detailed knowledge of the 1999 romantic comedy. Because the gang was already invited for dinner at Mindy’s that evening, she suggests that Jeremy invite Emma, just like in the movie.

Dinner at Mindy’s is cozy. Her apartment is all white bookshelves and warm lighting. Think Nancy Meyers seashell tones with Jonathan Adler orange and fuscia throw cushions. Emma gets along easily with everyone. She laughs with her mouth wide open. She finds Morgan especially charming and watches Mindy admiringly. She compliments Betsy on her outfit and Betsy, like Hugh Grant’s sister in Notting Hill, declares that she and Emma should be best friends forever. Jeremy has obviously fallen in love. Mindy catches herself staring at Danny who is uncharacteristically well behaved at dinner. He looks handsome and relaxed.

Unfortunately Mindy forgets to make dessert. She rummages through her fridge, freezer, and pantry only to find a half-empty jar of Nutella. She hands everyone a spoon—one scoop each. But there’s a little left and Betsy insists that they fight for the last scoop: “Whoever’s the saddest act here, get’s to finish the jar.” They all play. Morgan doesn’t quite get the game and starts confessing to weird shit he’s done in his life like lying every time he’s claimed to see the image in a Magic Eye. Mindy goes on a tangent but then realizes she’s pretty happy with her laugh right now. Danny’s speech is oddly sentimental. He mentions his divorce and hints at perhaps being lonely. Embarrassed he ruins the moment by taking the last scoop of Nutella before Jeremy, Emma, or Betsy get to go. Jeremy and Emma leave together. “I Do” by 98 Degrees plays.

The episode ends with Mindy, the next day at work, standing at the threshold of Danny’s office door, grinning. “Hey Danny,” she says. He stares at her impatiently. "Yes, Mindy?" She looks at him with puppy eyes and says, “I’m just a girl…standing in front of a boy, asking him to…” Danny shoos her out before she can finish. He appreciates being made fun of by Mindy.

The camera pans out of the office and onto the street where a group of 30 something girlfriends are gabbing and dressed like Parisian toddlers.

Durga Chew-Bose is the senior editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Brooklyn. She tumbls here and twitters here. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

"Young Blood" - Sophie Ellis-Bextor (mp3)

"The Deer & the Wolf" - Sophie Ellis-Bextor (mp3)

Wednesday
Jan222014

In Which Walter Benjamin Made Childhood Look Easy

A Genius of Dwelling

by ELLEN COPPERFIELD

Walter Benjamin's father Emil was something of a dilettante. His major focus was the Berlin villa he purchased for his wife Pauline and their growing family. It was basically the house in The Royal Tenenbaums with nothing rotten or outdated; the culture it recalled had long since vanished from the earth.

At a very tender age Walter Benjamin was ensconced in a custom of indoor and outdoor living. If there was something to take lessons in - butterfly hunting or ice skating, for example  he joined with all the aplomb he could muster. Each room of his father's house held a different sort of emotion, and could be inhabited completely or discarded with the closing of a door.

1902Emil's favorite place to be was on the telephone  this way a part of himself could be elsewhere, and a part with his family at all times. The self Emil Benjamin sent out, angry and forceful, was often different from the one they got back. His moustache was ranked either excellent or nonpareil depending on the humidity or time of day.

In a new biography from Howard Eiland and Michael W. Jennings, Walter Benjamin: A Critical Life, Benjamin's younger days are given a reverent kind of attention as though they're depicting a young man either recovering from or developing a psychosis. In reality, Emil's disturbing utopia was all the more perplexing because it anticipated the complete destruction of the German residence, which perished during the war.


Walter's mother Pauline was thirteen years his father's junior. She called Walter "Mr. Clumsy" because he never lived up to her idea of decorum.

His brother and sister were both separated from Walter by age, Eiland reports, so that they each experienced life as an only child. When Walter was finally divested of his private tutors and send to class with other pupils, it may not surprise you to learn that he did not fit in whatsoever. He was sick so often that other arrangements had to be made; it was good to get those illnesses out in the open air.

In a country boarding school called Haubinda, Benjamin found a love of learning that separated him from all else  nothing was closer to him than that pedagogy. Upon his graduation from high school, his father gave him a trip as a gift. The family had already traveled around Europe at their leisure, this was Walter's first trip to Italy on his own, the first where he determined the direction and purpose: Como, Milan, Verona, Vicenza, Padua. Among the masters he never cowered.

This temporary elation passed, a miasma of longing mixed with a desire to survive persisted. At University Benjamin found himself again outside the times, and eventually he returned to the villa to live at home while he pursued his studies. He had one friend of any import, a painter/novelist named Philip, and he steered clear of everyone else.

University, Eiland and Jennings say, was Benjamin's first introduction to his Judaism. Really, it was only his first introduction to Zionism, because although the Benjamin family was entirely secular, the boy's upbringing was hardly divorced from some bare essentials of the European Jewish experience. He now fancied himself the quintessential Jew, and all of his friends were similarly disposed financially and ethnically.

Unsuccessful liasions with women would depress him, but their troubles never superseded his intellectual ones, and indeed possessed far simpler remedies.

His friend Charlotte Wolff wrote of the man he became:

He had not the male bearing of his generation. And there were disturbing features about him which did not fit with the rest of his personality. The rosy apple-cheeks of a child, the black curly hair and fine brow were appealing, but there was sometimes a cynical glint in his eyes. His thick, sensuous lips, badly hidden by a moustache, were also an unexpected feature, not fitting with the rest. His posture and gestures were 'uptight' and lacked spontaneity, except when he spoke of things he was involved in or of people he loved.

He held, always, a part of himself back from those closest to him. Even his first amorous relationships with women never mention his body or theirs, as if he were describing two minds touching at the brainstem. All of Walter's friends felt this dissonance in their relationships with him: from the time he left home, he was far closer to ideas than people.

Ellen Copperfield is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in San Francisco. She last wrote in these pages about the life of Jules Verne. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

"Rough Darlin'" - Fox and the Bird (mp3)

"When I Was Young" - Fox and the Bird (mp3)

The Best of Ellen Copperfield on This Recording

Dorothea Lange's Failed Marriage

Sex Life Of Marlon Brando

Lifetime of Threats and Insults

The Onset Of The Western Canon

Entitled To Madonna's Opinion

Barbra Streisand Grows Up In Flatbush

A Sneaking Suspicion of Literature

Anjelica Huston Falls Off The Horse

Prefer To Be Simone de Beauvoir

The Marriage of Mia Farrow and Frank Sinatra

Elongated Childhood of Jorge Luis Borges

Jokes At The Expense Of Tom Hanks

Which One Is The Gay?