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Alex Carnevale
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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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Tuesday
Nov122013

In Which We Retreat From Several Spurious Accusations

Only A Very Pale White Man

by DICK CHENEY

Guys, Dracula was just a guy. Think about this, I mean, or don't. Dracula was a man just like you were a woman, is what Maureen Dowd says in the mirror on Wednesday mornings. (Every other morning of the week she works out.) NBC's Dracula takes this concept to an illogical extreme.

Affecting a neutral sort of American accent in London society, Dracula (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) was just such a man, and he was not as evil as you had perhaps imagined? I will never I repeat never shit on a hagiography, but we are talking about the King of Death here. Or at least I think that is correct; the decade I read Anne Rice I was mostly on hallucinogenic drugs.

um Dracula people are watching
Rhys Meyers seems a bit cowed or disappointed by the role, drawing his voice into a low hush uttered quickly and concordantly. He has a black manservant named Renfield (Nonso Anozie) who knows of his affliction, and the two have reached some kind of understanding along the lines you might see in a lion and an oversized gazelle.

Resurrected by Dr. Van Helsing, Dracula is apparently a revenge-seeking individual along the lines of a scorned widow. He doesn't enjoy anything, not even murder. He thinks he's a hero: he does not know he is Dracula. What a disappointment.

this is your wifi password sir, here you go

It really doesn't make sense for the Dublin-born Rhys Meyers to do an American accent. I guess they felt the show would otherwise be too British for American television. I have to admit it might be. I mean, I watch Downton Abbey mostly to see what's coming to that murderer Bates, but my wife no longer comprehends a single word Lady Mary says, and she says my replacement Sybil jokes have run their course. You can't properly mock what's already a joke.

Watching Dracula was kind of time-consuming, although I am a categorical supporter of plus-size individuals on television. For example, on Usenet I defended Kirstie Alley long after it was remotely rational to do so. With this in mind, ABC's Super Fun Night reminds me of a lightly pleasant dream.

this is a realistic looking workplace
Rebel Wilson plays a young woman my daughter's age who works at a law firm. It turns out this was the plot twist copied shamelessly from I believe Dallas that the lawyers just crack jokes all day and spend their evenings consorting with her ugly duckling type men. I have never seen a woman so obviously appealing to men portrayed as unlikeable since Tina Fey.

Incidentally, the supposedly tongue-in-cheek way that Mindy Kaling talks self-deprecatingly about her body made my wife cry. I wish I knew how she felt.

stop wearing my pajamas Rebel

In reality, there is no such thing as self-deprecation, only self-hatred. Ms. Wilson's appeal echoes beyond that through an inner vivacity the world has not yet been able to rip from her. Her charm and comedy consists of a certain misplaced faith in a mix of the wrong and right things.

Taste is arbitrary, and repeating that maxim to myself is the only way I can read Talking Points Memo. You have to know the enemy, or better, know yourself. Wilson's character Kimmie Boubier has no clue of either, so Super Fun Night feels as dazzlingly unfinished as she does.

"Honey, were you feeling typecast in roles where you portray a former Playboy bunny? Because that happened to me."
Lynne prefers smaller quarry. Anna Faris stars in Mom with Allison Janney, who plays her mother. Faris' waitress character has a daughter and son of her own. No word on whether she signed up for health care, outside of the grotesque rants presented after each episode by the show's ancient creator Chuck Lorre.

Faris' lips form a strange and wacky inculcation. Janney looks fantastic for her age, the lowest compliment you can give a woman, and doesn't convincingly channel a mothering instinct. It's obvious she cares for her daughter, but in such a counterproductive way that I do not find it so comedic.

Chuck Lorre allowed a person of color on one of his television shows, fantastic
Both women are recovering alcoholics. For two women who frequently describe their wild pasts, the two are remarkably prude in sexual matters, to be disgusted by such simple notions as they are willing to discuss openly. It's a vagina, not a dark, undiscoverable place that can't be named aloud.

Faris' daughter Violet (Sadie Calvano) becomes pregnant herself and chooses not to abort the child. Very little is said about her decision, and she quickly separates her acquaintance with the baby's father and his religious family.

French Stewart deserved better, actually no he didn't nevermind

Faris begins intercourse with her married boss (Nate Corddy), a development so unlikely the two never touch onscreen except once. She breaks up with him partly for his rigidity and partly out of boredom. She tells a city engineer (Justin Long) that the stop sign he designed is very interesting, but she does not wholly believe it, and gives up on him too. Something about Faris makes all of this a bit more human than I have just described.

That show where Karl Urban is pals with a black robot looks like utter shit.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in an undisclosed location and the former vice president of the United States of America. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here. He last wrote in these pages about the end of Breaking Bad.

"our robots must have more wrinkles! begin!"

"Before We Run" - Yo La Tengo (mp3)

"I Saw The Light" - Yo La Tengo (mp3)

The latest album from Yo La Tengo is entitled Fade.

Monday
Nov112013

In Which They Were Kissing Cousins

Nuclear Summer

by MAXWELL NEELY-COHEN

How I Live Now
dir. Kevin Macdonald
101 Minutes

Proto- or almost- or pseudo-incest pops up in film way more than actual incest does. For every truly hardcore incestuous subtext, every Luke/Leia, there’s a Cher/Josh and a Kathryn/Sebastien and a Margot/Richie and a Naomi Watts/Robin Wright banging each other’s fictional dreamy surfer sons in an Australian paradise.

Likewise, almost nuclear war (or after nuclear war) comes up in film way more often than actual nuclear war does. Pre- and post-apocalypse get all the glory, and seeing the bombs fall and the mushroom clouds hover is mostly the provenance of montages at a beginning or end. The actual number of fully depicted and realized nuclear strikes on the silver screen is so low that the youtube videos that attempt to compile them run so short they cannot be properly choreographed to a full Nine Inch Nails song.

How I Live Now begins not with mushroom clouds, but with snippets of voices that sound like a mixture of internal monologue, mean girl Facebook statuses, and random sentences from Wikipedia. A teenage girl listens to loud punk on an airplane. She moves through passport control. An even younger British boy meets her in a terminal.

“No one calls me Elizabeth,” she tells him when he shows her the sign with her name, “except my dad, and he’s an asshole. Call me Daisy.”

Foul-mouthed American Daisy (Saoirse Ronan) is sent away for the summer to live in the English countryside with her aunt and her three cousins, Piper (Harley Bird), Isaac (Tom Holland), and Edmond (George MacKay). But while Daisy’s aunt is away two things happen: She falls in love with Edmond, and a nuclear weapon is detonated in London.

The children are not just forced to endure, but make a conscious decision to survive as a family unit. They encounter fear, separation, existential ambiguity, and the changing battle lines of grownups, all without any clear goal save staying together. We never are told what is happening in the world, who is attacking whom, or why. There are not even delineated sides aside from the haphazard household they’ve formed. And this in a sense is better and scarier than any Hunger Games-ish exposition on how it all went wrong. The immediacy is palpable.

The movie never forgets to let you know there’s a war on. Airports are guarded well past any TSA wet dream, jets roll thunder across the sky and make eardrums bleed with sonic booms, and every adult, in our few glimpses of them, is visibly frightened. Every glancing shot of rain or ash or smoke feels like it could be establishing radioactive death.

And equally, the film never forgets to let you know that even in war there are sometimes sunny days spent on lakes in innertubes and warm nights spent dancing around bonfires.

From the very second the conflict begins it is unapologetic in its speed and sound. That first moment of detonation is an exercise in what real disaster feels like. The violence is swift and serious, but without gratuity or style. Gunshot wounds and corpses are gruesomely undramatized unhollywood realities. Combat is short and unchoreographed. Bullets fly faster than a camera could track them. And they tend to hit and kill things.

“I am a fucking curse,” Daisy tells you. “Everywhere I go, bad shit happens.” She wears a grim reaper t-shirt with the sleeves cut off. Her eye shadow creates filters of dark void sucking time and space away from her blondest possible hair. And despite her angst, her fear, her yearning for Edmund, sometimes you’re left to wonder if that shirt is not a signifier of the times, but rather an indication that she’s the one doing the reaping.

The most daring thing about How I Live Now is not the unapologetic endorsement of consensual cousin incest, but the extent to which it feels completely comfortable leaving adults out of large swaths of the movie. Even before the war, it never tries to overexplain why it’s the kids who are taking care of everything- why the inmates are running the asylum- the parents are all absent and that’s just the reality. Adults are afterthoughts. Cheap props.

But even with that, it is totally unclear what How I Live Now is trying to do, or even if it is trying to do anything. The script festers in a constant state of tension, a slow build without release, a crescendo that never gives way to drums or bass or breakdown. It lacks the fairy tale fire and style of Hanna, Ronan’s other masterwork of teen girl violence. It is not a slick 111 minute Chemical Brothers music video punctuated with Ronan hunting Cate Blanchett through a myriad of Grimms’ folk tales.

How I Live Now holds no cohesive message within its fantasy, no sense that it is trying even to be a fantasy at all. Teenage dystopia, even violent teenage dystopia, is almost always predicated on a twisted sense of wish fulfillment- that Katniss Everdeen’s life, despite all the death and misery, is much more interesting and worthwhile if you are a bored first world child.

There is not even an attempt to make the romance itself a dramatic soap opera worthy of Team Edward-level attention. There is no triangle. No unspeakably hot other boy or girl from the other side of the tracks magically shows up one day to up the stakes.

The love between Edmund and Daisy, despite its taboo, is formless. While we are given enough insight to suppose why Daisy likes Edmund- that he mitigates and medicates her serious bouts with crippling anxiety and OCD, not to mention his hunky penchant for survivalism being particularly useful in the face of current events- we are never allowed a glimpse into his inner life, never given any notion of what he might see in his cousin, other than a chance to play strong silent rural guardian angel to an American blonde, played by an Irish actress.

There are definite moments of ‘what the fuck is really going on here’, but that uncertainty is never embraced, that question never intentionally becomes the point. The uncanny drifts in and out of relevancy almost like it’s flirting with a Pynchon or DeLillo or Danielewski rewrite but is unwilling to commit that far.

But director Kevin Macdonald’s willingness to even entertain visions bordering on such deconstructive nihilism suggests that maybe he should maybe become our collective alternate history pick who could have turned the final Harry Potter movies into genuine works of apocalyptic art as opposed to heartless Hollywood cashgrabs.

When it’s all said and done, Daisy does develop an evocative toughness to her that holds meaning onto itself, an evolving ruthlessness wholly different from what Ronan gave to Hanna. Despite not having a childhood of arctic combat training courtesy of ex-CIA dad Eric Bana, not being a genetically engineered trained assassin from birth, Daisy might be the more terrifying of Ronan’s young assassin performances. Daisy’s killing does not feel like a video game. It has emotion and grit. When it comes, you flinch.

Over the course of the movie, her weaknesses become her strengths without any overwrought growth or learning curve. There is no survivalism training montage. No archery range. It is almost as if her inability to thrive in the former world was predicated on its relative peace and functionality, that only once the shit hit the fan could she come of age. And in giving a female character that- a construct usually reserved for a pampered modern male bemoaning a lack of suitable manly endeavors- there may be a subtle brilliance despite all other imperfections.

Except for the whole kissing cousins thing. That’s gross.

Maxwell Neely-Cohen is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in New York City. He last wrote in these pages about Paul Walker. You can find his twitter here and his website here.

"The Day The World Went Away" - Nine Inch Nails (mp3)

"Hanna's Theme" - The Chemical Brothers (mp3)

Friday
Nov082013

In Which We Lift Our Feet Above The Ground

by Peter Max

His Trip To Greece

by WENDY ARAND

He is loudly asking a baby, Where do I know you from? and I am picking grass from green and throwing it in the air, like nothing is going on. I suppose I am trying to ignore all of the yelling at the baby, much as the mother of the baby is doing. He has looked at a lot of flashcards, pictures of cars, dinosaurs, closets.

Though I know that babies look alike, I’m not insane, and don’t know why he’s screaming at this baby. Come on, I say, let’s go. He’s playing on the swings, swinging higher and higher. I sit down on a bench and read The Diary of Anne Frank. I am just to the part where she’s almost getting caught, later I will learn there’s plenty of such parts.  
    
I cannot tell if he can hear me as I write this, and try to tell what happened; a small fly buzzes past my ear, and reminds me he cannot hear loud, distinct sounds, because I was ill during pregnancy. For now, I think of the time when he was just a baby. I was bottle feeding him in a eerily similar-looking park, and he was refusing to cooperate. That was then, the birds were out, pecking and bobbing around for seeds, seeds, seeds.    

A crowd of children tosses triscuits into the catfish pond.  

I think he is among them; the white mixing with orange, his color. It is twenty seconds before I realize what I mean. The space of twenty seconds holds an Indian woman selling arm-bands for charity while I take a can of vegetable soup from a nearby box, for it is best to steal from those with very little, because then they miss it.  
        
He is dancing in front of paintings that tilt to the sky. I squeeze my eyes together. Cubist frames, another movement. And as everything appears to be slowly accumulating into a finite collection of people and moments that could wash clean if it could stop raining, snow would be fine instead, he punches me in the elbow. Why didn’t you name me Tyson, Mom, he is saying, I am wondering if I am also beginning to suffer from hearing loss. I give him The Diary of Anne Frank to read.  It is his second book of that length and he finishes it that night, under the covers, by flashlight, as I see the light through the door of his room, which used to be a closet.
    
Do you want to hear a story about grandma? I say. We, my mother, blond-tressed and conclusive, and I, seated on a stone couch in a graveyard, wait for the sun to come up, so that the flowers can be laid down. My brother Nic is telling us about his trip to Greece. I say to my mother, we should have brought sandwiches. She doesn’t respond, though a sandwich might reduce the gloom of us going to my father’s grave on an annual basis.  

by Peter Max
I was alive for my father’s funeral. I was seven, and didn’t have a baby then, and my baby wasn’t screaming at a baby in a park built by Poles. Witlessly, this has become another story about my mother. At the funeral, with all its dirges and strange potato chips set out in bowls by Nic and my mother, as if there was anything at all in that. The arrangements were generous, I thought of nice moments I’d had with him, my father, whose name was also Nic. An earring pierced through cartilage, a way of saying ‘hey’ and leaving it at that, and a wide open mouth like my son’s, who conveniently says, can I bounce on that moonwalk?
              
Bright waded sun. Though there is a little sign that dissuades someone of his height from bouncing too high and also at all, I tell the man running it, it’s OK.  I’m a child psychologist. He needs to learn to fly so he can learn how to walk. The authority is understood. Learning, learning. He bounces, up on the waxen moonwalk. A geriatric patient wanders up and sees him bouncing.  Something gives then, my son bounces off and hits his head on something hard. He is bleeding, and the geriatric patient has noticed. A bruise, he said, as I rushed to aid. I pick him up and dust him off.

How’s your head, I say, he doesn’t say anything, the child discovering he is not an adult. I write this down.

The geriatric patient, he himself perhaps a nameless veteran, if not of war, then of other complicated things. Nothing a band-aid won’t fix, the geriatric patient says. My son starts lightly punching the geriatric patient in the ribs. The security guard holds him back, then, later, in the paneled office, gives him a band-aid.
                                
At home we talk about anger.  

In the park on the following Saturday, shaggy ladies walk miniature dogs, he says, you could step on those dogs and probably snap spines, and with my eyes I see tantrums for which I will have no antidote. It seems he is not that old after all.  I wonder if I am raising the Fourth Reich, and, of course, I wonder about the father specifically, and what genetic role he might have played, because I don’t know who he is. I am not looking for the father, though I know many who are. I have to cope with the son.  
                
In the park, artists sketch portraits of what the next Saturday will be like. Now he is reading and trying to summarize chapter twelve of The Ground Beneath Her Feet. It’s important, I told him, to be able to summarize it all succinctly, even though I’m glad he’s reading the book when he’s unable to fully understand it, like my mother giving me Schindler’s List as a birthday present. 

Still on that day we eat strategically, and feed the rest to the grass. The chapter is called “Transformer.” I ask him to read his favorite part to me. He says, Boom!  Boom! The boy dreams of destroying the world. You know? he says. You bet, I say.  
    
At the same time next afternoon, I am flipping through the summer camp section of the Times. This one looks nice, I say, and peaceful. It is somewhere in Maine on a river. There is, presumably, a girl’s camp across the lake and dances. But he doesn’t have that preconception. It’s something that’s been in my head, but not in his. Not like in Heart of Darkness (which he reads at eight), when Conrad said that our minds are capable of anything because everything is in the mind, all the past as well as all the future.
        
He wanders off, around, maybe to the swings. I try and think of things for him to read that will make him realize he is only one element in a world of too many, but I can’t think of a book that isn’t either about him — the male psyche, or the end of the world, neither of which I think he needs to learn anything about. I go down to the bookstore which is about a block away, and come back with a calculus textbook.

by Peter Max

I find him sifting through a sandbox with children much younger than him. He is removed from the scene, and his glassy eyes and ghostlike face tell me he’s not there at all. He has no presence, he’s not individuated, and he doesn’t know how to type.

You don’t know how to type, I say, so we go home and I teach him on my old typewriter, because his fingers, greasy with onions and bartering, would harm my computer. He spends most of the time in his room but in two weeks he has learned the name of every U.S. congressman. So who’s the surgeon general? I ask. He turns, his back, on me.  

I take him to the market that’s one exit off the dirt highway, sweeten his voice with the Italian men my father always seemed to be around, worried he will catch colds, rocking back in birthday chairs. My hip is not faring well this year, and I was in the hospital at odd times, for days. Unable to sleep on my side, I spent nights without rest trying to get the slightest hint of how he will treat women.
    
With a fortnight of bartending courses under my belt, I give him a polo shirt for warmth and tell him I decided we’re leaving tomorrow, for the day. The country air feels better, he tells me, and the rented car seats, new with leather, are good for him as well. He is not, I hope, thinking anything, anything about the end of the world, anything bad about me. It’s crushing, sure, I sleep with it when I can, but during no other important time is it so close to me. Waking up in a bread and breakfast, I watch him sleep. Though television has ruined a variety of child-related moments for me, his breath echoes mine, though he is in a dream life and I am awake.  
    
As that distinction blurs, he stirs, still capable of bundling, and crawls onto me. I ask him, how was your dream? He tells me that he feels the books he’s reading are influencing his dreams. I know, I say. I say I know. And years pass.

I tell him about Borges’ nightmares in which, each dire sleep, he found himself in a labyrinth. Then I’m glad I wasn’t in something I couldn’t get out of, he says.  I pass him a Times crossword puzzle I can’t finish, I pick up a toothbrush, I’ve no intention of brushing my teeth, I grit my eyes together and pound my head against the wall. Is everything all right? he asks.

I don’t hear him. I don’t hear a thing. Within my head, the words merge together. So wise, they say. For christ’s sake, if nothing else, he’s wise.

Wendy Arand is a contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Austin. This is her first appearance in these pages.

Paintings by Peter Max. 

"Charades" - The Shivers (mp3)

"Crash This Train" - Joshua James (mp3)

by Peter Max