Quantcast

Video of the Day

Masthead

Editor-in-Chief
Alex Carnevale
(e-mail/tumblr/twitter)

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

Live and Active Affiliates
This area does not yet contain any content.
Wednesday
Aug072013

In Which We Have A Brush With Beauty

Manual Labor

by KARA VANDERBIJL

We stayed with a lot of strangers when we returned to Southern California for the summer after our first four years in France. It was as uncomfortable as you can imagine, with moments of gut-squeezing anxiety, like when your suitcase looks the same as every other suitcase on the baggage claim carousel. 

Our first hostess was the sort of woman who flapped around the house in an expensive, colorful kimono and made margaritas before lunch. She also preferred that we fold down the duvet before sitting down on a bed in one of her many guest rooms. Naturally my mother and I were slightly reluctant when she invited us to join her at her favorite nail salon one morning. It was in a stucco strip mall; across the parking lot was a Starbucks and a Cold Stone Creamery. On the other side of a newly-paved street and a stretch of landscaping so young the saplings were still braced — sat another nail salon, Starbucks and Cold Stone Creamery. Mom parked our rental car and we flip-flopped our way into the salon.

We leaned against the counter as we waited to be assigned to both a chair and the unfortunate human squatting in front of it. In a small alcove, the ladies had erected some sort of crude shrine in which a fat Buddha stared benignly at a pile of day-old donuts. My head began to spin. It was perhaps the acetone or that season’s newest shade. Mom and I got French tips, which we laughed about, because in France they call any kind of manicure “American nails”, just like they call French braids “Indian braids”.

Years ago, I read a children’s historical novel about China. One of the minor characters was an old man who had never cut his pinkie fingernail because it was a symbol of his wealth, the fact that he never had to do any manual labor. It grew in on itself, curled and brown.

This fact about ancient China is passed around like an urban legend, a sort of disgusting anecdote that amuses and impresses. What's funny to me is that although they are less physically repulsive, we still cherish these status symbols. We still like having an extra $30 to burn so that it looks like we spend all day sipping mimosas over brunch, gripping phones and flipping perfect beachy waves. It's like, have you ever done the dishes? Rolled out a pie crust? Picked up something? I don't understand the desire to look like someone who has never stepped off the pages of a lifestyle blog. 

Is there only beauty in the immobile, the indestructible, the unchipped? 

From an early age, I became obsessed with a picture book about the demise of Pompeii that the local library left at child’s-eye view. The images filled my thoughts. I was not afraid of volcanoes (there were more important things to be afraid of, like rattlesnakes in the backyard and earthquakes) but I was fascinated with the images of the people who had lived in Pompeii, the people who had without warning been torn from their pleasures.

Vesuvius left only traces: lewd sketches above doorways in what used to be a brothel, large paintings of penises in inner courtyards. The residents of Pompeii died with eating utensils in their hands. Locked in an embrace. Curled up into themselves, hands over their ears.

For a few years, I considered the merits of living by what I came to call the “Pompeii test”: I would only do things that would be instantly recognizable if I were instantly encased in molten lava for all time. Had a volcano magically erupted in Southern California on the day my mother and I were getting manicures, archeologists would have found us thousands of years later forever locking hands with the nail technicians. “Look,” the archeologists would say, “these women were comforting one another in their last moments,” or, “Look, these women were performing sign language” or “Look, these women were handing primitive tools to one another.”

It isn’t remembering Pompeii that keeps me from getting manicures these days, though. I feel unlike myself when I walk into salons featuring the same peach-colored walls, faux Grecian columns and flat-screen televisions playing daytime soaps. Women with perfectly straightened hair in yoga pants read fashion magazines while they get their bunions rubbed, then walk out gingerly in rhinestone-covered sandals. I have nothing against these women, but I am not one of them. I haven’t brushed my hair in a year.

It is fascinating to me that we develop beauty products that completely deny the ever-evolving, ever-moldable aspects of our bodies. We take our live fluid hair and fill it with products so it won't move. We dutifully hydrate with special creams to prevent wrinkles that we know we'll get anyways. To me, this is a lot like closing the curtains on an ocean view and plastering them with pictures of motionless waves. 

Something must be said for allowing yourself to be ruined and ripened by your environment.

A few weeks ago I listened to a woman in the bus complain about her most recent manicure over the phone. She expressed disdain for the salon and called the technician who had performed the manicure a string of adjectives I wouldn't even assign to my worst enemy. I snuck a look at the toes peeping out of her T-strap sandals. They were painted a trendy neon orange. I couldn't pick up any visible flaws, except that she had none.

Kara VanderBijl is the managing editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. She last wrote in these pages about insult to injury. She tumbls here and twitters here.

"Will We Ever Be Friends Again?" - Ida Maria (mp3)

"I Just Need A Hug" - Ida Maria (mp3)

Tuesday
Aug062013

In Which The Important Thing Is To Get In The Dome

Dome Touching

by DICK CHENEY

Under the Dome
creator Brian K. Vaughan

People are constantly touching one another Under the Dome. Last week, a bearded blonde veteran named Barbie (Mike Vogel) was for some reason walking all alone one night as it was pouring. Even then, an intrepid ginger reporter (Rachel Lefevre) accused of copyright infringement by the Japanese executives who own the rights to the April O'Neal character finds him in the rain. She tells him, "Waah I had a hard day Bahbie" so that he will do the thing where he embraces her then makes a quick transition to putting his tongue in her mouth.

they look like two pelicans but I was moved by their romance to be sure

In the morning they are in her bed.

She gives him a variety of looks there, each of which I have broken into discrete parts. (Examining the range of post-coital facial expressions was my thesis at the U of W.)

1. Mild disgust
2. Approbation
3. Sunlight in her ginger eyes
4. Total comfort and acceptance

wiping the last barbecue sauce in chester's mill off his lover's face

5. Where are you going?
6. You're leaving?
7. Just for water?
8. Starting to have some regrets?
9. Pretty happy to be interrupted by my pregnant neighbor, huh?
10. Will I see you at home?

every morning in the Bezos home
Meanwhile, men feel a very different set of emotions after sex. They can run the gamut depending on exactly how gentile the man in question is, a 1 being David Paymer and a 10 being Kevin Costner. Here is what I outlined in 1973, and it is no less true today than it was the day I woke up my wife Lynne with breakfast in bed, you know, just because...

1. Where am I and who did this to me?
2. These sheets are redolent of lavender.
3. I wonder if Alex Rodriguez addressed the media.
4. One day we will all need performance enhancing drugs.

Crest. Colgate. Sensodyne. Tom's of Maine.

5. My penis feels like a tube of toothpaste.
6. When did I romance a ginger newspaperwoman?
7. Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post. I hope he fires E.J. Dionne first, and meanly.
8. She probably thinks I want to get out of here, because the rest of the Dome is so fun. Instead I'm going to assuage those doubts with my Crest.
9. I wonder if later in the episode we will lie on the couch saying absolutely nothing to each other.

curling up and listening to "Silent Night" UTD, it does not get any better
10. Yep.

please god not Richard Bachmann
Fortunately romance in Under the Dome is not confined to women and the men who killed their husbands. Norrie (Mackenzie Lintz) and Joe (Colin Ford) went searching for the exact middle of the Dome, and when they got there, they found this year's hatch from Lost. But no, it was like a small dome this time, and underneath it was a black egg. When Norrie touched it, she saw Samantha Mathis in the woods, possibly the most disappointing thing to ever happen when someone touched the Dome, and that includes a fatal heart attack.

An egg is controlling the dome. Think about this.

The main thing that bothered me about Under the Dome was the ongoing storyline where psychotic ex-boyfriend Junior (Alexander Koch) locked Annie (Britt Robertson) up in his Dad's fallout shelter.

He told Angie that it was because she had changed and the Dome was doing something to her and he wanted to keep her safe, but that entire time I suspected otherwise. Every single episode I watched I was consumed by the desire to know when Angie would free herself from this underground prison until finally Junior's father decided to let her go, assuming everyone would be dead after the U.S. military leveled a missile strike on the Dome. (Everyone survived except for common sense.) When Angie finally made it home last night, her brother did not even ask where she was or what she had been doing since the Dome fell.

crossing my fingers this parcel becomes the UTD WalMart

Under the Dome is kind of like watching a car accident in slow motion. You know it's going to be bad, so you have to know just how bad. It actually shocks me that Stephen King was never involved with Lost in the first place; he is the master of setting up some overblown mystery until it turns out, "That was just an earthquake doing it," or "Something evil made that happen." I believe the antagonist in one of King's recent books was actually a copy of The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. Children ran away in fear because it was on their summer reading list.

Do you ever feel like a black man, maybe a close friend who HAPPENS to be a black man, is narrating your life? No?

I don't want to make this all about how much Stephen King sucks, but let's face it. The Green Mile was about a magical black man who heals white prison guards by touching them. The Shawshank Redemption was about a magical black man who heals white prison inmates through superior voiceover work. Besides former Boston Red Sox closer Tom Gordon, these are the only black characters in all of Stephen King's work. Don't get me started on The Stand, it's so fucking stupid my head hurts just thinking about it. The distinguishing feature of Stephen King's work is that he never stops to think if an idea is good, he just believes in it because he had it.

WALT

Since Under the Dome has been renewed for a second season, it's guaranteed to be dragged out much longer than it should. The show deserves praise for killing off Samantha Mathis, although in an ideal world she would have been vivisected by some kind of alien blade. Instead she died of a heart attack roughly the same time that her daughter touched the small dome and asked the egg to speak to her. Unfortunately since a number of characters/helicopter pilots on Lost have already perished, this just increases the screen time given to the black DJ of Chester's Mill and the Asian radio station operator. I hate token minority characters even more than I hate The Newsroom.

Jeff Bezos will want someone inside the dome. That's when I strike.
To get your news Under the Dome you have to find the right frequency. In the future, all newspapers will be owned by white billionaires as vanity projects; they won't even have advertising; they will simply be a public service provided by the very rich to the very poor. I can't even imagine what people from low socioeconomic backgrounds think when they read The New York Times.

I forgot about the black female lesbian Hollywood agent stranded in a New England town. So many stories to tell. Through six episodes, she's had one line that wasn't, "ALICE!"
This could, however, be the saving grace of the media. Instead of having to drive pageviews by offering stupid shit like, "The Top Ten Things He Thinks After Sex", maybe they'll actually do some reporting on, you know, the government or private sector instead of writing long editorials about sports teams and Amanda Bynes. When you wake up Under the Dome, there is no newspaper. When you turn on the radio, all you hear is a DJ playing Nina Simone and Nat King Cole. There is no Jeff Bezos Under the Dome. There is no Tina Brown Under the Dome. There is only the corpse of Ezra Klein and sex without birth control.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in an undisclosed location. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here. You can find his first Under the Dome review here.

"Crazy for You" - Madonna (mp3)

"Lucky Star" - Madonna (mp3)

Monday
Aug052013

In Which We Still Feel Philip Johnson Had Much To Learn

His Glass House

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Philip Johnson's estate in New Canaan, Connecticut features eight buildings:

1) his house
2) a guest house
3) a gallery devoted to paintings
4) a gallery devoted to sculpture
5) a library
6) a folie
7) a ghost house
8) a tower

Thirty-three acres surround these structures, all as meticulously put together as the buildings themselves.

with his mother and sisters, 1917

Philip Johnson's mother Louise took a lot of staged photos of her children. She was relatively late to motherhood, and had not entered it lightly. She parented her only son with great purpose, pushing him towards academic achievement. She did not wish to be his friend. When he felt his first stirrings of attraction towards other boys in his class, he asked his mother what these feelings meant. "Philip, how should I know?" she replied.

with his sister

When Philip was a teenager his father was appointed by the government to investigate reports of pogroms in Poland during the first World War. The family sailed for Paris on the Aquatania. When they returned to Cleveland a few months later it was hard not to find it a disappointment.

He made few friends at boarding school — he was more concerned with winning the respect of his classmates. After being voted "Most Likely To Succeed," he entered Harvard, where he had none of the status of his more bourgeois friends, but all of the money. Finances were never a concern for young Philip: his father had purchased Alcoa stock i(n Philip's name) before the company became a behemoth. He bought a car and began amassing a library to his tastes. Philip tried kissing a few of his classmates with varying degrees of success. His father told him to forget about wanting to fuck men.

in Cairo 1928

Philip was depressed throughout his time at Harvard. A visit to Egypt claimed his virginity  he mated with a guard inside the Cairo Museum. Because of his numerous absences, he found himself a semester short of a bachelor's degree. Instead of finishing, he put his car on a boat crossing the Atlantic and arrived in Berlin. It was 1929.

Men of his particular predilection were numerous. The city thrived around him. "The Americans were the conquerors of Germany," he said later, "and the young Germans were eager to accomodate them. Paris was never that gastfreundlich." He observed the Bauhaus with wonder, making his first acquaintance with the artists there as a patron. The first painting he bought was a Klee.

PJ in Berlin, 1930

Other members of the group impressed him less. "Kandinsky is a little fool who is completely dominated by his swell Russian Grande Dame of a wife," he wrote. "He has millions of his sometimes painful abstractions sitting around the house and thinks he is still the leader of a new movement. It is sometimes pathetic, sometimes amusing."

Two months after the Museum of Modern Art opened in New York, Philip was back in America, finishing his degree so he could relocate himself in the institution's shadow. He became infatuated with a boyfriend named Cary Ross. In a letter to a female friend, he wrote that "You are the only one who knows about Cary and me, and to whom I can talk now. As you know the only reason it came about was because he is good-looking and identified with that group down there in my emotional life. Well it seems now that it was merely a passing whim with him, and he was too weak to tell me, and let me go on thinking more. He came up the other day, and naturally I soon found out where the land lay, and am now in a species of hell which I heartily dislike."

with Mies Van Der Rohe and Phyllis Lambert

Philip worked at the MoMA for no salary; he did not require any money from them and even paid for his own secretary. He travelled to Berlin often in order to indulge himself. The art dealer Julien Levy later said, "He showed me a Berlin night life such as few could have imagined. The grotesque decadence I was to discover over and over again in Berlin those few short weeks could only be compared, one might suppose, to Paris during the last days of Louis XVI."

Unlike in his youth, depression passed through Philip like a whim. He enlisted Mies Van der Rohe and his associate Lilly Reich to design a New York apartment he had purchased on a lark. He wanted the place to eschew the contemporary urge towards art deco.

Philip busied himself by preparing a massive event designed to feature modern architecture, the first in the MoMA's history. Despite or perhaps because of his experience with the artists of the Bauhaus, the final exhibition diminished Gropius, Le Corbusier (Philip was not a fan) and Van der Rohe quite significantly, placing their American peers on at least the same level. The arrangement satisfied no one, and Frank Lloyd Wright was also made furious by his depiction in the catalogue.

Philip replied,

I feel more than badly that you have misunderstood my intentions and actions to such an extent, and I am writing in the hope of clearing up as much as possible the reasons for your complaints. Please believe that I have appreciated your efforts to remain friends despite the many misunderstandings which I sincerely regret.

I feel as strongly as ever that I have a great deal to learn, much more so after the the experience of trying to make an exhibition. I still hope that we can have a good visit when I come West this spring...

For Philip Johnson toadying was itself an art of the highest order.

philip in NYC 1933

The moment Hitler emerged on the world political scene, Philip Johnson heard of him from his German-American supporters. Philip knew very little of world politics when he attended his first Nazi event in Potsdam, NY; his life in the city among gays and Jews effectively constituted Hitler's worst nightmare. Philip had even recently jumped into a relationship with a jazz singer named Jimmy Daniels. After all, Harlem was only a short trip up from his Upper East Side stomping grounds.

Jimmy Daniels perhaps a decade later

When Hitler came to power in January of 1933, Philip defended the man to anyone who would listen. He wrote an article for his Jewish friend Lincoln Kirstein's magazine entitled "Architecture in the Third Reich." Although he had not grown up hating Jews, he was receptive to Hitler's views of them. When Hitler ordered the murder of gay Nazi Ernst Rohm because of his homosexuality and potential challenge to the dictatorship, Johnson presciently left Germany.

Sony sold the building Johnson designed in New York to AT&T this year. I walk past it all the time  it seems to me it would be wholly at home in Nazi Germany. It is not surprising that Philip found something to admire in Hitler  many gentile intellectuals of the period did, just as many are attracted to the charisma of contemporary dictators now. But it is disgusting to be attracted to the Nazi aesthetic itself.

Johnson left his position at the MoMA in order to join up with Huey Long, the "left-wing" populist whose plans to redistribute wealth were ironic considering Philip's position. The MoMA board was completely embarrassed when Philip informed them that he was leaving to become Long's "Minister of Fine Arts." When he arrived in Louisiana, Long refused to see Philip.

After Long's death later that year, Philip attempted to join the cause of the Reverend Charles E. Coughlin, another populist whose anti-Semitic radio addresses were familiar rhetoric across the Midwest. Coughlin founded the National Union for Social Justice, an organization based on the man's plan to attack banks and the country's wealthiest citizens. Philip's biographer Franz Schulze rationalizes Philip's dabbling into politics thusly: "He could, when so inclined, impose an immense concentration on whatever concept seized him."

philip and jeannette in Nice

Because he was gay, Philip Johnson knew he could never properly be a Nazi.  Among his friends were those loyal to Germany, and this put him in the government's crosshairs. The FBI began assembling a dossier on Philip. He complained of Jews trying to buy a magazine he was interested in, and was disgusted by his experience observing a Polish ghetto. He was ever more convinced of the superiority of his mother country, and planned to celebrate when Hitler conquered England.

He took a position for the German propaganda ministry and dispatched reports in English favorable to Germany from the "front lines." Reading his reports, bile rises in every mouth. Such indiscretions are routinely tossed aside by those who wanted to embrace Johnson fully as an architect. I can't myself look at any of his buildings without remembering the things he said, even if he was a young man.

his later attempt at a synagogue

During the war, Philip was admitted to the Harvard Graduate School of Design. He had co-written one of the books assigned for his class in the history of architecture. One of his projects at Harvard was to build his own house, a lot he purchased at 9 Ash Street in Cambridge. He tried to put his Nazi past behind him by joining the Harvard Defense Group, but he was eventually dismissed after complaints. He tried to apply for a position with U.S. Naval Intelligence but was rejected for obvious reasons. The FBI continued to follow his activities.

Most people at Harvard actively avoided the young Nazi, but occasionally some found his personality charming. After sitting next to him at a socialist dinner party, Betrand Russell commented to the host that "your friend Philip is a diabolist, which is a strange thing for a friend of yours to be, but how much pleasanter it is to spend an evening with a gentleman you disagree with than with a cad you agree with." After his first year there, he moved into a room in the Hotel Continental, hiring an English butler and a Filipino houseboy to keep the place familiar while his new home was constructed.

On March 12, 1943, Philip Johnson was drafted into the army. He never left the U.S., or even advanced beyond the rank of private. His fellow soldiers called him "Pop" because of his age and general ineptness.

with Frank Lloyd Wright after the war

Through the influence of his friend Alfred Barr, Philip returned to the MoMA after his discharge from the army in 1944. Shortly thereafter, he bought his estate in New Canaan and began construction on what would be known as The Glass House. The irony was lost on him, and in fact irony itself did not emigrate to America until a decade later.

The Glass House was Philip's primary residence on the estate. It was first and foremost a bachelor pad except to the extent that it did not afford a measure of privacy, kind of like a closet that wasn't. Since such a structure could only be realistic on an estate that allowed total isolation from passersby, The Glass House is of course impossible except for the very rich, who tend to value their privacy more than most.

By 1949 he had completed the Guest House, opaque where his own residence was open. He moved in and immediately set to work on an article documenting the construction of both buildings. He invited the editors of every architectural publication he knew to come visit. In the meantime his attempts to pass the licensing exam in his field failed again and again. In order to continue practicing what was now his trade, he relocated his office to New Canaan and began teaching part-time at Yale.

One of his commissions in the years that followed was the design of a synagogue in Port Chester, New York. He had won the job by promising to deliver his design at zero cost. The resulting structure is among the most revolting of Johnson's designs  the wholly uninspired, predictable interior clashing with an exterior that was nothing short of repulsive. Years later Philip would continue his half-hearted desire to atone for his Nazi past by designing an Israeli nuclear reactor.

Sorek Nuclear Research Center

In 1954 Philip finally passed the architectural exam and relocated his practice to Manhattan, where he shared space with Van der Rohe. Together they collaborated on the legendarily bad Seagram building, although the vast majority of the responsibility for the building's dullness fell on Van der Rohe alone. He would make his own name during the ensuing decades, falling in and out of the zeitgeist depending on the various whims of the media and his peers.

Philip was forever wanting to add structures to his New Canaan parcel, and the pavilion he added to the lagoon was the worst of his ideas. Aesthetically, it was a hodgepodge, and its intrusion on nature — in effect, in created a small island where there was nothing — made it not only objectionable but dangerous. "There is something attractive about making some part of a building precarious," Philip would later claim airily. "It is titillating. I sometimes get an erection when I jump over that little stretch of water."

Philip fared better in the museums he designed in the 1950s as his star rose. He had already had good practice when he fashioned an extension of the MoMA, and his work on the fantastic Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery in Nebraska and an art museum in Fort Worth emboldened his confidence. His proposals for Lincoln Center were not well-regarded among his peers, but his early designs for it have aged better than many of his more celebrated structures.

one of his unbuilt plans for Lincoln Center

In his personal life, Philip had dumped his serious boyfriend for a gorgeous Yugoslavian immigrant named Peter Vranic. They kept each other supplied with what the other lacked; as Philip would later put it, things were "very violent, very sexual, very physical, and very short." When Vranic found out he wasn't in the now 50-year old Johnson's will, however, he bailed. In the chaos of this turmoil Philip met the man he would spend the rest of his life with: then-RISD student David Whitney.

Early in their relationship, Philip had treated David like a fawning admirer, installing him in a Manhattan apartment. There David established friendships with Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns to satisfy him whenever Philip ignored him. Whitney used Philip's money to great effect, and soon buildings had to be constructed to accomodate the paintings his lover desired. Before David's arrival, Philip had only installed an oval-shaped swimming pool near The Glass House, but with David's input he designed a large art gallery, completed in 1965. A sculpture gallery followed by 1970.

david whitney in 1975

David Whitney died in 2005, five months after Philip. Tours now run through The Glass House from May to November. An extended survey of the place runs about $100 and should be booked in advance. Taking a virtual tour on the website is far more cost-effective. If you did not take care to remember, you would think that The Glass House had suddenly popped into reality to serve some new master — it is no good as a museum. This place sheds history, now rendered invisible among the structures Philip imagined.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He is a writer living in Manhattan. He last wrote in these pages about Vuillard. He tumbls here and twitters here. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here.

photo: Richard Payne

"On the Street Where You Live" - Matthew Morrison (mp3)

"Ease On Down the Road" - Matthew Morrison (mp3)