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Alex Carnevale
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Mia Nguyen
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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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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

Thursday
Nov072013

In Which We Envy Cormac McCarthy's Therapist

Art By Omission

by ALEX CARNEVALE

The Counselor
dir. Ridley Scott
117 minutes

The lawyer (Michael Fassbender) is a very happy-go-lucky guy. His business is with the cartels; his partner is Reiner (Javier Bardem). The two plot to sell $20 million in cocaine to the Mexican cartels. It turns out this is a very ugly business, although not quite as ugly as you may have imagined, since it is being carried off by people who look more like models than criminals.

Fassbender's love relationship is with a sweetly innocent Penelope Cruz. There is a fantastic scene between the two of them where we only hear the male side of the telephone conversation. Instead of excising the time it takes for the other person to respond, we have to suffer through Fassbender's patience to hear her completely, even if only for a moment, out of respect for the one he loves. "Being together is everything," he crows, "the rest is just waiting." Bullshit.

Fassbender is the most exciting actor working today. The only thing he cannot carry off seamlessly is any kind of sexuality hence the phone intercourse. He more resembles an androgyne with a working set of genetalia; it is no wonder he seems perched on the edge of a career playing robots. He is the anti-Rock Hudson.

Mr. Scott seems to adore using Fassbender because he is wonderful for distracting you from the point of the scene. In The Counselor, such distractions are useful, since there is really nothing in the way of conflict between the characters, at least nothing that would feasibly be resolved with words.

Plastic surgery has altered the boundaries of Cameron Diaz's facial expressions. She is now prone to playing emotionless characters because the vast majority of her cheekbones' communicative abilities have been reduced to either a coy smile or utter disgust.

"My parents were thrown from a helicopter when I was three," she informs a priest for some reason. (He cannot even bear to share the same confessional as this woman.) The Counselor features Diaz's best role in some time, both because she is supposed to be cold in it, and because she does a nice job of showing how a person can be both corrupted and have that corruption be sort of infectious.

Brad Pitt portrays the middle man in the counselor's transaction with the cartel. He looks years younger than in his recent roles, probably because his part here demands more boyish charm than a grim father surviving the apocalypse.

Diaz having sex with a car windshield, as she does in a flashback Reiner recalls to the counselor, does not make very much sense. It is the only funny part of The Counselor, the rest is just extended long conversations between famous Hollywood actors pretending to be people they are so obviously not.

Yet there is a sort of benign, harmless charm to The Counselor, something like visiting a family ride at Disneyland. You try to enjoy it even though you know you are not the audience for which it was intended. The film never feels overly long or boring, since it is composed only of anticipation, not action.

In a way McCarthy is making a joke on how cinema represents anything at all, calling it to moral account. Do I have to tell you at whose expense this joke is being made?

The events of The Counselor all connect to each other, and there is very little in the way of plot to follow. These scenes might take place in any order. "I'm not going to tell you what mistakes you made that got you here," a member of the cartel tells Fassbender, who can only respond idly in a fakish Texas accent brought into existence purely for this role.

This explanation that the counselor was doomed all along, simply because of his race and status, is meant to be an ironic commentary.

McCarthy's art here is entirely by omission. By drawing our attention away from how action usually takes place in cinema, he forces us to reexamine our role as spectator. It is something like looking into a microscope instead of the entire rhesus monkey: Fassbender, Pitt, Diaz, even McCarthy himself are merely cells in a larger organism. Instead of the way you are told evil unfolds, it has already unfolded more quickly than you realized. When you woke it was at your doorstep.

These people have known each other for longer than you have known them, possibly much longer. After they order two Heinekens, Pitt and Fassbender get to talking. Pitt's cliches are so wrapped up in themselves that they approach parody; it is all that his fellow actor can do just to keep a straight face he mugs so much. Pitt's career was founded on looking levelly at people with sunglasses and taking their measure; the counselor looks away until the penultimate moment, the only one at which he is ever alive.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Lotus Flower (Jacques Green remix)" - Radiohead (mp3)

Wednesday
Nov062013

In Which You Get So Close To Someone

Goodbye for Keeps

by JOSIANE CURTIS

The night I met Brittney, I left the bar and updated my facebook status from my phone on the walk home, a two-beer buzz tingling in my fingertips as I typed. “This just got interesting."

A mutual friend introduced Brittney and I intentionally, knowing there was a chaos we could give each other that she herself did not possess. Within months, it was impossible for either of us to show up alone to a friend’s house, a bar, or even Whole Foods, where we spent the bulk of our paychecks searching for hangover remedies on Sunday mornings, without being asked about our other half.

We had each lost a close friend to an unexpected and far-too-early cause of death the year before moving to Portland. We came from families broken in one way or another. We’d left ex-boyfriends in California and though we mentioned it like we missed them, as if we’d left something good behind, we both knew that the relationships had been over long before we left the state. We could sense these similarities in our pasts before ever talking about them, the way the pound puppies at a dog park seem drawn to each other over the full-breeds, their histories somehow recognizable in each other’s pheromones, or maybe in their eyes.

Our friendship wasn’t just circumstantial. Our personalities are opposite in many ways, which made us well-suited to be friends. Brittney is a social butterfly with a penchant for dramatics; I am drawn to adventure but soft-spoken and sometimes too even-keeled, in need of someone like her to coax me out of my shell.

A few months into our friendship, I was arriving to a baby shower and Brittney’s name showed up on my phone. When I answered, I was greeted by the non-response of someone trying to steady their breath before speaking. I could tell she was trying to stop crying, but she couldn’t; the second she opened her mouth there was a floodgate of breath into the receiver. She gasped for air, barely getting a few words out at a time before collapsing into heavy sobs. Unable to decipher what had happened on the phone, I ditched the baby shower and showed up at her house 20 minutes later with her Whole Foods favorites: coconut water and mushroom barley soup and a cranberry tuna wrap. In the beginning, I was happy to abandon preexisting plans for her, flattered to be her chosen source of comfort. I felt important.

I could sometimes pinpoint the triggers of Brittney’s anxiety attacks, and sometimes they would catch us both off guard. Her first attack, that afternoon, had been sparked by a pocket dial from her ex-boyfriend, whose muffled footsteps and background voices somehow sounded like two people having sex. Certain environments were surefire causes, certain hours of the early morning. At parties, we would often sneak away to the bathroom or a vacant bedroom, where I would talk her down. Sometimes we would lie flat on the floor and count cracks in the ceiling until it passed.

On the other hand, when I closed off, occasionally withdrawing into my apartment for a week with no explanation, she’d show up at my house with burned CDs and bags packed for both of us for an overnight escape from the city. Our first Valentine’s Day together, on the anniversary of my friend Alex’s passing, she drove me to Astoria and we hopped from one beach to another, making our way up the coast until I found one that felt right. We stripped down to our underwear and ran the few hundred yards from the car, across snow-speckled sand, to where low tide had drawn out the water. Our Portland winter bodies were pale and tense and taut as we dove under the frigid waves, wordlessly, soundlessly, too cold to do more than gasp.

After, an SUV approached over the sand as we made our way back to Brittney’s car. A laughing woman rolled down her window.

“I saw you two from across the beach and said to myself, ‘those girls either lost a bet, or they’re drunk.’ I came over to see which it is.”

“Neither!” I struggled to exhale, exhilarated, my skin on fire, and relieved that what I had thought was a lifeguard coming to scold us was this woman instead. “We just…”

“—had to,” Brittney finished for me.

I’m not dramatic enough to say that our friendship saved each other, nor callous enough to say that it simply served a purpose, but like many friendships, especially in this purgatory between youth and young adulthood, ours fell somewhere in between. We balanced each other.  

+

Our friendship was as much a relationship with Portland as it was with each other. We explored the city in a way only possible for two people mutually experiencing a place for the first time. Whereas a born and raised Portlander, or our friend who had lived here five years before us, might guide you through their own highlight reel of the city, together we tripped and tumbled our way through our first Oregon everything.

We frequented dance clubs and then dive bars, famous breakfast restaurants and then diners, fumbling until we found the places we fit. There was the day we ate pot brownies, managed to go on a brewery tour and join in a flash mob, but then got so overwhelmed inside of Whole Foods that we had to call a taxi to take us the six blocks home. There was the night we parked in front of a party and hid in the backseat of Brittney’s car to drink champagne before going inside, but she made me laugh so hard I had to open the door to avoid choking, setting off the car alarm and blowing our cover to the confused group of party-goers on the front porch.

There were weeks we’d get healthy, trade champagne for green juice, wander the city’s farmers markets and make home cooked vegan meals. There was the night we made fresh spring rolls and I accidentally ate half a caterpillar, learning then why you would ever need to wash organic lettuce. (There was Brittney’s uninhibited laughter this night, and many others.) There was a book club, a work party, a road trip to California, a wedding. There were holidays, birthdays, bike rides, and breakups. There was the night I turned on Alex’s music and cried on the couch while she cried in the kitchen, making dinner. There were the things I won’t talk about here. Think of all the memories you have with your best friend – there are all of those things too. 

As with any significant relationship, there are too many memories; I don’t know if I’m making too much of them or not enough.

+

For two years, for the two of us, together was a given. One of us would send the other party details or a link to a show or event, and the other would simply make a plan, buy a ticket, no questions asked. In May, Brittney sent me information about Sasquatch, a four-day music festival in the Washington Gorge, and on Memorial Day Weekend we found ourselves there. That first year at Sasquatch, we were hummingbirds, bumblebees, happy, energetic animals running from one adventure to another. Everywhere we went, my hand extended blindly behind me to where it would find hers, automatically, effortlessly, as if by muscle memory. We made our way to the front of every stage, twisting and weaving through crowds like a strand of DNA. I tried hallucinogens for the first time and found my safe place, the safest place, in her.

The last evening of the festival, Rodrigo y Gabriela were performing on the main stage, when it started to rain. The weather had been gorgeous all weekend, but in the blink of an eye it started to absolutely pour, as if the sky had been holding off an anxiety attack all weekend, and it had finally gotten the best of her. For a moment, Brittney and I tried to cover our heads with the one sweatshirt we had between us, until, realizing the futility of this, we dropped the sweatshirt and our bags, kicked off our shoes, and danced on our tiptoes around the hillside, twirling imaginary skirts to the upbeat flamenco guitar. After about 15 minutes, the rain stopped and the sun came out from the clouds long enough to paint the sky neon before settling against the west wall of the Gorge. We perched on an abandoned backpack, arms linked, teeth chattering, willing our clothes to dry before the sun dropped below the cliffs completely.

“There is nowhere—I mean that, there’s literally not one place I’d rather be right now. And no one I’d rather be with.”

I don’t remember whether she said it or I did, which has become a common problem in many of my memories of us. It felt like the first moment I’d been still in months.  

There is a special bond, an intimacy that emerges only on the heaviest nights and through the harshest of hangovers. Shared vulnerability is necessary for deep friendship, and when you’re guarded, as I am, that vulnerability won’t always volunteer itself. But you can find it in an anxiety attack at four a.m., or waiting for a pregnancy test to develop in a Safeway bathroom, or on the inside of a trash can at a music festival where you throw up while your other half holds your hair out of your face and tells leering strangers to mind their own business.  

+

Ours was a platonic intimacy I thought was reserved for sisters and the friends of my youth; one I never expected to forge anew after college. What I expected even less was that our friendship would fade, quietly, without fault or fight or falling out. Richard Siken writes, “Sometimes you get so close to someone you end up on the other side of them.” I have this image of in my head of two ghosts, moving toward each other in an attempt to embrace, but they end up falling through each other and walking away, bewildered, in opposite directions.

“If it wasn’t for you, I would have left Portland a long time ago,” Brittney confessed to me one afternoon, two years into our time together.

I didn’t see it at the time, but Brittney’s confession marks the beginning of the end of our relationship. Though it would be over a year until she moved back to Los Angeles, at that moment, I realized that she would one day leave Portland. Maybe I would pull away to prepare myself for her eventual departure. Maybe I would crumble under the pressure of feeling that depended upon. I wanted to be valuable but not that valuable, important but not explicitly necessary; the Goldilocks of codependency.

We never purposefully stopped hanging out; we just stopped purposefully hanging out. We were us until we weren’t. I moved out of our neighborhood. We bonded with new friends and started dating new men. I went to a new gym and started waking up with the sun instead of going to sleep by it. We still ran into each other at group outings and, when we did, we picked up our friendship wherever we had last seen it. But we were not the same after that day, and our relationship dissolved little by little throughout Brittney’s last year in Portland. In that final year, we didn’t take an overnight drive, didn’t spend a Sunday alone together on Brittney’s couch. Not once.  

When Brittney announced her upcoming departure from Portland, I took the news almost emotionlessly. I knew my day-to-day life wouldn’t change. But in the weeks leading up to her departure, I felt my stomach drop when I drove past her house or any of our old haunts. I felt a strange sort of sick even catching a particularly pretty view of Mt. Hood. The feeling was familiar, one I’d felt in the weeks before moving away from Calistoga, Santa Cruz, Costa Rica. I consider it a kind of pre-nostalgia for a place you know you’ll be leaving. I wasn’t leaving Portland, but in the weeks before Brittney did, it felt that way.

The morning of her last day, we stood in her disheveled apartment and made small talk about how much packing she had left to do. I remembered the first time I’d been there, Halloween weekend three years before. While trying to finish my costume, I broke a Sharpie and made a giant stain across the seat of her couch. Brittney was unconcerned with the stain, but I spent the next hour, mortified, scrubbing at it frantically. I got the couch mostly clean, but I could still always find its outline when I looked for it. Her couch cushions were propped up against the wall and the stain caught my eye, faint, faded, but still there.

We had left imprints like this one all over each other and all over this city, almost unnoticeable, invisible unless you’re looking.

Our friends all made a point to say “see you later.” “This isn’t goodbye for keeps,” they said. I made a point to say goodbye, knowing that, although I’ll see Brittney again, I will never again see the person she was in this place and time. I was saying goodbye, for keeps, not only to her, but to the person I was with her, to the people we were together, and mostly, to the places Portland was with the two of us in it.

Josiane Curtis is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Portland. She last wrote in these pages about walking through the rose garden. You can find her twitter here. You can find her website here.

Photographs by Joe Curtin.

"Dance Yrself Clean" - LCD Soundsystem (mp3)