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This Recording

is dedicated to the enjoyment of audio and visual stimuli. Please visit our archives where we have uncovered the true importance of nearly everything. Should you want to reach us, e-mail alex dot carnevale at gmail dot com, but don't tell the spam robots. Consider contacting us if you wish to use This Recording in your classroom or club setting. We have given several talks at local Rotarys that we feel went really well.

Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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Thursday
Jan102013

In Which The Hardest Thing In The World Is To Live In It

The World Doesn't Care

by LINDSEY BOLDT

My high school therapist recommended against reading Sylvia Plath, specifically The Bell Jar. Why? Because I related too much. I wonder what my current therapist would say about reading Dorothea Lasky’s Thunderbird. I should give her a copy and find out.

Lasky announces her love of Plath in the epigraph that opens the book and again in the poem, “Death and Sylvia Plath."

...I wonder afterwards,
Why do young women like Sylvia Plath?
Why doesn’t everyone?

This strikes me as a supremely bold move. Why? Because throughout my short time in Poetry Land, Sylvia Plath has been referenced only as a punch line, a means of scoffing at “sincerity” and “confessional” poetry. Plath is simplistic, juvenile, someone young girls read, as if being a young girl is the most embarrassing kind of person to be. Hello, right grrrl. Her emotionality is direct, cathartic, completely unironic. She does not dissemble, does not dilute her emotions for the comfort of others, she is the picture of a "Crazy Woman."

My high school therapist also suggested that I stop drinking, smoking pot, watching cerebral dark foreign dramas (a designation my current Netflix preferences often skews towards) and spending so much time taking black and white photographs. Why? Because none of it was really helping with the ol’ depression.

I wonder what Dottie Lasky would say. Maybe:

Why it is a black life
Because nothing is permanent
And everything goes on and on not meaning anything

and then

Because I say things
in the simplest way possible
and am constantly misunderstood

Because sometimes you (I) feel dead and it feels great to have someone else say that they feel dead too.

The poems in Thunderbird inspire a deep sense of recognition in me for this reason and they induce an almost immediate dark trance state, which I like to call The Darkside. I like to joke about it, because when it comes on, it is so laughably complete and entire. When I cross over to The Darkside, everything is completely and utterly fucked, even kittens and babies - especially babies. Usually it takes a heavy internet trawl of “the news”, a bout of family drama or an interminably long poetry reading to get me to cross over these days, but Lasky’s poetry gets me there in just under eight lines.

Baby of air
You rose into the mystical
Side of things
You could no longer live with us
We put you in a little home
Where they shut and locked the door
And at night
You blew out

Woosh! I’m sixteen reading The Bell Jar, dutifully popping Zoloft, lugging my dead father’s five pound Minolta camera around my neck, hiding out in the red glow of my makeshift darkroom and waiting for an opportunity to get drunk on two beers and pass out. I’m the baby of air! I’m the one trying to keep the baby from blowing away! I’m both at once! Bahhhhh...

I don’t know if this is a feeling I necessarily want, but the fact that Lasky can do this to me in eight lines is stunning. It’s a full-body experience, like one of Lasky’s friends, poet CAConrad’s somatic exercises (collect dirt from the base of one of the trees in Emily Dickinson’s yard and rub it all over your body, leave it on for a week, then write a poem) in reverse, e.g. write a poem that induces a anxious dissociated floating head state in your reader, inspiring her to crawl under the covers and introspect.

This makes me wonder what Lasky might eat, drink or perform to put herself into the state that produces these poems. Does she dress in bright orange or apply iridescent purple polish to her nails, like I have seen her do and have felt enveloped and buoyed by? Does she enclose herself in a small room and turn off the lights? These poems affect me so bodily that I have to wonder what happens to her body to produce them. Would I wonder the same if she were not a woman? People rarely seem to wonder aloud about male poet’s bodies. Maybe not, but having a (female) body that I often feel distant from is just another in a cluster of points of relation these poems contain.

Whoosh! I’m twenty-five, slumped in bed with a glass of Jameson watching “Berlin Alexanderplatz” (cerebral dark foreign mini series) at 2 a.m. with all the lights off, barely getting it up to keep my chin off my chest.

No, but there’s more to it than that. Lasky puts me right in that spot I hate to find myself in, but return to so readily. The “I” of her poems keeps finding herself in this place too as in the poem, “Death and Sylvia Plath”:

I am not alive
No, I am no longer breathing
I don’t live in this world
I already live in the next

Or in the later poem “Reality”:

You think of this world
I am in the next

I know the white world
Where I have no eyes

I know what it is like
to float without space

I went over to The Darkside during a very long poetry reading last spring while Dottie painted my nails. We sat with our backs against the rear wall of the Poetry Project and passed a bottle of something between the three or four of us. It was the poetry and maybe a little of the bottle of something not Dottie that caused me to cross over. When I’ve listened to more than two hours of poetry, it all begins to sound the same. As the seemingly never ending parade of poets went on, I quietly began to grind my ax inside myself and soon poetry became all a bunch of privileged white folks (accurate in this case) jerking our imaginations off with words, turning around so we can take turns patting each other on the back while no one else notices… whoosh! and my reason for living was sucked from me, leaving me a crappy, grumbling husk. I am a poet, so when poetry, the thing I have built my life around, becomes utterly meaningless and arbitrary, so does everything else. To survive the reading, I stared at the purple and green galaxies of my fingernails, put there by Dottie, and burrowed into the center of my brain and thought about deep, dark space.

But what is incredible about this book, is that it reminds me how powerfully active this space is, that deep dark center of the brain Lasky so often describes in vivid greens and blues. This is where she finds lions, tigers, the devil and her father. I don’t know anything about chakras but I would say something about a power center. It’s a place to blow on your own flame.

These poems would fail if there were even a hint of irony in them. Instead, Lasky takes what we might write in our notebooks after a bad day and pushes further, takes on that voice without reservation so we can reckon with it fully. When it is this embodied, we can converse with it without all of the self-depricating hemming and ha-ing. Lasky finds the wherewithal to find what The Darkside provides. Rather than dipping in, taking a few souvenirs and heading back to write from the comfort of the living; she stays, lets it seep in and then reports, not from this side, but from that side.

I can’t help but hear Lasky’s voice when I read her poems. I heard the poems in Thunderbird before I every read them. Earlier in the evening of the interminable poetry reading, I read with Dottie at a bar in Brooklyn. If you haven’t heard Dottie Lasky read, go look her up on PennSound and if you haven’t seen her read in person, invite her to read at your reading series (start one if you have to). Just like her book, her voice creates a world unto themselves, one that envelopes you in its own interior logic, commanding your full attention. Her reading style presents a bit like the shrill monotone an elementary school kid reciting a monologue for the school play but...from beyond the grave. As in, the child is dead and has something very important to tell us all.

The world doesn’t care if you grow up and the only thing
Keeping you in place

Is the devil
But I care

But I care if you are hungry
The world doesn’t care
But I care

The world doesn’t care
But I do

This is probably the most comforting thing I can think of.

Having these poems read to you by Dottie Lasky in person is a different experience than reading them in bed by yourself, as I did. She is an energizing force, demanding of her readers, not of attention to her person in particular, but to their own lives, to their imminent possible deaths and the highly precarious state of living they’re in, temporarily, right now.

In college I was led to believe that poetry should not make a reader feel anything because that would be manipulative and thus fascist and thus we would be just like Goebbels whipping the German public into a murderous frenzy. Adorno and his fractured, stuttering insistence on saying nothing, was king. Paul Celan and his ability to express the inexpressibility of language through silence was the ultimate. I love that shit. But wow, if it isn’t gratifying to have Lasky, someone living now, through late capitalism’s cataclysmic fury, from within the center of empire, acknowledge our fucked state and still speak from it. We do have to live here somehow, if we do in fact choose to live here.

Lindsey Boldt is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Oakland. You can find her website here. She is the author of "Oh My, Hell Yes" and Overboard and recently co-edited a book of homages to the poet Etel Adnan titled Homage to Etel Adnan.

"Recoil" - New Order (mp3)

"I've Got A Feeling" - New Order (mp3)

Wednesday
Jan092013

In Which We Get Used To Lebanon

Extensions

by SUMEJA TULIC

I kept looking up and touching the tip of my head. No, it will not rain. The sky will crack up tomorrow or in a month. The sand will turn into sticky smoke that the bare legs will carry under the eaves.

Sunday is the saddest day to leave Beirut. Everyone I met is up the mountain, on a picnic. Only the nannies, the maids, the orderly are on the streets. Standing in front of elapsing buildings, groups of amazingly braided women in tight jeans will look at you intensely and you will think that you are the new kid in a beach bar in Mombasa. On other days, I will see them in their uniforms — strawberry milkshake or pale blue colored — in pairs of two carrying fresh fruit sold from a truck, looking in a direction I couldn’t designate.

My first night in Beirut was a dark Friday mellowed by August’s bitter sweetness. Empty backstreets and drunken middle aged couples. No starts, no moon, no directions. I wanted to leave immediately or redo the first walk through the city. And then, somewhere in Achrafieh, on a stoop, in a small glass box, surrounded by plastic flowers and transcending holiness, stood the first Beirut Mary I saw. I kept pointing the phone at her, lighting her little face — world’s tiniest expression of modesty perhaps. Eventually, I befriended all the Holly Maries and some of the bearded saints in the area. A paparazzo love denoted in three packs of films and dozens of thank you's I said before — something a 10 year old me would name little female mosques.

I walked up and down Raouché among fat kids, young loves, yearning men only to end up on a hill covered with dogs’ droppings and wild flowers. My nose is red and my eyes are wide open. I am standing in midst of shit, in front of a city, above the sea, I wrote on a postcard. At a certain age you start to appreciate things only when they consist of the gutter and the gold. Somewhere in Switzerland there is a pretty, shitless hill I would absolutely loathe, just like there was a sweet, kind man I hated, and left him waiting until the bouquet he brought froze.

When I dance I don’t care and all I want to see is my skirt whirling. But as I go about it, I start needing something to match the washing machine in my brain spinning melancholy and joy and my small tragedies. And I did it that night, on a dancing floor that kept changing colors, teasing the stars' constellations to appear above. I swear I heard a wolf howling on that hill above the Raouché.

I was bruised and stained in Beirut by the dark, frightened, mad eyes of tanned Syrian workers. Their looks would stay with me long after I had passed the construction site in the downtown. I thought of their little houses and gentle mothers. I thought of their wives and killed brothers. I thought of their tired teenaged sons working beside them. I thought of million whys this world should end today. Luckily, on the way back, just before the streetlights are turned on, everything is less aggressive. The Syrian workers are pleasantly flirtatious and few of them are in a small corner park next to Elie Saab’s boutique praying behind a tall African imam.

In search of the best ice cream and some harmless trouble, one morning I ended up crossing River Beirut. Before noon, it is hard to find trouble in Bourj Hammoud. Beneath small red Armenian flags and in shadows of cloth lines, only nervous mistresses can pick fights with the sleepy hairdresser. Her man — George, Toni or Aziz — the one with a black mustache and a deep open shirt, will come to her tonight.

After they have ate and drank and danced to the radio, he will gently strike her hair. The hair needs to smell like hair saloon shampoo. So, why the hell is hairdresser using the cheap, household shampoo?

Thick eyebrows, green eyes and a nose of a delicate Hebrew model. Oh shoot me blazing faith, I have loved! He spoke about music and I responded with something meant to impress. I thought of the damn dresses blossoming flowers from 50s and late 80s in my luggage. He should know that I am more than my shorts and this plain t-shirt. But how can be that slipped into a conversation about Palestine? I want to see him late at night in Hamra street. I want to take him by the hand and kiss him in an alley. By the way, how does it feel to kiss while looking at social justice, anti-clerical and anti-rape themed graffiti?

Along with my saint friends, Annie’s bare chest is the most beautiful thing I have seen in Beirut. Behind her was an open window letting in summer’s fog and a beam of blue light streamed from a cross. She painted her nails and smoked while I wished someone else saw the two falling stars. I wished. Most of my wishes come true, but most of my wishes are dishonestly modest. When the wishes come true, I wish for more, for extensions. Annie deserves a poet to dwell on her chest. Instead she got me. My Annie must be modest like me.

On one of the weekends we went to the Cedars and saw a lonely donkey, a ruined house, a wedding and the tip of the world. God was there for sure but we didn’t see him. We heard something of him in the chanting of a Buddhist who prayed on a top of centuries old house while the rocky land swallowed the sun and the sea. The chant went on beautifully with the sad voice of a woman who sang about the Christ and the blood that dripped from under the nails. In a nearby village someone lit fire. Shortly, the smoke replaced the chant and the song.

On that last Sunday I stood on the balcony. The landlord of the building and of some fragments of the universe, Samaha, arrived in a car driven by his personal assistant, doorman and driver, Samuel. Samuel spends most of his nights sitting in front of the building watching cars go up and down. He wants to sing in a choir. That is something he did back home somewhere in Africa. The couple across the street was out of the city. They will be back in few hours. They will sit on their balcony and tell stories to each other. The nudist was home but he was dressed. I think he had guests. That would explain the children that played on his balcony. I said my dearest goodbyes to cars that went up and down, left and right. One for sure went to Dahieh, one stayed in Achrafieh, one went to Jounieh, one to Mar Mikhael street and one went to a place I didn't learn its name.

Sumeja Tulic is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Sarajevo. You can find her website here and her flickr here. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here. She last wrote in these pages about learning to skate.

Photographs by the author.

"King Wizard" - Kid Cudi (mp3)

"Pursuit of Happiness" - Kid Cudi ft Ratatat & MGMT (mp3)


Tuesday
Jan082013

In Which Almost Nobody Is Dirty At All

Young and Unafraid

by KARA VANDERBIJL

Les Misérables
dir. Tom Hooper
157 minutes

1. Wait, this didn’t happen during the French Revolution? I thought that was the only element of French history worth talking about!

2.  As voiced by a young man on the way out of the theater with his grandmother, “There was a lot of singing.”

3. It is generally assumed that all Europeans speak with British accents, regardless of their nationality.

4. This is a bizarre sort of artistic colonialism.

5. There are a limited number of British actors. As such, Helena Bonham-Carter appears in almost all films that require a woman with a British accent.


6. This is forgivable, because she really is quite good.

7. Anne Hathaway’s performance of poor Fantine’s “I Dreamed a Dream” was beautiful, and should win her all sorts of prizes. Regardless, I got a kick out of imagining her lip-synching to Susan Boyle’s rendition.

8. At some point or another, most people will claim that they wish they could have been born in a previous era, just to “see what it would have been like”. However, most of these poor saps imagine transporting back to a charmed time where they'd sit in front of a roaring fire in silks eating grilled meat off a bread platter in a well-guarded, well-cleaned castle. Les Misérables reminds us that most of us would have been lucky to have been working-class.


9. Speaking of which, I saw a hashtag on Rich Kids of Instagram the other day that said — I kid you not — “1% for life”. Really? Really? They are actually people walking around in the world vocalizing that kind of nonsense and they’re not being trampled by hordes of angry peasants? 

10. Let’s build some barricades in Beverly Hills!

11. My cousin shared with me before the show that the man who plays the Bishop in this version of Les Misérables, Colm Wilkinson, originated the role of Valjean in the West End and on Broadway.  This trivia made me blubber almost uncontrollably at the end when he welcomes Hugh Jackman into the embrace of heaven, essentially blessing him as the heir of a timeless tradition.

12. Everyone should aspire to welcome Hugh Jackman into the embrace of heaven.

13. Who knew he could sing and didn’t tell me?

14. Let’s play a game where we count how many people on our morning trains will now be reading Les Misérables. I played this last month, but with Anna Karenina. Nobody I saw had ever made it past the first hundred pages. Some of them were frowning. All of them had bought the edition with the movie cover on the front. I predict that by now, most of those editions are now collecting dust on the bottom shelf of a bookcase.


15. There’s an old joke floating around that the Koreans didn’t appreciate how long The Sound of Music was, so they cut out all the songs. I have no idea whether or not it is based on fact or whether it is just a racist jab, which I am more inclined to believe, but if I could perform similar magic on Les Mis I’d cut out all the parts with Russell Crowe, who plays Inspector Javert.

16. Javert should be fearsome and loathsome both. Crowe’s performance allowed us to empathize with the character a bit too much, and I don’t want to understand Javert as much as fear and hate him. Also, his shoulders should be at least as wide as Jackman’s if we are to believe that they are archenemies.

17. Pronouncing the “s” at the end of Misérables is like a person wearing a neon-colored polo shirt who then pops the color of said shirt in that I will forgive neither of them.

18. It was a mystery to me, until viewing the film, why Cosette’s face should be on the poster of every production, stage or cinematic, of this story. Amanda Seyfried’s depiction was precious, although her voice reached ear-splitting heights only before attained by the mice from Cinderella. Cosette is only interesting in that she inspires other characters to greatness. She is a small symbol of the revolution, sort of like a New Year’s resolution.

19. I sat very close to the screen during my viewing. This was not my choice, because I suffer from motion sickness and had to close my eyes during what I felt were key action sequences. I often opened my eyes to a very close shot of Hathaway or Jackman or Redmayne belting out their numbers, which felt very personal, although I never did feel the need to be that intimate with their dental work.

20. This was interesting camera work on Tom Hooper’s part, giving the audience the impression that we were viewing a sort of anachronous musical reality television special, straight from the slums of Paris.


21. Eponine (Samantha Barks) would make a great reality-TV show character. Not only is she the neglected angle of a tense love triangle, but she also dies, saving anyone from having to kick her off the... barricade.

22. Everyone has seen some high-school or college production of this musical; there were so many people crying in the theater at the end that it felt a little bit like my tenth birthday party.

23. Visually, Les Misérables is a smorgasbord. Its birds-eye views of Paris and high-definition details of dirty teeth achieve what the musical will never be able to on stage, which seems a bit unfair. How many people will now say, “Well, Les Mis is in town, but I have it on DVD, so why bother?”

24. You know which one is next, right? Wicked.

25. There was a trailer for an awful-looking movie starring James Franco which had something to do with Oz and it looked so bad that I almost left the theater before the movie even started.

26. There should be a word for forgetting which movie you have paid to see by the time the previews are over.

27. Thanks to this, one might almost be able to forget the 1998 version of Les Misérables starring Liam Neeson in which he falls in love with Fantine and Geoffrey Rush isn't a pirate and almost nobody is dirty at all. 

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

"Slow Beginnings" - Alameda (mp3)

"Swollen Light" - Alameda (mp3)