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Alex Carnevale

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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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In Which Stranger Things Have Not Yet Occurred

The following review contains mild spoilers for the first three episodes of Netflix's Stranger Things.



Stranger Things
creators Matt Duffer & Ross Duffer

Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) lives in a run-down half ranch ever since her husband left her and moved to Indianapolis. Her clothes are draped over her shoulders in a casual-Mom esque way, the colors all poached green and residue brown. The makeup she does apply tends to make her look older, not younger. She is completely familiar yet entirely fraudulent as a divorced Midwesterner, since a remarkable feature of the Midwest is that it only has Jews in Ohio or Chicago.

Most of Winona Ryder's family died in the Holocaust so she could play this gentile imitation of life. Her sons Will (Noah Schnapp) and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), are maudlin, secretive individuals unhappy in themselves and uneasy with others. Jonathan is an amateur photographer who enjoys taking photographs of his unsuspecting classmates. Will is a strong student more interested in bonding with his tight-knit group of friends than his disassociated family.

Stranger Things leans so heavily on the concept of the 1980s that it will fall over and collapse without constant referring to its own time period. Between games of Dungeons & Dragons, Will's friend Mike (Finn Wolfhard) tells his parents about the guy his sister is fucking, a bro named Steve Harrington whose idea of a good time is shotgunning a beer. Everything in this epoch seems way toned down from what it actually was, like the 1970s never actually touched the small town of Hawkins, Indiana.

Mike's sister Nancy (Natalia Dyer) is the breakout star of Stranger Things, which attempts to arrange a bunch of clichés from the terrible science fiction of the period into some kind of amalgam of inventiveness. She does the dirty deed with Steve Harrington, and the next day her friend has disappeared and her mother is screaming at her for telling the truth. This is such an absurd fate for a honest woman living her life as she sees fit.

Slut-shaming is everywhere in Stranger Things, a concession to small-town American values and how they stay intact no matter how much the surrounding world changes. In order to hide a young girl who they find in the woods, Mike Wheeler and his friends dress her up in a wig and do her makeup. No one in this society could possibly deal with a young girl who shaved her head.

I was actually alive during the 1980s. It was nothing like this, and as Tony Soprano famously said, "Remember when is the lowest form of conversation." To further enforce the prurient sense of nostalgia at work in Stranger Things, the chief antagonist is portrayed by a desiccating Matthew Modine. His role is as completely vacuous as the faceless monster who appears to absorb Will Byers into his carapace in the show's dull first episode.

Stranger Things gets substantially better from there. Ryder, it turns out, plays a fantastic Christian woman, and her considerable charisma is always a relief to engage. Just as entertaining to watch is the breakout performance of Hawkins' only sheriff, Jim Hopper (David Harbour). The rest of the casting on this project is as sublime, and it is great fun to watch all these characters engage with one another, no matter how slight the premise.

The science fiction elements of Stranger Things are in fact pretty dreadful, and contain nothing much in the way of science at all. This decision appears purposeful. Like much of the cinematic output of that dreadful decade, the context of horror in this small town is more basic fantasy, and not overly ambitious fantasy at all at that. Joyce believes that she can contact her son through the electrical circuits in her house. Mike's telekinetic friend that he found in the woods has a similar idea, and things develop slowly from there.

The synthesized music adds to general fantastic atmosphere. It would have been easy to turn this flimsy story into a tongue-in-cheek situation, but almost nothing is played completely for laughs, and the general tone in Stranger Things is, if anything, over-serious. "Sometimes people don't say what they're really thinking," one of the characters explains to Nancy at one point, but in Stranger Things they mostly do, again and again.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.


In Which You Could Hardly Call Such A Thing Beauty



for D

You asked me, picking at your lower lip, did I see you as a person or a woman?

I guess what bothers me the most, besides you retching when I told you the score, is how you said you gave up on people. It was not for you to decide that bit of business. I had all this faith in you. I know now that it was not faith in your desires, but only faith in mine. The way I love you almost appalls me, too.

Since that day, I saw again an image I cannot forget, of a round window there in a place that I know. I always search for myself in it, as a fool looks for what he remembers of his own face in the mirror.

You said you were below a bridge, looking out on the canal. Your throat closed (you had pertussis last year). I credit you for this everything in the world that deserved to be taken seriously, you gave it that allowance. But you did not laugh a lot.

I know I sometimes go on and on about reflections. But I really only love them when nothing is reflected, and I get to thinking, whatever might belong there. Is that now a sadistic way of looking at the world? That is what you said to me. You did not admit you wronged me, lied to me, destroyed the feeling there.

I have never forgotten anything either. I only pretend to so I can seem more like other people.

Slipping away from the city, all the trees shed their lights when the train swings near. Place aches, so I will not go to any of ours again, half-hoping to find you swiveling your neck to absorb the next scene. Within the frame, one man calls to another, hidden beyond a door. God, you said you loved all those things. I tried to forget that, and here it is.

We talked sparingly of my true theistic beliefs. You see, I do not care who views me praying for you, or against you. When a person does not care where they are going, only with whom they have been, it makes a sorry sight for any decent deity. I have to admit I am the one who did all this, tracing a new pattern over the old. It resembled the original too closely, I see now.

I grew to trust the writing advice of Derek Lam when he was first my instructor, and then my friend. I showed him some of these lines, especially the one where you did not realize what you had managed. He said that the second person, used it in this way, was so overdone. He'd had enough of the editorial, worldly You. Who gave these writers, he said, the right to make their primary subject all of ours as well? I told him this struck me as a kind of disturbing fastidiousness to one particular part of speech, and I also mentioned that he didn't know you.

That address comes before the invention of self, incarnate in us all. It reforms speech as the primary act. Calling to a person so radiates truth, because I would never lie to you, my darling. (See how this statement excuses both of us from culpability?) Calling to a woman is no different. In stockings and tights, denim or polyester fleece, the sullen take their bows. I looked for you there, among the carollers, thinking I had heard your gravelly voice. 

There is a Manichean residue on what you touch, as well as the oil from your hands.

A laminated card, or a picture shifting out of its frame. A half-eaten sandwich that resembles the skull's refractions in brightest light or unexpected darkness. A ramshackle, bouncing strategem. Rumors of insanity in final days, last strokes. A telescope tripping on its legs.

I showed someone else the things you said. "She was probably just confused," my correspondent wrote, "don't you ever feel that way?" I said I did about various things, including bocci and Old Maid. A moment later my phone rang. The voice on the other end of line said, "You can't understand why a person would be wary of someone who is never confused, or at least not very often?" I hung up the phone.

The thing about the second person is, 'you' constitutes the highest form of address. It will always be what we call a king, or a queen. You (you) can never take that away from me (again, you). In the border wars of Apollonia, men would bring their wives to see the fight, and the fight to see that they had wives. I have been party to this general type of thing before, but never as completely as when you exposed who you are to me.

I should not have listened so closely to you.

Take, for example, a capsule. Sealed inside, a daring pilot knows nothing of the world he enters. Each cadet is equipped with the same rations, the identical equipment. Of maybe 1000 pilots, one or two turns over the possibilities within the fragile walls of his enclosure. He emerges from it like the rest, but what he sees will be different from his fellows. The place he has come to is not unfamiliar.

I told all those pilots that they also didn't know you, not like I thought I did.

A couple of days before I told you to go away you sent me some pictures of yourself. I nearly did not recognize you because you looked so unhappy in them. The light I saw was only my own light, and the stars their reflection.

Imagine how the world would be completely changed if only everything limited itself to one chance. Or don't, but that is how I plan to live out my days. It is as you said. From high enough up, they all look like ants.

We always have a right to defend ourselves. I hope you are done, and that no one heard you.

Taking another form (not the tu form) comes beset with danger; this vibration of language is what gives time all its legerdemain. On occasion, I prevented myself from turning towards you, where you sat, arraying your things around you like the function of a light disorder. You showed me the inside of the capsule: exactly what was foretold when the man wrote, "Not to be pulled in." Pressing indistinctly on the high cheekbones of your face. You could hardly call such a thing beauty.

Dan Carville is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in Brooklyn. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here. He last wrote in these pages about the falcon and the angel and the light in the trees.




In Which We Were Meant To Be A Bird In Flight



    •  This document is a restrictive covenant (hereafter “Covenant”) executed pursuant to today, year two thousand and sixteen in the Lord’s calendar. Today I turn 27. The Internet has given that number a club, the matter at hand.

    •  This covenant is required because sometimes you are scared, and because sometimes I am.

    •  It is the purpose of this Covenant to restrict certain activities and uses of the Property — once mine but ours now — to protect the environment. You once said I was dense as a forest, beautifully saying that I am a lot, and I thought maybe you were saying I was something like the willow tree that Hamlet’s Ophelia climbed up and fell off, landing in the brook where she drowned. You told me your uncle personally picked the White House Christmas tree from a forest in Alaska. I want to be that one.   

    •  The following are the details of this Covenant:

If anybody could have saved me it would have been you.

That is a line for a girl with no Covenant in walking distance from the River Ouse.

I went to Catholic school until I was a teenager. I don’t believe in salvation, but I quite like the songs about it. My 7th grade teacher, I think she was a lesbian, wrote one on her guitar with my 8th grade teacher, I also think she was a lesbian, and it sounded a little bit more Pentecostal than either would have liked and it went something like: And the Father will dance, [something] day of joy, He will [something] and renew you with his love. There were even tambourines involved, and this was before the storefront churches moved into town.

I am prepared to sign without reservation a 60-year mortgage for a cardboard-drywall house in a small town by the water, even though you cannot drive and I cannot drive and you cannot swim and I cannot swim and your father would never let us sign for that loan, I believe he has got a smart portfolio.  

It’s funny, my drawing up this legal document, because whoever knew I could. Would you love me more if I were in law school, I once said to you on a city bus. I know you like to kiss me more, but what if I had a job, a real job, a job with benefits and security and a future, what if I could buy you things, Lacoste underwear not marked down for slight imperfections, bottles of water that cost at least three dollars, a hypoallergenic puppy from a breeder. We were at a hotel downtown in front of a memorial we agreed was poorly designed. It was meant to be a bird in flight but it looked like a plane crash at the moment of contact. We kept the shades up through the night because you or I had paid for the view and we liked seeing each other during because it was early and still painful, and if you were going to be my cold and broken hallelujah, I wanted to see your face when I took something from you as you saw it happen and you took it back from inside me, bruising viscera bruised already, but you always did say I love you after. I made you cry the next morning and to calm you down I offered you my sports drink and you could not well breathe and you could not well speak and through the thickest of tears you said, I don’t drink blue shit and that’s when I thought, holy shit.

You had been safe in a distant suburb on 9/11, one of the ones with no sidewalks and let this serve me as a mental note to research whether this is true of all suburbs, but I’m from New York and my dad disappeared that whole day and part of the night, we didn’t know he was crossing the bridge, and so that long night in the Financial District it felt like we were doing something really bad, like hooking up in a closed confessional, curtain drawn, at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which I suggested that one time. You were in between trains, I had an hour for lunch, and it was equidistant.

Our house smells like orange essential oils to keep away the ants, you hate the ants, and you spray lavender eucalyptus water in the air vents before we go to bed, you spray and I say hippie shit, every single time, but I accept the four drops of white chestnut under my tongue for thoughts that go round and round. We disagree on the matter of medicine sometimes, I say honey, it’s placebo at best, but I’ll take it, one of everything, I’ll try everything once, I’ll even take off my ring, once, and then you will, once, and then we will both go down on our knees, which you have never done for a god and I have never done for a man, looking for your simple gold band under the bookshelf. You grew up playing softball and throw farther than I can.

When it was my turn to ask you to do the joint income tax thing, I did it on a softball field in New Haven because it was a reference to your favorite movie. I went down on my knee, the whole thing. My first thought was to take you to the oldest tree in Connecticut, a birch where people claim to have seen the image of the Lord. I tell you this, even though you are Jewish. We planned to go to the oldest tree in New York in February, your darkest month. I want to take you to the trees because they are hundreds of years old. They have been standing for so long. Are they tired, I wonder. In the decades of the great Latin American military dictatorships, one torture technique was to have people in custody just stand and stand until they couldn’t stand any more, and these trees are crooked but still upright. I am tired for them and I am also just tired, so I sometimes I sit, but fuck if my posture isn’t something to see.

Your hands are beautiful so small like the rain I mean I love your eyes they are better than green or hazel, they are the color of dying leaves which the French have a word for. Le passage à l’heure d’hiver. That’s not the word. Can we find a bathroom somewhere, you are between trains and we have an hour and sixty dollars between us. This time, the Yale Club is equidistant.

Section II: Modification and Termination

The Grantor may submit a request to Ecology that this Covenant be amended or terminated. Any amendment or termination of this Covenant must follow the procedures in the document amended to this one and any rules promulgated under these chapters.

Please don’t leave.

This poet I like — Michelle K — said, “Do not make homes out of people. This will leave you homesick and sad,” but too fucking late, dude, too fucking late.  

You spend your life thinking you’re Truman Capote, slung across your armchair in your dark satin bathrobe, bookish and strong and sad, and then you realize you don’t have a bathrobe. You have L.L. Bean slippers (you call them “Old Friends” but I think that’s their name?) that I make fun of but are actually quite warm and even Robert Lowell, bookish and strong and sad, wrote his wife about the birds that time, remember? He wanted her to remember. I am a strong man, and you are a strong man, and the point of this Covenant is that Robert Lowell was a good man and a strong man too, may he rest in peace, and I will teach Life Studies wherever I follow you. Like Vera Nabokov, who followed our esteemed Russian writer to Wellesley post-Lolita, I will throw the most darling of tea parties at the term’s start — the ratio of cucumber to watercress to cream cheese to white bread triangles, crusts removed, unprecedented among spousal faculty  — so blue-undertone bitches — “winters,” Mary Kay ladies might call them — see I am a forest fire and know their fucking place.

We will head outside, and I’ll hand out copies of Anne Sexton’s collected, the cheap one you can pick up at The Strand. The three-sentence bio on the flap jacket mentions her suicide, I think on line three. We will make a pile and burn them, and then we’ll recite, all together, a catechism from Karen Green: “I always feel like saying he died is letting him get away with something.”

She had her heart broken by a man who wrote this really great thing about cruise ships once.

Not like me, baby.

I have never been on a cruise ship.

I don’t know even how to swim.

Still, I make my way to the Underworld once or twice a week, kidnapped by Hades and serving my time as his bride in a plea deal arranged by my mother. The Underworld is a deep pool, dark and dense with water and souls and I alone levitate. I stare Death in the eyes, I size up his pupils, and then I make it back here, and with me, the flowers.

I promise you spring, every spring, this spring and the one nine years from now, the one sixteen years after, ten years after that, four years later, and however many springs are left until the chlorofluorocarbons we love kill the Earth or something. The day that I’ll die, old and annoyed by everything, I promise you I will die in the fall so I will have never broken my promise of spring.

Finally, I will compromise on the matter of whether or not we will share a sock drawer and, having resolved that, on the matter of whether we will share socks.  

Karla Cornejo Villavicencio is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in New Haven.