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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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Monday
Aug172015

In Which We Receive A Police Escort At All Times

Oscar Isaac's Digestive Tract

by DICK CHENEY

Show Me A Hero
creators David Simon, William F. Zorzi & Paul Haggis

Nick Wasicsko (Oscar Isaac) flirts with a secretary at City Hall in Yonkers. He corners her and leans over, letting the bacon and gasoline smell of all the men in this New York City suburb wash over her in an awesome wave. He won't leave her alone, and demands they go out for "steaks." When she is ready to be taken home, he demurs and lets her find her own ride, explaining that he is too hyped up and tired at the same time, mixing Maalox in with his usual vodka drink.

Creeping on the secretaries at City Hall does not remind one of heroism necessarily.

Obnoxious Bruce Springsteen plays throughout. David Simon (David Simon) is from Washington D.C., so he probably does not understand that Bruce Springsteen is closely associated with New Jersey. No one in Show Me A Hero, an HBO miniseries about how poor ethnic minorities were basically doomed until the federal government made available public housing in the area, openly dislikes Wasicsko, and most feel sorry for him. He has no choice but to support compliance with the ruling of a Jewish judge (Bob Balaban), and to order to signify his agreement, he wears the world's worst wig.

After she gets off her shift, it's off to the runway where she earns her children's lunch money.

Alma Febles (Ilfenesh Hadera) is a Dominican woman raising three kids who can't afford anything except a cute winter sweater and a movie ticket after her salary is deducted from her rent. She relocates her family to the DR and everything is perfect, but she can't find gainful employment so she heads back to America, where she wears the most adorable onesie I have ever seen. Show Me A Hero is a True Storybut it feels about as real as Hadera looks in this part.

I was in Wal-Mart the other day and there was an Ethnic Hair Care section. True Story.

Isaac seems to be playing the exact character he did in A Most Violent Year, and he is even wearing the same hairpieces. The struggle for housing rights mostly takes place in courtrooms and offices. It was necessary to make this more exciting for the purposes of television so the awful music of Bruce Springsteen was brought into the diegesis, and the visual composition of the scenes is 13.9 percent the legs of Winona Ryder:

Gentlemen, one of you will go home with Winona. Reach for the piece of paper under your chairs.

Ryder plays Vincenza Restiano, a longtime New York politican whose legs were the central part of this important legal battle. In one scene she asks Wasicsko to meet up with her so she can explain how depressed she is that she was voted out of office for a white man. "Give me your stress!" she begs him.

The best blouses on premium cable.

Instead he gives his stress to the secretary Nay (Carla Quevedo) who also lives with her mother. They bond over this important commonality. An important subplot features Doreen Henderson (Natalie Paul), an African-American who goes from the suburbs to the projects and watches her life fall apart. These sad stories took place less than thirty years ago, and they do not seem very dated at all. The problem with making history out of them is that it makes the production of Show Me A Hero seem like the dismissal of a worse time and place.

Nobody was like, 'Maybe using Bruce Springsteen songs will make people think this is about AIDS'?

Yonkers still exists. I was once there meeting with an official of the Catholic Church. He offered me a cigar and my choice of altar boy. New York is still hopelessly corrupt; the mayor seems to make all his important decisions based on which lobby has most recently absorbed the dust and decay from the underside of his scrotum. New York is a fucking mess: horses continue to shit all over Central Park.

Show Me A Hero was directed by Paul Haggis, since HBO owed him a favor after he appeared as an ex-Scientologist in Going Clear. He directs the show exactly like a lazier version of The Wire, which is everything it did not need. The overseriousness and clear black and white morality of Simon's writing reappears in Show Me A Hero, except we are a bit more inured to it by now. We were betrayed by The Wire: it now seems a terrible thing to make something look like a documentary when it cannot be.

You know David L. Simon wrote this when in this three minute scene, the judge walked to his office and read the newspaper.

The Wire admittedly had that feeling of versimilitude, but Show Me A Hero descends into silliness when it begins to try to give humanity to the anti-Semitic and anti-black homeowners in the Yonkers area. Simon dresses Catherine Keener as a senior citizen in a gray wig for some reason as one of these anti-integrationists. She looks absolutely absurd laughing when her anti-Semitic friends throw dirty diapers at a city council meeting held in full view of the public.

There is a funny scene in the first episode of Show Me A Hero where Simon has a leader of the NAACP confessing that he is not sure imposing federal housing in the Yonkers area is even the right thing to do. He explains his resignation to lawyer Michael H. Sussman (Jon Bernthal), who absorbs the cynicism into his own worldview. The show does not really attempt to explain why the government was set on doing this in the first place, which is kind of important to the whole story. 

The Dominican Republic looks like Eden in this show.

The direction here is all wrong. The documentary feel of The Wire — the handheld cam, the view of people in their natural habitats — has vanished, replaced by a smooth officiousness that makes Yonkers neater and tidier than it ever was. Although Isaac's charisma is like a volcano, focusing on the doomed Wasicsko was a mistake. At times Show Me A Hero feeds on the chaos of the political process so that the show almost transcends being a mere echo of Mr. Simon's past ventures, but it always retreats to Isaac doing the dull work of a politican. We never have very much fun.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.

"Loving the Alien" - Miss Kittin & the Hacker (mp3)

"Leather Forever" - Miss Kittin & the Hacker (mp3)

Friday
Aug142015

In Which Ladel Ourselves Wet Fan Service

God & Jon Hamm

by ELEANOR MORROW

Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp
creators Michael Showalter & David Wain


It was right before Christmas in the year of our lord 1993 that The State debuted on MTV. Sketch comedy was previously the province of the old; Steve Martin was already in his late 60s by this time, and dating women a mere forty years younger. People still thought Eddie Murphy was hilarious. Non-Seinfeld based comedy as we know it was largely based around puns and the crankiness of Tim Allen's fictional wife Jill (Patricia Richardson). No one was sure what exactly was funny, or why. For some reason, people even found Chevy Chase amusing, or pretended to.

There was nothing to laugh at before The State came on the scene, and Wet Hot American Summer was basically a reunion show for the sketch comedy series that influenced so many young people of every profession. Did it matter that Ken Marino was now in his early forties and that apparently no one liked Kevin Allison enough to invite him back for this project? No. All that mattered is that we could laugh again.

The State's breadth was stunning, and its innovation fantastic — even its worst sketches were so mind-numbingly bizarre that they became even more humorous in retrospect thinking of the idea that MTV allowed them to air on cable television. Most older comedy shows just sit like lumps; quickly becoming dated because of a topical humor that is only understood in context. The State was nothing like that — those of its concepts which did not resonate at the time are now retrospectively funny twenty years later.



The one thing The State constantly avoided being was fan-service. Instead the half-hour show delivered what you did not expect, usually without incorporating profanity or lame cameos from more famous performers as surprises. The fact that it did not have to appeal to any extant audience is what allowed it to exist on its own terms. Well, all of that is flushed down the toilet with Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp.

The original cast of the film looks surprisingly spry in this short Netflix series, with even David Hyde Pierce seeming like he has been in cryogenic sleep since Frasier. Only Showalter himself looks meaningfully different from his original character. I was watching First Day of Camp with a friend of mine whose idea of comedy is Sam Waterson playing gay, and she asked me to explain what the joke was here. "So they were old too old to play campers? And now they're still too old?" I nodded and focused my eyes on the tiny tee-shirt worn by Gerald "Coop" Cooperberg (Michael Showalter).


One of the most embarrassing things Roger Ebert ever wrote was his review of the original movie. None of the jokes resonated for him at all, probably because he was a generation older than any of the writers or performers in the film. He should have at least appreciated the lush, colorful aesthetic that David Wain has made his signature style. No one does a better closeup in this industry, and the broad array of talent is so wonderfully directed that even Chris Pine comes off as a magnificent performer.

First Day of Camp is a prequel to the original film. Coop has arrived to meet up with his girlfriend Donna (Lake Bell), who seems more interested in visiting Israeli counselor Yaron (David Wain). A camp production of the musical ElectroCity pairs theater counselor Susie (Amy Poehler) and dessicating Broadway character actor Claude (John Slattery). A subplot involving the government dumping chemical waste near the camp allows camp directors Greg (Jason Schwartzman) and Beth (Janeane Garofalo) a romantic interlude and explains how Jonas (Christopher Meloni) became Gene, the disturbed camp cook of the original film. Lastly, reporter Lindsay (Elizabeth Banks) goes undercover as a counselor to get a story about reclusive musician Eric (Chris Pine).

What exactly is First Day of Camp missing? It is almost completely composed of fan service, but that is not really the problem. Opening up the universe to amusing scenes filmed in New York in the office of magazine editor Alan (Jordan Peele) adds something different to the experience, even if characters like John Slattery's lecherous veteran actor, Jon Hamm's government assassin The Falcon and Michaela Watkins' lecherous choreographer fall a bit flat.

Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp is such great fun it seems silly to ask for anything more. But extended scenes set at David Hyde Pierce's university or the courtroom of attorney Jim Stansel (Michael Cera) remind us of how exciting it would be to see a new comedy set in this wild universe instead of the familiar summer camp drama.

Demanding our most serious comedic talents revisit the scenes of their finest successes led to Beverly Hills Cop 3. Sure, without the comfort of the characters that proved so successful in the original film, Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp would be an inconsistent mix of brilliant satire and completely bizarre flops (still not sure what Showalter was going for with his performance as Ronald Reagan), but that was pretty much The State. At least it wasn't content to trod out the same characters again and again, looking to resurrect whatever bit of genius captured the imagination the first time. Instead they moved onto the next thing.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in New York.

"You're Mine (The Chase)" - Meiko (mp3)

"Oh My Soul" - Meiko (mp3)


Thursday
Aug132015

In Which Rebecca West Splashed Her Colors About

Retreat At Marienbad

by ALEX CARNEVALE

I wonder if we are all wrong about each other, if we are just composing unwritten novels about the people we meet.

Rebecca West, 1920

The girl born Cissie Fairfield chose the name Rebecca West. She grew up in London's largest Jewish neighborhood, and by selecting an ethnic first name, she gave herself something of what was obvious in those that surrounded her. The handle itself was taken from Ibsen's Rosmerholm, where Rebecca West is the adulteress who persuades her married lover to join her in a double suicide.

Like regretting a particularly egregious tattoo, she turned on Mr. Ibsen shortly thereafter, writing "I began to realize Ibsen cried out for ideas for the same reason men cry out for water: because he had not got any."

She was hired as assistant editor at The Freewoman, an early British feminist weekly. She quickly grew tired of the paper's narrow focus on politics. She did not like criticizing women who were ostensibly part of the cause; she viewed herself as a kind of Mark Twain who destroyed ignorance by stabbing it slyly in the back, not by attacking from the front.

Rebecca and H.G. Wells

She also left The Freewoman for an unrelated reason: love. H.G. Wells read her review of his novel Marriage in the paper. Wells, 45, was already on his second marriage, and deeply unsatisfied sexually. His wife Jane knew of his numerous affairs, mostly with other writers who he admired or vice versa. He described his latest infautuation as having "a fine dark brow and dark, expressive, troubled eyes. I had never met anyone quite like her before, and I doubt if there was ever anyone like her before."

In another way, Rebecca's idiosyncrasies frightened him, and Wells could depend upon a more reliable mistress. Rebecca did not take the initial rejection kindly. (He gave her the slow fade, going abroad with his other girlfriend after their first meetings.) She wrote to him, "During the next few days I shall either put a bullet through my head or commit something more shattering to myself than death."

It was Rebecca's writing that brought them together again, especially her travel articles about France and Spain. He recognized the astounding talent in them, and he should have: she was, at a precociously young age, his equal with the pen. She waited a few weeks before having sex with him. It could not have come as much of a surprise when she found herself pregnant.

Their romance was not dimmed by this relevation at first. Role-playing quickly became their most amusing pastimes: she called him Jaguar and she referred to him as Panther, perhaps because of his speed. The two set up an elaborate sexual interchange that excited Wells to no end, and he forgot about his last affair in favor of the new.

Wells wrote, "Panther I love you as I have never loved anyone. I love you like a first love. I give myself to you. I am glad beyond any gladness that we are to have a child." They named the boy Anthony Panther, a choice which would disgust a generation of scholars. H.G. himself was absent for the birth.

Anthony and Rebecca

Their relationship could not help but grow more complicated. The last thing Wells wanted was a family life with his girlfriend — that wasn't what was missing from his life. He wanted her to make time with female friends, and pop up whenever he needed a fuck.

Wells hid Rebecca in an isolated suburb of London. Out of boredom and frustration, she wrote her first book, a tearing down of Henry James that met with Wells' approval. She loved her son dearly, but wished for a freedom impossible for a young mother. Adding insult to injury, she was not acknowledged as the child's mother in her own home.

As soon as she could, she sent four-year old Anthony to boarding school. Wells loathed her for this decision. She wrote him to explain, saying, "I hate being encumbered with a little boy and a nurse, and being helpful. I hate waiting about." As Rebecca's behavior drifted farther and farther away from what Wells desired of her, he started having regular intercourse with Margaret Sanger.

Whereas before Rebecca had been represented in his novels as a pleasant free spirit, now she was as disturbed in his fiction as he perceived her to be in life, replete with the medical problems that troubled Rebecca all her days. The only thing worse than how Wells treated women were his ghastly political views.

Anthony and Rebecca swimming

By the age of six Anthony Panther still could not read. Rebecca's slow pulling away from Wells' hold over her was the only thing that kept his interest alive. "I've not kept faith," he wrote her. "I've almost tried to lose you. You are probably the only person who can really give me love and make me love back. And because you've been ill I've treated you so's I've got no right to you any more. Have I ever got into your arms to cry? I would like to do that now."

1982

She had the trick of drawing all sorts of people to her, women and men, but especially writers. Her meeting with D.H. Lawrence invigorated a desire to focus on her work, and her next novels were a leap ahead from all she had produced before. Stylistically and emotionally, she was pulling away from Wells' grip on her, and towards a fiction influenced by the modernists who were her peers instead of the generation moving into old age and death. After he read her novel The Judge, he wrote, "She splashed her colours about; she exalted James Joyce and D.H. Lawrence, as if in defiance of me — and in despite of Jane and everything trim, cool and deliberate in the world."

Her admirer W. Somerset Maugham's letter had a different theme: "I do not think there is anyone writing now who can hold a candle to you."

wells in his auto

It was this sort of affirmation which allowed her to give H.G. Wells a final ultimatum - marriage or separation. He was insulted by the idea he would have to choose between her and his wife. Eventually, after Wells unexpectedly showed up during a retreat at Marienbad she planned with a few friends, Rebecca gave him up. She sailed to America in a geographical severance. It was her first time in our country. How they worshipped her here!

West was in New York only a few weeks before Charlie Chaplin began making aggressive advances on her person. The gossip that had spread about her strange arrangements in London only excited her new American friends, with one crowing, "We fell in love with you, you know. And if you are so fascinating when you are living through a tragedy, you must be dangerous indeed now that it is over."

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

"I Stand Up For Me" - Jaymay (mp3)

"Baby Maybe One Day" - Jaymay (mp3)