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Alex Carnevale
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Managing Editor
Kara VanderBijl
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Features Editor
Mia Nguyen
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Durga Chew-Bose
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Senior Editor
Brittany Julious
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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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Tuesday
Nov112014

In Which We Run Cowardly From The Spectre of The 1940s

With Garbo

The diaries of Cecil Beaton span the entire first part of the twentieth century. This bisexual photographer's true talent lay in his writing, but he was also a hell of a picture-taker. His portraits of Churchill at the front and his society snaps of the artists and writers he knew intimately remain masterpieces of composition and setting. Complemented by a talent for written observation that also exceeded most of his peers, Beaton's investigations into the central figures and places of his era, arranged to diminish his grandiosity and verbosity, are cogent windows into individuals of any time. The following excerpts from his writing concern his relationship with the actress Greta Garbo.

When I first arrived in New York in the late twenties, Frances Wellman, a middle-aged woman of singular ugliness and persistence, had become quite well known for giving parties in her hotel suite in which members of "cafe society" mingled with Broadway celebrities. Of all her pet guests, Noel Coward was perhaps the most cherished. The hostess, who had surprisingly distinguished hands, would "ssh" her guests, with her long index finger to her pouting mouth, to signal the coup of the evening: "darling Noel" at the piano.

Neysa McMein, a most delightful person but a very bad painter, and groups of fans and friends, close and otherwise, would sit on or around the piano in ecstasies, while lesser devotees were "sshed" in the background. Twenty years later the same lady was tonight giving a party to honor Noel Coward. Anita Loos said "It's awful. No one seems to be going."

I was being a boor; however much I drank I couldn't get the "party spirit." I found this group of older people, insistent on still behaving like the bright young things that have long since ceased to be, really rather offensive. Surely they were now too old to be quite so silly.

+

Greta Garbo has dropped the bombshell that she must return to the coast. Could I join her there? No, from California she would sail almost immediately to her native Sweden. "Could I meet you in Stockholm?" "Oh, no!" The idea of her departure saddened me greatly. For the last weeks I have lived only in terms of her. She filled my days, and I dreamt of her at night.

Suddenly New York seemed pointless without her. Frederick Ashton wired me from Covent Garden that he had a ballet for me to design if I could return at once. It wsa the ballet Les Sirenes with music by Gerald Berners. I might as well go home. When I arrived back in England a telegram arrived, unsigned, from Greta bidding me good morning.

+

Time and again the same mistake is made: nowhere I am immune from the fateful possibility that Greta may be nearby - hidden in the crowd in the theatre or in any surroundings, however unsuitable. Everything I see, every place I go to, brings back to me the times we spent together. Central Park has become an absolute nightmare of memories: each tree has its specific associations, and each mountain and hillock reminds me of that advent of spring when we welcomed the first rays of sun and celebrated the coming warmth by lying full length on the grass.

Now there is only silence.

+

After many further attempts to speak to Greta on the telephone (I would call at all times of day, and I could hear the operator being told by Greta's sad voiced servant that Miss Brown was not at home and she did not know when she was expected back) this morning I was again fortunate enough to gain my quarry.

At first she was exasperated and treated me as a tiresome burden that might as well be disposed of once and for all. "This is no good," she said. "We are too different. By your action you have deprived me of a friend."

"Who is the friend?"

"You were!"

This was pretty near to disaster for me, but by banter and repartee we returned to better terms.

+

Now that I am ostensibly busy, Greta is no longer as busy as she was while I was not busy. At 3:30 pm she would meet me at Sixty-Third Street and Fifth Avenue. She was wearing a mink coat. "Isn't it obnoxious?" she said; "it's so frauen." I must admit it wasn't suitable: it made her appear thick on the bosom with square shoulders. We strode into the park. Soon the lights started to fade and the landscape had no reality. It was like time out of time: a leaden gray sky with scurrying apricot clouds grew dark and tempestuous: it was as if mankind were going to be exterminated in violence for its wickedness.

It was a strange walk and we seemed to have a relaxed feeling that we hadn't enjoyed before. Occasionally we would stop dead in this cold winter landscape to kiss one another, but Greta was worried in case we were being watched, and when it became quite dark she was scared lest we should be "stood-up" and robbed. At one interval for embraces she said, "Are you eaten up with passion?" and then laughed and explained: "Nobody but myself would say that, and yet it's quite feasible and natural."

with Laurence Olivier

+

We were going to a theatre and were late, but luckily Eugene hurried a room service meal through in record time. Eugene is a nice, ugly little man with sad eyes and an nose like a toucan. Perhaps he is sad because he intended to be an electrical engineer, but after eleven years he gave it up for "waitering." He could not resist six dollars a day plus tips. "It's not much of a life," he says, "and I haven't got far, but my son is nine years old, and will do better."

Eugene is helpful and treats me as a favorite, but even he cannot improve the hotel food. We ate lamb that was rather like discarded chewing gum as we talked about ourselves in slightly veiled terms. I was enjoying turning the tables on her. "You are so unreliable," I said, "I couldn't ever marry you. You aren't serious about me."

"What a rebuff! And I adore you, Cecil - I love you - I am in love with you!"

We both laughed.

+

The night descended. It was too late to go into the park: she was scared - quite rightly - of unseen things. So we walked along looking into more windows, although we did once enter a shop to buy some Swedish bread and cakes. Here Greta was served by a young Swedish blonde and, for the first time, I heard her talking her native tongue. It was both delightful and comic to my ears - like birds spitting.

+

Out into the ice-cold night for a dinner at a Brazilian restaurant called Semon. The atmosphere was convivial, the food savory, and we both hungry. Greta's mood was joyful and I was in good spirits. She told comic stories - she has a fount of them - the sort that no matter how many times I hear I can never remember later. If I try to tell a comic story in return, she stops me if the premise is not probable. "Nothing is funny to me that isn't a possibility."

+

After our picnic I set Greta to work drawing with some colored chalks. She started to do a pot of hyacinths, looked very hard at the flowers, and did a quite skillful representation of them. She was rather self-conscious and excited like a ten year old, but soon gave up and perpetrated infantile likenesses of myself with a great number of buttons on my suit. Before throwing the drawing block aside she ruthlessly scratched out her efforts, leaving only a careful drawing of a pink walnut as a relic of her talent.

1948

"North London" - Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood (mp3)

"The Times They Are A-Changin" - Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood (mp3)

Monday
Nov102014

In Which Gregg Araki Maintains A Physical Trajectory

Better Off

by MIA NGUYEN

White Bird in a Blizzard
dir. Gregg Araki
91 minutes

Most of White Bird in a Blizzard has the style and pace of a lucid dream sequence. In this film, which was adapted from a novel by Laura Kasischke, director Gregg Araki revisits his niche focus: adolescence. Employing 1980s elements to paint the scene, he also incorporates romantic pastel color schemes to illuminate the mediocrity of suburbia. Araki develops strong connections with his characters and creates a mystery that is both alluring and magnetic. 

Kat (Shailene Woodley) comes home from school one day to discover that her mother has disappeared. Kat speculates that her mother grew tired of passing the butter and cooking dinner for her father. She doesn’t expect for her mother to return and thinks she may be better off.


Eve (Eva Green), Kat's mother, is a neurotic and psychotic housewife. In some scenes, she competes with her daughter's beauty. She makes a game out of it when Kat starts dating. Except for a flashback in which the two of them play cat-and-mouse under a white linen sheet, there isn't much of an emotional bond between the mother-daughter pair.


Kat's father, Brock (Christopher Meloni) doesn't offer much value to his wife's happiness or to his marriage. His presence makes his wife want to vomit. It's suspected that the last time the two had sex was when Kat was conceived. Their loveless and sexless marriage is drier than a bottle of gin.

Kat discovers sexual frustrations of her own. After shedding her awkward butterball appearance, Kat experiments with being a seductress. She discovers the power of sex after losing her virginity to the boy next door, Phil (Shiloh Fernandez). Afterwards, she yearns for it every second and tries to influence him to follow suit.

Soon after her mother’s disappearance, Phil halts all sexual advances altogether, but closely identifies himself as her boyfriend. Phil can be easily be compared to a Neanderthal version of James Dean. He's a chainsmoker who doesn't add much to the conversation.

Kat doesn’t hesitate for a second to find a way to fulfill her carnal desires. She shows up on Detective Scieziesciez’s (Thomas Jane) doorstep to seduce him in a skin-tight purple dress. His last name sounds like someone trying to say "sleazy" after having one too many. 

During her college breaks, she invites herself over for more coital exchanges with the detective. Years have gone by since her mother's disappearance, and her father appears to be the sole suspect, but there isn't enough evidence to prove him guilty.

Overall, this coming-of-age story captures the emotional and physical trajectory of sexual and gender identity, but leaves the audience more confused with their own spatial awareness. Araki's plot twist resembles the feeling of getting up too fast, feeling dizzy, and forgetting where you are.

Mia Nguyen is the features editor of This Recording. You can find her website here.

"Pills I Swallow" - The Twilight Sad (mp3)

"I Could Give You All That You Don't Want" - The Twilight Sad (mp3)

Friday
Nov072014

In Which We Are Arranged On A Gray Rag Of Rotted Calico

Near the Inlet

by REBECCA HUVAL

My family heard news of capsized boats in Florida’s Jupiter Inlet, but kept motoring through that aquamarine keyhole to the Atlantic. Its insidious current swallowed revelers from the adjacent park and overturned nautical professionals. Indifferent to irony, the water lapped up wading tourists—and their rescuers. Several years ago near the inlet, my mother’s friend with decades of scuba diving experience drowned.

There’s something sinister in that tropical wind. Elizabeth Bishop recognized the mercilessness of Florida’s seascape, despite its grace—the dead oysters that “strew white swamps with skeletons” and the seashells “arranged as on a gray rag of rotted calico.” Like a siren, the state with the prettiest name draws admirers only to ensnare them in its maw. As a child growing up in South Florida, I flung myself at the crushing waves barbed with jellyfish, shielded by a sense of youthful immortality. At dawn my mother and I plowed our kayaks through the surf to arrive at the placid horizon, shadowed by spinner sharks that I suppressed from my thoughts. We coasted through the swamp waters of the Loxahatchee, eye-level with alligators. Once, my 12-year-old brother forgot about gravity and tried to kayak up a small manmade waterfall in the Loxahatchee River, capsized, and forced my mother to rescue him as water pounded the boat down on his head. 

We didn’t always walk away unscathed. When I was kneeboarding, water pooled over my board, and as the boat sped up, the tip pounced on my forehead. Blood masked my face. My father drove me to the ER and, as a doctor, he stitched a slanted Frankenstein line on the left side of my forehead. Hardly chastened, I started 5th grade proud to wear bobbed hair and a battle scar. But later, my brother suffered more acutely. While he was wakeboarding (the equivalent of snowboarding behind a boat), he lost control of the board and simultaneously sliced his knee and popped out a front tooth by the root. The brackish intracoastal waters infected his knee badly, and my physician parents swabbed out the wound daily. I remember his screams. He was too ashamed to smile and reveal his fake front tooth for years, and still errs on the side of concealment though his teeth are immaculate.

Karen Russell has joined the pantheon of Florida writers who chronicle its treachery and machismo. Her 13-year-old protagonist of Swamplandia!, Ava, wrestles alligators. Like me, she was a fearless girl who courted Florida’s deadliest features and was proud to overcome them. Like me, she often went too far, like when she nearly had her feet snatched by an alligator. There’s a beauty in this danger that Russell and Bishop both acknowledge. In her poem named after the state, Bishop ends with that same iconic creature: “The alligator, who has five distinct calls: friendliness, love, mating, war, and a warning—/ whimpers and speaks in the throat/ of the Indian Princess.” For Bishop, the spirit of oppressed Native Americans lives on in the alligator, sublimating Florida’s shameful past into something lovely, dangerous, and unknowable.

Floridians don’t always heed the alligator’s warning. In 2007, Justo Padron was breaking into a car at the Miccosukee casino west of Miami when he heard police sirens. He tried to escape by jumping into a nearby lake with a sign warning potential swimmers: “Danger Live Alligators.” His dead body was found the next day perforated with teeth marks. Death awaits the criminal and the innocent, the forewarned and the oblivious alike. The year before, 28-year-old Yovy Suarez Jiménez stopped along her nightly jog to dangle her feet by a canal. Construction workers later found her floating body, and her arms were discovered in the belly of a 9’ 6” alligator.

My mother’s friend, Eva Schwartz, drowned surrounded by her friend and her fiancé. She was snapping underwater photos of fish, their “shapes like full-blown roses/ stained and lost through age.” Eva was a nurse in the pediatric ER where my mother worked. She spent most of her free moments diving and told my mother what would later seem ominous: “I would rather be underwater than above water.” She signaled to her diving partners that she was going to the surface, but they never saw her alive again. The autopsy results didn’t reveal why such an experienced diver would drown.

Last December, my brother once again glided on his wakeboard through the mangrove-lined intracoastal near our childhood home. He lifted the board in the air and sailed across the boat’s bumpy wake with ease.

As we nervously looked on, my mother confessed that his leg had been so badly infected by the brackish water, “he nearly had to have it amputated.” When everyone pressured me to get back in the water, I refused. My childish bravery has left me. I recognize Florida for what it is—a place where, as Bishop writes, “Thirty or more buzzards are drifting down, down, down,/ over something they have spotted in the swamp.” A paradise riddled with peril. When we reached the Jupiter Inlet, we turned the boat around.

Rebecca Huval is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in San Francisco. You can find her twitter here, and her tumblr here. She last wrote in these pages about her life in Mexico.