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Alex Carnevale

Features Editor
Mia Nguyen

Senior Editor
Brittany Julious

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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In Which We Simply Cannot Sit Through Another Macbeth

The Sad Boy


dir. Justin Kurzel
119 minutes

I have never liked Macbeth. It is easily the most patronizing of Shakespeare's plays and watching Michael Fassbender holding Marion Cotillard in his arms, gripping her like a wriggling golden retriever does little to alter my conviction.

I remember when I was a kid I explained to my fifth grade teacher that Macbeth was whipped. She highlighted this term and made me understand why it was so offensive, since it was a word that intimated a man controlling a woman was some kind of beastly slavery. She was controlling me in much the same fashion, so I substituted a synonym, or as I prefer to call it, a cinnamon. I will never forget her armpits; she never shaved them and it was very brave. Director Justin Kurzel attempts to dispense with the sexist undertones of his source material, but that is impossible and Macbeth becomes only duller for his impotent attempt.

Weirdly, Marion Cotillard uglies herself up quite a bit for Lady Macbeth. She barely ever leaves the dark rooms where she encourages her husband's misdeeds. Once she meets up with Duncan and she looks like a depressed housewife; not the wife of the Thane of Cawdor. Lady Macbeth, by all rights, should be glorious. But she is not, a fault blamed on the play's writer and the director of this year's Macbeth, who seems to think he is making some kind of Scottish horror movie.

Murder is substantially worse than Kurzel makes it out to be. As he slays Duncan, Fassbender has this very exacting look, like he is popping an extremely painful pimple. He looks good after the murder; he even seems to enjoy it on some level. Afterwards and before, the Scottish highlands resemble lesions on the face of the earth.

Even when Macbeth starts in on killing kids, we never see it, just the fire afterwards burning their corpses and the intonation of sad music. Was the point here to exclude the most interesting, painful parts of the story so that Fassbender could tawk more?

Even the theatrical Macbeth can only be saved by shifting the focus to the play's heroes. Malcolm (Jack Reynor) is a simpering man-child who weeps when Fassbender throatily informs him of his father's passing. Paddy Considine is utterly wasted in the shit role of Banquo, and he fades into the background as Fassbender overwhelms him by talking louder and more often. Sean Harris is a subtle and possessed actor who invests the key role of Macduff with a shrill vulnerability, but Kurzel and his tired author give Macbeth's mirror image little in the way of meaningful screen time. Even his grief is boilerplate: he retches.

The key scene in Macbeth is when the titular character goes mad at this big dinner in front of everyone. This is usually played partly for laughs and then it turns more serious. Since Kurzel's Macbeth is not the slightest bit humorous for any reason — it is maybe the most self-serious rendition of the tale ever perpetrated — we feel neither embarrassed nor amused.

Kurzel cuts as much of Macbeth's dialogue as he dares, the only means of turning the action into a compelling drama instead of an extended meditation on death. Avoiding the latter is difficult, because Macbeth has Fassbender intone some of his longer speeches into voiceover. All the mystery is lost in Macbeth by the end of the second act; we know everything there is to know, so the only means of keeping the audience's attention is to (1) show Fassbender shirtless and (2) wait for Marion Cotillard to do the same in vain. Everyone is ghosts at this point.

As the play spirals toward the inevitable, just before Lady Macbeth is about to take her own life for reasons unknown, Marion is actually looking a lot better. A lot of directors have trouble making sense of Cotillard's beauty, and her raw, throaty sexuality before death is the best part of Kurzel's Macbeth. It is the only time we are listening because we care, not because the diegesis is begging for any attention at all.

I don't know if Shakespeare is holding up all that much lately. His political commentary seems super dated; even twenty years ago it seemed significantly more relevant. A few of his comedies are funny, but most of them are weird jokes with sexual entendres that barely made sense even at the time. Besides Hamlet, you may want to be spared the trouble when this time could be repurposed towards getting into crossfit.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.

"Stanley Park" - Aoife O'Donovan (mp3)


In Which It Has Only Been The Two Of Us For So Long

A Little Less Spirituality


Just tired and busy and amazed and amused and charmed and horrified. - Maria Huxley, in a letter

In 1913 Aldous Huxley began to lose his sight. His eyes clouded over, his vision was "steadily and quite rapidly failing. I was wondering quite apprehensively what on earth I should do." After seeing an oculist, it was decided that a milder climate might help him, so Aldous Huxley and his wife Maria Nys went to Italy. Their son Matthew spent the first four years of his life in Florence and Rome.

Matthew was an extremely large and difficult child. Aldous and Maria were a bit taken aback by who they had created; Matthew Huxley would later become a prominent epidemologist. The child was a picky eater and stuck to a vegetarian diet, causing Aldous to remark, "he realizes that meat is dead animals."

Matthew had no desire to read, which made him the polar opposite of his father. The entire family was practically grief stricken at the young boy's non-literary habits; only Aldous was able to be patient with him. "Too early a passion for reading distracts from the powers of observation," he told everyone.

The whole family liked Italy, but Aldous was the only one who admired it, more in theory than in practice. Florence never suited him; it was more a place where culture had been rather than a city where it was. He chose Rome as the young family's landing spot. "After a third rate provincial town," he concluded, "colonized by English sodomites and middle-aged lesbians, a genuine metropolis will be lively." They could not stay in Italy, however, as fascism was in the air. They left Matthew in Belgium with his grandmother and took a boat to Bombay.

Aldous despised the architecture of Lahore, and loathed Kashmir worse. They kept incredibly active, fortified by a gnawing fear and the weight they burned off from their time in Florence. At Srinagar they visited the lunatic asylum.

Every place that they visited, Aldous asked question after question, ostensibly as research for a series of articles that helped pay for the journey. He also did it when he felt he did not have something himself to say.

An attempt to travel second class did not go well - a holy man spit his mucus all over their car - so they paid the extra rupees for first class, money they knew they should not be spending. Maria could barely eat the food. "India is depressing as no other country I have ever known," Aldous wrote. "One breathes in it, not air, but dust and hopelessness."

Aldous was most put off by the beliefs of the people he met. "A little less spirituality," he wrote, "and the Indians would now be free - free from foreign dominion and from the tyranny of their own prejudices and traditions. There would be less dirt and more food. There would be fewer Maharajas with Rolls Royces and more schools."

He was not impressed at all by the Taj Mahal, and told everyone so. "These four thin tapering towers," he wrote in Jesting Pilate, "are among the ugliest structures ever erected by human hands." Whatever one thinks of the Taj Mahal, it seems a greater dissatisfaction with the world and his place in it may have been the cause of this observation.

Things got better as soon as they left Calcutta for Burma. Dutch ships took them to the Philippines. From there they landed in Japan, taking the train to Kyoto and departing via Yokohama. Aldous watched Maria's eating closely, preventing her from having too much caviar, the only food she felt comfortable consuming at sea.

Japan was almost as nauseating to Aldous as India, but for different reasons. Kyoto was "such a collection of the cheap and shoddy, of the quasi-genuine and the imitation solid, of the vulgar and the tawdry." The industrial city did not suit Aldous' taste at all:

Little wooden shacks succeeds little wooden shack interminably, mile after mile; and the recession of the straight untidy roads is emphasised by the long lines of posts, the sagging electric wires that flank each street, like the trees of an avenue. All the cowboys in the world could live in Kyoto, all the Forty-Niners. Street leads into identical street, district merges indistinguishably into district. In this dreary ocean of log-cabins almost the only White Houses are the hotels.

with D.H. Lawrence

San Francisco was next, and from there Maria and Aldous took the Daylight Limited train to Los Angeles. They did not stay long in any one American city; Hollywood was "altogether too Antipodean to be lived in." (Aldous would spend the majority of the rest of his life in Southern California.)

When they returned to England from New York, Maria went to see Matthew while Aldous stayed in England. It had been only the two of them for so long.

While they were apart, Aldous wrote Maria long letters. They prefigure a latent unhappiness that would lead him to adultery, but also the connection that would allow the marriage to survive his mistakes until Maria died of breast cancer in 1955.

I think myself it's rather nice to be busy and practical on the outside - and daydreams, as you call it, inside. The things one cares about are all inside, like seeds on the ground in winter. But one has to attend to the things one only half cares about. And so life passes away.

Luckily, the inside thing corresponds with the inside thing in just a few people. I think it is so with us. We don't fit in very well outside - but the inside corresponds, which is most important.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Pretty Words" - Crissi Cochrane (mp3)





In Which Shadowhunters Brings Sibling Incest To The ABC Family Audience

I Don't Know, Incest?


Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments
creator Ed Decter

Were you possibly interested in watching a show about teens experimenting with incest written by the man who penned the instant Christmas classic The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause? The answer to this question is the same answer I have every time someone asks me if I find Ted Cruz's wife appealing, intelligent, and principled: Yes.

But let's begin at the beginning, since there is a Lost connection here. Juliet from Lost played Mrs. Clause in The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause, because they wanted to pun on the word Clause as much as was humanly possible. The character of Juliet was a mole planted to find out information about the survivors of Flight 815. I watched the whole show and I had to look that up; in my heart of hearts I thought she was just a fertility specialist on vacation.

Years later, when a man can no longer depend on the furtive sight of Tim Allen in a beard to provide for his family, he must hire actresses and actors of a certain age who will play a brother and sister in love with each other on the new Freeform series Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments.

Clarissa Fray (Katherine McNamara) and Jace (the English actor Dominic Sherwood) are these two individuals. If there was a time to move away from the ABC Family branding by renaming your network Freeform, it was when you debuted a series dedicated to the thrills of brother-sister incest. 

McNamara is a redhead who appears to have been conceived immaculately. No one has ever had skin this perfect in history, but unfortunately for Jace, despite being eighteen years old, Clarissa is extremely modest. Jace gives Clarissa a short leather skirt to wear at one point on Shadowhunters, and when her friend Simon (Alberto Rosende) sees the outfit, he gives Clarissa his jacket to cover up, and she accepts immediately, as if to acknowledge she never should have worn something so revealing.

Most of Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments appears to take place in a time when women had to be Mary Sues like that young woman who barely got three lines in The Force Awakens. Clarissa is a typical such creature — she displays no actual skills or talent in anything except drawing, yet she is incredibly feared and respected by everyone she meets.

Clarissa goes around screaming and plotzing everywhere like her head got caught off, despite the fact that she has the blood of an angel named Raziel inside of her that allows her to do things her Mundane friends could never dream of. Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments creator Ed Decter attempted to get the rights to the trademark Muggle and failed, but don't lose hope. J.K. Rowling will probably need money again at some point.

Shadowhunters is marketed at kids and older women, who are nothing if not lovers of incest storylines. The typical incest storyline consists of shock and disgust followed by a relapse and then a prolonged separation. The weird thing about the novels Shadowhunters is based on is that they don't follow this narrative. Clarissa and Jace eventually don't care at all that they are brother and sister. The two are in love, a fact they are certain of because they never consummate the relationship beyond heavy petting.

Watching Katherine McNamara walk around not having sex with anyone and just whining about how her father froze her mother is a recipe for disaster, and the previous film adaptation of The Mortal Instruments series really didn't have time to delve into the particulars of why it was okay for the brother and sister to feel so strongly for each other.

Shadowhunters begins on Clarissa's 18th birthday, when it is certainly legal for her to start wanting her brother in that way. Despite being almost perfect-looking, she has no boyfriend or even interest from the opposite sex. She is focused on a graphic novel she is writing with her friend, and her recent admission into the Brooklyn Academy of Art. Her Jewish friend Simon plays in a band named Champagne Enema, and we briefly see him performing a wretched cover of "Forever Young," of all the things.

That night she and her friends plan to hit the club. They don't drink or do any drugs, which makes Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments significantly more chaste than Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which is many decades old at this point and actually concerned younger characters. It is hinted that the reason Clarissa is so disturbingly naive is because her mother had a warlock cast a spell on her that makes her forget any tawdry memories, e.g. that time she had to take the morning after pill or was fingered at the Ray Lamontagne concert.

For some reason Clarissa's new adulthood restores her sense of self, and she is suddenly sexually hungry. Her only options are her brother and her friend who can't sing, so it is not terribly hard to criticize the choice she makes, especially since Jace looks like he was cut from iron, he has the best haircut I have ever seen, and is constantly throatily whispering, "I will protect you."

The motley cast of characters surrounding these two cesters is really the highlight of Shadowhunters. The show has a bunch of unconventional relationships: Clarissa's mother has a weird detached angry love relationship with a black police officer, another shadowhunter loathes himself and hides his homosexuality, and the main antagonist flies into a murderous rage when anyone gives him the slightest bit of backtalk.

Hopefully Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments can remedy the main problem in the books it is based on: a bizarre lack of wintercourse. Even the Twilight series had that disturbing scene where Kristen Stewart lost her virginity on vacation, suffering bruises all over her body, and Robert Pattinson was like, "I'll never do that to you again!" and they broke up IRL because Stewart prefers women and, probably, real men.

Is it wrong to want to see a brother and sister caress themselves lovingly, no matter what the world says to sour their magnificent ardor? I am pretty sure Ron Weasley and Hermione were brother and sister, and everyone was fine with that.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.

"Wildlife in America" - Shearwater (mp3)