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Alex Carnevale

Managing Editor
Kara VanderBijl

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 It's The First Time We See You In The Doorway

The Devil's Advocate

PETER BOGDANOVICH: Despite the bad notices on Macbeth, you still spent the next four years acting in other people's films to finance and shoot Othello. I guess the best of those films was The Third Man - you even did that one for Othello, didn't you?

ORSON WELLES: Yes, I could have had a third of The Third Man if I hadn't needed cash.

PB: Besides playing Harry Lime, what else did you do on it?

OW: I wrote my part -

PB: Every word of it?

OW: Carol Reed is the kind of director who'll use any ideas - anything that's going. I had notions for the dialogue, and Carol liked them. Except for my rather minor contribution, the story, of course, was by the matchless Graham Greene. And the basic idea - though he took no credit for it - was Alex Korda's.

PB: Who produced.

OW: Yes, it's the only film Alex and I ever really did together.

PB: Did you have anything to do with the actual setups and shots in the picture?

OW: Just a very few ideas, like the fingers coming through the grille.

PB: What about the first time we see you in the doorway?

OW: Pure Carol. He had a little second unit specially set up for it, and at the end of every day we went there and tried it again, over and over, till he thought it was right.

PB: Was the last scene at the funeral your touch?

OW: No, it was not. It was a great shot invented by Carol - not by Greene or anybody else. Wonderful idea. I was there when they shot it. I wish I could pretend I'd contributed, but I was just standing there, watching them shoot it.

PB: The picture seemed influenced by you...perhaps because of the casting of Joseph Cotten.

OW: It was Carol's picture, Peter - and Korda's.

PB: Well you have the smallest part but it dominates one's whole memory of the film.

OW: That's the part, you know. Every sentence in the whole script is about Harry Lime - nobody talks about anything else for ten reels. And there's that shot in the doorway - what a star entrance that was! In theatre, you know, the old star actors never liked to come on until the end of the first act. Mister Wu is a classic example. I've played it once myself. All the other actors boil around the stage for about an hour, shrieking, "What will happen when Mister Wu arrives?" "What is he like, this Mister Wu?," and so on. Finally a great gong is beaten, and slowly over a Chinese bridge comes Mister Wu himself in full mandarin robes. Peach Blossom (or whatever her name is) falls on her face and a lot of coolies yell, "Mister Wu!!!" The curtain comes down, the audience goes wild, and everybody says, "Isn't that guy playing Mister Wu a great actor!" That's a star part for you! What matters in that kind of role is not how many lines you have, but how few. What counts is how much the other characters talk about you. Such a star vehicle really is a vehicle. All you have to do is ride. Like Jean Gabin in this last epoch of his career; he now has written in his contract that he never shall be required to bend over. Literally!

PB: Your Ferris wheel speech about Switzerland and the cuckoo clock is so convincing that we seem to agree with you even though you're the heavy.

OW: When the picture came out, the Swiss very nicely pointed out to me that they've never made any cuckoo clocks - they all come from the Schwarzwald, in Bavaria!

PB: Is it true that you unknowingly threw Lady Eden off the set?

OW: Not unknowingly. Clarissa Churchill wasn't then married to Eden; she was doing publicity for Alex. He liked having all kinds of fashionable folk on his payroll... Well, one day, Clarissa brought all these society friends of hers to visit the set, and they wouldn't keep quiet. Carol was far too nice and much too English to tell her to shut them up, so I did it for him. I didn't throw her out, but she went, and that was the end of our friendship. I'm sorry about that.

PB: Many people still associate you with that role - Harry Lime.

OW: In every way, the picture broke every known record, and the people went insane. Wherever you went, you heard nothing but that zither.

A wire from Alexander Woollcott after the Mercury's Mars broadcast (October 30, 1938), when a good part of the country was frightened into believing that New Jersey had been invaded by Martians; on the rival network at the same time were Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy; Orson had it posted in his office for years:

This only goes to prove, my beamish boy, that the intelligent people were all listening to a dummy, and all the dummies were listening to you.

PB: I've often wondered if you had an idea, before you did it, that The War of the Worlds was going to get that kind of response.

OW: The kind of response, yes - that was merrily anticipated by us all. The size of it, of course, was flabbergasting. Six minutes after we'd gone on the air, the switchboards in radio stations right across the country were lighting up like Christmas trees. Houses were emptying, churches were filling up; from Nashville to Minneapolis there was wailing in the street and the rending of garments. Twenty minutes in, and we had a control room full of very bewildered cops. They didn't know who to arrest or for what, but they did lend a certain tone to the remainder of the broadcast. We began to realize, as we plowed on with the destruction of New Jersey, that the extent of our American lunatic fringe had been underestimated.

PB: You claimed innocence afterwards.

OW: There were headlines about lawsuits totalling some $12 million. Should I have pleaded guilty?

PB: What happened to the lawsuits?

OW: Most of them, as it turned out, existed in the fevered imagination of the newspapers. They'd been losing all that advertising to radio, so here, they reckoned, was a lovely chance to strike back. For a few days, I was a combination Benedict Arnold and John Wilkes Booth. But people were laughing much too hard, thank God - and pretty soon all the papers had to quit.

PB: What about CBS?

OW: The day after the show, all you could find were sound mixers and elevator men. There wasn't an executive in the building. During rehearsals they'd been rather edgy, but what was there to censor? We were told not to say "Langley Field" because that was a real place, so we wrote in "Langham Field" - little things like that, so they couldn't complain when the lid blew off. But as I say, we were surprised ourselves by the size and extent of it.

download the complete War of the Worlds broadcast here

PB: Is it a true story that when Pearl Harbor was announced, nobody believed it because - ?

OW: Dead right. Particularly since I had a patriotic broadcast that morning and was interrupted in the middle of it. I was on the full network, reading from Walt Whitman about how beautiful America was, when they said Pearl Harbor's attacked - now doesn't that sound like me trying to do that again? They interrupted the show to say that there had been an attack. Roosevelt sent me a wire about it. I've forgotten what - I don't have it. Something like "crying wolf" and that kind of thing. Not the same day - he was too busy! - but about ten days later.

PB: Then the Martian broadcast didn't really hurt you at all. Would you say it was lucky?

OW: Well, it put me in the movies. Was that lucky? I don't know. Anyway, thanks to the Martians, we got us a radio sponsor, and suddenly we were a great big commercial program, right up there with Benny, Burns and Allen, and the Lux Radio Theatre, with C.B. De Mille. The next step was Hollywood.

From an interview in Cahiers du Cinema, no. 87, September 1958:

Many of the big characters I've played are various forms of Faust, and I am against every form of Faust, because I believe it's impossible for a man to be great without admitting there's something greater than himself, whether it's the law, or God, or art....I have played a whole line of egotists, and I detest egotism...But an actor is not a devil's advocate: he is a lover. In playing Faust, I want to be just and loyal to him, to give him the best of myself and the best arguments that I can find, because we live in a world that has been made by Faust - our world is Faustian.

An actor never plays anything but himself. He simply takes out that which is not himself. And so, of course, in all these characters there is something of Orson Welles. I can't do anything about that. And when I play someone I hate, I try to be chivalrous to the enemy. I hate all dogmas which deny humanity the least of its privileges; if some belief requires denouncing something human, I detest it.

PB: What do you think of cynics?

OW: I despise them.

PB: Why?

OW: Don't need to explain that. If it isn't self evident -

PB: Skeptics?

OW: Well, skeptics have nothing to do with cynics.

PB: No - it's another question.

OW: I don't care one way or another about skeptics. Cynics are intolerable, I think.

PB: Which do you value more highly - your instincts or your intellect? [OW grunts] It's a key question.

OW: Isn't it better to leave these key questions to the kind of people who enjoy them?

PB: Then what must you think of psychoanalysis?

OW: About as valuable as - but considerably more expensive than - consulting your local astrologer.

PB: By, the way, I forgot, your Othello won the first prize at Cannes.

OW: Yes, and the Russian Othello got it a few years later. There must have been two Othello first prizes at Cannes.

PB: They must like the play.

OW: Yes - it's very big in the south of France! Did I tell you how I'd found out I'd got the prize?

PB: No.

OW: You see, you cannot release a picture without what is called a "certificate of origin," for which the picture has to have a nationality. And you also need that in order to get it into a festival. The Italians and the French, and the Americans - who might have been able to enter Othello, didn't want to; they had their own pictures. So, because it had been shot in Morocco, I entered it as a Moroccan picture. Well, you're never told if you've won until the end, you know, but I was sitting in my hotel room, and the director of the festival, Robert Favre Le Bret, called me on the phone and said, "What is the Moroccan national anthem?" And that was how I knew I'd won the first prize. Because they always play the national anthem of the winning country. And, of course, there is no Moroccan national anthem, or wasn't then, so they played something out of Chu Chin Chow or something, and everybody stood up. There was no Moroccan delegation or anything. I think I'm the sole winner in the Arab world of a great international prize.

You can find the first and second parts of the Orson Welles journey here and here.

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"Indestructible" - Robyn (mp3)

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In Which It Really Means Pineapple

For Beginners


I went to London to spend the summer teaching-assisting at a summer program for students from around the world. I chose to believe the program was in the city of London long after it became obvious, in mailed materials, that I would be in a small village. Just how small became clear only on my ride from the airport – the town has only a bar and a combination post office/newsstand. I would sometimes wake up early to buy the Guardian at the newsstand, or go in the middle of the day to get an ice cream bar. It closed in the evening, and then I had to go to the bar.       

I always wanted to join the Scrabble games in the faculty room, but no matter how early I arrived, I was always ten minutes after the start. When I finally arrived at a Scrabble game on time, I found that a hierarchy had been established: certain players were not actually playing but floated around, giving advice on optimal moves, and others sat on the sidelines heckling. I thought I was pretty okay at word games but this felt more like psychological warfare, and I resolved to stay out of the faculty room altogether.       

I only grew more sure of this resolution later, once a co-worker, wife of the chief Scrabble heckler, told me to stop typing so loudly, then said, “Now you’re just typing quietly to piss me off! Go back to normal!” This laserlike focus on other people’s behavior was what united the faculty: stuck in a small village in a strange land, we only had one another’s quirks keeping us tethered to reality.       

I certainly had enough to keep me occupied, having been placed in the classroom of an English-as-a-second-language teacher for whom English was a particularly difficult second language. I tried to parse out for the students assignments that even to me seemed mind-bending and Kaufmanesque, requiring in most instances a keen grasp of the absurd. Once the students had to imagine themselves as babies and think of questions about nature – why one needed to be a baby to ask questions about nature was left unstated. On faster-paced days, whimsy was abandoned in favor of the ability to write one requested set of data with the left hand and another with the right.       

My head teacher told me, in a discussion that fell just short of an argument, that she didn’t think the students in our class were teachable. "They are all naughty!" she declared, with the conviction, and the thick accent, of a woman whose nation’s 20th century had seen plenty of congenital naughtiness. "They cannot be taught." Maybe she was right, in a way; the class was boisterous and clearly didn’t want to be learning English during their summer off from school. They all seemed too young, munching Maltesers in too-big Lacoste their mom (or maid) was still needed to iron; or they seemed too old, rolling their eyes when I asked if they understood the assignment, if they understood generic distinction. Did you hear what the teacher said? Dynasty is a soap opera. That’s a genre.  

This was ESL for beginners. I sat by a ten-year-old Scandinavian with grim Bergmanesque eyes until, after a few days of continuous attention (he was by far the youngest student at the entire program, and actually quite good at English, and I felt an unfamiliar paternalism that I guess teachers are supposed to feel often) he brightened, and out of nowhere told me a Swedish word. I was pleasantly surprised, when I looked it up, that he hadn’t tricked me into repeating a foreign obscenity: “ananas” really means “pineapple.”     

Eventually, in the way such things happen when one is a TA, I was switched into a new and far less eventful classroom. My post-Communist teacher surreptitiously looked over my shoulder as I checked e-mail and discovered that I had been, per routine, asked to submit an evaluation of the class to the academic offices; she called me a spy, told me I’d violated her contract, and asked if I was even qualified to judge her. "I am a certified economist, translator, and teacher. Who are you?" I saw her around a bit on campus after I’d been moved out of her class – she cut a line of students at Stonehenge to get an audio guide – but I didn’t talk to her. The Scandinavian boy asked me to play soccer with him during sports time, but I was wearing Birkenstocks, and had brought a book, and so I sat on the side supervising.

I find I tend to remember the egregious and absurd and thus there was little to report from my next class, in which I sat and watched and participated and learned a lot, I thought, about teaching. A colleague lent me a text called Learning Teaching but I was never quite in the mood to learn by the book once I got back to my dorm room, so it languished on the shelf next to a Spanish textbook I had brought but never opened. (I managed to break out some high school Spanish with the Venezuelan students, though – “Eres de Caracas?” was my opener, and closer.)

The dormitory was so inconducive to reading, or writing, or anything other than watching reruns on Megavideo, perhaps because it too was a workplace. I could not bring myself to devote attention to anything there. I was always on guard – it was my workplace. When not required to be there, I tried to get out and spend time with the younger faculty members – this was what I was supposed to be doing! I went to a nearby town with a few fellow TAs, and we sat by the river on a sunny day, had some drinks, and watched the white swans float by. A swan suddenly sliced open, a red line gashing across its feathers. I looked on in confusion until I heard my co-worker, a twenty-year-old graduate of the school, giggling. She was pouring her bottle of red wine onto the swan. Other sunbathers told her that the swans were the property of the Queen, or just glared at her, but she shrugged it off. “Wine washes off!” she laughed, as the swan, who knew something was wrong, tried to dip its stained backside deeper into the water. I finished my drinks quickly, and spent most of my subsequent free time alone. 

Students got the most excited about weekend field trips, which the faculty seemed to view as an imposition. ("I wish Stonehenge had moved me," said the co-worker who’d lent me Learning Teaching, who spent the trip asking if any of the souvenir shops sold "Stonehenge commemorative cigarettes.") The students could do as they liked, and they were far more worldly than I was at 15, at debate camp in Washington, when I couldn’t make it too deep into Georgetown without freaking out and asking a local for directions, then deciding to go back to my room and study old Supreme Court cases.      

They were maybe more worldly than I was now: on a trip to the town of Windsor, I tried to find Eton College and ended up walking twenty minutes through empty, flat green fields, the pastoral equivalent of the Sahara. I asked a young guy walking back towards Windsor where I was, and I’d been going twenty minutes the wrong way. We walked back together, talking about what I was doing in England and what he was doing in Windsor – he was a very personable young guy, about to go to school for business – and then he sent me off on something called “The Great Walk,” five miles of pasture ending in a bronze sculpture of a horse. “It’ll be totally worth your time.” I made it five minutes, then sat down and read an Adrian Mole novel I'd borrowed from the students' library.       

The greenery of the “Great Walk” – not an American park with overdeveloped flora, just a long green field with some trees in there – was a nice palate-cleanser from both the stresses of teaching and the world of the city. There was no shopping here – the students, when I ran into them, seemed ill-at-ease. I didn’t bother trying to sympathize.       

On an earlier trip into London, I’d gone into Harrods with a coworker my age, who said he just wanted to buy a Swatch watch. During his education in the new Gilded Age’s afterglow, I looked at coffee mugs in the Harrods gift shop. I’d been drinking a lot of tea, and this china cup with red buses – or this one, with black taxis! – would be adorable in my apartment, when I got home, when reality began again. I decided not, though. It’d just break in my suitcase, and I hadn't seen enough red buses or black taxis to feel legitimate sipping coffee – and soon it would be coffee again – from this mug. Mainly, though, it was the price. At thirteen pounds for a mug, I simply wasn’t being paid enough, when you divided it out hourly, to justify the expense.

Daniel D'Addario is a contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in White Plains. This is his first appearance in these pages. He tumbls here and twitters here. You can find more of his work here.

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In Which His Personal Brand Is Neo-Plimpton

Sara Ludlow Is The Hottest Girl In School By, Like, A Lot



dir. Joel Schumacher

98 minutes

The word for the number twelve comes from the Old English word for the two that are left behind when you take away the ten at the base. Twelve is a composite, even sublime. Surely Nick McDonell had some of this etymologic mishmash in mind when he published his first book at eighteen.

Yet McDonell, now twenty-six, is something purer than the milieu he lays bare in his prose. Scratch all that: I'm trying to talk around the fact that McDonell is an absurdly handsome guy. It's not his fault that his whole chiseled blond vibe is all Spader, and so at odds with the seaminess and prurience that sullies that unfurrowable brow. His personal brand — neo-Plimpton? — sometimes seems like a cosmic joke, an accident of birth or at least one of timing.

Even Our Lady of the Locust Valley Lockjaw, Lisa Birnbach, can't quite find a corner of the pantheon for the McDonells of her world anymore in the rarefied constellations over which she moons in True Prep, the 2010 edition of the Official Preppy Handbook.

One day we became curious or bored and wanted to branch out, and before you knew it, we were all mixed up. (...)

And now one of our nieces, MacKenzie, is a researcher at the C.D.C. in Atlanta and is engaged to marry the loveliest man... Rajeem, a pediatrician who went to Duke. And Kelly is at Smith, and you know what that means. And our son Cal is married to Rachel, and her father the cantor married them in a lovely ceremony. Katie, our daughter, is a decorative artist living in Philadelphia with Otis, who is a professor of African-American studies at Swarthmore. And then there's Bailey, our handsome little nephew. Somehow, all he wants to do is ski, meet girls, and drink beer.

Well, there's one out of five.

That seems to make the McDonells of her world, and his, some kind of sixth man. How... droll.

In book form, McDonell's chosen one is White Mike, thin and pale like smoke. As intoned by Kiefer Sutherland, stentorian keeper of the lovingly warmed-over sterno flame that is the film adaptation of Twelve, the novel's first sentence comes across as instant camp classic, all ennui and pithy, childish self-regard. This line, in all earnest, is genius! Why screenwriter Jordan Melamed chose to bury the lede three or four more sentences in is almost as baffling as the whole notion of Chace Crawford, gaze still unrelenting and opaque after Crawford has spent five years of his live-action life in local prep schools, give or take a postgraduate year. Crawford qua starry-eyed WASP naif has perhaps become as impossible in 21st century New York as Nick McDonell himself.

But bygones! Both McDonell and Crawford are, by all accounts, really sweet and nice guys! And the theatre in which I saw Twelve, a United Artists outpost on East 64th Street and 2nd Avenue, was one of two Manhattan theatres screening the film this weekend. It was deserted except for me, the Dominican manager selling the bottled water I got in lieu of some popcorn, two street toughs, a few pert blondes, and some Silent Generation silver ferret in a summer suit out with the missus for the afternoon. They all seemed manner-born to the kind of meanspirited scene-setting that is all too easy to throw around about a Joel Schumacher opus like this one. The mix of maroons in the dear seats was not that far removed from the face of True Prep itself, and we were all kind of enthralled, I think, by the close-ups of Crawford's face.

Like McDonell, Chace is a beautiful, impossible distraction: No working actor seems to have employed his particular suspension of intensity and vacuity so effectively since Keanu. So Crawford plays our awareness of him as ur-brah to the hilt, his permanent five o'clock shadow obscuring an otherwise eerie resemblance to Mare Winningham, doe-eyed, cornbread soul of Joel Schumacher's earlier thinkpiece St. Elmo's Fire.

Did you know that Crawford told EW earlier this summer that he is reading The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Michael Chabon's coming-of-age novel? I choose to believe this selection is not coincidence: Technicolor Health, the 2009 album by Harlem Shakes, who once shared "whitest band in New York" status with Vampire Weekend, also took its title from Chabon's book. No matter that the Shakes' former bassist is named Jose, or that the a reviewer for the Yale Herald once wrote the following of frontman Lexy Benaim, who I seem to remember played basketball uptown while he attended the Dalton School around the same time McDonell was finishing up at Riverdale:

He is a sleek, SoHo version of James Dean with a better tan and more ambiguous ethnicity. In the words of Sonic the Hedgehog, he’s “cooler than the other side of your pillow” (Note to self: Quoting ’90s Sega video game characters does not give you authority.)

"Harlem Shake? Nah, I'm in Harlem shaking awake/Shakin' to bake, shakin' the Jakes/Kill you, shoot the funeral up and Harlem Shake at your wake"

An earlier, prep schoolier incarnation of Harlem Shakes — then known, I seem to recall, as The Harlem Shakes, as was the style at the time was playing downtown clubs around the time Atlantic Books published the first edition of Twelve. Almost ten years have passed since, and we have now made it through The Rapture to another new New Wave of vaguely cokey dance bands. If these earlier bands were Official Preppy Handbook, Boy Crisis and Passhy Pit are def this newer thing, True Prep, cf. the Boy Crisis single, "Dressed to Digress," which plays as we are first introduced to the week's hedonism @Whatevs_Culkin's townhouse:

I've been to Prague, I've been to Iraq

In search of booty and I never came back.

Where you from? You must be Japanese-Jamaican

'cause your panties are making me hot, and I'm not fakin'

A member of Boy Crisis and the possible author of that quatrain, Victor Vazquez, would later observe in his better-known capacity as Kool AD of Das Racist that "shorty said I look like Devendra Banhart, shorty said I look like that dude from Japan's art... you know, that dude who did the Kanye album cover? Shorty said I look like Egyptian Lover."

Naturally, the YouTube video for "Shorty Said" credits Gordon Voidwell (ne Will Johnson), a self-described scholarship kid from the Bronx who graduated from NYU after Fieldston.

By comparison, the fictionalized shorties in Twelve seem kind of unconvincing. Why give True Prep face time to Zoe Kravitz's True Prep entourage when we can linger on WASPy "Jessica," splayed under a canopy to escape her own Wesleyan application and her harridan of a mama (Ellen Barkin, obvs). Jessica (Emily Meade) seems to like to talk to the animals whilst strung out on Twelve — and is it really unintentional that one of the teddy bears with whom she raps on her trip has a difficult to place ethnic accent?

Point being: Who are the non-Chace types of Twelve to try to compete? There's this one guy in a polo shirt and blazer, the straight-edge track star, who's written kind of like Mack from Daria and looks kind of like the Yale Law grad who passes the bar many times in the original Official Preppy Handbook. How can I pay any mind to his backstory when there's Fiddy meandering around, plus cameos from Dukie and Clay Davis, all played off against Chace and breakout NYC Prep microcelebrity PC Peterson coming on too strong in many senses of that idiom? (Are there many senses of that idiom?)

"A real therapist would've corrected PC's grammar" my sister, on NYC Prep

"Thank God this movie is finally over," the one older woman in the audience exhorted at the end, and we went out into the afternoon, me and the Upper East Siders, them back to home nearby and me downtown to try to catch Maluca at some Mad Decent block party way downtown. Or maybe that was just me wishing they were Upper East Siders. It's easier to see them through that lens; it's more sobering. So for the haters, I reckon Twelve's about an eight or a nine, maybe nine-and-a-half in four beers' time.

Maureen Miller is a contributor to This Recording. This is her first appearance in these pages. She is a writer living in New York and the founding editor of RapGenius.com.

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