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Alex Carnevale
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Kara VanderBijl
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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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Friday
Nov132009

In Which We Take A Few Deep Breaths

The Second Act

by MEREDITH HIGHT

It has now been a year since I moved to Los Angeles. And I still don’t know how to drive on the freeways. A couple of weeks ago I attempted to get on the 101, hook up to the 110 and then jump on to the 10, which sounds kind of sexy and uber Angeleno when you say it all together and really fast.

When I first moved here, I would just look at the freeway veterans who would toss out these combinations in one quick breath and wonder what they were talking about. Then I would smile and nod, pretending to understand.

Admittedly, I only tried to pull this 101/110/10 thing off because I was supposed to take something to La Brea to Hollywood or something, and I got turned around and wound up seeing a sign for the 101. I thought it would make for a good alternative.

Trapped by traffic on the 110, though, I began to think I had made a terrible decision. I wasn’t sure exactly where I was and there weren’t any signs and we weren’t moving and I was panicking at the thought of having to turn around and start all over. My iPhone was telling me to take exit 38 which was just a quarter mile away, but that didn’t make any sense because I was at exit 6 and I was supposedly going the right direction.

This is the point at which I started crying. Getting lost is a metaphor for life. Where am I? How did I end up here? How do I get home? Where is home?

So I pulled off the freeway and got reoriented, only to determine that I had been going the right way the whole time. The iPhone was telling me the right thing – but since I can’t see small print and don’t understand numbers, I had mistaken 3B for 38.

I drove home cursing the traffic and congestion in Los Angeles. But the next day I went to the beach and was reminded why I live here. In the end, Los Angeles redeems itself with its proximity to the Pacific.

But all that beach time means a girl needs to keep her business all trimmed up, nearly year round. No one wants to see a burrito hanging out of that Speedo, OK. These people in California mean business about taking care of your business.

I decided to try sugaring over my usual waxing, because it’s more natural and supposed to be less painful. Also, there was a coupon on Daily Candy. I need to take advantage of any opportunity to save money here in Los Angeles, because the cost of living is unreasonable and I am going broke. Actually, I’m not even going broke anymore, I am just broke. Mostly I don’t mind, though, because the weather is so good.

I arrived at my appointment prepared for a relatively painless procedure. "So what you are going to need to do is take off your shorts and your panties and shoes," she said. "Then you can lie down."

"OK," I said. "Is there like a sheet or cover or paper panty or anything? I mean when I went in for a trim in Texas, they practically draped me in blankets." But this girl just started laughing. "How am I supposed to work on you, if you have anything on?"

I see her point but quite frankly I think she saw more of me than my own gynecologist has ever seen or will ever see. Not only that, but once she started the sugaring I began to realize this procedure was not as painless as promised.

“I don’t think I can do this!” I screamed. “This fucking hurts!”

“It’s OK!” she shouted back. “You can do this! Just hang in there!”

All of a sudden I felt like Mary Lou Retton or I don’t know, Nancy Kerrigan. I just had to do it; I had to power through.

I took a few deep breaths.

I closed my eyes and thought about the Kardashian sisters. They have dark, long, lustrous locks, and I bet they, too, have to endure near agonizing pain and torture to keep it trim down there.

"So do you have a boyfriend?” she asked.

No, I said.

“Any prospects?”

Must I constantly be reminded that I am not getting any?

Then she started trimming around the edges. Weedwacking, I suppose, is the best analogy here. But in her efforts to be thorough, well. I am pretty sure she fingered me at one point.

The sad thing about that is that is the most action I have gotten in months.

No really, it’s OK. I have a plan and his name is Adam Brody. I did a little research on the internets. He’s approximately my age, he lives in Los Angeles and he dated Rachel Bilson for three years. This leads me to believe that he likes brunettes with brown eyes, so theoretically, I have a real shot at this.

The only issue is that he is an actor, and actors need a lot of attention. I am too self-absorbed to pay that much attention to anyone other than myself. However, he is probably away on location a lot, which means I would still have plenty of time to myself.

So that could work out really well.

What?

I’m not crazy.

The truth is, even though I have been molested by the freeways and purported experts in painless lady trims, I do love living in Los Angeles.

There are moments so magical, they defy description. In fact, they are not moments; they are scenes. Like sitting on the fake lawn outside the Standard Hotel in Hollywood with a smattering of friends one night, as a slight earthquake shakes the ground beneath us. Some of us feel it, but some of us feel nothing. We continue to talk about Flannery O’Connor and dresses and Roman Polanski. Lying in the grass and laughing underneath the stars in Palm Springs at four in the morning, in front of a mansion formerly frequented by Marilyn Monroe. Going to the Farmers Market for lunch with coworkers and realizing that I was eating at the same table, sitting in the exact same place just a year ago. Yet, I was in a completely different place.

Stopping by the gourmet market for french macaroons afterwards and standing in line, somehow knowing that however magical it has been, the best is yet to come.

Meredith Hight is the senior contributor to This Recording. She tumbls here.

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"Hidaway" - Karen O and the Kids (mp3)

"Worried Shoes" - Karen O and the Kids (mp3)

"Food Is Still Hot" - Karen O and the Kids (mp3)

Thursday
Nov122009

In Which We're Larry David And We Happen To Enjoy Wearing Women's Panties

The Histrionics

by ELEANOR MORROW

Once I heard someone ask the poet Derek Walcott what he thought the major achievement of the last decade of the 20th century in art was. Without thinking for very long, he answered Seinfeld. It is good for Walcott and everyone else that the best comedy ever to air on television will briefly be given back to us during what will likely be the last season of Curb Your Enthusiasm.


In some ways, Larry David's second television project is exactly like his first one. Both concern themselves endlessly with the proprieties and improprieties of American customs; both have elevated their creator's Jewish sensibility to high comedy; both shows feature a conflation of events that spirals towards an expected or unexpected conclusion composed of multiple characters and situations. This characteristic denouement came about early in the process:

The show’s pivotal moment came in the third season, in 1991. Charles remembers walking with David from the “Seinfeld” offices in Studio City up to Fryman Canyon to try to break a story: the library-cop episode, in which Jerry is investigated for keeping a book out for twenty years. “We had a couple of strands, and I don’t know if it was the oxygen from the walking, but we were very exhilarated,” Charles said. “We went, ‘What if the book that was overdue was in the homeless guy’s car? And the homeless guy was the gym teacher that had done the wedgie? And what if, when they return the book, Kramer has a relationship with the librarian?’


“Suddenly it’s like—why not? It’s like, boom boom boom, an epiphany—quantum theory of sitcom! It was, like, nobody’s doing this! Usually, there’s the A story, the B story—no, let’s have five stories! And all the characters’ stories intersect in some sort of weirdly organic way, and you just see what happens. It was like—oh my God. It was like finding the cure for cancer.”


Now in old age, the real life Larry David has less misery and pain to draw from. His Curb alterego swings through Los Angeles, spending most of his time playing golf and having elaborate dinners in Brentwood. Larry was momentarily nonplussed when his wife divorced him, but soon he was sexing Lucy Lawless, Vivica Fox, and a host of other babes with his bald, lefty-bra unhooking style. He is a man with a lot of time on his hands who happens to enjoy wearing women's underwear.

Where Curb really separates itself from Seinfeld is in its protagonist. Jerry Seinfeld was a fairly inoffensive comedian whose only foible was the neverending succession of women that came into his life. No one didn't like Seinfeld. How could you? It is the quintessential example of why art must be completely specific to become general.

Curb has engendered a more divided reaction, for a variety of reasons. Since most of our readers are either visual learners or soon-to-be visual learners, I have prepared a handy pie chart in order to illustrate the split reaction to Larry's Curb "character."

As you can see in this charming illustration, Larry is one complex Jew. And he most certainly is a Jew. Seinfeld basically kept its essential Jewishness in the background despite the fact that Jerry's parents were straight out of Fiddler on the Roof, but Curb Your Enthusiasm exults in it.

By making four sympathetic Jewish characters (Elaine was essentially a hidden Jew), Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld may have integrated the ethnicity more seamlessly into the American consciousness than any Jewish artists in history.

No need for Larry to put even the lightest veil over himself in the freeing environment of pay cable. He is so much himself that he transcends stereotype, and the characters that surround him do likewise. Chief among them is the comedian who plays Larry's agent on the show,  Curb executive producer Jeff Garlin.

Garlin's purpose in the milieu is to make Larry look good. As despicable as Larry is, he looks a lot better in contrast to his unfaithful, scheming agent. Last week, Larry covered for a pair of women's underwear Jeff's wife Susie found in his glove compartment. He's done as much many times over the show's six seasons, always to point out that as bad as Larry is, he's not the worst.


Adding for the sympathy we feel for Larry is that he's a sexual innocent. Cheryl Hines played his wife at the show's inception, and it was generally understood that she was with him because of his titanic Seinfeld syndication bankroll. This is not to say she didn't value Larry as a partner - after all, we can't date people in absence of their status, we can only be with the person that they are. But I mean, she didn't value Larry as a partner, or else she wouldn't have broken up with him.

Since every man believes at his heart that he is an impotent, inexperienced fool, Larry's plight with the ladies has slowly inched him towards the sympathetic category. Larry is essentially a flamboyant sconce, a popinjay if you will. He parades around the environs of a fake paradise like a parody of the Shakespearan tragic hero.

His freedom is our shame; his exuberance in living is our violation of others. This is a considerably more optimistic attitude than David's Seinfeld alter-ego ever possessed. George Costanza was a miserable creature and Jason Alexander never liked being identified with the character, much to the source of its self-hatred's chagrin.

Real events parody fake ones, who can say which is better or more verifiable? Larry's real life wife Laurie David dumped him for a laborer after eons of marriage. Freed from the burden of satisfying a partner, Larry went wild with women and is generally in shorts or ladies underwear or some other revealing gear. He solicits the affections of women according to his whims, while offering a singular plan to deceive his ex-wife Cheryl to get back together with him.

larry and now ex-wife laurieIt was noted in the early days of Curb Your Enthusiasm that Larry wasn't so pleased in storyline or real life with the public's reaction to the Seinfeld finale he came back to the show to write. When it happened, David's exodus from Seinfeld after the seventh season changed the show irrevocably. Seinfeld became sillier; more attuned to Jerry's tendency to prefer the wacky over the painful. Without Larry's oversight, Seinfeld became something still marvelous, but different.


In hindsight, Seinfeld had to evolve. We loved Elaine, Jerry, George and Kramer despite the best efforts to paint them as self-involved. Larry's finale showed the characters in something of a negative light again, and now that Seinfeld was more institution than a subversion of the traditional three camera comedy, the path back to edgy humor made for an unsatisfying conclusion for those who didn't treasure every word Larry wrote.


Curb Your Enthusiasm has been the redemption of that sensibility. Larry's trip to Heaven where he met angels Sacha Baron Cohen and Dustin Hoffman, his disastrous/wildly successful jaunt with David Schwimmer and Ben Stiller in The Producers, his discovery of what he thought were his birth parents: all were new places in American comedy. We're so used to having Larry around we barely realize we're in the presence of greatness.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Manhattan. She tumbls here.

 

"Even Though" - Norah Jones (mp3)

"December" - Norah Jones (mp3)

Wednesday
Nov112009

In Which We Watch The Metropolitans

The Betterment of All Mankind

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Metropolitan

dir. Whit Stillman

93 minutes

In my first days of college, I had little to no knowledge of the affluent world. I never knew that New York private schools existed; I didn't know what sorts of people they produced, and if I thought hard about it, the richest person I knew was probably my pediatrician.

It took Whit Stillman's 1989 film Metropolitan to explain what such people are actually like. Watching it again twenty years later, it's astonishing how little has changed.

It is largely untrue that the affluent are as unhappy as the poverty-stricken. This is the sort of myth perpetuated by people with no imagination. Just as the fools who endorse climate change treaties for the betterment of mankind never stop to consider the effect on the impoverished, so too does the relativist ignore how degrading poverty is because it doesn't suit their general theme.

Yet to talk of such things in generalities degrades them further. To be a poor person in America isn't much like being a poor person in less decadent countries. To be a poor person in the third world isn't much like being a poor person a century ago, or a millennia ago. On the other hand, a fabulously rich person is the same forever.

Metropolitan takes place in the living rooms, debutante balls, bathrooms, vacation homes, and saloons of people so wealthy it has lost all meaning for them. Their children are the protagonists, giving Stillman a way to analyze how he himself felt about being a trust fund baby.

Our heroine is a young woman named Audrey, and the antagonist is the object of her affection, the (relatively) impoverished ginger colt Tom Townsend. In a particularly candid moment, he tells her, "I don't read novels. I prefer good literary criticism. That way you get both the novelists' ideas as well as the critics' thinking. With fiction I can never forget that none of it really happened, that it's all just made up by the author." Though he lives on the Upper West Side (the horror!) with his mother, Tom fits in splendidly with the upper crust, where his lack of imagination is quite regular.

It's said that Gossip Girl took some of its flavor from Stillman's film, but the message is rather different. Both celebrate the excesses of the upper crust with aplomb, although it's fair to say Stillman feels a great deal worse about them.

In television, we must care about the characters. Part of the reason Gossip Girl won't be on the air this time next year is that true to soap opera/Shonda Rimes convention, no one really does care about the people involved. If Stillman himself entertains the illusion that such people can be sympathetic, he does a marvelous job of undermining them at every turn. No matter how winsome Tom and Audrey are, we can't really see through the eyes of debutante monsters. The rest of the urban-haute bourgeoisie crew is similarly horrifying, and Stillman has them constantly glib in a dialogue style that would be stolen wholesale for Wes Anderson's Rushmore:

It's a tiny bit arrogant of people to go around worrying about those less fortunate.

People see the harm in what excessive candor can do.

Men are dates, date substitutes or potential dates. I find that dehumanizing.

The acid test is whether you take any pleasure in responding to the question "What do you do?" I can't bear it.

I've never been this drunk before. The problem is, with Fred no longer drinking, I can't pace myself.

The most important thing to realize about parents is that there is absolutely nothing you can do about them.

And so on.

Since he's been professionally affluent all his life, Stillman has only made three films, none more successful than his first. Perhaps abject poverty would have been a greater artistic motivator; perhaps not. Eventually the UHB scene breaks down and people go their own way. Whit wanted to portray the end of a period in a certain part of American life. That this period ever ended is a lie.

Venture out to the Hamptons, to Martha's Vineyard, to any of the privileged, isolated places of the world. They contain the same coterie of people, swapping bodily fluids all summer, sopping themselves with Cristal. The party is ongoing, and threatens to do so no matter how low the Dow goes.

For the economy, this is a boon. We need our richest to spend aplenty; incidentally it is these folks who pay 95 percent of all taxes. I'm not a class warrior and there's nothing wrong with wealth as long as it's obtained ethically. If this is true, why should we so resent spoiled young men and women from wealthy families? All young people are foolish; this is a constant part of their charm. As they age and grow other they possess fortunes by which influence and power spring off naturally. This may not be good for us, but there's little about which to be outraged.

One scene in Metropolitan clarifies the problem rather succintly. Nick Smith (the hilarious Christopher Eigeman) is patiently explaining how the poor Tom can fit into the debutante scene at no great cost. You just need one jacket, and it can even be secondhand! You just need to wear a corsage, and it's not that expensive. At first we respect Nick for advising his poorer friend on how to fit in. But soon enough we realize: It's terrific to have a lot of money, but it's terrible to think that gives you a right to tell other people how to live.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He is a writer living in Manhattan. He tumbls here and twitters here. He last wrote in these pages about his trip to Hawai'i.

"England" - The National (mp3)

"Big Red Machine" - The National with Bon Iver (mp3)

"No Professionals" - The National (mp3)

"Brilliant Man" - The National (mp3)